All posts in Canadian Politics

A meditation on the parlous state of the prime ministerial belfry: is he batty, or what?

Psychological-political portrait of Prime Minister Stephen Harper by Edmonton artist William Prettie. (Used with permission.) Below: The young Vladimir Putin; the young Stephen Harper.

When I ponder our prime minister’s mental state nowadays, my mind spontaneously offers up a rude phrase about the things bats leave behind in belfries.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has got a national election looming; he’s none too popular in certain essential parts of the country and not quite popular enough just now in others; Disgraced Canadian Senator Mike Duffy is facing a criminal trial and apparently wants the PM on the witness stand; it’s attracting public notice that his government uses tax policy as an ideological bludgeon; and the economy is easing toward the crapper everywhere except out here in Alberta, where our disproportionate economic success depends on laying waste to the environment.

So it should be easy for everyone to understand why he might call up the Globe and Mail and ask for space for a little heart-to-heart with the nation.

And what does he want to talk about? Vladimir Putin?

I’m not making this up, people! Click here and read it for yourself. The world’s problems? They’re all caused by Mr. Putin! Who knew?

I don’t know about you, but I always took a certain comfort in the notion Mr. Harper was a cynical master of manipulation, a politician for whom no wedge was too harmful or divisive to be shunned. This is bad, of course, and both immoral and dangerous, but it contains the comforting kernel of thought that no one as bright as Mr. Harper is could actually fail to see the glaring contradictions in the stuff he says. This always offered the faint hope he didn’t actually believe everything he was saying, and therefore might be philosophical if voters indicated they disagreed.

Naturally one hoped his petulant and furious reaction to the complicated situation unfolding in Ukraine reflected only the availability of another potential wedge issue here in Canada. That is, a chance to capture the Ukrainian-Canadian vote. Perhaps, one hoped, it didn’t reveal his actual thoughts on the unstable and dangerous crisis in which there are plenty of nasty players and victims on all sides.

However, after reading Mr. Harper’s little magnum opus about how Mr. Putin is all bad, and the current Ukrainian government – neo-Nazi enforcers, foreign fascist mercenaries, the illegal coup that brought it to power and everything else – is nothing but good, I’m not so sure.

His diatribe doesn’t seem to bear a precise relationship to the facts on the ground in the borderlands of Russia, let us say, but it did sound like something the man actually believes, and may well have written himself!

The most astonishing part, though, is what Sherlock Holmes might have called the curious incident of the dog in the night-time. That is, the glaring omission in Mr. Harper’s 866-word diatribe of any mention of what’s happening in the other great conflict playing out on our planet at this moment. To wit: Israel’s assault on Gaza.

About the first, he has everything to say. About the second, nothing. That is the curious incident – and a remarkable inconsistency given the seeming similarities of the two tragedies, and the fact many innocents are suffering and dying because of both.

According to Mr. Harper’s fulminations, by looking out for its undeniable national interest and making noises about protecting the large Russian community in Eastern Ukraine, Mr. Putin’s government is aggressively and recklessly “threatening the peace and security of eastern and central Europe.” He must be punished, he must be punished now, and Canada is resolved to punish him!

Surely, Israel too views its massive air and artillery bombardment of Gaza in response to missiles fired from that tiny enclave as being in its undeniable national interest and protecting its people everywhere, and not necessarily just passport holders. Moreover, all political parties in the Canadian government apparently agree that, as Mr. Harper’s PMO put it a week ago, “Canada remains steadfastly in support of Israel’s right to defend itself as long as the terrorist attacks by Hamas continue.”

The ferocity of Israel’s response, however, apparently leaves Mr. Harper utterly unmoved.

Mr. Harper’s sermon on Ukraine showed him to be particularly furious that the Russian government, “remains in violation of international law for its illegal occupation of Crimea.”

Again, it’s hard here not to see the parallel to the situation in the Middle East. Whatever you may think of international law and the United Nations – apparently not much, if you’re Mr. Harper’s foreign affairs minister – it is undeniable that Israel has for many years defied both. By contrast, this in no way troubles the current Canadian government.

So why is an illegal occupation of Russian speaking Crimea by Eastern Europe’s greatest military power an outrage, while an illegal and much more violent occupation by the Middle East’s predominant military power so perfectly reasonable in the eyes of the PM that it doesn’t even require his or our notice?

Look, I understand that there are persuasive arguments to be made that the situations are quite different. What’s bizarre is that in the face of such a seeming inconsistency the PM feels no need to make them – or, indeed, that he chose this topic at all for his little fireside chat with the Globe’s reliably Conservative readership.

Mr. Harper is focused on one thing, and one thing only: “Mr. Putin’s Russia increasingly autocratic at home and dangerously aggressive abroad.” Rather like Mr. Harper’s Canada, one is tempted to note, in that regard.

OK, when you’re assailed politically on the home front, it makes a sort of irresponsible sense to try to unite the country around a foreign enemy. But who believes now that Mr. Harper hasn’t started to believe everything he says?

Truly, one has to wonder if the cognitive dissonance of it all is going to make the man spontaneously combust! Or, if there’s no danger of that, then if there really is something other than bells in that belfry of his.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

Russia must be stopped! And Peter Goldring’s just the man to do it! We’ll fight to the last Frenchman and German!

After we’ve won the war with Russia, a beachhead in the Caribbean! Edmonton MP Peter Goldring as illustrated by Press Progress. Below: Rob Ford, Louis Riel, Ann of Green Gables and last year’s military licence plate, which is presumably the same as this year’s military licence plate.

Whenever you think it’s safe to start ridiculing Toronto Mayor Rob Ford again, Peter Goldring opens his mouth, proving that this province remains Canada’s Home Sweet Alabamberta of egregious political bufoonery.

Mr. Goldring, 69, is the Member of Parliament for Edmonton East and the source many of the more entertaining if inconsequential political stories in Alberta. Yesterday he was back in the thick of it, using the unfolding tragedy in Ukraine as an excuse to demand Canada declare war on Russia.

Well, in fairness, all Mr. Goldring was really calling for was “total economic warfare,” but that, he added, should only be “the first precursor to much more strident efforts” – which will be fought, presumably, to the very last German, Frenchman and Italian.

Thoroughly in tune with the sprit of the era, Mr. Goldring also demanded the West start a religious war by establishing a competing Patriarchy for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to compete with one inside Russia’s borders. Maybe later we can argue about whether it should be Canada’s state church.

Mr. Goldring has long had a lively interest in foreign policy, and indeed is best known as the country’s most enthusiastic advocate of bringing the Caribbean’s Turks and Caicos Islands into Confederation, an idea that for some reason has failed generate much enthusiasm elsewhere in Ottawa’s halls of power throughout his 17-year Parliamentary career.

He argued that the Turks and Caicos would be just like Prince Edward Island – only, you know, farther away, and without potatoes, Anne Shirley or Green Gables.

But Mr. Goldring’s latest effort should find considerably more sympathy in the bellicose PMO of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, as the Top Tory Banana attempts with his friends at Post Media and the Sun News Network to revive the Cold War.

Last December, Mr. Goldring engaged in a little “freelance diplomacy,” visiting Kiev on his own dime to whip up the crowds in support for the rebels who later toppled the former Ukrainian government in last spring’s coup. Later, the Harper Government sent him back to Ukraine in May and June to make impartial observations about the current Ukrainian government’s election.

On the Home Front, Mr. Goldring is also well known for his view that this homelessness stuff is vastly overstated. “You don’t want to look at it coldly, but they’re really not in desperate need until they’re holding that eviction notice in their hand,” he explained in 2012.

In 2009, he railed against what he called the effort to “unhang” Louis Riel, whom he dismissed as a villain.

While he has spent most of his career in Parliament as an MP for the Conservative-Reform-Alliance Party, Mr. Goldring spent all of 2012 and bits of 2011 and 2013 in the doghouse after he was accused of refusing to provide a breath sample to a police officer who pulled him over on his way home from a dinner at the Ukrainian Hall. In June 2013, he was acquitted of that change and welcomed back in to the Conservative fold.

Mr. Goldring has long been a fervent opponent of roadside Breathalyzer tests on what he calls civil liberties grounds. During his spell in political Coventry, he described himself as a Civil Liberties MP.

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Alberta honours troops with new licence plate

IMPORTANT BLOGGER’S NOTE: As a public service, to save taxpayers money and government information officers time, I have updated last year’s Redford Government news release on Alberta’s new licence plates honouring the military to serve as today’s announcement by the Hancock Government of Alberta’s new licence plates honouring the military. Changes are shown in italic type. Remember, people, it’s not plagiarism if you’re plagiarizing yourself – a rule firmly adhered to on this blog:

The Redford Hancock government is giving Albertans another way to support the brave men and women of the Canadian Forces with the launch of a new licence plate.

The plates, which bear the Yellow Ribbon and the Support our Troops slogan, will be available for pre-order early next later this year. The new plates will cost Albertans $150. This includes the regular registration fees as well as expenses for production and delivery. Revenue beyond these costs will go directly to the Support our Troops campaign to assist members of the Forces and their families in Alberta.

Manmeet S. Bhullar Heather Klimchuk, Minister of Service Alberta Culture, will make the announcement at K-Days in Edmonton today.

Under the Building Alberta Plan Jim Prentice’s Keeping Alberta Strong Plan, our government is investing in families and communities, living within our means, and opening new markets for Alberta’s resources to ensure we’re able to fund the services Albertans told us matter most to them without the words “Wild Rose Country” appearing anywhere on anything. We will continue to deliver the responsible change Albertans voted for. Uh, never mind that last bit.

The first half of this post also appears on Rabble.ca.

Canada’s anti-union lobby is at the heart of the deceptive campaign for more Temporary Foreign Workers – why’s that, d’ya think?

Canadians need not apply? Actual Canadian store displays may not appear exactly as illustrated. But the intent of the AstroTurf TFW lobby is to bust unions and weaken the bargaining power of Canadian workers. Below: Employment Minister and former Canadian Taxpayers Federation operative Jason Kenney; former Canadian Federation of Independent Business president and current “Working Canadians” spokesperson Catherine Swift; and CTF board member and Canadian Labour Watch Association President John Mortimer.

Judging from what they read and hear in the news, Canadians can be forgiven for concluding a large number of organizations representing a broad range of opinions are lobbying public-spiritedly for more access to Temporary Foreign Workers by Canadian businesses.

But while many individual business owners would no doubt love to have a direct pipeline to the huge international pool of compliant, vulnerable and easy-to-exploit foreign workers instead of yielding to market pressure to pay Canadians a living wage, the seeming multitude of public voices calling for more access to TFWs originates mainly with a small group of individuals and well-financed interlocking organizations.

It turns out that this network involves many of the same people sitting on the boards of each other’s groups. What’s more, these groups are repeating the same key messages and skillfully feeding press releases to Canada’s dysfunctional mainstream media to generate sound and fury against the modest restrictions on Ottawa’s TFW Program.

As readers will recall, those restrictions were put in place by Employment Minister Jason Kenney last spring. The minister was responding to public revulsion at the program’s apparent goals of exploiting vulnerable foreign workers and suppressing Canadian wages.

So it cannot be mere coincidence that in almost every case the main groups calling for more TFWs turn out to have a long history of anti-union advocacy. In some cases, before the TFW issue came along, their sole purpose was attacking the right of working people to bargain collectively.

This web of anti-union advocacy groups includes the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Restaurants Canada, the Workplace Democracy Institute of Canada, the Merit Contractors Association, “Working Canadians,” and the Canadian Labour Watch Association.

Even the mysterious National Citizens Coalition, the granddaddy of all Canadian far-right AstroTurf groups, once headed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, puts in a cameo appearance in this convoluted tale!

Each of these groups is not forthcoming about its finances and, it is reasonable to conclude given their purported mandates to represent to represent a different segment of the Canadian economy from “taxpayers,” to restaurant owners, to ordinary working stiffs who just want a little “freedom” in their workplace, is deceptive about its true objectives.

So it should surprise no one that this same web of organizations has emerged as the leading advocate for the exploitation of vulnerable and poorly paid foreign workers to replace uppity Canadian young people in low-wage, low-skill Canadian workplaces, or, in the case of the CTF, to use the purported need for foreign workers as a way to attack unemployment insurance for working Canadians.

Perhaps the best way to understand the revelation that the TFW lobby has many heads but is only one beast is to look at what little we know about the secretive Canadian Labour Watch Association, founded by several of the other groups in 2000.

While the CLWA describes itself as an organization that “advances employee rights in labour relations,” it is fair to say after a review of its materials that its principal goal is to advance the goals of employers who are opposed to unions in their workplaces. In other words: union busting.

According to Canadians for Responsible Advocacy, the “industry organizations” that founded the CLWA in 2000 included Restaurants Canada (formerly the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association), the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the Retail Council of Canada and the Merit Contractors Association of Alberta, which represents a group of non-union contractors.

The CLWA does not disclose financial statements, identify major contributors, indicate its membership policy or criteria, list its bylaws or identify its connections to other right-wing advocacy organizations, the CFRA reports. However, we do know about its members and board of directors, a list that tells an interesting story.

The CLWA’s president and only listed employee is John Mortimer, a prominent member of the board of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. Member associations include the CFIB, Merit Contractors associations in several provinces, the Retail Council of Canada, Restaurants Canada and the National Citizens Coalition.

The CLWA’s board, according to its website, includes representatives of the CFIB, the Retail Council of Canada, Restaurants Canada, the Merit Contractors, the Canadian Taxpayers Association (although this relationship is not declared) and the Conseil du Patronat du Québec (the Quebec Business Council), another consistent opponent of unionization.

Restaurants Canada, by the way, was founded in 1944 as the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association to fight against the Mackenzie King Government’s food rationing and menu price-control policies when the war against Nazi Germany, to which many Canadians were sacrificing their lives, started to cut into profits.

Whether there is a formal connection between the CLWA and its associated groups with the so-called “Working Canadians” AstroTurf organization and the “Workplace Democracy Institute of Canada” can only be speculated upon because all these groups are very economical with information about their operations.

Working Canadians may be little more than a website and an advertising budget provided by someone with deep pockets. It appears to have been set up to counter the Working Families Coalition created in Ontario by 15 unions, which openly declared their involvement on the Working Families website.

Working Canadians, by contrast, provides no information about its funding and purports to be a “volunteer organization” that is “concerned that union leaders have too much influence over government.”

But it is evocative that Working Canadians’ only known volunteer is Catherine Swift, president of the CFIB in 2000 when the CLWA was founded and well known for her opinion that “what would be ideal is getting rid of public-sector unions entirely.” So it is hard to imagine that the mysterious principals behind both Working Canadians and the CLWA, and the network that supports them, are not well known to one another.

As for the WDIC, its way into the web of TFW Program advocates comes via the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, through CTF board member Karen Selick and a CTF staffer, Atlantic Canada Communications Director Kevin Lacey.

There are probably many other such groups, because the corporate-financed right prolifically cooks up fake AstroTurf organizations with positive-sounding mandates, inclusive-sounding names and disguised agendas.

The links among this well-established network of anti-union agitators have been obvious for many years.

That the same players who hold the most virulently anti-union views and the most offensive opinions about the supposed shortcomings of Canadian workers should turn out to be the loudest advocates, and in some places the only advocates, for the TFW Program suggests the true agenda behind the vociferous TFW lobby.

It is quite apparent the goals of the Canadian Taxpayers Association, the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses, and the various trade associations involved are to weaken the bargaining power of Canadian families (including many of their own naïve members), keep wages low, keep all workers vulnerable and re-elect the Harper Government.

If the Harper Government is re-elected, of course, even today’s modest restrictions on the TFW Program are sure to soon disappear, snipped away as so much “red tape.”

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

The most important Duffy trial must be held in the court of public opinion

Mike Duffy, back in pre-Senatorial days, but already feeling the heat. Below: A more recent shot of Senator Duffy; former prime ministerial chief of staff Nigel Wright.

How could the handoff of a $90,000 cheque to Senator Mike Duffy by the prime minister’s chief of staff not be worthy of prosecution while the acceptance of the same piece of paper by the senator is?

Wherever the trial of Mr. Duffy leads us in the months and years to come, this is the question ordinary Canadians are scratching their heads about today as they pick up a whiff of something not quite as it should be on the breeze from Ottawa – like the ephemeral scent of a distant skunk’s perfume on a summer’s night.

This will not be the question at Mr. Duffy’s trial, however, although it is certainly now one of the key political questions about the PMO-Senate Expenses Scandal that must be answered in the court of public opinion.

As Donald Bayne, Mr. Duffy’s lawyer, put it in the news clip played on CBC Radio in Edmonton yesterday morning: “I am sure that I am not the only Canadian who will now wonder openly how what was not a crime or a bribe when Nigel Wright paid it on his own initiative became however, mysteriously, a crime or bribe when received by Senator Duffy.”

Mr. Bayne got that one right, for sure! It is what we used to call the $64,000 Question, which inflation and other factors have apparently now increased to $90,000.

Many of us with some knowledge of the law, I suspect, thought the charges must be more complicated than that. But it would appear not. Here is the explanation of the charge in question, summarized by the Globe and Mail yesterday: “Directly or indirectly corruptly accept, obtain, agree to accept, or attempt to obtain, for himself, money ($90,000 from Mr. Wright).”

I had always thought that offering and accepting bribes was one of those situations that, as we put it in the vernacular, take two to tango. You know, like participating in illegal prostitution… But perhaps not.

Perhaps, as a lawyer consulted by Global News suggested, the RCMP believed Mr. Wright didn’t corruptly offer the money – or “that his testimony against Duffy is stronger if he’s not charged himself.” In other words, a common variation on the oldest prosecutorial trick in the world.

Meanwhile, I was struck by the sleaze exhibited by Prime Minister Harper and his PMO staff as they tried to have it both ways, implying Senator Duffy is guilty while hiding behind the sub judice rule to avoid commenting on their own part in the affair.

Said Jason MacDonald, Mr. Harper’s communications director, in a carefully parsed statement: “Those who break the rules must suffer the consequences. The conduct described in the numerous charges against Mr. Duffy is disgraceful. As this is now a criminal matter that is before the courts, we have nothing further to add.”

Very well. But in that case, please shut up!

Mr. Bayne is right too that it is important for us ignoramuses in the general population not to pre-judge Mr. Duffy’s guilt or innocence. And it is quite true that, up to now, Senator Duffy has had a fair hearing in neither the Senate nor the media, and certainly not at the hands of the PMO.

But in reality there are two concurrent trials that must take place.

The first, in the judicial system, is to determine the validity of the 31 charges laid by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police against Senator Duffy. That will take a long time and will most certainly not render a verdict until well after the next Canadian general election.

The other is in the court of public opinion, where it behooves all of us who are citizens of Canada to consider the matter much more quickly than the wheels of Justice can be expected to grind.

Like a juror instructed by the judge not to consider a certain statement made by a witness, we may have to set aside the question of Senator Duffy’s guilt or innocence while we proceed with the much more important matter of the actions of the Prime Minister’s Office, and the prime minister himself.

In such a case, we may legitimately bring down a Scotch Verdict: Not Proven … but worthy of consideration nevertheless.

In the mean time, we are all forgiven if we await with a little shiver of anticipation the witnesses Mr. Duffy’s counsel can be expected to call – including Mr. Wright, and Mr. Harper himself – to make his case that “when the full story is told, as it will be, and shown to be supported by many forms of evidence, it will be clear that Senator Duffy is innocent of any criminal wrongdoing.”

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

Climate change divestment movement gains ground in church – but not in Canadian media or political circles

Ho-hum... Some typical Canadian reporters, hard at work … Actual Canadian newsrooms may not appear exactly as illustrated. Below: Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Is he more influential than we imagined in Alberta?

CALGARY

When retired South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu visited Alberta’s Tarpatch capital of Fort McMurray last month and called the output from bitumen mining “filth,” the commentary here in Alberta was pretty predictable.

The right-wing rage machine creaked briefly to life, complained bitterly about celebrities who don’t know what they’re talking about just passing through, and then moved on to other complaints.

About the kindest thing said about the retired Anglican churchman by officials and media in these parts was the suggestion he was a naïve do-gooder who should stick to his theological knitting, never mind that he was a veteran of South African politics during and after the apartheid era and thus probably knew a thing or two about persuasion.

As for his contention that “the oilsands are emblematic of an era of high carbon and high-risk fuels that must end if we are committed to safer climate,” Alberta politicians and oilpatch commentators forgot about his brief appearance almost as soon as he had departed. A few Twitter trolls defamed him for a couple of extra days before they too lapsed into forgetfulness.

Perhaps they should have paid a little more attention, though.

From the Guardian, Britain’s faintly progressive daily newspaper, comes a report that the World Council of Churches, an umbrella group that represents about half a billion Christians around the world, including Anglicans like Archbishop Tutu in both Canada and South Africa, plus members of the United Church of Canada, has decided to pull all of its investments out of fossil fuel companies.

Back in April, Archbishop Tutu told the same U.K. newspaper that “people of conscience need to break their ties with corporations financing the injustice of climate change.”

Now, whether this divestment is a big deal or just a blip on the political radar is hard for a layman (as it were) like me to predict. For one thing, some pretty big churches, like the Roman Catholic Church, are not affiliated with the WCOC, and there may be plenty of investors to buy up they stocks they divest. For another, the WCOC doesn’t have that big an investment portfolio anyway, the Guardian pointed out, and no one yet knows if its member churches will all go along with this.

Still, it’s a powerful symbol, and it’s bound to result in some additional pressure being put on the energy industry – and on the Alberta Tarpatch in particular. What’s more, it’s evidence that when Archbishop Tutu speaks, people listen – even if Alberta’s various varieties of conservative, used to getting their own way without too much backchat, think that’s an outrage.

So at the very least you’d think there’d be some interest out here in the Lone Tar State in this development – if only to dismiss it as inconsequential.

But here in Alberta, and across Canada, the mainstream media seem not to have touched this development with the proverbial 10-foot bargepole. (That’s 3.05 metres to those of you born after 1970.)

Here in the Alberta ’patch, not one of the Calgary Herald, the Edmonton Journal or even Fort McMurray Today seemed to have mentioned it as of yesterday.

They need feel no embarrassment, though, for the national media has ignored it too – leastways, there’s not been a word about it that I could Google up from the Globe and Mail, the National Post, the Toronto Star or the CBC.

Last May, also writing in the Guardian, the United Nations climate chief Christiana Figueres encouraged religious groups to “provide a moral compass to their followers and to political, corporate, financial and local authority leaders” on this issue.

She noted in that article that Archbishop Tutu had called “for an anti-apartheid style boycott and disinvestment campaign against the fossil fuel industry.”

And as the Guardian observed last week, “studies have suggested the fossil fuel divestment campaign, which began in the US, has been faster than any previous divestment movement such as tobacco and apartheid.”

So even if Canada’s tame and obedient media and Alberta’s influential conservatives of various stripes don’t like the message, they might want to pay attention to the story just the same.

I have a feeling that just pretending to have a climate change strategy, as Alberta does, isn’t going to be a very good strategy for dealing with a global divestment movement.

And whether or not it gets covered in Canada just yet, this story isn’t going to go away. Ignore it at your peril.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

‘Targeted exemptions’ for TFWs – Tory fund-raising tool, a backyard maquiladora in every neighbourhood, or both?

Typical Canadian fast-food help, as seen by Canadian fast-food employers, sort of. Below: Employment Minister Jason Kenney in Stampede-Week-appropriate garb and the CFIB’s Richard Truscott.

ST. ALBERT, Alberta

Unemployment has climbed to 7.1 per cent in Canada and yet a key segment of the Harper Government’s donor base is screeching for more Temporary Foreign Workers. What to do?

From the perspective of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, this is a serious problem. Too many Canadians remain unpersuaded by the hysterical campaign cranked up by the country’s retail business sector to turn the TFW spigot back to full, and to do it right now, lest … well, lest something really bad happens.

Not satisfied by mere wage-suppression – delivered in spades by the federal government – now they’re hooked on a steady supply of powerless and compliant workers from abroad.

Fast-food restaurant owners have threatened everything from cutting back the number of coffees they serve after 3 a.m. to trimming their charitable donations, and yet the general public seems unshaken by their warnings. Maybe the usual suspects can blame the education system: here in Alberta our teachers still seem to be teaching their charges how to do the math.

Behind closed doors, have no doubt about it, the TFW lobby is telling the Harper Cons that the spigot that’s actually going to be shut off if they don’t get their way, and soon, with the flow of easily coerced and underpaid foreign workers fully restored, is the one full of money they send to Conservative Party coffers.

The Harper Government’s Solomonic answer? “Targeted exemptions,” which according to the Canadian Press means Employment Minister Jason Kenney will consider fewer restrictions on a steady flow of TFWs “in specific areas with very low levels of unemployment in regions with a higher level.”

That’s vague enough it should be possible for any fast-food business owner to claim a special unemployment zone around his or her store sufficiently low to set up a backyard maquiladora anywhere in Canada – successfully suppressing wages despite market realities while enabling Conservative politicians to make soothing noises to Canadians that all is well with the rigorously enforced TFW Program.

I await publication of the Harper Government’s clear and accessible rules for these regulatory exemption zones with interest.

Meantime, the usual suspects in the campaign to suppress wages by hiring no one but TFWs – thus eliminating the need to deal with uppity Canadians and their propensity to insist they have workplace rights – are starting to snarl at more people than their Conservative MPs.

Back in April, the Alberta Director of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, an AstroTurf group that purports to represent the interests of small business owners and has been at the forefront of the fight for unlimited use of TFWs, was pleading for reasoned discourse to prevail.

“It’s time to dial down the rhetoric and have an informed conversation about labour shortages, skills training for Canadian workers, new government strategies to match employers with qualified employees, and fixing the permanent immigration system to ensure it matches the current and future labour force needs within the economy,” Richard Truscott wrote in the vast expanse of free space donated to him by the Calgary Herald, a once-great newspaper that nowadays appears to rely on full-time right-wing agitators from groups with mysterious funding sources to report the news.

The targets of his call for sweet reason? “Some union leaders” whom he said had “turned their rhetoric dial all the way up to shrill, and are calling for the program to be scrapped.”

Well, as I’ve said before, it’s still a free country, after a fashion, so you can call that shrill if you like.

But just yesterday, Mr. Truscott – sounding a little shrill himself – was accusing this blogger via Tweet of “profound ignorance” of how small businesses operate. My offence was daring to challenge the hysterics of the TFW lobby to produce even one Alberta business that’s had to go out of business because of a shortage of TFWs.

They can’t because there are none. But Mr. Truscott promised fast-food businesses won’t disappear overnight for want of a TFW, but some will … someday.

My question remains the same: “If the market’s so great, what’s wrong with the market?” That, in turn, leads inevitably to a prescription: Pay a living wage and employees will find their way to you.

All the pro-TFW crowd has to offer are anecdotal tales about how hard they’re trying to find Canadians to work in their restaurants, and how few of these ungrateful wretches respond to their calls.

So here’s a little equally unscientific anecdotal evidence of my own, from right here in St. Albert where our more-Tory-than-the-Tories Independent MP claims to be inundated by pleas for more TFWs from local fast-food business owners who insist Canadians won’t apply for the jobs they need to fill.

I looked in the Saturday edition of the local twice-weekly newspaper. There were only 13 help-wanted ads, not one of them from a fast-food restaurant.

Can’t find local kids willing to work in their stores? Maybe they need to look a little harder.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

The horror! The horror! Brent Rathgeber and the St. Albert Chamber of Commerce on the nightmare of too few TFWs

St. Albert by night. My lord! What would we do if the local McDonald’s wasn’t open at 3 a.m.! Below: Edmonton-St. Albert MP Brent Rathgeber.

St. ALBERT, Alberta

I have a challenge for Edmonton-St. Albert Member of Parliament Brent Rathgeber, the St. Albert Chamber of Commerce and all the other hysterics wailing about the disaster wrought by the federal government when it imposed some modest limitations on the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, some of which don’t apply to Alberta anyway.

Show me one – just one! – Alberta company that’s had to go out of business because of a shortage of TFWs.

Mr. Rathgeber and the local chamber here in the Edmonton bedroom community of St. Albert were in full flight last week about the horrors that await us if the TFW spigot isn’t turned back to full, posthaste.

“The situation is actually worse than I thought,” a horrified Mr. Rathgeber told the credulous local twice-weekly after his audience before the local Chamber of Horrors, I mean Commerce, which the paper indicated was a private get-together at which the horrified Chamber men and maids could spin their horrifying yarns without interruptions or questions from the unwashed, which would be horrifying, I presume.

Mr. Rathgeber, an Independent MP who not so long ago resigned from the federal Conservative caucus in Ottawa, says he has decided to run again under no party banner. To do so, he has apparently hit upon the strategy of campaigning to the right of the Harper Conservatives. This is hard to do at the best of times, but on the issue of TFWs, he seems to be succeeding. And it sure beats going out and door knocking, which both of his Conservative challengers have been doing.

Why, said Mr. Rathgeber, the possibilities of an insufficient supply of foreign indentured labourers are simply appalling: “It is quite conceivable, and they told me I could tell you, both Tim Hortons and McDonald’s may not be able to operate any of their stores 24/7,” our MP told the local rag.

I’m just going to pause to give readers an opportunity to get the breath back and get back up from the floor after thinking about that one. Good gosh, does he mean we won’t be able to go out for coffee at 3 a.m.! In a town where the last of the liquor stores closes at 2? How will the people driving through on their way Fox Creek and Fort McMurray sober up?

It only gets worse from here. Among the other frightening consequences of a TFW shortage enumerated by Mr. Rathgeber, with a hearty Hear! Hear! from the spokesperson for the local Chamber are the following:

  • Local restaurant owners may put off plans to expand. (The MP explained: “They can’t staff the stores they have, why do they want to build another one?”)
  • Canadian employees, already reviled by Mr. Rathgeber and the Chamber’s members as shiftless and lazy, may get even crankier! (“They get overworked and frustrated – and leave,” explained the local paper.)
  • If fast food restaurants aren’t open as many hours, they’ll buy fewer supplies – and, get this, according to Mr. Rathgeber they actually do buy some supplies locally! I confess I have no idea how many all-beef patties our three local McDonald’ses sell between midnight and 7 a.m., but I’m betting it’s not all that many.
  • And the piece de la resistance, “philanthropic donations from local franchisees might go down as their profits dwindle.”

Readers will be getting the hint by now – even before I get to the likely story that local businesses will have to start laying off Canadian employees if they can’t have their TFWs – that your blogger is not all that shaken by the dire possibilities enumerated by our local MP.

Indeed, the only moment Mr. Rathgeber found himself in the vicinity of the real story, it’s said here, was when he suggested, again in the words of the local paper, that “in some high volume, low-margin industries, raising wages could have a dramatic impact.”

Exactly! Without Ottawa interfering in the local labour market to keep wages as low as possible, the Alberta fast-food industry faces the appalling prospect of having to pay its employees something approaching a living wage. And after them, who’s next? Wal-Mart?

Worse, they’ll have to put up with uppity Canadian employees, who are well known for standing up for their rights, even complaining to Alberta’s toothless Employment Standards branch!

The possibilities are endless, and to Mr. Rathgeber and the Chamber, apparently endlessly horrifying.

But bottom line – and this is the truly horrifying part – if they start to pay a living wage, their profits might have to decline a little. Either that, or we’d have to pay a few cents more for our coffee.

One thing that won’t happen, though, is that any Alberta business will ever have to close because of a shortage of TFWs.

A lousy business plan? Maybe. A wrong guess about what the market wants? Quite possibly.

But a shortage of indentured labour from abroad? If that’s going to kill your business, you need to be in another business.

I’ll say it again: No Alberta business has ever failed because of a shortage of TFWs and no Alberta business ever will.

I challenge Mr. Rathgeber and the local Chamber – and all the other conservative MPs and all their local chambers – to name just one shuttered Alberta business that even makes that claim. Then we can actually look at the facts of the case.

In the mean time, the big threats are no Big Macs at 3 a.m., crabby waitrons and a dip in philanthropic donations?

Please!

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

Whatever the ‘Canadian Taxpayers Federation’ is, it’s certainly not a ‘tax watchdog’ – let’s stop calling it one!

“Canadian Taxpayers Federation” Alberta Communications Director Derek Fildebrandt dressed up for a typical CTF stunt, which the media falls for every time. Below: Mr. Fildebrandt back in the days he was part of the Reagan-Goldwater Society at Carleton University; CTF board members Karen Selick, Adam Daifallah and John Mortimer. (Thumbnail photos grabbed from CTF’s website.)

While the Canadian Taxpayers Federation claims to be a “tax watchdog” that opposes waste and advocates transparency in government, evidence suggests its principal purposes are to provide partisan support for the Harper Government, fulfill the corporate agenda and undermine the rights of working people.

The July 2 Alberta Diary post on the CTF’s disgracefully misogynistic and personal attack on a group of promising young Canadian scholars for the crime of being awarded scholarships provides an example of the former.

Today let’s take a look at the evidence of the CTF’s strong anti-worker, anti-union bias, as well as the group’s lack of transparency about its own supporters and objectives.

A recent report on the CTF by a group called Canadians For Responsible Advocacy, highlights connections between some members of the CTF board of directors and various anti-union groups in both Canada and the United States

As has been previously reported, the CTF’s seven current board members are the group’s only members, despite the media’s repeated claims it has tens of thousands of members – a reference to the group’s “supporters,” people who have clicked on a web button to find out more about the CTF.

Board member Karen Selick, the CFRA reports, is also a board member of a group called the “Workplace Democracy Institute of Canada,” an organization that argues on its website “Canada’s economy and the lives of a majority of Canadians are negatively affected by the impact of union leaders.”

Ms. Selick, a lawyer, is also the litigation director of the Canadian Constitution Foundation, a registered charity that takes legal action to undermine Canada’s public health care system and gun registration laws, as well advocating on behalf of as other far-right causes.

Ms. Selick’s 43-word biography on the CTF website does not disclose her connection the WDIC although it mentions her connection to the Constitution Foundation.

John Mortimer, another CTF board member, is president of the Canadian Labour Watch Association, a virulently anti-union group that provides employers with resources to assist with union-busting activities.

The CLWA is also actively touted by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, which like the CTF is another AstroTurf group that purports to represent the interests of small business owners but in fact works against middle-class Canadians, whether they are employees or small-business operators.

Mr. Mortimer, the CFRA noted, is also a member of the board of directors of CUE, a U.S. group that works to keep its member companies union-free. CUE advocates keeping unions out by maintaining positive work environments, but also offers services and links related to more traditional union-busting activities.

CTF board chair Michael Binnion, by the way, is president of one multi-million-dollar energy sector company and has connections to others. Until last month, after it was put under pressure by the CFRA, the CTF did not disclose these connections by its president to the energy industry.

Erin Chutter, who appears to be a former CTF board member, is a former political staffer to Preston Manning, when he was leader of the Reform Party Opposition in Ottawa, the CFRA reports.

Since the CFRA report, the CTF has added two members to its board, Vancouver lawyer David Hunter and lawyer, public affairs advisor and commentator Adam Daifallah.

Mr. Daifallah was once a member of the National Post editorial board and researcher for former newspaper owner and author Conrad Black. He is the author of the 2005 tome Rescuing Canada’s Right: Blueprint for a Conservative Revolution.

Mr. Daifallah’s personal online biography – although not his CTF bio – states that he was active in party politics “at the local, provincial and national levels for several years.” This included stints as president of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Campus Association and policy director of the Progressive Conservative Youth Federation of Canada. He is a “fellow” of the Montreal Economics Institute, another far-right ideological “think tank” clone of the Fraser Institute.

Ms. Chutter and Mr. Daifallah are two more of the many examples of the role played by CTF operatives in partisan Reform-Alliance-Conservative Party activities. The group’s most famous, success story, of course, was that of Employment Minister Jason Kenney – who according to his Wikipedia biography was CEO of the CTF in the 1990s.

Lest you think the CFA’s anti-worker leanings are restricted to encouraging union-busting, its Internet web page currently features an attack on unemployment insurance benefits in the Maritime provinces, claiming Ottawa’s so-called Employment Insurance programs are a drain on the region’s economy.

The real reason for this campaign, it is suggested here, is an objective by the CTF to weaken the Canadian middle class and make jobs and communities less secure – and therefore more vulnerable to the corporate agenda the web of far-right groups that includes the CTF is financed to advocate – as well as to support the Conservative Party in its long-term goal to cut unemployment supports and regional equalization programs.

Regardless, some paid CTF operatives are open in their anti-union advocacy.

Derek Fildebrant, the group’s “Alberta Communications Director,” and as such a familiar name to those who follow Alberta media, published a blog post on the CTF site on June 23 in which he called a rowdy crowd that heckled his presentation demanding public sector pensions be gutted at meeting of a legislative committee “union thugs” and “screaming unionistas.”

Canada’s still a free country, so Mr. Fildebrandt can term a little heckling union thuggery if he likes – although he probably should have told his readers that he was blowing kisses at the crowd in an apparent effort to stir them up, bait to which they imprudently rose.

The Calgary Herald, which regularly serves as the happily wagging tail of the CTF’s barking chain, repeated Mr. Fildebrant’s claims in an editorial and used his inflammatory language, although it doesn’t appear to have had a reporter at the meeting. If that is indeed the case – I have not been able to confirm with this with the Herald, although a senior editor promised several days ago to get back to me about it but never did – it was relying on Mr. Fildebrandt to do its reporting for it.

Since I wasn’t at the meeting, I sent two emails to Mr. Fildebrandt seeking clarification about some of the allegations he made, which were repeated by the Herald, including the claim he was shoved by a “union boss.”

Mr. Fildebrandt has not replied, so I’ll have to continue to rely on the observations of the half-dozen witnesses, including an MLA on the committee, with whom I spoke.

While Mr. Fildebrandt’s CTF biography does not mention it, he was reported by the Victoria Times Colonist to have worked for the Harper Conservatives on Parliament Hill and by the Edmonton Journal to have been a Conservative staffer as recently as 2008.

While a student at Carleton University in Ottawa, Mr. Fildebrandt was also the president of a group calling itself the Reagan-Goldwater Society. Ronald Reagan, of course, was the U.S. President whose 1981 tax cuts for the rich set the stage for today’s huge income disparities and began the erosion of the U.S. middle class. Barry Goldwater was the Republican Party’s nominee in the 1964 presidential election, a key inspiration to young Republicans opposed to the reforms of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1933-1936 New Deal and an advocate of dropping atomic bombs on North Vietnam.

As the CFRA report indicates, the CTF does not live up to its own standards of transparency, failing to report many evocative connections of its board on its website, refusing to provide audited financial statements, and neglecting to report the names of corporate or individual donors who have contributed more than $5,000 to the organization’s annual budget of close to $4 million.

Whatever the CTF is, it is clearly not a “tax watchdog,” and it is time for the media and government groups – not to mention the rest of us – to stop treating it as if it were, let alone relying on it to report the news.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

CTF bullying and misinformation: just what’s ‘wacky’ about rape prevention research?

Canadian Taxpayers Association Federal Director Gregory Thomas dressed up as a professor, with a man dressed as a pig, at a CTF news conference trashing government support for academic research. A cameraman can be seen at left obligingly filming. Below: Dr. Melanie Beres, unfairly ridiculed by the CTF for her 2006 thesis; Mr. Thomas when he’s dressed as a grownup.

According to the comedians at the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, a $17,500 grant by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council to a promising young Alberta-trained sociologist whose research looks for ways to improve rape-prevention education is a waste of taxpayers’ money.

If you ask me, the CTF’s sophomoric “tongue-in-cheek, cap-and-gown ceremony on Parliament Hill to shine the spotlight on some of the most wacky grants handed out by the federal government’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council for university research over the past few years” misses the mark both as comedy and commentary.

Leastways, even if CTF Federal Director Gregory Thomas’s news release and insulting video performance suggest otherwise, surely most of us think there’s nothing “wacky” about sexual violence. I personally would be pleased to see more of my tax dollars spent on research that seeks ways to reduce it.

But the CTF’s frat-boy humour in the service of neoliberal economics and its apparent view that any topic sensitive to women’s rights is inappropriate for government support reveals both sloppy research and a nasty bullying streak on the part of the organization, whose field operatives singled out the work of individual young academics for ridicule and public contempt.

It is no coincidence, it is said here, that six of the seven academic works named by the CTF for attack were authored by women.

But I guess if you’re a young scholar who manages to get a government grant for academic work in a field the CTF doesn’t approve of – which would presumably cover pretty well everything outside petroleum engineering and conservative advocacy – you can count on being at risk of public derision by this AstroTurf group.

When the CTF boys picked on Dr. Melanie Beres, who received her PhD in sociology at the University of Alberta and now teaches at the University of Otago in New Zealand, they obviously didn’t bother to read her thesis with much care.

For, while it uses colloquial language and a colourful title – which is obviously what caught the attention of the CTF’s “researcher” – even at a casual glance by an old newshound like me, largely unschooled in academic sociology, it is quickly apparent it is an example of legitimate scholarly research.

That did not, however, deter the CTF from pulling a few lines out of context from Dr. Beres’ thesis – entitled Sexual Consent to Heterosexual Casual Sex Among Young Adults Living in Jasper – in order to attack the fact she was awarded a $17,500 SSHRC grant for her work.

If they trashed the quality of Dr. Beres’ research or hurt her personally by singling her out, they presumably felt this was legitimate collateral damage in their effort to work with the Harper Government to justify its attack on science and social science research that fails to reach the conclusions the government desires.

“My thesis is not so much about casual sex, but more about sexual consent,” Dr. Beres observed in an email to me. “The goal of the thesis was to learn how young people consent to sex in order to improve rape prevention education. The context (Jasper) was chosen because of the high rates of casual sex and drinking. I wanted to choose a potentially contentious environment to examine issues of consent.”

Interestingly, the CTF “researchers” seem to be obsessed with sex and sexual issues in the academic papers they singled out for attack. This reflects their sly understanding of the news judgment of lazy journalists, who have been socialized to believe the notion that “sex equals news.”

Moreover, writing newspaper articles mocking scholars for their work is among the oldest and laziest tricks in the journalistic playbook. The CTF’s operatives, at least one of whom typically dresses up as a pig for these events, merely exploited a couple of the most obvious failings of modern journalism and were rewarded with a few cheap headlines that reinforce their ideological goals.

The CTF obviously had to dig pretty deep to find topics that met its criteria for scorn. Dr. Beres’ PhD thesis, for example, was submitted in 2006, marked as 2007 by the CTF’s crack research team in its background paper.

“I could have titled my thesis Foucauldian negotiations: Discursive constructions of everyday intimacies,” Dr. Beres observed dryly. “It would be more or less accurate and would likely have slipped past the CTF member who was looking for ‘wacky’ research.”

“But this would also make my research less accessible,” she explained. “I want people to be able to read it and to engage with it. As a former rape prevention educator it is paramount to me that my research speaks beyond the ivory tower.”

“The fact that CTF picked out my research demonstrates that it is accessible to those not particularly used to engaging in scholarly endeavours. To some extent, this means my writing has been successful,” she added generously.

As is well known, the CTF gives the impression it’s a large membership-based organization, but in fact has only five or six members – its board of directors – at any given time. Similarly, the CTF purports to be non-partisan, but in reality acts in partisan support of the goals of the Harper Conservatives and their counterparts in the provinces.

The CTF’s anti-SSHRC histrionics – which the group tastelessly calls “Screwed U” – is part of its “Generation Screwed Movement,” an effort to propagandize college students in the Conservative Party’s neoliberal worldview and encourage intergenerational strife to further tax gains for the wealthy.

CTF operatives and publicists have also proven to be an able talent pool for the federal Conservatives’ political ranks.

Occasionally, it must be noted, the CTF protests Conservative policies – such as the continued availability of SSHRC grants for young researchers – but usually only in the furtherance of long-term Conservative policy goals.

Knowing this is important to understand the motivation of the CTF’s attacks on Dr. Beres and her colleagues. They support a likely Conservative goal of reducing funding for all social science research, because too often it doesn’t support party policy. This is the same instinct that motivates attacks on the traditional sciences when they demonstrate politically unpalatable truths – such as, for example, the fact Earth’s atmosphere is growing hotter.

Social science research findings, Dr. Beres observed, “often shed light on inequalities and injustices in the social world. This is the case for research on poverty, families, work, sexuality or any other social topic.”

“Those who have a lot of privilege and don’t care to address these inequalities sometimes try to discredit research that exposes inequalities,” she noted. “They do so because they feel threatened by the findings or fear the potential loss of their privilege if action is taken to address these inequalities.”

Dr. Beres’ research points to the way male and female desires are treated and valued differently in our society – and how that can lead to sexual violence. That the CTF didn’t bother to mention her conclusions, she noted, suggests they may not have wanted to hear them. “It is sometimes much easier for people to dismiss findings they don’t like rather than to take a look at themselves and their social world and see things that need to change.”

I’d say that’s a given. Consider what Mr. Thomas, who presumably didn’t actually read the paper himself, had to say when he trashed it: “Now that it’s public knowledge that the federal government will pay you $17,500 to hang out in a ski resort for a couple of months and investigate casual sex, we expect every frat boy in the country to be lining up for a research grant to replicate this study – in Whistler, Banff, Tremblant, you name it.”

Well who would know frat boys like the frat boys at the CTF? Look to the Harper Conservative Government for the priorities and worldview of the CTF. They are the same.

As for Dr. Beres’ 2006 thesis research, it has already achieved the goals she set out for it. “It has been used to inform and shape sexual violence prevention programming in Canada and in New Zealand,” she told me. “I am currently on an advisory board to support the development of a national rape prevention program for New Zealand high schools.”

I call that extremely good value for a very modest tax investment that all Canadians can be proud of – we could fund almost 35,000 research projects like Dr. Beres’ for the cost of one F-35 warplane!

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

Happy Canada Day from the prime minister of Canada and the premier of Alberta, channeled by Perfesser Dave

Oooooh! Happy Canada Day, Canadians. Enjoy yourselves. Prime Minister Steve Harper and Premier Dave Hancock wish they could be here with you and Perfesser Dave. Below: Mr. Hancock and Mr. Harper … Happy-Happy!

Happy Canada Day!

Perfesser Dave, here, the political predictions guy, speaking on behalf of my friends Stephen Harper and David Hancock, who weren’t available to talk to you last night.

Both of them were really, really busy getting ready for Canada Day today, but I know they would want me to let you know they hope you have the best Canada Day holiday ever! And they hope you’ve had a really great weekend up to now, too, and didn’t have to work like they did, seeing as they’re the prime minister of Canada and the premier of Alberta.

First thing, never mind what you read on the Internet, I’m sure Steve was really happy with the by by-election results last night in Alberta, and if the Liberals got a couple of seats in Toronto, well, whoop-de-doo! What did you expect from that town, anyway?

If Steve could be here to talk to you, he’d have said it was mostly just Knee-Dippers and Grits fighting with each other in Toronto anyway, and there’s not much his guys could do about that but sit back and hope they beat the crud out of each other, which they sort of did in Olivia Chow’s old riding.

Now, I’m sure the PM will want to tell you he’s going to take another look at the pot smoking ads about Justin Trudeau. It would be better for the Tories, of course, if Rob Ford smoked pot and Justin smoked crack. But in a by-election you just have to work with the best facts you can make up in the time you have.

Of course, the Macleod riding south of Calgary was going to vote for Steve’s Tories anyway because they always do, even if the locals didn’t pick the most pro-gun candidate, which I reckon the PM worried for a while might be kind of a problem – and, come to think of it, maybe it was, because at last count the Conservative candidate down there was getting less than 70 per cent of the vote!

Just the same, as Steve would say if he liked soccer as much as he loves hockey, no harm no foul! That is a soccer saying, isn’t it?

As for the by-election up in Fort McMurray, well, I’m sure the PM was really yukking it up last night at all the trips Justin Trudeau took out there because he thought his Liberal guy – who had the cheek to kinda look like Steve – could actually win.

Good one! That’s why you hold elections in places like Fort Mac in the middle of a long weekend, for crying out loud, because all the Liberal voters are home in Newfoundland and the Tories are at home on the farm in the Municipal District. Bingo!

Well, it worked, so maybe the next federal general election may have to be in the middle of a long weekend too! Because you’ve got to know there are a lot of ridings like Fort McMurray-Athabasca out there in the Canadian Homeland, and there will be even more if Steve has anything to say about it.

As Steve would say if he could be here with you, the Grits can call it a moral victory if they like and as the NDP probably will, but by the time everyone’s recovered from their Canada Day hangovers, it won’t even be on the radar. Fort Mac will be Conservative just like it’s been for the past 56 years, and Pipelines Ho!

I bet Steve was chugging back a couple of brewskies last night to celebrate the minute his fart-catchers shooed the photographers out of the neighbourhood.

As for Dave Hancock, well, it had to be a good day for him, splitting up the long weekend into two parts, even if he had to work yesterday putting out the annual financial reports that don’t even look remotely like the budget his party introduced less than four months ago.

Doug Horner, his finance guy, announced a surplus that wasn’t really a surplus and hardly anyone even noticed or complained about it.

Well, OK, the Alberta Liberals sent out a news release that said Alberta’s surplus was really a $302-million deficit, but who even gets their releases, let alone reads them? And the Wildrosers pegged the deficit at about $2 billion. Same story.

Anyway, Ole Doug’s got more sets of books than an all-night trucker dodging the Idaho State Police Highway Patrol outside of Pocatello, so nobody knows what the hell’s going on. I think even Doug and Dave are pretty confused nowadays, so you can imagine how the Opposition feels! But by the time Wednesday rolls around, the only thing Albertans are going to remember is “surplus of $775 million.”

So I am pretty certain that both Steve and Dave would want you to have so much fun today that you don’t even remember your own name or where you live when you wake up on Wednesday … or Thursday, or whenever.

Fill your boots, Canadians! You deserve it!

Happy Canada Day! We are Canadian! Your country is in good hands.

Perfesser Dave’s Canada Day blog also appears on Rabble.ca.