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Decision Canada

April 26, 2011

Hopeful / Possible: A Social Democratic Federal Opposition

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:28 PM | Permalink | Decision Canada

April 22, 2011

A Vote For Michael Ignatieff Is A Vote For Natalie Portman

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 6:00 PM | Permalink | Decision Canada

April 20, 2011

Vote Anyone But Harper: Canadian Women's Favourite Pick-up Line

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 10:16 PM | Permalink | Decision Canada

April 15, 2011

Shit Harper Did: Why We Shouldn't Vote for the Conservatives

Click on the graphic above to read why you shouldn't vote for the Conservatives

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 7:24 AM | Permalink | Decision Canada

April 13, 2011

Vote! Harper Has Done Things That Shock and Offend Canadians

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 9:48 PM | Permalink | Decision Canada

April 11, 2011

No More Contempt, Deceit and Waste From Ottawa: Ditch Harper!

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 5:36 AM | Permalink | Decision Canada

April 8, 2011

Do You Want A Harper Government 3 To Ruin Canada's Economy?

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 4:16 PM | Permalink | Decision Canada

April 3, 2011

Counterpoint to the Meanness of Stephen Harper's Tories

With the NDP in Parliament to keep the Liberals honest, and hold them to the promises made in their Family Pack, the following is a response to Harper's Conservatives, for a more caring and compassionate Canada ...

star.jpg star.jpg star.jpg

Michael Ignatieff's / The Liberal Party platform

  • A Pan-Canadian Learning Strategy, including a $500-million fund that would rise to $1 billion within four years for early childhood learning, and funding for aboriginal education, workforce literacy, language training for New Canadians, and access to higher education and training to build the best-educated, most skilled workforce in the world

  • A Family Care Plan. $1 billion for family caregivers to enhance care for parents, grandparents and sick loved ones, to help reduce the pressure on hundreds of thousands of struggling Canadian families

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 2:26 PM | Permalink | Decision Canada

September 2, 2008

The Federal Tories: The Gang That Can't Think Straight


No matter how much money the federal Tories have in their coffers heading into the federal election — expected to be called on Sunday — no matter that, over the course of the next six weeks, they'll outspend the Liberals, the NDP and the Green parties combined, Stephen Harper's Conservative can't help themselves.

They just keep shooting themselves in the foot.

Writing in her column in the Toronto Star, Chantal Hebert says that ...

The recent Conservative cuts to arts and culture have done what neither the pursuit of the unpopular Afghan war nor the demise of the Kyoto Protocol had accomplished: wake up a sleeping Quebec giant that is now gathering strength for a show of force in the upcoming election campaign ...

On Tuesday, a 2,000-strong who's who of Quebec's art community gathered in Montreal to decry what has largely come across in the province's media as an ideologically driven federal disengagement from the front of culture.

In no other province in Canada would the citizens express the ire that Quebeckers do over funding cuts to the arts — thank God that there's one province in Canada that stands up for Canadian cultural identity.

The Conservatives probably feel that with a weak and inarticulate Stephane Dion leading the federal Liberal party, and a rudderless Bloc Quebecois, they'll romp to election victory on October 14th. Don't bet on it.

The Conservatives are so inept (not to mention, mean-spirited) that Harper won't be able to help himself from putting his foot in his mouth during the 37-day election period. The Conservative party will, VanRamblings predicts, do everything in their power to snatch defeat from the jaws victory.

Hopefully, after October 14th, there will be a responsible and responsive federal government in Ottawa that will be committed to ...

  • the creation of affordable housing
  • the development of a national transit strategy
  • the development of a national telecommunications strategy
  • restored funding of the arts, and a recommitment to the CBC
  • the implementation of national daycare
  • the re-establishment of the Canadian armed forces as peacekeepers
  • restoring the economy so that Canadian familes can be provided for

If the Conservatives are re-elected, they'll be committed to none of those initiatives. What an anti-Canadian government the Tories proved to be.

Come October 14th, it'll be time to throw the bums out. Good riddance.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 1:40 AM | Permalink | Politics

June 30, 2004

Stephen Harper: Picking Up The Marbles and Going Home?

This will be VanRamblings’ final posting on Decision Canada. In the coming days, the Decision Canada button above will transform to Canada, as VanRamblings will continue to comment on the Canadian political scene.

In the political realm, VanRamblings will return to, and increase, coverage of local Vancouver and Greater Vancouver Regional / Lower Mainland politics, as well as British Columbia politics leading up to the next provincial election on May 17, 2005. Otherwise, over the course of the summer, VanRamblings will refine our publishing schedule, introducing a weekly New On DVD feature this Thursday, while maintaining the Tech Tuesday feature and Saturday night’s Unbelievable Truth badinage feature.

Harper Raises Possibility Of Stepping Down

Down for the count?

Late last night, in a story published on Calgary’s CFCN CTV website, Conservative leader Stephen Harper suggested that he is considering the possibility of stepping aside, after leading his party through a disappointing election campaign. This follows on the heels of an earlier Globe and Mail story suggesting Harper was “mulling over” his future.

VanRamblings has felt for some time now — dating back two weeks just subsequent to the live television campaign debate — that Mr. Harper seemed ill at ease, out of sorts. We have wondered to ourselves as to whether the Tory leader wasn’t suffering from some sort of dissociative disorder, a pervasive sense of melancholy, impairing his ability to function.

In the first two weeks of the federal election campaign, Mr. Harper was voluble, aggressive (in the most positive sense), directed and seemed eager, always, to speak with the media, in order to communicate directly to Canadians. In the final two weeks of the election campaign, though, the Conservative leader appeared almost to be in hiding, was rarely available to the press, as he took days off at a time, staying almost hermetically sealed inside his political bubble and speaking only to groups of supporters.

All the hyperbole published on VanRamblings about Mr. Harper and the ‘new’ Conservative Party aside (we’re hardly unaware that the attacks on Mr. Harper and the Tories were often visceral), we have felt these past almost three weeks that Mr. Harper seemed to be in some sort of trouble psychologically and emotionally.

Gone were the ready smiles, replaced by bizarre attacks on the issue of child pornography directed at opposition leaders. Gone was the energy that defined not only the Conservative campaign, but the campaign itself, in its early weeks, replaced by the braggadocio talk of a Tory majority. With each misstep by a Tory social conservative, from Cheryl Gallant’s ravings on abortion to Randy White's musings on invocation of the Constitution’s notwithstanding clause, Mr. Harper seemed more and more deflated.

And now, Mr. Harper is pondering resignation from his post as Tory leader? Where has Mr. Harper’s fight gone? Is the Conservative leader honestly suggesting that he will not lead the opposition party in the 38th Parliament?

Commentary From Various Quarters

Perhaps the most incisive commentary VanRamblings read in the period just following the posting of election night results appeared in the Toronto Star, in Thomas Walkom’s column ...

Martin came to the prime minister’s office six months ago like the hero of a classic Greek tragedy. Successful, popular, powerful, he seemed blessed ... he was a man who talked of vision but lacked one, who lauded ideas but who, in the end, had none to offer. He was the classic emperor with no clothes. As finance minister he had been self-assured. But as PM, he was too often an empty vessel, echoing platitudes.

For 11 years and through three elections, the Liberals played a cruel hoax on this country. At election time, they campaigned to the left. They promised to right the wrongs inflicted by the Conservatives of Brian Mulroney. They vowed to protect social programmes from the depredations of Preston Manning’s Reform Party and Stockwell Day’s Canadian Alliance. And then, once elected, they stole the ideas of the parties they claimed to oppose and governed to the right. They were cunningly hypocritical. And finally, people caught on.

(As for Stephen) Harper, he is smart and serious. He does have ideas. But he's a radical in Canadian terms who would devolve power to the provinces and who would dismantle the protective state. While he tried to play that down during the election campaign, enough voters figured him out to deny his party power.

As for his new Conservatives, they are not new at all. Rather they are a hoary, old bunch — a coalition of convenience, dominated by hard-edged Republican clones and sprinkled with old-time Mulroney fat cats. Their economic ideas are pre-1914, their social ideas pre-Cambrian. Eventually, the voters figured out that, too.


Of course, there is more punditry and commentary. National Post columnist Colby Cosh (quickly becoming one of my favourite columnists) writes with wit, intelligence, humour, humanity and insight, and is well worth a read.

Andrew Spicer weighed in with a point form analysis. Ian Welsh and Kevin Brennan continue to wrap things up nicely at Tilting at Windmills, while Conservative apparatchik Norman Spector offers a series of readable links.

Don, at Revolutionary Moderation is certainly the most passionate commentator, as he tackles the reasons for the NDP’s poor showing (VanRamblings had earlier offered advice to both the NDP and the Liberals, on the issue of the urban vs suburban / rural split).

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 1:10 AM | Permalink | Decision Canada

June 29, 2004

Congratulations To All Canadians For A Job Well Done


Needless to say, VanRamblings is relatively pleased with the outcome of the federal election. Prime Minister Paul Martin received the rebuke he so richly deserved for the months of hubris that defined his short term in office. Conservative leader Stephen Harper received his comeuppance for so arrogantly predicting a majority Tory government (“gee, we don’t think so, Stevie”, the Canadian populace pointedly told him).

And a jubilant (RealPlayer required) Jack Layton won his seat in Toronto-Danforth, with an increased presence for the NDP in Canada’s soon-to-be 38th Parliament. As for the 58% of Canadians who told pollsters they wished to see a Liberal-NDP coalition, well, depending on the final results, you seem to have been granted your wish.

VanRamblings is pleased former Progressive Conservative Scott Brison gained Kings-Hants, in Nova Scotia, for the Liberals, and just as pleased that former Alliance MP, Dr. Keith Martin, took Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca for the Grits. We are also pleased that Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan has been declared elected in Edmonton Centre.

On the lamentable side of the election night ledger, VanRamblings finds it regrettable that former Winnipeg mayor and Charleswood-St. James Liberal candidate Glen Murray went down to defeat, as did Toronto City Councillor and NDP candidate Olivia Chow in Trinity-Spadina, while the NDP’s Ian Waddell lost out to Martin Dream Team candidate David Emerson in Vancouver Kingsway. That the NDP’s Lorne Nystrom lost Regina-Qu’Appelle to no-name Tory Andrew Scheer is just short of devastating.

As of this writing, the election results are still trickling in, and no doubt there’ll be a few recounts in the days to come. At 12:26 a.m. PDT the interim results are as you see in the graph at the top of the column. The Liberals and the NDP cannot, together, govern comfortably. The Liberals will require the support of the Bloc Québécois in order to pass the legislation Paul Martin (RealPlayer required) promised Canadians his government would introduce, including a national childcare and early learning programme.

Canadians have spoken. Most Canadians have decided that we want to preserve the Canada of our forefathers, a compassionate Canada, a Canada that is a peacekeeper on the world stage, and a Canada which represents the interests of all Canadians, from the poorest among us to those who are most comfortable. This is our Canada, strong, independent, brave and free.

Good work, Canadians.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:26 AM | Permalink | Decision Canada

June 28, 2004

Decision Canada: Election Day Is Finally Here ... GO VOTE !!!


Well, after 36 gruelling days and nights, Election Day has finally arrived.

VanRamblings will trundle on over to the Vancouver-Quadra polling station in the early part of the day to cast our ballot.

From 3 p.m. on, Vancouver time, we’ll be glued to our television set (at home or at our neighbours). Later tonight, VanRamblings will post a brief synopsis of the day’s events, and our initial feelings about the outcome.

And then election day, and election fever, will be over. Hallelujah!

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:53 AM | Permalink | Decision Canada

June 27, 2004

Campaign Final Day As Minority Government On The Horizon



With election day only hours away, Milton Chan and the folks at the Election Prediction Project are predicting a Liberal minority government, which in coalition with the New Democratic Party would leave the Liberals five seats short of a majority with which to conduct the parliamentary affairs of all Canadians.

Based on an EKOS poll conducted with 5,254 respondents, on behalf of the Toronto Star, EKOS’ seat projection model predicts the Liberals coming out slightly on top with 117 seats, with 109 seats for the Conservatives, 55 for the Bloc Québécois and 27 seats for the NDP, a whopping gain of 13 seats.


As you can see on the graph to your left, the Election Prediction Project calls for 121 seats for the Liberals, with 105 for the Conservatives, 29 for the New Democratic Party, 52 for the Bloc Québécois, one independent (that would be former Alliance MP Chuck Cadman, running in the B.C. riding of Surrey North), and a shutout for the Greens.

Province by province, the Election Prediction Project (EPP) predicts ...

  • British Columbia: 23 seats for the Conservatives, 7 for the NDP, and 5 for the Liberals. This result would see a gain of 5 for the NDP, 1 for the Liberals, and a loss of 2 for the Tories.

  • Alberta: Conservatives: 27; Liberals 1. David Kilgour keeps his Edmonton-Beaumont seat, while former PC leader Joe Clark’s support notwithstanding, Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan looks to be going down to defeat to Tory candidate Laurie Hawn in Edmonton Centre.

  • Saskatchewan and Manitoba: Conservatives, 15; Liberals, 4; and NDP 4 — which represents a loss of 2 for each of the Liberals and the NDP, and consequent gains for the Tories. Former Winnipeg mayor Glen Murray looks to lose in Charleswood-St.James to Conservative Steven Fletcher.

  • Ontario: ‘In seat rich Ontario’ (how many times have you heard that phrase during this election campaign?), the Liberals have mounted something of a comeback, and are expected to take 66 out of a possible 106 seats (a drop of 29 seats), while the Tories may pick up 28 seats for a total of 32, and the NDP gains 5 for a total of 7, including leader Jack Layton, his wife Olivia Chow and former NDP leader Ed Broadbent.

  • Québec: Bloc Québécois, 52, and Liberals, 23 (a loss of 14 seats in Prime Minister Martin’s home province). A large undecided could push the Liberal seat total a little higher, but pretty much whatever the election results tomorrow evening, the Bloc will hold the balance of power in our nation’s capitol come Tuesday morning.

  • The Maritimes: The Liberals look to hold on to 20 seats, a drop of one from the time of dissolution of the most recent Parliament, while the Tories drop one seat for a total of 5, and the NDP gain 1, for a total of 5 Maritime seats.

The seat projection models are significant because late last week Prime Minister Martin declared that whichever party wins the most seats should be declared the winner, even if it did not win the required 155 seats needed to form a majority government.

Needless to say, the seat projections provide a recipe for an extremely fragile House of Commons, one that rests on the support of a separatist party and a slightly re-energized party of the left.

As election results start to roll in on Monday night, British Columbia will still be voting and the results are likely to be so close that west coast voters could end up steering the final outcome.

As EKOS president Frank Graves told the Star, “B.C. voters have essentially moved from bystanders to final arbiters in this election.”

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 4:15 PM | Permalink | Decision Canada

June 26, 2004

Decision Canada: A Harper Win Is A Party Stopper



There aren’t many people in Canada’s major metropolitan centres that relish the prospect of a Conservative government — majority, minority or coalition — least of all those who work in the Canadian cultural industries.

In an article published earlier this week in the Toronto Star, columnist Antonia Zerbisias writes ...

“If the popularity of the red and white ‘Stop Harper’ buttons at Sunday night’s raucous MuchMusic Video Awards was any indication, nobody in the business is rocking to the Conservative tune.
A Canadian music channel with Canadian music and Canadian talent and Canadian veejays and Canadian awards in a Canadian building which houses other Canadian channels (Citytv, CP24, Bravo, Star, Space, etc.) which employ Canadian journalists and Canadian producers and Canadian writers and Canadian camera crews ... hundreds of people working at the awards show, (including) security guards and caterers ... In Stephen Harper’s Canada, none of this would have happened.”

Of course, as VanRamblings has written previously, the Conservatives would scrap the CRTC. Ms. Zerbisias points out that such a move would hand over broadcast licensing directly to government ...

“Just like they do in banana republics where dictators decide who owns the TV stations. Think about that. If, say, a newscast runs an unflattering report about el presidente, then yank goes the license. And Conservatives now call CBC a ‘state broadcaster’?”
click above

Ms. Zerbisias, a former Star television columnist, also expresses concern about the potential for “Fox News (which) would be a shoo-in to acquire access to Canadian viewers,” potentially displacing CBC Newsworld on the dial, as she mourns the Conservative record on arts and culture, a record she says is playing “the red, white and blues.”

Abortion: A Disconnect Between Harper and the Tory Caucus?

In 2000, it helped undo his predecessor, Stockwell Day. Therefore the last thing Stephen Harper wanted in the 2004 election campaign was to go anywhere near the issue of abortion. But, courtesy of two of his Conservative party members, the issue came to him.

First there was Tory health critic Rob Merrifield, who mused to a Toronto newspaper on the advisability of mandatory, third-party abortion counseling, setting off a firestorm of protest. Next, comments made by incumbent Cheryl Gallant (RealPlayer required) surfaced. In an interview with the Western Catholic Reporter, she compared women who have abortions to the terrorists who beheaded American civilian Nick Berg in Iraq. No hotter election button could have been pushed.

“A Conservative government has no intention of tabling abortion legislation,” Stephen Harper has said, although always with the caveat, “in the first term in office.” Yes, he has said, a Tory government would allow a private member’s bill to go forward, and yes, there would be a free vote on whether a woman’s right to choose would be preserved.

As for his own views, Mr. Harper has acknowledged that in the past he was firm in his pro-life values, but during the current campaign he’s refused to say how he feels on the issue now, saying repeatedly that he would not “get into a detailed discussion of abortion” during the election.

Harper’s refusal to clarify his personal views, or the Tory party’s position, and his attempt to shut down further inquiry raises a red flag for many women voters. Many of us ask, “Since when is the personal autonomy of 52 per cent of the population a marginal issue in an election? It’s central, it’s pivotal, it’s not marginal.” And, yet, for the most part, the media have not focused on the abortion issue, because it is seen as too inflammatory and prejudicial to the hopes of a Conservative Party win on Monday.

The abortion issue is a defining one for many in the Tory party, but it isn’t a priority for the leader. But if the Tories are elected by voters angry with the Liberals, Harper may have no choice. His caucus is fanatically anti-choice and they have a lot of power, unlike the Liberal pro-life contingent who have none. The fear is that he would cave in to caucus pressure.

At the very least, the Conservatives would cut funding, perhaps even, as has been speculated, de-listing abortion as a service covered by the Canada Health Act; make it difficult to get the morning-after pill; and bring in third-party counseling. Sure, it’s one thing to say women have the right in law to abortion; it’s quite another thing for them to have access to it.

Headlines of the Day

Conservative MP Randy White

We’d Use Notwithstanding Clause: Tory MP: Conservative MP and Tory party Justice critic Randy White, in a May 19th interview for a documentary on same-sex marriage by Alexis Mackintosh called Let No One Put Asunder White spoke frankly about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and suggests many in his party feel as he does:

The heck with the courts, eh? (RealPlayer required) You know, one of these days we in this country are going to stand up and say, ‘The politicians make the laws and the courts do not.’ The courts interpret that law. And if we don’t like that interpretation, there’s the notwithstanding clause in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which the Liberal government has never invoked and said they will not use. I believe we’ll see that with us in the House of Commons because enough is enough of this stuff ...

I think most people are getting sick and tired of judges writing the law to suit themselves and to suit the current Liberal government, in fact.

It’s time that we started to exert our responsibility as politicians in the country. If the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is going to be used as the crutch to carry forward all of the issues that social libertarians want, then there’s got to be for us conservatives out there a way to put checks and balances in there. ”

Liberal Leader Paul Martin responded by saying, “The Conservative party would make impulsive and widespread use of the notwithstanding clause to rescind the fundamental rights of Canadians.”

Martin said there’s a good reason that the federal government has never used the clause since it came into being 22 years ago.

“Canadians care deeply about the protection of individual and minority rights. And I believe that a true national leader recognizes that the use of the notwithstanding clause will take us down a slippery slope toward the erosion of individual and minority rights and freedoms. It is a step that we should not take. It is a step that we must not take.”

The NDP joined in slamming White: “His views reflect the extreme social agenda of Stephen Harper’s party, their lack of regard for Canada’s Charter, and their contempt for Canada’s courts.”

Like elections? Another likely around the corner: In a front-page story in yesterday’s Halifax-Chronicle Herald, reporter Stephen Maher writes that, “If the pollsters are right, Canadians will elect a minority government on Monday. It’s too close to tell if it will be Conservative or Liberal. History suggests if it’s a Conservative minority, it won’t last very long. Liberal minorities last longer (because) the Liberals tend to be better at manipulating the levers of power than the Conservatives, and more pragmatic ... when it comes to making deals to stay in power.”

VanRamblings On a Pre-Election Weekend Hiatus; well, kind of ...

In the waning days of the election campaign, VanRamblings will be taking something of a break from pre-election coverage. Rather than post lengthy Anybody But Harper treatises, instead we’ll post brief items (well, relatively brief ... after all, the sobriquet VanRamblings was chosen for a reason) on election news events of the day, and items of election-related interest.

In the meantime, for insight into Stephen Harper’s policies, as well as important 2004 federal election news events, we would encourage you to click on, and read through, all of VanRamblings’ Decision Canada coverage.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:01 AM | Permalink | Decision Canada | Comments (1)

June 25, 2004

Decision Canada: Race To The Finish



In the final daily update on the pulse of the campaign from SES Research Canada, the CPAC-SES overnight tracking poll shows the Liberals are still marginally ahead of the Tories in popular support: Liberals 34%, Conservatives 30%, NDP 20%, BQ 12%, Green 4%. An analysis of the regional breakdown indicates that the Liberals lead in Atlantic Canada, Manitoba / Saskatchewan and seat rich Ontario. The Conservatives lead in Alberta and British Columbia. The Bloc Québécois lead in Québéc. High undecided in Québéc (29%) may be a Liberal Trojan Horse.


In his published essay accompanying the polling results above, SES President & CEO Nikita James Nanos writes that ...

“Québécers like to throw pollsters the odd ‘curve ball’. Our polls show undecided in Québéc at 29%. My instinct tells me that this is too high; there are more Liberals than BQ supporters in that group. Although some Québécers won’t openly support the Liberals, in the privacy of the voting booth it may be a different story. In a close race, this may alter the outcome of the election. Watch Québéc.”

SES’ four week regional tracking poll shows that Atlantic Canadians will vote overwhelmingly for the Liberals, with the Liberals running at 45%, the NDP in second place with 25%, and the Tories with 24% of decided voters. In Alberta, the Conservatives have gleaned 62% of decided voter support, as compared to only 23% for the Liberals and a paltry 13% for the NDP.

Everywhere else in Canada — outside of Québéc, that is — it’s a race to the finish, a neck-and-neck battle between the Liberal and Conservative front-runners, leaving the NDP as strong third-place contenders.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 11:42 AM | Permalink | Decision Canada

June 24, 2004

Decision Canada: The Tories on Arts and Culture In Canada



As part of VanRamblings’ Decision Canada review of key issues in the federal election campaign which cause us concern about the prospect of a Conservative government in Ottawa, in this second instalment of our series, VanRamblings reviews the Tory platform position on the arts, culture and Canadian heritage.

The Selling Off Of Cultural Identity In A Free-Market Economy

As Margaret Atwood wrote in a June 9th piece for the Globe and Mail, culture hasn’t exactly grabbed the spotlight in this election campaign. But considering that, according to Statistics Canada, there are 740,000 direct jobs in the cultural sector — more than in forestry, agriculture, and mining combined — and given that cultural activities generated $26-billion of Canada’s Gross Domestic Product in 2001, and exported $2.88-billion worth of it in 2000, the dearth of coverage of culture and the arts in the current federal election campaign is a disservice to all Canadians.

Considering the indirect jobs and the revenue generated by cultural activities — the spinoffs generated in the travel industry, hotels and bed-and-breakfasts, in restaurants and in small businesses — and the thousands of unpaid volunteers who work in this area for the satisfaction of it and to help their towns or cities, and factoring in the audience — the listeners, the viewers, the readers — any reasonable person will soon come to realize the impact the arts has on the lives Canadians is immense.

The position of the ‘new’ Conservatives on culture? The Tories are the one national federal party that would kill the CBC, eliminate the CRTC, abolish the Canada Council and take away all funding to Heritage Canada, theatre, film, dance, multicultural agencies and each and every arts organization that currently receives some form of federal subsidy. Those monies (and a great many more of our tax dollars) would instead be re-directed towards the build-up of a wartime-equipped and ready Canadian military.

In her June 9th Globe and Mail and article, Ms. Atwood writes ...

“A long time ago, the party best on Culture was the now-defunct Progressive Conservative Party. Under the old Tories we were given Flora MacDonald, no slouch, and Marcel Masse, the best culturecrat we ever had.

However, things have changed radically. Those calling themselves the Conservatives are really the Body Snatchers. They’ve eaten the comfy old Tories ... and now they’re prowling the earth with destruction in their hearts. When these neo-Cons hear the word Culture, they reach for their nugs. (Guns turn into nugs when you pretend you didn’t want Canada to join in the invasion of Iraq, although you did, too, want it). Be very afraid!

What the Social-Credit-Alliance-Reformers-in-Conservative-clothing say is that they have nothing against Culture as long as they don’t pay a nickel toward it. They don’t mention the whacking great benefits the public gets back. Instead, they say, ‘Let cultural items compete on their own merits in the marketplace.’ These neo-Conservatives are not pragmatists, they're ideologues, and ideologues will ignore any fact that doesn’t fit their worldview.”

The percentage of Canadians who attend cultural events and festivals exceeds 70 per cent, yet the arts and culture — for the most part — has emerged as a non-issue in this election campaign.

As VanRamblings wrote in an earlier posting, for many of us one of the most distressing aspects of the election campaign occurs in consideration of what a Tory government would mean to the arts in Canada.

According to Guy Mason, president of the Canadian Film and Television Production Association, Conservative cultural polices would gut film and television production in Canada.

“What we’re seeing could be a devastation of the industry in a free and open market in North America,” says Mason. “Who’s going to be creating Canadian content?”

In their pre-election report, the Canadian Conference of the Arts (CCA) gave the Conservatives a C- (by far, the lowest ranking among the five major parties), for “no sign of support for the arts.”

In an article published written by award-winning writer and journalist Todd Babiak for the Edmonton Journal, Mr. Babiak writes ...

In its 46-page policy platform, the Conservative Party doesn’t mention art and culture. Not even in the appendix. The word art only appears once, in quotations, decrying the “artistic licence” defence for child pornographers. Stephen Harper and other Conservatives have said they would cut finding to the CBC in whole or in part, and Heritage critic Jim Abbott supports lifting foreign ownership restrictions on telecom companies and broadcasters.

Babiak concludes his article, by writing, “In all our current excitement about change, we should notice what the parties ignore. We may not know what we’re voting to abandon until it’s gone.”

In respect (or lack thereof) of the CBC, Ontario Tory hopeful Joe Spina, a two-term MPP under Mike Harris and Ernie Eves, stated he wants funding for the CBC switched off, calling it the Communist Broadcasting Corporation and saying it serves as a mouthpiece for the federal Liberals.

Repeated polls have shown Canadians strongly approve of the mandate for the broadcaster, which receives approximately $1 billion in annual government funding to operate in both English and French.

The Culture War: Election 2004’s Unreported Issue

Ian King, writing in this week’s Terminal City, discusses the possible impact of a Conservative Party win and how a Tory government would deal with the arts, the entertainment business, and the media.

“Of course, funding for the Canadian Television Fund, FACTOR, the Canada Council, the Canadian Magazine Fund, and the myriad other cultural granting programmes aren’t the only government supports for Canada’s cultural industries. There are restrictions on foreign ownership of broadcasters and newspapers and CRTC rules that give Canadian TV channels first priority on cable and satellite systems, but also force broadcasters to air Canadian programming to get that unfair advantage. None of this regulatory regime impresses the Conservatives much.

The Conservatives have made no firm commitment to protecting any of those programmes or regulations. With budget crunches likely to come in a Conservative regime, and with most of the existing caucus unenthusiastic about existing granting programmes, expect cultural funding to shrink.

If you like your CBC, fear the Tories. The Conservatives’ antipathy towards the CBC is legendary — partisans still mope about MotherCorp’s look at Stockwell Day’s religious beliefs back in 2000, believing somehow that that documentary, as opposed to a blundering leader and party, cost the Alliance the election. Alliance Heritage critic Jim Abbott summed up his party’s feelings in 2002, when he told the National Post (itself legendary for self-interested CBC-bashing), “It’s a sincere question. Why do we need [the CBC]? Why should we have it?”

Ian concludes his piece by writing, “The next government could seriously change how Canadian arts and culture operate, and the changes could be dead ugly if we make the wrong choices. Do you really want to risk it by not having your say on Monday?”

Ian King is the administrator of the weblog The Vancouver Scrum.

ACTRA: Conservatives Mum On Culture

In a story published in the Toronto Star, the paper reports that ACTRA, the actors’ union, says the response from the Conservatives to its list of culture-industry priority questions has been ... silence.

There are three major issues for ACTRA: keeping limits on foreign ownership of Canadian airwaves; reviewing CRTC policy to reinstate Canadian content requirements on Canadian broadcasters; and changing federal tax laws so performers can make a living in this country.

The union’s pleased with responses from the NDP, Bloc and Green party, who “took strong positions against permitting more foreign ownership...” says national executive director Stephen Waddell. The Liberals gave “some positive responses,” but didn’t adequately address foreign-ownership concerns.

The Conservative party, he says, did not respond at all.

No Tory Defence for Artistic Merit

Mark Leiren-Young, at The, offers analysis of the Tory’s scorched earth policy toward Canadian culture, in an article published June 24th.

Covering much the same territory explored by VanRamblings and Ian King, above, Mr. Leiren-Young provides information on “Tory plans to neuter the CRTC, relax foreign ownership regulations and deregulate the airwaves”, as well as rescind tax breaks for the film and TV industry, which North Vancouver Tory MP Ted White referred to as “corporate welfare”; a Conservative government would eliminate this subsidy, Mr. White said.

Although “arts and cultural communities might have a raft of grievances against Paul Martin’s Liberals ... the Tories could be a bigger threat to Canadian culture than free trade,” writes Mr. Leiren-Young, as a précis response to a conversation he had with Clem Martini, president of the Playwright’s Guild of Canada. The full article is available here.

Canada’s Heritage At Risk

According to Liberal Heritage Minister Hélène Scherrer, a Conservative government would eviscerate Canadian culture by ending its fundamental protections and leaving control of the airwaves to the likes of global media baron Rupert Murdoch. The Conservatives’ market-driven policy would allow unfettered foreign competition, encouraging multinational corporations to purchase Canadian radio and television networks.

Government support, including government support by previous Progressive Conservative regimes — whether through funding or protectionist laws — have succeeded in building a homegrown cultural industry where one barely existed decades ago, creating a situation today where Canada is one of the world’s largest exporters of cultural products.

But the so-called free-market philosophy of Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party is one where the marketplace — and only the marketplace — rules, no matter the industry. Ask yourself: Is a Canada bereft of a proud Canadian cultural identity, a Canada we would wish to bequeath to our children?

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 8:00 PM | Permalink | Decision Canada

Decision Canada: Full Update at 8 p.m.



A full Decision Canada update will be published at 8 p.m. this evening, PDT. Tonight’s posting will focus on the Tory position on the arts and culture.

In the meantime, we’ll leave with you the latest CPAC-SES Research Canada overnight tracking poll results, which shows continuing strength for the Liberals, growing support for the New Democratic Party, while Stephen Harper’s Conservatives would seem to be faltering in the late stages of the 2004 federal election campaign.


The CPAC-SES poll also shows a 3% rise in support for Jack Layton as Prime Minister, to 20 percent, while Stephen Harper’s support plummets.

One final item before signing off with this late morning post.

For those of you still confused as to whom (or for which party) to cast your ballot for next Monday, assistance in arriving at a logically consistent decision, based on your values, may be found by partaking of the Globe and Mail vote analyzer. Earlier on in the campaign, VanRamblings had offered the Politics Watch Quiz for vote placing assistance.

Partake of each quiz, and see which party’s positions on the issues are most in accord with your own.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 11:00 AM | Permalink | Decision Canada

June 23, 2004

Decision Canada: Anticipating What Will Come Next Tuesday
The New Political Universe About To Unfold for Canadians



Earlier today, in conversation with three friends in three different locations, VanRamblings found itself raucously chastised for choosing not to cast a ballot for the Conservatives in the upcoming election (makes one wonder as to whether any one of these 'friends' had been reading VanRamblings’ Decision Canada coverage over the course of the past month).

While engaged in these three conversations, VanRamblings queried each friend as to whether each had read the Demand Better Conservative platform document. Turns out that not only had none of these friends read the document; each was unaware of its existence (did VanRamblings mention that these friends are educated professionals?).

During the course of these friendly (but often bewildering) series of exchanges, VanRamblings raised issues of concern with each individual, ranging from the Conservative party’s position on the independence of the Supreme Court (they’re agin it), to the Tory position on the arts and the CBC (virtually non-existent, and agin it again). Turns out that each of these friends are voting for the Conservatives for no reason other than the fact that the Conservatives represent the political party their families had always cast a ballot for, dating back generations.

So, as per the headline for today’s posting, and in anticipation of what would seem to be an assured Conservative minority government come next Tuesday morning, for my friends and for VanRamblings readers, over the course of the next five days, leading up to the election Monday, June 28th, VanRamblings will explore in depth reasons to be concerned about a Conservative government taking power in Ottawa, just what kind of Canada we’re likely to see with a Tory regime in power in the nation’s capital, and why VanRamblings will be casting an Anybody But Harper ballot.

We begin today with the Tory position on legal affairs and the judiciary.

Tory Platform A ‘Legal Minefield’

Would you trust this man
with your country?

According to an article that appeared in CanWest newspapers earlier in the week, “the Conservative platform is a legal minefield that contains at least 12 items that either violate the Charter of Rights, are ripe for serious court challenges or would require amendments to the Constitution.”

The Tory party’s plan to stop federal prisoners from voting, ban gay marriage and eliminate artistic merit as a defence for owning child pornography are blatant Charter of Rights violations, a group of constitutional experts told CanWest’s Janice Tibbetts.

Repealing the ‘faint hope’ clause that allows prisoners serving life sentences to apply for early parole after 15 years; imposing consecutive instead of concurrent sentences for people convicted of multiple offences; declaring an individual a dangerous offender after committing a third violent or sexual offence, thus mandating an indefinite jail sentence; and requiring violent or serious repeat offenders who are 14 or older be tried in adult court instead of youth court would most certainly result in a Charter of Rights challenge to the proposed Conservative ‘legal agenda’.

“Offenders under the Charter have all kinds of protections,” noted Lorraine Weinrib, a University of Toronto law professor.

The Tories have also said that a Conservative government would require a litmus test for appointments to the Supreme Court, and would move towards an elected, American-style Senate, both initiatives requiring amendments to the Constitution. Any constitutional change would need approval of seven provinces with at least 50 per cent of the population — a threshold that has proven thus far to be virtually unattainable.

More Decision Canada coverage of this issue is available here.

And The Polls Just Keep on Comin’

With Election Day now just five days away, a poll released today by the Environics Research Group shows the Liberals and Conservatives are locked in a dead heat with a minority government an increasingly likely outcome.

The survey of 1500 adult Canadians shows the Liberals and the Conservatives each with the support of 33 percent of decided voters. The NDP is running third with 18 percent of the national popular vote, and the Bloc Québécois is at 11 percent nationally. Four percent would vote for the Green Party and one percent would support other parties. Twenty percent of eligible voters remain undecided.

Comparing these survey results to the popular vote in the 2000 election, Liberal support has dropped eight percentage points from 41% to 33%. Support for the Conservative Party, while higher than the vote for the Canadian Alliance alone in 2000, is five points lower than the 38% that the Canadian Alliance and the federal Progressive Conservative parties received between them in 2000. Support for the NDP has doubled since the 2000 election, rising from 9% to the current 18%.


In analyzing Environics’ results in comparison with the popular vote results of the last election in 2000, voting patterns in Québéc, Ontario and British Columbia have shown the greatest volatility. Liberal support in Québéc is 19 points lower than in 2000. While the Liberals still lead in Ontario with 40%, their support has fallen by 12 points in Ontario and that loss has been matched by an 11% increase in NDP support to 19%.

British Columbia stands out as the region where the survey results show the most dramatic change compared with 2000. Conservative support is 22 points lower and NDP support is 20 points higher than in 2000, confirming results released by the Mustelgroup Monday.

Headlines of The Day

Alberta promises reforms won’t violate Canada Health Act: A news release issued by Alberta Premier Ralph Klein’s office today did an about face on its much-touted new health policy by taking a less aggressive stance on privatization and users fees. Alberta Health Minister Gary Mar told reporters, “We are not moving forward on any privatization. The money is all going to public health care, nothing of which will violate the Canada Health Act.”

Martin: Party with most seats ought to form government: According to a Canadian Press story, Paul Martin appears to have given up the idea of clinging to power if he wins fewer seats than the rival Conservatives in Monday’s election, saying common sense dictates the party with the most MPs should form the government. “It’s a common sense proposition that the party that has the most seats is the party that certainly ought to form a government,” Martin told an Edmonton audience this afternoon.


Advance poll voter turnout double that of 2000: As the leaders head into the final days of the campaign, they now know that a large part of the population has already made up its mind and acted on that choice. Elections Canada reports that 1.244 million people voted in the advance polls that were held last Friday, Saturday and Monday, a whopping 60 per cent increase over the 775,000 who voted in advance in 2000.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 8:00 PM | Permalink | Decision Canada

June 22, 2004

Decision Canada: Polls, Polls and More Polls
Tories Slide in the Final Week of the Campaign



With fewer than six days to go before election day, support for the Conservative Party has taken a dramatic dip. The most significant change is in Ontario where — according to the latest Ipsos-Reid poll — the Liberals are surging, up eight points to 42 per cent, versus 30 per cent for a Conservative Party in steep decline, down an astounding eight points. The NDP remains firm at 20 per cent, with protest support for the Green Party stuck at six per cent.


As for who will govern the country, the race is still too close to call.

According to Ipsos-Reid’s seat projection model, if a vote were held tomorrow, the Conservatives would have a potential of 110-114 seats, the Liberals would have a potential of 107-111 seats, the NDP a potential of 19-23 seats, and the Bloc Québécois a potential of 64-68 seats.

The Ipsos-Reid results are not vastly different from the numbers reported this morning by SES Canada Research, whose overnight tracking poll conducted for the CPAC network shows the Liberals ahead at 34% among the electorate, with the Conservatives trailing at 31%, the NDP up a notch to 21%, and the Greens garnering 10% support.

Liberal Support Climbs in the Final Week of the Campaign


In addition to the CPAC-SES poll results reported above, SES reports a dramatic decline in support for Stephen Harper as Prime Minister, to only 22%, while Paul Martin’s results have remained fairly steady at a hardly gratifying 28%. Jack Layton trails badly at only 10% support for Best PM.

Tories Falter Elsewhere, But Remain Strong in B.C.

The headline above doesn’t tell the whole story.

While it’s true that support for the Conservative Party in British Columbia remains strong (as can be seen in the graph below) at 36% province-wide, in the city of Vancouver the Conservatives are running a distant third to both the New Democrats and the Liberals.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 1:36 PM | Permalink | Decision Canada

June 21, 2004

Decision Canada: Harper Falters; Canadians Remain Apathetic



At the beginning of the final week of the federal election campaign, as James Travers wrote in Saturday’s Toronto Star, “voters are more or less equally divided between unsatisfactory options.”

In VanRamblings’ home riding of Vancouver-Quadra, NDP candidate David Askew has mounted a valiant campaign in an otherwise Conservative riding. In recent years, in order to keep the ne’er-do-well Alliance from taking the seat, NDPers (including myself, much to the chagrin of my children, and my friends) have voted strategically, electing Liberal Stephen Owen to office.

But, perhaps not this time.

Last evening, Don, calling from David Askew’s NDP headquarters said,

“Look, I know David isn’t going to take the seat, and his vote in the riding is probably strong enough that Stephen Owen will lose, leaving Vancouver Quadra as another win for the Conservatives. But no matter what happens, the Conservatives are not going to win a majority; they’ll only be an interim government, and by the time another election is called — and that next election will happen soon, very soon — Canadians will see what a threat the Conservatives are, and vote them out.”

“In the meantime, we need your support, because the NDP needs the research money the government will grant us based on the national vote for the NDP, to hold the Conservatives’ feet to the fire.”

Am I convinced? Will I vote for David Askew? Or, will I vote strategically, and cast my ballot for Stephen Owen, who I know and like, and believe to be a decent person? Quite honestly, I don’t know the answer to any of those questions. I suppose, like many Canadians, I’ll wait to make my decision til the moment I find myself sequestered in the voting booth.

Child Tax Credit Reveals Harper’s Mindset

Writing in the Toronto Star, rabbler Linda McQuaig (that’s rabbler, as in explores the regressive nature of Stephen Harper’s child tax credit, a legislative initiative that will succeed in ...

“... reintroducing a programme that provides bigger benefits to the richest Canadians and no benefits whatsoever to those at the bottom. This is where Harper plans to put all that new money — $3.5 billion a year, once fully phased in.

Under his proposed scheme, a Bay Street executive with two children and an annual salary of $225,000, would receive a total benefit of $1,746 a year.

But if that executive gets laid off from his Bay Street job and ends up flipping hamburgers at McDonald’s, he’d lose his benefit entirely. Indeed, he’d receive absolutely nothing from the extra billions Harper plans to hand over to families — even though the executive-turned-hamburger-flipper would still have two children to feed and clothe.”

McQuaig writes: “As an economist, Harper is aware of what he’s doing.”

Tories May Scrap Air Canada Bilingual Requirement


As reported in the Globe and Mail today, Conservative leader Stephen Harper would change federal legislation to allow Air Canada to move its head office from Montreal to Toronto, party officials confirmed last night.

Harper is prepared to scrap the Air Canada Public Participation Act, which would allow the national carrier to no longer be forced to provide more bilingual services than other competing airlines.

“We’re talking about a level playing field,” said Jim Armour, the Conservative Party of Canada’s communications director. “Right now there are requirements that only apply to one (airline). It doesn’t apply to WestJet, it doesn’t apply to JetsGo.”

“We have said that the act should be eliminated. That doesn’t mean that bilingualism requirements would be eliminated on airlines,” Armour said. “What we are saying is that bilingualism requirements should apply equally across the industry.”

Although the Conservatives have said they would not change the basic principles of the Official Languages Act, they have indicated that with a Conservative government there would be an open debate on the question.

Bloc Québécois MP Benoit Sauvageau said abolishing the Air Canada Public Participation Act would be “really catastrophic.”

“It’s a concrete demonstration that if the Conservatives are elected it’s the end of French at Air Canada in spite of all efforts,” he said.

Voter Apathy Expected To Reach New Highs


What is wrong with Canadians? In what may prove to be the closest race in Canadian electoral history, a record number of Canadians are expected to opt out come June 28th.

Turnout countrywide has dropped steadily to 61.2 per cent from 75.3 per cent in four federal elections since 1988, and election experts say nearly half of us will not cast ballots this time.

“Fifty per cent is the symbolic number,” says Larry LeDuc, a University of Toronto political science professor who co-wrote Comparing Democracies: Elections and Voting in Global Perspective. Anything below that “undermines the legitimacy of governments.”

The Globe and Mail suggests that voter apathy is “an inexplicable global malaise.”

One supposes that voter apathy has nothing to do with right-wing talk show hosts, the Murdoch media empire and its ilk, and corporate media the world over doing everything in their power to convince citizens that politicians are corrupt, in the process succeeding in their mission to alienate a majority of the populace from engagement in the political process.

Or, that government’s failure to to protect workers, communities, and the environment; deep cuts in social programmes, turning the tattered remnants over to the private sector; an utter failure to address youth unemployment, which remains at twice the rate for the rest of the population; and the ongoing failure to provide adequate child care, thus responding to the needs of young families; none of this could possibly have anything to do with a pervasive sense of alienation felt by most Canadians.

Oh no, that couldn’t possibly be.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:01 AM | Permalink | Decision Canada

June 20, 2004

Decision Canada: Are The Wheels Coming Off The Tory Campaign?



With Conservative leader Stephen Harper maintaining his odious attack on Liberal Leader Paul Martin over what he says is a Liberal failure to address child pornography, in it’s final week the election campaign has become bogged down in an unsavoury war of words over what Prime Minister Martin has called, “comments (that) were clearly out of line.”

In Thunder Bay, NDP Leader Jack Layton lashed out at Harper.

“There’s been no sense of apology or anything ... it shows a real failure of judgment in my view on Mr. Harper’s part, and puts into question the kind of judgment he’d exercise in office.”

“Stephen Harper doesn’t want Canadians to know what he really stands for, so they need to exploit tragedy (the murder of Holly Jones, the ten year old Toronto girl whose killer was sentenced on Friday) in order to divert focus, and it’s not going to work.”

The Montreal Gazette reported that Gilles Duceppe, leader of the Bloc Québécois, as telling reporters that the Conservative stance on child pornography was too extreme and would lead to legislative excess.

“It could have the effect of closing the Sistine Chapel in Rome. You know, those little naked angels, they’re just about everywhere in the churches. What do we do with that? That’s [the result of] their infantile reasoning. We don’t want to fall into excessive law and order like the Conservatives often have a tendency of doing,” said Mr. Duceppe.

The Bloc platform calls for minimum, long-term sentences for those convicted of sex crimes against a minor.

Jim Elve, at BlogsCanada, addresses the issue here and here.

Later today, VanRamblings will publish a full election day update.

For insight into Stephen Harper’s policies, as well as important 2004 federal election news events, click on VanRamblings’ full Decision Canada coverage.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 8:54 AM | Permalink | Decision Canada | Comments (1)

June 19, 2004

Decision Canada: Tories Floundering, But Still Ahead?



“In just eight days, Canadians must make a decision that was never going to be easy and is now downright vexing,” writes James Travers in today’s Toronto Star. Travers’ opening comment in his Star essay comes on the heels of the release of today’s EKOS Resarch poll, which shows the Conservatives still with a narrow lead, with 31.4 per cent support of decided voters, while Prime Minister Paul Martin’s Liberals are at 29 per cent.

The NDP has picked up some strength, with 20.5 per cent, while the Bloc Québécois is at 14.2 per cent. The Green party has 4.3 per cent.

Although the latest EKOS and Ipsos-Reid polls still show the Tories marginally ahead, the polls don’t fully account for the latest wave of Grit attack ads, the Liberal bid to yoke Stephen Harper to Brian Mulroney and depict Harper and Ralph Klein as kissing cousins on undermining the Canada Health Act, or the bizarre Tory press release on Paul Martin as favouring child porn — and the refusal of Harper to apologize for it.

Yesterday’s SES-CPAC tracking poll, titled ‘Tories slide on first night of new ad’, shows the Grits with a decided-voter preference of 34 per cent, the Tories at 29 per cent, and the NDP at 22 per cent. This would seem to confirm the latest Liberal internal polling, showing the Liberals once again in front, heading towards election day.

The Knives Come Out For Belinda Stronach

Belinda Stronach

Star Tory candidate, and recent Conservative Party leadership hopeful, Belinda Stronach, is getting a rough ride from constituents in her home riding of Newmarket-Aurora, on the way to what is presumed to be an assured electoral victory come June 28th.

Opponents of the 38-year-old former Magna International CEO questioned Stronach’s credentials and blamed Magna for cutting jobs and wages. Another opponent referred to anti-abortion statements made by Conservative candidates that jar with Ms. Stronach’s own pro-choice position, and demanded an answer to the question: “How can we believe what you say when we're getting so many different views?”

Harper’s Agenda Weakens Canada

In their lead editorial today, the Toronto Star asks, “What would Canada look like today if Stephen Harper’s Conservatives had their way?” Their answer: radically different.

Although the Star suggests “few will object to Harper’s promise to deliver better health care, lower taxes, a stronger economy, accountability, and restored integrity to government ... voters may want to consider the rest of the Tories’ sweeping programme for change. Because come June 29, we may wake up to a very different country in the making.”

  • Weakening Parliament: From appointing only elected senators — who would thwart the will of the House of Commons — to the implementation of ‘direct democracy’ referenda, which would almost inevitably lead to decision-making gridlock.

  • Weakening the Supreme Court. Applying an American-style litmus test to the appointment process.

  • Weakening civil rights. The Tories are prepared to overrule the Supreme Court and Canada’s cherished Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to the point of infringing on freedom of thought ... overruling the Charter is a slippery slope that would legitimize attempts to strip away other rights.

The Star quotes Toronto Mayor David Miller as saying that the Conservative programme is a “recipe for Canada as a country to fail.” Although Miller was making specific reference to the Tories’ indifference to cities, his criticism applies to so much more, they say.

Michael Moore Turns Up Heat On Tories and Grits

Documentarian Michael Moore

In an article published in today’s Globe and Mail, American documentarian (and contrarian) Michael Moore puts in his two cents about the federal election campaign.

Visiting Canada for an advance screening of his new film, Fahrenheit 9/11, Moore said he has spent a lot time trying to persuade Americans that Canadians are smart and his country should be more Canada-like. Electing Conservatives — whose leader, Stephen Harper, once advocated joining U.S. President George W. Bush’s war in Iraq — would spoil his argument, he said.

“You’re going to make me look really bad,” he said, to hoots of laughter. “I really need you to make sure that Mr. Harper does not take over the prime ministership. Why would you want to be like us?”

“[Ronald] Reagan and Mulroney start to look good when you think about Bush and Harper,” Mr. Moore said during a political t�te-�-t�te with Mr. Mulroney’s son Ben for CTV’s E-Talk Daily. “Because now, now, let’s jump ahead 20 years, all right, to the ‘Conservatives’ that we have now. These people; they’re off the grid ...”

For insight into Stephen Harper’s policies, as well as important 2004 federal election news events, click on VanRamblings’ full Decision Canada coverage.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 9:34 AM | Permalink | Decision Canada

June 18, 2004

Decision Canada: Desperate Days Call For Desperate Measures?



In the final 10 days of the federal election campaign, the two leading parties are going negative to get their message across. With most polls indicating that Paul Martin’s Liberals and Stephen Harper’s Conservatives are locked in a statistical dead heat, neither party leader is passing up any opportunity to punch holes in his opponent’s credibility.

Mr. Clueless
Stephen Harper

But, perhaps, the Tories reached a new low earlier today when they issued a party press release with a headline reading: Paul Martin Supports Child Pornography?. Although, later in the day — following a media backlash against the headline — the Tories withdrew the bizarre claim that Prime Minister Martin favours child pornography, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper didn’t back down from the substance of the party news release.

“I’m not going to, in any way, give the Liberal Party any break in its record on child pornography,” Harper told reporters at a campaign stop in Drummondville, Québéc. “It is disgraceful, they have had multiple opportunities to do something about it, and they have refused.” Asked about the ‘taste’ of the headline, Harper said: “What’s in bad taste is the Liberal Party’s record on child pornography.”

“I will not make excuses on it, I will attack them on it, and if (the Liberals) want to fight the rest of the election on it, good luck to them,” he heatedly said before stepping back on his campaign bus.

Tim Murphy, the prime minister’s chief of staff, said: “Obviously the statement ... is a ridiculous one in a world where right and wrong is pretty clear. And it’s unfortunate when this kind of thing happens.”

On the Liberals’ own website, they point out that their party, working with MPs from all sides of the house, toughened the criminal code in 2002 to protect children from sexual exploitation, passed a bill mandating tougher penalties for those convicted of child pornography, and passed Bill C-16, creating a national sex offender database. Note is made that the Reform / Alliance / Conservatives voted almost en masse against Bill C-12, improving the protection of children from pornographic exploitation.

Quote of The Day

In describing Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper ...

“A radical, neo-conservative, Americanophilic Conservative Leader, with hidden agendas peeking out of every pocket, himself in thrall to a powerful but alien Alberta populist Premier, and propped up in the House by a cabal of separatist Québéc MPs, will impose a decentralizing, Republican agenda on (Canada) unless they are stopped.” — John Ibbitson, Globe and Mail.

The quote above is placed in a particular context; read the full article here.

How Are The Papers Covering The Campaign?

four federal leaders of the apocalypse

As part of the Globe and Mail’s ongoing analysis of the 2004 Canadian Federal Election — in a project undertaken with the Observatory for Media and Public Policy at McGill University — the OMPP panel found that although most voters didn’t watch the leaders’ debate earlier in the week — and even though most voters learned about them through newspapers and newscasts — a majority of voters felt that NDP leader Jack Layton and Tory leader Harper were the debate winners.

The finding stands in contrast to the largely neutral coverage given Harper by the media, the negative coverage received by Layton, and the generally positive coverage given to Martin’s performance. Still, as an Ipsos-Reid poll found, “Voters were relatively less impressed with Mr. Martin, and more approving of Mr. Harper and Mr. Layton.” Strange, but true.

CPAC - Canada’s Political Channel

CPAC’s Ken Rockburn

For some days now, VanRamblings has been meaning to point you towards CPAC, Canada’s self-described political channel, which provides comprehensive coverage of national politics and current affairs, usually on television, but as well as a video streaming (Windows Media Player required) service.

During the course of the election campaign, veteran journalist and broadcaster Ken Rockburn not only has his own CPAC blog, but finds himself travelling across Canada interviewing Canadians about the upcoming vote on June 28th.

Most days, you’ll see Ken on the campaign trail, talking to Canadians from across our vast country, about the federal election, what issues are of paramount importance to them, and what these Canadians would wish to see for our country. This is grassroots public broadcasting, and often fascinating to watch.

More and More Political Blogs

Each and everyday, Jim Elve — the very able, hard-working and articulate administrator of BlogsCanada (and I thought I had a high energy level; compared to Jim, I’m asleep) — posts more and more political weblogs, at BlogsCanada’s Canadian Political Index site.

One site Jim Elve pointed to awhile back on the E-Group Election Blog on BlogsCanada, was Canada Votes 2004, aimed primarily (it would seem) at younger voters.

Jim also points VanRamblings’ readers towards Daily Kos, one of the US’ most popular blogs (150,000 visitors/day), which has a couple of ongoing discussions on the Canadian election: one here and another here.

Election Headlines of the Day

  • Paul Martin launched an offensive today over Alberta Premier Ralph Klein’s plan to privatize delivery of medicare services, in the Globe and Mail story Health battle escalates as leaders trade barbs.

  • Canadian Press reports New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton wrestling with a post-election scenario in a story headlined NDP would work with any party.

  • In a story headlined Canadian prisoners exercise right to vote, the CBC presented a story on inmates registered to vote in the June 28 election, following rules laid out by Elections Canada, exercising a new right granted to them (and opposed by Conservative leader Stephen Harper) by a 2002 Supreme Court of Canada ruling. A RealPlayer streaming video of the story is available here.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 9:07 PM | Permalink | Decision Canada

Decision Canada: Tories In Freefall, Drop 8 Points



A poll taken on the first full day following the leaders’ debates earlier in the week, indicates that support for Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party is in freefall, the Tories having dropped a full eight points in the standings, since late last week, from 37% support among decided voters to only 29%, as of this morning. So much for Harper’s contention that the Conservatives will form a majority government come June 28th.

Read the figures and weep, Stevie. Ya shoulda listened to your handlers’ advice to knock off the arrogant talk of transition and majority government.

CPAC-SES overnight poll results, June 18th

As always, at some point later this evening, VanRamblings will publish a full wrap-up of the important election events of the day.

For insight into Stephen Harper’s policies, as well as important 2004 federal election news events, click on VanRamblings’ full Decision Canada coverage.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:59 PM | Permalink | Decision Canada

June 17, 2004

Decision Canada: Harper Takes His First Misstep in The Election



While Conservative leader Stephen Harper continues to predict a majority Tory government come June 28th, and as pundits speculate as to who in the Tory caucus might be appointed to cabinet posts in a Conservative government, the polls still show that this election is a dead heat, and that neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives are poised to form a majority government in 11 short days.

VanRamblings agrees with CTV’s Tom Clark when he reported on CTV News tonight that “for a leader who campaigns against Liberal arrogance this sort of talk (Harper’s assertion that he will form a majority government) may be risky. The last time that Stephen Harper talked openly about a majority government, he got his knuckles rapped by his own advisors. ‘Too arrogant’, they said. Well, it still may be, especially if the next set of polls don’t reflect a Tory majority, because failing to meet expectations could take a lot of steam out of (the Conservative party’s perceived) momentum.”

Counting votes before they’ve been cast must be seen as the first major misstep by Harper in an otherwise pristine campaign for government. How will Canadians react to Harper’s arrogant assumption of a majority Conservative government. VanRamblings is willing to wager: not well.

Harper’s Numbers Don't Add Up

You’d think it would make eminent sense to Canadians when Prime Minister Martin stated in the debates the other night that a Tory government couldn’t possibly cut taxes and spend $90 billion on health care and re-arming the military, and not somehow have to make fundamental cuts to social programmes, or take Canada into the kind of reeling debt and deficit of the last era of Tory government. So far, though, it’s not a message that’s resonated with Canadians.

Is the desire of Canadians for change so great that we’re willing to give the Tories a blank chequebook, and damn the consequences to the economy?

“To say we can deliver more tax cuts and still meet our obligations (such as pensions and health care), other programmes inevitably will have to be cut back substantially,” Warren Jestin, chief economist with Scotiabank, said in an interview with the Toronto Star today ... “I get very concerned . . . we’ve seen it before when there are big tax and spending promises — inevitably, something has to give.”

A similar message came in new Liberal TV ads (not available on the web as of this writing) that warn voters that Harper’s plans will produce the kinds of deficits recorded under former Ontario Mike Harris and former Tory Prime Minister Brian Mulroney (for good measure, he should have thrown in the name of British Columbia premier Gordon Campbell, as well).

A second study conducted by the C.D. Howe Institute, a non-partisan think-tank, also critiqued the Conservative tax proposal, saying that Canadians should debate the choices they must make between health spending and tax cuts.

“For Canada to maintain the same system with lower taxes, Ottawa would have to reduce spending in other areas, and the choices would not be easy,” said the report co-authored by Jack Mintz, a noted tax expert. “It would certainly be hard to cut taxes and spend more on health care if ... efficiencies in public services cannot be achieved.”

Conservatives insist that Harper’s $58-billion election platform can be achieved without cuts to programmes by trimming fat. Yet Harper’s plan has raised many eyebrows among private-sector economists. Last week some warned that Harper can achieve his goals only by reducing spending — which some analysts favour — or risk deficits.

Why Social Issues Create Tensions In Tory Ranks

Frances Bula, writing in today’s Vancouver Sun interviewed a number of British Columbia political analysts about why the Conservatives are so vulnerable on social issues, an area where the Conservative party is potentially most out of sync with the majority of Canadians. The Conservatives’ social agenda has also been the source of most of the tension within the party between the members of the old Alliance and the old Progressive Conservative party.

David Laycock, of Simon Fraser University, and Reg Whitaker, a University of Victoria professor, told Bula that this gap and this tension have led to certain tactical and strategic moves on the part of Stephen Harper. In particular, his attempt to quell dissent within the party ranks and keep social issues off the agenda: “They understand you can’t elect a right-wing party in Canada with a socially conservative agenda at the forefront.”

Yet, that’s what we’re gonna get come June 28th — a socially regressive government out of step with the wishes of most Canadians. And why is it, that a substantial number of Canadians are planning to vote for the Tories?

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 11:35 PM | Permalink | Decision Canada | Comments (1)

Decision Canada: Are The Greens Really Tories in Disguise?



Although VanRamblings will post, at some point later this evening, our usual wrap-up of important election events of the day — following, of course, a long, enjoyable, sun-dappled walk along the pristine, west coast beaches of Jericho, Locarno, and Spanish Banks — we’ll leave you with the following to consider on this beautiful late spring day ...

The Greens are right, right?

Green leader
Jim Harris

From the outset, VanRamblings has experienced serious misgivings about Green Party leader Jim Harris, his ties to the former Progressive Conservative party, the pro-market policies the Greens have developed under his leadership, and the Green commitment to ‘smaller government’ — which would bring about the kind of massive downsizing in the public sector that has been experienced in recent years in Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia and Nova Scotia.

A reactionary rather than a progressive party, the Greens under Jim Harris have little or nothing to do with the progressive European Green movement — a movement which rose organically out of the work of radical political groups across Europe — and much more to do with the worst excesses of the Reform / Alliance / ‘new’ Conservative movement in Canada.

In an article published in the Globe and Mail yesterday, Murray Dobbin, a rabbler (that’s the progressive web site and author of Paul Martin: CEO for Canada? paints the Greens as Tories in disguise — pro free markets, smaller government, lower taxes, the lot.

The Green’s fiscal policy, he writes, could have been drafted by Bay Street. Rather than eliminate poverty they opt for the Band-Aid of more food banks. They want to raise property taxes — one of the most regressive taxes. And apply budget surpluses to debt reduction rather than social programmes.

“The party is to the right of all the major parties, which are now committing billions for spending on social programmes,” Dobbin writes. Citing the Greens’ preferred reliance on community groups rather than government to clean up the environment, Dobbin concludes: “These are not the actions of a government committed to using its mandated power to actually protect the environment.”

By the way, the Sierra Club and Greenpeace this week each give the NDP slightly higher marks than the Greens on environmental protection.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 11:22 AM | Permalink | Decision Canada

June 16, 2004

Decision Canada: Electioneering Recommences, 12 Days To Go



The English language leaders’ debate complete, the leaders of the five major parties in the federal election are back on the campaign trail, as the countdown to a new government in Canada recommences.

In respect of the English-language leaders’ debate last evening, from the vantage point of VanRamblings, the debate was a clear win for Prime Minister Paul Martin. As the Toronto Star’s Chantel Hébert writes, in a column headlined PM injects life into flagging campaign, “If last night’s leaders’ debate disposed of anything, it may be the already slim prospect of a Conservative majority government emerging from the June 28 election.”

During the course of the two-hour live television debate before Canadians, only Prime Minister Martin possessed the ability to enunciate a clear vision for Canada. Martin’s grasp of domestic and foreign affairs, his willingness to stand up for Canada on the world stage, his desire for fiscal prudence tempered by the need he articulated for the role of government in providing social programmes for young families and the elderly, as well as providing for increased funding to strengthen the public health care system, all of this and more provide cogent evidence that Martin is the only candidate among the five federal party leaders who is able to take Canada through the early part of this century towards the creation of a more just society.

While Conservative leader Stephen Harper hung back, barely more than a phantom afterthought in the campaign debate, constantly biting his bottom lip like an errant schoolboy; while New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton yapped and yammered at Martin like a grade school boy jealous of the facility with which his Liberal counterpart was able to command the stage; and while Bloc Québécois leader played obsequious friend of the NDP, and paradoxical potential coalition partner to the right-leaning Conservatives, only Prime Minister Martin articulated a consistent humanitarian vision for the Canada of which we are all so proud.

How it is that Harper continues to predict a Tory majority in the face of one of the most mealy-mouthed debate performances Canadians have had the poor fortune to witness, is quite beyond VanRamblings? How it is that the Reform/Alliance Conservative leader believes, as he suggested in a speech to Conservatives gathered in Niagara Falls, Ontario this morning that his party has wrapped up a federal election win simply beggars belief.

For his part, Martin seems reinvigorated by his solid performance in both the French and English language debates, and as the election heads into the stretch run, the Prime Minister has set about to reinforce the gains he made over the past two nights by reminding Canadians of the fact that ...

“It was a Liberal government that created Medicare. And our Liberal government will preserve it. We will ensure our health care system is sustainable. By making it our No. 1 priority, we will fix it for a generation.”

“We believe that Canadians want shorter waiting times more than they want aircraft carriers. We believe that Canadians want their governments to make it a national priority to bring down waiting times, to bring them down substantially and bring them down for good.”

“I give you my word: I will bring the same energy, drive and determination to tackling waiting times for health care that I did to eliminating the deficit. I’m here to tell you it can be done.”

VanRamblings finds it difficult not to agree with Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente, when she writes ...

I hate explaining Canadian politics to my American friends. “Things are going pretty well up here,” I tell them. “The economy is booming. Everyone is glad we stayed out of the mess in Iraq. The separatist threat has died right down. Most people are pretty content with the government’s policies, and they think our new Prime Minister’s a very decent guy. So what we’re going to do is throw him out and elect a guy we don’t know much about who wants to fundamentally overhaul our country.”

When you have prominent ex-Tories switching sides and supporting the Liberals, when the mayors of the major cities across Canada — where 80% of Canadians live — express very serious concern about the Conservative agenda for cities, when commentators express concern about the Conservative agenda for Canada’s system of justice, their utter lack of an arts policy, their articulated policies of intolerance and division, and Harper’s whole, untrustworthy demeanour as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, you have to ask yourself, “Why are Canadians even considering electing the Reform / Alliance Conservatives to a first term in government?”

For insight into Stephen Harper’s policies, as well as important 2004 federal election news events, click on VanRamblings’ full Decision Canada coverage.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 7:00 PM | Permalink | Decision Canada

Decision Canada: Quote of The Day



The single most heartening, and the single most forthright, statement I’ve heard made since the federal election began more than three weeks ago occurred at an all-candidates meeting at the University of British Columbia on Monday.

At a boisterous question and answer session, attended by Liberal MP Stephen Owen, and three other candidates contesting the Vancouver Quadra riding, Owen drew the loudest cheers when he warned students about allowing men to interfere with a woman’s right to choose on whether to have an abortion, saying that a Liberal government would never allow a free parliamentary vote on whether a woman should have a right to choose.

“Since 88 per cent of the MPs in Parliament are men, a so-called free vote would result in men deciding one of the most important human rights issues for women,” Owen said. “That is unacceptable and our party would not support it.”

The three other candidates gave the kind of politically-correct answers you’d expect of a politician.

The NDP candidate, David Askew, said: “All votes on human rights issues should be along party lines.” Conservative candidate and former British Columbia Social Credit cabinet minister Stephen Rogers defended the free vote system, supported by his party and leader Stephen Harper.

“I believe free votes are a good thing to do,” Rogers said.

And, Green party candidate Doug Warkentin said he believed a party should take a position on all votes.

Men and women fighting side by side — over the course of these past 30 years and more — to achieve the goal of self-determination for women, for our wives, our sisters, and our daughters, and the three comments made above by candidates Askew, Rogers and Warkentin is the best that these political aspirants could come up with? None of these three deserve office.

Full coverage of Decision Canada events, and a reflection on last night’s leadership debate will be posted later today.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:28 AM | Permalink | Decision Canada | Comments (1)

June 15, 2004

Decision Canada: Round One of The Debates Is Over



With Round One — the live French-language debate — complete, the leaders of the four major parties who sparred on French-language television last evening — in a sometimes spirited two-hour debate that many believe could have profound consequences for the June 28 vote — are ready to square off again tonight in a live English-language debate, at 5 p.m. PDT.

“Hey, maybe he’s not so scary,
after all” Paul thinks to himself.
“Nah, on 2nd thought, he really is.”

For the most part, the French-language debate was a front-runners’ duel, with Prime Minister Paul Martin and Conservative Leader Stephen Harper sparring over who could best handle the all-important issue of health care after June 28.

Staying above the fray, at least to some extent, Martin focused his attack on the Conservatives, saying their $90 billion spending programme would not be able finance an unprecedented increase in funding to the military, and still find a way to provide for an already stretched health-care system. “When you look at his programme, it is impossible to find the $50 billion (for health care),” he said of Harper. “Either he is going to cut in health care, or in other services. You can't find $50 billion in a period of five years — I know the numbers.”

For his part, Harper rejected the allegation: “The increases for health care in our programme are more than 2 1/2 times more than (the amount) for national defence,” he said.

Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe was pleased to get out of the debate without having to respond to questions on the sovereignty issue. “I was ready to face their questions,” a smiling Duceppe said after the debate.

As for New Democratic Party leader, Jack Layton ...

Elections must be about ideas and about hope to build a green and prosperous society. We have to establish ties with progressive minded people in Québéc and across Canada by working — by doing so and working together, we have achieved positive results, the Kyoto Protocol, our position to the war in Iraq, human rights for same-sex couples and for women, work for social housing, and also the struggle for seasonal workers. — NDP leader, Layton

Layton wasted no time in going after the Prime Minister’s record as finance minister in the 1990s, and said his hunger to pay down the national debt created “social deficits” Canadians could not afford.

Layton then tangled with Harper on the question of Canada’s involvement in the U.S.-led missile defence programme. “We think that Mr. Bush’s administration presents proposals that Canadians don’t want to follow. So why are you not listening to Canadians when they say they do not want to have militarization of space?” Layton said.

As far as the debates go, there are those among the political pundits who feel Prime Minister Martin came out snarling (or at least the hope is that he will in tonight’s English-language debate), while others are not so sure.

Whatever the case, in a federal election this closeand with so many voters still undecided — the importance of tonight’s English-language debate to focus on issues of concern to Canadians, and to more starkly elucidate the differences between the four major party platforms — knockout blow, or lack thereof, notwithstanding — presents an opportunity for the four major party leaders, as well as all Canadians, to focus on the Canada we would choose for our families, and for our neigbours.

For insight into Stephen Harper’s policies, as well as important 2004 federal election news events, click on VanRamblings’ full Decision Canada coverage.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 1:45 PM | Permalink | Decision Canada

June 14, 2004

Decision Canada: Delayed Due To Computer Glitch



VanRamblings will provide a full update on the political events of the day (such as they might be), links to election-oriented websites of interest — and whatever else that seems compelling and related to the current federal election — that we run across throughout the day. See you back here this evening.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 11:00 AM | Permalink | Decision Canada

June 13, 2004

Decision Canada: The Quiet Before The Storm



Earlier today, VanRamblings posted a Decision Canada Macromedia flash presentation — which you’ll find directly below — a sort of tongue-in-cheek ‘bashing’ of the various leaders of Canada’s federal political parties. Turns out that not only are participants in the Whack The PM game afforded the opportunity to ‘bash’ the Prime Ministerial candidate whose answer to a question s/he least likes, after answering a handful of questions, the Whack The PM website asks the player to place their postal code into a box provided.

Whack The PM then takes you to your electoral riding, where the site builders have created a facility whereby a checkmark is placed beside the leading candidate in the riding who would be most likely to defeat the federal party lead by your most ‘bashed leader’.

Of course, all of the above offers incentive enough to play the game below, if you haven’t played it already. Have fun.


Leaders Prepare for Upcoming Television Debates

Today is a quiet day on the campaign trail, as the four federal leaders to be included in the television debates (RealPlayer required) this Monday and Tuesday (Green Party leader Jim Harris, despite his protestations won’t be along for the ride) prepare for what is shaping up to be an ‘election changing’ exchange between Canada’s Prime Ministerial aspirants.

So, even though VanRamblings had planned a major Decision Canada update for today, we’ll instead simply reflect a bit on the upcoming debates.

In Gatineau, Que. this morning
PM Paul Martin had better
find a way to smile before the
TV debates take place this week.

While Prime Minister Paul Martin mingled with vendors selling fresh fruits and vegetables and shoppers at Ottawa’s ByWard Market yesterday afternoon, and participated in a Gatineau, Québéc pancake breakfast this morning, the remaining leaders remained huddled with their advisors preparing for the upcoming debates.

The four major party leaders have their work cut out for them.

Martin has to find a way to dissipate the public’s anger over the sponsorship scandal, remind voters of his record of fiscal prudence while Canada’s Finance Minister, and somehow convince Canadians that not only is his vision of Canada our vision of Canada, but that he will, in fact, set about to implement his programme of progressive social change.

Stephen Harper — even though he’s leading in the polls and has so far managed to run a ‘teflon campaign’ — has the most to lose. If Martin, Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe, and NDP leader Jack Layton can tag Harper with both hiding his agenda of regressive change to Canada’s social structure, and not only tolerating but supporting the racist, bigoted, homophobic, and increasingly disturbing remarks of an ever-growing contingent of regressive Conservative candidates, Harper could be done like dinner. The upcoming debates are Harper’s to lose. Cool, calm, collected and re-assuring, or it’s game over for Harper and co. (at least in terms of winning a majority of the seats in Parliament).

Plain and simple, NDP leader Jack Layton has to convince Canadians that a vote for his party is not a vote for the dreaded Conservatives.

Duceppe will be Duceppe, ever the Québéc nationalist. Still, as a potential coalition partner, Duceppe’s performance will be closely watched.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 6:00 PM | Permalink | Decision Canada | Comments (1)

June 12, 2004

Decision Canada: Intolerance, Vacuity, and Heckling A Free Press



According to the latest Ipsos-Reid/CTV/Globe and Mail poll, mid-way through the election the Liberals (at 32%) and the Conservatives (at 31%) find themselves in a statistical dead heat. The pollster’s seat projection model suggests that a vote held today would result in a Conservative minority government, with between 114 and 118 seats, leaving the Liberals with between 104 and 108 seats, the Bloc Québécois with 61 to 65 seats, and the NDP with an increased presence in Parliament, with between 21 and 25 seats.

Meanwhile, the overnight CPAC-SES tracking poll shows that support for the Conservatives and Harper as PM has slipped: the Conservatives are at 34% (down from 37% in the previous day’s tracking poll), Liberals are up at 33%, while the NDP at 18%, the BQ at 11%, and Greens at 5% remain steady. Although earlier in the week Harper came close to Martin as best PM, the Martin lead has widened: Martin 31%, Harper 22%, Layton 11%.

SES’ nightly tracking indicates that when the campaign focuses on change, the Tory numbers move up and when the focus becomes the socially conservative views of some Tory candidates the Tory numbers go down.

Even so, in yesterday’s Globe and Mail, a confident ‘Bush-Lite’ Harper talked to reporters about the prospect of forming a majority government, suggesting that his Conservatives would deliver a Throne Speech in the fall followed by a budget emphasizing tax cuts and military spending.

In the weekend prior to the debate, SES finds that the election to be a horse race, and Harper perhaps a tad too optimistic (or is that arrogant?). With new campaign ad blitzes, and Tuesday night’s English-language televised debate, next week’s polling results ought to tell the tale.

Tory Wants Funding For The CBC Switched Off

For many, the most distressing aspect of the campaign occurs in consideration of what a Tory government would mean to the arts in Canada.

According to Guy Mason, president of the Canadian Film and Television Production Association, Conservative cultural polices would gut film and television production in Canada.

“What we’re seeing could be a devastation of the industry in a free and open market in North America,” says Mason. “Who’s going to be creating Canadian content?”

In their pre-election report, the Canadian Conference of the Arts (CCA) gave the Conservatives a C- (by far, the lowest ranking among the five major parties), for “no sign of support for the arts,” while in their Election Platform Matrix, the CCA finds the Conservatives ...

Plan to audit all federal grant and contribution programmes and contracting policies ‘on an expedited basis’, would initiate an overall review of the relevance of the role played by the CRTC in Canada’s communication and broadcasting industries, and in respect of specific questions on funding to the CBC and the Canada Council, a spokesperson stated that there is “no mention in the platform (that) indicates status quo” for a first Conservative mandate.

In an article published in Thursday’s Edmonton Journal, freelance writer Todd Babiak writes that ...

In its 46-page policy platform, the Conservative Party doesn’t mention art and culture. Not even in the appendix. The word art only appears once, in quotations, decrying the “artistic licence” defence for child pornographers. Stephen Harper and other Conservatives have said they would cut finding to the CBC in whole or in part, and Heritage critic Jim Abbott supports lifting foreign ownership restrictions on telecom companies and broadcasters.

Babiak concludes his article, by writing, “In all our current excitement about change, we should notice what the parties ignore. We may not know what we’re voting to abandon until it’s gone.”

In respect (or lack thereof) of the CBC, earlier in the week Tory hopeful Joe Spina, a two-term MPP under Mike Harris and Ernie Eves, stated he wants funding for the CBC switched off, saying it serves as a mouthpiece for the federal Liberals. In addition, Spina told the Toronto Star’s Caroline Mallan ...

“Where I have a problem with the CBC is where it competes for audiences in urban areas with other private radio and television ... driving listeners away from the free market.”

Repeated polls have shown Canadians strongly approve of the mandate for the broadcaster, which receives approximately $1 billion in annual government funding to operate in both English and French.

Ex-Alliance Director Quits ‘Vacuous’ Tories

Barry Yeates, ex-director of political operations for the Canadian Alliance — the predecessor of the ‘new’ Conservative Party — is the latest prominent Tory to throw his support behind the Liberals.

In an open letter Friday to news editors, Yeates writes: “I find myself increasingly apprehensive of the vacuous platform and social conservative agenda now being purveyed by the newly formed Conservative party.”

“I think the views expressed by a number of Conservative candidates and party officials, on topics as diverse as abortion, sexual orientation, bilingualism and immigration verge on intolerant. I am therefore deeply concerned about what a Stephen Harper government could mean for Canada.”

The Conservative leader said such attacks are the work of a Liberal party desperate to pull its campaign out of a swan dive.

But in an indication of the heightened emotions in the election campaign, as a huge crowd milled outside an Ottawa hall last night, waiting to get into a Harper rally, 15 young protesters held signs reading Don’t Mortgage Our Future and Respect Our Charter, shouting “Books Not Bombs.”

NDP Leader Shoots Down Missile Defence Programme

Is Stephen Harper a pro-American hawk? Maude Barlow, in an article published in the Globe and Mail, says she thinks so, writing that ...

Harper has said that Canada’s traditional support for multilateralism is a “weak-nation strategy” and has called for Canada to replace the “soft power” of persuasive diplomacy and peacekeeping with the “hard power capabilities” of intelligence and military power in the service of continental security.

As for a reinvigorated NDP leader Jack Layton, he told a boisterous crowd attending a rally at a downtown Toronto church last night to lash out against the proposed U.S-led missile defence programme, saying it “will spark a dangerous new arms race and Canada should have no part of it.”

Responding to enthusiastic supporters, he vowed to make missile defence an election issue, denouncing the programme as “a costly, ill-conceived hold-over from the Cold War that will ultimately put weapons in space.”

Tory leader Stephen Harper has said his government would put to Parliament a decision on whether to participate in the U.S. initiative on Ballistic Missile Defence.

The Conservative platform advocates a combat-ready military force.

Tories aim for ‘smaller’ Canada, Martin says

In a vigorous, impassioned speech before the Women’s Executive Network, in Toronto on Friday, Prime Minister Paul Martin painted a sombre portrait of life under the Conservatives (RealPlayer required).

Martin expressed concern that Stephen Harper could eliminate the Departments of Citizenship and Immigration, as well as the Justice Department, the Heritage Department, and “then turn around and eliminate Industry, Foreign Affairs, Fisheries and Oceans, and Natural Resources.”

“Under a Liberal government, fundamental rights will not be open to negotiation,” he said.

Martin also said Harper would slash spending on social programmes to pay for lower taxes.

“We would be smaller within our own borders with diminished social services — a wearing away of fundamental rights and an erosion of our collective responsibility to those who need our help most.”

Martin was cheered when he again said he would defend a woman’s right to have an abortion.

Although it is not a part of the Tory platform, Harper has said he would allow a free vote on the issue if an MP introduced a private member’s bill.

A Sneak Peak At The Harper Cabinet

The Toronto Star’s David Olive speculates on what a Tory cabinet would look like:

  • Stockwell Day, Minister of Foreign Affairs. Day and Harper co-authored a Wall Street Journal op-ed essay condemning Canada for failing to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Bush Administration in its Iraqi adventure.

  • Belinda Stronach, Minister of Labour. Stronach is former CEO of union-hostile Magna International Inc.

  • Jason Kenney, Solicitor General. Kenney equates failure to oppose abortion with condoning slavery and child abuse.

  • Vic Toews, Minister of Justice. Toews wants to repeal or substantially amend a law protecting gays and lesbians from hate crimes.

  • Cheryl Gallant, Secretary of State with responsibility for Women’s Issues. Gallant recently equated abortion with the videotaped beheading of U.S. businessman Nicholas Berg by Iraqi terrorists.

  • Rob Merrifield, Minister of Health. Merrifield believes women opting for an abortion should first obtain counselling.

  • Scott Reid, Minister of Multiculturalism. Reid wants to scale back government services for minority-language groups.

  • Joe Spina, Minister of Culture and Heritage. Spina, former Ontario MPP under Mike Harris and Ernie Eves, now a Tory hopeful in the GTA riding of Vaughan, wants to eliminate funding for the “Communist Broadcasting Corporation.”

  • Frank Luellau, Minister of State for Human Rights. In a Globe and Mail interview, the Tory candidate in the Ontario riding of Kitchener-Conestoga unburdened himself of his belief that “the biblical teaching is that [homosexuality] is not a natural kind of relationship. I think it is inappropriate for Christians, especially Christian leaders, to live that lifestyle.”

The worst part is, the joke Olive makes above could, in fact, become reality.

“We’re The Conservatives: We Don’t Believe In A Free Press”

Supporters of Conservative Leader Stephen Harper repeatedly heckled Parliamentary Press Gallery reporters today, at a Harper press conference held in Brampton, Ontario.

Both CBC reporter Jennifer Ditchburn and Vancouver Sun reporter Peter O’Neil were jeered when asking a question on gay rights, as was Toronto Star reporter Tonda MacCharles when she asked Harper to again “clarify exactly your answer to the question about whether you recognize the ability of courts to read into the Charter, (to) ... interpret the Charter to include sexual orientation under the equality rights guarantee?”

Audible groans could be heard from the crowd.

“This is very pleasant being heckled at a news conference,” MacCharles said before Harper answered.

For insight into Stephen Harper’s policies, as well as important 2004 federal election news events, click on VanRamblings’ full Decision Canada coverage.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:03 AM | Permalink | Decision Canada | Comments (2)

June 11, 2004

Decision Canada: Barbarians At The Gate



A party that would repeal Canada’s recently revised hate law, thereby abolishing protection for minorities and members of the gay community; promote a free vote on abortion, so as to limit a woman’s determination over her own body; spend billions on a continental missile defence policy, and billions more on aircraft carriers and helicopters, turning Canada into a warring, rather than a peacekeeping, nation; interfere with the independence of the judiciary, implementing a reactionary, American-style litmus test for appointment to the Supreme Court of Canada; rescind Canada’s support of the Kyoto Accord on the environment; bring back the death penalty as the ultimate state retribution, placing Canada alongside the United States as the only other western nation to retain state-imposed capital punishment; remove government funding of the arts, and seek to destroy the CBC, Canada’s cherished public broadcaster; and, dramatically increase Canada’s long-term debt and restore a Mulroney-style massive annual deficit ... because implementation of their reactionary ideological agenda trumps the notion of the creation of a financially bankruptcy Canada, and our country’s future ability to provide health care, social programmes, education and a debt-free Canada for our children, and our children’s children ...

The Conservative Party, under Stephen Harper, would return us to a 1950s Canada, a time of societal intolerance and hypocritical, government-imposed morality, a Canada of more government not less government, a Canada that very few Canadians would knowingly support were they aware of the full implications of the Conservatives’ Demand Better document.

The barbarians are, indeed, at the gate.

Now is the time for all Canadians to reflect on the Canada they want for themselves, for their children, for their neighbours and for their community. Democracy is more than getting rid of the bastards who’ve been in power for more than a decade; democracy is keeping yourself well informed of the issues, and casting your vote accordingly.

For insight into Stephen Harper’s policies, as well as important 2004 federal election news events, click on VanRamblings’ full Decision Canada coverage.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:07 PM | Permalink | Decision Canada

June 10, 2004

Decision Canada: Musing About An Anybody-But-Harper Coalition



Well, here it is, Day 19 of the campaign, less than three weeks to go before Election Day, as the regressive Conservatives continue to climb in the polls and the bottom drops out of the Liberal and NDP campaigns, and all is not well in the world of Canadian politics. Is there an Anybody-But-Harper coalition forming in Canada? Will the NDP vote almost completely collapse and switch over to the Liberals in the week prior to June 28th? Or, are we on the verge of a Bush-style Americanization of Canadian politics, unprecedented in our lifetime?

We’ll know the answers to the questions posed above in the days to come.

Left-of-Centre Organizations Revise Plans

According to an article written by Simon Tuck and James Rusk, and published in the Globe and Mail ...

Left-of-centre groups are now scrambling to overhaul their plans for the federal election campaign, homing in on the possibility of a Conservative win — and warning what a Stephen Harper government may mean for their groups’ issues.

Environmentalists, women’s groups, unions and nationalists say they spent much of the past few months preparing election strategies that revolved largely around trying to influence Liberal policy. With recent public opinion polls showing that the Conservatives may well form the next government, the backlash has included a dramatic shift in these groups’ lobbying efforts.

Elizabeth May, executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada, has said her group’s priority is now making sure voters know that Mr. Harper is the only federal party leader who opposes Canada’s Kyoto Protocol pledge.

In Toronto, a group of constitutional lawyers warned that the Conservatives are planning to override the Canadian Constitution and its protection for minority rights.

“We’re well into this campaign and no one has seen to focus on the content of his policies as it affects the law,” said Clayton Ruby, one of 17 prominent lawyers who signed an open letter last week challenging Mr. Harper’s position on abortion and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. “These programmes undermine the Constitution, and people should know that when they are making their choices.”

Vancouver mayor Larry Campbell supports an Anybody-But-Harper drive.

“I mean we’re talking traditional right-wing government. That’s the barbarians at the gate. It’s unthinkable that we would go back. I mean he wants to take us back to the 50s.”

Meanwhile, the Liberals have released an aggressive shock ad that they hope will jolt moderate voters, especially women, away from the Tories.

The startling ad (Windows Media Player required) shows a gun barrel which seems to brush the camera lens before going off. A female narrator’s voice sombrely reminds viewers of the Conservative position on a range of issues, positions that would concern any reasonable voter: Harper would have sent troops to Iraq, would weaken gun control, reopen the abortion debate, and scrap the Kyoto accord on greenhouse gas emissions.

Other jarring images include:

  • Soldiers with machine guns running across a desert, surrounded by tanks.

  • Pregnant young women weeping against a hospital wall.

  • Smokestacks spewing noxious fumes.
The ad closes with a Maple Leaf flag dissolving against a Tory-blue sky and a warning that Canada would become unrecognizable under Harper.

Then there are the Liberals’ more traditional, low-key (and seemingly ineffective), non-attack ads, first on their recently-announced childcare proposal; on Canada’s tax system and the programmes to which our taxes are applied; and, the Liberal Party’s position on the environment.

The Canada that Paul Martin enunciates in the ads directly above is the Canada that VanRamblings chooses, and in coalition with an NDP caucus to ensure that a Martin government would fulfill its promises, VanRamblings hopes that this is the Canada you would choose.

The Editorial Illustration of the Day


Next up, VanRamblings’ Quote of the Day ...

We need to recognize that a government that denies a gay man the right to bridal registry is a fascist regime.Margaret Cho on gay marriage

Stephen Harper’s justice critic — and probable Justice minister in a Conservative government — suggested in a letter written and distributed shortly before the election campaign began that a Conservative government would move as early as this fall to repeal or substantially alter a law that protects gays and lesbians from hate crimes.

“Your efforts and dedication to stop this bill from becoming law have been appreciated and have helped to prepare the groundwork for the repeal or substantive amendment of this bill in the next session of Parliament after the election,” MP Vic Toews wrote three weeks before the campaign began.

Unbowed by attacks against his party’s socially regressive bent, Harper has vowed to change the law granting homosexuals protection from hate crimes to better protect “freedom of expression and freedom of religion.”

In spite of Harper’s declaration above, the Conservatives continue in their so-far-successful attempt to run a saran-wrap campaign, advising the party’s 308 candidates to stick to the election platform and avoid providing fodder for Liberal and NDP broadsides over social policy issues.

Even so, let us hope that the Conservatives cannot continue to keep their social agenda of intolerance from the ears, eyes and hearts of Canadians. There is much at stake in Decision Canada 2004.

For insight into Stephen Harper’s policies, as well as important 2004 federal election news events, click on VanRamblings’ full Decision Canada coverage.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 10:04 PM | Permalink | Decision Canada

June 9, 2004

Decision Canada: Sun About To Rise On A 'New' Day In Canada



If the polls are correct, Stephen Harper is about to become Canada’s 22nd Prime Minister. And, as my colleague Jay Currie mentions in his comment below, “It is going to be interesting. 40 pts and Harper gets a majority.”

Of course, as you might well expect VanRamblings will do everything in our (albeit limited) power to see that such an eventuality does not come to pass. Still and all, ‘Bush-Lite’ Harper as PM, huh? Nope, too scary.

Tonight, we’ll begin with our Quote of the Day, courtesy of Josh Gould’s Cognoscente’s Journal ...

“This then is politics. That part of our duty which teaches us to study the welfare of our whole country, and not to rest satisfied altho’ our own household is well off when our neighbours are in difficulty and danger. The honest politician is he who gives all he can and means to promote the public good, whose charity begins at home but does not end there. The man who says he is no politician is either ignorant of what he is saying or a contemptible selfish creature, unworthy of the country or community of which he is a part.”

— 1837 rebel leader William Lyon Mackenzie, grandfather of William Lyon Mackenzie King, Canada’s 10th Prime Minister

Do you honestly think that Darwinian Harper will adhere to Mackenzie’s salient instruction should he come to form government? One thinks not.

Harper Unveils Plan To Curtail Power of the Supreme Court

One of the central tenets of a free and democratic society, one of the key checks on the power of the Parliament and politicians to do harm, serving to act always as a leavening agent on the worst excesses of the political process to respond to the baser inclinations of the maddening crowd, the judicial system — and in particular the Supreme Court of Canada — is just one more cherished aspect of our democratic system of governance that Conservative leader Stephen Harper would choose to limit, or abolish.

In an article written by Tonda MacCharles and published in today’s Toronto Star, Mr. Harper is quoted as saying ...

“My view is that the role of the court is to apply the Charter to protect the rights laid out in the Charter. The role of the court is not to invent rights that are not in the Charter. The role of the court is not to ignore the rights that are in the Charter.”

“I’m concerned when I see courts that can find voting rights for prisoners, but can't find a right for ordinary citizens outside of political parties to express their opinions during election campaigns.”

“The idea of adjudicated rights is an important development in our political system. It’s one that I support in principle. But to make it work, we’ve got to make sure that we have courts that apply the law, not courts that apply their own criteria. It doesn’t matter whether it’s my criteria or (Paul) Martin’s or somebody else’s. (A Conservative government will) be looking for judges who have a history of understanding that’s the role of the judiciary.”

In other words, as is the case in the United States, a Conservative-led government will require a reactionary conservative litmus test for prospective appointees to the Supreme Court of Canada. Before long, Canadians will see the same kind of circus we see in the United States each time a Supreme Court Justice is appointed, where the prospective appointee's positions on issues ranging from women’s access to medical procedures to the Constitution are vetted by a partisan group of politicians.

In an unwelcome, and radical departure, from Canada’s 137-year history of appointing Supreme Court justices from an independent list of qualified applicants submitted by the Law Society of Canada, Stephen Harper would seek to implement an appointment process that would trammel on the independence of the judiciary, or as the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) writes in their March 2004 brief to Parliament on the Supreme Court of Canada appointment process ...

Appointments to the Supreme Court of Canada must be made as a result of an established, well-known and understood advisory process in order to facilitate the selection of the best candidates.

The CBA supports an open and transparent process for judicial appointments based solely on merit, and ultimately representative of the diversity of society as a whole.

The principles of judicial independence — accessibility, expertise, representativeness, efficiency and fairness — are essential to a well-functioning and highly respected judicial system. The selection process for judges must be objective and should remove any perception of political bias. It is the CBA's position that a Parliamentary review of candidates should not play a role in the selection of Supreme Court judges. Candidates should not be subjected to a congressional type process of public examination and review. This would politicize the appointment process and detract from the principle of the independence of the judiciary.

The politicization of the judicial appointment process. Just another example of the Conservative-led Americanization of Canada. You’ve got to ask yourself: Is ‘Bush-Lite’ Harper’s vision of Canada your vision of Canada, now and long into our children’s future?

For insight into Stephen Harper’s policies, as well as important 2004 federal election news events, click on VanRamblings’ full Decision Canada coverage.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 11:59 AM | Permalink | Decision Canada | Comments (3)

June 8, 2004

Decision Canada: Harper Getting a Raw Deal? Hardly.



Arriving early today, VanRamblings’ Decision Canada update provides you with a little insight into the day’s most provocative political events, and points you towards various stories, articles and political foofaraw of interest, available across the Web.

We’ll start off with this dispiriting bit of news: according to the latest SES poll, the Liberals and the NDP continue their freefall in support among Canadians. As my friend and colleague Jay Currie observes on his blog ...

“The regional is also interesting: In BC SES has the Liberals at 31, Conservatives at 37 and the NDP at 26. That is 8 points up for the Conservatives from May 30 and down 3 each for the NDP and the Grits.”

Obviously, Canadians want change. But perhaps not the kind of change the Conservatives will bring.

Next up, we’ll post the following cartoon, by John Fewings ...

Stephen Harper: affable but lying through his teeth

And lest you think that Stephen Harper is getting a raw deal from the press ...

McGill’'s Observatory on Media and Public Policy has studied positive and negative mentions of the major parties and leaders in the news and commentary of seven leading dailies through the first 10 days of the campaign. The results show marked differences among the papers.

The Liberals are getting beaten up everywhere, but especially in the National Post where the average net coverage is —37 per cent. This percentage is based on the per cent of positive mentions minus the per cent of negative mentions — a score of 0 per cent would be perfectly neutral. Le Devoir (-32 per cent), La Presse (-30 per cent), and the Calgary Herald (-25 per cent) were close behind the Post. The Toronto Star and the Globe & Mail were at -21 per cent and —19 per cent respectively. The Vancouver Sun was kindest at —10 per cent.

The Conservatives are getting better press than the Liberals across the board. The Calgary Herald and the National Post led the way with +12 per cent and +6 per cent respectively. The Toronto Star (-12 per cent) and Le Devoir (-11 per cent) were most critical of the party while the Sun, La Presse and the Globe were basically neutral.

As one would expect, coverage of the leaders closely mirrored coverage of the parties. Le Devoir was particularly hard on Liberal leader Paul Martin (-32 per cent) and the Post was both particularly warm to Conservative leader Stephen Harper (+12 per cent) and hard on NDP leader Jack Layton (-32 per cent).

Thanks to James at for the item above, and to Jim Elve for his BlogsCanada E-Group posting service.

James’ full posting, with comments, is available here. Have a look.

For insight into Stephen Harper’s policies, as well as important 2004 federal election news events, click on VanRamblings’ full Decision Canada coverage.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 12:57 PM | Permalink | Decision Canada

June 7, 2004

Decision Canada: The Devil In Stephen Harper



Tonight, a potpourri of election information goodies, none overly dispiriting. First off, though, if you haven’t read today’s earlier entries — here and here — you may want to make a point of doing so. Okay, on to tonight’s entry — hang on to your hat.

The Devil In Stephen Harper


From Now Toronto, an insight into this Conservative fella, Stephen Harper.

“Who is this guy,” they ask? Cautious and crafty, the Conservative party leader has perfected the soft sell, but a look at his past pronouncements reveals he’ll rip up every right and service Canadians have fought for. Dangerous? Hell, yes!

  • Has vigorously and actively opposed gay marriage. And would use the Notwithstanding Clause to override the Supreme Court’s definition of marriage.

  • Has called ‘vile’ any comparison between civil rights and gay rights, and voted against including sexual orientation in hate propaganda laws.

  • Hired a former Winnipeg radio jock fired for saying that “diesel dykes (are) running the school board” to be his media spokesperson in his 2002 Alliance leadership bid.

  • In his own words: “West of Winnipeg, the ridings the Liberals hold are dominated by people who are either recent Asian immigrants or recent migrants from eastern Canada: people who live in ghettos, and who are not integrated into western Canadian society.”

  • Only party leader to oppose electoral finance reform ban on donations from big business and unions.

  • Supported the U.S. war in Iraq.

  • Calls Kyoto protocol on greenhouse gas emissions a ‘boondoggle’.

  • Favours abolishing human rights commissions, calling them “an attack on our fundamental freedoms and the basic existence of a democratic society ... It is in fact totalitarianism.”
The 8 points above are just the start. You’ll want to read the full article.

MP Gallant Compares Abortion To Iraq Beheading

Tory MP Cheryl Gallant
equates abortion with beheading

Yes, your favourite Ontario Tory wacko, and mine, the ever dim Cheryl Gallant is up to her old tricks again. Seems that this time she has set about to draw a parallel between abortion and the beheading of American contractor Nick Berg.

The Western Catholic Reporter, in an article on an anti-abortion rally on Parliament Hill last month, quotes Gallant as saying the world was horrified at Berg’s beheading by Iraqi terrorists, and the subsequent video of the incident that was posted on an al-Qaeda affiliated website.

“She compared the killing to the abortions performed in Canada over 35 years and said it is ‘absolutely no different’,” the article said.

Another Fine Elected Tory Wacko

Thanks to the folks at Points of Information for pointing us towards Canada’s funniest, most distressing and completely inane political video.

Yes, the East has Cheryl Gallant. We here in western Canada have Rob Anders, who we wrote about in our June 5th Decision Canada posting.

As PoI writes, “Legend had it that Mr Anders’ political career began with an appointment as a paid heckler working against the Democrats in a U.S. Senate campaign 10 years ago, wearing a Pinocchio nose, no less. It’s actually even quirkier than it sounds, as you can see in this Windows Media Player video. Maybe one day the Blue Fairy will turn him into a real elected representative.

Ah, Jean. We Knew Ye Well


Feeling a bit downhearted about the almost complete ineptitude of both the Liberals and the NDP to inform Canadians about just what a threat Stephen Harper poses to the status quo (universal health care, access to medical procedures for women, equality of opportunity, the Charter of Rights, Canada’s international reputation as a peacekeeper, and so much more)?

Chantal Hébert, writing in today’s Toronto Star suggests ...

If Jean Chrétien were still Liberal leader, he would have already made mincemeat out of Jack Layton and Stephen Harper.

Chrétien would have been relentless in his pursuit of the NDP leader in the wake of his promise to repeal the Clarity Act on Québéc secession. He would have set his post-referendum point man Stéphane Dion on Layton’s trail. It goes without saying that Dion would still have been a cabinet minister.

He would not have let the striking internal divisions triggered by Layton’s Clarity Act remarks slip out of sight overnight. Instead, Chrétien would have shed crocodile tears of sympathy at the extraordinary sight of Manitoba’s Bill Blaikie and former leader Alexa McDonough having to break ranks with Layton in the midst of an election campaign.

Chrétien would have pounced on the early Conservative slip-ups on official bilingualism, driving home the fact that Harper knew full well the positions of his friend Scott Reid when he confirmed him as official languages critic earlier this year.

Almost makes you feel a tad nostalgic about Liberal yesteryear, huh? Imagine what this dull campaign would look like if the little guy from Shawinigan was on the hustings.

Decision Canada’s Quote of The Day

From Maritime Rant, who has the following posted on his blog: “People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.” — Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard.

For insight into Stephen Harper’s policies, as well as important 2004 federal election news events, click on VanRamblings’ full Decision Canada coverage.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 11:43 PM | Permalink | Decision Canada

Dismantling The Work Of The Fathers of Confederation

Smiling while destroying the country

From David Olive, blogging at the Toronto Star: A radical re-invention of government.

Stephen Harper proposes fixed election dates; an elected Senate, its members serving 6-year fixed terms, selected by voters in each province; MP vetting of Supreme Court nominees and senior mandarins, starting with military staff; and power for MPs to overturn Supreme Court decisions.

Which means: a Prime Minister could no longer be deposed or eased out in mid-term — the fate of Margaret Thatcher and Jean Chrétien when they lost the support of their caucus. Legitimate power for the upper house (Senate) for the first time, with the same profound implications of deadlock and regional parochialism that characterizes the U.S. system. Diminished power for ministers, as MPs meddle in their departments; and a neutering of the Supreme Court, whose final say in interpreting the Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms would be eclipsed by backbench MPs.

Probably nine Canadians out of 10 who can identify Tory policies would mention taxes and honest government. How many voters realize this is an election about dismantling the work of the Fathers of Confederation?

For insight into Stephen Harper’s policies, as well as important 2004 federal election news events, click on VanRamblings’ full Decision Canada coverage.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 1:25 PM | Permalink | Decision Canada

Liberal & NDP Supporters Ready To Commit Hari Kari

In spite of one bizarro announcement after the other, in spite of the Conservative’s health critic calling for mandatory abortion counselling for women, an Ontario Tory candidate calling for the re-instatement of the death penalty, Conservative leader Stephen Harper’s statement that his government would pull the debate about same-sex marriage from the Supreme Court and back into Parliament for a free vote, and in spite of the announcement of an Ontario Conservative MP yesterday stating that her party would repeal Canada’s hate law, those damnable, ne'er-do-well, rag-tag bunch of reactionary wackos — better know to most Canadians as the ‘new’ Conservatives — have taken the lead in preference, among Canadians, for government, as sorrowfully reflected in the latest SES poll.

Election tracking: CPAC-SES Poll, June 7, 2004.

Nothing like playing to the lowest common denominator, and appealing to the anger and baser instincts of Canadians to promote the interests of your party. Read the polling chart above, and weep.

For insight into Stephen Harper’s policies, as well as important 2004 federal election news events, click on VanRamblings’ full Decision Canada coverage.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 11:30 AM | Permalink | Decision Canada | Comments (1)

June 6, 2004

Decision Canada: A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing



In a June 5th Toronto Star column, Thomas Walkom addresses the question as to whether Conservative leader Stephen Harper “is a former firebrand who, at the more mature age of 45, is moving to the centre ... or, a dangerous, socially conservative radical with a secret agenda.”

Walkom’s answer to the question: “Harper is a radical, in the true sense of the word: He would make changes that cut to the root of the system.”

The basis for Walkom’s assertion comes, in part, as a consequence of ...

  • Harper’s pledge that he would allow a free vote in the Commons if a private member introduced an abortion bill. Harper would not stand in the way if a majority of MPs decide to recriminalize abortion — but it wouldn't be his idea.

  • Harper calling liberals cowards for not joining the U.S. in the war in Iraq: “What is evident is the lack of desire of the modern liberals to fight, and even more, the striking hope on the left that we actually lose ... nowhere was this insidious moral neutrality more evident than the 2003 U.S.-Iraq War. Serious conservatives must insist that Canada fully support the U.S. in its new role as the world’s single superpower.”

  • Harper’s call for “serious conservative parties” to not shy away from values, on a wide range of public policy questions, including foreign affairs, family and child care and health-care and social services. In particular, Harper has written, “the welfare state is destroying the family through government interference that unduly limits the rights of parents to use force — such as spanking or strapping — to discipline their children.”

  • the movement of medicare as a universal entitlement as understood by the Canada Health Act (which demands that 100 per cent of the population be covered equally by public insurance) into a more limited, means-tested programme, available only to those too poor to afford private health insurance.

  • a call for an end to all universal social programmes.

Conservative MP Calls For Repeal Of Hate Law

Tory MP Cheryl Gallant
calls for repeal of hate law

In what is becoming a repeated pattern, a senior Conservative official was forced to distance the party from a candidate’s controversial remarks — this time about Canada’s amended hate law.

In an interview with CTV News, Ottawa-area MP Cheryl Gallant said she opposed the new law that was recently amended to include sexual orientation as one of the protected groups.

“The danger in having sexual orientation just listed, that encompasses, for example, pedophiles,” Gallant said. “I believe that the caucus as a whole would like to see it repealed,” she said.

And this is the party that Canadians are considering making government?

Might B.C. Voters Decide The Overall Winner In This Election?

Arjun Singh writes: I haven’t done any of the complicated math, but the same Ipsos-Reid poll that showed the Conservatives and Liberals in a dead heat in Ontario, showed that the Conservatives dropped 8% in their support in B.C. That still equates to the same Grit/Tory dead heat as in Ontario. The Liberals only dropped 1%.

Interestingly, the NDP is up 9%.

Communists. Running In A Constituency Near You.


They’re ready. They’re working for you. How able are they? Don’t ask.

If you’re looking for an alternative to the mainstream parties, the Communist Party of Canada says Try us! Here’s one political party that believes having a decent job is a fundamental right.

The Communist Party of Canada has released their platform document, titled People Before Profit!, which its 35 candidates across the country will promote over the next three weeks. Here’s a sampling of tenets of the CP platform ...

  • An obligation that requires all large corporate employers to justify publicly before terminating operations in whole or in part.

  • An equal obligation that requires these same corporate entities to give at least two years notice in the case of massive layoffs.

  • The enactment of legislation instituting a 32 hour work week, with no loss in pay or services to the population.

  • An end to diverting funds from the Federal Employment Insurance Reserve and a call to raise benefits to 90% of the salary earned by each and every worker, for the duration of the term of unemployment.
Too bad they're not serious contenders; parts of the platform have appeal.

Who’s Gonna Win the Election Come June 28th?

Last evening, VanRamblings introduced a new election blog (top right), the Election Prediction Project. At present, the site’s administrator, Milton Chan, is calling for a bare majority Liberal government. All that can change in the weeks to come, though.

By clicking on a province on the map on the site’s front page, visitors are taken to a listing of each riding in that province. By clicking on a particular riding, site visitors are afforded the opportunity to read input from voters in that riding (and both their prediction as to who is likely to win, and who the respondent will be voting for), as well as provide their own input.

NDP’s new strategy to target Harper

A Canadian Press story reports that, in a break from tradition, the NDP will ratchet up their attack on Stephen Harper, accusing him of hiding an extreme right-wing agenda.

“With the Conservatives, I think they are being artfully vague in a Republican way about what they really want to do in office,” said Brian Topp, the NDP director of research.

Apparently, the New Democrats have drafted an about-to-be-released document entitled Harper’s Dictionary, accusing the Conservative leader of hiding a range of right-wing plans, from allowing MPs to push restrictions on abortion and gay marriage to re-imposing the death penalty in Canada.

For insight into Stephen Harper’s policies, as well as important 2004 federal election news events, click on VanRamblings’ full Decision Canada coverage.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at 10:05 PM | Permalink | Decision Canada


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