Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Cry 'Scandal' - CPC Standard Operating Procedure

I thought Gurmant Grewal's shennanigans were an abberation, even for the CPC. Now it appears that Brian Pallister is is moving in that same direction - creating a so-called scandal over David Dingwall's expenses at the Mint where, none, it appears, existed.

: PriceCoopersWaterhouse has confirmed that all Dingwall's expenses were legitmate and related to Mint business. Feel free to read this again with that in mind.

But it wasn't until I got home last night and opened my mail before I came to the conclusion that this behaviour - exaggerating, making things up and downright misleading people to manufacture an artificial scandal - is the standard operation procedure for the CPC.

What led me to decide this? A letter from my MP, Pierre Poilievre of the CPC, and his partner, the current MPP for the area and Federal CPC hopeful John Baird. The text of the hard copy letter is the same as the one from the link above, with a few minor exceptions:

"As you may know, the Hospital was originally built on land owned by the National Capital Commission (NCC). In a few short years the current lease for the land is up for renewal. Paul Martin’s Liberal Government plans to force the NCC (who has no choice in the matter) to charge full market rent to the Queensway-Carleton Hospital.

This decision could result in tens of millions of dollars, intended to support front line patient care, being diverted to the federal Liberal government! The past Chair of the QCH’s Board of Directors has suggested that if the hospital is faced with paying this massive rent increase being demanded by Paul Martin’s Liberals, it would result in 40 nurses losing their jobs at the hospital.

Thanks for your support for OUR community hospital!"
[Emphasis Poilievre's, from the hardcopy letter]
A little background is in order for those of you that aren't from Ottawa. The Queensway-Carleton Hospital is one of our local Ottawa hospitals which happenes to be built on federal land owned by the National Capital Commission (NCC). The job of the NCC, a Crown Corporation, is to act "as the steward of federal lands and buildings in the National Capital Region." Since the hospital is build on NCC land, it pays the NCC rent and is currently in a long term lease with the the NCC for that purpose, which is nearing its end.

On the surface, Poilievre and Baird's alarm seems somewhat justified. But things seem to fall apart as soon as you turn to the second page of the mailer and read a re-print of an Ottawa Citizen Op-Ed column from September 14, 2004. In it we find out the following:

  • The Hospital's is currently in a 40-year lease with the NCC and pays $23, 000 per year.
  • The lease was started in 1973 and expires in 2013.
  • When the lease runs out, the contract "supposedly" (this word is actually in the OP-Ed piece) states the Hospital will have to pay a rent of 6.5% of the property value, which they estimate will come to $3.4 million.
  • The NCC is "open to negotiations" since this is simply a lease agreement between two parties.
Read the letter again. Now read this list of facts again.

Firstly, the lease won't expire "in a few short years", it expires in 8 years. The end date of the lease is fixed, I wonder why Poilievre and Baird used that phrase instead of the actual, easily calculated number?

Second, the money goes into the coffers and operating budget of the NCC, an independent Crown Corporation. That could be stretched to say it goes into the general revenues of the Government of Canada. But it certainly isn't "diverted to the federal Liberal Government."

Third, the cost of the entire 40-year lease, at $23 000 per year is $920 000, not the "tens of millions of dollars" reported above. Even taking the CPC-generated estimate for the value of the land, paying $3.4 million per year, 8 years from now, "tens of millions" is quite an exaggeration. And I certainly wouldn't want to estimate the value of land 8 years from now - while it could be much higher, the expected retirement of the Boomers in 2011 could, in fact, make the bottom fall out of the real estate market, making it worth far less. Putting up a rental cost based on the value of land 8 years in the future can best be described as wild speculation. Basing a "crisis" on it is irresponsible.

Fourth, it is not "Paul Martin's Liberal Government" that is forcing this, it is "supposedly" a term of the contract signed in 1973. This is from Poilievre's own mail out. Also, a there is a regulation passed in 1985 by the Mulroney Conservatives, that requires crown corporations and departments to charge full market value rents on their land - a regulation passed by Poilievre's own party when they were in power.

Of course, my favourite line is:

"The past Chair of the QCH’s Board of Directors has suggested that if the hospital is faced with paying this massive rent increase being demanded by Paul Martin’s Liberals, it would result in 40 nurses losing their jobs at the hospital."

So, once again, it isn't "Paul Matin's Liberals" demanding anything, it's the terms of the contract (at least according to page 2 of Poilievre's own mail out). Those massive rent increases, if they should materialize (again, this is simply wild speculation at this point), are 8 years away. And to sound an alarm about 40 nurses possibly losing their jobs 8 years hence while teaming up with John Baird is, frankly, disingenous and unbelievable gall.

You see, John Baird, Poilievre's new CPC partner in this, is the current Progressive Conservative MPP for our area and a former Cabinet Minister in both the Mike Harris and Ernie Eves Conservative governments here in Ontario. So it is more than ironic to see this man, who as a Cabinet Minister had the actual power to save nurses jobs (since nurses are hired by and funded by the Province, not the feds) but didn't, now worrying about the possibility of nurses losing their jobs 8 years into the future. During Baird's tenure as an Cabinet Minister, the province of Ontario laid off thousands of nurses - 10 000 between 1995 and 1998 alone when he was party to cutting $800 million from Ontario's hospitals. The Queensway-Carleton lost hundreds of nurses during that time. Further, he was also party to the miss-allocation and misspending of federal money targeted to healthcare during that time. According to Jane Jacobs in "The Dark Age Ahead", when the feds gave the provinces $1.5 billion in 2000 to upgrade medical equipment and reduce diagnostic wait times, Ontario spent millions on "ice makers, floor scrubbers, lawn mowers and sewing machines" rather than the new radiological equipment that it was supposed to be spent on. Millions more was given to private sector firms who later simply closed their doors, never buying equipment of providing the services (pg. 206 "The Dark Age Ahead"). Now THAT is a spending scandal that Baird never seems to mention.

Given that record, Baird's committment to saving a hospital and 40 nursing jobs 8 years into the future rings hollow, to say the least.

The other strange part of this is that, according to this mail out, for the "Paul Martin Liberals" to have all that money "diverted" to them, they will have to be the government in 2013, when the current lease ends. So either Poilievre has given up and thinks that the Liberals will remain in power for the next 8 years, or he is making this up to score partisan political points based on the concern over the Sponsorship scandal. I wonder which one it is?

So now, when you read this with the facts (some of which actually provided by Poilievre) you see another example of a CPC MP exaggerating, misleading and making things up in order to manufacture a 'scandal'. Total political opportunism. Total BS.

Yes, something should be done about this situation before 2013 rolls around. I even think Poilievre's idea the hospital renting land from the NCC for $1 per year is good - the Pineview Golf Course in town has the same arrangement and if its good enough for a golf course, it should be good enough for a Hospital. But this over the top embellishing and false information is nothing but rank, self-serving political opportunism - Poilievre is doing this solely to make himself look like a hero in his bid for re-election.

We have 8 years to calmly work this out and come to a creative solution, this is not a crisis, nor is it a scandal involving the "Paul Martin Liberals."

The Liberal record on healthcare stands for itself - 12 years of underfunding are the main cause of most of the problems faced by the system today. We don't need people making things up and creating false scandals in order to do the right thing. Poilievre would better serve his constituents and the hospital by working in the background, encouraging negotiations and providing ideas. He could join Ed Broadbent in his non-partisan fight to get rid of the NCC altogether. Instead he has decided to manufacture a crisis to make himself look good.

Instead of the deceit and the politics of "Corruption, Corruption, Corruption!", why can't members of the CPC show us good examples of Parliamentarians instead of running around like latter-day Joe MacCarthy's looking for scandal and corruption under every rock, and happily manufacturing them if they don't find them?

Ask yourself, are these they kind of people you want running the country - disingenous, witch-hunters bent on smearing their opponenets at any cost instead of doing positive work?

I think you know MY answer to that.


Buzz at Canukistan got an e-mail that sums it up quite nicely. Couldn't have said it better myself.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Another Hero Passes

The woman who made sitting down a revolutionary act has passed. Rosa Parks, the spark and inspiration for the US Civil rights movement, died yesterday at the age of 92 at her home in Detroit.

Her refusal to give up her seat to a white passenger in Montgomery Alabama in 1955 gave birth to the Civil Rights movement and led Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to prominence during the 381-day bus boycott.

Her act?

When asked by a bus driver to give up her seat for a white passenger, Mrs. Parks simply said:


The driver threatened her "Well by God, I'm going to have you arrested."

"You may do that."

She was arrested and fined $14. Probably the best $14 anyone has ever spent. As Malcom Gladwell would say, that act was the tipping point - within 10 years the Civil Rights Act was passed and Jim Crow was being dismantled. All because she refused to be a party to injustice anymore.

Thank you Mrs. Rosa. Thank you.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Rick Mercer's Wednesday Report from Afghanistan

Rick reports with honesty and humour on the great work our guys are doing in Kabul and Kandhar.

Just Go Read It.

Thanks for the post Rick, and great job to our guys. Keep it up, we are all behind you.

Obligatory Bev Desjarlais Post

Well, as many have probably heard, Churchill Manitoba NDP MP Bev Desjarlais has decided to leave caucus and sit as an independant. Sad news for the NDP at a time when everything seemed to be going well for the party, but not a big deal nor, frankly, real surprise.

Bev, of course, will be missed. She was and is a very good MP. I'm not sure why the members of her riding association chose not to nominate her again, but that's what happened. Bev herself seems to think it had something to do with the Same Sex Marriage controversy, in which Bev, against party discipline and contrary to a signed promise she made when she was last nominated (to either support the SSM bill or abstain), voted against the same sex marriage bill. For that, she was removed from her critics position.

Normally that would have been that. But unfortunately, the membership in Churchill did not see it that way, and it is the local riding association that has the final say in the nomination. Again, I'm not sure why they chose not to nominate her, but given that, I understand somewhat her decision to sit as an independant and to run as one in the next election.

Despite the differences that may have led to this, Bev is still a progressive and a good MP for her riding and I for one wish her the best of luck.


With all the partisan consipracy theories going around ('Bev was dumped because of SSM", "Jack Layton engineered this", blah blah blah...), I was curious about the person she lost to Niki Ashton.

Let's see, she is a young woman with a degree in Global Political Economy, is currently studying for a Masters in Interantional Affairs at Carleton University, she speaks Greek, French, English and Spanish fluently, has studied Mandarin Chinese, Russian, Ukrainian and Turkish and is currently learning Cree (how many sitting politicians speak Cree?). She has been educated in Hong Kong, travelled to and volunteered in Athens Greece during the Olympics and to Costa Rica while in highschool, has been a teacher, and is currently researching the affects of the free trade agreements on labour rights.


Never mind all that conspiracy crap. The distinct possibility exists that Niki Ashton was seen by members of the riding association in Churchill simply as a better candidate.

I certainly would have voted for her.

As hard as losing Bev Desjarlais is right now, having Niki Ashton as a candidate certainly makes up for it.

Hat tip to the Coyote Howls for the link...

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Hope and disappointment, all in a few weeks

It's been a few weeks since my last post, but I have been lurking in my usual haunts and indulging in debate and discussion. And I've noticed a hopeful sign.

Members of the Right and Left have been agreeing with each other. We have had excellent debates and cordial discussions. It has been both refreshing and hopeful - hopeful that perhaps constructive, consensus building discussion can actually solve problems and help us move forward and get things done.

I'm used to this kind of discussion over at The Blogging Party of Canada, where DazzlinDino, Tim, Candace, Princess Monkey and I have had great, creative debates on policy and actually come up with some good stuff that we all think is good.

But for me the real (and quite pleasant) surprise came last week at Bound By Gravity. While I normally have a good debating relationship with Andrew, it has not been so with others. So it felt strange to find a situation in which Andrew, Occam's Carbuncle, balbulican, Deaner and myself all agreed about Dingwall not deserving a severance. Occam put it best:

" Mike, Balbulican and I all agreeing on something. We're through the looking glass people." - Posted by:Occam's Carbuncle | Email | 10/5/2005 3:55PM

Again, a few days later, we agreed that the new "Rule of Thirds" the Liberals were putting forward to deal with surpluses was both inflexible and undemocratic. It was interesting that in that thread and an earlier one on the same topic, Andrew, balbulican, Deaner and I all agreed. I paid a compliment to junker. At one point Deaner and I made the identical point on flexibility and priorities:

"PMPM's new "rule of thirds" law is like a homeowner saying "from now on, whenever I get a raise, I will spend one third of the money, give one third back to my employer, and use one third to pay down debt." That may be the best course of action (other than the "give it back to my employer" part...), but what if you need a new roof; maybe it would be a good idea to spend all (or even more than all) of the increased cash flow for that? What if you thought that times were going to get tight, and you would need cash (or unused lines of credit) more than a new TV, etc?


"...Now, in that situation, would you want a law stating that you couldn't go into debt in an emergency situation? As Robert said earlier, does not paying your phone bill (or only paying half and expecting the same service from the phone company) leaving a "little extra money" mean you have a "surplus?" If you genuinely came into extra money (through a "bonus" or an inheritance) would you want a law stating that you MUST use that money in a particular way, like paying all of it to debt, or a 1/3 to the credit card 1/3 to the food budget and 1/3 you give back to your employer?

No, of course not, that doesn't make sense. You would do what most people in that situation do - access their current situation and make the appropriate choices. One time, you may decide that despite your debt load, your kids need new shoes and THAT is the priority, so you spend it on shoes. Another time you might decide that 1/2 goes to pay down the mortgage and 1/2 goes to getting a new fridge. Another time you may decide to put the whole thing on your credit card, if every thing else is ok. Still another time you may decide to stick the whole thing in an RRSP because you expect a down turn and will need that money later.

Its all about priorities. I will agree with Andrew here in that no government should have their hands tied with legislation. It restricts the government's freedom to act in relation to current conditions...

Seeing this kind of well argued debate and non-partisan, cross-party agreement was exciting and refreshing, especially considering we were agreeing about fiscal matters. Coupled with the sucess of BPOC, this really shows how politics should be done in this country.

But alas, my enthusiasm is tempered somewhat. I have also been called a pinhead with "my head up my ass" because I thought that Mike Harris' policies created more problems then they pretended to solve. I was accused of being an idiotic easterner who doesn't know what's good for the country.


Well, let's hope this trend of calm discussion and agreement continues. Let's hope it spreads to Parliament, where we can see more cooperation and consensus building instead of more hyperbole and the politics of fear.

A big hat tip to Andrew and Bound By Gravity. I suspect that the debates and sucess I see there are directly atributed to him and the way he runs his blog. I have voted for him as the best Canadian Blog at the small dead aminals awards. I will vote for it in any and all other awards as well.

Good job Andrew.


The amazement continues. I find myself joining Pig v Swine in congratualting Ralph Klein on doing the right thing.

Will wonder's never cease.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Another Meme Post....

Well, thanks to Pig v Swine and Tim, I've been sucked into another meme post.

So, here it is:

1. If money were no object, what would you be doing with your life?

Well that's a bit tough. Writing, hacking, Kung Fu, travelling and generally playing with my kids. Building Robots would be kinda fun too.

2. Money is just that - an object, so why aren't you doing it?

That object is required to exchange for food and shelter for my dependant children and wife. Sorta need to keep working to provide that. I could just become a Kwai Chang Cain type wanderer but abandoning your family is still frowned upon...

3. What's better: horses or cows?

Cows are better. They are cleaner and provide milk and meat. I was a stable hand at an equestrian farm when I was a teenager and watched the people that owned and lived with their horses (the barn was literally attached to the house) treat them better than people. I also had to muck the stalls.

I hate horses.

4. What do you think the secret to happiness is?

Happiness is simply being happy with what you have, making due the best you can and always fighting to do better.

Happiness is hearing my 4-year-old laugh at Mr. Bean.

Either that or a warm gun. I heard that somewhere.

5. When was the last time you had a dream that you either remember well or did not want to awake from? Can you share a bit?

I dreamt last night that I was paddling through Algonquin Park, showing my little boy how to canoe and camp. And watching him giggle and smile at all of the aninmals and nature around us.

6. When you were a little kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

An OPP officer, a doctor and an astronaut. In that order.

7. Complete this statement: Love is...

All around us. You just need to look.

8. Can you tell a good story? (write one!)

My dad has only 50% lung capacity, thanks to years of exposure to chemical vapours while working in a foundary and as a farmer. That means, sadly, that when it's too cold out, he can't breathe. So during the deer season back on the farm in the first week of December each year, he can't always "push bush" with my brother and his nieghbours. At times like this, his buddy Junior (who occasionally forgets to purchase his hunting license) drops by for a few beers and to yack.

It was one of those days a few years back, when Dad and Junior were sitting at the kitchen table, rambling on about the weather and what have you, when my Dad's new cat came in the kitchen.

Now, my Dad has not had good luck with pets, especially cats, for a long time. Our farm seems to have a pet cemetary in every orchard or unused field. Dad seems to go through cats faster than most people go through bic pens.

On this day, his latest cat, purring, walked up to him and began rubbing his leg. Dad reached down ans scratched its head.

"Your the boss of this place aren't ya?" he said.

The cat then turned and walked out into the middle of the kitchen floor, where it stopped suddenly and fell over.

Dad looked at Junior. Junior looked at Dad.

"I think that cat just died," said Junior as he leaned forward to get a better look.

"No, its just tired," Dad replied.

They both got closer and realized Junior was right. Like a paramedic team, they lept into action. They took turns giving mouth to mouth to the cat. Five times they brough the cat back and five times the cat would cough, roll its eyes and fall back dead again.

By this time, the prospect of losing another pet, combined with 4 or 5 beers, had my Dad pretty broken up. He called my Mom at work and tried to explain.

"He's dead ...*sob*...dead on the floor...*sob*.. Junior....*sob*.. on the floor."

My mother clearly had not adjusted her hearing aid.

"Junior is dead on our floor! Dear God!!!"

Mom hung up and called the OPP and an ambulance.

It took Dad and Junior an hour to explain what really happened.

9. Can you remember your last daydream? What was it about?

Being somewhere and being called upon to use my Northern Praying Mantis techniques to open a can of "Wup-ass" on someone that desparately needed it.

10. If you were to thank someone today, who would you thank?

I'd thank both my kids for being so goofy and making me laugh all the time and reminding me that its fun just being a kid. And my wife for just being her and having a couple of goofy kids.

And the new vector of infection:

I tag the Jurist at Accidental Deliberations, Greg at Sinsiter Thoughts and John Murney.