Saturday, April 30, 2011

And I Thought I Had Written My Last Blog Entry Before The Election ....

It seems I was wrong. Once more, the disdain Harper has consistently shown for Canadian democratic traditions and norms is made manifest. Click here to read the story and watch the video that demonstrates the on-going threat he and his ilk pose.

Friday, April 29, 2011

A Few Thoughts Going Into The Last Weekend Before The Election

While it would be presumptuous to try to predict the outcome of Monday's vote, I am heartened by what I perceive to be an awakening of the Canadian electorate. If political polls and advance voting numbers are any indication, we are demonstrating, counter to the much-discussed assertions of voter apathy, that we are listening and following this campaign like few in recent memory.

I have been convinced for some time now that if we are ever to rid ourselves of the scourge of political arrogance that has characterized our elected representatives for far too long, we have to begin by showing that we do care about our country. And the best way to do that is by turning out in huge numbers on election day. To abstain from voting is to tell our Members of Parliament to do what they will and that like sheep, we will be led wherever their whims and self-interest take us.

But I think we will prove far less docile than our leaders would like us to be, their platitudes about the importance of political engagement notwithstanding. If I am right, I think there will be a number of factors accounting for the change, including the following:

The turmoil in the Middle East, starting with Egypt's indefatigable protests that led to the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, can have left few unaffected. The resolve, the passion, and the courage of so many people willing to risk everything, even their lives, for a principle that we have so frequently taken for granted or openly disdained, has left an indelible mark upon our collective psyche. And of course, those gyrations continue to this day in Bahrain, Yemen, Syria and Libya.

Rick Mercer's rant to young people, so amply and effectively disseminated through social media, is undoubtedly responsible for the rise of voter flash mobs on university campuses throughout the country. The energy, enthusiasm and passion so evident in the mob videos, I think and hope, will result in significant youth turnout at the ballot box which, in turn, will contribute to establishing a lifelong voting habit.

Then there is the dreary and relentless campaign of negativity that has characterized the Harper Conservative regime's bid for reelection. What does a strategy based upon the cultivation of fear, anger, suspicion and even hatred, along with the party's well-documented anti-democratic behaviour, tell the voter? It tells me that it is a party without vision, a party lacking the capacity to help Canada realize its great potential, a party that spurns logic and reason in favour of a demagogic manipulation of the people it purports to want to represent. In other words, a party unfit to govern.

And so as the campaign winds down and we move quickly toward May 2, I join with all others of goodwill and hope as I reflect upon the possibilities for the country that I love.

Peter Russell Warns All Of Us About The Dangers Of A Harper Majority

Despite the fawning endorsement of the Harper regime by Canada's self-proclaimed 'newspaper of record,' The Globe and Mail, others are able to rise above political partisanship to articulate how dangerous a Conservative majority government would be. One such person is constitutional expert Peter Russell who, in this 3-minute video, issues a timely warning:

Thursday, April 28, 2011

No Surprises Here: The Globe Endorses Harper

As if to once more remind people of how hollow its claim to being Canada's national newspaper is, the Globe and Mail has offered an endorsement of Stephen Harper. Its reasons for recommending that the electorate (or at least that portion lacking critical thinking skills) give yet another mandate to Harper and his regime would be laughable were the stakes not so high, and once more amply demonstrate the journal's increasing irrelevance to the Canadian political discussion.

I am reproducing a small portion of its rallying cry for the Conservatives to illustrate. The bolded portions are my own:

Only Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party have shown the leadership, the bullheadedness (let's call it what it is) and the discipline this country needs. He has built the Conservatives into arguably the only truly national party, and during his five years in office has demonstrated strength of character, resolve and a desire to reform. Canadians take Mr. Harper's successful stewardship of the economy for granted, which is high praise. He has not been the scary character portrayed by the opposition; with some exceptions, his government has been moderate and pragmatic.

It is because of this kind of fatuous thinking that I have not spent a day regretting my decision late last year to cancel my subscription to the once venerable paper.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Laurie Hawn, Magical Thinking, and George Orwell

As I had predicted in an earlier blog entry, propagandist and cognitive prestidigitator extraordinaire Laurie Hawn, employing a tactic worthy of George Orwell's 1984 and its government's constant rewriting of history ($75 million? You just think I said $75 million!) has changed his narrative on the cost of the F-35 jets. For months on end, despite all evidence to the contrary, the ever-cantankerous and always-contemptuous Parliamentary Secretary to Defence Minister Peter MacKay has disdained the many credible reports that the jets will cost anywhere from $120 to over $200 million apiece, consistently claiming that $75 million was a solid and reliable figure.

In his latest appearance on Power and Politics, shown yesterday, Hawn insisted that he hasn't used that number for over a month, and that he has said all along that $9 billion for the entire program cost is the important number, and that that figure contains contingencies for any price overruns.

Apparently Hawn has not heard of the Internet or CBC podcasts of past Power and Politics shows, where his words reveal him to be a prevaricator of gargantuan proportions.

And ultimately, isn't it this seemingly endless capacity of the Harper Government and its adherents to mislead and lie to the people that renders them manifestly unfit for governance?

But don't take my word about Hawn. Check out these links to evaluate his veracity and credibility:

March 29 Power and Politics

April 5 Power and Politics

MP Laurie Hawn on the F-35

F-35 cost details will come, MP says

Engines included in F-35 deal, officials insist

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Harper and the Supreme Court

I sometimes think that those of us who write blogs, being the passionate political followers that we are, read more into things than are really there, especially when it comes to alleging biases in the media. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Nonetheless, as the saying goes, even paranoid people really do have enemies.

I was thinking about this last night as I watched a segment of the 8:00 p.m. Power Play in which Patrick Monaghan, Osgoode Hall's former dean, held forth on what might happen to the composition of Canada's Supreme Court should Harper win a majority this election. From the first question posed by the reporter, I had the feeling this was a pro-Tory piece leading to the inevitable conclusion that there is nothing to fear in such a scenario.

Given the right-wing proclivities of Harper and his acolytes, being told, “Nothing to see here. Move along,” did not seem credible. Monaghan, for example, attempted to allay fears by pointing out that Harper's two appointments to the Supreme Court thus far were good and restrained choices, totally ignoring the political reality that for the Prime Minister to have made controversial choices whilst leading a minority government would have given considerable ammunition to those who fear the restrictive and state-directed nature of the social conservatives who wield considerable influence in the Conservative Party. Why would anyone think that the kind of incrementalism that has characterized Harper's legislative agenda thus far be any different when it comes to judicial appointments? Wouldn't it be logical for him to wait until he has complete power before pulling back the curtain?

Everything I know about the Conservative philosophy under Harper suggests we should all be very afraid of what will happen if this man rises above minority government status.

You can watch the six-minute interview here.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Potential Power of The Youth Vote

That was the topic of an article in yesterday's Star, entitled, What if every youth actually voted? One of the salutary effects, the article speculates, would be the trouncing of Vaughan riding's Julian Fantino, whose ascension to various top positions over the years has always been a profound mystery to me.

Please send the story link to all of the young people you know.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Monsters are Due on Parliament Hill

On this Easter Sunday, I'm feeling in a nostalgic frame of mind, no doubt inspired by the shifting array of attack ads given the surge in popularity of the NDP. Thanks to the last two years of Conservative ads attacking Michael Ignatieff, we have become so conditioned to seeing him as the enemy, the sheep in wolf's clothing, the fifth colonist, if you will, that it is somewhat jarring to learn that we've been wrong all along.

Now, it turns out, according to the latest word from Stephen Harper, Jack Layton is the true threat to all things that we hold dear:

Perhaps it was this ad that got me thinking about The Twilight Zone, a favourite of mine when I was a young lad. One of its most memorable episodes was entitled, “The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street,” perhaps the finest exploration of mob psychology ever presented in popular entertainment.

Without giving away the entire story, I will say that it revolves around the aftermath of an apparent meteorite flying over Maple Street, an ordinary suburban neighbourhood, on a mild and relaxed Saturday afternoon. Soon, the people find themselves without electrical or automotive power, and the situation quickly degenerates into suspicions and accusations that someone in their midst is responsible for the power loss, and may not be who he seems to be. The ensuing confusion and mayhem, seen in the last third of the episode, represents the kind of mentality I suspect is at the heart of such attack ads.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Voting Video From McMaster Students

I quite enjoyed the energy and enthusiasm these young people bring to the video as they extol the value of voting in this election.

Banishing The Dark Spirits

By attending the advance poll, we did our part yesterday in what one hopes will be the beginning of a collective exorcism to banish the dark spirit of Stephen Harper and his acolytes from the political landscape.

By media reports I have read, turnout was strong, with some lineups lasting well over an hour. We voted in the late afternoon, completing the process in under 10 minutes, but were told that earlier in the day the lineups were out the door.

This early sign perhaps suggests that people are not so willing to accept the dark prince's contention that this is an unnecessary election.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Harper and the Supreme Court

There is a thoughtful and balanced online piece today by Adam Radwanski on how the composition of the Supreme Court could be affected by a Harper majority.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

I Think I've Reached My Saturation Point

The following is a comment I left yesterday on Sue's Blog in response to a post she made about Evan Solomon's Power and Politics and the media obsession with coalition talk. It pretty much sums up my frustration about media coverage of this issue and, in some ways, the entire election campaign:

While I generally like Power and Politics, I tuned in [yesterday] and quickly tuned out when I saw the coalition topic being pursued. I have just about reached the breaking point in my patience with the kind of 'gotcha' journalism that has become the norm today, a journalism much in evidence during Peter Mansbridge's interview with Ignatieff when the coalition issue was raised.

My own theory, based on that interview [....] is that Mansbridge and others at the CBC are so fearful of the Conservatives and what they plan to do with the Corporation that they have become toadies for the Prime Minister in the misbegotten hope that somehow they will be spared the inevitable cuts that will ultimately lead to its demise.

Consequently, since I already know how I will vote, I am beginning to withdraw from the almost obsessive viewing of things pertaining to the election. The media, it seems to me, are aiding and abetting the Harper regime's agenda by playing upon and compounding the ignorance and credulity of my fellow Canadians. If that sounds a bit harsh and arrogant, I [am afraid that I] cannot offer any apologies.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Great Anti-Harper Video

For those interested in what Stephen harper has done to set back issues important to all of us, but especially to women, give this about a minute of your time:

The Philosophical Foundation of My Aversion To Stephen Harper And His Government

While conventional wisdom dictates that blog posts should be short and pithy, I am going to challenge it by posting something in excess of 700 words as I outline why I think Stephen Harper and his dark politics are injurious to the Canadian psyche. Although many of my comments can equally apply to politicians of other stripes, it is essentially the philosophical foundation for my aversion to the Prime Minister; I hope you will stay with me.

What does contemporary government leadership have in common with one of Shakespeare's greatest plays, Hamlet, whose chief villain, yielding to his lust for power, kills his brother in order to seize the throne of Denmark? Quite a bit, as it turns out.

To appreciate its relevance, we have to understand that Shakespeare's contemporaries saw an order to the universe they called “The Great Chain of Being” in which each realm, be it divine, human, animal, or mineral, had a hierarchy. (Remnants of that notion remain today as we, for example, refer to the lion as the ‘king' of the jungle; reason has priority over emotion, the eagle is considered the head of the avian world, etc.) In human affairs, the King was regarded as God’s representative in human society and so was responsible for the spiritual and material well-being of the people. If the King was good, the nation prospered; if bad, the country suffered.

Because Hamlet deals with a ruler, Claudius, who achieves his royal ambitions through murder, he is deemed to have violated the natural order and is therefore not God's rightful representative. As the story unfolds, this usurper is responsible for a moral corruption that affects many, thereby seriously undermining the spiritual health of Denmark. Characters lose their better natures, surrendering to betrayal, suspicion, hatred, and vengeance in place of fidelity, trust, love and forgiveness.

So how is this tale of moral decay and destruction relevant to us? Can it help to explain some of the political and moral dysfunction plaguing Western society today? Well, even though we no longer see political power as coming from above, i.e., from God, but rather from below, i.e., the people, (at least in a democracy), it is difficult to accept the notion that government is merely a reflection of the people, that we only get the representation we deserve through the electoral process. In truth, how many of us purposely vote to install people defined by ineptitude, dishonesty, corruption, contempt, and cronyism? Yet these elements characterize so many governments today, including our own.

I submit that the aspect of the Great Chain of Being so pertinent today is the infectiously destructive nature of bad leadership. By this I mean much more than the obvious consequences of being led by those unfit to govern: abuses of basic freedoms, manipulation of truth, withholding of information to which we are entitled, abrogation of due process, catering to special interests, etc. Much more insidious, and something Shakespeare clearly demonstrates in Hamlet, is the toll exacted upon the nation’s spiritual health or character. Indeed, that play's central metaphor is an unseen yet highly contagious and destructive disease.

I believe it to be an apt metaphor for our times.If we consider, for example, the widespread cynicism and disengagement gripping people today, we are witnessing the effects of bad leadership. When people are manipulated by the politics of fear, division, suspicion and exclusion, they become victims of diseased leadership. When people refuse to vote because they don’t feel it will make any difference, when they ascribe self-interest and greed as the main motivations of people seeking elected office, when they evince little or no surprise at the flouting of constitutional laws by their elected representatives, they not only have fallen prey to a spiritual or moral malaise, they are in fact facilitating its spread, something I suspect our political leadership is not in the least bit concerned about; after all, the more disengagement and disaffection there is amongst the voters, the easier it is for politicians to continue on their self-aggrandizing and pernicious paths.

So is there a solution, a cure for this disease? How does a nation recover its soul? Democracy being a messy process, there is no simple answer, but I sincerely believe that the search for one must begin with as many people as possible turning out on Election Day. At a time when people in other parts of the world are willing to fight and die for democracy, that seems like little enough to ask of citizens. And it may ultimately help restore health to the body politic.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Two Letters from Prominent Canadians

Two letters from prominent Canadians, one from novelist Nino Ricci to Stephen Harper, and one from Patricia Pearson, granddaughter of Lester B. Pearson, to Olivia Chow, are well worth reading today.

A Young Voter Speaks To Her Peers

Bravo to this young lady who articulates some of the dangers posed by the Harper regime:

Monday, April 18, 2011

Project Democracy and Strategic Voting

While I know that the concept of strategic voting is anathema to some party purists, I think it is something that needs to be given very serious consideration this election, given the recent polling results. Project Democracy is an interesting site that allows people to put in their postal code to see who has the best chance of defeating the Tory candidate in their riding. Check it out.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Social media and Political Activism

There is a good article in today's Star entitled The revolution will be digitalized that looks at the role social media may play in political engagement and mobilization. It contains some links worth checking out as well.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Thoughts On The Shunning Of Helena Guergis

Wikipedia offers the following definition of 'shunning': Shunning is the act of social rejection, the deliberate avoiding association with, and habitually keeping away from, an individual or group. It is a sanction against association, often associated with religious groups and other tightly knit organizations and communities. Targets of shunning can include, but are not limited to, apostates, whistleblowers, dissidents, people classified as "sinners" or "traitors" and other people who defy or who fail to comply with the standards established by the shunning group(s).

I couldn't help but think of the term, and the parts of the definition, (i.e., most parts) that would be applicable to fallen former Conservative cabinet and caucus member Helena Guergis, as she was being interviewed yesterday on Evan Solomon's Power and Politics.

Having discussed her in an earlier blog entry, I will repeat that I have never been especially fond of either her politics or her performance as a cabinet member, but I have to agree with some of her objections over how she was treated by Mr. Harper after unsavoury allegations arouse about her and her husband, allegations that were eventually deemed to be without foundation after an RCMP investigation. Nonetheless, at the first hint of scandal, she was removed both from her Cabinet post, something I can understand happening under the original circumstances, and from the Conservative caucus, something that I can't agree with, essentially rendering her a pariah, a persona non grata to the Party. She was effectively shunned.

In addition to the fact that Guergis seems to have been held to a different standard by Mr. Harper than others (think of Bev Oda, Maxime Bernier and Bruce Carson), the fact that she was expunged from the Party without any due process says much about the Harper style of governance, so thoroughly explored in Lawrence Martin's Harperland as well as in many online and mainstream media publications. It is a style that brooks no deviation, no independence, and requires absolute fealty to the leader. In other words, it is essentially one-man rule, although we have more unflattering ways of describing such governance when it occurs in the Middle East, Africa, and South America.

And that is why, despite the dismissal by some pundits that what happened to Guergis is only part and parcel of the rough game we call politics, I think her treatment is both newsworthy and should be considered by voters as yet another reason they should give serious pause before so blithely casting their ballots in favour of the Conservatives on May 2.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Student Voting at Guelph, and A CBC Appeal

Hot on the heels of news suggesting that more young people are making efforts to get politically involved in this election is the disturbing action by the Harper operatives to get a special ballot overturned at the University of Guelph in which 700 students voted. The people at are fighting back with an online petition demanding that the Conservative regime drop its challenge and let the vote stand. You can sign the petition here.

On a related note, Friends of CBC is offering a handy guide and downloadable campaign signs for those concerned with the political threats to the funding of the Corporation. Click here for that information.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Are Young People Becoming More Engaged In The Political Process?

A story in today's Globe suggests they are, in part thanks to a Rick Mercer rant from the end of March. While I have written previously about why I think it is crucial to increase voter turnout over that of the 2008 election to have any chance of defeating the Harper agenda, perhaps Mercer says it best in this video:

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

More Harper Pork, This Time In Vaughan

Conservatives quit over Vaughan health-care money So reads the headline on the CBC website reporting that more federal pork is being doled out, this time in the riding of Vaughan, currently held by Julian Fantino who captured it in a byelection last year. Outraged over the fact that two of Fantino's key backers, developer Michael DeGasperis and construction insurance man Sam Ciccolini, will benefit from a $10 million grant to an organization of which they are chair and director respectively, two prominent Conservatives have quit their riding association.

The two dissenting Conservatives, Richard Lorello, the local Conservative candidate in 2008, and riding association member Tracey Kent feel that it is wholly inappropriate that the money was awarded to a private group, Vaughan Health Campus of Care (VHCC); both regard it as a reward to both DeGasperis and Ciccolini for their help as fundraising co-chairs in Fantino's victory last November.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

the Newest Liberal Online Ad

Sometimes you have to really love the Internet. Witness this new Liberal online ad, a response to the Harper government's misspending of G8 money:

Why Is The Story Of G8 Unethical Spending Important?

In normal circumstances, I suspect the story of the Harper government's dissolute and dishonest spending on G8 pork in contravention of its stated Parliamentary purpose to alleviate border congestion would not have 'legs', as they say in journalism. However, as critical thinkers who follow politics know, this dishonesty is symptomatic of a much larger problem that has defined the Conservatives since they assumed office.

Much has already been written about their contempt for democracy, their abuse and disrespect for Parliament, their disdain for MPs who are not part of the fold, etc., so there is no reason for repetition here. But I think this latest indicator of the amorality of those who have the hypocrisy to say they serve the people of Canada is a timely reminder of what is at stake in this election.

Although I do not believe it is generally useful or productive to reduce issues to absolutes, I think that absolutes are precisely what we have to consider before we cast our ballot: Do we want a government that at least has a semblance of concern for the well-being of Canada, both the nation and the people that comprise that nation? If we do, I don't see how we could vote for the Harper Conservatives.

However, if we want a government that is contemptuous of traditional Canadian values, that has a vision of a Canada comprised solely of rugged individuals whose chief concern is personal freedom, a government in which 'quaint' virtues such as honesty, compassion and integrity don't matter and whose pursuit of power is its highest value, then, of course, we will vote Conservative.

I don't especially like what I have just written, but the polarizing nature of Harper, his minions, and his tactics have taken me to a dark place in my thoughts, a place I hoped I had abandoned a long time ago. I honestly believe that the health of the Canadian psyche is at stake here, perhaps the most compelling reason to vote with an eye toward good principled government, or at least the honest pursuit of one.

Some Useful Tuesday Links

The CBC website has some useful links revolving around the G8 controversy and the upcoming debate.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Romance is Over, Stephen

In this video, women discuss why they can no longer continue their relationship with Mr. Harper.

More Harper Government Lies and Misdirection

While this is hardly news, the CBC reports more lies and misdirection from the Harper regime.

He Who Controls The Media Controls The Truth

Were this April 1st, I would have dismissed the following story as simply a prank, a kind of satire on the anti-democratic propensities of the Harper government which, as all of us who follow politics know, runs 'a closed shop' administration. Numerous posts and stories have reminded us of the multitude of measures practised by the regime demonstrating its antipathy towards anything resembling an open exchange of ideas, choosing instead to 'manage the message' through fear, anger, innuendo, and character assassination. In other words, for those who pay attention to such things, the Harper regime's contempt for democracy has been breathtakingly transparent.

Imagine how much more power to control, manipulate, and frighten that these goose-steppers will have if they realize their dream of media control that is being reported by the CBC in an article entitled: Harper to create government-run media centre: report

As they used to say, read all about it here.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

John Ibbitson on Voter Suppression

John Ibbitson has an interesting online article entitled 'Voter suppression' the Canadian way. I have long-suspected that the Conservatives, with their extensive record of contempt for democracy, are using this election campaign to both appeal to their base and to discourage non-supporters from voting, thereby giving a minority the ability to help determine the future shape of our country.

Harper's efforts at fear-mongering, his sowing of suspicion and anger, his relentlessly negative ads may indeed serve the goal of voter suppression.

Take a look at the article and see what you think.

Friday, April 8, 2011

But Can You Convince Laurie Hawn?

I have to confess that in some ways I envy the Conservative mindset. For its adherents, life is satisfying because it is so uncomplicated, all issues are black and white, and they never allow facts to get in the way of a good narrative or otherwise ruin their day.

One of the greatest practitioners of this singular and simple-minded approach to life, dominated as it is by magical thinking, is Laurie Hawn, Parliamentary Secretary to Defense Minister Peter McKay.

I have written previously about Hawn's adamantine insistence that the 65 F-35 fighter jets will be purchased by the Harper overnment for $75 million each, despite irrefutable evidence to the contrary. While I doubt that his religious zeal for that figure can be shaken, there is a compelling story in today's Star offering even more evidence that the jets will cost much much more, and once more leads the rational thinker to question the wisdom of committing to the purchase of craft whose technology is unproven and still undergoing development and revision. I hope you will take a look at it, but don't be expecting any 'road to Damascus' moment for the aforementioned Hawn.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Thomas Walkom on Harper's Paranoia

By using Stephen Harper's past public pronouncements, Thomas Walkom in today's Star illustrates the threat the Conservative leader poses to the traditional Canadian values of openness and tolerance. Entitled The Reasons for Harper's paranoia, it is a column well-worth reading.

Lawrence Martin On The Dire State of Democracy Under The Harper Regime

Writing at, Lawrence Martin, author of Harperland, (a revealing look at the Prime Minister and his contempt for just about everyone outside his narrow clique), does us all a service in his article, By the way prime minister, this is not a police state, reminding us of some of Harper's more egregious and flagrant violations of democratic norms over the past few years. Given that there have been so many instances of these abuses since the Harper regime took power, I am grateful for the brief refresher course Martin offers here.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

RCMP Admits It has Acted Improperly

In a breaking story, the RCMP has admitted to acting beyond its mandate at Conservative political rallies. However, it is only a partial admission, as the statement says:

"The RCMP assisted the party organizers in restricting access to persons not registered for the private event," Sgt. Greg Cox said in the statement.

"This was not in accordance with the RCMP's mandate, and RCMP members have been reminded of our responsibilities."

What is left unaddressed is the role they seem to be playing in the removal of registered rally attendees, as occurred on Sunday at a Conservative event in London.

F-35 Controversy – Did Conservative Laurie Hawn Admit To Much Higher Jet Fighter Costs?

I think I have begun to discern the actual truth behind the Harper government's claims about fighter jet costs.

Previously I have written about the confusion surrounding the Conservatives' assertions that they will be buying 65 F-35 jets starting in 2016 for $75 million dollars each. Appearing on Evan Solomon's Power and Politics over a week ago, Laurie Hawn, Parliamentary Secretary to Defense Minister Peter McKay, tenaciously clung to that figure, despite compelling evidence from both the Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page and the General Accountability Office of the United States that such a low figures bears no resemblance to any reality with which they are acquainted.

Last night, Evan Solomon interviewed U.S defence analyst Winslow Wheeler, who asserted that the true cost per plane is likely to be $150-200 million, and that for $75 million you would not be able to get a jet complete with some key components, such as an engine and a weapons system. When that interview ended, Solomon once more questioned Hawn on his government's continued cost assertions; again Hawn maintained that his $75 million figure is correct. However, two things he said make me think otherwise.

In his previous defence of that figure, he mentioned two or three times that the figure that is really important is the $9 billion for the entire program. He repeated that figure last night several times, saying that it includes the total cost: the F-35s plus all related infrastructure, including flight simulators, etc.

Hawn's bombshell, however, and one that Evan Solomon unfortunately did not pick up on, came when he revealed that the $9 billion contains substantial 'contingency funds,' and it was at this point I realized the Conservatives, in the face of irrefutable evidence that the $75 million figure is sheer fantasy, are trying to change the narrative.

Had Solomon asked for details about the contingency funds within the $9 billion set aside for the program, I suspect that it would have emerged that much of that fund is to cover the much higher costs for the jets that everyone else has been alleging.

By repeating several times that the $9 billion cost of the entire program is 'the important number,' I suspect Hawn and his political masters are anticipating a future narrative; if the press keeps asking questions, the Conservatives will try to rewrite the history of what they have said, and focus instead on that $9 billion as the figure that covers all of their costs, something they will say they have been consistent about. It will be their hope that their misrepresentations about relatively inexpensive jets at $75 million a pop will simply fade away.

If you have time, take a look at the above links to the interviews to see if I might be right.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Harper Campaign Misuses RCMP

I am sickened by a story I just read on the CBC website entitled Ignatieff slams Harper over Facebook screening. While I had already heard about two young ladies being removed from a Conservative rally in London because a Facebook page showed them posing with Ignatieff, I was unaware of some of the more sinister details, details that potential voters both young and old should take note of.

While the ejection of two young and new voters is deplorable enough, it seems the real story here is the fact that the RCMP was acting in a political capacity by removing them at the Conservatives' behest. Here are some pertinent excerpts from the story:

Awish Aslam, a second-year political science student at the University of Western Ontario, told CBC News she and a friend were trying to attend a Sunday rally with Harper when they were asked to leave by a RCMP officer.

Aslam said they were led to the lobby where the officer told them they were no longer welcome because they had ties to the Liberal party. Aslam said the only explanation was her Facebook profile photo showing her posing for a picture with Ignatieff at a recent Liberal rally in London.

After being told by the RCMP they were no longer welcome at the Harper event, Aslam said she told the officer they had no intention of causing trouble.

"We said, 'We don't want to trouble.' We told him that we just wanted to get informed," Aslam said.

"We told him we were not there to cause the trouble."

Aslam said she has a photo of her and a friend posing with Ignatieff from an earlier campaign event with the Liberal leader.

The university student said she has clicked "Like" on the Facebook pages of each of the three party leaders, so she said she can't figure out why she was excluded.

"First, I was really discouraged. People are always talking about how they want youth to vote and we are disengaged but when we want to go and get informed, this happens," Aslam said.

Since neither girl posed a security, it is entirely inappropriate and perhaps illegal that our national police force acted in this clearly partisan manner.

Speaking Out About Media Narratives That Try To Influence Election Outcomes

Much recent discussion has revolved around the media narratives being spun during this election campaign. Among the more popular stories advanced thus far are that this is an unnecessary election, that people are not interested in or concerned about the supposedly arcane issue of Parliamentary democracy, that the vote of non-confidence was only a political tactic by the opposition, that Harper's draconian restrictions on reporters' questions are of concern only to reporters, that voters only care about 'real issues', etc. etc. ad nauseam.

Ever the contrarian and, I hope, critical thinker, I find myself pondering television journalist Tom Clark's comment the other day on a C-PAC phone-in program when he expressed frustration with having politicians tell us what issues are important to us. It must be said, however, that such political arrogance is in fact frequently aided and abetted by media that willingly, even enthusiastically, promote and thus heavily influence public thinking.

Because it is relevant to the issue, I am providing a link to a letter I had published in Saturday's edition of The Hamilton Spectator. Although up to this point I have made a practice of keeping my blog postings separate from other writing I do periodically, I am making an exception here, not to promote myself, but rather to underscore my point about media attempts to influence the public.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Another Monday Link: Orwell's Bastard's Discussion With Sheenagh McMahon

Orwell's Bastard has a very interesting email exchange on his blog with Sheenagh McMahon, the brave lady who confronted John Baird with some very pointed questions.

Some Useful Monday Morning Political Links

I am starting off the week with a few links to the Toronto Star. Today's editorial, entitled The Conservative record: Sharing Credit on the economy, offers a balanced assessment of the Harper government's record on the economy, including the truth behind the 'fiscal discipline' myth that is being touted by Mr. Harper.

An exciting addition for the rest of the campaign is Youth Nation 2011, a daily weekday online feature in which political candidates under 30 address issues that matter to young Canadians in the hope of engaging them in the electoral process, the same goal I am trying to achieve with my modest Facebook political engagement page.

In today's edition, three young candidates, one from the Liberal Party, one from the NDP, and one from the Green Party, address some important issues.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A Quick Post About Michael Ignatieff

I will be the first to admit that I have been critical in the past of both Michael Ignatieff and the Liberal Party. However, I cannot help but be impressed by the way he is thus far conducting his campaign; his wit, grace and openness to all questions in free-flowing forums can't help but stand in positive contrast to the tightly controlled and fear-based one being run by Harper and his operatives. I am also glad that Ignatieff is framing some his campaign around the issue of democracy, something about which the pundits tell us we don't care but which I suspect many feel very passionate about.

Today's Toronto Star has a positive profile of the Liberal leader, one which I am certain will provoke the usual howls of outrage from the right about "liberal media bias." I hope you will check it out.

Harper and Media Control

I have to confess to being deeply disturbed by the implications of sixth estate's post yesterday, suggesting that political interference is resulting in the removal of digital news reports critical of Harper on the campaign trail. If the pattern suggested by the site continues, it becomes even more incumbent upon us to get this message out to as many people as possible, through our blogs, tweets, emails and whatever contacts we may have with local independent media.

Closely related to this concern is another pattern that I have noticed on television recently during political discussion on the CBC, CTV and C-PAC. The common theme emerging from the chatter of pundits is that Harper's tight control and relative inaccessibility to the press is nothing unusual, really only of interest to the reporters themselves whose noses are somewhat 'out of joint' over being put on halters.

I had a little spare time on Friday during which I caught part of a phone-in show on C-PAC, which had journalists Tom Clark and John Ibbitson as guests. The latter offered the opinion that Harper's keeping the press at arm's length is common practice for frontrunners in any election, as that reduces the possibility of unscripted events that could undermine the carefully crafted image Harper is trying to cultivate. Ibbitson said that this is very similar to past campaign tactics employed by Brian Mulroney and Chretien, and that during the presidential campaign, Barack Obama didn't have too many press conferences. In other words, the message the pundits are conveying is, “Nothing to see here. Move along."

From my perspective, the comparison to past practices doesn't hold for one simple reason. Unlike Harper and his operatives, the aforementioned politicos, while hardly saints, did not head governments whose central tenets are absolute control, secrecy, and contempt for the democratic process. The fact that those tenets are the tactical foundation of Harper's campaign for the trust of the Canadian electorate makes it vital to report at every opportunity.

Providing the public with such insight, well-known to those who follow politics, is a duty in a society that supposedly promotes the free and open exchange of information and ideas. To conceal or minimize such facts is a grave disservice to both to democracy in general and to the electorate in particular.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Rick Salutin's Thoughts on Democracy

I am so glad that Rick Salutin has found a home at The Star after having written for many years at The Globe and Mail. As I mentioned in an earlier post, his writing always offers a unique perspective on issues, and he rarely disappoints.

In yesterday's column, he addresses some of the shortcomings of our democracy, yet concludes it is one still worth participating in. I encourage everyone to take a look.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Star Finally Exposes The Truth About Harper's Press Restrictions

What follows is a copy of today's headline story in The Star. I was unable to find it online after reading it in my home delivery, so I cannot provide the link. Therefore I am taking the liberty of reproducing the entire story.

While Andrew Coyne expresses outrage in a Twitter message that this is headline news, I think it is far overdue that the general public learn of the methods the Harper camp is using to control the P.M.'s image. Although this has been well-known since the start of the campaign by bloggers and users of Twitter, newspapers with wide circulation have not reported it until now, as far as I know. Significantly, there is no mention of the story in our so-called national newspaper, The Globe and Mail.

Tensions rise as Conservative leader imposes daily cap on queries from reporters at campaign events
HALIFAX— The cost to travel with Stephen Harper’s campaign? $10,100 a week.

The number of questions Harper takes each day? Five.

Looking like an over-controlling politician? Priceless.

The bright yellow fence that kept reporters penned in far from the Conservative leader Thursday during a campaign event here was an apt metaphor for his first week dealing with the media — controlling and restrictive.

Now Harper is facing questions about his questions. Namely, why he isn’t willing to take more. And he’s refusing to answer. Harper takes only five questions from the media each day — four from the reporters on his tour and one from a local reporter. His political rivals place few restrictions on how many questions they take.

That’s produced tension between the Conservative leader and the journalists following his campaign tour as it criss-crosses the country.

Harper has settled into a routine in his first week — a morning announcement, followed by a media availability. Journalists on the campaign tour get four questions — usually two in English and two in French — and a local reporter is given the chance to lob a question at the Conservative leader, as well. But the situation boiled over Thursday when Harper was asked — using one of the five questions — why he refused to take more than a handful of questions from reporters each day. Harper refused to answer, but when pressed, suggested he would be open to addressing any issues he hadn’t already discussed.
But he never explained his rationale for not fielding more questions.

“In terms of questions, is there any specific issue that I haven’t addressed that you want me to address?” Harper asked.

“If there’s another subject, I’ll answer,” the Conservative leader told journalists behind the fence, more than 10 metres away.

Later, Harper supporter David Cameron, who was at the event, came up to the journalists to express his frustration with their questions.

“You guys reporting the news or making it?” he asked.

Senator Michael MacDonald, a Harper appointee, tweeted: “Lovely day on Halifax waterfront for PM’s trade status. CBC reporters (Terry) Milewski and (Jennifer) Ditchburn were like attack dogs afterward — pathetic!”

In fact, Ditchburn works for The Canadian Press.

MacDonald later wrote that he withdrew the comment.

The New Democrats soon issued a news release noting that MacDonald — who was vice-president of the Conservative Party of Canada before Harper put him in the Senate in 2009 — earned $132,300 last year and rang up expenses totalling $257,142.

Harper spokesman Dimitri Soudas said later the Conservative leader has several media interviews with radio and television stations across the country this week.