July 19, 2007

Apparently When Fortunes Are Sagging It's Always Best To Get Controversial

The Globe and Mail has an article running today that argues Harper and the Conservatives are losing ground with women, francophones and $100,000+ earners. Due to the drop in support from these groups the Conservatives are once again tied with the Liberals in popular support at 31%, a drop in 6% from one year ago. According to Peter Donolo from Strategic Counsel (the same group that advised Harper to use more positive propaganda to curb the public's cynicism),

"drop in support among the more affluent may be due to the decision to tax income trusts and a spate of foreign takeovers of Canadian companies, while the decline among women and francophones is almost certainly due to the numbers of Canadian soldiers who have been killed in Afghanistan. "

In addition to the Afghanistan issue being a big factor affecting women and francophones, the handling of the Afghan detainees was also a sore point in the recent session at Parliament. This is also on the heels of Quebec's Van Doos regiment being deployed to Afghanistan and a growing controversy over the MND refusing access to mission information. It's also noted in the article that terrorism fell in behind health care and the environment as a national priority. In other words, for two of the groups that are looking at the alternatives to the Conservatives the Afghan/terrorism file isn't doing much to instill confidence but is actually hurting them. So what is their response? The Conservatives have decided to restart the debate over renewing Canada's anti-terror measures.

While this may seem like a shot at my theory that Harper and the Conservatives are only looking for power, pushing a seemingly unpopular proposal, this move is about reinvigorating support among the West (where numbers are down 4%), men, people with only secondary education or less and core supporters. These groups tend to favour the perception of a tougher stance on military and security issues and the Conservatives understand that. Rather than immediately try to appeal to women, francophones and others by eschewing positive rhetoric on the fly - something that has shown to be a weak spot for the Conservatives - they will fall back on an issue they are well versed on in an attempt to shore up other groups.

And then there's something about suckling at an unnamed orifice of Bush Jr. and the Americans... ;)

July 13, 2007

Strategic Counsel to Harper, "Curb Cynicism Through Better Propaganda"

It's interesting to note that the Conservatives received a report from the Strategic Counsel that states,

the public views information from Ottawa “through a thick lens of cynicism. They feel that much of what government says is propaganda, intended simply to appeal to the voting public and to spin stories in a positive manner.”

The funny part is that in the same breath the article also attempts to make the case for changing the current comments on Afghanistan - 'fighting terrorism', 'cut and run' and making connections to 9/11 - to more positive language. Essentially, the report argues that Harper and other Conservatives should begin painting the Afghan mission with more positive propaganda with the intention of spinning related stories in favour of the Conservatives' message.

While there is a whole host of reasons as to why the SC is touting this and it only seems all too typical of this government the report has been made public in the midst of Harper already using the changes to the rhetoric in regards to Afghanistan. It also has come at a time when the PMO has reached out to party workers in hopes of finding new ideas.

Lacking new ideas, especially ideas that can be used to sell themselves to the public is the real issue here for Harper. Harper ran out of ideas to work from many moons ago and it has showed for at least six months. Like the latter article comments, "When Stephen Harper doesn't have a script, things get ugly." And they have. Though the real ugliness of the situation is much worse than the PMO having little clue how to govern. The real issue is that Harper and his staff only made plans for one year rather than have a plan for four years. With Harper now looking for new ideas and new rhetoric to use, in an attempt to sway the public, there should be little doubt left to the true agenda of Harper and the Conservatives. This isn't about governing after all. A party looking to govern makes four-year plans and has an entire pool of ideas. Only a party looking for power would create a short-sited agenda in hopes of using any popularity surge to their advantage.

See Also:

Cut and Run from Cut and Run

Enhancing poppy fields, eradicating the lives of women and children

Canadians See 'Unacceptably' High Casualties In Afghanistan: POLL

Memo to Harper: To change the perception, just change the words

July 09, 2007

John Tory Already Looking Past 2011

John Tory today has announced that if the Ontario PCs are elected this fall they will use all of the 14.7 cents/litre collected through the gas tax to fund transit-related expenses. In truth, this isn't a poor idea at all. Since we are dealing with concerns such as increased road repair costs, poor air quality, growing public transit costs, etc., which are all related to gas usage, then providing a guaranteed source of cash flow to these projects is a great idea. As it stands now, some of the collected gas tax is used for other projects and is not guaranteed to be used for transit-related expenses or projects.

There is a bit a hitch with Tory's plan - it wouldn't take effect for at least 5 years. Ontario governments only have 4 year mandates. In other words, this is only election-speak. Tory is putting out this decent idea only for the sake of sounding good. What I would rather know is what the PCs are going to do next year or two years from now. What you promise to do one year after the 2011 election doesn't mean anything. This is just par for the course from Tory.

He's already laid out an election platform based on imaginative numbers. He has yet to see the audit of government finances but he's already looking to fund private schools, expand religious education, cut taxes, cut the health care premium, etc. He's making more promises than McGuinty has and by all accounts, he'll have to break them as well. Tory has been on a tear lately with all the things he'll do if elected and now he's looking beyond the next election as well. Good luck to him. As soon as Tory gets a hold of the financial audit, there will be a very different tune to his election platform. If not, then we know for sure he's taking the Mike Harris route and blatantly lying to the public.

July 05, 2007

Stephen Harper Is Being Followed... Or Is He?

Well, he isn't really, unless you count CSIS or the RCMP officers that are doing their job to protect him. "From whom?" might you ask. From the evil judges, media personnel, senators and, more recently added to the list, civil servants, that are all out to to defy the Conservatives and tarnish their reputation.

For years it seemed like that it was only the lefties that were prone to conspiracy theories or had to be afraid of the establishment. I would argue that it was and still continues to be a stereotype that is attached to the left. With ideas that the government is spying on us all, infiltrating our organizations, persecuting those who might defy them, etc. the left has been known to come up with some crazy accusations. Hell, there has been many movies even made on these ideas and even one specifically called 'Conspiracy Theory' starring an actual supposed conspiracy theorist. Why? Because they make for great stories. Lately, though, the right, and more specifically conservative leaders, in both the US and Canada having been pushing their own.

A popular one has been the activist judge argument. Stephen Harper has used this to describe some of the judges that were appointed during the Liberal days. In general, it's been an argument directed at judges that have interpreted Charter directives such as:

Section 15: Equal treatment before and under the law, and equal protection and benefit of the law without discrimination.
to mean that every Canadian should have the same rights. This is a problem because apparently the actual interpretation is supposed to mean only certain Canadians are equal and the rest are only entitled to compromises. How could the Canadian judiciary get that wrong? It must mean some sort of bias is being applied and that it's a Liberal ploy of some sort.

Another good conspiracy theory is about the media. For many people this may seem like a no-brainer. Of course the media is out to get Harper. The media are either spinning stories to suit their own biases or because they just want to create a story to 'sell papers'. And frankly, there might be some truth involved here. However, I have much more faith in people than Harper does. If anyone is really to blame for much of the negative press Harper has received, its Harper and his inner circle that deserve the lion's share. The media doesn't have to spin much with this government because most of what they have done or said has been nonsense, political rhetoric, ridiculous or hypocritical. Harper talked about accountability but then gave a cabinet job to an unelected official. They promised resolution on softwood but then sold out the industry. They promised action on the environment but then wasted paper with an extremely poor plan and whined to the international community. They released a 5-point action plan that included health care improvement, then changed the fifth point, which happened to be health care, then eventually dropped the fifth point all together. They broke promises on equalization funding. They even tried to control which media people and outlets could question them publicly after pledging greater transparency. Yet, apparently, its considered bias on the media's part for reporting these things.

Then when you factor in Canadian senators supposedly stalling on legislation because their all biased and Liberals and more recently claiming that foreign civil servants are undermining the government internationally, one has to wonder if something is going seriously wrong inside the head of Harper and his crew. With these two groups it probably has nothing to do with poorly written legislation (i.e. Baird's original Accountability Act that had to be rewritten by the Senate for it even to make sense) or that the Conservatives tries to politicize public servants ('Canada's New Government' letterhead, anyone?). It probably has nothing to do with any of those types of things or anything else. It's likely that people are just out to get the Conservatives, right?

There are really two points of view that can be expressed hear. On one hand, maybe Harper is makes these claims as preposition to justify policy changes or his opinions, etc. There does seem to be a lot to this view. Harper made his argument against the Supreme Court and then went on to adapt a panel review of potential Supreme Court judges. Harper gave his argument against the media shortly before he tried to justify forcing them on to roll-calls so he could choose who would be allowed to ask questions and then ultimately banishing them from parliament. However, the latter move against the media might also be considered evidence that points to the second view.

It could be argued that Harper really is paranoid to some degree. After all, he did ultimately remove members of the media from parliament and cancelled his scrums, has forced his MPs to read from 'scripts' and concentrated all the power of the party into the PMO. Oh, and there was the release of some 'report' that claimed Canada was destined to be a 3rd-world nation if it tried to implement a real environmental plan. And then there are the contextually deceiving attack ads against Dion. These sorts of actions do point to there being an element of fear being present in Harper's decisions. He's afraid of his own members, he's afraid of being questioned, he's afraid of the environment or is it that he's really afraid of the people?

The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle of the two. He probably is afraid of the people because he knows that at any minute his government can lose it all. The Conservatives weren't elected with any confidence and the election was more about punishing the Liberals for really screwing-up. And even without an established leadership, the Liberals are statistically ties with the Conservatives in opinion polls. That says a lot. There is also the problem that the Harper has consistently undermined and underestimated the public's want for greater accountability, especially where the environment is concerned. And in this regard Harper has been trying to run an extremely tight ship because he's also concerned with power. Harper spent way too long trying to get into the PMO that he fell into the same trap that Paul Martin did prior. Power is all Harper knows at this point. His main focus now is on keeping it and this explains why he has spent more time working on gimmicks and illusions for the public to see than actually governing. It explains why Harper has seemingly been flying by the seat of his pants for the better part of this year. It also explains why he has attempted to maintain total control over everything his party does. Harper has become his own worst enemy and a tired, ineffective leader for Canada.

Quotes from people smarter than me...

"If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich" ~ JFK

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. " ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. " ~ Benjamin Franklin

"First it is necessary to stand on your own two feet. But the minute a man finds himself in that position, the next thing he should do is reach out his arms. " ~ Kristin Hunter

"When you're a mayor and you have a problem you blame the provincial government. If you are provincial government and you have a problem you blame the federal government. We don't blame the Queen any more, so once in a while we might blame the Americans." ~ Jean Chretien

"Which is ideology? Which not? You shall know them by their assertion of truth, their contempt for considered reflection, and their fear of debate." ~ John Ralston Saul

"It is undoubtedly easier to believe in absolutes, follow blindly, mouth received wisdom. But that is self-betrayal." ~ John Ralston Saul

"Everybody dies, Tracey. Someone's carrying a bullet for you right now, doesn't even know it. The trick is to die of old age before it finds you." ~ Cpt. Malcolm Reynolds (Firefly, Episode 12)

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