BREAKING: Liberal Party of Australia chucks Turnbull, caucus elects Abbott

In a caucus revolt triggered by (former) leader Malcolm Turnbull embrace of Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), the Australian Liberal causus has ejected their leader, electing Tony Abbott in his place. Turnbull lost his leadership by one vote this morning.

Mr. Rudd’s ETS which will face a Senate vote, and is expected to be defeated in the Upper Chamber. Last week, Turnbull faced the first significant challenge to his leadership over ETS when five of his shadow ministers resigned in protest of their leader’s support for Rudd’s carbon trading bill.

Upon failure of the ETS legislation in the Senate, the bill can be reintroduced by Rudd but this would likely cause a double dissolution election; Rudd cannot pass the legislation due to a majority possessed by the Liberals and Family First party (a party also against Rudd’s ETS legislation). Leadership rival Joe Hockey said that he’d allow Liberal senators a free vote on ETS, however, Mr. Abbott has said this would not be allowed if he assumed Turnbull’s office.

The Liberals would prefer to defer the legislation to committee until the Copenhagen conference on climate change has concluded. Recent Australian polls have shown the Aussies to be unfavourable to a defined carbon trading system before testing the mood at the international conference. About 30% of Australians favour no carbon-trading scheme at all.

Abbott was the former health and industrial relations minister in Prime Minister John Howard’s cabinet. He led the monarchist movement before entering into politics.

This defeat is quite embarrassing for Turnbull having lost his leadership prior to challenging Australia’s governing Labour party on the hustings. A IT millionaire and former head of Goldman Sachs in Australia, Turnbull was seen by supporters to be an important figure ready to rebuild the Liberal Party after that party’s defeat to Rudd’s Labour Party in 2007.

RELATED: In the UK, Conservative Party leader David Cameron is facing grumblings within his own party regarding his stance on climate change. (Read the comments)

UPDATE: I’ve just chatted with some Liberal friends down under who’ve given me some more insight on who Tony Abbott is. Abbott, in the political sense is described as a “conviction politician” meaning that he doesn’t shy away from issues. A staunch Catholic, Abbott once studied to become a priest. He is described as an outdoorsman, a former boxer and rugby player with the crumpled ears to match.

Abbott came into formal politics under the leadership of John Hewson, where Abbott worked as the Liberal leader’s press secretary. Prior to this Abbott worked as a features writer for the Australian Murdoch Daily paper.

Originally elected in 1994, Abbott’s career includes the ministries of health and industrial relations. First, as the Industrial Relations minister, Abbott took a confrontational stance against the national construction union and regulated it. Abbott’s approach with striking workers was often an unusual one; during strikes, he would often go and address the workers himself. As for the federal government’s unemployment services, he deregulated them and privatized a large part of their function.

In Health, Abbott served to “keep health off of the front page” meaning that the portfolio was largely defensive in contrast to his tenure as Industrial Relations minister. However, Abbott faltered in this role when an old speech on abortion surfaced reigniting that debate in Australia. At the time, Australia was debating RU486 and a private member’s bill was quickly introduced stripping the minister of discretion on the issue.

After the defeat to Rudd’s Labour Party, Abbott served as shadow minister for aboriginal affairs.

The defeat of Turnbull is described as a major victory for the grassroots on ETS. Abbott’s preferred track is to defer ETS to the Senate committee until after Copenhagen. This will only be possible with the support of the Greens or via the two independent Senators. However, it is still possible that the government will allow the defeat of the bill. If it is defeated twice by the Senate, this will allow the PM an election where both houses of parliament would be dissolved for a general election.

Regarding Malcolm’s surprise defeat, another insider contact writes to say that the former Liberal leader massively misjudged party sentiment on the issue of ETS. My contact suggests that Malcolm is “intellectually captured by the prosperous urban left” and that he’s a “rich lefty at heart”. Liberals in parliament and street-level Conservatives were upset with Turnbull for ceding ground on the ETS debate to the Rudd government. My contact suggests that Turnbull could have taken the more tenable position of waiting on ETS until after Copenhagen and explained that the party perceived their leader to be handing a gift to the PM to take to the conference. Turnbull took the position that the party should fall in line and needed to be progressive and “give the planet the benefit of the doubt”.

Politically, the Liberals need to take the fight back to the government’s position on ETS whereas the last 8 months of debate have centred around what the Liberals would do instead. Under new leadership, Liberals hope that the party will be able to shift the focus back on Rudd.

Amy Goodman sort of inadmissible to Canada?

This story piqued my interest in my news scans over the past few days. Amy Goodman, who most of my right-of-centre co-travellers would consider a bit fringe while others would consider solidly left-wing, was detained for questioning on Wednesday at a British Columbian border crossing. Goodman was questioned about her reasons for visiting Canada. The independent journalist and broadcaster cited a couple of speaking engagements in Victoria and Vancouver to promote her book.

Officials from the Canadian Border Services Agency were interested in whether Goodman would be speaking about the Vancouver 2010 Olympics games. Goodman responded no, but by her own account she explained that CBSA didn’t seem to believe her.

I contacted a spokeswoman for CBSA and they explained that while they cannot comment on specific cases, “all persons seeking entry into Canada must meet all requirements” set out by the CBSA. Applicants for entry must not have a record of criminality, for example.

I’d wondered if Amy Goodman had ever been arrested since I’ve known her to be something of an activist on issues. A quick Google search revealed that she had been arrested at the Republican National Convention in 2008 for “conspiracy to riot”. Here is a video of her arrest:

The charges were eventually dropped against Goodman as the St. Paul City Attorney’s office refused to prosecute.

However, it is unclear as to whether charges without conviction is enough to create a “lookout” in the CBSA database. The CBSA spokeswoman also told me that criminality is certainly a red flag when it comes to determining a person’s fitness for admissibility.

Given the unprecedented security that is being put in place for the 2010 games, a less than perfect history with law enforcement may have given agents more pause when considering Goodman.

Despite the temporary detention, Goodman is likely not too upset about the whole affair. She was admitted to Canada for two days and has now received national media attention for the book she was promoting.

Hockey sticks and email leaks: Dr. Ross McKitrick responds to the “Climategate” story

Dr. Ross McKitrick is a professor of environmental economics at the University of Guelph and is a senior fellow at the Fraser Institute. His work with Stephen McIntyre — another Canadian — provides much of the basis for skepticism of the hypothesis of anthropogenic climate change. The “Hockey Stick” graph authored by Mann, Bradley and Hughes and published by Nature has come under renewed controversy after emails and data from the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit were hacked and leaked revealing smoothing, manipulation, clumsy patching and omission of data used to construct climate models based on direct and indirect temperate readings. The hockey stick graph provided basis for the 2001 IPCC report, and a significant foundation for the modern mainstream view on climate change. The emails also revealed a tightly controlled and collaborative peer-review process which appeared to be designed to suppress skepticism and debate.

Leaders from industrialized and non-industrialized nations will meet in Copenhagen in just over a week to discuss a new agreement to replace the Kyoto protocol and seeks to transfer GDP from richer nations to poorer ones under the guise of aiding the implementation of CO2 emission reduction capacity around the world. I emailed Dr. McKitrick to ask him about the CRU hack/leak, the news of a pending US Congressional probe into the revelations that came from it, his opinion if such a move is necessary in Canada and whether this will affect the “scientific consensus” and political track as we move towards Copenhagen and beyond.

Ujjal Dosanjh on getting to the truth on Afghan prisoners

Some diplomats are more credible than others according to Dosanjh?

On Twitter, we learn of Mr. Dosanjh’s opinion of Richard Colvin’s testimony:

“Colvin was absolutely honest ystrdy. He risked his all. #lpc #cdnpoli #roft” — Ujjal Dosanjh, November 19th 2009

What is Mr. Dosanjh’s opinion of the testimony that David Mulroney would give?

“The government expects us to go into that committee blindly and Mr. Mulroney sits there and tells us this happened and we have no way of knowing whether it happened or not.” — Ujjal Dosanjh, November 23rd 2009

David Mulroney is the current ambassador to China who ran the Afganistan Task Force for the government of Canada. Richard Colvin was a senior diplomat who served in Afghanistan.

Nannygate news

Just a few minutes ago, the House of Commons unanimously endorsed a report produced by the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration which included the following recommendation,

Recommendation 7 The Committee recommends that the authorized bodies in the provincial and federal governments investigate the allegations of the former live-in caregivers in the Dhalla residence and take measures as appropriate. Further, the Committee requests that these government bodies, upon completion of their investigations, send the result to the Committee.

The Liberals had a chance to amend the motion in the House today, but perhaps they were asleep at the switch?

Liberal Party upset over signs?

A Liberal Party press release yesterday criticized the government for putting up “signs for signs”:

OTTAWA – Liberal MPs today attacked the latest Conservative propaganda tactic of putting signs in front of federal buildings that advertise the installation or study of other signs.

“Stephen Harper calls this stimulus?” said Liberal MP Wayne Easter. “First it was signs to advertise routine maintenance like replacing door-knobs. Now it’s signage that takes credit for signage. What’s next, a cheque presentation to pay for cheques? Advertising that advertises advertising?”

According to the Harper government’s Conservative-blue Economic Action Plan website, giant billboard signage takes credit for “a study of overhead signage” in Gatineau’s Place du Centre and “installation of interior/exterior signage” in Yellowknife’s Greenstone Government of Canada Building.

Regarding the project in Yellowknife, a government press release explains:

PWGSC is making many upgrades to this building, including electrical and mechanical maintenance, repairing a foundation wall, installing an auto-transfer switch and a chiller upgrade for operational deficiencies, and assessing the electrical switchgear panel and breaker.

I spoke with a senior staffer in the Prime Minister’s Office and another staffer at Public Works to find out about the Gatineau sign.

I learned that there are 8 federal projects occurring at Gatineau’s Place du Centre with work underway costing $840,000. One of these projects is for “a study of overhead signage”. This smaller project involves studying accessibility and safety in federal buildings for visually-impaired people.

Next, look for Liberals protesting a wheelchair ramp installation near you. They’ll be the ones holding signs.

Michael Ignatieff’s new Director of Communications has an interesting background

“Everything old is new again” is the buzz coming from Liberals and journalists in Ottawa. Peter Donolo’s the new boss of the OLO shop (the Dunno-LO as one journalist told me weeks ago) and today we’ve learned that he’s finally put some new key players in place after the wholly awkward ejection of Davey/Fairbrother.

Among the “fresh” faces is Michael Ignatieff’s new Director of Communications, Mario Laguë, a man the CBC’s Rosemary Barton tells us is among the new gang that “[knows] Quebec inside-out”.

But, a Lexis-Nexis/Informart plunge into the past tells us more!

It appears that Mario Laguë was not only hired by Paul Martin to put a brave face on the sponsorship scandal, but Ignatieff’s new D.Comm was also part of a three-man panel with Chuck Guité that hired then Public Works Minister Alfonso Gagliano’s Chief of Staff to replace Guité, who was retiring. Stephen Harper, then opposition leader, criticized the hire saying the sponsorship scandal could have been stopped if a senior bureacrat was hired in the position instead.

Affidavit shows how Guité was replaced Document reveals membership of team that chose boss for sponsorship program — The Globe and Mail, October 18th, 2005 by Daniel Leblanc.

OTTAWA — An affidavit prepared by the Public Service Commission for the Gomery inquiry sheds new light on the controversial hiring of a former Liberal aide to head the sponsorship program in 1999, including the role of a federal official who would become an aide to Prime Minister Paul Martin.

The inquiry heard conflicting testimony about how Pierre Tremblay, then the chief of staff to then public works minister Alfonso Gagliano, was hired to replace retiring bureaucrat Chuck Guité. Mr. Guité said he rigged the process at Mr. Gagliano’s behest; the former minister denied any political interference.

The affidavit, which went unnoticed when it was tabled in May, shows that Mr. Tremblay’s hiring was approved by a three-member selection board made up of Mr. Guité, Public Service Commission executive resourcing consultant Michael Carey, and Mario Laguë, a long-time Liberal supporter who became Mr. Martin’s first director of communications when he became Prime Minister. The affidavit said Mr. Tremblay was hired “based on the recommendation of the selection board.”

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper said yesterday the problems with the sponsorship program could have been stopped if an experienced civil servant had been hired in 1999 instead of Mr. Tremblay. The problems continued until an RCMP investigation was launched in 2002, but by then Mr. Tremblay was working in another federal agency.

When Prime Minister Paul Martin was in office he hired Laguë to “cover-up” the sponsorship scandal according to opposition Conservatives at the time.

Assistant to PM contributed to cover-up, opposition says Mario Lague included in strategy sessions when problems first surfaced, e-mail says; Mario Lague included in strategy sessions when problems first surfaced, e-mail says — The Globe and Mail, February 20th, 2004 by Campbell Clark

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Paul Martin’s communications director was a key player in the Chrétien government’s efforts to put the best face on serious problems in the sponsorship program in 2000, government records show.

Opposition politicians focused many attacks in the Commons yesterday on Mario Lague, Mr. Martin’s communications director, insisting he was involved in efforts to “cover up” the sponsorship scandal, which saw millions misused from 1996 to 2002.

Mr. Martin fought back, asserting that Mr. Lague “was not involved in the management of the sponsorship file.”

However, records show that Mr. Lague was included in top-level meetings to plan strategy when problems began to emerge. An e-mail from September, 2000, obtained by an independent researcher and provided to The Globe and Mail, indicates that Mr. Lague was one of a small group of senior officials and political aides who plotted to put the best face on a damaging audit.

Liberals in support of new citizenship guide

The new guide released this week for newcomers to Canada has been generally well accepted by the mainstream of Canada. Of course, some on the left are criticizing the guide for focusing on Canada’s “militaristic” history and for not mincing words when it comes to “barbaric cultural practices” not in line with Canadian values.

Liberals are finding it difficult to oppose the guide as some of their heavy hitters are already backing up the government.

Marc Chalifoux was Michael Ignatieff’s former political assistant and he is quoted in the government’s press release (along with Margaret McMillan, Rudyard Griffiths and Jack Granatstein):

“Discover Canada should be in the hands of not only new Canadians, but every high school student in Canada,” said Marc Chalifoux, Executive Vice-President of the Historica-Dominion Institute. “All citizens, whether they were born in Canada or not, need to understand how the institutions of this country came to be. This guide tells them how.”

Former Paul Martin Director of Communications Scott Reid had this to say on CBC’s Power & Politics:

I think that the citizenship quiz actually is a good initiative. I like the updating. Vimy Ridge, Louis Riel, these are references that ought to be part and parcel of it. You know, when you take a look at the people that guided its reshaping: Canadians of unquestioned qualification.

Former Liberal Party President Stephen Ledrew also gave the guide thumbs up on his CP24 show yesterday.

You can peruse the guide here:

Justin Trudeau demands $10,000 speaking fee… from Liberals

From Saturday’s Times Transcript,

A Who’s Who of Metro Moncton and, indeed, the province showed up and raised $35,000 for projects promoting increased literacy. And the crowd of about 500 attendees heard a ‘passionate’ speech by Justin Trudeau, son of PET.

Trudeau told reporters he loves visiting New Brunswick whenever he can: “I love it here. The people are so nice and hospitable,” he gushed. But what was that grumbling behind his back?

Highly respected attendees say the event could have raised a lot more than it did. . . $10,000 more. It seems that was the personal appearance fee young Justin charged local Liberals for his ‘passionate speech.’ Tell us again why he likes visiting . . . please!

Justin is also available for sweet 16 birthday parties, club openings and bat mitzvahs. Please call his booking agent for details.