Ignatieff out of step with the UN on abortion

So there I was watching the National on CBC. It’s been quite a few days of discussion, at least in Conservative circles, about the partisan affiliation (or appearance of as much) of pollster Frank Graves and his call for the Liberal mainstream to take up war against the Conservative horde. I hadn’t seen the National in a few weeks so I thought I’d give it a fair viewing.

Cue the top story of the day according to the CBC: abortion!

What we learned from the top story? That Canada’s long standing position on abortion faces “reversal” with CIDA minister Bev Oda’s pronunciation on the topic today. Canada will not help fund third world abortions as part of an initiative of maternal health.

But is it a reversal? There is actually no legislation from Parliament on the issue. There is no law restricting it, no law promoting it. Canada’s position if it can be stated, is that there’s NO position.

Yet, we learn that Canada’s non-position is about to be reversed. No, not that it’s taking a firm position on its domestic policy with respect to abortion, but that Canada will continue to not fund third world abortions. This is a reversal according to The National. Nevermind that Canada’s non-position domestically is not even a fair lens through which to view our international status quo position, it’s a “reversal”.

If from that you’ve sorted it all out, perhaps you’re on the right side of Frank Graves’ culture war. But me? I’m sitting on the sideline scratching my head.

Let’s add some more confusion. The Liberals and media frame the Conservative position as “out of step” with that of the UK and the US. Let’s set aside that when the US didn’t fund third world abortions it was called the “Bush” position rather than the “US” position. But hey why not check the United Nations position on abortion:

From the United Nations Population Fund, paragraph 8.25 states:

“In no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning. All Governments and relevant intergovernmental and non governmental organizations are urged to strengthen their commitment to women’s health, to deal with the health impact of unsafe abortion as a major public health concern and to reduce the recourse to abortion through expanded and improved family planning services. Prevention of unwanted pregnancies must always be given the highest priority and all attempts should be made to eliminate the need for abortion. Women who have unwanted pregnancies should have ready access to reliable information and compassionate counselling. Any measures or changes related to abortion within the health system can only be determined at the national or local level according to the national legislative process. In circumstances in which abortion is not against the law, such abortion should be safe. In all cases women should have access to quality services for the management of complications arising from abortion. Post abortion counselling, education and family planning services should be offered promptly which will also help to avoid repeat abortions.”

and just to drive the point home:

Does the UN provide funding for abortion?

No. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the main United Nations body involved in population issues, does not support or promote abortion in any country, nor does it provide assistance for abortion services or abortion-related equipment and supplies. It strictly abides by the Programme of Action of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, which states that “in no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning”. UNFPA works to prevent abortion through family planning, and helps countries to provide services for women suffering from the complications of unsafe abortions. The Fund helps developing countries to establish national reproductive health programmes and reduce maternal illness and death, as well as in family planning and HIV/AIDS prevention. UNFPA also helps countries compile reliable demographic data and carry out censuses. As the largest international source of population assistance, UNFPA is funded entirely by voluntary contributions.

So, where’s the headline? Harper doesn’t change status quo but “reverses” an undefined policy that is by not only undefined but by the definition of “undefined”, irreversible?

Or is the headline “Ignatieff out of step with the UN on abortion”?

Consider this: Perhaps the real story is that Mr. Ignatieff — having defined himself as “Mr. Internationalism” and a leader who would “regain Canada’s place in the world” — now is out of step with the very embodiment of internationalism that all DFAITers pine after.

But perhaps this internationalist position isn’t as fashionable to Mr. Ignatieff is it? If it were, we think he’d be all over it like soy milk on Kasha.

Now, that I’m done watching the National, I better turn the channel. The Hour is on and its George on George. Strombo woopin up the audience for his next guest, George Galloway.

The culture war is underway.

Patrick Muttart sustains pressure on CBC regarding Frank Graves

Patrick Muttart used to be the director of strategic communications in the Prime Minister’s office and was the strategist behind Prime Minister Harper’s successful 2006 election, the result of which saw the Conservatives replacing the Liberals in government. Muttart crafted the strategy behind finding accessible voters and “activating” them for the Conservatives with specific policy planks.

Muttart was on the Roy Green show yesterday where he continued the Conservative narrative against the CBC’s affiliation with pollster Frank Graves. Graves came under fire when a column from the Globe’s Lawrence Martin quoted Graves recalling his strategic advice that he gave the Liberals. His advice, to start a “culture war”, wedging against Albertans and Conservatives, depicting them as xenophobic racist homophobes who would vote for Sarah Palin.

And therein lies a bit of a contrast between strategists, one Liberal and one Conservative (though Graves will tell you that he’s part of the Canadian mainstream and thus his Liberalism is implicit). Muttart helped Harper win elections by performing strict addition while Graves is advising Liberals to perform addition by division.

Here’s a transcript of “Harper’s brain” on the Roy Green show:

ROY GREEN: The president of the Conservative Party of Canada sent a letter to the ombudsman of the CBC questioning the CBC’s practice of hiring EKOS pollster Frank Graves after Mr. Graves, among other things, said this concerning the Liberal Party of Canada to the Globe and Mail, quote: “I told them that they should invoke a culture war, cosmopolitanism versus parochialism, secularism versus moralism, Obama versus Palin, tolerance versus racism and homophobia, democracy versus autocracy.” Then Mr. Graves is quoted as saying, “If the cranky old men in Alberta don’t like it, too bad. Go south and vote for Palin.” And EKOS executive director Paul Adams is quoted in some newspapers as having described those words as Frank Graves providing, quote, “hypothetical advice”, end quote, to the Liberals. It’s also been reported on the Elections Canada website that Mr. Graves donated just over $11,000 to the Liberal Party while giving $449.04 to a Conservative candidate in Ottawa. EKOS maintains it has never polled for any political party or been under retainer to a political party. Now, with me on the Corus Radio Network is Patrick Muttart. He is a Conservative Party strategist and former deputy chief of staff to the Prime Minister, Prime Minister Harper. Patrick, the concern of the Conservative Party, then, is a perceived relationship between EKOS, the Liberal Party and the CBC, if I understand it correctly, so what is it you want from the CBC, and then perhaps more importantly, what are you expecting?

PATRICK MUTTART: Well, I think you hit the nail on the top of the head when you introduced me as a Conservative, and as a former advisor to Prime Minister Harper. That was the right thing to do because your listeners deserve to know that I have a partisan affiliation. It’s relevant to everything I say on this program or any other program. And that’s the problem that a whole lot of people have with the CBC right now. Their pollster on party politics, Frank Graves, as you said, is not only a regular financial contributor to the Liberal Party, but he’s giving strategic political advice, and you know, that’s a clear conflict of interest, and I would argue that he shouldn’t be the CBC’s pollster on party politics, but at the very least, the CBC should provide full disclosure to its viewers. This is something that you done…you did on this radio program with me, but that the CBC does not do on television with Frank Graves.

ROY GREEN: Now, EKOS says there’s no professional relationship between it, the CBC or the Liberal Party, and that Frank Graves was only offering hypothetical advice to the Liberals during the interview with the Globe and Mail.

PATRICK MUTTART: Well, that seems to be contradicted by Frank Graves’ quote as quoted by Lawrence Martin in the Globe and Mail, and we see the journalist who wrote the column, Lawrence Martin, sticking by his story. I mean, look, it’s clear: he admits to being a Liberal supporter. The record is there in terms of his donations. Not only is he giving them advice, he’s giving them advice which is, you know, inflammatory and incredibly divisive, and it just strikes me as being extremely odd, extremely inappropriate that the CBC, which is there to serve all Canadians, would actually put this guy on as a neutral pollster on party politics.

ROY GREEN: On Friday the Globe and Mail also quoted Mr. Graves, this was the follow-up quote: “I do believe,” and this gets more subtle, “that there’s a higher incidence of people who are less tolerant to homosexuals and more wary of other races within the Conservative Party. I can demonstrate that empirically. That does not mean that Conservatives or Albertans are homophobic or xenophobic, but it does mean that many people, and more people statistically that have those points of view, end up in that party than in other places. That may be a statement that people don’t want to hear, but it’s empirically accurate and has been for a long time.” What do you say?

PATRICK MUTTART: Well, I think it demonstrates further why he shouldn’t be the CBC’s so-called neutral pollster on party politics. You know, this guy is telling the Liberal Party that they should go out and attempt to divide Canadians by, you know, putting the Liberals on once side of tolerance and the Conservatives on the side of racism and a whole bunch of other things. Now, Graves, in his half-hearted apology, said he doesn’t believe that the Prime Minister is a racist. He simply believes that the Prime Minister attracts a disproportionate number of racists as party supporters. It’s offensive, it’s inappropriate, and it just demonstrates how unacceptable it is that the CBC has him on as their neutral pollster on party politics.

ROY GREEN: If we look at the CBC specifically, do you believe that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation provides the same consideration and same objectivity to the Conservative Party and stories, new stories that concern the Prime Minister, as the CBC would provide to, say, the Liberal Party and their leader, or the NDP and their leader?

PATRICK MUTTART: A lot of people have had concerns about the CBC’s biases for a long time. There’ve been three incidents over the last number of years which have caused me and a lot of people to kind of look at the CBC and shake our heads. There was an incident in 2004 when a CBC producer was actively looking for people who, you know, vehemently disagreed with and disliked the Prime Minister to participate in a town hall meeting. There was a controversy in 2008, I believe, where a CBC reporter was writing questions for Liberal members of a House of Commons committee, and now we have this latest incident, which is Frank Graves, where he’s making Liberal contributions and providing strategic advice to the Liberal Party, and there’s no disclosure from the CBC.

ROY GREEN: There was another story as well where on The National the Prime Minister was shown to be saying one thing in a clip, in a news clip, then the reporter came back, and then they showed another clip without identifying that other clip from being from a completely different story at a completely different time. They tied them together to make it look as though it was one story and it made the Prime Minister look very bad, and then the CBC had to apologize on The National for doing that.

PATRICK MUTTART: Yeah, they did apologize, and I think the CBC has…

ROY GREEN: But it shouldn’t be necessary. That is…you know what, that is deceptive journalism. It’s not journalism, it’s just deceptive broadcasting.

PATRICK MUTTART: It shouldn’t be necessary, and I think the CBC has to remember that it is owned by the people of Canada. It’s a crown corporation. It’s a national public broadcaster, receives over $1 billion a year from the taxpayers. The CBC belongs to all Canadians, whether they’re Liberal, Conservative or supporters of other parties, and I think that just gets back to the core issue here, which is how unacceptable it is that Frank Graves can be their neutral pollster on party politics when he’s so clearly identified as being both a financial supporter of the Liberal Party as well as an advisor to them on their political strategy.

ROY GREEN: Well, I haven’t done any objective studies of the CBC, but I do watch to see what’s going on, see how my money is being spent, and I have to tell you, Patrick, that when they go to experts for so many of their news stories, when they go to people to provide input on a basic news story, it will more often than not and significantly more often than not in my observance be people who are very much to the left of centre they go to, and unabashedly.

PATRICK MUTTART: I think what you’re seeing is over time the CBC has been losing viewers for its news coverage. There’s a steady downward trend of viewership for CBC television news programs. They have spent a considerable amount of money on revitalizing their news operations. It doesn’t appear to be paying off in terms of new viewers, and I think this demonstrates that there’s a growing disconnect between the CBC and large numbers of Canadians.

ROY GREEN: So what is it specifically the that the party wants, the Conservative Party wants? You’ve given them a deadline of April the 28th to respond. The CBC (inaudible) will respond in, quote, “due course”, end quote. What do you want from them?

PATRICK MUTTART: I think first of all the Conservative Party simply wants an explanation. I think the bigger issue here is that Frank Graves should not be the CBC’s pollster on party politics, or at very least, if the CBC insist that Frank Graves should be on its programs, they should be providing full disclosure to their viewers that when Frank Graves gives an opinion, offers analysis, provides commentary, that he is speaking as someone who not only has been giving money to the Liberal Party, but also has been providing strategic advice in terms of their election positioning.

ROY GREEN: Thank you for the time, Patrick. Appreciate it.

PATRICK MUTTART: Thank you, Roy.

ROY GREEN: Patrick Muttart on the Roy Green Show on the Corus Radio Network, Conservative Party strategist, former advisor to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and again, Frank Graves, through his executive director, has said all he did was provide hypothetical advice to the Liberal Party of Canada.

Conservatives raising money off of CBC and Graves

I received an advance draft of a fundraising letter that is going out to Conservative members soon in order to raise money off of the CBC/Graves relationship. Here it is.

Here we go again.

Yes, I am writing to you about the CBC. Canada’s national public broadcaster. A Crown Corporation that receives over one billion dollars per year from taxpayers. A network with a mandate to serve all Canadians.

In recent days we have learned that the CBC’s pollster on party politics, Frank Graves, has been providing both money (at least $10,762.81 since 2001 according to Elections Canada) and strategic advice to the Liberal Party of Canada. His contributions are huge and his advice is incendiary. Graves wants the Ignatieff Liberals to wage a divisive “Culture War” that would pit East against West, young against old, and urban Canada against rural Canada. He even suggests that if people don’t like the Ignatieff Liberal vision of Canada they can move to the United States (an odd statement given Michael Ignatieff’s fondness for America).

Week after week Graves expresses opinions about Canadian politics under the guise of being the CBC’s neutral pollster on party politics. And just until recently viewers have been kept in the dark about his Liberal contributions and his Liberal advice. But the CBC continues to stand by Graves, their “neutral” pollster.

This episode demonstrates – once again – that we Conservatives are up against a powerful array of vested interests. Vested interests who want to go back to the days of Jean Chretien and Paul Martin. Back to higher taxes. Back to a weakened military. Back to political correctness. And they’re willing to support a highly divisive “Culture War” to take us back.

We can’t afford to go back. We can’t afford to let Frank Graves and the Liberal “Culture War” to prevail. Because Canada, after years of drift, is once again moving forward. Our world-leading Economic Action Plan is delivering results. Our military is being re-built. And there’s a new spirit of national pride taking root across the country. These changes did not happen by accident. They are a result of strong Conservative leadership. Never before has the choice in national politics been so clear.

I am asking you to do two things.

First, write to the CBC and tell them it’s unacceptable to present Frank Graves as a neutral pollster on party politics. You can reach the CBC’s ombudsman by email at ombudsman@cbc.ca, or by phone at 1-416-205-2978.

Second, please make a contribution to the Conservative Party of $200 or $100 right now by following this link. Unlike the Liberals, we can’t count on the vested interests. We rely on donations from proud patriotic Canadians like you.

Doug Finley
Campaign Director

Questions about Frank Graves

There’s a bit of chatter about today’s Ekos poll, but a lot of it has been about its pollster Frank Graves. As with anything in politics, there’s a problem when the messenger becomes the story rather than the message they are delivering.

A few press gallery flacks were all a-twitter at a new meme they perceived to be emerging from the Liberal benches during Question Period: “The Conservative Culture of Deceit”. Obviously more of a play on Stephen Harper’s “Culture of Defeat” remark about Atlantic Canada than the Justice Gomery’s remarks of a Liberal “Culture of Entitlement”.

The “Culture of Defeat” written for Harper in 2001 posed problems for the Conservative brand in Atlantic Canada and what made it particularly damaging was a bit of history on uncouth remarks about the region by another member of one of the Conservative’s legacy parties, the Canadian Alliance.

Back in 2000, Alliance pollster John Mykytyshyn went adrift in some turbulent seas when he remarked “[Atlantic Canadians] don’t want to do like our ancestors did and work for a living and go where the jobs are. Probably, the Alliance won’t go over as well there.”

Indeed, after these comments, the Alliance did not “go over” well in Atlantic Canada and it has taken years to climb back from these words.

Mykytyshyn told me, “as an unpaid volunteer, I was subjected to 13 days of media coverage on this based on an offhand comment that I apologized for, and the CBC did a 10 minute special on the incident.”

Fast forward to today, where we learn that the CBC’s EKOS pollster is also advising the Liberal Party of Canada giving the party strategic direction on the sentiment of the electorate.

Among Graves’ advice?

“I told them that they should invoke a culture war. Cosmopolitanism versus parochialism, secularism versus moralism, Obama versus Palin, tolerance versus racism and homophobia, democracy versus autocracy. If the cranky old men in Alberta don’t like it, too bad. Go south and vote for Palin.”

Start a culture war? I remember years and years of Liberal criticism about Conservatives dividing Canadians, “pitting region against region”. The Liberal Party branded itself as the party that “unites” Canadians rather than divides. The only thing the Liberal Party is not known to divide these days are leadership debts and the cheque at Carmello’s — someone else will pick it up.

But the CBC’s attachment to Graves is particularly conflicted since it erupted when Mykytyshyn made those unfortunate and divisive remarks, driving it home to every east-coaster watching or listening to Canada’s state-funded broadcaster. And now? Our tax dollars pad Graves’ bottom line as he advises the Liberals on how to “stop worrying about the West” as Lawrence Martin reports him saying. Further, the CBC is using him to provide objective, research-driven advice on party politics yet he is giving advice to one party.

Division does work in politics. But when the Conservatives own the right side of the entitled vs. ordinary split what’s left? Demonization of entire constituencies, provinces and regions of people is the politics of desperation. It always fails.

UPDATE: Kory Teneycke unloads on Graves on CBC’s Power & Politics. Teneycke pointed out Graves’ donation record to the Liberal Party. The Sun points out donations totaling $11,042.72 to the Liberal Party including the leadership campaigns of Ignatieff and Rae with just $449.04 going to a Tory candidate in Ottawa-Vanier.

I emailed Richard Stursberg, the executive VP of CBC/Radio Canada about this:

Here is the CBC’s reply,

And my reply to Jeff,

and the subsequent reply,

The Sun story includes comment from Paul Adams, executive director of EKOS:

“EKOS has never polled for any political party or been retained as a client by any political party,” he said in an e-mail Thursday night.

“Mr. Graves did give an interview to Lawrence Martin, the Globe columnist, in which he offered the Liberals hypothetical advice, just as he might to any other political party in the course of an interview.

“To the extent that the Globe article may have implied that Mr. Graves had previously proffered this advice directly to the Liberal Party, it was a mistaken implication.”

From EKOS’ website, we learn about Paul Adams:

Prior to joining EKOS, Mr. Adams had a distinguished career as a journalist. He covered mainly political stories as a correspondent for CBC television’s The National and later as Parliamentary Bureau Chief for CBC Radio. In 1999, he joined the Globe and Mail as senior parliamentary correspondent and later served as the newspaper’s Middle East correspondent.

Small world.

UPDATE 4/23: Graves has apologizes for his remarks and wants to set the record straight:

On MPs and lobbying – where does it end?

Found on another website:

Mr. Jaffer’s valuable contributions to our clients include acting for foreign and offshore organizations in obtaining operating licenses, securing regulatory and governmental approvals for mergers and acquisitions, reviewing policies and conduct of Canadian Security Intelligence Services, advising government bodies on international issues regarding cross border tax collection, antidumping issues, and lobbying government on policy issues as well as facilitating inter-governmental relationships.

Oops, I’m sorry. The paragraph above erroneously cited the name of Rahim Jaffer. The excerpt above is not about the former MP who is the subject of a probe into website fibbery (and some alleged “puffery”) by the House of Commons ethics committee, but was rather in reference to a sitting Member of Parliament. I regret the deliberate yet illustrative error.

Now, of course, Lee has has probably not anything wrong here but I find it odd that a paragraph on a website puffing up an individual and what they can do for clients has caused so much controversy, with respect to Rahim Jaffer. Jaffer’s website seemed to claim that he could influence public policy decisions through his contacts. If Jaffer was indeed lobbying, he should have registered.

On the other hand, Lee is not a lobbyist but we have a firm boasting to their clients that a Member of Parliament is “lobbying government on policy issues” thus providing “valuable contributions to our clients”.

The language just doesn’t sit right. It’s quite a bit of puffery.

Selected readings from Derrick Snowdy’s Facebook wall

Derrick Snowdy, the private investigator behind the allegations of drugs and “busty hookers” that got Helena Guergis kicked out of cabinet, has recently become a very public figure. Since the time when he (probably) sourced The Star’s Guergis story, he has been a bit unreachable, jetting off to the Bahamas and… locking down his Facebook profile.

Here are some of Snowdy’s recent status updates from Facebook. I’ll only quote updates that are relevant to the media scrutiny of Guergis/Jaffer/Gillani/Snowdy.

Derrick Snowdy is planning a few days away from the circus. I think next week looks like a good time to go to DisneyWorld
Yesterday at 7:58am via Facebook for BlackBerry

Derrick Snowdy no hearings huh, hmmm me thinks someone spilled the beans toJack. now he wants it hushed
Mon at 8:14pm via Facebook for BlackBerry

[name withheld] Taliban Jack?
Mon at 8:23pm

Derrick Snowdy Yep, I guess he knows now how close this is going to hit home with a certain NDP and he needs time to prep
Mon at 8:25pm

Derrick Snowdy today was interesting… if you all only know what I know now!!!
Mon at 12:08pm via Facebook for BlackBerry

Derrick Snowdy is changing the tune
Sun at 12:47am
2 people like this.

[name withheld] Heh, when do we hear about the book deal?
Mon at 11:56am

Derrick Snowdy is a about to spill the beans on just how much the Liberals paid him………yeah right…like i would take money from Liberals….they so don’t know me at all
April 17 at 9:21am

Derrick Snowdy GONG SHOW journalism….the killer is
nobody is investigating Gillani
April 17 at 9:34am

[name withheld] take thier money and then donate it to the conservatives 🙂 once you hit your cap buy more guns with the rest 🙂
April 17 at 9:35am

Derrick Snowdy is dividing up the 13 million….who wants some. Does anybody think somebidy will start asking about CATSA soon?
April 17 at 1:38am

Derrick Snowdy is thinking that the first reporter to pay my cell phone bill will get an interview
April 15 at 7:43pm via Facebook for BlackBerry

Derrick Snowdy I can’t come to the phone righr now, I’m busy driving around in my Tank burning 100 dollar bills
April 16 at 10:04am

Derrick Snowdy is wondering where this media gets this weird story from……
April 15 at 7:30pm

[name withheld] and which weird story would that be?
April 15 at 7:32pm

Derrick Snowdy This lost money investor thing
April 15 at 7:43pm

Derrick Snowdy They are claiming I fucked over all the employees at epic and stole all the money. As manager of HR Geoff what do you think
April 15 at 11:42pm

[Geoff] Nonsense. I’m not sure how ensuring your workforce transitions into equivalent positions at another firm constitutes screwing your employees but I’m all ears if someone can explain it to me.
April 16 at 12:25am

[name withheld] They have no clue what you did at the end for the employees of Epic. You could have just locked the door and walked out, but you didn’t. Like you said to me way back when… The only thing you cared about was giving people jobs.
April 16 at 11:32am

Derrick Snowdy Feel free to send them an email, Kinnaird is sending lots of annon garbage
April 16 at 11:36am

[name withheld] It’s the cover story on the cover of the Star. But they spelt your name wrong.
April 15 at 6:00am via Facebook for iPhone

Derrick Snowdy they always do
April 15 at 10:29am

Derrick Snowdy suggests reading tomorrows Toronto Star….Mr. Kevin Donovan
April 14 at 11:09pm

Derrick Snowdy believes that everytime Michael Ignatieffs opens his mouth he confirms the fact that somewhere a village is being deprived of its idiot
April 12 at 11:49am

Derrick Snowdy is heading out of town for a few days. Message me if you need me
April 11 at 1:09am via Facebook for BlackBerry

[name withheld] Does this have anything to do with all those papers you were shredding the other day ???? 😀
April 11 at 2:56am

Derrick Snowdy I shredded nothing….lost, misplaced and encoded are another story LOL….
April 12 at 11:48am

Derrick Snowdy hmmm, this will be interesting. break out the paper shredder
April 9 at 12:56pm via Facebook for BlackBerry

Derrick Snowdy as a life long Conservative the proposed itax has me ready to puke…
April 1 at 9:52am via Facebook for BlackBerry

and in case you were wondering… Snowdy does play Mafia Wars on Facebook.

Liberals on Quebec healthcare

April 8th, 2010, Michael Ignatieff:

To that end [Ignatieff] welcomed the provincial Liberal budget idea of looking into new ways to finance the health-care system — possibly through new fees. He said the provinces have to be allowed to advance ideas on their own.

“We have to be open to letting the provinces experiment within the framework of the Canadian law,” Ignatieff said. “We have to protect universal access to the health system. The government of Quebec knows it.

“I salute the fact it is launching a debate that is important for all Canadians.”

April 7th, 2010, Carolyn Bennett:

The Zombie of Health Care Policy: User Fees

Dr. Bob Evans has called user fees the ‘zombie’ of health care policy – just when you think that the evidence has killed them dead – it rises again. It is like a bad video game…. user fees keep coming back from the dead.

The government of Quebec has said in the budget speech that it will enter into consultations re this user fee proposal. It should be rejected based upon evidence alone.

I am concerned that the budget document states: ‘In that respect, the Canada Health Act should not impede the search for solutions that will ensure long-term funding for our health care system.’

I would interpret that to mean that they KNOW this is OUTSIDE the act …

The backlash in Quebec has begun…. we need all Canadians to educate themselves and immunize themselves against this ‘zombie’ of health care policy. It may like a simple fix but it is bad policy – bad for health outcomes and bad for the solidarity that we have in Canada to help one another when fellow citizens bear the burden of sickness.

UPDATE: Ignatieff flip-flops… April 14th, 2010, after caucus:

Quebec’s proposal to charge $25 for a visit to the doctor would violate the Canada Health Act, according to Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff who departed sharply Wednesday from earlier indications that he was not opposed to the idea.

“I want to make it very clear that our party, and I personally, am a passionate defender of the Canada Health Act and we understand that provinces are facing substantial challenges facing the financing of their health care systems but we wanted to say that . . . if the government of any province were to introduce user fees it is our belief that that would be in contravention to the Canada Health Act and we would oppose it.”

Dave Taylor and the realignment of Alberta politics

Unless you are paticularly ill with a case of alberta politicitis, you probably can’t place the name Rob Anderson, Heather Forsyth and Dave Taylor. But for those of use stricken with the ailment, these names are near the top of our minds.

Today Dave Taylor, a Liberal MLA from Calgary, held a press conference to declare that the provincial Liberal party doesn’t excite him or the province anymore and that he figures his constituents will be served better if he sits as an independent.

Earlier examples of party defection this year came from PC MLAs Rob Anderson and Heather Forsyth who crossed the floor to join the Wildrose Alliance, a party enjoying great poll numbers since it elected its new leader Danielle Smith.

Three makes a trend and the current trend the is realignment of Alberta politics. For small-c conservatives, it has the first blush of a coming family feud, for Liberals it presents a stark reality of being pushed out the doors while the battle for the province’s top prize is done within the forum. Taylor is predicting the spotlight shift and seeking to appeal to his constituents on his own brand.

As for the family fued, about two months ago I asked Smith about the metric for success for the new Wildrose. She remarked that bringing the PCs further to the right would mean success for her party, but joked that it was a bit early to talk about a “united alternative”.

If the trend continues, it may yet echo a similar scene seen federally under the tenure of Stock Day when he was leader of the Canadian Alliance. Missteps in leadership at the top had MPs in flux between parties and pseudo-parties in the Canadian House of Commons. Dialogue that transpired between members of the (rebel) alliance and the PC in those days helped forge a path for merger.

These events also occurred within the context of a bitter decade-long divison between conservative traditions. I asked Monte Solberg about this and he explained, “after several election losses the logic of uniting the federal conservative parties became so overwhelming that it even overcame the petty resentments between our parties, and they really were petty.”

For conservatives in today’s Alberta, the PC Party of that province represents their vehicle for power while the Wildrose projects their ideological core. The question becomes, will the Wildrose become a viable vehicle while maintaining conservative values or will the PC Party shift right to maximally capture Alberta’s political realignment?

One factor which will significantly determine this outcome is organization. While PCers have long grumbled that their problems stem from the top in the Premier’s office, the Wildrose’s challenges stem from some of the senior grassroots of the organization. The party has taken big steps to address this in recent times, seeking to professionalize its executive tier with recent hires, however, some of the old guard of the previous incarnation of the party — those that sit on riding executives — still call many shots from the “this is how we’ve always done it” perspective. Smith and her new pros must balance their ambition of creating that viable vehicle with grassroots demands of the party while being mindful to embrace grassroots ideology while eschewing tired tactics and strategy presented under the guise of the same.

If Dave Taylor had seen long term viability in the PCs for the big debate that is yet to come, he probably would have joined the PCs — the caretaker party that has governed the provice for the last three decades. Though, perhaps his reluctance is a sign that the party is indeed shifting right to meet the Wildrose’s challenge. For the Liberals, their longterm viability has never been apparent. Again, Solberg: “The problem in Alberta is that the Liberals are so weak that at this point a conservative vote split wouldn’t make a huge difference. I doubt very much that Taylor is leaving because Liberal fortunes are improving. Vote split or not the Liberals are in very sad shape.”

The NDP: don’t let them tell you it can’t be done

From December 2nd, 2009,

Hon. Jack Layton (Toronto—Danforth, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, honesty is the best policy. That applies to the HST, even though the Conservatives are blaming the provinces. With the help of the Liberal Party and the Bloc Québécois, the Conservatives are going to raise taxes on heating fuel, which will hurt people in northern Ontario and elsewhere.

How, in good conscience, can those people vote to increase families’ heating costs next winter? How can they do that?

Hon. John Baird (Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, getting a lecture from the NDP with respect to taxes is quite something. I never thought I would live this long to hear it.

This is the government that brought forward major tax reductions for Canadian families, major tax reductions for small businesses, major tax reductions with respect to the GST. Every single time the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance tried to cut taxes, they faced the wholehearted opposition of the NDP and leader of the NDP who wanted to keep the GST at 7%. The only problem the NDP has with the HST is that it is not 2% higher.

April 6th, 2010:

NDP hikes HST to 15%

…effective July 1st, [Nova Scotia] will raise the HST on most other things by two points to 15 percent, the highest combined sales tax in the country.

April 6th-Present day

“…”
— Jack Layton

H1N1, issues management and disaster response

Would it surprise you, gentle reader, that every morning (early morning!) a senior staffer from each ministry gathers with their peers from other ministries at Langevin to discuss the issues of the day and what fallout — both actual and political — may come from events that have either happened or may transpire?

If this doesn’t surprise you, it may indeed shock you (ok, it probably won’t) that issues management has a greater concern about political fallout and much of this focus is centred upon not so much the opposition’s line of attack on an issue but the media’s distillation of what the government of the day is doing about it?

Let’s put this in perspective and consider a real failure in this approach as it informs not simply the shuffling of public funds, but of a nation’s emergency response to potential disasters.

Remember H1N1?

Back in the fall it was all the rage. Bodybags sent to native reserves, an opposition raising a five-alarm fire for the government’s vaccines on order to the President of the Liberal Party describing H1N1 as “Harper’s Katrina”.

And one of the shallowest measures and glibly tangible critiques of the government? A comparison of spending on those “clandestinely partisan” (critics say) ads telling Canadians that — good-golly-gosh — the economy is going to get better and that government is leading the way, with the government effort on those “sneeze in your arm, not on your hands, you yob” adverts.

Here is a Liberal blogger’s summary of her party’s critique of the whole episode,

After being publicly embarrassed by the media, the Harper Conservatives have said they will act on H1N1 television advertising. After the CP report on the government’s spending five times more on its economic action plan ads than H1N1 preparation loudly made the rounds Sunday afternoon, the Conservatives started the damage control Sunday night. It’s not a tough concept to grasp, after all. Nobody likes a government spending money in its own interest to the detriment of a major public health issue

Issues management kicks into high gear! Bruce Cheadle of the Canadian Press, a wire reporter turned impassioned advocated for the commercially unbalanced, did indeed take a swipe at the governing party over their ‘too blue’ and ‘too Harper’ website on the Economic Action Plan and found that spending on economic ebullience was taking precedence over pandemic placation.

I remarked on this fallacy at the time,

Another criticism highlighted in the CP story is that the latest round of Economic Action Plan ads cost the government $5 million compared to $2 million spent on H1N1 ads.

Here are two issues that have a psychological component.

For economic stimulus, a large part of its purpose and success is affecting consumer confidence. As for H1N1, handwashing and vaccine readiness helps but fueling hysteria does not.

Now that we’ve had a chance to see the virulent dust clear, we have word that the government…over-reacted?,

The federal government spent $37-million on advertising and other communications around the H1N1 flu pandemic, more than it devoted to anti-viral drugs or managing the outbreak combined, according to newly divulged cost figures.

A prominent critic of government response to H1N1 said much of that ad blitz came after the epidemic had peaked, urging Canadians to get flu shots at a time when they were virtually pointless.

“If it’s well spent for a legitimate medical emergency, that’s fine,” said Dr. Richard Schabas, Ontario’s former chief medical officer of health, who has repeatedly argued that public-health agencies over-reacted to the pandemic.

“It was the persistence of the immunization program, the persistence of the advertising after the outbreak had passed that really I find most offensive.”

Digging up a Liberal press release,

Last week, the House of Commons adopted a Liberal motion calling for the allocation of the $400 million in pandemic response funds to help the provinces deliver vaccines to Canadians, plus additional planning support, and the diversion of partisan Economic Action Plan advertising funding towards a large-scale H1N1 awareness campaign.

Dr. Schabas’ position is alluded to without specific reference to his actual view in the press release dated November 10th of last year. The Liberals advocated for a massive diversion of funds into an awareness campaign “as Canadians grow increasingly concerned that they won’t be vaccinated until well after the peak of the H1N1 flu”.

Our mothers always said that it’s better to be safe than sorry, but Schabas is actually criticizing the over-response and wasted spending on H1N1 advertising! Misallocation of H1N1 funds, needled into the wrong place, could have had a disastrous effect.

I’d argue that this is a way in which politics and media sensationalism hurts good and measured public policy informed by the most pressing facts. Issues management became a reaction to political fallout at the expense of a good and measured response. To be sure, the worst case scenario would have been if for some reason the politics had skewed the response in the other direction and the event had been much more pronounced.

How do we safeguard our consideration of real and informed concern when it faces an unhelpfully loud and very present sensationalism motivated by unrelated selfish considerations?

A real issue to manage. Unfortunately, it’s apolitical.