Kennedy asks Harper to repudiate "tasteless" fundraising letters

The words are from Liberal leadership candidate Gerard Kennedy.  The hyperlinks are mine.

Dear Prime Minister:
Yesterday, Canadians learned that the Conservative Party of Canada is selling your
position on the Middle East as a source of election funds even as people there are
suffering and dying.
I would hope you find these Conservative fundraising tactics as tasteless and
indefensible as I do.
Out of respect for the high office you hold, I would ask that you immediately repudiate
your party’s attempts to profit from the misery of the men, women and children caught in
a war half-way around the world.
Prime Minister, if you are the man of principle your fundraisers claim you are, you will do
the right thing and ask them to stop.
Canadians await your response.
Gerard Kennedy
Liberal Leadership Candidate, 2006

Donate to support "moral clarity"

I was on holiday when Conservative Party executive director Michael Donison sent this out but, for the record, here is what generated a little heat last week:

Dear Mr. XXX,

Our Conservative Prime Minister, Stephen Harper was amongst the first of the world's leaders to take a principled stand on the new turmoil in the Mid-East. Since then, leaders the world over have risen to stand with Stephen Harper. Our nation has every reason to be proud.

Admit it: Moral clarity feels a lot better than the endless equivocation we found with our previous government.

But not everyone is grateful for the strong, clear direction of Canada's new government and this includes in particular the opposition parties who are only interested in maneuvering for party advantage.

And so, I must turn to you to ask you for your support. The fact is: the opposition is not thrilled with the growing strength of the Harper government and the resurgence of national pride Canadians are showing in their country. You need only look at their ceaseless machinations to see that they are doing everything in their power to bring this government

We must be ready for an election now because the opposition is blindly determined to drag the country to the polls, on any pretext they can contrive.

As a matter of public record, everyone knows the Conservative Party of Canada managed the last election without adding a dime to the Party's debt. You made that possible, it's just that simple. And if we intend to win the next election and win a majority – we need to continue moving heaven and Earth to be ready.

When an election comes, we will have just days to mount a campaign and ensure the continuance of the most dynamic and forward-looking Canadian government in recent memory. The time to lay the foundation is right now and we continue to need your help if this effort is to succeed.

It is a wonderful thing to be reminded of the power of ideals, principles in which we believe and on which we will act. We have had far too many years of vacillation on ideals and fundamental values about which the majority of Canadians are clear and certain.

Unsurprisingly, Don Martin got it just right in his July 20th National Post column, speaking of Prime Minister Harper, he wrote: ” He's proven himself bold, imaginative and unpredictable. This is something refreshing on the Canadian political landscape – a leader willing to take risks to do what's right in the face of certain criticism. It stands him in stark and favourable contrast to the hesitant poll-driven Martin reign.”

What did surprise me, though, were the private comments of a Liberal acquaintance, among them the following: ” I have never been so proud to be Canadian. I'm thrilled that we're investing in our military. I'm thrilled that we're staying to finish a job in Afghanistan, and I'm ecstatic that we are finally taking a position on issues of global importance like what is happening in the Middle East. Please let Stephen Harper know that I've never been more proud of being a Canadian.”

Ultimately, not everything is about party politics. Canadians know what's right and wrong and it is a great satisfaction even if one may not politically admit it — to have a government that has the courage to tell the plain truth.

This government is worth the fight; help us make sure we win the next election whenever it comes. We can expect an avalanche of Liberal fury to get back into power and a flood of media support for their effort. Help us keep the focus on principle and character and Canada's return to its place in the world.

I ask you to make a special contribution now of $150 or $75 to the Party today and help us be prepared to defend the decisive leadership of Stephen Harper and our New Conservative government.

With my sincere thanks,

Michael D. Donison
Executive Director, Conservative Party of Canada

P.S. – Your contribution is tax deductible. …

Authorized by Conservative Fund Canada, Chief Agent of the Conservative
Party of Canada.

Cheque is in the mail

Elections Canada will be sending out some big cheques this week to the country’s major political parties. These cheques, totalling about $27.2–million, represent the amount of money that taxpayers (via the federal government) reimburse to politicians to cover the cost of competing for seats in a federal election.

A quick and completely unscientific analysis shows that the Bloc Quebecois got the best “value” for their dollars spent, in the sense that the cost of winning a seat for the Bloc was cheapest. NDP seats cost the most and, of course, the Green Party lost everything.

From today’s Elections Canada press release:

The Chief Electoral Officer authorizes reimbursement of 50 percent of the eligible registered party's election expenses, paid by its registered agents, upon receipt of the party's election expenses return, the auditor's report and a declaration by the party's chief agent concerning the election expenses.

The following amounts have been reimbursed:

Political party Amount reimbursed
Bloc Québécois $2,261,702.49
Conservative Party of Canada $9,009,589.64
Green Party of Canada $455,489.54
Liberal Party of Canada $8,719,845.00
New Democratic Party $6,735,433.46

So, since the taxpayer picks up half the cost of fighting an election, you could double all those amounts to come to the grand total each of those parties spent to win seats in January’s election. Doing that you would get this table:

Political party Total Spent
Conservative Party of Canada $18,019,179.28
Liberal Party of Canada $17,439,690.00
New Democratic Party $13,470,866.92
Bloc Québécois $4,523,404.98
Green Party of Canada $910,979.08

And what about the “value” of each dollar spent politicking? Well, based on what they spent and what they earned in terms of seats, here’s how much each seat “cost”:

Political party

Seats won

Per seat cost

Green Party of Canada 0

Lost it all

New Democratic Party 29 $464,512.65
Liberal Party of Canada 102 $170,977.35
Conservative Party of Canada 125 $144,153.43
Bloc Québécois 51 $88,694.22

Garth gets green

Before I moved here last year to join CTV’s Parliamentary Bureau, I lived in north Oakville, Ontario, precisely 60 kilometres from my office in the Globe and Mail building at Front and Spadina in Toronto. We lived in what was then Liberal Gary Carr’s riding but is now the riding of Conservative Garth Turner. On his blog, Garth writes a lot about his riding, which includes part of the town of Oakville and all of Milton and, as I have fond memories of the time I spent living in that part of Canada, I find myself more than just professionally drawn to the stuff he posts.

Garth TurnerRecently, Garth (left) took a bike ride up along Guelph Line — with the hills of Halton, that would be some kind of ride! — and while he marvels at the beauty of north Halton, he also has what I’d call a “Green Moment”:

… the defining feature of Halton is houses. They grow like weeds. People pay a lot to move here on the edge of the Toronto metropolis. … Roads cannot be widened fast enough. The 401 is a mess. Toronto smog days now extend all the way out to Milton, Oakville and Burlington.

I write about this because there will, of course, be consequences. Already are. Not just with real estate values, traffic patterns and unmet demand for community services. … Instead, this field stripped to its subsoil nakedness in the blistering late July sun is a symbol of something far more serious than those human problems which more taxes can solve. This is a rape of the land. …

This summer it has been 30 degrees or close to it almost every day where I live. Tomorrow the humidex is forecast to be 45. I read that Canada has never been warmer. The States, too. Yesterday came word of a study that showed the amount of sunshine hitting the earth is decreasing measurably, and yet we still get hotter – thanks to all the crap we have thrown into the atmosphere.

There are now restrictions on the amount of water people can put on their lawns. There are heat emergencies declared just about every week in the city. People with breathing problems are told to stay inside. Police are breaking into parked cars to free pets dying of heat exhaustion. The polar ice cap is melting and the sea is rising.

And I’m standing in front of 40 pieces of heavy equipment too hot to touch with an ungloved finger in a field denuded of vegetation where every molecule of moisture is being fried.

I hear that in October the Conservative government will be unveiling as new green plan – air protection, water protection, a made-in-Canada Kyoto strategy – and I can hardly wait. I’m not alone, watching a skinny coyote run across the gouged, empty dirt, looking for shade.

Our present patterns of behaviour cannot reasonably continue. Here in sprawl country the causes and the effects are obvious. It will take more than federal statues to change them. I would welcome a discussion on this issue as vigorous and passionate as the one we have been having over a strip of middle East land that is already a desert.


Weinberger's Top Ten why vacations are worse than real life

David WeinbergerDavid Weinberger (left — in fact, really, really left 🙂 )has just finished the first draft of his new book [Read: Why so long between issues] which means he might be out on a book tour some time early in 2007. (You remember David, don’t you? He and Doc Searls wrote The Cluetrain Manifesto) And if he’s travelling away from his home in Boston, that means he might be visiting a town near you. If he comes to where you live, go see what he has to say. You’ll learn a lot — he’s a smarty-pants who did his doctorate in philosophy at the University of Toronto — but you’ll also laugh a lot. Case in point: David’s list of reasons why vacations are worse than real life. Here’s a few:

  • Can't sneak 19″ monitor into your luggage.
  • Staying indoors is suddenly considered abnormal.
  • Can't claim antisocial tendencies are actually “just a good work ethic.”

[Read the rest of the list]

Dan's book: Ships and their souls

Daniel SekulichDan Sekulich (left)and I first met at high school, John F. Ross CVI in Guelph, and became good friends. He was a much better basketball player than me but despite that, I liked hanging around him because he can be a pretty funny guy — I’d call his sense of humour Pythonesque but with a slightly darker twist. We were also mods — teenagers in the late 1970s and early 1980s who were inspired by the lifestyle, attitude, and fashion sense epitomized by, say, The Jam’s All Mod Consand other punk-era power pop groups — The Buzzcocks, XTC, etc. — who saw ourselves as the rebel descendants of the British mod culture of the mid-1960s, brought to film in Quadrophenia and whose soundtrack came from The Who and the Small Faces. All of this in safe, wonderful but dull old Guelph, Ontario.

Since then, Dan has gone on to lead an incredibly adventurous life, usually with a camera crew in tow for some documentary or other he might be working on, but most recently he’s been armed only with (I presume) a tape recorder, note pad and laptop computer as he explored the zen of being (and being one with) an ocean-going ship. Ocean TitansThe product of that exploration, and journeys up and down North America’s east coast and to India, is a book— Dan’s first — called Ocean Titans: Journeys in Search of the Soul of a Ship. (right)

A Haligonian who now lives in Brantford, Ont. named Alfred Rushton writes up a review of Dan’s book in today’s Globe and Mail. Rushton never really says if he likes it or not but does a decent enough job of describing what’s in it. And because what’s in it sounds like pretty fascinating stuff, I’ll bet the review moves some copies of store shelves.

Dan had his publisher send me a copy a month or so ago and I’m embarrassed to say, it’s still on the shelf. But as I’m cashing in some vacation days this summer, my promise to Dan is that I will have the time to finish it by Labour Day.

UPDATE: Dan has some slightly different musical teenage memories at his blog.

Welcome aboard Air Harper

Airbus 001As you may have heard, Prime Minister Harper decided to take a hands-on approach to the problem of getting Canadians out of Lebanon. He ditched the journalists and his aides that travelled with him to Europe and is en route as I write this to Cyprus. In Cyprus, he will fill up the military Airbus (right) with about 120 Canadian evacuees from Lebanon and fly them to Ottawa.

Harper wanted to free up as many seats on his plane as possible so not even one pool reporter was allowed on the plane. Why doesn’t Harper give up his seat? Security. Prime Ministers do not fly commercial flights for security reasons so the Harpers have to stick with their plane.

Harper is also taking along a “skeletal staff” including Communications Director Sandra Buckler, Press Secretary Carolyn Stewart-Olsen, Deputy Press Secretary Dimitri Soudas, Official PMO Photographer Jason Ransom, a Canadian Forces doctor and Harper’s normal RCMP bodyguards.

But there were only enough flight crew on board for the original purpose: To look after the in-flight needs of about 21 journalists and as many aides and staffers. With a full load on board for the flight from Cyprus to Ottawa, the plane will need more stewards. And so, we’re told, that Buckler, Stewart-Olsen, and Soudas will be handing out pillows, bringing drinks and food and making sure all seat belts are fastened.

And I’d bet my bottom dollar that you might just see Mr. and Mrs. Harper moving about the cabin, as well, making sure the needs of all the passengers are looked after.


Harper on the Lebanese evacuation: "greatest in history"

PARIS – Standing beside French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin and with a sabre-armed French honour guard next to him, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper had this to say about those who have said Canada has acted too slowly to extract an estimated 40,000 Canadian citizens in Lebanon:

“There have been literally hundreds of federal employees working day and night for the past several days to put in place the  largest evacuation of Canadian citizens from another country in our history.”


Harper's enemy?

Prime Minister Stephen Harper toured Vimy Ridge this afternoon, the site of
one of Canada's greatest military victories and the one, many say, that
forged our nationhood.
Harper stood in a WWI trench and, with a bevy of photographers in front of
him – all of whom are members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery – said:
“Back then …the enemy had guns not cameras.”
Incidentally, Harper took precisely four questions from English-language journalists and two questions from a French journalist during his three days at the G8. He held a press conference after the G8 communique on Middle East but only to make a statement. He refused to take questions. Not sure about the Italian or Japanese leaders, but the leaders from the UK, Germany, U.S, France and Russia spoke to the media and took questions each day. Putin, in fact, held hour-long ask-anything pressers each night.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel even gave the media travelling with her an hour-long “off-the-record” briefing during which she presented her 'frank' assessment of other leaders and the summit in general.

Mrs. Harper's great-uncle

The PM's entourage landed in Lille, France about an hour ago. Our itinerary
here had us going to the Canadian memorial at Vimy Ridge.
We took a surprise detour, though, heading to the out-of-the-way Barlin
Community Cemetery in Barlin.
A group of about 100 local veterans, dignitaries and students were there to
greet us.
The cemetery contains the graves of 118 Canadians who died in World War I
battles in the area.
One of those who perished was 19-year-old Pte. James Edward Teskey of
Okotoks, Alta., the great-uncle of the wife of the Prime Minster, Laureen
Harper Teskey.
At the cemetery, Mr. Harper laid a wreath to honour all those in the
cemetery and then the he and Mrs Harper moved to her great-uncle's cemetery.
Both were clearly moved by the moment. They spent a few minutes kneeling in
front of Pte. Teskey's grave and Mrs. Harper took a rubbing of the
Pics later as I'm pecking this out from the BlackBerry on the way to Vimy.