After much prodding by other bloggers, I set this up for my own writings. The name is in honour of the two women that mentored me throughout my life on politics and intelligence issues, as well as being wonderful family members, now alas deceased. I hope to live up to their standards at this site.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Just a quick note before the weekend

I am spending the weekend with family so I will not be anywhere near the computer for a couple of days, but there were two posts I read this week that I think deserve the widest possible readership. The first one is from Digby regarding torture and the damage it has done to the America identity, in particular his own sense of what America truly is. It is powerfully written and very compelling IMHO. The other link is regarding the Padilla case, and I picked it up at firedoglake, one of the top American blogs for keeping track of legal issues affecting the GOP like the Plame outing and the DeLay indictments among others. This goes into detail regarding the move from trying Padilla as an enemy combatant to suddenly being indicted on none of the charges everyone had heard about (dirty bomb plot for example) but instead charges of supporting overseas terrorist groups. Given he is an American citizen this issue raises fundamental questions, and I found this article/blog entry was a good read. So I thought I would share.

To my few if any American readers enjoy the rest of your Thanksgiving weekend, and for my Canadian readers, enjoy the last weekend without election ads pummelling you for the next several weeks.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The Opposition tries to eat it's cake and have it

For the last two weeks now I have been listening to the NDP claim that their compromise to avoid a Christmas election campaign is credible. Now the Bloc Quebecois and the CPC have also signed onto this rhetoric claiming this means then if Martin does not agree with them that it is his and his responsibility alone for the election campaign over Christmas. One slight problem. It is complete and utter fiction. No government in a Parliamentary system of governance could accept this notion. The most basic component of how a Parliamentary system works is the issue of confidence. Confidence is defined by the ability to pass money bills as well as surviving votes of non-confidence moved by the Opposition. We all got a reminder of what confidence meant last spring when the CPC started attaching to committees amendments claiming to be non-confidence motions passed by the House and therefore the government must fall. This was rightly shown to be utter nonsense.

Now we have the various Opposition parties claiming that they will pass a motion of delayed non-confidence. In effect this is saying we have no confidence in the government yet we are willing to allow it to govern for several more weeks including passing money bills in that period. That debases and damages the very notion of what confidence means on our Parliamentary system. This has been corroborated by experts in Parliamentary process and precedents. For Martin to accept this as valid would be to create a new precedent regarding confidence with the effect of undermining the very concept of what a confidence motion is. In other words this affects one of the most basic principles upon which our system of government works. No PM could accept such a notion as valid, not and respect the very process/system of government Canada operates under.

What is really offensive about all of this to me though is that Jack Layton either understands this and is playing politics while claiming to be advancing a workable "compromise", or after all this time still does not understand the basic principles upon which Parliament operates. So Jack Layton has proven himself out to be either incompetent or to be just another political weasel, despite all the claims to the contrary about how Jack is the only honest man in a den of thieves. What is ironic to me though is that until this matter came up I thought Layton had done remarkably well in positioning his party as a credible alternative to the Liberals and the CPC. His actions in the spring showed his flexibility, and his consistency regarding issues and not playing the more typical partisan political games the CPC and BQ were playing really showed statesmanship. Now though he reveals that all that notwithstanding he is as much a politician willing to play with the truth and be dishonest as anyone else. He advances a "compromise" that he should know is antithetical to the fundamental principles upon which our government operates. He claims that this is a valid "compromise" despite virtually every constitutional/Parliamentary expert claiming this is not a serious/realistic notion. Yet because this move allows him to bring down the government while positioning himself as not actually being the one doing so he continues on with this as does his party. While this has useful optics, it is also essentially dishonest and duplicitous.

That the CPC and the BQ would sign on to this deception is no shock given how willing they were to redefine confidence motions in the spring. That the NDP appears more concerned with trying to increase their seat representation than they are with honest politics though was I must admit a bit of a shock to me. The Liberals are correct when they say this is nothing more than political games and not a serious proposal. It is also telling that all the Opposition parties have made clear this government has no moral authority to govern in their eyes, yet they are willing to let such a government survive for several weeks all because they would rather not take responsibility for triggering a Christmas campaign. That to my mind is almost the antithesis of political leadership and the courage of one's convictions. If you think you can make the case the Liberals do not have moral authority to govern to the electorate, then do so. Trying to eat your cake and have it like this shows that the idea of a Christmas election with all the potential hazards that could come from such are more worrisome to all the Opposition parties than their supposed outage and clear "conviction" that the Liberals have no moral authority to govern. I will make this clear...if there is a Christmas election called I will lay the blame at the feet of the Opposition parties and refute the idea that this was Martin's idea only because it happens to be the truth.

Incidentally, this rhetoric from the NDP about how Martin and the Liberals cannot compromise has one slight problem with it. We saw differently six months ago with the budget and confidence issues back then. So we know Martin and the Liberals can compromise with the NDP, we saw it recently. So suddenly trying to paint the Liberals as being incapable of compromise also is a bit disingenuous, another strike against the NDP and Layton in their attempt to portray themselves as a party and leader not interested in political gamesmanship and only in making government work. Trying to make a clearly unconstitutional and unprecedented "compromise" regarding what a confidence motion is as being something the Liberals and Martin are unreasonable for rejecting will work with those Canadians that do not understand how their government works. However, for those of us that do understand just how completely idiotic and unfeasible this "compromise" truly is, what we see is what I have just written, political games and disingenuousness being paraded around as honest and reasonable politics. Up to this point/issue Layton had done a very good job of convincing me to consider voting NDP this time out. Not any longer. I don't like having my intelligence insulted, and I do not like being played for ignorant/stupid where my understanding of how our government works. Any party, any leader willing to do so is not one I am comfortable trusting, especially when I have some reservations about other policies advocated by that party and leader.

This "compromise" is anything but, pure and simple. Those that claim it is reasonable either do not understand how Parliament works, or they do not care preferring instead to use dishonesty that looks good for political gains. This is one of my primary issues with the CPC and one of the reasons I oppose their forming a government so strenuously, and now the NDP have shown themselves to be no better. It is maneuvers like this that end up forcing me to consider voting again for the Liberals, and I suspect other Canadians as well. Pity, the NDP and Layton until this idiocy were actually doing very well in convincing me and likely other Canadians to take them seriously as a potential/credible alternative for government.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Lest We Forget

This day is the one day each year we set aside to remember those that fought in the various wars this country has participated in. It is when we acknowledge the massive debt we owe those that fought, bled, and died for the freedoms we in Canada enjoy, indeed that the western world enjoys. WWI & WWII were wars of great death and devastation of not just the human body of those involved but their very souls as well. One cannot witness the death and destruction of these wars and not be fundamentally changed, which if anyone reading this knows/knew a veteran of these wars knows already. The Korean war was the first major conflict after WWII in which Canada participated, and the first war under the auspices of the UN. Then there was the first Gulf War, also under UN auspices. We in Canada are most fortunate in that as yet our soldiers have not been asked to fight and die in a dishonourable conflict, so there should be absolutely no ambivalence in the recognition of the sacrifices made by those on the battlefield under our flag and in our name. They deserve our respect, our remembrance, and our keeping faith with the principles and freedoms they bled and in all too many cases died protecting.

For myself, I keep a poppy in my hat year round, for I prefer to remember them and their sacrifices every day of the year. I had family that fought in both world wars and Korea, I also had family that in WWII healed those that fought and survived, at least physically. I am aware of both the costs of war and the harsh and ugly truth that there are times where it is necessary in order to protect from the ambitions/intentions of others intent on domination and subjugation. This is something all Canadians should realize, yet I fear that as time continues on we may be forgetting those that most deserve our respect and admiration, and I find that saddening and something to be deplored. I hope that more people stop and consider these sacrifices, and the next time they meet a veteran of either WWI (yes I know, very unlikely these days) or WWII that they tell them how much their sacrifices are appreciated, and the expressions of gratitude for the recognition and remembrance will warm your hearts.

On a related note, Andrew and Bound By Gravity has retired from the blogging world. One of the reasons I liked his blog so much in addition to his insistence on civil and reasoned discourse was his respect for veterans. Andrew was someone that understood the honour in service and the cost of sacrifices in it, and I was very impressed with his devotion to making sure the service of our veterans was not forgotten. His blog will be sorely missed, and hopefully it is a temporary circumstance and not a permanent one.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Gomery Report: First impressions

First, I wish to note that this post is being created without my having read the Gomery report itself, and therefore I am relying at this time on what has been released to the media since 11am AST when the report was tabled in the House. From the outset I have maintained that this really was a Chretien scandal and not a Martin scandal. One of the things that really irritated me last election was listening to the CPC going on and on that Martin had to know because he was Finance Minister. The reason I was irritated was because the Finance Minister sets the budget for the entire government and not for each department internally. In other words it was not the role of the Finance Minister to set budgets within each department but rather to set the entire government's budget, allocate to each Ministry. The CPC was playing on the unfortunate ignorance of most Canadians of the actual structure of how our federal government works, and I found that more than a little disingenuous and dishonest. Yet to this day I still run across CPC supporters making this argument despite the inherent inaccuracy it is premised upon.

However, why I was convinced Martin knew little to nothing of the problems with this program comes down to basic political common sense. Ever since the 1990 leader race which Martin lost to Chretien there was tension between the two men. Indeed, initially it was a surprise that Chretien named Martin Finance Minister because of it, and one of the more respect worthy aspects of the Chretien government was his ability to work with his rival to the benefit of the party, the government, and the country. However the deal was that Martin had full authority within his sphere of responsibility within some boundaries established by Chretien. This worked reasonably well until the end of the 90s, where the tensions between the two camps within the Liberal party was again surfacing. For one of the conditions of the deal that Chretien had with Martin was that he would have the chance to succeed him as Liberal leader and PM. So it was increasingly clear that the already present distance between the two men was becoming more pronounced by this time. Chretien decided to stay on for a third run, and in the process linked himself to Martin rather extensively so as to gain himself support in Quebec where Chretien's stock had been falling unlike Martin's.

After the 2000 election it was becoming painfully obvious that the working relationship between Martin and Chretien was all but completely destroyed. There was a very visible to the public split between two wings within the Liberal party, the Chretien wing which was in ascendance, and the Martin wing which for the most part were kept in second tier positions within Cabinet when they were able to get into it at all. As we all know in 2002 Martin departed from Cabinet under pressure from Chretien. So we have a clearly established history of tension and distance between these two men from the very beginnings of this Liberal government from 1993 onwards.

Why did I go through all that first? To lay the groundwork for my take on why in this case one can see the Martin Liberals as significantly different than the Chretien Liberals in makeup and structure. That this is not a skin deep difference but one of more substance than simply a change of leaders and a shuffling of Cabinet. That one cannot automatically lump them all together as one entity. That also underscores the fact that there was much tension between these two wings, with the Martinites trying to edge Chretien out in the late 90s, and not much trust between the two wings within the parties, nor between the two men leading each wing.

This is important. For Chretien had to know that there was some problems with the way the Sponsorship program was being handled, he had to know because he oversaw it directly through his office as Gomery notes. That Gagliano was his main interface politically within the Quebec wing of the Liberal party. That this was a tightly run insider program within the Chretien camp/wing of the Liberal party. So one has to consider the following: Why would Chretien give Martin any information that he could use to unseat Chretien from the Leadership, which the Sponsorship program most certainly could be used to do. So it makes perfect sense for Chretien to keep Martin and his loyalists within the Liberal party out of the loop on this matter.

Then there is the way this scandal broke. If Chretien had been putting the Liberal party first he would not have withheld release of the AG report until after he left office, making it the very first thing Martin had to deal with as PM. To me this looked more like Chretien saying to Martin :" You wanted my job so badly? Well here you go, you can take responsibility for my mess, and the probability of it tarnishing your leadership and likely costing you the PMship in the next election." Remember, it was Sponsorship that cost Martin the chance for a majority that everyone had expected to see happen prior to this scandal blowing up. In other words Chretien stuck a knife dead center into Martin's back as his parting gift. He set Martin up to fail as his successor, and the fact that Martin was able to manage to retain government albeit with a minority party is a testament to Martin's skills AND in many ways even more thanks to the disarray and arrogance of the CPC in thinking that now that there was only one party on the right that with such a scandal they were all but assured becoming the next government.

From everything I have seen and heard regarding the Gomery report today, this is entirely consistent with this perspective. Martin really did not know what was going on, nor as Finance Minister should he have automatically known nor was he required/responsible to know by virtue of his position as Finance Minister despite all the claims to the contrary by the opposition parties especially the CPC. This was a Chretien scandal from top to bottom, and one of the benefits of the "purging" of the Chretienites when Martin took over and the election that followed was that virtually all of the major players in this scandal were no longer in positions of influence/authority within the government. The Liberal party itself doesn't come out looking that good, especially the Quebec wing, but again it traces back through the Chretien organization within the Liberal party and not the Martin wing. This is why they were furious with Martin for establishing the Gomery report instead of trying to hush it up as they would have preferred.

Martin deserves full credit for canceling the Sponsorship program immediately upon becoming PM. He also deserves full credit for establishing this commission with Gomery so soon afterwards, and for taking all of the lumps that this has given him, despite his having nothing to do with this issue prior to taking ownership of it thanks to Chretien leaving him to have to table the AG report which set this all off. In the short run this has hurt the Liberal brand, however this willingness to have this open commission and taking the fallout from it may well over the long term do much to restore Liberal credibility. Martin took some real chances with this action, real risks, both with his own reputation and political future and the future of the Liberal party of Canada. Since this kind of inquiry is not something that usually happens in government scandals it is hard to argue that Martin followed the time honoured method of dealing with such scandals.

This is as far as I am comfortable discussing the Gomery report until I have had a chance to read at least the summary of the report, let alone the full document. Needless to say that will likely take some time given it's length, but it is something I fully intend to do. I prefer to see for myself what something says rather than having to live with what I am told by others what it is it. I really prefer to examine source material for myself before making my mind up. Until then though the opposition, especially the CPC and Bloc, are going to have a harder time of it claiming Martin had to know, that he has been hiding his involvement, etc. They are now left with the argument that there is no real difference between the Chretien Liberal government and the Martin Liberal government, and how well that will fly is yet to be determined. I expect it will be interesting to see how the average Canadian sees this as opposed to those of us that follow politics more closely out of personal interest or profession reasons. Incidentally, the former is my reason, I was raised in a family with strong political ties to both Liberals and Conservatives for the past century or so, including several elected members of government Provincial and Federal as direct ancestors.