Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Klein's Third Wrong Way

Kegan’s Blog asks if Healthcare in Alberta has taken a hit due to Ralph Klien’s recently announced Third Way initiative, a 10 point framework for healthcare in Alberta. Let’s try to cut through some of this crap.

Most of the announced framework is simply window dressing for the one real substantive change; the introduction of a parallel private healthcare system and the ability for doctors to participate in both the private and public healthcare systems. Of the different funding models, this is possibly the worst alternative in terms of its impact on the public healthcare system. It is being sold to sheeple of Alberta under the guise of increased choice – a well worn conservative euphemism for pandering to the wealthy. Alberta Health Minister Iris Evans says “It’s people making choices for themselves. These will be alternatives for people that can afford to pay for them”.

Dr. Arnold Relman, professor emeritus of medicine and social medicine at Harvard Medical School and emeritus editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, in testimony to the Canadian Senate committee in 2002 warned of the deceptive dangers of “choice” in healthcare.

“While there is much to be said for making more information available to people about their health care, it is a fundamental misconception to imagine that sick patients can or should behave like ordinary consumers in commercial transactions, selecting the services and prices they want. Health care is totally different from most goods and services, and that's why we have medical insurance and why sick people need the professional and altruistic services of physicians and other providers.”

Klien maintains that privatization under this model will reduce waiting times – I’m sure appealing to the near universal belief that private delivery is more efficient than public delivery of services. This is of course in the healthcare sector a total fallacy as Canadian hospitals are far more efficient than private hospitals in the United States. Efficiency gains in Canadian healthcare delivery come from massive economies of scale, greater purchasing power, specialization (centres of excellence) and lower administrative overhead. A 1991 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that administrative costs in US hospitals were at least 117% higher (and growing) than in Canada, accounting for almost half of the total healthcare spending difference between the two nations. Competition and market forces do not always improve service and reduce costs. When hospitals compete, they often duplicate expensive equipment required for certain procedures and build in excess capacity to compete on service. They then waste money on advertising to ensure that this capacity is utilized. It is far more efficient to coordinate services between facilities and establish centres of excellence for certain types of procedures so that economies of scale and comparative advantage can reduce costs and improve efficiencies.

Even Ms. Evans admits that “[Privatization], of its own accord, may not help the public system by withdrawing people.” If wait lists are reduced and service in the public system improved it will be through the addition of resources to the public system.

This two tier dual access system with practitioners participating simultaneously in both the private and public healthcare systems has not produced the desired results anywhere it has been tried or studied (England, France, New Zealand and Australia). The reason for this is that the problem is a lack of capacity, not the single payer funding model. Dividing healthcare resources between the private and public system is not going to fix the capacity problem. In fact it will make it worse, as doctors will have a perverse incentive as long waiting lists actually add value to their higher margin private practices. Additionally, it is feared that doctors will treat the simpler procedures in their private practices and dump the more complex and costly cases on the public system – with its long waiting list.

The really sad fact about the whole Alberta plan is that it might actually improve healthcare in Alberta. Not because of privatization – although Klien’s sycophants will no doubt make that claim. The presence of a for-profit private system in Alberta may just attract more doctors from other areas of Canada; providing enhanced healthcare services to wealthy Albertans at the expense of other Canadians. That's the third way.

Pass the Milquetoast

Yesterday’s all party review of Justice Rothstein’s pending appointment to the Supreme Court of Canada was as historic as it was meaningless, but I would not go so far as to call it a waste of time. The idea of a Parliamentary review of judicial nominations is a good one, but the implementation is a bit tricky.

Patrick Monahan and Peter Hogg from the Osgoode Hall Law School at York University proposed several principles for such a review process in April of 2004 when Prime Minister Paul Martin first suggested such a review.

  • The ultimate decision must rest in the hands of Cabinet on the recommendation of the Prime Minister.
  • As the goal is transparency and accountability, the role of a Parliamentary review must be advisory, rather than executive.
  • The review should occur after the PM has made the selection, but prior to final appointment.
  • A protocol should be established to govern the proceedings and establish limits for appropriate questions.

Monahan and Hogg also recommended that the review committee include members of the Canadian Judicial Counsel, Law Societies and Bar Associations as well as representatives of the Provincial Attorneys General.

For Justice Rothstein’s review, the protocol for questions was limiting to the point of being absurd. The restriction from asking hypothetical questions and inquiring about issues that might come before the court makes sense – you do not want Parliament to pressure the court to decide cases in certain ways. As I am not a legal scholar however, I fail to understand why questioning a nominee to explain the legal basis for past judicial decisions compromises judicial independence. I can however see how it could make the process more partisan and acrimonious. The result was civil and respectful, but not exactly probative.

One thing is sure, now that the process has been opened up, it would be very difficult (and just as meaningless) to go back to a closed process. Additionally, just because this particular review was cordial, does not mean that the format will always produce such results. I can imagine a scenario in which a Liberal cabinet nominates a fairly liberal judge and the Conservatives repeatedly ask questions pertaining to past, present or future cases before the court, and making a big partisan deal of the nominee’s refusal to answer these questions.

In the end however, like a pair of warm socks at Christmas, this time everyone got more or less what they needed, but not what they most desired. Parliamentarians and the Canadian public got a public review process lacking both partisan rancour and probative rigour. Conservatives got a well qualified moderate conservative judge who will apply constitutional law as narrowly as required and who lacks an activist social agenda. Liberals got a well qualified moderate conservative judge who will apply constitutional law as broadly as required, but who lacks an activist social agenda.

Monday, February 27, 2006

50 Cent should have such a posse

CNews Report: Top Zarqawi Aid Captured. The Iraqi Interior Ministry has reported the capture of "Top Al Zarqawi Aid" Syrian Abu al Farouq in Ramdi Iraq. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi of course is the "Top Al Qaida Lieutenant" in Iraq. Al Farouq was captured along with five other Al Qaida operatives:

  • Ibn El Kaboom - described as the "Top Coadjutant to the Top Aid to the Top Lieutenant of Al Qaida in Iraq"
  • Muqtar Ihateyouall - the "Top Assistant to the Top Coadjutant to the Top Aid to the Top Lieutenant of Al Qaida in Iraq"
  • Ibrahim al Sadist - "Top Under Secretary to the Top Lieutenant of Al Qaida in Iraq"
  • Sayid Mustafa - "Top Homey in the posse of the Top Coadjutant to the Top Aid to the Top Lieutenant of Al Qaida in Iraq"
  • Ali baba - "Top Poor Bastard who got got in the wrong place to the Top Under Secretary to the Top Lieutenant of Al Qaida in Iraq"
Of course only a cynic would suggest that this announcement has any thing to do with deflecting attention away from the brewing civil war.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Softwood Lumber Messiah

Vancouver Board of Trade Welcomes Emerson

The Board of Trade applauded the appointment of former Liberal minister of industry, David Emerson. “I believe he has put Canada and British Columbia ahead of partisan politics” declared Darcy Rezac, managing director, The Vancouver Board of Trade.

The argument goes that Emerson’s role as a former CEO of a British Columbia lumber company, and in the Vancouver Olympic bid committee make him by far the best qualified person in Canada to oversee the International Trade portfolio. The constituents of Vancouver Kingsway should be showering the path of the new Minster of International Trade with rose petals. Aside from the arrogance and distain for democracy, this argument demonstrates a shocking misunderstanding of the role of Cabinet in the Canadian Parliamentary system.

By tradition in Canada, cabinet is drawn from the ranks of elected members of the House of Commons in Parliament. There is no law that requires cabinet members to be elected, however this is a pretty strong tradition of Parliament. This makes a pool of 308 people to draw from to select the government’s executive committee, however if you exclude opposition members, this leaves (currently) 125 members. Not exactly a deep candidate pool from which to draw 27 men and women. What this means, is that in Canada, we generally don’t have an expert cabinet, we have an accountable cabinet. The selection of cabinets for the provincial legislatures is drawn from an even thinner pool. By comparison, in the United States, the cabinet is appointed by the President from a vast pool. Cabinet Secretaries in the US tend to be experts in their field - partisan hacks for sure, but experts none the less. However they lack direct voter accountability and are therefore less of a political influence on the President.

As a result of this fundamental difference, cabinet ministers in Canada often rely heavily on the expertise of their deputies, assistant deputies and senior ministerial staff both to do the work of the ministry and to provide counsel on policy issues. Cabinet secretaries in the US are far more hands on.

In the case of David Emerson, and his major duties, the Vancouver Gateway project, the Olympics and International Trade (in particular the softwood lumber dispute), he brings a lot of expertise to the table and is no doubt an asset to the government. However, even with his estimable abilities, it is unlikely that he will play a pivotal role in the running of his ministry.

In the case of the softwood lumber dispute, there is nothing of a technical, lumber industry oriented nature that is left to be discussed. The NAFTA panel has already heard form legions of experts on allowable cuts, stumpage rates, economics, taxes, etc. and made its determination. Canada has already prevailed in that case – without the input of the Softwood Lumber Messiah (SLM). The negotiations now are of a political nature. The United States need to find a way to largely comply with the NAFTA ruling, but still save face with the US Lumber lobby. This work will be done by professional negotiators. The Christ of Canfor will show up for the photo-op.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Iraq Civil War

Back to Iraq has some very good analysis from Iraq on the civil war that is breaking out there. He believes that the Jihadis are behind the attack on the Askariya shrine in Samarra; trying to ignite sectarian violence to force the collapse of the American backed state and plunge the country into civil war. The situation looks pretty bleak. I didn't have a blog three years ago, but I predicted this exact scenario on several Internet political forums. Sectarian violence, armed militias with links to Iran, Syria, the Taliban, Turkish Kurds, Iran escalating its nuclear weapons program, domestic pressure in the US to cut and run; there is no satisfaction in saying I told you so. Of course, I'm not the only one who predicted this. In September of of 2004 - admittedly a little bit late, the CIA in the National Intelligence Council Assessment of the Iraqi security situation predicted that "in the best case scenario [Iraq] could be expected to achieve a tenuous stability over the next 18 months. In the worst case, it could dissolve into civil war." That was .... oh about 18 months ago, about the time Dick "shotgun" Cheney was predicting that Iraq was turning the corner. But realistically the blunder, rather series of colossal blunders, was made 18 months before that. The die was cast during the invasion and the several months immediately following it. There was little the Administration could do by 2004. And there is still no clear path ahead. Unfortunately, this thing could easily escalate into a broader conflict involving any of the neighbouring states. The situation is truly tragic, the Iraqi people need our prayers. At this point it appears the this is out of the hands of the US Administration. I just hope the leaders of the Shi'a and Sunni communities and the fragile Iraqi government are able to bring this thing back from the brink.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Balistic Missile Defense.

National Post: O'Connor willing to re-open missile defense debate.

When you intend to shoot yourself in the foot, is it wise to use the heavy artillery?

The reasons this is a stupid thing to do are many.

First of all, let's look at the political reasons. The Canadian public, when last polled, overwhelmingly opposed joining the Americans in a North American ballistic missile defense. Harpo has a minority government. The other three parties are on record opposing BMD. This is the biggest non-starter in the entire Harpo agenda. All this will accomplish politically is to throw a bone to the neocon elements of the Convervative Party and unite the opposition.

It is inconsistent with Canada's international posture as a mulitlateralist. The Anti Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty has been a cornerstone of an intricate, interconnected system of treaties that have been developed since the early 1970s to prevent the escalation of conflicts between the world's nuclear powers into nuclear war. While it is true that the thawing of east-west relations in the last 20 years has obsoleted some cold war structures, the perceptions of the Russians and Chinese are still that ABMs provide a first strike capability that could potentially upset the delicate balance of nuclear stalemate.

It has been argued that a BMD of the nature proposed is insufficient to counter a Russian or Chinese nuclear strike - and therefore provides no first strike threat. The BMD as proposed is designed to counter the potential threat from rogue nations acquiring nuclear technology. This is a specious argument. Has no one in the Conservative party seen a map lately? There are massive oceans and whole continents between Canada and the closest "rogue nations". Rogue nations do not have ICBMs, nor do terrorists. North Korea is probably the closest thing to a rogue nation with both nuclear weapons and missile technology. North Korea is estimated to have maybe 6 to 10 nuclear devices (some of which are not weaponized). North Korea has ballistic missile technology (1 partially successful test flight) capable of just reaching the West Coast of the United States or Canada with a very low probability of any accuracy. I would not make the argument that Kim Jong Il is a rational man, but would he risk a low probability launch and put his population of 22 million at risk? If we were in South Korea or Japan, there would be reason to worry - and a missile defense would make more sense.

More importantly, North Korea's nuclear and missile technology is now under very close and constant surveillance. This underscores an other important point. It is very difficult to develop either nuclear weapons or long range missile techology. Both technologies require testing that is highly visible to the outside world. To develop both, and do so covertly is virtually impossible. Once a nation is identified as seeking nuclear weapons and/or ballistic missile techology, it is much more effective to deal with the threat directly than to build a multi-billion dollar boondoggle to provide a low probability shield against such an unlikely threat. If tensions between the US and North Korea rose to the point where it was reasonably feared that they would launch, it is pretty easy to prememptively destroy their launch facilities.

The terrorists who brought down the World Trade Centers used nothing more sophisticated than box cutters. If a terrorist organization got ahold of a nuclear device, there are far more effective ways to deliver it than a missile - like a shipping container. BTW - on September 11, 2001, Condoleeza Rice was schedule to make a major speech on an important national defense issue. The issue? Ballistic Missil Defense.

The system does not work. Phil Coyle, former US Assistant Secretary of Defense and Senior weapons tester, in an interview with the Globe and Mail called the system a collosal waste of time and money that would make the country more vulnerable to attack, not less adding "it's destabilizing, it's incredibly expensive, and it doesn't work." Recently the Congressional Budget Office recommended that the system be decomissioned and moved from the field back into the lab where the many, many technological challenges can be addressed before it is re-introduced to the field. The missiles that are currently in silos in California and Alaska have performed so poorly to date that it is now feared that a completely new generation of launch vehicle will be required. The United States is spending something like $10B per year on this system. Why don't we let them waste their money?

Finally, Ballistic Missile Defense is not a DND spending priority. We would end up spending enormous amounts of money on a system our defense planners don't really want. So what would suffer? Body armour for our soldiers? Tactical or Strategic airlifters? Replentishment at Sea vessels? Polar ice breakers? If we are considering missile defense, rather than a continental land based missile defense, maybe we should consider a sea based theatre defense system based on standard (tested) SM-3 missiles (and radars) for our frigates. This would allow our surface ships to better integrate in task force operations with allied fleets.

I can't wait until the Conservatives bring this one up in the House of Commons. Even rookie defense critic Ujjal Dosanjh should be able to hit this one out of the park.

Edited: It seems Tim at Peace Order and Good Government has also posted on this topic so I'll link his post as well.

Klein Koal

Calgary Sun: Clean Coal New Goal, Feb 22, 2006

Ralph Klein in a move that would make a medieval alchemist proud, pulled out his philosopher's stone, uttered an incantation and in the blink of an eye, transformed Alberta's energy sector into a David Suzuki dreamland. In his 25 minute broadcast to Albertan's on Tuesday night, the Premier claimed:

"We already use clean coal to meet more than half of our electricity needs,"
Skeptics, non-believers and infidels such as Mary Griffiths of the Pembina Institute immediately scoffed at Ralph's enlightenment, claiming that while Alberta may produce 70% of its electrical energy from coal, none of it could be even remotely described as clean. In fact, most of Alberta's coal fired generators would not even pass current standards for new generation plants in the United States.

Even erstwhile desciples of Klein cast doubts on his tremendous accomplishment. David Lewin, chairman of the Canadian Clean Power Coalition, asserted that "We're a fair ways away from having zero emission coal-fired plants. That technology doesn't exist."

Alberta's newest coal fired thermal generator, the 450 MW Genessee 3 (G3) plant that began operations on March 1, 2005 is one of the most advanced coal plants ever constructed in Canada, but even this plant is not "clean", barely approaching the pollution and CO2 emissions levels of a modern Combined Cycle Natural Gas generator.

Clean coal is just a concept right now that involves gassification of the coal, burning it in an oxygen rich environment to elliminate NOx and SOx emissions and concentrate the CO2 levels in the flue gas so the CO2 can be scrubed and sequestered in depleted oil fields and underground aquifers. A scale project in Weyburn Saskatchewan, operated by EnCana is being used to store 5000 tonnes per day of CO2 generated from a North Dakota industrial plant. It is the first of its kind in the world and is little more than a pilot project at this point.

But if Ralph said it, I believe it. And hey, for a modern day alchemist, if you have Fire, Water, Earth and Oil Coal, who needs air?

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

When Egos Collide

From the CBC: Trump Dumps on Martha. Excerpt:

Trump blasted back in a harsh letter to Stewart published Tuesday, charging that she should take responsibility for her "failed show." He attacked her performance on The Apprentice: Martha Stewart, that of her daughter and criticized her current daytime lifestyle show, Martha. "Essentially, you made this firing up just as you made up your sell order of ImClone," Trump wrote.

I can just picture the epidsode of Celebrity Death Match now. ~~~~ cue dream sequence ~~~ The Donald (in a blue pin striped Armani three piece and patten gucci kicks) comes off the top rope with a flying scissor kick to the throat. But Martha, (in a simple pale green skirted ensemble) in a move perfected in the stir, side steps, grabs him by the comb-over and stuffs a dozen currant scones down his throat. As she walks away she is heard to exclaim "that aught to shut your cake hole. Trump your fired!" Back in her corner, Martha picks up a fountain pen and starts to write "Dear Donald ....."

Healthcare: Private versus private.

As Liberals, I think we need to be careful that we are not just engaging in polemics. In Canada, the debate over delivery of healthcare services must be framed within the five principles of the Canada Health Act

  • Public Administration: The plan must be administered on a non-profit basis by a public authority accountable to the provincial government for its financial transactions.
  • Comprehensiveness: All medically necessary services must be insured.
  • Universality: All residents of the province must have access to insured healthcare services under uniform terms and conditions.
  • Portability: Insurance must cover residents who are temporarily absent from the province.
  • Accessibility: Insured persons must have reasonable and uniform access to insured health services, free of financial or other barriers.
So where does private delivery of healthcare services fit into this framework? Hospitals and clinics have contracted out certain medically necessary tests, procedures and services for years. Lab work, blood work, diagnostic imaging (MRI/CT scans), radiology, day surgery, haemodialysis, physiotherapy, etc. have all been provided to various degrees on an outsource basis in most provinces. This outsourced private delivery model presents no threat to public healthcare in Canada, as long as insured services are not provided or billed directly to patients. There is also no threat in private providers providing non-insured services such as cosmetic surgery. As long as private providers are willing to live within these constraints, they present no threat to the Canadian healthcare system. The only threat in this private delivery model is to the unionized employees in our public hospitals – and we can let the NDP worry about that.

BTW - I also see no particular threat in hospitals providing enhanced services such as private rooms, lightweight casts, or turbo-charged wheel chairs to patients whom are willing to pay or have extended healthcare insurance, as long as the provisioning of these extended services in no way constrains the provision of universally insured services.

Where the threats to universality start to appear is when you allow private clinics to provide insured services to private patients (either within regular business hours or after hours). This is where the parallel or two-tiered system shows up. In such a system there is a perverse incentive for providers not to provide service to patients in the public system as wait lists enhance the value of their private service.

I am not advocating private delivery but we need to fight the right battles. There is a difference between private delivery of services within a single payer system and private delivery of service in a parallel system.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

More bad Iraqi intelligence

MacKay Plays Down Hostages Statement Newly minted Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay is off to a good start. After indicating yesterday based on intelligence from Iraq that the two captured Canadian aid workers were "very much alive" and that they were expected to be released imminently" he has backed off from these statements today citing faulty intelligence. He was probably just distracted from all the excitement surrounding his new girlfriend moving in.

Quebec Leadership Candidates

As a Vancouverite who has been in La Belle Province exactly twice in my lifetime, I am at a little bit of a disadvantage in handicapping the candidates from Quebec. The party is in desperate need of polishing its image in Quebec, so a leader from Quebec would be very good for the party.

Martin Couchon: 5:1. It was assumed that Couchon would challenge Paul Martin for the Liberal leadership following Jean Cretien's retirement but, probably sensing the futility of it, he declined to run (although he did endorse John Manley). Couchon has the resume for the job; an MP since 1993, senior cabinet portfolios, a good network, a lawyer, etc., but as high profile opponent of Paul Martin, he has some fences to mend if he intendes to unite the party. At 43 years of age, Couchon is young, intelligent and good looking (so I'm told).

Stephane Dion: 4:1. Another noted accademic (along with Ignatieff) potentially in the race. The difference is that Dion also has a solid political resume and a political organization. Like Couchon, Dion is a Cretien loyalist, however he also served under Paul Martin as Minister of the Environment. He is also a strong federalist from Quebec. If Mr. Dion is a eloquant a speaker and debater as he is a letter writer, the rest of the field should beware.

Monday, February 20, 2006

David Emerson - Flash

Flash Movie Click Flash icon for movie. I've created some messaging for the campaign to shame David Emerson into resigning. There is a Flash version (low quality due to the poor tools I have) a JPEG and a high quality PDF version. I don't have anywhere to post the PDF version for downloads. If anyone knows of a place to do this I would be happy to post it there. I hope his children don't cry too long over this.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Central Canada Liberal Leadership Candidates

In my mind, an Atlantic Canada, Quebec or Western leader is probably preferred to another Ontario leader, but horses from Ontario stables are odds on favorites to show.
Michael Ignatieff: 2:1 to show, 7:1 to place. Iggy certainly has the bloodlines, both his paternal grand father and great-grand father were cabinet ministers in the courts of Tzars Nicholas II and Alexandre III of Russia. His connections to the Liberal party and to Canada's elite are just as impressive, being close friends with Bob Rae and having attended all of the best schools. He also has the liberal credentials as a celebrated writer on human rights. As a well published author, his controversies are all in the open. There should be no surprises. His accademic stature is no less impressive and gives him standing and credibility in any debate situation. Academically, he is what Stephen Harper aspired to be at one time (only liberal). My doubts about Iggy stem from his lack of political experience. He is also good looking and a natural in front of a camera. He has never been in a close, hard fought campaign, he hasn't had to deal with a divided caucus. Can he handle the every day, practical business of politics and government?

Joe "silver fox" Volpe: 12:1. I have few doubts Joe be there on race day, but I think he will come up short of the winners circle. He has been an MP since 1988, and held the Citizenship and Immigration, and Human Resources and Skills Development cabinet portfolios in the Cretien and Martin governments. He is to my knowledge, neither a Martin or Cretien partisan loyalist. But he is hardly a dynamic campaigner. His cabinet portfolios have been medium to high profile, but not influential. He has never held Finance, Foreign Affairs, Health, Deputy PM, Justice and AG, Defense or Public Works which tend to be more influential on general policy. I guess he has all of the right components, but is not deep enough in any of them.

Belinda Stronach: 8:1. Belinda is a perfect candidate, but she has simply not been with the Liberal Party long enough to be a credible leader. If she runs, she will lose the Liberal leadership for the same reasons she lost the Conservative leadership - lack of experience in government. She is a moderate, Ontario liberal/red tory. She is attractive, young, a dynamic public speaker, and is well connected to the Toronto corporate empires that fund the Liberal party. However - if it takes the Liberals a year to elect a new leader, that would put her into her 3rd year as a MP and 2nd year in the Liberal party .... probably still not enough.

Martha Hall-Findlay: 400:1. She has even less experience than Stronach, but she is currently the only declared candidate. She doesn't even warrant a wikkipedia page so far. For Martha, the best she can do is to try and raise her profile a bit, and then try and get nominated by some TO area riding association so she can win a seat in the next election.

Bob Rae: 6:1. Rae is an interesting (non) candidate. He is a former NDP premier of Ontario, but his tenure as premier was marked by a prolonged recession and a very divided cabinet. He is also a former NDP federal Member of Parliament. It was his motion of non-confidence that sunk the Joe Clark Tory government. Rae is a centrist social democrat, who had previously cooperated in alliance with the Peterson Liberal government in Ontario. As a "third way" Tony Blair socialist, Rae sought to combat the recession with fiscal discipline, but his caucus pressed him towards a more Keynesian approach with much public sector spending to stimulate the economy. The result was a disasterous combination of both which allienated both the business community and the traditional labour and social democratic base of the NDP. Since his electoral defeat in Ontario, Bob Rae has tried to reinvent himself as a Liberal. In several written articles since 1996, Rae has lamblasted the NDP for outdated policies. Over the last 10 years, the federal Liberals have appointed Bob Rae to several committees and inquirys. It is also thought that he was a finalist for consideration for the appointment of Governor General of Canada, and his brother John Rae is an Ontario organizer for the federal liberals. He is also a close friend of Michael Ignatieff. Unfortunately for Rae, he is probably best remembered for his unremarkable tenure as Premier of Ontario. Had he ran as a Liberal MP in 2000, he would have been much better positioned now.

Gerard Kennedy: 5:1. Here is another interesting (non) candidate. Calgary Grit has an interesting piece on Kennedy. He has all of the right stuff. A popular member of Dalton McGuinty's cabinet, strong Liberal and liberal connections, he has won a series of important elections. He also has western connections. Born in Mannitoba, educated in Calgary, has done work for the Alberta government. He is also credited with establishing the Edmonton Food Bank. Along with Ujjal Dosanjh, he would bear the standard for the liberal wing of the liberal party.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Western Liberal Leadership Candidates

It seems the Atlantic Canada favorites for the Liberal leadership race, Brian Tobin and Frank McKenna have returned to the barn, leaving what looks to be a wide open race. So I will try and handicap the western horses.

Gordon Campbell: 4000:1 long shot. Even though he leads the BC Liberal party, and one would think a 2nd term Liberal premier would have to be contender, he is neither a liberal nor a Liberal. I guess he is about as liberal as David Emerson. I'm sure if he were 3 years into his second term he would be salivating at the opportunity, but less than a year into his (reduced) mandate, there is not a chance. Besides, as a candidate, the man has the personality of a kitchen appliance. His mug shot photo from his Hawaii DUI would make a great campaign poster.

Hedy "Crosses are Burning" Fry: 1000:1 long shot. She certainly has the Liberal party connections, tenure with the party and has held numerous cabinet positions, but this mare is lame. Take her out and shoot her.

Christy Clark: 350:1 long shot. Her tenure as Minster of Education in British Columbia was an unmitigated disaster. While it is understood that in the first few years of the Liberal government following the financial wreck left by the NDP, all ministries were required to cut costs, her outright denial that per student education funding was reduced was a flimsy lie - while absolute funding was marginally increase, real funding (inflation adjusted) was reduced. Her clumsy war with the BC Teachers Federation over control of the BC College Teachers college was well intentioned, but it failed due to poor strategy and even worse execution. Besides, I thought she quit politics to spend more time with her family. Or was it to run for the NPA Vancouver majoral nomination? Federal Liberal leadership? Her family must suck. She is however well connected. He husband is a federal Liberal BC organizer.

Ujjal Dosanjh: 25:1 long shot. Ujjal is my MP, a good man and an incredible asset to the LPC. As a former BC and federal cabinet minister and premier for a few months, he has a solid resume. He has very strong connections to the Indo-Canadian community in Vancouver and some ties to the labour movement. He founded the Farm Workers Legal Information Service to help Indo-Canadian janitorial, farm and domestic workers have access to legal services. This organization led to the formation of the Canadian Farmworkers Union. He has solid Civil Liberties credentials working for a number of civil liberties groups in BC. His big weakness is the shortness of his tenure with the Liberal Party of Canada. In my opinion, this is not long enough to form the network of connection needed to win a leadership race. He also doesn't speak french - a serious handicap for any leadership hopful. Ujjal would certainly bear the standard for the liberal wing of the Liberal Party, however it has been reported in the Vancouver Province that Ujjal has officially opted out.

Anne McLellan: 50:1. Landslide Annie won in races for the Liberals in Edmonton. Any Liberal who can do that is a hell of a candidate. She has held high profile federal ministerial portfollios (Natural Resources, Justice and Attorney General, Health and Deputy PM). She is outspoken and a dynamic campaigner. Anne is far more centrist than Dosanjh, as she would have to be to get elected in Edmonton.

Ralph Goodale: 5:1. Ralph is probably the closest thing to a front runner that the west has. He has impecable Liberal Party credentials as the former leader of the Saskatchewan Liberal Party. He like Anne has also held a series of high profile federal cabinet positions, the most recent being Finance. He is an experienced campaigner, fund raiser, and connects very well with audiences. Like Jean Cretien, he has a great ability to connect with common people in everyday situations. The only knock against his is that he has fairly close ties to Paul Martin, but to my knowledge he has not alienated the Cretien side of the party. Politically, I would probably class him as a moderate.

Any other suggestions?

Monday, February 13, 2006

Iran and Iraq

Globe and Mail: Iran begins to enrich uranium (sigh) We have now arrived at the point I feared we would since the US began its campaign to invade Iraq in 2002. Iran is rushing headlong into a nuclear weapons program that the west is pretty much powerless to stop. The United States has pretty much exhausted its political capital. There is not an ally in the region who would be willing at this point to deploy any diplomatic, economic or military means to confront or head off a frightful escallation of Irans nuclear weapons program. Pakistan with its own covertly incubated nuclear weapons program has neither the moral authority nor the political will to confront its neighbour Iran. Iraq and Afghanistan have been bombed into the stone age. Turkey is more worried about Kurdish nationalism. The Gulf states have hung way to much on the line supporting the US in the Gulf War and Iraq War. Saudi Arabia and Jordan and similarly constrained by domestic unrest and anti-americanism. The United States now has no credible threat of military action - it is spread too thin already. 150,000 troops tied down in Iraq, falling enrollment, poor morale and war fatigue, the most powerful military force on the planet has been squandered on a meaningless war while the real menace lurks next door. Now thanks to a foolish Danish cartoonist, and race riots in France, the EU has lost its honest deal broker roll in the muslim world. We might as well resign ourselves to it, an extreme totalitarian fundamentalist Islamic regime will within a matter of months possess weapons capable of annihilating whole civilizations. Or infidels as they call us. God help us all.

Wiretaps show Gretzky Exhonorated

From the Vancouver Sun (click the post title for the link). It now appears that Wayne Gretzky was telling the truth - he had no prior knowledge of the Rick Tocchet - New Jersey gambling ring. The wiretap that recorded Wayne inquiring about his wife occured after New Jersey detectives showed up at his door in Phoenix asking to talk to Janet. Further, it appears that even his wife Janet Jones-Gretzky did nothing wrong. She placed a bet and won some money betting on the SuperBowl (just as I predicted). It is not illegal to place bets, but it is illegal broker gambling transactions. All of those people prematurely demanding Gretzky's resignation from the Canadian Olympic team need to swallow hard and take a deep breath.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Possibility of Fire

This blog is so good I just had to link to it. Click on the title.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

A moment of silence.

Let us pause for a moment in memory of former BC NDP cabinet minister Dave Stupich who passed away yesterday at the age of 84.

Okay, the next number is B-13. Under the B, number 13.

Peter's Principles

Okay - I've finally figured this David Emerson thing out, but there must be an easier way for Peter MacKay to get another girlfriend. Well at least there is one Tory who is not on his knees. Bravo Garth Turner. http://www.garth.ca/weblog/

Friday, February 10, 2006

Offensive Cartoons

Okay - let me go on record as supporting free speech. The cartoonist who drew the cartoons that that muslim world finds so offensive should by all means be free to express his views. There I've said it. But what are the responsibilities of newspaper editors? I am not advocating a test of political correctness, or non-offensiveness for news outlets. But should not responsible editors themselves apply a test of salience, newsworthyness or relavance? When content is almost certain to incite hatred or violence an editor has an obligation to apply such as test. Certainly of all people, Europeans should understand the damage that racially motivated hate rhetoric can do. So I say shame on the Danish press. Shame on the Danish government - not for failing the censor, but for failing to condemn these actions in strong enough terms. I also say shame on moderate muslims for reacting with violence that only serves to illustrate the point that cartoonist so crudely made.

Wanna bet?

Things we know about "Operation Slapshot".

  • The New Jersey police investigation has more leaks than a union meeting.
  • Hockey finally made the front pages of the sports section in the US.
  • When the players agreed to help fix the game of hockey no one thought they meant individual games.
  • Pittsburgh's proposed stadium deal is tied to a casino license. Wanna bet that doesn't happen now?
  • If that fails, Las Vegas is in the running to relocate the Pittsburgh franchise. Wanna bet that doesn't happen either?
No seriously, those calling for Wayne Gretzky's resignation need to hold their panties. Wayne Gretzky has personified integrity in sports for decades. He has never been implicated in gambling or illegal or unethical activities before. It is highly unlikely that he is involved in this. From what has been leaked to the press, it seems the worst thing that he has done is try and protect his wife. No one knows the details of this investigation except the New Jersey prosecutors. Based on the time frame of the scandal, the gambling was on the Superbowl - NHL regular season games just don't generate that kind of interest. This is not hockey's Pete Rose scandal.

In a related story ....

New Conservative International Trade Minister David Emerson has declared that if the United States prevails over Canada eventually in the softwood lumber dispute that he will become an American citizen.

Emerson versus Stronach

Peter MacKay says the International Trade Minister David Emerson's defection to the Conservatives is different than Belinda Stronach's previous defection to the Liberals. On this point he is right.

Belinda Stronach would have won her riding as a Liberal - as she indeed did this year. Stronach's riding of Newmarket-Aurora was created in 2004 by a merger of the ridings of North York and Vaughan-King-Aurora. Vaughan-King-Aurora had been held by the Liberals since the riding was created in 1997 and North York has not voted Conservative since 1979, electing an independent in 1984 and Liberals in 1988 and 1997. Belinda won Newmarket-Aurora in 2000 for the Conservatives against Liberal Martha Hall Findley by a margin of only 689 votes. She won the riding as a Liberal in 2006 by a margin of over 4800 votes. Had she run as a Liberal in 2000, based on the ridings Liberal voting record and her high profile she would have won by an equally high margin of votes.

David Emmerson's riding of Vancouver has not elected a Conservate MP since 1958 - essentially swinging between the Liberals and NDP. There is damn little chance that David Emerson would have won as a Conservative. The closests a Conservative has come to wining this riding was a distant 2nd place finish for Canadian Alliance candidate Alice Wong in 2000 garnering 29.6% of the vote.

At the very least, David Emerson should return the $90,000 in funding he recieved from the Vancouver Kingsway Liberal riding association and immediately resign his seat to face his constituents in a bi-election.