Harper’s rut

PAUL WELLS: Suddenly, things aren’t so clear and focused


Suddenly, things aren’t so clear and focused“In support of building a stronger Canada,” said the Harper government’s Speech from the Throne, “the government’s agenda will be clear and focused.”

Perhaps I should specify. That’s what they said—or gave unto Michaëlle Jean to say—in their first Throne Speech. Four years ago.

In the latest Throne Speech, earlier this month, Stephen Harper and his crack team of recalibrators had a bit more to say. They pledged to “launch a digital economy strategy.” To “extend support for…prototyping of new space-based technologies.” To “ensure that unnecessary regulation does not inhibit the growth of Canada’s uranium mining industry.”

Harper and his clear, focused team swore to “support a competitive livestock industry” and “defend supply management of dairy and poultry products” while “continuing trade negotiations with the European Union,” never mind that Canada’s continued defence of supply management will gut any trade deal of its substance if it does not simply torpedo negotiations altogether.

The government will “reintroduce legislation to protect Canadian families from unsafe food, drug and consumer products.” It will “respect the wishes of Canadians by reintroducing the consumer product safety legislation.” It will “reintroduce tough legislation to combat the criminal drug trade.” The government will do these things because it believes in them just as much as it did when it throttled the last session of Parliament and killed those reforms the first time.

The Harper government will “look to innovative charities and forward-thinking private-sector companies to partner on new approaches to many social challenges.” The name and the nature of the charities, the companies, and the challenges will have to wait.

The government will “establish a prime ministerial award for volunteerism,” “support legislation establishing Seniors’ Day,” hold “a national day of commemoration” for the last veteran of the First World War, “bring individuals, groups and businesses together to build community war memorials,” “continue to invest in world-class Canadian athletics,” “mark the quadricentenary of the settling of Cupids, Newfoundland and Labrador,” “engage millions of citizens and strengthen knowledge and pride in Canada by commemorating the bicentennial of the War of 1812,” “celebrate the 60th anniversary of the accession of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II,” and “ask Parliament to examine the original gender-neutral English wording of our national anthem.”

In the interest of clarity and focus, the government withdrew that last idea 49 hours after the Governor General read it aloud. The other plans remain. Onward.

The government will “take steps to strengthen further Canada’s francophone identity.” It will support “the establishment of a National Monument to the Victims of Communism and it will support legislation to establish a national Holocaust memorial.” It will “continue to map our northern resources and waters.” It will “bolster its Action Plan on Clean Water.”

The Harper government will “advocate greater investment in maternal and child health in developing countries.” A day later, it announced it will cap Canada’s contribution to international development assistance. Everyone looks forward to learning which country will make the greater investment the Harper government will advocate.

“Nowhere,” the Throne Speech intones, “is a commitment to principled policy, backed by action, needed more than in addressing climate change.” There is no truth to the rumour that the PMO sought to shorten this sentence, in the interests of clarity and focus, to: “Nowhere is a commitment to principled policy, backed by action, needed.”

How shall we back our commitment to principled policy, here where it is needed more than anywhere, with action? The answer came in the following day’s budget: “Responsibility for conducting environmental assessments for energy projects will be delegated from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency to the National Energy Board.” That’ll keep those pesky environmentalists away from the environment! Just as we will keep Canadian aid dollars away from aid, gender neutrality away from the anthem, and free trade away from our farmers. Upon these rocks of clarity and focus will we build our church.

It is easy to mock a government for having lots of priorities. There’s ample precedent. In 2003, Paul Martin said, “I want to lead a new government with a renewed sense of purpose, and a sharper focus and a clearer plan.” Months later, Martin was bringing down budgets stuffed like Christmas geese, with $175 million to “help renew Marine Atlantic’s fleet and shore facilities” and $50.5 million to “the Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Incorporated” and launching “a comprehensive review of [the government’s] current approach to financing First Nations infrastructure.”
Just kidding! No, the money for Marine Atlantic, the Montreal bridges, and the Aboriginal infrastructure review was all in this month’s clear, focused 2010 Stephen Harper budget, not in the sharper-focused, clearer-planning Martin budgets of yore. But it’s easy to get confused.

Harper prorogued Parliament in December because, he said, he needed a couple of months of focus and clarity to prepare Canada for the epochal challenges ahead. On many recent nights, a pedestrian passing the Langevin Block on Ottawa’s downtown Wellington Street would pass the Prime Minister’s parked and waiting motorcade as Harper stayed at the office late into the evening. Now more than at any time since he got this job, Harper carries the weight of his entire government on his shoulders. And it is grinding him into a rut.


Harper’s rut

  1. At least the YouTube stream was clear and focused.

  2. To implement such grand plans will require a majority gov't … and I believe that Stephen Harper will soon be asking Canadians to elect a majority gov't in an election … after the Obama Washington April conference on nuclear proliferation and the G8-20 summit conference in June. If Canadians elect a majority Harper Conservative gov't, they will have 4 years of electoral peace, guaranteed. If Canadians elect another minority gov't, there will be another election within months if not weeks, because the political instability would be immense.

    Will Canadians vote for a majority or minority gov't .. stability or instability … security or insecurity … unity or disunity …???

    • Your comment is right on the money! The headline should read Canada is in a rut. We desperately need a Majority Goverment to more forward.

      You are observant!

      • Wanting a majority government for the sake of having a majority government is not necessarily a good thing. Be careful what you wish for.

    • And if there's another electon within weeks of a previous one, we could see Harper's party follow the PCs.

      I'm cool with that.

      • I'm not.

        I don't say this as any kind of a fan of Harper or the Conservatives, but as a country we're definitely not well served by not having a credible conservative party. Besides, I honestly don't think the Liberals should be allowed to return to power until they've figured out what they need to do in order to better connect with voters in western provinces and generally managed to piece themselves back together.

        Personally, I'm holding out hope for proportional representation still. And, I am starting to think that the quickest way to get there is more frustrated and frustrating minorities.

        • I'd agree with that, but I'd argue we don't have a credible conservative party now. We've got this thing of Harper's.

          • Ok, I totally get the clever joke and all, but are you actually saying you'd prefer if the CPC effective ceased to exist and that there was no real conservative party in the country? Or no?

          • There is a real conservative party – it's called the Liberal Party. No, that was a joke, the Liberal Party is like the Conservative Party: rightwing corporatist but not conservative. Black cats and white cats…

          • No. I do agree that we need a Conservative Party, if only because about a third or so of Canadians lean that way, they deserve representation for their ideas. However, I think there is great danger that Harper and his minions have corrupted the party extensively, especially with their changes to the ridings nomination processes (see Rob Anders) and I don't see anything less than a significant slap down being able to wake up that third so that they move to have an effective and honest group of Conservatives representing them.

            As for the Liberals connecting with Western Voters, it'll be another 15 years or so at least before that happens.. because it's going to take that long for enough of the "Blame the NEP" generation to literally die off before Alberta can actually matter in the federal scene again.

          • It sucks when you're right. And your first paragraph is absolutely bang-on.

          • What we needed is for the Progress Conservatives to lead the Conservative Party, not the Canadian Alliance Reformers. Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way.

          • I agree with your first paragraph, but I'd warn you that your criticisms would have perhaps been even more appropriate if you were talking about the sponsorship scandal era Liberals. Blame Harper if you want (and I'd encourage anyone to do this!) but I don't know if it's a great idea to say that the party is destroyed because of the leadership.

            The second, I completely disagree with. If you concede the west to the Conservatives, you'll never get it back since the culture will change and simply not be hospitable to Liberals, or anyone else with a non-conservative viewpoint. In fact, there is a strong case to be made that this has already happened.

            Besides, Alberta does matter greatly in the federal scene right now: the Conservatives are in power.

          • No, actually, they wouldn't have been, as the Liberals problem and strength was that it had strong internal factions. Martin was only too happy to hose out the corruption following Chretien, and his own faction got fairly soundly spanked with the next election and the subsequent rise of Dion.

            The party doesn't need to be destroyed because of the leadership, if there's enough strength within the party to oppose the problems. The difficulty with Harper's party is that there simply isn't. Most of them are either too green, or too happy to be at the trough themselves finally to really care.

          • Regarding clean-outs: that's exactly my point. A change in leadership can make a huge difference, and you've just described the most obvious example available. If the Liberals can clean themselves up (and I honestly don't know if this is a finished job or no, I don't follow Liberal internal matters that closely) I'm not going to automatically assume the Conservatives wouldn't be able to do the same when they're likely less corrupt than the Liberals were (no sponsorship scandal, for one).

            As far as the west goes, no province or region should ever be written off by a federal party for any reason. If they do this, they don't deserve to be in power. Period.

          • Agreed with the last paragraph. Fully, categorically agreed!

          • Categorically agreed with last paragraph. Do many Conservatives wish they could just write off the Quebec vote? Probably. Should they? Absolutely not.

          • I think it's a lot more complicated than expunging the "NEP" crowd. I think there is a fundamental difference of opinion between the western and eastern parts of the country that the Liberals have not bothered to court because in the past it was not worthwhile electorally. Sure, we could get into caricature-like depictions of why this is the case, but in such a vast nation, there are inevitably going to be differences.

            And before anyone jumps on this as a tacit support of current Conservative hegemony, remember that the CPC largely supplanted the NDP, and the Progressives before them as a large western bloc. The Liberals started to decline in influence in the west almost as soon as western provinces came into being, and there are no indications that this is about to change.

          • Sometimes people consider the "west" to be Alberta and Saskatchewan. British Columbia, although the most western-oriented country, is very different from the two previously mentioned which have more in common with the more sparsely populated areas of B.C. The lower mainland of British Columbia which accounts for the gross majority of B.C. has more in common with the urban areas of Canada – the modern and progressive cities. We might even have more in common with certain parts of California. We are certainly more small "l" liberal than either the hard right provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. And Vancouver does not compare to Calgary which boasts roughly 1 out of every 13 of its citizens being American and probably connected to the oil business and probably Republican-leaning (therefore Harper Conservatives). Calgary would have more in common with the likes of Dallas and other noisy Texas cities.

    • Unfortunately, a C.R.A.Pper majority is just a little different than one of the other parties getting a majority. Whereas with the others, one gets permission to speak occasionally, with 'Llittle Mr. Insecure, it will always be a majority of one.

    • "stability or instability … security or insecurity … unity or disunity …???"

      Communism or democracy?

      I know it's hyperbole, but for the love of god, political stability in Ottawa is not an end that's worth sacrificing one's principles (or democracy) for. Democracy is messy by its nature. Appealing to tidiness is not a compelling reason to vote for one party or another.

      Stephen Harper is flipping Parliament the bird. No amount of "stability" could convince me to vote for a Conservative.

      • In any next election, Harper will be asking Canadians for a majority gov't to implement the Budget and necessary measures to make cuts to gov't because only a majority gov't unhindered by Opposition threats of defeat can get the job done. Canadians will listen … except for the Quebec nationalists .. the BQ and Liberal voters … who have denied Canada a majority gov't.

        • He will surely ask and probably using that illogic.

          However, to date there has been zero evidence of Harper's willingness or ability to restrain spending – quite the reverse. His successive minorities have set new records for spending. And in fact, the last government that exhibited such ability and willingness was Liberal. I would expect they will be able to posit a more logical argument in favour of themselves as fiscally prudent; and I further expect the electorate will be ready to hear it.

          Note the poll on the right – the highest numbers for how to cut the deficit is for tax hikes. Utterly off the table for Harper & Flaherty. They will have to wear the beetle-headed GST cuts and they are not flattering.

        • "In any next election, Harper will be asking Canadians for a majority gov't to implement the Budget"

          What budget? The doughnut hole they threw up last week?

          Get over yourself, for your own sake. 30-something in the polls steadily, does not reflect the will of most Canadians. Those numbers suggest that 70-something find something distasteful with this clown car.

          No soup for you.

  3. If Canadians elect a majority Harper Conservative gov't, they will have 4 years of electoral peace, guaranteed

    If Canadians elect a majority government of ANY stripe, they will have 4 years of electoral peace, guaranteed.

    And if you think these are "grand plans" you either didn't read the article, or you are aspirationally challenged.

  4. I remain convinced that the anthem change was just a purposeful distraction that Harper knew would get lots of media coverage and remind people of the our national pride.

    But who knows…

    • Only because you have totally bought into the myth that is Harper's strategic genius. It wasn't a distraction. Our Chessmaster-in-Chief absolutely thought that it would be a good idea.

      • I think some of the words should be changed, just as some of them were changed some 30 years ago. But I don't trust the Government of Harper to do it right. They would be too intent on imposing their warped and limited version of "Canadian values" on it.

        • I think if you look at the words as individual sentences, it doesn't really make a whole lot of sense, at least not in today's Canada.

          I also think nobody really cares what the words say; it is our National Anthem and should be sung from the heart, not the head.

      • I think everything he does is calculated. It's what bothers me most about him, frankly. Everything is measured in how it will advance him politically, and not measured in what is good for the country.

        In the animated movie "UP", there is an element of the story that involves distracting the dogs. Apparently, if one yells "squirrel!", all dogs will look for the squirrel. We, and the media, are the dogs.

        I have started looking at events and trying to decide if they are real issues, or "squirrels". The suggestion to change the anthem was a squirrel.

        • It's definitely accurate to say Harper is calculating, but you can't say his actions are “not measured in what is good for the country.'' He's got long-term ideological aims that are well known and well documents, that he feels are good for the country, and he pursues those aims. They're just aims i'm assuming you don't like. Calculating beats reckless or unfocused as a strategic quality in most areas of human endeavour.

          Having said that, I don't really think the anthem thing was really all that calculated. They probably threw it out there for a lark to see what would happen or if there was a groundswell of support, and there's not much downside or upside really. The paranoid tendency might assume it's a fig leaf to cover some kind of planned rollback of women's rights..

          • Let me re-phrase it slightly then.

            I think his political objectives trump his 'governing' objectives. The good of the country is not his primary concern. It is secondary to his goal of solidifying his position.

          • The Speech from the Throne–particularly after a lengthy and ill-timed prorogation in order to recalibrate–was written as a lark?

            Yeah, you're probably right, and I don't know why I'm still so shocked at evidece of Harper's complete contempt at our time-honoured traditions.

            I promise to work on that.

      • Thanks for labelling me as someone who easily buys into things…

        Your conviction that you know "absolutely" what the PM's intentions were means you are either the PM, Guy Giorno, or doing one of them Julie Couillard styles… otherwise you are just annoying.

        • Actually, I don't think you're wrong, Pete. I think it was calculated too — one of the big reasons for their recent drop in the polls, is that they've been tanking among women voters of all age groups, but particularly under 55. The anthem was meant to warm them back up to Harper.

          Harper knew the idea would get panned, and that he would flip flop, but in the meantime, lots of women would take note of his new found feminism– and it wouldn't even cost him a program… it wasn't even symbolic because he didn't get to chance the symbol in question, being the anthem!

          • Bill,

            Interesting fairytale spin can you provide a source?


            Age, Gender are close, tied with MOE for most part. The only AGE group outside MOE is the 65+ and they break for the CPC.
            (Women is 29.0 CPC 30.7 LIB MOE 3.0)

  5. This should have been as a reply to Observant, of course.

    • Hey, Wally …. we do have a majority gov't of sorts. In the last election, Conservatives won 133 of 233 riding in the Rest of Canada(RoC) excluding Quebec … or a 57% majority of MPs. In Quebec, Conservatives only won 13 of 75 ridings or 13%, while the BQ won 49 of 77 ridings or 65%. So it seems as if Quebec is denying the RoC a majority Conservative gov't … or even Liberal gov't. The Liberals and NDP can't even produce a majority coalition merger. That's how badly Canada is politically fractured.

      If the RoC desire a stable and secure majority gov't, they must elect 155 MPs or 67% Conservative support. Any Conservative MPs from Quebec are a bonus but should not be counted on.

      Canada is badly compromised by the large support for separatist BQ in Quebec. This is favourable for Quebec because this gives Quebec disproportionate leverage on Ottawa and the RoC. Even those who vote Liberal in Quebec are denying Canada a majority gov't and should be considered as a proxy BQ vote for minority gov'ts.

      If Canada wants a majority Conservative gov't, the RoC must elect 155 CPC MPs .. otherwise the country suffers at the hands of Quebec BQ separatists.

      • My Canada includes Quebec.

      • You sound just like every Southern Republican from the last 100 years: "The Republicans would have a majority if it wasn't for Black voters…"

        Quebecers are Canadians. The value of the vote of any random Quebecer is equivalent to your own vote. Stop wishing that 20% of Canadians couldn't vote. You don't have to like the way they vote (just like you can fume about the Greater Toronto Area consistently refusing to vote Conservative) but that's how democracy works.

        • Before the 60's, the Democrats were the party of choice if you were a southern racist. No actual comment, just a quick correction.

          • Er – right, thanks!

            Apparently the current US party brands are burned deep into my brain :)

        • You and Thwim just can't accept the reality of Quebec intransigence and separation intent. Also what you don't want is a majority gov't in Ottawa to neuter the BQ separatist presence in the HoCs ….. you want a compromised federal gov't unless it's a leftist gov't. Canadians in the RoC have swung fully Right, and now they will be asked to elect a majority Conservative gov't in any next election. If the RoC wants to commit political and national suicide, they will retain a minority gov't … but they shouldn't complain if they are at the polls again within months if not weeks to clean up their mess …!!!!

          • You go ahead and keep thinking that.

            However, if you want to actually look at the facts, you might notice that in the last election the Conservatives vote didn't really increase so much as the Liberal vote collapsed. Former liberal voters didn't come out and vote conservative, leading to your RoC theory, they just stayed home. I don't see that as a swing rightward in this country so much as I see it as a reflection on Dion's actions in the face of Harper's confidence games.

            If you want to look at the facts, you'll see that Quebec keeps voting the Bloc in, but keeps voting down any attempts at separation. Perhaps you might want to think on that for a while.

      • "If Canada wants a majority Conservative gov't, the RoC must elect 155 CPC MPs .. otherwise the country suffers at the hands of Quebec BQ separatists."

        It's all about perspective. These Quebec BQ separatists might be saving Canada from the horrors of a majority Conservative gov't. Who woulda thunk? – the BQ could be heroes… ;)

      • When the add those seat to Ontario 23, Alberta 7, BC 8, the ability of the Liberals to play the Ontario-Quebec unity card is over.

        Quebec has the opportunities to vote for 4-5 parties and the separtist francophone voters have managed to win and benefit in extorting the federation.
        The Liberals, NDP voted in keeping the politicial subsidy which the Bloc is heavily dependent. On the campaign they can defend their entitlements to this subsidy for the separtist party in Quebec.

        • There are a lot of Federalist Quebecers who vote for the Bloc. The Bloc does a very good job representing Quebec in Parliament and is probably one of the most knowledgeable parties in the House of Commons. They have a superior grasp on the issues and the process when compared to the other parties (note: this doesn't mean that the Bloc are super-great, it just means the other parties suck at their jobs).

          Most Quebecers don't see the Bloc as a major separatist force — I actually put myself in that category. While I doubt I'll ever vote for the Bloc, I recognize that they will never be a major force in a separatist movement.

          I fear most people in the Rest of Canada equate the BQ with the PQ… they are very, very different.

          • Scott M.

            Quebec is our Greece. Iagre the Bloc have raised some valid issues Liberals use of EI for general revenues.

            The Bloc/PQ work closely together on regaining control of the levers of power. Through the NDP-Lib coalition or beating Charest.

            We should require each Federal party run candidates in at least 35% of the ridings in order to qualify as a federal party (107 seats) for any subsidy unless we want to encourage regionalism with provincial parties.

          • Why the hell 35%? As arbitrary numbers pulled from your arse, that one makes no sense that I can see.

            155 seats.. that makes sense. At least then there's a theoretical possibility of attaining a majority government.

            One seat from each province or territory, that makes sense too.

            107 seats? Was that how many reform MPs were running at one time or something?

          • Poor Thwimmy,

            Spill your bubble tea? I would not put an unfair burden on "new" parties to have a candidate in every province/territory.

            Just cut off the funding off for "provincial" parties in Ottawa.

            You are free as a Liberal to campaign in support of taxpayers funding the Bloc.

          • Since you wouldn't answer, I did some digging itself, and figured it out.
            107 seats = all of ontario's seat's plus 1. Cute.

            You really do hate Ontario, don't you?

          • Any other theories Castro?

            1) My "arse"
            2) Hate Ontario
            3) Jedi mind games

          • Hm.. if by Jedi mind games you're simply saying that you're trolling, fair enough I suppose.

        • Actually the Bloc is excellently privately funded. It's the Liberals who would suffer most if the political subsidy was taken away

          • Additional blogpost on Liberal – Bloc cooperation.

            Between 2004 and 2008, Canadians will have spent $290 million on subsidies to federal political parties. If subsidies continue, either because of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's reversal on the matter, or if a Liberal-NDP-Bloc Quebecois coalition takes power, Canadians will pay out another $260 million to parties between 2009 and 2013. That's almost the price tag on another federal election fight between Ottawa's warring forces.- Frontier Centre


  6. Essentially the government will flail around and try to inject itself into as many inappropriate venues as possible.

    The thinking (and I use that term loosely) seems to be "Things are not ideal. Something must be done! This is "something". Let's do it!" Or worse: "We must be perceived to be doing something; this boondoggle will foster than impression for now; let's do it!"

    Some of us have enough faith in the Canadian people to believe that we'll do just fine, possibly even better(!), if the government would stop taking so much of our money and wasting it on half-baked ideas run by bureaucrats with little vested interest in the outcome and even less knowledge specific to the tasks at hand.

    "Clear and focused" means two things: (1) Clear, and (2) Focused. Ok, ok, let me be less flip and more specific: it means (in reverse order) (1) choosing a few initiatives which incorporate high probability of success with high benefit and (2) making the case for these, openly and precisely, to the public. Maintaining the "focus" in (1) necessitates the avoidance of what those in the industrial world call "scope creep": i.e. letting the number of projects expand rather than sticking to those that have already been initiated until they're done properly.

    • Essentially the government will flail around and try to inject itself into as many inappropriate venues as possible.

      And this is our limited-government party. Pass the Tylenol.

      • Tylenol is good for hangovers and such like, but for the 5-star cluster that this is turning into I think the only solution is hard liquor.

        • Too much Tylnol damages the liver, can cause blocking of the liver ducts.

          What appears to be good for you on the surface isn't always it seems.

          • I'll be sure to stick to alcohol then. Makes my comments so much more interesting too…at least that's what I tell myself.

          • Haha, so that's your excuse Gaunilon. Mine's wine.

  7. From "scandal plagued" (according to the media consensus leading up to the last election – who could forget the earth shattering black humour gate, or busty girlfriendgate, or the ever popular pooping puffin,

    to being "in a rut"

    seems to be a decidedly rosier assessment.

    When calibrated through the leftist, scandal chasing we-can't-have-a-conservative-government-running-our-"progressive"-country media,

    I'd have to say Harper's looking not too bad.

    Oh, and I'd throw in the fact that, by comparison to nearly every other Western country Canada's looking like an economic genious,

    but benchmarking or comparisons are only made in the buisness, sports, economic and personal worlds, when one wishes to honestly guage performance. Since the agenda media has no real interest in honest assessments (as opposed to "gotcha!" partisanship) that idea would be wasted.

  8. Us having the best luger in the world: headline grabbing stuff.

    Us having the best….economy…in the world: well, we best not be mentioning that too often in our "news" pages.

    • Maybe you should look for other things to boast about from the Conservatives. Both of those things were as a result of previous Liberal governments.

      • Riiight, and the previous Liberal governments didn't benefit from $35 billion a year from the GST that another party paid a steep political price for. And the longest most robust expansion in the Canadian economy was a result of those master economic geniuses in the Liberal party and not deepening economic integration with the US brought on by free trade.

        • True enough, Guest, but then I'm not crowing about how wonderful the Liberals are because of those things, either, the way biff is doing. But I am glad to be reminded right about now that our economy's inseparable entanglement with the American economy isn't the Liberals fault.

      • So to recap: if things are portrayed as being bad it's on the CPC's shoulders, if it's good, well that's the Liberal's doing.

        Jenn, you would happen to be a staff writer for the Canadian Press would you?

        • Biff, it's called the buck stops here – Harper is suppose to take responsibilty now. Blaming everyone else for his problems is childish and way past its due date.

          • Except I'm not saying he should be "blamed" for our economy, I'm saying in this worldwide economic recession, Canada is doing better than the rest, in many cases by a wide margin.

            But this is kept hush hush, from a leftist media desperate to portray the Harper economy as a "fail".

            It's like reporting Montgomery isn't very good at skelton, while ommitting the teeny fact that he's also the best in the world and gold medalist.

    • It was constantly in the news biff. You are funny.

    • Us having the best luger in the world: headline grabbing stuff

      Really??? You saw a headline proclaiming that we have the best luger in the world? Where did you see this headline?

      'Cause that's an awfully rosy assessment of our stature in the world of luge given that Canada didn't win a single medal in either men's or women's luge in Vancouver. In fact, I'm not sure that Canada has EVER won a medal in luge.

      • Gotcha!

        At what point when you were typing that did you realize that I meant skeleton (you know the other ice sport where we go hurtling down an ice track – the one we won Gold at)?

        I'm guessing well before your first keystroke. Perhaps you can write more words about what you know is a straw response premised on a single common mistake.

        Here, this would have been more effecient and…well honest:

        "Ha ha, you said luge when you meant skeleton!"

        • … and here I thought you were both just talking about the quality of our vintage WW2 era handguns.

  9. Steven Harper, YOU JUST CAN'T TRUST HIM !!!!!!!


    • Who's Steven Harper? Stephen, you idiot.

      • Just call him Steve. He used to be called Steve. When he was involved in youth politics and when he first ran in Calgary, his signs said "Steve".

    • I would trust him any day over the likes of you.

      • OK, that's one vote for trusting the Prime Minister over random blog commenter "Bert".

        Can I get a second?

  10. Harper may be in a rut,but it is a comfortable rut.,thanks to Ignatieff.Once again the leader of the opposition bangs his drums loudly and hides behind the curtains.

    • A rut is a rut. And judging one by its comfiness is a small step on the journey to heck – the more comfortable hell!!

      Zero actionable ideas and titchy base that jumps and grins when they're dog-whistled to ain't comfy.

    • There is no climate change ..That is why we have to spend so much money and time re-educating you fools.Winter,,Spring,,Summer,,Fall…Repeat that 1000 times…It has been happening this way for millions of years. Get with the program.

    • I don't see what mapping northern resources and waters or bolstering the plan on clean water have to do with climate change. The former, if anything, is benefitted by climate change since it makes those resources easier to access. There is a 5-way trade war in progress for trillions of dollars in oil (among other things) in the Arctic that will be made available if the melting of the northern Arctic persists. The latter can be augmented entirely without reference to climate change.

      That's not to say that you're wrong that the government is purposely avoiding dealing with the climate change issue; rather that it the two issues that you're comparing have little to do with each other, at least as far as the government is concerned.

      • Since the Arctic ice is melting and making access to resources easier, wouldn't it be a good idea to have some scientists mapping the resources, as well as studying the changes and maybe even telling us if certains ways of exploiting the resources are doing harm to us and our environment?

        At no time is it a good idea to prefer to be ignorant of the consequences of our actions. The oil sands are killing people downriver and the poiliticians are too cowardly to even admit it, much less to take steps to ameliorate it.

    • "Because global warming wont happen if everyone is ignorant of it. "

      Well, you got the first part of that sentence right if you just add "human caused" after because.

      • Missed the sarcasm, did you? Human-caused global warming is happening now, and it is getting worse, and when our government refuses to do anything about it, they are betraying all of us.

        Cowards prefer to stay ignorant.

  11. Classless crap like this gets the "thumbs up"?

    • Stick around here for a while and you will soon realize that there is zero correlation between the class-factor of the crap and its thumb rating.

  12. I didn't do the word count, but on first glance half the column is cut and paste.

    • Try reading what it actually says.

      • Think it's a prize winner do ya?

        • Substance is more important than appearance. Do you have a comment about what it actually says?

          • Not really. It isn't Paul's best work.

  13. By the way, I seem to have heard a lot of Throne Speech sentences starting with "Canadians think…" or "Canadians want…" or "Canadians believe…" Is that normal for a Throne Speech, or is it the government of Harper trying to impose their minority values on the rest of us?

    • Yes sir! Just tell me where to line up and salute.

  14. Paul Wells, both the Speech from the throne and the budget were indended to confuse everyone so that Harper can focus on his ideological agenda. Althought the budget promises INCREASED spending and deficits for two, or more probably three or four years and at the highest peak in history, it has cleverly been framed as a cost cutting budget. Of course the cuts are all being made where minimal immediate hurt will be felt by voters. This gives Harper and his minsters cover to comb through the civil service and emasculate every program that could possibly be described as progressive. All the while saying "the deficit made us do it". That focus will be very clear.

  15. This government drags its feet. They say things with no intention of delivering. The stimulus spending from last year hasn't been "spent"! The donations they matched for Haiti haven't been "provided" to Haiti or to any of the aid agencies such as the red cross and yet and this was urgent money to fend off more disastrous outcomes as the rainy season approaches the poor souls in Haiti.

    This government is like a eunuch at an orgy, they fall well short of performing anywhere near what was expected! They are impotent! They are laughable! They are only able to please themselves as they stroke the confines of their beings in Parliament! Only they believe they are right, as it is with all despots and dictators!

  16. Some chicken, some rut.

    I wish our journalists would not be so dense. The prorogation was necessary so the Conservatives could "recalibrate" the Senate committees, which they couldn't do whilst the session continued. The downstream impact will be that most if not all of the "law and order" legislation will now be re-introduced in the Senate, not the House of Commons. Because of this, it was necessary to have a Speech from the Throne, even though the Budget was the main event.

    I compliment our host on one thing however that he has not jumped on this disgusting Rahim Jaffer plea bargain band-wagon. I was appalled by Tom Clark today on Power Play when he interrupted Shelley Glover MP (and a Winnipeg Police Officer on leave of absence) by saying it was "crazy talk" when she tried explaining that the decision to proceed with a plea bargain for a private citizen in Provincial Court is a provincial matter for the provincial Attorney-General to explain (which is correct and not "crazy talk"at all).

    • Proroguing for a day would have accomplished that, and as has been pointed out elsewhere, it's not even necessary to do that much.

  17. "It will support “the establishment of a National Monument to the Victims of Communism and it will support legislation to establish a national Holocaust memorial.” "

    Well, two things I'm in favour of, anyway. I hope the national monument to the victims of communism is not going to be as lame and trite as most of our efforts to honour history are here in Canada. Also, I have seen Holocaust monuments in Berlin and Kraków, all I can say is that it had better be very damn impressive.

    • Only if it was a monument to Socialism and Public Healthcare. Only then would it be as impressive as those in Dieppe, Berlin and Krakow.

    • why all the negative voting do people disagree with the idea that the memorials to victims should be good?

  18. Ooo, an expert. Please go on.

    • You are funny.

    • What part of "proroguing for a day" was too complicated for you?

      • I get it now, thanks. Prorogation is OK with everyone. It was the amount of time between sessions that was the affront to democracy.

  19. Got to love Macleans..

  20. Hardly an expert, just apparantly more knowledgable than you.

  21. They could take clear and focused lessons from Stephane Dion's coalition speech videographer

  22. Get rid of Harper & his friends in the House & the upper chamber, The GG should try her luck at the PM's role at least she would do a better jobn

  23. "That'll keep those pesky environmentalists away from the environment! Just as we will keep Canadian aid dollars away from aid, gender neutrality away from the anthem, and free trade away from our farmers. Upon these rocks of clarity and focus will we build our church."

    Thanks for this.

  24. Hopefully this is either a tack to "please them all" prior to an upcoming election, and not a fall from grace. I had big plans for Stephen, who seemed more of a crusading ideologue than a politician, but alas, who knows??

  25. If the government is talking about getting tough on the drug trade, which in my opinion is an enourmous problem, and dangerous, why don't they start with that MP who was caught with cocaine in his possession. They should use him as an example and give him a taste of prison. Drug traders are ruining countless lives, starting with high-school children, and they are indirectly resposible for many deaths. Drug traders should be put away for a good length of time (years) for the first offence. Put that MP in prison – take the smirk off his face.

    • Maybe because "that MP" is not actually an MP, but a private citizen? Or the fact that he's not a drug trader, but a drug user?

      • Perhaps, since he got off so lightly, he could help and identify his supplier.

    • Prohibition has been wildly unsuccessful at reducing drug usage or drug-related crimes. If anything, prohibition has provided a massive black market revenue stream for organized crime, and the harder the police crack down, the higher their net profits are. The United States has tried everything from life sentences for users to bombing suppliers in foreign countries without any successes.

  26. It will support “the establishment of a National Monument to the Victims of Communism ……”

    This is very odd and very bizarre. Joe McCarthy would be pleased.

    • So by pointing out that communism killed millions,

      you're accusing them of being like someone who accused people of communism because of the most tenous of links.

      How so very, very rich.

      • Communist countries have killed lots of people, but then so have Democratic countries. An idea has never killed anyone, its always the implementation of the idea that does it.

        I don't know any Canadian monument to the victims of totalitarianism, authoritarianism, imperialism, liberalism, conservatism, etc. It is strange to have a memorial for the victims of a political ideology.

        Its the whole, 'Guns don't kill people; people kill people,' argument.

        • I agree. We shouldn't have a monument to the victims of fascism either.

          Because if we are talking about evils Auschwitz was a copy, not an original – the original was the Gulag and the NKVD.

      • Well.. if that's what it takes for a monument, we should also be putting one up for the Victims of Religion

      • What is so very, very rich, Biff, is that every political movement or party in the world has been responsible for millions of deaths. We can either acknowledge that (and maybe build a monument to the over 1,000,000 who were killed (and are still dying I might add) in what is now Vietnam by democracy's bombs and poisons or maybe Nagasake and Hiroshima ), or move on by encouraging peace and forward-thinking practices. Canada has many home-grown victimes – we don't need to import more and honour their history before our own. Also, there were and are many forms of communism (as is the case with democracies). China is going to be the next big power on this little planet – better to encourage a dialogue and change some of the abhorrent practices through discourse and diplomacy. Let's not be unnescssarily confrontational, especially as few, if any, died from communism while living in Canada. It just doesn't make sense and strikes me as plitical pandering.

        • It's rich for obvious reasons.

          I see that your moral equivalences have reached the loathsome point whereby no mass murder by any regime, is worthy of taking exception to, since every regime is equally bad in your eyes.

          I take comfort in the fact that views like that are in the tiniest of minorties.

          • "I take comfort in the fact that views like that are in the tiniest of minorties"

            Apparently, not, sport, if the 'thumbs up' sign is any indicator. I gather your aim is just to be confrontational and basically you find solace in being a name-caller, which is actually what those proposed monuments are against ——— the name-calling bullies of life. How very, very ironic!

        • Canada is the best place in the world to live. China can take their cue from us.

        • Communism is evil as an ideology because its' focus is on the state rather than the individual. The "State" is the all-important entity and it's prerogatives trump the rights of the individual. (who has none) That's why the history of Communism is tainted by the democide of billions of human beings. (comparatively, deaths attributed to religious wars is a drop in the bucket, unless you count Islam)
          The fundamental building block of any good civilized society is "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". (for the individual) Who can disagree with this? If there's any criticism it's because North American society has departed from that foundational goal.

          • Actually, in Canada it's "Peace, order and good government." Different emphasis than the US idea, and it produced a better society. Canada is not just some satellite of the US.

            Capitalism as an ideology is evil becaase it promostes greed and selfishness.

          • Absolutely right, Holly. Too many who are ignorant of Canada's bases for its foundation, often think it's like the American one, which it absolutely is NOT. I wish these same people would sit down with a book and read about our country's wonderful history – a very different beginning than that of the U.S. Just finished reading Champlain's Dream – what a forward-thinking man he was. An incredibly good book and really points out the stark differences in the beginnings of our two countries in the early 1600s. I learned a lot and wish there had been more Samuel de Champlains in the world.

          • Holly, I fail to understand your comment that Canada is a better Society than the US. Just take a look around. We have more and more people turning to the foodbanks in order to get by, people shooting up the streets in our Cities, homeless people everywhere, etc. Generally speaking, the only real difference between Canada and the US is the Health Care issue. Make no mistake about it! Capitalism lives in Canada!

  27. Oh, Paul. Always so negative. Why not write a happy column once in a while?

    • Hey, Paul shows a pretty positive side when he writes about music – jazz, opera, rock, even Michael Jackson.

      He's just pragamatic when it comes to politics. While the SH government is here, one can't help but be negative.

      • "While the SH government is here, one can't help but be negative."

        … unlike with past governments such as Paul Martin's, Jean Chretien's, and Brian Mulroney's, during all of which one couldn't help but be skipping through sunlit daisy-filled meadows.

  28. Reported for the classless innuendo of a personal nature that Macleans would likely NOT wish to have on its pages.

  29. I'm inclined to be confused to the purpose of monuments to the victims of communism and the holocaust? What has this to do with Canada? Some immigrants may have come to Canada because of these two events and contributed positively to Canada. I would think that a positive monument to how they contributed to Canada may be a better idea. How much will this cost me by the way during our massive deficit era? Maybe, Stockwell might trim this idea as a foolish and unnecessary waste of my tax money? Put it where the idea about gender neutral O'Canada idea went.

    • Good points. Or how about a positive monument to the contributions of women. There are not that many statues of women in Ottawa, though the Famous Five are there now.

      On the other hand, better to restore funding to the Status of Women Canada.

    • i don't disagree with the comment about a positive monument but it seems a little crass to only memorialize one's own tragedies while discounting the import of other's. In addition the Holocaust became our tragedy in many ways.

  30. This is a buzz word speech that says nothing – it's the Seinfeld Throne Speech – all about nothing.

    • It must have been something for you to listen..Oh i forgot your from Liberal Ontario…Sorry

      • What an obviously echo-chamber-esque comment.

      • Brilliant, did it take you long to come up with these words of wisdom?

        • Now, now you people, the other day Paul asked us not to attack each other here, just to partake in civil debate.

  31. Establish a "National Monument to the Victims of Communism "
    What are the odds of Harper supporting a National Monument to the Victims of Capitalism or Corporatism? ;)

    • The victims of capitalism and corporatism are also the victims of communism. Communism was a reaction and a critique of capitalism. They are two sides of the same coin. One could not exist without the other.

      • Then why put up a monument to the victims of only one side of the coin?

        • Because we are capitalist. And we won. Because we are right. We are the right side of the Coyne.

    • New Inkless fan wrote:
      "What are the odds of Harper supporting a National Monument to the Victims of Capitalism or Corporatism? ;) "

      Victims of Capitalism and corporatism aren't dead…….they just lost money. Mostly through their own investment decisions. That's the risk one takes when one invests.

      Communism on the other hand….has killed tens of millions of people.

      If you can't see the difference………….then no amount of words will clear it up for you.

      • Communist countries have killed lots of people, but then so have Democratic countries. An idea has never killed anyone, its always the implementation of the idea that does it.

        I don't know any Canadian monument to the victims of totalitarianism, authoritarianism, imperialism, liberalism, conservatism, etc. It is strange to have a memorial for the victims of a political ideology.

        Its the whole, 'Guns don't kill people; people kill people,' argument.

        • You're ideologically deformed.

          We have monuments to the victimes of fascism for good reason. And Communism was its necessary forerunner. Was the [Soviet] Gulag Archipelago not primary to Auschwitz? Was the Bolshevik murder of an entire class not the logical and factual prius of the "racial murder" of National Socialism?

          • Can you please reference a monument to the victims of fascism? Certainly we have monuments to the holocaust, etc., but not, as far as I know, to fascism itself. Because it's an idea.

            Whether or not the communist revolution in various countries killed people is not relevant. The concept communism did not kill anyone. Nor did the concept democracy kill anyone in the American War of Independence or the French Revolution. These are ideas, not actions. Fanatics hellbent on implementing their version of these ideas on their respective societies are what killed people.

            That's like saying religion has caused mass murder throughout history. It hasn't. People have used religion as an excuse for murder, yes. But religion is just a concept; it doesn't have the power to make anyone do anything that they don't already want to do.

          • How about a monument to women who have been the vicitims of domestic violence? Plenty of them in Canada.

          • Good one Holistic; I mean Holly.

      • I woud beg to differ; there have been many deaths due to capitalism across the world. The privatization that U.S. foreign policy tried to impose on many developing countries over the decades, primarily so US corporations could profit, left large populations without a livelihood, and many died.

        • Another sad case of capitalistic greed causing deaths was the case of Nestle and its canned infant formula. I recall a case study in business school in the 80's that Nestle saw the developing world as a huge opportunity for profits. To penetrate the market, they offered free formula to mothers who gave birth in hospitals. The white healthy baby on the label was appealing so, rather than nursing the mothers opted for the formula. Well, their breast milk dried up; then the cost of the formula became too expensive so mothers diluted it with water (often dirty water). The babies became ill, malnourished and often died.


      • Another sad case of capitalistic greed causing deaths was the case of Nestle and its canned infant formula. I recall a case study in business school in the 80's that Nestle saw the developing world as a huge opportunity for profits. To penetrate the market, they offered free formula to mothers who gave birth in hospitals. The white healthy baby on the label was appealing so, rather than nursing the mothers opted for the formula. Well, their breast milk dried up; then the cost of the formula became too expensive so mothers diluted it with water (often dirty water). The babies became ill, malnourished and often died.


  32. " Harper carries the weight of his entire government on his shoulders. And it is grinding him into a rut."

    Hey, it's not easy waking up everyday, looking in the mirror and seeing Paul Martin on a bad day, and telling yourself that it is only temporary ; that one day you'll start to resemble the guy who once thought Canada was a northern welfare basket case – not a NWBC is just fine if it keeps you in office one more day.

    • "The mills of God grind slowly but they grind exceeding small." That's from a story by Edmund Crispin who was probably quoting someone or other. Harper is paying the price of his arrogance and his refusal to work with others. Keep on grinding there, mills!

      • Yeah…what was that quote about absolute power corrupting absolutely – Lord Acton i think.

    • oops…; that one day you'll start to a again resemble…- i guess a NWBC is just fine if it keeps you in office for one more day.

  33. At least that has some consistency, some substance.

    I don't know, I would much rather have a tribute to success. Say a tribute to advancing women's lib., or a statue of a prominent womens' rights activist (although, you'd be surprised just how many people at the National Post would hate that one).

    It just seems silly to me to have a monument to an idea, or a concept. Its empty and vapid. It serves no purpose other than to be polarizing. But then, I guess, its difficult to build a monument to the all the victims of Communist governments around the world. China and Russia might not play nice over that.

    • Good points, but wouldn't Russia and China look askance at a monument to victims of Communism anyway?

      Does anyone know why we are intentionally trying to piss those two (plus Cuba, I suppose) off right now? What, other than presumably a shiny new thing, is in it for us? It won't bring those victims back or anything, will it?

  34. Didn't you get the memo about Global warming? I guess you'll have to go looking for it and get back to us.

  35. After reading the first paragraph of promises I translated it into this. We'll sell uranium to shady middle men who are known to hang out with terrorists and then offer to throw their weapons into space where they can destroy the digital economy by setting off nukes in the stratosphere. At which point the digital economy will only have one way to go, up.

    Also all clocks will suddenly jump forward by two years, making the celebration of the war of 1812 a logical choice to celebrate this year.

  36. Hey Paul: "…The Harper government will “look to innovative charities and forward-thinking private-sector companies to partner on new approaches to many social challenges.” The name and the nature of the charities, the companies, and the challenges will have to wait…"

    How about this one?:

    "…Now consider this figure: CIDA's Canadian Engagement Fund, destined to become the humanitarian equivalent of the government's Canada Action (propaganda) Plan, will receive a 370% increase in the next year! No one saw that coming. All that money being spent in Canada while cutting our investments to the poorest of the poor was more than the students could bear last night…"


  37. Clearly. Its like the Armenian Genocide thing in the US. It serves no purpose other than rocking the boat.

  38. Oh Paul Wells! Sometimes you have an inexplicable urge to focus in on the substance and forget the peripheral non-issues. In this case, your pedagogical insight is "teach by example". And you did!

    Forget the Substance, says the budget's robotic inventor at his desk late at night–whilst Paul's sneaking around checking the punchcard. "Let's focus on the periphery, and, if Canadians are as dumb as I think they are (hell, it only took a few gold medals for the hoi polloi to forget prorogation!), then they'll be eating it up like cake"!

    If your column was deliberately written in an attempt to show us the lack of real focus, and contemptuous disregard for the intelligence of Canadians this government cherishes, then you've succeeded 100%!

    This scattered budget needs an appointment with a national identity shrink ASAP!

    Dismantle central government (and national identity), have the provinces deliver services, and the feds take care of national defense and infrastructure, and you're free to develop a parochial, regressive social agenda that would do Beck and Palin proud. If the robot's Plan 9 from Outer Ottawa succeeds, then, who knows, we may be lucky enough to join our cousins south of the border as their 51st State. And think: Only two indistinguishable parties to choose from.
    Less confusion than having to choose among Ignatieff, Layton, May and Duceppe and, of course, our Dear Leader….

  39. Lemme get this straight. Say that we're for everything, throw money at anything inside your own borders, take money away from anything not within your borders, and retract any statements that may upset anyone.

    Yup, sounds like Harper's kid wrote this speech when he ran for class president.

  40. I don,t understand Harper's Intenton's ,before closing down the House on the Hill,his Recalliberation in the 13 wk break , was not'n more than A Power Ball ,to show more arragance on his Part, as some people may have Read in the Past week ,that most of the money Raised TO Haiti,is not goin to Aid ,It goes back Right into Pockets of Corrutp People. Mr Harper Seems to have A Bad Taste of respect for the Law of the Land in his own Country, leaving noth'n but Dust on his Path, how do you Stop the PM ,by playing Games on People's Rights, I think it,s time for the People's Parlaiment to be Aired out, their is Room for Other Leaders to Govern in a cleaner envoirnment,to much pollution in the country, someone else should take the rein's & Raise the Flag Proudly & Keep the National Antiem. like they say we all need to filter out Rubbish,and turn a new Page.

  41. As long as Quebec sends 40 or more members of the Bloc to Ottawa there will be pretty well nil opportunity for ANYONE to form a majority government. If there are 225 seats in total and 40 (say) are taken out by the bloc, a party will have to win 116 seats out of the remaining 185 in the rest of Canada. With the West pretty well Conservative and the Maritimes pretty well Liberal and Ontario pretty well split 50-50, we're not going to see majority government for a long time.

  42. Is it true the Canadian government is the largest sub-prime lender in the world? And if it is, than when interest rates go up and families default on their mortgages (which have been secured by the Canadian Government not private lenders) our deficit will increase throwing the Finance minister's forecast off?

  43. Paul: The " Cat & Mouse" majority game has been first and foremost since the early days of Reform …. and the majority government is a mandate for the power based Reform roots. For any journalist or voter to think otherwise is a mistake. And that ladies and gentlemen you can take to bank!

  44. just think what a great nation this would be if beverly mclachlin and rosalie abella were off the supreme court, human rights commissions were just a bad dream, trudeaupian pieties disappeared with sheila copps' political career, and we actually had a replacement-level birthrate. So much squandered potential

  45. We need proportional representation! The last election clearly showed that. How can one million Canadians vote for the Green Party and have zero representation yet 800K Albertans vote in 35 odd PCs??

  46. Do you have link to confirm it?

    On the surface, it would appear Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives have the most to lose if subsidies were cut because they garnered the most votes in the October election. The Conservatives earned $10 million in subsidies, compared to $7.7 million for the Liberals, $4.9 million for the NDP, $2.6 million for the Bloc Québécois and $1.8 million for the Greens.

    But because the Conservatives have such a strong fundraising base, their subsidy represents only 37 per cent of the party's total revenues.

    By comparison, the subsidy amounts to 63 per cent of the Liberals' funding, 86 per cent of the Bloc's, 57 per cent of the NDP's and 65 per cent of the Greens'.

    Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2008/11/26/update-

  47. As Harper's popularity rises at the same rate as Paul Well's hatred for the man, suddenly the disconnect between Canadians and McLean's becomes clear and focused.

    • This has been a Conservative fairy tale.

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