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, December 15, 2006

Is Harper channeling Diefenbaker? Given the Arrowlike shafting of the Mars robotics contract it sure looks like it!

I first became aware of this matter last night while watching Don Newman's Politics. I didn't blog about it last night because quite honestly I was too angry to do so coherently. This is incredibly bad judgment, indeed even worse judgment than I credited the Harper government with, which when one considers the very low opinion I have of them generally is really saying something. I mean really, I thought even Harper wouldn't be so stupid and ignorant as to screw around in one of the most important high tech sectors of the Canadian economy, that being robotics and especially space robotics engineering. This was a sector we built up over decades in no small part to recover from the fiasco and massive skilled brain drain from our aerospace industrial sector as a result of the Diefenbaker cancellation of the Avro Arrow fighter contract. When that contract was cancelled the engineering expertise that had been assembled by the creation of the Arrow was promptly snatched up by NASA and the American aerospace companies and the European agency that would use Canadian expertise to create the Concorde project and subsequent plane with. This set Canada's high tech sector back decades and left us at a strategic disadvantage in the new high tech/information age economy that was starting to develop then and certainly surrounds us these days.

Canada has played a significant role in space exploration by supplying robotics expertise to NASA via things like the Shuttle's CanadArm and the sequel Arm used to construct and operate the space station currently under construction. This is also something Canadians have taken a great deal of national pride in for the last couple of decades, so why Why WHY is Harper's government making a bad decision which negatively affects national identity/pride, high tech economic development, and Canada's access to space?!? This is one of those decisions by this government for which I have no explanation, especially since it would not have cost any new money simply redirecting already existing budgeted funds in the Canadian Space Agency's planned budget. This whole program was to cost 100 million spread evenly over ten years, hardly a great expense, indeed less than the service contract for ONE of the planes this government is buying from Boeing under a no-bid contract. Yet this 100 million would increase our access to the European space market to go along with our American access, would have continued to develop and grow our high tech engineering industry especially our robotics and space robotics sector, and just to add insult to injury this government was apparently told by the American government that if they built the Mars Lander for the Europeans that the Americans would be interested in using the base unit for it's planned Moon colony construction starting in 2020.

Now, this contract was originally to be signed off on last September. However, since the Europeans were caught totally flatfooted by this decision (which given Canada's history of solid commitment to this area of space exploration technology is quite understandable) they had no alternative source in mind. This will change of course, but according to the report I heard on Politics last night the Europeans are still willing to give Canada this contract is we change our minds on it within the very near future, which I would read to mean within the next several weeks to maybe a month or two. Now, why do I compare this to the Diefenbaker cancellation of the Arrow? I do so because the industry has sent clear signals that if Canada is not going to support this kind of Research and Develoment work anymore then it is in their interests to relocate to the USA where there will be such work to be done, which is essentially a repetition of the Arrow fiasco...Canada assembles the engineering talent and ability to create a strong high tech sector and then ends up not supporting that sector just when they are poised for significant expansion with a strong product causing the industry to be broken up and the skilled engineers snatched up by American aerospace engineering firms, NASA, and for the European Concorde development project.

If we do not get this government to reverse this decision and take this contract while we still can grab it I truly believe Canadian history books decades from now will equate this decision with the Arrow decision in terms of its shortsightedness and gutting of a developing high tech sector and further crippling our ability to compete in the most economically valuable kind of economy, the knowledge based one. I mean I know this government tends to be hostile to funding Research and Development but this really is a no-brainer in terms of its obvious advantages and rewards. The levels of contempt and disinterest for these vital if less visible aspects of good government this decision illustrates is truly worrisome and something that has the potential to significantly cripple Canada's long term economic development. Not exactly the mark of good government nor of a government that deserves to be left in power a moment longer than necessary, not that I had not already come to that conclusion but still, this is really disgusting what Harper and company are doing in this matter.

This is something I hope to see the entire Canadian blogging community takes up and hopefully forces the media to start going after this government about. This is something that in my mind needs to be made a political hot potatoe as soon as possible and this government held to sharp criticism and questioning until they reverse this decision. I am glad to see several blogs already have written posts on this very important issue which should by rights have been a no-brainer and is not exactly a partisan issue either. Dave at The Galloping Beaver has one here, Red Tory has one here, A BCer in TO has one here, POGGE has one here, Accidental Deliberations has one here, and Lemon chicken and Lawn Signs has one here. As I find new blogs posting on this issue I will be adding them to this list. Like this one from The Progressive Right here and from Robert at My Blahg here.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

SSM vote: What exactly was the point in it? What political advantages does Harper/CPC see coming from it?

First off, this is a post dealing with my perception of the political thinking going on here, nothing more than that. I make no claim that I am certain about any motivations I do not explicitly state such about in each specific instance. I have never claimed to be a telepath nor any mystical ability to see into the human soul any more easily than the rest of my species, I use past behaviour and behavioural analysis accumulated through a lifetime of observation of such and having been raised inside a major political party's inner workings by birth providing invaluable access for high quality information. This is one of the main reasons I discuss politics at this blog, it is something I have known and loved from childhood yet was the despair in the end of many of my tutors because I refused to give blind commitment to a party over all. Ironically enough I had thanks to that upbringing been exposed to enough to know that all parties are inherently cyclical in how power will eventually corrupt and must be removed by loss of power, the only question is how quickly it happens and this current government has really been creeping me out with how rapidly they are demonstrating their own corruption of power, if not as yet that we know about for any financial gain but for political positioning and posturing. By controlling information as tightly as they have been they are making it that much harder for anyone to do to them what Marlene Jennings did today in regards to the Arar issue, show their falsehoods in real time or even anywhere near such where it could be effective in preventing a successful spin operation to give it the appearance of something already settled except for some malcontents and political opportunists (aka people that finally saw enough of the details to see the problems being hidden by the swift/"decisive" style of this PM). If they can keep it from being countered fast enough most times the speed of the information/news cycle will drop it from prominence and leave the original impression with most people even if the record shows later that it was wrong information. So I think it is important to write this now while the issue is still fresh enough for it to be relevant.

What did we see today? At first glance we saw the CPC showing off it's anti SSM (and for many people that means anti-gay as well) roots. We saw the other parties decisively vote it down with the margin for majority victory being significantly wider than the number of government members that voted for it. That is the interesting thing though that should not be lost sight of. We saw six Cabinet Ministers as several other CPC MPs also vote against this motion. Why is that so significant one asks? Simple, it not only shows off the increasing tolerance for homosexuals and their issues within the CPC (keep in mind this is not my actual reading of what I see in that party but what I do believe they want people to see just like every other political party does) it shows something this government has needed to have to point to for some time now. It showed senior members of his party "opposing" his wishes in an "important" vote without consequence and without rancor. Harper has picked up (rightly in my books) a reputation for not forgetting those that have crossed him in the past, especially those that win over him and/or his position. This gives him and the spin doctors of the CPC something to work from to try and if not counter at least blunt the intensity of that image being perceived by the voting public. That is what I think he gains the most from this vote.

While yes I do think there was a certain amount of satisfying a powerful segment of his base involved in this measure, the fact that Harper brought forward a motion to ask the permission of the House to discuss ways and means to repeal SSM was clearly intended to be for appearances sake and not anything substantive. This was so he can say he kept an "important" promise (like the income trusts one wasn't, the no party bagmen appointed to the Senate, no unelected Cabinet Ministers except from a Province that elected no CPC MPs, to name a few broken election promises off the top of my head) on a major issue with one of his core constituencies, one that helped him reach the office he holds today. That is always something any politician, especially a leader, must not forget to with the one that brung you, and Harper hasn't had much to give that segment of his political base as of late. Harper also has to recognize that politically opposing SSM at this point after it's acceptance for the last year and a half without consequence and roughly 2/3rds saying it is settled as far as they are concerned and growing as time passes if slowing down a little is a long term loser for the CPC. The way he handled this also makes it clear to me that this is not an issue of principle for him, or at least it is not anymore if it once truly was. He needed this off his plate, especially with defender of the Faith(Charter) Dion positioning himself against this image which still has powerful resonance within the electorate as the election proved to have any hope of crafting his majority and he knew it. So he will try to make what use he can of it, and I expect to see it used as an example of how the CPC really isn't as tightly micromanaged as has been reported by multiple sources multiple times since this government came to power as well as increased tolerance from the perception of intolerance that has clung to the CPC despite all their attempts to pretend otherwise.

This has one thing in common though with Mahar Arar's treatment by the CPC when he was in Syria. At that time the then Canadian Alliance was chiding the government for daring to try to engage in "...high level consultations to defend a suspected terrorist," (Harper's exact words according to Hansard, see previous post for link), thereby condemning Arar to further time in Syria and even possibly opening him up to further torture because of Canadian politicians calling him a terrorist in the HoC. In other words Harper and his crowd were far more concerned about what kind of political hay they could generate from this than they were in having any interest at all in finding out whether this man actually had anything to do with terrorism or was an innocent man caught up in the aftermath of 9/11/01 and the paranoia that understandably existed for several months afterwards. They declared him guilty despite Arar never being charged by any government for anything whatsoever from beginning to end and used the Liberal government's concern for his welfare and a possible miscarriage of justice to paint them as soft on terrorism. With this debate on SSM Harper does pretty much the same thing to gay people, especially those in or planning on entering marriage themselves. He has condemned them to yet another round of questioning their basic human rights, freedoms, and most importantly VALUE/SELF WORTH. He has been indifferent to that pain because he knows this is a voting block smaller and less likely to support him than those that find the idea of SSM somehow intolerable. He is indifferent and unwilling to actually try and see things from the side of those supporting SSM and he has at every turn been willing to use this issue to try and make political hay, most recently over this so called need for a free vote or it doesn't really count (which since the BQ and NDP whipped theirs this was not, leaving room for those advocates on this issue to start pressuring the CPC to try again with down the road no matter what Harper said today to the contrary) nonsense. He is instead of defending the inherent rights of Canadian citizenship is instead trampling on them for the sake of advancing his own partisan political agenda and personal ambitions. It is that these two matters have in common between them with the way the CPC operates, they trample on those interests/aspects/elements of Canadian citizenship that they find politically useless/harmful to them and use them for partisan political gains if at all possible at the same time against their opposition and to hell with any innocent bystander caught in the way.

This was a waste of time and money for the sole purpose of giving PM Harper a limited political tool for the next election. That is all this exercise was about, and anyone that tries to claim this was about some grand principle then they are lying including perhaps to themselves, delusional, or incredibly brainwashed/conditioned. This was also a further example of how Harper and his party are willing to exploit the suffering of others to their own political gains even when it places the very life of a Canadian citizen in question as in the Arar matter, and in this case gay people were made to feel yet again they are seen by many within Canadian society including the current PM as second class citizens at best and do not have the same basic inherent human feelings/nature/needs as everyone outside of their minority do. The reason SSM is so important is not simply the legal recognition but the overall recognition that gay people have the same emotional needs for love and companionship as straight people do including being able to be with the one they want for the rest of their lives. This is also why I believe there is such a fight against it from certain quarters, especially in the religious right. If SSM is acceptable and what it validates is true then it becomes far harder to try and portray being gay as anything wrong and any more relevant to Biblical teachings/life as Leviticus' prohibition on eating shellfish and the various stoning offences are to today's devout Christian. This is what makes what we have seen done today so disgusting and so particularly vile since it was a for show vote and not a vote on a substantial motion which would have actually had any impact other than to continue debate on actually voting to roll back SSM. It is this sort of politics that I find especially disturbing and grounds for opposition where the Harper configured/led CPC is concerned. Possibly with he and his core followers out of power that party can become a more typical Canadian conservative party in both belief and manner of operating, but this willingness to trample on Canadian citizens' rights like this especially in the name of partisan political expediency is truly vile. It cannot be trusted with the power of a majority government, in my views it should not even have had the power of a minority as I have said in the past.

While I do not believe this issue is going away permanently I hope at least for another year or two's peace on it before any real momentum starts up, but alas one never knows in politics. After all given the accelerated rate of time (a week in politics being an eternity sort of thing) we could see it again before next year is out depending on what happens and how desperate the CPC starts getting if/when their base appears unmotivated to come out for them. We shall see, that segment of the party was told to restrain itself in the last election to gain power, then with the minority result they were gagged to try and keep them from letting too much out of the bag of their real preferences to use power for, and has managed to keep out of the public eye for most of the last year. If Harper can keep that up until after the next election he could actually form that majority, probably by vote splitting between the Liberals, NDP and in some cases the Green party also factoring in. We have seen unintended/accidental majority governments before in this country, just look at Ontario in 1990. We saw how much vote splitting can do when it ws on the right, this time out it is going to be on the left (although with twice as many voters to start out from) this happens in, especially if Harper and Layton get their respective ways since each is after weakening Liberal votes and seat count for their own reasons, indeed I believe Harper is doing what he thinks he can to aid in that since it works so well for him also.

One last not underestimate this man nor his ability to beat the odds. While we may see some strong similarities between Harper and his CPC and the GWB Administration and the GOP, remember Harper is far smarter and more politically skilled than GWB ever has been or ever will be. One of the main reasons I fight against him so intently is because I recognize exactly what kind of threat he represents in terms of capability to advance his agenda in our political realm, just look at how far he has gotten with a clearly disliked political ideology by a clear to supermajority of the Canadian public. If anything the fact that I focus on him so much should be taken by supporters of his of just how politically able and intellectually capable I believe Harper to be unlike the dunce down South they call a President. It is the agenda he wishes to pursue that puts me in opposition and not a question of the man's technical competence (ability to relate to and understand the majority in this country and respect their POV I'm not of the opinion he is competent in though) as a political leader. Those that fail to recognize the skills and abilities of their enemies/opponents tend to get very nasty surprises as a result. I try not to make that kind of mistake.

The "Day"light between Zacardelli and the "new" government of Canada

As I write this post I am listening to Stockwell Day testify regarding Zaccardelli and listening to him lecture the first Liberal questioner given Day's own track record of being one of the first opposition members to label Arar a terrorist back in 2002-03 is more than a little offensive to me. I well remember Day and other members of the Canadian Alliance branding the then unknown Canadian citizen the Americans deported to Syria as a terrorist and wondering why it took the Americans to deal with our terrorist problems like that citizen. I also find it interesting to note that Day refused to answer a question which is reasonable for Holland to ask, namely was there any political interference from the PM during the period between the release of the O'Connor report and the first testimony of Sept 28 06. I wonder why? I also wonder why Zaccardelli held the full confidence of the Harper government until last Tuesday when by the end of the questioning of Sept 28 06 there were grounds to have serious reservations, and then once it became public that Zaccardelli was contradicting his Sept 28 06 testimony and the Harper government *STILL* had full confidence in the man. What was it about this man, aside from his releasing during the last election the info about the income trust investigation of the Liberals (An investigation I have heard nothing since about, no charges or anything, I wonder why about that as well but I suppose it could still be being investigated but still, a year later with no further develoments? Sounds a little worrisome to me.) that Harper liked so much? Could Zaccardelli have been the conduit or authorizing force behind the leaked RCMP info the then Opposition Harper and Day MPs used to smear Arar as a terrorist in the House of Commons? Inquiring minds want to know, and I feel that Canadians have a right to know.

I have a real hard time listening to Day and Harper these days talk about the wrong done to Arar and his wife since they were among the loudest back then claiming they were terrorists and Arar deserved to be deported and that the Liberals weren't being hard enough on such folks. I find listening to Day testify painful, as well as his inability to understand that he testifies to the committee and not the committee testifies to him as he tried to pull with Holland. I also find it interesting how Day's speed of speech varies in proportion to how much he likes the question/questioner, a more than slightly obvious way of running out the clock on the hard questions while using the time for those he prefers to be answering. Now Day is talking about how he doesn't understand why the then Liberal government did not call in their officials when they knew something was wrong, well I recall when they started to that was one of the things that triggered Day and Harper calling Arar a terrorist since how dare the Liberal government question the inegrity, honesty and competence of our loyal police force.

Something about the way the CPC government stood four square behind Zaccardelli until the public political pressure and blatant contradictory testimony on such a serious matter as the Arar case forced the resignation of Zaccardelli this week really bothers me. I can't pin down exactly why this is raising the hairs on the back of my neck but it does and has been doing so since the end of September. I remember how carefully they kept him quiet until his testimony on Sept 28 06 nearly two weeks after the release of the O'Connor inquiry into the Arar case. Something about that relationship has a very disturbing feel to it for me and I think we have yet to hear and see the full story behind the unquestioning support of Harper's government on Zaccardelli until Harper questioned it earlier this week after the contradictory testimony was making too many political and media waves to be ignored. I mean Harper and Day still had full confidence in Zaccardelli as of last Monday after all, why? Why should anyone have had confidence in the man after the O'Connor report and his own testimony last Sept 28 06? Why did it take the opposition parties continuing to ask hard questions in the committee to get Canada and the "new" governnment of Canada to require Zaccardelli's resignation? Now Day is claiming that he never called Arar a terrorist while he was in opposition, I wonder how long it will be before the first quotes of Hansard and elsewhere start showing up to contradict him.

Update 3:27 PM Atlantic

I just watched Mark Holland twice put the simple yes or no question to Minister Day in Question Period and twice Day refused to answer it. The question being was there any attempt by Day to advise Harper to remove Zaccardelli prior to last Monday, yes or no? The fact this question is not being answered indicates to me the answering of it in the positive is politically damaging for obvious reasons, and saying no must be too risky because of some evidence to show that would be knowingly false he fears could catch up with him. Incidentally, Day made a big deal in his QP response about how Holland's "secret source" (to use Day's exact words) was a media report as if Holland ws hiding this, yet when I was watching the committee when the question was first raised Holland made clear that he was using a CP article as the basis of the question from the outset. The fact that Day felt the need to lie about this and to use it to try and deflect adds to my sense that there is something more going on here and that this really is a quesiton that needs to be followed up on.

Update 4:20 PM Atlantic

liberal catnip has an excellent post up here calling for Day's dismissal from his Minister's post regarding the Zaccardellie matter. She also goes into Zaccardelli's media scrum earlier today and raises some very good points regarding the questions surrounding the timeline dealing with Zaccardelli's shifting testimony on the Arar case.

Update 4:45 PM Atlantic

Thanks to my continuing to watch CPAC I was thanks to Marlene Jennings raising a point of order able to track down some of Day's and Harper's and other senior members of the CPC government judging Arar a terrorist, related to terrorists, etc according to the public record of Hansard.

Here are some links to Nov 18 2002 with Mr. Harper here and read down through the following two followups, Diane Ablonzky here and her followup. On Nov 19 2002 we have Stockwell Day here with his follow-ups. This shows that the idea that Day, Harper and other senior members of the CPC (Then still the Canadian Alliance) did not judge Arar guilty of terrorism instead of standing up for a Canadian citizen until actual evidence was provided to prove Arar is a terrorist is false as well as underscores their lack of committment to the principle of innocent until proven guilty among other things. Not to mention how little regard they have for the role of the federal government to defend the rights of its citizens instead of simply taking what their American buddies tell them as gospel, especially when it is used to try and attack a political opponent on the tortured back of a Canadian citizen betrayed by those that now constitute our government when it counted.