Monday, April 30, 2007

Wow, A Reporter Doing His Job

Imagine, a reporter who actually fact checks the Prime Minister's speech on crime. If this catches on, we may actually have a functioning press again.
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World O' Incoherence

Who can point it out better than Wells?
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A Government In Disarray

The ongoing saga over the treatment of prisoners handed over by Canadian Forces has taken a turn for the absurd. The government's new line is if the opposition can't give them specific names of prisoners who claim to have been abused, then no abuse has taken place and no investigation is required. The fact that the names of some of the complainants were in fact published in the Globe and Mail is meaningless:
A Globe investigation, based on 30 face-to-face interviews with men recently captured in Kandahar province, uncovered a range of horrific stories and a clear pattern of abuse by Afghan authorities who work closely with Canadian troops.

Some of the allegations were made by four men, whose names were published, and who were originally detained by Canadian forces.
Reality has not stopped our intrepid government from trying to brazen their way out of a losing position. The more they try this tactic however, the more foolish they look and the more it looks like they are really trying to hide something. Some adult supervision is required for the Tories and soon. Otherwise, this is just going to get worse and worse for them. If they want proof of the poisonous affect of stonewalling, all they have to look at is the popularity numbers of their ideological cousins to the south.
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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Give 'Em What They Want

I think I have a handle on Stephen Harper's Quebec policy. Give them all the money and power (taken from other parts of Canada) the elites want, with no questions asked. Let Quebec become independent in all but name and finance this fantasy through the bounty of the Canadian taxpayer. What is not yet clear to me is whether the rest of the country is willing to go along with the madness.

Almost Instant Update: You would think too, that with the week Harper had, he would have stopped his election campaign for just one day and, you know, govern the country. For a guy who is supposedly a policy wonk who hates politicking, Harper sure spends more time on the latter.
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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Come On Opposition

Layton has opened the door. Will you walk through it? How much do you really want to stop this governments disasterous anti-Kyoto policy? Let's bring them down.

Update: I listened to NDP environment critic, Nathan Cullen on "The House" this morning. After hearing him, I agree with his strategy. To bring down the government would mean another year of delays. I agree we should get the other oppostion parties together and force the government to choose between C-30 and their plan in parliament. Public pressure will force the Tories to yield or they will bring their own government down. Either way, the NDP will have done what it could.
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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Gee, I Wonder How The Liberals Will Vote On This One?

The NDP put forward its own motion on Afghanistan today:
(1) all Members of this House, whatever their disagreements about the mission in Afghanistan, support the courageous men and women of the Canadian Forces; (2) the government has admitted that the situation in Afghanistan can not be won militarily; (3) the current counter-insurgency mission is not the right mission for Canada; (4) the government has neither defined what ‘victory’ would be, nor developed an exit strategy from this counter-insurgency mission; therefore this House condemns this government and calls for it to immediately notify NATO of our intention to begin withdrawing Canadian Forces now in a safe and secure manner from the counter-insurgency mission in Afghanistan; and calls for Canada to focus its efforts to assist the people of Afghanistan on a diplomatic solution, and re-double its commitment to reconstruction and development.
My guess is, the Liberals will stick with the government's 2009 date, until either a) an election is called, or b) the NDP's numbers go up. At that point they will claim it was really their motion (but they had to vote against it because all the cool kids told them they would laugh at them if they didn't) and that all progressives should flock to them "for the good of the country".
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Of Pyrrhic Victories

The Liberals are feeling mighty proud today over their "great victory" over the NDP, last night. The Liberals motion to call on the government to pull out of Afghanistan in 2009 was defeated, with an assist from the NDP. The Liberals are so clever calling this vote since they already voted with the Tories to extend the mission to 2009 anyway (against the wishes of the NDP who wanted us out in February 2007).

Are you seeing a pattern yet? The NDP wants the troops out now and the Liberals don't. The Liberals lose nothing by reaffirming their support for this war for the period they already agreed to. Meanwhile the NDP has to vote down this motion or agree to extend the mission for two years. Clever eh? The Liberals get to prop up the Tories for two more years and put the blame on the NDP.

Well, these clever guys are in for an interesting time and soon. Harper has said he will come to parliament to get any more extensions for the mission. The NDP will surely vote against any extension, but what about the Liberals? If past is prologue, they will be split, as usual and will whine and moan about the process. They might even lose a member or two over the vote. So let the braying jackasses who make up the Liberal Blogging Brigade crow over their great victory. The day of reckoning is coming and coming soon.
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The Wheels On The Tory Bus

Are looking decidedly shaky today. First, Harper was in huff and puff mode during question period yesterday, over charges that his government is doing nothing to protect the Geneva Convention rights of prisoners taken in Afghanistan:
However, I should say this. I think what is disgraceful is to simply accept the allegations of some Taliban suspects at face value. That is not appropriate for a Canadian member of Parliament. I will tell the House what else is inappropriate, the position of the deputy leader of the Liberal Party who said that he—.
Then this morning, we read that the government didn't have to "take the word" of the Taliban, its own diplomats were waving their hands like crazy, telling them about the problems involving prisoner transfers. Steve was being less than forthcoming, as they say in the House.

Then there is the "Green Plan". Not only is it a far cry from Kyoto, it was leaked to the opposition. I suspect today will be a very long day for misters Harper and Baird.

Update:Paul Wells starts off Mr. Harper's day by publicly branding him a liar.
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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Another Day Another MMP Hatchett Job

The Toronto Star has made it its mission to defeat electoral reform. It is now commissioning articles by various writers to "explore" (read trash) electoral reform. The latest is by Pierre Martin, a professor at the University of Montreal. His tone is rather puzzling. He takes the approach of a world-weary, sophisticated, older brother, shaking his head at the stupidity of an immature younger brother. His main message is "go ahead", reform your electoral system. You'll be sorry and Quebec will laugh at you. That's about it. There are the usual non-arguments and suppositions advanced as conclusions I have come to expect from opponents of reform, but in essence, mocking sarcasm is what his "exploration" comes down to.

Mr. Martin begins his supposition as conclusion festival with this passage:
The current near-perfect match between votes and seats, advocates of electoral reform observe, is a fluke. For several decades, imbalance between votes and seats has been the norm, which, reformers argue, calls into question the democratic nature of our system.

Yes, most Quebec elections have yielded an imbalance between votes and seats, but changes of government, on the whole, have adequately reflected shifts in the prevailing winds of public opinion, with the added bonus – until now – of stable majority governments alternating between distinct alternatives. (emphasis mine)

Does he offer any proof that "changes of government, on the whole, have adequately reflected shifts in the prevailing winds of public opinion"? Nope, not necessary because, in Mr. Martin's world, no one would doubt his conclusion. Also, note his delight with the "added bonus" of majority government. That this "added bonus" occurs without the benefit of a majority of votes, is of no consequence to Mr. Martin. That's because it is "stable".

So, Mr. Martin's biases are already clear. He prefers false majorities over democratic house building and equates "stability" with a monopoly of power by the ruling party. That MMP also produces stable coalition governments will never be presented as alternative. It just doesn't seem to cross his mind, because Mr. Martin seems to prefer one party monopolies.

Of course, Mr. Martin needs to deal with the abuses that false majority governments have perpetrated on the majority of the population. No problem. He dismisses it as inconsequential:
It is also true that governments in the past have taken advantage of their majority in the National Assembly to invoke closure and eschew debate, but when a majority party is perceived to govern with arrogance it tends to pay the price at the polls, as Jean Charest's Liberals recently learned the hard way.
Yes and the Harris government was eventually tossed out as well, but not before doing a lot of damage to the province. Saying that a government can be changed (eventually, after years of abuse because the ruling party has absolute control of the levers of power) is a pretty feeble defense of the status quo. Never mind. You don't like that "argument", Mr. Martin has more.

This next section is probably my favorite. I call it Mr. Martin's grade 10 civics class argument:
Another argument of reformers is that the current system is inadequate because it leads to a majority of "lost votes": In their view, any vote for a party that doesn't win a riding is "lost," and any vote for the winning party in excess of what is strictly needed to win is also "lost."

Similarly, reform advocates claim that all votes for minor parties that cannot succeed in electing a member are "lost," and that those voters are not represented in the National Assembly.

The notion that an elected official can only adequately represent those who expressly chose him or her is troubling. Are legislators not supposed to represent all their constituents, not just their partisans?
I particularly love the fact he is "troubled" that anyone would suggest that politicians play to their base. Quebec must be the only jurisdiction in the world where this does not happen. No wonder Mr. Martin does not want electoral reform. He lives in paradise.

Next comes what I call Mr. Martin's Liberal Party defense. In this next section he takes a theoretical party modelled obviously on the federal Liberal Party and holds it up as the ideal, against which all other parties should be judged. He also takes a bunch of half-baked, worst-case scenarios and presents them as "that's the way it will be" conclusions:
Of course, a mixed system, such as the one preferred by the Ontario citizens' assembly (mixed member proportional, or MMP) allows for individual members to serve their respective riding as they do in the current system, while opening the door to more diversity.

By encouraging the multiplication of small parties, however, this system could have other perverse effects besides the virtual disappearance of stable majority governments.

One effect of party proliferation might be to make each party more closed to dissent, not more open. In a system of broad coalition parties, it is the voters and militants themselves who have to accept the concessions imposed by political realism, not just the party hacks.

At the risk of oversimplifying the debate, do we want stable governments guided by coherent programs that are the result of open debates within broad-coalition pragmatic parties, or unstable governments guided by improvised backroom compromises among the ideologues?
Again, the last paragraph is priceless. "At the risk of oversimplifying the debate", too late I'm afraid. Do you want the perfection of FPTP or the utter devastation of MMP? Gee, Mr. Martin when you put it that way....Do you think he even bothered to look at any working examples of MMP? Let's just say I have my doubts. He never mentions New Zealand or Germany and never ever "explores" how those jurisdictions are actually being run under MMP. In other words, Mr. Martin's "exploration" is a joke.

Then Mr. Martin writes something with which I can finally agree:
Fortunately, foreign experience can teach us a fair amount, which is why Ontarians need to open their eyes to how MMP works – or doesn't work – abroad and what it would mean in their own context. And why Quebecers should pause and look west before making their own move.
I have no argument with this statement. It is just a shame that Mr. Martin did not take his own advice before pounding out this piece of "exploration".

That's about it really. Mr. Martin ends his "exploration" with a final sneer at the process and that's that. What can we take away from this "exploration"? False majorities are good and only they produce "stabilty". The Liberal Party should be the model for all parties. Small parties should be ignored because they are composed of "ideologues". Yes that sounds ideal system to me, if one is a member of the monopoly party. For everyone else in society, it falls somewhat short of the mark.
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Monday, April 23, 2007

Question For Mr. Baird

If you are abandoning the Clean Air bill (update: or not. CTV is now reporting (using the same link!) that Baird is denying everything) and are going ahead with your own regulations under existing legislation, does this mean it was an unnecessary bill in the first place and you were just stalling for 16 months while Canada continued to dump CO2 into the atmosphere? Hat tip to Greg Staples.
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Tim Horton's Dad RIP

The Tim Horton's dad image is officially dead. I know this because I am beginning to read sentences like the following in the MSM:
Powers says Harper is in reality closer to a "Tim Hortons dad" - albeit a Tim Hortons dad who employs a publicly funded personal image stylist and still struggles to check a notorious mean streak (emphasis mine).
The personal stylist image, paid out of tax revenue, has officially crossed over into mainstream consciousness. It has strangled the idea of Harper as "just a regular guy" to death. Without that image, Harper is just an angry guy in a nice suit and they are a dime a dozen in politics.
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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Please Call An Election

If only so we can watch commercials like this one:

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Harper's Peak Into The Crystal Ball

Courtesy of Steve's in-house psychic, is his horoscope for today: Taurus, your moon is on the wane and Mars is in conflict with Venus. Someone to the west will send you unexpected news that will change your plans. Your generosity does not bring you the expected reward. Wear blue today. It will maximize your power aura.
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Harper's Cold Double Double

It will be interesting to see what impact Harper's image consultant has on his image as the "guy next door". Afterall, I don't see too many people in line at Tim's being followed around by their own personal hair, makeup and clothes maven (And I certainly don't see any who have this person paid for by the taxpayers). As Romeo St. Martin puts it:
"A lot of ordinary Canadians are wondering what I am doing answering questions about style and fashion," Government House Leader Peter Van Loan said in the Commons this week.

And a lot a more ordinary Canadians are at Tim Horton's sipping their coffee, reading the paper and wondering why the government is paying for someone to tell the PM how to dress.
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Friday, April 20, 2007

Laughed? I Thought I'd Die

Harper is threatening to call an election on...wait for it...Senate reform. Ewww, I'm so scared. Please Mr. Harper don't call an election on Senate reform. All three of those voters who care about the issue (one of whom you just appointed to the Senate) will be mad at us.
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Help From Beyond

Maybe Steve can lend his psychic to John Baird, to help him avoid the economic apocalypse.
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The Most Rational Thing I Have Heard Today About Kyoto

Louise Comeau of the Sage Centre said on CTV:
"What he (Baird) needs to do... is to announce next week that we will take full responsibility for any shortfall in our objectives and we will roll that into our future targets," said Comeau.

"That's not what's coming -- the minister will announce next week that industry will receive a target that will in fact allow Canada to continue increasing emissions well through 2012 and at about 2020 still be about 11 per cent above our Kyoto targets."
Why won't Baird just say, "Right, we will try to make our 2012 targets, but if we can't we will accept the penalties under Kyoto and meet those targets instead."? It is because the government has no intention of living up to any target set by Kyoto, ever. If the Tories really want to have an election about this, I for one would not mind it.

Update: Harper should ask his mentor how not taking any action at all is working out for the Australian economy.
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90 Ridings? No Problem

We are bound to hear (especially from the Toronto Star) that having 90 ridings is going to make life for MPP's impossible, especially in the North. Greg at Democratic Space puts the lie to this myth by showing (with graphics!) how a 90 riding system would actually work. The north would essentially have the same ridings they have now. It is in the cities where the larger ridings would be located (which is not a problem because the ridings are much, much more geographically concentrated in the cities). Take a look at Greg's work. It will put many doubter's minds at ease.
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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Thought For The Day

I wonder...if John Baird's economic collapse comes...will Harper let his image consultant go, as an belt-tightening exercise?
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Debate On MMP On The Agenda

Watch the debate here (click on the link for April 16). Really good discussion of the issues. We are going to need more like this going forward. Again, I find it quite interesting that the "liberal" Toronto Star is dead set against electoral reform. Andrew Coyne is brilliant in his defence of MMP.
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Bay Street To Earth, "Drop Dead"

It's not like we live here anyway.
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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

We Might Have A Chance

With Andrew Coyne on board, writing things like this, those of us who have been dreaming of electoral reform for years, might finally realize our dream. Kudos to Mr. Coyne. I am glad he is on our side.
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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

So Much For Supporting Cops

The Tories, who never miss an opportunity to "say" they love the police are trying to kill the long gun registry the sneaky way, against the wishes of the police. Fortunately, the boys in blue are calling them out.
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Greens Are Against...May Not So Much

From May's Letter to Greens:
The Green Party is emphatically against strategic voting. But in the archaic first past the post system, how else is the Green Party to work to ensure the democratic will of the majority is heard?
Note she says the "Green Party" is against strategic voting and then gives away her feelings about it. Sorry Greens, the ends justify the means. May is a born Liberal.
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Campaigning Green, Governing Brown

The Victoria Times Colonist's editorial creates the catchphrase for the next election.
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Greens Lose Strategist Over Deal

Dan Baril did the only thing he could do to protest Elizabeth May's unilateral surrender of the Green Party to the Liberals. He resigned. He is a person of courage and I congratulate him for taking a prinicipled stand.
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May/Dion Romance: The View From The Ground

From this morning's Chronicle Herald, comes word that the alliance between May and Dion will almost certainly mean the re-election of Peter MacKay:
But the Green-Liberal deal could end up helping the NDP, Mr. Bickerton said.

"If they’re (local Liberals) upset about it — and the word around here is a lot of people are upset — they could stay home, they could vote for the NDP," he said. "I don’t see a lot of NDP voters deserting the party to vote Green. And I think this alliance will make this even less likely."

The NDP nominated their candidate Sunday night: Louise Lorefice, a mother of eight who taught history and social studies in Antigonish for 38 years.

If she can hold the NDP vote and pick up newly liberated Liberal votes, she could compete with Mr. MacKay, whose support is strongest in the New Glasgow area.
May and Dion assume people are sheep and will vote as told. This is a fatal mistake, one they will learn to their sorrow. I suspect however, when May loses, she will blame Jack Layton.
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Monday, April 16, 2007

Blogstravaganza Waterloo

We are celebrating the Waterloo launch of James Bow's latest book, Fathom Five (which, by the way, my thirteen year old is just dying to get his hands on), with a blogstravagana. It will be held on May 26th. I will make more specific announcements about time and place during the next couple of days. Stay tuned!

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Rick Anderson On PR

Small "c" conservative commentator Rick Anderson has come out in favor of electoral reform in Ontario:
Good for the Ontario Citizens Assembly for (a) determining that our ancient first-past-the-post voting system has passed its best before date, and (b) for recommending to Ontarians a more democratic path forward to a fairer voting system.

From all accounts, while it was easy for the Citizens Assembly to agree that Ontario's current electoral system leaves millions of voters disenfranchised and produces legislatures unrepresentative of the vote Ontarians cast, it was less easy to reach consensus on which of a myriad of various (and mostly-better) voting systems and design options is actually best for Ontario.

Proportional representatioin (PR) is now used sucessfully in 80+ countries around the world, including many of the world's most stable, successful and democratic countries. The particular form of PR recommended for Ontario (mixed-member proprtional, or PR-MMP) lets voters vote twice on one ballot, once for their local MPP and once for governing party preference. It balances our tradition of first-past-the-post voting for our local MPP with compensenatory seats awarded on the basis of the party preference - a decent Canadian compromise, and a solid starting point for the evolution toward fairer voting and more representative legislatures.

Quite a few meia reports (thankfully, not this one on, suggest this is all about helping smaller parties gain representation, which is only partially true. Among the voters routinely disenfrachised by "wasted votes" in today's system and expected to gain fairer reprsentation under PR-MMP are women, rural Liberals and New Democrats, GTA Conservatives as well as smaller-party supporters. If the parties are smart (and democratic) about how they organize the PR part of the elections, judging by the experience of other countries, we can expect all of these voters to end up better represented, and our legislatures and party caucuses to be more diverse.

Plus, PR systems tend to encourage inter-party legislative collaboration, a bonus to everyone tired of the empty partisanship which so deeply charaterizes politics in Canada.

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Did Elizabeth May Fool Green Party Voters?

All Things Canadian has put up a transcript of a debate between David Chernushenko and Elizabeth May during the run for the leadership of the Green Party. It makes for fascinating reading:
David Chernushenko:
I do however have to ask a question of Elizabeth and she’ll be able to rebut when it comes. I’d like you to explain why you felt it necessary to call me and Jim Harris during the last election and ask us to consider asking Green Party candidates to stand aside in ridings where our running…

Elizabeth May interrupts:
That’s not what I did David.

…might have a chance to…

EM interrupts:

You’ll have a chance to rebut. Please continue and we’ll give Elizabeth a chance to rebut.

I’ve finished my question.

Moderator and Jim Fannon finish round before rebuttal.

No, I don’t like my actions being mischaracterized in a public debate and I apologize for interrupting David but I was a bit taken aback. What I felt at the end of the last election, and we were about a week from the vote, and I did talk to Jim Harris about it and I did call David as deputy leader because I felt the Green Party could take centre stage at that moment - we’d been denied the stage all through the election - to talk about putting principle ahead of power; to talk about what could happen if Harper was elected to all the platforms we cared about. Beyond that I didn’t have a very well formed idea at all. I was calling them in desperation to say ‘What could we do?’ Could you for instance interest the Liberals if they were interested in talking about proportional representation? Was there room for a coalition there? We had about a week. I admit I was desperate. I had no actual plan but I certainly didn’t call to suggest that people should stand aside for no reason. It was a question of what we could do to ensure the Green Party was front and center.

I do raise this here and I feel I have to because the same question was asked in the Montreal debate and I believe what was being asked of me and of Jim was – you posed the question; would I consider – would it make sense to ask Green Party candidates to step aside in riding where by doing so we would help to prevent a Stephen Harper government from being elected and I equally am very concerned about a Harper government but my response was no, I couldn’t do that. I did not believe that was a principled thing for the Green Party to do because in fact I could never – we are running on principle – not running to try to keep one government out. We’re running on trying to bring Green in and I as a candidate and one who has been a candidate several times could never ask another candidate; could never ask another riding association to have their candidate step down.

EM interrupts:
This is an odd situation.

Moderator and Jim Fannon finish round of rebuttals.

Was your position clearly understood Elizabeth.

No, I don’t think so. There’s elements of it of course. What David and I had a conversation; Jim and I had a conversation. At the time I wasn’t acting as anything other than the Executive Director of a national environmental organization watching what appeared to be, and which has proven to be true; 20 years of work about to go down the drain. I didn’t have an actual proposal. I said ‘What could you do? What could make a difference? Could you approach other parties?’ I had many more conversations with Jim in fairness than I had with David – certainly didn’t ask you to step down – I thought you were going to win in Ottawa-Centre. So, what we’ve got to do is, is… I’m glad to get it out in the open because there’s been rumours about this and they’re not really very helpful. It wasn’t a clear idea that I was putting forward. It wasn’t actually a proposition. It was a what could you do now if you stepped forward. Could you make a difference and that is something that I would not do as Green Party leader it was in my role as an NGO and it wasn’t quite as represented before so I appreciate the chance to clear it up. (emphasis mine)
What is clear to me is Elizabeth May has had a significant change of heart about what she would or would not do, now that she is leader of the Green Party. It is also clear that with May, the ends always justify the means (which is very old politics indeed). I wonder how many Greens are having buyer's remorse?
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What Dipper Chick Said

I wouldn't change a word.
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The MMP Proposal

Greg at Democratic Space has a really good rundown of the MMP system proposed by the Citizen's Assembly in Ontario. It is definitely worth checking out.
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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Why NDP Supporters Are Ticked

In my travels this weekend, I have been reading posts and comments from Greens and Liberals expressing surprise over NDP reaction to the May/Dion non-aggression pact. I am not a representative of the NDP. I only speak for myself. Myself, I am upset not by so much that Dion and May have decided not to run candidates in each other's riding (although it is undemocratic and disenfranchises their supporters). That is bad enough. What really browns off NDP supporters is Elizabeth May's endorsement of Stephane Dion for PM. That act more than any other starts the bullshit alarm ringing.

NDP supporters have not forgotten that May was part of the "Think Twice Coalition" and have been suspicious of her motives since that time. I myself would have stayed out of this if she had simply thanked Dion for the gesture of not running a Liberal in her riding. She didn't do that. She told her voters (and NDP voters too and anyone else listening) that Dion would be the best PM for Canada and that we should all make sure Harper did not get re-elected. To me, at that moment, May went from being the leader of an independent party to being Liberal candidate in all but name. Sure she can say she is running candidates across the country, but since she has endorsed Dion for PM, she is telling Green voters to unite behind Dion. So tell me, is that a credible position for the leader of a party? The answer is no. It is the position of a stalking horse, which is all Elizabeth May is.
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Jonathan Kay Knows What's Up, Too

From his comment today:
It is hard to know which party has made the bigger blunder in the electoral deal officially announced yesterday between Liberal leader Stéphane Dion and Green leader Elizabeth May. Ms. May was elected leader by Green members last year in good faith, and we feel sure not all of them are happy that she has essentially decided to endorse Mr. Dion for prime minister (again), earning for herself an extremely slim chance of unseating Foreign Affairs minister Peter Mackay in Central Nova. The Green Party was founded to give Canadian voters an alternative to old-line parties and failed environmental policies; now May has made it a sub-annex of one of those parties, promoting a style of strategic voting that amounts to urging the public not to vote for any other Green candidates at all. (Message received, ma’am!) Some of her party’s nominees are already in open revolt.
I hadn't heard about the open revolt, but why wouldn't they be? If I were a Green candidate, I would wonder if "A" we hadn't just been taken over by the Liberals and "B" if not whether my leader just told Green voters to support not me, but the Liberal candidate.
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The Literal World Of Elizabeth May

Apparently, in Elizabeth May's mind, if there is no actual "backroom" used during negotiating captulation to the Liberals, then there was no "backroom dealing". She sounds more and more like the Liberal candidate for Central Nova. And as for Layton "claiming" to want to change the electoral system, Liz should ask her new best friend Stephane, what the Liberals have been doing about electoral reform. The more I hear her the crazier she seems. So talk on Liz. Talk on.
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MMP For Ontario

The Citizen's Assembly has recommended adopting MMP for Ontario (the vote was 86 to 16). You can watch the final deliberations of the Assembly (where they discuss FPTP vs. MMP), here. Also of interest, is a pretty good piece from the Ottawa Citizen about reform.
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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Chantel Understands

On the face of it, that makes it hard to jibe May's endorsement of Dion as her preferred choice for prime minister with the fact that her party will be running candidates against nearly 100 Liberal incumbents in the next campaign. If that endorsement is as heartfelt at is sounded yesterday, she has now turned them into needless sacrificial lambs.
I agree with her that the only winner here is Steve Harper.
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This Ought To Attract NDP Voters

Elizabeth May is now saying she is running against MacKay in order to get back at him for destroying the Progressive Conservatives. Jack has nothing to fear. Hat tip to POGGE.
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How Detached From Reality Is Elizabeth May?

Watch this clip of Elizabeth May on Duffy. After watching it, I was left with the sense that she somehow believes that she can have Stephane Dion (who she obviously adores) as Prime Minister, without having the Liberal Party (which she says she does not agree with) running the country. I hate to break it to Ms. May, but we do not have direct elections for Prime Minister in this country. Stephane Dion and the Liberals are a package deal, and Ms. May has now bought the whole package. Whether she is willing to face that reality is obviously in question.
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At Last Some Sanity On The Home Front

I really like the recommendations of the government's advisory panel on child care. Extending benefits to parents to allow them to stay home with young children is a good one and very family friendly. Such an extension would ease the pressure on daycares and parents alike. One would guess that if I like the proposals, the government would not. One would be correct. It seems the Tories are going to let these proposals quietly die in the corner. They love to talk about being family friendly. They just don't want to pay the price that comes with actually being family friendly.
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In Other News

Here is a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation, if I ever saw one. I wonder how Steve will handle it?
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Dion In Trouble

It is interesting to see some of the reaction coming out of the Liberal camp. Dion's maneuvering with May is pretty unpopular in some quarters within the Liberal Party. It seems there are some Liberals who don't like the idea of party bosses telling their voters to vote for another party. It is ironic that members of a party that routinely tries to guilt NDP voters to abandon their party "for the sake of the nation" are wising up to the kind of contempt for voters that kind of ploy requires. Perhaps something good will come out of this. Perhaps Liberals will finally see that "Think Twice" politics is a dead end. The real solution lies in electoral reform.
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On Targets

I think Coyne has it mostly right. The target of the May/Dion romance is the NDP voter. Since I believe this is just a continuation of the "Think Twice Coalition", May and Dion and their minions will be pressuring NDP voters "to do the right thing" and "stop Harper"-- by voting Liberal. I now view the Greens as nothing more than a Liberal front group and will treat them as such.

Update: Ya, what Pogge said.
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Friday, April 13, 2007

May/Dion Romance: Other Views

To find out what the political pros think about the May/Dion romance go here. For those of you who don't want to bother, here is a taste from Jamey Heath:
Hey, it's Ottawa's very own Red Green show, with enough laughs to keep Stephen Harper happy for some time to come.

Let's put aside the whole emissions record under Liberals. And ignore that Mr. Harper has, so far, done better on toxics and wildnerness protection than Liberals did. And just for the fun of it, throw out trying to get voting reform or triviliaties such as Elizabeth May ranking the NDP and Greens as interchangeable on environmental issues in the 2006 and 2004 campaigns. Instead, let's look at the helping hand Mr. Dion has just given the Tories.

News--well, it's not really news, but a continuation of the last few years--that Ms. May is a Liberal stalking horse may excite a few folks in ridings where Tories have no chance. But like Buzz Hargrove's Liberal endorsement in 2006, it's unlikely centre-right voters will be enamoured much of a Liberal Party now supporting someone whose first policy announcement as leader was to abrogate NAFTA. This is a gift for Tories. And if the next election is about Mr. Dion's greenness, Mr. Harper will win.

Were I a Tory strategist, I'd consider making the revised global warming bill a confidence test. Ms. May has already said she wants an election over the budget; Mr. Dion is firmly on record that 2007 is the only year we've got to save the planet. Left unchallenged, the Red Green show is about to become a whole lot less funny. And the chance to bring in practical, workable global warming legislation lost in the mire of politics where all that counts to many is not being Mr. Harper--you know, the guy atop the polls.
and one from SES pollster Nik Nanos:
Nik here - From a polling perspective, this is likely a good strategic move for the Liberals. First, Green support is soft. Second, their voters are more likely to be issue driven. Elizabeth May has in fact validated Stephane Dion as an acceptable place for Green Party voters to park. If we try to take a look forward to the next election the world will likely be made of voters who are "for" or "against" Harper. If that truly does transpire then today's "agreement" will well position Dion and the Liberals.
That last bit by Nik Nanos is essentially what I have been saying all Day. May has told Green voters to vote Liberal. In other words, the Think Twice Coalition is alive and well and is running the Green Party.
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Interpretation Needed

From the Liberal/Green merger statement:
We recognize that a government in which Stéphane Dion served as Prime Minister could work well with a Green Caucus of MPs, led by Elizabeth May, committed to action on climate.
Does anyone have a clue how this is supposed to work? "A government which Stephane Dion served as Prime Minister"? How does this work? Who do Greens vote for in the 306 ridings with both Green and Liberal candidates? Are they to assume that the Green has no hope (except in Central Nova, wink, wink) and "vote strategically" for the Liberals? "Green Caucus"? If Green Party voters follow the plan, that caucus will consist of one member, maybe. This is a complete and utter joke. Layton must be having a hard time keeping a straight face.
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Green Voters Now Homeless

The successful delivery of the Green Party into the hands of the Liberals by a former ringleader of the Liberal front group, Think Twice Coalition, now leaves Green voters with some tough choices. They can still vote Green, even though its own leader intends to endorse the Liberal leader for Prime Minister. Since we don't elect Prime Minister's directly, the only way to follow through on that endorsement is for Elizabeth May to tell her voters not to vote Green, but Liberal. I suspect a lot of Greens will not be really thrilled by that prospect. The Liberals had a terrible environmental record during its 13 years in power. They always, always talk a good game when they are out of power, but once safely elected, suddenly find other priorities. Why Green voters would follow their leader's advice is a mystery. Greens are not as stupid as their leader seems to assume.

Homeless Green voters deserve a better option than the feckless Liberal Party. Fortunately, there is another choice available to Greens, one that is truly progressive in its outlook, and not just during elections. If Greens want to vote for a progressive alternative to the Conservatives, they can do much better than throw away their votes on the Liberals.

Update: I realized that I left out the fact that Stephane Dion has made Liberal voters in Centrl Nova homeless too. Why did May and Dion go this route rather than endorse electoral reform? This is just ugly, ugly, ugly.
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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Note To Green Voters

Your "leader" is delivering your party into the hands of the Liberals. Too harsh you say? Explain this line:
In return, sources say Ms. May will promise not to run a Green candidate against the Liberal leader and will essentially endorse Mr. Dion for prime minister.
Endorse Dion as PM? I guess May doesn't want the job herself. Enjoy your evening.

Update:My God, the Think Twice Coalition has taken over the Green Party.
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Harper's Blitzkrieg

Does anyone else think it is an ominous sign that we need 100 tanks for Afghanistan? It seems to me, rather difficult to reconstruct a nation from inside a tank. In fact, a tank would appear to be a tool of deconstruction, is it not?

Update: BTW, did anyone watch Frontline the other night? It had a documentary about a Canadian military unit sent out into the countryside to try to help the local villagers. It was heartbreaking because, despite their good intentions, there was little the soldiers could do to help. The soldiers tried their damnedest, but there was not enough medicine to go around, not enough spare parts for the villager's pumps,or anything else really. Of course there was no corner store to run to to get supplies either. You could really tell how frustrated the soldiers were that there was so little they could accomplish.

The only time I got mad was at the end. The soldiers were ordered out of the area because they were needed elsewhere. They knew that the villagers were screwed because they had been seen by the Taliban going to the soldiers for help, but they had their orders and they had to leave. You could tell they knew the Taliban were going to have their revenge but they were helpless to prevent it. That made me mad. Not at the soldiers but at their leadership. If you are going to try to win the trust of the people don't do it in a half-assed way. If you are going to set up shop in an area, you have to stay. If not you are just dooming those who trusted you. And that is no way to win hearts and minds.
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Softwood Peace In Our Time Watch Continued

Yes, the lumber agreement has many friends, but not many in this country:
Canadian industry leaders, during a business panel at the forum, said their fortunes are worse off now than before the agreement was signed...."I guess the biggest frustration from our perspective is that the federal government views the signing of the agreement as the end of the process. It was just the beginning," Perkins said. The government has offered minimal help to industry in interpreting the agreement, resolving tax issues. In the six months since the pact was signed, "they went to ground ... they disappeared."
"They went to ground, they disappeared". Sounds like a good attack ad tag line to me. NDP campaign folks, please take note.
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Rumble On The Right

It seems all is not well in Toryland. The right is getting a bit restless with Steve's government. I wonder if all the talk about "election fever" cooling down is related to this mini-revolt? If they are, be prepared for some "Rock-Ribbed Republican" style trial balloons to start appearing really soon. I can hear it all now: "Boot camps for delinquents, work camps for the unemployed and tax breaks for Conrad Black!"
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The Great Helmsman's Fingerprints

The "brilliant" political strategist, Steve Harper, struck again yssterday. His never-ending quest to gain more seats in Quebec was without question, behind his appointment of separatist Daniel Paillé to investigate polling practices in the previous Liberal government. Strange, or maybe bizzare, are the words I would use to describe this farce. In the first place, Harper had his political minister for Quebec (the unelected and therefore unaccountable) Michael Fortier, rather than the minister responsible for the file, the elected but not Quebec friendly Vic Toews, announce the inquiry. Second, the focus of this inquiry is very narrow to the point of being useless. Why was government advertising left out of the brief? Could it be that Tories don't want their own practices examined? Finally, the appointment of Mr. Paillé (though I have no reason to doubt his sincerity) has been tainted because there was no transparency in the process used to appoint him. The Accountability Act has a an appointment commissioner in it to add this needed transparency, but the Harper government has not enacted that part of the law.

The taxpayers are paying $750,000 for this farce. We don't need to spend that money to know the Liberals were no good (you will note they are no longer the government). I guess for Steve, price is no object when trying to build a majority -- even when the money he uses belongs to someone else.

Update: As usual, Mr. Wells sheds some light on this whole benighted project.
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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Yay For Coyne

Finally, a pundit ally in the fight for electoral reform in Ontario. I hope the irony of a "conservative" National Post columnist wanting reform while a "liberal" Toronto Star columnist champions the status quo, is not lost on anyone. Hat tip to Greg Staples, who while still opposed is, I think, open to moooving if a few tweeks are made in the final recommendation.
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Friday, April 06, 2007

Amateur Hour At Vimy

This government is truly unbelievable. First, they contract out the translation of the plaques at Vimy to volunteers. That is no sin, but to then not have anyone check their work before posting it for the world to see, that is just unforgivably stupid. We look like idiots, thanks to this government's incompetence.
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Thursday, April 05, 2007

I Love Left-Wing Populism

I know we are all supposed to be trembling with fear (or not depending on what kind of head games Harper is playing this week) over a spring election, but if you read between the lines, at least one party seems to be ready.
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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Ladies and Gentlemen

Mr. Nick Drake. Cuz it's a Northern Sky kinda day. :)

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Calling Out Ian Urquhart

I refuse to believe Ian Urquhart is a stupid as his columns would lead one to think. He was at his usual "know nothing best" this morning attacking the Citizen's Assembly on Electoral Reform. Lets' go through this horror step by step. In the first few paragraphs Urquhart recaps the process, somewhat grudgingly, but in a relatively straightforward way. Then, after relaying the Assembly's decision to move ahead with possibly recommending Mixed Member PR for Ontario, he writes:
The assembly sees MMP as a middle ground between the status quo and more radical proposals, such as STV.

"It won't be like we're stepping in and completely disassembling what's already been set up," said Stephanie Jones, an actress and the assembly member from Niagara Centre, during the weekend debate.(emphasis mine)
In the first place, STV isn't a more radical proposal. It is different than MMP, but calling it radical is a rhetorical hatchet, wielded by someone who isn't interested in any reform at all. Second, why choose a comment from that particular member of the assembly? And why helpfully point out she is an "actress"? Could it be Mr. Urquhart is trying to subtly suggest that an "actress" couldn't possibly know as much about the electoral system as say, a Toronto Star hack? I will let the reader decide.

Next, he runs down the list of "problems" with MMP:
More politicians. There would be at least 22 more in the Legislature under MMP. Advocates say that would just restore the Legislature to its former size before Mike Harris cut it back by adopting the federal riding boundaries.
This is going to be the standard Liberal (and Tory) Party talking point. We can't possibly have more politicians. If politicians are so bad, let's get rid of them altogether then. Why is 103 (or 107) just right and 129 too many?

Bigger ridings. With just 90 constituencies, the average riding would have about 143,000 people, compared to about 125,000 today. Geographically, a northern riding like Kenora-Rainy River, which is already bigger than Italy, could grow to the size of France.
This is the flip side of the there are too many politicians argument. Yes the constituencies will be somewhat bigger. That decision was taken to keep the number of politicians at a level the assembly thought acceptable to the public. To argue both that there are too many politicians and then argue there will be too few is a logically flawed. And to choose (as Urquhart constantly does), the worst case scenario to illustrate his point is just laughable. So, it's ok to have a riding the size of Italy in FPTP, but it is somehow bad to have one the size of France in MMP?

This next point really shows that either Urquhart is completely ignorant of the facts or he is merely spinning for the status quo:
Permanent minorities. MMP is designed so that a party cannot win a majority of the seats in the Legislature without a majority of the popular vote, which no party has received in an Ontario election since 1937. The experts who advised the citizens' assembly tried to sugar-coat this point by saying that MMP would lead to "majority coalition governments," which is an oxymoron.
Majority coalitions governments are not an oxymoron. If Urquhart had even bothered to spend five minutes looking at the history of MMP in New Zealand or Germany, it would be crystal clear that that is exactly what has happened. In New Zealand for example there has been a stable coalition formed by the Labour party and the other progressive parties that has ruled in a stable coalition for the whole of this century. In Germany, which has a much longer history of MMP, stable coalition governments have been formed with both left of centre and right of centre parties. The system works because the motivation for toppling a government is lessened, since there is little chance of gaining a false "majority", by cobbling together 40% of the vote on a given day, as is the case now. Since the motivation to "go for the majority" is absent, the parties are forced to work together (even in places, like New Zealand, where cooperation was alien to the political culture). You don't have to believe me, just look at the record of jurisdictions already using MMP.

Finally, Urquhart, realizing that he will have a very difficult time bringing in his pet examples of failed PR, Italy and Israel, tosses in this brick:
Seats for fringe parties. In the last provincial election, not even the Greens, with 2.8 per cent of the popular vote, exceeded the 3 per cent threshold established by the assembly. However, a forward-looking analysis of the proposed change suggests MMP would encourage votes for fringe parties so that not only the Greens, but also groupings like the Family Coalition (a pro-life party), could exceed the threshold.
He acknowledges the Greens wouldn't have met the threshold and then tosses in the "threat" of an even less mainstream party gaining seats. Does anyone else not see the contradiction in that?

Then Urquhart moves in for the "kill":
Elections that give one party a majority of the seats with less than 50 per cent of the vote were viewed as somehow "unfair," and ballots that force voters to make just one choice incorporating both party and local representative were seen as too restrictive.

Given short shrift were other principles, such as the stability and effectiveness of majority government, the bridging of differences by broad-based parties, and the inordinate influence exercised by fringe parties with the balance of power in minority legislatures.
Well yes, in a democracy, giving absolute power to a party with a minority of votes is unfair. It isn't just "viewed" as unfair, it is absolutely unfair. And giving voters more choice is not a bad thing, unless of course you have a very low opinion of voters.

As for the "benefits" of the current system. I would only point to the last 15 years of politics in Ontario. We went from Liberal to NDP to Conservative and back to Liberal governments. Is that stable? Look at New Zealand. They have had the same coalition government since 1999. Which system is more stable? The fringe argument is Urquhart's hobby horse. He never defines "fringe" but I suspect he means any party other than the Tories or Liberals. And as for bridging the difference by broad based parties, that is just laughable. Did Mike Harris ever bridge a difference in his life?

Ian Urquhart is a pamphleteer in the service of the status quo. Read him if you must, but read him with the understanding that he will say anything to protect it.
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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Screw The Rest Of The Country

The Tories only have eyes for Quebec. Could you imagine what the Blogging Tories would say if a partisan from any party but the Party of God TM had said what Baird said yesterday (as they were, by the way, shoveling $900 more tax dollars into Quebec)? There would have been calls for jihad. It amazes me what these folks are willing to swallow in the pursuit of a "majority" government.

Update: Coyne appears to have observed the same "we will swallow anything for Our Lord, Stephen Harper" phenomenon at his place.
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Electoral Reform In Ontario Is In Big Trouble

And it hasn't even gotten out of the Assembly. The Citizen's Assembly seems poised to recommend MMP with 90 constituency seats and 39 extra seats to be divided proportionally. They are going to recommend this brand of reform, because they are convinced Ontarians want local representation (and I think they are right) and wouldn't accept a smaller number of constituency seats. The "problem" in going this route is the extra seats. The Tories and Liberals are already running against the proposal because it adds more "politicians" (like they aren't politicians themselves)to the legislature (John Tory and Greg Sorbara were on CBC Toronto this morning complaining). The current size of the legislature is 103 seats.

It was always a doubtful proposition to believe the two big parties would support proportional representation. It is obvious now that they will ignore the reasoning behind the Assembly's proposal in order to try to scuttle any reform that will challenge their unfettered control of the levers of power. We, who believe the current system is broken, have a lot of work to do. The media seems only too likely to simply repeat the propaganda of the big parties, rather than actually examine the issue.
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Monday, April 02, 2007

Canadian Wheat Board Simple Answers to Simple Questons

The Edmonton Journal writes:
The pro-market farmers expect higher returns once free of the board's monopoly, but what happens if those returns aren't realized? Will Canadian taxpayers be expected to foot the bill if farms begin to fail? And if farmers are allowed to fail, could food security in Canada be at risk?
The answers are: 1) The same farmers crying loudest for "choice" will cry loudest for a bailout, 2) yes and 3) although I suspect a government would break the bank to prevent a failure of the food supply, yes.
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Sunday, April 01, 2007

With Harper There Is No Bottom

The financial editor of a CanWest paper says this about Harper's government:
Whatever one thinks about the Canadian Wheat Board, the tactics employed by the Conservative government during its year-long battle with the CWB are reprehensible, undemocratic and possibly illegal.

All Canadians should be concerned about the depths to which the Conservatives will sink in order to sink the Canadian Wheat Board.
The Tories are even making people who would normally support them, blush. I guess the Tories are so confident they are going to sweep Quebec and Ontario, they are writing off Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

It is fortunate that the national media elites in this country are so Toronto-centric. They really don't care whether barley and wheat farmers get screwed over by the government (When they came for the wheat farmers, I was not a farmer so I said nothing). Harper's shameless attack on democracy says a lot about the man and his governing philosophy. Both need much closer scrutiny. Neither will happen, much to our regret, down the road.
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