Monday, April 23, 2012

What's Right; and What's Left

A few things to talk about today; let's start with everyone's favourite debutant in her own mind, Bev Oda.

I woke up this morning and scanned the daily headlines to find our illustrious minister had indulged herself on the public dime during a conference in London, England.

It would seem that the five-star hotel, which was playing host to the conference, was not good enough for Bev as she checked out and went to the Savoy, 2km from the conference site.

If changing hotels wasn't bad enough, the Savoy cost $665 a night, Oda now hired a car to drive her to the conference for the days that she was in attendance. So, she increased her hotel rate AND added the extra cost of a car on top of it,

And then there's the ridiculous mention of the $16 glass of orange juice she expensed come morning...I'd say something specific about that, but the very notion of a $16 bottle of OJ is just too mind boggling to even say anything clever about.

Oda's office has been quick to hit back on this story, and suggests that the minister has repaid some of the costs associated with the trip...though they have been lax in the details of what was reimbursed.

They said that she paid for the cancellation of one night's cost at the hotel she was originally booked for; and that she repaid the $16 OJ. But there's no mention of the car service. Given that her decision to moved required the hiring of a car, that otherwise would not need to have been hired, it seems only right that she pay for it.

But we don't know if that is what occurred. And given the minister's penchant for document 'correcting', I don't know if we can even trust any of the supporting documents that come out in her defense.

Finally, that brings me to former NDP MP Mr. Hyer. Hyer stepped down from the NDP caucus today, citing a few reasons for his decision.

Firstly, the noble reason: That his censure for voting against the party in favour of the destruction if the gun registry and Mulcair's top down leadership were too much of a hindrance on his ability to represent his constituents.

And the ignoble reason: that his intentional leaving out of the Shadow Cabinet was further muzzling and denigration against him.

Let's discuss the noble reason first and why it is obviously a falsehood.

Hyer ran as a New Democrat twice before his election in 2008. As such, he would be well aware of the party's stance on the gun registry.

Furthermore, as the selected candidate in for the party, he would have been elected by NDP members as their candidate. This means that members who had a hand in drafting the party's policy in the registry would have selected him.

Many people can be defined as single-issue candidates. Garry Breitkreuz has long cornered the gun debate. Brad Trost is a pro-life advocate. Maurice Vellacott has tried for years to make custody settlements "fair" for fathers.

If Hyer felt so strongly about the gun registry, why did he run for the NDP in the first place? If the people of the riding were so clearly defined by the registry issue, why didn't they vote for the Conservatives over the NDP?

These are valid questions and undermine Hyer's credibility on stepping aside for a noble reason.

Only hard evidence from the riding can change this, and prove Hyer right. I'd the majority of his riding supporters of the Government's scrapping of the registry? Or is there a small, but vocal, minority that Hyer has bowed down to in this issue?

Until we know whether or not the majority are with Hyer, we must instead assume that he has stepped away for ignoble reasons.

Hyer mentions, oddly, that his exclusion from the shadow cabinet was another reason he decided to leave the party.

This is an odd comment for a man who is stepping down for the sake of his constituents. And it might also be a window into the real reason Hyer has stepped down.

Perhaps Hyer felt slighted by the snub; but then so should the other odd 30 some caucus members who did not get official posts in the shadow cabinet.

There's just something fishy about Hyer's need to include that parting shot in his resignation from the caucus.

Either way, as it stands, I don't think Hyer can claim the moral high ground until we know that his riding indeed is willed by the majority against the gun registry.

And that brings us to party politics. This is something that I shall construct a post on on the political philosophy blog in the coming days...

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Lean Management & Swear to Tell the Truth

There are a few things to talk about today, mostly Federal issues but let's focus on the provincial issues first.

The Primary provincial issue revolves around Premier Brad Wall's comments about a "lean-management" health-care model for not only the province, but the country. Wall touted the use of private clinics in the province to shorten wait times for surgeries, while also suggesting that it was achieved without meddling with the single-payer model Canadians know and love.

Noticeably absent from Wall's comments are the use of clinics outside the province that perform these procedures. The government's first effort to improve health care delivery in the province revolved around shipping residents outside of the province. And while this still had government money for the procedure, it creates extra costs that are not always covered by the province for the patient and their families.

Wall's comments were not specific, which tends to be the first sign of no thought behind the comments. Furthermore, it is also a sign that the government is committing to a plan that they haven't planned out yet.

Many governments have approached the health care issue with a lower than needed background on ways to fix the current system. For years, governments have thought that the best way to repair the health care system is to throw more money into the system or find new ways of saving money; rather than finding new ways and innovative approaches to the health care system.

Furthermore we have never really explored the options of turning from a reactive health care system to a preventive care system. We could decrease burdens on the system simply by doing more to prevent long term illness and promoting healthier lifestyles. Yet Wall makes no mention of this.

Finding new ways to ensure money is spent wisely is not a bad idea, but we need to couple tat with the nation tat the best way to save money is to ensure that only those who need a doctor are going to see them. And only when governments understand that part of the equation will we see any fundamental positive improvement to health care delivery in this country.

Other news on the provincial front revolves around Saskatchewan's boundary commission getting ready to redraw electoral boundaries. This has been an interesting issue as the provincial government is insisting on excluding those under the age of 18 from being factored into consideration for population numbers.

Opposition members point out that this move disenfranchises future voters and will skew population numbers for this redistributing. Furthermore, the opposition is attacking the government for planning to create 3 new constituencies in the province, in a move that will cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

Given the recent wage increases for MLA's, since their wages are tied to inflation; many are accusing the government of a double standard. Pointing out that the Saskatchewan Party has refused to looking minimum wage increases in the province, despited increased in the cost of living, the decision to add a cost of new MLA's while keeping the minimum wage stagnant is taking a lot of flak.

Finally, that brings us to the federal issues for today. With reports that Elections Canada is investigating the Conservative Party for missing information from their voter's database; it came out today that workers in a Call Center contracted by the Conservatives made calls that claims to be from Elections Canada.

While that alone is not new news, employees have now sworn affidavits in a court challenge that the scripts they were following provided false information to voters.

One of the main Conservative defences (that it could be simple error with the phone calls) also fell apart today when it was revealed that of seven ridings currently involved in the court challenge, only one of them had a polling station moved prior to election day.

Conservatives remained silent on the issue for today, but I imagine a new defence will be put forward in the days ahead. What is clear however, is that there is obvious involvement between higher-ups in the party and organised effort to deceive voters. After all contracting an entire Call Center for the campaign does not come cheap and it could not be financed by a single individual. The only question remaining is how far up in the party this deception actually goes.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

General Posting

I've been thinking about what to talk about over the past couple of days, but it seems to me for the most part that things are remaining mostly the same in this country.

The Conservatives are acting quickly to implement parts of the budget, such as the removal of Federal oversight over a lot of environmental projects. They continue to deny involvement in the Robocall Scandal, even though most mainstream media is reporting that Elections Canada is now directly investigating the Conservatives and datalogs regarding access to CIMS (the Conservatives' electoral database system) have been deleted.

They continue to insist the low-ball estimate on the F-35s is still an accounting error, and Peter Mackay remains in cabinet with no consequences. Garry Ritz suggests that cutting costs to food inspectors will not negatively impact food safety, despite the union representing such workers saying the opposition...Not to mention the fact that Canada just barely exited a recall of over one hundred meat products due to E-Coli infection.

For the bulk of my life, I have rejected claims that I am an alarmist when it comes to politics. I've been told constantly that from one party to the next, our country will never really change. But I am genuinely concerned with the state of our nation.

We have a government that we cannot trust, who is doing irreparable harm to our nation and our institutions. We have a government that may not actually be legitimate or legally elected. And we have a government that consistently and unabashedly continues to lie, mislead, and deceive the people they are supposed to serve. We do not have a government that serves the people of Canada, we have a government that serves the Conservative Party, and only the party.

What irks me is that people on the right are quick to condemn us left-wingers as 'extremists' and 'authoritarians'; but it is their party that is slowly making loyalty to the party more important than loyalty to the state.

I don't even know what to say anymore.

I had thought that we as a nation would not sit by and allow the things that we are proud of in our national identity to be quietly eroded and stripped away. I had always believed that we as Canadians were a sleeping giant; that we had a codified view of right and wrong, and that we would not tolerate those who act in our name being on the wrong side of things.

And more importantly, that we wouldn't sit idle as our nation's very identity was redefined by those with a very narrow and dim view.

For the first time in my life, I don't know what to believe any more.

This is not our government. This is not our nation. The Canada I grew up in is slipping away. The joke growing up was that Canadian national identity was defined by the fact that we were not American. Thanks to Harper and team, that is not a joke we can tell anymore.

This government is abandoning our principles, and soon we are going to look around and wonder just where the hell our country went.

I posted a few months ago about Canadians finding their anger, and it seems that we still haven't found it. Anger does not mean protesting, or open revolution, it means being engaged and getting a message across to our representatives that we do not approve of the direction they are taking this country.

And not only that, but that we do not believe that this government was indeed the chosen government of the people of this nation.

There can be no doubt: Our election was stolen. Our "government" is lying to us on a daily basis; not only in terms of their legitimacy, but also for their ability to act in an open and transparent matter.

And I'm starting to feel like the madman on the street with the sandwich board, proclaiming that the End Is Neigh...Surely, I am not the only person concerned with what is happening in our country. But it is starting to feel that way; with the exception of numerous other bloggers continue to call this "government" to account.

But this is not a battle that can be won by the discordant voices of the few who speak out; rather, to achieve progress we must come together and work together to demand better. Our country is not yet fully broken, but the Conservatives are indeed bending it with every last ounce of strength they have.

As such, I encourage everyone to do what they can to let this 'government' know that these are issues that are not going to go away and that Canadians will not take this sitting down. Write letters to your local MPs, especially your Conservative ones. Promote these issues on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media websites. Join rallies in your local area, provided they are peaceful ones.

This is a 'government' that has promised accountability at every turn; and it seems unless we all demand it in a clear and loud voice, it's one election promise that they're all too happy to break.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Saskatchewan Stories of the Day

I'm attempting another dictation post, so we'll see how that goes.

There's quite a few things to talk about ranging from continued discrepancies over the F 35 procurement, to provincial issues revolving around environmental policies.

Since we've focused rather heavily only on federal issues in the last few posts, we will look at provincial issues only for this post.

That means will be discussing the latest find from a Suzuki report that suggests Saskatchewan is the worst area in the country with regards to plan to combat global climate change.

We will also briefly talk about the government's budgetry decision to turn Tourism Saskatchewan into a Crown Corporation. In the interest of full disclosure, I have some involvement with people involved in Tourism Saskatchewan, so I think for the sake of their privacy and my own that I won't dwell to heavily on this issue.

First, let us focus on the Suzuki report that condemns Saskatchewan's environmental policies. The Suzuki organization released a report today that condemns Saskatchewan as the single worst jurisdiction for a greenhouse gas emissions in the entire country.

Furthermore, the report attacks the government for shutting down a climate change Secretariat as well an office for environmental issues.

It also suggests that development in the oil and gas industry, as well as its refusal to shutdown coal powered power plants, is contributing to the overall greenhouse gas emissions in the province.

Much like the Conservatives in the federal government, the Saskatchewan Party's response to this report has been to condemn the authors rather than address any of the real issues raised by them.

Saskatchewan's Environment Minister was quick to point out that the report does not talk about any of the research or money that was spent by the province looking to carbon capture technology. The technology has been touted as a joint cooperation between the province and Montana; but to date, the only development in these talks has been the release of hot air. In fact, Montana has scaled back interest in the program and seems on track to call the whole thing off.

The problem with the Environmental Minister's opinion is that this technology has only been discussed, it hasn't been implemented. Talking about implementing something and implementing something are two very different things. We can talk about reducing emissions or we can do something. The Suzuki Report has rightly called out the government for only talking about ways to reduce emissions, rather than implementing policies that would actually have an impact.

Effectively, the Minister's defence of we're talking about it so we're doing something, doesn't stand-up to scrutiny. What it does mean is that we need action on climate change and the Suzuki report states that Saskatchewan is talking big-game but failing to live up to any real expectations.

Finally, one of the surprises in the budget (in addition to the elimination of the film tax credit) was the announcement that the government would be turning the currently sort of semi-private Tourism Saskatchewan into a crown corporation.

There has been discussion whether this decision stems from an actual desire to improve the tourism industry in Saskatchewan, or if this is simply a shortsighted and politically motivated attack against an organization with centre, centre-left and left-wing people within the organization.

Personally, I don't know enough about the structure of the organization as it currently stands to say whether or not this is indeed the motivation behind the government's decision or whether this is something that was concocted as a SK Party idea that they think will improve tourism within the province. But, given the SK Party's previous opinions on turning private enterprise is into government enterprises, that seems rather unlikely.

As mentioned, I know several people involved and who could be called integral to Tourism Saskatchewan; as such I feel that I should respect their privacy and their relationships in my life enough that I shouldn't go to in-depth in this discussion, for fear of misquoting them or misrepresenting their opinions and stances; not to mention their trust in me. As it stands, the government's decision to turn a private organisation into a crown operation is unusual and out of step with this government's approach to industry in the province. Whether the true motivations behind the idea that this is better for the industry, or whether this is indeed a partisan witch-hunt to drive out non-SK party supporters from the organization, I cannot say for sure.

Either way, the people Saskatchewan deserve a straight answer on this decision, and to hear the benefits of having this private organization becoming a public one; and whether those benefits will outweigh the negatives that will be felt by those currently n the system.

Friday, April 6, 2012

F-35s Can Go F...Um Dick Cheney's Favourite Insult.

Possible lack of decorum in the title of this post, but these are desperate times and desperate measures are called for.

A few days ago, the Auditor General released a report highlighting some of the spending on Parliament Hill. While he made note of some programs and methods, particularly the methods used by Revenue Canada to target tax dodgers, he also focused on the government's process in selecting the F-35 as the new replacement to Canada's aging jet fighter fleet.

Needless to say, the AG picked the bone of the issue bare and now a lot of questions are being asked that have serious consequences attached to the answers.

Firstly, the AG slammed the procurement process and stated that many of the strident guidelines used to determine the awarding of government contracts was not even followed slightly. In fact, the AG suggests that the government had made up its mind about purchasing the F-35 months before the announcement came that Canada would look to improve its air fleet.

While the AG didn't single anyone out, he did point some fingers at bureaucrats from Defence Department. The AG was quick to point out that the type of tender that usually goes out to identify contractors was crafted specifically in a way to ensure the F-35 was the only plane that met the guidelines set by the Defence Department.

This is a little odd, given that we also have information that the F-35 failed to meet some of the ten requirements put forward by the Defence Department. Whether this is just to serve as a red herring, or some other distraction, is possible. And I suppose time will tell on that front.

But the AG shot a little further more recently, when he came out with the bombshell announcement that members of the executive, or those in cabinet, would and should have had access to costing documents from the DoD that would have revealed that the planes would cost more than the $14 billion figure the Conservatives were trumpeting as the cost of the plane.

But again, this is something that sounds a little odd. After all, Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page had been ringing warning bells about the inflating costs of the F-35s since the program was announced. Of course, the government was quick to condemn Page and his figures, which pegged costs as closer to $30 billion...

Page was condemned and attacked by the government; who according to AG Ferguson should have known that the numbers Page was presenting was closer to the truth then their own numbers at the time.

Keep in mind, this was a government that was found in contempt over their inability to release budgetary information to Parliamentarians; and now their go to defence is that they were not provided those numbers, which the AG has said is clearly false.

So, the new defence is that the numbers provided did not take into account such details as pilot's salaries and gas prices...But, I could have sworn, Harper and team had quoted those things in their details when they rejected Page's numbers. Someone could definitely look into that and find out whether or not this new defence won't even last a day.

Given Harper's top down style, we know that the odds of him or someone in the PMO or the Cabinet not knowing about this is highly unlikely.

And the DoD has gone through two ministers since the Harper Government came to power and decided on the F-35s...This implies that both men, Gordon O'Connor and Peter Mackay, are either completely incompetent or implicit in their involvement of concealing the cost of the F-35s.

Harper is also defending his government's record by reminding people that no money has been spent yet...But the fact remains that this deal, a key part of the government's agenda, was rigged from the start and conducted in an underhanded manner that would destroy the credibility of any government.

Add this to the Robocalls, the continuing lapsed ethics of Christian Paradis and his staffers, and the numerous other objections Canadians have against this government; and we start to see a culture of corruption at the very heart of this government. With this many scandals and 'boondoggles' under this government's watch, we cannot simply assume all of these things are coincidence.

This is not the Harper Government's series of unfortunate events. Rather, this is a series of calculated events that we are only beginning to see the depth of. This is the tip of the iceberg, and when we see the mass underneath the water, who knows how the average Canadian will react.