Liveblogging the fact that I'm not at Stéphane Dion's morning event -

Liveblogging the fact that I’m not at Stéphane Dion’s morning event


9:42 a.m.

We’re here in the Maclean‘s Ottawa nerve centre watching Stéphane Dion’s London event on Newsworld. Geddes has the Star on his lap, and Petrou is reading the New York Times magazine. The excitement is palpable.

9:44 a.m.

Stéphane Dion has started talking. The excitement is dissipating quickly. “Nothing could stop me” from coming to Western, Dion says. “I would have jogged here.” I’m sorry, sir, you can’t do that at Western unless you’re blonde and enrolled in Philosophy.

9:46 a.m.

Geddes is back to reading his Star. “We need to tap into the talents and skills of the entire country,” Dion says. He wants a Canada where not only the well-off can go to school.

Excuse me, sir. Are you aware that you’re giving this speech at Western?

9:47 a.m.

Dion is talking about federal funding for the indirect costs of research. Which (a) the Conservatives have actually already been increasing (b) is the least exciting topic on Earth.

More money for social-sciences research! This is actually laudable, and it’s a key issue for Western joggers.

9:48 a.m.

Petrou went to his office to get a book to read after… let’s see… four minutes! A new record! He’s lost to us now.

Dion is getting to his big announcement, it seems. Tax credits that must be transferred to the parent. “Quite complex for many.” I’m told that’s the slogan in the new Liberal ads.

Up-front $1,000 education grants payable every three months! When the GST rebate is delivered! Or something! “Is it a grant or a refund?” Geddes says. “I don’t understand it.”

“I knew you would like it!” Dion says.

9:52 a.m.

Money. We’re sure it’s some form of money that will be going to students, or some students. Also there will be $250 more for… some other class of students. I think.

(A fugitive sense of obligation will lead me to post Dion’s actual policy when I get the release. I was actually planning to put a few of the big parties’ policy planks up here, if I can squeeze them in between the polls. So this works out well.)

Oops, he’s still talking. “An end to punitive interest rates on student loans.” Restricted to prime-plus-0.5%.

OMG OMG Jack Layton has taken over. Suddenly this is a Jack Layton liveblog! Or not! The camera spots are off at the Layton event and he’s walking away from the podium! Covering a campaign from the office is way more interesting than being on the trail.

9:57 a.m.

I give up.

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Liveblogging the fact that I’m not at Stéphane Dion’s morning event

  1. Dion is certainly promising lots of new programs that are going to cost money. I thought Green Shift was revenue neutral so how’s Dion going to pay for all these new programs he’s proposing.

    What programs is Dion going to cut or is Green Shift not revenue neutral like he claims?

    I, too, like the absurdity of going to Western to talk about the less well-off not being able to afford university. This is at least the third campaign event where venue/message were at odds.

  2. “Excuse me, sir. Are you aware that you’re giving this speech at Western?”

    As a lecturer at Ivey, I was so offended by your comment that I spilled latte on my Wall Street Journal!

  3. Wow. It’s Kady O’Malley’s evil twin. Same razer sharp wit, but with guns trained on the Liberals instead of the Conservatives.

  4. Check out CTV News tonight. We’ve got a doozie of a poll. It’s looking like 2006 all over again.

  5. How much money is Dion throwing around?

    I recall in spring 2008 the Conservatives claimed (take this with a grain of salt) that Dion had already promised $68 to $98 Billion.

    He must be getting close to $100 billion by now.

    I know Dion has a Phd but I didn’t realize he was Dr. Evil; “I promise a hundred billion gazillion dollars!”

  6. jwl, the Green Shift is revenue neutral for the government. No matter how much tax they take in, they’ll be sure to spend it on new, improved and far more expensive social programs. Dion has admitted as much. I imagine Harper is going to blast him about this during the debates.

  7. Actually didn’t Harper break some kind of record for increased government spending? One could hardly call Harper a fiscal conservative. And what do we get for that — a lot of piecemeal, buy-local-votes type stuff, rather than any comprehensive plan for building a strong, future economy.

    Also, Harper acted a bit like a drunken sailor will a fist full of bills in the weeks leading up to the writ dropping.

  8. For someone who has championed the cause higher education I find your blog very disquieting and quite disturbing!

    It is one thing to disparage the messenger – largely a problem of language and culture. UWO is not Laval and Dion is not interested in blonde undergrads majoring in philosophy. His message is largely aimed at hard pressed middle class parents who pay the cost of their university age sons and daughters.

    It is quite another matter to discount the message.

    Harper’s targeted programs are also quite complicated to administer but his salesmanship is far superior because he masters the English language. In French he is terrible! Of course this aspect is being overlooked because the Québécois media have been smitten by the French Kiss aspect of his approach. They hope the 2006 French Kiss will become another marriage of convenience. Their objective is to ensure that Harper’s version of Bourassa’s fédéralisme rentable will produce a steady flow of revenues from Ottawa.

  9. I thought the tax taken in was suppose to be offset by cuts to other taxes like income tax.

    Speaking of spending too much money, I thought it was a big deal at least a few elections ago that the parties would release their platforms and would have to have it fully costed and explain where the revenue would come from. I guess no one has released their platform yet, but it will be interesting to see if they are fully costed.

  10. I like the extension of the grace period to two years as it allows students a little more time to settle before having to pay back the loans.

  11. Wow. It’s Kady O’Malley’s evil twin. Same razer sharp wit, but with guns trained on the Liberals instead of the Conservatives.

    No witty tags though.

  12. polpundit, good points.

    Harper seems to be championing anti-intellectualism, anti-science, anti-research& development. And there are now a whole slew of Conservative supporters who think this mentality is reasonable. I didn’t realize Wells in the past has been supportive of education, science or research. As Harper said, Canada is becoming more conservative and this anti-knowledge stance seems to go along with it.

  13. I find my blog disquieting and disturbing too. We’re having that printed up on T-shirts as we speak. People were getting tired of the steak knives.

  14. Hilarious. Actually it strikes me that blondes may be all that can save Dion now. He should surround himself with them. He should have affairs with two of them. Strategically, it’s the campaign equivalent of the defibrillator, but by now his image needs a miracle. A blonde miracle.

    Dion reminds me of an academic – a social scientist! – who has invented a neologism in his field and is desperately trying to get people to adopt it. But “that word you keep saying. I do not think it means what you think it means.” Definition follows definition. Eventually there are so many different definitions floating around that the word becomes a byword for opacity. What makes me think we’ll be using the phrase “Green Shift” ten years from now and laughing till we cry?

  15. Have you swapped roles with Feschuk? He has been getting all twitchy about Harper’s blah response about the economy, and here you are making Dion’s “campaign trail” a good chuckle.

  16. Gee Mike, ya mean like Sept. 17, 2006 ( tugging my earlobe ).

  17. “Hilarious. Actually it strikes me that blondes may be all that can save Dion now. He should surround himself with them. He should have affairs with two of them. Strategically, it’s the campaign equivalent of the defibrillator, but by now his image needs a miracle. A blonde miracle.”

    It’s sad that Dion could improve his chances by following in Gary Hart’s footsteps.

  18. Hey Paul = how much for a dozen t-shirts my puffin ones sold like hotcakes. Excellent style I especially like : Geddes says. “I don’t understand it.” “I knew you would like it!” Dion says.

  19. Paul: “I’m sorry, sir, you can’t do that at Western unless you’re blonde and enrolled in Philosophy.”

    Which were you – blonde, philospohy major, or both?

  20. a. Impressed by the shots at Western. I’ve been asked why I’m giggling in my office.

    b. Impressed by the student loan interest rate thing. My student loan has the highest interest rate of any debt I hold. My credit card has a lower rate, and I barely had to ask for that. This is an easy and sensible vote getter. Surprised Muttart didn’t think of it. I dare you to ask Dion which part of the Green Shift it’s from.

  21. Scott B: I wasn’t jogging.

  22. I like the interest rate thing too, but currently the rate is 2.5% above prime. Not much of a back breaker, but if prime goes up a lot then there’s the possiblility that it could hurt.

    FYI: lowering student loan interest rates is actually right out of the CPC policy platform that was adopted at the 2004 Montreal convention. It’s been a minor irritant of mine that Harper hasn’t enacted it.

    The reasoning advanced at the 2004 convention is that since student loans are government backed, they’re very low risk to the banks and therefore deserve a preferential rate of interest.

  23. 2005 convention, Cool Blue? Fear not, I get fuzzy on dates too.

    As far as I can tell, any reduction in student-loan rates is a dead cost to the government, i.e. the government’s funders, you and me. Especially because Dion would also extend pay-back times. So if the rate’s lower and the lendee has more time to pay back (or default!), there’s a cost. Who picks that cost up? I may be mistaken; I’m not an expert on credit.

  24. Hi Paul,

    I have two points regarding your comments on the indirect costs of research.

    First and foremost, unexciting does not equal unimportant. Funding for the so-called “indirect costs of research”, or the institutional costs of supporting research, as AUCC (my employer) prefers to call them, strengthens the ability of university researchers to achieve global excellence, partner more often and more effectively and build critical mass. Crucially, full funding of institutional costs will also ensure that universities do not have to cover these costs from their existing operating budgets. When universities have to turn to their operating budgets to subsidize institutional costs of research not covered by external funders, this can compromise their ability to provide students with the best possible educational experience.

    Second, on the matter of recent increases in funding for institutional costs, the last three federal budgets have indeed included increases to the Indirect Costs program which have maintained the overall reimbursement rate in the 25 percent range. These investments have been well-received by the university community. In future, ensuring the international competitiveness of Canadian university research will require a minimum 40 percent reimbursement rate. To do this in 2008/09 would require that the Indirect Costs program be funded at approximately $530 million a year (it is currently at $315 million and subject to parliamentary approval of the additional $15 million announced in the last federal budget, is slated to increase to $330 million).

    Oh and one last thing that might interest you, AUCC has put up an election site on higher education and university research issues, you can visit it at You can visit it now for some info and in a couple of weeks, we should have the parties’ responses to our policy questionnaire up there.

  25. Paul: “Scott B, I wasn’t jogging.”


  26. Bravo, Rob South, of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada for providing very helpful information.
    The role of voters is to get their hands and minds on and around as much information as possible so they can then make reasoned and intelligent choices.

    There is no other way to keep our political leaders and their militants honest. We must make every effort to avoid excessive partisanship that undermines the political discourse and the health of our democratic institutions.

  27. student loan interest rates are indeed high but the interest is tax deductible. One wonders if the deduction will have to go as the price for reducing the rates.

  28. It’s adorable when Cons try the same old scare tactics on Liberal spending.

    Certainly in this context: “Taxpayers Federation Updates Conservative’s Pre-Election Spending to $19.2-billion” (

    Thank god we have the fiscally responsible Cons running the show!

  29. 2005 convention; you’re right. My memory between the merger, election and convention is one big alchohol induced fog.

    You’re correct that if the rates are lowered and period extended it would cost the feds more, however, I don’t recall the CPC voting to extend repayment periods as Dion is proposing.

    As for interest deductions, you would assume that if you’re paying less interst, your deduction would be less. Right?

    However, Dion appears to be promising to end other student benefit plans to fund his new plan. Hopefully this doesn’t include ending the loan interest deduction which would burn those out of school with loans who can’t benefit the new Dion plan.

  30. I’m slowing going from championing Dion to favouring May of the Greens. She seems more fiscally responsible (scary thought that!) than Dion at this point.

    As a regular citizen who doesn’t normally follow the mickey mouse crew in Ottawa or the government…what Canadians desperately need right now is MORE MONEY FOR HEALTHCARE. That’s right. Not more research money. HEALTHCARE. PATIENT CARE. HOSPITAL CARE. Good God, when are these freaking politicians going to give a crap about us?