Liberal Meme Watch

Liberal Meme: Stephen Harper is not the internationalist that Michael Ignatieff is, the latter more worldly, well-traveled and well-lettered. Stephen Harper has tarnished Canada’s reputation on the international stage through a style that eschews Canada’s traditional “nuanced” approach and “honest-broker” status.

Today’s sighting of this Liberal meme: Susan Delacourt’s blog

Susan Delacourt publishes screenshots from the UN webcast and CTV newsnet that show the differences between the audiences that Stephen Harper, Barack Obama and the President of Switzerland received at the UN. As you can see from Delacourt’s blog, PM Harper’s speech wasn’t very well attended while Obama’s speech and that of the Swiss President were packed.

You see, as the tipster (one presumes) that sent Susan the screenshots would argue, Michael Ignatieff would have packed the house and could convince the world to welcome Canada back to the the cocktail parties in midtown Manhattan!

However, the presumed tipster neglected to send other screenshots of the audiences received by other leaders. These pictures would have helped put things in more context:


China – a permanent member of the UN security council and most populous nation


Iraq – certainly the focus of much international attention over the past few years


Malawi – larger audience. Why? Switzerland preceded Obama’s speech and Malawi followed it. (delegates were probably still gathering their briefcases before ditching the Malawi speech)

So the audience sizes are more related to the ability of the US to draw a crowd. Isn’t context important? If Canada was snubbed, was China snubbed, was Iraq snubbed?

Most notable previous use of the media to falsely push this Liberal meme: Stephen Harper snubbed at the White House! (do check out the link)

You can almost sense the Ignatieff envy.

CensusLeaks.ca

Sunday at around 5pm, the story hit the blackberries of government staffers and journalists alike in Ottawa that over 200,000 pages of classified documents describing operations of the war in Afghanistan were posted on WikiLeaks.org, an online clearinghouse for classified government information. It has been argued by the Pentagon and by Foreign Affairs that the information released puts soldiers and civilians in Afghanistan at risk and it has certainly has handed the Taliban a propaganda victory over allied war efforts against the extremist forces in that country.

This news comes in a time period where Ottawa-watchers have been discussing the disclosure, security and privacy of data collected by governments. First, opposition parties argued that the government declassify thousands of pages detailing the detention and transfer of Afghan detainees, and then there’s been that war of numbers over the utlility and intrusiveness of the governments ability to collect data on the citizenry via the census.

Is all data created (and withheld) equally? Do defenders of an open and free society sincerely believe the new axiom that “all information wants to be free”? Is our society free because some information is held secure?

If journalism is — by one definition — to bring comfort to the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable, do information dumps on the execution of the war in Afghanistan bring transparency to decisions made by our elected leaders, or do they provide comfort to the enemy? Even the decision to reveal classified documents on detainee transfers to Parliament was done reluctantly and the documents were revealed under strict guidelines.

Two arguments against the long-form census — in a debate that has turned into a “national crisis” according to one breathless account from a journalist at macleans.ca — are that the census could violate the privacy of individuals and that a mandatory burden comes with state penalty of jail or a fine or both.

We used to live in a world where releasing classified information to the enemy in wartime was akin to treason because it violated a clear national interest — our security. Yet, the founder of wikileaks and those that participated in the release of classified information will likely never see the inside of a jail cell. Our world has evolved such that it may not be reasonable for the government to expect that information can remain secure. Society has changed such that the average citizen can instantly react to information as it continuously breaks. Has our war cabinet been expanded to include the hoards of sarcastic tweeters deskchair-quarterbacking the conflict? Has elected leadership been replaced by liveblogging and instant polls? Does information want to be free because now we all can make the day-by-day decisions to effectively execute this war? No, of course not.

As the wikileaks release has shown, information can never be confidently be deemed “secure”. Even information vital to national security can be compromised and the security of this data is held paramount by our government compared to concerns over personal privacy. In this case, breach of secure information was done so according to a unilateral and unaccountable political agenda of “openness”. Troubling still, a significant subset of the voices against scrapping the long-form census are now heralding this new “transparency” of information that compromises the security of our troops on the ground in Afghanistan.

Transparency, openness, privacy and security are all important principles here. How you justify any of these at the expense of others is of course how your agenda is constituted. In this modern world, we must presume a full spectrum of agendas and since we can no longer stand together united behind one interest, we must be vigilant in protecting our own. If the state cannot ensure security in the private data it collects, we as citizens should not be open and transparent to it. If for the sake of transparency and openness, activists compromise the security and safety of their fellow citizens, they should be afforded neither from the state.

Upcoming political books

Today I received a list of upcoming books from Random House Canada for their fall season. The list is sent out to potential reviewers to provide publicity for the upcoming titles.

Here are a few that you might be interested in,

by George W. Bush (11/9/2010)
George W. Bush’s presidency in his own words. From rallying a nation after 9/11 to bringing it’s troops across the Tigris river in Baghdad. From tax cuts that stimulated the economy (and debate) to the continued growth of government and the banking sector bailout, this presidential account is sure to cause discussion.
by Ezra Levant (8/17/2010).
Ezra will do a multi-city tour to promote this book which makes a case for the Alberta oil sands against environmentalists who turn a blind eye to oil extraction in places such as Saudi Arabia and the Sudan where from it’s wars and genocide, Ezra calculates that each barrel of Sudanese oil has a tablespoon worth of blood spilled for its production. While the world inevitably continues to use cheap energy from oil, diminishing Canada’s production share only supports unethical alternatives.
by Tarek Fatah (10/19/2010)
Canada’s most famous ‘moderate Muslim’ voice speaks out against anti-Semitism in Canada and around the world held strongly among some of his co-religionists.
by Bob Rae (10/26/2010).
I’m going to read this book so I can figure out what the Liberal Party may be proposing in their platform on the foreign policy front (under Ignatieff or Rae as leader). We wonder if the book will rehash many of the guiding nuanced soft-power principles of the DFAIT establishment or if Rae (like Ignatieff used to) now believes in certain cold hard facts about the modern world and the actors now bent on destabilizing it.

Hedy Fry does it again

Daniel Costello is Canada’s ambassador to Poland. He is not the “Polish ambassador”.

Letter to Polish Ambassador Daniel Costello

Published on July 9, 2010
July 8, 2010

Ambassador Daniel Costello
ul . Jana Matejki
1/5 00-481 Warsaw
Poland
Dear Ambassador,

I am writing to you regarding an issue that has reverberated across Canada and about which I have received many complaints. The refusal of the Canadian Embassy in Poland to fly the rainbow flag during the Euro Pride Festivities in Warsaw is an affront to Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, rule of law and stated values.

Canada, under the Liberal governments of Jean Chretien and Paul Martin, implemented changes in the Human Rights Act and over 86 pieces of federal legislation that advanced full equality, de jure and de facto, to Gays and Lesbians.

We are proud to be one of the first countries in the world to legalise same-sex marriage. As a Minister for six years, I took this issue to all international and multilateral fora for inclusion in official action plans.

I urge you to respect Canada’s leadership in the arena of human rights and minority rights and to fly the flag, proudly, in support of a minority group whose rights have been denied and who still face violence and death in many parts of the world.

If Canada cannot lead by example, as has been our tradition, we have lost our way as a global citizen and a nation respected for fairness and principle.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Hon. Hedy Fry, P.C, M.P.
Vancouver Centre
Cc. Hon. Laurence Cannon, P.C. M.P., Minister of Foreign Affairs

AFTERTHOUGHT: Even though she forgot what country Costello worked for, Fry being consistent with her party’s foreign affairs critic Bob Rae who in May said,

“I think it has to become a stronger priority for Canadian foreign policy generally and I think we have to understand that as Canadians, that having taken such an advanced position ourselves with respect to recognizing gay relationships in the Americas, that it would be – it would be a wonderful thing if we could champion this as a priority for our foreign policy.” — Bob Rae

UPDATE: Results! The Liberal Party has changed the text of the letter.

BONUS: Read Steve Janke’s more policy-oriented take on Hedy’s silliness.

Why political comms staffers exist

Today, a press release from the department of foreign affairs – received via email from dept:

Oops, the content of the press release didn’t seem to match the headline did it?

It is likely that two people with two different views wrote the release (one the headline, the other the body) stating what was supposed to be the position of DFAIT.

A corrected version was then sent out:

Good thing the error was caught.

A process story you’ll probably only hear about in the blogs…

Speech from the Throne, what to expect

The Governor General will deliver the speech from the Throne today in the Senate outlining the government agenda for the 3rd session of the 40th Parliament.

The main focus of the throne speech will be the economy, jobs and growth. Out of the 6,000 word throne speech, the entire first half will focus on what the government has done with respect to the economy and what it plans to do moving forward. This economic agenda section of the throne speech will be split into three parts:

  • the government’s move into completing phase II of the economic action plan, including what the government has done to respond to the global economic crisis. Will also focus on government’s perceived strength among Canadians in building infrastructure and will outline plan for longer term infrastructure (including skills investment and R&D)

  • plan for recovery phase, deficit reduction and fiscal balance. Key themes will include winding down stimulus as economy recovers, restraining federal spending overall and protecting provincial transfers that protect Canadians (including healthcare transfers — government will emphasize that they will not balance budget by cutting healthcare transfers)
  • ensure the continued growth of the Canadian economy. The government will recognize that the private sector has to grow and continue to grow. Government will outline longterm plan for economic growth (including investments listed above). Government seeks to outline a key difference between it and the opposition whereas it seeks to help, not hurt, the private sector. The government will want to contrast itself with Liberals who have said that they would raise taxes and spend on huge projects including national daycare and highspeed rail. Economy remains a top priority of Canadians and the government’s throne speech will reflect a plan to address those concerns.

The second half of the throne speech will focus on the rest of government priorities which are not primarily focused on the economy and jobs.

The three sections of the second half will be “Making Canada the best place for families”, “Standing up for those who helped build Canada”, and “Strengthening a united Canada in a changing world”.

The families section will focus on the government’s plan to make sure that families live in a safe and secure country. Sub-themes include the classic tough-on-crime agenda and making communities safe. On a broader level, this includes national security.

The second section on standing up for those that helped build Canada will address seniors, aboriginals, veterans and will re-emphasize end to combat mission in Afghanistan in 2011 looking forward to a long term plan of reconstruction efforts.

Strengthening a united Canada in a changing world will address the environment, northern sovereignty, foreign affairs, immigration and refugee reform and democratic reform.

The throne speech will provide a broad outline of the government’s plan for the next session of Parliament while the budget will fill in the details.

PM’s Priorities

Here’s is a letter sent to the Parliamentary Press Gallery by Stephen Harper’s spokesman Dimitri Soudas,

Today the Prime Minister was in Ontario to promote Canada as an attractive place to invest and a great place to do business. The occasion was the landmark decision by Tim Hortons to reorganize as a Canadian company.

Michael Ignatieff has criticized today’s focus on the economy, claiming that the Prime Minister should be at the United Nations talking about climate change – not back home focused on the economy.

In synchronized attacks, the Liberal Party issued a press release denouncing the Tim Hortons visit, while MP Bonnie Crombie and a handful of Liberals carrying United Nations flags protested outside the PM’s announcement – essentially picketing a Canadian economic success story.

Our priority is the Canadian economy. Nothing takes precedence over the economy.

The decision to picket the Canadian homecoming of Tim Hortons is shameful: further proof that the Ignatieff Liberals care more about political games than the Canadian economy.

The Prime Minister’s speaking spot at the U.N. General Assembly (Friday, 5:00 p.m.) conflicts with attendance at the G-20 economic summit in Pittsburgh. The PM is attending the G-20 summit because our priority is the economy.

The Ignatieff Liberals feel that speaking to the United Nations is more important than working on the economy with other G-20 leaders. We disagree.

Nothing is more important than the Canadian economy

By the way, the Liberal attacks conveniently omit key facts: Prime Minister Harper and other world leaders worked on climate change at a U.N. meeting last night, and today Canada’s seat in the General Assembly will deliberately be vacant during the speech by Holocaust-denier Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

(It’s also worth noting that if Michael Ignatieff had his way, this week we would be in the middle of an unnecessary, opportunistic election. So much for his concern about attendance at the U.N.)

Dimitri N. Soudas
Associate Communication Director/ Press Secretary
Directeur des Communications associé/Attaché de presse

Prime Minister’s Office
Cabinet du Premier ministre

Yesterday, the Liberals (Bonnie Crombie’s office) picketed Tim Horton’s.

Also yesterday, we saw the Liberal line appear unattributed on Elizabeth Thompson’s blog.

Michael Ignatieff is trying to differentiate himself as an internationalist who wants to “regain Canada’s position on the world stage”.

Unfortunately for Ignatieff, while he was away Canada’s international role has matured from peacekeeper and “honest (nuanced) broker” to peacemaker and a country that is heard. We’ve earned our role and found our voice to act and speak with moral clarity, without ambiguity or hedging, on middle eastern policy particularly when it comes Israel and Iran. Canada is a country that is doing the heavy lifting and is now at the sharp end of the spear when it comes to taking a leadership role in rebuilding and securing Afghanistan. While Mr. Ignatieff insists that we need to “regain” our place on stage, he hasn’t noticed that we’ve earned our spot at the table.

Instead of making waffles with other “middle powers”, we’re grilling steaks with the US and the UK.

And while Mr. Ignatieff would have us pass the syrup and listen to some more feel good speeches at the UN, the Prime Minister is at the G-20 working for everyone that balances a chequebook in this country rather than just those that tut tut and pass the cheque.

Rally for Canada budget consultation survey results

On Friday, I sent out an email to the tens of thousands on the Rally for Canada email list asking them to participate in a small survey concerning the upcoming federal budget.  I asked people four questions concerning the government spending and their public policy priorities.  Over three thousand people responded on Friday and over the weekend.  I will be passing on the results to the office of the Minister of Finance as promised.

Q: On the question of Canada’s upcoming federal budget to get us through the economic crisis, which balance within the following options do you think is best for the government to implement? (n=3003)

Q: Which issues are most important to you from a government policy point of view? (n=3051)

Here is the same graph sorted in descending order (n=3051):

Q: What should be done with the Senate? (n=3007)

Q: What should be done with funding for the CBC? (n=2998)

Some notes: “n” is the number of respondents to each question.  Data was gathered from 8am Friday through midnight Sunday night.  Sample data is gathered from a population set that registered on the anti-coalition website RallyforCanada.ca between December 4th 2008 and January 9th 2009.  Answers were not randomly cycled.

That said, this data gives us insight into the priorities of Canadians who are against the concept of a Bloc-supported NDP-Liberal coalition government.  The first question was a careful balance on both sides of the spending vs. taxes debate.  On one hand, the answer set does not include an option to decrease spending and on the other, four out of five answers prompt at least some tax relief.  Most analysts believe that the federal budget will include some tax relief and stimulus in the form of government spending.  The largest group believed a balance spending/tax relief approach would be best while the second largest group favours substantial tax relief and no new spending (given the options presented).

The second question had 24 options.  Each option was a yes/no checkbox to pick public policy priorities.  There was little surprise on the distribution of public policy interests as the generally right-of-centre respondents selected jobs, economy, crime, tax cuts, healthcare choice, and military spending as priorities while passing on foreign aid, culture and arts, and native affairs.  Wheat board reform is generally a conservative priority yet this question is likely too regional for a national survey.

On the specific questions, it is of particular interest that 90% of respondents believe that the Senate in it’s current form must change.  Only 10% of respondents thought that the Senate ought to be left as it is.  On the question of spending for a particular budget item, respondents indicated that funding for the CBC should be decreased (61%) while only 6% thought it should be increased.

Liveblogging the cabinet shuffle

9:52AM: Rob Nicholson, Gail Shea, Leona Aglukkaq, Peter Kent and Peter van Loan, Chuck Strahl show up to Rideau Hall

9:52AM: And Christian Paradis, Jim Prentice. CTV has speculated Prentice to environment.

9:54AM: John Baird has arrived.

9:55AM: Some MPs showing up in Blue Line cabs, some in airport cabs, some in their own cars.

9:55AM: Rona Ambrose shows up. Rumour is she’ll move to HRSDC.

10:00AM: Lynne Yelich is at Rideau Hall and Stockwell Day

10:01AM: James Moore arrives

10:03AM: Rahim Jaffer has shown up. Probably to support his newlywed wife Helena Guergis.

10:06AM: Jim Flaherty arrives with wife Christine Elliot.

10:08AM: The Prime Minister’s motorcade makes its way up to Rideau Hall.

10:16AM: Rumour is that Jason Kenney is moving to Citizenship and Immigration. You heard it here first.

10:25AM: Cabinet embargo about to end. Should have the list up soon.

10:31AM: Other MPs at Rideau Hall: Bev Oda, Peter MacKay, Keith Ashfield, Gary Lunn, Chuck Strahl, Gordon O’Conner, Tony Clement, Gerry Ritz, Stephen Fletcher, and Lawrence Cannon.

10:40AM: Here we go. Here comes cabinet into the hall.

10:44AM: Nicholson stays in Justice, no surprise there.

10:45AM: Greg Thompson at Veterans Affairs, Chuck Strahl at INAC, Vic Toews at Treasury Board

10:48AM: Bev Oda at CIDA, Flaherty at Finance, Gerry Ritz at Agriculture

10:50AM: Jean-Pierre Blackburn to Revenue. Aglukkaq to Health. Finley to HRSRC.

10:55AM: Raitt to NRCan, Day to International Trade and Asia-Pacific Gateway.

10:55AM: Ambrose to Labour.

10:58AM: Prentice to environment. The could be to negotiate new regs with the provinces when it comes to GHG emissions. Alberta will need to sit down with the federal government soon to finalize the new regulations for the oil and gas sector.

11:00AM: Baird goes to Transport/Infrastructure.

11:01AM: Cannon goes to Foreign Affairs.

11:02AM: Tony Clement goes to Industry.

11:05AM: Josee Verner to intergovernmental affairs.

11:05AM: Jay Hill to House Leader.

11:05AM: PVL to Public Safety.

11:07AM: Jason Kenney to Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism.

11:08AM: Christian Paradis to Public Works.

11:09AM: James Moore to Heritage and Official Languages.

11:14AM: Gail Shea to Fisheries.

11:16AM: Gary Lunn to Sport.

11:17AM: Gordon O’Connor to Government Whip.

11:18AM: Helena Guergis to Status of Women.

11:19AM: Diane Ablonczy stays at Small Business.

11:20AM: Rob Merrifield to Minister of State (Transport).

11:22AM: Lynne Yelich to Western Economic Diversification.

11:24AM: Steven Fletcher to Democratic Reform.

11:27AM: Gary Goodyear to Minister of State for Science and Technology. Goodyear will work closely with Minister of Industry Tony Clement.

11:29AM: Denis Lebel to economic development for Quebec. Lebel will be the cash man for Quebec and this will help him electorally.

11:31AM: Keith Ashfield to ACOA.

11:32AM: Peter Kent to Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Americas).

Final cabinet speculation

Mostly certain:
– Prime Minister Stephen Harper
– Flaherty to stay in Finance (confirmed by numerous people in the department)
– Baird moving (confirmed)
– Clement moving
– Guergis moving (family has flown in, and hair appointment booked early AM tomorrow apparently)
– Bernier not in cabinet
– Aglukkaq in cabinet
– Prentice staying in Industry (no indication of a move from bureaucrats or political staffers up until midnight)
– Lunn moving (family has flown in)
– Verner moving
– MacKay stays in defence
– a good number of Secretaries of State named

Responsibly speculative:
– Cannon in foreign affairs (heard this from a high level source on Tuesday night)
– Kenney at CIC
– Nicholson stays in Justice
– Strahl stays at INAC
– Clement in trade
– Baird in transport
– Verner to intergovernmental affairs
– Ambrose to HRSDC
– Shea or Duncan in Fisheries
– Raitt in cabinet
– James Moore promoted

Wildly and so irresponsibly speculative:
– Raitt to get NRCan (doubtful)
– Liberal crosses the floor and enters cabinet (sourced at a high level, but I don’t see it happening. Yet, a number of Liberals staffers have been confirming they’ve heard the same rumour for days)
– Rob Moore in cabinet