Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Canadian Election Debates Focus on Economic, NOT Green Dimensions of Energy Security; U.S. Leaders Must Also 'Put Country First'


Harper and his Conservatives have best shot

By Diane Francis

Canadian Financial Post

September 05, 2008

Looks like Canadians will be voting in the middle of the noisy, fascinating American election. The timing for Canada's Conservative Party couldn't be better.

The advantage is because the rumpus south of the border will focus on two main issues: America’s economic problems (articulated by Democrats) and the need for energy security of supply (vocalized by both Democrats and Republicans).

For Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Tories this is good news: They can fairly say Canada’s economy is okay, thank you very much, and that this is mostly due to our boom in energy and commodities production out west which has spread across the country in the form of manufacturing outputs, higher farm prices and brawn power.

Is this enough to give a majority to Harper who, with the exception of the stupid income trust move, has done a credible job?It's possible but a Tory majority is only possible if they sweep the west and pick up a bunch of the seats where they second-placed in Quebec. Charest is a buddy of Harper’s and has gained in popularity there which may bode well.

Meanwhile, [Federal Liberal leader Stephane] Dion is totally out of sync with the U.S. election situation, the geopolitical realities and the economy’s fragile performance.

West should be best

Besides that, nothing and no one will, or should, stop development of Alberta’s massive oil sands or the boom in the mining sector across Canada.

Here's what is in store for the resource sector in Canada: The next President of the U.S., from either party, will finally agree, after 25 years of dickering, to subsidizing the Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline. This will lead to construction of Canada’s Mackenzie Line or the blending of the two by linking the gas fields at the top of the world, come-what-may.Fixing the environment is only possible through global diplomacy and technological advance.

Dion’s Green Shift is political suicide: it imposes an untried and questionable carbon tax on businesses, farmers and manufacturers across the country as well as Western Canada’s energy industry.

The environment is a critical issue, but the GreenShift centerpiece also flunks because it will transgress existing international agreements. (This is always a good idea for Canada and its workers who are more dependent upon trade than any others in the world.)

Back to academia for Dion appears to be a nice, bright fellow but his tenure as Liberal leader has taught him little about elections and less about politics. Instead of attacking the Harper record, and there are a few vulnerabilities, he is behaving like an incumbent and now finds himself defending a sweeping policy change which is unproven anywhere.

Politics 101 is that government lose elections. They don’t win them.

The Liberals have been back-biting in committees, disrupting governance, without much success. By so doing, they have asked for an election they are poorly positioned to wage. Of course, Dion’s “henchmen”, who haven't set him straight, happen to be his arch rivals like Michael Ignatieff, a foreign academic whose blog support about the GreenShift is embarrassing and should be required reading, and NDPer Bob Rae, now a Liberal of convenience. Both wouldn’t mind Dion flopping so they can try and replace him as leader.

All Hail Harper

As for the environment, Harper has in place his smartest and most talented cabinet minister – John Baird. And the Tories have been well-advised to push the Green Party’s participation in the upcoming debates to spoil and split the Grit and NDP vote.Canadian business voters, and those concerned about geopolitics as well as about Canada continuing to cash in on its unique competitive advantages at this point in time, have no choice but to vote Tory.

My guess is that the Harper government will be returned by voters, but fall short of a majority.-


Greens shut out of leaders' debate

Juliet O’Neill, Andrew Mayeda and Nicole Baer, Canwest News Service

September 08, 2008

The Greens' Elizabeth May has been excluded from participating in the federal leaders' debates, the media consortium that organizes the event announced Monday.

Three parties opposed the Greens inclusion in the debate, the consortium said in a news release, "and it became clear that if the Green party were included, there would be no leaders' debates." The consortium did not specify which parties -- out of the Conservatives, the New Democratic Party, the Liberals and the Bloc Quebecois -- opposed May's inclusion in the debates.

"In the interest of Canadians, the consortium has determined that it is better to broadcast the debates with the four major party leaders, rather than not at all," the release said.


The Greens say their position to be included in the debates was bolstered late last month when they snagged their first sitting MP, and the consortium's move could provoke the party to take the matter to the courts. Green lawyer Peter Rosenthal last week said if May is not included, the party could seek a judicial review of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission and its "failure to ensure equity during political broadcasting."

The first national debate will be held in French in Ottawa on Oct. 1, with the English-language debate to follow the next evening.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper was asked his opinion on the matter on Monday at a campaign event in Richmond, B.C., and said he would withhold judgment on the consortium's decision until it was released.

He did say, however, it would be "unfair in principle" to allow May to participate because he characterized her as a Liberal candidate.

"Elizabeth May is not an opponent of Stephane Dion, she is his candidate in [the Nova Scotia riding of] Central Nova and I think it would be fundamentally unfair to have two candidates, who are essentially running on the same platform, in the same debate," said Harper.


Also in Richmond, a Vancouver suburb, Harper slammed the opposition parties for positions he said are not friendly to families.

And in a reversal of the charge often leveled against him, he accused the opposition of having a "not-so hidden agenda" to increase taxes and spending -- that includes hiking the GST back up after the Tories reduced it by two percentage points, and cancelling the universal child-care benefit.

"In this election, we will campaign on sensible, balanced and affordable promises," Harper told reporters. "We cannot -- and we will not -- get into a bidding war with the opposition. That is a fundamental choice in this campaign: Do we stay the course or do we go back to an agenda of tax and spend?"

Harper pointed to a range of policies introduced by his Conservative government over the past two years he said improve the well-being and financial security of families. These include income tax cuts, a $100-a-month benefit for parents of children under age six, and a new tax-free savings account that will come into force in January.

His comments followed a photo opportunity at the kitchen table of a young Chinese-Canadian family.

Moreover, he alleged, Dion's signature Green Shift plan would burden Canadians further with an added carbon tax -- "a tax on top of all the other taxes" that governments impose.

Dion, however, angrily denied the assertions, telling reporters at a rally in the Montreal-area riding of St-Lambert that the Harper Conservatives "should not try to win an election by lying."
"They are piling lies on lies. Canadians will never accept that. It's not a way to have an election."
Dion argued, the Liberal Green Shift plan would improve the lives of Canadian families. It would raise $15 billion through new taxes on carbon-based fuel such as coal, diesel fuel, and jet fuel, but not on gasoline, and apply the revenues to income tax cuts and programs to encourage clean energy and conservation.


Meanwhile, in Fort Smith, N.W.T., NDP Leader Jack Layton had his campaign plane fly 1,500 metres above Western Canada's oilsands region to show Canadians one of the first things he would change as prime minister.

"I'm sure Harper would prefer that most Canadians didn't know what was going on here," Layton told reporters.

Mining activities and toxic tailing ponds in the oilsands occupy a large area in the region, which stretches from northern Alberta to the territories.

With files from Ben O'Hara-Byrne, Global National

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