Mike Duffy hints at summer election? Or is the media election-biased?

In the mainstream media, they’re at it again! Everyone seems to be asking about the next federal election. To describe elections as the Superbowls of politics would be accurate in significance but overstated in frequency; unfortunately for those of us that live and breathe one writ-drop at a time, there doesn’t seem to be another one so soon on the horizon.

The Prime Minister has stated as much. In a recent press conference, Stephen Harper made mention that party leaders should be focused on the economy rather than hitting the hustings.

So, what’s got the media in a tizzy today? Well, it’s a weekday so it must be any desperate thread of a future election. The “news” today is that Sen. Mike Duffy gave a speech to the Charlottetown Rotary Club where he “hinted” at an election. Let’s take a look at the headline from The Charlottetown Guardian that followed.

“Duffy’s speech hints at looming federal election”

After unexpectedly taking notice to what would otherwise be a hum-drum article from the Island, we find ourselves somewhat disappointed after scanning Duffy’s quotes looking for an explicit or even implicit election “hint”. The article seemingly apologizes at the end but provides an excuse for misleading us,

“He made no mention of an election during his speech on Monday, but used rhetoric reminiscent of an electioneering politician.”

A politician speaking about politics outside of an election?
Dog bites man.

The media, trying to find any reason for us to take notice? Desperate for increased readership and future windfall of ad dollars that come during an election?
Also par for the course.

But was Sen. Duffy’s speech even filled with rhetoric? Let’s take a closer look,

The speech is hardly filled with partisan rhetoric and does not mention Stephen Harper or an election once. The most political item is where Duffy says that he and Minister Gail Shea will fight for Islanders.

Telegraph Journal apologizes to Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Today, we learn from the Telegraph Journal:

On Wednesday, July 8, 2009, the Telegraph-Journal published a story about the funeral mass celebrating the life of former Governor-General Romeo LeBlanc that was inaccurate and should not have been published. We pride ourselves in maintaining high standards of journalism and ethical reporting, and regret this was not followed in this case.

The story stated that a senior Roman Catholic priest in New Brunswick had demanded that the Prime Minister’s Office explain what happened to the communion wafer which was handed to Prime Minister Harper during the celebration of communion at the funeral mass. The story also said that during the communion celebration, the Prime Minister “slipped the thin wafer that Catholics call ‘the host’ into his jacket pocket”.

There was no credible support for these statements of fact at the time this article was published, nor is the Telegraph-Journal aware of any credible support for these statements now. Our reporters Rob Linke and Adam Huras, who wrote the story reporting on the funeral, did not include these statements in the version of the story that they wrote. In the editing process, these statements were added without the knowledge of the reporters and without any credible support for them.

The Telegraph-Journal sincerely apologizes to the Prime Minister for the harm that this inaccurate story has caused. We also apologize to reporters Rob Linke and Adam Huras and to our readers for our failure to meet our own standards of responsible journalism and accuracy in reporting.

Here is the original story (portions highlighted in red concern content that has “no credible support” and portions highlighted in orange are therefore not newsworthy and are unsubstantiated gossip and speculation):

A senior New Brunswick Roman Catholic priest is demanding the Prime Minister’s Office explain what happened to the sacramental communion wafer Stephen Harper was given at Roméo LeBlanc’s funeral mass.

During communion at the solemn and dignified service held last Friday in Memramcook for the former governor general, the prime minister slipped the thin wafer that Catholics call “the host” into his jacket pocket.

In Catholic understanding, the host – once consecrated by a priest for the Eucharist – becomes the body and blood of Jesus Christ. It is crucial that the small wafer be consumed when it is received.

Monsignor Brian Henneberry, vicar general and chancellor in the Diocese of Saint John, wants to know whether the prime minister consumed the host and, if not, what happened to it.

If Harper accepted the host but did not consume it, “it’s worse than a faux pas, it’s a scandal from the Catholic point of view,” he said.

Henneberry said a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office is in order.

“If I were the prime minister, I would at least offer an explanation to say no offence was meant, and then (clarifying) what happened to the consecrated host is in order,” he said. “I would hope the Prime Minister’s Office would have enough respect for the Catholic Church and for faith in general to make clear whatever happened.”

On Friday, during the mass, Harper reached out with his right hand and accepted the wafer from a priest.

A television camera lingered long enough to show New Brunswick Lt.-Gov. Herménégilde Chiasson, the next person to receive the host, raise his to his mouth.

But the tape shows that Harper does not consume the wafer before the camera cuts away several seconds later.

If Harper was unclear about what was appropriate during the funeral mass, said Henneberry, it “would say to me it’s time to get new protocol people.”

Harper and his senior spokespersons were en route to Italy on Tuesday for the G8 leaders’ summit.

Harper will spend five days in Italy and on Saturday he has an audience with Pope Benedict.

Requests for comment left with Harper’s media office were not immediately returned on Tuesday.

What Harper did or didn’t do at the ceremony quietly raised questions at the ceremony in Memramcook Friday.

When Harper took the host, “everybody just paused and said, ‘What did he do with it?'”‚” said one official who watched the pool feed with reporters who were not inside St. Thomas Church in Memramcook.

“You could see he was, ‘Uh oh, I don’t know what to do with this.'”‚”

The curiosity among Catholics has not gone unnoticed among Liberal insiders in Ottawa, either.

Henneberry said he has received a call on Harper’s actions from a concerned Catholic, and he doubts that she is the only one puzzled and perturbed.

“She said she was very upset,” he said, adding he had not seen the footage.

“She said, ‘All weekend long it has been bothering me and I know I can’t do something about it, but someone should.’

“She can’t be the only one in this country that is thinking that.”

Harper’s religious affiliation raises a separate but related question about his accepting the host: As a Protestant, should he have politely declined it?

The fact it was a national event that was televised live likely complicated the situation for everyone – the priests and Harper, Henneberry said.

“If the prime minister is not a Catholic, he should not have been receiving communion and if he comes up it places the priest in an awkward position, especially at a national funeral because everyone is watching,” he said.

But Rev. Arthur Bourgeois, who delivered the homily, did not have a problem with the prime minister accepting the host.

“Usually, to partake in holy communion in the Catholic Church, you have to be a member of it, but if you’re not, exceptionally sometimes at major occasions (it is different),” Bourgeois said.

“If you are up there and giving holy communion you are not going to stop and asked everyone if they are Catholic or if they are not Catholic.

“You say the Lord provides.”

Monsignor André Richard, who is Bishop of the Diocese of Moncton, gave Harper communion but said he didn’t see what Harper did with the host.

“I didn’t see anything wrong there “¦ because I was busy doing something else.”

Bourgeois said it is acceptable to decline the host by simply folding one’s hands, which signals the priest to bless the person.

Rev. James Weisgerber, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and archbishop of Winnipeg, said if Harper was not given good advice before the ceremony about what to do, it is a regrettable oversight.

“I would feel very sorry for the prime minister if he wasn’t informed about what the procedure is,” Weisgerber said. “I would find it terrible if we put him in an embarrassing situation.

“My concern is at a funeral of that level everyone knows what the protocol is.”

Harper could have simply consumed the host shortly after he was off-camera; or he could have hesitated because he expected a priest would soon invite everyone to consume the host once everyone present had received it, as occurs in some Protestant churches.

His own faith tradition certainly does things differently, says an evangelical Christian journalist who specializes in religion and politics.

Lloyd Mackey’s 2005 book The Pilgrimage of Stephen Harper traces Harper’s political and faith journey.

Given his church background, Harper might not have known exactly what was expected of him as a Protestant at a Roman Catholic mass, Mackey suggested.

“I don’t think by himself as a Protestant adherent he’d be aware of the nuances,” said Mackey, who added there would be people in his inner circle who should have advised him.

For a number of years, in Calgary and in Ottawa, Harper has worshipped at churches within the Christian and Missionary Alliance, said Mackey.

Communion in Alliance churches is typically held once a month.

It would involve the seated congregation passing along wafers and, in small individual glasses, unfermented grape juice.

Harper grew up in a background with United Church of Canada and Presbyterian influences, but he was something of a skeptic until he was a young adult.

Mackey’s book says Harper’s journey to a committed personal faith was influenced by fellow politician Preston Manning, among others, and came after reading much-admired Christian apologists C.S. Lewis and Malcolm Muggeridge.

LeBlanc, 81, died in late June. He had been the country’s first Acadian and Maritime governor general, and before that, a senator, MP and press secretary to two prime ministers.

That’s quite an edit!

I’ve learned from a source close to one of the journalists that at least one of them may have gone so far as to seek advice and consider a lawsuit against the newspaper if the paper did not retract the story and absolve (no pun intended) the journalists of fabricating a significant portion the article.

Printing such a false hit piece can get a journalist frozen out of any future access to the PMO under the current administration. It’s a rare sight to see journalists defend their integrity against their senior management in the newsroom, however, in this case it may have been a matter of professional self-preservation.

What motivation was there behind torquing over three quarters of the story? Did somebody in Ottawa (or Toronto) pick up the phone and push a more interesting story to the editors instead?

Some observers will remember that “Wafergate” led CBC’s flagship newscast The National rather than the story about the Prime Minister’s participation in the G8 conference. UPDATE: Errr… this observer didn’t seem to remember correctly. My friends from CBC (yes, I shockingly still do have a couple of them — and they’ve been better to me than I have to them lately, but I digress) inform me that I am mistaken by the order of their reports (they did G8 and did “Wafergate” later in the broadcast). I also mistakenly made this reference on the Charles Adler show. I ironically acknowledge this and regret these errors.

Canada Day evokes colourful reactions from press gallery reporter

Two years ago, The Toronto Star’s Susan Delacourt had the Canada Day blues…

They’re painting the town blue for Canada Day in the nation’s capital this year.

Though the red and white of Canada’s flag is usually the dominant colour scheme for the big party in Ottawa on July 1, blue seems to be all the rage this year – a good, solid Conservative blue, to match the government in power.

Workers have been erecting the main stage for festivities this week on Parliament Hill. By yesterday, it was evident the favoured hue seems to have definitely shifted from red – which also happens to be the colour of the Liberal party, the Conservatives’ arch-rivals.

This wouldn’t be the first time, however, that this symbol-conscious government has eschewed red for blue.

The government’s official website, www.gc.ca, has increasingly leaned toward blue tints ever since the Conservatives came to power almost a year and a half ago.

For this year’s Canada Day, Delacourt was seeing red,

Early into his first term as Prime Minister, Stephen Harper mused aloud about how he wished Canadian reporters would stand when he entered the room. I believe the collective reply to this musing had something to do with weather forecasts and the temperature in hell.

But yesterday, on Canada Day, Global TV news showed us how Harper managed to get the military to give him a salute that’s normally reserved for the Governor-General. As Heritage Minister James Moore explains in the video, this was something that the Prime Minister apparently wanted.

So if you do run across our Tim Horton’s, hockey-dad, regular-guy PM this summer on the barbecue circuit, give him a little salute. Or stand up, or something. He really seems to appreciate deference.

We hear rumours…

some good, some bad…

This rumour came in via Twitter:

InfluenceComm (Jean-François Dumas): RUMOUR IN THE MEDIA: resignation of PM (Harper) next week.

Is the source credible? Who is Jean-François Dumas? What is InfluenceComm?

From Marketing Magazine, February 23rd, 1998:

The CBC has preliminary audience numbers for its Olympics coverage. On Monday, Feb. 9, an average 1.48 million Canadians watched prime time coverage. That peaked at 1.77 million between 9:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. On Tuesday, Feb. 10, 1.66 million watched from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.; that number jumped to 2.33 million from 9:30 p.m. to midnight, peaking at 3.05 million between 10:30 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. That night the International Olympic Committee stripped snowboarder Ross Rebagliati of his gold medal.

The Royal Bank and AT&T have formed the first Canadian alliance between a bank and a long-distance company. Connect@work combines Internet access with on-line banking. It debuted Feb. 9, and it’s only available to businesses banking with Royal. Jo-Anne Wade, manager for E-Commerce marketing at the Royal Bank, says that demand for this type of service is increasing: “There is a growing number of small businesses getting onto the Web,” she says. “This is designed to make it easier for them.”

Montreal’s Groupaction/JWT has created an agency-within-an-agency with GroupaXion New Media, headed by Jean-Francois Dumas. It offers planning and creative services for clients such as the Treasury Board of Canada, showing them how to use technologies including the Internet, intranets, Web sites, debit cards and CD-ROMs for promotional purposes.

Shell Canada Products Ltd., a subsidiary of Shell Canada, is the official sponsor of Ted and Tony’s Inside Track,”the most watched automotive information program” in Canada, Shell says. A survey of 1997

Groupaction… where have we heard that name before?

From the Gomery inquiry documentation:

Mr. J. Brault and his wife, Ms Joane Archambault, started Groupaction Marketing Inc. (“Groupaction”) in 1982.

The main operating companies were:

a) Groupaction Marketing – the primary advertising and marketing
company; and

b) Alléluia Design (“Alléluia”) – a company operating in the field of
artistic and graphic design.

In November 1997 Groupaxion Nouveaux Médias (“Groupaxion”) was
incorporated to operate in the fields of interactive media and web sites.

GroupaXion New Media was owned by Jean Brault and headed up by Jean-Francois Dumas. Now, a man named Jean-Francois Dumas runs a Montreal new media firm called Influence Communication and he’s starting the spread of a rumour on Twitter about the Prime Minister resigning.

C’est intéressant, non?

Statements from the Prime Minister, the Liberal Party and the NDP on the situation in Iran

From Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada:

“The reaction of the Iranian authorities to the demonstrations in Iran is wholly unacceptable. The regime has chosen to use brute force and intimidation in responding to peaceful opposition regarding legitimate and serious allegations of electoral fraud.

“Basic human rights, including freedom of assembly and freedom of expression, are being ignored. Demonstrations have been banned and demonstrators beaten. Injured protestors have been arrested when they arrive at hospitals for treatment. Journalists have been prevented from covering protests and subjected to arbitrary detention and arrest. Foreign press credentials have been revoked.

“Canada calls on the Iranian authorities to immediately cease the use of violence against their own people, to release all political prisoners and journalists – including Canadians – who have been unjustly detained, to allow Iranian and foreign media to report freely on these historic events, and to conduct a full and transparent investigation into allegations of fraud in the presidential election. The voices of all Iranians must be heard. I have directed the Minister of Foreign Affairs to ensure that Canada’s views are conveyed to Iran’s top representative in Canada.”

“Canada continues to be a strong and consistent voice calling on the Iranian regime to fulfill all of its human rights obligations, both in law and in practice. For six consecutive years, Canada has led a resolution on the human rights situation in Iran at the United Nations General Assembly. Canada continues to support freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Iran and around the world.”

From Michael Ignatieff, leader of the Liberal Party:

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff today condemned the Government of Iran’s use of violence to stifle peaceful dissent by protesters calling for open and transparent democratic elections.

“We mourn each life lost as a result of the Government of Iran’s unjust actions, and share the anguish and outrage of Canadians of Iranian origin at the suppression of peaceful protest and the apparent denial of fully free and fair elections,” said Mr. Ignatieff.

Amid reports of death and injury inflicted by the Iranian government upon peaceful protesters, the Liberal Leader also encouraged the Canadian government to do all it can to help the injured at its embassy in Tehran.

“Canada should join other countries in keeping our embassy open for the humanitarian needs of the people of Iran.”

Despite the media blackout put in place by the Iranian government, reports emerging largely through online social media show images of bloodshed among protesters and clashes with government police forces.

“The Iranian government cannot hide the truth from their own citizens or from the rest of the world. By answering the call for open and transparent elections with a violent disregard for the rights of its citizens, the Iranian government has further alienated itself from the international community.”

“The Liberal Party of Canada strongly affirms the rights of Iranians and people everywhere to freely express themselves and associate with others, without threat to their life or liberty. We call on the Iranian government to cease the violence and continue to call for open and transparent elections.”

From Paul Dewar, NDP foreign affairs critic:

OTTAWA – New Democrat Foreign Affairs Critic Paul Dewar (Ottawa Centre) made the following statement regarding the situation in Iran in the House of Commons today:

“Mr. Speaker, New Democrats are extremely concerned about the situation in Iran.

Protestors are being crushed, the means of communications among Iranians have been restricted and political activists have been jailed. Yet, thousands of opposition supporters are standing their ground, defying a ban on protests, and requesting a new election. This is a critical moment not only for the people in Iran but around the world.

In the words of poet Sa’di,
“The children of Adam are limbs to each other
Having been created of one essence
When the calamity of time afflicts one limb
The other limbs cannot remain at rest”.

In that spirit, New Democrats stand in solidarity with the democratic aspirations of the people of Iran. We call for an end to hostilities against peaceful protests, an immediate release of political prisoners and a fair and transparent electoral process that respects the genuine will of the Iranian people.”

Will Professor Ignatieff make us go to summer school?

At the moment, the Prime Minister and Michael Ignatieff are meeting to discuss infrastructure funding, possible changes to EI eligibility and, as we’re quite sure, engaging in rational discourse.

Last week, the government released its second report on the status of the Economic Action Plan and Ignatieff told reporters that it was too serious to grade the government, yet he stated that it had “failed” yet Canadians “don’t want an election right now”. What is the state of our system? A student fails the course but gets a pass because the parents have already planned the summer vacation? And to torture the metaphor a little more, I ask, is Michael Ignatieff really advocating that while failing Conservatives, he allow Canadians qualify for a fully paid sabbatical after six weeks of work? The 45 day work year, set to be defended by Liberals on an election trail near you, surely will not cause a stampede of voters to the ballot box. This really cannot be Ignatieff’s plan.

So what is really going on here? Flashback one year to the hapless Stephane Dion going into the summer, the Prime Minister’s neutered foe who rubber-stamped every piece of legislation by heading up the abstaining opposition. There is chatter around town that Michael Ignatieff is following Dion in his indecisiveness, however, this may instead represent an element of political narcissism for professor Ignatieff. The shovels are in the ground, the money is leaving the federal treasury to build infrastructure projects all over this country and Michael Ignatieff tells everyone to wait; Iggy has an important decision to make. To threaten to plunge the country into its fourth election in five years (with a $1.2 Billion tab) just so the media doesn’t frame him as the second coming of Stephane shows that he wants to know that his opinion – whatever he finds it to be – is relevant. As for his pensive pondering, he spent enough time in university seminars musing about the prolix and banal, yet as he transitions from the theoretical to applied, Dr. Ignatieff is showing that he is finding it difficult to both suck and blow.

In his press conference yesterday, Ignatieff used soft words such as “replace confrontation with cooperation”, “we cannot allow ourselves to act irresponsibly”, “if the government needs to sit a little longer, so be it” , “the Liberal party accepts the need for deficit spending in tough times”, “we want to make parliament work for all Canadians”, “I just want to give a sign to the Prime Minister that I’m a reasonable person. If he has employment proposals that he wants to bring forward, he needs a little more time, let’s not let the arbitrary deadline of Friday the be the all and end all. Let’s keep this serene and calm and business-like” Do these sound like bellicose words? So, why the drama Dr. Ignatieff?

He supported the Conservative budget earlier this year, he voted for the Conservative changes to EI. The Conservative government is spending billions of dollars in an effort to stimulate the economy. Why is this about him?

Michael Ignatieff knows that Canadians want him to allow Parliament to work, but he pauses to let us all know that it will only do so after he’s scowled at our exams.

July election on EI? Possible but quite improbable

Is there election fever in Ottawa? This seems to be the question on Parliament Hill whenever we move through the months of May and June in a minority parliament. Of course, the most fevered example was during the late months of spring in 2005 when Stephen Harper’s newly minted Conservative Party tried an assortment of creative parliamentary procedures to take down the Paul Martin government only to be upset by former Conservative leadership candidate Belinda Stronach when she crossed the floor to sit in cabinet.

But in June of 2009, months after an attempt by opposition parties to form a coalition government without vetting of the idea before the Canadian electorate and just months and a few weeks after that electorate returned Stephen Harper to power to deal with the global economic crisis, will we have yet another election?

From the MPs that I’ve spoken to, many believe that it is a real possibility with Michael Ignatieff tabling a confidence motion on Employment Insurance which will paint the NDP into a corner forcing them to support a vote of non-confidence in the government. For Jack Layton, leader of that fourth party in the House, his votes are critical to this government’s survival. Though Mr. Layton’s party is not poised to make any serious gains in an election held in the short-term any failure to deliver – in the context of an embarrassing collapse of the coalition game – will have the party grassroots looking to replace its leader. The next election will be Mr. Layton’s last if he does not perform. Mr. Layton needs more time to explain why he’s still fighting and build a real election plan. NDP executive director Brad Lavigne was in Washington last week meeting with senior Democrats to get a fix on both strategy and tactics. As for NDP confidence, they could easily save face if a number of their MPs had the flu on the day of Ignatieff’s confidence motion.

As for the leader of the Liberal Party, Mr. Ignatieff has an important objective; the man who ran second place to Stephane Dion in a leadership race doesn’t want to go into the summer looking like his leadership predecessor. You’ll recall that when Mr. Dion was leader of the party, his MPs were shamed and embarrassed as Stephen Harper rammed his legislation through while the Liberals feably sat on their hands. While Mr. Ignatieff doesn’t face a caucus revolt over inaction, he does want to appear as though he’s given the Conservatives a rough ride and his party will claim it as a victory as they go into the summer with their heads held relatively high. Strategically, going to an election in July wouldn’t be ideal for Mr. Ignatieff as a $5-6 million Conservative pre-writ ad buy defining the Liberal leader would be much more effective if the Conservative messaging is fresh in the minds of Canadians. On the other hand, despite a $50 Billion projected deficit posted by the Conservatives recently, the Canadian economy is starting to show signs of recovery. If Michael Ignatieff wants to defeat Stephen Harper in an election which which will certainly be defined upon the Conservatives’ traditionally perceived strength (taxes/economy), his advisers are likely telling him that this may be his best chance. Yet Michael Ignatieff’s only visible policy proposal on this has been EI reform.

As for the Prime Minister, he will only precipitate an election if he believes that he can orchestrate a majority win. Many observers now agree that the dissolution of parliament previous to the last election was a defensive measure by the Prime Minister as he read the global economic indicators and found himself staring into an abyss about to rattle Canadians. If we are to have an election, it will be because the Prime Minister would have allowed it; either allowed himself to fall on a Liberal confidence motion, confident on the framing on an election on EI, or because he will orchestrate a political crisis which will upend the polls. For example, polling is moot if the Prime Minister were to frame an election on cutting public subsidy for political parties with the $50 billion deficit to back him up as to why. “If an election were to be held today” is a pointless question when elections are framed, campaigns are waged and events occur to shape electoral intent during a 36 day writ campaign.

An election based upon EI is a ruse. It’s a ruse because it splits voters into two politically inequitable camps: the employed and the unemployed – the latter won’t deliver a win for Ignatieff. It’s a ruse because most Canadian voters have paid more into EI than Michael Ignatieff as the Liberal leader filed his tax returns to British exchequers and American secretaries of the treasury for thirty four years. It’s a ruse, because the man who came second to Stephane Dion is only trying to appear that he has already bested him now after just a couple months as Liberal leader. An Liberal triggered election on EI is a ruse because the Conservatives occupy an entire side of the debate, the other parties will be fighting each other to stake out their position on the issue. Finally, the Liberals need to rebuild their party. They are still only raising money at par with the NDP and of their nominations, I’ve heard that they still have about 200 spots to fill.

An election in July? A dreadful prospect for any opposition party and not ideal for the PM unless the man best positioned to set the stage can line up a major win.

BREAKING – Kevin Lynch out as Clerk of the Privy Council

A source inside the government has just told me that Kevin Lynch is out as Clerk of the Privy Council and that Wayne Wouters is the new Clerk.  Wouters was recently the Secretary of the Treasury Board.  When I confirmed with a friend in the Prime Minister’s Office, he was surprised because they had only found out internally within the last five minutes.

UPDATE: It’s officially confirmed.  Here’s the release.

PRIME MINISTER STEPHEN HARPER ANNOUNCES APPOINTMENT OF WAYNE WOUTERS AS CLERK OF THE PRIVY COUNCIL

Ottawa – Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced today the appointment of Wayne Wouters as the new Clerk of the Privy Council, effective July 1, 2009.

Mr. Wouters joined the Canadian Public Service in 1982 and is presently Secretary of the Treasury Board. He has served with distinction in a broad range of Ministries including the Privy Council Office. Mr. Wouters was Deputy Minister, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada and Chairperson, Canada Employment Insurance Commission and before that Deputy Minister, Human Resources Development Canada and Deputy Ministry of Labour. Other positions include Director General Department of Energy, Mines and Resources; General Director Department of Finance; and Deputy Minister Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

“I am pleased that Mr. Wouters accepted this very challenging role,” said the Prime Minister. “I am confident that his knowledge and experience will provide the dedication and excellence of service that is a hallmark of the Public Service and the Office of the Clerk.

“I look forward to working with Wayne in his new role.”

What does the future hold for Lynch? Apparently he’s in the running to replace Michael Wilson as our ambassador to the United States. David Emerson is also said to be a contender for the job.

EI Politics

A hallmark of Michael Ignatieff so far as Liberal leader, both actual and interim, has been his penchant to transactional politics; he has so far picked his battles on small and short term policy differences rather that outlining a long-term plan. At the Liberal convention which concluded yesterday in Vancouver, Ignatieff did not spell out his demands, policy outlook or election warnings to the government in his convention speech, he felt that such minor details would be more appropriate for a press conference proceeding the event. Despite his insistence that he will be a transformative visionary leader that is looking forward to shaping Canada over the next eight years through 2017, it is not too credible when Ignatieff’s Canadian hindsight only extends back just five. The latest election threat (but not necessarily an election) is his insistence that the Prime Minister look at EI reform to temporarily extend benefits to workers who have worked 360 hours and to harmonize standards for EI benefits across jurisdictions.

The history of EI in this country has been quite tumultuous for parties that have manipulated it, back to RB Bennett who proposed it, to Trudeau who vastly expanded it to Mulroney and Chretien who subsequently slashed it to Martin who allowed EI surpluses to balloon under his watch. Ironically, it was Chretien in 1995 that changed the standards of EI payments to reflect local unemployment rates breaking down benefits by region. Though all of Canadians pay into EI, the benefits distributed are dependent upon local employment rates. Thus, EI is sort of like equalization but for jobs.

“It seems unfair to Canadians that if you pay into the thing, your eligibility depends on where you live. We think 360 (hours) is roughly where we ought to be.” — Michael Ignatieff

Now Mr. Ignatieff is proposing that we do away with regional differences and temporarily make EI more generous. An election threat from Ignatieff does not ring in the ears of the Prime Minister today after the Liberal leader put the screws to the Liberal senate to pass the Conservative budget just months ago — a budget, which among other things, included a global five-week extension of EI benefits despite region.

What Mr. Ignatieff may instead be attempting is to wrestle an easy “concession” from the Conservative government in order to show that he intends on making Parliament work while boasting that he will decide the timing of its dissolution. EI may indeed be an important policy issue for the Liberal leader to champion as for deregionalizing the program would be beneficial for Ontario, a province that disproportionately pays into it for the benefits received. As Ignatieff is looking to regain Ontario seats lost under the wayward leadership of Stephane Dion, the new Liberal leader may figure that he can shore up his Ontario base and challenge Stephen Harper where the Conservative Prime Minister needs to grow.

Yet today, a spoiler appeared on the scene. Ontario PC leadership candidate Christine Elliott and wife of federal finance minister Jim Flaherty also declared that the EI program was ineffective and unfair for Ontario. Elliott proposed reforming the program to benefit a fairer proportion of out-of-work Ontarians considering the number of the province’s residents pay into it. If EI cannot be reformed, Elliott suggests, Ontario should opt-out of the program. Does this signal a tag-team effort by federal and provincial Conservative forces to deflate Ignatieff’s election threat? Christine Elliott may be serving as a safety valve to deflate Ignatieff by suggesting that a friendly to the Conservative government is advocating a similar position. If a June election is contingent upon EI reform for Ontario, Elliott may be providing the Conservatives cover should they move forward with reform and it would have the added benefit of splitting credit from Ignatieff.

The cat blog: Ignatieff vs. Harper

A fact that should frighten us all: the Prime Minister’s cat positives/negatives and Ignatieff’s cat positives/negatives will actually swing a few votes.


The purpose of the cat photo-op for the Prime Minister is to show the “softer side of Steve” according to those that run focus groups. The sweater during the last campaign had the same objective. For years, the Liberals have tried to craft an image of the Prime Minister of a scary, mean and cold man. Kittens and sweaters? All that’s missing is the trolly to the land of Make-Believe, neighbour. Prime Ministerial image crafting aside, to most voters the PM has instead turned out to be calm, predictable and maybe even a little boring. But, against the crafted image of the fearsome ogre by his opponents, the realities both crafted and actual serve him well.


Here, Michael Ignatieff — in sweater — stares down his cat. Ignatieff’s perceived negatives — that he’s arrogant, aloof, crafty and out-of-touch — are not diminished by the cat photo-op. Stephane Dion named his dog Kyoto to emphasize a clear policy initiative of his leadership. Mr. Ignatieff has not carved out any bold policy direction on much of anything and naming the cat Nuance may be a move that only Ignatieff and the cat understand.