Monday, July 06, 2009

Truth in Property Taxes

Here's nifty one from the NY Times.... apparently US property owners are appealing their assessments in record numbers - an interesting ripple from the housing bust.

As a result, counties and states are seeing increase in their costs, as residents start ask for some truth in property assessment and appealing their taxes... Indeed, the article does point to one individual who as been forced to sell her antiques to pay the costs.

Though its hard to feel the same sympathy for some one who's hoiuse was assessed at $1.8M, but which is listed for $1.3M (and won't sell) - you can kind of feel her pain when she explains her property taxes at $53K a year.

Well, I can't really feel her pain, but I can imagine what it's like... of course, I also would also like to feel that pain while living in her house, but I digress.

The thing about people with $1.3M homes is they generally have the motivation - and the means - to appeal these assessments. And there are more of them than there used to be. And this will mean local governments diverting more resources to deal with appeals than before.

Meanwhile, those of us with $100K assessments will have to tighten our belts while the big assessments get appealed (diverting money from government services), get re-assessed (diverting money from government services) and finally assessed down (diverting even money from government services).

Nonetheless, when I look at my own property tax assessment, and try to figure out what it is based on, I have to scratch my head. It might be time for some transparency and truth in property assessments, on both sides of the border.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Drinking poison in my tea

The nastiest political insults... quite tame by any standard, but interestingly, all from conservatives.. find them here.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Shuffling staff

Harper's unique approach to staffing ministers' office is taking another interesting twist, so reports the Hill Times.

Apparently, PMO is now considering not simply shuffling ministers, but staff as well. And some of the staff are unhappy about this.

Looking back, I am not entirely certain how I might have reacted to that. On the one hand, even exempt staff are paid by the CRF, but on the other, not everyone reports or is accountable to the Prime Minister.

It's this notion of 'report' and 'accounability' that are fundamental. In simple terms, executives in any organisation delegate hiring (and firing) to managers. It means staff report to managers and managers report to executives. It saves the executive from getting stuck in day-to-day issues, and allows them to focus on the strategic vision and execution.

I am not certain the new model in Canada new government is such a good idea. While I am certain it appeals to the control monkeys who currently swing from the branches in the Langevin Building, it is a recipe for short term blame for longterm pain.

The pain will come from a number of sources. First, their own cabinet.

Imagine a job where everything you did had the potential to wind up in the news, in front of your friends and your family. And imagine that in your last job, you had likely been quite successful. And imagine to get that job, you had to get through a 36 day job interview with 40,000 shareholders who retain the right to fire you in public every few years.

Next, imagine for this big job, the first thing they tell you is that you don't get to hire anyone who will work for you, support you and protect you. In fact, you staff will owe their own loyalty to your boss, not you.

Would you leave whatever successful career you had to take that job? Would you have any faith in the people on your staff?

The second bit of pain will come from staff. Already, the Tories have had trouble filling positions as anyone with a career is concerned about post-employment restricitictions.

Those who are already there know that after politics, the crime of running a hot dog stand outside a government buiding would result in 300 hundred years of hard labour unde the Federal Accountability Act; now they aren't sure who they work for...

If I were in the Harper PMO, I might focus on morale... and when I did, I might try using a feather instead of a whip.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Perez hilton vs


The allegation is that Will.IAm of the Black Eyed Peas assaulted Perez Hilton outside a club on saturday night.

I will spare folks the blow-by-blow, but essentially Willy felt Perez was being a disrespectful blogger by not liking Fergie's latest single.

Perry, for his part, admits to antagonizing Willy to the point where he knew Willy would be... upset. Then, according to Perry, Willy's manager, clocked Perry. At this point, Perry did what any victim of violence would do.

He twittered.

Oh and then, he called the police. Toronto's finest from Division 52 responded.

Now the part worth blogging.

Watch this and this.

The two combattants have lauched a video battle, not only competing to provide their side of the story, but seemingly also to see who is the wierdest of the two in what sounds like a primary-school shoving match gone awry.

In fact, it's kind of like a backdrop to Grease without the good music, acting and plot.

Just plain odd.

Nortel - Hard to understand (or how Stephen Harper stands up for Finland.)

It's official, Nortel is done.

The Canadian tech giant has fallen, and its final gasp it balked on severance to laid-off employees and cut pensions. The shares will be de-listed, and as result, shareholders - many of whom are former employees - are unlikely to recieve a penny... but... luckily the company had $45M in loose change to ensure bonuses were paid to the executive team (one can only hope this was cash...and by cash, I mean cash, not cheques... direct deposit would be even better).

Successive executive teams have been a challenge for the company, and it was difficult to understand the CEO - who has declined any bonus beyond his $1.2M salary - who noted the bonuses were there to keep valuable employees and retain value.

Nonetheless, the hardest part to understand, was the federal government's refusal to provide loan guarrantees to the company beyond the $30M offered by EDC. If management was the problem, why not ask "WWOD?" (What Would Obama Do)

When Obama didn't like the management at a certain car company... poof - new CEO.

Still, only $30M appears to have been put on the table, and the Minister of Industry noted there were now other flagship technology entreprises in Canada, such as RIM... and Research in Motion.... and, uh, RIM. Oh, and also MITEL. Did we mention RIM?

Of course, as the Globe notes, the research investments alone from Nortel were about $1.8B a year (while RIM spends about $254M a year.) Research spending in Canada sit at about $34B a year but of that number, Canada already has among the lowest business investment in research ratios in the OECD and G7. It will likely go lower.

But the really, really, hard part to understand, was that in spite of the sizeable investment Nortel was making in Canada, the feds - who were only willing to offer $30M in short term loans to the Canadian company - have announced they will provide $300M in loan guarrantees to Nokia-Seimens to purchase $650M worth of Nortel....

In short, the feds won't help a Canadian company in trouble, but they will backstop a foriegn company to buy a Canadian company and subsidize another corporate headquarter move to outside Canada.

And before anynoe suggests the business is outdated, doomed to fail, and part of a dissappearing economy, I have two words: General Motors.

Stephen Harper, standing up for Finland.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Monday, June 15, 2009

An alternative to a summer election

The Liberals should go now. Why?

Because they have no other choice.

And here is why:

1. The NDP /BQ will lose seats to the Libs if an election were called today.

2. The NDP/BQ will continue to deal with issues of an election like your neighbours teenagers deal with their parent's getaway to the Barbados every year...

3. If Harper holds on this week, Parliament will rise in June and return in September.

In September, the government will schedule the fall session's opposition days, don't be too surprised if they are all coincidentally in December. As a result, its becomes quite difficult to topple the government until Christmas. And if the Libs do force a Christmas election, we could well be on husting during the Olympics. And if not Christmas and the Olympics, then during G8.... and if not then... well, the snow is melting and we are into the summer of 2010.

The alternative?

Vote with the government on the confidence motion, and demand an opposition day at the end of every month next fall.

Otherwise, I think we can safely let Minister Prentice start to measure the drapes at 24 Sussex and book his move for next summer.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Stanfield Briefs

So we re-named the Halifax Airport for Robert Stanfield.

I guess it's hard to find Conservatives who actually became Prime Minister to name stuff after...
but i guess its fair.

Nonetheless, I understand the Vancouver Airport Authority has blocked calls from PMO....

Thursday, November 23, 2006

PMO server hacked - offers of low-rate mortgages for the press corp

Hat tip to the Paper Boy who reported that Spammers had hacked into the PMO listerv with the following result...

Friday, November 17, 2006

Salon's sexiest man alive - Colbert the blogging tory?

I am so impressed.

A friend just called to tell me the dude from the Colbert Report has been selected as Salon Magazine's Sexiest Man Alive.

Indeed, the folks at Salon said "Tired of that array of pretty boys, we came up with a list of guys who really rattle our chains."

Given the inherent discrimination agains pretty boys, I now accept that I could never have won.

Congratulations to Mr. Colbert.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

When progressives split the vote: O'Brien wins Ottawa Mayoral election

Ottawa falls to long-time conservative and early supporter of Reform Party and Canadian Alliance, Larry O'Brien.

Early in the race, Terry Kilrea, fellow right-wing nutbar, abandoned his mayoral bid, and ran for council in Bay Ward, against lefty nutbar, Alex Cullen.

Kilrea was clear to state that pressure from the O'Brien campaign had nothing to do with his decision. Kilrea also stated that he was unsure why most Canadians did not believe in the Easter Bunny.

With the road clear of competitors for the right-wing vote, O'Brien moved steadily past progressive canadidates, Bob Chiarelli and Alex Munter, who were unable to convince the other not to run, and subsequently split the vote ensuring neither of them became the mayor.

In the end, results were client clear. Another minority win for the Ottawa Conservative machine.

Except in Bay Ward, where Alex Cullen with no other lefty nutbar draining votes, soundly trounced Terry Kilrea.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Bob Rae: The speech I'd like to hear...

Winnipeg Grit has a nasty little run at Bob Rae and his economic record today, a preview of what my Tory friends suggest their attack ads will look like.

It's fair comment. I lived through the Rae years in Ontario, and it was not a picnic. But let's remember it wasn't a picnic anywhere. It was a freaking mess.

But I am not sure it was all Bob's fault.

So here is the speech I'd like to hear from Bob Rae, if or when that fateful day comes.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

My fellow Canadians, there has been a lot said about my years as the Premier of Ontario. And I admit, they were difficult economic times.

They were difficult across the country, and frankly, around the globe.

Under my administration, Ontario's deficit grew.

It grew, just like it grew under the previous administrations - Conservative and Liberal - as we struggled to deal with the reprecussions of a global recession and ridiculous high-interest rate policy driven by the current Prime Minister's Conservative predecessor, Brian Mulroney.

You may say, 'that's ancient history' - and that may be true. But if I am to be accountable for my actions in the my first term almost 20 years ago, then let every be held to the same standard.

It was the worst recession since the Great Depression, and I will admit that mistakes were made.

At the time, I did what every other Premier did, I tried to stimulate growth by increasing spending.

I did not, however, do with with same resolve as my Federal Conservative colleagues who managed to drive the deficit to nearly $40 billion.

Even my government wasn't able to pull that off.

And I did not turn a $5 billion surplus - during one of the biggest economic booms in Ontario's history - into a $2 billion deficit.

If I'd done that, I wouldn't be running for Prime Minister, I would be Stephen Harper's Finance Minister - Jim Flaherty.

I did not cut provincial income taxes for Ontario residents and then demand Ottawa not adjust transfer payments - essentially arguing that those same Ontario taxpayers should hand over the cash as federal income taxes.

When I Ontario did get extra money for Healthcare, I did not spend the money on lawn mowers.

If I had, I'd be Stephen Harper's Health Minister, Tony Clement.

And at no time have I ever advocated that Ontario build a 'firewall' to cut off the province from the rest of Canada.

If I'd done that, I'd be the leader of the Conservative Party, Stephen Harper.

If we want to debate our collective record since the mid-80's bring it on, I say.

But it might be wiser to simply accept that we have all - as Mr. Harper likes to say - evolved, and try to debate our vision for the future.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Ralph off the wagon, again...

Instead wandering through another homeless shelter three-sheets-to-the-wind, I see the soon-to-be former Premier of my homeland managed to fire-0ff yet another bonehead comment on his painfully long way out the door.

At a "roast" last night, Little Lord Ralph opened his yap to slag Belinda. Not about any specific policy issue, political stance, or substantive disagreement, but about the fact that she jilted both the Conservative party and her then boyfriend, Foreign Minister, Peter McKay.

This is the same Ralph who was so upset about untoward comments directed at his wife, earlier this year.

Get over it.

Over the years, I dumped girlfriends and got dumped.

We all did.

It really doesn't keep me up at night.

Move on and grow up....

....Your kids are watching this.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The $20 billion Tory lie

Let's be clear here.

Changing the rules on Income Trusts out of the blue was not what Harper promised.

Quite the opposite.

Indeed, over at HarperBizzaro, you can read word for word what Tories had to say about this in opposition.

Today, Flaherty is arguing that it needed to be done, that too many trusts would threaten the balance between the proportion of taxes corporations pay (about 30% of national revenue) and the proportion individuals pay (about 60%, with the GST covering the remaining 10%).

That may be true.

But what didn't need to be done, was lying about it.

The policy may or may not have been the right decision.

Whatever the fiscal ins and outs of this, millions of Canadians invested their retirement funds, their savings for the their first home, and the money the scraped up to put aside for their children's education, into the stock market and mutual funds.

When they made those investments, they knew the stock market involves risk.

But Tories had been clear on not raising taxes, or messing with the status of income trusts - lying Tories was not part of the risk.

But they did lie.

And when Boards of Directors and CEO's lie to their investors, they get sued, fired, booted off the board and go to jail. Ask Kenneth Lay. Ask Jeffrey Skilling.

Changes in the income trust rules didn't cost anything, lying about them did.

The Tory lie cost Canadians about $20 billion.

What's the betting no one goes to jail?

Monday, October 30, 2006

Will it be another sponsorship scandal?

This arrived in my mailbox this morning:

Media Advisory

OTTAWA - The 2006-2007 Supplementary Estimates (A) will be tabled in Parliament on Monday, October 30, 2006 at approximately 3:00 p.m. There will be a technical briefing with officials from the Treasury Board Secretariat to provide journalists with an overview of the Estimates process.

Normally, pretty boring stuff. However, you might remember this:

"Members often admitted—sometimes with regret—that they did not pay much attention to the Estimates, that they had only a weak idea of what level of resources was expended to achieve program results, and [that] they did not know what financial instruments departments use to achieve their assigned results. In the series of incidents over the last few years (Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC) contributions program, gun control, Sponsorship), a number of MPs apportioned at least some “contextual” blame to inadequate parliamentary oversight of program expenditures. "

"Each year, some 87 departments and other government organizations provide parliamentary committees with separate spending estimates and related reports, and many of these receive no formal attention in committee meetings. And when meetings occur, they are typically dominated by partisan exchanges with ministers that shed minimal light on the estimates. Consideration of the supplementary estimates, which allow departments to obtain additional funding at specified intervals during the year, has been even less satisfactory. With only a few exceptions, committees regularly fail to examine them at all."

Let's hope the kids we elect read the estimates this year. It might be the most important thing that they can do to avoid another screw-up.

It's what we pay them to do.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Iggy and LPC-Q: Running with scissors....

How can I best describe this?

Bad idea jeans?

Don't play with matches?

Apparently with the support of the Ignatieff campaign, the Quebec wing of the Liberal party feels that the LPC needs to recognize Quebec as 'une nation' and the existence of the desequilibre fiscal.

I've put 'nation' entre guillments, and in italics, because it doesn't mean the same thing in English as it does in French.

The desquilibre fiscal thing means exactly the same thing in English as it does in French. We want more money. I'm not sure why I put it in italics.

But let's deal with 'nation' vs nation.

En anglais, a nation is commonly used as a synonym for an autonomous political entity, like a country. Which is why an awful lot of anglophones go loopy every time they hear some suggest that Quebec is a nation.

Une nation a group of individuals who share cultural links which define them a community. These links might be language, a common history, values etc. Thus, some would argue that le Quebec est une nation, a l'interieure du Canada.

Of course, I haven't heard the last four words linked with the first four words very often.

But that really is a side point, because to deny la province is une nation is to drive an awful lot of Quebecers absolutely loopy. In fact, they start to look like anglophones who have just heard some suggest that Quebec is nation.

Now, I'll bet this is starting to sound an awful lot like distinct society.

I have to say, I have a lot of trouble telling the two apart myself.

A good number of us who live inside and outside of Quebec shake our heads and realize how incredibly disconnected that the political class of Quebec is from the Tim Horton's reality where 99% Canadians live, regardless of language or geography.

Most of us are trying to get through school, pay the mortgage, figure out who will win the Stanley Cup, watching and understand what really is going on Lost.

Et on s'encrisse si nous sommes une nation, ou bien, un gros donught.... Apparently LPC-Q didn't get the memo.

But distinct society was almost 20 years ago. 20 years ago Culture Club and David Emerson still had a chance a promising career. Pierre Trudeau was still having kids. Harold Ballard still owned the Leafs. S tephen Harper was trying to destroy the Conservative Party, and Bob Rae was trying to figure out how to get re-elected.

Today, Boy George and Bob Rae might still have a chance, but otherwise times have changed.

We've all matured a little bit, or so I'd like to think. Unfortunately, as much as I think mes confreres carres hors du Quebec have little interest or knowledge of the linguistic subtleties of nation vs nation, j'en suis tres sur que mon chum Mikey Ignatieff le sait tres bien.

Which, quite frankly, leaves me a bit ticked at Mr. Ignatieff and his campaign team who just about flat outed admitted in this morning's Grope & Flail that they were trying to distract people away from his mid-east peace initiative.

Iggy appears to have missed the last 20 years of Canadian politics and the divisive debates about distinct society, the referendum, and blah, blah, blah... I am not sure that this will play out as the card that shows he has the political acumen so absent in the last few weeks.

Don't mess around, this is fate of the nation kind of stuff...

* * * * * * * * * *
UPDATE: Buddy at the Waters Edge has nifty post on the motion passed at LPC-Q which is well worth the read.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Surprise: Tory pollsters backs Baird on LRT decision

For those of you who don't follow the Ottawa Mayoral race, TB President John Baird put funding for Ottawa's Light Rail Transit proposal on hold a couple of weeks ago until after the election.

Baird denies that this has anything to do with current Mayor Bob Chiarelli (and former Liberal MPP) support of the project, nor John Baird's admitted Conservative affiliation, nor mayoral candidate (and conservative donor) Larry O'Brien's opposition to the project.

I am certain this is all true.

And a new poll featured in the Ottawa Citizen from the Holinshed Research Group indicates that though most Ottawa residents agree that John Baird was interfering in the election (a charge Baird denies), 49% agree with Baird's demand that the project be ratified by the new council.

The Citizen contained no information on who funded the poll, it is mysteriously absent from the Holinshed web page.

And oddly, I'd never hear of the Holinshed Group, but they are currently hiring.

If you're interested, it's worth a look.

And if you worked in the Conservative Opposition Research Bureau in the mid- to late-nineties, you'll know the president, Frank Hall.

Networking is always key, no matter what you do...

Friday, October 13, 2006


"Basically, there is no Clean Air Act. There are some amendments to CEPA, but it doesn't provide any new power of authority to the federal government," Hazell said.

Enviro groups obtained a copy of the proposed Hot Air Act in August, but sat on it hoping the government might improve it. Today, they lost patience, and leaked it to the media.

The results will impress no one.

"We'll be tabling the Clean Air Act next week, and we think it's prudent for everyone to wait when the act is tabled and review it then," Shannon Haggerty, of Ambrose's office, told

Which is code for: "Uh, darn, they've got the real bill..."

One of the clear signs of a government in trouble is when the civil servants start leaking key documents... stay tuned, more to come....

Emerson on his way out?

From CP wire:

VANCOUVER (CP) _ Federal Trade Minister David Emerson is hinting at a return to the business world after a rocky run at politics that has seen him defect from the Liberals to the Tories.

On Thursday, Emerson said he has not decided whether he will run for re-election, departing from previous commitments to seek another term as a Tory.

Asked about a return to the corporate world, Emerson said: ``Wouldn't mind.''

I guess the reality of trying to win a seat again is sinking in.

Let's hope he's better at business than he is at politics.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

On being anti-Isreali

This is consistent with the anti-Israeli position that has been taken by virtually all of the candidates for the Liberal leadership.

Stephen Harper, Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada

Putting aside wisdom of Iggy Pop-Tartief's latest gaffe, there are a lot of things about this statement that should concern people.

First, it's simply not true. Ignatieff's statement on Tout le monde en parle was a strong criticism of Israel, certainly the strongest to date. He did not, and has not, ever questioned the existence of the state of Israel.

Ignatieff, rightly or wrongly, criticized Israel's conduct in the invasion of another soveriegn state. And to criticize a country is not to question its existence, it is to oppose an action or a policy.

Suggesting Ignatieff is anti-Isreal is as silly as suggesting Stephen Harper is anti-American because he feels that the US should come clean on Maher Arar or because he opposes softwood duties.

It is as stupid as suggesting that Stephen Harper is anti-Lebanese for supporting Israel's invasion of Lebanon.

And it smacks of another conservative smear-monger, Joe McCarthy, who used the same ultra-nationalist technique to attempt to silence his opponents.

Moreover, Ignatieff's comments are not in-line with other leadership candidates who have all clearly supported Israel's position in the invasion of Lebanon, while calling for restraint.

And once again, Harper's statement shows he is willing to use the war in Lebanon for his own political advantage. At every opportunity, he has used the war to divide Canadians in a pathetic search for that elusive bump at the ballot box.

That meaness is truly disturbing - it takes a special kind of heartless, callous politics to use the loss of life in two countries caught between the latest Islamofascist gang for a little boost in the polls.

But that is Stephen Harper.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Study shows Daly Show is legitimate news

A University of Indiana study has concluded that Jon Stewart's Daily Show is as legitimate a news source as the mainstream networks.

In spite of Stewart's well-publicized claims to the contrary, an analysis conducted of the 2004 national political conventions and the first presidential debate by the networks and Stewart's program showed the Daily Show provided as much substance as the Nets, according to author, Assistant Professor, Julia Fox, who also stated:

"... the broadcast network news stories about the presidential election were significantly shorter, on average, than were The Daily Show with Jon Stewart stories..."

What do I think is the most interesting part of the study?

I can legitimately state that Fox thinks Jon Stewart has as much substance as anyone else.

Now if only some one could show Rick Mercer was as credible as the National Post...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Tory friends line up at the trough

PolitcsWatch provides an interesting list of Conservative appointees in recent months, forgetting only two:

Barbara McDougall's appointment as the Chief Federal Negotiator at Caledonia and Gilles Bernier's trip to the Francophonie.

Ah, it's good to be the King... but the King of what?

Friday, September 29, 2006

Taxpayers send Bernier's Dad to Summit

Apparently it's Father-Son day at the Francophonie Summit? Or maybe Bring your Parent's to the Office day, it's not really clear.

What is clear is that the Montreal Gazette is reporting that Maxime Bernier's father, Mulroney-era cabinet Minister Gilles Bernier is attending the sommet courtesy of your taxes and mine.

Papa Bernier's qualifications? He's Chairman of the Board of the FORUM FRANCOPHONE DES AFFAIRES. It's a reputable organisation which does some excellent business development work. He certainly should be at the Francophone Summit as are several members of the board of the FFA

But why at taxpayer's expense?

According to the Gazette:

Ghislain Maltais, chairman of the Forum's board and himself a key organizer for Conservative Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon in the last election, said Bernier was invited to be part of the delegation by Prime Minister Stephen arper's office. Consequently, the government took Bernier along on the prime minister's plane and is paying Bernier's expenses _something the cash-strapped group could not have done, said Maltais....

....Among the other Forum board members attending is Denis Robichaud, vice-president of the group and an organizer for Maxime Bernier in the last election.

Hang on is this a riding association meeting, a family reunion or an international summit?

But don't worry, everyone else at the FFA are paying their own way, it is a 'cash-strapped' organisation.

I guess they didn't get an invite from Stephen Harper.

Good to see my tax dollars hard at work.