Levant vs. Folco, sorta

Today, Ezra Levant’s lawyers sent the following notice to Liberal MP Raymonde Folco

Read this doc on Scribd: SCAN6808 000

There’s some quality Liberal research, non? Ezra Levant was never an MP in Stephen Harper’s riding. It seems that the Liberals unloading it all against the Conservatives to see what sticks. Parliamentary immunity comes in handy.

Here are two other scandals uncovered by Liberal research in the past week:
Scandal I
Scandal II

Budget notes

From conversation with some friends in the PPG,
– while detained in budget lockup, someone yelled out regarding CBC Newsworld being shown on the tv: “what’s this s**t? Turn it to TSN!”. The budget document/executive summary was easily consumed in 20 minutes and there was an NHL trade deadline looming.

– budget lockup means no communication with the outside world, so reporters complained of not having Google to check facts, do background, and put together the finer details on a story. One wonders how reporting was done before 1993. But seriously, something could be done about this. Wikipedia, for example, can be downloaded to an iPod (or laptop). Not perfect, but it could help fill in some blanks in background understanding.

– One reporter said to me “I’ve never seen the Liberal government so willing to publicly commit suicide so frequently and willingly”

from conversation with conservatives,
– conservatives are generally happy that the Conservatives have passed their first “conservative budget”. Debt reduction and the new tax-exempt savings account are the headlining items for the movement.

– conservatives are unhappy about the spending increase projected for 3.4% this year. That totals 14.8% government growth under Flaherty (source: CTF). Why can’t we rein-in government growth?

– Guaranteed Income Supplement raised to $3500 should help patch things up with seniors whom have been upset about income trusts, according to Bob Fife and Craig Oliver of CTV. This budget item sounds like creeping socialism. (UPDATE: Oops, that was poorly interpreted. The GIS tax exemption has been raised, encouraging seniors to stay in the workforce.)

– taming the EI beast is a welcome change. Capping EI surpluses and moving towards better fiscal management (and proper allocation) of the fund is long overdue.

– effective communications line of the day was from Stephane Dion’s team which described the budget as “a mile wide and an inch deep”. The line was often repeated on newscasts and in print. It’s a perfect descriptor for Dion to achieve his objective: diminish the significance of the budget and and his subsequent approval of it. It’s also important to note that the Liberals have claimed this to be a “watered down Liberal budget”. Is Harper as Tom Flanagan would put it “triangulating” the Liberals out of relevance? This was first done with the Afghanistan mission, now the budget. Liberals essentially support the Conservatives in coalition without any leverage.

– the NDP is using the Liberal support of the budget to make the argument of Liberal bankruptcy from the left; they argue voters who don’t agree with Harper’s government can oppose it with the NDP. But this isn’t exactly news. What changes will the NDP have to make in order to more effectively challenge the Liberals from the left?

– the only thing sustaining the Liberals is their brand.

Predicting the future
– In the absence of Liberal opposition, will segmented conservative interests in the party and in the movement start leveraging for their own agenda? With slim majorities we see maverick government MPs potentially holding the balance of power subject to their agendas (PM Chretien government with MP Paul Martin). With large majorities we can see whole factions form and break off (as with Reform and the Bloc from the Mulroney government). Harper has the power of majority with the psychology of a minority; the PM can govern on the agenda he chooses because the the prize of a majority is still in sight and this will generally keep maverick MPs and the movement tightly following Harper’s lead so that their agendas can be realized in the future.

Harper’s now in the sweet spot of governance; he sits opposite a neutered opposition but holds the incentive of untapped potential for his government and its MPs. I’m certain that the Prime Minister would be very satisfied continuing his government under this balance until the fixed election date in fall 2009.

On budget day

one gets the feeling that the Liberals are neutered when Stephane Dion rises in the House during question period to ask about the Clean Air Act and greenhouse gases.

No other matters of importance today for the Liberal party?

Gilles Duceppe also focused on greenhouse gases during his round of questions.

It sure doesn’t feel as though there’s an election looming.

Tory gets 66.87%

In London, where provincial Progressive Conservatives gathered this weekend, John Tory’s future as their leader seems uncertain. Tory faced a vote of confidence today on his leadership as approximately 1000 delegates voted on a question on whether the party ought to have a leadership review. Taking personal blame for the party’s electoral loss last fall in a pre-vote speech, Tory also warned delegates that a such a review process would take precious time out of preparations for the next campaign, in 2011.

Prior to the vote, delegates experienced some olde-tyme convention tactics as 81 pro-review (anti-Tory) delegates were challenged due to their residency status within their representative ridings. Tory claimed no prior knowledge to the challenges but expressed that some of his delegates faced the same.

After the votes were finally counted, Tory could only muster 66.87%. The number is technically a victory for Tory, but in reality shows that there is not enough support for the man who ran on leadership during the last election. In a previous conservative leadership review vote, former Prime Minister Joe Clark bested Tory’s number by less than one percent at 66.9% yet stepped down as leader of the federal Progressive Conservatives.

Pro-review forces initially had set the bar high for Tory at 80% declaring that “80% minus 1” would be enough to cause a review. Tory never took the bait to declare the threshold that he would need, rather simply citing through supporters that the party constitution simply requires a majority of support at 50% plus one. Media observers including the Sun’s Christina Blizzard set a realistic threshold at 70-75%.

After receiving the verdict, Tory expressed that he would take some time to think about his future in the party given the support given at this weekend’s convention. It would be divisive for John Tory to accept a technical victory on these numbers and he should resign as the leader of the party. In my opinion the party needs a bold vision and platform to offer Ontario in a future election. Dalton McGuinty’s government has not been plagued by scandal to the extent that it has registered on the minds of the passive political observer. Therefore, running as a “nice guy” with no groundwork established on policy prior to an election will result in the same. If John Tory can learn this lesson from the last election and learns that his party yearns for change, he will have the opportunity to prove it; Tory can run for leader. But to succeed, he must show that he will offer a bold vision. Others too will be able to offer their views on the course that should be taken by the PC Party. The party will be able to spend some true time in the wilderness and if Tory and a new field of competitors face a true trial by fire, the victor can forge new and competitive policy in order to offer Ontario a viable Progressive Conservative government.

The Harper Government

In political communications, an objective of prominent important is framing your political opponent(s). For example, the Conservatives have seized upon Stephane Dion, just over a year ago the new leader of the opposition and crafted a public persona for the man before he had a chance to do so himself. The Conservatives introduced Canadians to Stephane Dion rather than allowing Dion to define his own leadership. Now, even when you prompt an Ottawa reporter to fill in the blank: Stephane Dion _________, the response that you’ll inevitably get is “is not a leader”. For the more Liberal-sympathetic members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery it helps if you mimic the timbre and cadence of the narrator in the now infamous ads.

One of the classic methods of defining one’s opponent is personification (either by emphasizing or diminishing its importance). In favourable media reports on a positive event, headlines will personify accomplish while when bad news happens a favourable headline writers will often spread responsibility thin. For example, if the Conservative government announced that it was to send the coast guard to rescue a sinking ship of orphans, the National Post might trumpet, “Harper acts to save children” while the Globe and Mail might report “Ottawa approves watercraft extraction”. In a situation where a negative event occurs, the favourable press might write “Ottawa spending at record level” where an unfavourable paper might publish “Harper government out of control”. Negative messengers try to personify the blame and thinly distribute the plaudits while positive messaging personifies the kudos and distributes the blame. After all, it is easy to demonize one person rather than a collective such as a party, or, even more abstract, the city where the federal government sits.

Moving along this logic, the opposition parties in the current Parliament have sought to sharpen their criticism on one focal point: Stephen Harper. Thus, they reason, it is more effective to blame “The Harper government” than “The Conservative government” or “Ottawa” (opposition MPs are part of “Ottawa” too, in the cynical and literal sense of the term/location). However, polls on the Harper and his party are showing that the Prime Minister frequently polls higher than his party; Canadians are more comfortable and warm to the concept of “Harper” than they are “Conservative”. This may be attributed to a few factors such as the transcendence of the Prime Ministership beyond the concept of party. “Harper government” may actually be a redundant phrase to some people, synonymous with “the Prime Minister’s government”. The “Harper government” is therefore somewhat inert in its effectiveness as messaging for the opposition.

The term “Conservative”, however, is a term with which people may or may not self-identify. Since it is the weaker of the two terms (Harper being the stronger), it is difficult for opposition parties to personify the negative and take advantage of this weaker brand.

The Liberal Party on the other hand has a stronger brand (the Liberal Party) than the personification of it (Stephane Dion). This plays to the Conservatives favour as they can both personify the negative and use the weaker brand at the same time to emphasize their message.

Liberals back down from fundraiser, choose to follow the law…

… after being caught.

Timeline:
February 8th: News of Liberal fundraising scandal breaks on this website
February 12th: Conservatives demand answers
February 13th: Story “breaks” in MSM
February 13th: Liberal hypocrisy exposed in House of Commons

For news on the Liberals four days earlier, read stephentaylor.ca. For Liberal editorials, read The Globe and Mail.

Conservatives demand answers on Liberal fundraising scheme

In response to a story broken here three days ago, the Conservatives are demanding answers from Elections Canada on the Grit fundraising auction being held among the 8 Ottawa ridings, where according to the Liberals, “the sky is the limit” and successful bids do not count as donations.

From: Poilievre, Pierre – M.P. [mailto:PoiliP@parl.gc.ca]
Sent: Tuesday, February 12, 2008 3:08 PM
To: commissionersoffice@elections.ca
Subject: “Liberal Party of Canada Cocktail Event” – Investigate

Commissioner of Canada Elections
c/o Elections Canada
257 Slater Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0M6

February 12, 2008

Dear Sir,

I have become aware of a Liberal Party of Canada Cocktail Event scheduled for February 13th boasts that “the sky is the limit for this auction. A successful bid is not a political contribution…as such individuals, partnerships, corporations and associations are free to bid as high as they want.” The event boasts auction items including:

* Golf with former Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin.
* Attending a hockey game with senior Liberal Member of Parliament
and former Liberal leadership contender, Ken Dryden.
* Tennis with Liberal star candidate Bob Rae and his brother Liberal campaign Co-Chair, John Rae.
* Lunch with Liberal Deputy Leader Michael Ignatieff.
* Lunch with former Liberal Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau’s son, Justin.
* Lunch with former Liberal Leadership candidate, Scott Brison

…..and more!

This event raises serious questions surrounding the legality of the fundraising practices of the Liberal Party of Canada. I respectfully ask that you investigate whether or not this event complies with the sprit of the Federal Accountability Act and other federal political party fundraising legislation.

If you allow the Liberal Party to use these methods, you will have unilaterally repealed all of the campaign finance legislation passed over the last five years, and you will be reintroducing big money and corporate cash into our political process.

With the possibly of a federal election happening in the near future I hope that this matter can be dealt with great expediency.

Sincerely,

Pierre Poilievre
Member of Parliament
Nepean-Carlton

Musharraf at 15%, Pakistan’s future on the edge

In early December, I received correspondence from the International Republican Institute in Washington inviting me to participate as a short-term election observer as part of that group’s mission in Pakistan. The NGO is headed by US Senator John McCain and provides democratic infrastructure assistance to emerging democracies. I was to travel to Islamabad via Dubai on January 2nd to connect with the group there to coordinate with them in establishing a legitimate international presence in that country to judge the free and fairness of those elections. While the Canadian government via Elections Canada declined to send observers due to Musharraf’s imposition of what amounted to Martial law, NGO observation was still necessary in order to make the call on the legitimacy of the elections even though most everyone that has been following the situation highly doubted that those elections would be run with any semblance of the democratic ideal. Yet, helping people secure the principles of democracy is a worthwhile cause even if it happens slowly and even if it comes via an international well-document fact-based shaming of any government if and when it holds insincere elections.

During my Christmas break, having my flight itinerary in hand and my letter of offer sent from DC, I trekked out to the Pakistani consulate in northern Toronto to have my visa application processed. Having no family in Pakistan or any education or business interests there, the consular officers were initially skeptical of the papers I was presenting them. One gentlemen who was waiting with his son who was visiting to visit his ancestral home for the first time asked me why I was going to Pakistan. I told him about my plans to help observe the elections there and he seemed sincerely pleased that I was going. Pakistan was recently ejected from the Commonwealth, yet despite this fact it has a close history in the Western democratic tradition. Because of this fact, I have a sincere hope that Pakistan is still fertile soil for a slowly growing democracy, even if there are elements there that are actively salting the earth either for sake of power or for terror.

Needless to say, my trip was canceled by IRI shortly after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto as the election, to take place January 8th was postponed to late February. The group, that has been in Pakistan for years, was recently told to clear out its expat staff by Musharraf’s government. The opinion polling done by IRI in Pakistan are considered to be the most accurate measure of popular opinion there and the government was not probably not pleased that this expression of popular opinion was hurting their electoral prospects. If Musharraf’s government seeks to suppress the publication of popular opinion in this way, I fear how they will act when it is expressed during an election. IRI expats are still packing up their offices in Pakistan and they’ve released a final poll to mark their departure. President Musharraf has 15% popular support in that country and it’s likely to slide further. Musharraf’s power has been sustained by a precarious balance between the military (which has pockets of sympathy for the Taliban and al Queda) and enough of the electorate. The former general gave up his stars to appease popular concern over his position as the top military officer and effective head of state. That said, I was shocked with the offhand ease and ignorance of Stephane Dion’s recent musings about putting NATO troops in Pakistan. Such talk about an intervention would only serve to further destabilize a country that is dangerously pivoting between anarchy and stability.

The people of Pakistan are expected to express their will soon. If Musharraf’s party loses in the upcoming elections (if they are held), the outcome is uncertain. Let’s hope that the government and military respects their decision.

Liberal fundraising, alive and well!

Just landed in my inbox, this alleged Liberal fundraising flyer:

According to the flyer, items to be auctioned off to raise money for eight Ottawa-area federal Liberal riding associations include among other things:

– Golf with Paul Martin
– Hockey tickets with Ken Dryden

It is specified that “the sky is the limit” during the auction and according to the flyer, “A successful bid does not count as a political contribution and is not eligible for a receipt for income tax purposes” and conveniently, “your successful bid will not affect your annual political contribution limit of $1100.” And “bids” from corporations? Why not!

Well, that’s reassuring…

It would appear that the Liberals claim that the federal Elections Act doesn’t apply to this kind of political fundraising because the Liberals say so.

The Liberals used to “raise money” outside of the oversight of the Elections Act by giving hockey tickets to Quebec advertising executives. It’s good to see that if the Liberals go through with this fundraiser as described, they are opening up the process outside of that exclusive network to their Ottawa membership. If so, it’s too bad for Canadians that the Liberals think that circumventing the law is different from breaking it.

Government’s motion on Afghanistan will split Liberals

The following is text of the government’s motion on extending the mission in Afghanistan. My comments appear between segments of the motion. The key point of contention is Canada’s extended role in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar from 2009-2011.

That, whereas the House recognizes the important contribution and sacrifice of Canadian Forces and Canadian civilian personnel as part of the UN mandated, NATO-led mission deployed in Afghanistan at the request of the democratically elected government of Afghanistan;

This sets the scene and important in the emphasis of the internationalist, multilateral mandate that Canada operates under in Afghanistan. The mission operates with the blessing of the UN, an organization in which most Canadians believes strongly and with which Canada self-identifies when it comes to its foreign policy. The UN mandated mission should be something that Liberals can easily subscribe to, but it’s interesting to note that despite the UN’s acceptance of the mission, the NDP and Bloc take a strict isolationist approach.

whereas, as set out in the Speech from the Throne, the House does not believe that Canada should simply abandon the people of Afghanistan after February 2009; that Canada should build on its accomplishments and shift to accelerate the training of the Afghan army and police so that the government of Afghanistan can defend its own sovereignty and ensure that progress in Afghanistan is not lost and that our international commitments and reputation are upheld;

The Speech from the Throne of course is an important reference point. The government received a mandate from Parliament when the Throne Speech passed in the fall. The Liberals, forming the Official Opposition, passed on judging the government’s proposed mandate and abstained from the vote. The Throne Speech first outlined the government’s intention to extend the mission in Kandahar through 2011. So, what has changed since then?

whereas in February 2002, the government took a decision to deploy 850 troops to Kandahar, the Canadian Forces have served in various capacities and locations in Afghanistan since that time and, on May 17, 2006, the House adopted a motion to support a two year extension of Canada’s deployment in Afghanistan;

whereas the House welcomes the report of the Independent Panel on Canada’s Future Role in Afghanistan, chaired by John Manley, and recognizes the important contribution they have made;

What has changed is that John Manley has released his report. Manley expressed that Canada lost its voice on the international stage but has now regained it. Manley stated that when Canada speaks, the world listens. He cited the former Liberal PM Lester B. Pearson as a source for inspiration and for doing the right thing with respect to Canadian foreign policy.

whereas their Report establishes clearly that security is an essential condition of good governance and lasting development and that, for best effect, all three components of a comprehensive strategy military, diplomatic and development need to reinforce each other;

The report by the former Liberal Minister of Foreign Affairs has stressed the need for a mix of a number of Canadian efforts in Afghanistan (including military).

whereas the government accepts the analysis and recommendations of the Panel and is committed to taking action, including revamping Canada’s reconstruction and development efforts to give priority to direct, bilateral project assistance that addresses the immediate, practical
needs of the Afghan people, especially in Kandahar province, as well as effective multi-year aid commitments with concrete objectives and assessments, and, further, to assert strong Canadian leadership to promote better co-ordination of the overall effort in Afghanistan by the international community, and, Afghan authorities;

The government states, in its motion, that it is following the lead of Mr. Manley. Here the motion stresses aid development and international coordination. All of which should be found acceptable to a majority of Parliament.

whereas the results of progress in Afghanistan, including Canada’s military deployment, will be reviewed in 2011 (by which time the Afghanistan Compact will have concluded) and, in advance, the government will provide to the House an assessment and evaluation of progress, drawing on and consistent with the Panel’s recommendations regarding performance standards, results, benchmarks and timelines; and

Full reporting to Parliament on progress in Afghanistan.

whereas the ultimate aim of Canadian policy is to leave Afghanistan to Afghans, in a country that is better governed, more peaceful and more secure;

How could any MP disagree?

therefore, the House supports the continuation of Canada’s current responsibility for security in Kandahar beyond February 2009, to the end of 2011, in a manner fully consistent with the UN mandate on Afghanistan, but with increasing emphasis on training the Afghan National Security Forces expeditiously to take increasing responsibility for security in Kandahar and Afghanistan as a whole so that, as the Afghan National Security Forces gain capability, Canada’s combat role should be commensurately reduced, on condition that:

Stephane Dion has stated that he wishes Canada’s “combat role” in Kandahar to cease by February 2009. John Manley recommends against this. The House will essentially be voting on the recommendations, or at least within the guidelines of the Manley Report. This motion is not inconsistent with John Manley’s recommendations and the Liberal Party (many of whom have incredible respect for Mr. Manley) will find itself divided on this motion if allowed to vote freely. John Manley and Mr. Harper are framing Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan in a Pearsonian perspective; internationalist intervention in failed states is the right thing to do and consistent with values that Canadians cherish. Mr. Dion faces a tough choice. If he chooses to abstain from voting on this important motion, he loses his credibility on speaking on the most important issue facing Parliament today, Canada’s role in Afghanistan. If Dion whips his caucus into voting against, there will be an open revolt against his leadership. If Dion allows a free vote on the motion, internal divisions within the party will be counted as if a roll call and the public division will emphasize that the Liberal party is only a loose collective of membership card holders waiting for the next leadership review.

(a) Canada secure a partner that will provide a battle group of approximately 1,000 to arrive and be operational no later than February 2009, to expand International Security Assistance Force’s security coverage in Kandahar;

A move entirely consistent with a recommendation from the Manley Report. A realistic move to shift some of the weight to a partnering NATO country.

(b) to better ensure the safety and effectiveness of the Canadian contingent, the government secure medium helicopter lift capacity and high performance Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance before February 2009.

This is important for Canada’s success in Afghanistan. UAVs are recommended for road surveillance especially during the night in order to spot and help neutralize Taliban fighters planting IEDs at the sides of roads used by the Canadian military and aid workers.