Girls, Guergis, Guns & Armageddon

UPDATED BELOW

Marci McDonald’s 2006 article in The Walrus, Stephen Harper and the Theo-cons, gave us the first systematic analysis of the hidden Christian fundamentalist agenda of Stephen Harper’s goals for Canada – the establishment of the conditions necessary for the Second Coming of you-know-who.  Who knows if Harper is such a fantastical fool that he really believes in all that anti-evolutionary, anti-woman, anti-gay, pro-Israel STFUness.  What matters is that a bunch of nutbars has such power in the corridors of Canadian political power.

Harper has cemented a partnership with people who have become astonishingly powerful in the US and whose religious ideology nicely parallels social conservatism.  Harper is known to be a fiscal conservative, but has needed the support of old-style Progressive Conservatives who haven’t necessarily had the ability to attract the support of the far right wing – if they had, they wouldn’t have lost their Party.  Each time Harper throws an anti-gay, anti-choice, pro-Israel, law and order dog biscuit to this crowd he wins votes that would not necessarily fall into his lap via fiscal conservatism alone.

Is all this becoming more clear to Canadians?

Antonia Zerbisias’ interview with McDonald, now the author of a book on these issues – The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada  – provides us with a startling (to some people) collection of issues that have come to the fore of late that certainly substantiate the writer’s painstaking research, from the cancellation of Paul Martin’s national daycare programme to the introduction of  private members’ bills that would limit women’s free reproductive choice to Harper and company’s otherwise inexplicably over-the-top support of Israeli policy towards Palestine and general opposition to same-sex marriage.

That’s a cartload of issues and each one deserves it’s own discussion.  I’m going to have a brief look at how acceptance of the Fundy Formula effects women or, for the sake of the almost alliteration – teh girls – and how “liberals” have failed to appreciate the significance of CON policy and legislation.

From the outset women and women’s advocacy groups have had no difficulty apprehending HarperCON’s anti-woman agenda.  As McDonald points out, he began with the cancellation of a national daycare programme, moved on to a systematic assault on women’s equality-seeking groups and from there to defunding NGOs with specific focusses on providing reproductive services to women in developing countries and anti-violence initiatives.  He has also engaged in a vicious public assault on his former Minister for the Status of Women, Helena Guergis, whose portfolio had been all but disabled anyway.

These issues share many common characteristics and some that are not so obvious.  For instance, though most of us here understand quite well that the lack of a national daycare programme hurts not only the children of Canada but also women who are still their primary caretakers, we were probably less aware that, as McDonald points out, Harper “was also pandering to social conservatives who don’t believe that the government should have any role in child-rearing, who believe that mothers should be at home bringing up their children or who send their children to religious daycares and schools.”

Speaking for myself, I got the “women at home” aspect but missed the part about the children of working mothers placed in religious daycares and schools and the concomitant threat to public education.  As McDonald concludes:

 It was one of those policies that cut across both of his constituencies, economic and social. That would characterize most of his policies.

But McDonald misses something – that the struggle for a national daycare programme is something that not even Liberals will take to the wall – making it much too easy for Harper to hand out gifts to his social conservative base.  Maybe libs and lefties will take daycare if they can get it but it’s certainly nothing to bring down a minority government over.  Few issues that are perceived to be or actually are those that effect primarily teh girls are that important.  Or none.  In fact, when these issues are raised what I hear most often from the libs and even the left, such as it is, is that these issues are “distractions”, diversions from primary purposes, that they might be worth a few jabs in question period and an opportunistic media punchline here or there, but they are really window-dressing issues, dog bones thrown out or removed with little political, social or economic meaning beyond the moment.

For instance.  When the cabal reconvened after prorogation, Harper threw one of his bright shiny things into the Throne Speech, promising to make our national anthem “gender neutral”.  Quite apart from the discussions about what that would take and the general hue and cry about history and national treasures, what interested me was the response from the centre and the left along the lines that language doesn’t matter, sons are “generic” and Harper is just trying to trick you stupid broads into accepting this bright shiny thing as if it’s something real.  Down the toilet went the respectable and now historical feminist argument that yes, language does matter and under the bus, ground into the ruts, went teh girls.  Of course Harper had no trouble dumping the proposal and looked like he was responding to the outrage from social conservatives and liberals all in one fell swoop.  How nice for him.

I’m beginning to see a similar modus in operation with respect to Helena Guergis.  She’s a young, childless woman married to a brown man in political difficulty (even though he’s no longer in office) who “managed” a portfolio that men, conservative and otherwise, don’t care much about.  She wasn’t and isn’t worth much to anybody it seems.  Any attempt to point out the rampant sexism of the attack on Guergis result in shouts from the left that Guergis is a loose cannon, mythically and powerfully destructive and possibly a blondly stupid disaster with whom we should not concern ourselves one teensy bit.  STFU girls.

I was never a Guergis supporter.  But did she ever have any supporters?  And is there a liberal or left dude that gives an elderberry fart about what happens to women in politics?

It’s also been clear in the past that the abolition of Canada’s long-gun registry is an issue used as a political football by left, right and centre in attempts to prevent the alienation of “rural voters”, all of whom are assumed to be men.  Both Michael Ignatieff and Jack Layton failed to whip their parties before the vote on the abolition bill in the last session of Parliament, resulting in an easy “yea” result for the legislation.  It remains mighty unclear that anything has changed this time ’round, despite Ignatieff’s attempts to revise the legislation.  Will Jack Layton whip?  Who the hell knows.  So it’s not only girls under the bus on this one, it’s dead girls under the bus.

As for the progressive defunding of women’s equality-seeking groups and NGOs, Ignatieff is perfectly content to use this issue as a political chip – but where the f**k has he been for the last four years while it was happening?  Where was he in December 2009 and early 2010 when a Liberal/NDP coalition would have brought down this anti-democratic, anti-woman, homophobic, pro-Israel and the Rapture government and, for instance, its attempted assault on pay equity?  As for the Libs failed attempt to underscore the reproductive rights of women with their Parliamentary motion?  I actually will stfu on that one.

Women have allowed themselves to be used thus for too long, hoping to get bigger prizes in the end.  Or perhaps any prize at all.  I’m beginning to hear heartening rumbles from girlfriend-land that none of these hopeless pols ought to rest comfortably in the beds their wives and girlfriends have made for so long, and so patiently.

The Theocons so well described by Marci McDonald are the focus of renewed realizations, discussions and organizing among awakening and already fully conscious women – and a few pro-feminist men.  Take care liberal and left doodz.  Move out of the crosshairs of that metaphorical but very well-aimed long-gun.

 

UPDATE:

HarperCON whines

“Last night’s dominant CBC story … featured an attack on the religious affiliation of some government members and supporters,” the Tory missive says. “Apparently, the CBC thinks it newsworthy that some Conservative Ministers and MPs practice their faith. Even more scandalous, some members of the Prime Minister’s Office go to church!”

Pale is peeved.

And on the Helena Guergis story, there’s this from the PI who started it all:

“I have nothing — I have no evidence, or no information, with respect to the conduct of Ms. Guergis in my possession or knowledge,” he stated.

Instead, he said the mere threat of bad optics, coming after a string of embarrassing gaffes by Guergis, may have been enough to force Harper’s hand.

“This is an issue of optics,” Snowdy said.

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More Anti-Rogueness

Constitutional law professor Errol Mendes at The Star:

This behaviour [the prorogation] by the Prime Minister is another piece of evidence of a major shift in Canadian constitutional democracy taking shape. First, there is the unconstitutional behaviour of the Harper government to deny the committee uncensored documents despite a motion of the House of Commons. Second, there is the boycott of the committee by the Conservative MPs at the committee. Third, we have seen the sandbagging of the Military Police Complaints Commission and the “yanking” of its chair, Peter Tinsley. This commission, a quasi-judicial tribunal has been stymied in its attempt to determine the truth over the detainee transfer issue. Finally, there is the unprecedented slamming of Richard Colvin for just doing his job of speaking truth to power and then accusing anybody who supports him of either being Taliban dupes or undermining our brave Canadian military heroes.

These are serious examples of abuse of executive power over Parliament, the Governor General, the public service and ultimately the Canadian voters who elected MPs to make Parliament work.

. . .

Some Canadians may not pay much attention to archaic constitutional terms such as prorogation of Parliament or even to the fate of Afghan detainees transferred to torture. Other Canadians will care greatly about both these issues. But all Canadians must care about a minority government that undermines the fundamental democratic institutions of this country while also manipulating quasi-judicial tribunals and intimidating the public service from speaking truth to power. This abuse of executive power is tilting toward totalitarian government and away from the foundations of democracy and the rule of law on which this country was founded.  [you can have more]

A bit more at The Star:

“What this is is a continuation of a very authoritarian approach to government by the current prime minister … this particular prime minister does not want to govern in an accountable democratic manner. It is extremely dangerous,” [constitutional law professor Peter] Russell told the Star.  [there is more]

[links via impolitical]

Dawg on Michael Ignatieff’s less than rousing response to the prorogation:

Leaders are supposed to lead, dammit. This empty suit has been asking for input almost since his coronation. Doesn’t he have any ideas of his own by now? Any gut reactions? Any strategy? Any vision? Any passion, for crying out loud?

I’m not even a Liberal, and I’m yearning to hear something real, just for once, come from this man’s mouth.  [always more and always worth it!]

ANTI-ROGUE UPPIDY DATE:

From Rick Mercer’s blog:

It is ironic that while our parliament has been suspended we are a nation at war. On New Year’s Eve we greeted the news that five Canadians were killed in a single day with sadness but not surprise. We are at war because ostensibly we are helping bring democracy to Afghanistan. How the mission is progressing is open for debate but this much is certain – at present there is a parliament in Afghanistan that it is very much open for business. Canada has no such institution.

In Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai’s government faces fierce opposition at every turn; many of his cabinet choices have been rejected in a secret ballot by the more than 200 parliamentarians that sit in the legislature. Simply closing parliament down and operating without their consent is not an option for Hamid Karzai; to do so would be blatantly undemocratic or at the very least downright Canadian. If Hamid Karzai suspended parliament on a whim we might be forced to ask why Canadians are dying to bring democracy to that country.

Stephen Harper doesn’t have that problem. The Parliament of Canada has been suspended for no other reason than the prime minister simply can’t be bothered with the relentless checks and balances that democracy affords us. He doesn’t want to have to stand in the House of Commons and hear anyone question him on any subject. I don’t blame him. Parliament is filled with jackals, opportunists and boors. The problem is, like it or not, they were elected.  [the whole thing]

Bits That Bite

Echidne on David Letterman:

Bosses harvesting their subordinates for sex is almost always a bad idea.

 

 

Dr. Eric Steele on the opposition to gay/lesbian marriage (via Pam’s House Blend):

. . . the clothing of rationality and God’s word have been used forever to hide the naked truth of racism, sexism and other prejudices. The arguments against the right of gays to civil marriage is no different; if you peel off the clothing, what lies underneath most opposition to civil marriage rights for gays is just naked fear, ignorance and prejudice.

 

Dave Zirin on football and homophobia:

Football came of age at a time when America was embarking on imperial adventures around the globe. Football was seen as a way to toughen up the youth so they wouldn’t become “sissies” and a way to teach the very “values” of Christian expansion and manifest destiny. This philosophy was known as “Muscular Christianity,” and its most prominent spokesman was an aristocrat-turned-boxer named Theodore Roosevelt .

 

Katha Pollitt on Roman Polanski:

What happened was not some gray, vague he said/she said Katie-Roiphe-style “bad sex.” A 43-year-old man got a 13-year-old girl alone, got her drunk, gave her a quaalude, and, after checking the date of her period, anally raped her, twice, while she protested; she submitted, she told the grand jury “because I was afraid.” Those facts are not in dispute–except by Polanski, who has pooh-poohed the whole business many times (You can read the grand jury transcripts here.) He was allowed to plead guilty to a lesser charge, like many accused rapists, to spare the victim the trauma of a trial and media hoopla. But that doesn’t mean we should all pretend that what happened was some free-spirited Bohemian mix-up. The victim took years to recover.

 

Diane Loupe on prostituted young women in Georgia:

A Future. Not A Past wanted to get a better estimate of girls on the street, so it funded independent researchers to track how many adolescent girls are being hawked. The research was based on scientific probability measures and estimates of the age of prostitutes, using methods similar to those used by scientists to determine the population of endangered species.

The number of young victims has been increasing since 2007, according to that research.

An estimated 374 juveniles were being commercially sexually exploited in August 2009 in Georgia, up from 251 in 2007 and 361 in 2008, according to Danielle E. Ruedt, public health programs coordinator for the Governor’s Office for Children and Families, which took over funding of the research from the campaign.

Numbers for the street, hotels and escort services have remained flat, but “the Internet number is going through the roof,” said Kaffie McCullough, campaign director of A Future. Not A Past.

Internet ads promising “young girls,” “barely legal” females and other code words for underage females got a much higher response from potential customers than other ads, the campaign’s researchers found.

While applauding the decision of Craigslist, an online provider of information about goods and services for sale, to eliminate its “erotic services” category, McCullough noted that many ads pimping girls have moved to other Web sites.

 

The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness [pdf], Betsy Stevenson & Justin Wolfers

 

Katha Pollitt on Stevenson and Wolfers (and Huffington):

But how happy were women, really, in that golden pre-feminist era? Culture critic Caryl Rivers pointed out to me that in 1973, studies showing that married women had the highest levels of psychiatric problems, including depression and anxiety, prompted sociologist Jessie Bernard to declare marriage a “health hazard for women.”

 

Alex Dibranco on the student sex column movement:

Isabel Murray, feminist columnist for the Free Press, takes Cosmopolitan to task for its heteronormative, male-pleasure-oriented approach, while pointing out that it and similar women’s magazines are nonetheless the only noncampus media addressing female sexuality (explaining why until recently it was the most read magazine among college women). People are downright uncomfortable with the concept of female sexuality: even at Dartmouth’s SexFest, where Murray managed a table, she was struck by how “hesitant and disturbed” people seemed by her dental dams and a two-dimensional model of a vagina–far more so than by the condoms and three-dimensional plastic penis. The most controversial Dartmouth sex column took heat for dealing too explicitly with female sexuality.

 

Elsie Hambrook on women voters:

Women hang their vote on issues and often, on different issues than what men consider important. New Brunswick’s own Joanna Everitt, a political studies professor at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John, is a Canadian expert on gender and politics. She says there are differences in how women and men vote, and that that split has been growing.

While men are more concerned with a candidate or party’s policies on the economy and federally, on the military, women are more likely to look at social policies, such as health care and education.

That difference has impacted the outcomes of some federal and provincial elections. Women and men vote in similar numbers, but differently, and parties need to be able to attract both genders.

Everitt recently concluded in a report, “If the (federal) Conservatives held as much appeal for women as they did for men in the 2006 election, they would not have ended up forming a minority government.”

 

Michael Valpy on women voters:

When he was host of BBC Two’s The Late Show in the 1990s, Mr. Ignatieff was called the thinking woman’s crumpet.

But interviews with Canadian women voters – businesswomen, academics, writers, PhD students in their 20s and 30s – elicited words well removed from crumpet. They called him stuffy, drab, arrogant, inauthentic, paternalistic, unmemorable, unsexy and, most of all, untrustworthy.

 

Michael Ignatieff on “Three Minute Culture”:

 

Stephen Harper tribute to friendship:

 

Harper and friends, redux:

 

But Harper hates more than 50% of Canadians:

 

So some women created a fan club [snark].

Fringe

 

Pay Equity

Who will fight to uphold women’s right to pay equity?  Certainly not Stephen Harper and his (neo)Cons.  Not Michael Ignatieff either.  We can count on the NDP but on their own, they can only hope to get this bill separated from the budget bill so that there’s some chance of it being voted down now that Iggy has decided to sell women out and support the government on the budget.  Women fought hard for this most basic of rights, equal pay for work of equal value.  Why on earth should they be put in the position of having to bargain for pay equity with their government employer over and over again?  How long do you think it will be before the private sector insists on the same “privilege”?

This from Linda Diebel’s blog, the Political Decoder:

The unravelling of rights is exactly what’s happening with the Conservatives’ new “Equitable Compensation Act.” There’s an Orwellian title for you – like the Patriot Act. The change the Conservatives slipped into the recent budget – after failing last year – has nothing to do with equitable pay. In fact, it’s the opposite. It removes any chance women in the federal civil service have of fighting for pay equity by denying them the right to complain to the Human Rights Commission, or to go to court, when they believe there is discrimination. Instead, pay equity issues are to be solved as part of the regular bargaining process but – get this! – if anyone agitates on the basis of pay equity, they face a $50,000 fine. So the Conservative regime is forbidding a woman from fighting for herself and, simultaneously, penalizing her union from fighting for her.

Once this legislation is passed, a woman working in the federal public service will have fewer rights than women working elsewhere in Canada.

“We fought this battle so hard 30 years ago,”  [NDP MP Judy] Wasylycia-Leis said in an interview … “and I never thought we’d lose what we won. It’s shocking. They are taking it away in one fell swoop with the stroke of a pen . . . It hurts.”

There is still a way to stop it, she says. The act is part of the budget legislation and Wasylycia-Leis and her NDP colleagues are trying to divide it off into a separate bill that would then face its own vote in the House that, hopefully, wouldn’t be a non-confidence motion. If the Liberals and (one would think) the Bloc unites with the NDP, it could be defeated. The act should be in committee the week of February 23 and the House not long after.

Wasylycia-Leis says she’s embarrassed men in other parties haven’t fought harder for such a basic right for women. Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, she argues, could have refused to support a budget that contains this new pay equity regime, instead of demanding only  progress reports.   “Maybe,” she said, “they’re not aware what this does to women.”  [emphasis added]

Oh they’re aware Judy.  But I know you know that.  I would prefer it a great deal if this bill was called what it is – the Inequitable Compensation Act.  At least that would be honest.  But then, we’re talking about politicians.

I’m supposed to be too old to be shocked.  I’m shocked.

Ignatieff On Evil

Yann Martel’s review of Michael Ignatieff’s The Lesser of Evils in his monthly letter to Stephen Harper:

The Lesser Evil is a study on liberal democracies and terrorism. How do a people who value freedom and dignity handle those who commit senseless violence against them? What is the right balance between the competing demands of rights and security? What can a democratic society allow itself to do and still call itself democratic? These are some of the questions that Mr. Ignatieff tries to answer. He looks at nations as diverse as Russia, the United Kingdom, the U.S., Germany, Italy, Spain, Sri Lanka, Chile, Argentina, Israel and Palestine, in their current state but also historically, to see how they have dealt with assaults by terrorists. He also makes literary references, to Dostoyevsky and Conrad, to Euripides and Homer. Throughout, the approach is open, fair and critical, the analysis is rigorous and insightful, the conclusions are wise. Last but not least, the style is engaging. Mr. Ignatieff has a fine pen. My favourite line in the book is this one, on page 121: “Liberal states cannot be protected by herbivores.”

Mr. Ignatieff is a passionate yet subtle defender of liberal democracies and he finds that generally the tools they already have at their disposal will do in times of terrorist threat. Indeed, he argues that overreaction to a threat can do more long-term harm to a liberal democracy than the threat itself. The U.S. Patriot Act and Canada’s Bill C-36 are two examples Mr. Ignatieff gives of well-meaning but redundant and misguided attempts to deal with terrorism. When the regular tools won’t do, he acknowledges that the choices faced by liberal democracies are difficult. He makes the case that when a society that values freedom and human dignity is confronted with a threat to its existence, it must move beyond rigid moral perfectionism or outright utilitarian necessity and—carefully, mindfully, vigilantly—follow a path of lesser evil, that is, allow itself to commit some infringements of the part in order to save the whole. It is a position that seeks to reconcile the realism necessary to fight terrorism with the idealism of our democratic values. To work one’s way through such treacherous ground, to get down to details and talk about torture and preemptive military action, to give just two examples, requires a mind that is tough, sharp and brave. I’m glad to say that Mr. Ignatieff has such a mind.  

I haven’t read this book and doubt that I’ll bother.  So, for the moment, I can only comment on what Martel has said about it.  This business of carefully examining how the ideals of democracy can be bent to meet real problems – funny, I thought democracy was made real at least in part by our unwillingness to sacrifice its ideals to “terror”.  Some say that it’s when the ideals are most difficult to defend is the time they’re most important.  And this – “Liberal states cannot be protected by herbivores”????  WTF.  Does that mean no vegetarians in Canada’s armed forces?

I’ve read some of Ignatieff’s earlier works.  Didn’t like them in terms of ‘point of view’.  Doesn’t sound as though I’d like this one either.  No more than I am fond of the man.  I suppose it’s good news that Ignatieff can wield a pen effectively.  But it also matters what he’s saying.

IggyCon

From James Laxer:

In this life, there are times when you have to make fundamental choices. You go one way or you go the other. The Liberal Party had such a choice to make: between the formation of a progressive coalition government with the NDP, or propping up the Harper government. The first choice would have allowed for the presentation of a budget to parliament that really would have offered hope to Canadians in a dark time.

[…]

In the face of this, Michael Ignatieff and the Liberals have made the second choice. They have decided to prop up the Harper government. If I had to speculate about the reason for this, I’d conclude that they are more comfortable with the Conservatives and the business community than they are with social democrats, trade unionists and wage and salary earners.

So be it. This is not a personal matter. Although the media is trying to make it seem that social democrats are miffed because they have been jilted by Ignatieff who is now dating the Prime Minister, it’s really about whose basic interests a party chooses to serve. The Liberals have made things very clear. That’s sad, not for Jack Layton and the NDP, but for Canadians who deserved better.

Read the whole thing here

And make sure you read Broadsides

Dion Redux

So Michael Ignatieff and his “new” Liberals are going to make the Cons submit to giving a report card on their economic plans.  Given the problems that Iggy has with the budget, this simply isn’t sufficient.  Here’s part of Iggy’s response:

The budget introduced yesterday is far from perfect. It does not fix the employment insurance system for thousands of workers who have lost their jobs in the past several weeks. It still threatens pay equity for women. It breaks their promise to every province from only two years ago on equalization.

The Cons can’t report on what they’re not even going to try to do.  But heck, who cares about workers with insufficent employment insurance?  Who cares about equalization payments – they only provide for social services – we don’t need good social services anyway, right?  And for sure, who cares about women doing the same work as men for less pay?  Not the Cons.  Clearly not the Liberals either.

For some reason, the Harper budget lets Iggy wiggle away, just as Dion wiggled away from taking responsibility for the last four years.  More Iggy:

To say that action is long overdue is an understatement. Canadians deserve action.

We deserve action so what we get is a “report card” that will tell us what the Cons aren’t doing; that will tell us how badly they’re doing what they are doing; and that will tell us that they’re not doing enough.  Is that all the “action” we deserve?

New Democrat Leader Jack Layton and Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe swiftly condemned the budget as a failed “ideological” document that does not address the needs of the jobless and the most vulnerable, or move Canada toward a greener economy.

Their parties intend to vote to defeat the government on the budget, and Layton publicly pressured Ignatieff to do the same.

Layton said the budget fails on the very tests – helping the most vulnerable, protecting the jobs of today and creating jobs for tomorrow – that Ignatieff had set out.

“He has a choice to make,” Layton told reporters.

“It’s either to prop up the Harper government and allow it to continue in a fashion that is clearly wrong-headed, or to pursue the agenda laid out by the coalition, which would create jobs for the future and would transform our economy and would really protect the people who are suffering the most from the economic crisis.”

Well, Ignatieff has made his choice – a coalition with the Conservatives.  Dion all over again.

More on the big problems with this budget:

The federal budget contained more than $3 billion in spending to address the environment, but it fell short of markers set by those who had called on the Conservatives to deliver a “green” economic stimulus plan.

[…]

critics say the federal government’s plans fall far short of national public transit and other infrastructure needs while spending too much taxpayers’ money in Alberta’s oil sands and not enough on renewable energy.

Neither have the Cons paid sufficient attention to the crises in Canada’s cities.  Toronto for instance:

Mayor David Miller badly wanted to embrace the federal budget that tossed billions of dollars before municipal governments. Here was an opportunity to play nice with the Stephen Harper government for once. But Finance Minister Jim Flaherty had to spoil it all by wrapping the gift in familiar, stultifying red tape that left Miller crestfallen.

“We are looking for a partner that will invest in our priorities, not their own,” Miller said barely an hour after the budget was tabled.

It may seem like nitpicking from someone who doesn’t share Harper’s politics. It’s not.

Experience has taught us that the Building Canada Fund that is to deliver the budget infrastructure goodies is cumbersome, inflexible and too slow afoot. For example:

Through some miracle, Toronto, the province and York Region agreed in March 2006 to extend the Spadina subway line from its terminus at Downsview to Highway 7. All that remained was funding approval from the federal government.

The Harper government put money aside for the project in the Building Canada Fund, and it sat there, and sat there. It took more than two years before the federal government approved the spending last September. The first construction dollars will be spent in 2009.

Understandably, mayors get testy when they find out the new $4 billion infrastructure fund that is supposed to get projects going immediately is tied up in the same Building Canada Fund that is excruciatingly bound in red tape.

“I hope we can get the federal government to change their minds on this,” Miller said yesterday. “Placing rigid requirements on funds like this does not work. The dollars need to be invested, not written down on paper. This is full of red tape.”

Well the Cons aren’t going to change their plans if somebody doesn’t make them.  Iggy is not that person.

Thomas Walkom at The Star:

It almost certainly won’t stop Canada’s economy from going into recession (technically defined as six months of economic shrinkage). Even finance department officials acknowledge that.

And while it will slow the steady rise in this country’s jobless rate, it won’t reverse it.

Mike McCracken, of the economic forecasting firm Informetrica, calculates that even after some $35 billion in fiscal stimulus over the next two years, (and yes, the proper figure is $35 billion not $52 billion as the government insists) the national unemployment rate will continue to creep up.

Indeed, the most important element of the budget will probably receive the least attention. That’s a two-page section – first laid out in Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s aborted November economic update – that gives the government carte blanche to bail out any financial institution facing difficulty.

Unlike a similar $700 billion U.S. scheme, there is no upper dollar limit to the Canadian plan.

As for the rest of the budget, it’s a mish-mash of proposals – some sensible, some less so – calculated to appeal to key constituencies and to demonstrate that the Conservative government cares.

That’s what it’s all about – convincing people that you care while you’re busy not caring.  Ignatieff is going to sign on to this budget and he’ll have to bear the consequences for that.  It’s now his budget as much as it’s Harper’s.  I guess that is to be expected.  Chantal Hébert at The Star:

Ignatieff has no cause to reject Jim Flaherty’s latest budget on ideological grounds. On that score and in contrast with last fall’s fiscal update, the Conservative economic blueprint is almost painfully spineless.

If its authors are guilty of anything this time around, it is political plagiarism of the most craven kind.

In their quest for parliamentary survival, the Conservatives have cut and pasted a lot of old-style Liberal spending initiatives and spread them pretty much across the board.

It is hard to think of a constituency, friendly or hostile to the Conservatives, that will not get a piece of the multibillion-dollar stimulus package the government has cobbled together.

[…]

The odds that the budget will help the Conservatives buy their way out of a tight parliamentary corner are higher than the odds that it will allow Canada to spend its way out of a recession. In almost every instance, the government has gone for the quickest and most-likely-to-be-popular fix.
Take tax relief, the hill on which the Conservatives ultimately planted their tattered flag yesterday.
About 10 per cent of the total stimulus package is devoted to the kind of permanent, broad-based tax relief the Liberals had warned against in the days leading up to the budget. But the bulk of it is targeted to middle- and low-income Canadians, and the Conservatives are betting that Ignatieff will not risk defeating the government over a tax cut.

Canada needs courageous leadership during this economic/social/environmental crisis we are living through.  Clearly, we’re not going to get it.  Canadian voters are as responsible for this as our leaders.  We won’t get what we don’t demand.

I’m giving the last word on the budget, Ignatieff’s response and Jack Layton’s position to James Laxer:

Michael Ignatieff began his press conference in the National Press Theatre in Ottawa today by saying that the Harper government’s budget was deeply flawed. For a moment, I thought he was about to do something interesting, to propose serious and substantive amendments to the budget. But then he dropped the clunker. The Liberals, he said, will propose an amendment requiring the government to provide periodic updates on how the budget is working.
There you have it. Michael Ignatieff went away last night, laboured, and brought forth a mouse.
Explaining himself in answer to questions from the media, the Liberal leader was embarrassingly sophomoric. The Liberal-NDP coalition had been useful, he said, because it had forced the government to put many useful measures in the budget. On the other hand, he said the budget remained a “Conservative” budget that likely would not work. Nonetheless, he said he intended to vote for it. Provided, of course, that his “Mickey Mouse” amendment is acceptable to Stephen Harper. By turns, Ignatieff sounded like Demosthenes, thundering down condemnation on a government that has repeatedly failed Canadians, and then like an apple-polishing pupil asking for a report card from the head master. Rule number one in politics: you can’t have it every which way. If you vote for the Conservative budget, it becomes your budget Mr. Ignatieff, no matter what font the government uses to print its reports for you.

In answer to questions that suggested that perhaps he had thrown the game away, Ignatieff could have replied in the manner of Hamlet: “Do you think I am easier to be played on than a pipe.”

Having decided “not to be” as a serious opponent of the Harper government, Michael Ignatieff could consider a career on the stage.

Meanwhile, Jack Layton has become the real leader of the opposition. He showed courage when he reached out to the Liberals to form a progressive coalition that could provide Canadians with the leadership they need to cope with the economic crisis. He tried the option of working with the Liberals. Michael Ignatieff has walked away from that option. Layton has retained his integrity and his clear understanding of what the country needs. Progressives now have one party and one party only available to them: the NDP.

 Exactly.

UPDATE:  From the YWCA via Antonia Zerbisias via mattt

 “The government has set up some very inclusive spending with this budget for First Nations, seniors and people with disabilities, but we don’t see an awareness that Canadian women are very vulnerable in hard times,” says YWCA Canada CEO Paulette Senior. “Two-thirds of Canadians working for minimum wage are women, many taking any work they can find to hold family and community together.  Government stimulus spending must take this into account.”

More from the YWCA at Broadsides here

And, I’m watching The National – Keith Boag just called Jack Layton “too bitter” to compromise with Ignatieff and said he’d been “jilted”.  So now Jack is the scorned woman.  What if Jack is simply the only one who has any scruples in Ottawa?  Ignatieff is so smug he makes me barf.