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My back and forth with London A-News over their census coverage

I’d been meaning to post this sooner, but other events kind of interrupted my intention, so here it is now, for your consideration. When the Census controversy was first brewing last week, it dutifully got reported on last Sunday evening’s broadcast of A-News London (they are a CTV affiliate) as a fight between the Liberals and Conservatives – no mention of the countless editorials and organizations that even then were condemning the move. The station then broadcast excerpts of an interview they did with ex-Cabinet minister (and new apparent point-man for attacking the tyrannical mandatory longform Census and the Liberals who defended it) Maxime Bernier, who happened to be in […]

A lot of concern suddenly about Census intrusiveness where there was none.

The Census is your hot political topic for the summer – right up there with the F-35 fighter jet purchase. Who’da thunk? Certainly not the Harper government, I’d expect, who have now shifted gears (with ex-Cabinet minister Maxime Bernier apparently and suddenly given the lead starring role/spokesperson of this dumb move, in place of Tony Clement, who hasn’t exactly been stellar or persuasive with his arguments, if they can be called that). They now want to recall the House of Commons committee that looks into issues like the Census, so they can explain to Canadians how tyrannical the longform Census has been in mandatory form the past 30 years, and […]

Double standards

Maxime Bernier would get a lot of respect from me if he decided he didn’t appreciate being treated a lot differently by Harper then Lisa Raitt has been under almost exactly the same circumstances and resigned from the Conservative caucus in protest.

He could do so as well without being in any danger of losing his seat in Quebec either.

Miscellaneous Simcoe Day thoughts

What’s this, you’re wondering? Why am I calling it Simcoe Day? Well, its because I prefer calling it that to the rather anemic sounding “civic holiday”.  In Toronto, they officially call this day “Simcoe Day” in honour of John Graves Simcoe, the first lietenant-governor of Upper Canada, and since I like having holidays that honour our past historical figures, that’s what I too, am calling it at this blog. Anyhow, some random thoughts on some political issues that have popped up:

1) Am I surprised that a government report basically absolves disgraced former Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier and blames his ex-girlfriend Julie Couillard? Not one iota. When have the Conservatives ever accepted responsibility for anything under their watch as a government? Never. They always try to find a scapegoat for their bumblings. Add this to the list, and I also won’t be surprised if I see some Conservative supporters clamouring for Bernier’s reinstatement over this whitewashed report.

2) With regards to the Federal government continuing its assault on the Canadian Wheat Board (which is well documented here) by removing third-party spending advertising limits during the wheat board elections, a move that shocked even anti-monopoly farmers, you’re going to get a glimpse in the Wheat Board elections of what Stephen Harper was trying to argue should be the case for general elections in Canada, when he went to court as a National Citizens Coalition president to try and have 3rd-party spending limits declared unconstitutional, and failed.  Expect to see big food corporations out there pouring out ad money trying to sway the election in their and the federal government’s favour. (As an aside, you will notice this is just the latest in a pattern of dirty tricks that Harper and the Conservatives have attempted to do to game a voting system’s rules).

Your theme today on the Conservatives: secrecy, and secretive

Exhibit 1: Liberals Question Bernier Timeline:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s claim that he was in the dark until Monday about Maxime Bernier’s missing classified documents is under attack following the revelation that the sensitive papers were returned to the government some 24 hours earlier…Government House leader Peter Van Loan surprised many yesterday when he said the Prime Minister learned of the return of the documents on Sunday. “The Prime Minister said that he became aware of it on Sunday afternoon and that is when action was taken,” he said. That immediately drew “oh, oh” from opposition benches. Van Loan quickly backtracked and insisted that Harper was only told of the missing papers Monday, a timeline mocked by the Liberals.

So, secrecy on when the Conservatives actually knew about this – a revelation that Peter Van Loan may have let accidentally slip – from fatigue,  he claimed, but perhaps he really let slip the truth:

Sources said that a lawyer for Julie Couillard, Bernier’s ex-girlfriend, returned the documents to the government in the hours before she taped a television interview Sunday afternoon. She makes an oblique reference in the television interview, saying “as we speak, the lawyer has been duly mandated and the document has been returned.”

I’d like to get that lawyer on record saying that’s exactly the day when he delivered those.

Exhibit 2: The public think in a new (online) Angus-Reid poll that the Cons. are arrogant and secretive:

Half of Canadians believe Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government is not only secretive but arrogant, according to a new Toronto Star/Angus Reid poll. The Conservatives, who have been in government for more than two years, are regarded as secretive by 50 per cent of those surveyed, with 51 per cent stating the government is also arrogant… Almost three in five – 58 per cent – are “dissatisfied” with the way the government has performed in informing the public about its policies and plans.

Exhibit 3: An article by Susan Delacourt in today’s Star describing how “it’s been a bad week for a government that prides itself on secrecy and message control”:

Taken all together, these incidents point to what seems to be a glaring irony surrounding the Harper government and its communications strategy. To wit: this capital is locked down tight when it comes to small, domestic, even trivial minutiae. But on the big important stuff, the kind of information that could affect Canada’s relations with the world, people have seen a side of the Harper communications-management machine this week that appears to be a little loose, if not chaotic.

Its amusingly painful to watch this self-immolation.

Which scandal do you go after?

Seriously, this Conservative government has so many of them going on right now, which one do you focus on if you’re the opposition? Or do you try to focus on them all, hoping that the Canadian public doesn’t care about the specifics of each scandal, but grasps that whatever the details, the Conservatives aren’t a very clean bunch while in power.

That all said, here are two things I’ve seen today that I like. First, the Canadian public seems to regard the Bernier-Couillard affair as something that needs investigation, if you believe this poll:

Canadians, according to the latest Angus Reid poll, are taking it seriously, with a majority wanting an RCMP investigation…According to the poll conducted over the past two day, the majority of Canadians believe it is a serious matter requiring the RCMP to investigate whether Bernier breached security. The online survey of 1,001 adults found that 57 per cent think an RCMP investigation into the security breach is warranted, while another 53 per cent said the Bernier situation raises questions about Harper’s judgment.

I note that we now have more sources inside the civil service apparently leaking stuff, with the Liberals now saying they’ve been told that CSIS, Canada’s spy agency, and the PMO had discussions over Julie Couillard, which Stock Day refused to confirm or deny – which might as well mean a confirmation. The Conservatives harsh treatment of the public service (not to mention all their attacks on the independent federal agencies) may be coming back to bite them – and I’m neither surprised or sad that’s hapenning.

Second, the Liberals and Dion are grabbing onto the Toronto Star report from yesterday that I talked a bit about here and charging that there was a coverup/whitewash by the Conservatives in determining who did the leak over what we’ve been calling NAFTAgate involving Barack Obama and the release of documents questioning his sincerity in opposing NAFTA supposedly to a Republican operative who then contacted the Associated Press. It’s good that Dion and the Liberals are raising this with reporters, as it keeps that story in the spotlight about how the Conservative government is so ideological, it would go to the lengths of trying to influence the US Presidential election to aid their Republican  soulmates, which a former diplomat talked about here in an article talking about Frank Sensenbrenner:

“It’s typical on the part of that far-right cabal of Tories and Republicans who have put together a network, trying to work below the radar, because they think only they can solve the problems of the two countries together”

Only the Conservative/Republican can solve the problems of the two countries. What a scary thought that is – I wonder what they consider to be problems to solve – keeping Democrats and Liberals and other “leftists” out of office? Everything  that’s happened this week almost makes the Cadman affair look tame by comparison, doesn’t it?

I guess the “busybodies” have won (or were proven right).

Your Maxime Bernier resignation timeline yesterday, and the way the Conservatives handled it:

– Around the middle of the day, when being questioned about these new reports that Maxime’s ex-girlfriend was involved with security at airports, PM Harper utters what may become a famous phrase:

“I don’t take this subject seriously.”

– In QP yesterday afternoon, in response to Michael Ignatieff’s questions, this is what Peter Van Loan said:

“Mr. Speaker,” the House leader began, “our Foreign Affairs Minister and our Prime Minister have been showing considerable leadership on the world stage”

– At about 5 pm on CBC and Don Newman’s Politics show, Conservative MP Deepak Obhrai said the following about Bernier:

“The caucus is behind him 100%. We think he’s doing a marvellous job.”

– Finally, around 7:30 7:10 pm or so, comes Harper back out to the press corps, all of a sudden taking the subject of Maxime Bernier and his ex-girlfriend VERY seriously:

Maxime Bernier has stepped down as foreign affairs minister over his sloppy handling of secret cabinet documents an error called “very severe” by Prime Minister Stephen Harper…”He told me he has left classified cabinet documents in a place that was not secure,” said a visibly shaken Harper. “Evidently this is an error that is very grave. We will review this incident.”

He accepted the resignation earlier in the day, according to this news article. I wonder how much earlier in the day. How nice of Harper to not tell his mouthpieces in QP and on TV talk shows that this was going to transpire while they went on and defended Bernier profusely to anyone who would listen. I’m sure they are thanking him profusely for his secretive manner making them look like idiots.

EDIT: I might also note that the NDP – specifically Thomas Mulclair – didn’t look too hot out of this whole affair either, since he was dismissing it on Don Newmans show right after Deepak’s claim of how everyone in Conservative-land thought Maxime was doing wonderfully. (H/T Aaron Wherry over at Macleans)

EDIT 2: Oh, and if you want to see how the Blogging Tories are trying to spin this, check out the spin cycle Mr. Stephen Taylor is trying to use for all this; apparently according to Stephen, this resignation means the government can move forward on its agenda without this distraction. That’s a pretty good attempt at spin, Stephen – at least you’re putting up a brave face about things.

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