January 28, 2009


Bad Budget

A couple weeks ago, I sent the following e-mail to Stephen Harper:
Dear Prime Minister Harper,

As a long-time supporter of the Conservative Party and of you personally, I am very concerned about the news I have been hearing that your government is planning a massive increase in spending in the upcoming budget.

Trying to spend our way out of recession simply doesn't work. Bob Rae tried that in the early 1990's, and it achieved no significant recovery. The one major impact it did have was that future generations of Ontarians will be have to pay for its failure. Please don't force all Canadians to do the same.

Also, I don't believe this is something you need to do in order to prevent losing power. If Michael Ignatieff wants an election or to take power via the coalition, then he will find an excuse to oppose your budget, no matter what. Likewise, if he wants to avoid an election or discard the coalition, then he will find an excuse to support (or abstain from) the budget, no matter what.

Additionally, a big spending budget now will greatly increase the size of government, which will be very difficult to undo, even when economic conditions get better.

I am okay with recession-fighting measures like tax cuts (since those are a good move in general) and increased spending on things like infrastructure projects that would have eventually been built anyway (since the costs of construction will likely be lower during a recession).

Regardless of what happens on this front, I will still vote for the Conservatives, as I believe the other parties would do even worse. However, I feel very strongly that big spending increases purely for the sake of "stimulus" is a bad move which will hurt the country. Therefore, I feel I must inform you that if you go ahead with that kind of plan, I will no longer donate to the Conservative Party. I will also let other Conservative supporters know how I feel on this matter.

The measures you implement in this budget will affect Canada for a long time to come. I urge you to do what's best for our Party and our country. Thank you.

I also sent this letter to Jim Flaherty, Irving Gerstein, one of my Conservative Party National Councillors, and the conservative.ca website.

As you probably already know, the Conservatives didn't follow my advice. The new budget has a $34 billion deficit in the coming year, and $85 billion over five years. And most of that is spending, not tax cuts.

When you look at some of the specifics, it gets even worse. For example, there's a "Community Adjustment Fund" to "help communities adjust to economic hardship." While this sounds noble, it's also a boondoggle waiting to happen, and rather unlikely that the government can do anything significant to actually accomplish it. The amount of infrastructure spending being dumped in a short time period is also worrying, and is ripe to become a "Bridges to Nowhere for everyone!" fiasco.

There's a $1,350 tax credit for home renovations. Why exactly do we need to be artificially supporting this luxury?

Speaking of luxuries, there's $325 million for arts and culture. Excuse me? These perpetual whiners played a significant role in denying us a majority in the last election, and you're rewarding them with even more handouts? Face it: they're never going to vote Conservative, so there's no point in trying to suck up to them. And more importantly, they don't deserve the money.

The Conservatives may be able to win back my donations in the future, but for now, it looks like I've found a simple way to tighten my own belt in these tough economic times. (And it looks like I'm not the only one...)

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November 15, 2007


Her Majesty's Hard-of-Hearing Opposition

Hon. Stéphane Dion (Leader of the Opposition, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, for months the government has known about very serious allegations concerning former prime minister Brian Mulroney. It received hundreds of pages on the whole affair.

The Prime Minister even received personal letters from Mr. Schreiber and yet the government did nothing for months. Why?

Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, last week I announced that as a result of a sworn affidavit that has been filed in court the government would appoint an independent third party to advise the government on how to proceed with such allegations.

Let me make clear what we will be doing. We will be asking that independent third party, whom we will be naming very shortly, to provide us with the terms of reference for a full public inquiry as well as any other course of action that the independent party deems appropriate.

Hon. Stéphane Dion (Leader of the Opposition, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, the information prompting a reaction from the Prime Minister had been in his hands for months: a letter from Mr. Schreiber, marked "To the Addressee Only - For His Eyes Only".

This from a Prime Minister obsessed with controlling everything down to the last detail, as his caucus knows all too well. The Prime Minister is hiding behind the PCO and junior staff in his own office.

Will he step up to the plate and do the right thing, that is to launch immediately a full public inquiry?

Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I just answered this question about a public inquiry. The independent third party will give the government the appropriate terms of reference for such an inquiry, and such an inquiry will be launched.


Hon. Stéphane Dion (Leader of the Opposition, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, even Mr. Mulroney is calling for a full public inquiry. The Prime Minister must be the only person who does not think it is a good idea.

Why? What is he afraid of? Will he do the right thing? Will he take on his responsibilities and call a full public inquiry now?

Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, the problem is that the Leader of the Opposition had whipped himself up into that question and has failed to listen to the previous two answers.

That is precisely what the government will be doing. Under the circumstances, the independent party that the government will be employing will be making a recommendation to the government on the appropriate terms of inquiry for a full public inquiry.


Mr. Gilles Duceppe (Laurier—Sainte-Marie, BQ):
Mr. Speaker, I am having a hard time understanding why the Prime Minister is refusing to hold a public inquiry into the allegations concerning the relationship between former prime minister Brian Mulroney and businessman Karlheinz Schreiber. All of the opposition parties and Mr. Mulroney himself are calling for a public inquiry. We have every reason to wonder what is motivating the Prime Minister.


Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, as I just said, last week I announced that I would appoint an independent third party to advise the government on this issue. We intend to ask this advisor to give us the appropriate terms of reference for a full public inquiry into this issue.

Mr. Gilles Duceppe (Laurier—Sainte-Marie, BQ):
Mr. Speaker, during the sponsorship scandal, the Prime Minister, who was then the leader of the official opposition, continually demanded a public inquiry.

Now I am calling on him not to wait for a recommendation from his adviser, but to tell us today if there is to be a public inquiry and, if so, what kind of inquiry it will be. He should tell us now. He should not ask an adviser to decide for him. He should make an announcement in this House that there will be a public inquiry into this affair.

Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I just said yes. I do not think that it is appropriate for this government to define such a commission's terms of reference, and that is why I will be asking an independent third party to advise us on the appropriate terms of reference for a public inquiry.


Hon. Jack Layton (Toronto—Danforth, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, it is not a happy thing we are talking about here, and it is not a joke. We are talking about people's trust in their government. This is a very very serious situation.

The question is this: is the government going to cooperate with a full and public inquiry, so that everyone will be able to understand what occurred and so that a solution may be reached that is fair to the taxpayer, yes or no? Public, yes or no? Cooperation, yes or no, Mr. Prime Minister?

Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, there are always problems when the opposition parties ask questions without listening to the answers. The answers are yes.

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August 16, 2006


Stephen Harper snubs The Invisible Hand's birthday party

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has come under sharp criticism for failing to show up at the birthday party of The Invisible Hand.

Birthday party organizer Ronald Trickledown released a statement, calling it "a slap in the face to millions of people worldwide who suffer from the scourge of non-visible body parts and economic metaphorism." Harper's decision comes on the heels of similar controversies over his non-attendance at the Monteral Out Games, the International AIDS Conference, and the Porcupine Plain Show & Shine.

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February 07, 2006


Bad Thing(s)

Well, much digital ink has been spilled over the new Conservative cabinet, and in particular the appointments of David Emerson and Michael Fortier. Having taken the day to think about it, my position is still the same as my initial reaction.

I don't like it.

First, my thoughts on Fortier. Unlike some people, I don't have a problem with a Senator (i.e. non-House member) getting a prominent post, per se (Question Period is hardly an effective way of holding the government accountable, and anyway the Senate apparently has its own QP). However, I do have a problem with an unelected guy getting into Cabinet, and even moreso with him getting posted to the supposed-to-be-all-elected-from-now-on Senate in the meantime.

Apparently, Harper said during the campaign that he was leaving the door open to doing this in order to get proper regional representation.

The fact that it's just temporary until he can get a seat in the House makes it tolerable, I suppose, but still nothing that I'm thrilled about. A better plan would be to have him run in a Senate election and get his mandate that way. (Actually, at one point this is what one of the CTV commentators said would happen; anyone know if this is actually the plan?)

Okay, now for Emerson. Some people have claimed that this is a hypocritcal move for Stephen Harper in light of Belinda's defection. Not true; Harper made it <Paul Martin> perfectly clear </Paul Martin> before and during the election that he didn't support a ban on floor-crossing, and that he believes that MPs should have the right to change parties if they want and face the potential wrath of their constituents in the next general election.

As it happens, I disagree with his postion and support a law to ban floor-crossing to another party (but not to independent status). But the fact remains that Harper's actions yesterday were consistent with his previous stance on the issue.

Regarding the comparisons to Belinda, there are some notable differences, but ultimately, they're not enough. Emerson could have respectable reasons ("I was recruited by Paul Martin when everyone thought Martin was a Blue Grit, only to watch him turn sharply to the left; I was loyal to Martin, but not to Ignatief or Stronach or whoever the new leader will be; I didn't know the Liberals were lying about Dingwall's resignation"), but however plausible they might be, their believability would rank only slightly above Belinda's bogus claims ("I wanted to stop the separatists; I was uncomfortable with the policy direction of the CPC"). Even if they're true, few among the (understandably cynical) electorate will believe him, concluding instead that this was yet another case of blatant political opportunism.

Given the possible ethics problem and the definite optics problem, these appointments were a mistake for Harper. There were other perfectly qualified MPs for him to put in his Cabinet, and the "no representation in the big cities" problem (which I don't think was a particularly big deal to begin with) could solved by designating a nearby Cabinet MP to be responsible for the region, like he did with Peter MacKay and PEI.

In conclusion, the appointments of Emerson and Fortier to Cabinet were:
    a) not hypocritical, and
    b) not as bad as Belinda's defection, but
    c) still a Bad Thing(tm).

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January 22, 2006


Three party leaders go for a drive...

Happy E-Day, everyone!

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November 04, 2005


How can you not vote for this guy?

Stephen Harper unveiled the Conservative Party's new governmental ethics package this morning. Read it. Read it now.

CTV's Robert Fife says "it will strike fear in the hearts of many lobbyists in this town who make their money off of influence-peddling the government."

Here are some excerpts from Harper's speech on the Accountability Act:
"Cleaning up government begins at the top. Paul Martin said he was 'mad as hell' about the sponsorship scandal, so he went on to to blame public servants, he blamed former ministers, he blamed his predecessor. But under Paul Martin's watch, the waste, mismanagement, and corruption has continued. We've seen Art Eggleton - a man even Jean Chretien fired, for giving an untendered contract to a former girlfriend - get rewarded by Paul Martin with a seat in the Senate. We've seen Paul Martin working on a half-million dollar severance deal with David Dingwall - David Dingwall! - the guy who hired Chuck Guite to run the government advertising program, an unregistered lobbyist who accepted improper payments, a patronage champion who quit his job. We've seen lobbyists making their pitch to Paul Martin and his ministers at $5,000 per person cocktail parties. It has to stop. It has to stop around here, and it will!"
And to those in the "all politicians are the same" crowd:
"My friends - and I'm serious about this - politics will no longer be a stepping stone to a lucrative career lobbying government. Make no mistake, if there are MPs in this room who want to use public office for their own benefit, or if there are Hill staffers who dream of making it rich by trying to lobby a future Conservative government, if that's true of any of you, then you'd better make different plans or leave." (Listen to it!)
Speaking in French, he summed up his overall vision for a Conservative government:
"I'm proud, very proud, to be the leader of the new Conservative Party of Canada. But I don't want to be the Prime Minister of the Conservative Party. I'm very proud to live in Alberta, but I don't want to be the PM for the West. I want to be the Prime Minister of all Canadians, men and women, for all of those that are working very hard to give a better future to their children and to their country."


November 02, 2005


Stephen Harper quotes

In response to yesterday's release of the Gomery report, Stepher Harper held a press conference to give his views on what it means. While his prepared statement is available on the Conservative website, I thought his responses to reporter's questions afterward were more notable, with a lot of good analysis in areas that were ignored in most media coverage. I've included a (rather lengthy) selection of these quotes below. (Italicized text is Harper's emphasis, bold text is my own.)
"I just don't understand where Jack is coming from. I mean, I don't see how you say 'We've got a government that's corrupt, but you know, maybe we can get better health care.' I don't follow the logic. It would be like me saying 'Well, the government's corrupt. This is an opportunity to get a tax reduction.' Well, you know, we might get tax reduction, but we still don't think a corrupt party should be running the government of Canada."

"Our constitutional system requires the government to have the confidence of the lower House on an ongoing basis. I utterly reject the constitutional amendment, new theory the Prime Minister perpetrated this fall, which is the government can pick the timing and the subject matter of confidence. That's not the way our system is supposed to work. I think what Mr. Martin had on his side in the spring, in retrospect, was the lack of certainty as to whether the House would actually defeat him, and of course he ultimately was successful with the bribery and switches and all that. But if we had a clear, three-party opposition front to demand the resignation of the government, then I frankly think they can be removed. But you know, to have that kind of certainty, we have to have all opposition parties saying that that's what they want done and saying they want it done now."

"Mr. Martin has been exonerated of something he was never accused of. He's been exonerated of having an active role in the management and operation of the sponsorship program, and our submission to the Gomery commission never alleged any such thing, nor am I aware, frankly, of anyone having alleged any such thing. I would point out that he is not completely exonerated, however, if you read the report carefully. I have the summary who is responsible in front of me. If you look at page 25, Justice Gomery makes it very clear that he holds the Cabinet collectively, the entire Cabinet, responsible for the creation of the sponsorship program, and for creating a program that from the very outset had illegitimate, partisan objectives."

"Where we have suggested - I have to point this out - where we have suggested that Mr. Martin should be investigated is in the contracting practices with Earnscliffe, which were part of the Auditor General's chapters three, four, and five, but were left off of Gomery's terms of reference."

"The real question though is, as I say, not exoneration from further police investigation; the question is political accountability and political responsiblity. I can't think of any other parliamentary democracy where a scandal of this magnitude and this nature, where the Prime Minister was the chief financial officer of the country when it occured, where that could pass without the fall of the government and the departure of that individual from public office. I can't perceive it. I mean, I cannot-- I cannot understand, myself. If I were Prime Minister or Minister of Finance, and a commission of inquiry *holds up report* determined that millions of public dollars were stolen by my party for its own partisan purposes while I was the leader or the chief financial officer, I don't understand how I could not expect to have to resign the very next day."

"The reason the government hasn't fallen has nothing to do with anybody's opinion polls. It has to do with votes in the House of Commons. The government didn't fall in the spring because we didn't have the votes sufficient to defeat it in the end. And unless Mr. Layton changes sides, we still don't have the votes to defeat it. I'm willing to submit to the judgement of the Canadian public at any time, including right now. But that's a decision that Mr. Layton particularly, and... I mean, Mr. Martin's already made his decision; he doesn't want to face the public right now. But if Mr. Layton's prepared to do that, we're prepared to do that."

"We have, on more than one occasion in this Parliament, formed three-party fronts and agreements with Mr. Layton, only to have him chicken out or back out and do deals with the Liberal Party, and we're not going to go through that again. If Mr. Layton is serious about his opposition to corruption, we'll make sure that he's taking the initiative and he's prepared to fully follow through on any commitment he makes to bring this government down. And so the ball's in his court. The people know where I stand on this."

[A reporter asks him to "characterize Layton's position in the context of the NDP's populist tradition"]
"I can't comprehend the [NDP's] position. ... Particularly British Columbia, your province, you all know that any time a party is associated with corruption, and particularly in a way that it's clear it's not an individual, it's the party or a position in high office, that party's obliterated by the voters, whether it be Social Credit or the NDP. We've seen other examples out of the western populist tradition. I just don't understand how you can say that I'll support the government because they'll do something I like, even though they're corrupt. If I were Mr. Layton, I'd be saying to the Canadian people 'I want to run a clean left-of-centre government that will do these good things on health care or taxes or whatever else.' I wouldn't say 'I want the corrupt party to change its position so I can still support them.' I don't understand it. To me, it's incomprehensible."

"I think if Mr. Layton enters the next election still supporting a party that he himself says is corrupt, then I think he will have difficulty on the hustings, but we'll leave that 'til then."

"Canadians have been asked once to make a judgement. We made significant gains in spite of the fact that all of these pollsters had been telling us for four years Mr. Martin was going to win the biggest majority in history. So I'm prepared to face the Canadian people and hear what their judgement actually is, but I don't accept the selective reading of polls as the valid judgement of the Canadian population."

"I really wonder if what should've been happening during all this inquiry was an actual police investigation and prosecution. I'm not so sure that the whole
thing, in a sense confirming what we've alleged [hasn't] been an enormous delaying tactic for eventual justice. Look, if the Liberal Party were to be re-elected with this on its record and no Liberal go to jail, the message will be clear. The message will be clear that you can get away with it. And that's the message that we have to send, that you can't get away with it."

"All I'll say is, no one's gone to jail. Hundreds of millions of Canadians' dollars have been stolen. They were stolen years ago, five to ten years ago. No one has gone to jail."
And here is what I think is the most important part:
"I'm constantly irritated by the half-truths that come out of the government. It is true the Liberals cancelled the sponsorship; Mr. Martin cancelled the sponsorship scandal when he came to office. He cancelled the sponsorship program. But I'll remind you to look back at what he said and the exchanges in Question Period then. He denied it had anything to do with corruption. He said he was doing it because the program had outlived its usefulness. Now it's been revised, it's become retroactively revisionist history, a cleaning up of corruption. So as I say, there's so many versions of events, congratulations to him if he can keep it all straight."
Every single time a Liberal tries to claim that Martin's cancellation of the sponsorship program proves he's fighting against corruption, hit them with this fact.


July 17, 2005


More BS from the Globe and Mail

In the race to see who can be the best Liberal Party mouthpiece, the G&M has taken the lead. Saturday's edition treats us to this story, with the headline "Majority want Harper replaced, poll shows." It cites a poll which found that 59% of those surveyed said Stephen Harper should be replaced as the Conservative leader.

Sounds bad for Harper, right? Except that if you're one of the few who reads the whole article instead of just the headline, you'll find that the corresponding number for Paul Martin is 52%.

Hey, Globe and Mail! This means that a majority of people want Martin replaced too, you [expletive deleted]! If you were actually interested in honest reporting instead of fighting the Liberals' battles for them, your headline would have been "Majority want Harper and Martin replaced, poll shows."

This reminds me of a story they did this past February, with the front page headline "Martin gets pre-budget boost." (A modified version of the article can be found here.) Their reason for the headline was that a poll had shown an increase in the percentage who "believe the Liberals deserve to be re-elected." However, tucked away in the middle of the article on page A4 were the numbers on "Who would you vote for?" (y'know, the question that actually matters in an election), which revealed that Liberal support had actually gone down by four percent since the last poll!

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June 10, 2005


Would replacing Harper solve anything?

Mike Brock recently made this post on his blog:
Whether or not Stephen Harper is deserving of the negative perceptions he carries is immaterial. He is simply carrying too much baggage, and that is pulling the party down.

We need to bring a fresh face to the leadership of the party. We need somebody who can be given a reasonable and fair chance to sell his or her message to the Canadian people, without having to face deeply held preconceived notions of hidden agendas and radicalism.
The problem with this is that it's a fantasy to believe that that getting rid of Stephen Harper will solve the Conservative Party's image problem. Having a non-Western "moderate" won't accomplish anything, as we will never escape these "preconceived notions of hidden agendas and radicalism." Frankly, the press already does seem to view Harper as rather moderate; instead, they play up the idea that he is "beholden" to extremists.

We could have Jack Layton as our leader, and the Liberals and the media would still crucify him as being a tool of the scary Christian hard-right blah blah blah.

Almost nothing could make the CPC look less capable of governing in the eyes of Canadians than dumping its leader after the first bad poll. It's worth noting that since the Liberals took power, no conservative party has had the same leader for two elections in a row. The PCs had Kim Campbell (1993), Jean Charest (1997), and Joe Clark (2000); the Reform/Alliance side had Preston Manning (1997) and Stockwell Day (2000); and the merged parties had Stephen Harper (2004). (Manning was also the leader in 1993, but wasn't considered to have any chance of becoming Prime Minister until 1997.) These constant leadership changes allowed the Liberals to paint us as having a hidden agenda every single time. It also made the parties look unprofessional and unprepared to govern.

There's also the matter of how, if Harper steps down now, it would be very easy for the Liberals to deliberately lose a non-confidence vote so they could fight an election against a leaderless Conservative Party (who would still get blamed for causing "an election no one wants").

In the next election, it will be much harder for the Liberals to convince Canadians that Harper has a hidden agenda (especially if the CPC starts promoting the positive aspects of their platform well in advance) than it was last time, or than it would be for an unknown new leader.

Update: Bound by Gravity says it much more succinctly.

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