This is hopeful

QMI reports,

Ottawa envisage de faire des coupes de l’ordre de 10 % dans son prochain budget, soit l’équivalent de 8 milliards $ par année, a précisé le ministre du Tourisme et de la Petite entreprise, Maxime Bernier.

Jusqu’ici, le gouvernement de Stephen Harper a toujours précisé que deux scénarios étaient envisagés quant aux coupes budgétaires, soit des compressions de l’ordre de 5 % ou de 10 %. Or, il semble qu’on ait retenu cette deuxième option.

Ottawa plans to make cuts of about 10% in its next budget, the equivalent of $ 8 billion a year, said Minister of Tourism and Small Business, Maxime Bernier.

So far, the Harper government has always said that two scenarios were considered with respect to budget cuts, cuts in the order of 5% or 10%. It seems that we have chosen the second option.

John Snobelen on Ronald Reagan

The Toronto Star reports,

“All three candidates are saying the same thing — it’s kind of just with different levels of vitriol,” said [Snobelen, a] 57-year-old former MPP, seen as the most moderate of the three contestants.

“Reagan’s 11th commandment is not a bad thing to follow,” he said, referring to former U.S. president Ronald Reagan’s party-first axiom that “thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.”

Snobelen, from the Toronto Sun,

I vividly remember the day when my friend and colleague Rob Sampson resigned as Ontario Minister of Corrections.

The questions surrounding Minister Oda are more sinister than those that confronted Sampson. She is accused of misleading (read … well, you know) Parliament about her role in the defunding of Kairos. The specifics of how (or not) the word not came to be on a document aren’t important. What is important, at least to me, is the notion of what it is to be an honourable member of the government.

The definition of ministerial responsibility is always subject to the judgment of the government of the day. Reasonable people can disagree over where the bar should be set. But honour is a personal matter.

My friend Rob Sampson did the honourable thing. Oda should do the same [and resign].

We’ve seen the 11th commandment broken many times during the GOP debates. And, we’ve seen the Canadian conservative analogue of it broken during this Ontario PC race for PCPO President. But let’s not pretend that one candidate is above it all.

KXL: Buffett boon from Obama opposition

Bloomberg News reports:

Warren Buffett’s Burlington Northern Santa Fe LLC is among U.S. and Canadian railroads that stand to benefit from the Obama administration’s decision to reject TransCanada Corp. (TRP)’s Keystone XL oil pipeline permit.

With modest expansion, railroads can handle all new oil produced in western Canada through 2030, according to an analysis of the Keystone proposal by the U.S. State Department.

Pipeline shipping costs remain lower than rail, and a lack of readily available tanker cars may create a bottleneck.

The availability of tank cars may create a temporary “hiccup” in transport capacity, according to Tony Hatch, an independent railroad analyst in New York. Rail cars are “a pretty hot commodity,” as a result of demand from oil producers in North Dakota, he said.

Buffett has been a big ally of President Obama. His personal secretary is even sitting with Michelle Obama tonight for the State of the Union address, according to POLITICO. Buffett and his secretary have become willing talking points for the Obama administration,

Billionaire Warren Buffett’s longtime secretary will be joining first lady Michelle Obama in her box at tonight’s State of the Union, White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer announced on Twitter.

Debbie Bosanek, who has worked for Buffett for nearly two decades, has become a symbol in the White House’s fight over the tax code and economic fairness. Obama is expected to renew his push for the so-called “Buffett rule” that would bring investment taxation levels into line with income taxation levels — and ensure that upper income earners pay rates as high as middle-class Americans.

“Warren Buffett’s secretary shouldn’t pay a higher tax rate than Warren Buffett,” President Obama said in September, when he unveiled his American Jobs Act proposal. It’s a trope that Buffett himself has repeated, as he has campaigned for higher taxes on investment income.

Meanwhile, shipping oil via pipeline instead of via train costs $3 less per barrel. On one hand Obama and Buffett are hiding behind an image of reluctant capitalism, but when it comes to the energy costs of the middle-class, Buffett wins without hesitation.

Mr. Obama, it’s the economy, stupid

Why is this significant? Jobs, the economy and the political base. Both Canada and the United States would benefit tremendously if the Keystone pipeline project were approved. Thousands of jobs would be created in the United States if the administration were to give it the go-ahead. In Canada, it goes without saying that we would share the windfall of the economic benefits.

The hitch, however, is the political base of the governments in our respective countries. For Mr. Obama, he has calculated that despite a backdrop of a fragile underemployed American economy, the environmentalist base is vocal enough that it could make things tricky for his re-election. In Canada, the opposition is more of a passive nuisance on this. TO be sure, we are facing down not only the American left on this issue for Keystone, but delays and filibustering of the process at home threatens development of the Northern Gateway pipeline to the West Coast.

Interestingly, the Canadian political tone has switched from one of defence (playing the shield on an issue) to one of offense (playing the sword). For Mr. Harper, a deliberate re-positioning on energy and the environment is becoming clear as Canada steers away from the Kyoto protocol and from paying lip service to action on the ‘green’ file. The government is indeed finding its confidence to push back on the environmental lobby and this is a marked change from just two years ago. Of course, this confidence comes from Parliamentary stability via a majority mandate. Mr. Obama, on the other hand is glueing together the pieces of his fractured base as he faces a tough fight this year.

Two politicians, one confident, the other fragile. Two positions on energy policy and economic development.

It is in Canada’s economic interest to drive up the political cost of delay and deferral on Keystone to help President Obama appreciate that lost jobs in the US comes at a greater price than upsetting another shard of his fractured base.

Liberal Party On Ice

It’s January in Ottawa and it’s freezing cold. Parliament is on break and the next major political event scheduled is the federal budget. The Ottawa Convention Centre is a warm place and there’s not much else to do.

For a party in third place in the House of Commons, Liberal organizers will tell you they are pleased by 3200 registered delegates who are attending their biennial convention in this temperate refuge from their harsh environs outside of these walls.

There is also a large contingent of media that have gathered to huddle with the Liberals. Perhaps there really is nothing else to do, or that the Liberal Party is on the verge of a national comeback, or they’re doing something really important like electing a new policy chair and party president. Or something.

So why is there so much interest in the national media for the down-and-out Grits? Why is the meager battle-royale of party presidential candidates Sheila Copps vs. Mike Crawley garnering more press than say the ongoing leadership race of the Official Opposition NDP? What’s the big fuss?

“The death of a party is always news and seeing a zombie rise would also be a big story,” Sally Housser, deputy director of the NDP, rationalized tongue-in-cheek.

Yet, I’d like to offer an alternative analogy.

The Liberal Party is the Toronto Maple Leafs of Canadian politics. You’ve always heard your parents talk about their glory days, even your grandparents will tell you about the mighty unstoppable Leafs. Yet the team hasn’t won in a while and fans suggest in response that it’s the “rebuilding” phase. They’re the Central Canadian Establishment’s hometown favourites, and yes, the CBC swears that this year there will be a parade down Yonge street.

Will Liberals get boarded when they leave the convention for having a weak game with little to show for their efforts? Or will the media allow this storied team skate because everyone likes a good comeback?