Many believed that Green Party leader Elizabeth May made a strange strategic decision when she opted to run in Nova Scotia in the next election campaign - up against Defence Minister Peter MacKay.
Well here's another strange twist in the tale. May and MacKay are finally going to be on a public stage together in two weeks - in New York, at an American Bar Association gathering. Perhaps they're both thinking, in the words of the old song, if they can make it there, they can make it anywhere.
The two have been booked as panelists in a "showcase program" on Thursday, April 3 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Manhattan, not far from Times Square.
The subject of the discussion is Arctic sovereignty.
Here's the blurb on the ABA website: Global warming can make the Northwest Passage the shortest route between the Atlantic and the Pacific and has accelerated claims to the Arctic’s potentially vast mineral resources. The U.S. considers the straits international waters. Canada has reaffirmed its claim of internal waters and is reinforcing its military presence there. Senior officials from both countries will debate this environmentally and strategically sensitive issue.
Some random observations from watching things in the Commons this afternoon, which is the last real chance to see the tension in earnest for the next couple of weeks. Fridays are kind of a fake days in the chamber and tomorrow Stéphane Dion will be in Vancouver. So this was the last chance to get a sense of tone and political dynamics before Parliament goes on a two-week break.
Independent MP Chuck Cadman voted with the Liberals during a budget confidence vote in the Commons on May 19, 2005.
Many of us have been wondering why the Liberals keep hammering away at the Chuck Cadman story every day in the House. That's the story — for those who've been away — that Conservatives allegedly offered the dying, independent MP a $1 million life-insurance policy in exchange for his vote in May, 2005.
It's an important story, to be sure, but there are other issues out there, not the least of which is the whole question of whether the government interfered in the U.S. elections, which even Harper agreed last week was a better story.
I've come up with three reasons for the Liberal fixation:
1. To prove they're not scared of this libel threat. Harper did formally launch the legal case today against the Liberals for alleging he took part in a bribe. He's suing the party for a whopping $2.5 million but he's not pursuing individual cases he threatened against Dion, Deputy Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff and Opposition House leader Ralph Goodale.
Harper said repeatedly that his family has been hurt by all this. Why does that sound strange?
2. Because they think there's something there — I got that from a Liberal official today when I asked. In other words, the simplest explanation is usually the right one.
3. And then, maybe quite significantly, there are the by-elections on Monday. The Liberals aren't worried about the two Toronto by-elections, but the ones in Saskatchewan and Vancouver are worrisome for them. There's a fantastic site, called the Elections Prediction Project, which deems those two by-elections too close to call for Monday.
And where was Cadman from? Yes, Vancouver. And where will Dion be tomorrow? Yes, Vancouver.
Liberal MP Dominic LeBlanc says it’s right out of the Conservative "dirty tricks manual for its committee chairs . . .,” . . . “if necessary, storm out of meetings to grind parliamentary business to a halt.’"
For the second day in a row, Conservative MP Art Hanger, chair of the justice committee, walked out after refusing to entertain a motion that would have the committee investigate the Charles Cadman affair.
"The Prime Minister is so determined to duck any questions about what financial inducements they offered Chuck Cadman, his flunkies even forced the respected chair of the justice committee to abandon the chair," LeBlanc told the House of Commons.
LeBlanc says it is the adult equivalent of pulling the fire alarm to get out of a examination.
Hanger told the Toronto Star he would not a party to a political "Gong Show," accusing the Liberals and Bloc Quebecois of attempting to derail the work of the committee, which he insists is no place for the Cadman affair to be probed.
"I will not let that matter come before the committee," he said, adding that he would not be resigning.
Hanger suggested the matter go the committee on procedure and house affairs, which, however, has been hijacked by the Conservatives for several months now by filibuster to prevent it from investigating questionable spending by the Tories in the 2006 election
The justice committee is expected to resume tomorrow, beginning with a motion to remove Hanger as chair.
So just what is the Conservative vision for the country? Liberals and New Democrats keep describing it as scary, while some conservative commentators say that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s prime concern right now should be victory, not vision.
Gerry Nicholls used to work with Stephen Harper at the National Citizens’ Coalition back in the late 1990s. Occasionally, when I’d meet Harper for coffee or lunch in Toronto, Nicholls would come along too. But Nicholls is no longer at the NCC – he was ejected over a year ago in the wake of his public declarations of how Harper, the Prime Minister, wasn’t being Conservative enough.
There’s lots in here. Plenty of it is provocative – Nicholls calls global-warming worries "hysteria" and he comes out swinging against unions, the CBC, the CRTC and Quebec language laws.
But it is a vivid picture of what a Conservative country would look like, in Nicholls’ view. It is a far more vivid picture than the one painted in another must-read – Tom Flanagan’s book, Harper’s Team, which has become kind of a reference tool on my desk.
Nicholls and Flanagan have actually debated publicly on how best to paint Canada Conservative blue.
Flanagan’s a go-slow, transformation-by-stealth fan, while Nicholls thinks Conservatives should just pursue their agenda with full enthusiasm, a la Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.
Clearly Harper seems to favour the Flanagan approach, but it’s worth reading Nicholls’ tract to see what would happen if Canada decidedly to go conservative in a hurry.
Essentially, Spector said that Harper was not the brilliant strategist that everyone thinks he is -- he's more a pundit. True enough, in his out-of-politics life from 1997 to 2001, Harper quite enjoyed being a freelance columnist and op-ed writer in several newspapers.
Today, in Question Period, we saw a vivid, even surreal illustration of this, when Harper accidentally slipped out of prime ministerial mode and lapsed into punditry.
It happened when Liberal leader Stephane Dion got up to ask a second round of questions, abandoning the Cadman controversy and turning to the Canada-Obama affair, which the NDP has been hammering away at all week.
Harper said: "I would point out to the Leader of the Opposition that when he was throwing around wild accusations of scandal, the leader of the NDP was already on top of this issue."
What?? As some of us wondered, how else to translate this but: "Hey, Jack Layton's on to the bigger scandal here, Stephane -- take note."
Harper doesn't normally make mistakes like this. A sign of pressure?
Dion, to his credit, however, had a pretty decent comeback. "We do not know how to choose among all the scandals he has," the Liberal leader said.
The National Liberal Women's Commission is putting out a bumper sticker in honour of International Women's Week, intended to show that Stephen Harper is not exactly the most female-friendly Prime Minister. It's due to be released in a few days, but here's a sneak peek.
The phrase "he's just not that into you" is taken from a 2004 self-help dating book by Greg Behrendtand is also the title of a romantic comedy due to be released later this year, starring Scarlett Johansson, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Aniston.
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