Monday, January 29, 2007

Uh oh

It is funny how the world works sometimes. I was just having a conversation with a friend of mine on Friday about how the Liberal strategy in the next election has to be to run in the weeks leading up to the leader's debate strong character ads about who Stéphane Dion is before the Tories can define him. Canadians don't know Dion and while I think he is a good man, if someone else defines him for us then it will not matter what I think nor what the truth is.

The Conservatives have proved again that they are smart campaigners. It was reported last night that they will be running three ads against Dion during the Superbowl and thereafter during prime time spots and Hockey Night in Canada.

This is a brilliant strategy on the part of the Tories. Moreover, considering the amount of money they've been raising and the limits on spending during a campaign period, they likely have money to burn and can probably afford - and may well be spending - millions of dollars on these ad buys.

Even worse, these ads are taken straight from the Toronto leadership debate in October and have little third party commentary added, it is mostly the words of Stéphane Dion, Michael Ignatieff and Ken Dryden with their points underlined.

The ads do two things: 1) it shows Dion looking to be the defender of the Liberal record while Ignatieff and Dryden are criticizing it. From there, the Tories can tie Dion to the unpopularity of the Martin government. 2) it shows Ignatieff - now deputy leader and labelled as such in the video - essentially assusing Dion of non leadership.

Jason Cherniak compares it to Harris labelling Dalton McGuinty as "not up to the job" in 1999. Unfortunately, that worked pretty well for Harris and it I was actually thinking of that ad when realizing my greatest fears about these spots.

This ad in particular is pretty rough.

The problem is that we do not have the cash to run counter ads, particularly during the Super Bowl. We have to do something or Harper has a second term in the bag. Any ideas?

Friday, January 26, 2007

The partisanship never ends...

Here is the letter sent today from the Prime Minister to Maher Arar, I post it without comment however the emphasis is mine:

Dear Mr. Arar:

On behalf of the Government of Canada, I wish to apologize to you, Monia Mazigh and your family for any role Canadian officials may have played in the terrible ordeal that all of you experienced in 2002 and 2003.

Although these events occurred under the last government, please rest assured that this government will do everything in its power to ensure that the issues raised by Commissioner O’Connor are addressed.

I trust that, having arrived at a negotiated settlement, we have ensured that fair compensation will be paid to you and your family. I sincerely hope that these words and actions will assist you and your family in your efforts to begin a new and hopeful chapter in your lives.

Yours sincerely,
Stephen Harper
UPDATE: Maxwell House and BCer in Toronto offer their comments.


This is one of the strangest official pictures I've ever seen...

Doesn't it look like Premiers Binns and Williams are about to run out and attack the cameraman? Premier Stelmach looks a little crazy but an investigation of other photos leads me to believe that is his standard look.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Bits, bites and random thoughts

I am going to try to make sure I do at least a post a day to sustain my higher hits since the big story last week!! So, here are some random thoughts.

1. Back in November, I chided the Liberals and Tories for having their websites down / limited / under construction since the election. The Liberals promptly got their site up and the NDP site since went down and came back up. The Tories, on the other hand, have gone more down. Their site from shortly after the election until around early December consisted of a thank you letter from Bernard Lord. Since then it has had the tired "Under construction – we will launch shortly." In the age of the internet a few months does not count as "shortly". I would certainly hope they get a site up by the time the House sits! I would be doing a lot more stories on the Tories - probably a number of them positive - but I have no idea what they are up to. Their website is not up so I can't see their news releases and they have ignored emails I have sent them asking to be included on their distribution list. I am sure there are lots more New Brunswickers keen to know what the PC Party is doing, c'mon guys!!

2. Spinks and I both wrote about the coming of the New Brunswick Green Party a while back. Nothing has been heard of their efforts since they were announced in October. I cannot find a website or a blog dedicated to getting this party going. Under the Elections Act, this is all that is requried to form a party:
  • a leader elected by a convention

  • associations in at least ten ridings

  • an undertaking to run candidates in at least ten ridings at the next general election
This does not sound too complicated to me. Really all you need is 10 people willing to become riding presidents - and one of them to become leader - living in 10 different ridings and poof there you go. The real gem? Section 132 says "The Chief Electoral Officer shall not register a political party where he is of the opinion that the name or the abbreviation of the party set forth in its application for registration so nearly resembles the name or abbreviation of another established political party as to be likely to be confused therewith"... i.e. if someone else registered a "Green Party" the real Greens would have no option but to come up with a completely different name or go without a party. Is anyone else feeling mischievious?

3. The press is making a big stink about Dion's comments on whether or not some of the 10 people banned from the Liberal Party by Paul Martin should be allowed back in. Spinks posted about it as well. That is fair. What is not fair is the completely dishonest headline in the Globe today which says: "Dion backtracks". Tuesday Dion said, he was not opposed to the idea but there were internal processes and he would not be involved in the decision. Yesterday he said "I am not seeking to reopen that issue and ... I'm not recommending anything." How is that different?

4. Lots of neat news coming out of the U.S. in terms of politics. Many states may move their primaries early, which could result in the New Hampshire primary in 2007 out of spite! Lots of talk about the "big 5", three Democrats (Clinton, Obama and Edwards) and two Republicans (McCain, Guliani). Despite what polls say, Guliani will not be a player in this. He is far to "liberal" for even many moderate Republicans to swallow. The "Christian conservative" wing of the Republican Party will certainly organize their considerable might to ensure anybody but. For what its worth, my pick is Joe Biden. I am not saying he is my pick to win; he would be my pick if I were a Democratic primary goer.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Self-Sufficiency update

Today's Telegraph-Journal responds to the criticism from all corners about Francis McGuire's comments on urbanization yesterday. As I wrote, I was pretty wary of some of McGuire's conclusions but thought that he had the right formula which would actually deliver good results for rural New Brunswick. It seems McGuire had that conclusion as well.

He says that he never meant that Miramichi would become an out-bound commuter city for Moncton, but an inbound communter city for surrounding areas such as Blackville. Is this a case of trying to make the best of unpopular comments or were his remarks misinterpreted? In both yesterday and today's papers, there is only one line on this matter quoted:

You can make the Miramichi a commuter town with a good four-lane highway. And what's wrong with that? As long as they are making the money and going to spend it at Wal-Mart
It was interpreted by the TJ, myself and many others to mean that people can leave Miramichi on a good road, go to work in Moncton, and that is all fine and well if they come home and spend their cash at the local Wal-Mart. McGuire disputes that interpretation.

McGuire, who had yet to read his comments as reported in the newspaper, denied Tuesday that he suggested depopulating Miramichi or any of the province's cities.

He said that by "commuter community" he meant that workers would commute into, not out of northern cities for the new jobs he sees in the city.

"It will be a recipient of commuters," he said. "The Miramichi will be a receiver ... that's what we think's going to happen."

He said northern New Brunswick will keep its population only if the cities in the north - Miramichi, Bathurst, Campbellton, Edmundston - grow.

He said that smaller burgs around these cities and the southern cities - Moncton, Dieppe, Saint John, Fredericton - will survive if people who live there can commute to jobs in the urban growth centres.

"We're saying, for the smaller communities to survive ... you'll have to commute to work in Miramichi, you'll have to commute to work in Moncton," he said.

"We're saying, you're not going to get 300 jobs in Blackville, you are in Miramichi."

Hence, the task force recommends building good roads between the cities and the smaller towns and villages.
It seems feasible that this is what he meant yesterday, but it is impossible to tell without the full transcript of his comments to the editorial board.

The press is often guilty of taking things out of context, and I think that this may well be the case here. In any event, the premier is quoted as saying "the City of Miramichi has a strong role to play in a self-sufficient New Brunswick," and I suspect even if the advice of McGuire was to shaft the north, it would not happen.

I am going to e-mail the TJ and see if I can get the whole of the remarks McGuire made to clear this up. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Paul Zed, rising star?

Stéphane Dion has appointed Paul Zed, in addition to his responsibilities as Cities Critic in the Shadow Cabinet, as his caucus advisor for New Brunswick; akin to political minister. Very interesting.


I must admit that I have not yet read Part 1 of the Report of the Self-Sufficiency Task Force (PDF). I have printed a copy but just haven't got around to it, something I should have done by now.

However, I was interested in what I read in the Telegraph-Journal today as a result of an editorial board meeting with Francis McGuire yesterday.

Some selected quotes:

New Brunswick's near future includes a Miramichi that is little more than a commuter town and a north stripped of much of its population, according to Francis McGuire, co-chairman of the province's Task Force on Self Sufficiency.

"It is going to happen anyway," he said during an editorial board with the Telegraph-Journal Monday. "We could let it happen or we could accelerate it."


But, for many of New Brunswick's rural residents, perhaps more controversial is the report's focus on urban economic growth at the expense of rural.

Citing numbers that point to an irreversible trend - that 80 per cent of New Brunswick's population works in seven centres and 67 per cent work in the province's three big cities - McGuire stressed that by growing New Brunswick's cities one can grow the economy.

McGuire's vision sees a New Brunswick where rural residents travel to the major centres to work.

"You can make the Miramichi a commuter town with a good four-lane highway. And what's wrong with that?" he said. "As long as they are making the money and going to spend it at Wal-Mart."


"There are a heck of a lot of things that need to be done right now," he said. "Sure, we could build the infrastructure in 15 years. But you have to be like the Chinese and build it all now in five years."

Otherwise, he predicted, the province is going to "go into a spiral of decline," as workers age and leave the province - something McGuire said he would do if this worst case scenario comes to pass. "I'm getting the hell out of here if that's where we're going," he said.
I have a lot of thoughts on this...

With a proper highway, the drive from Miramichi to Moncton should be little more than an hour, a fraction of the commute that a lot of Ontarians make every day.

However, this model is a bit more questionable for (true) Northern New Brunswick, even if you made the most direct route from Campbellton to Moncton you would be looking at a three hour drive, if you follow the current routes - via Bathurst and Miramichi which makes more sense in any event - it is probably more than 4. That is not commutable - are the communities between Edmundston and Bathurst meant to die? Also, what does this mean for Saint John? Such a plan would mean huge growth opportunities for Fredericton and Moncton as they draw from the Upper St. John Valley and Eastern New Brunswick respectively, but what of Saint John? Does it get left in the dust?

This is certainly a radical plan and as a rural New Brunswicker, one I am somewhat wary of. On the other hand, I have always believed that in terms of rural economic growth "if you build it, they will come". I'll never forget the story I heard of a businessman flying into Fredericton to go to meetings somewhere up the valley in the early 90s. He got in the car with the gentleman sent to pick him up and as they drove up the windy undivided, unshouldered, TransCanada the businessman inquired "How much longer until we get onto the highway?" The driver responded that they were in fact on the main highway. As the story goes the businessman's knuckles turned white and he looked as though he was going to throw up as he watched the transport trucks fly by shaking the car.

The Fredericton-Moncton highway and the soon to be (finally) finished highway from Fredericton to the Quebec border go a long way to fix that. I agree with McGuire that we need to be more agressive in highway construction as we were with the Fredericton-Moncton project. Highways 1 and 7 have always been slated for upgrading to divided freeways, but to be truly competitive, I think we need to twin 8, 11 and 17 as well - it seems like this is the way that McGuire is going in his comments.

So I think I agree with McGuire's formula. We do need to focus to some degree on our urban centres, because there is a certain population threshold that you have to hit to be considered in league with the likes of Halifax, Hamilton and Winnipeg and, from there, hopefully be able to compete with Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver. We agree that infrastrucutre, particularly highway infrastructure, is key to starting this process. However, I disagree with his analysis that this paints the end of rural New Brunswick.

I think that it would also create more jobs in the resource sector in the North if you had better infrastructure to move goods, it would be easier to sell the idea of doing value-added work close to the source of, for example, wood. With proper access to roads, businesses from outside of New Brunswick will take our rural areas more seriously. With an ability to properly transport our goods, I believe we can create more resource related jobs at higher rates of pay doing value-added work in our mill towns and mining towns.

We also need to think outside of the box. We should consider investing with Quebec in twinning Route 185 (the untwinned TransCanada from the NB-Quebec border to Riviere-du-Loup) and with Maine in twinning U.S. Route 1 from Fort Kent to Houlton giving our border communities in the Valley better access to the U.S. market and with Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Ontario, Nova Scotia, PEI and the two federal governments to investigate a direct Maritimes-to-Ontario highway running from St. Stephen across central Maine and through northern Vermont and New Hampshire to upstate New York and Ontario (Northern New Brunswick would have access to this route via U.S. Route 1 and the I-95 to wherever it would cross). Such a road would be costly and out of our jurisdiction but would create instant economic spinoffs as we became a new market to many areas. If this did indeed spur growth in rural New Brunswick as I believe it would, we should take it to the next level down the road.

The Port of Belledune could become competitive with Saint John and Halifax to transport goods from our new value-added facilities and from Quebec - and even Maine and northern New England - to Europe and Africa. In the 1970s there was talk of building one regional airport in Sussex for all of Southern New Brunswick, that was an opportunity missed, but now we could build one regional airport for Northern New Brunswick.

Let's make sure this Task Force a) moves forward with an aggressive plan but also that b) it doesn't leave rural NB behind!

An addendum, kudos to whoever came up with the clever bilingual URL for the Task Force - - I like it!

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Race for Moncton East

The seat held by Liberal elder statesman Ray Frenette from its creation in 1974 until 1998 is about to become vacant and the Liberals are hoping to increase the size of their majority from 2 seats to 3 - a substantive difference - and shore up their dissmally sized Southeastern caucus by bringing this seat back into the Liberal column.

The seat, won narrowly in a 1998 by-election by then-new PC leader Bernard Lord will be contested by Chris Collins, a Moncton city councillor and the 2003 Liberal candidate here.

After Lord announced his resignation just before Christmas, there were a lot of names being thrown around but in the end, Collins did not face much opposition for the nomination.

The result:
    Collins 120
    Daniel LeBlanc 80
    Gilberte Losier 3

To my knowledge there are no names out there for the PC nomination, please let me know if I am missing something. In my "bandwidth-choking opus" of an eleciton prediction for 2006, I said that "if Collins runs here again in what was once the most reliable Liberal seat in Moncton, Lord will be in for a fight. If Collins runs and the government changes, Lord is done for sure. Right now it is too close to call." Therefore, it should be little surprise that I suspect this will be an easy pick up for the Liberals.

Shawn Graham is quoted as saying the election call will come "sooner rather than later". The earliest date, assuming a January 31, 2007 vacancy (the date Lord has said he will resign), would be March 5 (an election called on or before February 3 could be held on this date).

Interestingly, the Times & Transcript reports that Collins will not resign his council seat unless he wins the seat, this could be a handicap for him and it would seem to suggest that he is not as confident in victory as I am.

Third disappointment

Though one could often fault the Lord Tories for doing too much consultation when tough decisions needed to be made soon, I am disappointed by what I read today about the Liberal consultations for the budget.

From the Telegraph-Journal:

The Liberal government has denied New Brunswickers an opportunity to question and advise the finance minister on his pre-budget tour, the Opposition contends.

Finance Minister Victor Boudreau has made four speeches over the last week - from Shediac to Fredericton, outlining what he says are significant financial challenges in New Brunswick's near future.


But Jeannot Volpé, the interim Conservative leader, says the tour violates the Fiscal Responsibility and Balanced Budget Act. It states the finance minister must allow the public to participate in pre-budget consultations and issue a document outlining the key issues.

Volpé says the speeches have not been advertised or fully open to the public. Thursday night's speech at the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce required those in attendance to purchase tickets.


Boudreau admits the speech wasn't open to all.


According to Boudreau, the recent election campaign served as the ultimate interaction and consultation with the public.


Volpé, finance minster from 2003 until the fall of the Bernard Lord government, says his first budget tour gave New Brunswickers an opportunity to give their opinion.

He said thanks to radio and newspaper ads, crowds of up to 1,000 attended the events.

They also printed more than 320,000 documents, he said.

"It was very public," he said. "It looks like they're scared

"That's not the way you do a public meeting."
Boudreau is right that an election is an ultimate consultation process and I have defended him and the government on the idea of delaying the budget past the legally required date of March 31 if it means they can properly account for revenues from federal transfers. However, the law requires consultations and consultations are a good thing. A group of 18 in a cabinet meeting or of 29 in a caucus meeting is all well and good, but it is easy to miss things when confined to a group of like minded individuals. Moreover, at the very least, the consultation process makes the people feel empowered and will make tough decisions easier to accept.

Harper's longevity

This was a cute gem in today's The Hill Times:

A message from ‘Canada’s Really, Really, New Government’?

At what point does the government cease to be “new”? The Conservative government turns a year old on Jan. 23, but it’s still using the moniker “Canada’s New Government.” The Canadian Oxford Dictionary defines “new” as “of recent origin or arrival; made, invented, discovered, acquired or experienced recently, or, now for the first time; different from a previous one.” That’s fitting for the Conservatives who had been out of office since 1993.

Happy first birthday to the Conservatives in government. That’s about two thirds into an average term of a Canadian minority Parliament. By that measure, the slogan could be Canada’s “old” government, no? As in, “advanced in age; far on in the natural period of existence; not young or near its beginning.” If the Conservatives win the next election, will it be Canada’s New, New Government? Or just Canada’s Government? — The Hill Times
This obsession with calling it the "new" government is getting a bit old, and the steps they've taken to ensure that this is the moniker by which the government is indeed known is over the top.

However, there was something else in this piece that caught my eye. First, I feel I should correct the writer in that the government will not be a year old until February 6, which is when they took office, but that is neither here nor there. Notwithstanding that though this is a very old minority government, particularly seeing as it is a conservative one.

Though the average length of a minority government is 1.5 years, give or take, this is because Liberal governments in minority tend to last a fair while, this is not the case for their conservative counterparts.

Let's take a look (swearing in of the government* to the dissolution of the minority parliament):

Conservative government of Arthur Meighen (1926): 1926.06.29 - 1926.07.02 (4 days)
Progressive Conservative government of John Diefenbaker (1957-1958): 1957.06.21 - 1958.02.01 (7 months, 11 days)
Progressive Conservative government of John Diefenbaker (1962-1963): 1962.06.18* - 1963.02.06 (7 months, 19 days)
Progressive Conservaitve government of Joe Clark (1979): 1979.06.04 - 1979.12.14 (5 months, 19 days)

* - Diefenbaker's ministry continued from an earlier parliament so the date of the general election used in this case

The Rt. Hon. Stephen J. Harper has been prime minister since February 6, 2006... 11 months, 16 days and counting. He is, by far, the longest serving conservative minority prime minister in Canadian history. Congrats to him, but enough of calling it a "new" government.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Jack Layton pulling in the tradtional NDP farm vote

In my earlier post about how big of a loser Jack Layton was, I mentioned he was completely out of touch with the traditional NDP base in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Case and point.

(h/t Kinsella via CalgaryGrit)

Dion's shadow cabinet

I am not entirely thrilled with the announcement today, but it is better than some of the press predictions. First of all it is not even a shadow cabinet, Dion said in his news conference that he does not like that term because opposition is different from government, all members of caucus are equals and there is no need to match people up with departments because they will not be running them. This is a fair point.

However, an opposition must prove it is ready to govern and the first thing a prime minister has to do is name a cabinet. If the leader of the opposition cannot take on that task, I think it makes him look weak and Dion has made a tactical error.

In all, there are 53 of 100 MPs with critic or caucus leadership roles. Why not give all 100 roles if you are going to give that many? You end up insulting the rest of the bunch.

Denis Coderre, who is the last remaining face of the "corruption wing" of the Liberal Party of Quebec and "genius" behind the nation policy in Ignatieff's platform gets the high profile position of defence critic. In my mind, Coderre shouldn't even be getting his nomination papers signed, let alone a senior critic role. He is a slimey and arrogant character who does the party a disservice every time he opens his mouth.

I am also annoyed by the inclusion of John McCallum as finance critic. McCallum has a finance background and served for a time as junior finance minister under Chrétien, however he has served in this role since February and has not impressed me. His arrogance and condecending nature towards other MPs and journalists on television programs make the Liberal Party look arrogant and condecending. Moreover, he is not effective in question period. A good job for John, who I like, would be chair of the Public Accounts Committee, allowing him to use his expertise to hold the government's books accountable.

It is interesting to look at New Brunswick where former cabinet minister Andy Scott has really been left out. Of the six New Brunswick Liberals, 3 of them are given critic roles and Scott is not one of them.

  • Jean-Claude D'Amours of Madawaska-Restigouche is ACOA critic

  • Charlie Hubbard of Miramichi is Rural Affairs critic

  • Paul Zed of Saint John is Cities & Communities critic
Dominic LeBlanc, who many considered a rising star and who I thought should be house leader, has no critic role, nor does Andy Scott. Both however get to serve on the Priorities and Planning Committee which will meet weekly to plan the agenda by viture of other positions they will hold. Brian Murphy of Moncton-Dieppe-Riverview gets totally shafted.

In addition to critics, the caucus will have 5 committees. Four policy committees which are Economic Prosperity, Social Justice, Environmental Sustainability and Canada and the World. Essentially Dion's "three pillars" + foreign affairs. The fifth committee is the aforementioned Priorities and Planning Committee which will be made up of the caucus leadership and chairs and vice-chairs of these committees.

Andy Scott is vice-chair of the Committee on Social Justice.

Dominic LeBlanc gets a seat on Priorities and Planning due to his recently announced role as vice-chair of the party's (not caucus) policy committee.

Brian Murphy is a member of the Committee on Social Justice.

Also named are "caucus mentors", Lawrence MacAulay of PEI gets oversight over NB and NS as well as his home province. Not entirely sure what this role is, but it seems to be comparable to a political minister, I am not sure how keen the NBLA and NSLP will be if this is the case. Their specified role is to mentor new candidates, so I guess it makes sense to have just one for the Martimes as there are only a few unheld seats. Ironically, they are being given this role due to "their wealth of knowledge and experience", yet the mentor for Newfoundland (sic) is Labrador MP Todd Russell who is the newest member of the Atlantic Caucus having been elected in a 2005 by-election.

This is not how I would have done it, but it has potential, so we shall see.

ADDENDUM - Where did the leadership candidates end up?

  • Carolyn Bennett is critic for Seniors, the Disabled and the Social Economy.

  • Maurizio Bevilacqua is critic for Science & Research.

  • Scott Brison is the Industry critic and co-chair of the party (not caucus) Platform Committee.

  • Stéphane Dion is the leader of the opposition and chair of the committee on Priorities and Planning.

  • Ken Dryden is the chair of the committee on Social Justice.

  • Hedy Fry is critic for Sport and the Vancouver Olympics (which I guess doesn't involve sports?).

  • Martha Hall Findlay is the policy outreach chair (not caucus).

  • Michael Ignatieff is deputy leader of the opposition, vice-chair of the committee on Priorities and Planning and an ex-officio member of all other committees.

  • Gerard Kennedy is the special advisor to the leader on Election Readiness and Renewal.

  • Bob Rae is co-chair of the party (not caucus) Platform Committee.

  • Joe Volpe is Transport critic.
ADDENDUM #2 - My predictions kind of close!

I was shocked to find that some of my predictions were actually close. Though I misjudged the general structure of the shadow cabinet/caucus roles, I did get 7/28 (9/30 if I count Dion and Ignatieff) of the people I named matched up to the right portfolios. Three others were in similar portfolios to what I predicted.

Where I went right
Ray Bonin - Caucus Chair
Bonnie Brown - Health
Wayne Easter - Agriculture
Hedy Fry - Sport
Tina Keeper - Canadian Heritage
Anita Neville - Indian Affairs
Karen Redman - Whip

Where I came close
Navdeep Bains - International Trade (I predicted International Cooperation)
Sue Barnes - Public Safety (I predicted Justice)
Marlene Jennings - Justice (I predicted Public Safety)

I'd like to thank the Academy...

Yesterday turned out to be one for the record books here at Politics from a New Brunswick perspective. Thanks to the Telegraph-Journal, Kate at Small Dead Animals and, to a lesser extent, the indirect links from Warren Kinsella, here is what my traffic looked like yesterday:

A full 18.42% of my visitors yesterday came here by following a link from Small Dead Animals. Thank you very much, Kate.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

No, I'm not the trenchcoat

For those of you who may have been directed here by the Telegraph-Journal this morning, please note that I am not the Grit-hating monster they were refering to, I am in fact the Grit-loving kool aid drinker ;)

The Telegraph-Journal's Joshua Errett wrote a great story that ran in today's TJ about another New Brunswick blog called "The Trenchcoat" which is an anonymous blog that allows no comments and announces its sole purpose is to attack the Shawn Graham Liberals. As far as I know, this is the first story ever written in the mainstream press primarily focussed on New Brunswick blogs. Kudos to these guys.

However, due to an editing error, my website is listed as the address for "The Trenchcoat". Before I even had a chance to read the article, I had an email from Mr. Errett apologizing for this error, which is very classy. As I explained to him, I don't mind getting all of the hits which will likely ensue as a result, especially whereas I was informed I'd get plugged again tomorrow when they run a correction.

Spinks and I are now celebs as we were both quoted along side Warren Kinsella in the article.

Here is an excerpt including my quotes:

NB Politico, another established-but-anonymous New Brunswick blogger, also dismisses the anonymous site as fiercely partisan.

"Being anonymous, from the outset, does decrease one's credibility, but I think that handicap is easy erased if the blogger posts credible and thoughtful items," he says.

"(The Trenchcoat blog) seems to be someone that has a combination of a lot of free time, political knowledge and a grudge against the Liberals."

Big news day

In addition to the exciting story in the TJ quoting yours truly and focusing on New Brunswick blogs, there were a lot of stories in the NB press that caught my eye as well as one from the Globe & Mail.

1. The Telegraph-Journal and the Daily Gleaner both report that Fredericton MP and former cabinet minister Andy Scott will seek re-election to a sixth term in the next federal election. It also states that Bernard Lord will not be a candidate against Scott.

2. The TJ reports two top NB Power executives were let go this week, the announcement came from Tory appointed president David Hay, who had a rocky relationship with the Liberals when they were in opposition, and it is unclear whether this is a government-led, Hay-led or joint effort. In any event there is some hillarity in that apparently the crown corp's spokesperson is on holiday and her voicemail directs calls to one of the two who were fired. Whoops! Interestingly, other than Hay, these are the only NB Power executives who came from outside of the company.

3. Wide reportage on the new Self-Sufficiency Task Force today. In what is becoming his trademark style, opposition leader Jeannot Volpé managed to overlook substantive lines of attack to go for the nonsense line instead. Volpé screams that Francis McGuire, who isn't being paid, and Claudette Bradshaw, the former labour and homelessness minister and head of Moncton Head Start, are examples of patronage where "Mr. Graham ... giving back some money and prestige to some people who were on the bus during the last election." I roll my eyes. I guess baseless attacks of supposed patronage are better than Bernard Lord's claim during the election that New Brunswick thinking of being self-sufficient was as realistic as him thinking of joining the PGA Tour.

4. The Gleaner reports that the Tories are pouring money all over Atlantic Canada this week with announcements from all three regional ministers in all four provinces. Greg Thompson is doing announcements in Moncton and Fredericton, Peter MacKay in Charlottetown, Halifax and Antigonish and Loyola Hearn somewhere in Newfoundland and Labrador on Thursday. I smell a writ, as we say, in an election year, if it moves pave it, if it doesn't, hire it.

5. UNB has risen from 26th to 25th out of 50 in terms of research dollars in Canadian universities. When you note that 16 of the 24 schools ahead of UNB have medical schools which draw in money UNB could never hope to see for research, that is not bad. UNB is, in that vein, 9th out of 34 schools that don't have medical facilities.

6. Education Minister Kelly Lamrock muses that there may be big changes coming to immersion programs in New Brunswick schools in the wake of test results that show fewer than half of immersion students can speak French at the level they are meant to.

7. The Globe and Mail reports that Stéphane Dion is "no fan of nuclear power". His exact quote is "as long as I have not received a convincing strategy for the waste, I am not able to look Canadians in the eye and say, 'I'm comfortable with the waste,' I will not recommend it." I think that nuclear power, though not ideal is the answer. It is the cleanest, in terms of production, and the safest countless studies have shown. If the alternative is running 1000+km power lines that will lose half of their power in transmission or smog creating coal plants, I don't see why were aren't embracing nuclear. To me, nuclear power is the easiest way to reduce emission and combat climate changes, I have never been able to understand environmentalists who oppose it. The Canadian Shield - massively unpopulated solid bedrock - seems like a safe place to store the waste, at least until science finds a way to dispose of it.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The good and the bad

Today's papers had good and bad things coming from the Liberal government. Fortunately, it was just "the good and the bad" not "the good, the bad and the ugly".

The Good

Francis McGuire who, though a partisan, I think is pretty well respected, and Gilles Lepage, who as far as I know is a non partisan, will head up the Self-sufficiency task force. They will also turn around a report by April which is pretty impressive. Neither of these men will take a salary or per diem pay which I think is admirable and all New Brunswickers owe them a thanks for doing this work for us free-of-charge.

It looks like they are coming out of the gate thinking outside of the box with planned e-consultations, blogs, etc, etc to get as much input from ordinary New Brunswickers as possible. I am a bit skeptical as we often hear this kind of hype only to be disappointed but I am cautiously optomistic.

McGuire seems to have a very strong focus on getting New Brunswickers wages up to the Canadian average which is the antithesis to earlier economic growth plans which used lower costs as a means to attract businesses to the province. I am very curious to see how they will approach this and what exactly they have in mind to drive up wages. I've always been of the view that our lower wages are offset by the lower cost of living - i.e. shorter commutes and cheaper housing - but perhaps this is not the case.

I am very much anticipating their work and will be actively participating on their website.

UPDATE: News release and website

The Bad

As I mentioned before, I think that the Liberals should have honoured the HST/home heating rebate scheme of the Tories, even though I think it was bad policy and that the Tories misled New Brunswickers when they announced a program that even months later they had not prepared for. Why? Because they said during the election campaign that they would and you should try to live up to your promises. I am a bit torn on this because I always faulted Lord for removing the tolls from the highway because it was bad policy and he should have stood up and said "I promised this but it was a mistake, I didn't have all of the facts but I now see it would be wrong for New Brunswick to remove these tolls and I won't do what is wrong for New Brunswick."

The Liberals however have avoided making a similar statement. They should not have promised the HST rebate, but they did. They should have done as they have and not enacted it (it is unfair to call it "cancelled" as the program was not even planned, let alone implemented by the Tories), but in doing so, they should have apologized for their earlier promise.

Anyway, I got a bit off of my planned topic. Finance Minister Victor Boudreau is promising a sad budget. From the headline in the Times & Transcript... "Provincial tax hikes possible".

Boudreau makes a very good point when he says, "I have not yet met one individual who has volunteered to pay more taxes, but yet everybody wants more services, more infrastructure and more programs." He is absolutely right, the taxpayer cannot have it both ways. And the government should find some kind of combination of decreased expenditures (cuts) and increased revenue (likely though tax hikes) rather than face a deficit and increase the province's already far-too-high debt. However, that is never a pleasant experience for the province.

I am sad to find myself in agreement with the civil service union, but they make a very good point that 3000 jobs have already been cut since 1992. Assuming this number is accurate, and the total civil service is barely twice that number, then that is probably not the best place to look for cuts. Not surprisingly, Jeannot Volpé thinks that is the first place to look for cuts. No wonder the Liberals swept the Fredericton area.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Hooray for me

A reader has just pointed out to me that I earned the title of "Best New Blog" in 2006.

Frequent commenter to this blog nuna d. above, listed me in his 2006 in Review post. He described me as "Calgary Grit from down east" which I take as a high compliment.

Thanks very much nuna!

Friday, January 05, 2007

Keep it comin' Jeannot

As I expected, Jeannot Volpé is proving to be a dream for this blog. I'll have lots of fun posts to write about the nonsense he'll be sure to continue to spout over his term as interim Conservative leader.

The Telegraph-Journal is reporting today that the Liberals may wait until after the end of the fiscal year - March 31 - to table their first budget if new equalization figures are not yet available as of that date.

Volpé complains that this is in violation of the Fiscal Responsibility and Balanced Budget Act which requires a budget tabled by March 31. Notwithstanding this requirement, the Auditor General is quoted as saying "there are no consequences in the legislation if that date is not met" and goes on to explain that the only real concequence is if a budget is not passed by July 31 at which time, under the Financial Administration Act, the government loses its authority to spend money.

In my mind, it would be sound fiscal policy to pass your budget before the end of the fiscal year because, until it passes, you keep operating on last year's budget. Thus, whether a budget is introduced on March 31 or April 1 (the last day of the fiscal year of the first day of the new one) it doesn't really matter because neither will be in effect until well into the fiscal year.

Let's take a look at when the Tories introduced their budgets:

  • March 28, 2000

  • March 27, 2001

  • March 26, 2002

  • December 10, 2002 (for fiscal year 2003-2004)

  • March 30, 2004

  • March 30, 2005

  • March 28, 2006
What this shows us is that the Tories, in all instances but one, did not introduce their budgets until the last Tuesday of March (the budget is, by tradition, always introduced on a Tuesday). There is required by the Standing Orders six sitting days of debate and the House sits four days per week. Therefore, in all of theses instances, it was impossible for the late introduced Tory budget to pass by the end of the fiscal year. It also seems that there was no real reason for them to wait to a late date because, as we saw in the lead up to the 2003 election, when their political purposes suited them, the Tories could introduce a budget three and a half months earlier than their norm.

So, as I said, it is mere semantics whether or not your budget is introduced just before or just after the fiscal year ends because it has the same effect - the budget isn't passed until well into the year for which it is budgeting.

So what Volpé is screaming about is something that all three of his budgets were guilty of, as were most of the budgets of his predecessors in the Lord Government.

However, there are a lot of other problems with his claim.

1. The provision requiring a budget to be tabled by March 31 is a new feature included in the Fiscal Responsibility and Balanced Budget Act which was passed last year. Rather unusually, the government proclaimed this Act as a law in force after they lost the election, but before transition had occured, on September 21, 2006.

2. Volpé's arguement was not that it is bad policy to introduce a budget late but that "I don't think it would look good for the government to not follow laws. They can't ask everyone else to abide by the law and then not do it themselves." However, this is a matter of the government meeting a superficial deadline in law by a matter of days or weeks. Volpé's government refused to obey the law and appoint a Child and Youth Advocate for over two years.

3. Lord ran a number of deficits in his budgets and invariably blamed it on federal government monies not being at the level he expected. Volpé should be applauding the government for working to avoid running "surpluses" that actually turn out to be deficits when the feds come through with the cheques.


Even better than this nonsensical criticism is this gem which I will allow to stand on its own from the mouth of Mr. Volpé:

I want all the attention on the session itself. And put all the attention on it and all our work on it so there is no time lost on who will be the best leader, should he be from inside the party, outside the party, bilingual, unilingual, whatever. That will create internal division and I don't need it. So nobody will talk about the leadership race before the session was over.
Yes, that's right, Volpé is forbidding people from even beginning to campaign until after the legislative session! We will be looking forward to almost a full year of Volpé at this rate... heh heh heh


So not a very good day for the credibility of Stéphane Dion.

(Speaking in Eastern time...)

At 9:35 a.m., the CBC reports that Dion has called Wajid Khan a "committed Liberal", that "in politics you hear many things (but Khan) will be part of the caucus" and, moreover, there was "no indication" that Khan would cross the floor.

At 9:55 a.m., an email comes around from the PMO that Harper is about to make an announcement.

At 10:13 a.m., CTV reports that Khan has crossed the floor.

What was Dion doing making such definitive statements? Did Khan pull the wool over this eyes or did he make a serious lapse in judgment.

In any event, not a good day for the Liberals. An MP who the leader gave an ultimatum and then assured the press that this MP would stay as a Liberal crosses the floor within 12 hours of these comments. At the same time, Harper's cabinet shuffle has been lauded in some press, receiving headlines which I think are a stretch but, in any event, are very good for the Tories, including the whopper: HARPER GOES GREEN in the National Post.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Harper shuffle

1. Happy New Year!

2. Because I just can't resist and there is all kinds of talk of a cabinet shuffle, I am going to partake in one of my many predictions of how it will go:

(changes in italtics)

Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper
Prime Minister of Canada

Hon. Rona Ambrose
Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Hon. John Baird
President of the Treasury Board

Hon. Maxime Bernier
Minister of the Environment

Hon. Jean-Pierre Blackburn
Minister of Labour
Minister of Economic Development ... of Quebec

Hon. Lawrence Cannon
Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities

Hon. Tony Clement
Minister of Health
Minister for FEDNOR

Hon. Stockwell Day
Minister of Public Safety

Hon. Diane Finley
Minister of Human Resources and Social Development

Hon. Jim Flaherty
Minister of Finance

Hon. Michael Fortier
Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Hon. Loyola Hearn
Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Hon. Majory LeBreton
Leader of the Government in the Senate

Hon. Gary Lunn
Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Federal Interlocutor for Metis and Non-Status Indians

Hon. Peter MacKay
Minister of National Defence

Hon. James Moore
Minister of National Revenue
Minister for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics

Hon. Rob Nicholson
Minister of International Trade

Hon. Gordon O'Connor
Minister of Veterans Affairs

Hon. Bev Oda
Minister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women

Hon. Jim Prentice
Minister of Industry

Hon. Carol Skelton
Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food
Minister of Western Economic Diversification
Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board

Hon. Monte Solberg
Minister of Foreign Affairs

Hon. Chuck Strahl
Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Minister responsible for Democratic Reform

Hon. Greg Thompson
Minister of Nautral Resources
Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

Hon. Vic Toews
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Hon. Peter Van Loan
President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada
Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs
Minister for Sport

Hon. Josée Verner
Minister of International Cooperation
Minister for La Francophonie and Official Languages

UPDATE: Though I missed the mark on most of these, I feel some respite in that it was a large, substantive shuffle, as I predicted and most others did not. I was very surprsied to see the inclusion of Secretaries of State considering that Harper made a big deal of trumpeting his cabinet ministers as all equal back in February. He stressed that all ministers are "equal members of the team, ensuring equal voices from all regions of Canada". So much for that I guess.