Tuesday, July 31, 2007

MYOB, Congress

Apparently, the US House of Representatives thinks we should ban the seal hunt, and has unanimously passed a resolution calling on the Canadian government to do just that, "now and forever."

Now I confess to being ambivalent about about this issue. While I'm uncomfortable about the idea of baby animals being clubbed to death for their skins, my maritime friends tell me that the animal rights folks have been perpetuating an image of the hunt that doesn't reflect the reality of what goes on. Furthermore, as an unapologetic meat eater and leather wearer, I'm not hypocritical enough to get uppity about the killing of certain animals over other, just because they're cuter. I have no interest in hunting myself, but I can't condemn those who do it as part of their livelihood.

That said, there are those who could possibly convince me that we should in fact ban the seal hunt. But a branch of the government in a country that executes minors isn't one of them. If the US House of Representatives is genuinely interested in addressing rights issues, rather than pandering, there are a lot of issues much closer to home that they can set their sights on.

UPDATE: It seems the US Supreme Court banned capital punishment in 2005 for those who were under 18 when they committed their crimes. So yay for the Supreme Court, but Congress should still stick to its knitting.

Eating Mints for the Cure

CIBC, where I do some of my banking, is engaged in its annual display of social conscience, promoting the Run for the Cure (to breast cancer, in case you just arrived from another planet). Part of the promotion this year involves selling pink boxes of chocolate covered mints over the counter when one goes in to do ones banking.

I'm not sure how I feel about the whole concept of selling products to promote a cause. Of course, the net proceeds go to fund breast cancer research, or fight AIDS in Africa (as in the case of (PRODUCT)RED™), as another example, but before those net net proceeds go anywhere, organisations on various levels generate profit. If people want to make a charitable contribution, a straight-up donation will have a greater impact than buying a red iPod or a pink T-shirt.

But having said all that, the mints are yummy.

Gordon O'Connor: Canada's biggest liability in Afghanistan

How long can Harper afford to keep O'Connor in as defense minister, if Canadian support for the war in Afghanistan is being undermined by his inability to get the message straight? Even the PMs friends agree that this is what's happening.

I get that the Prime Minister wants to shuffle his cabinet on his own terms, and doesn't want to appear weakened by moving O'Connor at a time when he's taking fire, but most of O'Connor's wounds are self-inflicted. And he reloads so quickly.

If Harper insists on waiting until the fall, he'd better muzzle O'Connor now, or (as humiliating as this would undoubtedly be) order him to get his lines from Hillier's office, since Hillier clearly isn't taking his lines from the Minister's Office. O'Connor needs to know that if he continues to blunder along, his demotion will be to the back benches, rather than Veteran's Affairs, or some other lesser portfolio.

General Hillier won't be managed, at least not by someone he doesn't respect. He's already demonstrated that he doesn't feel beholden to his political masters. He knows they won't fire him; he's more popular than all of them put together, and his is the voice Canadians trust, even if they don't always like what he has to say.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Exciting new poll feature!

Since public policy is now shaped almost entirely by polling data, I figured I'd better not get left behind. At left, you'll find my new polling tool, which I'm assured is every bit as scientifically rigorous as Angus Reid. Except that I won't pay you.

I hereby endeavour to introduce a new poll topic every day, or whenever I feel like it. Plus, whenever the data generated provides important insight, I will do my utmost to keep the PMO apprised. I hear they're a bit short on new ideas.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Parliamentary business at its finest

After having read this, I'm now firmly in favour of replacing the Hansard with ITQ Live Blogging. Although I'm not sure Kady will thank me.

Give 'till it hurts

Kady O'Malley's new blog drew my attention to this article about senior ministry staff being solicited for $1,000 donations to the Conservative Party. One of the key points in her post, with which I concur, is that the willingness of people to talk to reporters about the issue is a sign that folks at Canada's New Government™ are starting to buck at the harness (extra points to Kady for her description of PMO 'communications directrix' Sandra Buckler – perhaps we can draw The Frog Lady out of her hiatus to produce some art). As the Globe article points out, the Liberal Party made a similar request when it was in government, which, in my memory, didn't result in staffers hitting speed-dial to the Ottawa bureau chiefs.

That said, I think the CPC is completely justified (as are all political parties) in expecting its staff to contribute as much as they can afford. Senior ministerial staff make six figures. They should have no trouble scraping 1,000 bucks together, especially when you consider that they'll get up to half of it back at tax time.

And even more importantly, political staff should know better than anyone that political success is driven by money. Everyone who's cares about the outcome of elections needs to contribute what they can, in terms of time and money.

Lastly, a point of clarification: the Globe article indicates that the maximum allowable contribution is $1,000 to the party or individual candidate(s). In fact, under the FAA (also known as An Act to Screw the Liberals With Their Pants On), there are separate donation limits for these two categories of donations. One can donate the maximum amount ($1,100 actually, if one wants to split hairs) to the party, and the same amount again to a candidate or candidates (if giving to multiple candidates, the aggregated total cannot exceed $1,100).

And there's a third category of donation, again with its own $1,100 limit: leadership contests. This doesn't apply to the CPC right now, of course, but the Liberal Party is still collecting donations toward retiring the campaign debt of the 11 men and women who were so instrumental in revitalizing our party last year. Click here and please be as generous as you can.

More Steves than you can shake a stick at

I've added two new Steves (is there some connection between the name Steve and the compulsion to post one's ramblings on the internet?) to the list of Blogs I Like. One's political and one's hilarious.

Stephen Taylor, who I referenced in yesterday's post, is thoughtful and balanced – a nice change from the rabid rantings that bloggers on the right tend to spew (to be fair, the left has its share of venomous lunatics, as well). And while I disagree with him more often than not, his opinions are almost always worthy of consideration.

Meanwhile, for something completely different, check out The Sneeze, also written by someone named Steve, but whose last name seems to be stored in the same vault as the Caramilk secret. Reading his "Steve, Don't Eat It!" series made me laugh harder than anything I can remember.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

And the lion sat down with the lamb

I've found myself spending a lot of time on patios recently, in groups made up of Conservative and media types, as well as Liberals. More than once, the conversation has included appreciation for the fact that, at the end of the day, political opponents can sit down at the same table and bend elbows together, swap jokes and just generally enjoy a summer evening.

So perhaps it's in this spirit that the venerable Stephen Taylor made his last point in this post: "...we ought to raise the level of debate so that we don't blur the lines between the opponents who are working for a better country (but in a different party) and enemies that would destroy it."

I couldn't agree more.

That said, one's voice carries the most weight within one's own political circle. If Stephen genuinely wishes to raise the level of the debate, he can begin in his own back yard. Conservatives have frequently impugned the patriotism of those who have raised questions about the wisdom of our current mission in Afghanistan, or who have opposed national security measures on civil libertarian grounds (it's one of the most unpalatable tactics they've borrowed from the Republican playbook).

So yes, let's raise the level of the debate. And let's do that by challenging our own friends and colleagues to join us in leading the way.