September 30, 2008

Former Canadian Federal Conservative Party Campaign Speechwriter Owen Lippert and "Stephen Harper's Government"

Tories admit plagiarism in Harper speech

Speech writer resigns from campaign after Liberals reveal much of a 2003 speech on Iraq by Harper was cribbed from then Australian prime minister John Howard

by Carly Weeks, Brodie Fenlon, and Jane Taber

As originally posted on:
September 30, 2008

OTTAWA — A senior Conservative campaign official has resigned after the Liberals revealed Tuesday that nearly half of Stephen Harper's 2003 speech urging Canada to send troops into Iraq was copied word-for-word from then Australian prime minister John Howard.

In a statement, Owen Lippert says he was working in Mr. Harper's office in 2003 when he was asked to write a speech for the-then leader of the opposition.

"Pressed for time, I was overzealous in copying segments of another world leader's speech ... I apologize to all involved and have resigned my position from the Conservative campaign."

Mr. Lippert said neither his superiors nor Mr. Harper was aware of what he had done.

Liberal MP Bob Rae said the copied speech is damning evidence of the fact Canada is losing its own voice in foreign policy under a Conservative government. The country has become a parrot of right-wing interests from the U.S. and other foreign countries under Harper's Conservatives, Mr. Rae said.

"How can Canadians trust anything that Mr. Harper says now?" Mr. Rae said during a speech in Toronto. "Stephen Harper's government has taken Canada down a foreign and defence policy path unworthy of our great country."

Mr. Harper made his address to the House of Commons two days after Mr. Howard, and a side-by-side comparison of the speeches show significant portions were identical, Mr. Rae said.

"How does a leader in Canada's Parliament, on such a crucial issue, end up giving almost the exact same speech as any other country's leader, let alone a leader who was a key member of George W. Bush's coalition of the willing?" Mr. Rae said.

Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion said Mr. Harper should be expelled from the party and said his actions raise serious doubts about his ability to lead Canada's foreign policy without having to follow the direction of countries with right wing policies.

The Liberal campaign released videos of Mr. Howard and Mr. Harper's speeches, which were delivered March 18, 2003 and March 20, 2003, respectively.

"We should all remember the intense international pressure that Canada was under to send our troops to Iraq," Mr. Rae said.

Many of the lines of Mr. Howard's speech were also used in editorials Mr. Harper submitted to newspapers such as the Toronto Star, National Post and Ottawa Citizen.

Mr. Lippert was a senior fellow with the Fraser Institute and holds a Ph.D in modern European history. He worked as press secretary to Kim Campbell when she was attorney general and justice minister, and taught at Carleton University and University of British Columbia. More recently, he worked as a senior policy adviser to Bev Oda, the International Co-operation minister.

For a period of time in 1996, he served on the editorial board of The Globe and Mail.

Earlier, Conservative spokesman Yaroslav Baran told The Globe and Mail that Mr. Rae's "attack" was evidence of Liberal desperation.

"This is exactly why the Liberals are in the trouble they're in, as a party and as a campaign," Mr. Baran said Tuesday. "They want to focus on a speech from five years, two elections, three Parliaments ago, from a party that no longer exists.

Mr. Baran said the major issue on the minds of Canadians is the economy, and the Liberals should be focusing on that.

The fact the Liberals are making this accusation is evidence of their weak campaign and leadership, Mr. Baran said.

"We're not going to get drawn into which staffer wrote which speech five years ago," he said. "This is nothing but desperation from the Liberal campaign, and it's completely irrelevant to the real concerns of voters in this election."

A senior Conservative strategist repeatedly refused this morning to address the allegations of plagiarism by the Liberals. The strategist was on an off-the-record conference call with about 40 journalists.

Although the call was scheduled to discuss Mr. Harper's role in the upcoming leaders' debates and the request by the Tories to extend the economy portion of the debate because of the recent crisis, the strategist was inundated with questions from journalists about the Iraq speech.

The strategist dismissed the allegations as not being relevant and characterized the Liberal allegations as “gotcha” journalism and why Liberals are now at “an all-time low in the polls.”

At times, he was testy with reporters, dismissing a question as to whether the Bush White House asked Mr. Harper to make the remarks as “one of the most ridiculous speculative assertions I have heard.”

However, the strategist would not say whether the speech was plagiarized or who wrote it.

"He's unable to choose his own words," Mr. Dion said at a campaign event at a soup kitchen in Gatineau, Que. "Canadians want their country [to] speak with its own voice on the world stage."

While plagiarism is a major offence, the fact that Mr. Harper lifted words from another leader on such a critical issue as the war in Iraq is even worse, Mr. Dion said.

"He chose the words of the coalition of the willing," Mr. Dion said. "We have two problems. [He] plagiarized, but at the same time, plagiarized George W. Bush about the war in Iraq."

Not to be outdone, the New Democrats reminded voters Tuesday of several Liberals who advocated Canadian participation in the Iraq war, most notably deputy Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff.

With a report from The Canadian Press

September 29, 2008

"Mr. Harper's Ottawa"

MP paid big price for speaking out in Harper's Ottawa

Garth Turner recounts events that led to ouster from Tory caucus

by Garth Turner

As originally posted on:
May 27, 2008

"This is the Prime Minister's Office calling. I have the Prime Minister's chief of staff on the line. Please hold."

As I stood in my new, empty apartment in Ottawa a few weeks after the last election, phone in hand, it occurred to me I might want to remember this call. So, I made notes, scarcely believing the words I was recording.

Stephen Harper's right-hand man, Ian Brodie, head of the most powerful and secretive PMO in national history, was telling me what I would be doing in the next few hours. You will issue a media release, he said, praising the Prime Minister for appointing David Emerson to cabinet. And you will immediately stop writing your blog.

But Brodie, the former Reform party organizer and University of Western Ontario professor, did not stop there. "If you want to be a f---ing independent," he said, "then go ahead. We can arrange that." And he was gone.

Eight months later, of course, he did, after I refused to recant my comments about Mr. Harper's cabinet choices, or silence my writing.

One Wednesday morning in October of 2006, I walked into Ontario Conservative caucus in the ornate meeting room in Centre Block and noticed Doug Finley leaning against the back wall. As Stephen Harper's director of political operations, he runs the entire Conservative backroom – a shadowy and omnipotent party operative – who never attended such gatherings.

But 20 minutes later, the penny dropped. A surprise motion was made to expel me. Taking the microphone to immediately speak against me were Jim Flaherty, the finance minister I was pushing hard in public to bring in family income-splitting, and Doug Finley's wife and immigration minister, Diane. Moments later, in a show-of-hands vote most MPs did not participate in, or apparently understand, I was out. Shortly afterwards the full national caucus – with no vote – was told of my expulsion.

Within a few minutes, the computers in both my Hill office and riding office went dark, the result of an order, the House of Commons tech guys told me, that was issued by Tory whip Jay Hill even before the vote was taken to toss me from my own party.

Welcome to Mr. Harper's Ottawa.

This is a world in which a member of Parliament, sent by the people to represent them, is cowed and threatened by an unelected staffer. It's a place where a political party can silence internal debate and, in a hasty few moments, overthrow the results of an election.

It's where Harper MPs are told they need permission from the PMO to speak to reporters, and are expected to carry wallet cards reminding them how to avoid the media. It's a capital in which promised free votes don't take place, where a government elected on openness fights to restrict access to information and public servants fear for their careers if they dare speak in the public interest. Where regulators are fired for seeking to regulate and federal scientists muzzled for talking about science. Where MPs like myself and Bill Casey are expelled for speaking, and former cabinet minister Michael Chang demoted for having convictions.

Some may counter, cynically, that it has always been this way. When governments change, the new guys move in, suck up power and put a lie to the notion this is a responsive democracy. True enough, to a degree. But Stephen Harper's taken it all to a new level.

I've been an MP twice now, and with a dozen years between stints. I've served under four leaders and three prime ministers. I've run to be a leader, and sat at the cabinet table. I was a Progressive Conservative my entire life, and believed Mr. Harper when he told me, straight out, he'd run a moderate, mainstream, middle-of-the-road administration. But never did I expect – nor bow to – a demand that MPs be stripped of free speech, prevented from standing in caucus without permission, denied the ability to lobby for constituents, to raise any issue not party policy or simply put principle ahead of a leader's vanity.

In contrast, the current Liberal caucus of which I now am a member functions like the Progressive Conservative ones of the past – free speech, unfettered debate, fierce lobbying for ideas and criticism of leadership when it is required. It is, doubtless, what voters expect MPs to do.

In Mr. Harper's Ottawa, though, his MPs work for him, not the people. At least those who curry favour, keep their heads down, and hope against hope no one notices.

Canadian Federal Member of Parliament / Public Works Minister Christian Paradis and the Conservative Party of Canada

NDP call for Tory MP's removal from Supreme Court advisory panel

by Tim Naumetz

July 27, 2008

OTTAWA - The Conservatives should withdraw Public Works Minister Christian Paradis from a panel of MPs advising the government on a Supreme Court of Canada appointment because his election expenses have been singled out in a high-profile court case, the NDP says.

Paradis' continued participation on the advisory panel taints the selection system for a new Supreme Court judge since it's likely the eventual decision in a lawsuit that the Tories launched against Elections Canada will be appealed to the high court, New Democrat MP Joe Comartin said Sunday.

Paradis and Secretary of State Diane Ablonczy are the government members on a panel of five MPs who will determine a short list of three finalists to recommend to Justice Minister Rob Nicholson for a nomination to replace retired Justice Michel Bastarache on the high court.

"It has such a clear appearance of a conflict that you just can't have it," said Comartin, a lawyer and the NDP member of the committee.

"We (the panel of MPs) have a significant impact on the last three names that get submitted.

"If we go ahead with him on it, it taints the process and I think it taints whoever ultimately is appointed."

Paradis is one of 67 Conservative candidates whose expense claims for a total of $1.3 million in advertising costs for the last election were rejected by Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand on grounds they did not qualify as candidate expenses.

In a Federal Court case the Conservatives launched against Mayrand over the dispute, the lawyer for Elections Canada last month cross-examined one of the party's former financial officers over how the party re-allocated $10,000 worth of advertising expenses initially assigned to Paradis to another Quebec Conservative candidate.

Lawyer Barbara McIsaac suggested during the cross-examination that the expenditure was re-allocated because Paradis would have exceeded his own spending limit had it remained in his ledger, but former financial officer Ann O'Grady said she could not explain the transaction.

O'Grady could only confirm the party, not the firm that placed the advertising, issued a new invoice for $10,000 to the other candidate and that to the best of her knowledge the ad placement agency did not issue a credit of $10,000 to Paradis.

Paradis reported $72,735 worth of campaign expenses, $2,641 below his limit under a Canada Elections Act formula. McIsaac has declined to comment on the cross-examination, which took place last June 19.

All parties in the Commons had a deadline of June 30 to submit the names of MPs they were naming to the advisory panel for the Supreme Court nomination, Comartin said.

Their deliberations will be in secret, and the MPs are not allowed to disclose the names of the short list of three candidates they submit to Nicholson. The opposition MPs on the panel are all on the Commons justice committee, which will later have a full ad hoc session to screen Nicholson's final selection.

The new Supreme Court justice may have to recuse himself from the bench if the final decision in the Federal Court case reaches the Supreme Court, Comartin said.

"Having a Supreme Court justice recuse themselves from what is going to be a major case, it simply shouldn't happen," he said.

A senior government MP dismissed Comartin's concerns.

"It's ridiculous to suggest we would pick a Supreme Court justice on such a basis," said New Brunswick MP Rob Moore, Nicholson's parliamentary secretary.

Moore called Comartin's comments "political rhetoric."

"Any MP in the House could one day be involved in a court case that could go to the Supreme Court of Canada - should they all be disqualified?"

Comartin said he and NDP Leader Jack Layton were writing Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Nicholson on Monday to demand they replace Paradis on the panel with another Conservative who is not connected to the advertising controversy.

Elections Canada has alleged in an affidavit used to obtain a warrant to search Conservative headquarters that the party shifted costs for radio and television advertising from its national campaign to the candidates to avoid exceeding its national election spending limit of $18.3 million.

The party transferred thousands of dollars to each of the candidates, whose campaign agents had to first send signed bank-transfer authorizations to headquarters in Ottawa to ensure the party could later withdraw the money from the candidates' bank accounts in payment for the advertising. The party invoiced each of the candidates for their share of the advertising.

The television and radio ads had been produced for the party's national campaign, but the Conservatives argue election law allowed the ads to be used for promotion of individual candidates.

Canadian Federal Member of Parliament / Foreign Affairs Secretary Helena Guergis

Backbench a better fit for gaffe-prone Guergis

by Don Martin

As originally published in: The National Post
March 31, 2008

OTTAWA - He gets blamed for ruining everything else, so Liberal leader Stéphane Dion might as well take the rap as a wedding wrecker.

Secretary of state for foreign affairs and international trade Helena Guergis wants an election date nailed down so she can get hitched to fellow MP Rahim Jaffer.

"Why don't you call Stéphane Dion and ask when we are going to have an election so I can set a wedding date?" she asked a reporter in her Ontario riding last week.

Okay, so she's kidding. But the future bride is the Conservatives' greatest lost cause these days, a second-term Tory over her head as a Cabinet member in the government's most sensitive portfolio.

After double-checking with female parliamentarians and journalists to make sure this wasn't just a pale male pile-on, the verdict is clear: This 39-year-old Ontario MP should be removed before her amateur antics and strange behaviour trigger an international incident.

For very different behaviour, consider the video taken by Global News four weeks ago.

The 1992 Miss Huronia is caught giving a scripted Ottawa welcome to a handful of women parliamentarians from Afghanistan. Suddenly, Ms. Guergis breaks into tears.

"I promised I wouldn't do this," she sobs. "I love you guys. You're the highlight of my career .... This is just the beginning of a long-lasting friendship for all of us and I can't wait to see you all again."

It might be heartfelt emotion, except that this is the same Helena Guergis who seems curiously unmoved by the plight of Mexico-imprisoned Brenda Martin, a suicidal Canadian yet to be tried after two years in a cramped jail.

Taking shots at Ms. Guergis's many gaffes, which occur in a very compressed time frame, is to level a cannon at a hapless school of barreled barracudas.

But it's the Brenda Martin case in which, even now, Ms. Guergis continues to dazzle with diplomatically stunted behaviour.

Ms. Guergis has actually floated the notion of starting a petition against the Mexican government, urging them to expedite Martin's trial. A petition? By the secretary of state for foreign affairs? Against a foreign government? To free a CANADIAN that is HER responsibility? Need I say more?

Okay, in case you missed it, this is the same Ms. Guergis who stopped by a cocktail reception while a suicidal Ms. Martin was caged in prison and expecting a call just a couple dozen kilometres away.

Ms. Guergis continues to declare talk about Ms. Martin a matter of personal privacy that must be protected, yet someone released allegations of 100 diplomatic contacts with Ms. Martin. To her credit, Ms. Guergis says that leak must be investigated.

Then there was the classic ministerial runaway moment from CTV earlier this year. After promising the reporter an interview following a ho-hum sports announcement in a Canadian Tire store, Ms. Guergis immediately fled the store by another exit without making the announcement.

In vintage Hillary Clinton style, Ms. Guergis seems to misremember the encounter, now available for refresher viewing on YouTube.

"I told them I would not interview with them [a crew with W5] and they didn't respect that," she fumed to a local journalist. "They ruined an announcement." How an announcement she didn't make can be ruined by a reporter waiting outside for a promised interview is hard to figure, but Guergis insists she had a negative experience with the network and was in no mood to cooperate.

The Harper government understands her weakness and appeared to replace her with Calgary MP Jason Kenney on the file - a development Guergis insists was just a temporary change while she recovered from food poisoning. She is now apparently back on the file, although it's understood she's under much tighter supervision from the Foreign Affairs Minister.

When the PMO released a minor shuffle of parliamentary positions last month, the most startling news was that Guergis wasn't on the dumped list.

Perhaps Stephen Harper should return Guergis to a seat on the Conservative backbench in the expected summer Cabinet shuffle, a better match with her abilities.

September 28, 2008

KLR Vu Research

The KLR Vu poll in Guelph: Dirty tricks or business development?

by David Akin

As originally posted on: David Akin's On the Hill
August 21, 2008

A poll came out yesterday purporting to show the voting intentions of people in Guelph, Ont., a medium-sized city where a by-election is underway.

The pollster said that, based on his survey, it appeared that the incumbent Liberals held a commanding lead. Liberal Brenda Chamberlain retired in the spring and now, Frank Valeriote wants to take her place. With the vote set for Sept. 8, this poll would suggest he has nothing to worry about.

The poll also showed that the Green Party is doing surprisingly well and is in third place in the riding, just ahead of the NDP. (The Greens, you won't be surprised to learn, are thrilled.) The Conservatives, who are running city councillor Gloria Kovach, are a distant second, the poll says.

So if you're a Liberal here, what's not to like, right?

Apparently plenty.

The poll was done by a firm whose principal happens to be the brother of a Conservative MP. The firm, KlrVu-Research of Winnipeg, is headed by Allan Bruinooge, the older brother of Rod Bruinooge, a first-term Conservative MP who scored one of the biggest upsets of the 2006 election, taking out Liberal cabinet minister Reg Alcock.

Some Liberals as well as some non-aligned political consultants I spoke to yesterday said they believe federal Conservative party, with too much money on its hands and staffed by a group of creative Evil Geniuses, has its hands all over the poll. The political "dirty trick" here is available only to an underdog and only available to an underdog in a byelection. Here's the thinking:

1. The Liberals have held the riding for 15 years. They are expected to win the riding.

2. The biggest problem for every party in a byelection is getting out the vote. Voter turnout for byelections is always low and that means a few hundred extra votes here or there can make a big difference.

3. A poll in mid-campaign comes out showing that the Liberals, as expected, should win it in a romp. Result: The Liberal vote goes to sleep.

4. A highly-motivated group of voters, like Conservatives in many parts of the country including Guelph, take advantage of the sleepy Liberal vote, go nuts on polling day, and, in doing so, overtake the Liberals.

OK, so that's the conspiracy theory explained to me by those who asked to remain anonymous in exchange for advancing the theory.

What do those who will go on the record say?

Well, first of all, we asked Conservative party director of communications Ryan Sparrow if his party, flush with cash it can't spend quickly enough, paid for this poll. "Absolutely not," said Sparrow. And, after explaining the conspiracy theory to him on the phone, there was a short burst of laughter. So, on the record, the federal Conservative party says they have nothing to do with this thing and, in any event, they certainly aren't in the habit of releasing polls they pay for.

What about Allan Bruinooge, the brother of the Conservative MP who did the poll? Bruinooge, reached by phone yesterday in Winnipeg, also said that the Conservatives did not pay for the poll. Who did, I asked? He says he did. He did it to raise the profile of his young firm. He's looking to compete with likes of Ipsos-Reid, The Strategic Counsel, and Decima and thought a poll about Guelph would help with his firm's profile. I checked our databases and, so far as I can tell, only The Guelph Mercury, the daily in that city, picked up the poll and reported it. Mercury reporters indicate on the paper's blog that some campaigns complained about the headline, at least, with the story, and the paper responded by changing it.

What about the conspiracy theory? Bruinooge was not as definitely dismissive as Sparrow but did not agree with the assumptions behind the argument.

I asked Allan why pick Guelph? Why not one of the other two byelections underway? He hinted that he may very well poll those ridings, too, before the Sept. 8 vote.

Allan, incidentally, had let someone know much earlier this summer that we was going to poll in Guelph. In fact, in a comment posted to a blog on July 24, the day before the writ was dropped, commenter "Eric" makes note of this fact.

One of the things the campaigns complained about was the methodology used by Klr-Vu.

The big guys - Ipsos-Reid, Decima and so on - use real people and telephones to call you up and ask a few 'screening' questions to make sure you're a qualified voter. The phone numbers are drawn randomly from a geographic area but pollsters do some additional weeding to balance for gender, income levels, and other qualifiers to make they get a random sample. Typically, the big-name pollsters will make thousands of phone calls to be able to report the opinions of about 1,000 Canadians, which they claim will be a representative sample. The big firms will qualify their results by saying that the results are accurate to within three percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Klr-Vu, on the other hand, does not use human beings to do its polling: It uses software. Here is Klr-Vu's own words:

This KLRVU poll was conducted by touchtone technology which polled households across Guelph. Using this technology with the voice of a professional announcer all respondents heard the questions asked identically, which queried a response on the candidate's name and their associated party. In theory, with the stated sample size, one can say with 95% certainty that the results would not vary by more than the stated margin of sampling error, in one direction or the other. There are other possible sources of error in all surveys that may be more serious than theoretical calculations of sampling error. These include refusals to be interviewed, question wording and question order, weighting by demographic control data and the manner in which respondents are filtered (such as, determining who is a likely participant). It is difficult to quantify the errors that may result from these factors.

So, essentially, a digital voice - software - posed the questions and respondents registered their preferences by pressing a button a telephone. Critics say this technique does not appropriately screen for non-voters and is prone to errors.

Bruinooge said his sample is large enough - nearly 3,400 in the Guelph poll - that "outliers" or weird statistical anomalies are readily apparent and easy to adjust for non-voters. Klr-Vu's dialers, it should be noted, polled on two different dates, two weeks apart. The mainstream pollsters typically poll over three or four nights in a row in order to present a "snapshot" of opinion.

Does it work? I'm not a pollster or a statistician so all I can rely on is past behaviour. We all marvelled, for example, at Nik Nanos and how he and his army of "human beings" polling just before the general election seemed to get it just about right. (And his business took off as a result.) I asked Allan if his firms had a track record he could point us to. He did not. His firm, he said, is a young one just trying to establish its name.

There was a poll his firm did which made the news. It showed that 56 per cent of Canadians opposed Henry Morgentaler's ascension to the Order of Canada, a poll which, conveniently, made his brother, Rod, looked like he was on the leading edge of Canadian opinion. For that poll, KlrVu used the same methodology that it used in Guelph: robot diallers contacted a lot of Canadians and a computer read out the question and took the punched-in responses.

Ipsos-Reid, the polling firm used by Canwest News Service whose methodology is similar to Nanos Research, also polled on the Morgentaler issue and got a completely different result. Ipsos-Reid asked 1,023 Canadians between July 4-7 about the suitability of Morgentaler to receive the Order of Canada and found that 65 per cent were OK with it. The Toronto Star asked its pollster, Angus Reid Strategies, to poll on the Morgentaler question. Angus Reid found that 60 per cent of Canadians were OK with the Morgentaler award.

Again: Klr-Vu found 56 per cent opposed.

Here's something else that's important for this issue:

The Canada Elections Act (you'll want to flip to page 117 for the section on Election Opinion Surveys) has some very specific instructions for 'transmission' of a poll during an election period. It says pollsters, their sponsors, and news organizations that publish them must do the following:

1. Name the sponsor of the poll. Neither KlrVu nor the Guelph Mercury did that. There was no mention in the KlrVu press release who paid for or sponsored the poll. The Mercury, as well, did not report who sponsored or paid for the poll. Bruinooge when I asked him, said that he did the poll on his own accord and is, therefore, the sponsor. He would not say how much it cost him.

2. You must name the organization conducting the survey. KlrVu did that.

3. You must name the date of the survey. KlrVu did that, too.

4. You must describe the population from which the sample was drawn, the number of people contacted for the survey, and margin of error, if applicable. It is an arguable point that KlrVu satisfied these conditions. It says it polled "households across Guelph". You will note that many polls, particularly those in the U.S. right now, talk about "polling voters." KlrVu reported voting intentions but does not say if it polled actual voters. KlrVu does not provide a margin of error (though the Act seems to suggest this is only an option in any event) but instead has this somewhat ambiguous language: "In theory, with the stated sample size, one can say with 95% certainty that the results would not vary by more than the stated margin of sampling error, in one direction or the other." But KlrVu never says in its release what the "stated margin of sampling error" is. THe mainstream firms use that phrase "accurate to within three percentage points" which I take to mean that if a poll shows the Conservatives at 34% and the Liberals at 32% they are, statistically speaking, tied because they are each within the pollster's margin of error of three percentage points.

Section 323, subsection 3, of the Canada Elections Act, goes on to say that the sponsor of the poll must also be prepared to provide, on demand, the exact wording of the question asked; the number of people asked to participate in the survey, the number that were declared to be ineligible or declined; "any weighting factors or normalization procedures used in deriving the results of the survey"; and some other details. Now normally none of that would be reported by a media outlet but the guys we use, Ipsos-Reid, or any of other mainstream firms, routinely post all of that information and more on their Web sites as soon as the poll is released. No such information has yet been published, so far as I can tell, at KlrVu's site.

So what are we left with at end of the day?

We have a poll which shows the Liberals in good shape in Guelph and yet, Liberals are unhappy that this poll is out there because they believe it to be a Conservative dirty trick intended to put the Liberal vote to sleep. The pollster, it appears, is indeed a Conservative but neither he nor the party he supports say the Conservatives paid for the poll. The pollster said he did the poll for free in order to raise the profile of his firm. If that was the goal, there's not much to show for it so far. Only the Guelph Mercury - near and dear to my heart as it is - reported the poll. It appears that some of the routine reporting checkpoints spelled out in the Canada Elections Act were missed. Now the big question: Will it make a difference on Sept. 8?

September 27, 2008

"The Harper Government"

Harper gallery leaves MPs speechless

Tucked in a cosy lobby of the House of Commons is an homage to the Tory leader, writes Tim Naumetz.

by Tim Naumetz

As originally published in: The Ottawa Citizen
January 29, 2008

Citizens who really want a national portrait gallery in Ottawa can rest easy. The government already has one.

All you need to get in is a Commons security pass, a Conservative party membership and a keen desire to view exclusive pictures of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, exclusively.

Conservative MPs confirmed yesterday what Green party leader Elizabeth May and blogger Kady O'Malley reported on their cyberspace sites.

Photographs of Mr. Harper in various poses, at various sites, are hung throughout the private and cosy government lobby of the House of Commons.

Ms. May and Ms. O'Malley were surprised and a bit speechless when they saw the exhibit recently as guest Commons Speakers during a youth Parliament.

"When you walk in the door, all you see are pictures of Stephen Harper," said Ms. May.

"I'd say between every window, in every available space of the wall, at eye level, every available space has a photo of Stephen Harper."

"You've got photos of Stephen Harper, but not of previous prime ministers," she added. "Photos of Stephen Harper in different costumes, in different settings, dressed as a fireman, in Hudson Bay looking for polar bears, meeting the Dalai Lama, even the portrait of the Queen had to have Stephen Harper, but in a candid, behind her."

A press aide to Mr. Harper said he would get back with an explanation, but didn't.

The exposition might not be too surprising, though.

The prime minister's official Christmas card last December portrayed Mr. Harper looking out a living room window adorned with 24 photographs, small to large, of Mr. Harper in various poses.

When the party last year unveiled its election campaign war room, Mr. Harper stared out from campaign posters on every wall.

NDP MP Paul Dewar, who has never seen the interior of the Conservative lobby room, made a joke based on Mr. Harper's admitted preference for running a tight ship and keeping an eye on things. "If you're ever wondering who's in charge, just look at the wall," said Mr. Dewar.

Liberal MP Mauril Bélanger said the Liberal lobby has always displayed portraits of previous prime ministers, even cabinet ministers.

One Conservative said the Harper photos have been up for at least three months.

Another, Calgary MP Deepak Obhrai, was a bit reluctant after question period to talk about the exhibit, possibly because another Tory, Secretary of State Jason Kenney, happened to be walking by just at that moment.

"Well, this is the Harper government," said Mr. Obhrai.

"Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives"

Smear tactics in Ottawa

As originally posted on:
May 15, 2008

Just how low are Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives prepared to stoop to get the better of their political critics? Pretty low, it would appear.

When Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion criticized the government for misleading Parliament on Canadian troops handing over Afghan detainees, Harper retorted: "I can understand the passion (the Liberals) feel for Taliban prisoners. I just wish occasionally they would show the same passion for Canadian soldiers."

More recently Harper, who has been criticized for being reflexively pro-Israel, accused unnamed Members of Parliament of being "willing to cater to" anti-Israel sentiment that is thinly veiled anti-Semitism. As Liberal Bob Rae pointed out, that was a "blanket smear."

Now Tory MP Jason Kenney has dropped the bar another notch in a nasty exchange with Sen. Roméo Dallaire. Dallaire told a parliamentary committee this week that the United States and, by association, Canada risk "slipping down the slope" toward moral equivalency with terrorists by trying people like Canadian Omar Khadr in military courts where they are denied normal legal rights.

Kenney promptly twisted Dallaire's point: "Is it your testimony that Al Qaeda strapping up a 14-year-old girl with Down's syndrome and sending her into a pet market to be remotely detonated is the moral equivalent to Canada's not making extraordinary political efforts for a transfer of Omar Khadr to this country?"

Dallaire shot back, rightly, that Kenney was positing "extreme scenarios." Kenney's point was also factually wrong, wildly hyped and calculated to deflect attention from Ottawa's shabby disregard for human rights. Rather than answer his critic, Kenney smeared him.

The Conservatives discredit themselves with such tactics.

September 26, 2008

"Harper's Team"

Harper's team dumps city-friendly candidate

by Susan Delacourt

As originally posted on:
November 1, 2007

OTTAWA – The federal Conservatives have ousted their candidate for Toronto Centre, 43-year-old international-trade lawyer Mark Warner, and he says it's because he wanted to play up urban and social issues that are at odds with the master Conservative campaign strategy.

"We've had, for a number of months, a series of differences between our campaign and the national campaign, over the degree to which I could run a campaign that would focus on the kind of issues that matter in a downtown urban riding," Warner told the Star.

Conservative officials have been actively resisting Warner's emphasis on housing, health care and cities issues, he said, even blocking him from participating in a Star forum on poverty earlier this year and pointedly removing from his campaign literature a reference to the 2006 international conference on AIDS in Toronto – which Warner attended but Prime Minister Stephen Harper did not.

Don Plett, Conservative party president, signed the letter that was delivered to Warner this week precisely as the government was unveiling its mini-budget on Tuesday afternoon.

Plett said yesterday he didn't want to elaborate on the decision to oust Warner, for privacy reasons. However, Plett didn't argue with Warner's characterization of the dispute.

"Well let me just simply say this; that in a national campaign, that is exactly what it is – a national campaign. There are certain things that we expect all of our candidates to do in a national campaign," Plett told the Star yesterday.

"You're telling me Mr. Warner has admitted himself that he wasn't prepared to go along with that, then I think he's answered his own question. But I'm not suggesting that. I'm simply saying that we can't discuss the reasons why. If Mr. Warner says that is the reason, then he's, I guess, telling everybody 'I wasn't prepared to go along with the rules.'"

Another candidate, Brent Barr, in Guelph, has also been disallowed from running, Plett said.

Barr, like Warner, is shocked and angry – furious at being told he wasn't campaigning enough and, more importantly, that he was failing to enter information from his canvassing into the central party information registry.

"The Conservative party that I'm from doesn't remove a duly nominated candidate. It's supposed to be based on grassroots principles," Barr said.

In Toronto Centre, where Warner has been campaigning hard since being acclaimed as the Conservative candidate in February, his supporters are stunned – and so are the rival candidates who had thought they'd be facing off with him on the ballot.

Bob Rae, former premier and leadership candidate, is the Liberal candidate for the riding, vying to keep the seat for the party after the resignation of Bill Graham in June.

Rae said yesterday he had come to know Warner from a series of public meetings in the riding – he even singled him out to the crowd at the Star poverty forum in May. Rae called Warner "a very fine, public-spirited person" and said "to me, this is just a clear indication of just how controlling and how authoritarian, frankly, the management of the Conservative party is."

Warner, in a press release last night, noted he had been a Conservative since the 1980s, attracted by former prime minister Brian Mulroney's fight against apartheid in South Africa. Warner says in the press release that Harper's version of the Conservative party "cynically pays 'lip service' to diversity."

Warner is hinting that he may now consider voting for Rae, though he's still reeling too much from the ouster to make any promises.

"The event is too recent. My beliefs have not changed, but my party has. That said, I think Bob Rae is a decent man, and I have great respect for him."

Connie Harrison, a poverty and housing activist in the St. Jamestown area of Toronto Centre, and a candidate in the 2006 municipal election, says she can't believe the Conservatives would want to close the door to a candidate like Warner.

"They want to prove that they are not scary. It's behaviour like this that tells the rest of us, yes they are," Harrison said in an interview yesterday.

She finds it odd that for all the Tories' talk of outreach to ethnic and cultural communities, they have ousted a black man, born in Trinidad and Tobago, who immigrated to Canada as child in the 1960s and went on to attend Osgoode Hall law school and have a significant career in international trade law.

"I don't want to use this word, but I think there was some discrimination involved," Harrison said.

Plett categorically rejected that suggestion, saying he didn't even know that Warner was black or originally from Trinidad.

"That certainly didn't play into it. His colour was not discussed on either of the calls and the questioning that I did ... that wasn't ever raised, and it certainly was not raised in the national council decision," Plett said.

"I can say that is the furthest thing from the truth because we have ethnics, we have many ethnic people running for our party in different parts of our country. ... We very much want the immigrant population, the ethnic population in our country to support us as we support them."

Harrison said she doesn't normally tilt toward the Conservative party or its candidates, but Warner "wasn't your typical candidate. I think he wanted to stress the urban issues. I think he actually wanted to reach out to communities that hadn't been reached out to before."

Harry Renaud, a former chief financial officer for the Montreal Expos and also a general manager at B.C. Place stadium, is now retired and living in Toronto Centre. He had signed on to be Warner's campaign manager but eventually gave up when he realized that it was going to be a long, drawn-out war with the central Conservative campaign.

Renaud echoed Warner's tales of being warned away from urban issues and social concerns.

He said he often found the Conservatives' central campaign material to be too "vanilla" – out of step with the concerns of Toronto.

"Bigger picture, I think they've written off Toronto," Renaud said. "I think they feel that the Prime Minister is working hard on Quebec and whatever he's going to lose in the GTA, he can get in the West and therefore, he can carve the GTA out and say to hell with you, I'm going in a different direction. ... This is definitely a Liberal lock-hold and if you're in the middle of it, as we are, dead centre, and trying to scream for help, you're a sacrificial lamb."

"The Defendant"

N.B. Tory candidate sued

Ouellet says he doesn’t owe couple $15,000 from failed business deal

by Stephen Maher

As originally posted on:
July 25, 2008

OTTAWA — A Conservative candidate in New Brunswick is being sued by two investors who allege that he owes them $15,000 from a failed business deal in the 1990s.

Gerard and Martine Dube, a retired Edmundston couple, say that Jean-Pierre Ouellet, the nominated candidate for Madawaska-Restigouche, promised them their 1992 investment was guaranteed but avoided them for years and refused to pay them until January 2006, when he was running for Parliament.

At that point, says the Dubes’ statement of claim, Mr. Ouellet gave them $400 as a first payment. Then, when he lost a tight election to the Liberal candidate, he changed his telephone number and the Dubes have not been able to contact him.

In a defence filed by Mr. Ouellet’s lawyer, Mr. Ouellet denies that he owes them money and maintains the Dubes are trying to take advantage of the justice system to obtain a sum to which they are not entitled.

Mr. Ouellet, who was a minister in Richard Hatfield’s provincial government, maintains that he did not, as the Dubes claim, promise that the investment was guaranteed. Further, he argues that since he declared bankruptcy in 1993, his debts are cleared.

In the Dubes’ statement of claim, they say that Mr. Ouellet came to them in 1992 seeking money to refurbish an aircraft, telling them they would make $65,000 from the project.

"The defendant was insistent, sure of his business and (said) that if the project didn’t happen, a third person in Ottawa would guarantee the loan, and if there was ever any difficulty with the loan, the defendant would reimburse the amount invested and cover the interest in a reasonable fashion," says the statement of claim.

Mr. Ouellet’s statement of defence states that he did not promise to reimburse them if there was a difficulty with the loan.

The Dubes’ statement says the couple borrowed $15,000 from the local credit union and invested it in the enterprise on May 25, 1992. A year later, having not heard from Mr. Ouellet, they managed to track him down, the statement said. He told them the project had not proceeded but a third party would reimburse them. The Dubes eventually received $4,000 in compensation but kept seeking the rest of the money they believed they were owed.

Mr. Ouellet’s defence denies that they contacted him during this period.

According to the Dubes’ statement of claim, in January 2006, when Mr. Ouellet was on the campaign trail against Liberal MP Jean Claude D’Amours, he paid the Dubes a visit and gave them "a first payment of $400 on the outstanding balance to be paid."

Mr. Ouellet’s statement says the $400 was in no sense a recognition of a debt, but "at most a donation connected to an expression of sympathy toward an old friend in the person of the plaintiff, Gerard Dube."

Mr. Ouellet lost the election by 885 votes.

In 2007, he was granted the Conservative nomination in the riding without a nomination meeting, after local Tory officials surveyed party members and found no other candidates wanted to seek the nomination. Former federal cabinet minister Bernard Valcourt later told the local paper, L’Acadie Nouvelle, that he was considering re-entering federal politics and had not agreed to stand aside for Mr. Ouellet.

Mr. Dube is a retired school principal. Martine Dube worked at a credit union. They would not agree to an interview without the permission of their lawyer, Francois Poitras, who did not return calls.

Mr. Ouellet could not be reached for comment. His lawyer, Gerald Levesque, did not respond to repeated interview requests. Neither Jean LeBlanc, the New Brunswick Conservative national council representative, nor MLA Percy Mockler, who helped Mr. Ouellet campaign in 2005, responded to telephone messages.

Don Plett, president of the Conservative Party of Canada, referred calls to party spokesman Ryan Sparrow.

Mr. Sparrow says the Conservative party is aware that Mr. Ouellet declared personal bankruptcy in 1993, and they are backing their candidate.

"It’s all been previously disclosed to us as part of a background check," said Mr. Sparrow. "The matter was settled 15 years ago and we view the matter closed."

Mr. Sparrow would not comment on the specifics of the lawsuit.

In Mr. Ouellet’s statement of defence, he acknowledges that the Dubes did not appear on the list of creditors in his bankruptcy but says he is "free of all obligation vis-a-vis the plaintiffs" according to bankruptcy law.

Mr. Sparrow said voters are unlikely to think ill of Mr. Ouellet as a result of this lawsuit.

"He’s been very upfront with us and people make mistakes," he said. "People make mistakes and they acknowledge those mistakes and move on with their life."

September 25, 2008

"The Local MP"

Despair and anger in tobacco country

Farmers and Caledonia residents say Tory MP has failed to deliver

As originally posted on:
May 20, 2008

DELHI – For generations, weighty issues have been discussed around farm kitchen tables – everything from death and taxes to politics, the weather and hope for better days ahead.

For tobacco growers in southwestern Ontario, hope has turned to despair. Banks are foreclosing, marriages are dissolving and some growers have even taken their lives.

"Our backs are against the wall," says Marg Verkindt, who sits with husband Allan at their kitchen table in the village of LaSalette. They cashed in RRSPs last year to plant a crop, but are tapped out this year.

Less than an hour's drive away, in Caledonia, Donna Reid sits in the kitchen of her two-storey suburban house, which backs on to a native occupation that has ripped apart the village on the Grand River.

What the tobacco farmers and the Caledonia residents have in common is anger, much of it directed toward their Haldimand-Norfolk MP – Conservative Diane Finley, immigration minister in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's cabinet.

Reid's despair comes from watching the value of her property plummet through no fault of her own and of living with the threat the land-claim protest will turn ugly again.

Caledonia residents feel Finley has abandoned them, while tobacco growers accuse her of failing to live up to her many promises to bring in an aid package that would allow them to turn to other crops or another way of life.

"When she runs again, I am going to have a sign on my lawn that says 'Never ever vote for this woman again.' She's useless. She's done. She will never get back in here," said Reid, 65, who blames having to take medication for elevated blood pressure on the two-year-old dispute.

The Toronto Star requested an interview with Finley but a spokesperson on her behalf said issues involving agriculture and native affairs were not her responsibility.

"The minister is only the local MP and not the lead on either file," wrote spokesperson Timothy Veil.

When Finley first entered politics – she defeated former agriculture minister Bob Speller in the June 2004 election that returned Paul Martin's Liberals with a minority – she often accused the government of over-promising and under-delivering. Those words are coming back to haunt her.

Once the pride of southwestern Ontario, tobacco farming is on its last legs. It has declined far more quickly in the past five years than anyone expected, in part because of cheap imports, government anti-smoking strategies and widespread contraband cigarettes. Since 1998, the size of the tobacco crop has decreased by more than 86 per cent.

"Finley said she would do more for us than the Liberals did in the last seven years,'' said Allan Verkindt, 50, a third-generation tobacco farmer, who, like many of his fellow growers, was crestfallen when the February federal budget was silent on an exit strategy.

"We have been three years lobbying for a program to exit us guys, to get out or diversify into other crops," Verkindt said.

His wife, Marg, 47, guessed that Finley's chances of being re-elected are "nil."

About 150 farmers made a very public statement in March when they gathered outside Finley's Simcoe office to express outrage over the absence of a buyout program.

After ripping up their Conservative membership cards and a Finley lawn sign, they marched to the office of Dr. Eric Hoskins, the Liberal candidate, to fill out memberships for the federal Liberal party.

"I have voted Conservative my whole (adult) life ... but I feel very much that I have been led down the garden path," Brian Baswick, 53, a tobacco farmer from the Delhi area.

Finley dismissed the protesters as a bunch of bullies, claiming they terrorized her constituency staff.

Fearing for her own safety, she refused to attend a meeting in Delhi late last month with more than 1,000 tobacco farmers. But she did send a letter warning the farmers that if they launched a lawsuit against the federal government that "everything we are working on stops. Plain and simple."

She also chastised the farmers for their "negative messaging," which she said was only jeopardizing a final exit plan, one which could entail Ottawa buying their tobacco quota.

Linda Vandendriessche, chair of the Ontario Flue-Cured Tobacco Growers' Marketing Board, said farmers have a right to be angry.

"Farmers are being forced into bankruptcy, and foreclosures have taken place already and ... we have suicides here. I am shocked there haven't been more because the depression level has been unbelievable," she said, sitting in the board's Tillsonburg office.

Production that topped 285 million pounds of tobacco in 1983 will fall to less than 20 million pounds this year. Of 1,559 quota holders in Ontario, only 600 (most of them in Norfolk County) are active, half what the figure was in 1991.

Vandendriessche said the banks have been holding off for the past two years, believing, as the farmers did, that there would be an aid package coming. "We were led to believe that there were dollars that were going to be coming," she said, talking about promises made by the Tories during the 2006 election campaign.

"But at the end of March (2008) we were told that there was no money left at this time to be able to put a program together," even though governments collected more than $9 billion in 2006 from taxes on tobacco.

In Caledonia, Reid and her neighbours find themselves the innocent victims of the native land dispute.

Dave Brown and his wife Dana live on the west side of the development.

For six weeks in 2006, when native protesters barricaded the main street bisecting Caledonia, the Browns had to get permission from the protesters to come and go.

"There are so many times when I sat here waiting for (Finley) to call me and the calls just never came. She does not deserve the position she's in. She will absolutely not win the (next election). I will make sure of that," said Brown, who is suing the province and the Ontario Provincial Police for $12 million.

Canadian Federal Member of Parliament Cheryl Gallant and the Harper Conservatives

MP Gallant compares abortion to Iraq beheading

As originally posted on:
June 7, 2004

Conservative MP Cheryl Gallant is getting herself into hot water again, this time drawing a parallel between abortion and the beheading of an American man working in Iraq.

The Western Catholic Reporter, in an article on an anti-abortion rally on Parliament Hill last month, quotes Gallant as saying the world was horrified at the murder of American contractor Nicholas Berg. He was beheaded by terrorists, and video of the incident was posted on an al-Qaeda affiliated website.

"She compared the killing to the abortions performed in Canada over 35 years and said it is 'absolutely no different'," the article said.

Stephen Harper responded immediately from Calgary, but refused to condemn his MP's remarks.

"Cheryl Gallant is a very strong pro-life MP, and this is the rhetoric that the pro-life movement often uses," Harper told reporters in Calgary. "It's their business. I don't think it's particularly effective in changing public opinion."

He added he recognizes that abortion is here to stay in Canada.

"Abortion is going to go on one way or the other, and I think it's part of life, rightly or wrongly," he said. "I wouldn't say I like abortion, but I think abortion is a reality that is with us."

The Western Catholic Reporter article also said Liberal MP Paul Steckle, co-chair of the all-party Parliamentary Pro-Life Caucus, attended the anti-abortion rally as well. Steckle said that without the abortions performed over the last 35 years, Canada would have 3.5 million more people.

"So let's not go on killing those children who can become our future," he was quoted as saying.

Gallant has already caused her party leader trouble this election campaign.

On Saturday, the Ottawa-area MP said she thinks Canada's newly amended hate law - which added "sexual orientation" to the list of groups protected from hate propaganda - should be changed back.

"The danger in having sexual orientation just listed, that encompasses, for example, pedophiles," Gallant said. "I believe that the caucus as a whole would like to see it repealed."

Harper tried to defuse that Monday, saying that while he would like to see some amendments, he doesn't plan to change the law.

"I don't intend to repeal this legislation," he said. "I think it's perfectly reasonable to have these protections in law."

This is not first controversial remark from Gallant. In April, 2002, she was forced to apologize for a comment she made in the House of Commons, telling Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham to "Ask your boyfriend" about Mideast policy.

The remark was picked up by Commons microphones. After a firestorm of criticism, Gallant released a statement saying the remark "was inappropriate."

The next year, in June 2003, she apologized to the Commons after TV cameras caught her mouthing an obscenity at Graham during question period.

The latest gaffe comes as the Conservatives face criticism after a number of MPs expressed contentious opinions on topics such as abortion, bilingualism, and the death penalty.

September 24, 2008

"The Conservatives’ Atlantic Campaign"

Conservatives’ Atlantic campaign in shambles – Halifax candidate dropped after criminal record comes to light

As originally posted on:
September 10, 2008

HALIFAX — The confusion in the Conservatives’ Atlantic campaign is boiling to the surface with candidate troubles in both Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.

In Nova Scotia, the Conservatives lost a candidate yesterday in the riding of Halifax only two days after she was appointed. Former Conservative candidate Rosamond Luke resigned yesterday, throwing yet another wrench in a Nova Scotia Conservative campaign that has been plagued with problems attracting candidates.

In a statement, Ms. Luke claimed she had resigned because of unforeseen work commitments. However media reports later revealed that Ms. Luke had a criminal record for uttering threats and breach of undertaking.

The Conservatives’ failure to vet their candidate isn’t the only sign of chaos in their Atlantic campaign. The party has been forced to appoint candidates in four Nova Scotia ridings where their local campaigns failed to find one.

In Cumberland Colchester, the Conservatives were forced to parachute in party staffer and former New Brunswick MLA Joel Bernard as their candidate against the wishes of the local riding association which continues to support Bill Casey, who was ousted from the Conservative caucus last spring.

Likewise, in Newfoundland, Conservative candidate for St.John’s East Craig Westcott is in hot water with the party and has had to quickly backpedal on a long string of attacks he has made on Prime Minister Stephen Harper, of whom he referred to as a “control freak” surrounded by “toadies.”

Here are further examples of what Mr. Westcott has said about his party’s leader:

“I think Stephen Harper and Danny Williams are really twins who are separated at birth ... they're both control freaks”

“Both of them hate the media. Harper even had the press evicted from a hotel in P.E.I. where his Conservative caucus was meeting. As someone remarked to me afterwards, ‘that's Communism, isn't it?'”

“Both men, too, like to surround themselves with toadies who compete to stroke their massive egos.”

(CBC Radio, August 2007)

“He has reneged on that promise and (Premier Danny) Williams has the evidence of the lie clasped firmly in his fist,”
(The Business Post, March 26, 2007)

September 23, 2008

"The Conservative Party, under Your Combined Leadership"

Date: Wed, 11 May 2005 09:00:33 -0500
From: Grant Orchard (by way of Mike Nickerson)

Dear Friends,

The following open letter from Marjaleena Repo to Stephen Harper has been sent to the Canadian media and to all of the federal MPs and senators as well.

Please circulate this as far and wide as you can to others!


Grant Orchard


April 27, 2005



Dear sirs,

You ceaselessly point your fingers at the Liberal government members in the House of Commons and pontificate about their ethical misdeeds, alleged and real. You demand that they come clean, confess to their malfeasance and accept punishment, long before the Gomery Commission is able to present its recommendations and sanctions.

Now you want to force the whole country through an early and expensive election because of the ethical failures of the Paul Martin government! But who are you two to talk about ethics and "moral authority"? Are you not staring yourself blind at the speck in the government's eye, while ignoring - and hoping that no one else would notice either - the beam in your own?

Let's take a quick look at your own documentable lack of ethics:

You, Peter MacKay, signed an agreement with PC leadership candidate David Orchard at the convention in May 2003, the main plank of which was that you would NOT merge with the Canadian Alliance and that you would uphold the constitution of the PC Party in order to PREVENT a takeover by the Alliance. (The PC party had adopted in 1999 a constitutional clause which required that the party would run candidates in all ridings in every federal election.) Your agreement with David Orchard and your signature on it enabled you to become the leader of the party.

After the signing of the deal, you shook hands with Mr. Orchard and said that together the two of you would build up the PC party. Then you promptly broke the agreement and railroaded your party into oblivion, with the relentless prodding and eager co-operation of Stephen Harper and your various political and financial supporters. At no time did you ask for nor did you receive permission from your party to break the agreement with Mr. Orchard and to proceed to do the very opposite; and you only "consulted" us party members through our decision-making bodies WELL AFTER you had signed an agreement with Stephen Harper to liquidate the PC Party which you were constitutionally obligated to defend and uphold. You were helped in this treachery by Stephen Harper whose Canadian Alliance members were urged to join the PC Party merely to vote it out of existence. After thousands did so, you and your assorted allies concocted a phony approval process - with no debate allowed at any level of decision making! - producing approval rates for the merger that are usually found only in dictatorships. This whole process was accurately described by Progressive Conservative senator Lowell Murray as "a coup d'etat."

After having destroyed your party and utterly breached your signed agreement with Mr. Orchard - which surely should have given you as a MP, a lawyer and an officer of the court some pause! - you and Stephen Harper have grabbed $70,000 of David Orchard's campaign funds, funds to which you are not legally entitled. The Conservative Party has held on to these funds for a year and a half, while according to the legal contract Mr. Orchard signed as a leadership candidate he was to have them returned to him in 48 hours! The Conservative Party, under your combined leadership, has in effect stolen Mr. Orchard's campaign donations, forcing him to take your party to court. You have thus defrauded the 257 donors to the Orchard campaign whose money you have put in your party coffers. Your party has formally conceded that the monies are owed to David Orchard, but is refusing to return them, in a "might makes right" fashion. You have no claim to these funds and you both know it!

Canadians need to know that your party that claims to be the Canadian citizens' ethical watchdog is led by two dishonest and unethical individuals, who deserve to be called scoundrels.

Canadians need to know how a lawyer can sign a contract that gives him immense benefits, and then proceed to break it as if it never existed. Explain that if you can!

Canadians need to know that David Orchard's campaign funds will be returned to him without delay, with interest, legal fees, and a huge apology. (Presently your party is paying high legal fees to merely stall on giving Mr. Orchard back his campaign donations. Do your members know that this is how you handle their funds?)

As you wish the next election to be about political ethics, it will most certainly be about your ethics as well. As the saying goes, "What is sauce for the goose, is sauce for the gander." It seems that with your immoral and unethical actions, you have cooked your goose, for a long time to come.


Marjaleena Repo
Saskatchewan vice-president and Management Committee member of the PC Party of Canada, 2002-2003
President, PC Riding Association, Blackstrap, SK, 2000-2002
Senior Advisor for David Orchard in the 2003 leadership race

P.S. To refresh your memory – and to wake up your dormant conscience – MacKay-Orchard agreement, photos of the signing and legal documents regarding Orchard's funds can be found on

Marjaleena Repo
201 Elm Street
Saskatoon, SK
S7J 0G8

September 22, 2008

Former Canadian Federal Parliamentary Election Candidate Chris Reid and the Conservative Party of Canada

Conservative hopeful quits amid blog controversy

by Joseph Brean and Mike Blanchfield

As originally published in: The National Post
September 22, 2008

The Conservative candidate for a downtown Toronto riding has stepped down amid controversy over comments he posted on his blog.

Chris Reid, who was challenging Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae in Toronto Centre, resigned after blog postings emerged in which he criticized passengers on a Prairie bus this summer who "stood by and watched" as a man beheaded a fellow passenger, "and couldn't muster up any courage or self sacrifice to intervene."

"This is where socialism as (sic) gotten us folks, a castrated effeminate population," he wrote on Aug. 10, more than a week after the killing of Tim McLean, 22.

Mr. Reid also called for debate on the right to carry a concealed weapon, an end to abortion and official multiculturalism, an elected Senate, and closing the CBC because of its "far left-wing bias." He said gay advocates in the Toronto Centre riding, which includes the city's gay village, tolerate the promotion of "promiscuity, drug usage and prostitution."

Kory Teneycke, the chief spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, said he first learned about Mr. Reid's blog on Saturday. He said political staffer David Gentili will now carry the Tory banner in the riding against Mr. Rae.

"You can't fire your candidate," said Mr. Teneycke. "This person has resigned."

Another Tory spokesperson, Deirdra McCracken, said Mr. Reid withdrew because "he couldn't commit to possibly four years as an MP, in order to pursue other goals." She said there was no truth to the claim that he resigned because of the comments, although she said the decision was made this weekend. "He withdrew because he wanted to pursue other things," she said.

Mr. Rae, who is projected to win easily in Toronto Centre, said that explanation is "completely preposterous."

"I think a more likely explanation are some of the truly weird comments that Mr. Reid has been making on the Internet over the last several months. I think that it would be the least the Conservative party could do to explain. Either they knew about these ravings or they didn't, and if they didn't, that speaks to a problem, and if they did, then it speaks to an even bigger problem," he said. "I think the Conservatives, generally speaking, have a problem with their team."

The comments were revealed on Saturday when M.J. Murphy, a Torontonian who runs the blog bigcitylib., posted several of Mr. Reid's writings under the headline: "The Tories Run Gay Nutter in TO!" He had retrieved them from an online cache after public access to Mr. Reid's blog was apparently removed.

Mr. Murphy said the swift reaction has shown the power of blogs in elections, but he said it also revealed something about the vetting process for candidates.

"This guy was never gonna win," he said. "And so one of the things that I've been doing is looking at the no-hopers on the premise that they're not vetted that deeply. But if they're not vetted deeply and something comes up, it's going to embarrass the campaign on a national level."

As such, he compared it to the recent controversy involving pot-smoking and the NDP. On Wednesday, NDP candidate Dana Larsen dropped out of the election after he was shown in old video lighting joints, taking LSD and driving while "flying," as he said in a video.

Canadian Federal Member of Parliament / Former University of Manitoba Students' Union (UMSU) President Steven Fletcher

Stephen Fletcher should stop the petty politics

by Amanda Aziz

The following is a letter to the editor which was originally published in The Manitoban on April 13, 2005.

I wish to thank Stephen Fletcher for his fascinating letter to the Manitoban (March 16 “Memories of UMSU”). I feel that I must point out that there were many “accomplishments” of Fletcher’s that were not listed by him, many of which are still having an impact today.

For example, it is not surprising that Mr. Fletcher’s administration “won every single vote, on every single motion, on every issue” as stated in his letter. It was under his administration that a lawyer (Fletcher’s personal lawyer no less) was paid $20,000 of students’ money to re-write UMSU’s bylaws, removing the ability for students to speak at council meetings or to participate in any meaningful way, and giving the president ultimate authority in regards to many decisions.

This year’s UMSU Council and Bylaws Committee spent endless (volunteer) hours cleaning up the bylaws of the organization to reverse the undemocratic vision that Mr. Fletcher brought and implemented within UMSU.

As a member of Parliament, it is unfortunate that Mr. Fletcher dismisses those with views that are contrary to his own as “left-wing radicals.” During his time as president, it was this attitude that alienated the students at the University of Manitoba, and it is this same attitude that makes me question his ability/willingness to represent all of his constituents.

Though my most memorable moment did involve Mr. Fletcher, it was the student response to his attempts to shut down the Manitoban that was inspiring, not anything Mr. Fletcher himself has done for UMSU. However, with the current funding crisis in post-secondary education, it would be a more memorable moment for us as students when our federal leaders begin to do their jobs and start paying attention to post-secondary education, which has been ignored for the last two decades.

It will be a most memorable moment when our federal leaders spend more time advocating for their constituents on what matters to them (such as education), rather than spending time with petty and personal politics, and discussion of “free-range coffee beans,” whatever those may be.

Do us a favour Mr. Fletcher: spend more time working for students and less time promoting yourself to a crowd that desperately needs our federal leaders to step up and make post-secondary education a priority. Though the recollection of your history in UMSU is significantly different than many students around at the time will remember, it is less important for me as a student to hear about your many “great” accomplishments as the president of UMSU. It is more important for me to hear that you are now an advocate for post-secondary education students on the Hill. However, this unfortunately does not appear to be the case.


Amanda Aziz, President of UMSU

September 21, 2008

Canadian Federal Member of Parliament / Former Environment Minister Rona Ambrose

NDP calls for environment minister to resign

by Mike De Souza

June 21, 2006

OTTAWA – The New Democrats are calling for the resignation of Environment Minister Rona Ambrose, arguing she is not taking her job seriously.

Environment critic Nathan Cullen said Ambrose has ducked out of key duties and meetings, such as appearing before the parliamentary environment committee and addressing an important conference of municipalities, recently held in Montreal.

“The minister bails on Canadian mayors, picks fights with environmentalists, refuses to work with her colleagues and continues to duck the national press,” Cullen said Tuesday during question period in the House of Commons.

“The summer is almost upon us, and with it, what promises to be the worst smog season in our history.”

Ambrose, who parted ways with her chief of staff, Daniel Bernier, at the end of last week, replied her government needed to revise ineffective programs developed by the federal Liberals, and ensure money is well spent in Canada.

“We’re introducing new pollution laws. We’re banning toxins that cause cancer in Canadians,” she said. “That means cleaner air for Canadians, cleaner water, and clean health for Canadians.”

But Cullen said Ambrose needs to work faster on a plan to reduce Canada’s greenhouse-gas emissions and honour its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.

Canadian Federal Member of Parliament / Former Saskatchewan Provincial Progressive Conservative Party Organizer Tom Lukiwski

The System

Tory MP apologizes for gay slurs

Saskatchewan politician 'ashamed' of comments he made about homosexuals on 1991 videotape

by Tonda MacCharles

As originally posted on:
April 4, 2008

OTTAWA – A Saskatchewan Conservative MP has publicly apologized after a 16-year-old videotape surfaced of the then-provincial Tory organizer making a derogatory remark about "homosexual faggots."

An abject and clearly embarrassed Tom Lukiwski, MP for Regina-Lumsden-Lake Centre, said he was "ashamed for the comments," but refused to answer whether he would step aside as parliamentary secretary to government House leader Peter Van Loan in the face of calls to do so from the federal and provincial NDP.

When a New Democrat MP detailed the remarks in the Commons, a sombre Van Loan said "the comments do sound distressing and inappropriate and they will have due attention."

Van Loan later said that Lukiwski has "made an unequivocal apology for those comments and indicated clearly that he does not hold those views. We welcome that quick and unequivocal apology and consider the matter is now closed."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper was in Bucharest when the news broke mid-afternoon yesterday, and not available for comment.

The video captures a group of party workers including Brad Wall, now premier of Saskatchewan, and Senator Eric Berntson. It was shot on the night of a leaders' debate during the 1991 provincial election campaign at party headquarters. Some workers are drinking. There is a lot of profanity. Lukiwski, who was a 40-year-old Tory organizer at the time, appears on screen saying "I may be old, but I'm f---ing A, eh."

An unidentified man says: "And who is this A person?" to which Lukiwski replies: "Well, let me put it to you this way. There's A's and there's B's. The A's are guys like me, the B's are homosexual faggots with dirt on their fingernails that transmit diseases."

The tape also captured images of Wall, whose office yesterday distanced him from Lukiwski, saying he was nowhere around Lukiwski at that point in the filming.

Wall apologized for his comments that appear to make fun of the Ukrainian heritage of former Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow, who defeated the provincial Tories in the November 1991 election.

"It just never was then, and neither would it ever be, in any way an attempt to slight any group," Wall said.

On the videotape, Wall, who jokes about being "filmed for posterity," does a mock interview with a Ukrainian accent, questioning how Romanow "walks upright with his head so far up his ass."

Unidentified males also call Romanow a "spineless political playboy" and then-Liberal leader Linda Haverstock "a hard-headed slut."

At a news conference in Regina yesterday, Saskatchewan deputy NDP leader Pat Atkinson unveiled a transcript and the videotape containing what she called "hateful" and "disturbing" comments, the worst of which she said are Lukiwski's "homophobic" remarks.

The tape, in a camera case, was left at the Opposition offices vacated after Wall's Saskatchewan Party defeated the NDP in last fall's provincial election. It was recently discovered, Atkinson said.

Within half an hour in the Commons, B.C. New Democrat MP Bill Siksay, who is gay, called on the government to censure Lukiwski and take "all appropriate action."

Outside the Commons, Siksay (Burnaby-Douglas) told reporters the comments were "unconscionable" and demanded that Lukiwski apologize to all gays and other Canadians he offended.

"I don't think that filming a party in a political party office is necessarily a private situation," said Siksay. "I think people knew what they were doing. I think clearly they knew they were being videotaped. I think it's very, very serious."

NDP Leader Jack Layton suggested Harper follow the "precedent" he set in ejecting Lukiwski's predecessor in the riding. Harper, then leader of the Canadian Alliance, ousted MP Larry Spencer from the caucus in 2003 when Spencer suggested homosexuality should be made illegal again.

Before he emerged to make a statement yesterday, Lukiwski telephoned Siksay and apologized to him personally.

When he appeared before reporters, Lukiwski was abject.

"I just want to publicly say that I am truly, truly sorry. I'm ashamed for the comments. If I could take those comments back, I would. I would give anything in the world to take those comments back. They do not reflect the type of person that I am. I do not believe in the type of comments that I made. I do not believe the context behind those comments. I can only say that on behalf of myself, my family, my children, I am sorry. I am ashamed and I wish those comments were never made.

"I have no prejudice against gay people whatsoever. I mean those comments do not reflect the type of person I am and I'm very, very sorry."

The Liberal party issued what it called Lukiwski's "career lowlights," noting he was sued for libel by former Liberal Treasury Board president Reg Alcock when he wrongly claimed Alcock gave his former campaign manager a Canadian Wheat Board job. The suit was settled out of court, and Lukiwski apologized in a statement.

He was among the majority of Conservative MPs who opposed same-sex marriage.

- With files from The Canadian Press

"The 'New Conservative Party' under Stephen Harper"

A graveyard for our dreams: why I'm not voting Conservative

by David Orchard

As originally published in: The Globe and Mail
June 14, 2004

The "new Conservative party" under Stephen Harper declares itself a moderate alternative to the Liberals, ready to govern Canada.

In reality, the party has never had a convention or meeting of its members. It has no constitution. Policies are set with no control by, direction from, or accountability to a membership — whoever those members may be. (The party is mailing out unsolicited membership cards informing surprised recipients they are party members. Mine arrived last week.)

The "new" party is the old Reform-Alliance which took over the Progressive Conservative party, its colours and half its name. The word "progressive" was purged (along with its progressive wing). As Stephen Harper explained last June: "We may not have some of the old conservatives, red Tories like the David Orchards or the Joe Clarks. This is not all bad. A more coherent coalition can take strong positions it wouldn’t otherwise be able to take — as the Alliance alone was able to do during the Iraq war."

To accomplish the takeover, the Progressive Conservative constitution was trampled. Roughly 20,000 Alliance members were allowed to join, in Trojan horse fashion, increasing the PC membership by 50%. These Alliance members then voted twice — in both the PC and Alliance ratification votes — producing the farcical figure of over 90% support for the takeover/merger. Senator Lowell Murray described the takeover of the PC party as a "coup, similar to what we have seen in some countries where the constitution is suspended and a new order ratified in a quick plebiscite."

Now Mr. Harper’s party has set up a Truth Squad to challenge Liberal lies, headed by none other than Peter MacKay, the man who infamously broke his word — including that given in writing to win the leadership of his party — not to merge with the Alliance, and who now refuses to reveal the source of the large donation he subsequently received to erase his campaign debts.

This is the party that attacks the Liberals for lacking ethics and accountability! A vote for it will legitimize the actions of the clique, accountable to no one except their unseen backers (the most visible being Brian Mulroney) which destroyed the party that created Canada and which now openly spurns the most basic elements of democracy. As Mr. Harper has charmingly admitted, policy for the new Conservatives will be essentially what he says it is.

For years Mr. Harper headed the National Citizens Coalition (NCC) — whose motto is "More freedom through less government." Speaking to the NCC in 1994 as a Reform MP, Harper boasted: "What has happened in the past five years? Let me start with the positive side. Universality has been severely reduced: it is virtually dead as a concept in most areas of public policy. The family allowance programme has been eliminated and unemployment insurance has been seriously cut back... These achievements are due in part to the Reform Party of Canada and... the National Citizens' Coalition."

As Alliance leader in Parliament, Stephen Harper set out his views on health care: "Several provinces are involved in pushing for alternative private delivery, even on a profit basis. This is a natural development. In a properly functioning system, profit is the reward that businesses obtain for making substantial, long-term capital investments... The federal government must support this initiative."

The Canadian Wheat Board, established in 1935 by Conservative prime minister R.B. Bennett, has in spite of fierce U.S. opposition become Canada’s largest net earner of foreign currency. It has played a crucial role in keeping the grain industry in Canadian hands and provides one of the few defences left for western farmers. Harper and his colleagues, cooperating fully with the U.S. grain industry, call repeatedly for its destruction.

Mr. Harper has promised to scrap Canada’s commitment to Kyoto, joining the U.S. in its opposition to the only international agreement to reduce harmful carbon dioxide emissions. He plans to privatize major parts of the CBC and gut the nation’s broadcast regulator, the CRTC, opening the broadcast industry to foreign takeover.

And there is more: since coming from the U.S. Tom Flanagan, a key founder of the Reform Party and now Mr. Harper’s chief advisor and the party’s campaign manager, has made his career attacking Aboriginal people. The Alliance platform called explicitly for the privatization of the reserve system and the deliberate assimilation of Native people. In his book First Nations? Second Thoughts Flanagan writes: "European civilization was several thousand years more advanced than the aboriginal cultures of North America." He sneeringly dismisses Aboriginal treaty rights: "Sovereignty is an attribute of statehood, and aboriginal peoples in Canada had not arrived at the state level of political organization prior to contact with Europeans." With Flanagan’s man in power Aboriginals are offered one choice: to cease to be a distinct people with fundamental rights.

On June 29 a minority Conservative government can expect Bloc support — for a price. Both parties agree on dismantling the central government and national institutions in favour of greater provincial powers. As constitutional affairs critic for the Reform Party in the lead up to the 1995 Quebec referendum, Mr. Harper stated: "Whether Canada ends up with one national government, or some other kind of arrangement is, quite frankly, secondary in my opinion." His essay in 2001 defending Alliance MP Jim Pankiw’s private member’s bill to emasculate the Official Languages Act, "Bilingualism — the God that failed," is equally revealing.

Bloc MP Yves Rocheleau prefers a Conservative victory, he said, because it would "demonstrate what René Levesque called 'the impossible Canada.' Canada is a madhouse. It’s a country that cannot be administered."

A unilingual French speaking Quebec, a unilingual English speaking rest of Canada and no need for the twain to meet; this is the meeting ground for the Bloc and the Conservatives and a graveyard for the dreams of all who have fought for a tolerant bilingual nation stronger for our efforts to learn from, and be protective of, the other’s culture and language.

During the U.S. war on Iraq Stephen Harper and Stockwell Day repeatedly and vociferously advocated Canadian participation, including attacking the Canadian government in the Wall Street Journal:

"Today the world is at war. A coalition of countries under the leadership of the U.K. and the U.S. is leading a military intervention to disarm Saddam Hussein. Yet, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien has left Canada outside this multilateral coalition of nations.

This is a serious mistake... The Canadian Alliance — the official opposition in Parliament — supports the American and British position...

Make no mistake... the Canadian Alliance won't be neutral. In our hearts and minds we will be with our allies and friends...

But we will not be with the Canadian government."

(March 28, 2003)

Only in Quebec with its "pacifist tradition," Mr. Harper alleged, were most people opposed to the war. Peter MacKay, now Harper’s deputy leader, excoriated Mr. Chrétien for being weak and vacillating, even cowardly, in refusing to join that illegal invasion. Today, apparently hoping Canadians and the media have lost their memories, Harper and Day try to deny their words.

For those who want to protect Canada’s culture, its environment, its institutions and its sovereignty, Mr. Harper and his inner circle have nothing but words of contempt as they work to dismantle our nation. They march to a different drummer, to the beat of Mr. Mulroney and Mr. Bush, pledging allegiance to a foreign flag.

David Orchard is the author of The Fight for Canada - Four Centuries of Resistance to American Expansionism, and ran for the leadership of the federal Progressive Conservative Party in 1998 and 2003. He farms at Borden, SK and can be reached at tel (306) 652-7095, E-mail: