The Capital Chronicles Fri, 16 Nov 2012 16:11:00 GMT Trudeau and those other people Fri, 16 Nov 2012 16:11:00 GMT <p> With all the attention that lad Trudeau has received since announcing his candidacy for the Liberal leadership Oct. 2, it may have seemed like the campaign has been underway for weeks already.</p> <p> But it officially just started Wednesday, and it is starting to look like it will be at least a bit of a race.</p> <p> Althought Justin Trudeau clearly is the front runner - and at this point in time he is the only one who has officially registered as a candidate - he has as many as seven challengers at this point in the game, and next Wednesday his biggest foe is expected to finally say yes.</p> <p> Former astronaut turned Montreal MP Marc Garneau is rumoured to be ready to announce his candidacy on Nov. 21. Garneau has been considering a run for months and has been under pressure to do so by party brass who believe he is one of, if not THE only person, who can give Justin Trudeau a run and prevent this from being a coronation.</p> <p> Former MP <a href="" rel="nofollow">Martha Hall Findlay</a> - who just weeks ago finished paying off her debts from her run in the 2006 contest where she was eliminated on the first ballot - jumped in on Wednesday with an announcement in Calgary.</p> <p> Then there is a growing list of candidates who are little known outside the Liberal party - and some aren't even that well known within it. They include:</p> <ul> <li> lawyer and former Liberal candidate <a href="" rel="nofollow">Deborah Coyne</a> (also known as the mother of Pierre Trudeau's daughter and Justin Trudeau's half-sister). She was one of the first to officially join, announcing in July.</li> <li> Ottawa lawyer and former Liberal candidate <a href="" rel="nofollow">David Bertschi</a></li> <li> Vancouver crown prosecutor <a href="" rel="nofollow">Alex Burton</a></li> <li> retired Air Force Lt. Col <a href="" rel="nofollow">Karen McCrimmon</a> (the first woman in Canada to ever lead an Air Force squadron)</li> <li> former head of the B.C. wing of the Liberal Party <a href="" rel="nofollow">David Merner</a>  ( he left the post to run in the leadership race.)</li> <li> senior federal economist <a href="" rel="nofollow">Jonathan Mousley</a></li> </ul> <p>  </p> <p> All of the candidates have to pay $75,000 in three equal deposits to be on the ballot when the vote takes place April 14 in Ottawa. The first deposit was due upon registration. The second is due Dec. 15 and the third and final is due Jan. 13. (Jan. 13 is also the last day any candidate can register to run). Don't be surprised if the field is reduced by then as it's a lot of money to raise just to enter and with Ontario also in the throes of a leadership race, money and volunteers are going to be spread thin.</p> <p> The winner will be chosen in a new process that allows anyone who signs up as a party member or a supporter by March 3, to vote.</p> <p> Every riding will be given equal weight, with each allocated 100 points. The points will be distributed to each candidate based on their share of the votes from a particular riding.  The winner must get more 50 per cent of the points to win, so it may require subseqent votes. However, the votes will be cast on a preferential ballot, so voters will mark one ballot and rank their choices.</p> <p> Winnipeg will host a debate on Feb. 2. Details on the exact location are still to be determined. Other debates will be held in Vancouver (Jan. 20) Toronto (Feb. 17), Halifax (March 3) and Montreal (March 23).</p> <p>  </p> Blog:05c5011d-2dee-41cd-a66a-65722b2605ddPost:148ab3b2-2087-461e-9dc2-4ff46bee2c4e Language wars Mon, 29 Oct 2012 16:42:00 GMT <p> If Canadians ever needed to wonder why there is animosity between French and English speakers in this country, one need only witness an exchange between NDP MP Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe and Auditor General Michael Ferguson, at the Public Accounts committee of Parliament, last Thursday.</p> <p> Blanchette-Lamothe, elected an MP for Montreal in 2011, was asking questions as Ferguson was appearing to discuss his latest report which dealt with, among other things, the issue of increasing the old age security pension age from 65 to 67.</p> <p> She posed a question to him in French. He attempted to answer in French but it was clearly a struggle for him to do so and Blanchette-Lamothe cut him off after barely a sentence.<br /> "I very much appreciate very much your attempt to speak in French but unfortunately the committee is not the place to practice. I think I deserve a quick and efficient answer as much as my colleagues. So is it possible to ask you to answer in English during my five minutes and maybe practice another time."</p> <p> Ferguson appears to turn a deep crimson at her admonishment.</p> <p> It should be noted that when Ferguson was appointed last year there was quite a controversy about the fact that he was not bilingual. In fact the NDP have even now introduced legislation requiring all officers of parliament to be bilingual, something the government looks like it may support.</p> <p> And yes, in a perfect version of Canada, everyone would speak both English and French and we'd all be happy and get along. But life isn't perfect and Ferguson's attempts to learn French have not been successful, at least not yet.</p> <p> Perhaps he is a man who struggles with languages. Learning a second language, particularly as an adult, is never an easy feat, and he has probably been a little busy trying to do his job. Although sometimes civil servants are able to go to language training full time for months, that's not a possibility for the auditor general.</p> <p> I have no doubt he is trying to learn and I can tell you, from experience, the one thing that can kill any confidence one has in trying to speak a second language, is for someone who speaks that language to publicly humiliate you when you try.</p> <p> Blanchette-Lamothe was in her rights to ask the question in French. She was not in her rights to try to score political points by embarassing an officer of Parliament. Ferguson easily could have just launched into an English answer. There are translators paid to translate every word spoken at every committee and sitting of the House of Commons and the Senate.  He knew that and he could have simply answered her in English.</p> <p> He tried to speak French because he knows it has been an issue and clearly he is trying to make good on his promise to learn the language.</p> <p> If Blanchette-Lamothe was truly worried she didn't have enough time to ask all her questions if Ferguson continued to speak so slowly in French, she easily could have said "Thank you for trying to speak French, but if you'd be more comfortable in English, that would be okay."</p> <p> Instead she chose to be rude and embarass him, suggesting he could "practice" somewhere else.</p> <p> At the end of the meeting Blanchette-Lamothe did go over to Ferguson and apologize but the damage was already done.</p> <p> There are colleagues who disagree. They think Ferguson's response in French was unacceptable and that Blanchette-Lamothe was fully within her rights to criticize his abilities.</p> <p> But the fact remains, Blanchette-Lamothe's ability to do her job was not compromised in any way. She could continue to ask questions in French and have answers translated from English. Or she could listen to the English, since she is clearly bilingual.</p> <p> Trying to force bilingualism and score political points by belittling someone in public is not the answer. In fact, it may mean fewer people want to even try to speak their second language.</p> Blog:05c5011d-2dee-41cd-a66a-65722b2605ddPost:17287828-07dd-4e66-9783-5229acb55726 Halloween Apples Wed, 24 Oct 2012 19:23:00 GMT <p> Since moving to Ontario almost five years ago, (not including the years I spent here in the 1990s) it has come to my attention that Ontario children, or at least Ottawa children, are missing out on a fabulous tradition.</p> <p> Nobody here seems to have a hot clue what Halloween Apples are.</p> <p> I have fond memories of delivering the sing-songy phrase with gusto on the doorsteps of my neighbours' homes, watched carefully by my father's supervisory eyes. We never said "Trick or Treat."</p> <p> It may be a small thing but it's one of the regional idiosyncrasies which make me smile. If anyone knows how Halloween Apples became the Manitoba Halloween doorstep song let me know.</p> <p> As it is almost Halloween, Statistics Canada has again released a bevy of interesting statistical information about this holiday, which some kids now say tops Christmas as their favourite holiday of the year.</p> <p> There are about 3.7 million children of trick or treating age in Canada, down from a high of 4.1 million a decade ago.</p> <p> There are 2,239 pumpkin farms in Canada. 71 of them are in Manitoba.</p> <p> The pumpkin farms will sell about $16.7 million worth of pumpkins this year, producing 88,400 pumpkins and other squash.</p> <p> Canadian large retailers sold $355.9 million worth of candy and snack foods in October 2011, well above the monthly average of $276.2 million. However, Christmas still wins the candy war, with sales hitting $465.3 million in December 2011.</p> <p>  </p> <p> Happy Halloween everybody.</p> Blog:05c5011d-2dee-41cd-a66a-65722b2605ddPost:3e7a6985-a811-4a5e-bd24-42ce1845aef2 Information underload Tue, 25 Sep 2012 20:51:00 GMT <p> It's Right to Know week in Canada.</p> <p>  </p> <p> A single week each year dedicated to reminding governments that the information they carry is not theirs but that it belongs to the public. A single week to remind the public they have a right to the information from the government. A single week to point out the success and failures of laws that require the governments to provide information.</p> <p>  </p> <p> Yesterday, Newspapers Canada released its<a href="" rel="nofollow"> annual audit </a>of the federal, provincial and municipal governments handling of access to information requests. Manitoba didn't fare so well this year. Winnipeg did so-so. Canada it was found was worse than every province but one, and every municipality but one, when it came to how long it took to respond to requests.</p> <p>  </p> <p> Only half the 56 requests filed with federal departments were answered within the required 30 days.</p> <p>  </p> <p> The following exchange from Question Period may explain why:</p> <p>  </p> <p> <em>Mr. Charlie Angus (Timmins—James Bay, NDP): Mr. Speaker, a fundamental principle of democratic accountability is protecting the privacy of the individual while ensuring the transparence of the state. Unfortunately, the Conservatives have flipped that principle upside-down.</em></p> <p> <em>Since signing the accountability act, Canada has fallen to 51st in the world when it comes to access to information. Citizens in Niger and Angola have better rights for access to information.</em></p> <p> <em>A simple question, what is the government afraid of? Why did it sign the accountability act? Why did it turn its back on the rights of Canadians to transparent government?</em></p> <p>  </p> <p> <em>Hon. Tony Clement (President of the Treasury Board and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I have some good statistics for the hon. member and for the House.</em></p> <p> <em>The Government of Canada, in 2010-11, for that year measured, received 41,641 new access to information requests. That is over 15% more than the previous year. The volume has increased by almost 50% since 2005. More than 90% of the requests are processed within the government's 120 day standard.</em></p> <p>  </p> <p> Somewhere he apparently missed the memo pointing out Canada's Access to Information Act  has a legal response time of 30 calendar days from the time the request is received. Not 120 days.</p> <p>  </p> <p> Yes the government can issue an extension. (I say issue because it's never a request, it's just a fact, that they send you a letter saying they can't meet your request in time and need xxx number of additional days to respond.)</p> <p>  </p> <p> So the law says 30 days but Clement says 120 days is the government's standard.</p> <p>  </p> <p>  </p> <p>  </p> <p>  </p> <p>  </p> <p>  </p> Blog:05c5011d-2dee-41cd-a66a-65722b2605ddPost:12060336-62a2-4372-9141-46ab86e71327 Game time Fri, 21 Sep 2012 18:23:00 GMT <p> Liberal MP and likely Liberal leadership candidate Marc Garneau twice this week asked the Conservatives to be open and up front about their plans to change MP pensions to make them a little less gold-plated and a little more palatable to the public.</p> <p>  </p> <p> The Liberals, said Garneau, support the changes (even though they don't know yet exactly what they are) and want to vote for them, but if the Conservatives toss them into another omnibus budget bill, well, the Liberals might have to vote against them because of what else will be in that bill.</p> <p>  </p> <p>   " Is the <a class="MemberOfParliamentPopup" href="" id="78738" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">Prime Minister</a> worried about a backlash from his own backbench members if he does not force this down their throats as part of a single budget bill," Garneau asked Thursday during question period. "I have a proposition for him. How about a separate stand-alone bill and the Liberals will co-operate in fast-tracking it? This is the kind of thing Canadians expect: transparency from their government."</p> <p>  </p> <p> Well, Treasury Board President Tony Clement then confirmed what everyone pretty much already knew - that the MP pension changes will be in the omnibus budget bill.</p> <p>  </p> <p> Which is as much an attempt to screw the opposition into voting against the pension changes as it is a desire to streamline legislation. Let's face it, screwing one's opponent is the modus operandi of politics. Governing is just a side benefit.</p> <p>  </p> <p> Garneau's question sounded a bit desperate. Clearly the Liberals were at least trying to get out front and say they support scaling down the pensions, which are beyond generous. Proof the Liberals know the optics of not supporting the pension changes will be extremely bad is seen in the fact they are supporting changes when they haven't actually seen them yet.</p> <p>  </p> <p> They can, I'm sure, already smell the attack ad in the next election, of those entitled Liberals voting to keep their gold plated pensions, so thankfully the Conservatives came in to save the taxpayer.</p> <p>  </p> <p> The Conservatives will get the upper hand here (unless the Liberals vote for the omnibus budget bill which is probably about as likely as Stephen Harper hosting a tribute to Pierre Trudeau this weekend) because the Liberals will be forced to try and explain to voters that they supported the cuts to MP pensions even though they voted against them while the Conservatives can simply say the Liberals voted to maintain their entitlements.</p> <p>  </p> <p> Which argument do you think is easier to explain in an ad?</p> Blog:05c5011d-2dee-41cd-a66a-65722b2605ddPost:a42fcb73-a0d6-4da3-95a8-2661d5b2f4e4 What is true vs what is plausible Mon, 17 Sep 2012 17:07:00 GMT <p> On Sept. 6, the Free Press asked Government House Leader Peter Van Loan for an interview about the coming fall session.</p> <p> He wasn’t available, so his spokesman provided a written response about the priorities being creating jobs, promoting economic growth and security long-term prosperity.</p> <p> The statement ended with the following:</p> <p> “This stands in sharp contrast to Thomas Mulcair and the NDP's job-killing carbon tax, which would raise the price of everything, including gas, groceries, and electricity.”</p> <p> The final line is the Conservatives’ new plan of attack against the NDP and came straight out of a memo sent to the Conservative caucus on Sept. 2 by National Campaign Manager Jenni Byrne.</p> <p> “As we prepare to come back to Ottawa for the fall session of Parliament, it is also important to ensure Canadian middle class families understand the threat posed by Thomas Mulcair’s risky and dangerous economic plan.</p> <p> "The centrepiece of Mulcair’s economic plan is a carbon tax. Canadian families know that a tax on carbon is a tax on everything and therefore a tax on everyone. . .in short, it means fewer jobs, higher prices, and fewer opportunities. That is why he continues to hide the carbon tax – the centrepiece of his economic plan.”</p> <p>  </p> <p> The problem that Mulcair has never said the NDP plans to introduce a carbon tax isn’t really a problem because, according to Byrne, Mulcair is hiding it and will unleash it on Canadians if given the chance to govern.</p> <p> Kind of like how the Liberals always used to accuse the Conservatives of having a secret agenda to make abortion illegal and end gay marriage.</p> <p> The proof of Mulcair’s hidden carbon tax agenda is pretty thin.</p> <p> According to Van Loan’s office, the reasoning comes from the fact in Dec. 2011, during a leadership debate, Mulcair said of a carbon tax that it would “provide a lot of revenue.”</p> <p> The quotation is only given in part and it isn’t given in context. He’s also right. A carbon tax would provide a lot of revenue. But that doesn’t mean he supports it. You can bet if Mulcair actually said “Yes, I support a carbon tax. I think it’s a great idea” that would be the quote the Conservatives provided.</p> <p> But given that the partial quote given says nothing of the sort, one has to wonder what the entire quotation is. (The NDP has been asked for the entire transcript of the debate since it is no longer available online.)</p> <p> The NDP has promised a cap and trade program – where if you can’t cap your emissions at a specific level you can trade for additional credits from companies or governments that have extra room to spare.</p> <p> The Conservatives too promised a cap and trade system in the past. It was part of their 2008 election platform.</p> <p> The fact that the Conservatives are now equating carbon tax with cap and trade is evident from Byrne’s memo where she cites two articles from 2011 discussing the NDP’s cap and trade plan.</p> <p> Political attacks are skillful at trying to scare voters into believing what they fear could happen. Sometimes the allegations prove to be true. A 2004 election ad from the Liberals which was roundly panned as overly negative and false, accused the Conservatives of plotting to kill of Kyoto, end the gun registry, spend billions on new military equipment, privatize health care and eliminate a woman’s right to choose.</p> <p> Three of those things actually turned out to be the case. The Conservatives did eventually withdraw from Kyoto and they did end the gun registry.  They are spending money on military equipment. Whether those are negatives depends on your point of view.</p> <p> However the social issues which were often the backbone of the Liberal case against the “scary” Conservatives have not come to pass.</p> <p> I often come back to a statement made by former Harper-aide Tom Flanagan. He said in politics, it doesn’t have to be true, it just has to plausible.</p> <p> The question is who will win this particular war.</p> <p> Thomas Mulcair has already come out and called the allegation a bald faced lie.</p> <p> If the NDP can successfully hit back and convince voters the Conservatives are liars, it could backfire on Harper. But if the Conservatives are successful in making Canadians believe the NDP have a hidden agenda to raise taxes through a scary carbon “tax on everything”, the benefit will be all theirs.</p> Blog:05c5011d-2dee-41cd-a66a-65722b2605ddPost:89001be6-7755-47b2-9c81-8dc6544a30f7 Is there such a thing as proportional separatism? Fri, 07 Sep 2012 15:23:00 GMT <p> Montreal Gazette Reporter Marian Scott has a <a href="" rel="nofollow">thought-provoking article </a>today about the impact of our current, first-past-the-post voting system in Quebec, and an argument in favour of moving to some form of proportional representation.</p> <p>  </p> <p> In the piece, Scott notes the Parti Quebecois could have won a majority government by improving its popular vote count by just two points. And that if it had a majority, it would open the door to a referendum even though still just one in three Quebecers who actually voted appear to support the idea.</p> <p>  </p> <p> With such low support it doesn't appear the PQ could win a referndum right now but would you want to go through that heartbreaking exercise again, bringing with it all the political, emotional and economic anguish that comes with it?</p> <p>  </p> <p> PQ leader Pauline Marois actually won government with fewer votes than the PQ got the last time. So support for the PQ went down, but its power and influence went up?</p> <p> <br /> That's a function of first-past-the-post, when all you need to do is win at least one more vote than your nearest opponent to win a riding.</p> <p>  </p> <p> It is somewhat offensive to the idea of democracy that you can do worse in an election but do better at the same time.</p> <p>  </p> <p> Quebec perhaps is a great example of why First-Past-The-Post doesn't work all that well, because there is always national unity at stake in a Quebec election that involves the PQ.</p> <p>  </p> <p> Under first-past-the-post, Marois won 32 per cent of the popular vote and 54 of the 125 seats or 43 per cent. The Liberals won 31 per cent of the vote and 40 per cent of the seats.</p> <p>  </p> <p> Meanwhile the Coalition Avenir Quebec earned 27 per cent of the vote and just 15 per cent of the seats.</p> <p>  </p> <p> By share of the popular vote the seats would have been distributed as follows: PQ 40, Liberals 39, CAQ 34.</p> <p>  </p> <p> Which isn't all that different in terms of the current results except it gives the CQ more influence and the PQ a one-seat difference from the Liberals, instead of four. But what if, as Scott notes, Marois had earned 34 per cent of the popular vote and a majority government?</p> <p>  </p> <p> We know it happens. In Manitoba, the governing NDP's share of the popular vote was just 2.45 points higher than the opposition Tories, but the NDP won a whopping 37 seats, and the Tories 19. Like Marois and the PQ, Greg Selinger's NDP actually lost vote share in 2011 and increased its seat count.</p> <p>  </p> <p> With a tenuous minority, it's possible Quebeckers could go to the polls again very soon and Marois needs improve her popular vote only slightly to get that majority. If there was proportional representation of some form, it would underline that she doesn't have majority support from Quebeckers, and that a referendum should be off the table.</p> <p>  </p> <p> Just some thoughts to ponder.</p> Blog:05c5011d-2dee-41cd-a66a-65722b2605ddPost:6406a613-5301-4130-9da9-52e8cb896bc9 Is there such a thing as proportional separatism? Fri, 07 Sep 2012 15:22:00 GMT <p> Montreal Gazette Reporter Marian Scott has a <a href="" rel="nofollow">thought-provoking article </a>today about the impact of our current, first-past-the-post voting system in Quebec, and an argument in favour of moving to some form of proportional representation.</p> <p>  </p> <p> In the piece, Scott notes the Parti Quebecois could have won a majority government by improving its popular vote count by just two points. And that if it had a majority, it would open the door to a referendum even though still just one in three Quebecers who actually voted appear to support the idea.</p> <p>  </p> <p> With such low support it doesn't appear the PQ could win a referndum right now but would you want to go through that heartbreaking exercise again, bringing with it all the political, emotional and economic anguish that comes with it?</p> <p>  </p> <p> PQ leader Pauline Marois actually won government with fewer votes than the PQ got the last time. So support for the PQ went down, but its power and influence went up?</p> <p> <br /> That's a function of first-past-the-post, when all you need to do is win at least one more vote than your nearest opponent to win a riding.</p> <p>  </p> <p> It is somewhat offensive to the idea of democracy that you can do worse in an election but do better at the same time.</p> <p>  </p> <p> Quebec perhaps is a great example of why First-Past-The-Post doesn't work all that well, because there is always national unity at stake in a Quebec election that involves the PQ.</p> <p>  </p> <p> Under first-past-the-post, Marois won 32 per cent of the popular vote and 54 of the 125 seats or 43 per cent. The Liberals won 31 per cent of the vote and 40 per cent of the seats.</p> <p>  </p> <p> Meanwhile the Coalition Avenir Quebec earned 27 per cent of the vote and just 15 per cent of the seats.</p> <p>  </p> <p> By share of the popular vote the seats would have been distributed as follows: PQ 40, Liberals 39, CAQ 34.</p> <p>  </p> <p> Which isn't all that different in terms of the current results except it gives the CQ more influence and the PQ a one-seat difference from the Liberals, instead of four. But what if, as Scott notes, Marois had earned 34 per cent of the popular vote and a majority government?</p> <p>  </p> <p> We know it happens. In Manitoba, the governing NDP's share of the popular vote was just 2.45 points higher than the opposition Tories, but the NDP won a whopping 37 seats, and the Tories 19. Like Marois and the PQ, Greg Selinger's NDP actually lost vote share in 2011 and increased its seat count.</p> <p>  </p> <p> With a tenuous minority, it's possible Quebeckers could go to the polls again very soon and Marois needs improve her popular vote only slightly to get that majority. If there was proportional representation of some form, it would underline that she doesn't have majority support from Quebeckers, and that a referendum should be off the table.</p> <p>  </p> <p> Just some thoughts to ponder.</p> Blog:05c5011d-2dee-41cd-a66a-65722b2605ddPost:3a64d237-2390-45f0-b9f1-7eb37d3fc71a O Cannibal Thu, 23 Aug 2012 16:19:00 GMT <p> All of us occasionally say things we didn’t mean to say. Heck, sometimes we aren’t even convinced we said them wrong.</p> <p> Former Premier Gary Doer used to have trouble pronouncing the name of Manigotagan River Provincial Park. For weeks before an announcement his staff had to keep reminding him it was not in fact “Manitoboggan” park.</p> <p> When most of us make slips of the tongue or have trouble pronouncing something, it’s just friends and family who might tease us mercilessly. We aren’t crucified by the press and public alike, But it is sort of funny when one slip of the tongue seems to go viral.</p> <p> At a barbecue fundraiser in the Yukon Monday, Conservative MP Ryan Leef accidentally introduced Prime Minister Stephen Harper as being the Prime Minister of “Cannibal.”</p> <p> One might wonder what Leef was thinking about that led him to make the slip, but whatever, it’s not like he likely actually thinks the prime minister is about to carve into a good plate of person.</p> <p> Leef however seems to have managed to make it a trend. He regaled Environment Minister Peter Kent with the tale of the mishap and  Wednesday when Kent to took to a podium in the Northwest Territories to introduce Harper, Kent clearly had it on the brain.</p> <p> He too introduced Harper as the Prime Minister of “Cannibal.”</p> <p> Harper, showing he is in a pretty good mood on his annual summer arctic tour, shrugged it off, suggesting in jest that his MPs had just managed to “confirm rumours about me.”</p> <p> Lest anyone think the national anthem lyrics will be changed to “O Cannibal”, Harper was of course, just joking.</p> Blog:05c5011d-2dee-41cd-a66a-65722b2605ddPost:99bad789-afbf-4a0a-b954-94663e247f82 NDP hit back Tue, 10 Jul 2012 21:14:00 GMT <p> At the end of June, I posted the new Conservative attack ad on Thomas Mulcair and the NDP on this blog.</p> <p>  </p> <p> The NDP are now hitting back. It's something the Liberals didn't really do as official opposition and we all know where that got them.</p> <p> Whether anyone is actually paying any attention in mid-July during a prolonged heat wave in much of the country is anyone’s guess.</p> <p> Chantal Vallerand, acting national director for the NDP, sent an email to supporters Tuesday asking them to spread the ad around.</p> <p> She would not say whether the party plans to air it on television anywhere, anytime soon.</p> <p> “Our objective is to reach out to a maximum of Canadians and raise awareness on Stephen Harper's plans on employment insurance and Canada Pension Plan,” she said when asked. “We are quite pleased with the initial reaction we are getting from our initial roll out.”</p> <p> In the interest of fairness, here is a link to the new NDP attack ad, which attacks Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservatives for creating the worst deficit in Canadian history and now making Canadians pay the price for it.</p> <p>  </p> <p> <object data="" height="350" id="ltVideoYouTube" src="" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="450"><param name="movie" value="" /><param name="quality" value="best" /><param name="bgcolor" value="#ffffff" /><param name="wmode" value="transparent" /><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true" /><param name="allowScriptAccess" value="always" /><param name="flashvars" value="playerMode=embedded" /></object></p> Blog:05c5011d-2dee-41cd-a66a-65722b2605ddPost:136762e8-bc7f-416f-9d2d-019e69b015d6 Maple Leaf Forever Fri, 29 Jun 2012 18:44:00 GMT <p> The stages on Parliament Hill are up and the grounds are pretty much set for a weekend of patriotic partying in the capital.</p> <p> Music performances, a giant map of the country for kids and of course, fireworks, are all set for parks in and around Parliament Hill.</p> <p> There will be similar parties across the country, and in some places around the world.  In London, England, former B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell – now the Canadian High Commissioner in England – will drop a ceremonial puck at Canada Day festivities in Trafalgar Square.</p> <p> But Campbell’s buddy, former Manitoba Premier Gary Doer will have no such experience as the Canadian Ambassador to the U.S. in Washington this year. What used to be one of the biggest Canada Day gatherings outside this country is no more.</p> <p> Last year, for budget reasons, the Canadian embassy in Washington, D.C. scaled back its massive party for any Canadians in the D.C. area, to an invite-only business networking affair. This year, because Canada Day is on a Sunday and at the start of the U.S. July 4<sup>th</sup> holiday week, they aren’t even having that.</p> <p> The embassy is instead sponsoring a handful of events around D.C. this weekend including a Poutine Party at a Georgetown bar today, a Canada Day party at a soccer game between the Montreal Impact and DC United tomorrow, and a performance of the Nathaniel Dett Chorale group at a Gospel Brunch on Canada Day itself. (Nothing says Canada like a Gospel Brunch!)</p> <p> A spokesman for the embassy said the decision had nothing to do with budget cuts and was made only because of the way the holiday fell this year.</p> <p> As we all prepare to celebrate Canada Day in our own ways this weekend – I predict a lot of fireworks, cake, barbecue and beer in this country over the next few days – Historica-Dominion Institute’s annual Canada Day poll gives us some food for Canadian thought.</p> <p> We are a patriotic bunch.</p> <p> Some of the more fun and interesting findings:</p> <p> Two in five Canadians under 55 would consider getting a Canadian Flag tattoo. Manitoba and Saskatchewan residents were far more in favour of this, with one in three of all people surveyed in those provinces eager to potentially permanently ink the red/white and maple leaf on their skin.</p> <p> The maple leaf wins in a contest of symbols with 59 per cent choosing it as the national symbol compared to nine per cent who picked the beaver and seven per cent who picked the polar bear.</p> <p> Almost half of Canadians would make salmon (Atlantic or Pacific) Canada’s national food, while one-fifth picked poutine. Younger Canadians like fries and gravy and cheese curds better than fish though as 40 per cent of younger Canadians picked poutine.</p> <p> Beer was the choice for our national drink of 42 per cent of people, while 23 per cent picked ice wine.</p> <p> Happy Canada Day!</p> Blog:05c5011d-2dee-41cd-a66a-65722b2605ddPost:6b305de2-719c-4481-853f-00bf24a755e9 Summer attack Mon, 25 Jun 2012 18:45:00 GMT <p> Literally seconds after Thomas Mulcair was announced as the new NDP leader in March, the Conservatives issued a scathing press release about him.</p> <p> But the expected attack ads of the same ilk didn't materialize. Except for an underwhelming strategy to define each of the members of Muclair’s shadow cabinet in a “Getting to know (insert MPs name here)” press release campaign, there has been nothing from the Conservative Party  attacking the NDP or Mulcair.</p> <p> It was odd considering the ferocity of the attacks on the last two official opposition leaders. The Stephane Dion “Not a leader” campaign and the Michael Ignatieff “He Didn’t Come Back for You” barrage – were critical elements in crippling the Liberals and pushing the Conservatives into a majority. They allowed the Conservatives to define Dion and Ignatieff to Canadians before Dion or Ignatieff could do it themselves.</p> <p> But the NDP have been able to mostly play without similar attacks for the last four months. Mulcair has had four months to define himself, which he started to do with some NDP television ads which aired in the spring. And the NDP has shot up past the Conservatives in most national polls. Mulcair’s polling numbers are strong and the party is on paper anyway, giving this government its stiffest challenge to date.</p> <p> That may all begin to change today.</p> <p> The Conservatives posted two new attack ads – one in <a href="" rel="nofollow">English</a> and one in <a href="" rel="nofollow">French</a> – on You Tube this morning.</p> <p> Mulcair is, according to the ads, unaffordable and a bad experiment.</p> <p> It’s probably worth at least noting for the record that Mulcair has not said he would introduce a carbon tax. That is pure speculation on the Conservatives part. Granted, without pure speculation and complete fabrication, most attack ads from all parties would simply be dead air.</p> Blog:05c5011d-2dee-41cd-a66a-65722b2605ddPost:0fd53966-8d54-4f37-8a77-9f767eb50dc0 The dangers of reply all Tue, 19 Jun 2012 20:43:00 GMT <p> Immigration Minister Jason Kenney was on his feet a lot in Question Period today.</p> <p> One might think it might have been to answer questions about cuts to health care for refugees, which was the subject of protests in many Canadian cities Monday.</p> <p> But no.</p> <p> Once again, a politician has cursed and the outrage is growing. At least among MPs.</p> <p> There were at least four questions asking Kenney to apologize for calling Deputy Alberta Premier Thomas Lukaszuk a “complete and utter a**hole” in an email. Kenney’s tirade came in response to a request from another Alberta MP for any Alberta Tories to meet with Lukaszuk on a visit to Ottawa.</p> <p> The insult may have gone unnoticed except when Kenney replied he replied to everyone on the email, (darn you reply all button!) and someone leaked it to the press.</p> <p> It is being read as a sign of tension between Ottawa and Alberta these days. Most federal Alberta Conservatives backed the Wild Rose Party in the recent elections, not the Progressive Conservatives. But Alison Redford led the Tories to another majority and relations that were once cozy between Alberta and Ottawa have been a tad bit frostier since.</p> <p> But is such a blunder worthy of so much focus in Question Period?</p> <p> Likely not. But the Conservatives are getting a little of their own medicine after freaking out in a similar fashion when Manitoba MP Pat Martin used the same term to describe a Conservative senator after said senator suggested certain inmates should be given tools they could kill themselves with. Or the outrage on the Conservative benches when Liberal Justin Trudeau called Environment Minister Peter Kent a “piece of sh**” in the House.</p> <p> Trudeau apologized almost immediately.</p> <p> Martin did eventually apologize although it took about a week.</p> <p> Manitoba Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux tried to shame Kenney into apologizing, by purposely quote Kenney’s email in the House of Commons, which Lamoureux knew would draw the Speaker’s wrath. Lamoureux then stood up to apologize and said if he could “like a man” say he was sorry, why couldn’t Kenney.</p> <p> Kenny didn’t appear to be interested in apologizing in Question Period.</p> <p> His main response was to say his government has a great relationship with Alberta (maybe just not with Lukaszuk?) and  that it’s the NDP should apologize for not liking the oil sands.</p> <p> However later on his spokesperson said Kenney had called Lukaszuk to apologize.</p> <p> Why he couldn’t have just done that after the first question is beyond reason. It would have made any future questions simply look petty and we all could have moved on.</p> <p> There are many lessons that can be learned from this.</p> <ol> <li> Don’t reply all. Seriously. Just don’t do it.</li> <li> If you’re a politician, don’t put insults down on paper. (Or say them in an <a href="">airport or near a border crossing</a>.)</li> <li> If you get caught, just say you’re sorry right away. Everyone is human, everyone has people they just don’t like, but trying to pretend you didn’t do anything wrong just makes you look like a petulant child who refuses to admit he stole a cookie when the chocolate chips are still smeared on their face.</li> <li> If you’re a politician and have an issue you want to get attention, throw a four-letter word out on twitter about it or “accidentally” reply all in an email where you curse out your opponent. Apparently that’s a good media strategy.</li> </ol> Blog:05c5011d-2dee-41cd-a66a-65722b2605ddPost:2ee86c83-fd24-4f80-b5e2-e209a65232c7 Scrambled eggs Thu, 14 Jun 2012 17:13:00 GMT <p> Estimates suggest we are at about the half way point in voting on the 1,000+ opposition amendments to the government's 400-page long omnibus budget bill.</p> <p>  </p> <p> They started voting around 1 a.m. and have continued straight through. Lucky MPs get to leave a few at a time for bathroom breaks and food. Sleep is a no-go. The MPs are even getting so punchy they're calling out colleagues for sneaking in illicit cups of coffee into the chamber. (Water is allowed but no joe. Perhaps someone thinks normally the MPs don't really need caffeine.)</p> <p>  </p> <p> Winnipeg South Conservative MP Rod Bruinooge said compared to the filibuster in 2011 (the NDP filibustered for several days over legislation to force Canada Post workers back to work) this has been much more difficult. But mid-morning he said he was getting a second wind.</p> <p>  </p> <p> A visit from these cutie patooties probably helped.</p> <p>  </p> <p> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a></p> <p>  </p> <p> Bruinooge's wife, Chantale, and his children, Sarah and Luke, stopped by to join Bruinooge for a quick breakfast of scrambled eggs and bacon.</p> <p>  </p> <p> It's expected the votes will continue through until early tomorrow morning. While the Conservatives are easily winning each vote, the opposition says this exercise is pointing out the fundamental undemocratic nature of this bill.</p> <p>  </p> <p> They say it crams too many non-budget related items - like environmental regulations and border security changes - into a budget bill. That way the government doesn't have to face too much debate on controversial measures, and its own caucus is guaranteed to vote for them because budget votes are confidence votes.</p> <p>  </p> <p> At the very least the opposition probably got the attention of more people about the issue by doing this. Whether that attention is mostly positive or negative is yet to be determined.</p> Blog:05c5011d-2dee-41cd-a66a-65722b2605ddPost:a2314c25-649e-4666-add3-ff1cf542ece2 Parliamentary Pajama Party Tue, 12 Jun 2012 19:26:00 GMT <p> It’s doubtful there will be facials, pedicures and Ouija boards at the upcoming House of Commons slumber party but there likely will be pizza and they will all be staying up all night.</p> <p> The 308 MPs are going to kick off a marathon voting session tomorrow with as many as 159 votes on the government’s omnibus budget bill, otherwise known as <a href="" rel="nofollow">C-38</a>.</p> <p> C-38 is the budget implementation bill, the legislation that seeks to put in place many of the measures outlined in the budget plan tabled in March.</p> <p> The bill however does far more than just implement the budget. It is over 400 pages long and amends more than six dozen pieces of legislation. It touches on things like immigration rules, environmental regulations, food inspections and border security.</p> <p> Government House Leader Peter van Loan contends that all of the parts are legitimate to the budget because it is part of the government’s overall economic and fiscal plan.</p> <p> Opposition parties are livid and believe the government is trying to use a budget bill to pass so many changes to environmental regulations, fisheries rules, etc. to avoid lengthy debates on controversial measures. They have repeatedly asked to have the bill separated into multiple parts to no avail.</p> <p> The opposition has now introduced more than 1,000 possible amendments to the bill, mostly to eliminate many of the parts the opposition says have nothing to do with the budget itself. Speaker Andrew Scheer ruled on the issue, grouping 871 of the amendments into smaller bunches of similar motions. It will result in a minimum of 67 and a maximum of 159 votes.</p> <p> With about six votes taking place an hour, the House of Commons will be voting for somewhere between 11 and 26.5 hours.</p> <p> To many Canadians this will sound like the kind of political nonsense keeping voters home in droves and people more in tune with Justin Bieber and Snooki than what our elected officials are up to.</p> <p> In some ways it is just that. But it does raise some interesting questions.</p> <p> Should the government be able to amend more than six dozen pieces of legislation on dozens of different issues in a single bill? Is it simply the benefit of having a majority government that such vast changes can be made to our laws and regulations in a single vote?</p> <p> In 1994, a fresh-faced Reform MP by the name of Stephen Harper didn’t think so. He took issue with the Liberal government for introducing an omnibus bill of its own.</p> <p> “First, there is a lack of relevancy of these issues,” Harper said in 1994. “The omnibus bills we have before us attempt to amend several different existing laws. Second, in the interest of democracy I ask: How can members represent their constituents on these various areas when they are forced to vote in a block on such legislation and on such concerns? We can agree with some of the measures but oppose others. How do we express our views and the views of our constituents when the matters are so diverse? Dividing the bill into several components would allow members to represent views of their constituents on each of the different components in the bill.”</p> <p> Does Harper no longer believe as he did in 1994 or does he not think this bill is the same thing he once railed against?</p> <p> Do you care that one bill is being used to change so many laws? Should it be broken into parts? Or is it simply efficient to get it all done in a single, marathon-esque sweep of the Parliamentary pen?</p> Blog:05c5011d-2dee-41cd-a66a-65722b2605ddPost:6ed8b718-a550-4b7e-bf95-b7f5e9c51f72 Hey MPs. Can your chicken take on Toews? Tue, 29 May 2012 18:50:00 GMT <p> Manitoba regional cabinet minister Vic Toews is challenging his fellow MPs to a chicken-off for charity.</p> <p>  </p> <p> <a href="" rel="nofollow">Chicken Farmers of Canada</a> are holding the contest as part of its sponsorship of Canada Day festivities on Parliament Hill. The winning entry will be served at the 20<sup>th</sup> Annual Great Canadian Chicken BBQ on July 1 in Ottawa.</p> <p>  </p> <p> The winning MP will also get a $10,000 donation to their local food bank. Second place will net a $5,000 donation and third place a $2,500 donation.</p> <p> <br /> Toews thinks he’s got the chicken beat with his Provencher Pesto-Chicken Philly Melt. (See recipe below.)</p> <p>  </p> <p> All the recipes will be included in an online recipe database at</p> <p>  </p> <p> <strong>The “Provencher” Pesto-Chicken Philly-melt</strong></p> <p>  </p> <p> 1 breast of grilled chicken</p> <p> Montreal Steak Spice</p> <p> Oregano</p> <p> Olive oil</p> <p> 2 tablespoons fresh pesto</p> <p> 1 tablespoon mayo</p> <p> 1 tablespoon of jalapenos (optional)</p> <p> 3 slices of 2 year old Bothwell cheddar</p> <p> 1/4 of a green pepper, sliced</p> <p> 1/4 of a red pepper, sliced</p> <p> 1/4 of an onion, sliced</p> <p> 3 slices of tomato</p> <p> Fresh garlic</p> <p> Shredded lettuce</p> <p> Splash of balsamic vinegar</p> <p> 1 6-inch Ciabatta bun</p> <p>  </p> <p> 1. Marinade chicken over night with balsamic vinegar, olive oil and fresh garlic.</p> <p> 2. Add Montreal Steak Spice to chicken and BBQ on high heat to ensure a crisp but not blackened outside.</p> <p> 3. While barbecuing the chicken, sauté green pepper, red pepper and onion with a small amount of olive oil and oregano.</p> <p> 4. Mix pesto with mayo and jalapenos then apply to both sides of Ciabatta bun.</p> <p> 5. Slice chicken to desired thickness.</p> <p> 6. Place sautéed veggies on the bottom half of bun, followed by sliced chicken.</p> <p> 7. Put 2 slices of cheddar on top of the chicken and 2 halves of the other slice on the top of the bun.</p> <p> 8. Place buns open face on the top rack of the BBQ until the cheese melts, ensuring the bun is not overly crispy.</p> <p> 9. Add shredded lettuce and sliced tomato on top of the chicken.</p> <p> 10. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar on top of the tomato and some fresh cracked pepper.</p> <p> 11. Close sandwich, press down and enjoy!</p> <p>  </p> Blog:05c5011d-2dee-41cd-a66a-65722b2605ddPost:8caf51ec-e8bb-4315-9c0a-445b572014f7 Entitled to her entitlements Thu, 10 May 2012 23:17:00 GMT <p> The CEO of the Old Port of Montrea <a href="">testified</a> at a House of Commons committee today to explain questionable expenses.</p> <p> Claude Benoit is under fire for huge bills for catering, lavish trips for Old Port staff to places such as Mont Tremblant, and probably most questionable, a $10,000 bill for a personal trip to Australia and New Zealand.</p> <p> Benoit took the trip over New Years in 2008 and 2009. She spent nearly a month down under but billed the Port – a crown corporation – $10,000 for 10 days which she reportedly used for work purposes. However she never met with anyone on an official or informal basis, and appears to have used sightseeing as evidence of her work there.  That included a trip to see a Ferris wheel which she took photos of and turned into a slide show, and a  two-day cruise.</p> <p> Benoit was adamant that all of the expenses meet Treasury Board guidelines and that she has done nothing wrong.</p> <p> “It is absolutely normal and essential the CEO be able to do site visits and see what's going on elsewhere,” she said at the House of Commons committee today.</p> <p> What was sort of interesting is that the committee marked the first time in a long time the Conservatives and the NDP MPs on a committee seemed to be on the same page. Outrage at the expenses seemed to be equally high among government and opposition.</p> <p> The question is what happens to Benoit now.</p> <p> Last month International Development Minister Bev Oda was on a similar hot seat after she expensed a $16 orange juice and rebooked at a much more expensive hotel during a trip to London. Oda was forced to apologize and had to repay the expenses. Will the government force Benoit to do the same?</p> <p> In 2005, another crown corporation CEO was forced to resign after questions were raised about lavish expenses.</p> <p> David Dingwall, a former Liberal cabinet minister, famously told a Parliamentary committee he was “entitled to his entitlements” over expense claims he made as the CEO of the Royal Canadian Mint. The expenses included a golf club membership. He was particular chided for being petty enough to expense a $1.29 pack of gum. Dingwall resigned after the controversy erupted.</p> <p> It may be worth noting that it was Conservative MP Brian Pallister who outed the expenses, the same Brian Pallister now running to be the leader of the provincial Tories.</p> <p> It is probably also worth noting that Dingwall was exonerated from wrongdoing in reviews by both PriceWaterhouseCoopers and the law firm Osler, Hoskin and Harcourt. The former found the expenses fell within the guidelines. The latter found the guidelines at the Mint were stricter than what most private sector companies followed. Dingwall was also awarded compensation for being forced out of his job unfairly following an arbitration hearing.</p> Blog:05c5011d-2dee-41cd-a66a-65722b2605ddPost:a6c12a33-9b85-485a-9b61-77a0162c44db Harper History Mon, 30 Apr 2012 14:47:00 GMT <p> Political watchers and twitter-followers can amuse themselves today reading the latest humourous hashtag on Canadian politics.</p> <p> #harperhistory</p> <p> Readers of the tweets will find apparently the NDP is responsible for all sorts of sordid historical events from the assassination of JFK to the extinction of the dinosaurs.</p> <p> The hashtag was born after this exchange between NDP leader Thomas Mulcair and Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Question Period Thursday.</p> <p style="margin-left:40px;"> <strong><em>Mr. Thomas Mulcair (Leader of the Opposition, NDP): </em></strong><em>Mr. Speaker, our troops have been in Afghanistan too long already. Canadians have told us that they do not want another extension. They do not want a Prime Minister who vacillates on whether there will be an extension. They want a Prime Minister who respects the role of Parliament, period.</em></p> <p style="margin-left:40px;"> <em>Canadians want a clear answer from the Prime Minister. Will he keep our troops in Afghanistan past 2014? Yes, or no?</em></p> <p style="margin-left:40px;"> <strong><em>Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC): </em></strong><em>Mr. Speaker, I have made myself very clear. Unlike the NDP, we are not going to ideologically have a position regardless of circumstances.</em></p> <p style="margin-left:40px;"> <em>The leader of the NDP, in 1939, did not even want to support war against Hitler.</em></p> <p style="margin-left:40px;"> <strong><em>An hon. member: </em></strong><em>There was no NDP.</em></p> <p style="margin-left:40px;"> <em><strong>Right Hon. Stephen Harper: </strong>Okay, CCF, same difference. Parties do change their names from time to time.</em><em> Our position is to do what is in the best interests of Canada.</em></p> <p>  </p> <p> Harper was referring to the fact in 1939, the leader of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, J.S. Woodsworth, voted against Canada's entering into the Second World War.</p> <p> Harper did not mention that Woodsworth was the only member of the CCF to vote against the war. He did not mention that in 1942, the CCF even supported conscription.</p> <p> The NDP did not exist in 1939. It was the CCF, which in 1961 merged with the Canadian Labour Congress to become the NDP. It was a merger of the left in Canada much the same as the merger of the right that created the Conservative Party out of  the Reform/Canadian Alliance and Progressive Conservatives.</p> <p> The Conservatives aren't having a great time right now. Mulcair and the NDP are getting a post-leadership bounce in the polls and the NDP and the Conservatives are virtually tied in most polls. Some even have the NDP ahead.</p> <p> Harper's own teflon coating is starting to erode in the wake of the F-35 report and the robocalls affair.</p> <p> So it's not surprising to see the Conservatives hitting hard at the NDP.</p> <p> But can they not find some dirt to throw that isn't a rewriting of seven-decade old history?</p> <p> The NDP should no more be held accountable for something their party didn't really do in 1939 than the Conservatives of today should be held accountable for the actions of Brian Mulroney. Or heck, why not make Harper wear the Pacific Scandal which forced Tory John A. Macdonald to resign in 1873.  It makes about as much sense.</p> <p>  </p> <p>  </p> <p>  </p> <p>  </p> <p>  </p> <p>  </p> Blog:05c5011d-2dee-41cd-a66a-65722b2605ddPost:d5f69ee9-474a-47d6-91f7-f8db4d8014d5 Daffodils of hope Fri, 27 Apr 2012 16:23:00 GMT <p> April 27th marks the Canadian Cancer Society's 30th annual <a href="" rel="nofollow">Daffodil Day</a>.</p> <p> The fundraiser and cancer awareness project hit Parliament Hill Thursday with Manitoba MP James Bezan joining four Ottawa area-teenage cancer survivors to hand out daffodil pins ahead of Question Period.</p> <p>  </p> <p> <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" /></a></p> <p> From left to right: Crystal Cousineau, Lisa Laframboise, Bezan, Dylan Devlin, Julia Sabourin.</p> <p> Bezan has become an outspoken advocate for cancer awareness and fundraising since his wife battled an aggressive skin cancer. He also has a private members' bill to ban teens from using tanning beds and require more stringent warning signs on tanning equipment. Bezan said Thursday he hopes the bill will make it to the floor for debate in the fall.</p> <p> Bezan and the four teenagers are unfortunately not part of an exclusive group. Cancer touches every Canadian on a regular basis.</p> <p> Last year Statistics Canada reported cancer had overtaken heart disease as the number one cause of death in every province or territory.</p> <p> Nearly 180,000 Canadians will be newly diagnosed with cancer this year and 75,000 will die from it. About 40 per cent of Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime.</p> Blog:05c5011d-2dee-41cd-a66a-65722b2605ddPost:cfa0d35b-a717-4e48-9f2d-a6377949bbb7 More than just good wine and cheese Wed, 25 Apr 2012 21:03:00 GMT <p> Mostly lost in all the "oh my gosh, how'd that happen" hooplah surrounding the Alberta election results this week is that the province saw its best electoral turnout in 20 years on Monday.</p> <p>  </p> <p> Unofficial results suggest turnout was 57 per cent. That's a whopping 16 points higher than in 2008 when turnout was an embarassing 41 per cent.</p> <p> <br /> Although in the end Alison Redford's Tories romped to another sold majority, this was described throughout as the most closely fought election in Alberta's recent history.</p> <p>  </p> <p> Voters in Alberta seemed far more compelled to cast a ballot when the outcome wasn't a foregone conclusion.</p> <p>  </p> <p> That's not always the case. The most competitive provincial race in more than a decade in Manitoba last fall saw turnout drop nearly a point to 55.77 per cent. Ontario, which had a an election so close it results in a minority government, saw turnout plummet below 50 per cent for the first time.</p> <p>  </p> <p> So 57 per cent for Alberta, and such a dramatic increase, seems like a reason  to go turning cartwheels down the TransCanada highway in hope Albertans have seen the civic duty light.</p> <p>  </p> <p> But let's not go crazy. It's still kind of pathetic.</p> <p>  </p> <p> France is also embedded in an election right now. It's an election which has been described as largely uninspired with none of the candidates providing much excitement for voters. Yet turnout in the first round of voting was close to 80 per cent.</p> <p>  </p> <p> And that's down from a high of 84 per cent in the 2007 election which brought Nicolas Sarkozy to power. Alberta has never seen turnout that high. It's peak was 82 per cent and that was way back in 1935.</p> <p>  </p> <p> In our quest to find out what makes people vote perhaps a trip to France is in order.</p> Blog:05c5011d-2dee-41cd-a66a-65722b2605ddPost:4e8592d0-273b-49ce-9a47-2d70146bd88b The evolution of currency Mon, 16 Apr 2012 20:33:00 GMT <p> The Royal Canadian Mint has paper money haters salivating over a challenge to develop apps to use its new form of digital currency.</p> <p>  </p> <p> The Mint has just launched <a href="" rel="nofollow">a contest  </a>for software developers to create applications for MintChip.</p> <p>  </p> <p> No, that's not the Mint getting into the ice cream business. You're going to need more than a spoon.</p> <p>  </p> <p> It's a technology the Mint has developed and which it hopes will be the replacement for paper money as the world moves more and more to a digital-only existence. The idea is a chip which can be used to load money onto your smart phone, computer, tablet or Cloud device and then used to make transactions either in person or online.</p> <p>  </p> <p> "It's so easy even a child can use it," apparently.</p> <p>  </p> <p> The Mint is looking for apps that can use MintChip and is willing to pay $50,000 in gold bullion to the one judged to be the best.</p> <p>  </p> <p> The deadline is July 11. The public will be able to help vote for the winner. The winner will be announced in October.</p> <p>  </p> <p> <br /> The contest is open to legal residents of Canada and the U.S. but you have to be at least 18 years old.</p> <p>  </p> <p> Happy MintChipping.</p> Blog:05c5011d-2dee-41cd-a66a-65722b2605ddPost:cd2f5866-b722-45f8-86c1-8eae8727f200 Meet Thomas Mulcair Tue, 10 Apr 2012 16:42:00 GMT <p> The NDP is jumping out in front of negative ads attacking their new leader with English television ads which will begin appearing today.</p> <p> <br /> The NDP began running French ads in Quebec last week.</p> <p>  </p> <p> The English ads will show up during prime time including during CBC's Hockey Night in Canada and American Idol.</p> <p>  </p> <p> The short spot is available to see on the <a href="" rel="nofollow">NDP website</a>. It starts with assumed ordinary Canadians - a man with his dog, a mom putting groceries into her car with her daughter, a tradesman, a nurse, a senior going for a jog- supporting Mulcair. It includes a clip of Jack Layton's widow and Toronto MP Olivia Chow giving her endorsement: "Jack's vision is in good hands," she says.</p> <p>  </p> <p> Finally it shows Mulcair, leaning against a board room table. He introduces himself as "Tom Mulcair",  rather than Thomas. It is actually what most of his friends and family call him but also serves to give him a much more approachable, friendly appeal than the more formal sounding "Thomas." (Some of the biggest criticism of Mulcair is that he is divisive and has a bad temper so it is critical for the NDP and Mulcair to convince Canadians that isn't true.)</p> <p>  </p> <p> Mulcair says:<br /> "As a cabinet minister and as a member of Jack's team, I always fought for you. We started something special together. Now let's get the job done."</p> <p>  </p> <p> It's relatively simply but clever at the same time, pitting a man of the people, who fights for "you" against the big bad Stephen Harper. Harper is mentioned once by last name only, just to give a sense that he is the enemy.</p> <p>  </p> <p> The two mentions of Jack Layton, including by Chow, are intended to make people feel the love they had for Layton and the reasons they voted for him, will be carried forward by Mulcair. See, even Jack's wife thinks so.</p> <p>  </p> <p> The ad is part of the NDP's largest ad buy ever outside an election. Party officials have not been shy to acknowledge they are jumping quick out of the gate so the Conservatives can't do to Mulcair what they did to the last two official opposition leaders.</p> <p>  </p> <p> Some are surprised the Conservatives haven't started running their own ads already. The Conservatives have been extremely adept at defining the last two opposition leaders from the Liberal Party, setting in stone images of Stephane Dion as "Not a Leader" and Michael Ignatieff an opportunist and want-to-be American who "didn't come back for you."</p> <p>  </p> <p> The Liberals did not have the money to respond in kind and the damage to their leaders' reputations was irreversible. The ads were credited as a factor in the Liberal Party's dismal showings in the 2008 and 2011 federal elections.</p> <p>  </p> <p> Thomas Mulcair is well known in his home province of Quebec but he is virtually unknown elsewhere, particularly in Western Canada. It is ripe territory for the Conservatives to ply the attack ad plan again. Mulcair had just been announced as the winner of the NDP leadership March 24 when the first attack came via a news release issued by the Conservatives. The release called Mulcair an opportunist with blind ambition.</p> Blog:05c5011d-2dee-41cd-a66a-65722b2605ddPost:4cfc3c70-ada6-4b42-b88f-5d9486cb0fbb Springing into Easter statistics Thu, 05 Apr 2012 18:14:00 GMT <p> I've always kind of wondered exactly how the myth got started that at Easter time bunnies lay chocolate eggs.</p> <p> Not that I mind, of course. I could eat my weight in mini-eggs every spring. Sheer willpower and those horrible things called scales are my only saviour from that.</p> <p>  </p> <p> Statistics Canada can't explain the bunny laying eggs oddity but they can and did today, provide some fun statistics as we hurtle into  Easter and Passover weekend with reckless abandon.</p> <p> Did you know for example that there were <strong>641.4 million</strong> eggs produced in Canada last year?</p> <p> Or that the value of eggs sales was <strong>$1.0 billion</strong> in 2011? </p> <p> And our eggspectations are growing. The 2011 production numbers were up six per cent from five years earlier.</p> <p> Manitoba farmers produced <strong>80.4 million</strong> of the 2011 egg haul or almost 13 per cent. Not too shabby.</p> <p> On the chocolate side, there are <strong>221</strong> chocolate and cocoa-bean confectionary manfuacturers in Canada who produced<strong> $1.5 billion </strong>in chocolate and cocoa confectionaries in 2009.</p> <p> So apparently we love eggs and chocolate in this country. So why not put them together?</p> <p> My ethnically blended family will be celebrating both Passover and Easter this weekend, and I can guarantee there will eggs, chocolate and my loved fried matzoh breakfast involved.<br />  </p> <p> Happy Easter and Chag Sameach all.</p> Blog:05c5011d-2dee-41cd-a66a-65722b2605ddPost:1ba4db4f-ca21-4d1d-8c34-ee798840c51c Gentlemen, take your corners Mon, 02 Apr 2012 20:06:00 GMT <p> The Ottawa establishment was all a twitter on the weekend as the long-awaited sparring match between Liberal MP Justin Trudeau and Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau took place.</p> <p>  </p> <p> The fight, one of seven in a <a href="" rel="nofollow">charity boxing match</a> Saturday night, was talked about for weeks on the hill. Brazeau, a martial arts expert and heavier than Trudeau, was favoured three to one to win. The Conservatives last week were taunting Trudeau about it in Question Period. Some feared Trudeau was so outmatched he'd get hurt.</p> <p>  </p> <p> But when the big fight came, Trudeau the underdog took down Brazeau almost too easily. Although Brazeau won the first round, he lost steam quickly and Trudeau easily won the second round. He then delivered a technical knock out in round three. Brazeau was left bloodied and is sporting a black eye today.</p> <p>  </p> <p> He is also sporting a shorter hair cut and a Liberal jersey as his bet with Trudeau was that whomever lost would cut their signature locks and wear the other "team's" jersey for a week.</p> <p>  </p> <p> It's not that surprising that politics has now officially come to blows. It was for a good cause and raised a lot money but it's still somewhat unsettling to see oppositing politicians actually go after each other in the ring.</p> <p>  </p> <p> The Liberals - clearly in need of something good to hang on to right now - were elated today in the house of Commons.</p> <p>  </p> <p> Nova Scotia MP Rodger Cuzner was only too happy to deliver <a href="" rel="nofollow">a poem</a> in support of Trudeau's victory.</p> <p>  </p> <p>  </p> Blog:05c5011d-2dee-41cd-a66a-65722b2605ddPost:51ebe2fb-8f18-4665-810e-08c0d3c9fca6 Trafficking politics Fri, 30 Mar 2012 21:45:00 GMT <p> Manitoba Conservative MP Joy Smith was spitting nails Friday after her private members' bill dealing with human trafficking didn't get an automatic pass to the Senate.</p> <p>  </p> <p> Bill C-310 would allow Canada to prosecute Canadians involved in human trafficking outside our borders. It has support from all parties in the House of Commons and has passed with unanimous consent at every stage of debate thus far.</p> <p>  </p> <p> Today it was set to go through report stage and possibly even third reading in the House of Commons. Report stage is when a bill, agreed to by a House of Commons committee, reports back their findings and recommends the bill either be proceeded with or not.</p> <p>  </p> <p> Smith says she met with both the house leaders from the Liberals and the NDP prior to the report being made, and she says she had agreement from both to concur the bill at report stage, allowing it to move to third reading immediately. She hoped it would then get a vote at third reading as well and move on to the Senate.</p> <p>  </p> <p> Smith was then "shocked' when the NDP did not give consent to allow the bill to pass report stage without debate or a vote.</p> <p>  </p> <p> "Everyone agreed this is what we were going to do," she said. "I am stunned."</p> <p>  </p> <p> Smith said the parties did exactly what she proposed when NDP House Leader Joe Comartin had a private members' bill dealing with sports betting come up recently. That bill passed both report stage and third reading on March 2 and was sent to the Senate.</p> <p>  </p> <p> The NDP admit Smith approached Comartin in the House prior to the report stage to seek the NDP's approval to concur the bill, however the NDP say such agreement was never given.</p> <p>  </p> <p> NDP deputy justice critic Francoise Boivin said the party does support the bill but they do not want it passed in a hurry.</p> <p>  </p> <p> "We're still on board to vote for it," she said. "Our members just wanted to be able to stand up and be counted. I would have been really furious if I wasn't there to vote on the bill. It's a bill I fully support and I want my constituents to know that."</p> <p>  </p> <p> Smith doesn't understand why the NDP wouldn't have at least agreed to pass the bill at report stage and then defer third reading. At leas then, she says, the bill would have come up for debate and a vote next week.</p> <p>  </p> <p> "Now I won't see this bill passed until the end of May," she said.</p> Blog:05c5011d-2dee-41cd-a66a-65722b2605ddPost:3095d090-889f-4ac4-bb7a-f9aaaa9c2c82 Voting delays and momentum Sat, 24 Mar 2012 16:26:00 GMT <p> The NDP leadership race is on its second ballot now but there appears to be some trouble with the voting system.</p> <p> Not long after voting for the second ballot began around 10:45 a.m. here in Toronto, Twitter was being flooded with complaints from NDP members who could not get online to vote.</p> <p> A few minutes ago Party President Rebecca Blaikie announced the voting period would be extended by 30 minutes from the original 1 hour and 15 minutes.</p> <p> Right now party officials suggest the high demand for the online site is slowing things down which is resulting in delays and making it difficult to get online.</p> <p> That is somewhat hard to believe unless suddenly some of the 65,000 NDPers who didn't vote in the first round developed a democratic conscience and joined the scramble to get online.</p> <p> With about 55,000 advanced votes cast only about 10,000 people actually voted in real time on the first ballot.</p> <p> The four camps left are fighting for sound space on the convention floor right now. Thomas Mulcair's team - who have the most hope having achieved nearly one third of the vote the first time - has expanded to take over Martin Singh's bleacher space. Singh threw his support to Mulcair.</p> <p> They are right next to Nathan Cullen's camp and the two teams are chanting back and forth.</p> <p> Niki Ashton's bleacher space is sitting empty in the middle.</p> <p> On the other end of the bleacher's Brian Topp's group and Peggy Nash's group are holding their own mini rallies. It looks like Nash's campaign has taken over most of the bleacher space dedicated for Paul Dewar's team. Dewar hasn't endorsed anyone and it doesn't appear there is any consensus about where his supporters are going.</p> <p> Charlie Angus, one of Dewar's key backers from the NDP caucus, went immediately to the Mulcair camp. The Manitoba contingent behind Dewar seemed to be waffling between Cullen and Topp.</p> <p> Cullen has a lot of charisma and will play well on television. Topp has the behind-the-scenes experience but lacks something in the delivery. Topp's biggest liability might be his lack of a seat in Parliament.</p> <p> Interim Leader Nycole Turmel gave her outgoing speech after the first ballot but during it many were wondering if Topp goes on to win, if Turmel will have to come back and keep filling in in the House of Commons until Topp wins a seat.</p> <p> Someone would have to resign to open up somewhere for Topp to run but Prime Minister Stephen Harper could wait six months to call a byelection.</p> <p> Mulcair appeared to have the most momentum from endorsements following the first ballot as a number of MPs flooded to his camp including Angus, Romeo Saganash, Carol Hughes and Linda Duncan.</p> <p> Cullen, whose campaign has had the most momentum in the final weeks at least in terms of fundraising, is pretty confident it can pull in some support.</p> <p> Second round results will likely be reported sometime after noon CST.</p> Blog:05c5011d-2dee-41cd-a66a-65722b2605ddPost:83187aa9-0a03-4fe9-8311-3a153cd0daa7 All in the family Fri, 23 Mar 2012 20:15:00 GMT <p> NDP MP Niki Ashton isn't considered a front runner for the NDP leadership race. Most think she will end up finishing sixth or seventh.</p> <p>  </p> <p> But nobody seemed to tell her that when she delivered her final campaign speech this afternoon. Ashton was calm, collected and polished as she took the stage, fourth among the seven candidates.</p> <p>  </p> <p> She didn't use a podium and had a wireless head mic that was barely visible under her hair giving her presentation a much more personal, less formal feel. She spoke with ease in both English and French and even threw in some Greek as a nod to her heritage.</p> <p>  </p> <p>  </p> <p> Standing proudly on the sidelines was her very proud father, Manitoba cabinet minister Steve Ashton. He admitted watching her was way more nerve wracking than being up there himself, but he said if she was nervous, she didn't show it at all.</p> <p> Ashton said her speech was the best she's ever given.</p> <p>  </p> <p> He said it's not over and he's not thinking about the results just yet but he acknowledge if she doesn't win Ashton has the benefit of time. She is only 29 years old and the experience and the confidence and the knowledge she has gained from this campaign will only serve her to become a force for the federal NDP whether she wins the leadership or not.</p> <p>  </p> <p> Ashton's father was not the only one who was impressed. There were throngs of people around her, clamouring for a hug, a handshake, or a chance to congratulate her.</p> <p>  </p> <p> One woman, carrying a Thomas Mulcair sign, crowded Ashton to snap her photo and kept saying over and over again: "I just love her. She's amazing."</p> <p>  </p> <p> Ashton probably won't win tomorrow but her father is right:  she will also not be a loser.</p> <p>  </p> Blog:05c5011d-2dee-41cd-a66a-65722b2605ddPost:4540c48b-aa3d-4d8e-b109-3838f76e7e20 The NDP picks a leader Fri, 23 Mar 2012 17:01:00 GMT <p> The NDP convention is getting underway in Toronto and it appears a lot of people are waiting to see the speeches today before casting their ballots.</p> <p>  </p> <p> Out of more than 130,000 eligible voters, just 55,659 cast ballots  by mail or in online advanced voting. That means most voters will be casting their ballots live as the convention moves forward.</p> <p> That could add some interest, excitement and uncertainty to the results, since the majority of voters will have the luxury of knowing the first ballot results before casting their second ballot. It opens the door for some strategic voting.  NDP members can vote their heart on their first ballot but as long as nobody gets more than 50 per cent of the vote on the first ballot, they will then be able to see the first ballot results and potentially make their second choice strategically.</p> <p> This is the largest NDP convention ever, with somewhere around 4,200 people in attendance, making this the largest NDP convention ever. There are also more party members than ever before. There are still fewer members than either the Conservatives or the Liberals had in their last leadership races, but the NDP have come a long way from the fourth-place afterthought party.</p> <p> <br /> The convention itself is slick and well organized with all the multi-media one could imagine.</p> <p> "We've gone all out for this historic leadership convention," said MP Andrew Cash, who is one of the co-MCs for the weekend.</p> <p> To prove it they even have a video to show all the hard work of building the set, which includes a giant  800 square foot round"halo" television screen suspended 20 feet over the stage and 18 "state of the art" video screens. There are more than 120 moving lights.In the hall just outside are rows and rows of computers where delegates will cast their votes starting at 4 p.m. CST today.</p> <p> It took 13 tractor trailers to move all the gadgets and gizmos into the Metro Convention Centre in Toronto.</p> <p> Mail in ballots had to be received by the end of the day Thursday and online advanced voting closed this morning at 10 a.m. CST. Members can still vote from home online live throughout the weekend. It makes it one of the most inclusive, if not the most inclusive, party leadership</p> <p> If you're interested you can watch the speeches this afternoon and other convention events live on</p> <p> I will be tweeting and blogging throughout the weekend.</p> <p> The first ballot results will be released tomorrow (Saturday) at 9 a.m. CST. It's expected to go at least two ballots, likely three or four.</p> Blog:05c5011d-2dee-41cd-a66a-65722b2605ddPost:aa54c5ae-2473-479c-b6c8-4d5017da9c49 Topp nabs MB endorsement Wed, 07 Mar 2012 23:06:00 GMT <p> With just 17 days left in the NDP leadership contest Manitoba Immigration Minister Christine Melnick will endorse Brian Topp for leader of the NDP.</p> <p> Melnick is part of a very small group of Manitobans endorsing Topp, joining former MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis and Muriel Smith, a cabinet minister during Howard Pawley’s tenure as premier.</p> <p> The leadership contest will be decided March 24 in Toronto. Voting online and by mail has already begun.</p> <p> If you're keeping track of who the Manitoba establishment NDPs are voting for, here ya go:</p> <p> Ottawa MP Paul Dewar is the strongest candidate in Manitoba, at least in terms of endorsements and fundraising. Dewar has the backing of more than half a dozen provincial cabinet ministers and several more NDP MLAs. His list includes:</p> <ul> <li> Nancy Allan, Minister of Education</li> <li> Kevin Chief, Minister of Children & Youth Opportunities</li> <li> Dave Chomiak, Minister of Innovation, Energy and Mines</li> <li> Jennifer Howard, Minister of Family Services & Labour</li> <li> Kerri Irvin-Ross, Minister of Housing</li> <li> Theresa Oswald, Minister of Health</li> <li> Erin Selby, Minister of Advanced Education</li> <li> Stan Struthers, Minister of Finance</li> <li> Andrew Swan, Minister of Justice</li> <li> Deanne Crothers,  MLA</li> <li> Greg Dewar,  MLA</li> <li> Dave Gaudreau, MLA</li> <li> Matt Wiebe, MLA</li> </ul> <p>  </p> <p> Dewar also was endorsed by Ginny Devine, a longtime NDP worker, co-founder of the polling firm Viewpoints Research. (And while I hate to say it because she is her own person, her endorsement can't be mentioned without noting she is married to former Premier Gary Doer. Doer can't endorse anybody because of his current role as ambassador to the United States).</p> <p> Dewar also appears to have raised a significant amount of money in Manitoba.</p> <p> Manitoba MP Niki Ashton also has decent support in the province:</p> <ul> <li> Steve Ashton, Minister of Transport</li> <li> Eric Robinson, minister of aboriginal affairs</li> <li> Flor Marcelino, Minister of Culture</li> <li> Peter Bjornson, Minister of Education</li> <li> Bidhu Jha, MLA</li> <li> Drew Caldwell, MLA</li> <li> Tom Nevakshonoff, MLA</li> <li> Ted Marcelino, MLA</li> <li> Frank Whitehead, MLA</li> <li> Clarence Peterson, MLA</li> <li> Ross Eadie, Winnipeg City Councillor</li> </ul> <p>  </p> <p> B.C. MP Nathan Cullen has the backing of Health Living Minister Jim Rondeau, while<br /> Former Premier Ed Schreyer is backing Quebec MP Thomas Mulcair.</p> <p> MLA Sharon Blady has endorsed Peggy Nash.</p> <p> There are likely endorsements missing. Please feel free to <a href="" rel="nofollow">let me know</a>.</p> <p> On the donation front, the newly released filings show Mulcair to be in the money lead still with $241,533 from 1,347 donors. Mulcair is seen as the one to beat in this race. He is also the most polarizing figure, and has been the target of online attacks on twitter and a website, <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>.</p> <p> (Interesting that is very similar to the (now-defunct) website set up last year to attack provincial Tory Leader Hugh McFadyen prior to the provincial election. Although no suggestion yet that Thomas Mulcair wants you to swim in pee as was the suggestion about McFadyen).</p> <p> Fundraising efforts to date:</p> <ul> <li> Thomas Mulcair $241,533 (1,347 donors)</li> <li> Brian Topp $215,182 (984 donors)</li> <li> Paul Dewar $169,598 (782 donors)</li> <li> Peggy Nash $163,947 (727 donors)</li> <li> Nathan Cullen $152,247 (1,123 donors)</li> <li> Martin Singh $66,577 (6,106 donors)</li> <li> Niki Ashton $33,980 (319 donors)<br />  </li> </ul> Blog:05c5011d-2dee-41cd-a66a-65722b2605ddPost:a20d24a1-cd2c-4837-9f48-a1e6de88067f Caller ID Wed, 07 Mar 2012 17:45:00 GMT <p> Elections Canada is so inundated with complaints about robocalls they have launched an online form for Canadians to  report them.</p> <p> CEO Marc Mayrand said yesterday the agency is launching the form in order to facilitate the complaints process.</p> <p> If you think you were the recipient of a call that interfered with your right to vote, or if you have any information about such calls, Mayrand wants you to tell him here. <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a></p> <p> If you’re simply mad about who won or lost in your riding, this is not the forum for that.</p> <p> If you got a call on Election Day telling you to vote somewhere else, by all means, click and type away.</p> <p> Last week Elections Canada said it had received over 31,000 complaints from across the country. More than three dozen ridings appear to have been targeted, including three or four in Winnipeg.</p> <p> There are two types of calls being reported. One type are automated calls, purportedly from Elections Canada on election day itself, telling voters their polling station had been moved because of higher than anticipated voter turnout. Elections Canada made no such calls in any riding. An investigation which began with calls made in Guelph, Ont. is now expanding.</p> <p> The second type of call was live calls from people saying they were Liberals but calling repeatedly, at odd hours or making harassing or rude statements.  The Liberals have accused the Conservatives of making the calls in an attempt to upset Liberal voters. The Conservatives say there is no proof the Liberals didn’t make the calls themselves.</p> <p> These calls are harder to trace – some were routed through a phone number in North Dakota used normally to make illegal telemarketing calls – and are separate from the investigation into the robocalls. Liberals in Winnipeg South Centre and Saint Boniface say they received complaints about the harassing phone calls during the election.</p> <p> At the same time as all of this is going on, the Conservatives voted down a call to give more powers to Elections Canada to investigate the spending of political parties.  The Conservatives used their majority on the House of Commons committee on procedure and house affairs to reject a request from Elections Canada to give the agency similar auditing powers as the Auditor General of Canada. The request included allowing Elections Canada to be able to compel political parties to produce documents about party expenses.</p> <p> Instead they voted to bring in an independent auditor to ensure full compliance with election spending laws.</p> <p> The committee also voted to allow online voter registration, increase wages paid to election workers, double the fines for over-spending election spending limits, and eliminate the 100-metre buffer zone around polling stations in which political advertising is barred.</p> <p> The recommendations will be sent to Democratic Reform Minister Tim Uppal who will review them. The committee’s recommendations are not binding.</p> Blog:05c5011d-2dee-41cd-a66a-65722b2605ddPost:5b5945f1-6480-4637-9209-52e5f074c87c