Is Baird damaging Conservative election prospects?

Chantal Hebert opines in the Toronto Star that John Baird did great damage in Bali to the Conservatives' election prospects. She said that Baird's performance "amounted to ripping a scab off a wound that had barely begun to heal". She concluded that "the Bali meeting was a multi-day communications disaster for the Harper regime. It set back a year of Conservative efforts to rebrand the party on climate change and confirmed the issue as the government's Achilles heel."

The Conservatives have been struggling for the past year to rebrand themselves as Conservatives with an environmental conscience. That has been shattered by the images of Baird aligning himself with the US and Japan to block progress in Bali and reinforced by TV footage showing him going out the back door to avoid young environmentalists.

Stephane Dion can only take some comfort from Baird's antics in Bali as the Conservatives align themselves even more closely with the outgoing Bush administration.

Afghan mission being reviewed

The Washington Post reports that the Bush White House is reviewing the status of the war in Afghanistan. They are said to be deeply concerned about the prospect of failure in Afghanistan. With no American trropds available, Bush officials are expected to continue pressing for more NATO troops to fight an insurgency that made this the most violent year since the Taliban and Al Qaeda were routed in December 2001.

According to Julianne Smith, director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies,the mission in Afghanistan is at risk of failure, as political support in European capitals is straining NATO’s ability to sustain, let alone expand its effort there.
“The mission in Afghanistan has been suffering from neglect on all sides,” she said.



Harper a dinosaur on climate change

Stephen Harper pays lip service to the need to address climate change while fighting off any commitments by Canada to meet reduction targets. The latest example was his disgraceful performance at the CHOGM meeting in Africa. Harper personally blocked the adoption of a consensus statement that included a reference to targets and forced through a weaker version that committed no one to anything. By their actions of the past year Harper and his colleagues have in effect rescinded Canada's ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. Meanwhile Australians have tossed Harper's recent partner, PM John Howard, out of office. The new Australian PM has committed to ratify Kyoto and take real action on climate change. When Bush leaves office Harper will be isolated on this and many other issues, if he is still PM at that time. Dare we hope that Canadians will wake up and toss him out of office before then?


Will Americans control CanWest?

The foreign takeover of Canadian businesses continues at an accelerating pace. The tentacles of foreign control are now extending into Canadian media. CanWest is currently involved in merger discussions which could lead to American control of this Canadian media giant. As Thomas Walkon explains in today's Star:

"The essence of the deal is that CanWest, which owns Global Television and 11 daily newspapers across the country, wants to buy Alliance Atlantis, another media firm. But CanWest doesn't have the $2.3-billion needed. So it is proposing an arrangement with U.S. investment banker Goldman Sachs that would see the American firm put up the vast bulk of the money in return for 64 per cent of shares in a new, merged company."

Although CanWest is trying to pretend that Canadians would remain in control, this is clearly a specious argument. Should we be concerned? Indeed we should. Imagine if Fox had controlled CanWest during the Iraq war debates!


How the Liberals can regain power

Last week one poll indicated that Harper was in majority territory. Today a Strategic Counsel poll revealed that the Tories and Liberals are tied. Meanwhile Harper has been smacked in the face by the Mulroney debacle. After stating that he would appoint an independent person to look into the situation, Harper had to backtrack today and announce a full-scale judicial inquiry. Meanwhile Dion makes an ass of himself in QP by asking a question that Harper had already answered. It is now clear that Dion is a millstone around the Liberals' necks. The route back to power is for Dion to relinquish the leadership voluntarily. Then the Liberals need to annoint someone credible as leader by acclamation (Frank MacKenna perhaps?).


Have the police in this country gone nuts?

Recently there was widespread publicity and controversy over the tasering and death of a Polish man who was stranded in the arrivals area at the Vancouver Airport unable to speak English. A witness who videotaped the incident told the national media that within seconds of arriving on the scene officers decided to taser him and administered two jolts which killed him. This incident is under investigation. There have been others recently.

Today Kelowna RCMP used a Taser on a 68-year-old man in a parking dispute.

Clearly the use of Tasers by police in this country is completely out of control. When will they wake up and realize that Tasers are not toys to be used with reckless abandon. Maybe the law-and-order forces in the Harper government should wake up and ban the use of these lethal weapons by police forces in this country.


Harper eyes the Thanksgiving turkey

Jim Travers in a column in the Star opines that the PM sees an opportunity for easy majority win. http://www.thestar.com:80/article/264261 He speculates that Harper sees in Stéphane Dion what Chrétien saw in Stockwell Day: an opportunity for an easy victory and, yes, a majority. Apparently Harper sees that the soft underbelly of the Liberals is exposed and ripe for an assault. Hence, his baiting of the trap for the Liberals in the fall session while he says publicly he doesn't want an election and expects only a minority. He sees Dion as a turkey ripe for the plucking.

Hillier approval rating low

The Globe and Mail's online poll recently asked:

Do you think Canada's Chief of Defence Staff, General Rick Hillier, is doing a good job?

76% of the respondents disapproved of the General's performance. That speaks volumes about the public's response to Hillier's antics in upstaging our elected representatives. Let's hope that the PM soon comes to his senses and ends Hillier's tenure as CDS, as reported by CTV this past week.

24% 5880 votes

76% 18817 votes


Albertans finally wake up to oil company greed

According to a recent poll, an overwhelming majority of Albertans -- 88 per cent -- believe they are not getting their "fair share" from oil and gas royalties, and two-thirds want Stelmach to fully adopt the contents of a review panel report that has the major oil companies royally pissed. The majority of Albertans want oil royalties increased substantially. The oil companies are fighting back but it seems that Albertans have finally waken up to the rip-off the oil companies have been getting away with for years.


Hillier's Day of reckoning Looms

CTV News reported tonight that the Harper government plans to replace Gen. Rick Hillier as chief of defence staff when his three-year term expires in February. Hillier is widely perceived to have undermined former Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor. He also tend to upstage his politiocal bosses all the time.

In a democracy the military are servants of our elected representatives. Hillier forgot this so it is only appropriate that he be turfed at the end of his current term.


Will King Danny sweep the province?

I just returned from a week in Newfoundland. It happened to be the first week of the NL election campaign. In NL Danny is referred to as King. His popularity ratings pre-election were in the 80+ range. Given his personal popularity, pundits have been predicting a clean sweep of the provincial seats by Williams Conservatives. While there is little doubt that Danny will increase the number of Conservative seats, my impression is that he will not achieve a clean sweep. In rural Newfoundland, the traditional Liberal heartland there is still a perception that the economic boom of recent years has benefited primarily St. John's and the surrounding Avalon Peninsula but not the outports. There has been an increasing outmigration of rural Newfoundlanders to Alberta, particularly Fort MacMurray and jobs in developing the tar sands. Liberal Leader Gerry Reid is waging an uphill fight against the Williams juggernault, in particular accusing Williams of ignoring the fishery. It appears likely that reid and a few of his colleagues will hold their seats to provide some opposition to King Danny.


Canada lags in waiting times

A new study indicates that Canada is falling behind other leading Commonwealth countries in addressing waiting times for healthcare despite throwing gobs of money at the problem. The study compared waiting-time reduction strategies in five Commonwealth nations: Australia, Canada, England, New Zealand and Wales. The research indicated that England has done the best job of reducing waiting times. It set a maximum waiting time of 18 weeks - from referral from a general practitioner, through to treatment for a wide range of surgical procedures. In Canada the feds and the provinces have a 5.5-billion agreement vowing "to achieve meaningful reductions in wait times" in five priority areas - joint replacement, cardiac care, cancer, cataracts and diagnostic imaging. But there are no firm targets and most provinces do not even agree on the definition of a waiting time.

Harper in tie with Liberals:Cons stalled

Latest Strategic Counsel poll of party support shows Haper and the Conservatives have dropped to low low 30s in popular support and are now tied with Liberals at 31%. The poll revealed that discomfort with Harper's Conservatives is deepening among women, francophones and wealthier Canadians. Part of this is explained by deepening concern about Canadian casualties in Afghanistan. Harper is paying now for his pugnacious stance on the Afghanistan war and his alliance with Bush's policies. In recent days he has begun to acknowledge that the nature of the Canadian commitment could change in February 2009. Whether that will affect voters' perceptions remains to be seen. In any event the environment and healthcare outrank terrorism as priority concerns among Canadians. And the Conservatives are not exactly shining on either of these files.


Hillier blocks release of detainee info

Why is General Rick Hillier preventing the release of detainee information under Access to Information Act? The Globe and Mail reports that the office of General Hillier has halted the release of any documents relating to detainees captured in Afghanistan under the federal Access to Information Act, claiming that disclosure of any such information could endanger Canadian troops. Apparently the flow of documents about detainees has virtually dried up and the department has summarily rejected requests for the same kind of documents it released earlier.

What is General Hillier trying to hide? I thought Canadians were fighting and dying in Afghanistan to preserve freedom. This is rather ironic in light of this denial of the basic right to freedom of information here in Canada.

Madonna Live Earth video (Hey You)

Madonna gave a tremendous performance at the London Live Earth concert. Perhaps the best was Hey You. Here's the video from You Tube



Washington Post slams Live Earth London concert

I spent much of yesterday watching the telecasts/internet live coverage of Live Earth concerts around the globe. Thanks to CTV we got telecast excerpts from most of the concerts. In general I was impressed with this awareness raising exercise.

This morning I was surprised to read a rather snide attack on the Live Earth London concert in the Washington Post/Live Earth London's Glacial Pacing.

The reporter draws attention to the carbon output of the Live Earth concerts;

"John Buckley of Carbon Footprint, an organization that helps companies reduce their carbon dioxide emissions, said Saturday that Live Earth will produce about 74,500 tons of the gas.
"We would have to plant 100,000 trees to offset the effect of Live Earth," he said, speaking by telephone. But, he added, "if you can reach 2 billion people and raise awareness, that's pretty fantastic."

But other quotes show the lack of awareness of the implications of climate change by some concert attendees. This just demonstrates the need for events like these.


Blogging Tips/Advertising

Engtech has a good piece on the pros and cons of advertising to attract attention to your blog.



Bush Compares Iraq to US War of Independence

Speaking on July 4th George Bush compared the war in Iraq to the US War of Independence. Has he finally lost his marbles, assuming he once had some?

How does the occupation of Iraq by a foreign power and the overthrow of its government resemble the revolution by American patriots against a foreign despot, the King of England?


Can Harper be trusted to keep his word?

Based on his recent dealings regarding equalization and the Atlantic Accord, Stephen Harper cannot be trusted to keep his word. His approach to federal-provincial relations is akin to the behavior of a school-yard bully. Prior to the last election, Harper clearly promised to Newfoundland and Nova Scotia that he would maintain the agreement that Paul Martin had entered into with these provinces that ensured that they would not lose any benefits under equalization as a result of oil and gas revenues.

In his current budget Harper broke that promise. When challenged first by NL Premier Danny Williams and more recently by Nova Scotia Premier Rodney McDonald, Harper's response was: "Sue me". In today's Globe and Mail Jeffrey Simpson argues in favour of Harper's actions on the grounds that he made a stupid promise and hence was justified in breaking it.

I was extremely disappointed to read Simpson's comments. He seems to suffer from the central Canadian attitude: let the easterners eat cake. How can you excuse Harper's behavior on the grounds that he made a stupid promise? A promise made should be a promise kept. Harper's approach to federal/provincial relations, i.e. 'Sue me', is both childish and insulting. He may get his budget passed with the support of the BQ because of the pay-off to Quebec but he is alienating the Atlantic provinces and Sakatchewan. Harper's treatment of NL and Nova Scotia in particular is shameful. If Peter MacKay and Loyola Hearn had any cojones, they would have walked as Nova Scotia MP Bill Casey did two weeks ago.

The Iraq War and Privatization of Iraqui oil

U.S. presidential candidate Dennis Kuchinich maintains that the Iraq war has been about oil and that the U.S. should not be a party to any attempt, by multinational oil companies, to take over Iraq’s oil resources. J. Schenone has an interesting piece on Kuchinich's arguments.

Kucinich argues that Bush's Iraq legislation would lead to the privatization of Iraq’s oil making it very difficult for the US to end the war any time in the near future. Amongst his concerns are several benchmarks set up by the current U.S. administration for the Iraqi government; one of which required passage of a hydrocarbon law that the Bush administration has chosen to hide. Kuchinich further emphasizes that while many in Washington are contemplating linking funding for the war in Iraq to the completion of these benchmarks, insistence on the passage of any legislation that included insistence on the passage of a hydrocarbon act places the U.S. in a position of promoting the privatization of Iraq’s oil.

The proposed legislation ensures that “chief executives of important related petroleum companies” be represented on a Federal Oil and Gas Council, which approves oil and gas contracts. Kuchinich states that “this is akin to allowing foreign oil companies to approve their own contracts.” It further ensures that the “Iraqi National Oil Company, which is the oil company of the people of Iraq, has no exclusive rights for the exploration, development, production, transportation, and marketing of oil and that they must compete against foreign oil companies with rules that benefit the foreign oil companies. According to Kuchinich, the legislation does give the Iraq National Oil Company temporary control of the oil pipelines and export terminals, but then it directs the Federal Oil and Gas Council, which is controlled by foreign oil companies, to turn these assets over to any entity with no further instructions.
In a further effort to ensure that big oil companies gain control of Iraqi oil this legislation provides for 35 years of exclusive control over oil fields for foreign oil companies. These companies are further protected by a provision that guarantees Iraqis preference for jobs and services only as long as they do not place extra costs or inconveniences on the foreign oil companies. Any disputes regarding any matter between the State of Iraq and any foreign investors have to be submitted for arbitration to an international court and will not be decided upon by an Iraqi court.

Kuchinich appears to have a good foundation for his belief that the Iraq War was based on oil greed.


Russian nuclear waste risk and Putin sabre rattling

The Norwegian environmental group Bellona reports that tanks of spent nuclear fuel in Russia's Arctic are leaking and risk setting off an uncontrolled chain reaction. Degradation of cement that encases nuclear waste tanks on the Kola peninsula has already allowed salt water to seep in. It is claimed that the salt water is mixing with radioactive rods in tanks at the Andreeva Bay facility, and could set off a chain reaction whose fall-out could spread across northern Europe in a worst-case scenario. This is a scenario stright out of the pages of Richard Rohmer's latest novel Ultimatum(http:/cardinal47reads.blogspot.com). Meanwhile Russian President Putin turns up the with the West in a little sabre rattling. In an interview with western journalists, Putin said that Russia intends to aim its missile systems at targets in Europe in retaliation for the U.S. decision to establish antimissile bases there.According to Putin, Russia sees itself being forced into this position because of the actions of the United States. In 2002, the Americans withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and Washington has never signed the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe treaty, designed to end the Cold War military standoff.



Name and Face Shape

Researchers have demostrated experimentally that people subconsciously expect face shapes to match the sound of a name. Students were asked to sketch the facial features of imaginary men with one of the following 15 names: Bob, Bill, Mark, Joe, Tim, John, Josh, Rick, Brian, Tom, Matt, Dan, Jason, Andy, and Justin. A second group of students were asked to name the men in the drawings.Ten out of 15 times, the students matched the faces and names correctly. As an example of facial stereotyping, it appears that 'Bob' is a round-sounding name, whereas 'Tim' is a thin, angular-sounding name.


Not smart, Stephen!

Looks like Harper failed to take note of my incisive analysis. He's off again to Afghanistan playing cozy with Karzai and pretending the Canadian role is all about humanitarianism. Tell that to the dead troops.Harper should be distancing himself from Afghanistan as quietly as he can. Instead, he's again publicly identifying himself with the war. Not smart, Stephen!


Will Stephen Harper be a one-term wonder?

Recent polls indicate that the Conservatives and the Liberals are virtually tied in popular support. After an initial surge in the spring around the time of the budget the Cons have dropped back to levels below what they achieved in the last election. While the Liberals have gained no momentum following the election of Stephane Dion, they have not plummeted further as some pundits predicted.

In the first six months of his minority government Stephen Harper was on a roll implementing his famous five priorities. He projected an aura of a knowledgeable decisive leader. Majority government seemed not only possible but probable after the next election. Contrast that with the last six months. Harper was blind-sided by the climate change issue. He bungled the first attempt to deal with it. Then he dumped Rona Ambrose and brought in a menacing pitbull, John Baird, formerly of the Harris government and widely regarded in Ontario as a heartless Minister. Baird's efforts on the climate change file have not advanced Harper's position one iota. If anything, they convey an impression of a government floundering to find its way.

The other big issue that has stuck to Harper and won't let go is Afghanistan. And Harper has made this his own file. O'Connor, Hillier and ilk do his bidding. Harper has seriously miscaculated the mood of the country. He has also alienated a lot of folks by calling anyone who questions the nature of our invovement in Afghanistan anti-patriotic or pro-Taliban. During the detainee debacle he began to look increasingly un-Prime Ministerial.

He has gone from a situation where everything was falling his way to one where the government appears to have lost its way and is at odds with the majority of Canadians on at least two major files. Moreover, both Harper and his Cabinet now come across as bullies. Who likes bullies?

Has Harper squandered his chances at a majority government? Is the best he can now hope for another minority? May even that be beyond his grasp? All things are possible of course and he may yet re-invent himself as a kindly leader with the best interests of all Canadians at heart. But don't count on it. Methinks a majority Harper government is increasingly unlikely and he will have to switch strategy to sustain a minority.


The Foreign Takeover of Canada

In a recent overview of foreign takeovers of Canadian companies David Olive pointed out that foreigners have snapped up nearly 600 Canadian firms since the start of 2006. He concludes that Canada is in industrial retreat. The recent bid for Alcan by Alcoa has brought home the message that Canadian assets and companies are for sale to the highest bidder. When even Canadian bankers are voicing concern we know the wolf is at the door.And so we head pell mell to branch plant status of the American colossus. Where is Pierre Trudeau when we need him?


Wolfowitz on verge of being fired?

Sources say the panel investigating Wolfowitz's actions re girlfriend has concluded that he breached ethics rules when he engineered a pay raise for his girlfriend. Committee is considering requesting that he resign. He appears before panel on Monday to explain/defend his actions. Meanwhile more than 40 members of the organization's anti-corruption team, formed to promote transparent government and closely identified with Wolfowitz, have declared that the controversy over his conduct is undermining their work. They called on the World Bank's board to take "clear and decisive actions to resolve this crisis," which they said was undermining the bank's "credibility and authority to engage" on the corruption issue.



Harper govt caught in web of lies

Stephen Harper's mad scramble to make sense out of the inexcusable would be funny if it weren't so dishonest. As he faces the first real crisis of his mandate he comes across as a bully who sees nothing wrong with blatantly lying to the Canadian people and their representatives. His iron-fisted rule has come unglued. Caught in a trap by suppressing the assessment of Canada's diplomats in Afghanistan that detainees are being tortured, Harper is sideswiped by Gordon O'Connor's sudden claim at the Foreign Affairs Committee that a new arrangement has been worked out with the Afghans. Neither O'Connor nor General Hillier had any details to provide. Then Harper tells the House that the new arrangement is in the process of being formalized. Facing a barrage of questions from the Opposition parties, Harper's only response is to resort to schoolyard bully tactics and attempt to bludgeon them into submission. The distinction between Harper and Dion is becoming clearer for voters: dishonesty and lack of integrity versus honesty and integrity. Stay tuned!


Are baby boomers less healthy than parents?

Contrary to popular perception, new evidence indicates that baby boomers are likely to be less healthy than their parents. According to the Washington Post, baby boomers "are more likely to report difficulty climbing stairs, getting up from a chair and doing other routine activities, as well as more chronic problems such as high cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes." The trend seems to be that people are not as healthy as they approach retirement as they were in older generations.



America seen as a violent society

The tragic killings in Virginia have brought an outpouring of sympathy and condolences from around the world. As people shake their heads in bewilderment, trying to puzzle out what would prompt such a senseless act, others see this as another manifestation that the US is a violent society obsessed with the right to bear arms. The Washington Post carries a cross-section of reaction from around the world. It observes: "Officials, newspaper columnists and citizens around the world described the Virginia Tech massacre as the tragic reflection of an America that fosters violence at home and abroad, even as it attempts to dictate behavior to the rest of the world." Much of the foreign reaction centered on the proliferation of guns in the United States. Perhaps there is a lesson here for our own government as it moves to lighten restrictions on gun ownership.


Wolfowitz:Time to Resign

Paul Wolfowitz, major architect of the Iraq war and current President of the World Bank, is now mired in scandal and under increasing pressure to resign. The current uproar over his girlfriend, Shaha Riza, which began when details of her pay package were publicly revealed last month, calls into question Wolfowitz'z integrity and values. Riza was working at the World Bank when Wolfowitz left the Pentagon to become President in 2005. They were already involved in a romantic relationship. The Bank board ruled that "professional contact" between the two violated bank policy and instructed Wolfowitz to order the personnel department to arrange her departure and compensation.Wolfowitz directed Bank officials to agree to a proposal which included the following terms and conditions. Riza was to be "detailed to an outside institution of her choosing while retaining Bank salary and benefits." She was to receive an immediate raise with approximate annual increases of 8 percent.By 2010, when Wolfowitz's five-year term expired, she would reach a salary of $244,960, significantly above the maximum of $226,650 allowable for her pay grade. On her return to the bank, she would be automatically promoted to the level of senior country director; if her return were delayed another five years by a second Wolfowitz term, she would be elevated to the level of bank vice president.

After coming under public scrutiny for this inappropriate arrangement, Wolfowitz has publicly apologized but has refused to step down. Ironically, one of Wolfwitz's primary missions has been to demand that developing countries implement anti-corruption measures before receiving funding from the Bank.

On Sunday the Bank's most powerful oversight committee delivered an unusually public rebuke of his leadership, expressing “great concern” about the institution’s future and the need to preserve its credibility and staff morale. It's time for Wolfowitz to do the honourable thing and resign before he is fired.


Dion/May make pact

The Globe and Mail reports that Stephane Dion has decided not to run a Liberal candidate against Green Party Leader Elizabeth May in the next federal election. In return, it is rumoured that May will promise not to run a Green candidate against the Liberal leader and will essentially endorse Dion for prime minister.

How will Liberals and Green Party members react to this deal? Will they see it as a means of bolstering May's chances of taking MacKay's seat from him? No doubt it will improve the odds. Dion is a shoo-in in his seat anyway so it'll make no difference there. Will Greens resent May cosying up to the Liberals and the Liberals resent Dion making a pact with the Greens?

Harper has no shame

The Harper government has hired a former Quebec separatist cabinet minister who played a key role in the 1995 referendum campaign to investigate the polling contracts of the previous Liberal government. Daniel Paillé, the "independent adviser" hired to conduct the investigation, refused to say yesterday whether he is still a separatist.He has been hired to investigate all government practices regarding polls and other public opinion research from 1990 to 2003. He is to look at files, contracts, reports and records.

What kind of vindictive nonsense is this? Harper hires a separatist to look into the polling practices of the Chretien government. Does he have no confidence in his own ability to win election on his own merits? So he has to go digging under every stone to see whether there's any more dirt he can turn up? This would be laughable if it weren't so offensive.


Generals say "No" to Bush

Bush is desperately seeking someone to oversee the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.Reportedly this individual would have the power to issue directions to Defence, State and other agencies involved.Bush has approached three retired four-star generals who have rejected his offer. These were all all earlier supporters of his war initiatives. "The very fundamental issue is, they don't know where the hell they're going," said retired Marine Gen. John J. "Jack" Sheehan, a former top NATO commander who was among those rejecting the job.

Bush is going to need more than a new war Czar to save the US's bacon in Iraq.


Life in Iraq

The Washington Post has an interesting story on changing views in Iraq. Some who welcomed the toppling of Saddam Hussein in the spring of 2003 now wish for a return to the "law and order" of his regime. They tell the story of a man who was seen around the world taking a sledgehammer to the statue of Hussein. Four years later he's having second thoughts. "It achieved nothing", he now says."Now, we regret that Saddam Hussein is gone, no matter how much we hated him." Surprising sentiments? Perhaps not, given the chaos now prevailing in Iraq. http://http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/08/AR2007040801058_pf.html

Harper's Wait Times Scam

Stephen Harper has reached a new low in trying to hoodwink Canadians with his so-called success in securing wait time guarantees from the provinces.Harper claims to have fulfilled another of his five priorities. Well, this boat won't float. The deal does not come into effect until 2010, and provinces only have to promise timely treatment in one of several priority areas:
Cancer care
Hip and knee replacement
Cardiac care
Diagnostic imaging
Cataract surgeries

The Conservatives had promised in the last federal election campaign that they would ensure guarantees in all of the above areas. Their new agreement with the provinces proves to be a sham when you take a look at what the provinces have actually committed to. To take one example, Ontario is promising that by 2009, patients who cannot obtain cataract surgery within 182 days will be given the opportunity to receive treatment outside the province. However, the current average wait for cataract surgery in Ontario is 183 days -- just one day longer than the target. And it's a somewhat similar situation for other provinces. They have picked areas and targets which they already meet.

This falls far short of the comprehensive improvement in wait times that the Conservatives promised during the last election. As Andrew Coyne put it in the National Post, Harper has learned to lie shamelessly in the expectation that the public doesn't care. Well, here's hoping that voters do care and will express their frustration at the ballot box.


Cons pledge to stay in Afghanistan

The Conservative government has no intention of withdrawing Canadian troops from Afghanistan in 2009 when the current mandate from Parliament runs out. Defense Minister Gordon O'Connor stated today that:

"This government will support the mission — by our words and by our actions — until the progress in Afghanistan becomes irreversible."

"Afghanistan is a success story," he said.

What fantasy world is Mr. O'Connor living in? Next he'll be wanting to dispatch Canadian troops to Iraq.


Will Harper take the plunge?

Will Stephen Harper take the plunge and pull the plug on the current Parliament? Last week with two polls showing the Cons flirting with majority territory no doubt he was being tempted. The results of yesterday's Quebec election are being spun as favourable for Harper's Conservatives in Quebec but methinks the situation is more complicated than it appears. In any event a new Decima poll might throw some cold water on the election fever. This poll showed the Conservatives nationally at 35 per cent versus 31 for the Liberals, 13 per cent for the NDP and 10 per cent for the Green Party.The one positive for Harper was in Quebec where the Cons surpassed the Liberals for the first time in months, with 25 per cent compared with the the Bloc Quebecois at 34 per cent, the Liberals at 20 per cent, the Green Party at 10 per cent and the NDP at 5 per cent. But in Ontario, the Liberals remained ahead at 41 per cent to the Cons' 33 per cent.

Mr. Harper would be wise to think twice before precipitating an election over some contrived confidence vote. If he does, he may find himself again in minority territory.


Tories spending like drunken sailors

What happened to all this fiscal discipline that Stephen Harper promised us? The http://www.thestar.com/article/183221 reports that the Conservatives are on a spending spree with taxpayers' money, doling out about $10 billion in the past three months. Harper's surprise $1.5 billion announcement in Quebec last week for a national EcoTrust program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants is new money, money Harper, on the eve of an expected Quebec election, said he would draw from the 2006-07 year-end surplus. When the Liberals were in power the Conservatives criticized such year-end spending as "March madness." The Canadian Taxpayers Federation says the government has failed to keep its promises on two counts: it is not reining in spending growth, and it is "spending down the surplus" just as the Liberals used to do.Apparently, program spending is growing at a rate of around 7.8 per cent, far in excess of the 3 % level the Conservatives promised in the election. More hypocrisy!


Is Hillier a public servant or a Conservative politician?

General Rick Hillier has described the decade of Liberal rule as the military's 'decade of darkness'. This is not the first time General Hillier has stumbled into the political domain. The fact that the Conservatives are giving the military all the toys they want doesn't justify Hillier's crossing of the line. The miltary was not the only public service to suffer cutbacks while the Liberals fought to cut the deficit and bring public expenditures under control. I worked in a government department where we had to implement a one-third reduction in staff and a substantial reduction in service.

General Hillier should stop his bootlicking of Stephen Harper and get on with his real job. If not, quit and run for the Conservatives in the next election. The last thing we need is a politicized military force in this country.

An Apology to Goodale

Last winter during the election campaign Ralph Goodale and the Liberals came under great attack when the RCMP Commissioner revealed that the RCMP had launched an investigation into possible leaks of a planned announcement concerning income trusts. Now the RCMP has exxonerated Goodale and the Liberals of any wrong-doing in this matter. Meanwhile the Conservatives are running ads in Quebec perpetrating the allegation that Goodale did something wrong. Goodale is owed an apology. I, like others, was guilty of prejudging Goodale and the Liberals on this matter while blogging on the election. I offer Mr. Goodale my modest apology. Stephen Harper should have the decency to apologize and to pull the ad now playing in Quebec.


Harper wants more law-and-order judges

PM Harper today admitted that he wants more law-and-order judges. That is why he is stacking the judicial appointee committes with Tory partisans. This is the guy who promised to clean up government.Imagine the right-wing agenda he would impose if Canadians fooolishly gave him a majority!


Patronage Thrives under Conservatives

Patronage is alive and well under the Harper Conservatives. Just a couple of weeks ago the Conservatives appointed former NL Finance Minister Loyola Sullivan as Ambassador of Fisheries Conservation, a position vacant since the mid-90s and formerly filled by foreign affairs officials with knowledge of fisheries matters.

The Globe and Mail> reports that the Conservative government has loaded the committees that determine who can become a judge, selecting a series of Tories including former politicians, aides to ministers, riding association officials and defeated candidates. Half -- at least 16 out of 33 -- of the people chosen by the federal justice minister as his nominees are conservative partisans.

This stinks to high heaven. The Cons intend to pack the courts with right-wing ideologues! And to think I voted for this bunch last January because they promised change. Fool me once, shame on you! Fool me twice, shame on me! Bring on the election soon, please.


Exxon's obscene profits

Exxon,the world's largest publicly owned oil company, announced the largest corporate profit ever, a near $40-billion (U.S.) windfall in 2006.This has sparked an angry backlash, since the announcement was made on the eve of the IPCC report blaming the use of fossil fuels for wreaking devastation on the planet.

Apparently Exxon has been using some of those obscene profits to fund initiatives to create skepticism about the impact of climate change and opposition to policies that would reduce the use of gasoline and other oil products.

Good corporate citizen,eh?


Tory ads show fear of Dion

The cat is out of the bag. The Conservative party intends to run TV attack ads against new Liberal leader Stephane Dion and will reveal tomorrow several ads attacking Dion's environmental credentials. Environment Minister John Baird, the crackie from Ottawa/Nepean, has been quoted as saying Dion didn't get it done in 10 years, referring to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Last I heard Dion was environment minister for only 18 months and was widely praised by environmentalists, especially for his leadership at the UN Climate Change summit in Montreal in December 2005.

Which leads to the question: why are the Tories running negative attack ads this early? Could it be that they are running scared of Dion's environmental credentials and reputation for personal integrity? Stalled in the polls, having made no gains in a year, do they think that the only way to maintain a minority is to try to tar and feather Dion? The last time the Tories tried that under Kim Campbell by smearing Chretien, they set the stage for Chretien's three successsive victories.