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