Poilievre announces budget date

The federal budget will be tabled before the end of the year, the parliamentary secretary to Prime Minister Stephen Harper told CBC News.

“In just over 30 days [Finance Minister Jim Flaherty] has got a budget that will come out that will include yet more [economic] stimulus,” Poilievre, said Saturday. By my reckoning, that means we're ready for a budget just after Christmas but before New Year's. That, of course, would be the plain, everyday meaning of “just over 30 days) from Nov. 29.

Of course, if the finance minister plans to table his budget in the House of Commons, some extraordinary measures will be required for MPs last week agreed that the first sitting day of the new year would be Jan. 26 and that is certainly not, as Poilievre said, “just over 30 days” away. That would be “just over 60 days away”. Budgets are normally delivered in mid-February which would be, as I write this “just over 90 days” away.

The date of the budget, all politicians may find it hard to believe, is something that many Canadians are interested in because they are looking to Ottawa for little help in these nervous economic times. I personally know people who lost their job last week and have other friends who were laid off last month. Those folks were counting on the PM when he told reporters in Peru last week that he stood ready with “unprecedented fiscal action.” A week later, his finance minister promised no new initiatives and, in fact, cut spending. To the newly jobless, a budget “just over 30 days” away is about 30 days too late.

Coalition talk: In their own words

Like a lot of reporters, I spent a lot of time hanging around the foyer of the House of Commons Friday talking to politicians from all sides about the possibility of Stephen Harper losing the keys to 24 Sussex over his ecnomic and fiscal statement. At the end of a long day of political gossip, the prime minister himself came down to the foyer, made a short statement but, unlike just about every other politician that came into the foyer that day, refused to answer any questions from the 40 or so reporters gathered about. Here are some excerpts from some of the things we heard in the foyer Friday from those who would speak on the record. We have, below, Liberals John McCallum and Scott Brison, NDPers Paul Dewar and Tom Mulcair, and finally, the prime minister:

John McCallum (Lib): The primary issue is that while other countries have acted in the tens of even hundreds of billions of dollars to support their economy, the fiscal update did nothing. In fact, it's worse than nothing. It didn't have stimulus, it had cuts. Canada's virtually unique in the world. We have a crisis, probably worse than anything since the 1930's and Canada stands alone and they're doing nothing to support Canadians, to support the economy, to support industries in trouble, to support Canadians' savings and pensions.

Scott Brison (Lib): Even worse, during the good times, the Conservatives spent like crazy, increasing spending by 25% and now during a recession, they're actually cutting back. So it is really bad financial management.

Reporter: So if f they took out the subsidies for political parties, you would still entertain the possibility of bringing them down?

Brison: Well look, that would show that Stephen Harper still doesn't get it. He would still be playing politics. This is not about politics, it's about people and until Stephen Harper presents a proposal to Parliament that helps people during these tough economic times, we won't support him.

McCallum: Maybe Stephen Harper still doesn't get it. The ball is still in his court. We have spoken about fiscal stimulus over and over again as the number one concern. When Canada alone is doing nothing, maybe he thinks all we care about is political financing. I'm telling you that is not our primary point. Our primary point is the absence of any kind of action or plan to help Canadians at this moment.

Reporter: What magnitude of fiscal stimulus would you require to support the government?

McCallum: The government will probably say just wait for the fiscal stimulus. I don't believe the government. If they believed in fiscal stimulus, they would have done it yesterday. They've been in power three years. Obama's been in power not even at all, he already has a plan. If this government believes in fiscal stimulus, they would have acted yesterday. They tell us they'll act some time in the future. Why should we believe that?The problem with Mr. Harper, the problem with Stephen Harper is he talks like Franklin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, he acts like Calvin Coolidge. That is not acceptable in 2008.

Reporter: Who have you been talking to with the NDP? Do you have a coalition?

Brison: We're a long ways from prenup agreements. The fact is right now Mr. Harper has successfully in some ways, changed the channel in this debate from one of economics and people to one of politics. We're turning it back. We're focusing on the people. And until he presents a proposal that actually invests in Canadians during this recession, we won't support it.

Reporter: You're saying to Canadians essentially you would move more quickly than the Conservatives if you defeated this government?

McCallum: I am telling you it would be a whole lot bigger and a whole lot quicker than anything this government may or may not do because I don't even believe them when they say that they would do it. Look: Mr. Harper in Peru [last week at the the APEC summit] said that it was essential to have an extraordinary fiscal stimulus. He had the opportunity yesterday. What did he do? Nothing. So why should we believe him when he says he's going to do it at some unspecified date in the future?

Brison: Mr. Harper promised during the election to present an economic plan to Canadians almost immediately after the election. This fall, he said there will be an economic plan presented to Canadians this fall. He broke that promise. Once again, there has been no plan, no ideas and no investment at a time when he's out of step with all other industrial leaders across the planet.


Reporter: My question is what is going on between you and the other parties?

Gilles Duceppe: (Bloc Quebecois): We're having discussions. We discussed things with the Liberals this morning. We'll discuss with the NDP this afternoon. We had meetings. I discussed with Jack Layton yesterday and Stéphane Dion. But we're having those discussions looking at if we can come to an agreement but we'll take the time we need.

Reporter: What would be the goal of the Bloc Québécois in supporting any kind of coalition?

Duceppe: We said that we won't be part of a coalition and [we won't be] having ministers from the Bloc; this is very clear. But we'll consider a coalition that would respect more Quebec values and interests. So this is why we're having those discussions because we just can't accept the proposals made by the government yesterday.

Reporter: What about the Liberal leader? Have you insisted on this leader or that leader?

Duceppe: No, no, no. This is not — this is not up to us to decide who's the leader of any party.

Reporter: So if Dion leads that's fine with you.

Duceppe: I mean Dion is there. He's the leader. I'm discussing with the leaders of each party.

Reporter: And what are your priorities, sir? What do you need to support a coalition?

Duceppe: To have [them] come with stimuli concerning the economy. To have a real plan for manufacturing and forestry sector. To have a better conditions for the employment insurance and so on.


Reporter: Where's the mood of cooperation.

Paul Dewar (NDP): Exactly. It's gone. The blue sweater's gone, the whole thing's gone out the window and these guys are using the recession as a Trojan horse to bring in retrograde labour legislation. No one's going to buy it. We're going to be opposing.

Reporter: Is the only way out of this do you think forming some kind of coalition with the Liberals come next week and defeat the government?

Dewar: It's really a multi-party strategy here. We know what we're going to be doing, opposing this kind of retrograde legislation. I think from what I've seen from the other parties they're going to do the same.

Reporter: And then what?

Dewar: We'll see. There's all sorts of options open and I guess that's what Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday will bring.

Reporter: Coalition or election?

Dewar: I think people saw that we had an election so maybe the other option is the best one.

Reporter: Who would lead that?

Dewar: I think all the options are open and what we've said is we'll work together to get results in this parliament. That's what Canadians expect from us. That's what I want to see. That's what I think Canadians want to see and the calls I got from my office this morning from my constituents they said pull together, make sure that you have everyone working together and that's what we're going to be doing. So clearly the government doesn't want to work together. So the other options are in front of us and we'll be deciding what the best path is for Canadians.

Thomas Mulcair (NDP): Well I think that there's no doubt that the Conservatives are going to try a lot of different things over the weekend. What has to be borne in mind is that what we've been looking at here in the House over the past couple of days is a boldfaced attempt by the government to change the channel to get you onto question of minor reductions here and there while obviating the fact that the real problem is that there's nothing for the economy. Three hundred and fifty thousand manufacturing and forestry jobs lost because of the wrong headed principles of the Conservatives. They're attacking women's rights to equal pay for work of equal value. They're attacking the charter rights of associations. That's the type of thing that we're going against. There's nothing in there for Canadian families. Christmas is coming and Minister Flaherty's put a lump of coal in their sock.

And finally, at the end of a long day in the foyer — there was Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Here is the English part of his statement — no questions were allowed.

Stephen Harper (Con): Less than two months ago, the people of Canada gave our party a strengthened mandate to lead Canada during the most serious global economic crisis in generations. Since that time, we've acted, acted on our commitment to keep cutting job-killing taxes, business taxes, acted to expedite the constructions of roads, bridges and other infrastructure, acted to strengthen Canada's already strong financial system by injecting tens of billions of dollars of liquidity into Canada's credit markets, acted to ensure a long-term structural balance in the federal budget, and acted to demonstrate leadership by proposing to reduce taxpayer subsidies for political parties. Our actions have been proactive. They have been responsible. And they have been in keeping with our commitments to Canadians.
More so, these actions represent our first steps. In the next couple of months, the government will present a budget that outlines our next move forward, a plan that will include expected stimulus measures worked out in consultation with Canada's provinces and in concert with the other members of the G-20.
While we have been working on the economy, the opposition has been working on a backroom deal to overturn the results of the last election without seeking the consent of voters. They want to take power, not earn it. They want to install a government led by a party that received its lowest vote share since Confederation. They want to install a prime minister, Prime Minister Dion, who was rejected by the voters just six weeks ago. They want to install a coalition that they explicitly promised not to support. The Liberals campaigned against the coalition with the NDP precisely because they said the NDP's policies were bad for the economy. And now they plan to enter into the very same coalition under the guise of strengthening the economy. Stéphane Dion and the NDP plan to make this happen by accepting the support of a party that wants to destroy the country.
The opposition has every right to defeat the government but Stéphane Dion does not have the right to take power without an election. Canada's government should be decided by Canadians, not backroom deals. It should be your choice, not theirs. And it's now up to all of us to stand up for the right of Canadians to choose their own government.
On December the 8th, the House of Commons will have an opportunity to vote on the opposition's attempt to overturn the results of the last election. Until then, we will continue governing. In the meantime, Canadians can make their views known on this issue to all of their members of parliament.
Thank you very much and I hope you will all have a good weekend.

Twitter can't overcome Bell, Rogers, Telus …

I will no longer be able to receive tweets on my BlackBerry, Twitter said this week:

Canadian SMS service

Unexpected changes in our billing have forced us into a difficult situation with our Canadian SMS service. We can’t afford to support this service given our current arrangement with our providers (where costs have been doubling for the past several months.) As a result, effective today we are no longer delivering outbound SMS over our Canadian shortcode (21212).

The ability to update Twitter over SMS will still be supported over 21212. But we know that this is only part of the experience and we want to make Twitter work in the way folks want … regardless of where they live.

There is a realistic, scalable SMS solution for Canada (and the rest of the world.) We’re working on that and will post more details on the Twitter blog as we make progress.

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Meanwhile: The inevitable Facebook Groups

Ok you Facebookers — send 'em in and I'll post 'em here:

  • I'm against the Liberal coup d'état : Description: The Liberals are trying to steal the government after losing the election. Canadians didn't vote for a Liberal or NDP or Bloc government. If they are going to defeat the Tories, Canadians must have their say on who forms the next government. Not backroom Liberal and NDP insiders. Creator: Mark Bullard: Creator
  • Canadians for a Progressive Coalition: Description: Canadians for a Progressive Coalition are asking the NDP, Liberals, and Bloc Quebecois to form a coalition government that includes counsel from the Greens. Creator: Jamie Biggar (Former Toronto Centre Conservative candidate Mark Warner is a member of this group.)
  • I Support Public Campaign Financing: Description: The Conservatives are cutting the funding from which they benefit least in relative terms, while leaving alone that which they benefit from most. They are making one more attempt to disable democracy in this country. Creator: Devin Johnston
  • Dear Santa: All I want for Christmas is a Liberal-NDP Coalition : Description: Santa, this year, instead of some overpriced consumer items my parents can't afford, or another long $300 million election, all I want for Christmas is a Liberal-NDP Coalition Government. Then maybe we can have a happy new year! Creator: Michael Creighton
  • For a coalition government in Canada/Quebec to save the climate and economy Description: We call on the NDP, Liberal Party and Bloc Quebecois to form a coalition government. The majority of voters in the 2008 federal election clearly want action on those issues and reject the Conservative Party. The three opposition parties can come together with a program to fight global warming and deal with the economic crisis. We call on them to do this. Creator: Arleigh Crawford

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To save democracy, we must ban all votes …

“When they play chicken, they wind up looking up like chickens.”

– Conservative Defence Minister Peter MacKay, quoted in The Chronicle-Herald, Nov. 28, 2008

At the risk of sounding cheeky, some chickens have come home to roost

[Conservative] Government House Leader Jay Hill announced the following changes in the business of the House of Commons for next week:

The Liberal Supply Day that was designated for Monday, December 1, 2008 will be rescheduled for Monday, December 8, 2008.

– The Government will not schedule any confidence votes prior to December 8, 2008.

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Get me the GG!

Governor General Michaëlle Jean is out of the country right now on a state visit to some eastern European countries. Today, she's in Slovakia visiting a church and an art gallery and tomorrow she is in the Czech Republic where she has a series of events scheduled Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursday, it's off to Slovenia until next Saturday when she returns home.

Of course, Mme Jean may be required back at Rideau Hall much sooner than that.

Here's what her staff are telling reporters today:

The Office of the Secretary to the Governor General is following the situation closely.

Her Excellency is very aware of her constitutional responsibilities. Contingency plans are in place for her to return to Canada should this be required.

The Governor General is being briefed on a regular basis while continuing her heavy programme for the State visit. This visit is creating important links with these four member countries of the European Union.

Monday's motions from the Liberals

In addition to the confidence votes that will be prompted when the government tables a bill and a motion of its own on Monday, the Liberals get to table and vote on their own motion Monday for Monday is one of the alloted “Opposition Days” in Parliament. In every parliamentary session, the government is obliged to set aside a certain number of days for the introduction, debate, and vote of a motion put forward by an opposition party.

Under the House of Commons procedural rules, the opposition party must publish the motion they intend to introduce one business day ahead of their opposition day. They can, if they choose, give notice of several different motions and then decide only to actually debate and vote on one.

So what are the Liberals thinking about for Monday? Pick one from the list below:

Mr. Dion–THAT, in light of the Conservatives’ failure to recognize the seriousness of Canada’s economic situation, and its failure in particular to present any credible plan to stimulate the Canadian economy and to help workers and businesses in hard-pressed sectors such as manufacturing, the automotive industry and forestry, this House has lost confidence in this government, and is of the opinion that a viable alternative government can be formed within the present House of Commons.

Mr. Kennedy–THAT this House call upon the government to table in Parliament before December 12th, 2008 a comprehensive analysis of Canada’s troubled automotive sector; a calculation of the most likely impact upon Canada and Canadian jobs of American action to support the U.S. auto sector without corresponding action in Canada; and the principles which should shape such Canadian action.

Mr. McCallum–THAT, in the opinion of this House, the government should revise its most recent Economic and Fiscal Statement to reflect the views of the now-Prime Minister who said in this House on October 6th, 2004: “It is the government’s obligation to craft a working majority to advance its agenda by taking into account the policies and priorities expressed by the three opposition parties in the House” and “the first thing the government must do is actively find common ground with the opposition parties to better serve the Canadian population.”

Mr. Brison–THAT the House call upon the government to provide Parliament with a specific list of all assets under review for disposal, as referenced in the government’s Economic and Fiscal Statement, together with an explanation of the criteria that has lead the government to conclude that such assets are expendable, with particular emphasis on the assets reportedly worth at least $2.3 billion above book value which are to be disposed of first, in the coming fiscal year.

Ok, we're fine, then!

Nearly three-quarters of us think our banks are safe and sound — says a survey out today by the banks.

Seventy-two per cent of Canadians believe that Canada’s banks have performed better than other banks around the world, according to the results of a recent survey by The Strategic Counsel for the Canadian Bankers Association released today. In addition, 77 per cent of Canadians describe Canada’s banks as more secure and stable than other banks around the world. The Strategic Counsel survey was conducted between November 4 and November 9, 2008.

In other bank news today, Canada's Privacy Commissioner issues this release:

Close to half a million people will likely never know whether their personal information was compromised in a data breach at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), according to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. The Commissioner began investigating after the bank informed her about the disappearance of a hard drive containing the personal information and financial data of some 470,000 clients of Talvest Mutual Funds, which were at that time a family of CIBC Mutual Funds.

Liberals hold emergency caucus

In the wake of the widely leaked news that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty will propose doing away with the public subsidy of political parties, the federal Liberal caucus held an emergency meeting this morning in the Centre Block on the Hill. They're just breaking up now but there are suggestions that some are broaching the idea that it might be a good idea to send out feelers along the lines of a coalition government. In the 12-month period ending Sept. 30, the public subsidy — $1.95 per vote received in the last general election per year — made up about two-thirds of the revenue of both the Liberals and the BQ. For the NDP and Greens it was about half and for the Tories it was 35 per cent.

Here's Liberal Party spokesman Daniel Lauzon:

“We feel the current political financing laws exist to provide stable annual funding to political parties based on the level of support they earn. As such, they are crucial to a healthy democratic process.Though it’s not surprising that the day this government is plunging Canada into multibillion dollar deficit, the Conservatives are trying to change the channel, it’s indefensible that rather than introducing significant measures to address the economic crisis, Stephen Harper has instead chosen to use today’s Economic and Fiscal update to take a cheap partisan shot at his political opponents.”

Flaherty will tell all beginning at 4 pm Ottawa time in the House of Commons.

Victoria school secretary winds up on U.S. terrorist list

More evidence to be suspicious of those who would build One Big Database in the name of our safety:

Glenda Hutton, 66, of Courtenay has never been arrested, doesn’t have a criminal record and over a long career as a school secretary never caused anyone trouble.

So it’s perplexing just how her name turned up on a U.S. no-fly list, but there it is. Hutton has been wrangling with U.S. and Canadian government bureaucracy for over a year trying to clear her name and regain her freedom to travel to the U.S. and beyond.

She first learned something was wrong in October 2007 when she was delayed at the Air Canada check-in counter at Comox from boarding a flight to Calgary.

She was dumbfounded while her husband Ken thought it was a joke. She was allowed on the aircraft but a month later she was flagged when trying to board a Japan Airlines flight to Thailand. “They said they could get me out of Canada but feared for my safety once I got to Bangkok, Thailand,” Hutton said. The couple decided to stay home and sort the mess out. Japan Airlines refunded their tickets.

Hutton was on a Canadian no-fly list but her name has been removed. She’s convinced that her name remains on a U.S. list. “Air Canada told me that there was someone else in the world with my name who is a very, very bad person,” Hutton said. … [Read the rest]

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