Thursday, November 24, 2005

Conservative Non-Confidence

Pondering Politics

The federal conservatives have finally screwed up the courage to introduce a non-confidence motion in the House of Commons. It is expected the vote on this motion will be held on November 28, 2005. It is also expected the liberal minority government will fall and we should prepare for an election expected in January.

There are two important facts the looming election will address. One is that the federal liberal government under Jean Chrétien entered into a sponsorship program that went terribly wrong. It became the scandal of the century and the details were evident in the Gomery report.

The second fact to consider is that our economy is booming and we haven’t had it this good for a long time. It is hard to imagine how any of us will be any better off under a conservative government lead by Stephan Harper.

Harper’s motion of non-confidence expresses a lack of confidence in the liberal minority government charging that they are corrupt and have a “culture of entitlement” that makes them unfit to govern. I am tired of hearing this catch phrase “culture of entitlement” and the slogan “Stand up for Canada” that the conservatives use almost every day. What the voters want to hear is what the Harper conservatives will offer that does not upset our strong economy and social programs that we all depend on every day.

Stephan Harper condemns the federal liberals for having a surplus and spending it on Canadians. What would he be saying if the liberal government had been running the country into debt? We all remember how the conservatives managed the economy in Saskatchewan. Harper calls it "vote buying." The fact is that every dollar a government spends is vote buying and it makes no difference what party is in power. Are we to expect that a conservative government will not spend any tax dollars they collect from Canadians?

The Harper conservatives have failed to make it clear what voters can expect from them if they were to form the next minority government. There is no clear indication that an election will deliver a majority government and no clear indication Canadians will be any better off under a conservative minority government.

Watch for an array of promises the conservatives will tempt you with at the next election to be paid for by your tax dollars. Yes, that’s right, vote buying! Be careful when you cast your vote at the next federal election. You assuredly will get what you ask for!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Political Slogans

Pondering Politics

Political slogans are risky. Political parties should be very careful when choosing a slogan. Consider for a moment the slogan of the federal Conservative Party of Canada. The slogan is, “Stand up for Canada.”

Now consider that a similar slogan was used in the early sixties by the Governor of Alabama. He was considered to be a racist Governor and used the slogan, “Stand up for Alabama.”

Does this mean the federal conservatives are racists? No, not at all, but it does mean the federal conservatives may have been a tad more original in choosing a slogan. It also means they have exposed themselves unnecessarily to further criticism from those who oppose them.

All those political operatives in the conservative party should be able to at least carefully choose a political slogan. Is it possible that Stephan Harper was the one who chose the slogan? Who knows? It is an interesting question.

You may be interested in the following link that gives you some idea of where the Governor of Alabama stood on issues of human rights. You may then want to compare that to the federal conservative party and come to your own conclusions.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Election Call

Pondering Politics

Can politics in Canada get any worse? The public must be disgusted with all the hypocrisy and games that are played out every day by all parties.

The liberals have an albatross of corruption and scandal hung on them. The Chrétien government got the liberals in this mess and the Martin government has attempted to get out of it.

Is this form of corruption new to Canadian politics? No, and it is likely to occur again. Political parties in power have always looked after their supporters through patronage.

There is nothing wrong with patronage. It is the fuel that powers the political engines. There is only one condition that needs to apply. Patronage must be honest and the beneficiaries must be qualified for the position. It is apparent the liberals took on some bad fuel and their engine is sputtering.

The scenario is simple. All three opposition parties oppose the liberal government for different reasons. The common thread is the sponsorship scandal. All the political parties say they are ready for an election. So, what is stopping them?

The Conservatives and the Bloc say it is up to Jack Layton and the NDP to pull the trigger and cause a winter election. Why is that? Why not the Bloc? They are the only party that has nothing to lose and everything to gain. Why not the Harper conservatives? They are the only party that can form government. Jack Layton is the last person who should be triggering an election. He and the NDP have never had it so good and they would rather have a corrupt liberal government re-elected than have to face a conservative government led by Stephan Harper. Jack Layton and the NDP will assuredly face philosophical changes to health care under a Harper government. The conservatives and NDP have nothing in common.

Canada is not in a state of crisis. The economy is strong and there is peace and prosperity in our vast country. The problem is in the fact that this minority government has failed and there is no clear indication that either the liberals or the conservatives can form a majority government.

Common sense would suggest the election be held in the spring. Maybe the voters will give the hungry conservatives a chance to feed from the patronage pot for a while. Harper can talk all he likes about curbing patronage, but it will continue under his watch. You can be sure he won’t be hiring liberals to manage any future sponsorship programs, but his party faithful will get their chance at patronage. This is the nature of politics and we should all get used to it because it is not about to change anytime soon. The political hypocrisy and games will continue.

Larry Birkbeck

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

John Weir_Spinning the Web

Pondering Politics

I am amazed and curious as to how very ordinary individuals engineer their way to the inner core of political parties, government and business. These people apparently have at least one skill you just have to admire and that is their success at working the system. How they do it is a mystery I have never solved.

Please consider the case of John Weir. It is my understanding that he first landed in Ottawa in 1980 as a research assistant to a Progressive Conservative M.P. from Winnipeg. When Grant Devine became Premier of Saskatchewan in 1982 John Weir made contact with an individual in Saskatchewan about employment with the Devine administration. The contact delivered and Weir became employed with one of the Devine government ministers.

Weir played it smart and became close to Dave Tkachuk, now Senator Tkachuk, and Don Pringle who were two of Grant Devine’s closest advisors. This landed him the initial position of assistant principal secretary and later principal secretary to Grant Devine.

The Grant Devine government was defeated in the 1991 provincial election, but John Weir landed on his feet. He was then apparently compensated by the Progressive Conservative caucus to fend off the pending Tory fraud scandal. The exact value of the compensation may never be known. What we do know is that he failed in this task. Numerous conservatives were charged, convicted and sentenced in what became the largest political scandal in the history of Saskatchewan.

Stay with me. Follow the trail. John Weir then ran for elected office in the 1995 provincial election as a conservative candidate in a Regina South constituency. He had no hope of winning, but he didn’t run to win. He ran to pad his resume and it worked as shortly thereafter he was hired as executive assistant to the Minister of Education in the Mike Harris government in Ontario. John Weir continued to work the system and landed a position as director of caucus relations as a member of Premier Harris’s office staff. He went on to become principal secretary to Premier Harris.

Now consider the following quote from the Hill Times.

“Mr. Weir, who currently is president of Enterprise Canada Consultants in Toronto, started to advise Ms. Stronach recently. He started his political career in the early 1980s when he came to the Hill to work as a research assistant, but soon moved to Saskatchewan to work for the provincial minister of education and the premier's office at that time. In 1995, Mr. Weir was hired as chief of staff to the Ontario minister of education and in 1997 joined Mr. Harris's office first as director of caucus relations, but later on was promoted to the position of principal secretary.”

John Weir has spent his life spinning his political web across this county. Belinda Stronach is the latest to get tangled in his web. He apparently succeeded in convincing her that he is now an expert on national politics. Why is he not advising a conservative like Stephan Harper? Harper needs all the help he can get regardless of their qualifications. Why not John Weir?

Now here is the kicker. Remember when Harper refused to let Weir’s former boss, Grant Devine, run in the last federal election and later stripped him of his conservative membership. It was many of Devine’s former confidants that urged him to run for the conservative nomination in Souris-Moose Mountain that is now represented by a conservative Member of Parliament, Ed Komarnicki.

The latest speculation is that Weir may now hold the key for Grant Devine to again run in Souris-Moose Mountain, but this time as a liberal. Keep in mind that Grant Devine was a liberal before being dragged into Saskatchewan conservative politics. If Devine were (Weir) to face off against Komarnicki I would bet on Devine to win as a liberal in a right wing riding.

The success achieved by the likes of John Weir is a mystery. He was never elected, but has admirably achieved the art of winning on the success of others. John Weir, I congratulate you on your success, but I am still amazed and curious. What a web, what a story!

Note: John’s wife has her own web. She is now CEO of the Whitby, Ontario Chamber of Commerce. What a team!

Larry Birkbeck

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Weyerhaeuser Closing

Pondering politics!

Today was devastating for Prince Albert and for the Province of Saskatchewan. The news that Weyerhaeuser was shutting down their Prince Albert pulp and paper mill operations and displacing the jobs of nearly 700 employees is a devastating announcement. Yes, it is an economic blow to the area and to the province, but more important is how families will cope with the news that their jobs are lost.

The Premier responded favourably by appointing a committee to consider the ramifications of this loss. Hopefully the committee will consider all possible options for salvaging something positive out of what, at this time, seems to be a hopeless situation.

The most positive response was from the statement made by Prince Albert’s Mayor. He just bit the bullet and confidently proclaimed that Prince Albert would persevere in the same way our pioneers persevered when tough times hit them. His comments were absolutely courageous and gave Prince Albert a line, however thin; to hang on to as his city begins to grapple with Weyerhaeuser’s decision.

It should be noted that Weyerhaeuser purchased the Prince Albert pulp mill, along with a chemical plant and sawmill, from the government of Saskatchewan in 1986. At the same time Weyerhaeuser announced their intention to construct a new fine-paper mill in Prince Albert. This project was completed in 1988.

Ironically, in 1998, Weyerhaeuser invested $315 million in a project to, among other things, dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The project, for the most part, was intended as an environmentally sound corporate move for Weyerhaeuser to comply with the principles of sustainability outlined in the Kyoto Protocol.

To add to the irony, the government of Saskatchewan issued a Press Release on May 19, 1998 congratulating Weyerhaeuser on this major upgrade to the Prince Albert plant. One of the key Ministers quoted in the News Release at the time was Economic and Co-operative Development Minister Janice MacKinnon. Mackinnon was quoted as saying, "Weyerhaeuser Canada is declaring its confidence in the future of our province and the Prince Albert region by investing $315 million in this project," MacKinnon said. "The announcement also confirms that for many years to come, Prince Albert Pulp and Paper will be a major source of jobs and economic activity in our important forestry sector." How wrong was Mackinnon on this statement?

Energy and Mines Minister, Eldon Lautermilch was also named in the Press Release congratulating Weyerhaeuser. He now is apparently going to head up the Premier’s committee to investigate Weyerhaeuser’s decision to shut down the Prince Albert plant. How effective will that be?

Weyerhaeuser could have handled this decision with more compassion and concern, but they didn’t. The reality is that the free market and lack of demand for pulp and paper has changed drastically since 1998. Both the NDP government Ministers and Weyerhaeuser failed to read an unpredictable market future and as a result nearly 700 jobs are expected to be lost. It is sad and tragic, but a harsh reality of world economics.

Positive attitudes like the comments by Prince Albert’s Mayor are encouraging. This was unfortunately offset by the simplistic and negative position taken by the SaskParty in their statement that the Weyerhaeuser announcement was reflective, in part, due to the poor business climate in Saskatchewan under the NDP government. Are we to believe that Weyerhaeuser would not have shut down in Prince Albert under a SaskParty government? Not likely, and it is little comfort for a city that is currently reeling from Weyerhaeuser’s decision. The SaskParty should be joining all stakeholders that are moving in to support Prince Albert as opposed to their sad attempt to gain political points.

I am hopeful that the resilience of the people of Prince Albert will prevail. They have strong leadership. Solutions will not be easy. The livelihood of families has been uprooted and it is devastating. We can only hope that positive stakeholders will find the necessary positive solutions.


Larry Birkbeck
Regina, SK

Friday, September 30, 2005

Governor General Michaëlle Jean - Promising

She will touch our lives in her sincere way

The Ottawa Citizen
September 29, 2005
CREDIT: Wayne Cuddington, The Ottawa Citizen

Larry Birkbeck expects inspiring leadership from Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean, right, who was presented with a bouquet of flowers Tuesday by Daniel Stanton, 6, who is battling acute myeloid leukemia.

Re: A call to end the solitudes, Sept. 28.

The critics of Michaelle Jean's appointment have been numerous and relentless from the beginning. They should be silenced now, but is that too much to hope for?

I hope this country will now afford our new Governor General the same tolerance that Canadians hold out as one of the defining characteristics of their country.
Not until Tuesday was I so moved by the installation of a Governor General. The entire ceremony had the stamp of Michaelle Jean over it and her speech was one of the best I have heard in decades. Her words came from the heart and each word held its own variance of emotion and focus.

All people need to be reminded that there really is hope in this world that seems to be crumbling around us. Our new Governor General offered us that vision of hope. Could we ask for more? No, but she offered more as she stressed the importance of ensuring the ethical and ecological integrity of this world for generations to come. She made it clear that this is a moral obligation.

Most defining was the Governor General's courage to address the barriers that divide us as a nation. Her comment that "the time of the 'two solitudes' that for too long described the character of this country is past" was powerful. And so was "we must eliminate the spectre of all the solitudes and promote solidarity among all the citizens who make up the Canada of today."

This is a Governor General who will exceed all expectations and who will reach out to touch our lives in her sincere way. She wears her emotions on her sleeve and seems to have a place in her heart for everyone, as well as unlimited energy.

She hopes that, together, we can call upon the vigour of our shared history to realize our dearest and most ambitious wish: to make a better world. Is there a better wish?

I congratulate Canada's new Governor General, Michaelle Jean, and wish her every success in fulfilling her role on behalf of all Canadians. Wow, what a day for Canada!

Larry Birkbeck,

Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean
© The Ottawa Citizen 2005

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Governor General, Michaëlle Jean

Pondering politics!

Here is one time where pondering was unnecessary and politics was provided with a new compass for a guide. I speak highly of the installation of Canada’s new Governor General, Michaëlle Jean. The critics of this appointment have been numerous and relentless from the beginning. I trust that this country will now afford our new Governor General the same tolerance that Canadians hold out as one of the defining characteristics of Canada.

Over the decades I have worked for a better Canada, but not until today was I so moved by the appointment of a Governor General. The entire ceremony had the stamp of Michaëlle Jean all over it and her installation speech was one of the best I have heard in decades. Her words came from the heart and each word held its own variance of emotion and focus.

All people need to be reminded that there really is hope in this world that seems to be crumbling around us and our new Governor General offered us that vision of hope. Could we ask for more? No, but she offered more as she stressed the importance of ensuring the ethical and ecological integrity of this world for generations to come. She made it clear that it is a moral obligation.

Most defining was the Governor General’s courage to address the barriers that divide us as a nation.

“The time of the “two solitudes” that for too long described the character of this country is past. The narrow notion of “every person for himself” does not belong in today’s world, which demands that we learn to see beyond our wounds, beyond our differences for the good of all. Quite the contrary: we must eliminate the spectre of all the solitudes and promote solidarity among all the citizens who make up the Canada of today. As well, we must make good use of our prosperity and our influence wherever the hope that we represent offers the world an extra measure of harmony.”

I believe this is a Governor General who will exceed all expectations and one who will reach out to touch the lives of each of us in her own sincere manner. She wears her emotions on her sleeve and seems to have a heart for all with no end of energy. She hopes with all her heart that together, we can call upon the vigour of our shared history to realize our dearest and most ambitious wish: to make a better world. Is there a better wish? Her critics should be silenced, but is that too much to hope for?

I congratulate Canada’s new Governor General, Michaëlle Jean, and wish her every success in fulfilling her role on behalf of all Canadians. Wow, what a day!

Not Pondering,

Larry Birkbeck
Regina, SK

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Reformed Politics

Pondering politics!

There is no question we need to do politics different in this country. Reform is long over due, but what changes would make a difference? I believe it is necessary to return power to the people. Here are a few suggestions that would make a difference to our existing system.

Reorganize government into three clearly defined parts. These parts would be executive, legislative and judicial where none would be subject to unfair influence of one on the other.

Develop a system where elected officials at all three levels of government are answerable to only their constituents. This would provide for elected members to always vote their conscience without reprisal from colleagues or party leaders. It would also remove the nonsensical situation we have now where elected members have their nominations secured to prohibit others from challenging their nomination. Remember, these are the same politicians that want an elected Senate. Protected nominations are only one step away from appointing our representatives in the House of Commons and the provincial legislatures. How dumb would that be?

Elected officials should only be allowed to serve two consecutive terms. I suggest they could run for office again after they had sat out at least one election. This would tend to give them a reality check and keep them honest.

On the financial side our governments should be required by law to balance the books. Making payments on existing debt should be a mandatory percentage of revenue surplus applied to the debt in every budget. This would eventually remove debt entirely.

Governments should quit lending money entirely and rely only on short-term tax breaks to allow individuals and businesses to establish themselves.

No professional civil servant should have to worry about losing his or her job, which commonly results from a change of government. Those appointed in the executive part of government should be required to automatically file their resignation papers at the call of an election. They could be reappointed after the election. If you live by the sword, you should die by the sword.

These are just a few suggested changes that would make our governments work better and return some power to the people.


Larry Birkbeck
Regina, SK

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Regina City Employees Strike

Pondering politics!

The politics surrounding the strike of city workers is quite ridiculous. The city has made plans for where we can dump our garbage. They should be making plans for ending the stand off with their striking employees, as should the unions.

Both sides have argued their positions are fixed and that is why I say the politics of the situation is ridiculous. The Mayor is facing his first real tough test since he was first elected. Saying, “I love Regina” will not resolve the strike. The unions are staying out to strengthen the union movement in the province to prove they can still resolve labour disputes by joining arms with their so called brothers and sisters. It is a farce and it is ridiculous!

Based on what both sides have stated the strike will never end. Really! Never! In reality, it will end by one side or the other, or both, giving in a bit on their previously stated positions. That is the fact of the matter. So what reason can either side give me for not resolving the strike within the next week? If both sides continue with the current impasse it will only prove that their own politics, however you want to define it, is more important than serving the taxpayers.

As taxpayers we are the innocent third parties in this dispute. Why should we be inconvenienced to satisfy the ridiculous politics of the City of Regina and the unions? We should begin to think about how we are going to make them pay for their political antics! He who pays the piper should call the tune. I am wondering how I will do that and I suggest all taxpayers do the same.

City council and the labour unions should be sent to New Orleans to negotiate their differences. I think then both sides may realize how petty their differences are in relative terms. As one who pays the piper, I say, “End this ridiculous strike.”


Larry Birkbeck
Regina, SK

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Respect Flag and Country

Pondering politics!

You have to wonder where the respect is for our country and our flags. We take it all for granted in this land of peace and prosperity. Even after witnessing all the devastation, disaster, human suffering and human failure to manage the crisis resulting from the Katrina Hurricane Canadians are only a tad more thankful for all we have in this great country.

I stopped for a coffee at Tim Horton’s at the corner of 4th Avenue and Albert Street in Regina and sat outside to enjoy our beautiful weather. Across the street is the Carling Place Strip Mall where flags representing Saskatchewan and Canada attempt to fly strong and free representing our provincial and Canadian colors. They are weathered and torn in half. It is a disgrace to our country and our province for our flags to be left to wither in the sun and wind as if Hurricane Katrina had hit them.

It is interesting to note that the office of Andrew Scheer, M.P. for Regina Qu’Appelle is located just across the street from the Carling Place Mall. Andrew Scheer worked for Larry Spencer, former M.P. for Regina-Lumsden-Lake Centre. He may not have learned much in his overpaid position with Spencer, but I know he learned that a Member of Parliament’s office gets an annual allotment of Canadian flags for distribution in and around his constituency. Spencer’s office staff and Larry Spencer had a policy of providing a flag wherever one was torn and tattered. Andrew Scheer should consider adopting the same policy.

It would at least show respect for our great country if all levels of government made a commitment to assuring that any Canadian or provincial flag be flown only if it is in one piece and showing our full colors. That is the least we could do in appreciation for all we have. Andrew Scheer and all elected officials should give this some serious thought. It amazes me that Andrew Scheer can’t look across Albert Street, see the worn and weathered flags and say, “damn lets get over there and provide the Mall with some new flags.” How difficult would that be? It is apparently too difficult for a rookie Member of Parliament who must be too busy doing more important things.


Larry Birkbeck
Regina, SK

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Michaëlle Jean, Governor General Designate

Pondering politics!

Michaëlle Jean, the Governor General Designate, is a heated point of debate and it continues to rage. What does this say about Canada? What does it say about our Prime Minister and our government? What does it say about the Leader of the Opposition and about our parliamentary system of government?

I am not going to get into the debate about her qualifications or whom she and her husband may have been associated with at some time in their life. I know I have been associated with some people in my past that I regret, but I trust I will be judged by who I am and not by the persons of my past.

Canada is a country badly in need of a reality check. Are we compassionate and caring or are we struggling with an inferiority complex? Who are we? I believe it is time for parliament to amend our constitution, break from the monarchy, establish our own form of government and clearly define who we are as a country and just what it is we want to be in the future as a progressive nation. Do this and we won’t need to worry about any future Governor General appointments. It would also go a long way to resolving separatism in Quebec.

Regardless, it seems the Prime Minister has chosen a controversial person to serve as Canada’s Governor General. I am sure he did all the security checks and there were many he could have chosen that were more qualified. The Prime Minister and his government made a political appointment and such appointments are made to help the government and not the opposition. Michaëlle Jean will serve the liberals well in Quebec. Who knows, she may even serve Canada well and so she should. That is her role.

Stephan Harper and the opposition have not displayed any form of leadership on the issue. Harper has now conceded on the appointment and is prepared to accept her nomination. This is in contrast to Andrew Scheer, M.P. for Regina Qu’Appelle, who has made a fool comment on his web blog,, to refer to Michaëlle Jean and Al-Queda terrorists in the same context. This is shaudy politics and plays on the emotions of people in an attempt to gain cheap political points. Desparate politicians resort to desperate measures.

It is clear that our parliamentary system of government is failing us and many of our politicians are failing us. It is time for Canada to make some changes and grow up as a nation, but who will lead us in this noble cause?


Larry Birkbeck
Regina, SK

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Senate Appointments

Pondering politics!

Well, I had hoped to leave writing about politics until the end of August to give people a break to enjoy our short summers. The recent Senate appointments require a short comment.

The Senate appointments included a couple of conservatives. This was generous of the liberals, but leaves the conservatives in a difficult situation, as they believe all Senators should be elected. I tend to believe that would not be harmful and is a popular position with most Canadians. Prime Minister Martin and the liberals may have gained some popular support by appointing a couple of conservatives. With the current system of appointing Senators it could be a long time before any could be appointed by a conservative government at the rate the Harper conservatives are going to remove the Martin liberals from power. Conservatives are left not being able to condemn the Senate appointments since they gained two Senators out of it all. Further, they are still trailing far behind the liberals in the polls and may not form government in the next decade.

As a long time conservative, I should get my name in for a Senate appointment by the liberals, as it would never happen under a conservative government. My appointment would please some conservatives and annoy others. The liberals could then just sit back and enjoy the fireworks.

Everyone has a different view of the Senate and the process by which they are appointed. Maybe they should be elected, but that is in the distant future. Regardless, I congratulate all the recent appointments. I believe they are all worthy appointments for different reasons. I am confident they will make some meaningful contribution for all the tax dollars that will go to pay their salaries. Patronage is still alive and well and now non-partisan. Interesting!


Larry Birkbeck
Regina, SK

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Scheer - Nystrom Rematch

June 29, 2005

Pondering politics!

Summer and politics are a poor mix, but here I am enduring yet another cool rainy day. I can’t work in our backyard, ride my mountain bike or play tennis. I am not enthused about another trip to Wal-Mart, Canadian Tire or another mall or big box store. After contemplating how I could best spend my time today I decided to review my collection of news stories, which has caused me to write this letter.

It was reported in the June 28, 2005 edition of the Leader Post that Lorne Nystrom won the NDP nomination in Regina Qu’Appelle by defeating three other candidates. The incumbent M.P. Andrew Scheer responded by indicating to the media that he wasn’t worried about a rematch with Lorne Nystrom. I have learned from experience that it is always prudent to worry when someone is threatening to defeat you. If nothing else Scheer should be worried about losing his big salary, a shot at a pension for life and all that prestige he never had before.

In his Press Release Andrew Scheer indicated “The fact that a majority of NDP members in Regina Qu'Appelle did not have Lorne Nystrom as their first choice speaks volumes about his return to politics,” said Scheer. “If most NDP members didn't have him for their first choice as candidate, then why would the rest of the voters in Regina Qu'Appelle want him as their MP?” Fair enough, but consider the fact that no less than four NDP candidates were seeking the nomination in Regina Qu’Appelle. Why would you seek a nomination if you didn’t feel you had a chance of winning? Worry Andrew, worry!

Further, Andrew Scheer secured only about one of five eligible voters at the last federal election and only about one of three who actually cared enough to vote at all. Scheer received only 36% of the votes cast followed closely by Nystrom at 33% and the liberal candidate at 28%. These numbers show clearly that Scheer is in no position to be condemning Nystrom about not securing a majority of NDP votes at a nomination. The fact is, Nystrom won the nomination and that is the bottom line. Andrew Scheer did not win with a majority of votes cast, as did Ralph Goodale (57.17%) in Wascana. Scheer won at the last election with a handful of split votes. Andrew Scheer being cocky about winning again is just poor politics.

According to Elections Canada, Scheer’s campaign spent nearly $70,000.00 to get him elected and that approached $30,000 more than it took to elect Goodale who did receive a majority in his election. Scheer is in no position to be talking about majorities and is apparently getting bad advice on how to write Press Releases.

The voters should not forget that Andrew Scheer is an Ottawa boy, who came to Saskatchewan shortly before the election, who knows little about Saskatchewan, who knows even less about agriculture, who has a few months of business experience, who has no degree or special education, who referred to our provincial government as a socialist/communist regime and who is a boy badly in need of some sound Saskatchewan political advice.

Finally, don’t call me for advice. I am just a good old Saskatchewan farm boy who has been around conservative politics for over 40 years. What the hell would I know? The country is now in the hands of self-proclaimed intellects like Andrew Scheer and Stephan Harper. Damn, it is still raining. Maybe I will go to Wal-Mart.


Larry Birkbeck
Regina, SK

Monday, June 13, 2005

Conservatives Blew It!

The following story by the Edmonton Sun is a good account of how the Harper conservatives failed to dine from the silver platter handed to them by the liberals. As the old saying goes, "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink." The conservatives have been wandering in the wilderness for years, came across an oasis, then wandered back into wilderness as if it were a mirage. They should get a leader who can tell the difference!


Sunday, June 12, 2005

EDITORIAL: The Conservatives blew it

The Conservative Party of Canada should contact Lorne Michaels and ask if its MPs can start getting gigs on Saturday Night Live.

Truly, the Tories are the new "The Not Ready For Prime Time Players."

It saddens us to say it, given the damage being done to our country by the Liberals. But the Tories simply haven't demonstrated that they have what it takes to run a credible opposition party, never mind the government.

Indeed, we never thought we'd see ourselves saying this, but boy, are we ever glad there's not a federal election going on right now.

Because if the Conservatives had managed to defeat the Liberals on a non-confidence motion last month, the Grits would probably now be comfortably on their way to a big majority government.
It's mindboggling that Stephen Harper & Co. were handed the gift of the weakest Liberal government in a generation - one that had a razor-thin advantage in the House of Commons - and blew the opportunity so spectacularly.

The Conservatives were repeatedly unable to capitalize on the numbers game in the House of Commons. The Tories couldn't convince Independent (and former caucus member) Chuck Cadman to vote with them on the May 19 budget vote or get any Liberal backbencher to break ranks. Instead, they watched in horror as Belinda Stronach left the party and was parachuted into cabinet only two days before the crucial vote.
The Tories then completely botched the handling of the Gurmant Grewal tapes by initially making public only a snippet of the incriminating recordings. The party then held back on releasing more of the material for nearly two weeks.

Since then, the credibility of the tapes has died the proverbial death of a thousand cuts, as media organizations have gotten forensic audio experts to weigh in on whether the tapes were sliced and diced to make Grewal look better and the Liberals look worse.

Any professional political outfit would have had Harper hold the press conference with Grewal, release the entirety of the tapes, unaltered, untranslated and unedited, and then announce that the master copies were going into the hands of a respected, independent third party who would be responsible for turning them over to law enforcement officials.

But obviously we're not dealing with a professional political outfit here.

Now let's imagine for a moment that the stars had aligned and Harper had successfully engineered the defeat of the Liberals and triggered an election. What, exactly, does this party stand for?
Prior to last month's budget vote, the Tories were falling all over themselves to promise Canadians that if the government fell, they'd pretty much implement everything that the Liberals had promised anyway. It was a rather confusing promise to Canadians - we're just like the Liberals, only without the corruption!

Given that the polls showed that the Tories weren't making huge headway on the Liberals despite the corruption, it was a distinction lost on Canadians.

So what else do the Tories bring to the table? Well, there's their opposition to same-sex marriage, which the Sun shares. But then what? Will the Tories cut taxes and if so, by how much? What's the plan for reforming health care or will they just throw good money after bad at it? What about crime and justice issues? Military funding?

In short, where is the election platform? Sure, there is no election at the moment, but we still have a minority government in Ottawa, so why isn't the document being put in the hands of Canadians now, telling Canadians how a Conservative government would be different from the Liberals.

We certainly don't buy any of the liberal media spin over a "secret" agenda ... mainly because we don't think the party has any agenda!

The end result of all of this is that the Conservatives now find themselves in a distant race for second in the polls, 14 points behind the Liberals nationally and in third place in Ontario.
The Tories can't just blame media bias or Liberal dirty tricks for their predicament. Simply put, the Conservatives couldn't capitalize on an inept and corrupt government. The Tories haven't shown they deserve to govern Canada.


Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Religion and Politics

Pondering politics!

The same-sex legislation is attempting to merge oil and water. Mixing religion and politics has always been hazardous at best. It cost Larry Spencer his political career and has conservative Member’s of Parliament in a difficult dilemma. Andrew Scheer, Member of Parliament for Regina Qu’Appelle, worked for Larry Spencer and wild horses couldn’t drag him into a fight with the Alliance/Conservative leadership over the Spencer fiasco. He was afraid of the political ramifications for his own political future. Spencer’s Ottawa staff member quickly resigned and rushed off to work for the Office of the Leader of the Opposition. So much for loyalty! I traveled to Ottawa in a failed attempt to assist Spencer with damage control, but Stephan Harper and his operatives had already made up their minds. They wanted nothing to do with mixing religion and politics and they reneged on a promise to provide Spencer with a copy of the taped discussions. I suspect the tape has since been destroyed and now they are embroiled in another controversy over the Gurmant Grewal tapes. Harper has since ordered Grewal to take stress leave in the hopes the issue may go away.

It seems you have to be careful when you are talking to a conservative M.P. The tape may be running. If you ever get banned from a conservative M.P.’s office it is likely because they had ran out of tape. Polls regarding the Grewal tape weighed in on the side of the liberals and the conservatives lost badly in their attempt to score any political points on the liberals. It was a dumb strategy from the out set, as the conservatives should have stuck with the sponsorship scandal. In politics you should never get off a winning horse and you should never place yourself in a defensive position.

Now the conservatives have all changed their position and decided discussions regarding religion and politics are one of the same respecting the same-sex legislation. This position is only about votes. It is now all right to discuss the issue without fear of being kicked out of caucus. I know Andrew Scheer and the nominated conservative candidate for Wascana both have strong religious beliefs. That is a good thing, but you can’t practice it only on Sunday. You have to play the religious card every day or not at all. Recent Globe and Mail polls indicate that 77% of those surveyed did not believe politicians should be guided by their personal religious beliefs. That is more than three out of every four voters. It will be interesting to see if Saskatchewan Member’s of Parliament will take the moral high ground on issues like same-sex legislation. If not, they may feel a tad uneasy at the Sunday Service and with three of every four voters. I know, they are just polls and they don’t apply to Saskatchewan. Don’t worry. Be happy!


Larry Birkbeck

Monday, May 09, 2005

Conservatives Appoint Candidates

Pondering politics!

Normally a person seeking to be a candidate in an election is required to win a nomination in a publicly announced nomination meeting open to the general public, except in the case of independent candidates. This normally has been the case even if there is only one candidate seeking the nomination. One must be a member of the political party they want to run under and the leader of that political party must also agree to sign the nomination papers of the person seeking to be nominated. If not, then winning the nomination has no purpose. Two recent examples in this regard were Grant Schmidt and Grant Devine. The rules of democracy and fair play were completely ignored.

Over the years, we have witnessed cases where liberals have appointed candidates and the voters have met it with disdain as we do with appointed Senators. This method of appointing candidates without a public nomination process has now become a normal practice among conservatives. It is less fitting for the Harper conservatives since it is a party that only recently gave up on the concept of recall where elected members could be forced to face the voters again before the next general election if they were deemed not to be filling their elected roles. The conservatives favour an elected Senate, but don’t mind appointing candidates for election to the House of Commons. The conservatives treat democracy like religion. They are all for it if it doesn’t inconvenience them.

In Saskatchewan, Stephan Harper and the Conservative Party have approved all thirteen conservative Members’ of Parliament as automatic candidates in the next election. None will have to face a challenge from some other person wanting to become involved in what used to be our democratic system of nominating and electing people to serve as our duly elected members of the House of Commons. Given the new process, “House of Elite” would be more appropriate. This was also the hushed case prior to the last election for sitting conservative members of Parliament under Stephan Harper’s leadership.

The conservatives have historically been the champion of grassroots politics and the defender of the rules of democracy. It would seem they are now no different than the liberals or the NDP.

Every year, the Saskatchewan Roughriders training camp requires all players to earn their spots on the team and that includes the star players. This is not the case in conservative politics where their apparent greed for power has left many asking, “what the hell happened to democracy?”

The Harper conservatives are in a tie game late in the fourth quarter. It may come down to a special play or a field goal to win this game of politics. It is an ugly game and ugly played by both sides. It can only result in an ugly win. Has Stephan Harper appointed the right players or will they drop the ball just short of the goal line and fail to score? If so, say good-bye to Stephan Harper and bring on Belinda!


Larry Birkbeck

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Conservative strategist uses poor analogy!

Pondering politics!

Consider the following comment by Geoff Norquay as printed in a news story covered by the April 26, 2005 edition of the Leader Post.

Conservative strategist Geoff Norquay said the 61 percent who said they agree with the prime minister that an election should only be held after the release of the Gomery report is misleading. “If you ask me how I feel about a route canal, I’ll say no way. But if the dentist says you need one, I’ll say get on with it.”

In my view he has just made the most compelling argument for why an election should not be held until after the Gomery Inquiry has concluded. Canadians are not keen on a route canal or an election. The conservatives have not provided the voters with a gripping reason why any of us should simply get on with it. As I have written before, the liberal party may be in a state of crisis, but Canada is not. Geoff Norquay should be reminded that Justice Gomery is the dentist and not Stephan Harper. Further, Canadians don’t want politicians of any stripe in their face and certainly not in their mouth.

The Gomery Inquiry is the route canal and it will route out any and all rot and decay and report to Canadians. The final report will have to be acted on regardless of who forms the next government.

It would seem the conservative strategist, Geoff Norquay may have used a poor analogy since it was Paul Martin who called the dentist and said, “Get on with it.”


Larry Birkbeck

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Stephan Harper - Too Eager for Power?

Pondering politics!

Prior to the last federal election the liberal government refused to hold an inquiry into allegations surrounding the Sponsorship program. Stephan Harper effectively argues that the current liberal government would not be in power if they had held the inquiry prior to the last federal election.

The Harper conservatives have supported an inquiry from the outset. Now that the Martin liberals have called the inquiry the Harper conservatives say they have heard enough and it is time to hold an election.

If you reverse Harper’s argument you will come to the conclusion that he is no different or better than Paul Martin. Harper wants an election now before the Gomery Inquiry has concluded. He feels he can win an election regardless of the conclusions of the inquiry and regardless of the fact that 61% of Canadians support Paul Martin’s call for an election 30 days after finalization of the Gomery Report. It is all about power as Harper may be as guilty of forcing an election before the Gomery Inquiry concludes as was Paul Martin guilty for not having ordered an inquiry prior to the last election.

Stephan Harper should be reminded that patience is a virtue, but has Harper any virtues? Is he so power hungry that he will destroy this opportunity that conservatives have to form the next government? Paul Martin is more popular than the liberal party and it is believed that the conservative party is more popular than Stephan Harper. All conservatives will remember that Stephan Harper lost the last election on his own regardless of Martin not calling an early inquiry into the Sponsorship program.

The Harper conservatives became too confident near the end of the last election campaign. Their talk of a transition team to take power from the ruling liberals was premature. Is Stephan Harper showing that he is again too hungry for power? Is he in the process of making the same mistake twice?

Stephan Harper should be reminded that about half of Canadian voters polled in 2004 believed the political parties, politicians and leaders are all the same. Will Stephan Harper prove them right?


Larry Birkbeck

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Prime Minister Martin's Address to the Nation

Pondering politics!

Prime Minister Paul Martin’s little address to the nation this evening was a flawed strategy that served more as an opportunity for his opponents than it did for Paul Martin. It is unclear to many as to what the Prime Minister was attempting to achieve.

He did apologize to Canadians for the Sponsorship scandal and he set the record straight regarding what he has done and intends to do to clean it up. This on its own merit was a good move, but it was still a defensive position. He attempted to take away the conservative oppositions hammer of being able to set the election period, but failed as it still remains in the hands of the opposition. Martin may have the conservatives in a bit of a bind as they risk voter rejection if they force the election when Martin has now promised an election in thirty days of the Gomery Inquiry report being finalized. Score one for the Prime Minister.

The opposition countered with the claim that the liberals have not the political, ethical or moral basis to continue to govern the country. The opposition has now been backed into a corner where they may have no other choice than to force an election. They should wait until testimony is in on the Gomery Inquiry, which gets the country into a summer election. This means getting out the vote will have more significance that ever before. Getting voters off the golf course, family camping, fishing and all those other summer activities will be difficult at best. If the conservatives wait for the liberals to call the election then we will be into Christmas and the voters will be equally difficult to get out to the polls.

Interestingly, for the most part, Paul Martin addressed the nation, Stephan Harper addressed Quebec and Jack Layton addressed the issues. Gilles Duceppe understandably addressed the continuing saga of Quebec wanting out of confederation, which is at least consistent with their long-term objectives. Harper’s focus on Quebec is risky as he is not likely to make any meaningful gains in that province, but risks losing support in other parts of Canada. The West, especially, has become weary with continual efforts to keep Quebec happy.

Remember, the Sponsorship Program was all about Quebec. The scandal was all about liberals. Score one for Duceppe. Harper’s position would have Canadians get used to a continuation of Canadian tax dollars being spent on appeasing Quebec. The conservatives are positioned to form government, but they must be very careful where they step to get there. The impending election is more about conservative fortunes than that of Canadians. The liberal party is in a state of crisis, but Canada is not. Prepare to score one for Stephan Harper.

Paul Martin did force the other party leaders to stake out their positions in response to his own regarding the Sponsorship Program and how Parliament should work over the next few weeks. The only question remaining now is who will blink first.


Larry Birkbeck

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Teacher's Salaries

April 19, 2005

Pondering politics!

The teachers are on the verge of securing a 2-2-2 percent wage increase over the next three years. The government’s policy of 0-1-1 percent increases over three years for public servants is apparently not on anymore. The government and the Minister of Learning, Andrew Thomson will have a difficult time explaining how all this will work as it respects other members of the public service.

More interesting is to hear the SaskParty making the case for the unions and the civil servants they represent. It would seem the government has bent to pressure from the opposition SaskParty and the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation. This situation has both the government and the official opposition in a bind. It seems at this time that the public feels the teachers are not deserving of a wage settlement in excess of the government’s 0-1-1 percent guidelines. At the very least the general public feels that everyone in the province, including the public service as represented by their respective unions, are deserving of an increase in their wages.

The government is flush in new revenue from oil and gas revenues and other sources. The public are eager to realize some direct benefit in their pocket by way of tax cuts, relief from property taxes, increased personal income, agriculture support and efficient funding for needed government programs.

When you boil all this down it seems both the NDP government and the official opposition SaskParty are at this time out of step with the general public. Who doesn’t deserve a 6% increase over the next three years? Which of these two political parties can we count on to get us all a 6% increase in our income over the next three years? Whoever it is will likely form the next government of Saskatchewan.


Larry Birkbeck

Thursday, April 14, 2005

The Kilgour Crossing

Pondering politics!

David Kilgour has been one of the better members of Parliament. The question is how many times can Kilgour switch parties without losing the integrity he served with for all these years.

David has now jumped out of the liberal party and into an independent seat in the House of Commons. His next honourable move should be to announce that he would not seek re-election.

If the Harper Conservatives should form government it is highly likely they would appoint Kilgour to some post or hire him for some government project to reward him for leaving the liberals.

David Kilgour has served his time and all matters of life come to an end. Kilgour has reached that point in his political career. It would be a shame for him to pointlessly attempt to seek re-election. It didn’t work for Joe Clark.

Finally, if Paul Martin loses the next election he too should step aside and let the future of Canadian politics proceed with new blood. Each of us must face the end and we will one way or another. Why needlessly fight it at the expense of one’s own personal integrity?

Not to add lightness to this matter, but it reminds one of an exchange of one bad guy for one good guy in a John Wayne western movie. Scott Brison went from the conservatives to the liberals and now Kilgour is contemplating a move from the liberals to the conservatives, which will be his second crossing and it’s not the English Channel. The question now is to determine who is the bad guy and who is the good guy! We know John Wayne was a good guy. In the exchange, whom did he get, Brison or Kilgour? Go figure!

Larry Birkbeck

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Election - Sooner or Later?

Pondering politics!

The prospects of the conservatives bringing down the governing liberals and forcing a Spring election is appearing more likely every passing day. The window of opportunity will never be wider. The entire conservative caucus could all jump through at the same time. The problem for conservatives is that the window will close at the end of June and stay closed until after the Gomery Inquiry is finalized. Are there any other options? Yes!

I understand the conservatives are eager to get to an election. It has nothing to do with the best interests of the country. The governing liberal party may be in a state of crisis, but Canada is not. It is all about power and money. It is more about the interests of Stephan Harper and the Conservative Party. They want to be in power. That is what politics is all about. It is the goal of any party in opposition. I don’t fault the conservatives for their ambitions. This is how are democracy works. Will the conservatives make a better government than what we have been receiving from the liberals? I don’t know, but if they do form government we can all compare notes after they have served in government for a while.

The other option for the conservatives is to wait and watch the governing liberals self-destruct. Liberal members like David Kilgour, who left the Mulroney conservatives to sit as a liberal has now left the liberals to sit as an independent. I expect more liberals will defect or choose not to seek re-election. If I were advising the conservatives, I would advise they stand firm, don’t blink and prepare for an election no sooner than the Fall of 2005 or Spring of 2006. The public will be more receptive to a later election call and the conservatives will be less subject to being criticized as opportunists. Be patient conservatives and you might form government.

Regardless, prepare for a June 2005 election.


Larry Birkbeck

Monday, April 11, 2005

Conservatives? Be careful what you ask for!

Pondering politics!

The Sponsorship Program was intended to again buy Quebec support with Canadian tax dollars. The Gomery Inquiry was commissioned by the Liberal government to investigate apparent, yet not proven, allegations that the Sponsorship Program funds were inappropriately allocated.

The Inquiry may cost more than any misappropriated funds. Canadians have no expectations that the Inquiry will protect governments in the future from people acting wrongfully. Hanky panky has been going on in politics for decades and it is not about to come to an abrupt halt regardless of the final outcome of the Gomery Inquiry.

The Conservatives see this as their golden opportunity to make a case that the Liberal government should be thrown out and that Conservatives should be given control of the cookie jar. Will they be any better? How well were you served by the Brian Mulroney and Grant Devine governments?

Would Canada be better off with a new government? Will we have thrown the baby out with the bath water? Another federal election within a year or so of the last one will not serve Canadians well. They are expensive and an interruption to a long-awaited summer. Further, newly elected members are just now getting used to spending their lavish salaries.

Are we hurting? Not really, as the current Liberal government has Canada in a sound fiscal position. This is paramount to providing for all the services and programs we Canadians have come to expect from our governments. In the last year, the Liberal government struck a $41.2 billion accord with the provinces and territories to secure funding for our cherished health care system. There has been strong growth in our economy and in job creation. The debt has been reduced by $52 billion and there has been $100 billion in tax cuts. Canadians have benefited from seven consecutive balanced budgets, the fastest growth in exports in more than seven years and $7 billion in GST rebates for municipalities. All this has the fiscal Harper Conservatives complaining that the federal Liberal government has too much surplus revenue. What would they be saying if the government was not fiscally responsible?

The media once argued that the Conservatives were so good in opposition that they should be left there. Conservatives have not performed well in government. Oil rich Alberta is an exception and even now the taxpayers are complaining that there is no indication of any meaningful tax breaks expected from the Klein Conservatives who have no debt and plenty of revenue. Why should we expect the Stephan Harper Conservatives to be any different?

Finally, be careful what you ask for, you may get it!


Larry Birkbeck

Monday, April 04, 2005

Standing Senate Committee - On the Media

The Leader Post, in their February 4, 2005 edition, covered a story captioned “Canada needs media think tank, U of R professor tells committee.” The deputy chair to the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications is none other than Saskatchewan’s own David Tkachuk who was a former hawk in the days of the infamous Grant Devine government. He was then appointed to the Senate through a process the majority of Canadians have never understood or supported.

Submissions to the committee suggested that Canada needs a media think tank. It was suggested that the media today is more concerned with the bottom line and less about service to the community. This may be true of most media outlets, but not the Saskatchewan weekly newspapers. The weeklies must make a profit, but they live and work in such close proximity to their readers that they are driven to a more accurate reporting of news events. Service to their community in an honest, balanced manner serves to support their bottom line. They are not about to bite the hand that feeds them. The large, corporate media outlets are less sensitive to what the public thinks of their reporting because they are less likely to meet them on their way to work the next day.

More submissions suggested convergence has damaged the sense of diversity in the media ever since regulations of ownership disappeared and that there used to be more competition around the media. I don’t believe this is the core issue that may lead the media to have a negative effect on society. The reporters and the management within media have a responsibility to accurately report on news and community affairs that is an honest, balanced representation of the facts. This is mostly evident in the weekly papers where the publishers and editors are pillars of character in the communities they serve. Can the same be said of other major media outlets?

It was stated that the public needs to do their duty if they expect a fair, independent, strong and healthy press. I disagree. The public is very active in communicating news and community events and affairs to the media. The weekly papers around Saskatchewan engage and trust individuals from numerous communities in their coverage area to report and in some cases even draft news reports for edification before print. The weekly papers and the public are in partnership to positively report on and enhance their respective communities. Is this the goal of the other media outlets?

Senator David Tkachuk complained that citizens had shown little interest in the committee hearings. That is true and we all know why. The government, in a variety of forms at our expense, goes about listening to the citizens, but never hears and mostly never acts on what they thought they heard. The true Senators are the citizens of this country and they have made a far greater contribution to community than government committees or appointed Senators will ever understand.

David Tkachuk claims he wants to hear from more working journalists to assist him in confirming if there are less reporters now, than in previous years, in the various media outlets. It seems to me that the committee should have been empowered to simply make a phone call and ask the question of the media outlets. It would be unreasonable to expect a reporter to voluntarily go before his committee and report that his employer was too cheap to hire sufficient reporters to cover the news and serve the community.

The public and the federal government will receive the committee’s recommendations in June of this year for consideration. This should be interesting! Regardless, it won’t change the honest and balanced reporting we receive from the weekly papers where people of character and principles are the pillars of their paper.

Larry Birkbeck

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

SaskParty Supports NDP

March 30, 2005

Pondering politics!

How different is the SaskParty from the NDP? They agree with the NDP on MLA pay increases and they agree with the NDP that additional provincial money is unnecessary for Saskatchewan farmers.

On Pay Increases - Last year the MLA’s displayed an unusual characteristic of leadership in denying themselves a pay increase when they waived their mandated pay increase on the basis the province was in tough financially. This year they are taking the increase they waived last year (2.3%) plus this years 2.2% increase to provide MLA’s with a base salary of $66,431 per year, not to mention their expense allowances. They call it a cost of living increase. Have you received a cost of living increase? This is not a bad salary for a job that requires no qualifications other than the ability or luck to get elected. As a former MLA I can tell you that, for the most part, it is one of the easiest jobs in the province.

The MLA’s are not looking good on this one as they continue to hold government employees accountable to a zero, one and one pay increase formula. So much for leadership from our elected officials! The SaskParty supports the NDP on these pay increases. Where is the difference?

On Agriculture – Saskatchewan producers are in line for a possible 250 to 300 million of a $1 billion federal Liberal government farm aid package announced yesterday. Ralph Goodale delivers again. The federal Agriculture Minister, Andy Mitchell has suggested the Saskatchewan NDP government throw in their contribution to keep with the traditional 60-40 federal-provincial split on agriculture programs. This could possibly add an additional $180 million to support for Saskatchewan farmers. Saskatchewan’s Agriculture Minister, Mark Wartman, is apparently not up to the challenge and his position received support from the Saskatchewan Party Opposition. Where is the difference? Where is the leadership?

Larry Birkbeck

Monday, March 28, 2005

Tom Lukiwski, MP Supports Dependency

Pondering politics!

Tom Lukiwski, MP Regina-Lumsden-Lake Centre, in a Media Release dated March 22, 2005 again called for the elimination of non-renewable resource revenue from the equalization formula. Fair enough, but this time he has gone too far by charging that Ralph Goodale has turned his back on all Canadians and betrayed the people of Saskatchewan. Further, he claims Ralph Goodale has long ago abandoned the interests of his home province. Lukiwski’s bravado remarks contribute nothing to resolving the issue. We know one thing, the SaskParty abandoned Lukiwski after he contributed to their recent loss to the NDP in the last provincial election.

Here are the facts. Goodale totally revamped the equalization formula to benefit more needy provinces. He placed a freeze on federal equalization clawbacks, which netted Saskatchewan $590 million this year alone. When you add this to the $120 million adjustment payment made to the province last spring it totals $710 million in extra federal funding this fiscal year. Goodale indicated in a speech in Moose Jaw this spring that even more money is on its way this year. Lukiwski is obviously drawing a long bow by claiming Goodale has abandoned Canadians or Saskatchewan people. Goodale has done more for Saskatchewan than Lukiwski will do in the next decade.

Stephan Harper was sharply condemned by all Canadians for once having stated that the Maritime Provinces were in a state of dependency as they depended to largely on the federal government for financial support. Saskatchewan has broke out of being a have not province to that of being a have province, due in most part, to oil and gas revenue. The equalization formula does need adjusting as Lukiwski argues, but he should also be arguing that it time for Saskatchewan to break out, go it alone and quit the continual whining to the federal government for financial assistance.


Larry Birkbeck

Andrew Scheer, MP backs Big Business and NDP

March 28, 2005

Pondering politics!

Andrew Scheer, Conservative MP Regina-Qu’Appelle, has repeatedly expressed his concerns about the fairness of rents charged by the federal government on the Regina Airport and the cost of air travel. We know it doesn’t affect him, as the taxpayers, his constituents, fund the costs of his flights nearly every week between Regina and Ottawa. We also know that Scheer is able to rack up air miles for every dollar the taxpayers spend flying him around the country. How fair is that?

He and his colleagues on the Transport Committee have called for the elimination of the Air Travelers Security Surcharge. Is security at our airports no longer an issue?

Scheer has also called for the suspension of rental payments by airports for a two-year period with the savings to be passed on to the carriers. That would be somewhat similar to suspending your rent or mortgage on your residence for two years with the savings being passed on to your landlord or bank. Why does Andrew Scheer want to subsidize big business? How many of his constituents take regular flights that are in dire need of a reduction in their flight costs?

Scheer and the Transport Committee have also called for the reduction of the federal aviation fuel tax by a rate of 50% for a two-year period. Now is that Sheer nonsense or is that Scheer nonsense? Does Scheer support the provincial NDP? They introduced a reduction on aviation fuel from 3.5 to 1.5 cents per litre, which is more than 50%, in their 2005 Budget.

Auto fuel costs are out of control. A tax break on these costs would benefit more people in Saskatchewan than a tax break for air carriers. This is, of course, unless you have a Cessna parked on your driveway or a 737 cleared for take off from your back 40.

I am more concerned about the high cost of living for individual people in Saskatchewan communities. Vehicle fuel costs, farm fuel and input costs, property taxes, utility rates, auto insurance, medical costs, the working poor, single parents, students and high tax rates on those who are fortunate enough to finally make a few dollars. Why isn’t Andrew Scheer repeatedly expressing concerns about these issues?


Larry Birkbeck

Friday, March 25, 2005

Senate Appointments

March 25, 2005

Pondering politics!

Prime Minister Paul Martin appointed a Saskatchewan woman, Lillian Eva Dyck to the Senate of Canada. In response, Jack Layton, the leader of the NDP, has indicated she is not welcome to sit in the NDP caucus and suggested she sit as an independent.

The historic appointment of a supposedly NDP person to the Senate has not been well received by the NDP. I suppose it is fair to say that the NDP, not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk. Their policy supports abolishing the Senate, which is backed by the Saskatchewan NDP party and Premier Lorne Calvert.

The other Saskatchewan appointment was Bob Peterson who was the Liberal Campaign chair for Saskatchewan in the last federal election. Only one liberal, Ralph Goodale, was elected in Saskatchewan. This was a failed effort by the liberals in Saskatchewan, but regardless Peterson was still appointed to the Senate.

Bob Peterson has been a long-time liberal operative in Saskatchewan in both provincial and federal elections. The liberals have essentially failed here in Saskatchewan. Maybe the appointment of Peterson to the Senate will clear the way for a new political operative to take over for the liberals. Maybe then they will eventually begin to get someone elected other than Ralph Goodale.

I enjoyed a successful campaign on behalf of Conservatives at the last federal election. I expected nothing in return and have received nothing. There is nothing fair about political appointments and political success has little to do with the process.

The Senate is, for the most part, a patronage pot that most people believe needs to be reformed along with our entire political system that is failing Canadians. Politics is a nasty business where the most unlikely people get elected and appointed. In normal life you earn your success. In politics it just happens. Does it make sense? No, and it never will. Their burden is to figure out how to earn their salary that is funded by Canadian taxpayers. Regardless, I offer my personal congratulations to these two individuals on their appointment to the Senate.


Larry Birkbeck

Provincial Budget_2005

March 25, 2005

Pondering politics!

The Saskatchewan 2005 Budget hit an all time spending high of over 7 billion dollars. That is quite a jump from the $119,000 budget of 1905.

Taxes generated 52.7% of the revenue and the second largest source of revenue was 17.5% the province milked out of the Government of Canada. We can milk them for even more if we get changes to the controversial equalization formula that everyone in Saskatchewan agrees needs to be changed.

Last year the budget was tough as revenue was down. Now that the revenue picture has improved the SaskParty Finance critic, Ken Cheveldayoff believes the provincial government should have given something back to the taxpayers. That may be so if you don’t think the $192 million in extra spending on healthcare and the $74 million in extra spending on education is not for you. Health and education combined eat up nearly two thirds of the expenditure pie and education is still hungry. Houston, we have a problem!

The Saskatchewan Teachers Federation approved by 93.7% a mandate to strike. They want more money and the SaskParty has indicated they support the teachers concerns. Fair enough, but how do you spend record amounts of money on healthcare, education and other departments and give something back to the taxpayers through tax cuts? I know! Ask Grant Devine! Better still; ask David MacLean, Provincial Director, Canadian Taxpayer’s Association – Saskatchewan.

The provincial NDP government is too reckless with taxpayer’s dollars. The entire budgetary process should be reformed to assure that revenue is fair and expenditures are efficient. In the short term our interests would be best served by cutting taxes. If you don’t take, you don’t have to give back. Finally, who knows better how to spend your money, you or the government?


Larry Birkbeck

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

2005 Conservative Party of Canada Convention

March 22, 2005

Dear Editor,

The Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) convention in Montreal is all over and weary delegates have all returned home. They should be weary as they applauded nearly every spoken word in their attempts to put on a united face. Were they successful? Only time will tell, but I want to take a look at what all the cheering was about.

Stephan Harper’s speech was the highlight of the great event. He said the liberals are on the way out and the Conservatives will form the next government. Does this mean they won’t abstain from any future votes like they did on the budget? Does this mean they will have the courage to win a non-confidence vote and cause an early election? Don’t hold your breath. If you were earning the salary MP’s earn how soon would you want to risk all with a roll of the dice in an election? The liberals are currently sitting around 40% compared to around 30% for the CPC according to reported polling. Of course, the CPC will dispute any polls that are not in their favour. The Conservatives are claiming they are united based on Harper getting an 84% approval rating from the delegates. Maybe they are, but Prime Minister Paul Martin received a rating of 88% from the liberal convention delegates. Does this mean the liberals are more united? You can expect the CPC to dispute this as well. Humility was none-existent in Harper’s speech or at the CPC convention.

Harper claimed that the liberal government years have only been good for liberals and he condemned them for having a surplus budget. The liberals balanced the budget for eight consecutive years, (This is the longest unbroken string of surpluses since Confederation.) have a five-year financial plan in place and Saskatchewan has done very well with Ralph Goodale at the Cabinet table. Further, our economy, on balance, is doing better than any of the other G7 countries. If the liberal government was not managing the economy and was falling in debt each year then the Conservatives would condemn them for that as well. The Harper Conservatives are quick to condemn those who dare to disagree with them, but we should take solace as Stephan Harper says he won’t call us stupid if we choose to disagree with him. Damn, I feel a lot better now.

Harper then asked what the liberals have done in twelve years. I thought he would have known the answer to that question. Regardless, the same question would likely be asked by liberals if the Conservatives were in power for twelve years. We now know some of the policies we can expect if the Harper Conservatives are elected to govern. They will define marriage as that being between a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, but they will not address the equally sensitive issue of abortion. They will have to more clearly define their position on abortion before the next election or maybe just dump it in the “Vote your Conscience” box. They will support the US on issues of common interest, including Missile Defence. They will say yes to families and no to marijuana and drugs. They will scrap the gun registry and hold elections for new Senators. They will listen to every voter and will not attack you unless you disagree with them. Is that why many delegates were afraid to be interviewed by the media? That makes them no different than any other political party.

Stephan Harper and the Conservatives attacked the liberals and were insensitive to older people when they made repeated comments about Paul Martin’s age. Harper ignored the division among his own ranks as headlined by the media in the fight sparked by differences between former Conservative leader, Peter MacKay and Scott Reid, a senior Conservative MP from the former Canadian Alliance. It is clear that there are still deep divisions among Conservatives on a range of matters and issues. Regardless, I give them full marks in their attempts to gloss over these differences as they frantically pumped each other with applauds at every spoken word, cheers, standing ovations and a non-stop party atmosphere. Unfortunately, it takes more than this to responsibly serve and govern a nation such as Canada.

For over four decades I have worked campaigns for Conservatives, served as an elected member for three terms and successfully assisted, as a campaign manager and strategist, with the election of Conservative Member’s of Parliament from Saskatchewan. I most recently served as the executive assistant for former MP Larry Spencer who self-destructed just prior to the last election. Stephan Harper and the Conservative Party of Canada made sure his destruction was permanent by stripping him of his Conservative membership as they did with former Premier Grant Devine.

I decided to drop my membership in the Conservative Party of Canada in December of 2004. The recent CPC convention and all the false bravado provided no cause for me to ponder my decision.

Regardless, the Conservatives held the best convention they could have hoped for and I believe they achieved their goals. So join the weary delegates and get pumped. If you vote according to who held the most successful convention then you will have to vote Conservative. Enough already!

Larry Birkbeck

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Tory Rumour Hurts Harper

Recent media reports by Maria McClintock, Ottawa Bureau, Sun Media spell problems for Stephan Harper and the Conservative Party of Canada as they near their convention. It is reported that debate on sensitive social issues may not happen and this has sparked a backlash over Harper's leadership. A fierce Internet debate ignited on the conservative Free Dominion website over the issue.

Resolutions on social issues like abortion and the definition of marriage put forward by Conservative MPs will apparently have to stand down in favour of Stephan Harper as party officials apparently confirmed that Harper will be the one to define the party's stand on the social issues during an election.

This, of course, flies in the face of democracy and the will of the grassroots that the Conservative Party of Canada believes sets them apart from the other parties. It would appear they are no different than any other political party and this is where the problems begin, which could lead to problems with Harper as leader and the future of the party as it attempts to define itself on these sensitive social issues.

It is also reported that even the National Citizens Coalition may launch a national ad campaign arguing that the Conservatives are abandoning their roots. It is interesting to note that Harper used to work for the National Citizens Coalition so it would seem that they may be about to abandon Stephan Harper.

I can only conclude that if you are too afraid to openly discuss the tough issues you are faced with in your own party, including social issues, then you are not prepared to lead or govern.

Larry Birkbeck

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Politicians_Beware of the Media

Beware; Peter O’Neil of the Vancouver Sun is at it again. Everyone will remember that it was Peter O’Neil who duped, former Alliance/Conservative Member of Parliament for Regina-Lumsden-Lake Centre, Larry Spencer into believing his intentions were pure when Spencer entertained him for nearly an hour over a telephone conference discussing the controversial issue of homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

Everyone will remember how this interview was spun completely out of control by the media with the help of Stephan Harper and his, pure as driven snow, colleagues. The media reports were more fiction than facts, but they can do that anytime they want. The result was Spencer being stripped of his critic responsibilities and suspension from the Conservative caucus. Later, he was kicked out of caucus and his membership in the Conservative party was revoked causing him to either go back to preaching or run as an independent. He chose to run as an independent for reasons that are mostly not known to anyone.

I have been informed that he is taking some kind of a refresher course in the ministry at the taxpayers expense as some form of retraining for defeated Member’s of Parliament. After only three and a half short years in politics I am also informed that he is having someone write a book about his short political career and what he learned from it. I suppose it will be a short book, but I don’t know that for sure.

The infamous Peter O’Neil is now claiming that some Tories are “afraid” to be caught praying. Peter O’Neil made this claim as reported in a Canada West News Service on March 10, 2005 regarding the up-coming Conservative Policy Convention. As the story goes, apparently some Conservative members are afraid to be caught by TV cameras as they seek God’s help on crucial social issues. Evidence of all this according to O’Neil is on a Web Site called Not praying is one thing Larry Spencer could never be charged with, but it could be reasonably argued that he maybe should have prayed more or harder considering the result of his short political career. It should be noted that Larry Spencer always believed that it was prayer and God’s Will that elected him. It may have been, but I tend to think there is a little more to getting elected than simply praying.

There is nothing wrong with praying. I do it all the time. I need all the help I can get and most people agree with me on this point.

Again, I say, beware of Peter O’Neil and many people in the media. If they decide to hang you out you will be done like dinner. If members of the media, like Peter O’Neil, decide to cook Stephan Harper and the Conservatives over their lack of courage to make firm decisions on social issues they will soon be no more than a faint political memory like Larry Spencer. In the face of the belief that politics is 90% perception it may be that the 10% reality will rule the day if the Conservatives don’t get their priorities sorted out regarding the sensitive social issues facing our Country today.

God Bless,

Larry Birkbeck

Note: Peter O’Neil, be informed. I am not afraid to pray.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Axworthy fires back at U.S.

Axworthy fires back at Bush, RiceLast Updated Mon, 07 Mar 2005 17:58:51 EST

Compliments of
CBC News

WINNIPEG - Former Canadian foreign affairs minister Lloyd Axworthy launched an attack on U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, defending Canada's decision not to participate in the anti-missile defence system.

"I know it seems improbable to your divinely guided master in the White House that mere mortals might disagree with participating in a missile-defence system that has failed in its last three tests, even though the tests themselves were rigged to show results," Axworthy writes in a column published in the Winnipeg Free Press last week.

"But, gosh, we folks above the 49th parallel are somewhat cautious types who can't quite see laying down billions of dollars in a three-dud poker game."
Axworthy, the current president of the University of Winnipeg, begins the open letter with "Dear Condi."

He said he wrote the column to defend Prime Minister Paul Martin, who he believes has unfairly come under attack in the media for his decision on missile defence. In the column, Axworthy criticizes Bush's handling of the missile defence issue and for not addressing the House of Commons during his recent visit to Canada.

"Such control-freak antics may work in the virtual one-party state that now prevails in Washington," Axworthy writes. "But in Canada we have a residual belief that politicians should be subject to a few checks and balances, an idea that your country once espoused before the days of empire."

In contrast, Axworthy boasts of Canada's parliamentary system, "where those in the executive are held accountable by an opposition for their actions." Axworthy goes on to laud the ability of the governing party's caucus members "to tell their leader that their constituents don't want to follow the ideological, perhaps teleological, fantasies of Canada's continental co-inhabitant."
Axworthy also swipes at the fiscal state of the U.S., referring to the "gargantuan, multibillion-dollar deficits that your government blithely runs up fighting a 'liberation war in Iraq.'"

He blasts the Bush administration for its policies on weapons expenditures, and tax breaks, while cutting food programs for poor children. "Just chalk that up to a different sense of priorities about what a national government's role should be when there isn't a prevailing mood of manifest destiny," he writes.

But Axworthy appears to temper his remarks by the end of the column, saying Rice should "accept that, as a friend on your border, we will offer a different, independent point of view. And that there are times when truth must speak to power." Axworthy said he is receiving more than 100 e-mail messages each day since writing the column and is receiving interview requests from around the globe.

"What I found was that there was this theme in the commentary along the lines of, 'Oh my gosh, what will George Bush think?'" Axworthy told the Winnipeg Free Press. "That wasn't the point. The point was that Canada finally made a decision. And that enabled Canada to have a reasonable, distinctive foreign policy. That's not a bad thing."

Larry Birkbeck

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Air Canada

Local Members of Parliament had something to say regarding the rent charged to the Regina Airport Authority. What will they have to say about Air Canada laying off 56 employees in Saskatchewan as a result of their move to have regular Air Canada flights replaced by their regional service, Jazz? Maybe nothing, since it is the lowly part-time workers that are being dumped without any compensation and only full-time workers receive a compensation package.

Interesting, didn’t the business community, supported by the media, just finish winning their fight to have the provincial government drop their controversial legislation that was intended to protect part-time workers? Granted, that legislation may not have had any impact on this move by Air Canada, but it does point out how vulnerable part-time employees are in our workplace.

This move by Air Canada is bad for Saskatchewan, but it may not adversely affect the Airport Authority since there will be an overall increase in flights in and out of our Regina and Saskatoon airports. This move by Air Canada will mostly benefit Saskatchewan Member’s of Parliament as it will give them more choices for flights in and our of Regina and Saskatoon Airports.

It will be interesting to see how Saskatchewan Member’s of Parliament respond to this move by Air Canada. I expect at least 13 opposition members will use this as another excuse to condemn Ralph Goodale, the only Minister in the Government of Canada who Saskatchewan residents can trust to represent us at the Cabinet table.

Larry Birkbeck