By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, April 13, 2013 - 0 Comments
The prepared text of Thomas Mulcair’s speech to the NDP convention this afternoon.
Thank you very much.
Look at this crowd. What energy.
Thousands of New Democrats from coast-to-coast-to-coast.
From the Northwest Territories to Southern Ontario.
From Victoria to the coast of Labrador.
From the centre of Manitoba to all across Quebec.
This is the party that speaks for Canadians.
This is the party that fights for Canadians.
And this is the party that gets results for Canadians.
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, April 13, 2013 at 2:58 PM - 0 Comments
Thomas Mulcair’s leadership has been endorsed by 92.3% of delegates at the NDP leadership.
For the sake of comparison, Jack Layton received 92% in 2006, 89.3% in 2009 and 97.9% in 2011.
By Paul Wells - Thursday, April 11, 2013 at 11:55 PM - 0 Comments
I’m told the Conservatives have done market research — focus groups, maybe polling — on voter responses to Thomas Mulcair’s beard. Life never gives us what we want, so I don’t know what they learned from their inquiries. But the nugget suggests the level of mutual fascination and suspicion as the three main parties near the top of the hill up which they’ve been rolling the stone of this majority-government mandate. After this weekend, things will start to move downhill, and accelerate, toward 2015, unless Stephen Harper finds a reason to have an election sooner.
On Sunday in Ottawa, a new Liberal leader will be designated. I’m going to take a wild guess that it will be Justin Trudeau. Also on Sunday in Montreal, the New Democrats will wrap up a policy convention during which they will receive levels of scrutiny they’re not used to. The NDP has slid, not alarmingly but noticeably, in the polls roughly since we, er, put Tom Mulcair on our cover last autumn; part of their response this weekend will be a PR blitz designed to humanize the flinty NDP leader, who does not help mythologizers along by riding bikes and playing guitar the way his late predecessor did. Continue…
By John Geddes - Wednesday, April 10, 2013 at 12:22 PM - 0 Comments
It’s fascinating to see controversy stirred up over an old blog post by NDP MP Alexandre Boulerice in which he called World War I “a purely capitalist war” and lamented how, at the Battle of Vimy Ridge on April 9, 1917, “thousands of poor wretches were slaughtered to take possession of a hill.”
Conservatives, led by Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney, have expressed outrage and demanded Boulerice apologize. So far, he hasn’t. For the record, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair had already released a statement praising the legendary efforts of Canadians soldiers in the landmark battle. [I've clarified this sentence since an earlier version might have left the impression Mulcair issued the statement only after the Boulerice blog became an issue.]
I’m not sure how reflecting on the tragedy of thousands dying to capture a height of land would be inconsistent with acknowledging their military prowess in doing so, much less insulting to veterans. More interesting, I think, is the strangeness of how World War I can remain a politically fraught subject nearly a century on.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, March 29, 2013 at 4:36 PM - 0 Comments
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s statement on the death of former Alberta premier Ralph Klein.
“Alberta and Canada have lost a unique and significant leader. While Ralph’s beliefs about the role of government and fiscal responsibility were once considered radical, it is perhaps his greatest legacy that these ideas are now widely embraced across the political spectrum.
“A broadcast journalist, Ralph was a gifted story teller who earned the public’s trust long before he sought public office. Before entering provincial politics he served as Mayor of Calgary, helping to welcome the world during the 1988 Winter Olympics. Premier of Alberta from 1992 to 2006, Ralph played a crucial role in securing for his province and our entire country, the economic success from which both continue to benefit today.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, March 22, 2013 at 10:33 PM - 0 Comments
Friends and co-workers were due to gather at a restaurant in downtown Ottawa this evening to toast the end of Kevin Page’s time as Parliamentary Budget Officer. Officially, Mr. Page’s term ends on Monday.
In a tweet this evening, Thomas Mulcair offered thanks.
A sincere “Thank You” to Kevin Page. In a most difficult job, he doggedly served Cdns with integrity
So, maybe the context of the PBO’s saga should be this: Whether we all grasp the finer details of the PBO’s mandate clarification or not, it feels that if we’ve come to the point where the government has to sit in court arguing against a financial oversight office it once created, it might be time for us to consider how well we want our institutions kept, and what we consider to be the value of our public service. Or, whether we put any value in it at all.
Here is my exit interview with Mr. Page. Here is Pat Martin’s speech to a gathering of the OECD budget officers last month. And here, here and here is what I wrote last month about the Kevin Page Era and the future of the PBO.
And before departing, Mr. Page talks to the Globe.
By John Geddes - Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 6:54 PM - 0 Comments
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair apparently couldn’t think of a verb for the sort of tight-spending policy he perceived in the 2013 federal budget, so he redeployed an adjective, saying, “You cannot austere your way out of a crisis.”
Beyond that novel phrasing, Mulcair’s reaction to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s latest fiscal plan combined criticism of the Tories for being unreliable economic forecasters and some pointed objections to particular budget moves.
On Flaherty’s pledge to balance the books by 2015, the NDP leader noted that the budget assumes 2.5 per cent growth in gross domestic product next year, up from just 1.6 per cent this year, which is, in turn, well below the 2.4 per cent GDP growth projected in last year’s budget.
“His predictions are constantly wrong,” Mulcair said, adding, “”They are making a very high prediction for [GDP growth] next year to come up with their under $20 billion deficit. That will, of course, also be proven to be wrong.”
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 5:57 PM - 0 Comments
Shortly after Conservative Brian Jean had stood to accuse the New Democrats of advocating for a “job killing carbon tax” and Conservative MP Scott Armstrong had stood to say that “the policy of the NDP is to go south to recruit foreign criminals to come to Canada” and Conservative MP David Wilks had stood and claimed to possess “a long list of attacks on Canadian interests from the NDP” and Conservative MP Robert Sopuck had stood and ventured that the NDP leader “leader rejects sound science and works hard to kill Canadian jobs” and Conservative MP James Bezan stood and said Thomas Mulcair had “attacked Canadian jobs, attacked Canada’s national interests and took up the cause of a convicted cop shooter” and shortly before Justice Minister Rob Nicholson stood and declared that “New Democrats are never on” the side of victims of crime, Stephen Harper stood and declared himself quite disappointed with Mr. Mulcair’s tone.
“Mr. Speaker, Peter Penashue broke… the… law,” Mr. Mulcair had enunciated, now pausing for effect. “If our law and order Prime Minister considers Peter Penashue, a known lawbreaker, to be the best Conservative MP, what does that say about the rest of his caucus?”
In fairness, Mr. Harper had not said that Mr. Penashue was the best member of the Conservative caucus, rather that he was the best MP that the riding of Labrador had ever had. Though perhaps that description too raises questions about how the Prime Minister measures quality.
Regardless, Mr. Harper was now profoundly saddened. “Mr. Speaker, obviously, I disagree with that categorization,” the Prime Minister sighed. “I am sad, but not surprised, to hear that kind of negative campaign from the—”
He could not finish because the New Democrats had burst out laughing.
The Speaker called for order and returned the floor to Mr. Harper.
“Mr. Speaker, in Labrador, Minister Penashue,” the Prime Minister continued, apparently still struggling to come to grips with the reality of Mr. Penashue’s resignation, “will be able to point to a record of respecting his promises, working against the federal long gun registry and for such things as the Trans-Labrador Highway, the Lower Churchill project and obviously for the strong record that he has presented to the people of Labrador.”
So Mr. Penashue might not have rightfully won a seat in the House of Commons, but at least while he had it, some things happened that the people of Labrador might have reason to be happy about.
The House proceeded to other matters, but after Rob Nicholson had declared his concern for the victims of crime, Bob Rae detected a segue back to Mr. Penashue.
“Mr. Speaker, the victims of the latest Conservative crime are the people of Labrador. Those are the victims we need to stand up for,” Mr. Rae ventured. “It is now clear that there was a completely orchestrated-from-central-casting resignation by the minister. Peter Penashue held press conferences. He used government money to hold press conferences. He placed ads. The Conservative Party transferred money to the riding association in Labrador. The entire thing was orchestrated by the Prime Minister of Canada and orchestrated by the Conservative Party of Canada.”
There was not a question here, but the Prime Minister stood anyway.
“Mr. Speaker, the member for Labrador has taken the correct action,” Mr. Harper said. “The people of Labrador will decide.”
But, once more, the Prime Minister was besmirched.
“They will have the difference between that kind of negative, ugly campaign,” he said, drawing laughs from the Liberals, “and, on the other side, a record of positive achievement for the people of Labrador by minister Penashue and, obviously, we will respect the decision of the people of Labrador.”
Mr. Rae saw another segue.
“Mr. Speaker, if the Prime Minister wants to see ugly, he and his cabinet colleagues should simply look in the mirror and assess their own conduct—”
The Conservatives groaned their displeasure. The Speaker called for order.
“I do not think we need to make those kinds of personal characterizations,” Speaker Scheer suggested. “It is certainly not adding to the debate today.”
Mr. Rae pleaded innocence. “Mr. Speaker, if looking in the mirror produces unacceptable results,” he offered, “it is hardly the fault of the people who are asking the questions.”
The interim Liberal leader again failed to register a question, but the Prime Minister stood again nonetheless.
“Mr. Speaker, I think the real problem is the positions that the Liberal Party of Canada has on issues that matter to the people of Labrador,” Mr. Harper ventured. “The people of Labrador value the seal hunt; they value investments in their infrastructure and in their Internet; and they certainly value the Lower Churchill hydroelectric electric project.”
The questions about the former minister persisted and it was Pierre Poilievre who took up the cause of defending his honour.
“Mr. Speaker, in anybody’s mind, writing cheques for nearly $50,000 is a clear admission that Conservatives broke just about every law in the book during the Labrador campaign and that they knew they broke them,” Liberal MP Gerry Byrne charged. “With that said, the Prime Minister also knows that sanctions with serious consequences remain inevitable against Mr. Penashue and his party. With absolutely nothing left to lose under those circumstances, a byelection is about to be called to try to dull some of that reality. Does the Prime Minister really feel that holding a byelection could ever trump the rule of law in Canada and that the process of justice might actually be able to be turned off for a byelection?”
Somewhere in this distance, or perhaps only in Mr. Poilievre’s head, a string quartet began to play the national anthem.
“Mr. Speaker, there they go, launching a nasty, negative campaign full of slurs,” he sighed. “Never did a slur create a job. Never did a slur protect a traditional aboriginal way of life that Peter Penashue has fought for.”
The anthem swelled. Watching at home, mothers gathered their children to listen. In office towers, business halted. In the fields, plowing ceased. Tears trickled down the cheeks of grown men.
“Never did a slur help a school child in a remote community have access to the world through high-speed Internet, the way Peter Penashue delivered. Never did a slur protect CFB Goose Bay,” Mr. Poilievre continued. “Slurs do not do that, but Peter Penashue did.”
And lo was the nation stirred and lo did all who heard Mr. Poilievre now rush to Labrador, cheques in hand and the Elections Act in mind, to donate the maximum allowable funds to Mr. Penashue’s re-election campaign.
For sure, Mr. Poilievre was so very right. And thus it is to wonder why so many others waste so much of their and our time with such empty words.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 1:02 PM - 0 Comments
In having his office intervene yesterday with Manulife’s mortgage rate, the Finance Minister managed the neat trick of earning the disagreement of all of Thomas Mulcair (“It’s Banana Republic behaviour”), Bob Rae (“That’s ridiculous”) and, now, Maxime Bernier.
“Me, personally, I would not dictate to businesses what prices to decide,” he says. “It’s the market. It’s supply and demand that decides the prices. It is the case for interest rates, it is the case for other products too.”
In Toronto to pick up some new shoes, the Finance Minister explains himself.
“Our concern, my concern, for a number of years with very low interest rates is to ensure that people can afford their mortgages when interest rates go up,” said Mr. Flaherty Wednesday in Toronto, where he toured a Roots factory and tried on a new pair of shoes as part of a long-standing pre-budget tradition.
“That’s the concern. It’s a concern for the Canadian people that they’re careful and that they don’t assume that very low interest rates like we have now will continue indefinitely, because they won’t. Inevitably, interest rates will go up, so that’s the concern,” he said.
It is probably good that this happened after the Manning conference.
By Paul Wells - Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 8:18 AM - 0 Comments
A sluggish economy means deep cuts are coming, but Canadians might not notice. At least not right away.
One thing Stephen Harper learned soon after he became Prime Minister was that Canadians have little intuitive grasp of decimal places. A government does not get 1,000 times more credit for spending $1 billion on something than it does for spending $1 million. In fact, it does not get twice as much credit. As long as the government notices a problem and nods at it, it wins approval from voters who care about that problem. So not long after his man Jim Flaherty started delivering budgets, a Harper era of small and essentially symbolic investment began.
Similarly, the ability to tell the difference between a little belt-tightening and a wholesale cut to a government service or department is not a widespread skill. So as long as the government offers only the vaguest information about its spending cuts, few Canadians will go searching for details.
This general numerical dyslexia will come in handy this year more than most, as Jim Flaherty tries to meet a zero-deficit target that is suddenly rather close—2015, give or take—while dealing with a lousy economy. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, March 19, 2013 at 6:46 PM - 0 Comments
Thomas Mulcair wanted to talk about tax havens and about how Kevin Page had been blocked from studying the issue and how the Canada Revenue Agency has apparently identified more than 8,000 “offshore tax cheats” (to use Mr. Mulcair’s phrasing). The Prime Minister wanted to talk about what a terrible thing Mr. Mulcair had done.
“I am rather surprised to be getting a question like this on the economy from the leader of the opposition after he travelled to Washington to fight against Canadian jobs,” Mr. Harper pleaded with a shrug and a shake of the head after offering a perfunctory sentence in response to the actual question asked.
“Shame!” called a voice from the Conservative side.
“The NDP can oppose Canadian jobs,” Mr. Harper concluded, “but on this side we are for Canadian jobs.”
The Conservatives stood to applaud their man’s clarification.
Mr. Mulcair ad-libbed a retort. “ Mr. Speaker, his project includes the export of 40,000 Canadian value-added jobs,” he declared, proceeding then to jab his finger toward the ground. “We will keep standing up for Canada.”
The New Democrats stood to applaud.
So we are split on the precise value to Canada of the Keystone XL pipeline—one of these men is categorically in favour, the other has his concerns; about half of the country sides with the former, a little less than that sides with the latter. Perhaps cap-and-trade, which both of these men have supported at one time or another and which the American president also happens to prefer, truly is the reasonable solution to this concern. If only Republicans didn’t control the House of Representatives and Mr. Harper hadn’t decided that what he once supported was the same as what he once opposed.
Instead, we come to what seems a defining fight for these two men.
Mr. Mulcair, now en francais, returned to his concerns about tax evasion. According to the main estimates, he noted, the budget of the Canada Revenue Agency was due to be cut by $100 million. Mr. Harper, in response, managed two sentences in French, before switching back to English, his preferred language for haranguing. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, March 19, 2013 at 11:15 AM - 0 Comments
On the environment, Redford said she would like to see the federal government adopt a strategy similar to Alberta’s $15-per-tonne carbon levy on large industrial emitters that are unable to meet their greenhouse-gas reduction targets, with the cash then used to improve environmental outcomes. “We think that’s the right approach,” Redford said, when asked whether Ottawa should introduce a federal carbon levy on large emitters.
Alberta’s carbon tax of sorts has generated more than $300 million for a technology fund used to green operations and improve environmental performance. “The federal government needs to be supportive of that policy (setting a carbon price) in areas where it can actually make a difference to the outcome. Simply symbolically setting a price doesn’t actually achieve an outcome,” she added. “So I think it’s fine to set targets, I think it’s time to be supportive of sectors that are looking to try to reduce emissions and to be able to partner together on that.”
But Ms. Redford’s office now says that she wasn’t quite endorsing a national carbon tax.
Premier Alison Redford did not advocate for a national carbon tax as today’s PostMedia story implies. The Premier was clear that Alberta’s climate change actions to date—including the creation of a fund for clean technology projects—have been successful and are driving innovation. Clean technology initiatives are worthy of consideration as the federal government develops new greenhouse gas emission regulations for the oil and gas industry.
John Baird once bragged of plans to establish a clean technology fund with the proceeds of a $15-per-tonne carbon price, but the Harper government has since decided that any price on carbon is a carbon tax.
But then Ms. Redford also prefers her province’s carbon levy to a cap-and-trade system (another policy the Harper government used to support).
Redford, however, doesn’t believe a widespread cap-and-trade emissions reduction scheme is necessary or the best approach for the federal government, questioning whether it would actually be effective in reducing emissions. “The goal is not to do something as a PR stunt; it’s to actually do something that is going to make a difference to outcomes. It can be a price on carbon, it can be work on consumer policies, energy efficiency, dealing with greening the (electricity) grid, that kind of thing,” she said.
But then the Alberta NDP doesn’t think the province’s carbon levy is sufficient.
“The ad is extremely misleading with respect to Alberta’s environmental record. It says that we have put a price on carbon. What we have is a very low price put on carbon intensity emissions,” Mason said.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, March 19, 2013 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
The Chicago Tribune covered Mr. Freeman’s plea deal in this story.
In a novel deal, a longtime fugitive wanted for shooting a Chicago police officer in 1969 pleaded guilty Friday to aggravated battery, was given just 30 days in jail and paid $250,000 to aid families of severely injured officers. The former officer, Terrence Knox, led the crusade to hunt down Joseph Pannell, yet it was he and his family who came up with the idea of the large payment.
Mr. Freeman was released from prison in March 2008 and two years later he was reported to have been denied entry into Canada. In January 2010, he apparently requested permission to attend the funeral of his father-in-law. Last December, he was reportedly seeking a temporary residence permit.
In 2010, Terrence Knox argued that Mr. Freeman shouldn’t be allowed to return to Canada. He also suggested that Mr. Freeman might be charged with murder if Mr. Knox’s death could be tied to the shooting in 1969. Mr. Knox passed away in May 2011.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, March 18, 2013 at 4:40 PM - 0 Comments
Shortly before QP, the government sent up Roxanne James to report the following.
Mr. Speaker, Canadians are angered and in a state of shock over the actions of the NDP leader. This past weekend the leader of the NDP met with convicted cop shooter Gary Freeman, a man who was convicted of attempted murder in the U.S. after repeatedly shooting a young Chicago police officer, Terrence Knox, who was left permanently paralyzed and suffering from the effects of the shooting until his recent death. Rather than face due justice, Gary Freeman evaded the law for several years by fleeing to Canada and living here illegally under a false name. This is the man who the Leader of the Opposition chose to meet with. Sadly, it is telling that the NDP leader has never met with the family of the victim. Instead, he went on national television yesterday to shamefully dismiss the repeated shooting as a mere scuffle. Canadians are getting fed up seeing the NDP stand up for the rights of criminals over the rights of victims and their families time and time again.
Later, during QP, Conservative backbencher Kevin Sorenson stood to hold the government account thusly.
Mr. Speaker, after bashing Canada’s natural resource sector and Canadian jobs while in Washington, the Leader of the Opposition made it a priority to visit with convicted cop shooter, Gary Freeman. The Leader of the Opposition continues to defend this admitted and convicted felon, and pressed for him to be allowed to come on up and live in Canada, despite the fact that Gary Freeman is a citizen of the United States and was never a citizen or lawful resident of Canada. Can the Minister of Public Safety tell the House whether our Conservative government supports this reckless and dangerous idea?
Vic Toews duly stood and responded.
Mr. Speaker, it is truly shameful that when the Leader of the Opposition goes abroad his priority is importing violent criminals into Canada. Mr. Freeman shot a front-line Chicago police officer, not once, not twice but three times, leaving that officer permanently paralyzed. These kinds of foreign nationals, convicted of dangerous and violent crimes, are not admissible to Canada. Reckless policies on immigration, like opposing the faster removal of foreign criminals bill and advocating for those who shoot brave front-line peace—
Ms. James errs in her report. Gary Freeman was not “convicted of attempted murder,” he pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated battery. The rest of Mr. Freeman’s story is reviewed here.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, March 18, 2013 at 4:05 PM - 0 Comments
Friday morning, I sat down with Kevin Page to discuss his time as Parliamentary Budget Officer, the future of the office and the ability of Parliament to scrutinize government spending.
Above is video of six and a half minutes of that conversation and below is a fuller, but slightly abridged, transcript of our 25-minute chat. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, March 17, 2013 at 5:03 PM - 0 Comments
Here is a fascinating moment for politics, public policy and humanity.
Thomas Mulcair wanted to lay down a marker, to publicly dine with Gary Freeman as a show of support for the African-American vilified as a cop killer and barred from Canada because of links to the radical Black Panther party – an accusation he flatly denies. So the New Democratic Party Leader brushed aside aides’ warnings not to risk meeting with a felon. On his first visit as Opposition Leader to Washington, D.C., Mr. Mulcair said he had principles to act on, not just messages to deliver.
And he wanted it witnessed. So in the din of the gaudily ostentatious lobby of the hulking Renaissance Hotel on Monday, Mr. Mulcair and Mr. Freeman met and talked candidly about race and victimization and justice and whether Canada is still the refuge it was when the young black man who shot a policeman in Chicago fled there more than four decades ago. Mr. Mulcair invited a Globe and Mail correspondent to join the group on condition that the details of the meeting not be disclosed until after his three-day visit.
Jason Kenney and Vic Toews promptly, and predictably, tweeted their displeasure. (Perhaps Mr. Toews would have been more sympathetic if the meeting had been part of an upcoming episode of Border Patrol.)
Mr. Freeman’s situation is uniquely complicated. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, March 15, 2013 at 12:47 PM - 0 Comments
Democrat minority leader Nancy Pelosi pronounced yesterday that “Canadians don’t want the pipeline in their own country” and John Baird is terribly concerned that Thomas Mulcair might be saying bad things about Canada in the presence of Americans.
An NDP source tells me Mr. Mulcair did not tell Ms. Pelosi that Canadians don’t want the pipeline.
Do Canadians want Keystone XL to go through? In November, Abacus found 53% in favour and 47% against. In January, Nanos found that 45.2% had a favourable impression, while 41.7% of respondents had an unfavourable impression.
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports that the Conservative party is seeking donations in response to the NDP’s stance on Keystone.
“Instead of supporting this pro-Canada project, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair traveled to Washington and did what the NDP always do when travelling abroad–attack Canadian jobs,” reads the letter, written by the Conservative Party’s director of fundraising. “Will you chip in $5 or whatever you can afford and stand against Mulcair’s NDP?,” the letter said.
And Bob Rae believes Keystone XL is in the national interest.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, March 15, 2013 at 10:54 AM - 0 Comments
The NDP leader reminds Bloomberg that his party opposes the cuts to the corporate tax rate that have been made by the Harper government. The NDP’s budget submission in 2011 recommended setting the rate at 19.5% (the NDP’s 2011 platform committed to maintaining a corporate tax rate lower than the rate in the United States). The NDP also proposed reducing the small business tax rate and establishing a job creation tax credit. In its 2012 budget submission, the NDP asks ”the federal government to tie financial incentives to real job creation.”
More interesting, Mr. Mulcair seems to eliminate any possibility of a tax-the-rich proposal from the federal NDP.
Mulcair said he would not raise taxes for high-income earners because marginal tax rates in the country are already too high. “Absolute guarantee it will never be part of my program,” he said. “It’s never been my policy and it never will be.”
Last year, the Ontario NDP successfully convinced the Liberal government to accept a surtax on those earning $500,000 or more in return for the NDP’s support for the government’s budget. And the surtax enjoyed widespread public support.
More than three-quarters of people surveyed — 78 per cent — like her idea with only 17 per cent opposed and 5 per cent unsure, according to the Forum Research poll. “It’s hugely popular. You never see that — that’s huge,” Forum president Lorne Bozinoff said Wednesday.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, March 14, 2013 at 2:15 PM - 0 Comments
Thomas Mulcair has gone to Washington and criticized the Harper government’s environmental policies and questioned the benefits of the Keystone XL pipeline and this has upset Brad Wall, Ed Fast, Joe Oliver, James Moore and Michelle Rempel.
The “national interest,” of course, is in the eye of the beholder.
Premier Wall and the Harper government (and the Saskatchewan NDP) believe Canada would be better off with the Keystone XL pipeline. Thus, championing the pipeline is speaking in the national interest. The NDP’s position on Keystone XL, conversely, seems to be that the oil would be better put to use in Canada and that there need to be better policies governing the environmental impacts of the oil sands. Along those lines, Mr. Mulcair would probably argue that he is speaking in the national interest.
So is Keystone XL in the national interest? Shawn McCarthy looks at Mr. Mulcair’s logic on job creation. And Clare Demerse looks at the Harper government’s environmental record. President Obama, meanwhile, allegedly thinks “the Canadians” are going to get rich.
As for how an opposition leader should speak when abroad, that’s also a tricky matter. When Mr. Harper went to Washington in 2005, he criticized the Liberal government for not spending enough on defence, peacekeeping and foreign aid, spoke with the President about the possibility of missile defence and, at a news conference, suggested the Liberals were associating with groups that had terrorist affiliations. He probably could have claimed to have been speaking in the national interest in each case.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, March 14, 2013 at 11:47 AM - 0 Comments
Martin Patriquin takes a good look at Justin Trudeau’s appeal and success in Quebec.
The likely Liberal leader’s standing in the province might be tested very quickly. Denis Coderre, the MP for Bourassa, is thought to be preparing to run for mayor of Montreal. Last fall, he said he would remain an MP until at least the next Liberal leader is chosen in April. If Mr. Coderre steps down, the Liberals have a seat to defend and it’s not obviously a safe one for them. In 2011, the New Democrats got within 3,280 votes of Mr. Coderre and he finished with his lowest vote total in his seven elections there.
So Mr. Trudeau’s Liberals will have to hope to hold it and the Thomas Mulcair’s New Democrats will, with some justification, be hoping to pick it up—with visions of Outremont possibly dancing in each side’s respective heads—and the final result will no doubt be interpreted as having some greater meaning for both sides.
(And then, as well, partisans and pundits might bother Daniel Paille, the seatless leader of the Bloc, with questions about whether he’ll run in Bourassa.)
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, March 12, 2013 at 1:59 PM - 0 Comments
Keith Neuman of Environics argues the public is willing to accept a tax on carbon emissions.
Let’s start with the B.C. carbon tax, which was introduced by then-Premier Gordon Campbell with surprisingly little advance preparation of the political or public ground. Public opinion surveys conducted just after the announcement showed a modest majority of British Columbians in support of the new policy. This support wavered later in the year when the tax came into effect at the same time gas prices spiked, but later recovered and subsequently withstood a frontal attack by the NDP in the 2009 provincial election. Today, the B.C. carbon tax is supported by a clear majority (64 per cent) of provincial residents, and unlikely to be an issue in the upcoming May election.
Does British Columbia represent an anomaly that could not be repeated in other parts of the country? In fact, research conducted by Environics Research and more recently the Environics Institute shows that a majority (59 per cent) of Canadians outside of B.C. would support the introduction of a B.C. style carbon tax in their own province, a proportion that has been slowly building over the past four years. Majority support for such a tax is expressed in all provinces except Alberta (at 43 per cent), and is most widespread in Quebec (67 per cent), followed by Manitoba (59 per cent), Saskatchewan (58 per cent), Ontario (58 per cent) and Atlantic Canada (54 per cent).
The research from Environics, which has been asking about a BC-style carbon tax since February 2008, shows that support has gradually increased and strong opposition has decreased. But its finding would seem to clash with what a survey conducted for Environment Canada found last June. In that poll, 43.5% of respondents disagreed with the idea of a federal carbon tax.
On that count, it is probably worth noting how the survey questions were phrased.
Here is what Environics asked.
As you may know, British Columbia now has a tax on all carbon-based fuels used by consumers and businesses in the province, as a way to encourage reductions in greenhouse gas emissions generated in the province. This tax is now 7.2 cents per litre. This tax is “revenue neutral” which means the same amount raised through this tax each year is refunded – by law – to taxpayers in the form of lower personal income and corporate taxes. Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose this carbon tax for B.C.?
And here is the statement that Environment Canada tested.
Canada needs to implement a federal carbon tax to promote energy efficiency and protect the environment, even though it means increasing the cost of things like gas and groceries for consumers.
The “gas and groceries” elucidation is popular with Conservatives who seek to denigrate the NDP’s cap-and-trade proposal.
This would seem to suggest that how the proposal is presented has some impact on how the proposal is received. See also this survey from 2008.
And there are at least two other complications here. First, neither the Liberal proposal of a carbon tax in 2008, nor the NDP’s proposal of cap-and-trade match the proposal presented by Environics: Stephane Dion would have used some of the revenue to assist low-income families, Thomas Mulcair would use most of the revenue for environmental initiatives.
Second, if the Conservatives can successfully turn an election into a race between those who would tax carbon and those who wouldn’t, the polling split combined with the current political split still basically favours the Conservatives: supporters of a carbon tax (59%) split between the New Democrats, Liberals and Greens, while opponents of a carbon tax (38%) would have only the Conservatives. Of course, the Conservatives can’t claim that their policies on greenhouse gas emissions won’t include costs and of course the current Conservative position on cap-and-trade is entirely at odds with their position from 2004 through 2009, but if it’s a referendum on the phrase “carbon tax,” the Conservatives seem to start with the math in their favour.
The Stephane Dion experience demonstrated that no matter how much a policy can be justified, it still needs sufficient popular support and political execution to be enacted. Polling numbers such as these should have some impact on the discussion. But they obviously don’t quite win the debate.
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, March 9, 2013 at 7:22 PM - 0 Comments
The NDP leader will be in Washington, DC from Monday through Thursday next week for meetings.
He is scheduled to meet with House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, former chair of the Democratic National Committee Howard Dean and Congressional Budget Office director Douglas W. Elmendorf, as well officials from the White House, IMF and World Bank.
By Nick Taylor-Vaisey - Friday, March 8, 2013 at 6:00 AM - 0 Comments
The New Democrats hate the oil patch, right? They have a funny way of showing it.
Thomas Mulcair is the leader of an NDP that is relentlessly defined by its critics as anti-oil. After all, not even a year has passed since Mulcair was lambasted for blaming the oil sands for inflicting “Dutch disease” on Canada by artificially inflating the loonie and harming the manufacturing sector. And at one point, NDP policy called for an all-out ban on new “tar sands” development. But when the NDP leader stepped up to a podium in Calgary’s Palliser hotel last month, before a chamber of commerce audience filled with oil executives, he had a very different message to deliver—the NDP, he declared, would be “a partner for the development of Canada’s energy resources.” While the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline to the West Coast was a “non-starter,” Mulcair said, he called his party “fierce advocates for economic development, as long as it’s sustainable development.”
News of Mulcair’s overtures to the oil patch didn’t exactly make headlines, but his talk was the latest salvo in a quiet, gradual shift in the NDP’s thinking about oil. NDP MPs have been visiting Alberta frequently—someone from the party is in Calgary or Fort McMurray once every couple of weeks, according to MP Peter Julian, the NDP’s energy and natural resources critic. In Ottawa, lobbyist registry records show Julian and Mulcair, along with environment critic Megan Leslie, have met regularly in recent months with representatives and lobbyists from Suncor, Enbridge, Encana and TransCanada.
At meetings of the House of Commons’ natural resources committee in January, Julian openly praised Suncor for embracing the kind of “value-added” development the NDP wants the rest of the industry to emulate. “Instead of shipping raw bitumen out of Canada and basically profiting American refineries, what [Suncor] has done is put in place the infrastructure, the upgraders and the refineries to ensure that the product that comes from Canada has maximum value added,” says Julian, who once worked as a labourer in a Burnaby, B.C., refinery.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 5:35 PM - 0 Comments
Perhaps the F-35 is best understood as a Senate with wings. Or perhaps the Senate is the F-35 that we mistakenly assigned to guard our democracy.
Either way, they are both now easy jokes.
“Mr. Speaker, yet another report from the United States is raising disturbing questions about the F-35,” Thomas Mulcair reported at the outset this afternoon. “Serious problems have been identified with the aircraft’s radar, helmet and cockpit design. Pilots report that the plane is actually incapable of flying through clouds.”
The New Democrats laughed.
“Who knew that this was one of the requirements,” Mr. Mulcair quipped.
The New Democrats laughed again.
“Worse yet, the former head of the U.S. Navy is now suggesting that the F-35A, the model Conservatives plan to buy, should be scrapped entirely,” the NDP leader concluded. “Will the Prime Minister give a straightforward answer? Will he admit that he has made a mistake and agree to full, open and honest competition to replace the CF-18, yes or no?”
The Prime Minister would do no such thing.
“Mr. Speaker,” Mr. Harper declared, “the government has been very clear.”
Indeed. Mr. Harper’s government has been very clear. And not just once on this file, but twice. Continue…