Sunday, January 31, 2010

That Sound You Hear

Is the sound of total panic, coming from the PMO. Jesus, the poll numbers must be falling through the floor. We can only hope.

Tuesday Update: And right on time, a new Harris Decima poll has the Liberals and Conservatives tied. Think about that. If Alan Gregg has the two parties tied nationally, the reality is probably much worse. The budget recalibration is probably happening right now. Gone will be the talk of belt tightening and in its place will be a happy story about ponies for all! I bet Harper is out shopping for a new, blue sweater, even as I write this.
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Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Trial Balloon

Norman Spector points the way for the Conservatives on the Khadr affair:
Sitting down with the Americans makes good sense. But suppose there’s no way at this time to reach a mutually acceptable framework to release Mr. Khadr into Canadian custody and control.

What then?

As the author of today’s Globe editorial correctly notes:

“The court refrained, wisely, from ordering Ottawa to try to bring Mr. Khadr, a citizen, home from the United States prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he has been for seven years. It was wise partly because the court lacks “institutional competence” in foreign affairs (as the court itself pointed out)… "

How would that incompetence disappear if the United States held to its position that Mr. Khadr will be tried by a military commission — notwithstanding knowing his age at the time he’s alleged to have committed the crime.

Answer? It wouldn’t in the least.

And why might we not be able to reach an agreement with the Americans at this time?

Consider President Barack Obama’s predicament in the wake of the Massachusetts surprise and upcoming mid-term elections in which the Democrats are likely to suffer huge losses.

Consider his vulnerability to Republican attacks on security matters: the underwear near-miss followed by additional errors in interrogating the alleged perpetrator; the terrorist attack allegedly carried out by Major Nidal Hassan at Fort Hood — which featured another series of huge errors by his Administration; the deteriorating situation in what candidate Obama had once called the good war; the mess he’s gotten himself into on his promise to close Guantanamo, including his recent decision to halt the repatriation of Yemeni prisoners back to their country for rehabilitation; today’s flip-flop on trying Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in Manhattan… I could go on.
In other words, the Conservatives should make a show of talking to the Obama administration, but only after fixing it with their Republican allies so that a Fox News shit storm errupts. Given the weak as piss occupant in the White House, the Conservatives are betting they can roll the President, just like their right-wing American cousins.
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Quote Of The Day

This is one for the ages:
The Supreme Court's moral authority ought to be enough to persuade the Canadian government to do the right thing on Omar Khadr. If it isn't, one shudders to think what is. The Chief Justice with a small cannon on wheels? Guns at dawn?
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National Post To Harper

Listen to reason. Good luck with that message, National Post.
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Friday, January 29, 2010

Quote Of The Day

From Don Martin:
If the justices believe their Charter violation finding will cause this government to squirm and reconsider its hands-off treatment of the Khadr case, they're severely deluded.
If you think he is joking, read the comments under the column. The Conservative base will not stand for anything other than Khadr's hide. As long as Harper is PM, Khadr's rights are to be knowingly violated by our so-called government.
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Deconstructing Nicholson

“The Government is pleased that the Supreme Court has recognized the ‘constitutional responsibility of the executive to make decisions on matters of foreign affairs in the context of complex and ever-changing circumstances, taking into account Canada’s broader interests.’
Whew, I dodged a bullet there. I would have had to tell His Majesty the bad news if it had gone the other way and boy, I was not looking forward to that conversation.
The Supreme Court overturned two previous lower court decisions and ruled that the Government is not required to ask for accused terrorist Omar Khadr’s return to Canada. Omar Khadr faces very serious charges including murder, attempted murder, conspiracy, material support for terrorism, and spying.
I am just going to ignore the whole substance of the ruling, the part where it says that Khadr's rights are still being violated and instead roll out my usual banal talking points.
The Government will carefully review the Supreme Court’s ruling and determine what further action is required.”
Khadr is to be tried (am I correct in using that word?) in July. We will get back to you after he is found guilty and say there is nothing we can do. If you can't wait that long, well you already know what I am going to say, so it won't be a surprise.
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Shorter Supreme Court

Sure Khadr's rights have been violated, but our hands are tied. It's not like we are the Supreme Court. Note to self, the Charter of Rights isn't worth the paper it is written on.
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Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Switch May Have Been Tripped

There is something in the air. Something I haven't felt since 1990, when David Peterson acted arrogantly and was turfed. Canadians are slow to anger, but treat them with contempt and they will turn on you and for good.
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Don't you wish the Minister had to answer questions in the House about why he is fudging his own weak as piss targets? Too bad the place is closed down.
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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Crisis? What Crisis?

Some might look at a widespread disconnect between the ruled and the rulers as a crisis, but I suspect our prime minister does not. I suspect he considers it a feature rather than a bug. Democracy is much too messy for him. Better just to leave the driving to Steve. Don't look for any moves to reform the system that will close the gap in any meaningful way, from that quarter. Senate reform is a distraction. Giving MP's and committees more power and meaningful electoral reform is what is needed to reenergize our democracy, but somehow, I don't think Stephen Harper is interested.
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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Another Sop For Our Rural Masters

In the same article describing Jason Kenney's lastest adventures, comes word that James Moore is exempting agrictultural magazines from funding caps applied to other publications. Just more "funding cuts for thee, but not for me" bullshit, from a party that is full of it. Just wait until the real cuts come next year. I expect we will get plenty of excuses why rural funding can't be touched but cities, my Christ, the cities, they will need to tighten their belts.
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Jason Kenney, Globe Trotter

Mr. Kenney could be here working on Haiti, as the Liberals suggest or, he could be in the House of Commons, like he was supposed to be.
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The Issue

To friends and foes alike. Proroguing is just a symptom. Arrogance and contempt for democracy is its cause and the issue here.
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Monday, January 25, 2010

Conservative Dirty Tricks?

Dr. Dawg is following an important story. It seems there was a "protester" at the Winnipeg rally, who carried a sign saying "Harper=Hitler". It turned out the "protester" was a young Tory. There was a Stephen Hitler "protester" at the Waterloo rally, too. Did the PMO orchestrate a black ops campaign to discredit the protests? Inquiring minds want to know.
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Darrell Bricker in the Post:
"It's not because people have a really big issue with proroguing the House," Mr. Bricker said. "It's really the [political] games, that's what gets under people's skin. That's what you are seeing the effects of [in the poll]."
That sums up the issue for me. It the games playing that irks me.
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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Conbots Activate!

Given the reaction to yesterday's events (read the comments here, or just about anywhere the rallies were reported), it is obvious that the PMO knows they are in trouble. Ridicule the rallies all you want. You are only digging yourselves deeper.
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Do You Think Steve Gets It?

From yesterday's news conference, when asked about the protests, Steve said:
"Let me just say the government is extremely occupied these days," he said.

"The government has a lot of work to do to get ourselves prepared for the upcoming agenda of Parliament. ... I would obviously simply urge our opposition to spend their time making constructive proposals."
In other words, I am too busy to deal with parliament. To Steve, democracy is a waste of his time. Oh, and just to set the record straight Steve, the opposition parties were bit actors in this drama. I know this message will have a difficult time penetrating the almost impenetrable carapace of your paranoia, but do try to assimilate that fact.
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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Saturday In The Square

Well, I just got back from the rally in Waterloo. I nipped down on my lunch break and I don't have much time to post before it is over. Everyone was in a great mood and the weather was perfect. All of the 300 postcards they had produced to sign for the PM had been signed by the time I got there. The organizers reckoned they had about 500 people at the rally's peak. Not bad for a grassroots movement. Btw. I was glad I saw this on Kady's blog:
a pointed message for jack layton? just passed a sign that read, simply, 'NO PROROGUE - CAPP IS NOT NDP'. Let that be a warning to the various politicians on the speakers' list: Turn this into a stump speech at your peril. (On that note, I was chatting with a Liberal last night who predicted that any overtly partisan speech by his party's leader would likely result in a chorus of boom-mic-friendly boos -- or, in his view, it *should*.)
That is truly the feeling of this movement. Political parties had better tread lightly. You are welcome to suggest good ideas, but you are not leading this movement. Not by a long shot.

Afternoon Break Update: Pictures here: Courtesy of the Twitter.
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Friday, January 22, 2010

Isn't It Funny

That El Presidente can come back to the House, invite the press, and give a speech, but he can't reopen Parliament on time? It's so funny, I feel like going to a group gathering, to share the joke.
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I have to say, I am more than a bit ambivalent about Iggy, or any of the opposition party leaders, taking part in the protests on Saturday. This is a moment of pure, unadulterated, citizen action. I hope Iggy and the rest understand that. I hope that if they try to turn this into a unpaid political platform for their party, they are roundly booed. Saturday is about democracy and the primacy of Parliament, not an opposition political event. If the opposition leaders must take part in the protest and if they insist on speaking, they should come to the table with concrete proposals for restoring the power of the parliament. They should do so with an attitude of humility toward their employers and a spirit of cooperation with all parties, to get the job done. To approach the people, at this moment, with any other message, is an insult to those of us who believe this is a bigger issue than who is up or down in the polls this week.
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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Be There Or Kindly Be Square

I have to work, but I will nip up on my lunch break. I am going to try to take some snaps if I can get my camera thingee to work properly.
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Monday, January 18, 2010

Hands Up

Those of you who agree with Robert Silver that we should invite bankers from Wall Street and London to come here and make our financial sector the world beater (destroyer?) that theirs are.
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The Finer Things

It is good to know that Stephen Harper is taking time out from his "recalibration" to enjoy the finer things of life -- things like drinking gold-infused liqueurs with pop stars at his private retreat. I must look for Goldschlager on the menu at Tim Hortons. If the PM drinks it, it must be there, right?
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Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Emperor Has No Clothes

What I like about this piece by the Canadian Press is its tone of skepticism. Harper's blatant use of a natural disaster to create political theatre, (special lighting for the Peace Tower, is suddenly ok, when lowering the flag for our fallen troops is forbidden?)is at least called out. I am beginning to think Harper has succeeded so well, in making everyone cynical, that there is no gesture he could make that people wouldn't examine six ways to Sunday to find the political motive. Mister Vulcan chess master may be headed into an end game.
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Sunday Morning Cynic

Haroon Siddiqui is effusive in his praise for Harper's handling of the Haitian crisis and compares if favorably to his handling of Lebanon:
This is in sharp contrast to Harper's reluctant relief efforts in Lebanon in 2006. Being more experienced now, he's said to be using the lessons learned in that disaster.

More likely, he did not want to help the victims of the Israeli invasion he had backed unequivocally. His ministers had avoided Canadian Arabs. His minions had badmouthed the Canadians caught in Lebanon for costing us too much.

Mercifully, there's no such meanness in Harper's Haiti effort. He has kept it free of geopolitics and partisanship and thus looked good.
Not to sound like a complete dick, but one wonders how quickly Harper would have moved if a) he didn't have a vocal group of people complaining that he had taken a two month vacation and b) Haitians did not compose an important voting group in the Montreal area, a heretofore electoral wasteland for the Conservative Party.
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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Conservative Apologia

I have no clue who Paul Benoit is. He works for Hill and Knowlton, so I assume he is a lobbyist and/or a PR flack. Today in the Citizen, Mr. Benoit writes a long defense of prorogation. It is written in Ottawaese, so I will help by including by translating into English.

He begins by casting doubt about the intelligence of those who would argue that prorogation is an insult to democracy and then moves to eight specific points of disagreement.

1) “Our parliamentary and constitutional institutions are grounded not just in explicit rules but also in the spirit of those rules.”: Although the advent of the Charter has obscured the fact, our institutions still run primarily on conventions which have not been made explicit, but that are allowed to evolve gradually while retaining an unchanging core of normative meaning. The philosophers among our professors should recognize that there is a huge ethical difference between complying with written rules and the spirit of those rules, and conforming to unwritten conventions which are much more flexible than that.
Translation: The prime minister can do whatever the hell he feels like doing, you propeller-headed poindexters!

2) “We expect that the prime minister will do his part to ensure that this system works, and that MPs can fulfill the role we elect them to do.”: In fact, MPs are not being prevented from carrying out their duties during prorogation: they can spend more time with their constituents and learn more precisely how their riding is faring, as we pull out of a severe recession; they can also meet with caucus colleagues to exchange notes, to plot strategy for the next session, and to offer alternative policy directions — just as the Liberals are planning to do next week.
Translation: I can't talk about the Afghan committee, so let me ignore it completely. If there is an unpleasant truth on the table, ignore it and move to a new table.

3) “Part of what that means is to exercise self-restraint, and not use the powers that he possesses to shut down the mechanisms of accountability to Parliament and the Canadian people.”: Yes, Canadians will be deprived of the “vigorous questioning” of Question Period for a few weeks; but ministers continue to remain accountable in other fora. I have not heard that ministers’ offices will not be taking calls from the media. Is our minister of national defence not giving Canadians timely accounts of what the government is doing to rescue Haitians?
Translation: I want to mention Question Period and pretend that is the only thing that goes on in Parliament. You will note, I didn't say that Peter MacKay would be available in his office to talk about torture.

4) “The normal way in which a government secures a break in a parliamentary session is through adjournment. ...”: While government’s work never ends, Parliament’s is at best half-time and when Parliament is not working it is either adjourned, prorogued, or dissolved. There is an inner connection among the three: If Canada is going to continue having minority governments, then there will be more dissolutions, which in turn will likely trigger more prorogations, as governments naturally seek to take advantage of whatever little additional flexibility they may have.
Translation: If you want us to stop running away from Parliament at the first sign of trouble, vote Conservative. Majority governments are much easier to control than minorities. In minority governments, MP's actually think they might have some power and so act up. If you give us a majority, that hope will be gone and everything will be great.

5) “... That permits the institutions of government to continue. Committees can do their work.”: In fact, it is very rare for committees to continue holding meetings and hearing witnesses during adjournment. The only ones normally continuing their work are the researchers assigned to committees from the Library of Parliament, who usually take advantage of these breaks to pull material together and to prepare draft texts for the committee members when they return. It should also be noted the testimony heard in the last session is not lost; it gets published. There is nothing to prevent the newly constituted committees of the next session to pick up where they left off.
Translation: I will ignore the fact that it might take four months for the committees to get going again and just pretend that if something is written down that is good enough.

6) “Any laws that are in process, with the exception of private members’ bills, have to be introduced again, at the very first step of the process.”: In fact, for some time now, governments, following the Speech from the Throne, have re-instated legislation that they really wanted at the stage at which it was at when the session was prorogued. Where were all our concerned professors when this precedent was set?
Translation: I have no idea if any of these professors have written anything about this issue over the years. But, asking a rhetorical question about their character is just too tempting for me to pass up.

7) “The government’s post-election legislative agenda is nowhere near having been fulfilled.”: The Speech from the Throne is not a contract between government and the people that has to be carried out in all of its provisions; it is a legislative agenda setting out the course and priorities that the government intends pursuing in the light of current circumstances. Given the dramatic changes to our economy and to our state finances that we have undergone in the last year, it is perfectly reasonable “to take the next few weeks to review everything,” as Stephen Harper has said. Canadians can judge in March whether everything announced in the Speech from the Throne could have been accommodated in a budget at the end of February.
Translation: A Speech from the Throne is not a contract of any kind. It is no more important than a fixed election date law.

8) “The prime minister has violated the trust of Parliament.”: If that is the case, why has the Speaker of the House of Commons or any of the parliamentary clerks not spoken out against this alleged violation? Given the seriousness of the accusation, why has the speaker, who is a Liberal, not resigned? Are these officers of Parliament not meant to be the referees who should be calling fouls?
Translation: If the cops look the other way, then it's not a crime, right? Oh and it's the Liberals' fault.

The Parliament of Canada has been in gradual decline for decades. The professors’ state of high dudgeon over prorogation would have more credibility if over the years we had seen some serious public engagement on their part on the systemic issues that transcend parties and prime ministers.
Translation: Again, I don't have a clue whether or not these professors have spent their lives studying and publishing on this topic. That won't stop me from hinting that this is just a partisan put up job, aimed solely at Conservatives. This is sure to go over big with the base, who just love to wallow in imaginary victimization.
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Friday, January 15, 2010

The Flip Side Of One Man Rule

The trains tend to run on time. In this one case it worked in favor of the poor folks of Haiti. What Canadians need to ask themselves is how is it working for them?
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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Message From Your Government


Forget about prorogation. Be afraid. Be very afraid. Remember that. In order for you to assimilate this message, for every new person joining Facebook, we will send out another cabinet minister to tell you to swallow your gold fillings. The watchword for today is FEAR.

Greg's note: Fear is all the Conservatives have left. Nothing else seems to be working. Don't underestimate this tactic. It worked for the Republicans for years.

Instant Update: My favorite section of the Globe article:
After cabinet discussions earlier this week, Conservative ministers yesterday attempted to allay public fears about boarding aircraft. But without elaborating, they also said they have obtained “two or three” new intelligence tips concerning serious threats since the failed Christmas Day attack.

None were described as an imminent threat to Canada, and none have apparently led the government to take measures any tougher than the airport-scrutiny regimen imposed on Dec. 26. (emphasis mine)
None of the threats were aimed specifically at Canada and none of them has led to any concrete action on the part of the government. However, they do make for really, really good distractions for a government looking to distract voters from its bad behaviour.
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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Got A Prorogation Problem?

Bring out a terrorist alert. Classic Rovian move.
The warnings don't suggest anything at the level of 9-11, he added, and are not meant to create panic.
Not panic perhaps, but fear --fear of the "other", fear of "change"-- that would be very, very good.
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For Harper

It is always about playing games.
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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Simple Answers To Simple Questions

From the Winnipeg Free Press:
Proroguing is a procedural move allowed in Parliament that gives governments a chance to set out a new agenda. It has been executed 105 times in Canada's history. But political experts say it's rare that a government prorogues when so much legislation it deems important gets killed.

James McAllister, a sessional political instructor at Brandon University, said it speaks loudly to Harper's indifference to governing.

"He scuttled his own agenda," McAllister said. "What does that say about his own agenda?"
It says that Harper considers his own agenda to be unimportant (or merely fodder for his ever-gullible base). The opposition should remember that when it comes time for this legislation to be reintroduced. The message is, there is no hurry here. Take your time.
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Friday, January 08, 2010

Just Because Stephen Harper Is Prime Minister Of Canada

That doesn't mean he actually has to spend much time here. I see Mr. Harper is going to leave the country, once again, to rub shoulders with the world's elites (at our expense, no doubt). Some bright spark should compare the number of days Mr. Harper has shown up in the House, since September, with the number of days Mr. Harper has been out seeing the world on our dime.
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Thursday, January 07, 2010

The Problems Of An Average Canadian

Tory MP Gary Schellenberger:
Mr. Schellenberger admitted he may try to take two or three weeks off during the Winter Olympic Games and may try to get to Vancouver if he can find accommodation.

The Olympics in Canada were another good reason to prorogue Parliament, he added.

"If we are sitting, how do MPs get to those events," he said of the Olympic games. "It makes sense that we are not sitting."
Indeed, wasting one's time passing legislation rather that watching the Olympics, is such a bore. Good thing this Prime Minister has his priorities straight. H/t to Mr. Wherry.
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Gotta Know When To Hold 'Em

What Douglas Bell said. Dippers and Liberals, I hope you are using your time out of parliament wisely.
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Coming Soon

Canadians have been dismayed that parliament has been locked out until after the Olympics. Some are suggesting that in a time of war and economic challenge, our government should be at work. Well, our beloved leader has heard his subjects. Announcing the Stephen Harper Winter Tour! That's right, the glorious one has heard your cries and is announcing that he will tour the country, bringing his "feel good" music to an arena near you. Forget your troubles (and that silly old parliament) and sing along with Stephen! A good time guaranteed for all**.

**Note: This is not a legally binding guarantee. If you don't like it, force an election or sue us. Either way, we are good. It's not our money after all.
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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Sombody Must Be Worried About The Overnight Numbers

Either that or the power of Facebook can no longer be denied!(Just kidding). Stephen "I can take a punch" Harper is coming out of his bunker to have a chat with Peter Mansbridge. Of course, I am sure Dmitri will soon come out and say it is all routine and this was planned months ago.

Update: Yup.
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Clarification From My Betters

Let me get this straight. 30,000 people joining a Facebook page is a joke, worthy of derision, but a government elected by just 22% of the voters of a country is supposed to be taken seriously? Really? Take both seriously, or deride both, but don't pretend that one is a more valid expression of the will of the people than the other. Please.
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Hear, Hear

Murray Mandryk writes:
For example, Senate abolition seems to be one of the few sentiments in which virtually everyone agrees with the NDP. (Anyone remember Stephen Harper's commitment to elected senators?) But does anyone assume this unequivocally demonstrates a federal NDP government commitment to adhering to every democratic principle? Certainly, those of us from Saskatchewan have a working knowledge of NDP governments that increased sales taxes (after promising to repeal the harmonized sales tax increase), manipulated election days (after promising set elections) and abused patronage appointments (after criticizing the last Progressive Conservative government for the same thing).

That said, what we're witnessing from Stephen Harper takes contempt for democratic principles to a whole new level and it may be even worse than that. Harper is using public cynicism as a blunt hammer to pound in the detour sign that allows him to get around the last bastion of true accountability for his PM0.

And that truly does separate Harper from those who preceded him.
(emphasis mine)
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When Conservatives Get Outraged

Shorter Jack Granatstein: Canadian politicians should not practice domestic politics abroad. For me, anything other than what Stephen Harper has done in the past, crosses the line into anti-Canadian behavior.
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Monday, January 04, 2010

You Either Laugh Or Curl Into A Ball And Scream

The latest session of Parliament, with its committees investigating the possible war crimes of the government and the government's reaction, as an interpretive dance.

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Saturday, January 02, 2010

Recommended Reading

Norm Spector's column. Read it and pass it on to all of your relatives who don't follow politics. Let them see what drives our Conservative government.
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