Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Democracy Doomed

It has always been said that the wheels of democracy turn slowly in Ottawa. Well now it can be argued that they don’t turn at all, but political events are spinning out of control. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has managed to make himself a one-man show in the nation’s capital and controls all things political. Harper triggered a political crisis in the midst of an economic crisis for the sake of complete power and control over the opposition parties in the House of Commons. His government’s budget update, delivered by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, contained rabble-rousing and irresponsible intentions that had more to do with an outrageous attack on the opposition parties than it did with informing Canadians on the status of our nations economic crisis.

The political crisis sparked by Harper resulted initially in the opposition parties forming a desperate coalition to stop the ever-controlling tactics of Stephen Harper. It then turned into a power grab for the opposition parties without any consultation with Canadian voters. The democratic right of Canadians to choose their government was about to be denied crushing democracy in the process. This rightfully outraged Canadians and, with the separatist Bloc party in the mix, naturally tended to ignite the national unity question and the ever constant pandering to Quebec.

The coalition caused the Prime Minister to back down and forced him to run to the Governor General in a desperate move to save his government from sure defeat at the hands of the coalition. The Governor General granted Prime Minister Stephen Harper his request to prorogue Parliament until January 26, 2009 at which time he promised to introduce a full budget on January 27, 2009. He also promised to reach out to opposition parties in an effort to make Parliament work, address the economy and save Canadians yet another expensive election.

This caused the liberals to realize they were on the wrong side of political opinion and that the coalition and bunking with the Bloc was not popular among most Canadians. It also caused the liberals to realize a sinking ship should not go down without a rudder. The listless liberals continued to flounder as supporters continued to bailout and go overboard. To counter all this the liberals scrapped their leadership convention, their leadership contenders and democracy in a process that has anointed Michael Ignatieff as the rudder of their sinking ship and their leader when the House of Commons reconvenes on January 26, 2009.

Finally, I can conclude that Stephen Harper sparked all these events in the midst of an economic crisis the country has not seen in decades. The political parties are all more concerned with power and control than they are of the best interests of Canada or individual Canadians. 308 Member’s of Parliament failed their voters and their country when the country needed them the most. Canada is now considered to be officially in a recession thanks in part to our politicians. Think carefully how you vote at the next election.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Parliament Prorogued

The Governor General granted the Prime Minister’s request to prorogue Parliament. The Prime Minister is safe until the House of Commons resumes on January 26, 2009. It is possible the coalition will collapse before the House resumes in January. If not, the coalition is likely to hear what the government has contained in their budget to be presented on January 27, 2009. At that point they will have the option of supporting the minority conservative government or defeating them. The coalition may then ask the Governor General to let them have an opportunity to form the government. This may be right within the rules of Parliament, but it would be wrong. The Canadian voters must retain the right to determine who will govern them.

The economic crisis is threatening economic security for all Canadians. The political crisis caused by Stephen Harper has now divided the country on a range of political issues. Divisions between the West and the constant demands of the separatist Bloc in Quebec is now back on the minds of voters. National unity has been threatened at a time when the economy should have been the focus of all Members of Parliament. They chose instead to play their political games for the sake of power and money. In this regard, the coalition sought to steal, through Parliamentary procedures, what Canadian voters had not given them at the last general election.

Voters generally are rightfully not pleased with any of those elected to Parliament at the last election. Now is a good time to call your Member of Parliament and demand that they represent your political views when Parliament resumes in January 2009. Justifiably there is plenty of criticism of liberal Ralph Goodale, but don’t forget that the conservative caucus, including thirteen conservative MP’s in Saskatchewan, allowed Stephen Harper to cause this crisis. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has done great harm to himself, his party, the economy and the future of our country. It may be time for Harper to be booted out of the conservative party, but I can’t think of a conservative who has the courage to stand up to him. It is hard to believe how the conservatives under Stephen Harper can ever form a majority government.

It is clear that we need to reform how we elect our Members of Parliament and how Parliament should function after the election. Could independent candidates do any worse?

Monday, December 01, 2008

Political Crisis

Only weeks ago Canadians went to the polls and gave the Stephen Harper government a second minority government. That was a mistake! I have argued against minority governments because it only plays into the hands of politicians who care more about political games in search of power than they do about governing the country.

Canada is facing an economic crisis like it has never faced in decades and now Stephen Harper has provoked a political crisis that cripples the minority conservative government’s ability to manage day to day government business let alone the economic crisis.

Canadians are outraged with the current state of events and blame Harper for having caused the political crisis by acting as if he had a majority government. He unnecessarily provoked the opposition on issues that were clearly not on the front burner like taxpayer-funded contributions to political parties and his attack on unions. These may be conservative ideological issues, but they are not important issues to Canadians at this time or maybe ever. These were issues Harper never discussed with voters when he was campaigning in the last federal election. It is clear that Stephen Harper got himself into this crisis and has now been forced to back down even though some members of his cabinet still support the provocative measures that are at the root of this political crisis.

On the other hand, it is insane for the opposition parties to think Canadians will tolerate their move to force Harper out of power by asking the Governor General to allow them to form a coalition government. Having Canada run by the separatist Bloc party, the radically left Layton NDP and the near dead liberals lead by their lame duck leader Dion should be totally unthinkable to any reasonable Canadian. The opposition parties were elected to oppose not to govern.

So who should be blamed for this political crisis? I say all 308 Members of Parliament are guilty. Conservative members failed to stand up to Stephen Harper and tell him it was time to keep the focus on the economy and not his personal ideological beliefs. That it was time to put Canadians and this country ahead of his own personal ambitions. As for the opposition parties one can only believe that they are attempting to form a government simply for the sake of power without the consent of Canadian voters. This whole mess is wrong from any way you look at it and Canadian voters are being forced to suffer the consequences. It is an assault on democracy.

If another election is forced on Canadians we need to all get out and vote and elect a majority government and then hold each of our elected officials to account. Our politicians have failed us again. If Canadian voters don’t actively become involved in the electoral system and get control of their politicians then we can expect this political crisis to continue indefinitely. Think political reform!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Chaos on Parliament Hill

The current chaos on Parliament Hill is disgusting to all Canadians and all 308 of the Members of Parliament are to blame. Harper brought this situation on all by himself and the opposition plans to attempt some form of coalition government simply defies all the principles of democracy. If the country is forced into another election then it is likely that voters should vote for anyone other than the incumbent. In the long run independents may be the only answer along with some serious parliamentary reform. Western separatism and more problems with Quebec will arise if parliament doesn’t fix this problem soon with out a coalition and without another election.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Saskatchewan NDP Leadership

The US Election winds up tomorrow night and a new President elect will be decided. All indicators point to Barack Obama as the next US President.

We can then turn our attention to the NDP election for a new leader. How much attention that will draw is unknown at this point. Regardless, there are some questions that need answers. Why would Dwaine Lingenfelter, at age 59, want to seek the leadership of the NDP and want to defeat the SaskParty? Saskatchewan voters just elected a new, fresh SaskParty government and a young, vibrant Premier in the name of Brad Wall. The SaskParty is no threat to our beloved Crown Corporations and the Saskatchewan economy is the best in North America do in most part to our strong resource sector. The SaskParty has managed this new wealth efficiently.

A recent brochure from the SaskParty government points to the largest amount of debt and tax reductions in our history. They will add a commitment to invest 2.5 billion over the next two years in infrastructure, which will create jobs and grow our population. Further, they will invest 2 billion in a Growth and Financial Security Fund to protect our health, education and social programs in times of economic uncertainty. Why would we want to risk this success with any remote thoughts about changing the government and going back to the old NDP? Any person attempting to upset our new found wealth and prosperity borders on economic and political terrorism. It would be horrendous and terrifying to turn back to the old NDP and the power trips of a Dwaine Lingenfelter or a Pat Atkinson or anyone else at this time in our history.

Both the NDP and the Liberals need a major overhaul and both need to move to the centre left. Both these parties are in need of a new look with young, new faces and a vision for Saskatchewan that is forward looking, not backward thinking. This is not likely to happen any time soon and nor is the SaskParty likely to fold anytime soon. So far the SaskParty is looking pretty good on most counts.

At age 65 I am not much older than Dwaine Lingenfelter. I have had my day in the political sun and so has Lingenfelter. Now 60 plus is really not that old these days as long as you’re not running to be Premier near the time your Old Age Security kicks in.

Finally, I think Dwaine Lingenfelter and Pat Atkinson are qualified politicians, but with all respect, this is not their time. Their political time has come and gone as has mine. If they are wondering what to do as they near retirement then they should talk to me. I am so busy I am considering getting a job just to get a rest. So tell me, why are they running and what have they to offer that we don’t already have?

US Election 2008

The US Election comes to a close on November 4, 2008. All indicators point to a win for Senator Barack Obama. Look for an early decision with Obama winning over 300 electoral votes where only 270 are required to claim victory and the White House. Obama has led this race in every national poll since September. If he doesn't win then we shouldn't believe polls or the voters for the next hundred years.

I think the polls are close to true and if that is the case then Barack Obama may win closer to 400 electoral votes than the conservative estimate of 300 votes. The mood in the US is for change and the hope over fear strategy, which has been central to the Obama campaign. It is an historic election and the most watched in decades. Voter turnout should be high and it will tilt in favour of Barack Obama.

Either way it will be an exciting night in the United States of America. They will get change one way or the other and hopefully get their government house in order as their economy and their people continue to struggle through tough times. May God Bless America!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Federal Election Results_2008

Stephen Harper called an election for a new mandate from Canadian voters. He got it, but it was not the majority Harper or myself expected. Questions now arise as to why he called the election, why he failed to defeat the weak Stéphane Dion, and his carbon tax policy, and will his leadership be challenged. Minority Harper has successfully delivered minority governments and has failed to win a majority government.

Harper has no one to blame other than himself. He personally lost conservative votes in Quebec over cuts to Arts and Culture. He personally lost conservative votes across the country over his insensitivity to Canada’s troubled economy suggesting that it presented some good buying opportunities in the stock markets. In short, Stephen Harper personally lost control of the conservative campaign and the majority government he was seeking.

In his election night speech Stephen Harper raised the white flag and called on all parties to set aside partisan political considerations in favour of building a strong and united Canada. This may be Harper’s biggest challenge when parliament resumes. Harper is a strong leader, but sometimes that works against him. He will have to learn how to ask for support as opposed to ordering it with conditions like non-confidence votes. I believe he can do it, but will he?

Regardless, Stephen Harper faced strong opposition across the country from his opponents and a very troubled economy that peaked during the campaign. In spite of all these conditions Harper still managed to gain a stronger mandate to govern and serve as Prime Minister. He should be congratulated and I hope we don’t have another federal election any time soon.

Here in Saskatchewan the conservative campaign once again proved to be invincible winning every seat except Wascana. And liberal Ralph Goodale, against all odds, once again proved he is invincible in Wascana. Regardless, the conservatives mounted a strong campaign against Goodale and have positioned themselves for an even stronger performance at the next election.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Canada Votes 2008

Today is Election Day across Canada. There is no way to accurately predict the outcome. Polls have consistently placed the conservatives on top across the nation. Most importantly get out and vote.

Harper called this election because he believed parliament had become dysfunctional and that it simply wasn’t working. I couldn’t agree with him more. The real question is why parliament is not working. Will a strengthened minority conservative government or even a majority conservative government improve the effectiveness of Canada’s parliament? I don’t believe it will. Parliamentary reform and electoral reform is necessary to better serve the voters of Canada.

Regardless, I believe the conservatives will do better in this election than the polls have been indicating. The Harper conservatives will break the 140-seat number, but will fall short of a majority government. The liberals should triple the NDP vote overall and should fall around the 100 seat number give or take a few seats.

Here in Saskatchewan the seat numbers are not likely to change. Regardless, don’t be surprised if the liberals elect two seats and the NDP elect one seat at the expense of the conservatives.

Across the country there is a large pool of undecided voters. If they decide to go to the polls then we could be in for any number of surprises. The best news is that world markets are looking better on Election Day. That too could change the final vote tally. The economy has been far and away the prominent issue throughout this election. Happy voters should favour the conservatives and a near majority conservative government.

If Stephen Harper does not get a stronger minority government then his leadership will come into play. The voters will be left asking why Harper could not win a majority government against the weak leadership of Stéphane Dion and his unpopular green shift policy. That will be a fair question if this election does not go well for Stephen Harper.

Regardless of all the polls and media speculation it comes down to you the voter. Today is your day to elect your next government. Polls and speculation don’t matter now, but your decision does. Be sure to get out and vote.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Stephen Harper's Leadership

It is hard to believe, but the once all knowing I’m in control Stephen Harper has lost control of this election. It has cost him what many believed may have been a majority conservative government. There is now the possibility that it may now cost him the minority government most observers believed was a done deal. Stephen Harper is now weighing the possibilities of a Prime Minister Stéphane Dion. Harper’s leadership of the conservative party is at question even if he manages to hold on to a slim minority. The right wing John Gormley raised this issue on his talk show today that was televised on CPAC.

Stephen Harper and the conservative party war machine have painted Stéphane Dion as a weak leader ever since Dion won the leadership of the liberal party. The question of Stephen Harper’s leadership now comes into play as it has become apparent that Harper is barely holding his own against the weak leadership of Stéphane Dion.

Stephen Harper has been successful at muzzling most of his caucus and controlling those he trusted to speak on behalf of his conservative government. Those he could not control were simply removed one way or the other. Harper’s heavy-handed insensitive style of leadership may end up being his Achilles heel and he will have no one to blame other than himself. If Harper can’t win a majority government against a weak leader like Dion then when would he win a majority government?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

SaskParty Staffers

Figures released Tuesday by Reg Downs, Senior Advisor to Premier Brad Wall; indicate the SaskParty government is spending nearly a million a month on politically appointed staffers. Granted the $865,562.00 figure is less than the previous NDP government coming in at about 7.2% lower and apparently with more responsibilities expected of the staffers according to Downs.

Regardless, it won’t play well with most people in the province as some staffers get increases appoaching $15,000.00. These kinds of salaries are hard to take as Canada is in an economic crisis not experienced in recent decades. It is strategically a good time to make the announcement as the voters are caught up with the federal election. Again, it is still hard to take as many costs of living are going up and savings and investments are going down for most people.

It will be reasonable for Saskatchewan residents to wish they had these kinds of salaries and pay increases. Political appointees have never suffered financially. If your job isn’t paying enough I suggest you buy a membership in the SaskParty and apply for one of these appointments. Who knows, if you are smarter than the current staffers and you are prepared to work harder than them then you may get the job. The SaskParty could then reduce their staff numbers even more and you would then be in line for an increase in your salary.

It sounds like a plan. Don’t you just love government?

Monday, October 06, 2008

Canada's Failing Economy

Stephen Harper has consistently stated that we are not the United States and that we will not feel the same effect as them regarding their economic crisis. Today Harper is paying a political price for his stay the course approach to our economy and he is now singing a different tune. Harper scoffed at Stéphane Dion’s plan to convene an economic summit to deal with Canada’s economy if he were elected Prime Minister. Harper, in the national debate, argued that Dion was changing his economic policies in the middle of an election and that now was not the time to experiment with new ideas.

An economic summit sounds like a good idea that has no risk and is hardly an experiment of new ideas. Regardless, the liberals are closing on the conservatives in the polls and Harper had better come up with some ideas of his own regarding our economy or risk being punished in the polls on Election Day.

The US economic crisis is now a global crisis and that includes Canada. The TSX/S&P composite index was down 1,180 points today in early trading, which is a clear signal how uncertain things really are in the marketplace. Interestingly, this is more than twice the drop the Dow Jones index experienced in New York. Maybe Stephen Harper should visit the floor of the TSX and pick up a crash course on how Canada’s economy is at serious risk. Failing that he could heed the Scotia Bank report wherein they are warning their customers that Canada will be hit with a recession as well as the US. The reality is that Stephen Harper has misread the economic indicators or he is trying to keep the voters in the dark. Right now an economic summit of all the stakeholders in our economy sounds like a real good idea. Ottawa, we have a problem and we need to address it now!

Historically, conservatives have a poor record managing Canada’s economy and the liberals have a good record. It is just a matter of fact! Given our failing economy we may be well advised to vote liberal. On the other hand, we could experiment with Stephen Harper to see if the conservatives can get it right this time on our economy.

Monday, September 29, 2008

2008 Election Polls

The federal election polls are now suggesting that Jack Layton has a shot at becoming the leader of the official opposition after the smoke clears. This could only be possible as a result of the worst liberal leader and liberal campaign in recent memory. Both the liberals and the NDP would be a disaster for Canada at this point in Canadian history. I am not involved in any campaign and I don’t even hold a membership in any Canadian political party. If the NDP forms the official opposition they would have to win a significant number of seats in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and BC. This is not very likely unless the liberal support completely evaporates leaving the voters with virtually a two party choice. That is the only way the NDP can win significant seats in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and BC and have a shot at forming the official opposition.

I will admit that Jack Layton is performing better than Stéphane Dion, but who couldn’t? Dion is done and Layton is still spewing venom on corporate Canada. Canada always votes right down the middle and that is precisely where the Harper conservatives are positioned. Again, a left wing vote split will elect conservatives and that means Ralph Goodale may go down to defeat. On the other hand, if the NDP simply makes the point that a majority conservative government needs a strong NDP opposition then some incumbent MP’s in Saskatchewan may lose their seats, but only if the liberal vote falls to a poor third place finish. Layton and the liberals in this campaign are just too far off the mark and I am hard pressed to understand why anyone would vote for them. They have no chance of forming government, which should leave all their promises falling on deaf ears.

Canadian voters have an uncanny way of getting it right on Election Day. I will leave it to the voters and trust in their best judgment. I encourage you to get out and vote for the person you feel will best represent your interests in the House of Commons.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

US - Canadian Economy

It is generally believed that government’s have less to do with assisting an economy and more to do with harming it. So the question you must ask yourself is which party would least harm our economy over the next four years?

In January of 2008 I sounded an alarm on my blog regarding financial markets and the economy in the US and Canada. None of the politicians heard the alarm. The Harper conservatives are still downplaying the impact the failing US economy will have on Canada. Harper argues that the fundamentals of our economy are strong. That is the same argument the conservatives in the US are making, but Harper has never defined the fundamentals of an economy. It is my belief that very few voters have any sense of just what the fundamentals of an economy really are and Harper should have explained to the voters his definition of the fundamentals of an economy.

Economic fundamentals is a broad term which includes economic measures as interest rates, the government’s budget deficit, the country’s balance of trade account (relating to exports and imports), the level of domestic business confidence, the inflation rate, the state of (and confidence in) the banking and wider financial sector and consumer confidence. Now consider the economy in North America with this definition in mind.

The US Senate is staring at a $700 billion plus bailout decision of financial institutions. It could reach a trillion before it is all over. Granted our financial institutions and banks are better regulated than in the US, but we are still at some significant risk as this milestone meltdown in the financial markets plays out. Harper, Dion and Layton all continue to play the argument that we are better off than the US and that our situation here is different and that we should not worry. Well, that sounds good but the US economy performed better than Canada over the last year and their economic growth from June 30, 2007 to June 30, 2008 was 2.2 % compared to our 0.06%. The US is not statistically in a recession, but with US consumers beginning to realize the plight of their situation spending may soon come to an abrupt halt. They represent 75% of the American economy and their shattered confidence could push the US into a statistical recession, which is specifically a decline in the GDP for two consecutive quarters.

The stock markets are a key indicator of things to come in the financial market place and are usually six months ahead of the trend. Economists believe consumers are set to stop spending and in Canada stock markets are near their worst point. The US economy will flood over into Canada and is expected to hit Canada over the next month or two if trends continue the same in the US. This will hit every aspect of our economic fundamentals that our politicians argue are sound.

Interestingly, the impact on Canada will take place long after the election on October 14, 2008. This allows the politicians on the campaign trail to tell you anything they want and the voters are not well positioned to argue what they are being told as it relates to our economy. I can tell you that there is every indication that we are in for a rough ride given the current trends. This campaign has been more about trash talk than a serious debate on the issues that matter to Canadians like the economy, infrastructure, health care, the environment and education. When you go to the polls be sure to ask yourself who will least harm our economy? Who will best speak for Canada, manage our economy and the real issues that matter to all Canadians? The party with a proven record and the leadership to perform in tough times will be your best choice.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Gerry Ritz, MP

The Gerry Ritz issue is a serious matter that will dog the conservative campaign right up to Election Day. Ritz made tasteless comments about the listeriosis outbreak that was linked to processed meats that has now killed 17 people. There are calls for his resignation from Cabinet and as a candidate. Ritz has since apologized, but it was a serious error by Gerry Ritz and he will pay a political price if the ever-harsh Harper treats him like he treats others that purposely or accidentally get in his way. Ritz and the conservative government poorly managed the listeriosis outbreak and the fact Ritz used this serious matter as grounds for tasteless jokes is very unfortunate

From a Saskatchewan view point it is yet another unfortunate disappointment coming from a Saskatchewan MP. Consider the past events relating to Larry Spencer, Tom Lukiwski and Dave Batters. Each was uniquely different from the other, but still unfortunate and disappointing.

The conservatives held all but one of Saskatchewan’s 14 constituencies prior to the election call and by any standard they have been the quietest group of MP’s I have ever known. Generally, as a group, they have been ineffective and they have not earned their bloated salaries. I don’t care if the voters re-elect them or replace them, but I do care that MP’s at least attempt to earn the salaries taxpayers must fund. Saskatchewan voters deserve better!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Gas Gouging

While serving as Canada’s Prime Minister, Stephen Harper has stood with the oil companies. He failed to do anything to protect consumers from unfair gas price gouging. Now in the midst of an election he has decided something should be done to protect consumers, but he has yet to say what that may be. At least he has acknowledged that the oil companies have been taking advantage of consumers. It is too bad that it has taken an election for Harper to finally realize that the government must do something to protect consumers.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Harper's Election Mistakes

The Harper conservatives may be leading in the polls, but they are also leading in some very significant mistakes beginning even before the election was called. The conservative government spent billions of taxpayers’ money to buy votes in the lead up to the election call. This is the very thing Harper has always argued against when he was in opposition. It’s called pork barrel politics and Harper is as good as it gets at this kind of careless spending and abuse of tax dollars.

Then there is the matter of some very important MP’s that have chosen not to run again. They use the argument that they want to spend more time with their families. As a good friend of mine argued does it mean that all the candidates running in this election want to spend less time with their families.

The conservatives have not cleared the courts on allegations that they over spent Election Canada guidelines in the 2006 election campaign. They have spent millions of party funds in the lead up to the election, which is apparently not subject to election spending.

Then there is the matter of their communications staffer who has been removed from the campaign and the massive War Room bunker the liberals refer to as the fear factory. The staffer (Sparrow) gaffed when he authorized an ad wherein a puffin (bird) was shown pooping on the shoulder of liberal leader Stéphane Dion on a conservative Internet site. You can see the relationship between Sparrow, bird and shit. Sparrow got the axe after making the claim that the father of a deceased Canadian soldier criticized the conservatives because he was a liberal. Make no mistake the conservatives have some nasty people on their campaign.

Then Harper made the announcement a day before the 9/11 anniversary that Canada would be pulling out of Afghanistan by 2011 and leaving only a handful of soldiers in that war torn country. This was a mistake in the middle of an election campaign after threats from the Taliban that Canadians should be careful how they vote in this election and that they have stepped up threats against our Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan. This is just what the Taliban wanted to hear. Since when do you communicate to your enemy when you intend to surrender and leave all that has been fought for over the last ten years? When and how you leave a war zone is as important as when and how you get into a war. This is Harper’s worst mistake during this election campaign and it should cost him votes. Harper has always loudly proclaimed how we should support our troops in Afghanistan and now he announces they will be coming home just to support his bid to be Canada’s Prime Minister after this election. Sacrificing our military and all they have fought and died for in the name of politics is rather disgusting.

Yes, the Harper conservatives have made the most mistakes to date in this election campaign, but will it make any difference? That will be your decision on Election Day.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Harper Calls Election

On Sunday, September 7, 2008 Prime Minister Stephen Harper pulled the pin and called Canada’s 40th General Election. Canadians will cast their votes on October 14, 2008. The conservative minority government was the second longest minority government in Canadian history. This is quite amazing since both Harper and the opposition parties were trying to get an election going only a few weeks after Harper was elected Prime Minister. Stephen Harper apparently became impatient with opposition failures to bring down his minority government and brought it to an end with his own call for an election.

NDP leader Jack Layton has been arguing that Harper quit his job and that he (Layton) is applying for it. Well Jack you may as well apply to head up the Fraser Institute because your chances of succeeding would be about the same. The NDP should just give up on federal politics since they have no hope of forming government. Harper may have given up his job, but be assured it is temporary. Harper’s move to call an election will very likely secure his position as Canada’s next Prime Minister after October 14, 2008. He is in majority territory right now and the conservatives are likely to get stronger as the campaign heads toward Election Day.

Dion is dead out of the gate and will soon learn the true meaning of here today and gone tomorrow. That having been said Dion is far more likeable on a personal basis than Harper can ever hope to be and further he hasn’t yet followed Harper’s lead of feeding Cheerios to children.

Harper seems obsessed with proving he is a family man and how much he loves his children. Why is it that he now seems so pressed to prove to us that he is soft and cuddly and loving and caring? Well I could tell you, but I won’t. You figure it out it’s your vote. When was the last time you heard a female candidate trying to prove she is a family woman in an election campaign? You got it they don’t have to.

Harper called this election because in his view parliament wasn’t working and the government couldn’t govern. Well, they passed 65 pieces of legislation and Harper is now apparently the biggest spending Prime Minister in Canadian history. The opposition is supposed to be the guardians of the public purse and they failed miserably. Parliament seemed to be working for Harper and he made that point when he spoke in Regina when he listed a litany of conservative promises they had delivered while working in a minority government position.

This election is not about the voters or what is good for Canadians it is all about Stephen Harper securing a four year mandate for his conservative party to serve in government with a majority. Harper is without doubt the sharpest knife in the drawer and he will get a majority government on October 14, 2008. There will be some serious cutting over the next four years and only time will tell how well it will serve Canadian voters and Canada as a nation.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Bob Hughes Farewell

I was interested in the farewell column that Bob Hughes wrote as published in the Leader Post on May 20, 2008. It is true that Mr. Hughes ran into some problems over the last while, but I find it hard to accept that Bob seems content to sum up his life’s work in one short letter. Bob Hughes developed into an excellent writer over the years. I felt his best work was in the field of sport and community related articles. It seemed his attempts to excel in other fields of writing fell short of his natural skills as a writer.

We all understand that people make mistakes from time to time. It seems like I make one everyday. And we understand that at sometime in life you may just have to quit what you have been doing for the most part of your life. You either lose the edge or just get tired and sometimes both, which seems to be the case respecting Mr. Hughes according to his farewell letter.

There was something missing in his farewell letter, which he claimed was easy to write. It was easy because it lacked the necessary words of appreciation to the Leader Post for giving him the opportunity to write. Although he did refer to the Leader Post’s Editor-in Chief, Janice Dockham, as remarkable without any explanation as to what that statement had to do with his situation. It was easy because it lacked the inspiration of emotion and heartfelt sincerity in his apology, which one would expect in the last column of a long career.

Life is bigger than any one of us, and that includes Bob Hughes. I believe Bob Hughes will one day come to that ultimate conclusion. If this happens then his gifted ability to write may once again serve the readers of Saskatchewan in some meaningful way.

Bob, your last column is as difficult to write as your first. I know because you haven’t yet found the words to write one that truly reflects the best of Bob Hughes that your readers expect of you. Write it Bob, right down the middle like you hit that drive down the middle on Friday. Take your time, tee it up and let it rip. Y’er welcome!

Friday, May 09, 2008

The Clean Energy Scam

The Clean Energy Scam
By Michael Grunwald
Date: Thursday, Mar. 27, 2008

From his Cessna a mile above the southern Amazon, John Carter looks down on the destruction of the world's greatest ecological jewel. He watches men converting rain forest into cattle pastures and soybean fields with bulldozers and chains. He sees fires wiping out such gigantic swaths of jungle that scientists now debate the "savannization" of the Amazon. Brazil just announced that deforestation is on track to double this year; Carter, a Texas cowboy with all the subtlety of a chainsaw, says it's going to get worse fast. "It gives me goose bumps," says Carter, who founded a nonprofit to promote sustainable ranching on the Amazon frontier. "It's like witnessing a rape."

The Amazon was the chic eco-cause of the 1990s, revered as an incomparable storehouse of biodiversity. It's been overshadowed lately by global warming, but the Amazon rain forest happens also to be an incomparable storehouse of carbon, the very carbon that heats up the planet when it's released into the atmosphere. Brazil now ranks fourth in the world in carbon emissions, and most of its emissions come from deforestation. Carter is not a man who gets easily spooked--he led a reconnaissance unit in Desert Storm, and I watched him grab a small anaconda with his bare hands in Brazil--but he can sound downright panicky about the future of the forest. "You can't protect it. There's too much money to be made tearing it down," he says. "Out here on the frontier, you really see the market at work."

This land rush is being accelerated by an unlikely source: biofuels. An explosion in demand for farm-grown fuels has raised global crop prices to record highs, which is spurring a dramatic expansion of Brazilian agriculture, which is invading the Amazon at an increasingly alarming rate.

Propelled by mounting anxieties over soaring oil costs and climate change, biofuels have become the vanguard of the green-tech revolution, the trendy way for politicians and corporations to show they're serious about finding alternative sources of energy and in the process slowing global warming. The U.S. quintupled its production of ethanol--ethyl alcohol, a fuel distilled from plant matter--in the past decade, and Washington has just mandated another fivefold increase in renewable fuels over the next decade. Europe has similarly aggressive biofuel mandates and subsidies, and Brazil's filling stations no longer even offer plain gasoline. Worldwide investment in biofuels rose from $5 billion in 1995 to $38 billion in 2005 and is expected to top $100 billion by 2010, thanks to investors like Richard Branson and George Soros, GE and BP, Ford and Shell, Cargill and the Carlyle Group. Renewable fuels has become one of those motherhood-and-apple-pie catchphrases, as unobjectionable as the troops or the middle class.

But several new studies show the biofuel boom is doing exactly the opposite of what its proponents intended: it's dramatically accelerating global warming, imperiling the planet in the name of saving it. Corn ethanol, always environmentally suspect, turns out to be environmentally disastrous. Even cellulosic ethanol made from switchgrass, which has been promoted by eco-activists and eco-investors as well as by President Bush as the fuel of the future, looks less green than oil-derived gasoline.

Meanwhile, by diverting grain and oilseed crops from dinner plates to fuel tanks, biofuels are jacking up world food prices and endangering the hungry. The grain it takes to fill an SUV tank with ethanol could feed a person for a year. Harvests are being plucked to fuel our cars instead of ourselves. The U.N.'s World Food Program says it needs $500 million in additional funding and supplies, calling the rising costs for food nothing less than a global emergency. Soaring corn prices have sparked tortilla riots in Mexico City, and skyrocketing flour prices have destabilized Pakistan, which wasn't exactly tranquil when flour was affordable.

Biofuels do slightly reduce dependence on imported oil, and the ethanol boom has created rural jobs while enriching some farmers and agribusinesses. But the basic problem with most biofuels is amazingly simple, given that researchers have ignored it until now: using land to grow fuel leads to the destruction of forests, wetlands and grasslands that store enormous amounts of carbon.

Backed by billions in investment capital, this alarming phenomenon is replicating itself around the world. Indonesia has bulldozed and burned so much wilderness to grow palm oil trees for biodiesel that its ranking among the world's top carbon emitters has surged from 21st to third according to a report by Wetlands International. Malaysia is converting forests into palm oil farms so rapidly that it's running out of uncultivated land. But most of the damage created by biofuels will be less direct and less obvious. In Brazil, for instance, only a tiny portion of the Amazon is being torn down to grow the sugarcane that fuels most Brazilian cars. More deforestation results from a chain reaction so vast it's subtle: U.S. farmers are selling one-fifth of their corn to ethanol production, so U.S. soybean farmers are switching to corn, so Brazilian soybean farmers are expanding into cattle pastures, so Brazilian cattlemen are displaced to the Amazon. It's the remorseless economics of commodities markets. "The price of soybeans goes up," laments Sandro Menezes, a biologist with Conservation International in Brazil, "and the forest comes down."

Deforestation accounts for 20% of all current carbon emissions. So unless the world can eliminate emissions from all other sources--cars, power plants, factories, even flatulent cows--it needs to reduce deforestation or risk an environmental catastrophe. That means limiting the expansion of agriculture, a daunting task as the world's population keeps expanding. And saving forests is probably an impossibility so long as vast expanses of cropland are used to grow modest amounts of fuel. The biofuels boom, in short, is one that could haunt the planet for generations--and it's only getting started.

Why the Amazon Is on Fire

This destructive biofuel dynamic is on vivid display in Brazil, where a Rhode Island--size chunk of the Amazon was deforested in the second half of 2007 and even more was degraded by fire. Some scientists believe fires are now altering the local microclimate and could eventually reduce the Amazon to a savanna or even a desert. "It's approaching a tipping point," says ecologist Daniel Nepstad of the Woods Hole Research Center.

I spent a day in the Amazon with the Kamayura tribe, which has been forced by drought to replant its crops five times this year. The tribesmen I met all complained about hacking coughs and stinging eyes from the constant fires and the disappearance of the native plants they use for food, medicine and rituals. The Kamayura had virtually no contact with whites until the 1960s; now their forest is collapsing around them. Their chief, Kotok, a middle-aged man with an easy smile and Three Stooges hairdo that belie his fierce authority, believes that's no coincidence. "We are people of the forest, and the whites are destroying our home," says Kotok, who wore a ceremonial beaded belt, a digital watch, a pair of flip-flops and nothing else. "It's all because of money."

Kotok knows nothing about biofuels. He's more concerned about his tribe's recent tendency to waste its precious diesel-powered generator watching late-night soap operas. But he's right. Deforestation can be a complex process; for example, land reforms enacted by Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva have attracted slash-and-burn squatters to the forest, and "use it or lose it" incentives have spurred some landowners to deforest to avoid redistribution.

The basic problem is that the Amazon is worth more deforested than it is intact. Carter, who fell in love with the region after marrying a Brazilian and taking over her father's ranch, says the rate of deforestation closely tracks commodity prices on the Chicago Board of Trade. "It's just exponential right now because the economics are so good," he says. "Everything tillable or grazeable is gouged out and cleared."

That the destruction is taking place in Brazil is sadly ironic, given that the nation is also an exemplar of the allure of biofuels. Sugar growers here have a greener story to tell than do any other biofuel producers. They provide 45% of Brazil's fuel (all cars in the country are able to run on ethanol) on only 1% of its arable land. They've reduced fertilizer use while increasing yields, and they convert leftover biomass into electricity. Marcos Jank, the head of their trade group, urges me not to lump biofuels together: "Grain is good for bread, not for cars. But sugar is different." Jank expects production to double by 2015 with little effect on the Amazon. "You'll see the expansion on cattle pastures and the Cerrado," he says.

So far, he's right. There isn't much sugar in the Amazon. But my next stop was the Cerrado, south of the Amazon, an ecological jewel in its own right. The Amazon gets the ink, but the Cerrado is the world's most biodiverse savanna, with 10,000 species of plants, nearly half of which are found nowhere else on earth, and more mammals than the African bush. In the natural Cerrado, I saw toucans and macaws, puma tracks and a carnivorous flower that lures flies by smelling like manure. The Cerrado's trees aren't as tall or dense as the Amazon's, so they don't store as much carbon, but the region is three times the size of Texas, so it stores its share.

At least it did, before it was transformed by the march of progress--first into pastures, then into sugarcane and soybean fields. In one field I saw an array of ovens cooking trees into charcoal, spewing Cerrado's carbon into the atmosphere; those ovens used to be ubiquitous, but most of the trees are gone. I had to travel hours through converted Cerrado to see a 96-acre (39 hectare) sliver of intact Cerrado, where a former shopkeeper named Lauro Barbosa had spent his life savings for a nature preserve. "The land prices are going up, up, up," Barbosa told me. "My friends say I'm a fool, and my wife almost divorced me. But I wanted to save something before it's all gone."

The environmental cost of this cropland creep is now becoming apparent. One groundbreaking new study in Science concluded that when this deforestation effect is taken into account, corn ethanol and soy biodiesel produce about twice the emissions of gasoline. Sugarcane ethanol is much cleaner, and biofuels created from waste products that don't gobble up land have real potential, but even cellulosic ethanol increases overall emissions when its plant source is grown on good cropland. "People don't want to believe renewable fuels could be bad," says the lead author, Tim Searchinger, a Princeton scholar and former Environmental Defense attorney. "But when you realize we're tearing down rain forests that store loads of carbon to grow crops that store much less carbon, it becomes obvious."

The growing backlash against biofuels is a product of the law of unintended consequences. It may seem obvious now that when biofuels increase demand for crops, prices will rise and farms will expand into nature. But biofuel technology began on a small scale, and grain surpluses were common. Any ripples were inconsequential. When the scale becomes global, the outcome is entirely different, which is causing cheerleaders for biofuels to recalibrate. "We're all looking at the numbers in an entirely new way," says the Natural Resources Defense Council's Nathanael Greene, whose optimistic "Growing Energy" report in 2004 helped galvanize support for biofuels among green groups.

Several of the most widely cited experts on the environmental benefits of biofuels are warning about the environmental costs now that they've recognized the deforestation effect. "The situation is a lot more challenging than a lot of us thought," says University of California, Berkeley, professor Alexander Farrell, whose 2006 Science article calculating the emissions reductions of various ethanols used to be considered the definitive analysis. The experts haven't given up on biofuels; they're calling for better biofuels that won't trigger massive carbon releases by displacing wildland. Robert Watson, the top scientist at the U.K.'s Department for the Environment, recently warned that mandating more biofuel usage--as the European Union is proposing--would be "insane" if it increases greenhouse gases. But the forces that biofuels have unleashed--political, economic, social--may now be too powerful to constrain.

America the Bio-Foolish

The best place to see this is America's biofuel mecca: Iowa. Last year fewer than 2% of U.S. gas stations offered ethanol, and the country produced 7 billion gal. (26.5 billion L) of biofuel, which cost taxpayers at least $8 billion in subsidies. But on Nov. 6, at a biodiesel plant in Newton, Iowa, Hillary Rodham Clinton unveiled an eye-popping plan that would require all stations to offer ethanol by 2017 while mandating 60 billion gal. (227 billion L) by 2030. "This is the fuel for a much brighter future!" she declared. Barack Obama immediately criticized her--not for proposing such an expansive plan but for failing to support ethanol before she started trolling for votes in Iowa's caucuses.

If biofuels are the new dotcoms, Iowa is Silicon Valley, with 53,000 jobs and $1.8 billion in income dependent on the industry. The state has so many ethanol distilleries under construction that it's poised to become a net importer of corn. That's why biofuel-pandering has become virtually mandatory for presidential contenders. John McCain was the rare candidate who vehemently opposed ethanol as an outrageous agribusiness boondoggle, which is why he skipped Iowa in 2000. But McCain learned his lesson in time for this year's caucuses. By 2006 he was calling ethanol a "vital alternative energy source."

Members of Congress love biofuels too, not only because so many dream about future Iowa caucuses but also because so few want to offend the farm lobby, the most powerful force behind biofuels on Capitol Hill. Ethanol isn't about just Iowa or even the Midwest anymore. Plants are under construction in New York, Georgia, Oregon and Texas, and the ethanol boom's effect on prices has helped lift farm incomes to record levels nationwide.

Someone is paying to support these environmentally questionable industries: you. In December, President Bush signed a bipartisan energy bill that will dramatically increase support to the industry while mandating 36 billion gal. (136 billion L) of biofuel by 2022. This will provide a huge boost to grain markets.

Why is so much money still being poured into such a misguided enterprise? Like the scientists and environmentalists, many politicians genuinely believe biofuels can help decrease global warming. It makes intuitive sense: cars emit carbon no matter what fuel they burn, but the process of growing plants for fuel sucks some of that carbon out of the atmosphere. For years, the big question was whether those reductions from carbon sequestration outweighed the "life cycle" of carbon emissions from farming, converting the crops to fuel and transporting the fuel to market. Researchers eventually concluded that yes, biofuels were greener than gasoline. The improvements were only about 20% for corn ethanol because tractors, petroleum-based fertilizers and distilleries emitted lots of carbon. But the gains approached 90% for more efficient fuels, and advocates were confident that technology would progressively increase benefits.

There was just one flaw in the calculation: the studies all credited fuel crops for sequestering carbon, but no one checked whether the crops would ultimately replace vegetation and soils that sucked up even more carbon. It was as if the science world assumed biofuels would be grown in parking lots. The deforestation of Indonesia has shown that's not the case. It turns out that the carbon lost when wilderness is razed overwhelms the gains from cleaner-burning fuels. A study by University of Minnesota ecologist David Tilman concluded that it will take more than 400 years of biodiesel use to "pay back" the carbon emitted by directly clearing peat lands to grow palm oil; clearing grasslands to grow corn for ethanol has a payback period of 93 years. The result is that biofuels increase demand for crops, which boosts prices, which drives agricultural expansion, which eats forests. Searchinger's study concluded that overall, corn ethanol has a payback period of about 167 years because of the deforestation it triggers.

Not every kernel of corn diverted to fuel will be replaced. Diversions raise food prices, so the poor will eat less. That's the reason a U.N. food expert recently called agrofuels a "crime against humanity." Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute says that biofuels pit the 800 million people with cars against the 800 million people with hunger problems. Four years ago, two University of Minnesota researchers predicted the ranks of the hungry would drop to 625 million by 2025; last year, after adjusting for the inflationary effects of biofuels, they increased their prediction to 1.2 billion.

Industry advocates say that as farms increase crop yields, as has happened throughout history, they won't need as much land. They'll use less energy, and they'll use farm waste to generate electricity. To which Searchinger says: Wonderful! But growing fuel is still an inefficient use of good cropland. Strange as it sounds, we're better off growing food and drilling for oil. Sure, we should conserve fuel and buy efficient cars, but we should keep filling them with gas if the alternatives are dirtier.

The lesson behind the math is that on a warming planet, land is an incredibly precious commodity, and every acre used to generate fuel is an acre that can't be used to generate the food needed to feed us or the carbon storage needed to save us. Searchinger acknowledges that biofuels can be a godsend if they don't use arable land. Possible feedstocks include municipal trash, agricultural waste, algae and even carbon dioxide, although none of the technologies are yet economical on a large scale. Tilman even holds out hope for fuel crops--he's been experimenting with Midwestern prairie grasses--as long as they're grown on "degraded lands" that can no longer support food crops or cattle.

Changing the Incentives

That's certainly not what's going on in Brazil. There's a frontier feel to the southern Amazon right now. Gunmen go by names like Lizard and Messiah, and Carter tells harrowing stories about decapitations and castrations and hostages. Brazil has remarkably strict environmental laws--in the Amazon, landholders are permitted to deforest only 20% of their property--but there's not much law enforcement. I left Kotok to see Blairo Maggi, who is not only the soybean king of the world, with nearly half a million acres (200,000 hectares) in the province of Mato Grosso, but also the region's governor. "It's like your Wild West right now," Maggi says. "There's no money for enforcement, so people do what they want."

Maggi has been a leading pioneer on the Brazilian frontier, and it irks him that critics in the U.S.--which cleared its forests and settled its frontier 125 years ago but still provides generous subsidies to its farmers--attack him for doing the same thing except without subsidies and with severe restrictions on deforestation. Imagine Iowa farmers agreeing to keep 80%--or even 20%--of their land in native prairie grass. "You make us sound like bandits," Maggi tells me. "But we want to achieve what you achieved in America. We have the same dreams for our families. Are you afraid of the competition?"

Maggi got in trouble recently for saying he'd rather feed a child than save a tree, but he's come to recognize the importance of the forest. "Now I want to feed a child and save a tree," he says with a grin. But can he do all that and grow fuel for the world as well? "Ah, now you've hit the nail on the head." Maggi says the biofuel boom is making him richer, but it's also making it harder to feed children and save trees. "There are many mouths to feed, and nobody's invented a chip to create protein without growing crops," says his pal Homero Pereira, a congressman who is also the head of Mato Grosso's farm bureau. "If you don't want us to tear down the forest, you better pay us to leave it up!"

Everyone I interviewed in Brazil agreed: the market drives behavior, so without incentives to prevent deforestation, the Amazon is doomed. It's unfair to ask developing countries not to develop natural areas without compensation. Anyway, laws aren't enough. Carter tried confronting ranchers who didn't obey deforestation laws and nearly got killed; now his nonprofit is developing certification programs to reward eco-sensitive ranchers. "People see the forest as junk," he says. "If you want to save it, you better open your pocketbook. Plus, you might not get shot."

The trouble is that even if there were enough financial incentives to keep the Amazon intact, high commodity prices would encourage deforestation elsewhere. And government mandates to increase biofuel production are going to boost commodity prices, which will only attract more investment. Until someone invents that protein chip, it's going to mean the worst of everything: higher food prices, more deforestation and more emissions.

Advocates are always careful to point out that biofuels are only part of the solution to global warming, that the world also needs more energy-efficient lightbulbs and homes and factories and lifestyles. And the world does need all those things. But the world is still going to be fighting an uphill battle until it realizes that right now, biofuels aren't part of the solution at all. They're part of the problem.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Roller Coaster and Speedway

The City of Toronto apparently has the tallest roller coaster in the country. Not to be out done Regina has the widest. It is the streets of Regina and it is the ride of a lifetime. It explains why so many people drive trucks and large cars. How else can you survive the ride? If you are in for a greater thrill then try using your bicycle or motorcycle. This gives you a real feel for the road. Forget BMW’s, as they can’t begin to compare. No kidding, it is hemorrhoid city. The best thrills are in some of the residential areas where patching on this urban roller coaster add to the thrill. For the faint of heart drive a truck or Lexus. They smooth out the ride so you can toss the throw up bag, but if you’re a hard ass and a brave heart then drive a small car or motorcycle.

There are other thrills in Regina that are never promoted. Many would like to take in the Indianapolis 500 or some other high-speed motor vehicle sport. If you want to avoid the spectator crowds, hotel bills and the high cost of travel then just take a drive on the ring road or the lewvan. They have both been designed with lots of heaves and sways, along with specially designed ridges to give you the feeling your steering may have just let go or that a wheel is about to fall off. You will experience the thrill of speed and fast lane changing with no signal lights just like a professional speedway. There is reckless, death-defying merging and lane changing with no regard for who may be in the lane you are headed for along this little known speedway. If you need an adrenalin fix you will get it right here in about fifteen minutes. If you need to calm down after you get off this speedway then stop by Tim Horton’s and order your favourite brew. Why else are the lineups so long? Some seasoned drivers will sit in their vehicle for nearly half an hour for this race ending experience and one large coffee.

This is true excitement. Amateur drivers are giving it their best shot every day and not just on weekends like a professional speedway. Further, consider this! There are trucks of all descriptions, cars, motorcycles and bicycles with the odd pedestrian thrown in for good measure. It is high drama and the early morning and late afternoon will give you the best thrill as speed crazed amateur drivers give it their best to cross the finish line that never ends so they can get to work or home for supper without making the headlines on the local news. That is how you finish this race successfully. There are no winners or losers. You just get pumped. So the longer you drive the more pumped you get. What a challenge and it only costs you the price of the fuel you burn to enter all this excitement. It doesn’t get any better. It’s as good as it gets.

Toronto has nothing on the City of Regina. We have a bigger roller coaster and a speedway they can’t match. Are we damn good or what?

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Elections Canada / Harper Conservatives

The Harper conservatives are in a nasty fight with Elections Canada. It is an issue that is simply not going away. Elections Canada is an independent agency. Stephen Harper needs to put this puppy to bed as soon as possible because it is beginning to make people question the transparency of his party and his government.

Recent polling indicates that nearly sixty percent of those polled believe the conservatives’ credibility has been damaged over their dispute with Elections Canada. The poll also revealed that Canadians do not view Harper as being as trustworthy and honest as Stéphane Dion. Even in conservative strong Alberta conservative credibility is believed to have eroded over their scrap with Elections Canada.

This seems to be one issue where the controlling Stephen Harper is out of control. I believe Canadians expect this political, and often times petty, dispute should be settled as soon as possible so their government can get on with governing.

The conservatives want an election even though it flies in the face of their own mandated four-year election cycle. The media understandably want an election for the simple reason that it is news. The liberals should avoid an early election because at this time there is nothing to gain. The Harper conservatives are slipping on their own banana peels every week. The liberals should wait until they actually fall down. Governments eventually defeat themselves. The Bloc, the NDP and the Green Party all want an election, but who cares. They are in a fight for last place. Canadians definitely don’t want a spring election. They want to see the sun and warm weather after a long winter, not the dark cloud of a spring election that will serve no good purpose at this time.

A fall election seems more likely!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Harper's Fires

When Prime Minister Stephen Harper is no longer in politics he will have a natural career in fire fighting. He spends a lot of time putting out fires, but the interesting thing is that he starts many of them on his own. As I have said before, he is too controlling and has not allowed himself or his government to simply govern without a lot of fanfare.

Harper failed to discipline MP Tom Lukiwski over comments Lukiwski made on old videotape that was released by Saskatchewan New Democrats. He is now resisting calls from the opposition to fire his Foreign Affairs minister, Maxime Bernier for his gaff in Afghanistan. Bernier, in a recent visit to Afghanistan, was attempting to restructure their government for them, which is clearly not our role in that war torn country.

Harper is now facing serious questions in the House of Commons respecting allegations that the Conservative Party of Canada spent well over the budget allowed in the Elections Act. Dodging bullets from Elections Canada and trying to explain why Elections Canada and the RCMP raided the conservative office headquarters is not how you want to spend your days as Prime Minister of Canada. The Harper conservatives then proceeded with an attempt to manipulate the media over the whole matter. This only added to the problem and worsened their already poor relationship with the media. The voting public are rightfully expecting better from their Prime Minister and their government.

Then Harper’s Chief of Staff, Ian Brodie, messed up and got us involved in the US presidential race. Harper met with US President Bush and Mexican President, Felipe Calderon in New Orleans to discuss NAFTA. Harper again made it clear that Canada would not interfere in the US presidential race, but ironically the three leaders were going to discuss the merits of NAFTA, which is at the centre of how Canada interfered in the presidential race in the first place.

Harper is also putting out fires on his controversial new Immigration legislation. There is a reported 900,000 backlog of immigrants that are expected to wait up to six years before their applications can be processed. The opposition generally supports the legislation, but again is concerned with how the heavy hand of the Harper conservatives is built into the legislation. This country is in need of skilled workers and if changes are not made to the immigration rules it is expected that the backlog will grow to one and a half million in the next five years and wait times will reach ten years. Canada has the largest immigration backlog in the world.

Harper converts nearly every issue into a non-confidence vote in his continuing attempts to goad the liberals into defeating his minority government. This would send the country into a general election it does not want. The liberals have wisely not taken the bait and have left Harper many times caught in his own back draft.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Senate & Afghanistan

How has the Senate contributed to Canada’s involvement in the Afghanistan conflict? I am not sure, but I understand the Senate has cost Canadian taxpayers around $3 million since 2001 with various trips to Afghanistan and Canadian and US cities, along with other trips to Europe. These trips were apparently fact-finding tours. Now if they were to inform Canadians I may attach some value to the tours since the Harper conservative government is keeping Canadians in the dark on some aspects of Canada’s role in Afghanistan.

Senate members have had a couple of visits with the Canadian troops in Kandahar, but I don’t know how necessary that was to the conflict. It seems hard to understand how the Senate or any politician is of any significance to the conflict. Now if they spent a week there helping out in some meaningful way I may be convinced that the Senate’s cost to Canadian taxpayers is worth the $3 million.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Military Police Complaints Commission

What do Canadians have a right to know in regards to Canada’s role in Afghanistan? Is the Harper conservative government attempting to keep Canadians in the dark? The issue of Afghan detainees may turn out to be an issue that will reveal the answers to these questions.

Last month Parliament passed a resolution wherein Canadians right-to-know was explicit with respect to Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan and specifically the handling of detainees by Canadian troops. This intent of Parliament seems now to be less clear.

The Military Police Complaints Commission has argued that the conservative government has been less than cooperative over the issue of detainees. Subsequently, last month the chair of the complaints commission, Peter A. Tinsley ordered an estimated $2 million public hearing into the matter, which will provide the commission with more power to efficiently investigate the matter of detainees. The Defence Minister, Peter Mackay, was quoted as saying, “the commission will get the cooperation with respect both to information disclosures and the funding necessary to have a full-blown hearing if this is the direction in which it (the commission) intends to go.”

Apparently, the conservative government has had a change of heart on this issue as they are now attempting to block the public investigation by the Military Police Complaints Commission. The Harper conservative government has filed a notice of judicial review this past Friday in Federal Court to put a stop to the planned public hearing by the Military Police Complaints Commission into allegations of abuse of detainees in Afghanistan.

So is this a jurisdictional argument by the conservative government or are they really trying to keep Canadians in the dark on the issue? One thing is clear! Canadians should have a right to know and should never be kept in the dark by their own government.

Finally, what happened to Stephen Harper’s promises of a transparent and accountable government? Who knows? Maybe he will seek counsel from Tom Lukiwski on the issue.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Biofuel Strategies

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) has completed a study of Saskatchewan’s ethanol strategy. It is claimed to be an expensive investment that has not yet benefited either the environment or rural Saskatchewan. The study was entitled “Biofuels: Bonanza or Boondoggle for Saskatchewan.” The study suggests the government has not met their policy objectives and failed to anticipate changes in the marketplace. Because of high grain prices and low inventories of world grain stocks the entire industry of ethanol production is likely to be marginal at best. The study also suggests that any gains in reducing harm to our environment are largely offset by the very production of ethanol.

It was believed that small-scale operations by farmers integrating both the production of ethanol and livestock would play an important role in the province’s production of environment. This hasn’t happened as livestock production is in the tank due to the high costs of feed grains. Either way you look at it the ethanol industry is not getting off to a very quick start and the CCPA sounds a concerning alarm regarding an industry wherein the government has the taxpayers dollars invested.

The opponents of the CCPA study simply take the same position as investors take regarding the failing investment climate. That position is to remind investors that you have to consider the long term. Many of us, who are paying for these grand schemes to protect our environment and have affordable fuel, will not be living in the long term.

Further, the federal government has invested $250 million in research to assist the auto industry to create more fuel-efficient vehicles. It seems to me the auto industry should have been doing that a long time ago at their expense. Why should the taxpayers help the auto industry to create fuel-efficient vehicles? Maybe the government will help me buy my next new fuel-efficient vehicle. Yes, I know the government has a little rebate for you if you buy a vehicle the government feels is fuel-efficient, but that is only a government subsidy to assist the auto industry to sell us these types of vehicles.

The government should stay out of the private sector. It reminds me of when the Trudeau liberals created Petro-Canada in the mid-1970s. It was a public enterprise in the midst of an energy crisis. How has this investment served the Canadian taxpayers on the long-term?

Either way, the high cost of fueling our vehicles will soon restrict us to going to our weekly Sunday service and maybe a trip to Tim Horton’s after for a cup of coffee. I suggest the government and private sector team up on these environmental issues and high fuel costs. It is time they both showed the taxpayers some true leadership.

Finally, don’t give me that argument that the price of a litre of bottled water is often more than the cost of a litre of gasoline. For the most part, people drink bottled water because they feel their government has failed to deliver quality water to their taps. Is there anything you can’t blame the government for?

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Regina Gay & Lesbian Community

The Regina Gay & Lesbian community today held a well-planned and civil demonstration in front of the constituency office of Tom Lukiwski, MP. There were many speakers and they conducted themselves very well and made many excellent points.

Tom Lukiwski was not there and his office staff refused to address the rally. The Member of Parliament, Tom Lukiwski should have been there or had his staff read a prepared message on his behalf. This was not the case and I suspect it was because the Prime Minister has placed a gag order on Lukiwski and his staff in the same way he did with Larry Spencer and his staff. It is interesting to note that no demonstration was ever held in front of Larry Spencer's office by anyone, at any time, on any issue. Spencer was never afforded the opportunity to apologize in the House of Commons and was unceremoniously booted out of the party.

The Gay and Lesbian community commented that Lukiwski's offending remarks were far worse than anything said by Larry Spencer. For this reason they are questioning why Harper is not prepared to take some form of disciplinary measure regarding Lukiwski. They feel this would send a clear message that the Prime Minister or any member of his government will not tolerate stupid, thoughtless and insensitive comments like those made by Tom Lukiwski. On this basis they are now calling for the defeat of the conservative government at the next election.

At the very least, Tom Lukiwski has lost a few votes over this issue and his re-election may be in question. Regardless, that will be a decision of all the voters in Regina-Lumsden-Lake Centre at the next federal election.

The Case of Tom Lukiwski

After all that has been said and written the case of MP Tom Lukiwski can be reduced to a simple matter of integrity. When we elect an MP or an MLA we expect that they are people of integrity. In business and government there should always be a spirit of transparency, a culture of accountability and a people of integrity. You can teach transparency and accountability.

As it regards integrity, you either have it or you don’t. We are in a world of shifting standards, which begets this question. Can you acquire integrity if you don’t have it? The answer is yes and it can be found only if you seek, acquire and hold tight to moral convictions. Herein lies the challenge for Tom Lukiwski and it is for him and him alone to seek. I have read that the measure of a person’s character is what he would do if he knew he never would be found out. There is truth in this reading.

There is the matter of what you do or say, but what really matters is who you are that’s most important. There are calls for disciplinary measures to be applied to Tom Lukiwski. That is understandable coming from people who feel they have been harmed or hurt in any way, from people who hold a high standard of integrity and moral conviction, and from those who simply want to advance themselves at the expense of Tom Lukiwski. I believe he has been judged by a higher power and discipline is now likely soon to follow.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has accepted Tom Lukiwski’s apology believing that it was sincere and displayed remorse. It may well have been, but we all know these are only words. The integrity of Tom Lukiwski, the Prime Minister and his conservative government will be judged on their actions and not on their words alone.

Tom Lukiwski has fallen on the sharp sword of truth and now suffers the pain. It is a sword and pain that many of us have fallen on at some point in our lives. The only good news is that most learn from this kind of pain. What will Tom Lukiwski learn?

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

2008 Ford Women's World Curling Championship

Congratulations to Jennifer Jones and her team who were representing Canada at the 2008 Ford Women’s World Curling Championship in Vernon, BC. They won a hard fought battle with the ever-tough team from China.

It was a hard week for Jones and her team as they struggled at times against other teams in a World Championship that was arguably one of the best ever. The Jennifer Jones team had a lot of pressure on them from the opening draw playing in front of a home crowd where making every shot and winning every game would naturally have been their goal. This was not to be the case, but nor was it the case for the tenacious Canadians to cave to the pressure. They never gave up, they kept fighting to the very end and victory was their prize.

This is a great sport success story for this wonderful Canadian team, but it speaks volumes to the character of this Jones team and to the character of who we are as a nation. We never gave up in the 72 Hockey Summit and we never gave up in the 2008 Ford Women’s World Curling Championship. Thank you to Jennifer Jones and her team for reminding us what it is to be Canadian.

When the National Anthem was played and the Canadian flag was raised to honour the victorious Canadian team the tears began to flow as they realized the victory was not only for them. It was for all Canadians. There are not words to express my appreciation to Jennifer Jones and her team for how they played. I can only say thank you. I am a proud Canadian and you have made me more proud. Good luck next year!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Federal - Provincial Relations

Well, today the Prime Minister has thrown up the white flag and appears to be calling for a truce with Ontario. Previously promised federal funds in the amount of $709 million have now been freed up to assist Ontario’s financing of their public transit, hiring of more police and helping workers in industries hit by the high dollar. This means that the Prime Minister has ordered the federal finance minister, Jim Flaherty, who has been leading the attack on Ontario, to back off. I congratulate the Prime Minister on this decision to return to cooperative relations with the province of Ontario.

Saskatchewan should not feel left out as the Prime Minister’s recent visit to Saskatchewan also contained financial considerations. The Government of Canada will contribute $240 million, in trust after legislation is passed, to the Province of Saskatchewan for the funding of clean coal technology. These funds will be matched with $758 million from SaskPower to partner with industry on clean coal and reduce Saskatchewan emissions by an estimated million tones a year and generate 100 megawatts of clean power according to the Prime Minister.

Getting out of political bickering and getting on with governing is good for the Prime Minister and good for Canada. Hats off to the PM on this one.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Flaherty - McGuinty Scrap

The constant intrusion by the federal conservative finance minister, Jim Flaherty into the economic affairs of the province of Ontario is unreasonable at the very least. More interesting is that Flaherty’s regular bickering with Dalton McGuinty; Premier of Ontario, is apparently directed by Stephen Harper.

Now you really have to ask how much sense that makes? The Harper conservatives need the support of Ontario if they hope to form a majority government at the next federal election. Harper has long professed the need for federal and provincial governments to work cooperatively in the best interests of all Canadians. Harper’s actions contradict his words in many provinces and especially vote rich Ontario. It is believed that Harper’s strategy of making provincial liberals in Ontario look bad on how they manage their economy will boost the nations image of how Harper conservatives are managing the federal economy.

Harper has consistently been at odds with Dalton McGuinty. It hasn’t worked as McGuinty only months ago defeated John Tory, the leader of the conservatives in Ontario at the last provincial election. The federal conservatives scrap with provincial Ontario liberals may be costing Harper votes in a province he must win if he wants to be the Prime Minister after the next election.

It may be a stretch, but imagine this headline in the papers after the next federal election. “Dion Triumphant over Harper.” Now wouldn’t that be Harper’s worst nightmare? Well, stranger things have happened in the wacky world of politics.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Housing Problems

Will the housing problems in the US become a similar problem in Canada? Well, I hope not, but what has happened in the US? As reported, many homebuyers had no obligations regarding their home until construction was completed. It was then appraised upon completed construction based on what it would sell for in the current market. This tended to encourage people to build homes in excess of their needs. Worse yet was that home mortgages were higher than if they were based on the market at the time of construction if the markets and interest rates were on the rise. Homeowners were then left with a home they couldn’t make payments on if the interest rates went up and often ended up losing their newly built home.

Financing practices by financial institutions both in the US and Canada cater to the natural inclination of people to often strive to finance what they don’t need and can’t afford. This fault of humankind to finance their way to equality with the rich and famous is a recipe for financial disaster. When will people learn that you must repay what you have borrowed or your creditors will take it away?

Unfortunately, in many cases, the banks employ people who are good at encouraging you to finance beyond your needs and ability to repay. It is here where the banks get the upper hand and your first step to financial ruin has just been taken.

Interestingly, people in both the US and Canada have become increasingly untrusting of their politicians and their governments. For many years consumers have placed too much trust in the banks. Are they really acting in your interests or their own? I will leave that for you to answer, but it is time to be less trusting.

The housing crisis in the US is not confined to them alone. Yes, it can happen here and it can happen to you unless you can predict the markets and interest rates. Good luck!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Tim Horton's Brier

This past week the Tim Horton’s Brier provided us with some of the best curling on the planet earth. TSN coverage was excellent. Kevin Martin and his team representing Alberta came out on top winning Sunday’s final against Glen Howard’s team representing Ontario. Strangely, CBC’s coverage of the final on Sunday interviewed Glen Howard after the game, but failed to give this year’s champion, Kevin Martin any coverage after the game. It would seem only logical that you would first interview the winner and maybe others after that if airtime permitted. CBC always seems to find new ways to get you going. Maybe it is CBC that should be going.

Regardless, the point of my letter is to speak to the outstanding performance of Pat Simmons and his team representing Saskatchewan. They were professionals all the way and the real champions of my heart. A picked rock cost Pat Simmons a spot in Sunday’s final, but Pat handled it in stride and made us all proud. They are our champions. I congratulate them on their fine performance at the Tim Horton’s Brier and wish them all the best and better luck next year.

Finally, congratulations to the Kevin Martin team for their perfect record. I wish them all the best as they now represent Canada at the World Cup. Bring it home Kevin!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Harper Rules

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is running this country. Democracy is barely existent. A nation ruled by a Prime Minister seemingly obsessed with power cannot be good for Canadians. The House of Commons and its committees are irrelevant and dysfunctional. The Senate is the only aspect of Canada’s parliamentary system of government that Stephen Harper has not yet been able to control, but he has tried.

Recent media reports have indicated the PM’s Chief of Staff, Ian Brodie, is cut from the same cloth as Stephen Harper. Not my kind of cloth. Brodie is Harper’s strong man who has reportedly reduced cabinet ministers to tears. Think of it! Your elected MP is being brought to tears, or ordered by the PM’s office on how they should represent you and the consequences if they don’t follow orders. I believe it is wrong for the PM’s staff to have more power than your Member of Parliament. This is not leadership; it is an abuse of power.

Peter Milliken, the Speaker of the House of Commons is on record stating that, “Partisan political antics are pushing Ottawa's parliamentary committees – where the country's laws are first debated and considered, to the brink of anarchy.”

I have worked long and hard for conservatives for over forty years, including the Harper conservatives. It is Stephen Harper and his chosen few, like Ian Brodie, who are giving me cause for regrets. Yes, Stephen Harper rules, not your elected Member of Parliament.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

2008 Federal Budget

Congratulations to the federal conservative government, the Finance Minister and Prime Minister Stephen Harper. They have tabled an excellent budget considering Canada’s current economic situation. The budget also has the support of the liberals and we can thank the conservatives for that as well. They could have put something in the budget that the liberals could not have supported that may have caused an unnecessary election.

I am still going through the details, but it is likely the most fiscally prudent budget we have seen in over a decade. The budget deficit was reduced and Canadians were provided with a means of saving money through the Tax Free Savings Account, TFSA proposal contained in the budget. It is a small thing in the grand scheme of things, but is being talked about more than anything else. It does not cost the government very much in the short term, but is projected to cost $3 billion annually down the road. Regardless, it is welcome news for Canadians who choose to save and an incentive for others to begin saving. Most importantly, it is tax free and comes with no strings attached.

The liberals managed our economy well and it seems the conservatives are out to prove they too are good stewards of our tax dollars. It almost sounds too good to be true. Regardless, the conservatives did well with this budget and there have been very few complaints. Of course Jack and Gilles went up the hill to fetch????

Lynne Yelich, MP Gets Bad Advice

A few days ago I received a political communications piece with the compliments of conservative Member of Parliament for Blackstrap, Lynne Yelich. I live in the federal constituency of Regina Wascana so this communications by Yelich was widely distributed on behalf of her conservative colleagues in anticipation of a federal election that is more likely off than on.

It is a cheap piece at best. It is on an 8.5 x 11 paper with no color. On the one side it shows a very nice picture of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and reads as follows: “With Conservatives you will keep your $1,200 per year child care benefit. Guaranteed.” Opposite that is a very bad picture of Stéphane Dion, which reads as follows: “Dion voted against the $1,200 child care benefit and will take it away.” Below these two photos it asks, what do you think? It then provides a small form to fill in and this is where it really gets crazy as it reads as follows:

I want to:

 Keep my child care benefit.
 Lose my child care benefit.

You then fill in your contact details; name, address, City/Town, Province, Postal Code and Email and mail it postage free at the taxpayers expense to Lynne Yelich, MP. Now which qualifying family would check the box to lose their child care benefit? Who believes they would lose it if they did check that box? Who believes that Stéphane Dion, the leader of the liberal party, does not support families? Who believes that Stéphane Dion would not honour the child care benefit or some other equivalent form of support for Canadian families if he became Prime Minister?

Maybe the next question will be:

 Keep your home
 Lose your home

If politicians ask the voters enough stupid questions the voters may begin to wonder just who is stupid. This communication piece by Lynne Yelich, MP was a waste of taxpayers’ money and an insult to the intelligence of Saskatchewan voters. I know Lynne Yelich is a much better person than this communication piece would suggest. It leaves me wondering who gave her such bad advice.

The Case of Neelam Vir

This is the text of my Letter to the Editor of the Toronto Star

Your coverage of the charges regarding Neelam Vir and the allegations that she threatened a member of Premier Dalton McGuinty’s staff is at a minimum very interesting. I have followed the Star’s editorials on this issue and I am left with the feeling there is something not known and not reported.

As the matter is before the courts I respectfully will not make more of this issue than is known to this point. Regardless, some facts are interesting to point out. Why is the well-educated Neelam Vir not employed in the field of her education? Why would anyone send a reported 200 emails to a Premier in a six-month period? Is it possible that foreign trained professionals are not being treated fairly in Canada? I very much doubt that is the case. Canada has been a land of opportunity for immigrants since confederation. That is who we are.

I was interested in the Star’s staff reporter, Prithi Yelaja’s comments in her editorial dated February 26, 2008. She said, “Vir’s tale starts with the typical immigrant story of struggle and a quest for belonging.” That statement by Prithi Yelaja does nothing to contribute to solutions for immigrants and only makes resident Canadians wonder if something is wrong with the current situation regarding new immigrants to this great land of opportunity.

Finally, I trust that calm minds will prevail regarding this issue. It needs to be settled without needlessly aggravating those who are otherwise reasonably comfortable as they are. My grandparents came to this country about a hundred years ago from England. They too were immigrants by the last name Birkbeck. The Birkbeck families have done very well here in Canada and I wish the same for all immigrants.

Canada is a great country, but it isn’t perfect. As for Neelam Vir, I can only hope that we can all learn from her particular situation.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Canadian Voters

Are the pollsters and the media misleading Canadians? Well, I don’t think they are intentionally misleading Canadians, but the public does focus on the issues the pollsters and media bring to the forefront. The issues are the environment, health care, the war in Afghanistan and the economy and about in that order according to Canadians if we believe the pollsters.

I am not sure it is that simple, but these are about the only issues we hear about coming out of Ottawa. The Stephen Harper government is not fairing very well on any of these issues, which accounts for why his government is sitting at about the same support as they did at the last federal election. The manufacturing sector is hurting in Ontario and increased government spending and a weakening Canadian economy, due in large part to the floundering US economy, does not allow the federal government to bail Ontario out of their failing economy.

The federal conservatives need to win vote rich Ontario if they are to win a majority government, but the pollsters have them trailing the liberals in Ontario. The liberals have wisely refrained from defeating the government on votes of non-confidence, which would trigger an election. Canadian voters are not eager for an election and there is more in their wisdom on this point than the media and pollsters seem to understand.

The clear expression of the hearts and minds of Canadian voters is only heard and understood during and after an election. It is only when millions of Canadian voters express their political feelings at the polls do we ever really understand what they are feeling and thinking on all the issues.

If the Stephen Harper federal conservative government simply gets on with providing sound government and leaves the election call to opposition parties or the four year rule Harper introduced then Canadian voters may just hand them a majority government. The media and pollsters, along with the political parties, may attempt to manipulate the issues they want Canadian voters to focus on, but at a federal election the voters may prove them wrong. In the end, Canadian voters will clearly define the issues at the next federal election.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Harper wants Election

The ongoing foolishness in the House of Commons is only contributing to the reasons why I don’t hold a membership in any political party. Currently, there are three important issues our politicians are attempting to address on behalf of all Canadians. They are the war in Afghanistan, the economy and the crime legislation. Progress on these issues is pitifully slow. More importantly, the way in which the government is handling these issues is unsettling to all Canadians.

The House of Commons is incapable of arriving at solutions that secures the support of the House of Commons regarding these important matters. Rather, the debate rages over whether Prime Minister Stephen Harper can engineer a federal election. Why Harper wants to burden Canadians with an expensive election they don’t want is beyond me.

Harper backed himself in a corner when he laid claim to having elections on four-year cycles. In a minority parliament the opposition historically has brought down a government on the budget, which is considered a vote of non-confidence in the government. Now Stephen Harper is choosing to declare almost anything a non-confidence vote in an attempt to provoke the opposition into defeating his government and forcing an election.

His latest gig is an attempt to provoke an election by demanding the Senate rubber stamp the government’s crime legislation. In so doing he has only added credibility to the Senate by exposing how the Senate is independent from the House of Commons and is there to assure that legislation is given a thorough review before it is passed back to the House of Commons for final approval and passage into law. Stephen Harper continues to ignore and disrespect the process of Parliament and the Senate. He seems to have no respect or concern for any process or anyone who chooses not to agree with him. Canadian voters seem to be aware that Harper is a man to be held in check and giving him a majority government would be hazardous at best.

The conservatives and liberals are fairly close in recent polls and an election is most likely to give us yet another minority government. Even if that is not the case, most Canadians seem quite satisfied with the current balance of power in the House of Commons and are more inclined to support Stephen Harper’s plan of elections every four years. The failure of the conservative government to deliver good government rests on Stephen Harper’s shoulders. We have a minority conservative government that seems more interested in having another election, which will cost Canadian taxpayers millions, than they are in providing good government. Harper can try and blame the opposition parties, but I don’t think Canadians are buying that argument. He is finding that it is a hell of a lot easier in opposition and if he doesn’t get it together he will be back in opposition and we will never hear from him again.

Finally, if I were in opposition I would do everything within the rules of parliament to avoid causing an election over a non-confidence vote. If Stephen Harper wants an election then let him call it at his own peril.