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 St├ęphane 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!