Archive for November 2008
The belated attempt by the young Conservative Party government of Canada to return from the brink of self-destruction, thanks to its wholly gratuitous decision to cut off public funding for political parties, may be too late.
After 24 hours of peering into a yawning political abyss, the Harper government stepped back from the brink Saturday, dropping a plan to kill public subsidies for political parties.
“When it comes to the funding and subsidies that political parties get, we just don’t think it’s worth getting into an election on that issue,” Transport Minister John Baird said in an interview.
“We won’t be proceeding.”
There were hints there could be further retreats in store to placate incensed opposition parties who’ve been plotting to replace the minority Tories with a coalition government since Finance Minister Jim Flaherty released his fall fiscal update Thursday.
A Conservative official said “the government will put more water into their wine” when Flaherty makes an announcement in Toronto on Sunday.
But the official said the announcement will not include any new economic stimulus – without which the opposition parties said they would not back off their threat to topple the government.
The Tories’ climb down came only a day after Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office sent an e-mail to Tory MPs calling for an all-out media blitz to sway public opinion in favour of the government’s economic agenda and asserting “we are nonetheless prepared to return to the polls over this issue.”
Opposition parties were enraged by Flaherty’s failure to include any measures to stimulate the faltering economy in his update and apoplectic about a surprise move to end public subsidies for parties, which would financially cripple every party except the Tories.
A game of political chicken ensued, with Harper adamantly refusing to back down from the fiscal update and angrily denouncing opposition machinations to install a coalition government as illegitimate and undemocratic. His opponents were equally determined to scuttle the Tory regime just six weeks after the Oct. 14 federal election.
Despite Saturday’s politically embarrassing climb down on the subsidy issue, the three opposition parties continued negotiating the details of a possible coalition and dismissed the reversal as meaningless.
“The prime minister is only focused on politics and political parties and he’s not listening to Canadians who are saying loud and clear: ‘It’s the economy, stupid.”‘ said Liberal finance critic Scott Brison.
“Until we see a real economic plan to help Canadians protect their savings and jobs during these tough times, we can’t support a prime minister we don’t trust.”
New Democrat spokesman Brad Lavigne said: “This changes nothing because for the New Democrats, it was never about public financing.”
Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe echoed those sentiments.
“(Harper’s) mistaken if he thinks we’ll adopt his (economic) plan as is,” Duceppe said.
“There’s no question he’s attacking the rights of women, the rights of unions, there’s nothing for the manufacturing and forestry sectors. We no longer have confidence in Stephen Harper.”
Indeed, there were signals from the opposition that the matter may have passed a point of no return and it could be too late for the government to avert defeat, no matter what it offers.
A coalition government between the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party, buttressed by support from the Bloc Québécois, was the stuff of jokes. And yet it may still happen: The opposition parties are arguably too upset with the Conservatives and too fearful fro tehir own positions to not try to replace the Conservatives. A coalition government at the federal level would be unprecedented–the closest equivalent would be the 1985 accord in Ontario between the Li8berals and teh New Democrats that saw the latter support the Liberals on critical issues in exchange for policy concessions–but why not break spectacularly from tradition? It’s not as if majority governments seem particularly likely given Canada’s numerous regional political divisions.
This leads to two questions I’d like to put to my readers.
1. Do you think that the expulsion of the Conservatives in favour of a Liberal-NDP coalition government is a good thing to do and a good thing for the country?
2. If you come from a country with a tradition fo coalition governments, what advice would you give Canada’s citizenry faced with this new sort of national administration?
The president of Puntland for the past three years has been Mohamud Muse Hersi, a former Ottawa gas station operator.
Hersi emigrated to Canada in the 1980s, bought a gas station and raised a family, but his clan connections to Somalia remained strong. When the elders of Puntland were looking for a new president in 2005, they chose Hersi.
There are about a dozen hijacked ships anchored off the Puntland coast at the moment, waiting as the pirates and shipowners haggle over ransom money.
Hersi’s critics accuse him and his ministers of taking bribes from the pirates to look the other way.
Ahmed Hussen, president of the Canadian Somali Congress, says he lacks evidence of such corruption but adds: “It would be inconceivable for all this piracy to be going on on the coast of Puntland without at least the knowledge, if not the collusion, of the Puntland government.”
Hersi vigorously denies the charge. As proof, he points to two successful counterattacks against the pirates mounted by Puntland’s coast guard.
Roger Middleton, an analyst at the London-based Royal Institute of International Affairs, says the two hijackings Hersi’s government interfered with involved cargos of direct economic interest to the regime.
“In one case, the cement that was in the ship belonged to one of the ministers in the government, so there was clearly a reason why they wanted to get involved,” he told CBC News.
If the Puntland government really wanted to stop the pirates, it would, Middleton says. But piracy has become the region’s most profitable industry. Middleton estimates the pirates will net about $50 million US this year while the Puntland government’s annual budget is just $20 million US.
Six Canadians are among hostages being held at a luxury hotel after a series of bloody terrorist attacks, apparently targeting foreigners, which killed at least 110 people and injured more than 300.
The highly co-ordinated attacks Wednesday night by bands of gunmen were aimed at two five-star hotels, a popular restaurant, a crowded train station, a Jewish centre and at least five other sites in Mumbai.
The militants were armed with assault rifles, hand grenades and explosives.
Authorities say 110 people were killed and more than 300 injured. There are no reports of Canadian deaths, but a government source told the Canadian Press that six Canadians were being held captive.
More, what happened yesterday in Mumbai–the viciousness of the attacks, the number of diverse targets–underlines the reality that to the people responsible for these atrocities we are all Mumbaikers. This Torontonian sends his sympathies to Mumbaikers and their great city in their time of trouble.