Earth Hour

Earth Hour was ‘celebrated’ worldwide on Saturday in order to raise “awareness” of climate change and our wasteful consumption of energy. I was made aware of this event by the huge (approx) 50 ft full colour banner hanging from Ottawa city hall, the countless full colour flyers taped to lamp posts downtown, the wall to wall TV network coverage that has been burning up the microwaves, the buckets of black ink used to print clever ‘lights out’ themes on the front pages of newspapers produced from dead trees. Ironically, one Earth Hour promoter suggested sitting in the dark and burning candles instead of having the lights on. Alas, burning wax is a much less efficient method of producing light, and a process that produces more CO2, than using fluorescent (or even incandescent bulbs) that have been produced as a result of industrial progress, and market-based innovation. Indeed, the net result of industrialization was to create more efficient processes for achieving the same or better end results for less energy cost and less energy waste.

I live in downtown Ottawa. Besides a few lights off at Parliament Hill, there was no noticeable change in the electrical demand of our nation’s capital. I wasn’t up to too much of any consequence between 8 and 9pm last night so I decided to take a bit of an Earth Hour tour of the city from the comfort of a heated and fossil-fuel powered vehicle.

First stop was the Public Service Alliance of Canada building at 233 Gilmour st. This building is the Ottawa/federal hub for left-wing / labour / socialist causes as NDP associations and organizations close to the NDP have frequent use of board rooms and meeting spaces there. Here it is in its Earth Hour illuminated glory:

Not only were the lights on that illuminate the building on the ground floor and span half of the block flooding the grounds up until the sidewalk, a good number of offices were also lit up. These folks keep union hours (nobody’s working at 8pm on Saturday night).

Next stop was the CBC on Queen st. It was a big night for CBC after all. Hockey Night in Canada is a Canadian institution and the CBC wasn’t about to go dark for the occasion even though a lot of airtime was dedicated to raising ‘awareness’ for the event.

CBC Ottawa also did not go dark for Earth Hour. The building itself is within walking distance of where I work and live (it’s also across from Hy’s) so I have noted that CBC has frequently (if not every single night) kept the lights on during the night when nobody’s working. Their empty cubicle farm located at street level is always lit up at any hour of the night when I walk by on the sidewalk. Sadly, Earth Hour was no exception.

I also high-tailed it up to Rockcliffe for a quick drive past Stornoway and 24 Sussex. The Liberal leader’s official residence on Acacia ave was dark save for a small outside light and 24 Sussex had the lights on at the RCMP guard houses near the gate, a room light, and a few other lights on (generally for security one assumes).

How does one measure the success of Earth Hour? Are there any more people today that are ‘aware’ of climate change that weren’t yesterday? These sorts of “global” events have been held in the past. Live Aid and Live8 were meant to raise “awareness” of African poverty. Unfortunately, Africa is still poor and we’re just as aware of this. Live Earth was a global concert to raise awareness of global warming, but the concert itself had a considerable carbon footprint as celebrities and rock stars flew in on their private jets and arrived by chauffeured limo to tell us to install low flow shower heads and use less toilet paper.

These sorts of events are designed to make people feel good and think that they’re part of a global solution to a collective problem. However, it seems that no concrete action is achieved by raising awareness on issues of which people are already well aware.

Full Comment

I started this blog in January of 2004 and it’s been a hobby that I’ve enjoyed immensely. The original purpose of putting permanence to my daily thoughts on Canadian politics was to support my somewhat ambitious bid to become the Conservative candidate in Kingston and the Islands. This blog served as a campaign tool to reach out to Conservative party members in that riding in order to do as any other hopeful politician would do: build a name, get out the vote.

In an unfortunate sense, the blog medium and its scope was national rather than local. I was writing about federal politics, the Conservative leadership race and my candidacy for nomination. I was using an axe where I needed a scalpel. As an early adopter of Canadian partisan blogging, I would say that the same effect would not occur today; one can effectively define a local niche while enunciating on federal politics because the vacuum of the new medium that existed has been effectively filled.

Yet, in perhaps its more critical sense, I see political blogging now as I did then. Blogging is an important outlet by which we, as stakeholders in our democracy, can discuss ideas of importance to us as a country, as members of various communities and as individuals. As someone with great admiration and support for the original Reform and Alliance movements, I can confidently say that our democracy is strengthened by the expression of a broad spectrum of ideas that come from individuals with diverse experiences. Blogging lowers the threshold of access to the forums of free expression in a true marketplace of ideas.

What used to be an effective tool of scoundrels who wished to twist this open system unfairly to their own view was to say that the views of others were unCanadian. This strikes personally and directly upon one’s sense of loyalties because if we are to consider what is paramount in our list of allegiances, most of us would consider family and country among the top two (some reasonable people would include God within their short list as well). At the root of family allegiance is consanguinity, but that to God and country is rooted in values. Most religionists and nationalists derive their loyalty from creed; while a familial bond can exist within both, it is the values of religion and state from which most people find their respective loyalty.

So therefore, we can look to first principles and determine that it is values that is fundamental to any attachment to a collective called Canada.

But yet, this collective is one of divergent values.

Some Canadians believe that Canada ought to fund universal, fully public access to healthcare while some believe that a private, free-to-choose, market-based system is better for themselves and Canada. Neither of these views is unCanadian.

There are Canadians that believe that Canada ought to fight for the security and reconstruction of Afghanistan while others say that Canada should not involve itself with the affairs of the Afghan people. Neither of these views is unCanadian.

Those that argue that private healthcare is “American-style” or that leaving Afghanistan is unCanadian are using our loyalties as leverage to support their views but they are being dishonest to our principle value which is open discussion and freely held positions on difficult issues.

I would argue that instead it is the prohibition of ideological diversity that is solely unCanadian, for the suppression of thought and the ability to express it within the context of the dynamic Canadian debate, is to remove the underlying value that is common among those which form the diversity of this country’s discussions. If we cannot freely consider all points in debate how does this fare for the legitimacy of our conclusions?

Most people would conclude that some positions are indefensible. While also inherently incongruent, the suppression of speech by a state defined by democratic debate is such a position. Despite this, I support the right of those that would wish to convince me otherwise, yet with their words rather than the state.

Happy Easter!

I hope that everyone had a good Easter holiday long weekend. We’re in the middle of two break weeks here in Ottawa so I thought I’d share some hard-hitting investigative journalism that I’ve been working on with you.

Well, no… not really, but check out what I found this weekend:

It’s the Nestlé Turtles Chocolate Egg

Serving size 1/6 of an egg? Really? I suppose this is designed to make this treat look like a reasonable 140 calories. Multiply that by 6 and you have 840 calories, more than half of the daily caloric RDI of a growing 8 year old child. Nobody is going to only dole out 1/6 of this catastrophic caloric confection to their child! Would more parents pass up this treat if it listed the calories as 840 per egg and the saturated fat as 78% of the daily recommended intake? Note too that these percentages are rated for adults. No wonder childhood diabetes is on the rise.

Wohn wahh…

By-election notes

– big loss for Stephane Dion tonight. In by-elections, the number of votes for the government usually goes down. In seat +/-, we see Stephane Dion -1 and Stephen Harper +1.

– Liberals will say that three out of four by-elections is a victory. All four ridings were Liberal, so anything less than holding those four with margins as strong as before is a loss for the Liberals.

– Stephane Dion’s hand-picked candidate lost in Desnethé–Missinippi–Churchill River. This is, of course, the riding in which Dion put an end to David Orchard’s hopes of being a candidate there and cherry-picked an NDP MLA to run as a Liberal. Political observers will remember Dion’s hand picked candidate Jocelyn Coulon in Outremont losing to the NDP in a big by-election upset months ago.

– In contrast, the Conservatives’ weak finish in Toronto Centre is a result of a poor history of electoral success for this incarnation of the Conservative party there and the party’s decision to drop their candidate in the riding. Dion’s move in Saskatchewan was to enhance electoral success, Harper’s Toronto Centre decision was in made in order to prevent divergent messaging that could have an impact outside of this riding in which Conservatives weren’t even competitive.

– Vancouver Quadra is also turning out to be a bitter win for Dion. Liberal vote share in that riding is down and Conservative vote share is up. While Harper is finding it difficult to increase share in downtown Toronto, the Vancouver result is encouraging. It appears that Conservatives are and will be competitive in that riding for the next general election.
UPDATE: Final margin in Vancouver Quadra is 151 votes with the Liberals just barely holding this seat from going Conservative. This is a big upset for Dion. UBC is within the riding and the riding is urban and generally quite well-to-do. This seat should have been solidly Liberal. Quadra just became a target riding for the Conservatives in the next election.

– By-elections are always experimental in that we sometimes see a preview of party strategy for general elections. In the Liberals, we see more of an emphasis on the team rather than their leader. In Conservatives we see primary focus on Harper’s leadership. A general election is leadership focused, however, as debates and daily news coverage have a bias towards leadership. Many voters, in all 308 ridings, cast a ballot for Harper or Dion, rather than the their local candidate or party. Paul Martin de-emphasized the Liberal brand and put his leadership in the front window during both 2004 and 2006 general elections. Dion would be wise to downplay his leadership and emphasize the Liberal brand. Martin hid the brand because it was tainted by the Sponsorship Scandal, and the man dubbed Mr. Dithers believed he provided strong leadership. Is the Liberal brand still sufficiently tainted by scandal? Despite this consideration, Dion’s leadership could not be emphasized over the Liberal brand; whereas we saw “Team Martin” sign instead of “Liberal” signs, we won’t be seeing “Team Dion”.

– Jack Layton also had a bad night. His vote share is down. While he works with the Conservatives to carve up Liberal votes left and right, he may find that he needs more time to accomplish this goal. A general election would hasten the dispatching of Dion, and bring forward a more competitive Liberal leader in most scenarios. Therefore, Layton and Harper should figure out how to loudly oppose each other while sustaining the life of this government for the longer rather than shorter term.

– Dion is going to find his front bench increasingly crowded with alpha candidates for his job. Liberals will be start looking seriously past Dion and it will be difficult for him to catch up.

– Conservative and NDP strategy should be to establish themselves as principled ideologues on the left and the right. Conservatives should emphasize good management and strong leadership. Jack Layton should challenge Harper to a one-on-one debate. Both parties should try to keep the government alive to draw out Liberal divisions.

– Luckily for Harper and Layton, Dion’s strategy is also to survive and the only way this can happen is for the government to survive. Liberals will be chomping a the bit in order to “get back to power as soon as possible” and most realize that this is impossible under Dion and much easier when they hold a leadership race and select a more capable leader. The easiest way for the Liberals to remove Dion is via a loss in the general election. The Conservatives and the NDP would be smart not to provide them with this opportunity. If the hunger gets too strong, the Liberals may start eating their own and we may see Dion swallowed whole. This would immediately trigger a general election as the Conservatives and NDP would be willing partners in increasing their respective vote proportions as Liberal voters stay home on election day.

Bob Rae leadership campaign staffers linked to Sponsorship Scandal

Former and likely future Liberal leadership candidate Bob Rae is working this weekend to get himself elected to the House of Commons in the riding of Toronto Centre. Rae is putting himself up as a fresh new ethical face for the Liberal Party, but this will ring hollow with voters Monday as he hired two campaign workers during his failed leadership bid that previously received Adscam money. Gomery described the Sponsorship Scandal as “elaborate kickback scheme” conducted by members of the Liberal party and their associates in Quebec.

When Rae was running to replace Bill Graham/Paul Martin as the new leader of the Liberal Party, he hired two staffers Franco Iacono and Gaetano Manganiello, two former employees of the Liberal Party of Canada.

Here is Rae’s expense filing with Elections Canada for these two individuals:

Franco Iacono

Click to enlarge

Gaetano Manganiello

Click to enlarge

Rae declared that $14,750 was paid to Iacono for “Salaries and Wages” while $3,000 was claimed for Manganiello in “Salaries and Wages” while $1766.26 was paid for “Miscellaneous expenses”.

What services did these two men provide for Bob Rae’s leadership campaign?

This is an important question because both Iacono and Manganiello testified before the Gomery Inquiry into the Sponsorship Scandal.

Iacono testified on May 4th, 2005 and Manganiello on May 25th, 2005.

From Iacono’s testimony before the Gomery Commission, we learn that from 1996-1997, Iacono worked for Alphonso Gagliano as a special assistant (including when Gagliano was at Public Works until September 1997. We then learn that Iacono worked for John Manley, the federal Business Development Bank and for Herb Dhaliwal before attaining employment at the Sussex Strategy Group. Prior to the 2000 election Iacono was hired by then-Liberal Party deputy director Benoit Corbeil to be the party’s regional coordinator for the island of Montreal. Iacono explained how he was paid, “I was happy to be hired for the work assigned. Mr. Corbeil simply told me to invoice COMMANDO at the address he had given me in the amount of $8,500.” According to Iacono, Corbeil told him to file an invoice for “Consulting services rendered.” We also learn that in all Iacono’s previous work for the Liberal Party he had never been paid in this way, but he didn’t question it because “In my mind, then, it was quite clear and logical, since I had a need and Mr. Corbeil had found a way to satisfy that need. It was that simple.” When Gomery said “Now, those three things [an invoice to someone other than the Liberal Party with a false description of services provided, and a payment made outside the election period] suggest to me that you may have participated in a situation that was deliberately falsified,” Iacono replied “I have to say no.”

What of COMMANDO? In Phase 1 of Gomery’s report, the Commissioner writes on p. 263,

Further contributions to the LPCQ were made by cheque, rather than in cash, but were disguised by using as an intermediary a corporation in Quebec City named Commando Communications, an inactive entity owned and controlled by one Bernard Thiboutot. Mr. Thiboutot worked for Gosselin Communications as the head of its Quebec City office, but in the year 2000, when Groupaction’s contributions were made, the assets of Gosselin Communications had already been purchased by Groupaction and Mr. Thiboutot was in effect working for Mr. Brault. He was an active supporter of the LPCQ in the eastern Quebec region.

On January 6, 2000, and again on November 1, 2000, Commando invoiced Groupaction for $10,000 for services rendered, but according to Mr. Brault, these invoices and the cheques in payment of them are evidence of political contributions that he was asked to make, to pay unexplained expenses of the LPCQ in Quebec City. Mr. Thiboutot does not deny the payments or that they were paid to Commando as political contributions.

On October 1, 2000, Mr. Thiboutot sent a further false invoice to a Groupaction subsidiary for $50,000, describing the services rendered by Commando as research and analysis. On October 13, 2000, only a short time before the federal election campaign commenced, the invoice was paid, and Mr. Thiboutot acknowledges that the proceeds were used to pay five employees of the LPCQ for their work in the forthcoming election campaign. Each of the workers sent Commando an invoice for the amount received.

And Gaetano Manganiello? Before the Commission, Manganiello testified that he worked in the PMO as a Press Office Assistant until August 2002 and then went to work for Maurizio Bevilacqua. Manganiello went back to PMO in December 2003 where he later took up a job as Media Advance Officer in May 2004. Manganiello goes on to describe that he worked for the municipal campaign of Benoit Corbeil in 1993. Later, in 1997, Corbeil had Manganiello do logistical work for the Liberal Party in Quebec. Manganiello testified that Corbeil then put him on the Pluri Design payroll,

“I would say late — early fall — early fall 1998, Mr. Corbeil walked into my office and informed me that the Liberal Party was in dire straits financially and he wasn’t sure if they would able to continue paying my salary. However, he also assured me that — not to worry, that he would do everything possible to keep me on the payroll and to keep me working at the Liberal Party because my job was required — was essential for all the administration. … I would say maybe several days later or a week later, I was informed by Mr. Corbeil that Pluri Design would assume my salary. They would be paying my salary, but I would continue working at the Liberal Party. … I did not find anything bizarre. I was happy that someone had assumed my salary because I thought I was going to loose my job at the Liberal Party. But, again, he was my superior. So when he approached me and told me that Monsieur Corriveau of Pluri Design would pay my salary, I just assumed everything is okay and I knew Monsieur Corriveau was being someone involved with the Liberal Party. I met him in 1997 in my role in logistics. So I didn’t think anything of it.”

Manganiello went on to testify that he was paid $32,000 more via Pluri Design for what he described as basically the same duties as before.

On page 300 of his phase 1 report, Judge Gomery writes,

The combination of Mr. Brault’s testimony, which I find to be credible, about payments made by Groupaction to PluriDesign for no consideration other than Mr. Corriveau’s political influence, with the admission made by Mr. Corriveau to Mr. Dezainde, leaves me with no alternative but to conclude that Mr. Corriveau was at the heart of an elaborate kickback scheme, according to which at least some of the sums of money paid by Groupaction to PluriDesign, on the strength of false invoices, were used by Mr. Corriveau to the advantage of the LPCQ, by salaries paid to its employees, by services rendered by PluriDesign employees to the LPCQ , or otherwise. The consideration for these payments was the influence of Mr. Corriveau in obtaining sponsorship contracts for Mr. Lemay’s companies which were, at Mr. Corriveau’s request, managed by Groupaction.

One of the ways in which Mr. Corriveau used the sums received from Groupaction for the advantage of the LPCQ was in putting LPCQ employees on the PluriDesign payroll. Documentary evidence forced Mr. Corriveau to admit that three full-time LPCQ workers, Gaetano Manganiello, Philippe Zrihen and Jean Brisebois, were remunerated a total of $82,812.27 by PluriDesign in the years 1998 to 2000, inclusively. Messrs. Manganiello and Zrihen were on the PluriDesign payroll starting November 1, 1998, and Mr. Brisebois was added on October 4, 1999. None of these people worked in fact for PluriDesign.

Of course, this raises some important questions for Bob Rae.

Why did he think to hire these Liberal party operatives? Did he know that these men gave testimony before the Gomery inquiry? Iacono and Manganiello went on to work for Bob Rae’s leadership campaign.

After going through the drama of the Sponsorship Scandal and having an electorate focused upon ethics, why would Rae’s campaign involve these two in his leadership bid?

What should our perception be of a Liberal who hires campaign workers, after testimony given at the Gomery inquiry describing either false invoices or payment made by a third party for political work done?

What does this say about Bob Rae’s judgment?

Would Rae say that it’s dishonest for a campaign worker to submit an invoice for campaign services to someone other than the campaign with a false description of services provided?

Stephane Dion welcomed Marc Andre Cote back to the Liberal Party. Cote was originally banned from the party for receiving sponsorship funds. Dion flip-flopped on Cote, are we to conclude that the receipt of sponsorship funds does not disqualify one from being a party operative in Stephane Dion’s Liberal party? The Cote and Iacono/Manganiello examples just raise further questions.

Is anyone working on Bob Rae’s current campaign tainted by the sponsorship scandal?

Stephen Harper’s Statement of Claim

The following is Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Statement of Claim against the Liberal Party of Canada and the Federal Liberal Agency of Canada filed in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.

Is the Cadman affair the business of government?

… in the strictest Parliamentary sense that is.

It would seem that the answer is no. The House justice committee chair Art Hanger (Conservative MP, Calgary North-East) has just denied a motion forwarded by Dominic LeBlanc (Liberal MP, Beauséjour) to study the alleged Chuck Cadman inducement.

Those that would wish to drag this on through the ethics committee were also shut down by the chair of that committee, Paul Szabo (Liberal MP, Mississauga South). Szabo ruled that motions forwarded by all three opposition parties to investigate Conservatives in the Chuck Cadman affair, call witnesses under oath and bludgeon said witnesses with suggestive questions that make good press rather than good answers, out of order.

The questions of alleged inducement of an independent MP by a (then) opposition party, whether true or not, do not seem to fall within the purview of the House of Commons. This is, at least, according to the Liberal ethics committee chair and the Conservative justice committee chair.

Frankly, I’m surprised that the Speaker of the House hasn’t ruled a number of Dion’s questions surrounding allegations of a Cadman inducement out of order.

Does this story still have legs? And are those in denial declaring that this setback is but a flesh wound?

UPDATE: The story may still have arms if the Liberals and the Bloc vote to overturn Hanger’s ruling since they have a majority on the Justice committee. The NDP is siding with the Conservatives.

The “Cadscam” House party may yet get a second wind whether it is the business of Parliament or not.

Goodale’s office received “private sector feedback” prior to Income Trust Announcement

From today’s Globe and Mail, details of the RCMP investigation and interview of then Finance Minister Ralph Goodale surface:

Transcripts of RCMP interviews with Mr. Goodale and his staff show that, among other things, the Mounties scrutinized consultations between his office and private-sector investment players in the days and hours leading up to the trust announcement.

Mr. Goodale told the Mounties in a March of 2006 interview that two of his staff were tasked in the days before the announcement to “get some private-sector feedback” on the idea of a tax on trusts and other options.

He told the RCMP that his staff later assured him they didn’t disclose or signal which option the government would ultimately take.

“They would know having worked through budgets and other very confidential matters within the Department of Finance that there is no definitive information that is to be disclosed,” Mr. Goodale told the RCMP.

Mr. Goodale has repeatedly emphasized he made inquiries among his staff and department and was satisfied that no advance notice was given.

Daniel Leblanc and Steven Chase write that the Mounties were set to charge “at least one [more] federal official” surrounding the Income Trust leak but that (or those) official(s) were lucky because of a provision of the Security and Information Act was struck down in an unrelated case. It is not known who the RCMP was set to charge.

Back in February of 2007, Ralph Goodale said

“The investigation has indicated no involvement in this matter by me, my staff or any other political person”

and Stephane Dion in February of 2007,

“The RCMP income trust investigation exonerates the Liberal Party of Canada and shows that the Conservative and NDP allegations of a politically-motivated leak were false”

On naming and dealing with scandal

As some of the air has been taken out of the so-called “Cadscam”, I thought it might be interesting to take a quick look at which communications goals were achieved by how this “scandal” was named and then let’s investigate how other scandals get their names. Further, I want to take a look at how the Conservatives are dealing with these issues during their minority government.

It seems as though every scandal that emerges in the U.S. gets the -gate suffix after the famous burglary of the DNC headquarters at the hotel which came to provide inspiration for the name. Since Watergate, we’ve seen lexicographic laziness as subsequent scandals relied on the formula by which the subject of the scandal became the root of the scandal name followed by “gate”. Wikipedia has a list of scandals based on this modèle-de-mot.

In Canada, we famously have watched the progression of “Adscam” from start to finish. Andrew Coyne — then a columnist at the National Post and now a senior editor at Maclean’s — gave the moniker to the sponsorship scandal. The scandal coiner (sorry) originally cited that he wanted to avoid the familiar -gate standby and he came to rest on a derivation of Abscam, a decades-old American political scandal that netted the convictions of a number of elected officials. Adscam, however, still registers zero on political prosecutions.

NAFTA-gate is so unfortunately named because the scandal — although up in Canada, we desperately try to claim some outrage too — is rooted in U.S. politics. If the leak was anything beyond tangential, we may have had the right to name it NAFTAscam, or Obamaramascama, but we are only secondary characters in the drama at it now simmers south of our southern border. An enterprising tech entrepreneur should immediately go and register a number of possible iteration of -gate.com and -scam.ca to cash in on the mania. As the official opposition is awol in Canada, there’ll be a scandal every week as Dion and co. focus on character assassination rather than policy opposition. Bring on Harperscam, Senatescam, and Partisanscam! In the U.S., while it is surprising to see a scandal based upon policy rather than sex, we still may see -gates reminiscent of Lewinskygate as ex-lovers and past trysts are brought to the fore (we’ve already seen a McCain sex scandal resurface that was fresh 8 years ago during the 2000 campaign).

It is interesting to note that “Cadscam” originally emerged from the Ottawa press. With Adscam so recent, it’s not entirely surprising to see this name stick. However, it is a double-edged sword for those who would carelessly wield it to damage the Conservatives. The advantage of “Cadscam” for the Liberals is that it diminishes the branding of their own scandal by creating a “politicians are all the same” way of thinking among the general public. However, the very use of the name is a constant reminder of their own scandal which ultimately brought their 13-year reign to an end. Yet, on sum I would say that it is to the Liberals’ net advantage to use the “Cadscam” name for one of the main Conservative advantages has been that they have framed themselves as the team that was elected to ‘clean up Ottawa’ and they told the electorate that ‘a new era of accountability was upon us’.

If accountability represents one pillar of this Conservative administration, this scandal has Conservatives worried because it also strikes at the very base of the other pillar: leadership. As Dona Cadman has cleared Conservative leader Stephen Harper from involvement, we can understand that perception is everything in politics and as the Conservatives clean up this mess, we see that timing and credibility are the primary factors for damage control. Of course, another key element that we have seen is pushback. Harper’s pending lawsuit against Dion is evidence of this.

Some have questioned the Prime Minister’s lack of substantive enunciation on the topic and say that he should have come forward right away to clear the air and answer any questions. Since the allegations were based on old and second-hand information, what the Prime Minister’s strategy continues to be is one that doesn’t give the intense spotlight of his office to a scandal that he cannot begin to define in his own terms. In contrast, on “NAFTA-gate”, the Prime Minister has put the full resources of his government on determining the source of the leak which impaired Obama in the Ohio primary. Some say that the PM has changed the channel on “Cadscam”, and whether or not this was deliberate on the his part, this is indeed what has happened. NAFTA-gate, as far as a news story goes, has much more momentum, involves more players, and does not have any heavy legal consequences for the Prime Minister and his team. It’s an embarrassing scandal to be sure, however, it is not one that is likely to change voter intention in the next Canadian federal election. As Canadians, I think we’re just happy that we heard our names mentioned on American TV.

If we take a substantive look at both “scandals”, the so-called “Cadscam” smells bad, but in the end it hasn’t got any legs: the three people at the centre of the allegations all denied a deal (Cadman included) and anything else is completely speculative. Unless Dion has a smoking gun, the only factor that will continue to define the story is Harper’s libel suit against the oppo leader. The Liberals might continue their pressure in the House’s ethics committee, however, they should be mindful that there is a point to be made, backed up by an easily built narrative, that the Liberals are on a witch-hunt and that they have tried to throw anything at the wall to see what sticks. On “NAFTA-gate”, there are too many speculative details for this to continue beyond the continued policy-bereft warbling of Dion in the House.

If all else fails, the Conservatives should unveil what Dion would gladly term the “hidden agenda” and dare the opposition to debate on real policy rather than trumped-up scandal.