Budget today

I arrived back in Ottawa this past afternoon exhausted from attending the much talked-about Conservative Party boot camp in Toronto.

Of course, I won’t unleash all of the evil Tory secrets that I learned within the confines of the Toronto Congress Centre during those intense few days but I will say that whenever an election comes, the Conservative machine is ready.

Who would have thought in 2004 that 5000 Conservatives would have gathered in Toronto (of all places) to cap of a successful training session to take in a pre-election speech by Prime Minister Harper, enjoying incredible momentum which may steamroll over the Liberal opposition leader on the way to a majority government? Liberal spinners estimated 2000 attendees, but I’m told that the RCMP estimate was 5000. Further, about 40% of the crowd were women and about 35% were new Canadians (I was greeting people at the door to the rally and helping direct some traffic in the hall)

This momentum is particularly important for the Prime Minister to deliver his plan for Canada today as his Finance Minister unveils the second Conservative budget. I’m feeling that the opposition will find it difficult to vote against the Conservative plan for a stronger, safer and better Canada and I don’t think that the government will fall on this particular piece of of legislation.

The budget will be a fundamental plank in how this government will seek to define itself to the Canadian electorate. I’m looking for a particularly strong focus on the law and order agenda and believe that if we are to face an election call in the next couple of months, an election will be precipitated on the stark differences between the Conservatives and opposition on this file.

CBC “investigates”

Last night on CBC’s Fifth Estate, reporters investigated the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation over insider lottery wins by clerks. From the CBC’s website:

LUCK OR LARCENY?
Wednesday March 14 at 9pm & midnight on CBC-TV

In our ongoing investigation into the high incidence of insider lottery wins by retailers, the fifth estate now has obtained new evidence, in leaked documents, that show the Bob Edmonds case was far from an isolated story.

At the same time the OLG was publicly insisting that the case of the 83-year-old Coboconk, Ontario resident who had been swindled of his prize winning ticket was an anomaly, it was investigating other retailer wins and making payouts, in the millions of dollars.

CBC claims that “OLG was publicly insisting that the case… was an anomaly”.

In fact, in a news article on its website today, CBC writes:

Contrary to the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp.’s claims, the case of an elderly Ontario man whose $250,000 lottery ticket was stolen by a retail clerk might not have been an isolated one, the CBC has learned.

A new Fifth Estate investigation reveals that ticket retailers might have stolen winning lottery tickets before — and that the OLG might have known about it and paid out millions anyway.

The Fifth Estate obtained a leaked OLG document showing the organization has investigated similar cases of suspected insider fraud since as early as 2003.

In that year alone, the OLG was looking into six suspicious lottery claims from lottery ticket clerks whose stories did not add up. One of those six cases involved 82-year-old Bob Edmonds, the Coboconk, Ont., resident who sued the OLG, alleging his $250,000 ticket was fraudulently claimed at a local corner store.

These paragraphs lead the news story and provide the foundation of the story that the CBC highlighted in the Fifth Estate last night. The thesis of the Fifth Estate is that the OLG Corporation to this day insists that the Edmonds insider win case was an anomaly or “an isolated one”. Further the implication that an inside OLG document was “leaked” (ie. was secret) and that the OLG was somehow covering up previous investigations doesn’t quite seem right on CBC’s part.

Consider the information available on CBC’s own website dated October 25th, 2006:

After an investigation by the CBC’s The Fifth Estate alleged that a disproportionate number of clerks and retailers win large lotteries in Ontario, the province’s gaming corporation has defended its security practices.

“It is critical to note that when a retailer/clerk wins a major prize, [Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation] conducts an investigation 100 per cent of the time,” said a statement released Wednesday.

“Each case is thoroughly investigated by our internal staff. If OLG believes there is a serious concern with a lottery prize claim, the police are contacted.”

Police have been contacted four times in the past five years, said the corporation, adding that two of those instances were for information purposes.

Why was the CBC implying in yesterday’s story (and in last night’s Fifth Estate) that the OLG was publicly claiming the Edmond’s case as an isolated incident while in secret (learned from a leaked memo) calling in numerous police investigations on insider wins by clerks?

It seems that the OLG was quite upfront and public about previous investigations. Police investigations aren’t exactly hush-hush.

Furthermore, consider OLG president Duncan Brown’s very public quote in the National Post back on November 23rd, 2006:

“We sell 225 million scratch tickets every year. Since 1999, we’ve had nine confirmed reports of potential tampering of tickets by retailers and about half of those cases were referred to the police. In at least one case, a charge was laid.”

With this additional context, it doesn’t appear that the OLG has been covering up previous investigations. When one looks at previous news reports (via CBC and the National Post), we learn that the OLG has been public in acknowledging its calls for and use of police investigations regarding insider wins and ticket fraud.

Freedom of Speech defeat

Today the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 against speech with respect to the communication of election results in Eastern provinces to voters in Western parts of the country where polls are still open.

First of all, the law is absurd because it reflects wishful thinking on behalf of the state and doesn’t at all reflect the reality of the situation. If the state wished to prevent the dissemination of election results, it could mandate that all polls close at the same time. Specifically, a poll in Halifax would close at 10pm and a poll in Vancouver would close at 6pm (local times).

I understand the rationale behind the decision in that it is desirable to keep all of the electorate on the same level with respect to information available prior to casting a ballot.

However, the burden is upon the government to manage the situation using a solid and foolproof method, and not upon citizens that have the right to speech whether online, via txt message, via instant message, via telephone or telegraph. As it stands, the state is patching its leaky bucket with rights inherent to Canadians.

Martha’s parachute

Today, Liberal Party leader Stephane Dion handed Martha Hall Findlay the safe Liberal riding of Willowdale to replace retiring MP Jim Peterson. As I said in December, even though I disagree with her ideas, I was quite impressed with Findlay as a candidate for Liberal leader.

Saying this, I believe that she could have fought and won a contested nomination campaign and a competitive riding.

This is also good for the Tories and NDP because it removes a competitive candidate from the field.

Today, Dion said:

“Martha, through her tireless traveling of our great country, first as a leadership candidate and now in her role as Platform Outreach Chair for the Liberal Party, has come to represent Liberal renewal.”

It is unfortunate that Liberal renewal doesn’t include a departure from appointed candidates.

In fact, the Liberal democratic body in charge of holding a nomination contest abdicated its duty enthusiastically:

“Our riding association overwhelmingly passed a motion requesting that Mr. Dion appoint Martha as our candidate,” said Willowdale Federal Liberal Riding Association President Joanne Pratt.

It’s too bad she’s not challenging Stronach’s nomination in Newmarket-Aurora.

On this day in history…

…a woman named Deb Grey became the first elected Reform party MP. On March 13th, 1989 Grey was elected by the constituents of the federal riding of Beaver River in Northern Alberta.

Affectionately called the “Iron Snowbird” by constituents and supporters Grey won the 1989 by-election just months after finishing fourth place in the previous General Election. The riding was vacated due to the death of John Dahmer, a PC MP in the Mulroney government.

At the time, she was described as a better communicator than most politicians by Preston Manning, the leader of the new Reform Party which had only formed 16 months earlier. Her common sense communication style likely rooted from her profession as a school teacher, her job before being sent to Ottawa to represent Beaver River.

Her campaign reflected much of the populism for which the party became famous, including taking a letter from the residents of Beaver River to the Central Bank over inflation caused by overspending in Central Canada. Particularly memorable for people that worked on her campaign was the “cavalcade of cars” dressed up in Reform colours which assembled from all points in the riding, from neighbouring regions and indeed from all corners of Alberta to distribute literature throughout the riding to promote their candidate. Grey also took advantage of growing Western anger with Mulroney’s government and famously warned Mulroney “beware the Ides of March, because Beaver River has a surprise for you.” She was also able to gain support by attending the PC nomination battle and introducing herself between the ballots of that contentious meeting. Logically, some supporters of losing candidates saw a better choice in Grey.

After carrying the Reform banner to Ottawa, Grey served as deputy leader, interim Opposition leader (only female leader of the opposition in history). She also had the pleasure of having her coffee made and office plants watered by the current Prime Minister; Stephen Harper was her first legislative assistant.

We get letters!

The other day, I got an email from Dr. Tom Flanagan, political science professor and close adviser to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Dr. Flanagan writes:

Here’s the CBC report:

As you can see, only one “expert” is called upon to comment and that expert supports the thesis that Tell’s participation is inappropriate. If Flanagan were to comment, he’d provide balance. I decided to call Dr. Flanagan to provide that very balance that was lacking in the CBC piece:

The CBC’s Journalistic Standards and Practices Part III section 5.1 reads:

“Single programs dealing with a major controversial issue should give adequate recognition to the range of opinion on the subject. Fairness must be the guiding principle in presentation, so that the audience is enabled to make a judgment on the matter in question based on the facts.”

So what is the story about? The story is about a conservative sitting on a committee that suggests candidates to the Conservative Minister of Justice. The Minister can disregard the suggestions, of course.

You might also want to take a look at the “balance” of the Saskatchewan bench achieved under the past two Liberal governments.

UPDATE: Things get even more interesting when John Carpay of the Canadian Constitution Foundation leaves me a voicemail. I’ve reproduced it below with his permission:

Calling all students…

The following is a Public Service Announcement!

Are you a student? Do you have an interest in working in political Ottawa? Do have an interest in carrying the Conservative message to your fellow Canadians?

You should apply for the Conservative Party of Canada Internship Program!

The deadline is fast approaching for applying to this unique opportunity. Applications are due March 9th at 11:59pm.

I have a few friends who have gone through this program and who have worked as interns on the Hill (and now work in regular jobs in politics). It certainly is a good way to get your political career started in Ottawa.

Go here to read more about the program (and to apply).

and email questions here: cpcenergy@conservative.ca

Harper’s a gas

I have it on good authority that the Prime Minister will be appearing on the season finale of CTV’s Corner Gas. The episode will air on March 12th.

This should give the PM some good publicity as the show has been averaging about 1.6 million viewers per show.

I’ve never seen the show, but as a loyal viewer of CTV Newsnet, I can tell you that Season 3 is now available on DVD and can tell you the words of the first 10 seconds of that damn theme song (as I’ve heard it 1.6 million times). Oh, and wouldn’t it be nice to get a CHIP reverse mortgage?

You think there’s not a lot going on / But look closer, baby, you’re so wrong / And that’s why you can stay so long…

UPDATE: Here’s the CTV media release dated March 6th:

CTV Program Alert – March 6, 2007

Out of Gas: Brent Closes Shop and Lacey Moves Home as Corner Gas Wraps Up, March 12 on CTV

Prime Minister Stephen Harper; Canada AM’s Seamus O’Regan and Beverly Thomson guest star in the most unforgettable Corner Gas episode ever

Season high 1.81 million watch last night’s penultimate episode on CTV

**** WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD ****

Corner Gas goes out with a bang in the series’ most unexpected episode ever when what seems like a great idea to increase tourism in Dog River actually makes things worse beyond Hank’s wildest dreams. Guest starring Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Canada AM’s Seamus O’Regan and Beverly Thomson, Corner Gas wraps up Monday, March 12 at 8 p.m. ET on CTV with a shocking but ultimately fitting conclusion that will leave Corner Gas fans talking for years. The episode also airs Saturday, March 17 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on The Comedy Network and on demand on The CTV Broadband Network at CTV.ca.

In Monday’s monumental episode, entitled “Gopher It,” Dog River is run rampant with prairie dogs – or gophers – among other alarming events. When Prime Minister Stephen Harper becomes the second PM since Diefenbaker to visit Dog River, he wades into a local controversy which he blames on the previous Liberal government. As the episode unfolds, Brent closes shop, Lacey moves home, and the fate of Hank, Oscar, Emma, Wanda, Karen and Davis are put into question – not to mention Corner Gas itself.

“This episode is for our loyal viewers who have supported the series for the past four seasons,” said Executive Producer, Virginia Thompson. “We hope they love it as much as we enjoyed making it.”

Last night’s Corner Gas episode was watched by a season high 1.81 million viewers. With an average audience of 1.7 million in 2007, Corner Gas will end the season as Canada’s No. 1 comedy series – Canadian or American – currently ranking #14 in the Top 20 chart of Canada’s most-watched programs. Since the television phenomenon launched in January 2004, no original episode in its entire four-season run has ever delivered an audience of less than one million viewers. With Monday’s finale, Corner Gas is poised to deliver its 69th consecutive million-plus episode, an unprecedented achievement in Canadian television history.

Visit the Corner Gas Web site at Cornergas.com.