Category Archives: Conservative Party

Political non-conformists

Last week, I saw a student wearing one of those baby-blue shirts with a big Conservative C on the front.

I wonder if he was wearing it ironically?

To be creative is, in fact, to be Canadian

What sort of country do we want to live in?” asks Margaret Atwood in the Globe and Mail today.

She makes an eloquent argument for supporting the arts in all their forms, and takes Harper to task for characterizing “ordinary people” as cultural Scrooges. Everyone consumes art – not necessarily free-verse poetry but concerts, plays, television, books and anything else creative you care to name. We are the artists too: People photograph, draw, whittle, sing, whatever.

And then she does more damage on the Hidden Agenda front than any Liberal attack ad in years. “Every budding dictatorship,” Atwood goes on, “begins by muzzling the artists, because they’re a mouthy lot and they don’t line up and salute very easily.” The last third of her article is dedicated to turning around the “ordinary people” claim and framing Harper as the dangerously out-of-touch one.

Luckily for the Tories, Atwood works in print and not television. If the opposition parties were smart they’d get this thesis on the air.

Read the article before it goes behind the Globe’s pay wall.

Painting: Red Maple by A.Y. Jackson

Stephen Harper, our Mary Poppins

It’s not so much that his agenda is hidden; it just comes with several spoonfuls of sugar.

And in the end he’ll have us in tip-top Tory shape.

Harper’s Conservative revolution – Paul Wells in Macleans

Give me your lunch money!

Stephen Harper: just asking to get Canada beat up on the world stage, since 2006.

Harper’s proudest foreign policy decisions?

  1. Standing up to the politically correct Nazis at the Francophonie who wanted Canada to condemn Israel’s military action against Lebanon.
  2. Meeting the Dalai Llama, because China is only numbers two and three for Canadian imports and exports, respectively, and can’t tell us what to do.
  3. Making the principled and difficult decision to not support a continued dictatorship in Zimbabwe.
  4. Cutting off aid to Hamas.
  5. Vocalizing Canadian concerns about the Russians putting their flag on our piece of the north pole.

Canada has become that loser kid in high school with no real friends who will do anything for attention, good or bad. We have principles when it’s against our self-interest (China and the Dalai Llama), we abandon principles when they could earn us some friends (Kyoto and everything climate-change related), we sycophantically attach ourself to one of the bullies (the US on Lebanon), and we whine when another bully takes our lunch money (Russia and the north).

You know what common thread connects these, besides my bad high school metaphor? Most foreign policy decisions are made in the Conservative Party’s best interests, not Canada’s.

So where will Harper’s foreign policy take us in the next four years, should he be returned to the Prime Minister’s office? If he were principled in his politics (he’s not) we might be able to extrapolate from past actions.

  1. Unconditional support for Israel to clobber Lebanon for the sake of protecting Israelis from terrorists. How about unconditional support for Russia is seizing those break-away Georgian provinces?
  2. After meeting the Dalai Llama we should probably piss-off the Americans too. I mean besides by trying to interfere in their election. Maybe Harper will talk about how George Bush failed New Orleans.
  3. Following our impressive mobilization of resources to aid democracy in Zimbabwe, I expect Canada will use the power of the press release to return stability and democracy to Fiji.
  4. Since cutting aid to Hamas was so successful, Harper will probably free Newfoundlanders from the terrorist Danny Williams by cutting off aid to and isolating their island. This will only improve the condition of Newfoundlanders, of course.
  5. I can’t even think of a more pathetic example for “vocalizing” about Canadian sovereignty in the north.

(photo credit)

Is this how campaigns are won (or lost)?

The latest blunder in the gaffe-prone Harper campaign […]

That’s how the CP begins its reportage of a clash between some Harper minion and the father of a dead soldier. It’s been five days and despite their Sisyphean efforts the election narrative is being set for the Tories, not by the Tories.

The irony that the Tories intended (and I think, were expected) to win the election by setting the message more skillfully than the other parties is not lost on me.

The liberal in me is pleased, but the democrat in me feels like this unexpected turn is undeserved and not how the left should hope to diminish the Tories.

(via Andrew Coyne)

PLAGIARISM ALERT: Andrew Coyne pretty much said the same thing in an earlier post. One of the perils of RSS is that I only see one article at a time. (Uncompensated intellectual theft is probably the second-largest industry on the Internet.)

David Brent is running the Canadian Government

Paul Wells writes about the Prime Minister’s enthusiasm for calling an early election:

This is a delicate business because Harper campaigned on a promise of fixed election dates. He passed a law setting a fixed election date — Oct. 29, 2009. That’s a nice date, isn’t it? Specific. Concrete. Fixed. In Victoria during the last campaign, he said fixed election dates “prevent governments from calling snap elections for short-term political advantage.” He said they “stop leaders from trying to manipulate the calendar.”

When the bill was passed, the Government House leader, Peter Van Loan, celebrated: “Never again will the government of the day be able to play around with the date of an election for its own crass political motives.”

Now here’s the Prime Minister, and what’s he doing? Manipulating the calendar! Why’s he doing it? For short-term political advantage!

Whose motives was the government pursuing? Its own! And what kind of motives are they? Crass!

But it’s not as though there’s a law against that.

What’s that?

There is?

But the story doesn’t stop there. It gets unnecessarily complicated.

You should read the column to get the whole story, but I’ll sum up for the lazy. While explaining why their fixed-dates law doesn’t actually count, the Conservatives tangentially defended one of their bills from Liberal accusations that it is an “abortion bill.” Then they point to a Liberal bill and accuse it of being an abortion bill.

One business day later, the Conservative Justice Minister announces that their bill is out and promises a new bill which is basically a duplicate of the Liberal bill. The one they called an abortion bill.

I think Stephen Harper was out in the sun too long this summer.

Now watch this clip from The Office and remember that David Brent is only a character on television, so it is OK to laugh. It is not OK to laugh at the government. (You should cry.)

Safer Streets Through Social Disruption

The Star has been bludgeoning the Tories’ plans for crime and punishment in Canada all week. In summary, being “tough” on crime is expensive, ineffective, and creates more of the social disruption in which many crimes already have their roots.

I’m not going to deny that there are some people who are just broken. They are psychologically unable to exist in society, no matter what situation they find themselves in – good or bad. But the vast majority of criminals aren’t pathological axe murderers. There are a lot of people who made bad choices in times of stress, to pay off crushing debts, for example, or feed their families. In these cases, a job might be all it takes to get these people back on the straight and narrow.

The whole matter of incarcerating people who shouldn’t really be in jail for years got me thinking about two concepts used in scientific research that are applicable here: sensitivity and specificity.

Sensitivity is the ability of a test to correctly identify positive cases. For example, if 100 people commit homocide in a year and the justice system puts 95 of them behind bars, the justice system has a sensitivity (with respect to homocide) of 95%. This also means that 5% of murderers go free.

Specificity is the ability of a test to correctly identify a negative case. For example, if 100 innocent people are accused of murder in a year and 95 go free, the justice system has a specificity (with respect to homocide) of 95%. This also means that 5% of innocent people accused of murder are convicted.

I borrowed this chart from Wikipedia:

Actual State of Guilt
Guilty Not Guilty
Verdict Guilty True Positive = 95 False Positive = 5

(type I error)


= TP / (TP + FP)
= 95 / (95 + 5)
= 95 / 100 ≡ 95%

Not Guilty False Negative =5

(type II error)

True Negative = 95 = TN / (TN + FN)
= 5 / (5 + 95)
= 5 / 100 ≡ 5%

= TP / (TP + FN)
= 95 / (95 + 5)
= 95 / 100 ≡ 95%

= TN / (FP + TN)
= 5 / (5 + 95)
= 5 / 100 ≡ 5%

Even in science it is nearly impossible to establish a test with 100% specificity and 100% negativity. The better you get at sending all guilty people to jail – approaching a sensitivity of 100% – the more likely you are to imprison an innocent person – specificity falls. The same is true vice versa. If you want to ensure an innocent person never goes to jail, you have to accept that some guilty people will slip throught the cracks.

It’s been a while since I needed you use sensitivity and specificity, so I’ve almost certainly made a mistake in the numbers (maybe even the definitions) but the principle remains. Would you rather see all guilty people punished or all innocent people unpunished? We can’t have it both ways.

Military on Tory dole

AR2008-Z140-02 by lafrancevi

Our compassionate Conservative government has announced a plan to give the military stable, long-term funding so it “can answer the call in the face of future threats.” The 20-year plan is expected to cost somewhere in the neighbourhood of $30 billion.

As an attitude toward governance and life generally, I wholeheartedly support our heartless leaders. Departments and ministries should be able to plan for the future with some certainty. Though the Prime Minister might disagree, the same applies to people: When the economy is rough or life deals you a bad hand we should get a hand up from our government.

That said, the numbers don’t seem very generous. Maybe the Tories have an aversion to welfare even when the penniless bum is Our Heroic Military. A billion dollars doesn’t go very far these days; It’s around how much we’re set to spend this year in Afghanistan. The government won’t tell us exactly how and when that money will be spent – something about keeping contractors honest – but I’m betting the bulk of the money won’t be spent for a few years. That’s just how governments work.

I suppose in a world of nearly 7 billion people, it doesn’t really matter how well we fund a military of 70,000 people. We may have to settle for repelling the Danes from Hans Island instead of civilizing central Asia.

[photo] “AR2008-Z140-02” by lafrancevi

Image Problems

I much prefer when the Tories are playing Liberals Lite (“Now with accountability!”) to when they indulge their darker anti-intellectual tendencies.

[link] Feds Axe Book Centre – Laura Czekaj, Ottawa Sun

[via] Political Boulevards

Did I Speak Too Soon?

St. Pancras Station by sean-b

No sooner did I lament the sorry state of federal government in Canada and the unlikely progress of any plans for high-speed rail in the Windsor-Quebec City corridor than Premiers McGuinty and Charest get together and announce the intention to begin considering the study of the possibility of high-speed rail along the St. Lawrence. And all this with the cooperation of the federal government.

Granted, they’re aiming low and investigating a type of train that might be more honestly called higher-speed rail, but I’ll take it. By simply acknowledging that rail links will play a substantial role in future transportation, the political discourse has been shifted from “none or some” to “some or more.” With the Conservatives taking the side of “some” high-speed rail, the rest of the federal parties, all to the left of the government, are pretty much forced into advocating for more.

Sure, countless similar studies have been commissioned over the years, but let’s pay no attention to that because I’m tempering my cynicism tonight.

[photo] “St. Pancras Station” by sean-b