Liberal reboot

Yesterday, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff announced that his party will no longer support the Conservative government in the House of Commons, thereby ramping up speculation of what would seem to be an imminent election.

But for Mr. Ignatieff, an election is his least-preferred outcome and I’d argue that the latest rhetoric isn’t indicative of a future powerplay for the Liberal leader, but rather of move to reset the Liberal message.

Michael Ignatieff hasn’t had a particularly eventful summer. In fact, the highly respected Chantal Hebert has noted that the Liberal leader was this summer season’s political loser as the man found it difficult to connect with average everyday Canadians on the hamburger circuit — despite liberal helpings of Grey Poupon.

After backing down terribly from his ultimatum without conditions in the spring on the immediate changes to employment insurance, Mr. Ignatieff declared victory when a study group was unveiled to look into the issue. But as anyone who has observed Ottawa political cynically knows, a commitment to study, is rather a move to defer and to delay. The highly partisan panel included known agitators Pierre Poilievre and Marlene Jennings, and these MPs rounded out by Minister Diane Finley and Liberal MP Michael Savage seemed more like headliners for a summer cage-match to entertain reporters looking for a story rather than a sincere effort by either party to move in any direction on EI. In a move which must have been highly disappointing for Liberal supporters, within the last week Ignatieff telegraphed his move away from his EI casus belli via Ralph Goodale.

Yesterday’s move seeks to remove the onus from the Liberals to “make Parliament work” — as the saying goes. Instead, that onus now rests upon the shoulders of the NDP and Michael Ignatieff surely expects that they will find a way to support the government. Indeed, much of the experience of being an opposition leader in a minority parliament is figuring out who is left holding the bag.

Michael Ignatieff — despite his academic credentials and reputation as a deep thinker — has underwhelmed on the policy front since he became leader of his party a few short months ago. Canadians — short of those in the Lesser Evil book club — aren’t familiar with the man and what he stands for and have only had the benefit of introduction courtesy of the Conservative Party’s Just Visiting ad spots. In politics, it is easy to differentiate oneself… by differentiating. And for Mr. Ignatieff, that will mean by opposing this government he is not likely seeking election, but rather something to put into the window for one in the future.

Today, the NDP indicated that yes, they are willing to “make Parliament work” and they submitted their list of demands.  Predictably, the Conservatives responded with a firm “no” to a wholly incompatible agenda and threw the NDP lot back with that of the Liberals and the Bloc Quebecois.

Were Ignatieff’s musings yesterday a gamechanger? Of course, that’s unclear at this point.  Pollster Nik Nanos stated that there are too many “moving parts” at this point to avoid an election.  But, if there is any lesson to be learned from Canadian politics in politics, there is no orthodoxy and a week — let alone a month — is a long time in politics.

If the Liberal objective is to reset their message, we await for the coming weeks with interest to see what the modern Liberal Party of Canada is all about.

No eventuality can be solely manipulated by Michael Ignatieff however, and the Conservatives will take this opportunity to craft their message as well.  As Michael Ignatieff is now perceived to be the instigator of a future election, the Conservatives have and will continue to cite Ignatieff’s arrogance (it’s all about him).  Further, if we do go to an election this fall it will be because all three opposition parties voted to defeat the government.  This will only serve to underline the Conservative message that minority parliaments are the cause of political instability and that a majority government is the only solution.  Conservatives will then ask Canadians to consider two options: a majority Conservative government versus a coalition of socialists, separatists and Ignatieffs.

Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition tries to kill long-gun bill behind closed doors

Where: The subcommittee for Private Members Business
When: June 15th
What: A debate over the status of Private Members legislation, specifically on the voteability of Candice Hoepner’s bill C-391 (a bill to scrap the long-gun registry). It was debated by opposition members that it is similar to bill S-5, which is now before the Senate. However, it was ruled that the bill is voteable in the House because it is not before the government. Further, Gerry Breitkreuz’s bill (C-301) was dropped from the order paper because Mr. Breitkreuz did not show up to debate it. Therefore, the subcommittee was debating the ability of the bill to be moved before parliament.

Here’s what Scott Reid had to say:

Yeah, just the list of criteria as decided by the committee of procedure and house affairs under the standing orders the criteria made by this procedure and house affairs committee are in fact part of the standing orders, although not contained therein, and the four criteria include items 3 and 4—I’ll read them both: item 3 is the item on the basis of which opposition members opposed allowing bill C-391 to go forward while bill C-301 was on the order paper. The argument there on the criteria is, and I quote, “bills and motions must not concern questions that are substantively essentially the same as ones already voted on by the house of commons in the current session of parliament or as ones preceding them in the order of precedence. That criteria is no longer met. Item 4, which I assume that criteria number 4 is I assume what is being referred to here, and I’m quoting again is, “bills and motions must not concern questions that are currently on the order paper or notice paper as items of government business.” Now, order paper and notice paper are instruments of the house of commons, the bill S-5 is in the Senate and therefore is neither on the order paper or the notice paper and so there’s no need to fear that bill C-391 would in any way be out of order on the basis of where bill S-5 is. It would be different if bill S-5 would have been passed by the Senate and is now before the House on the notice paper/ order paper but it isn’t.

So, that’s the status of Conservative long-gun registry-scrapping bills before the upper and lower chambers of Parliament.

Reid, now having set the stage of the status of these bills, wanted a recorded vote of the opposition on the fitness of C-391 because he knew that the opposition was trying to spike the legislation before it got to the House so that opposition MPs from rural ridings wouldn’t be embarrassed by voting against the legislation. If the opposition could quietly kill the bill in committee, it would help them save face.

Unfortunately for opposition members (Ms. Jennings and Ms. Gagnon) the meeting of the committee was public and therefore bill C-391 may not face a quiet death.

I’m just curious if the intention here—I should advise members—I’m sure that everybody is going to vote based on the criteria if the intention is to vote with no actual criteria against the bill in order to stop it from going forward, I would just remind the opposition members of two things, one is that we are now meeting in a public session, so their vote is now on the record, and number 2 that it simply would be impermissible for us to allow this to go forward as a negative item and I would be in a position of having to prevent this from being reported back to the main committee, I would just make that observation, Mr. Chairman.

The opposition members, now visible to the public, move to bring this to a forum without accountability.

Mme. Gagnon: (trans.) Why isn’t it in camera? We were told it was in camera.

Chair: We indicated that it was a public meeting, and checking with the clerk there are no rulings indicating that the private member’s subcommittee needs to meet in camera, and on that basis we call the meetings a public meeting.

Mme. Gagnon: (trans.) Who decided? You, Mr. Chairman?

Chair: On advice, after discussing with the clerk whether it was procedurally possible. Correct.

Mme. Gagnon: (trans.) I’m new at this committee but generally that kind of decision is taken in a collegial way with the members sitting on the committee and decide together whether it’s in camera or public.

Chair: He is the master of its own fate and unless this committee chooses to meet in camera that’s certainly…

Mme. Jennings: I propose that the meeting move in camera, in conformity with the practices of subcommittees when discussing this kind of issue. My understanding is that this subcommittee has sat in camera every single time it’s met and this is my understanding and you can correct me if I’m wrong, the very first time that this committee is not in camera. As you can see from the reaction from some of the members, they assume including myself that the meeting was in camera, so I move that the meeting go in camera.

to which Scott Reid protests,

Mr. Reid: I believe that there was a motion on the floor to the effect that we would be voting on bill C-391, up or down, that you can’t go back after having had a vote, we had a show of hands, and then we were moving to an actual recorded vote, we can’t stop in the middle of the vote and have a discussion of whether we are going to go on camera. The fact was that as I saw it the three opposite members were all indicating that they wanted bill C-391 killed, voting it down, and I was voting in favour and I realized what had happened and I said that I would like to make this vote on division, you can’t stop in the middle of a vote and go in camera or do any other procedural item, so in fact we are in the stage now of debating, I gather that we are moving in to a vote period, and the vote is on whether bill c-391 is voteable under the four criteria before us—there’s not been any other subject and it’s certainly not something to be stopped whenever Mme. Jennings feels like throwing the rules aside in order to…

and then the meeting wraps up…

Mr. Reid: … What is going on is a reference to a rule that does not exist in terms of a requirement that we be meeting in camera, an effort to ensure that bill c-391 can be killed quietly by the parties, by the other opposition parties, in order to ensure that they don’t have to suffer the embarrassment of revealing that they in fact…

Chair: I’m going to call the motion, we’re going beyond the point of order, so we’re going to call the, uh, someone has to make a motion that we move in camera. Ms. Jennings?

Mme. Jennings: I move that this subcommittee move in camera.

Chair: Okay, that’s a non-debateable non-amendable, all agreed that we move in camera? Recorded vote? Okay?

Clerk: Mme. Jennings?

Mme. Jennings : Yea.

Clerk: Mme. Gagnon?

Mme. Gagnon : Oui.

Clerk: Mr. Reid?

Mr. Reid : No.

Chair: Okay, that motion is carried, we move into camera.

Reid summarizes the opposition politics in a member’s statement before QP later that day.

Many members of the opposition oppose the gun registry and if this bill were to make it to the House to be voted upon, it is unclear if the members would be whipped which would result in lost support in their ridings.

Members such as John Rafferty (NDP), Scott Simms (Liberal), Martha Hall Finley (Liberal), Charlie Angus (NDP) and Larry Bagnell (Liberal) have all expressed that the long-gun registry has failed Canadians.

In and Outright Hypocrisy?

The Liberals have been trying to make gains from the so-called “In and Out scandal” in which they allege impropriety in the transfers of money from local Conservative election campaigns to the federal campaign for the purposes of funding national advertising.

Transfers of money from local to federal campaigns is of course legal as all parties do this (there is even a category for it on Elections Canada returns that all candidates, EDAs and political parties must file). Indeed, the Conservatives and the Liberals have a different tradition here: The Conservatives send their EDAs 10% of all the money the national party raises, and the Liberals tax their EDAs 40 some percent of their candidate’s Elections Canada refund. However, it is the channeling of local cash to the federal party to pay for advertising where the Liberals see red in the Tories’ blue campaign.

One of the most vocal critics of this alleged scheme has been Liberal MP Marlene Jennings of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce–Lachine. Here is a quote of hers from the House of Commons:

Mr. Speaker, the in-and-out financing scandal implicates at least six Conservative ministers, like the public safety minister and the foreign affairs minister. Their response? Dead silence.

The member for West Vancouver–Sunshine Coast–Sea to Sky Country [Blair Wilson] did the right thing. At the very first hint of any questions about his campaign he stepped aside so he could clear his name.

The independent investigation into the Conservative scheme has not been completed. Will the government demonstrate true leadership and demand resignations from its six ministers?

Let’s take a closer look at Jennings’ 2004 and 2006 Elections Canada filing:

jennings2004.jpg
Click to enlarge

and 2006:

jennings2006.jpg
Click to enlarge

Jennings’ 2004 election return shows a $300 expense for advertising paid to the Liberal Party of Canada and a $1500 expense for the same paid to “The Federal Liberal Agency of Canada”. The 2006 return shows a $11,206.86 expense for advertising paid to the Quebec wing of the federal Liberal Party.

The Liberals have alleged impropriety in the Conservative practice of transferring money from local campaigns to federal campaign for use by the federal campaign for “advertising”. Here, we see Jennings transferring sums of money to both the federal party and Quebec wing of the federal party for “advertising”. What sort of advertising services did the LPOC and LPOC(Q) provide for Ms. Jennings? It should be noted that Jennings also declared expenses that her campaign paid to her riding association for advertising, so what of these similar expenses paid to national HQ? Did Jennings pay the party to produce Marlene Jennings specific advertising, Quebec regional advertising or national advertising? What is the difference between each of the three if they were paid for by the official agent for Marlene Jennings?

When you look at other Quebec campaigns it appears that more than a few Quebec Liberal candidates including Stephane Dion bought about $11,000 or $4,900 of advertising from the Liberal Party of Canada in Quebec.

Is the LPOC an ad-agency or did they purchase advertising for their candidates like the Conservatives bought for their Candidates?

Of course, in my opinion, no laws have been broken here and if this shows that the Liberals were also involved in a so-called (by them) “In and Out scheme” the only things they are guilty of is hypocrisy.

Furthermore, why was this practice given a green light in the past for the Liberals by Elections Canada when it now raises questions by the federal agency. Are not all parties equal under the law?

Liberals spooked by fax?

When the Liberals received a misdialed fax from the Environment Minister’s office and the subsequently faxed threatening letter suggesting that the original document contained sensitive market information, one wonders if the Grits would have made more of the incident if the Conservatives hadn’t hit back so hard and successfully on the Holland/Jennings boxes incident which backfired on that party highlighting Liberal arrogance when it comes to sensitive information…

Liberals in violation of US Copyright Act

The famous YouTube video with a close up shot of a the shipping label on the boxes “returned” to the PMO by Mark Holland and Marlene Jennings was taken down from the popular video hosting website after the user “liberalvideo” made a copyright claim. YouTube user “liberalvideo” is of course the Liberal OLO and their muscling of content critical to their party sets a chilling precedent in this country.

Of course, the video itself was based upon footage gathered by the Liberal Party from their original video. Since the claimant to the copyright was “liberalvideo”, we can assume that “liberalvideo” is in fact the Liberal OLO.

Anyway. The derivative video produced (with the shipping label) constitutes fair use of the material and may even be classified as a parody of the original. Point is, there is no copyright violation.

This may spell trouble for the Liberal Party as they are in violation of the US Copyright Act. Section 512(f) states:

512. Limitations on liability relating to material online

(f) Misrepresentations. – Any person who knowingly materially misrepresents under this section -

(1) that material or activity is infringing, or

(2) that material or activity was removed or disabled by mistake or misidentification,

shall be liable for any damages, including costs and attorneys’ fees, incurred by the alleged infringer, by any copyright owner or copyright owner’s authorized licensee, or by a service provider, who is injured by such misrepresentation, as the result of the service provider relying upon such misrepresentation in removing or disabling access to the material or activity claimed to be infringing, or in replacing the removed material or ceasing to disable access to it.

Liberals have expressed to me that the removal of the video and copyright claim was shortsighted and “dumb”.

The video that the Liberals don’t want you to see

According to ThePolitic.com, YouTube user “liberalvideo” has complained to Youtube and had the now famous “shipping label” video removed because of a trumped up and false “copyright claim by liberalvideo”. I posted about the video here (the YouTube video on that post is now broken). Obviously, “liberalvideo” is the Liberal OLO. Why are the Liberals only now concerned about property rights? This is somewhat ironic given that this scandal is based upon a massive violation of Conservative property rights by Liberals. I present the original video below, from a “journalistic perspective” (fair use/dealings) since this story (and now, the cover-up) is newsworthy. The video is hosted at Blogging Tories, far from Liberal reach and manipulation. The “shipping label” video will remain there, as an archive, so that future generations may appreciate and study this dreadful chapter of Canadian politics. It will become known as the “Holland/Jennings Incident”.

The forbidden video:

What’s one of the cardinal rules of politics? Cover-ups make the news even bigger.

Sorry Stéphane, you might think that this is unfair, but it’s politics.

An interesting question

When Mark Holland and Marlene Jennings carted property of the Conservative Party of Canada outside of the Wellington building, did they enter into another legal jurisdiction?

The Liberals retained the Conservative boxes full of confidential documents for over one year and rifled through them, looking for dirt. This while documentation was available to them that clearly indicated that these boxes were processed for delivery from the former Conservative OLO to the Conservative Resource Group. One might argue that the boxes were stolen. (If one intercepts your mail, opens it, keeps it for a year, photographs it and then returns it, did one in fact steal it?)

Parliamentary precinct security is the purview of the Speaker. The Wellington building, of course, falls under the Speaker’s jurisdiction. The boxes were to be delivered to the third floor of the same building to the Conservative Resource Group. However, Holland and Jennings took Conservative property outside of the building and paraded it down Wellington street down to Langevin Block and to the PMO. Wellington street is outside of the jurisdiction of the Speaker and indeed within the jurisdiction of the Ottawa Police Service. If Holland and Jennings had returned the boxes without fanfare, one could reasonably argue that they were finally doing the right thing and returning property that clearly wasn’t theirs (albeit their actions still suspect). However, since they coordinated a media stunt around the returning of the boxes, one could argue that the two Liberal MPs were not only in possession of stolen property but that they got use of that property in the municipal jurisdiction of Ottawa.

Do Holland and Jennings have to worry about the possibility of having committed a crime outside of the comfort of the Speaker’s jurisdiction and within that of the Ottawa Police Service? Were Jennings and Holland in possession (and use) of stolen property on Wellington street in Ottawa?

The case of the missing boxes

Yesterday, I had a good chuckle at the manufactured stunt recorded on video and displayed on the Liberal Party website. Apparently, Liberal MPs Mark Holland and Marlene Jennings called the media in to help them deliver some boxes “left over” at the OLO (Office of the Leader of the Opposition) at 180 Wellington st. to the PMO just a few blocks away.

You can view the Liberal video here

In the video, Holland states that

  • documents were “left behind” in the OLO

  • documents contain personal evaluations of OLO staff (documents marked confidential)
  • Holland’s argument is that this represents “gross negligence” on behalf of the Conservatives (now the government). In fact, the Liberals are playing this into a theme of “accountability just being a buzzword to the Conservatives” etc.
  • Jennings repeats the talking point of government negligence with private information.
  • Holland states that the government will have to “answer for its negligence”

    Now, take a look at the following video found on Bourque:

    This video includes a closeup of the delivery slip attached to one of the boxes which includes “From: 145 Well / To: 320-3″. 145 Well is the room number of the OLO in the Wellington Building, and 320-3 is the office number of the Conservative Resource Group (CRG), an outfit working out of the same building.

    When Mark Holland made his triumphant parade down the street from the OLO to the PMO, he could have just taken the elevator in the building which houses the OLO to the CRG on the third floor.

    This brings up another interesting point. The boxes were clearly marked with a delivery slip and were thus not “negligently” left behind, but were ready for moving (presumably during January 2006 when the Conservatives formed government). What got in the way of the delivery process? Did the Liberals find some boxes with highly confidential information in them only this week? If not, how come they waited so long to “return” the documents? What got in between the processing of the boxes for delivery and the actual delivery of the boxes (by House of Commons movers)? When they discovered “private” and “confidential” information, did the “accountable” Liberals do the right thing? Or did they videotape the documents, publish the video and play the offended party?