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.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Harper opens mouth to change feet

Now this is just arrogant presumption mixed in with a large amount of hubris and stupidity combined into one incredibly idiotic thing to be saying. Just because he can keep Cabinet meetings secret in regards to their occurring because it is Constitutionally permitted does not make it a good idea. This is especially true when you are a PM that campaigned on greater openness and access to information from government, yet during the first seven weeks of government have managed to look secretive and shifty and anything but open and honest. This though even for the stupidities I have been seeing from Harper on media issues is really astounding for its deaf ear to the politics of this for a man that is already still suspected of having a hidden agenda (which is likely why the CPC has such a weak minority) to be acting so secretive that he thinks it may be a good idea to conceal something I do not know when the last time was kept secret, that being when a Cabinet meeting is happening. Note I am not talking about what is said within Cabinet, that being secret is reasonable enough, the idea that keeping the fact that a Cabinet meeting is happening secret though can have only one purpose, to make it as difficult as possible for the media to be able to question his Ministers coming out of the Cabinet, especially when combined with the other restrictions related to the media and Cabinet in this post earlier today.

If he adopts this idiocy I think Harper will be shocked at the reaction it gets. Given the ground is already been tilled to accept the seeds of Harper as secrecy and control freak from his actions so far as PM I rather doubt there are going to be many outside the hardcore cult of personality of Harper and/or CPC partisans that see any sense in this action. It looks like a PM unwilling to face the media scrutiny prior governments of both Liberal and Progressive Conservative accepted as a part of being in office and especially when one is the government.

This guy is not playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers, this man is playing Russian roulette with his government and his future as a PM, let alone to have a chance at being a majority government PM. Has Harper forgotten that most of his new votes came from people throwing out the Liberals and willing to see whether the CPC rhetoric was matched by reality by giving them a chance or to prove that the hidden agenda claims with the CPC and especially Harper actually had merit. Harper's actions to date do far more to reinforce the latter perception than the former and this latest act of insanity will only further that. Harper and the CPC need to remember it is not their base they need to hold onto, it is the new voters they got last time, especially since they need to build on that number to have a shot at majority territory.

Harper is demonstrating one of my favourite Heinleinisms....Never underestimate the power of human stupidity.

Incidentally on Don Newman's Politics I have just heard this is not something under consideration but something actually being put into practice. Just because he has the right to do something does not mean he should do so, but then he doesn't seem to understand that the Emerson case exemplified that, which is no doubt why he dismissed from the outset the criticism/reaction as superficial and only felt by party partisans. Man that tin ear is just getting worse and worse.

Meet the last resort for American intelligence information analysis...the blogosphere!

I had to read this to believe it. This is clearly an attempt to yet again muddy the reality that Bushco lied extensively about the WMD threat posed by Saddam's Iraq at the time of the invasion in 2003. For one thing, after three years one would have expected these records to already have been gone through for this sort of thing, especially given how central to the case for war WMDs were back before the invasion began. For another while I have respect for bloggers being able to sift through complex information and analyze it. it is also those bloggers that actually have professional training/expertise in the respective fields that tend to be the best and most credible examples of such. Somehow I doubt that will be the case with this idiocy. Personally, I think this is simply another way to hope that claims made that blogger X found evidence Y about weapons Z will be taken without much scrutiny, especially by desperate war supporters floundering about for a threat lifeline from Saddam's Iraq to be able to respond to all the criticisms and the ever increasing majority belief of Americans that the threat was way overhyped and that the Bush Administration was far less than honest with them about this threat. After all the Bush Trolletariat few remaining talking points on this issue are so stale and discredited they are useless to all but the most devoted members of the cult of personality surrounding GWB with his most hardcore base. Given the damage of the lack of WMDs for American intelligence credibility internationally it would also help perceptions there is real evidence was found, and even if bad evidence is found it can be spun as further anti-American knee jerk rejectionism when it is rightly dismissed for the nonsense bad information by definition is.

For that matter one would expect these records to be in Arabic and not English, so if they are translated then it would appear that the translators never noticed these WMD smoking gun everyone in the Administration has been looking for the last three years now. If they are not translated I have to wonder how many Americans can even read Arabic let alone do so fluently and clearly, which in turn makes mistranslation and the risk of false evidence being presented as new proof of the nonexistent WMDs existence and their ultimate fate. According to the article linked there will be English summaries for each Arabic page. Wouldn't those that created these summaries have noticed if there was any WMD related material let alone a smoking gun when they created these summaries? Come on now.

What is really disturbing though is the admission by Bushco that the intelligence services which post 9/11/01 were supposed to be massively improved and resources beefed up is still this incapable of doing this kind of work so far down the road from when they first got the documents. Given the priority finding WMDs had to have had within the Administration and the intelligence services the last three years it is mindboggling that bloggers are being asked to do work that rightly should already have been done by the American intelligence services. So why couldn't they do the work in house? This also shows a serious lack of faith in these intelligence services by the Congress (I originally typoed this to Coingress, I almost let it stand given how corrupt this GOP Congress has shown itself to be, especially for pay to play politics), even those responsible for chairing Congressional intelligence oversight committees. Not exatly something the American people should be pleased to be hearing and seeing this long after 9/11/01. If this is a serious plea for help it is also aiding the terrorists by giving them insight into just how poorly to this day the American intelligence services are doing in keeping up with translating and sifting through any and all documents and other information sources these groups may be using. If this is not a serious plea for help than it can only be a media strategy to help try and minimize the GOP losses in the Congress that appear to be coming this November, in no small part because of Bush's Iraq policy and his subsequent bungling and incompetence in its execution.

Not to mention the question as to how complete these records are and whether they were also cherrypicked like prewar intelligence clearly was to make the best possible case for the Administration. It is important to know the context in this matter, because if there are documents missing which run counter to the ones being released, well then one is looking at yet another attempt to mislead and deceive. So I am very much inclined to see this as yet another media stunt more than anything else. Although I will admit both politically for Bush and in general putting this sort of information into the public domain is good transparency in action, which is especially important for Bush's image since he and his Administration have been seen as one of the most opaque and non-transparent governments in American history. The problem though is that this is not something that is practiced by Bushco unless it helps them politically or because they have no other choice for one reason or another. It is not indicative of any sudden change in thinking regarding increasing transparency and public access to American government information and documentation, especially not after the last five years of massive increased classification of everything possible. This I should add started well before 9/11/01, so trying to claim that is the reason for it simply doesn't fly. While 9/11/01 did create a situation where some additional classification was clearly appropriate the manner in which that has been extended well beyond the point of recognition of any connection to these valid areas makes it clear that this Administration opposes transparency and openness to the public as much as it can get away with, whether it is legal or not.

This is *NOT* the standard media message control effort of new governments, this is something far more disturbing and damaging to our democracy

Up until now I haven't done a post on the media control issues that have been coming up ever since the Harper government was sworn in Feb 6 06. While I was not terribly impressed with some of the rapid turnarounds by Harper and the CPC regarding transparency and access to officials now that they were the government, I also expected a certain amount of that as a given in the case of any new government. However, the accumulation of different issues and revisions that are breaking with standard traditions followed for several decades by governments Conservative and Liberal including Martin's I might add are more than a little troubling. Take the decision to move the scrum location from the 3rd floor to the 1st floor regarding post Cabinet meetings. The main reason the 3rd floor location was used was that it made it impossible for Ministers of the government to avoid questions by media without it being obvious that they were doing so by walking away without comments. In the new location it will make it far more difficult if not impossible to get this image, which in turn makes it far easier for the Harper government to claim that the reporters were just not careful enough in getting their person instead of the more likely answer that they did not want to be questioned by the media nor do they wish to look like they are running away from questions for the negative impression that inevitably leaves.

Indeed, when I see the communications director claiming that the only reason Harper and company want this change is for the safety and welfare of the media people my male bovine excrement detector goes off loudly. This might, I repeat might be a saleable talking point/explanation if this were a party and especially a leader that does not view the media as the enemy and has demonstrated that contempt for the media throughout his political career. So that explanation makes no sense, especially given there haven't actually been any accidents or injuries to media people in that location that I have heard of, and I find it rather difficult to believe that if there was such an example that Buckler would not have had it on hand to illustrate the real safety concerns she is claiming is the motivation for this decision.

Next we come to the refusal to use the National Press Theater to date, despite it also being the traditional place for PM newsconferences primarily because it has the translation ability services to keep the playing field level in terms of those reporters not fluent in either French or English to follow along with the questions and answers given in those languages thereby allowing them the ability to either follow up on these questions or to change questions since the one they originally had intended to ask had been done so and answered. It is also noteworthy in the transcript this post is based upon that Harper wants a podium instead of the traditional long table for the visual imagery/impact of it according to Buckler. Funny thing, that is the same thing the American President uses in his meeting with the WH Press Corps, indeed pretty much anywhere he makes a speech or takes questions from media or just about anyone for that matter. Not to mention the decision by Harper to form lists of reporters that they will decide will get the "privilege" of asking Harper a question, yet another Bush policy being replicated where media management is concerned. This is also something not in keeping with tradition, it was the reporters either shouting questions out to be picked out by the PM or a line where the reporters set up order themselves and also remove the shouting which is supposedly the reason for the lists. That is significant because it is yet another example of Harper and Buckler deciding who can ask questions of the PM on a given day/issue instead of the press being the ones to determine this as used to be the case pre Harper.

Then we come to the policy of not allowing discussion with the media in any manner about anything without prior vetting by Harper's office, something I thought was idiotic from the outset, yet even more so when combined with the idea that only the "five priorities" can be discussed and nothing else. Especially when one considers that none of the five priorities deal on international issues whatsoever, and somehow I doubt those issues just up and disappeared with the new government, and since how our government deals with other governments is something most Canadians actually do care to know something about this is no minor matter. Then there is the notion of not disclosing when Cabinet meetings are to the media so that they can be ready to cover it and be able to scrum the Ministers and PM. Then there is this idea that the PM can have a private meeting with any foreign leader and have the PMO deciding whether the media and the public has a right to know about it as it happens, to know what is said in it, to have the participants questioned by the media after the end of the meeting. Something Harper and the CPC generally have yet to comprehend is that the PM does not have private meetings with any elected officials, let alone Premiers of Provinces and foreign heads of State and/or government, period. Well, they can in terms of closed door meetings, but the knowledge that these meetings are happening contemporaneously was not a problem before the Harper government came to town in recent decades either. Again, this is not something the PMO can be allowed to determine on its own, not even the great corrupt Liberal (according to this same CPC and leader Harper) PMs Martin and Chretien tried this kind of lunacy.

Near the end of the transcript it is also quite clear that Buckler does not know what was traditional in the Ottawa Press corps, she did not know there was massive difficulty in getting through to even the 24hr line of the PMO in the daytime let alone the evenings, she did not bring a list of press secretaries for the media to call, indeed it looks like she didn't even consider the need for one which is really incompetent for any communications director for a PM. She even tried to claim that when Parliament was sitting the press would be amazed at how open and available the government would be, yet when asked about the rest of the year when Parliament was not sitting she seemed completely confused and at a loss for why there should be any need for the media to cover Cabinet and such. Don't believe me? Read it for yourself.

Taken all together and I think we are seeing a level of press management and manipulation beyond anything we have seen in several decades. This looks to me to go well beyond what Mulroney attempted to do, and he wasn't exactly a big fan of the press/media either. Unfortunately what this does resemble in many different respects is the media strategy used by Bushco to not only get their message out but to do so in as minimal a verified/factchecked/investigated manner for factual accuracy and contextual accuracy as possible, mind you having FOXNEWS willing to take anything Bushco said as gospel/revealed truth certainly didn't hurt that aim any either. Indeed to not only shape the message but to also shape the medium (the media itself) so that it becomes very unwilling to challenge what the government says for fear of losing further access to the government. The importance being placed on visuals like with the podium but far from limited to it in a manner similar to the American Presidency is also disturbing. Working from PMO made lists is another example of this. As is the refusal to talk anything but the current political agenda's talking points (five priorities to the exclusion of all else, especially without prior PMO clearance), as is the increased difficulty in even knowing whom to contact within the government and actually having a working means to do so (lack of phone answering throughout day and night, especially on what is supposed to be a 24 hr line/service).

Something I think far too many people forget is the reason why we have protections for journalists and news media comes down to one civic responsibility above all others. That is to hold to account with skepticism and suspicion whatever the current government of the day is telling them. It is not the job of the media to work for the politicians and government in shaping their message, it is their responsibility to make sure that those holding power in this country over the citizenry have their decisions scrutinized as much as possible, to always be looking for signs of abuse of power and/or deceptions by government officials (ESPECIALLY ELECTED ONES!) and when such is inevitably found that it is made known to the general public. This is done so that the voting public is able to make as informed a choice as possible when they cast their votes for whomever will be entrusted with running the government which is a very important element in a representational democracy like ours is. Harper is the Prime Minister, this means he does not have the option of ignoring his responsibilities to face media questioning, even harsh and brutal questioning. After all, Martin and Chretien sure did, so it seems that Harper is fine and dandy with having the press working for the opposition when he was the Official opposition in holding a Liberal government to account but when it is his government then it is something he cannot be exposed to. Or to put it a bit more bluntly, Harper is making clear he is far more of a coward than Martin ever was when it came to having to deal with hostile audiences, hostile questioning, and generally having to accept that dealing with a media that tends to be a pain at the worst times for any government is part and parcel of the job. Any PM trying to prevent this function from occurring is someone to be wary of, someone that made as much use of the media's questioning of the prior Liberal government to "prove" how corrupt and arrogant it was immediately doing everything he thinks he can get away with to prevent having to ever suffer a similar unpleasant experience is a lying cowardly hypocrite with dangerous delusions of his own power.

I would add this last bit, if Harper was doing this in the beginnings of a new majority government then while still disturbing it would not be quite as politically stupid. However he has a weak minority, and while Conservatives generally think they have at least a year or two before having to face an election to bank on such is idiocy, especially where honking off the Ottawa Press corps is concerned, since they will be the ones most involved in national election coverage when it finally happens. The more Harper tries to isolate the media now, the more he is begging them to remind voters of this next time out, reporters being unwilling to take Harper/CPC assertions at face value like last time, and generally gives the media reason to take the CPC and Harper to task when they no longer can whip out the ability to punish media for doing so without it being seriously damaging, which in an election campaign is anytime. Seeing as the CPC government and Harper are clearly acting as if this is an election campaign from the moment they were sworn in until their government falls this seems particularly media message stupid. Then again that has been a hallmark of Harper's throughout his political career with the notable exception of the last election campaign where he was treated as the golden child for the most part. He and the CPC certainly got the most media friendly coverage of all parties and leaders last time out, so why burn all that good will so soon after the election when you do not know just how soon the next one may be?

Between the political ham handedness and the very real concerns anyone interested in open transparent government will have regarding these decisions the Harper government is just asking for trouble. It also has a strong appearance of being a conscious attempt to replicate the media strategy success GWB has had as President as much as the Canadian context will permit him to manage. Seeing as the GWB regime is clearly one of if not the most opaque unaccountable and unresponsive to public information requests from media or citizens in American history this is *NOT* something that can be seen as in keeping with Mr. transparency he who believes government must be as open as possible to the public Harper. It is however entirely in keeping with his "do as I say not as I do" approach to governing, especially given all he had to say about Martin's minority from its first day versus how he has been running his since its first day. Man, is Harper ever making Martin look better and better with time, soon Harper may have Martin's image troubles with not just the media but the public. Incidentally, for all you Conservatives out there that think this is insider stuff that the general public pays no attention to, I would direct you to this post at Galloping Beaver regarding that exact point. Canadians tend to pay more attention to what is done in their names by their government than our American neighbours and are far more politically aware and educated than it would appear most CPCers are willing to accept. This is also something that can and likely will come back to haunt them by the next election.

Media message control is one thing, what Harper is trying to do goes well beyond that. Incidentally, this rebuttal I have seen regarding how this will make reporters have to work for a living instead of being provided information by officials may sound like a good idea, but have these CPCers actually thought it through? When you provide the information you have some control on how it will be presented. When you force reporters to dig independently not only do you lose that control but you are inviting the most negative presentation both from lack of input and from probably having annoyed the reporters with this attitude. I realize it is an article of faith among many CPCers that the media is a Liberal controlled environment, and it is faith you know since no evidence actually exist to support this contention while there is evidence that refutes it, but it is not something you can treat with such contempt without penalty. Media are annoying, they are not always accurate in their coverage and occasionally their ability to understand context is totally absent but they are also something that has been a part of our democracy and representative government since Canada was founded. Harper and the CPC need to deal with that reality instead of looking and sounding like a bunch of whiny cowards that loved seeing the media dish it out on the Liberal government but is unwilling to risk any possible dishing out on their government. This is one of the ranker levels of blatant hypocrisy by Harper and his party and far too many of his supporters/defenders that think this media control strategy is a good one either politically or for the country in general. If nothing else it further deepens the cynicism that all politicians are the same kind of hypocritical liars that say one thing to gain power and then do the exact opposite when they have power than they demanded of the former government(s).

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Warning: light posting ahead

There may be less blog entries here than I might have preferred over the next few weeks. Unfortunately my wife has been getting some rather serious health news herself and this is taking a great deal of my attention, for obvious reasons of course. While I hope to be able to continue reading the blogs, or at least some of them and leaving the odd comment or two during that period I do not know if I will be blogging much here. This is because I prefer to do in depth blogging here as opposed to simple and short posts. I really was hoping to be able to do a post on the Ethics Report on Emerson-Harper, but while I have it to read I haven't been able to really get my mind into reading through the language and feel comfortable I am absorbing it. I do hope to have an in depth post up before the end of the week, but really I am not sure. I will say this much about it though, this was the outcome I expected. While I consider what Harper offered and Emerson accepted as a bribe I knew from reading the relevant codes that it would not be treated as such. It wasn't until it looked like Harper wasn't going to be investigated by the Ethics Commissioner that I thought he actually might have broken the ethics code. That said, just because it wasn't seen as unethical according to the rules of Parliament as established by Parliament does not give it the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for ethics on the Emerson crossing, nor does it change the ugly reality that the only reason Emerson became a CPC MP was to remain at a Cabinet seat. To date there is still zero evidence that Emerson would have crossed without the Cabinet seat offer, nor that he would have left the Liberals if they had formed government. He may well have "noble" motives for staying in Cabinet, he may well have the needed qualifications for Cabinet, but those are not the issue. The issue is how can a man that had zero problem with the leader and policies of the party he started out as a Minister in, spend two months arguing that the CPC and Harper are dangerous to the country, have very bad policies for Canada and cannot be allowed to become government which clearly shows significant issues of conflict, then 48 hrs after the election be willing to consider a CPC invite to Cabinet and exactly two weeks to the day from the election is sworn in as a CPC Cabinet member and is the newest CPC MP.

Floor crossing typically occurs when there is an issue of conflict on principle or leadership between an MP and his/her party and/or leader. None of this existed for Emerson. Emerson himself made it clear that he crossed because he felt he could do more for his riding as a member of Cabinet, nothing more and nothing less. Well, any MP is inherently able to do more for their riding if they are a Cabinet member that is axiomatic, yet until Emerson I cannot recall another example in our history where this was the sole reason for someone crossing parties. Nor have any of the defenders of this cross ever been able to point to another example of such. Instead we hear about Churchill and how crossing the floor has a noble and rich history, which while true does not fit in this case because all those other cases had some sort of conflict of principle or leadership direction involved. Indeed the Bloc Quebecois was formed under such circumstances. So clearly there is no other example of someone crossing solely to be in Cabinet let alone immediately after an election. If there was evidence of conflict like there was in Stonach's case from prior to the crossing happening then one might be able to argue there was a principle of conflict not mentioned, but there is not.

So my opinion of what this is has not changed. I will credit Harper for cooperating with the investigation as he was obligated to do, unlike his failure to do so last year in the Grewal investigation. Which makes his loath comment on the matter all the more perplexing. By being so loath to cooperate he made this story that much bigger, and that much more negative for him and the CPC itself, and he and the CPC spent a couple of weeks being lambasted for this, so why didn't he make it clear he had cooperated instead of allowing that much more damage to be done to the CPC reputation for honesty, transparency, ethics, and moral authority to govern? Not smart politics at all.

Well, hopefully I will be able to get back to this matter and others sooner than I fear, but I did not want those few readers I have that like my work to be left wondering what was going on. As for those that do not like my work, enjoy the break but remember it is only temporary, and that when I return my policy of ignoring those that do not argue honestly will remain even while still allowing them to post their comments. Something I think most people need to understand about me, I respond online the same way I do offline to attitude from people. Come at me with hostility, disrespect, contempt and I ignore you. Come at me with courtesy and civility while you are disagreeing with me and you will get a considered response. One of the greatest powers trolls have is the ability to disrupt. Well my way of dealing with them is to let them have their say but to not respond, and at this blog I am hopeful that others can manage the same. After all it only requires skipping over their entries to read the ones with substance and there is nothing more infuriating to a troll than having their bait ignored. That to my mind is one of the ways to raise the tone of discourse online, censorship only gives them an argument to make whereas ignoring them while they spew their bilge demonstrates a willingness to face contemptuous bile with dignity and civility which only further underscores the negative conduct of trolls. It is always better to let someone hang themselves with rope they themselves created, at least I find it so.

Well, hope to see people sooner rather than later around here. I do know I am taking the weekend off and the wife and I are going to enjoy a dog show, we both could use the stress relief so I won't be leaving anything earlier than Sunday evening, I hope everyone has a nice weekend.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Harper tells Canadians they cannot trust his Cabinet

I am not going to go into great length on this one seeing as it has been chewed around over the last several days. However, I do think this is important enough to comment on here so I am doing so.

This is a degree of control over message that appears to be unprecedented in our history, especially when one combines this with the other complaints the Parliamentary Press Gallery has been lodging regarding access to Ministers for scrums by moving the location from where it has been for many decades now. I can understand Harper wanting to be notified of any public comments by his Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries (To be abbreviated as PS for future references), but to require complete and total vetting of any public comment, even a local letter to the editor appears to demonstrate a serious lack of confidence by Harper in his Ministers in being able to stick to the agenda of the government without such tight and extreme controls as Harper appears to be putting into place. Seriously, just think about this for a minute. In effect Harper has told all his Cabinet and all the PS in his government that he does not trust their judgment nor their ability to remain centered on the "5 priorities" his government was supposedly elected upon. He especially does not trust their ability to speak to anyone in the public on these issues or any other issues for that matter seeing as he wants only the "5 priorities" to ever receive public discussion. This shows a serious lack of confidence by the PM in his own Cabinet to perform a fairly basic responsibility of any Cabinet Minister, that being to speak for the government on the issues related to the files within the jurisdiction of that Ministry.

It also indicates Harper is continuing to believe that the best political strategist he has is himself. Apparently he has never heard of the notion that when a lawyer represents himself he has a fool for a client, that doctors are the worst patients, etc. This is important because it illustrates a failing typical to all human beings, that being even within our professional expertise when our personal feelings/welfare is directly tied to our expertise we have a remarkable tendency to miss things and/or misperceive things in our favour whereas if it was for an independent client it would jump right out at us as a bad thing/idea. This is as true for a political strategist as PM thinking his expertise as a strategist is better than anyone else's as any other. He will not be able to see past his own personal blind spots/beliefs which in turn will create areas missed/misunderstood and any action taken regarding it will inherently be seriously flawed. There is a level of hubris involved in thinking so highly of yourself as Harper appears to be doing in this matter that is very unhealthy, both for him and his party and for the country as a whole.

It also indicates a degree of control freak issues that cannot be brushed aside, for if he is this much of a control freak in things like this it is inherently that it will be an across the board problem. No man is the perfect man, period. The biggest problem with a dictatorship/tyranny is that the indispensable man required for such to work not only does not exist in nature, even assuming he did what happens when he gets sick or needs surgery or something? Harper is making a serious mistake if he is centralizing power within himself to this extent. One of the best political reasons for not doing so is that while yes you get all the credit you also get the blame instead of having handy disposable Ministers to take the heat for the PM when there is the inevitable serious mistake/misjudgment by any PM. It increases the chance of things slipping through the cracks since Harper is one man and his primary job is to run the country and not to screen everything his government/party is saying at all times for ideological/political agenda purity. It also makes it easier to portray Harper as not just a control freak that does not trust his own people that much but also as power hungry/corrupt. All around this is a bad idea, and that is without going into the history of these types of policies and their inevitable failures and consequences for the leader/party/government that was as foolish as to believe they could control the dialogue to this extreme an extent.

Yet again Harper shows that he does not recognize the political tone/impact of his decisions and how they can be used against him and his party/government. First Emerson, then Fortier, then the Ethics Commissioner loathing he did publicly (which given he did cooperate with unlike in the Grewal affair yet did little to draw attention to that fact prior to the report release also seems politically on the deaf ear side of things) and his tendency to sound a little too GOP/Bushish in his foreign policy commentary in Afghanistan all have contributed to a serious case of buyer's remorse from many that voted CPC in the last election.

I will also be doing a post on the Ethics Commissioner's report but I want to read through it first, which I should have done by the end of today, at least I hope so. Expect a post on it within the next couple of days since if I cannot get this done tonight it will probably be late tomorrow to Wed.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Now THIS is truly offensive!!! Obhrai needs to apologize and retract this male bovine excrement IMMEDIATELY!

I didn't want to believe it, I really didn't. I thought no MP would make such an irresponsible and contemptible comment as Obhrai was reported to have said. I heard yesterday a little something about this but I lacked any details. Thanks to the Globe and Mail article referenced that is no longer the case.

Let us first examine the case Obhrai makes for his claim. He stated that he told the Ethics Commissioner that if he were to pursue an investigation because it was a sensitive family matter that could lead to "deadly consequences". First off, this is a stupid argument to make to stop an investigation period. I wonder if the next time anyone has any legal investigation it will be seen as acceptable to request the end of an investigation because it is a sensitive family matter that could lead to deadly consequences, somehow I do not think this will fly with the investigating authorities whomever they may be. So to expect this to stop an investigation is idiotic right on the face of it. To expect it to be sufficient to even prevent the interview of a witness is just as moronic, particularly when that witness appears to be a central figure in the matter under investigation in the first place.

Now, let us examine the next part of this "complaint". This brother in law of Obhrai's is already someone suffering from some sort of mental instability/disorder/issue, what exactly I have yet to see precisely defined. We do know his family considered him unstable. We know that this man was interviewed in August of last year regarding this investigation. We know that on Feb 26 of this year this man killed himself, and did so without leaving any note/explanation as to why. Is this a tragedy? Yes, especially for that family. Is there any basis whatsoever to conclude that the Ethics Commissioner and his investigation had any role in this suicide? Not in the slightest, at least not as made public as of this writing. When Obhrai made this comment " When someone is warning him that there are deadly consequences and you chose to ignore it, and it happens, then what? He doesn't commit suicide just because." it is rather difficult to take this as anything other than Obhrai laying at least partial responsibility for the suicide directly upon Shapiro. Yet there appears to have been a full six months from the interview by Shapiro to the suicide, absolutely no note left to explain why, and yet Obhrai feels he has a basis for laying the responsibility even in part off on the Ethics Commissioner for doing his job?!? Now that is sick.

It is also clearly his using the death of his brother in law for partisan political purposes when he ties something from six months prior to the suicide to that event when there is zero corroborating evidence to do so. I have known several people that have tried to kill themselves and more than a few that succeeded in my lifetime. In almost every case the straw that broke the camel's back was something within the last few days to weeks at most, it was not something that happened much longer than that. There was in one case a much longer problem related to his sexual orientation which built up over time before he killed himself, but even there there was a recent event which finally caused his snapping. The idea that an event six months ago can be stated as having anything to do with this suicide when there is no other evidence provided, when the person in question was known to have mental instability to begin with, when there was no suicide note explaining why this person killed themselves is not one that holds credence. It is interesting though that while the suicide was two weeks ago it wasn't until the flap surrounding Harper and the Ethics Commissioner that this suddenly is made known. I make that comment because if there had been clear evidence that the investigation by the Ethics Commissioner had played a role in this suicide then one would have expected to hear about it immediately after the suicide.

No, this looks far more likely to be an attempt by the CPC to protect Harper from being investigated by furthering the campaign the CPC has waged against Shapiro since he first announced this investigation. At every turn we see the CPC and Harper's office doing their best to attack the credibility and authority of the Office of the Ethics Commissioner rather than comply with an investigation. Now we have an MP linking the suicide of his brother in law to this Office and Officeholder despite there being ZERO evidence provided to the public for this claim yet the CPC wants to claim it is everyone else that is playing partisan politics with this issue but them?!? Got to love the chutzpah involved, but not the lack of accountability, transparency, integrity and honesty. This was an absolutely disgusting allegation to make, and not one that should have been made UNLESS there was something substantial to support it. So far that appears to be missing.

Now we come to this lovely comment by MP Obhrai as a follow-up on his smearing the suicide of his brother in law onto the Ethics Commissioner without any evidence to support it, a comment offensive and hateful to most civilized human beings in this country to be receiving and especially sickening when applied to someone that is Jewish. "An Ethics Commissioner was appointed by us to look at our ethics. We did not appoint a Gestapo chief." I realize that exaggeration is inherent in political rhetoric but this was clearly overstepping the lines for any elected official to be making, let alone making on the clear absence of any evidence supporting Obhrai's contention that the Ethics Commissioner played any role whatsoever in the suicide of his brother in law.

Clearly the only ethical thing for Obhrai to do is apologize for the Gestapo comment and unless he has evidence he has not as yet provided to make this connection appear valid that he also needs to retract and apologize for making any suggestion whatsoever that the Ethics Commissioner played any role whatsoever in the suicide of his brother in law. Given what he has provided to date the only conclusion that I can come to is that MP Obhrai is using the suicide of his brother in law to further attack the Ethics Commissioner in an attempt to prevent any investigation into the Harper/Emerson issue, and that he is doing so by smearing the credibility of the Officeholder with this sordid and contemptible unfounded and unsupported contention of his.

This is a level of attack and smear politics I have not seen in this country until the Harper/CA/CPC started importing these tactics from their American counterparts, movement conservatives. It is this kind of politics that I have been worried about from the CA/CPC and especially Stephen Harper. I find it difficult to believe given the tight media management Harper has been running since he was elected PM that Obhrai made these public statements without either permission beforehand or at a minimum a willingness to allow it to continue once Obhrai made these public comments. At this point it is as much Harper's responsibility to have this MP retract and apologize for these comments UNLESS Obhrai has actual evidence to support this contention he has made. What has been provided to date certainly is insufficient to make this allegation, so either prove you have evidence or retract, no other behaviour is acceptable in this smear job and exploitation of a personal tragedy for partisan political purposes by an MP of the PM's party in the defence of that PM from investigation by the Ethics Commissioner. If there is no evidence provided then not only is retraction required but a full apology by Obhrai for this despicable act of using personal tragedy for partisan political purposes, in this case the prevention of an investigation by an Officer of Parliament with the legal power and responsibility to conduct said investigation.

If it wasn't already clear enough from this post I find this specific act well beyond what is considered acceptable politics, regardless of party or parties involved. This was a nasty smear job without evidence supporting it, and the Gestapo Chief comment on top of it was just insane. Then again, thinking it is a good idea to exploit such a tragedy in such a manner given the dearth of evidence supporting the allegation being made to protect the PM from investigation is also insane. It is certainly not something one would have wanted to see from anyone elected to public office. I also think this MP deserves to lose his position as MacKay's Parliamentary Secretary for this despicable act, but I will be shocked if that actually happens given the absolute lack of personal accountability in the CPC. After all, whenever something goes wrong for them it is always someone else's fault or responsibility, never their own. It is always the work of a partisan media, partisan political opponents, incompetent staff (see Communications firings by Harper as one example), never the CPC leader or his party always someone else is the "real" culprit not the poor victimized and persecuted CPC and Harper. For the sarcastically challenged, the preceding sentence was loaded with sarcasm.

Well that is all I have to say on this for now, I sincerely hope this insanity is retracted and apologies extended, because unless some real evidence to support this outrageous allegation is provided then such is the only responsible, ethical and moral choice open. Which seeing as the CPC has ranted for years about the need for such ethical and moral leadership leaves them looking yet again like hypocrites that have a double standard, one for them and another for everyone else. It seems the CPC borrowed another GOP tactic along with the smear and destroy approach, IOKIYAR, also known as It's OK If You Are Republican, or for Harper it is IOKIFAC where all are the same except the "C" is for Conservative. Just what Canada didn't need.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Harper is *NOT* above the rules of ethics/conduct as established by Parliament and he *MUST* accept that

I love the argument I am hearing John Williams make on Politics right now. That Shapiro is incompetent for initiating this investigation and Harper can ignore his investigation because Harper broke no rules. In other words he is presupposing Harper's innocence before any investigation, because to determine that no rules have been broken as the reason not to have any investigation is circular reasoning. As well, Harper asked Shapiro in January 2006 to investigate the Income Trust scandal of the Liberals, so he certainly had the opinion then that Shapiro was credible enough to investigate other Liberals but is too partisan to investigate a Conservative because he is a Liberal appointee? That does not pass the basic logic test either. This idea that Harper broke no rules is not for the CPC to determine, especially regarding the ethics rules of Parliament. It is the determination of Parliament that the Ethics Commissioner is the final authority on whether such rules have been broken and not MPs or even the PM. That was the whole point of making him an Officer of Parliament a few years ago instead of just accountable to the PM of the day. When MPs file complaints for investigation it is the responsibility of the Ethics Commissioner to first determine whether any basis for an investigation exists if so to then start a preliminary investigation, and if that finds sufficient evidence to have a full investigation and to issue a report. Three MPs filed complaints regarding the Emerson affair. Incidentally, I have seen the CPC defence of why no investigation of Stronach's crossing, what I have not seen is any evidence that any MP filed any complaints about that crossing with the Ethics Commissioner in the first place. I remember John Reynolds complaining to a Law Society on Peterson, but I do not recall any MPs complaining to the Ethics Commissioner. Therefore if no complaint was filed then trying to compare the responses to Stronach by Shapiro versus this incident with Emerson is a false comparison right from the start and is a bogus defence to boot. Incidentally, I have seen this complaint that Shapiro refused to investigate Valeri because it was between Sessions and he had no authority, but I have yet to see the actual quote from Shapiro stating this. After all the last Session ended and the election campaign started immediately afterwards. If he refused to start an investigation during an election campaign because it could be seen as improper influencing the election results that makes sense and also means that once the election ended then he could investigate again. I would love to see the exact wording of this so if anyone reading this post can provide such I would greatly appreciate it since to date this is the only defence I have seen that might actually have any merit to it.

Remember, the Auditor General is also a "Liberal appointee", responsible to Parliament and not just a given PM, is appointed much the same way as the Ethics Commissioner is and is an Officer of Parliament just as the Ethics Commissioner is. Imagine the uproar from all sides if last year that would have occurred if Martin chose to ignore the AG 's investigations. There is no real difference here. Both are Officers of Parliament, both are appointed by PMs, and both are supposed to be independent of the PMO/government. One can complain about Shapiro's actions to date in this office, but the reality is he *IS* in that office at this time, he *IS* bound to follow the requirements of that office, and all MPs including the PM *ARE* bound/required to cooperate with his office when an investigation is launched. Yet Harper has refused to do his duty in this regard twice now out of two investigations involving him by the Ethics Commissioner, last year into the Grewal fraud of which he was up to his neck in, and now the Emerson crossing as a first act of Harper's as PM. Yet he has determined he is above investigation. Wasn't the biggest objection to the Liberals by Conservatives the inability of Liberals especially leadership level Liberals that they saw themselves as above the laws that governed the rest of the country/Canadians/Parliament?

Harper is just doing everything he can to destroy any credibility for honesty, principles, and accountability he had from the last election. That he is managing it in such a short time right after the election is incredibly damaging for him and his party, and instead of recognizing this he continues to make himself look like he is above the same considerations of prior PMs and Parliamentarians. This degree of arrogant presumption is in ways even more offensive than the arrogance we saw from Chretien and even Martin, and it is how Harper is defining himself as a PM and his party as being willing to be a cult of personality instead the party of principled conviction that was sold to Canadians since the genesis of the CPC. Given this is the weakest minority government in Canadian history the degree of hubris this is demonstrating is breathtaking in its scope.

I knew Harper was arrogant, but I used to think he had some ability as a political strategist. No more. It is not just his decisions but his lack of preparing the groundwork for them and lack of willingness to face Canadians openly and sell these ideas. He cannot govern this country in a minority situation from a bunker and only come out when he wants to say something and then retreat again, it simply will not work. This is especially true these days given the example of similar governing style we see from our American neighbour's Executive and the incredible aversion/revulsion any comparison to the Bush Administration brings up in most Canadians, especially when it starts to show up in our governmental practices. Harper and the CPC have claimed that any comments about being Americaphiles planning Americanization of the Canadian governmental system was simply scare mongering by the opposition parties especially the Liberals. Same as the hidden agenda stuff. Yet Harper's actions since the day he was sworn in have been nothing but underscoring the idea that these comments of hidden agenda and Americanization desire actually have weight/merit. That is incredibly idiotic politics. This was Harper and the CPC's best chance to prove that all of these concerns were groundless, that it really was nothing but baseless fear mongering and a smear campaign. Instead of taking that opportunity to destroy that rhetorical weapon against them instead they strengthen it, why I have no idea. If they think that this will all be forgotten by the next election then I have to say they are dreaming. There has been too much controversy from the first day onwards by Harper and the CPC and this refusal to deal with the Ethics Commissioner is just the latest example for it all to be forgotten, especially if the election is within the next two years.

After all if Harper is so confident he did nothing unethical or against the rules and codes of Parliament then he should welcome this investigation to put this issue behind him and his party. The only reason most people refuse to be investigated is when they know they have something to hide, and I guarantee you the average apolitical voter is likely seeing it this way as well. Conservatives can argue partisanship and competence all they like and while it may well carry weight within their base it will not work well at all outside that base, including I suspect those voters that voted CPC last time to remove the Liberals and to give Harper and the CPC a chance to see whether they are what the Liberals/NDP/BQ have said about them or whether what the CPC/Harper has said was the reality. So far Harper and the CPC have consistently helped make the opposition parties case about the CPC and Harper appear to be the one closest to reality. How that works to the advantage to Harper and the CPC in increasing voter support for a majority next time out is something I cannot figure out, and I am a fairly decent political strategist and analyst myself. This notion I see many within the CPC base about how Harper is playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers may be comforting, but I think it is also wishful thinking.

Harper has to appeal to those not already supporting him and his party to make a majority government, so decisions that only look good to his base and not anyone else, and for that matter rationales/reasoning that only makes sense if one is already a CPC/Harper partisan does nothing to increase the CPC/Harper base of support in the voting public. So far his actions appear more inclined to alienate new people than welcome them, and as well to make this a shorter than expected Parliament. While I agree that Canadians are not eager to have another election anytime soon, if they feel this government is acting in a manner they find offensive the CPC will be shocked at how soon the next election ends up being. Harper has clearly violated the standards of ethical/responsible governance he has preached about for years. I remember last year he and his party telling Canadians about the "clean cut Conservative government" where such controversies would not be a hallmark, yet the hallmark of the Harper government to date is nothing but controversy and questions of ethical conduct. That does leave an impression, and having Harper playing the Cheney live in a bunker approach to the media and Canadians generally outside of photo ops only will strengthen that image. One only hides from view when someone has something they do not want to be seen or to be asked about. That is something human beings of any political stripe will feel the truth of in their bones/subconscious level and works against Harper and the CPC. None of this is complicated political sense/reasoning, so why does it seem that Harper and many of the CPC cannot grasp this except to call it smears, Liberal propaganda, etc, which only looks like making excuses to those same apolitical voters out there.

The CPC ran a very slick campaign that they got away with last time precisely because they did not have a record as a government. That will not be true next time, and the record to date is one opposition strategists are likely drooling over so far for all the fodder it gives them to attack Harper and the CPC on their credibility on ethics and governance issues. Not smart, not at all.

If Harper had been smart he would have complied with Shapiro's investigations, now though he will have to accept being branded as an arrogant hypocrite whose talk of ethics is only for the other guys and not for him and his on this issue. Even if Shapiro had ruled against him Harper could then have raised the partisan card, but by using it as a defence from any scrutiny at all it looks like what it is, a straw argument/deflection to prevent any examination of his actions, as if he was unaccountable to anyone except in an election day vote. Unfortunately for him Parliamentarians, even PMs are accountable to the laws of the country, the code of ethics governing Parliamentarians, indeed to Parliament itself at all times and not just in an election cycle. The more he acts to the contrary the more he damages himself. As a partisan opposed to Harper's agenda and that of the CPC as it currently exists this is great news for me. As a Canadian interested in responsible and good governance I find this horrifying. I may not be surprised by it since it matches what I feared would happen, but that does not mean I take any delight in being right. There are things where I would prefer to be wrong about, and how bad a government would be for our country is certainly one of them when that group is the government of the day.

At this rate I can't wait to see what is in the Throne Speech and the Budget that will help the opposition parties and further weaken the CPC and Harper.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Harper apparantly does not feel bound by the same ethical requirements of other MPs, or PMs for that matter

Just who does Stephen Harper think he is?!? This is the second time out of two occasions where he has been involved in an Ethics Commissioner investigation, and the second time he he brushes it aside. The last time he was too busy from August to November of 2005 to meet with Shapiro in his investigation into the Grewal affair, and now he decides that he doesn't have to be investigated for the Emerson crossing, despite the filing of complaints by several MPs AND from the general public. This is the third significant questionable ethics issue Harper has involved himself in since becoming PM. The first of course was Emerson, the second was Fortier, and now his decision that he is above the conflict of interest guidelines and the enforcement mechanism (Ethics Commissioner) Parliament put into place.

Now that there is to be an investigation of him Harper feels that it is his prerogative to dismiss the investigator as a 'partisan Liberal' and therefore does not have any authority to investigate his actions regarding Emerson. Well, I wonder if that was the same attitude while as Leader of the Official Opposition that led him to be too busy to be interviewed by Shapiro last year regarding his actions into the Grewal fraud.

*Thanks to Buckets of Grewal and his work for the links regarding Grewal, I couldn't have done it without them*

Let us remember the Grewal fraud for a moment. This was a CPC MP who on May 18 05 announced to the media that he had conclusive evidence of the Liberals and the PMO in particular of being willing to offer a Senate seat and/or an Ambassadorship for his and his wife's vote. This kicked off a firestorm, especially after Grewal released eight minutes of recorded material which appeared to corroborate his allegation. However, he in the same interview also claimed to have four hours of recorded material. Then for the next twelve days the recordings are translated, transcribed, and authenticated solely by the Office of the Official Opposition (at the time Harper's office). Then on May 31 05 the CPC releases through Grewal's website the "full" complete "pristine" recordings for all Canadians to see the Liberals selling Senate seats for MP votes, a clear violation of the Ethics code and very likely a criminal offence as well. For the next 48 hrs the CPC hammers at the Liberals and PM Martin about this, claim that any call by any Liberal that there was missing material and/or editing done was a complete fabrication, a desperate smokescreen to try and avoid facing the consequences of their actions as recorded by Grewal and authenticated by the CPC and Harper's office.

Then however the cracks begin to appear. First one sound expert then another using the recordings released on May 31 05 by the CPC find evidence of editing. The CPC/Harper continues to claim no missing material let alone editing until June 2 05. Then they acknowledge missing material in the self described suicide note that technical errors had caused them to lose a few seconds of material, but that it was not pertinent material and they provide the missing material in the note. This is the only time that the CPC acknowledges the possibility of missing material officially. Then Friday June 3 05, and guess what happens? On May 31 05 the "full" recorded material was released, and this was approx 75 minutes of material. Well starting the weekend of June 3 05 an additional 35 minutes of additional material is released in two groups of 15 and 20 minutes, and worse it ends up that much of this was material EDITED from the May 31 05 release, that once put into place significantly alters the context of the discussions, makes Grewal look worse and the Liberals better and for the kicker had conclusive proof that the Liberals flatly rejected any talk of Senate seats despite Grewal's repeatedly bringing it up. Yet throughout these additional releases the CPC gives no public notice of any type that they are releasing this additional material.

So by the middle of June 2005 the scandal of the century the CPC and Harper had regaled Canadians with, the one about how the Liberals were buying MPs and how they had conclusive proof of this, turns out to be a figment of someone's imagination. Someone edited those recordings. We do not know who. If it was Grewal then he placed Harper and the CPC in a very nasty position by making them a party to a fraud and a slander. However, if this was the case then Harper should have reprimanded Grewal publicly for this and taken appropriate sanctions against Grewal, and apologized to Canadians for having trusted one of his MPs more than he should have. If he had done that then this would have been accepted by most Canadians including myself and my anger/contempt would be reserved for Grewal alone. I might have been a bit annoyed with Harper for not doing better due diligence but I would have accepted that these things unfortunately can happen. Instead though all Harper does is let Grewal go on paid stress leave while continuing to defend him and his actions completely. However, if someone in the LOO was the editor then we have a major ethical issue and scandal of a whole other kind.

Stop and consider this for a moment. If the LOO had the full recordings from the outset as they supposedly had, why then did they not notice the time difference between their originals and the release of May 31 05? After all 35 minutes missing is not exactly hard to notice as a difference in run times. Yet they clearly did not. Indeed, they continued to vouch for the authenticity and completeness of the May 31 05 release. This to my mind means that either they did not have the full material and that could only be because Grewal was holding them back despite having said he turned them all over to the LOO, or that they were aware of the edits because they had played a role in them. Seeing as the former possibility should have brought the wrath of Harper down on Grewal for his actions harming the CPC and didn't it leaves the latter as a viable explanation, especially since to this day Harper and the CPC have never formally acknowledged that they released edited recordings in the first place. Indeed the only acknowledgement ever was from Harper at the last Press Gallery dinner when he made a joke about it.

So then the Ethics commissioner goes investigating. Harper was one of the people directly involved so it was only natural that Shapiro would want to speak to him, indeed his job would require it of him. Instead though Harper brushes him aside for months, and at the end sends in an assistant who also happens to be a primary player in the Grewal affair in his place, this being Geoff Norquay. Norquay was the communications head for Harper, was the man responsible for the communications strategy the CPC/Grewal used from May 18 05 onwards until the fraud came apart, indeed was the PR man laying down the groundwork the day before the first release of May 18 05 on shows like Politics with Don Newman. So he is someone with a direct stake in this not becoming a serious investigation as well as being a principal Shapiro needed to talk to as well. What this comes down to is that Harper for whatever reason flatly refused to discuss his and his party's most serious scandal with the person charged by PARLIAMENT to investigate ethical conduct by ALL MPs. For those interested the final report by Shapiro into the Grewal affair can be found here.

Now we have Harper stating he can ignore this investigation into the Emerson cross and whether Harper bribed him with a Cabinet position. Stop and think about this for a moment. This is the man that has been on a crusade for years to improve the ethical quality of Parliament and especially government. He has chanted accountability and transparency wherever he went as LOO and through the last two election campaigns. He spent last spring crusading about accountability. Yet when it is time for him to act in a responsible and accountable manner as he constantly insisted others, especially Liberals do, why then he cannot be bothered. Instead he is more interested in attacking the investigator and preventing any such investigation, well at least until/unless he can put one of his own in the office instead of someone he has no influence over. Which is of course inherently corrupt, since if anything the Ethics Commissioner should not be in under the ability of any MP, even the PM to influence. So here we see Mr. Accountability yet again running as hard and fast as he can from any accountability for the ethical questions his own actions and decisions have asked.

Harper sure can talk the talk about ethics and accountability, but every one of his actions when it comes to his walking the walk himself have shown him to be a lying hypocritical coward. His actions throughout the Grewal affair, his denial of any wrongdoing in it, his refusal to meet with the Ethics Commissioner about that affair when it was being investigated, his promise never to have an unelected member of his Cabinet during the election shattered by the Fortier appointment to Senate and then Cabinet, his willingness to induce a floor crossing by a Liberal by offering a Cabinet position (again, qualifications are not at issue here, it is the ethics of doing so that are) and now his refusal to submit to this investigation.

If Harper is willing to be this arrogant, this presumptuous while with the weakest minority government in our history, what arrogance/hubris/presumption would he be comfortable with if he actually had a majority government?!? I have always said that Harper was more interested and governed by expediency and power hunger than anything remotely resembling principles. From his campaign to become CA leader to his conduct in the PCPC/CA merger, to his use of his leadership position to help secure the first CPC leadership position to the Grewal fraud he pushed with such intensity, to his failure to meet with Shapiro to his Cabinet selections his actions are full of "do as I say, not as I do" contradictions. When I determine someone's credibility as a leader it is by how closely their words are matched by their deeds, especially when it is in dealing with a challenge within their own side. Harper has failed that test at every turn, and he is failing it again now. This man is not a dictator, yet his attitude of arrogance is that of one. Which should cause everyone pause when they consider that a majority PM is fairly close to one in practice and what Harper would decide to do if he had a majority given his actions/arrogance to date is a blood chilling thought indeed.

Harper cannot be allowed to simply make the rules to suit him like this, it is wrong and it is supposedly the reason the Liberals and Martin had to be removed, because they were too arrogant and corrupted by power. Well he has only been in power several weeks and already Harper is demonstrating the arrogance and corruption of ethics that took the Liberals a dozen years and three majorities in a row to develop, and he has done so with a very weak minority government. Past behaviour indicates future conduct, and Harper's should scare anyone.


Thanks to The Dan Report I found a link which shows that PM Harper strengthened the powers of the Ethics Commissioner, in particular so that "reports and findings of the Ethics Commissioner are final and may not be overturned by the Prime Minister." (quote from bottom of the article) as one of his first acts as PM. Got to love the talking from both sides of his mouth in his actions. On the one hand he makes Ethics Commissioner Shapiro more powerful in one of his first acts as PM on the other hand when he himself is looking at being investigated by the Commissioner he strengthed suddenly the Ethics Commissioner is a partisan operative that has no credibility and cannot be trusted. Well then Mr. Harper, if you were so convinced this man was unfit why then give him more power while he is still the Ethics Commissioner? I think this sudden concern for Shapiro's "partisanship" is yet another Harper/CPC deflection from having his actions investigated by anyone that might not give him a clean bill of health. In other words if there is no guarantee Harper will get the outcome he wants then he will not accept/tolerate being investigated regardless of the rules of Parliament and especially regarding the Ethics code for Parliamentarians of which he is still one. Then again, given the arrogance of his actions to date one would think he is accountable to no one other than his party, which while acceptable in an Opposition party leader is *NOT* an acceptable position for a PM of any party.

Oh yes, in case anyone is wondering why I am so focused on Harper's ethics, it is because he spent years crusading about the need for ethical reforms, for a PM with good ethics, and how if elected he would be that PM. I am holding him to the standards he set out for himself and the CPC, and it is nobody's fault than his own when they do not meet that standard, especially not when it is Harper himself failing that standard. Yet instead of showing personal responsibility and accountability like they preached over and over for years now Harper and the CPC appear just fine and dandy with being at least as ethically challenged as any preceding government. Which given the closeness Harper has found with Brian Mulroney and his crowd should surprise no one in the speed to which it has taken root in this "new" government. There is a reason this is a cliche, because it is all too true : "He who lives by the sword dies by the sword" and ethics, accountability, and honesty are the sword Harper is wounding himself and the CPC with.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Ethics Comissioner investigating Harper-Emerson deal

CBC is breaking the news that the Ethics Comissioner is opening an investigation into the Harper decision to "invite" Emerson to change parties by becoming a member of his Cabinet. Good to hear. More details to be provided once I have them. Still though, it is a start. I have maintained from the outset that Harper bought Emerson with a Cabinet seat to cross parties, everything they both said confirms this. It does not matter whether Emerson truly believes he can do more as a Cabinet Minister for his riding than in opposition, he signed onto a party, supported that party in the last Parliament, supported them throughout the election especially opposing the CPC and Harper, and as soon as he was no longer a Liberal Cabinet member because of an election, he was willing to cross to the new government, but only if he was in the Cabinet. It is that last point that is particularly disturbing. I have from the outset challenged any defender of Emerson to provide any evidence other than his preference to be in a Cabinet, any Cabinet, for why he became a CPC. To date zero alternative evidence has been provided. I also found it disturbing to have Harper on Day One of his government taint it with the act of bribery. So good for the Ethics Commissioner.

It also is important to point out that Emerson looks to have the record on shortest time from an election to crossing a floor in our history, let alone straight into a senior Cabinet position. Emerson does not understand that while in the Business world this is acceptable behaviour it is not in political life, the two are NOT the same. I think Harper also needs to understand this, which given his lengthy history in poitics is more than a little disturbing that he appears not to understand this. It is and never has been Emerson's qualifications for a Cabinet position that has been in question, it is his ethics/morality/principles that his actions brought into question, as was Harper's in his willingness to increase his weak minority by a seat by passing over all those CPC MPs that actually ran as such to Cabinet in favour of Emerson. Remember, by Emerson's own words he would not be CPC now if there had not been a Cabinet position offered, and Harper (starting the day after the election no less) was the one making this offer knowing in all probability that without such an offer there would be no way Emerson would have crossed. If Harper really wanted him solely for his expertise, he should have appointed him as a Liberal and then once the Liberals got upset then there would have been some basis to make this look like there was any principle other than expediency/power desire behind Emerson's actions, and it would have helped Harper look less like someone willing to buy MPs with a Cabinet position.

Remember, Emerson right up to the Feb 6 2006 announcement was still claiming to be a Liberal, including being a part of party strategy discussions the weekend immediately preceding his new Cabinet position being known to Canadians. What does it say about the ethics of a man that knows he is about to change parties that he continued to be involved in such discussions? Nothing good in my books. If the Ethics Commissioner does find fault with this act, will Emerson resign as he said he would if such a finding came out of such an investigation, or will it be further words he said that he didn't really mean. You know, like being Harper's worst nightmare, CPC policies would be crappy, that a CPC government would be bad for Canada, etc.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Improve Troop Morale, leave them a comment

Thanks to audacious ontology for finding this link. I hope this gets spread throughout the Canadian blogosphere, I really like the idea of being able to directly leave comments/questions for our troops in the field. Just thought I'd note it for all to see and hopefully use.