Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Dump Tory group shoots itself in the grassroots

Bizarre news release helps McGuinty, discredits pro-review forces

I have not weighed in publicly on the John Tory leadership review (for the record, I helped out on the campaign and am against review), but this release, issued by the “Grassroots PC” group headed by former party president Rueben Devlin and former MPP Bart Maves, needs to be cited for its clumsiness, in both ideation and execution.

The release attacks Tory’s recent speech to the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario. Below are some excerpts, followed by the response of Tory supporter John Ratchford:

Grassroots PC: [Tory] called for new initiatives to attract and retain nurses – a great idea. The slightly embarrassing fact, though, is that the Liberal government has already implemented each one of the great new ideas he suggested.

Grassroots PC: Great New Idea #1: “Implementing the creation of 70 per cent full-time employment for nurses”
Slightly Embarrassing Fact #1: Every hospital in Ontario is already required to have 70 per cent fulltime employed nurses…it’s government policy.

Ratchford: Fact: Ontario’s nurses say the Liberals haven’t kept their promise. Doris Grinspun, Executive Director of the RNAO, said: “Targeted funding is crucial if the government is going to achieve its goals of increasing Ontario’s nursing workforce by 9,000 and having 70 percent of nurses working full-time.” (RNAO press release, January 22, 2008)

Grassroots PC: Great New Idea #3: “Establishing nurse-led clinics that would allow nurses to take a lead role in areas such as chronic disease management.”
Slightly Embarrassing Fact #3: On November 30, 2005 the Liberal government announced $15 million for the creation of 69 new diabetes education and care teams.

Ratchford: The error-ridden news release also declares that the Liberals have kept their promise and created nurse-led clinics, pointing to an extremely small $15 million program as proof of the accomplishment.
Fact: Here’s what the RNAO said in their January 22 news release: “RNAO says the need to immediately improve the public’s access to primary health is why the association wants to see 12 of the 25 nurse-led clinics, promised during the election campaign, up and running in 2008.”


Well, to point out the obvious, the fact that something is “government policy,” doesn’t mean it’s actually happening. For example, it’s “government policy” that class sizes from grades JK to 3 are capped at 20. But the McGuinty Fiberals have failed to achieve that, despite spending a couple billion and having four years to do it.

And giving the Liberals credit by citing a two-year-old funding announcement that equates to maybe 20% of the full clinic idea Tory proposes? Talk about apples and oranges. Or more like the way teachers are being encouraged to mark these days: no marks off for incomplete or late assignments.

I respect the right of the dump Tory crowd to get their messages out. But I fail to see the “strategery” in putting out a release that credits McGuinty with things he hasn’t achieved. It doesn’t advance their cause; it just hurts our caucus and whoever might succeed Tory, should these guys achieve their goal at the review in London.

In addition to serving as unpaid water-carriers for McGuinty, “Grassroots PC” have ceded the high ground they tried to claim with Devlin’s introductory comment on their website: “while we respect John Tory and appreciate his service to the party, he is not the leader our party and Ontario need to succeed in the future.” Issuing a release that could have come from the Liberal war room falls rather short of showing respect for Tory.

I grant that opposing the leader while supporting the party can be a tough wire to walk. But these guys have deliberately dived off that wire headfirst – without a net.

Endnote: Hugh MacIntyre has a different view.

Absent Liberals leave Dion red-faced

30 Liberal MPs AWOL on Monday, caucus sporting scarlet scarves on Wednesday. Coincidence?

These days, it is not always clear that the official opposition has the fire in the belly to acquit itself of some of its most basic parliamentary duties. On Monday, the first day back in Parliament after a six-week break, more than 30 Liberal MPs were missing in action for question period.
--Chantal H├ębert, Toronto Star, today

Mike Duffy also noted the thin Liberal ranks to Liberal whip Karen Redman on his program Monday. The clip is titled "Party whips discuss the stance on Afghanistan" and Duffy refers to the absent Liberals at about 4:20. Redman defends the absentees at about 8:00.

As some politician once said: "You can fake that you care, but you can't fake being there."

Perhaps Monday's embarassing attendance is why Liberal MPs were wearing red scarves in the House today (after this morning's caucus): a public gesture of solidarity.

But maybe it's Dion who needs the warm garments. If I were a leader possibly facing an election in a matter of weeks, and 30 of my MPs couldn't be bothered to show up to support me during the first question period after the winter break, I'd be feeling pretty chilled.

Update: According to commenter Jason, the red scarves had to do with a charitable initiative, and not Dion's caucus support. My apologies.

Mrs. Lynne Yelich (Blackstrap, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, tomorrow, January 31, is National Red Scarf Day. Twelve year old Miss Hannah Taylor initiated this campaign. As a young child, she witnessed a person homeless and hungry and was moved to take action to combat homelessness in Canada.

The Minister of Human Resources and Social Development and I met with this charming young lady this morning to express our government's support for her great work.

We recognize that a safe and stable home is an important first step on the path out of poverty. Our new homelessness partnering strategy works with other levels of government, the private sector and community organizations like Hannah's Ladybug Foundation to implement solutions that address local problems. Together, our work is delivering results.

We recognize National Red Scarf Day. On behalf of the government, I am pleased to acknowledge the valuable work of Hannah Taylor, the Ladybug Foundation and the Canadians who support this worthy cause. We thank Hannah.
--Hansard, Wednesday

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

May too Liberal with her punctuation

Harper never used Keen’s given name, nor the word “waiting” in the Commons

Taking a break from her rantings about Adolf Hitler, Green Party supremo Elizabeth May turns to another old lib-left chestnut, Stephen Harper’s supposed sexism. Unfortunately, she relied upon some invented facts to make her case:

And now I turn to an unexamined aspect of the Harper abuse: sexism. The ways he spit out the name “Linda Keen” day after day in Question Period, suggested he felt he could make hay out of the fact the President of the CNSC was a woman. If CNSC member Dr. Christopher Barnes, with both an Order of Canada and membership in the Royal Society of Canada, had been its President, I simply cannot imagine the Prime Minister rounding on Michael Ignatieff, as he did in the House, demanding if he was prepared to wait for “Dr. Christopher Barnes” with the scorn in his voice he emoted for “waiting for Ms. Keen!”.
--Elizabeth May, guest-posting at Scott’s DiaTribes, January 21, 2008

Just for a lark, I checked Hansard. Harper referred to Keen by name a grand total of five times: once on December 12, and four times on December 13. On every occasion, he referred to her as “Ms. Keen,” not “Linda Keen.”

And he never used the word “waiting” in reference to her in the Commons
. In fact, if you search the entire Parliament site for the phrase “waiting for Ms. Keen” you get 0 results.

Well, as some say, never let the facts get in the way of a good story. Or perhaps May just doesn’t understand what quotation marks mean.

I checked the video too. You can view the December 12 clip here (Harper starts at about 21:00) and the December 13 clip here (Harper starts at about 04:19:30). I guess if May wants to describe Harper as spitting that's her prerogative, but he struck me as more bewildered and bemused at the Liberals' flip-flopping.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Delacourt: Keen coverage is payback for Harper’s treatment of press gallery

Media are making a point – about themselves

In case anyone missed Friday’s “Politics” broaaadcast on Newsworld, Toronto Star columnist Susan Delacourt provided a rare moment of insight into the media’s attitudes (or at least her own). Her comment starts at about 49:30:

Delacourt: This is where, I’ve been thinking about this for the last couple of days, their media strategy – I know it sounds like we’re fixed on this – but remember, that we here in the media, one of the things that we’re supposed to be is independent as well.

And for the last two years, this government has sort of shown, sort of, the back of the hand to that whole idea of independence, or sort of distance, and I think this is where it catches up with them.

The media is gonna tell this story from the experience they know which is – we don’t know what it’s like to get someone on your doorstep firing you at ten o’clock at night – but we certainly know what it feels like to be trifled with and to be played around with and bullied.

And I think that’s where, if these guys had had a little more of a farsighted media strategy, that maybe this story would be being told a different way. But I’ve been very surprised watching the way this story has been reported. And how else would we report it? It’s what we know here.

While it’s indisputable that the Harper government has imposed a strict discipline on government communications and spokespersons (an understandable policy for a conservative government), this can hardly be described as giving reporters the “back of the hand.” What it has given the back of its hand to is the old style of media relations under the Liberals.

Under that style, Hill reporters were not treated with independence or distance; they were treated as pets to be cultivated and – if deemed sympathetic – rewarded with leaks from inside government, weekly caucus meetings, and not-so-underground leadership campaigns. (Sounds like trifling and playing to me.)

Delacourt’s comments suggest that reporters have decided to take a stand on their independence – by sabotaging it (“How dare Harper treat us like we’re biased, we’ll show him – by being biased!”). Which seems rather like cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

This is why Kimmel rules my late night

Check out this YouTube of Jimmy Kimmel’s interview Monday night with two guys from Louisiana, who had been thrown out of their (former) favourite all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet. (You may have heard about this incident in the news.)

Unfortunately, the video has a one-minute gap starting just before 6:00, but if you skip ahead to about 7:00, you will get a last laugh.

I think Letterman still does interviews like this too, but his are painfully unfunny. Like the rest of his show.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

This just in . . .

CP figures out that February holiday won’t come cheap and wasn't thought through – four months after it was announced

The Liberal government's plan to give Ontario workers a new holiday next month will cost municipal taxpayers millions of dollars, and Premier Dalton McGuinty admitted Tuesday there are still "wrinkles" to be ironed out regarding Family Day.

There are also fears the new statutory holiday will mean increased costs to clear roads if it snows on Feb. 18 because towns and cities would have to pay a premium to anyone called in to work due to a storm or other emergency such as a broken water main.
--“Family Day to cost Ontario municipal taxpayers millions of dollars,” Canadian Press, today

But CP saved the best for the end of the story:

"We're going to have to find a way to iron out some of the wrinkles that develop as we bring in place the very first Family Day," McGuinty said. "Undoubtedly there were wrinkles of this nature when they first put in place the original eight statutory holidays."

Damn you, Jesus!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The sound of selective science

(With apologies to Kate)

From the New York TimesJohn Tierney (h/t: Andrew Potter):

Today’s interpreters of the weather are what social scientists call availability entrepreneurs: the activists, journalists and publicity-savvy scientists who selectively monitor the globe looking for newsworthy evidence of a new form of sinfulness, burning fossil fuels.

A year ago, British meteorologists made headlines predicting that the buildup of greenhouse gases would help make 2007 the hottest year on record. At year’s end, even though the British scientists reported the global temperature average was not a new record — it was actually lower than any year since 2001 — the BBC confidently proclaimed, “2007 Data Confirms Warming Trend.”

When the Arctic sea ice last year hit the lowest level ever recorded by satellites, it was big news and heralded as a sign that the whole planet was warming. When the Antarctic sea ice last year reached the highest level ever recorded by satellites, it was pretty much ignored. A large part of Antarctica has been cooling recently, but most coverage of that continent has focused on one small part that has warmed.

When Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans in 2005, it was supposed to be a harbinger of the stormier world predicted by some climate modelers. When the next two hurricane seasons were fairly calm — by some measures, last season in the Northern Hemisphere was the calmest in three decades — the availability entrepreneurs changed the subject. Droughts in California and Australia became the new harbingers of climate change (never mind that a warmer planet is projected to have more, not less, precipitation over all).
--John Tierney, New York Times, January 1