Entries from May 2008 ↓

Is this the time?


Advice time.

In the spirit of digital democracy, wherein the much-flagellated MP turns ruefully to the people and says, “Huh?”, I solicit your comments.

Is this the time for an election?

While the Liberal platform may not be entirely cooked yet, and its leader not the first thing Canadians think of upon rising each day, it strikes me there’s a sizzling cauldron of reasons why PMSH needs his plug pulled. And Julie is but a bit player, although she’s come quickly to epitomize the vacuity of the Conservative front bench.

More salient is this: Families are under mounting financial stress as the economy slows, real estate chills, jobs leave and gas prices romp. So many groups are so disappointed with the Conservative legacy, from income trust investors to parents without child care to those who valued agreements like Kyoto, Kelowna and the Atlantic Accord.

Others lament that this ‘new’, open and accountable government became the object of an RCMP raid or a probe into trying to bribe a dying MP. Still others, who thought Mr. Harper would actually cut income taxes, care about the environment or stand up for Canada against the separatists, instead of declaring the Quebecois a nation, are fed up.

And there are those who find our prime minister arrogant and uncaring, his party stuffed with partisan goons, and his times rife with negative politics and slanderous smears that turn them away.

The polls show no gain for the governing party, despite record spending which has turned a fat surplus into a looming zero. The satisfaction level with Mr. Harper has crashed 13 points in six months, and three of four Canadians are now not impressed with his performance.

So, is this the time to go? After all, as I said in my post yesterday, a wary and skittish PM may now just try to shut Parliament down until the next snows, believing our collectively short memory will wipe all these woes away. But is that the right course for Canada? Should we who oppose him step into the void?

What would you have me say, when I whisper my advice to Mr. Dion?

What he’ll do

Imagine a litre of gas on sale at $1.50, while the effects of oil at $150 a barrel ripple through the economy. Imagine the real estate market in Toronto, Mississauga, Calgary, Kelowna, Vancouver and Victoria stalled dead – buried under a mountain of listings, crushing home values in the process.

Imagine a moribund manufacturing sector, as the petro-fuelled Canadian dollar lords it over the ravaged US currency, rendering us no longer competitive. Imagine the federal coffers drained by lower business taxes, a crunch in GST revenues, a spike in jobless claims and the residue of bad economic decisions.

As the perfect storm of lower consumer and investor confidence, idled factories, a housing chill, global energy crisis and federal mismanagement blows in, would you expect the prime minister to allow a general election? At the same time as family financial stress was mounting, the memory would be fresh of the Bernier bungling and the PMO coverup. Of the Cadman bribery scandal. The RCMP raid and Conservative election cheating. The income trust betrayal. The shattering of the Kelowna Accord, the Atlantic Accord and the Kyoto Protocol.

Already now, months earlier, the face of this government is growing unpleasant to the people. Satisfaction levels have plunged since the year began, and Mr. Harper’s approval rating has fallen eight points below the vote totals Conservatives received in January of 2006. Imagine what the situation will be when gas prices are killing car sales, when the furnaces come back on, when home values erode and many more jobs perish.

These thoughts lead me to believe the prime minister will take some draconian actions in the coming weeks and months. These could include shutting down the House of Commons for a summer hiatus as quickly as he can upon his return to Canada next week. It will include a cabinet shuffle within a month to soften the hard, uncaring and angular nature of his inner circle, outing Jim Flaherty from finance, elevating Jim Prentice and adding at least one woman to the front bench. It will likely include a new environmental plan over the summer which includes grant and loan money for energy retrofits, easing the angst of cash-strapped homeowners.

Most notably, it will mean the lights on Parliament Hill stay off longer. Mr. Harper and his team do not do well in Parliament, in QP where they stonewall and lie, in committees where his MPs transform into goons, or before the national media, where scrutiny and comparison are unavoidable.

The above, in combination, leads me to believe the prime minister will not allow Parliament to resume sitting in September, but instead prorogue the House of Commons until after a Conservative policy conference in November. He will do this for several reasons. To come back with a Throne Speech purporting new ideas. To evade accountability. To pray the black memory of cabinet incompetence and party misdeeds fades. To escape economic responsibility. To avoid giving an invigorated opposition the opportunity of bringing him down before the next snows.

This, after all, is just smart politics. And for Mr. Harper that has always come before duty.

Related:
Economy shrinks in first quarter

The ‘liberal lover’ and the MP

Has the credit disaster just started?

Is Parliament too partisan? Is Julie hot? My last posting was meant to underscore such a sad reality (the Parliament bit). We must try to change this.

The nature of the conflict I had with PMSH is simple. He thinks MPs are inextricably part of a team. Elected to represent a party and therefore accountable to the political leader. I think MPs represent and are accountable to the people. Parties and leaders come a distant second.

MPs need to be seen in their ridings as representing everyone, regardless of who they voted for, or may do so in the future. Our salaries and our member’s budget – from which come the bucks to pay staff and rent an office – are provided by the taxpayers. Our doors and minds must therefore be open g QP on Thursday, I sent Mr. Goodyeto everyone, every voter, constituent, taxpayer and partisan. This is regardless of whether someone may pillory us for our party affiliation or our leader.

Obviously I try to live up to this ideal daily, and those who work for me, I hope and expect, understand this. But there are MPs who are partisan and who instill this sense of ‘us’ and ‘them’ in those that they hire. This is unacceptable since we’re all on the public teat. When evidence arises of members or staff herding voters into political categories, then they should be called out.

Next stop, Gary Goodyear, the Conservative MP for Cambridge and North Dumfries, in southern Ontario.

Constituent Adam Cross recently corresponded with Mr. Goodyear on that famed Tory move a few months ago to kill off the improved RESPs that Parliament had approved. Not content with the MP’s response that that bill “should never have been votable” (a ruling made by Mr. Speaker, who controls the House of Commons), Cross wrote back again. By the way, Mr. Cross did not indicate how he is inclined to vote, or whether or not be supports Mr. Goodyear.

Instead of being sent a response, he was apparently inadvertently copied on an internal note between Goodyear’s assistant and a colleague. This is what the staffer wrote:

“From: Goodyear, Gary – M.P. [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Thursday, April 10, 2008 8:41 AM
To: Adam Cross
Subject: RE: Bill C-253
So now do we enter into a dialogue with Adam Cross, a “pen pal” as Gary says? I feel he is a “liberal lover” and it may take up a bunch of time for a non-Conservative voter; however up to you… Let me know how I should respond to this letter?”

The bottom line here seems stark. A constituent writes his MP, gets a response, and writes again for a clarification. A staffer interprets the writer as being a “non-Conservative,” and therefore questions if “a bunch of time” should be spent drafting a further response.

Maybe I’m naïve, but shouldn’t Mr. Goodyear remind his assistant that she’s paid by the taxpayers, to serve the taxpayers? That the “bunch of time” has already been purchased by the voters at large? And would the response have been different if this were a self-identified Conservative voter? Seems so. And that’s wrong.

Should Mr. Goodyear fire his assistant for this?

No need. He already has. But apparently for another reason. She put her name in for a free ticket to the screening tonight in Ottawa of “Young People F**cking”, since all MPs offices had been offered them.

Here’s a Canadian Press report:

“An assistant to MP Gary Goodyear from Cambridge, Ont. was fired after Goodyear’s name showed up on the screening guest list. She had in fact ordered the ticket for herself.

“I do not want to see his reputation harmed over something so trivial and untrue,” wrote (the employee) in a clarifying e-mail early Tuesday to The Canadian Press.

“The simple fact is we ordered an extra invitation for our files, and so that I may attend the film or pass the invitation on to someone who WOULD, in fact, enjoy a movie like that.”

The emphatic effort to clear her boss of any such predilection was apparently sent just before she was dismissed. No one in Goodyear’s office returned calls.

A Conservative official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the assistant was fired for ordering tickets after specifically being asked not to.

“It wasn’t the content of the film that was problematic” but the misrepresentation that Goodyear would be at the screening, said the source.”

Mr. Goodyear, for the record, has denied he fired her for ordering the ticket. That’s as it should be. One would not like to think he values his reputation more than his service to Canadians.

Update: During QP Wednesday, I sent Mr. Goodyear a note, which he received and read, notifying him of this posting, and offering to publish any response he might have. — Garth