Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Issues

There is a lot to write about, but here are some short points to consider.

Stephen Harper conducted himself in a very Prime Ministerial way on the Arar issue. I am sure there is plenty of confusion surrounding this matter and there have been as many consequences. Our relation with the US is questionable when Canada and the US can’t agree on a single document respecting the matter of Arar. Regardless, Harper made it clear that he is prepared to defend Canadian citizens and to rely on our system and not the US when it comes to Canadian justice and Canadian rights. The Prime Minister earned some credits on this issue. Regardless, many Canadians are questioning why millions had to be paid out to Arar in the settlement between he and the Canadian government.

There seems to be talk of a federal election, but that is all it is. Just talk. None of the parties want an election and, more important, the voters certainly don’t want an election. The conservative minority government is working as well as one should expect of a minority government. I don’t see a federal election in the near future. It seems reasonable to give the Harper conservatives an opportunity to learn how to govern again after having been out of office for so long. It is also reasonable to give Stephan Dion an opportunity to get settled in his role as the new leader of the opposition. On a local note it won’t hurt Ralph Goodale to freshen up in the opposition benches and get used to the title as Saskatchewan’s best member in the opposition as opposed to Saskatchewan’s only member in the Government of Canada. We have two conservatives in Cabinet and that is better than one liberal. Yes, Ralph you are good, but not that good.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will soon be releasing their 4th assessment report. The majority of independent scientists that have been studying the important matter of climate change have agreed that humans are causing most of the problems and that it time for governments all over the world to begin to take action. The IPCC report is widely considered to contain that message. This is serious stuff and it time we all started thinking about how we can help as individuals. With this entire matter going on our Harper conservative government should be thinking of something better to do than running attack ads against Stephan Dion who is, at the very least, an ally on the matter of climate change. Global warming is predicted to continue over the next thousand years. I expect the useless bickering in Parliament will go on for just as long. Politicians should get on the environment issue or get defeated.

When are the conservatives going to get a new line? The “moving forward” line is getting rather worn. The conservative members always claim they are “moving forward” and that is regardless of any reality of whether they are or whether they are not. If they were going back they would say they are “moving forward.” Just listen to them the next time you hear them comment on an issue. They always claim to be “moving forward.” Maybe they could try using “advancing” or “ready to move” and if that doesn’t work for them then they could just tell us the simple truth.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Ipsco Expansion

The recent headline in your daily newspaper respecting the $61 M Ipsco expansion in Regina is good news for our province. Almost equally important is the fact the NDP government’s role in the expansion was praised by the Fraser Institute. The institute has long been considered a right wing think tank. You have to ask how Brad Wall and SaskParty are going to respond to this announcement and the support the NDP has received from the Fraser Institute? For that matter you have to ask how the NDP feels about getting support from an institute they have often challenged on other findings reported by the Fraser Institute?

I guess it can be compared to how you feel about the weather person reporting on the weather or the mail delivery person. If the weather suits you then give me another forecast. If you don’t get too many bills in your mailbox then you may be more likely to support a pay increase for the mail delivery people.

The bottom line is that we definitely don’t like bad news and we often are very suspicious of good news. This would sum up how the SaskParty and the NDP are likely feeling right now. Regardless, it is good news for the people of Saskatchewan and especially Regina and surrounding communities. We will take it and to heck with what the political parties think. If it changes how you may vote at the next election then go for it.

Ipsco is a major player in our economy and has been for a long time. We should wish them every success to keep the good news rolling.

This is a good news headline and good on the Leader Post for covering a positive story. It sure beats all the bad news we hear every day from all the media outlets. More positive stories will change how we think about our province. Equally important is how it will affect the thinking of those outside Saskatchewan who may be contemplating investing or relocating to our economically strong province.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Macleans - Regina North Central

The recent war of words between Mayor Pat Fiacco and a Macleans journalist who dubbed Regina North Central as Canada’s worst neighborhood has a lot of people in Regina wondering what all the fuss is about. To begin with Fiacco is accepted as a pretty good Mayor. He is outgoing and performing well considering the resources he has to work with. This is not to say that improvements in the City of Regina are not necessary.

Improvements are necessary and the $2 million poured into Regina North Central on Wednesday will contribute to those necessary improvements. There are no easy answers to resolving the problems in Regina North Central. I am sure Macleans understands this as well. Regardless, their take on North Central is unfortunately, taking all matters into consideration, likely a fair assessment. I believe the Mayor may have overreacted to the criticism, which only made matters worse and contributed to a second critical report by Macleans. I understand the Mayor felt his efforts in North Central should have been recognized and I can sympathize with his position in this regard.

There is nothing humorous about the problems surrounding Regina North Central, but you have to be at least slightly amused with the hopeless quip from Andrew Scheer, MP. The reference to Andrew Scheer in the Leader Post on January 18, 2007 reads as follows:

“North Central is a very safe place to live and visit --- unless you work for Macleans and then you might have some trouble,” quipped Andrew Scheer, MP for Regina Qu’Appelle.

Now you have to ask, how helpful was that comment? All it did was reinforce the position that Regina North Central can be unsafe and isn’t that, in part, what Macleans was implying? Scheer’s quip was insensitive and careless and contributed absolutely nothing to address a very serious issue the City of Regina is trying to resolve for those living in Regina North Central. Scheer’s quip amounted to a thoughtless threat to Macleans that if their employees lived or visited Regina North Central they might have some trouble. I suspect Prime Minister Harper has already disciplined Scheer on his quip. The PM is likely considering how he can boot Scheer out of the caucus, as others have been, for daring to embarrass the Prime Minister or his government. On the other hand, Harper could create a new department of government, Quips, and name Scheer the Minister of Quips.

Andrew Scheer is an Ottawa boy who arrived in Saskatchewan just in time to run in Regina Qu’Appelle. Scheer considers politics a career and career politicians are precisely what the voters don't like. It takes more than a pretty face to survive in politics. Andrew Scheer knows almost nothing about Saskatchewan politics and even less about Regina North Central. What we do know is that when Scheer is defeated he won’t be getting a job offer from Macleans.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Good Journalism

Those who fairly address the issues should be commended. Please allow me to commend those who have been fair in their efforts to inform your readers. Two excellent articles by two Leader Post journalists have achieved this fairness.

Last month on December 1, 2006, Murray Mandryk wrote an excellent article on David Karwacki, the leader of the provincial liberal party. It was an in depth perspective on Karwacki’s creative policy ideas he was expected to address in his speech to the recent federal liberal leadership convention.

There is a lot more to David Karwacki than he has been given credit for and it was very fair for Murray Mandryk to acknowledge how Karwacki has matured politically. Good on Murray for giving a struggling leader the attention he has earned. If we credit politicians for the good things they are doing then maybe they will get the idea that it is what they are supposed to do most of the time. Karwacki is more than a faint point of light. Pay attention to David or you may end up being the deer caught in the bright light that David Karwacki is bringing to Saskatchewan politics.

The other excellent article was by Angela Hall of the Leader Post. She wrote about the meager $3.3 million that Mayo Schmidt, President and CEO of the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool, earned in the fiscal year 2006. Bringing stories like this to the attention of Saskatchewan people can only be summed up as just darn good journalism. These are the kinds of stories Saskatchewan people need to be informed about and Angela Hall penned a top shelve article on this story.

It is not like she got the story in a brown envelope. The information she based her article on was contained in company documents annually made available to the public. The point here is that people generally are not going to line up each year to review the Wheat Pools documents. It takes a journalist like Angela Hall to go over the documents and report the important findings to the public in a format that the general public more readily accepts. Believe me, $3.3 million gets your attention. By contrast the Wheat Pool only made a profit of $500,000 in 2006. You have to ask how Mayo Schmidt can look a farmer square in the eye when he clears more in a year than they can in a lifetime. On the other hand, if the farmers aren’t complaining then why am I? Things are really getting bad when I can’t even answer my own questions.

Not to worry, Mandryk and Hall have it covered. Congratulations to them both on good journalism.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Hats Off

Hold on to your hat, but not all the time. I have to tell you there is a practice that is just not making sense. My view on this subject is likely to draw a lot of fire, but lets let her rip and see what happens.

Decades ago it was the practice for men to remove their hats when entering public facilities. Now men enter restaurants and sit happily down to chow down a meal or simply sit around visiting over a cup of coffee or some other form of beverage with their hats on. In fact, most men enter all kinds of facilities and attend all kinds of functions and sit contently with their favourite old hat firmly squared on their heads.

On New Years Eve my wife and I went out for dinner. I couldn’t help pointing out to her two senior couples that were out for dinner as well. The ladies were all dressed up and looking as good as they could. Their husbands, presumably, were not equally dressed for the occasion, but the most ridiculous thing, for my part, was that these supposed gentlemen sat there happily with their hats firmly squared on their heads.

I guess I got raised old school, but, as the saying goes, good on my parents. Now don’t take all this too seriously because it really doesn’t affect me one way or the other if men choose to wear their hats in public facilities or while they are out for dinner. It is just an observation and it would likely show a little respect if men just simply ripped that old hat off for a short time when it is appropriate.

Happy New Year and hats off to those who remove their hats! Who knows you could make it New Year’s resolution.

Brian Fitzpatrick, MP - Retirement

The recent news that Prince Albert's conservative MP Brian Fitzpatrick has decided not to run in the next federal election is the biggest news the Saskatchewan conservative caucus has made since they were elected. As I have said before, for a province that holds twelve conservative members out of fourteen constituencies in Saskatchewan, it is a quiet Saskatchewan conservative caucus. You hardly hear from them at all as Prime Minister Stephen Harper has managed to keep the muzzle on them all.

Brian Fitzpatrick was the exception and his retirement has a lot to do with the fact that he was bold enough to speak out on behalf of Saskatchewan voters on the equalization issue and other issues. Fitzpatrick also shared accommodations with the former MP Larry Spencer, who was booted out of the conservative party in a swirl of controversy with the same grace Harper afforded Garth Turner,who also dared to speak his mind. Who knows maybe Harper thought they were two peas in a pod, but remember pods are pretty popular these days. Well, at least IPods are pretty popular.

The fact is, Fitzpatrick was a very good Member of Parliament. He also has one of the best staff teams an MP could hope for. They got the job done in the constituency when Fitzpatrick was in Ottawa while Parliament was in session. I have no doubt that Prince Albert will be well served by Brian Fitzpatrick and his staff as long as he continues to serve as the Member of Parliament for Prince Albert.

Brian Fitzpatrick can dance around this one all he wants, but the reality is he had no future in the conservative party anymore than did Belinda Stronach. The fact that Fitzpatrick said that the "tug" he felt to leave politics got stronger after the opposition Liberals chose a feisty new leader of their own tells you volumes. Fitzpatrick is afraid of no one and that includes Stéphane Dion. Brian Fitzpatrick is only trying to get out from under the heavy hand of Stephen Harper with a little dignity. If Fitzpatrick is quitting because of Stéhane Dion then Dion must be one heck of a threat to scare a man like Fitzpatrick into retirement. You have to ask, how many other conservative MP’s are shaking in their boots with the election of Stéphane Dion as the new leader of the liberal party. It’s quite humerous when you think of it, but I guess the conservatives aren’t laughing.

The bottom line is that Brian Fitzpatrick has nothing to appologize for, will be hard to replace and will be missed by Parliament and those he has served. Stephen Harper is losing some solid conservative MP’s and has exchanged them for former liberals in his quest to shore up his support in BC and in central Canada. Prime Minister Stephen Harper must focus on BC and central Canada and not be distracted by a handful of constituencies in Saskatchewan if he wants to form a majority government.

All the best Brian in your retirement when it comes and don’t forget the pension you qualified for. Many will argue you earned it and they won’t get any argument from me.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Style

Here are a few comments to wind up the year 2006 and get started on 2007. To begin with Stephen Harper is looking more and more like a Prime Minister whom is determined to have his way regardless of public opinion. Some would define this as strong leadership and they may be right. I see it a bit differently. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is a man bent on having matters his way regardless of what anyone thinks. This trend began early when he appointed some people to Cabinet that went against everything Harper and the conservatives had claimed to stand for if grassroots ever really meant anything.

Harper is establishing himself as a Prime Minister that will have you agree with him or he will eliminate you one way or another. It is an odd style for a Prime Minister leading a minority government. He has fired people, including those in his own party and caucus. He broke election promises respecting his government’s Trust Fund announcement that severely cost many Canadians and the federal Equalization formula that is severely costing the people of Saskatchewan. These broken promises may cost conservative MP’s in Saskatchewan a few votes at the next election. He fired the head of the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) after removing a few thousand farmers from the official voters list regarding the CWB. I also believe he had some influence in the recent surprise retirement of Canada’s Chief Elections Officer.

I expect that Harper will remove Rona Ambrose from her position in Cabinet as Minister of Environment. She will be removed for failing to sell Harper’s failed policy on the environment. This is hardly fair to Ambrose, but it is the price you pay when you work for a Prime Minister that is becoming increasingly dictatorial in the way he manages the Government of Canada. This is where the Harper conservatives and I must part company. The fact that I have been a life-long conservative is of little consequence to a man like Stephen Harper. Too often it seems Harper is using the power of his office to bully Canadians to his way of thinking.

Harper’s operatives attempted to intimidate me before he became Prime Minister. I am one person who will not be intimidated by anyone and that includes the Prime Minister. I don’t care who is in government. I do care about how they run government and this country and I will speak out whenever I choose to disagree. I am sure many people disagree with me from time to time, but I will forever defend their right to disagree with me or anyone else. Prime Minister Harper should consider a New Year’s resolution to begin listening to people as opposed to removing those who dare to disagree with him. This is my best wish for Stephen Harper as he leads the Government of Canada into the New Year.