Monday, May 31, 2004

Enter the Fixers

Would you like some wine with your crow Mr. Martin? It wasn’t supposed to be going this way when they claimed the prize! Back in November it was generally believed that Paul Martin would have no trouble winning his own mandate from the people. He was to be a new man, with new ideas ready to put his imprint on Liberalism.

His planning team was so secure in their beliefs, that they brazenly tossed aside any of the old Chretien acolytes, preferring to follow their pre arranged path to power. They were to be the new team, with no more of the old ways.

Oh, how one would like to have been a fly on the wall when all that fell apart and they had to admit they were in trouble. While we are only one week into a campaign, the Liberals are apparently so spooked by their falling numbers that they have called out the Chretien Cavalry for help.

The Canadian Press is reporting that the Martinites have brought in former Chretien advisors Jim Munson and Peter Donolo into the planning offices for the Martin campaign. From the Alan Rock bunker, the Martin crew has called in Cyrus Reporter and for good measure they have recruited old Trudeau advisor Patrick Gossage to help pump the water out of the listing ship Martin.

The Four Fixers join up with Martin’s current management team twice a week to try and get the Martin message back on track. Nervous Liberals are finding a rather annoyed electorate out there, ready to take out its frustrations on the first available Liberal to the door. With Stephen Harper pulling his numbers up quickly, the NDP making inroads in the cities and the Bloc Quebecois far from the corpse the Liberals said they were, Mr. Martins handlers are in an apparent state of panic.

So secure is Mr. Harper in his rise in popularity that he’s even mentioned the dreaded M word, that of Mulroney. So disliked has the Liberal agenda apparently become of late, that it’s now no longer a lynching offence to mention the era of Mulroney in public again. Harper has apparently been asking Mulroney about some of the finer points of transitional government. Harper has even pegged Hugh Segal as the man to ease any eventual transition. Such is the fall of the Liberal fortunes of late.

So the Fixing Four have their work cut out for them, the leaders debate now will be a pivotal point in this campaign. The Prime Minister will be feeling like a swimmer in the water with sharks all around him, smelling blood. A stumbling performance in that national forum will be a disaster for the Liberals.

In November Martins backers were bravely talking about his first term and how he would follow up the first four years with even more progressive legislation in the second four. Little did they realize that instead of years they were dealing with months and if the spiral continues on downward there won’t be a second term to worry about.

Somewhere sits Martin’s predecessor, Cheshire cat grin on his face. He may not get to go on the road with Martin and most likely wouldn’t want to anyways, but his shadow still falls over the party. Scrub as they may, but it would seem that Martin’s advisors just can’t get rid of that spot!

A week of essentials

Another week of essentials comes your way, though we are short a few days due to our battle with the mosquitoes. Congratulations to the crack squadron of the deep woods, on their effective aerial assault, we are cowed by your numbers. While we apply a gallon of after bite, here's your links of the past week.

May 24 Hell hath no fury than a leader spurned
May 24 Do Not Call! And Take NO for an answer
May 24 Twisters trash part of Ontario
May 24 Gaza incursion sparks controversy in Israel
May 24 Seymour Hersh terrorizes the White House
May 25 Are you one of the 7.5%?
May 25 The Curse of Mars!
May 25 Controlling the pumps with the House of Saud
May 25 A med school smoke break!
May 25 Danger thy name is Wal Mart?
May 26 There goes the tourist season!
May 26 Saving the parish by FedEx
May 26 The Lord Mayor and the SUV
May 26 A fair price for Oil?
May 26 An Ogre we all can love!
May 27 The ultimate in plug and play
May 27 At least somebody is making money from your money
May 27 Want to be rich? Move to Ottawa!
May 27 Tipsy Dicky
May 27 Help Wanted: must be able to keep a secret
May 28 Putting the disaster into a disaster film
May 28 It really is time now to butt out!
May 28 Lord Black watches but does not speak
May 28 Rush Limbaugh is a big……. Second place announcer
May 28 A little pop will do ya
May 29-30 Out feeding the bugs
May 31 Georgie has a gun
May 31 Trains. Planes and restructuring
May 31 Nasa is pleased to announce
May 31 Franken works for free
May 31 Flames Fans practice their party

Friday, May 28, 2004

Attention followers of podunk, yes you! You're the one!

Just a note for you fine followers of the Podunk, we are taking a three day sabbatical from our travails, so as to go sit in the rainy woodlands with the flying insects and roaming wildlife. Thus, there will be no podunk updates until at least Sunday night, much as I'm enjoying watching the political wildlife eating it's own, it's time to go commune with nature. No computer, no modem, no blogging! Hell no electricity, Lord knows how we'll all survive. The bears and such willing, we shall be back at our post in time for Monday!

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Alfonso calls in his lawyers!

4.5 million dollars and it will all go away. That’s the figure that Alfonso Gagliano’s lawyers are seeking in damages as they filed motion in court Thursday. Claiming that Prime Minister Paul Martin exceeded his authority when he pulled the plug on Alfonso’s tenure as Ambassador to Denmark, Gagliano’s legal team is seeking 2 million dollars from Martin and the government, as compensation for damage to his reputation. The lawyers are also seeking 2 million dollars in punitive damages and another 529,300 in lost income.

Normally a Prime Minister cannot be sued, but in 1959 the Supreme Court ruled that a Prime Minister can be held accountable should he step over his authority. That is the quirk in the law that the Gagliano team is hanging their hats on.

The timing of the action of course is also a major factor, as the Prime Minister continues his electoral campaigning the Adscam scandal now explodes once again onto the pages and newscasts of the nation. Already Liberal spinmeisters are putting forward the opinion, that this lawsuit only goes to show just how hands on the Prime Minister was in addressing the scandal. And if one counts the number of lawsuits presently facing the government over the Adscam scandal, then we must assume that the Prime Minister was very hands on. Gagliano’s legal action is the fourth in line, over the Adscam issue. On billing hours alone, this scandal is proving to be a money tree for anyone with a bit of legal training.

In his statement of claim, Gagliano explains how he was appointed to be Ambassador to Denmark for four years, and the government had no right to remove him from that position, an interpretation that External Affairs Minister Bill Graham explained a bit differently when Gagliano was fired. For his part, Gagliano says that he did nothing wrong in Denmark, stating that while in Copenhagen he was regularly rewarded for his good work with salary increases and bonuses. That statement should open up a whole new kettle of fish for the opposition parties to fry as the campaign moves along.

Normally it’s said that revenge is a dish best served cold, in this case lukewarm is just as effective. It’s also a dish that is going to leave a bitter aftertaste for a very long time.

The above item appeared in my Boondoggle blog, for more stories and links to governmental issues check it out.

Hyperbole, thine name is Jack!

Well we’re less than a week into this grand exercise of democracy and already the principles are barely on speaking terms. Smilin’ Jack Layton offered up a wonderful tribute to Paul Martin’s reign, when he suggested that Martin is responsible for the deaths of many homeless people in Toronto and across Canada. Now how the Metro Police Homicide missed out on this key suspect is anyone’s guess, but Jack is on the case and it’s now officially closed. Martin is apparently a murderer. Did anybody tell Bono about this, I’m sure he wouldn’t want to hang out with a guy that ranks with Pol Pot and Saddam? And the Liberals thought they wrote the book on mud slinging!

Layton later in the day offered up the ever faithful retort, “nothing personal”, though one wonders just how much more personal you could get when you announce that the Prime Minister of the country is possibly a mass murderer, it’s not exactly a toss aside line by any stretch of the imagination.

The NDP leader, who has been feeling his oats of late, was comparing the funding cuts under Martin as Finance Minister, as directly responsible for the unfortunate demise of Toronto’s homeless and urban poor. At a rally Wednesday night Layton launched his attack with the now well documented words of accusation; "I believe that when Paul cancelled affordable housing across this country it produced a dramatic rise in homelessness and death due to homelessness," Mr. Layton said at a rally Wednesday night. "I've always said I hold him responsible for that."

Needless to say the Martin people are furious at the salvo against the humanity of the Prime Minister and earlier in the day Thursday were calling for an apology from Layton, by the end of the day they said it was too late now. Leaving open now the speculation that some of that negative attack ad money ear marked for the Harper campaign may now find its way towards Jacko’s party.

As for Martin he appeared a tad shocked at the visceral nastiness of the remark and stated that Layton is “condemned by his statements”. He would not answer them back directly, claiming that he preferred to face this election on issues and did not want to sink to that level of acrimony. However, that may not stop the NDP leader.

As Thursday night wound down, Layton was at another public event where he again repeated his belief that the policies of the Liberal party were directly responsible for the nation’s homeless crisis. He even went further by condemning the Ontario and Quebec provincial governments and praising the Parti Quebecois for its more humane approach to the issue. Gilles Duceppe had best watch out, Jack is trolling in his sea.

One assumes that the nasty tone of this campaign is going to get a lot darker before we see any sunny days. By the time we go to the polls at the end of June these guys may resemble cage match veterans with the WWE rather than a debating society for Parliamentarians.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

When the tar doesn't stick!

So far the demonization of Stephen Harper hasn’t taken hold. Try as the Liberals may, the vision of the bogeyman just isn’t leaping off the pages and screens of the nation. In fact, much to the chagrin of Liberal organizers the Conservative leader is coming off as a cool customer, issue driven and hardly ruffled at all from the early blitz by the Liberal ad squad. Harper’s public appearances have featured a comfortable vision, a guy not afraid to be self-deprecating while at the same time offering some definite alternatives to the same old, same old of Ottawa.

As week one of the campaign progresses Harper has scored some serious points in Ontario and the Atlantic provinces, two areas that the Liberals must have success in to secure a majority government. In Ontario he has been helped by the fumbling of the recently elected McGuinty Liberal government, Liberals who campaigned provincially on no new taxes, and promptly raised them upon taking office. While they may argue that the increase is due to the inherited mess of the Harris/Eves era, a promise broken is one that gets marked down. Paul Martin now has that baggage to carry as he promises to fund his programs without a tax increase, the voter is already mumbling.

The other helpful move has come from Jack Layton, who Wednesday revealed a comprehensive platform of ideas in Toronto, which made no bones about taking millions of dollars in taxes to put in place. While your average NDP supporter would never vote for Harper, those that are on the fence may start to wonder just how far Layton may go to raise his funds. As has been seen this week in Ontario, taxes are a hot button issue, all of a sudden Harper is on the right side of the agenda, and it’s all about timing.

Down East he’s also getting a pleasant surprise, his appearances are finding attentive crowds who may have been suspicious of him earlier but now are taking the time to listen, and that's something the Conservatives must feel good about. Harper offered a peace offering to the Atlantic region Wednesday, with his promise to turn over royalties from offshore oil and gas back to the provinces. Reminding the Atlantic voter that at the moment their “friends” the Liberals, claw back that money generated reducing the transfer payments accordingly. From Harper’s point of view Newfoundland and Nova Scotia should be equal to Alberta which does not suffer the same indignity. As Harper put it in terms everyone would rally around, “If the federal government did the same thing to Alberta’s oil revenue, Alberta would be a have not province!”

Suddenly there is a shift here, the Liberals who have been pouring millions of dollars into the East Coast over the years in make work projects and such look a tad greedy. How are they helping the East coast to achieve its goals and aspirations when they’re taking the very money being generated by industry there? It’s not a new story, but in the light of an election campaign it makes a very powerful visual. A much better delivered version of his earlier speeches about how the Atlantic Provinces suffer a culture of defeat, by providing an example as to how they’ve been held back, the voter can begin to ponder what may be to come.

Things are going so well for the Tories down east that John Crosbie is testing the waters for a return to Parliament, suddenly those dire warnings from Joe Clark are appearing to be more personal than pragmatic. Harper has also found allies to the cause in Bernard Lord and Pat Binns, two premiers who have come out and helped share the message. Instead of lynching parties down east Harper is finding that some of the folks are starting to hear his message, a development that will not be good for the oligarchy that the Liberals were hoping to build there.

With all four Atlantic premiers elected as Conservatives, it never was particularly clear to me how everyone expected a Liberal landslide. While economic self interest is always a motivating factor in any election and the Liberals have been kind to say the least, there is obviously a core belief in Conservative policies in the region. Perhaps that is why the Liberals were in such a frantic state to paint the Conservative leader as a far right zealot, hoping to keep the soft Tories for their own voters list.

However, as Harper tours the area and meets the voters face to face without a Liberal filter; his message is going to find some resonance with the population. Unless Harper reveals a dark side and unveils a position paper calling for the abolition of the Atlantic Provinces and a forced expulsion, he may find that there is a need to return more frequently as Election Day nears.

The first few polls have not been kind to the Conservatives, but a few more announcements like the gas royalty one, should give his image and his party’s chances a strong bump. Political pundits Chantal Hebert and Andrew Coyne have both noticed the favourable reception thus far. If the media is reporting on Harper's postitives, then the Liberal approach is off target. And that makes for a situation that will provide some sleepless nights in the Liberal war room.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Pundits unleashed: Tales of the campaign no. 001

There is nothing like an election call to spur the creative juices into action, sending hundreds of words from the cerebral cavity onto paper and into the air. With the Federal leaders traveling the country to shake hands, kiss babies and secure the vote Canada’s journalistic class has fired up the word processors to make sure we have every nuance covered in our date with the democratic process.

Chantal Hebert of the Toronto Star, takes a look at the risky campaign launched by the Martin Liberals and how the high wire act without a net may be more troublesome than they thought back in November.

Thomas Walkom bemoans the lack of any ideas, the bankruptcy of the party leaders to show any vision other than just getting elected for the sake of getting elected. All of the candidates titillate us with the ideas agenda, none actually ever flesh anything out. One believes this is called the “pig in the poke” strategy.

From the Quebec home office comes Miro Cernetig, who examines the winds of Quebec and how the Bloc Quebecois has returned to the theme of independence. A nightmare scenario for the Martinites who thought that this election would present them with a gift of seats and a stake through the heart of the Bloc. Not so says Miro.

As if that's not enough bad news from La Belle Province, Lysiane Gagnon suggests that Quebec really may not need Mr. Martin and his theories on participatory democracy.

Roy MacGregor at the Globe takes stock of the Ontario scenario, one of the key battlegrounds for three of the four leaders, will the McGuinty factor send massive amounts of needed votes over to Harper's Conservatives or Layton's NDP? Or will the animosity of the Harris years provide hope for the Liberals?

John Ibbitson suggests that this election may just be a tune up for a second run before Christmas. Sensing that we don't seem to trust any of the participants, this election may result in the most unstable Parliament in Canadian history!

The Sun chain's Greg Weston prepares us for dirty bombs, as the four main combatants prepare to over use such words as corrupt, extremist agendas, nation wreckers and spend thrifts. Everyone will have an achilles heel and each will be exposed over and over again in the next five weeks. Prepare for the scare agenda, where each side tries to scare the voter onto its roster.

Finally Drew Fagan sees ghosts! How Martin's campaign may resemble the bloodied campaign of 72, when Pierre Trudeau took office in a minority situation. Worse for the Liberals, Fagan harkens back to 1957 and the debut of a fresh voice and new broom swept by John Diefenbaker.

Regardless of your choice of pundit, if you're a Liberal strategist on Tuesday morning the reading is going to have you reaching for the Maalox.

A week of essentials

Finally Podunk has it's main computer up and running (Yee haw), of course as with the great meteorites of the past, the crash did more than its fair share of damage. Many files are lost and we now take on the task of rebuilding our library of links, faves and general browsing sites. But work must carry on, so once again for those that may have missed a day or two we bring you the week of essentials (less one day, for having suffered a monumental brain cramp, we republished without saving the five links for a day, doh!!) enjoy.

May 16 More Anarchy in the streets of Baghdad
May 16 Indian stock market in free fall
May 16 Gordo Campbell's tumbling numbers
May 16 Over involvement of the PMO
May 16 Why was the camera shifted on Colin Powell
May 17 OOPS Where did our links go! Too quick to republish, a day of essentials lost
May 18 If elected she will not serve
May 18 Spammer does time
May 18 The Legacy of chaos
May 18 Right wingers running off the rails
May 18 Making nice with your dandelions
May 19 Gordon Campbell's downward spiral
May 19 Buzz and Bob, one last time
May 19 A disproportiante response
May 19 Losing the Okee from Muskogee
May 19 And that's not a good thing
May 20 Can't tell the players without a program
May 20 Suddenly a Big Mac isn't a necessity
May 20 It's money, that's what we want
May 20 Air Canada lives to fly another day
May 20 Java Junkies pay the price
May 21 When Perjury can be a good thing
May 21 If nominated he'll just wait for a cheque
May 21 Don't call us, we'll call you
May 21 The hidden meanings in teen fashion
May 21 Clogging up your mail server
May 22 Michael Moore basks in the Glory of Cannes
May 22 Take two aspirin and vote for me in the morning
May 22 His Lordship expresses regret
May 22 Halliburton hauls "sailboat" fuel across the desert
May 22 Symbolism 101- Bush tumbles off bike

Sunday, May 23, 2004

And away we go!

Finally and mercifully, we have seen the launch of the 2004 election campaign, after weeks of false starts, failing poll numbers and apparent dithering by the Liberal party, the plunge has been taken. June 28th the Canadian public will be tasked with either putting the seal of approval on the new Liberal leader Paul Martin, or turning over the keys to that young whippersnapper from the West, Stephen Harper. Jack Layton will also get the chance to make his bones in a campaign as he leads his NDP believers into the fray for the first time. The only sure bet for Canadians is that Gilles Duceppe will not be the Prime Minister on June 29th.

Martin made the short walk from 24 Sussex to the Governor General's residence with his wife Sheila by his side and a phalanx of reporters, camera men and party apparatchiks along for the stroll. After advising Ms. Clarkson that he would appreciate her dissolving Parliament, Martin launched his campaign to return as Prime Minister the choice of Canadians and not just the Liberal party. Looking into the collection of cameras Martin smiled and said: "Five months ago, our new government took office, in the short time since then, we have accomplished much while confronting head-on some very difficult issues. ...I'm proud of our record. But I want to do much more."

And with that we’re all off to the races. Touching on the usual themes of Liberalism such as health care, social justice and prosperity for all, Martin used his debut to try and paint a picture of his party as the champion for Canada, going unspoken the assumption that the Conservatives will take us all to the dark side and lead us to ruin. At least that’s the message we’ve been receiving in the last couple of weeks as the pre-election rhetoric got ramped up for today’s opening salvo.

While Martin was stepping out on the grounds of Rideau Hall for his declaration, Stephen Harper held court in the press room of the National Press building. He used his opening day appearance to counter some of the spin from the Liberal party of the last little while. To Harper went the best line of the day, when he declared “in this country, you can be Canadian without being a Liberal” alluding to the campaign material that the Liberals have used in the past, equating all good in Canada comes from Liberal minds. If anything sticks in the craw of the opposition parties, it’s the quasi arrogant nature of the Liberal platform that tends to suggest that only Liberals make for good Canadians.

Having found his persona demonized to a degree the last few weeks Harper tended to focus on the past behavior of the Liberals under Jean Chr├ętien, with Paul Martin along for the ride all the way. His portrait of a party steeped in scandal will find a core group of believers; the key is if he can keep that particular chestnut in the fire for the next five weeks. With governmental monies washing ashore in ridings across the country, voters may find that securing their future under the current regime is a better play than punishing the deeds of the previous one. Then again, they may wish to send a message of distaste of the nature of the game of late and park their votes with an opposition party, Harper is hoping that the disappointed and disaffected will choose his Conservative brand.

Over in Toronto, the Jack Layton led NDP, head into the election on a high not seen since the heady days of Ed Broadbent and David Lewis. An increasingly polarized electorate finds resonance with many of the proclamations of the socialist group, though it’s to be determined if that translates into any significant increase in seats and influence for the NDP. Layton who has been a thorn in the side of the Martin people for over five months now will finally learn if his catchy phrases, cyber stalking and rhetorical splendor will attract new recruits to the good fight.

Steeped heavily in environmental concerns, educational issues and of course the always dominant health care debate, the trick will be to show fiscal responsibility can go hand in hand with needed services. The one point the Liberals will continue to hit the NDP on is a proclivity to being a tad loose with the national purse, mind you the examples of late from the Liberal ministers wouldn’t give many Canadians a feeling that the Liberals have any better idea as how to control finances.

Quebec will prove to be a pivotal battleground with it's treasure trove of seats, few of which will go Conservative, but many may not go Liberal. Quebec's feisty population may wish to give Mr. Martin a message as well. Standing to benefit is Gilles Duceppe the leader of Quebec’s Bloc Quebecois, he has been handed a life line by the scandalous revelations involving the Adscam situation. Having spent most of the last five months hammering away at the perception of Liberal corruption in the highest places, the Bloc now find themselves portrayed as the honest politicos of Quebec. A nice little bit of duplicity from a party that seems to want to take Quebec out of Canada, but only if they can collect their fully indexed Parliamentary pensions. Regardless they have found a receptive audience in Quebec, if only in a population secure in the knowledge that by returning Bloc MP’s to Parliament their concerns will once again find high priority in any government minority or majority.

And there is the real story of this election, just what make up will we have on the 29th of June. The concept of a majority government, long thought of as a sure bet after the November Liberal convention now seems somehow distant. It is still attainable but slipping away day by day. Instead, the pundits advise we’re now officially in minority government territory, most likely one lead by Paul Martin who presently holds an 8% lead over Stephen Harper. Of course that could all change overnight with a slip or two from the principles, a mistimed comment or party platform that sticks out glaringly as going down the wrong path and all could spin the other way.

The next five weeks will see promises, debates, dirty tricks and old fashioned riding politics played out from sea to sea to sea. And yet after five weeks of door knocking, verbal jousting and media saturation it will all come down to a simple X on a ballot. With that we shall pass judgment on the past and set a course for the future. All that’s left to learn is who is the Captain and will the crew be large or small. Let the fur fly, for the first time in a long, long time we may actually have a real race on our hands, democracy is always stronger when there’s a true choice to be made.

Bravely off to face the voters?

They had best keep the newspapers away from Paul Martin as he makes the drive to Government house and his 1 pm EST, 10 AM PST visit with Governor General Adrienne Clarkson. Martin is expected to seek his own mandate in late June with an election campaign to be called for on Sunday afternoon.

With polling results indicating a slow slide for the Liberal party of late Martin still apparently believes that the time is right to go to the polls. Pundits are waffling between whether he faces a minority government, or whether the old ways of election will prove to provide a bountiful harvest on June 28th.

Don't count on a number of journalists to act as boosters for the election call, as Martin is finding a cool reception on the editorial and news pages of many Canadian dailies. Jeffrey Simpson of the Globe advises us to hold our noses for this one, he's joined by Margaret Wente who tackles Paul Martin's continual waffling on issues in her Mr. Dithers goes to the people, a scathing indictment of the Martin team and its inability to make a decision. Over at the Toronto Star Chatal Hebert suggests that there's trouble in New France for Old Paul, he should keep in mind that absence may make the hear grow fonder. Richard Gwyn takes the path of what really matters,calling this election more ritual than an effective mechanism of government. Rick Anderson points out that the unexpected should be expected in the upcoming campaign.

Greg Weston looks back over Martin's 162 days and says that uncertainty will rule this election campaign, his counterpart Douglas Fisher writes on how the words of the politicians will come back to haunt them.

Pundits across the country are sharpening their pencils, the buses are revving their engines and the leaders are getting ready to take to the road. Whether we want it or not, whether it's even needed at the moment, we're off to the polls, our long march to June 28th and our chance to pass judgement on our elected officials. Thin skinned politicians should stay indoors, the press, the public and the party officials will be watching this campaign closely, ready to pounce on the slightest miscue. Victory will have many fathers, defeat will truly be an orphan!

Saturday, May 22, 2004

The Numbers that are there and those that are not!

We most likely are on the eve of an election call, but this is unlike any other election call in recent history. Normally the government of the day goes to the polls fully convinced that they are the flavour of the day, they print the signs, nominate the candidates and purchase their advertising time. The campaign unfolds and providing no major scandal unfolds as they knock on the doors, they generally get elected. If they don’t think they’ll be elected, they wait as long as humanly possible before suffering the wrath of the voter.

The government of Paul Martin has been following the script fairly closely, we’ve seen a number of multi million dollar programs announced in those ridings where they might need a nudge. A 30 million dollar Health centre for Winnipeg, 280 million to clean up the tar ponds of Sydney and rejuvenate Halifax harbour, funding for subways in the larger cities, 262 million for highways in Quebec, 35 million in joint financing for a new stadium for Toronto, redeveloping the waterfront in that same city to the tune of 125 million, the flow of dollars continues as though the faucet is jammed full open. Its the grand old days of open vault politics.

Yet despite this orgy of spending, the pollsters seem perplexed, the governing party cannot pull its magic number above the 40% range and that has the back bench and newly minted nominees just a little bit worried.

The Compas poll of Friday is the latest in bad tea leaves for the governing Liberals, it has the Paul Martin team at only 39% of the dedicated vote, and the Conservatives hold 31%, the NDP 17% and the Bloc Quebecois 11%. The Ipsos-Reid poll of Friday suggests even worse numbers with the Liberals at only 35%. Not much return for the Liberal investment thus far.

The new team in the PMO must be puzzled; they believed that they had done all the right things. High profile candidates parachuted into key ridings across the country, how dare these local riding associations question their wisdom. Surely they can’t argue that Ujjal Dosanjh, would not make a fine Liberal, despite his flirtation with socialism in the nineties could he not find the light. This hand picked cast assembled such as: David Emerson, Glen Murray, Ken Dryden and Dave Haggard all would make fine Liberals if only the people will give them a chance. Many other ridings have been chosen to help get the right kind of people into office, how ungrateful of them to not realize that the local riding people don’t know what’s best for their own ridings. The Democratic deficit, which was to be addressed by this government, seems to grow larger rather than being reduced. If appointing nominees as though by fiat is promoting Democracy then we all need refresher courses, the people are not so much as speaking out as being spoken too, and in harsh tones at that.

As Martin’s decision day dawns, the grand plan seems somehow a little tarnished. The great vision of the October convention long since fading from view, the flowery rhetoric the grand dreams of that impressive convention speech somehow no longer there for us to consider. Instead we see the arrogance of the Liberals of old, the same old values that may have carried them to victory in the past, but seemed somewhat unseemly back with a vengeance. The all inclusive vision expressed to the gathered faithful that October night, a party that called on the lessons of Pearson, Trudeau, Turner and even Chretien now a muddled collection of bromides. Perhaps what the Liberals need right now is little more Bono! His speech lifted Liberals and Canadians to look to higher pursuits, above the partisan politics and backroom deals. He urged us to help save the world, not our bacon.

Even the moves designed to suggest a change in business have not worked out according to plan. The Adscam scandal with its follow up hearing only shocked and dismayed the average Canadian. It confirmed for one and all, that accountability is apparently a lost cause in the Ottawa power corridors. The shutting down of the committee after conveniently finding a couple of guys to hang the can onto only gives Canadians cause to wonder just how bad that scandal could be. Such was the haste to wrap it up and head to an election. It leaves on to wonder if things are only going to get worse under a judicial review scheduled to start in September. The perception of a rotten core group is a hard one to counter, it may not have been his government at the time, but Martin found himself at the helm when the storm hit, revelation after revelation chipping away at his accumulated goodwill. A godsend for the opposition Conservatives, who just sat back and grilled the witnesses, expressing shock with each memo unearthed. For a group that made patronage a way of life in the eighties, to be able to take the high moral ground must have been like winning a lottery.

So rattled have the Conservatives made the Martinites that even before a campaign is launched they have rushed out attack ads, demonizing the Harper forces. Urging us to look into the record for hidden agendas, suggesting that to place Harper into power is akin to sacrificing all we hold dear. So far the tactic seems to be stumbling, 8% separates Martin from Harper, hardly the margin one would expect when battling between evil and good.

When Paul Martin took over the party there was a sense of expectation in the public, long had we heard that he had plans, visions and grand ideals in place to reclaim our place in the world’s imagination. Somewhere along the way they all got shelved, meddled with or in some cases discarded completely. Instead we are left with a tired government, dressed up in new clothing with a few new faces to suggest change. But as the numbers come in the reviews aren’t kind, a majority government seems unlikely at the moment, a minority Liberal one the likely outcome. Not necessarily a bad thing for Canada, but certainly not at all what the Martin people had anticipated when they took to the stage in October.

Sunday a decision beckons, the time for posturing will come to an end. Ideas, vision and solid planning once the hallmark of Paul Martin will need to be re-introduced. If Canadians don’t feel that they truly count on the Martin agenda, they may just turn the keys to 24 Sussex over to the Harper family. A situation that would make Paul Martin’s plan to remake the Liberal Party suffer a serious if not fatal setback. A lot rides on his call; let’s hope the gravity of the day doesn’t result in any more waffling. The longer they wait now, the angrier the populace will get, replacing dithering with determination may be the only strategy left to salvage a successful result.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Argonauts closer to a new boat house

After a few false starts, a change of partners and rumours of venue changes the Toronto Argonauts finally can look forward to a new home for the 2006 football season. The University of Toronto announced Friday that they plan on building a 25,000 seat stadium on the site of the former Varsity stadium. The combination football/soccer stadium will be shared by the Argos and the Canadian Soccer Association. The soccer folks will use the stadium for international games which until now basically went to Edmonton by default; the new stadium gives the national team another venue in Canada to attract better opposition which should help to make them a better team over the long haul.

The new Varsity will cost 80 million to construct, with the University providing 30 million, private donors 15 million and the various levels of government the remaining 35 million. The revised financing program was put together after Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment pulled out of the project earlier this year.

For the Argos it’s the culmination of a long held desire to return to a smaller more user and fan friendly location. The Argos will provide the annual debt servicing of 2 .1 million dollars, on the U of T’s loan of 30 million. For their contribution the Argos get to use the stadium for home games and operate it for other activities.

The Argos who last year were on life support, have had a remarkable change of attitude since they were sold. The stadium issue just another piece of the puzzle solved for what the league considers its key franchise.

As with any government dependant program this one comes with strings attached, so perhaps they should put the champagne on ice at the Argo offices for a bit yet. The governmental share of 35 million is conditional; the federal money will only be produced should the CSA win the rights to the Under 20 world championships. If the soccer folks don’t come through then the funding is gone.

The Argos aren’t major financial partners in the project, so they can only look on and hope for the best. No doubt benefitting from the spreading of money prior to a federal election, the Argos are finding that they are at the right place at the right time. They can now only sit back and hope that the soccer lobbyists are up to the job on the world stage. They also won’t want to pick up any double blue paint for the dressing rooms until there are a few shovels in the ground, with this project you’re never really sure if it’s going to happen. A hole in the ground might give everyone a bit more security.

The above posting also appears in my TwelveMenontheField blog, for more items and links about Canadian football check it out.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Gordon Campbell's election countdown

Perhaps when he set forward the legislation for a fixed date for elections, things were rosier for Gordon Campbell. He had completely annihilated the ruling NDP party, finding 76 fellow converts to the cause beside him, against two lonely lamp holders for socialism. His agenda for change while not overwhelmingly accepted had at least been considered by many voters, as possibly a necessary change of direction from the recent ministrations of the Clark and Harcourt years.

But as the weeks, turned to months, into years his solid grip on the seat count seems to have loosened significantly. In one year less a day, BC will go to the polls and if things then are as they are today then Gordon Campbell may very well suffer a horrendous reversal of fortune. A situation which would surely cost him his leadership and take a number of high profile Liberals out with the tide.

It seems hard to believe that less than four short years after the resounding repudiation of the Clark agenda, that the NDP might very well form a minority or even possibly a majority government but it is so. The Liberal backlash is so vociferous that it can’t be ignored or dismissed as just governmental weariness. Signs of a revitalized Labour movement regaining its footing ready to do battle, a never ending health care crisis, the scent of scandal and improper behaviour in Victoria and a horrible economic performance outside of the Lower Mainland have the makings for a long, long night in 364 days.

Carole James the leader of the provincial NDP, has yet to make a policy statement of substance for her party. She has shared little in the way of her plans for the province and has such a low profile that you could sit beside her on Skytrain and not have a clue who she was. Yet a recent poll shows that BC residents are more than willing to give her and the NDP another chance to govern, an amazing reversal of fortune by any stretch of the imagination.

Perhaps it’s just the inevitable correction of a heavily lopsided vote tally of three years ago; surely no one expected the Liberals would hold all 76 seats as their own after four years of governance. But then no one would certainly anticipate the complete collapse of the Liberal vote, a collapse that many feel could come to pass should the Liberals continue along their self destructive path. And which may land at the feet of the Premier who continues to trend downward in monthly polls.

Maybe the uncertainty over Campbell’s stewardship is just the usual volatile swing in BC politics, a place where rational thought sometimes seems to get put aside with the snowboards, golf clubs and Kokanee beer.

There of course is still much time between now and our date with destiny, the Liberals of course control the finances and can manufacture a good news budget much along the lines of their federal namesakes. Spreading good cheer to every corner of the province before we reach May 17, 2005. Should they continue to lag behind the NDP in some key ridings and wallow in the low polls throughout the province, don’t be surprised to see your MLA with cheques in hand and a must do project underway soon.

Stirling Faux ran an unscientific poll on his radio program Monday on CKNW. And the PR serfs at Campbell central couldn’t help but hear the frustration and in many cases anger at their man. You can listen in to the bewildered voter by checking out the audio vault between 12:30 and 1:30 on CKNW. While many callers expressed concern at the idea of returning the NDP to the money tree, they feel that the Liberal government is too out of touch with its populace and too arrogant at the moment to do an adequate job. Those that couldn’t fathom voting NDP ever again, said they would park their vote with the Unity Party and Chris Delaney, a man who leads a party with even less cache with the populace than the NDP. For the Greens and Adriane Carr, the news is not good either, their heady days of possibly usurping the NDP vote now a distant memory, those who may have chosen to rent their vote there have exercised their right to return it to the NDP, only the hard core environmentalists seem willing to stay with the Greens as the months countdown to election day.

364 days to turn it around, the Liberals must begin the process now, for like a huge ship in the ocean coming to shore, momentum can carry it quite a ways, without some nudging now the probability of docking safely in 2005 gets less and less. What remains to be seen is whether Captain Campbell is still at the helm when they enter the harbour. He’ll either be Commander and Master of his fleet, or relieved of his duties. Any more freefalls in polling and mutiny will not be too far off the political radar, all of a sudden 364 days doesn’t seem so far away.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Trouble called TROY

TROY! It’s the block buster release thus far of the soon to be summer movie season and if you like your entertaining headlines, then this is the movie for you. A Google search for reviews of Troy, bring out some wonderfully crafted wordplays, to describe just how this movie is being received by the reviewers. Though to be fair to producer Wolfgang Petersen, the negative tones of some reviews don’t seem to be holding back the hordes from the doors of the cineplexes.

We are treated to such dramatic advisories as “Wooden Horse, Wooden acting, wouldn’t’ bother if I were you”, which hasn’t swayed the opening weekend take. Nor has the witty blurb with a google slug of As empty as the horse, “send forth a boring film to Hades” deterred folks from wandering up to the theatre to see what it is all about. Then there’s “A Graceless Greek Travesty”, I’m sure you’ll be seeing that in those newspaper ads very shortly. “Pompous, Bland and Instantly forgettable”, now that’s a review that should keep the financiers up late at night. Perhaps Simpson’s fans were fooled into attending thinking that Homer had made the big screen, when they read the review for Homer? D’oh!! Troy and Troy again advised the reader that this epic piece wowed them at Cannes, so perhaps we just want to be part of the in crowd.

Then there is the Brad factor, Brad Pitt’s participation in the recreation of the days of Troy has certainly brought out the beef in beefcake. A whole subsection of searches can find many quaint descriptions of Brad’s efforts in the drive for authenticity. "Troy Boy Brad shows his pits", would certainly appeal to a segment of the population that may have missed the Iliad in high school. In the same vein "Hollywood’s Troy Boy", celebrates all that Brad could bring to the role of Achilles, described as his greatest gamble yet in his career. You will get the drift of the movie by checking out “Troy rolls out the horse, hunks…,” which describes the prettification of Bradley.

Of course there are those that find the hidden social messages in our films and Troy is no exception. The Guardian draws parallels between the epic battles of Troy and current events in the Middle East, all drawn together nicely in apiece entitled “Troy stars speak out at the futility of War” In the “Man behind Troy” Wolfgang Petersen is described as a man that is still anti war, describing Troy to be in a similar vein as his breakthrough film Das Boot. Ian Brown of the Globe and Mail managed to draw some comparisons between the epic expanses of Troy to the ongoing nightmares in Iraq, his Lessons from Troy was an interesting exercise in connecting the dots. However, comparing Donald Rumsfeld to Achilles? Sorry one suspects that if it comes to someone taking a shirt off, Brad trumped Rummy every time.

Regardless of the scathing indictments, the venomous pens and any acerbic outbursts, it would seem that the first weekend went well, 45.6 million in ticket receipts were brought in with the first wave of moviegoers. Short of the 50 million mark that usually announces a passing grade for Hollywood, but respectable. With a large number of other blockbusters to come shortly, it may be a nervous accountant that tries to balance the 200 million dollar cost of the movie, to the accounts receivable ledger. Studio execs will want to battle the impression offered up by the Scotland on Sunday, which proclaimed, "Achilles heel is all too obvious in Trojan blockbuster". The studio PR department had better get some more mug shots of Brad’s transformation into a boy warrior with little clothing, which may help in the effort to keep the audience interested until that now vital DVD release date comes up.

Then again you may wish to just surf the net, Google has ten pages and counting of reviews and mockery, even the odd recommendation. Cartoonish Joke of a Film, Guts Glory but No heart, Travesty in a Breastplate Big Fat Greek War!They're all worth a look, good fun for hours and hours, and sleepless nights, night after night for Studio Execs

Sunday, May 16, 2004

A week of essentials

Well our computer travails continue unabated but we muddle our way through to posting status, slowly the computer processes, frustratingly the machine seems to pick and choose when it will allow something to move along. But to the grindstone we stay, and here for your consideration our weeks worth of essentials..

May 9 More Photos, More Scandal
May 9 Chechen Rebels send Putin a message
May 9 The secret world of Health Canada
May 9 Computer glitch keeps Air Canada grounded
May 9 Things are noisy in Margarittaville
May 10 Bush options: Grim and Grimmer
May 10 It could just be a cold!
May 10 Opec offers no glimmer of hope
May 10 Ralphie recounts his college days
May 10 Kerry takes a shot across the bow
May 11 The evil that reigns in Iraq
May 11 Conservatives rag the Adscam puck
May 11 Avian flu closes BC school
May 11 A promise to Bono kept
May 11 Springtime on the flatlands
May 12 Bush in dangerous territory
May 12 Bono's back in town
May 12 Just following orders
May 12 Is the downloading ride coming to an end?
May 12 Father's Day just won't be the same
May 13 Return of a dynasty
May 13 Clock nears midnight for Air Canada
May 13 Ralphie's Less than honest effort
May 13 Only nutcases want to be president
May 13 Nova Scotia fights back against high gas prices
May 14 Nobody's baby and her MacArthur moment
May 14 Don't send your daughters to Islam
May 14 No Big Macs on the Layton bus
May 14 Fighting Cancer with a video game
May 14 The Ultimate scratch and dent sale
May 15 Is Canada on Al Qaeda's hit list?
May 15 A smoking gun on Donald Rumsfeld
May 15 A people's protest
May 15 John Kerry's dream ticket
May 15 Putting the term pursuit into a pursuit car

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Sheila Bows out noisily

It wasn’t quite MacArthur addressing the Philippines with a promise to return, but Sheila Copps “bid adieu” to Parliament Friday, bringing for now an end to a political career steeped in controversy and celebration.

The Hamilton East MP who was defeated in a bitter riding battle with fellow Liberal Tony Valeri announced she would not be running in the upcoming election in any capacity, putting to rest that she planned on being a thorn in the side of both Valeri and Paul Martin by running as an Independent.

Her teary eyed farewell speech brought back memories of battles fought over the years as the MP for Hamilton East, her days as an opposition Rat Pack member and her various cabinet positions with Jean Chretien. She said she “turns the page at peace – at peace that we’ve built a stronger Canada”. An interesting turn of phrase for while she may be turning the page at peace, she’s certainly going out with all guns blazing.

Her loss to Valeri gave her cause to question where Paul Martin was taking the Liberal party that she grew up in. She questioned the legality of her defeat, suggested some malfeasance in the back rooms and kept the nasty infighting on the front pages far longer than Martin most likely would have liked.

At one point she even flirted with the idea of crossing the floor and joining Jack Layton’s NDP collective, though it’s not really known if that prospect every would have flown. Many NDP followers expressed less than welcoming words at the prospect of a high flying ex-Liberal cabinet minister truly being able to understand the struggles of the average Joe.

As she leaves the halls of Parliament she delivered a sorrowful look at how her party has changed since the Martin forces took charge. Her final day a litany of warnings to the Prime Minister, that his intervention in local riding nominating races is sewing the seeds of failure on Election Day.

She went on to blast the Prime Minister on his handling of the party affairs thus far in his tenure, in a thinly veiled attack she suggested that she wasn’t retiring, rather she was “done in”. She also seemed to hint that not only she, but other high profile Liberal retirees may not be too far from the Hill, should the current Prime Minister not survive the upcoming election. Not the tone of someone who might be willing to help her old party continue on as the national governing party.

Her comments certainly show the state of division in the Liberal party today as Martin prepares to launch his election campaign. His candidates will not be able to count on a large group of normally battle ready Liberal operatives, many of whom are planning on sitting this campaign out in support of their fallen comrades. Or so the muted tones of most of the recently departed would suggest.

As for Sheila, “never, say never” was her final? curtain call. Should Martin not deliver his vote, we’ll no doubt be hearing from the former MP from Hamilton East quickly and loudly right after. She’s made it perfectly clear now that she’s not a Paul Martin devotee. She sits out the current debate until after the anticipated election. Vilification or vindication, the eventual state of her legacy is up for grabs. Whichever way things go for Martin, we suspect she’s only out of the spotlight temporarily. For Sheila going away quietly is just not going to be an option, it never has been and apparently never will be.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Hammer Time?

Depending on which news clip you viewed, the end of the parliamentary inquiry into the advertising irregularities scandal was either a natural course of action or a complete hijacking of the democratic process. There’s no happy middle ground to land on after Paul Martin pulled the plug on Tuesday on the adscam hearings. No more will Newsworld feature gavel to gavel coverage of our earnest looking parliamentarians searching for the smoking gun. Riveting tales of those hidden worker projects that would make a Mafia kingpin blush in their brazenness, now destined to go unexplained until the next set of hearings in September with Justice Gomery.

Over thirty witnesses have come and gone, former participants going from speaker to suspect with arrests earlier this week. The RCMP providing the needed visual moment with Chuck Guite and Jean Brault doing their best COPS perp walk for the cameras, as they were led handcuffed to their date with a judge. A convenient bit of theatre that for the Liberals seemed to provide the natural ending point for a hearing process that seemed to drag on with little in the way of explanation coming forth. Let the legal system decide if the two are guilty or innocent, for now Guite and Brault provide a wonderful exclamation point for the meandering committee.

A last gasp motion by Conservative MP Jason Kenny to allow the hearings to continue, is destined to be defeated later on Thursday, as the House of Commons begins it’s Spring clean up mode. There’s an election soon to be called, other issues for Canadians to consider, these hearings are destined to be forgotten, like many commissions of inquiry before it. Eventually someone will publish the minutes, conclusions will be provided and the weighty tome will sit in public libraries across Canada gathering dust. It’s the nature of the Canadian way, we examine, we publish, we forget.

With a final press conference Kenny, Bloc MP Michel Guimond and NDP MP Pat Martin gathered together to exclaim Cover UP! The opposition group claiming that the Prime Minister was never really serious about getting to the bottom of the scandal, merely in going through the motions. For them it’s the last chance to get some face time in the media eye, once the writ is dropped they’ll fade from our view, and if the voters find fault in their work at home they’ll fade from Parliament as well.

The Liberals no longer wishing to do battle with their own, have chosen to bring this mess to an end. The Gomery hearings and the Guite/Brault court cases now off in some distant and safe time, long after the expected June 28th election date. For Prime Minister Martin the roll of the dice (to borrow from Brian Mulroney) is probably worth the gamble, if he wins the next election with a majority he can choose to revisit the fight, if he loses it will be a moot point, the Conservatives will no doubt bring forth an investigation to make the McCarthy hearings look to be a PTA meeting.

The required verdict is now needed from the jury; the Canadian public will soon get its chance to weigh in on the handling of this scandal. If they feel it has been properly moved forward then it will be a check mark in favour of the Martin Liberals, if they too believe it’s all been a smokescreen, then some lucky opposition party is closer to wooing a voter. Then again that age old Canadian tradition of holding one’s nose when they vote may come into play.

Which way will the wind blow? We’ll have a better idea as the date of decision is first announced and then draws closer. After all of the talk, the accusations and the days and days of testimony it’s back to us. Are we sufficiently outraged to take out our frustrations on our MP’s? By the end of June we’ll find out.

The above posting first appeared in my Boondoggle blog, for more postings and links about the government check it out.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

We've been haaaaad!

Turns out the Governator was an impersonator. A story that quickly made the rounds today (including right here on the HockeyNation) had Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Premier Ralph Klein making one of those political bets, without any need for physical effort at the behest of Klein.

The story had it that the Gov and Premier had agreed to give 1,000 dollars to the charity of the winners choice upon completion of the best of seven series. Klein had even gone so far as to identify the Special Olympics as his charity of choice, one probably that would have met with the approval of Schwarzenegger had he won or even existed as it turns out.

The radio crew at the Bear in Edmonton came clean this afternoon, admitting that they had created and pulled off the hoax, the second time that the station has used a Schwarzenegger connection to pull of a hoax. They pretended to be Jean Chretien last year when they phoned the Governor elect to offer best wishes on his new job. Schwarzenegger chatted for a few minutes before realizing that he'd been had and hung up. Ralph lasted much longer and apparently never knew that he'd been had. Which may be bad news for the folks at the Bear, the Premier is a guy that probably can carry a grudge for a while, the Bear should be thankful that radio is controlled federally in Canada, but one guesses there won't be a lot of Alberta government ads on the air for a while.

Feeling contrite they have cut a cheque for the Special Olympics. Maybe in the spirit of good humour and good sportsmanship the Premier and the Governor might even match the funds.

The above entry first appeared in my HockeyNation blog, for more items and links about hockey check it out.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

They'll be baaachk

One can imagine a cigar chomping Arnie issuing his Knute Rockne speech to Ralphie yesterday, as the two leaders got together on the phone to talk a little puck.

California Governor Schwarzenegger challenged Alberta Premier Ralph Klein to a friendly wager as the Sharks and Flames prepared to take to the ice in game two of their best of seven series.

Despite already being behind the 8 ball by one game, the Governator stood by his lads, advising Klein to be ready to forward a cheque for 1,000 dollars for the charity of Arnolds choice. Klein not to be intimidated suggested that the Special Olympics may soon get a surprise donation from a Southern benefactor.

The two leaders chatted for five minutes about the Sharks and Flames and a few other items before they got down to the heart of the wagering. For Klein the monetary wager is just about right, he had earlier mentioned that he wasn't against a friendly wager as long as the net result did not involve physical activity.

A wise decision considering the hmm, shall we respectfully say, difference in exercise regimens the two leaders seem to follow.

The above item first appeared on my HockeyNation blogsite, for other items and links about Hockey check it out.

Enter the Horsemen to the Adscam portfolio

Twelve charges of fraud, that's the tally thus far as the RCMP wade into the Adscam scandal, this time in an investigative capacity, not to be confused with their former participatory capacity in the Capital's latest financial scandal.

Former Bureaucrat Chuck Guite faces six charges of fraud, while Groupaction president Jean Brault also faces six charges of fraud, over alleged offences between 1996 and 1999. If convicted of all six charges each could face over 60 years in jail. The allegations of the RCMP are that Mr. Guite awarded five fake or inflated invoices to Mr. Brault for about two million dollars.

Three charges revolve around reports that were billed at 1.6 million dollars but were only worth approximately 460,000 dollars in value to the government.

Another two charges are related to two contracts worth a total of 480,000 dollars invoicing work supposedly done on the Federal Gun Registry program; in the opinion of the RCMP no value was provided on that file.

The final charge of fraud is an allegation that Mr. Guite and Mr. Brault conspired to award a 330,000 dollar contract to Groupaction.

Both men entered pleas of Not Guilty and await a trial date and a chance to explain their side of the story in a legal environment. Having been roasted in a public forum one wonders exactly where they may possibly find an unbiased jury pool for this most heralded of scandals.

The legal maneuvering coincided with some parliamentary moves today as the Liberals began to put in play motions to bring to an end the parliamentary committee exploring the Adscam scandal. The plan is to stop hearing from any further witnesses, draft an interim report and get on with an election, as the Adscam scandal sits on a back burner until the Judicial Inquiry of Judge Gomery in September. The good judge taking some time to collect the staples, paper clips, pens and photo copy paper required for a fine traditional Canadian inquiry. Having previously stated that his sessions are not designed to assign guilt or point fingers, the legal happenings today should not impact on his deliberations, except of course in the area of availability, should his two key witnesses Mr. Guite and Mr. Brault suddenly find themselves occupied with more pressing personal matters, like trying to stay out of jail!

Needless to say the Opposition is up in arms over the move to end the parliamentary inquiry, claiming that with over 90 witnesses to be heard there may be more legs to this story than the Liberals might like. Not to mention an end to those nightly news clips of Tories waving accusatory fingers at their Liberal counterparts. Conservative MP Jason Kenny used Question Period to ask some questions and suggest ulterior motives for the sudden end to the rambling inquiry. No Liberals took the bait, claiming it was the intention all along to issue an interim report so as to keep Canadians fully informed.

Canadians of course have probably nodded off over the last month or so as the two sides traded accusations, charges of stonewalling and of interference. The last month of the parliamentary committee meetings the equivalent of ancient water torture as slowly snippets of information would come out, only to be rebuffed by one side or another. The legal happenings and the political posturing suddenly breathes a bit of life into the tired old scandal. Of special interest will be the charges revolving around the Federal Gun Registry, which should make the Liberals feel just a little bit uncomfortable. Regardless, we are surely nowehre near the end of this yet, the truth somehow a far off option not likely to be achieved any time soon.

Now with two names put into the legal gazette we can all refocus our attention. With Guite and Brault charged and awaiting the wheels of justice we're left to wonder are they scallywags or scapegoats, better yet will we know before an election or far off in the future when their names will become the vernacular of the what ever happened to columns.

Time will tell for them, it will be interesting to wait and see how many other names get added to the list of miscreants before this saga reaches some kind of eventual end.

The above posting first appeared in my Boondoggle blog, for more items and links about Government matters check it out.

Monday, May 10, 2004

The week of essentials

What's that old saying a day late and a dollar short? That's how I feel about this edition of the week of essentials recap. By now faithful readers of Podunk know I'm battling my two computers in a death match of wits, with the computers winning at the moment. We had a melt down of a hard drive which had an awful lot of my blogging material archived on, (yes I know the wisdom of having a back up, no I'm not a wise man). So the first day of last weeks essentials is stuck on a drive that may or may not one day give up its treasure. I'm still battling with the new hard drive to properly install a working program of Windows XP, having gone back to windows 98 temporarily I'm at the mercy of a computer that doesn't always like my suggestions.

With that little preamble done, I have been trying to keep my blogs alive to a fashion on our old faithful ancient puter pulled back into active duty, but like any old soldier recalled to battle it's a tad slower and a little persnickety. I have a mouse that has a mind of its own, an internet connection that is to say the least unreliable and a level of frustration rising with the high tides. However, we slog and blog on, here is a truncated entry for the week past of our finest links. Hopefully in the not to distant future my comfort level on the supposedly spanking new and efficient machine will return. Till then, we blog, we grumble we carry on.

May 4 Losing the Hearts and Minds
May 4 Bombs a blasting in the Olymic city
May 4 Mouse roars at Moore
May 4 Battlin' Reg challenges Pugnacious Pete
May 4 Colin Powell: Casualty of War
May 5 Dalai Lama road show comes to an end
May 5 Medals the least of our concerns in Athens
May 5 The Media discovers a story
May 5 Michael Moore rebuts the Mouse
May 5 Carb Front: the cola wars break out again
May 6 Rumsfeld's not for firing
May 6 Don't come around here no more
May 6 Bin Laden's golden bounty
May 6 Adscam review to carry on until 2005
May 6 Canada is still a target
May 7 Rumsfeld apologizes: warns worst is yet to come
May 7 Lord Black's racket
May 7 Membership has its prviliges
May 7 Late, Late, Late, or Early, Early, Early, show
May 7 BC Leads the way in gas price increases
May 8 Portuguese Fleet in deep
May 8 No wonder they want our cod!
May 8 It's a slow moving read
May 8 Standing up for Rumsfeld
May 8 Nectar of the Gods dwindles

Friday, May 07, 2004

Here comes de Judge

With the partisan politicians working their magic on the witnesses, media and the one or two folks still watching on TV, the Adscam hearing nears the end of its shelf life. Rumours out of the capital have the Liberal’s hoping to bring the whole unsavoury mess to an end in time to hit the hustings supposedly in late June now. And once the writ is dropped so will be the hearings, as the politicians get on to those important things in life like keeping their paycheques coming.

Having put forward the accountability dog and pony show as the right thing to do, they now get ready to hand out the toe tags for Alfonso, David and a few other bit players. The public long ago lost interest, suffering as we are from glazed eyes and ringing ears as the same old, same old was played out for us. No doubt we will welcome the break from the depressing realization that accountability is a lost art in Ottawa, confirming our worst fears about those who represent Ottawa to the commoners. But as they say when one door shuts, another one shall open, this time in the guise of new player in the "get to the bottom of this" crew.

Quebec Superior Court Judge John Gomery has begun his judicial inquiry into Auditor General Sheila Fraser’s report into sponsorship misdeeds in the province of Quebec. The Judge’s inquiry is a companion piece to the recent Parliamentary hearings into the same scandal, deliberations that haven’t really led us to a smoking gun. However, if Canadians are expecting a hanging judge to watch over proceedings, we had best to think again.

Sayeth the Judge: “The purpose of the commission is not to conduct a trial or to express any conclusion regarding the civil or criminal liability of any person or organization,”

Gomery’s comments make for a wonderful mission statement, but leave one to wonder what exactly will be the purpose of this lengthy investigation. A tribulation that apparently won’t be complete until sometime in 2005.

In fact while it was officially launched on Thursday, the actual work of investigating all the aspects of this Boondoggle won’t commence until September. One assumes the delay is that a well rested inquiry is an attentive inquiry. Maybe the idea is to hold the proceedings after the hot Ottawa summers, otherwise when the witnesses start to sweat it may actually only be from heat exhaustion and not from malfeasance.

None the less, the four month interval should help to put the whole scandal on the backburner for a while, which will be helpful during any election campaign, nothing worse than spreading sunshine when there’s a huge black cloud hanging overhead.

Gomery states that the purpose of his inquiry will be to advise the government, on how to avoid mismanagement of any future sponsorship endeavours. Not to belittle in advance the justice’s intent, but most Canadians could offer up a Cole’s Notes version of his report of 2005. DON’T DO IT AGAIN BONEHEADS. The staff at Boondoggle awaits the government’s cheque for our service to the country.

The above posting first appeared in my Boondoggle blog, for more items and links about Government matters check it out.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Smugness rebutted!

Ok great gods of kismet, I surrender! Having declared my smug victory over the forces of big oil, I quickly find myself humbled at the Gods of Microsoft and their assorted peripheral attendees.

The evening up of the odds came this morning when I went to turn on my computer. Power Button ON, Monitor ON, Computer well not so fast.

When trying to boot up our just over a year old computer I was greeted with the black screen motif combined with the always popular start up screen that never gets past the point of syscheck. No amount of attempts to reboot would bring success, each successive foray met with refusal, and an ominous click, click clicking sound from somewhere deep in the tower.

Oh Great Microsoft Gods why dost thou mock me in me hour of need!

After about an hour of pointless turning on and off of my computer, staring blankly at my blank screen, I admit defeat and take it in to the local computer techs for their grim faced analysis. DEAD HARD DRIVE is the verdict, interestingly enough two months after the warranty had run its worthwhile course, now a worthless piece of paper, just a painful reminder of happier computing days.

As they explain the situation my eyes glass over, lost in the mumble jumble of the truly proficient as I try and calculate just how long its all going to take me to rebuild my lost links, lost files and assorted other artery clogging additions I have made over the last year. Have I mentioned that I'm possibly the most computer illiterate person ever placed in front of a monitor? No well lets just say that near as I can tell all that stuff that happens inside that little tower is nothing but voo doo, somewhere someone is sticking needles in a replica of my computer I just know it.

I dithered through the afternoon over whether to buy a new hard drive or not, but finally realize that my ancient Fujitsu backup computer just won't carry the weight anymore and alas late in the day I give the go ahead to my new found friends in tech land and await my new hard drives installation. Then I shall muddle my way through re-installing my XP, my Word, My Excel and all of the games my son just has to have back on the computer. And no for those that wish to tsk tsk, I had not done a recent back up, laziness having taken over from practicality,

And so a valuable lesson has been learned by your erstwhile reporter, the next time I beat the price at the pump I'm keeping it to myself, the planets can turn fast it appears. My computer born under a bad star with a blue moon in its drive, is a testimony to the rebuttal to smugness!

Smugly my tank sits full

Every once and a while I'll catch a break, it doesn't happen often mind you, but on the odd occasion my planets will align and fortune shall smile. Tuesday was one of those times. While returning home from dropping the young one off at school I pulled into the ole Petro Canada to fill up the A-B transporter.

Much clunking of gas as my near empty tank replenished itself to a full capacity, separating me and my wallet from close to fourty dollars, my tank gobbling up litre after litre of regular Petro Can fuel at the rate of 83.9 a litre. Little did I know that my timely arrival at the station would let me sit smug by the end of the day.

Flash forward to 7:30 pm and the trip to the soccer field, same Petro Canada station, same gas in the pumps now ringing in at 91.9 on the big board in front of the station. Whew, close call that was, normally I'm the guy that pulls in just as the register is going ca ching ca ching with a spiraling upward change of price per litre. So to whatever Gas God smiled down on my poor little car today, thank you. I'm going to milk this full tank as long as possible, though by all accounts things are going to get a lot worse before they get better.

I'll never figure out how a country that is a net exporter of gas, ends up paying more for gas than the country that imports our product. Something just doesn't make sense. All that tax collected where does it go? Talk about the house always winning. The Gov't has no incentive to bring our gas prices down, as they receive such massive injections of cash for their spendthrift ways. One wonders why the gov't is such a fiscal mess, when the big board in your neighbourhood just keeps going up and up and up. With our contribution to the treasury simply by filling up, we should truly expect a better return for our investment. I see King Ralph of Alberta is toying with the idea of gas rebates for those subjects of his realm, the downtrodden of the rest of the land can only dream of such a benevolent ruler.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Lame Duck becomes Cooked Duck

The Brian Burke era of the Vancouver Canucks has come to an end; team owner John McCaw issued a brief news release over the lunch hour on Monday, advising that the Canucks would not be renewing the contract of the combative President and General Manager. In a follow up press conference, Orca Bay CEO Stanley McCammon held court with carefully parsed words, never really explaining why a man that Orca Bay credited with building a winning franchise on and off the ice, suddenly was no longer the proper fit for the team he designed. For those who wish to study the art of talking and saying absolutely nothing, check out the CKNW archives for Monday at 2 pm, McCammon’s press conference offered no answers and provided no indication of where the franchise is going.

Burke took over the team in June of 1988 taking a non performing group of highly paid players and beginning the task of re-designing not only a struggling franchise but instilling a work ethic where none had existed for a couple of years.

Burke’s years in Vancouver showed steady growth each year, when he took over they were a fourth place team with total points of 58 during the season, strangers to the playoff race. By the team he was handed his pink slip his team had reached the 100 point a year plateau, been a steady participant in the playoffs and had become a poster child for NHL cost certainty. Burke made this franchise his own; he was loyal to his players and his coaches. Going to bat for them frequently with the bean counters in the Orca Bay offices, his gruff manner with the media was the stuff of legend.

The always excitable Vancouver press would split down the middle in their opinion of Burke, his respectful fans like Neil MacRae and Gary Mason countered by Tony Gallagher, who carried on a feud with Burke going back to his days as Pat Quinn’s assistant. Burke was good for a quick quote, a bombastic statement or a lucid analysis of any hockey situation. He was also short tempered, dismissive and occasionally rude. He was always entertaining and knew more about hockey than John McCaw or Stanley McCammon can ever hope to know. The Vancouver media may not realize it yet, but their jobs just got a lot harder to do. They need look no further than today’s non information session with McCammon for a glimpse of their future.

As the Burke situation festered over the last three months HockeyNation suggested in multiple postings, that the Canucks put this distraction behind them and do it quickly. Well time passed by, the Cancuks stumbled through the playoffs and Burke twisted in the wind. He described himself as a lame duck GM, and it proved to be an accurate description, but one that no doubt did not endear himself to the McCammon/McCaw axis.

During one of our earlier posts we pointed out that Burke had improved the franchise on the ice making it one of the most entertaining hockey clubs in a stale and listless collection of teams. There would be no trap in Vancouver, no dump and chase, Vancouver teams would skate hard, hit hard and score goals. They may not have reached the Stanley Cup in the last six years, but they provided some damn fine hockey at GM place, a night at a Canucks game for the most part was a guarantee that you would have an enjoyable experience. With sell outs a regular feature of Canuck’s hockey, Vancouver sports fans must have agreed.

The short sighted McCaw and McCammon seem to have forgotten that it wasn’t all that long ago when getting a ticket to a Canuck game was as simple as asking a scalper to hand one over at a loss. Crowds of less than 10,000 were common in the Keenan experiment years; Burke rebuilt the image of the team not only on the ice but in the community. The Canucks became the hot property in Vancouver, business executives wanted to partner with them, hockey fans idolized them. Pay TV added to their bottom line, ratings on Hockey Night in Canada and Sportsnet made them the darlings of the networks. That wasn’t any genius from McCaw or McCammon that was all Burke.

For taking a laughingstock of a franchise into the top echelon of NHL clubs he was left to ponder his fate, treated as though he just happened to luck into his success. The handling of the Burke contract through this year in my opinion had a more detrimental effect on this team than any injuries to Naslund or Cloutier. The slump just after the mid way point coincided with the rumours that he was on the bubble soon to be fired. The fact that management had no faith in their President and GM seeped into the dressing room, a place where loyalty was given lip service but seems to have disappeared when the going got tough.

From the suddenly quiet Crawford who hasn’t said one word since his team was eliminated, to a less than ringing endorsement by Captain Markus Naslund the Canucks were strangely non-communicative when it came time to discuss their GM. He may have battled for them but they weren’t going to be caught in a foxhole with him this time. Todd Bertuzzi, who may have inadvertently done more damage to Burke than anyone this year, never spoke up in support of the guy who made him very rich and came to his defence in his darkest hour.

A team that suffered under the dictatorial reign of Mike Keenan didn’t reward Burke for his loyalty, he built a team that came very close, and his biggest crime was not changing the deck chairs at the crucial moments. He believed in his core group, feeling that they were a close group that had bonded well together and would fight for each other; little did he know that when it came time to support him, he would be left alone to face the rumours, the snubs and the questions. Accountability in Canuckland began and ended in Burke’s office, there was none in the dressing room and none in the executive offices, and that is why this team stumbled. His biggest disappointment may be the feeling of a job left undone. He should have been given the chance to re-tool this group, instead that job will be left to someone else, it’s doubtful that the spirit of the current line up will ever reach that which these last few years have given Vancouver.

Brian Burke will be a GM again one day, perhaps not very far down the calendar. Boston, Chicago even the New York Rangers would be infinitely better teams with Burke in charge. If it weren’t for the bad blood between he and Colorado, Burke would be the perfect choice to turn that talented but underperforming team around. His answering machine will soon be full of offers; he can pick and choose his next assignment. While he may miss Vancouver he’ll quickly take on a new challenge and get results.

As for the Canucks, the halcyon days of sell outs and rabid fans will carry on for a bit. But this was Burke’s team, he had the vision for it, the concept of what to build. It seems hard to believe that it will stay whole, a new GM will bring in his “core group” it may work, and it may not. But with a quickly improving Calgary and Edmonton coming on strong, the division is all of a sudden a tougher place to be. A couple of years wandering the wilderness and the Canucks may not be too far off from those 10,000 a game nights.

The Canuck management has shown a terrible inability to make decisions this year, by removing the only anchor they had in place, they now run the risk of drifting off course. A team which has a history of making the wrong decision, at the wrong time has struck again. Long suffering Canuck fans won’t be thrilled with John McCaw’s decision today, Burke was the face of the Canucks in Vancouver. McCaw is just a faceless corporate suit, he may hold the wallet, but he doesn’t hold the heart, that was Burke's! The fans will remember, of that McCaw and McCammon can be certain!

The above posting is from my HockeyNation blogsite, for more items and links to all things hockey check it out.