Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Another one I didn't get until my Dad explained, was a skit where the provincial premieres were having lunch with the PM. Peter Lougheed wanted an apple pie - the whole pie, for himself. But everyone else wanted "a piece of that pie." When my Dad said the pie was really Alberta oil revenues, I began to understand. To this day whenever pie is shared at a family get-together, I'm reminded of that.
And who can forget the election that ended in a tie between a PC/Social Credit coalition and a Lib/NDP coalition - leaving the Honourable David J. Broadfoot, MP for Kicking Horse Pass, holding the sole balance in a single vote? "I abstain!"
That first show introduced me to political satire, and I've loved it my whole life. And that love reinforces my conviction that I can question anything and to keep an open mind. But that also means living with others of different opinion. They should be equally free to question me, and justify my own opinions. Tonight I'll have a drink to a new year of conflicting opinions and remember how precious that is, that it doesn't disappear.
IMHO I loved the old radio version better than the TC version, but the new cast members have really added a lot. Rick Mercer isn't what he used to be, but 22 Minutes seems to be holding its own. I think the RCAF departure leaves room for one more troupe.
Don't forget - tonight is the last RCAF show ever! Don't miss it.
Monday, December 29, 2008
But what confuses me is, if the GG wants cooperation, why did she let the PM off so easily? Why no conditions on prorogation? Perhaps the message of cooperation is intended for the coalition to support Mr. Harpers' budget in January and cooperate with him. Perhaps this is a message she would call an election and not call for the coalition. I'll continue to ruminate on this, but it seems unlikely - keep reading.
"invent new ways of living together" - is a coalition a new way of living together? I'm hopeful this is what she means. Even more interesting, it is followed by "It is up to us to seize that opportunity." IMHO the opposition should wait and hear the budget... but OTOH has Flaherty or Harper given up more realistic numbers as demanded by Iggy?
"The 'fend for yourself' mentality has no place in an interdependent world" - I have no idea to what this refers. I could twist this to support my liberal view, but surely that isn't what the GG means. Comments are welcome on this one.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
As of Christmas eve, 4,000 homes are still without power here in NS. I'm lucky, but even still I lost power on Christmas morning from about midnight to 5am or so. I got a small generator a couple of years ago, having twice lost my fridge and freezer contents to multi-day outages. Hurricane Juan and the white Juan snowstorm produced understandable multi-day outages. But there have been a few others, including the infamous salty fog. BTW, wouldn't salty fog affect NB, PEI and NL just as much?
As of Christmas eve NB Power, a provincial crown corporation, reports zero outages here. Maritime Electric, a subsidiary of Fortis, doesn't report outages but I believe there were few or none. As of 11am on boxing day NS Power still reports 100-500 outages in Cape Breton. I can't find any meterological references that say the recent weather in NS was significantly different from PEI, NB or Maine - yet they all offered extra crews to help NS, having already handled their own problems.
NS Power has been the dominant topic of conversation for holiday get-tothers so far this season. And no one - nobody - has anything at all negative to say about the linemen crews working through the holidays in very windy conditions. Everyone (100%) knows they're doing their best and were generally tolerant or satisfied with the rate of restoration.
Complaints surrounded the question "Why did NS have so many more outages than neighboring provinces?" Honestly, I don't know. But I do wonder where there is a profit motive in building a more resiliant power grid. I'm not sure of the exact figure, but I think residential rates are fairly close between NS and NB, NB maybe 7% higher.
I'm not suggesting NS Power be re-purchased by the province, although I'd like to see a study of re-purchasing just the distribution system, which would become a power broker between producers and consumers. The distribution system is the monopoly, not the generation system. When you have the same company running both the generation and distribution, you risk unfair competition between in-house generation and competing suppliers, such as wind farms. I'm not sayin' nutin', I'm just sayin' is all ;-)
Anyway, I'm just fed up with multi-day outages. Occassional outages are to be expected of course. Surely we can do better. Monopolies must be regulated. Some of the benefit they derive from a monopoly position must be returned to the public, and not necessarily reflected in price alone. How about service guarantees?
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Now Accidental Deliberations posts about Michaelle Jean's decision to allow prorogation. I think AD is suggesting the GG would seek an alternative government before calling an election; if so, I agree.
But something popped into my head this morning when I recalled Iggy speaking about the coalition. "I told caucus I will vote non-confidence in this government. I am prepared to enter into a coalition government if that is what the Governor General asks me to do," he said (from CBC).
Perhaps this isn't a suggestion of an uncoalition, but rather positioning the Liberal party as being "forced" into one by the GG. If Harper plays tricks with the budget again he could be voted down. Then it is not Iggy forcing a coalition, but the GG. The most interesting (entertaining?) thing to me is how this makes the GG's role much more active than ever before. Well, except King-Byng maybe, but that was before I was born.
And yes I said Harpers' tricks not Flaherty, and I mean Harper not Flaherty. I'm joining the list of people who question why Flaherty is still around and what if any value he adds.
What are the GG's options after a Conservative loss of confidence?
(in no particular order)
- Disolve parliament and call and election
- Ask the Liberals to form a government
- Ask the coalition to form a government
I think 1 is unlikely, but still possible. I think it is unlikely because I believe another election would end with another Conservative minority, right back where we started in 2006 (a 3rd time). I don't think the media would celebrate this result from the GG anyway.
I'm think 2 is also unlikely because it is necessarily less stable than 3. Then if the Liberals lose confidence an election would likely be necessary... but I'm no constitutional scholar, perhaps not.
Anyway I expect the GG would chose 3 as the most stable alternative, given the background posted at AD. So in this case Iggy could say "This is the will of the GG and the Queen. I didn't grab for power before hearing the revised budget. But the Conservative government lost confidence, prorogued parliament and still failed to work effectively within a minority house given a second chance." Maybe the coalition isn't completely dead - mostly dead is also slightly alive.
If the coalition failed blame would be shifted around to all parties, the Conservatives would say "I told you so", and Dion would likely wear some of Iggy's share (i.e. that Iggy was never enthusiastic about the idea).
But it likely won't go that far, the budget will likely be acceptable. I expect the Conservatives know they're not getting a third chance.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
I agree with Rex Murphy, that Mr. Harper was either too dumb or too arrogant. But I think his arrogance was not in that he didn't care. I think he was arrogant to think the people of Canada would believe anything he spoke. I hope people will begin or continue to question what he says in 2009.
Hat tip to 90210bt for the video.
How could the BQ veto anything with only 49 votes of 308?
Here's the current mix:
- 143 Conservatives
- 77 Liberals
- 49 BQ
- 37 NDP
- 2 Independent
I believe this exposes the deeply partisan thinking in this argument. Why wouldn't the Conservatives absent enough MPs to allow such a vote to pass? If they could simply vote with the coalition to prevent a "BQ veto", why wouldn't they? Or more to the point, why would they vote with the BQ?
If the Conservatives are voting against a motion, wouldn't they welcome help from the BQ to defeat it? After all, if the BQ votes with the coalition the motion would pass.
Only the partisan assumption that the Conservatives would vote against the Lib-NDP coalition consistently without regard to the matter of the vote holds up the argument of a BQ veto. Of course everything depends on the subject matter of the vote, but that nevers appears in those Conservative-minded talking points.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
I've been saying this on a few blogs lately, I thought I'd post it here to avoid repeating myself further.
I think the upcoming budget (update, whatever) is a 'hot potato'. The Conservatives don't want to be accused of spending on stimulus which turns out to fail, or to be blamed for a deficit.
They'd like the opposition to contribute suggestions, which they accept only under threat of a coalition. They can then blame the opposition for the deficit and any failure of the stimulus to revive the economy.
Iggy can see this too, and has tossed the 'hot potato' back to Harper: how can credible suggestions be made without a coherent model from which to develop them? As evidence, Flaherty has already revised his numbers once since the update.
Iggy figures if the Conservatives don't come up with numbers, he can paint them as uncooperative. If they come back with too optimistic numbers, the same applies. If Flaherty comes back with pessimistic numbers (I think this will be the case) then Iggy will beat him over the head with them. Partisan response to a partisan tactic - right back at ya.
I expect a partisan response to future budget suggestions from Mr. Harper - "OK, I guess we're forced into this, as my only alternative is to hand over the government to an undemocratic coalition." And he'll say this even after making any partisan changes he thinks he can get away with. I've totally lost all trust in this man.
So, if Iggy makes suggestions which are just a thinly veiled attempt to buy soft Liberal votes, I won't blame him (but remember I'm a Liberal). I suggest the NDP and BQ follow suit or get trampled. I wish it weren't this way, but you can't make peace with someone who won't parlay (e.g. Mr. Harper IMHO, and the meeting between Flaherty, MacCallum and Brison doesn't count).
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
The Conservatives desperately want to take some suggestions from the opposition so they can share the blame for any future economic problems. I won't beat them up too much over what's happened so far, other than spending away the contingency buffer. Canada didn't start this mess, it wasn't the Conservatives.
The Liberals are demanding better numbers from Flaherty before responding with suggestions. This may be partisan defense against being forced to make budget suggestions. If Flaherty doesn't cough up new numbers (or too late) the Conservatives appear uncooperative. If Flaherty comes back with optimistic numbers again, he'll appear to be lying (again). So I expect he'll come back with more pessimistic numbers. Both he and Harper have being managing expectations this week.
It is understandable to demand realistic numbers before contributing suggestions, and it might not be a partisan response but a necessary one. However Brison and MacCallum may already have their own numbers which may be close enough.
So what could the Liberals suggest for the budget? I guess that depends on knowing more about economics than I do. I'm a layman, speculating here. But this is a blog and that's my prerogative.
I think the worry is so many people curtail spending that demand falls, followed by deflation, which reduces demand, etc. in a spiral. So how to keep people spending?
Well, people need confidence in their jobs, and in the economy. I know the latest fed rate cut gave me cause for concern - I don't think it can go any lower, literally. I'm not worried about my job, but I work for the federal government. I bet everyone else is worried.
I guess the government spending is proposed to offset the drop in non-government spending. But how can infrastructure spending substitute for consumer spending? Surely there would still be job loss as the economy shifts from producing (distributing, etc.) consumer goods to infrastructure.
Much to consider. If anyone has some good links, drop me a pointer and I'll follow them up.
Monday, December 15, 2008
The cast: Stephen Harper as Charlie Brown, Michael Ignatieff as Linus van Pelt, Gilles Duceppe as Lucy van Pelt, and Jack Layton as Sally Brown.
The scene: parliament lobby, just after the prorogation. The lobby is well decorated for Christmas.
Harper: [Yells into Commons chamber] Hello in there. [his voice echoes in an empty chamber] Rats. Nobody sent me a majority. I almost wish there weren't elections. I know nobody wants a Conservative majority. Why do we have to have elections to emphasize it?
Iggy: Stephen Harper, you're the only person I know who can take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem. Maybe Duceppe's right. Of all the Stephen Harpers in the world, you're the Stephen Harper-est.
Harper: Well, I don't have much time. I'm supposed to cancel a Christmas party.
[Harper looks at him]
Harper: Oh brother.
Harper: $50 billion? Oh, even the NDP!
Duceppe to Harper: I know how you feel about Noël, getting depressed and all that. It happens to me every year. I never get what I really want. I always get a lot of stupid books or a portrait or wine or something like that.
Harper: What is it you want?
Duceppe: Sovereign real estate.
Harper: I guess you were right, Iggy. I shouldn't have picked this economic update for partisan tactics. Everything I do turns into a disaster. I guess I really don't know what democracy is all about. [shouting in desperation] Isn't there anyone who knows what democracy is all about?
Iggy: Sure, Stephen Harper, I can tell you what democracy is all about. Lights, please. [a spotlight shines on him] "If liberty and equality, as is thought by some, are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will be best attained when all persons alike share in government to the utmost." [ - quoted from Aristotle. Iggy picks up his blanket and walks back towards Harper] That's what democracy is all about, Stephen Harper.
Duceppe: Harper is a partisan bastard, definitely not a Bloq-head. Tous ensemble, together we can fix this document.
Iggy: Maybe we could live with this economic update. Maybe it just needs a little love.
Everyone gathers around the scrawny little document, and contributes something: suggestions for infrastructure spending, stimulus measures, tax breaks and employment insurance changes. Now the economic update shines, and brims with the spirit of co-operation in a minority parliament.
Harper looks at the proposed budget, and is humbled. Then he realizes he can take credit for the spending, and blame the opposition for any resulting deficit. A warm feeling melts over him, and the spirit of giving [18 senate seats] shines through.
All: Merry Christmas, Stephen Harper! [all sing Oh,
Friday, December 12, 2008
I read this post: Searching for Liberty: Mr. Harper - You have an option, sir!
Well said. Indeed, he had many options.
But what I like best about this blog post, was that it was not sensationalist, distorted or disgustingly partisan. It was an honest expression of opinion.
I also found this post "Prime Minister Material" by thepolitic.com. Reading the comments showed 100% support for Mr. Harper. Again, I didn't find the article sensationalist, distorted or disgustingly partisan. But it makes me re-think an earlier post. The attitude there strikes me as "Well, you can't blame our side for trying to push through some things we wanted - what did you expect? Oh well, no harm no foul."
I must remind myself that others see public funding of political parties as a waste of tax revenue, that the people who support the parties should provide the funding, and that it is wrong for their tax money to fund opposing parties. I see it quite differently of course, and I'm not alone.
But my point is these people don't see the poison pill as a dirty, partisan trick like I do. And the ensuing crisis and coalition threat appears to them as itself a dirty, partisan trick of the opposition. A minority must feel to them like a special hell, having come to power and now denied their due (I mean this parliament, not the last).
But until the Conservatives actually deliver a majority, my sympathy ends there.
It looks like things may be backing down. But until they do the opposition must keep their guard up. coalition at the ready.
The same argument applies to the Conservative party support for Mr. Harper. Currently no Conservatives speak any ill of him or question him publicly. Not even for appointing senators rather than working for an elected senate, or breaking promises of cooperation. What happened to "Promise Made, Promise Kept"? Oh yeah.
But is that support genuine also? For some I don't doubt it. But let me speculate (come on, this is just a blog after all ;-). Perhaps the more right-leaning Conservatives (possibly from the Reform side) may be getting impatient for more action. Some of his cabinet may be sharpening their knives, expecting his resignation upon a possible loss of confidence (assuming he follows convention, who knows). Et tu, Jim? And the Conservative party overall must certainly ask Mr. Harper "Why were you so reckless?", at least in private. No doubt the public talk will blame everyone but him. But as we've seen, there are many closed doors.
The Conservative party has chosen to wear this support for Mr. Harper, and wear it they must. Even after he resigns [if ever, OK, a BIG assumption, LOL].
Ask yourself, can this party really change its sweater so quickly?
Or should they wash out the smell first?
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Layton: Ever since Prime Minister Harper insulted him, he has been incensed.
Duceppe: Why'd you say that name? You promised me you would never say that name! I spit when I hear that name. No wait, that's 'referendum'.
Layton: What name, Harper?
Layton: [taunting] Harper! Harper! Harper!
Duceppe: [covers ears] I'm not listening! [Examines lifeless body of coalition] I've seen worse. This coalition probably owes you, huh? I'll ask.
Ignatieff: It's dead. There's no talk.
Duceppe: Whoo-hoo-hoo, look who knows so much. It just so happens that your coalition here is only MOSTLY dead. There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. With all dead, well, with all dead there's usually only one thing you can do.
Ignatieff: What's that?
Duceppe: Go to the grassroots and beg for loose change.
Ignatieff: But this is democracy's last hope - If you save it, it will stop Harper's government.
Duceppe: Sonny, democracy is the greatest thing, in the world - except for a nice tourtiere, maybe with a side of poutine. [smacks his lips]
Duceppe: Wait. Wait. I support this coalition, Harper suffers?
Ignatieff: Humiliations galore!
Duceppe: That is a noble cause. Show me the media, I'm on the job.
[Duceppe makes an impassioned speech to the media, miraculously reinvigorating the coalition]
Layton: What's taking so long? Why do we have to wait for Flaherty to read the budget?
Duceppe: You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles.
[Enter Doug Finley and Stephen Harper]
Harper: You truly support each other and so you might have been truly democratic. Not one coalition in a century has that chance, no matter what the history books say; if they did I'd re-write them anyway. And so I think none in a century will suffer as greatly as you will.
[Doug Finley cranks up The Machine, but it backfires causing much bad PR for the Conservatives.]
Duceppe: [to coalition] Have fun stormin' parliament.
Layton: Think it'll work?
Duceppe: It would take a miracle.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Buckdog for the great photo.
The Conservatives (at least under Mr. Harper) relentlessly game and spin. The opposition must prepare their defenses against this. Remember: (IMHO)
- How did this mess start? Unnecessary partisan games instead of economic action.
- Who started it? Apparently, Mr. Harper more so than other Conservatives.
- Depending on the response (e.g. assuming we hear a budget in January), Conservatives might have to share some credit for spending, and the opposition share some blame for a portion of the deficit (say, that part which exceeds the Liberal mandated surplus of $3B/yr.).
I fear the historical pattern of divide-and-conquer will design the January budget to pit Liberal, NDP and BQ against each other. For example, the budget could be acceptable to Ignatieff, but not to Layton or Duceppe. The Liberals could abstain and allow the budget to pass and (maybe) avoid taking any blame for it, while still taking credit for forcing the Conservatives to act.
Also, I think I have at least enough material for a part 3 and possibly part 4 of The Coalition Bride. Stay tuned!
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Michael Ignatieff: Where am I?
Tony Clement: [raspy voice] The Pit of Despair! Don't even think... [clears throat]... don't even think about trying to escape. The chains are far too thick, as is the rhetoric. Don't dream of being rescued, either; the only way in is secret. Only the Prime Minister, Doug Finley and I know how to get in and out.
Ignatieff: So I'm here till I die?
Clement: Until they kill you, yeah.
Ignatieff: Then why bother meeting with me?
Clement: Well, the Prince and Count always insist on everyone being given democratic choice before they're broken.
Ignatieff: So it's to be torture?
Clement: [nods enthusiastically]
Ignatieff: I can cope with torture. I know all about torture.
Clement: [shakes head enthusiastically]
Ignatieff: Don't believe me?
Clement: You survived the leadership race, so you must be very brave, but no one withstands The Machine.
Doug Finley appears.
Finley: Sorry I was delayed, I had to finish some correspondence. [admiring his torture contraption] Beautiful isn't it? It took me half a lifetime to invent it. I'm sure you've discovered my deep and abiding interest in pain. Presently I'm writing the definitive work on the subject, so I want you to be totally honest with me on how The Machine makes you feel. This being your first session, I'll use the lowest setting.
[Finley activates the spin powered torture machine. Ignatieff writhes in great pain]
Finley: [calmly] As you know, the concept of the rumor mill is centuries old. Really that's all this is except that instead of milling rumors, I'm milling truth. Conservative truth. I've just milled one year of your career away. I might one day go as high as five, but I really don't know what that would do to you. So, let's just start with what we have. What did this do to you? Tell me. And remember, this is for posterity so be honest. How do you feel?
[Ignatieff cries and moans in pain]
Monday, December 8, 2008
Flaherty: "You never said anything about destroying anyone."
Harper: "I've hired you to help me start a war. It's an prestigious line of work, with a long and glorious tradition."
Flaherty: "I just don't think it's right, destroying the opposition parties."
Harper: "Am I going MAD, or did the word 'think' escape your lips? You were not hired for your brains, you hippopotamic land mass."
Giorno: "I agree with Flaherty."
Harper to Giorno: "Oh, the sot has spoken. What happens to them is not truly your concern. I will destroy them. And remember this, never forget this: when I found you, you were so slobbering drunk, you couldn't buy Brandy!"
Harper to Flaherty: "And you: friendless, brainless, helpless, hopeless! Do you want me to send you back to where you were? Unemployed in Ontario!"
Harper: "First we use the confidence motion of the economic update to strip them of their financing. They wouldn't dare defeat the government."
Flaherty: "But Dion has introduced his own motion of no confidence scheduled for Monday."
Harper: "INCONCEIVABLE! Oh, no matter. We'll win a majority in the election."
Giorno: "But there won't be any election. The Liberals and NDP have formed a coalition, and the BQ have agreed not to defeat it for 18 months."
Harper: "INCONCEIVABLE! That's undemocratic! That's unconstitutional! The people elected us!"
Flaherty: "They're right on top of us. I wonder if they are using the same constitution we are using."
Harper: "The governor general wouldn't allow a coalition without a leader, the Liberals wouldn't stand for an NDP PM and their leadership convention isn't until May. Jean must call for an election."
Giorno: "Dion would lead the coalition until they choose a new leader. And constitutional tradition demands that the GG allow the coalition if the government falls in its first sitting."
Giorno: "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."
Harper: "So. It is down to you and it is down to me."
Dion: "You are beaten! Give up and accept defeat now. C'est la guerre."
Harper: "Hardly. We're at an impasse. I can't overpower your coalition, and you're no match for my brains."
Dion: "You're that smart?"
Harper: "Let me put it this way. Have you ever heard of Mulroney, Diefenbaker, MacDonald?"
Dion: "This is too much for the Canadian people. I propose a battle of wits to the death."
Harper: "I accept."
Dion pours two glasses of wine, and hides them behind himself.
Dion: "I pour poisson into one of the wine. I mean poison. Can we start over? Where is the poison? The battle of wits is began. It ends when you decide and we drink, and find out who is right... and who is dead."
Harper: "But it's so simple. All I have to do is divine from what I know of you: are you the sort of man who would put the poison into his own goblet or his enemy's? Now, a clever man would put the poison into his own goblet, because he would know that only a great fool would reach for what he was given. I am not a great fool, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But you must have known I was not a great fool, you would have counted on it, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me."
Dion: "You make your decision then?"
Harper: "Not remotely. Because iocane poison comes from Australia, and Australia is entirely peopled with criminals, and criminals are used to having people not trust them, as you are not trusted by me, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you."
Dion: "I'm sure you're familiar with Australia, from your speeches."
Harper: "Wait til I get going! Now, where was I?"
Harper: "Yes, Australia. And you must have suspected I would have known the powder's origin, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me."
Dion: "You're just stalling now. Prorogation just delays the inevitable."
Harper: "You'd like to think that, wouldn't you? You've stood up to my partisan economic update, which means you're exceptionally strong, so you could've put the poison in your own goblet trusting on your strength to save you, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But you've also proposed a coalition, which means you must have studied the constitution, and in studying you must have learned that man is mortal, so you would have put the poison as far from yourself as possible, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me."
Dion: "You try to trick me to give away something. It won't work."
Harper: "IT HAS WORKED! YOU'VE GIVEN EVERYTHING AWAY! I KNOW WHERE THE POISON IS!"
Dion: "Then make your choice."
Harper: "I will, and I choose - Is that Chantal Hebert?" While Dion is distracted and looks away, Harper switches goblets.
Dion: "What? Where? I don't see nothing."
Harper: "Well, I- I could have sworn I saw something. No matter. First, let's drink. Me from my glass, and you from yours." Both drink their wine.
Dion: "You guess wrong."
Harper: "You only think I guessed wrong! That's what's so funny! I switched glasses when your back was turned! Ha ha! You fool! You fell victim to two of the classic blunders! The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Afganistan, but only slightly less well-known is this: never go in against a Conservative when death is on the line! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha..." Harper falls over, dead. Dion removes Jean's blindfold.
Jean: "And to think, all that time it was your cup that was poisoned."
Dion: "I poison them both. I'm dead anyway." Dion falls over dead.