Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Consumption Crisis

Remember after 9/11 G W Bush told America that the best thing to do was to go shopping? America listened and now faces the consequences of this disasterous neo-con advice.

Shop for victory. Buy for Bush and Blair. What to get? Big, expensive stuff, clearly, now that Vigilance rather than Prudence stalks the Treasury, and the £2.2 billion contingency reserve has largely gone on fighting foot and mouth and other pre-Taliban adversaries. But conspicuous spending seems obscene when the first flurries of war begin and when Afghan refugees eat grass or weeds.

Through out the eighties and ninties as the neo-con agenda took over governments around the world those proclaiming the new rights agenda continually promoted globalization reminding us that the advanced industrialized capitalist countries were now transfroming from fordist manufacturing economies to service industries. No longer were we to be workers, we were consumers. Others would work for us. With the great crash of 2008 the chickens have come home to roost for that bankrupt ideology.

Furthermore the ideology of the neo-cons was that we should no longer be renters but owners. Thatcher began the transformation in England, with the selling off of row housing to those who rented.

In America the ideology of home ownership began with Clinton and continued under Bush. Congress pushed the idea of homeownership as self reliance and responsibility. It conincided with both Thatchers push and Clintons push to adopt the neo-con agenda of work for welfare. They go hand in hand.

Of course during this past presidential election republicans and right wing commentators focused on this push for homeownership and lowering the mortgage credit limits as being for African Americans. Forgetting that most working poor could not afford thier own homes without a more liberal mortgange scheme.

However all this is moot. The reason for America's economic collapse is twenty years of promoting credit based consumption. Unemployment and corporate restructuring has been continous since the eighties. Offshoring and contracting out, privatization of public services, all the practices of the neo-con agenda have resulted in a growth in credit and consumption and a decline in manufacturing production.

The result was the ultimate in credit crunch economics; the war in Iraq.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

The Irrelevance of Protests

As I have said in the past mass demonstrations would not be violent if armed police, riot cops and Swat units were not present. But of course then they would be a carnival that resulted in nothing much than another day out in public solidarity. The FT has a satirical look at the recent protests in the UK against the Cameron Austerity measures and attacks on the public sector unions.

The point is well made, however a real difference is not that violence attracts more attention, as the writer implies, but rather what is a more effective form of resistance to state sanctioned measures we oppose.

Union and Civil Society/NGO endorsed marches, end up being a call to vote out the bastards, which neither challenges the system nor the institutional form of politics.

What does work is mass occupations of the legislature, as occurred in Alberta in the nineties during the attacks on medicare, and the recent occupation of the Wisconsin legislature. But they need then to be followed up with the Mass Strike, of workers and citizens. As we have seen in Egypt.

For it does seem a basic rule of modern British democracy that if you are marching against something you’ve already lost. Parading one’s discontent through London is the political equivalent of a fly bashing its head against a window pane. Of course there’s a terrific sense of community on a march – 250,000 flies with the same headache; it’s hugely empowering. But short of handing out placards with slogans such as “Mildly Miffed” or “I’m so angry I walked peacefully through London”, it is hard to imagine what more the protesters could have done to signal their acceptance of defeat.

It’s irresponsible to admit it, but this kind of peaceful protest is pointless. The system has all the shock absorbers necessary to handle a law-abiding demonstration. The next day ministers were already clear they would ignore the entire event, while insisting that they would be happy to discuss the issues with marchers, though sadly not over tea at Fortnum’s as it seems to be attracting the wrong sort these days.

It’s not that I’m advocating violence and disorder, just dispassionately noting that in Britain it is more effective. What last weekend’s thugs grasped is that ministers can’t ignore anarchists daubing the Cenotaph and bringing a bit of havoc to the capital. Once or twice they might be able to turn on the rioters, but not if it keeps happening. There’s nothing like stoking voters’ fears about the rule of law and the fabric of society to get the government’s attention.

You have to think of this in management terms. On key deliverables peaceful marching just doesn’t cut it. It’s all inputs and no outputs. But violent protest can be measured on key performance indicators. How many shops did you smash up? What percentage were banks? Did you manage to scare the Duchess of Cornwall? I’m sorry Dave; you are below target; do you want to nip over the road and vandalise that RBS?”

Friday, April 01, 2011

Plawiuk for Premier

As I announced on Facebook this morning
Eugene Plawiuk announced today that he is throwing his hat into the ring for leader of the Alberta Progressive Conservative party...."I am the only progressive in the race" he said, "the rest are Conservatives" His hat did not comment....

Meet the new boss Same as the old boss

Well that didn't take long, did it.

Human Rights Watch denounces Egypt's ban on strikes and protests

Strike ban plan is a 'betrayal'

The International Trade Union Confederation has branded a plan to outlaw strikes by Egypt's military government "a betrayal of the revolution." It demanded on Tuesday that Prime Minister Essam Sharaf scrap the proposed decree.

Egypt urged to scrap draft law outlawing protests and strikes

Last week’s decision by Egypt’s military rulers to criminalize the kind of protests and strikes that drove Hosni Mubarak from office makes one wonder whether that country has just experienced a democratic revolution, or a military coup that rode into power on the coattails of the popular uprising.

The new anti-strike law does not prohibit strikes and protests, Minister of Justice Ahmed El-Guindy told a press conference today.

“We as a government believe in the right to protest as long as it does not disrupt work, cause chaos and are held through legitimate channels,” El-Gunidy said in the press conference held at the cabinet offices.

El-Guindy added that he wants to “assure” Egyptians that they still have the right to protest. He said that the ministry has noticed that chaos broke out during recent protests and strikes and that they ask the Egyptian youth to help stop some of the strikes, which are ignited by members of the old regime.

Since the law was approved by the cabinet last Wednesday, nationwide protests have broken out against a law that many believe violates the values of the January 25 Revolution. The Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions has organized a march for later today from the Journalists Syndicate to the cabinet offices in protest at the law.

Political groups and activists are angry about the law which bans strikes, protests, demonstrations and sit-ins which interrupt private or state-owned businesses and carry a maximum sentence of one year in prison with fines of up to LE500, 000 to anyone who calls for or incites these actions.

Many have claimed that the law violates all the values of the January 25 revolution, in which the right to freedom of expression was one of the core demands.

Another protest is to be organised in front of the Radio and TV headquarters in Maspero, in what protesters dubbed as the ‘Friday of Cleansing.” They are demanding that all media personalities loyal to the old regime be removed. Already three were arrested this morning in front of the building.

Protesters are also showing their solidarity with students from the Faculty of Mass Communications at Cairo University, who have been protesting for two weeks demanding that Sami Abdel Aziz, dean of the faculty, steps down because of his ties to the former ruling National Democratic Party.

On Wednesday evening military police stormed the university's grounds and forcibly dispersed the protesters and arrested and beat several students.

On the Facebook page of the Revolution Youth Coalition, the group announced that this protest will be to voice their anger over “the military police storming of the Cairo University campus, cutting off the electricity from the mass communication students, the physical attacks on students, their professors and those who joined their protests, and the use of electric batons to beat them and throw them out of their own university”.

The coalition added that “the Egyptian people have sacrificed many martyrs to get rid of Mubarak’s repressive regime and they are ready to sacrifice again if their freedom is taken away from them once more.”


Protesters took to Egypt's streets in January, demanding the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. Mubarak supporters clashed with demonstrators in Tahrir Square, which became the focal point of protests in the capital, Cairo. More than 300 protesters were killed in the uprising. Although Mubarak pledged not to run again, fired his government and appointed a vice president for the first time in his three decades of rule, the protests intensified until Vice President Omar Suleiman announced that the president had handed over power to the military.

Protesters have continued to demand that the military rulers carry out reforms. On March 19, Egyptians voted in favor of constitutional changes that include limiting how long presidents can serve and determining who can run for office. However, many opposition leaders said the vote was rushed. The military government has said it will lift the country's three-decades-old state of emergency before parliamentary elections scheduled for September. Presidential elections are slated to be held by November at the latest. Bloggers and activists have called for 1 million Egyptians to gather in Tahrir Square on April 1.

Wont Get Fooled Again

Paul Goodman on Youth Revolt in the Middle East

In light of the youth revolt spreading through out the Middle East, I thought this quote from the American anarchist Paul Goodman was appropriate, it comes from the sixties youth revolt in the U.S. which he participated in.

And there is an authentic demand for Young People's Power,
their right to take part in initiating and deciding the functions of society
that concern them—as well, of course as governing
their own lives, which are nobody else's business.
Bear in mind that we are speaking of ages seventeen
to twenty-five, when at all other times the young
would already have been launched in the real world.
The young have the right to power because they are
numerous and are directly affected by what goes on,
but especially because their new point of view is
indispensable to cope with changing conditions, they
themselves being part of the changing conditions.
This is why Jefferson urged us to adopt a new
constitution every generation.

And while American youth in the sixties were protesting the Viet-Nam war and demanding Free Speech on campuses they were experiencing a capitalist economy that was booming, despite that boom their alienation from the old Left and old Right and the rule of old men was not unlike their counterparts today in the Middle East.

A coalition of six youth groups that emerged from Egypt’s revolution last month has refused to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who arrived in Cairo earlier today, in protest of the United States’ strong support for former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak who was ousted by the uprising.

This juncture may be unprecedented in modern Arab history. Suddenly, despotic regimes that have been entrenched for fourty years and more seem vulnerable. Two of them – in Tunis and then in Cairo – crumbled before our eyes in a few weeks. Others in Tripoli and Sanaa are fighting to survive. The old men who dominate the rest suddenly look their age, and the distance between them and most of their populations, born decades after them, has never been greater. An apparently frozen political situation has melted overnight in the heat of the popular upsurge that began in Tunisia and Egypt, and now is spreading. We are all privileged to be experiencing a world-historical moment, when fixed verities vanish and new potentials and forces emerge. Perhaps one day some of us can say, as Wordsworth said of the French Revolution, “Bliss it was in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven.”

At its core, the uprising from Tunis to Sana is a youth revolt and it can be sparked elsewhere in the world, whether the local government is run by monarchs, generals or kleptocratic elected officials.

Observers have identified decades of oppressive rule and growing economic disparity as the main factors behind the Arab upheaval. One aspect that has not received adequate attention is the anger of the region's youth populations, educated and unemployed, most of whom have known only one ruler in their lifetimes. Products of high fertility rates and low investment in education and job creation, these young adults fear ending their lives as poor, unmarried and marginalised in their own societies. They demand democracy in order to take charge of their lives and to build a future, but what they crave most is the dignity of employment and a normal family life.

Population growth in the Arab region followed by rise in life expectancy has created a youth bulge, not unlike in India. The total number of youth (those between the ages of 15 and 24) has grown nearly two and half times in 30 years, with 60% of Arabs aged between 15 and 59 years. (In India, the same demographic accounts for 56.9%.)

This young workforce and low dependency rate would have been welcomed as a "demographic dividend", as it is in India. In theory, young workers could have supplied the world's labour force and - with only 6% of the population over 60 - increased the savings rate. But the region's failure to generate employment and offer education and skill-sets matching jobs has instead created a demographic disaster. The region's single largest unemployed group comprises educated youth below 25, whom a recent ILO report on unemployment called a "lost generation".

Mother Tells UN’s Ban How Son’s Suicide Sparked Tunisian Revolt

“I am proud of my son, my son who contributed to the liberation of Tunisia,” Manoubieh Bouazizi said following her 10-minute meeting with Ban at the Regency Hotel in Tunis. Her comments in Arabic were translated into French by one of her daughters. “I am sure where my son is, he is happy.”

To support his extended family, including a sister at university, Bouazizi sold fruit and vegetables on a street in rural Sidi Bouzid, a four-hour drive from the capital. He was harassed and heckled by local police for not having a permit and his cart, the source of his livelihood, was confiscated. That final humiliation was the last straw.

“The real violation was the affront to Mohamed Bouazizi’s sense of human dignity,” Ban said. “The daily indignities, the crushing of a people’s potential.”

Students study unrest in the Middle East

Faris said the recent Arab revolutions are all important waves of democracy. He said the incident in Tunisia where a fruit-seller set himself on fire to protest the government was the catalyst in Egypt. There are many other factors to the recent revolts and one very notable cause is the passion of the youth. The youth make up the most of the population of the protesters.

Fashandi said the role young people are playing in the uprisings throughout the Middle East is vital. "It is amazing to see the factors which separate the Egyptian people such as religion and social class, and instead focuses on the common goal of basic human rights and democracy," said Fashandi.

Faris said it is important to note that the youth are at the forefront of the revolutions in the Middle East. "What happened in Tunisia and Egypt is a reminder to all of us that young people really do have the power to bring about important changes, both in the Middle East and here."


For the Revolutionary Youth in the Middle East


Starting with the Luddites, the 19th Century machine breakers, sabotage was one way workers resisted exploitation on the job, by stopping the machines that made them work harder. In the 21st Century the new sabotage is to resist work, especially 'team work' and all the management participation programs by becoming disengaged from the work you do, in other words, by marking time on the job, taking sick time, stress leave, and when you are working doing as little as possible.

a recent Gallup survey of 47,000 workers around the world which showed that that Australian workers are among the most dissatisfied in the world with only 18 percent of Australian respondents saying they are fully engaged in their work.“Compounding these results,” writes John Belchamber, “is the finding that almost two thirds of Australian employees are emotionally detached from their employer and only do the minimum amount of work to avoid getting dismissed. 20% of dissatisfied respondents describe themselves as ”actively disengaged” – disliking their organisation, hating their boss and being indifferent to their job. But rather than leaving their jobs, they’re spending their time spreading their negativity amongst others in their team’s.” At the bottom of the table: Singapore and China. A staggering 98 per cent of employees in those two countries admit they’re disengaged with their work, preferring to be doing something else somewhere else. Twenty-three per cent of the British and Kiwis are engaged, one in five Canadians are happy with their work, and in the US, surprisingly, 28 per cent of workers experience high rates of job satisfaction. Overall, the global average is 27 per cent.The problem of employee disengagement is now widely recognized. Its cost to the bottom line has been demonstrated. Actively disengaged employees erode an organization’s bottom line, while
breaking the spirits of colleagues in the process. Within the U.S. workforce, Gallup estimates this cost to the bottom line to be more than $300 billion in lost productivity alone.

Rather than making work productive perhaps it is time we abolished work, wage slavery that is, replacing it with another concept; play. Making work not about production but about our pleasure and happiness, rather than the drudgery we face day in day out, no matter how many happy managers we have telling us to be happy. The work we do is not satisfying our emotional and human needs, it is not playful or fulfilling, it is simply a way of paying the bills.

Or as Herr Doctor Marx once said communism means there is no contradiction between play and work since nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes . . . to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, shepherd or critic” (The German Ideology, Tucker, 160).

It’s not so much what you do, or the money you make, but the level of satisfaction you have with your work and yourself that is of ultimate importance. Your level of job satisfaction carries into all other areas of your life, consciously or subconsciously.

But because most people’s mindset is “how can I work less and play more”, they live for the weekends, obsess about vacations, and dream of the day they retire. (I can’t tell you how many friends and family members I’ve seen fall into a major depression within months of retiring due to the shock that it doesn’t really fulfill their life’s dream) Their sole motivation for work is to not have to work anymore.

Work is work - whether you love it or not. A job is still a job and at it’s core it’s about making money for survival. And while I love what I do, if money was no object, I’d much rather be traveling with my wife, playing with my dog, or dominating 12 year olds in Call of Duty.

According to Frost and Klein (1979), play and work probably lie on a continuum.
However, play can be differentiated from work by defining their unique characteristics.

What makes play "play" and work "work"? Play has at least four fundamental qualities that distinguish it from work; it is designed primarily for its own enjoyment, it is controlled by the child, it has a dose of fantasy, and it is internally motivated.

Play is designed primarily for its own enjoyment. Typically, the process of play
is what is important, not the product. However, work is designed for a product. Work is engaged in for what may be gained as a result (Lefrancios, 1986).
The quality and quantity of play is controlled by the child (McKee, Play working
partner of growth, 1986). When the child decides that he or she no longer wants to play, all the adult encouragement cannot recover the play. However, work is controlled by others. In fact, if a child is required to continue to play even when he doesn't want to, it turns into work.

Work is typically designed for a product, controlled externally, based on reality,
and externally motivated. When a person is required to work, a product is usually
expected to stem from the work. Furthermore, this product is often judged by some
criteria as reflecting "good" work or "poor" work. The judging criteria is determined by some external "correct" model. Good work is reinforced, poor work is usually reprimanded.

Because work entails a product and a judgment, people can easily determine
whether change has taken place in the person’s behavior. Thus, if the product comes closer with the model, or the person produces more (i.e., quality and/or quantity increases) one can say behavior has changed or learning has taken place.
The influences of work is not always with a product. Work is also associated with
stress, ulcers, suicide, feigned illness, etc. It is interesting to note that as our schools have instituted more product oriented teaching, there has been an increase in the incidence of stress and other problems with children.

Has the time come to abandon the Protestant work ethic? As technology advances and the structure of work changes, Pat Kane suggests a different, more creative philosophy to suit the new era

DOES the devil necessarily make work for idle hands? The most momentous changes in the structure of employment are upon us: it is time we looked anew at our oldest prejudices. With the information age transforming all social co-ordinates, we should think about a replacement for the work ethic - in a world where work, as we know it, is evaporating before our eyes. I bid for the play ethic.

The objection to this is simple: how can you sustain a work ethic, when work itself is deconstructing before our very eyes? The massive shifts towards short-term contracts, part-time work, self-employment and manufacturing-to-services are well enough documented. Their causes - new technology, global competition, individualism - are recognised and accepted by most of us. And it is a standby of current social thought that the relentless automation of labour - mental and manual - is laying in store an unemployment problem of massive proportions.

Around 75% of the labour force in any industrial nation is doing little more than simple repetitive tasks, and is thus potentially automatable: less than 5% of companies round the world have begun to use new technologies fully in their workplace (an excerpt from Jeremy Rifkin's The End of Work).

Intellectually at least, the case can be made for play's virtues. Psychologist DW Winnicott cited play as the "creation of personality" - that exciting sharing of self and world that make new ideas possible. The Dutch historian Johan Huizinga has called us Homo Ludens: in that exhaustive book, he states that "pure play is one of the main bases of civilisation". And in the sciences of complexity, play is regarded as the central process that brings order to the chaos of natural creation - in the words of biologist Brian Goodwin, "our creativity is essentially similar to the creativity that is the stuff of evolution".
Of course there can be a downside to ending the work play divide.

According to Prensky, for Digital Natives "play is work and work is increasingly seen in terms of games and game play".21 This ethos has not gone unnoticed by some larger organizations, such as the American Army. The army has changed their approach to recruit instruction. Since the majority of the American army's recruits are between the ages of 18 and 22 and require wide- ranging training, the army has developed "an extensive array of gaming simulations"22 to help teach their recruits with great results.

But let's leave the last word to someone who understood the work play dialectic well, Mark Twain;

Tom said to himself that it was not such a hollow world, after all. He had discovered a great law of human action, without knowing it–namely, that in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain. If he had been a great and wise philosopher, like the writer of this book, he would now have comprehended that Work consists of whatever a body is OBLIGED to do, and that Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.
Take This Job And Shove It



The End Of The Leisure Society

Black History Month; Paul Lafargue

Take Time From the Boss

Work Sucks

Time For The Four Hour Day

Goof Off Day

The Right To Be Greedy

Monday, March 28, 2011

Harper Prorouges Parliament Over Afghan Torture

Remember Harper's War...the one in Afghanistan that hasn't been discussed in this election campaign....yet. It was only a year ago he prorogued parliament to avoid being found in contempt of parliament over what the Government knew about the torture of captured prisoners in Afghanistan. And despite an all party committee created out of this confrontation, we have not heard boo out of them for the past year.

Afghanistan detainee torture timeline - Editor's Notes

Unfortunately, ministers and senior officials in the Harper government have continued to mislead the Canadian public - either through the suppression of information on the spurious grounds of “national security”, or through outright lies. When The Toronto Globe and Mail requested information regarding human rights abuses in Afghanistan (under a freedom of information request), the document released by the government was heavily censured. The blacked out sections referred to the high rate of extra-judicial executions, torture and illegal detentions of battlefield prisoners. Later, General Rick Hillier justified this censorship by declaring that any information on the treatment of detainees captured by Canadian troops would be suppressed because it was “an operational security issue”. The government wants to keep us in the dark in order to hide the war crimes that have been committed in the name of all Canadians in Afghanistan.

Denial and deceit: The Harper government and torture in Afghanistan

When allegations that battlefield detainees were facing torture in Afghan prisons first erupted,
Prime Minister Stephen Harper dismissed them as Taliban lies and terrorist propaganda.

But the Canadian government had been warned by one of its most senior diplomats in Kandahar a full year before, in May 2006, of "serious, imminent and alarming" evidence of prisoner abuse.

Colvin’s allegations emerged because he was called to testify before the Military Police Complaints Commission, a body—established after the Somalia Inquiry—which has been investigating detainee transfers at the request of Amnesty International and the BC Civil Liberties Association. The Harper government sought to block Colvin’s testimony before the MPCC, citing national security. The obstruction prompted the three Canadian opposition parties to call Colvin to testify before a Parliamentary committee.

Canada's international war crime: Harper government's deception cannot hold—do citizens of the 'New Canada' care? November 24, 2009

Stephen Harper Gambles on Prorogue Shutting Down Parliament Again

The same cannot be said of this second prorogue action.

Critics immediately lashed out at the government for what they claim are Harper’s actual rationales for such a move; to delay all Commons committees, including the ongoing investigation into allegations of detainee abuse in Afghanistan, and to pad the Canadian Senate with the appointment of 5 Conservative nominees, which effectively destroys the Liberal control of the body.

It also provides the ruling Conservatives more control as to when and if to call the next election, by making votes on the budget and the throne speech issues of confidence in Parliament.

Ralph Goodale, the Liberal House Leader said Harper’s decision was “beyond arrogant” and that his justifications for it are “a joke; it’s almost despotic.”

In an interview with the CBC from Phoenix, Arizona, Goodale said, “Three times in three years and twice within one year, the prime minister takes this extraordinary step to muzzle Parliament. This time it’s a cover-up of what the Conservatives knew, and when they knew it, about torture in Afghanistan. So their solution is not to answer the questions but, rather, to padlock Parliament and shut down democracy.”

From Vancouver, NDP House Leader Libby Davies told CBC news she was “appalled” by Harper’s decision, accusing him of “running from” the growing pressure by opposition parties into the Afghan detainee inquiry. “By proroguing Parliament, he is unilaterally making a decision to stop any kind of disclosure from happening,” said Davies.

The allegations by Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin regarding the treatment of prisoners by the Afghan government following their handover by Canadian armed forces, and his assertion that the Prime Minister and his government were aware of these practices, has clearly rattled Harper and his Conservative minority to the core.

The Canadian Afghan detainee issue concerns questions about actions of the executive branch of the Government of Canada during the War in Afghanistan in regards to Canada transferring Afghan detainees to the Afghan National Army (ANA) or the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS). This issue has at least two distinct subcategories:

The first issue concerns whether or not the executive branch of the Government of Canada knew about alleged abusive treatment of Afghan detainees by those Afghan forces. Particularly at issue are questions of when the government of Canada had this alleged knowledge. The question of "when" is important because it pertains to their responsibility to act on knowledge of mistreatment of detainees. That responsibility is outlined in the Third Geneva Convention, which Canada is a party to. Article 12 states that "the Detaining Power [(in this case Canada)] is responsible for the treatment given [to prisoners of war]".

The second issue arose in March 2010, when allegations surfaced that the government did more than turn a blind eye to abuse of Afghan detainees, but that Canada went even further in intentionally handing over prisoners to torturers.[1] The allegations were sparked by University of Ottawa law professor Amir Attaran, who claimed that full versions of government documents proved these claims. If the allegations are true, Canada could be considered guilty of a war crime, according to critics.[1]

Subsequently, the Canadian House of Commons has been the scene of a showdown, as opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) have tried to force the government into releasing said documents in full, unredacted form. The controversy over the documents was fueled further when Parliament was prorogued at the end of 2009. The government maintained that they had a duty to protect Canadian troops and citizens as the documents contained sensitive information, while opposition MPs have argued they have the parliamentary privilege to see them. At the request of the Speaker of the Canadian House of Commons, the opposition parties and the government worked together to organize a system to determine what documents were sensitive or not, so that they could be released to MPs. The Canadian public, which generally holds the view that there was knowledge of detainee abuse by military or government officials, now awaits for a clearer picture of the issue as these documents are released.

Afghan Detainee Torture: The Issue That Grew, and Grew, and Grew

The prime Minister’s initial reaction to this demand, made late last year, was to shut down Parliament for two months, but now that Parliament is back in session, the issue is back on the table. The fallback position was to appoint retired judge Frank Iacobucci to review the documents and advise the government on their release. The opposition parties have, rightly, rejected this as a delaying device and a diversion from the real issue of Parliamentary supremacy. Instead, they have sought a Speaker’s ruling that Members’ privileges have been breached by the government’s refusal to comply with the resolution of the majority of the House. If the Speaker upholds the House, we could see a vote to hold the executive in contempt of Parliament – something unprecedented in parliamentary history. The government, on the other hand, could interpret this as a vote of non-confidence, and precipitate an election.

The constitutional issue has taken on a life of its own, but it is well to remember the original cause for this grand confrontation. We should ask ourselves why has the government gone to such extremes – even precipitating a constitutional crisis – to avoid investigation of the torture issue, if they do not have something they are desperately determined to cover up? If suspicions are really unfounded, why not call a public inquiry like the Arar or Air India inquiries?

One hint that something darker may be involved has emerged recently: evidence that the Special Forces unit, JTF2, and CSIS, were involved in interrogation of prisoners before their transfer to the Afghans. This raises the uncomfortable possibility that transfers might have been a kind of instant rendition to place them in the hands of those who were expected to use methods that Canadians could not employ, but might profit from.

Income Trusts

Remember them.

The October surprise after the election of the first Harper Minority government in 2006, andthe first big lie by the Harpercrite government. It closed down Income Trusts after having promised not to. By forcing them to change to corporations they initially harmed seniors who had invested in the Trusts for their dividend pay outs. So how come the Harpercrites can count on seniors for their vote?

And when Income Trusts dissolved, some into corporations, others bought out by hedge funds how did that help Canadian small businesses relying on them for their capital investment? Well it didn't help them.

Those Trusts that became corporations benefited from tax breaks, tax cuts and or course deferred taxes, which have contributed to the current Harper Deficit.

Ms. Lefebvre said that some companies have benefited from converting to corporate status because they can use other exemptions to offset entity taxes, which income trusts will soon have to pay.

“Although the rate might be roughly the same in theory, if you're a corporation, you have access to various ways to defer tax or shelter tax, none of which are available to an income trust.”

However, she added, smaller trusts are simply disappearing because they cannot continue to attract investors when they switch to corporate mode because they are no longer able to pay high-yield dividends.

“Many of those have been taken out of circulation by being bought out by private equity, or being bought out by pension funds,” she said, adding that the government wrongly assumed most funds would keep their status and begin paying entity tax.

“The biggest change for the Canadian economy is that small- and medium-sized companies will not have the access to capital that they would before.”

“[The income trust] was a creation of the Canadian economy,” she said. “It was particularly suited to an economy where small- and medium-sized companies had very difficult access to capital, where the capital market is small.”

The demise of the trusts began four years ago, on Halloweeen, 2006 when Finance Minister Jim Flaherty did a flip-flop on a Conservative campaign promise and announced that trusts would be taxed starting in 2011.

Investors were shocked and angry. Many dumped their trust holdings in the big market sell-off that followed the announcement. To this day, a few diehards continue to fight a rear-guard action in the hope that the government might have a last-minute change of heart. It won’t.

The disappearance of the trusts couldn’t have come at a worse time for income-oriented investors. With interest rates near historic lows, traditional safe haven securities like GICs and government bonds are offering pitifully low returns. As of the time of writing, five-year federal government bonds were yielding only 2.22 per cent. Five-year non-redeemable GICs from major institutions like Royal Bank were even lower, at 2.1 per cent (posted rate). That means anyone investing in these securities isn’t even keeping up with inflation, which was running at an annualized rate of 2.4 per centin October according to Statistics Canada.

The Conservatives propose new rules for income trusts

Following announcements by telecommunications giants Telus and Bell Canada Enterprises of their intentions to convert to income trusts, on October 31, 2006, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty proposed new rules that will effectively end the tax benefits of the income trust structure for most trusts. Brent Fullard of the Canadian Association of Income Trust Investors points out that at the time of the announcement Telus and Bell Canada Enterprises did not pay any corporate taxes nor would they for several years. According to his analysis, had Bell Canada Enterprises converted to a trust it would have paid $2.6 to 3.17 billion in the next four years versus no taxes as a corporation.

Subsequent to the October 31 announcement by Flaherty, the TSX Capped Energy Trust Index lost 21.8% in market value and the TSX Capped Income Trust Index[22] lost 17.6% in market value by mid November 2006. In contrast, the TSX Capped REIT Index,[23] which is exempt from the 'Tax Fairness Plan', gained 3.2% in market value. According to the Canadian Association of Income Funds, this translates into a permanent loss in savings of $30 billion to Canadian income trust investors.[24]

In the month following the tax announcement, the unit price for all 250 income trusts and REITs on the TSX dropped by a median of almost 13% according to the iTrust Report published by and its iTrust Index. Studies by Leslie Hayman, publisher of the Report, indicated that the tax news at the end of 2006 was the second most significant volatility event in the market following only the suspension of advance tax rulings by the Minister of Finance, Ralph Goodale in 2005.

Income trusts, other than real estate income trusts, and mutual fund investment trusts, that are formed after that date will be taxed in the same way as corporations:

  • income flowed out to investors will be subject to a new 34% tax as of 2007 (which falls to 31.5% in 2011),[25] which approximates the average corporate income tax paid by corporations—this is equivalent to the current prohibition against deducting dividends paid to investors in determining corporate taxable income; and
  • income flowed out to investors will be eligible for the dividend tax credit to provide equivalent treatment to dividends paid by corporations.

Income trusts formed on or before that date will not be subject to the new rules until 2011 to allow a period of transition. Real estate income trusts will not be subject to the new rules on real estate income derived in Canada (the non-Canadian real estate operations of existing REITs will be subject to the same taxation as business trusts). The new rules were completely contrary to the Conservative Party's election promise to avoid taxing income trusts.

Flaherty proposes to reduce the federal corporate income tax rate from 19% to 18.5% in 2011. The 34% tax on distributions will be split between the federal and provincial governments—the federal government will consult with the provincial governments on an appropriate mechanism for allocating 13 percentage points of the new tax between the provincial governments.

Flaherty also proposed a $1000 increase to the amount on which the tax credit for those over 65 (the "age amount") is based, and new rules to allow senior couples to split pension income in order to reduce the income tax they pay. Although these proposals were said to be designed to mitigate the impact on seniors of the new income trust rules, there have been widespread calls for such changes in previous years.

Legislative amendments to implement these proposals must be passed by the Parliament of Canada and receive Royal Assent before they become law. The legislation to implement these proposals was included in the 2007 federal budget, which was presented to Parliament by Jim Flaherty on March 19, 2007.

Stephen Harper A Contemptible Liar

No attack ads need to be created to defeat Stephen Harper this election, he has done it too himself.

Stephen Harper and his government; the Harper Government (c)(tm)(r) were found in contempt of parliament. a fact he continues to dismiss.

Harper government held in contempt of Parliament

The fact is his is the first government ever to fall because of a charge of contempt of parliament, and he cannot dismiss that historical fact!

This is the first time a Canadian Government has fallen on Contempt of Parliament, and marks a first for a national government anywhere in the Commonwealth of fifty-four states.

Then he was exposed as a Liar on day one of the election when he claimed that creating a coalition government to replace a minority government that had lost the support of Parliament was 'illegitimate'. Conveniently forgetting that is exactly what he proposed to do in 2004.

Duceppe's message is clear: Harper is a liar

So when it comes to issues of trust and ethics, after five years the Harpercrites have caught up with the Liberals, who fell after 13 years in power because of these kind of ethical failures.

So folks if you don't like Steve and his politics or his political cronies, like Bruce Carson, then just get out those felt pens and add 'contemptible liar', to any Harper posters you see, after all its called truth in advertising for a reason.

Contemtible Liar

Harper Conservatives Don’t Understand Meaning of “Contempt” by Kevin Parkinson – March 27, 2011 |

Even as Prime Minister Harper gave his somber faced farewell speech in the lobby of the House of Commons last Friday, he refused to acknowledge why his government was defeated. By thus refusing, Harper ironically piled on even more contempt for Canadians and their right to know how this government operates. He gave his typical, unimaginative speech attacking the Opposition parties for calling an election, for which the Conservatives have already spent $26 million of taxpayer money in pre-election spending.

If you look back at Harper’s 5 years in power, almost always he has tried to govern as if he had a majority. He has kept information secret not just from parliament but also from the media. Look at the Afghan prisoner debacle, the refusal to stick to his fixed election policy, the secret plan to build mega prisons with a failing crime rate. The list goes on.

Harper’s decision to prorogue parliament should give him the title as King of Contempt. To use a parliamentary statute to protect the Conservative party from defeat in the House has to be one of the most cowardly acts of his tenure. Another irony is, of course, that his popularity actually increased while the House was being prorogued and was empty. As the polls concluded at that time, parliament was irrelevant to Canadians. And that’s the way Harper likes it. He does not want to answer to Canadians.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Capitalism Needs Public Spending

As the United States and UK pull back on government spending they are cutting their noses to spite their face. Austerity measures caused by bank and corporate bail outs as a result of the financial crisis of 2008 are not going to create jobs, nor are they going to increase productivity.

They are counter productive. Modern capitalism requires government to spend on infrastructure in order to function as this analysis by Michael Hudson points out.

The logic of public investment is to upgrade economies and make them more competitive

Nations that today have the highest incomes recognize that rising productivity should enable costs and prices to fall – and that public investment is needed for this to occur. U.S. development strategy was based explicitly on public infrastructure investment and education. The aim was not to make a profit or use its natural monopoly position to extract economic rent like a private company would do. It was to subsidize the cost of living and doing business – to make the economy more efficient, lower-cost and ultimately more fulfilling to live and work in.

At issue is the idea that capital investment is inherently private in character. The national income and product accounts do not recognize government investment even in infrastructure, to say nothing of subsidies for the research and development that led to much space and aeronautics technology, information-processing and the internet, pharmaceuticals, DNA biology and other sectors that enabled private companies to make hundreds of billions of dollars.

Simon Patten, the first professor of economics at the nation’s first business school – the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania – explained that the return to public investment should not take the form of maximizing user fees. The aim was not to make a profit, but just the reverse: Unlike military levies (a pure burden to taxpayers), “in an industrial society the object of taxation is to increase industrial prosperity”[7] by lowering the cost of doing business, thus making the economy more competitive. Market transactions meanwhile would be regulated to keep prices in line with actual production costs so as to prevent financial operators from extracting “fictitious” watered costs – what the classical economists defined as unearned income (“economic rent”).

The U.S. Government increased prosperity by infrastructure investment in canals and railroads, a postal service and public education as a “fourth” factor of production alongside labor, land and capital. Taxes would be “burdenless,” Patten explained, if invested in public investment in internal improvements, headed by transportation infrastructure.

“The Erie Canal keeps down railroad rates, and takes from local producers in the East their rent of situation. Notice, for example, the fall in the price of [upstate New York] farms through western competition” making low-priced crops available from the West.[8] Likewise, public urban transport would minimize property prices (and hence economic rents) in the center of cities relative to their outlying periphery.

Under a regime of “burdenless taxation” the return on public investment would aim at lowering the economy’s overall price structure to “promote general prosperity.” This meant that governments should operate natural monopolies directly, or at least regulate them. “Parks, sewers and schools improve the health and intelligence of all classes of producers, and thus enable them to produce more cheaply, and to compete more successfully in other markets.” Patten concluded: “If the courts, post office, parks, gas and water works, street, river and harbor improvements, and other public works do not increase the prosperity of society they should not be conducted by the State. Like all private enterprises they should yield a surplus” for the overall economy, but not be treated as what today is called a profit center (loc. cit.).

Public infrastructure represents the largest capital expenditure in almost every country, yet little trace of its economic role appears in today’s national income and product accounts. Free market ideology treats public spending as deadweight, and counts infrastructure spending as part of the deficit, not as productive capital investment. The only returns recognized are user fees, not what is saved from private operators incurring interest charges, dividends, other financial fees, as well as high executive salaries.

As Patten showed, the relatively narrow scope of “free market” marginal productivity models applies only to private-sector industrial investment, not to public investment. (What would the “product” be?) The virtue of this line of analysis is to point out that the alternative is to promote a rentier “tollbooth” economy enabling private owners of infrastructure or other monopolies to charge more than the “marginal product” actually costs. Stock and bond markets increasingly aim at extracting economic rent rather than earning profits by investing in tangible capital formation to employ labor to increase output, not to speak of rising living standards.

In the United States, Alaska and Wyoming pay their residents a “citizens’ dividend” out of their resource rent receipts. Alaska’s Senators Stevens and Murkowski, as well as its Governor Sarah Palin, did not believe that it is proper for government to upgrade, educate and provide the population with social services. So Alaska has used its oil revenue to pay each resident a few thousand dollars – and to abolish property taxes. This policy leaves Alaska among the lowest-ranking states in terms of literacy, education, support for the arts and technology, while avoiding progressive taxation.

The state’s neoliberal anti-tax, anti-government ideology condemns its residents to send their children out to work rather than educating them and investing in their improvement.

It is a bankers’-eye view of the world, not that by which Britain, France, Germany and the United States built themselves up to global leadership positions. The focus is on financial returns, not on lowering the cost of living and production or upgrading the quality of work. It views government spending as a deadweight cost, not as productive investment.

Alberta Deficit Created By Auto Bail Out

Not only is the deficit in Alberta not about overspending on infrastructure, which had been put on a decade long hold as the result of the cuts and privatization of the Klein era, but because of royalty holidays to big oil and the corporate bail out of the Auto-Industry.

The final chapter in the stormy marriage and divorce of Daimler-Benz AG and Chrysler Corp. will provide a $1.5-billion (U.S.) windfall to the deficit-ridden federal, Ontario and Alberta governments.

Daimler AG as the maker of Mercedes-Benz cars is now known, will pay the three governments $1.5-billion to settle a dispute over 11 years of Chrysler taxes that began in the mid-1990s and lasted until Daimler unloaded the No. 3 Detroit auto maker in 2007.

The bailouts of Chrysler and General Motors Corp., which total about $12.7-billion, were partly responsible for the record-setting deficits the two governments racked up to fight the recession. Those governments are still fighting to stem the red ink.

The federal deficit for the April-December, 2010, period was $27.4-billion (Canadian). Ontario is on track to post a deficit of $18.7-billion in the fiscal year that ends March 31. Alberta, meanwhile, tabled a budget last week that forecasts a deficit of $3.4-billion for 2011-12.

So not only did Chrysler get tax breaks from the Liberal and Conservative Federal governments and then get bailed out but they avoided paying taxes for over a decade.

Corporations don't need tax breaks, they take them anyways whether you give them to them or not.

If a Canadian fails to pay their income tax over ten years they not only go to court they go to jail.

But not if they are a corporation.

Whose Canada

This election the issue is simple; whose Canada do you want?
Yours or Harper's.
He re-branded the government and now he wants to re-brand Canada as his.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Jack Layton For PM

There is no question in Canadians minds who is the most trusted and respected party leader in Parliament and it's Jack Layton of the NDP. Therefore while Harper and Iggy were parcing the nuances of what is or is not a coalition, Jack announced he wants to be YOUR PM.

In this election, you can elect a Prime Minister you can count on. A Prime Minister who will help your family get ahead. Someone who will put aside the political games and work with others to get things done.

I’m running to be that Prime Minister.

Because I want to bring some Canadian leadership to Ottawa. The leadership I saw in my Dad. He was a Progressive Conservative cabinet minister. And he taught me the value of bringing people together. Of seeing the good in everyone. Of building a better country for our children and grandchildren.

My Dad and my Mom were committed to leaving this country better off for their kids. That’s a value I share. It’s a value that so many Canadians share.

And this election he could very well have a chance to win the position. He kicked off his campaign outlining what Canadians want and what he and the NDP can deliver, either as a majority or minority government. And he did it Obama style.

With the Liberals and their leader in terrible shape in the polls, Jack could come up the middle. He has made it a clear choice between himself and Harper's Conservatives.

He also made it clear he was Canadians best choice as a Canadian leader, Mr. Harper of course influenced by Republican strategists from the U.S., Mr. Ignatieff being a dual American Canadian citizen, and Elizabeth May of the Green Party having been born in the U.S.

Subtle but effective sideswipe that.


It was a motion whose time had come, perhaps not soon enough. The Harpercrites have been in contempt of Parliament since they first became a minority government in 2006, it just finally caught up with them. And they have not been scandal free since. Once in power they threw out the last vestiges of their Reform Party platform for the expediency of maintaining power at all costs.They had become the very Mulroney Conservatives that Reform had been formed against.

Canadian Government, Beset by Scandal, Collapses

C. E. S. Franks, an authority on Canadian parliamentary practice who is professor emeritus of political science at Queen’s University in Ontario, said it was the first time a Canadian government had been found in contempt of Parliament. Eight individuals have been found in contempt, he said.

Professor Franks said the Conservatives deserved credit for their economic record and for governing “reasonably competently,” but he was very critical of the government’s approach to politics.

“It’s treated Parliament like the enemy,” he said.

Walkom: Yes, contempt of Parliament does matter

But there is a bitterness to this prime minister that has infected his entire caucus. All politicians are partisan by definition. Harper’s partisanship is over the top. He not only disagrees with Canadians who are liberals and left-leaners. He seems to despise them.

All of this was manifest before he took over the merged Conservative Party. In those days, he disparaged what he called the moral failings of liberals, calling them nihilists bent on the destruction of western values.

In power, his rhetoric was often more restrained. But as former nuclear regulator Linda Keen found, those he believed tainted by Liberalism could expect no mercy. Keen was axed in 2007 because she insisted that Canadian nuclear plants have back-up power systems — systems we now know that Japan’s ill-fated Fukushima reactors famously lacked.

But her real sin was to have been appointed to by a previous Liberal government. That, Harper suggested, made her inherently untrustworthy.

Opposition MPs and others who had the temerity to disagree with the government were given equally short shrift. Canadians who questioned Ottawa’s handling of Afghan prisoners were treated as traitors. Richard Colvin, the veteran diplomat who testified to this mistreatment, was savagely and personally attacked.

At one point, when it looked like his government might be defeated, Harper simply shut down the Commons.

And while Harper flippantly dismisses the contempt charges against his governance and government, he continues to abuse his power by claiming as the outgoing PM that any form of Minority coalition government is 'illegitimate', in particular the one formed in 2008 after the fall election when he and his government refused to accept there was a recession and that they had to do something about it.

"Canadians need to understand clearly, without any ambiguity: unless Canadians elect a stable, national majority, Mr. Ignatieff will form a coalition with the NDP and Bloc Quรฉbรฉcois," Harper said. "They tried it before. It is clear they will try it again. And, next time, if given the chance, they will do it in a way that no one will be able to stop."

"Imagine a coalition of arch-centralists and Quebec sovereignists trying to work together," Harper said. "The only thing they'll be able to agree on is to spend more money and to raise taxes to pay for it. We've all got too much at stake. Now is not the time for political instability."

Of course that was 2008 and he was in power. In 2004 then Liberal PM Paul Martin had a minority government and a coalition was formed by Harper, Duceppe and Layton against the Martin government. It was legitimate and legal then but not now says Harper.

Harper wanted 2004 coalition: Duceppe

Duceppe says Harper lying

OTTAWA - Stephen Harper is warning that the Liberals will form a coalition with the NDP and Bloc Quebecois if the May 2 federal election results in a minority government. But when he was Opposition leader, Harper didn't seem to mind the idea of governing with the support of the NDP and Bloc. Here's the text of a letter Harper and his fellow opposition leaders sent to the Governor General in 2004:

September 9, 2004

Her Excellency the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson,

C.C., C.M.M., C.O.M., C.D.

Governor General

Rideau Hall

1 Sussex Drive

Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A1


As leaders of the opposition parties, we are well aware that, given the Liberal minority government, you could be asked by the Prime Minister to dissolve the 38th Parliament at any time should the House of Commons fail to support some part of the government's program.

We respectfully point out that the opposition parties, who together constitute a majority in the House, have been in close consultation. We believe that, should a request for dissolution arise this should give you cause, as constitutional practice has determined, to consult the opposition leaders and consider all of your options before exercising your constitutional authority.

Your attention to this matter is appreciated.


Hon. Stephen Harper, P.C., M.P.

Leader of the Opposition

Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada

Gilles Duceppe, M.P.

Leader of the Bloc Quebecois

Jack Layton, M.P.

Leader of the New Democratic Party

Harper has always had contempt for Parliament, when he was a Reform MP and even more so as spokesman for the right wing business lobby NCC, but no more so than over the past five years in power when he acted like he had a majority not a minority.

Now he tries to run an election campaign to become King of Canada with a Conservative majority that does not reflect the values of the vast majority of Canadians.

Coalitions OK say Conservatives

For the bombing of Libya

Canadian general to take command of NATO mission in Libya

But not to be government.

To be sure, the Harper Conservatives are already circulating talking points to their candidates that refer disparagingly to the "coalition opposition." And you can expect to hear more about the evil coalition as the election campaign unfolds in the weeks ahead.

Why a Canadian?

First because we were the only country in NATO whose Parliamentary parties, left, right, centre and separatist voted unanimously to support the No Fly Zone.

Second because the Canadian General is also a NORAD commander, making this still an American mission.

Bouchard, a native of Chicoutimi, Que, had been deputy commander of NATO's joint forces command, based in Naples, Italy. The former Canadian air force commander has been a member of the Canadian Forces since 1974 and graduated as a helicopter pilot in 1976. He has worked at key posts within Norad operations and has served at U.S. military bases on several occasions. He was awarded the United States Legion of Merit in 2004

And well, because we are after all polite....even in war.

Two Canadian CF-18 fighter jets took part in a mission over Libya on Tuesday morning, but returned to base without attacking their target because the risk of collateral damage was too great.

"Two CF-18s were tasked for a ground attack mission against a Libyan airfield," Lawson told a news conference in Ottawa.

"I can confirm for you that the air crew returned not having dropped their weaponry. Upon arrival on the scene of the target area the air crew became aware of a risk they deemed too high for collateral damage."

Lawson said the risk was not related to any threat to the CF-18s, but rather potential damage to civilians or important infrastructure such as hospitals, on the ground.

Lawson said the decision was in compliance with the rules of engagement that NATO forces have been given, and proves "the system works."

PMO PO Danny Williams

Slightly overwhelmed by all the election coverage yesterday was news that Danny Williams was not going to attend the crowning of the new leader of his provincial PC party, his replacement. Party brass all were shocked and dismayed.

Shocked that Williams won't attend tribute: premier

While some have suggested it was because of this;

Former aide to Danny Williams backs away from oil board

I think this had more to do with it

Tories, Quebec ink oil exploration deal

The Conservatives are getting rid of a long-standing irritant with the Quebec government just days before an expected election call, signing a deal that opens the door to oil exploration in the St. Lawrence and fuels hopes for economic development in poor parts of the province.

The agreement to be unveiled on Thursday in Gatineau, Que., will lead to exploration for billions of barrels of oil and natural gas in the Old Harry field in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, which straddles Quebec’s boundary with Newfoundland.

A 1967 Supreme Court of Canada ruling upheld the federal government’s ownership of offshore resources.

A joint secretariat will be set up to oversee federal-provincial responsibilities regarding the management of the offshore resources and an independent tribunal will mediate potential conflicts, including an overseas boundary dispute between Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador. Millions of dollars in royalties are at stake.

The Old Harry site straddles a boundary defined in 1964 by Quebec and the four Atlantic provinces. The boundary places most of the Old Harry oil and gas reserves on Quebec’s side of the line. Newfoundland and Labrador is challenging the boundary, and the announcement gives the province an equal say over the makeup of the tribunal.

Another interesting point about this deal was that it was done in private, days before the election call, and it resulted in this....

Federal Tories buy the silence of the Quebec Liberals

And it was hard to believe Christian Paradis, who is Prime Minister Harper's Quebec political lieutenant as well as natural-resources minister, when he said Thursday's agreement on the Old Harry offshore oil and gas deposits had nothing to do with the federal election.

It was easier to believe Quebec's natural-resources minister, Nathalie Normandeau, who said that "never have the planets been so well aligned" for what looked like the hasty settlement of a 12-year-old difference between Ottawa and Quebec.

And the agreement on Old Harry is only one sign of an apparent political arrangement between the federal Conservatives and the Quebec Liberals.

The arrangement was apparently made between Harper and Premier Charest in a private meeting last week, when the prime minister came to the provincial capital to announce an airport expansion.

In the deal, the Quebec Liberals would refrain from criticizing the Conservatives, the party most likely to form the next government, possibly a majority government, until the federal election is over.In return, the Conservative government would sign agreements giving Quebec more money.

On Wednesday, Charest defended the Harper government against criticism from the sovereignist parties in Ottawa and Quebec City over the absence of a harmonization settlement in the federal budget.

And he said that in this federal campaign, h...e will not publish an open letter asking the parties to state their positions on issues of particular concern to his government, as he had in the past. Charest said "the idea of a letter is a bit passรฉ," even though his intervention in the 2008 campaign to criticize the Conservatives for culture spending cuts had proven effective

Friday, March 25, 2011

1984 And Now Election 2011

Warren Kinsella who used to be a Liberal Party Insider, and of course therefore a HACK, now works for the right wing conservative mouthpiece; Quebecor/SUN media, so today he declares that the election campaign is over before it begins.

Nineteen Eighty-Four wasn’t just the title of a good book by George Orwell.

It’s also a useful reminder of what may be about to happen to the Liberals and NDP in the coming election campaign.

You remember: Sept. 4, 1984, and Brian Mulroney sweeps to a massive parliamentary majority. The once-great Liberal Party — the Natural Governing Party, no less — is reduced to a paltry 40 seats.

Conservatives, up to 43%. Liberals, down to 24%. NDP, unchanged at 16%.

And if you just look at voting preferences of those absolutely certain to trek to polling stations, according to Ipsos, the Cons go up to 45%, and the Grits slide to 23%.

To put it in context, that gap is perilously close (or identical) to the 22 points that separated Mulroney and John Turner in 1984’s Gritterdammerung. Result: Tories, 211 seats, NDP 30 seats, and Grits the aforementioned 40.

So, is Michael Ignatieff this generation’s John Turner?

Of course he is but the political differences of the times are also significant. And Kinsella's prognosis is also questionable.

First in 1984 there was a great debate, a big issue that the election was to be fought over; nothing less than Free Trade.

There is no big issue in this election.

Second there was the appointment of Liberal hacks to the Senate just before the election call, which gave Mulroney his chance to defeat Turner in the debates when he challenged him to simply not appoint the Liberal hacks to the senate. "You had a choice Mr. Turner'. It was the zinger in the Leaders debate.

The NDP, the CLC trade unions and the Left had made Free Trade the issue for the election and had for two years prior. The Liberals seeing an issue which carried votes, opportunistically decided to become Anti-Free Trade hoping to get votes from the Left as the only Natural Governing Party.

In the Leaders Debate the NDP Leader Ed Broadbent carried the day as statesman, while Mulroney and Turner went at it hammer and tong. It was Mulrony who got in the election zinger.

What Kinsella fails to aknowledge is that in 1984 the NDP got enough seats, in fact increased their seats to 30, that had there been a minority government it would behoove them to ask for their support.

And even more importantly in 1984 there was NO Bloc Quebecois. In fact the BQ would originate out of the Mulroney Conservative government, a fact the current Conservative Government would like you to forget, even as they carry on in Mulroney's footsteps when it comes to gaining support in Quebec.

The Conservatives and Liberals want to have two party politics, ala the Republicans and Democrats in the US ,Conservatives and Labour in the UK.

Unlike the 1984 election this election is not about three parties but four parties. Three in English Canada and an additional Quebec based Party. By having four parties, with Quebec solidaly BQ,

The Harper Conservatives have decided to focus on the rural township votes, as they have in Western Canada, that is where their base is.

The urban cities is where the fight goes three ways, if not four. The NDP is currently more popular in Quebec than the Liberals, a historic first.

This election is about Leadership, and that is the only thing it has in common with 1984, Turner was weak, Mulroney was brash and Broadbent was conciliatory.

With the BQ there will be no repeat of 1984, we will once again have a minority government. But will it be Conservative or Liberal? The NDP is then the best place to park your vote, since Layton shows he is PM material, even more that his opponents, and if Harper has any chance so does Layton, even if it is as Leader of the Opposition.

The Liberals under Ignatieff, as they were under Turner, are toast and on that Kinsella and I agree.

Michael Ignatieff was once hailed in Liberal circles as the second coming of Pierre Trudeau. Now his challenge is to shake off the perception he's an outsider interested only in adding another ornament to his well-adorned resume.