The Calgary Herald reported this morning that Environment Minister John Baird had issued a statement from Inuvik, NWT — which by the way, we’re reliably informed is a wee bit chilly even at this time of the year (something the best and brightest of our political elite were apparently unaware of) — where His Portliness and senior cabinet ministers were wrapping up three days of intensive photo opportunities and still more multi-million dollar spending announcements in between doorstopping igloos ahead of their upcoming “fixed” election spectacular. But I digress…

In his missive, Baird accused then Environment Minister Stéphane Dion of a “failure of leadership” in protecting Canada’s polar bears in 2005. Gadzooks! Can such a heinous calumny be true?

What Baird was specifically referring to was the question of whether the polar bear’s status under the country’s endangered species legislation should have been changed from a species of “special concern” to that of the higher risk “threatened” or “endangered” designations. At the time, Dion had seen fit to simply refer the matter back to the federal agency responsible for recommending changes for additional study. This quite routine and, considering that the “imperiled” status of polar bears is rather suspect (e.g., here, here, here, and here), entirely sensible procedure, it turns out is what Baird maintains was an egregious failure on the Arctic “leadership” front by Dion.

There’s one slight flaw in Baird’s allegation, however. Namely, that it’s complete bullshit. The federal agency Dion had tasked to study the matter further three years ago has now reported back and it has again reaffirmed the “special concern” designation that’s been in place since 1991. So, in other words, there would have been no point whatsoever in Dion having acted otherwise than he did in 2005. Baird’s charge that Dion didn’t “take action to protect the polar bear” is an utterly specious fabrication. No additional “protection” was required then, and nor is any needed now (see all of the BT references above).

Oh, but wait, here’s the comedy-filled kicker. Even though the agency mandated with making scientific determinations about endangered species has, after three years of study, already made their recommendation that no change in status is needed, Baird now indicates that he’s going to disregard that and instead convene a “national roundtable” and a series of “nationwide consultations” with environmental groups and the Inuit “before changing the polar bear’s status.”

Change it to what exactly, one wonders. A ridiculous political prop that’s used just for the sake of conveniently demonstrating the Tories’ new electoral theme of “strong leadership on your side” perhaps?

He Said — He Said

Here’s a video from CanuckPolitics of the back and forth between Harper and Dion over whether there will be an election and who’s going to wear the blame for it. Or something. Sheesh! What a pair these two make.

It’s a moot point now anyway it seems, if Gilles Duceppe is to be believed. After a “useless meeting” with His Portliness at 24 Sussex this afternoon, he told reporters that there’s no doubt that Harper wants to provoke a fall election. “I think his plan is made, he wants an election. Period,” Duceppe said.

“I still maintain his plan was made before, and instead of making efforts to try finding solutions in the best interests of the population, he wants an election in the best interests of his party,” the Bloc leader added.

Poetic Justice

If Harper’s ideologically-driven arts funding cuts turn out to be the fatal spanner in the finely tuned works of his Quebec machine, the resulting hilarity is going to be hard to contain.

While the $45 million cuts amount to a blip on the federal budget radar, they have hit a wide array of vocal artistic constituencies and convinced many others that the moves are part of a larger Conservative agenda to clip the wings of Canada’s arts community.

On Tuesday, that sense was relayed by Quebec’s cultural managers and artists, but also by leading members of the Montreal business community, including some with solid Conservative ties.

Economist Marcel Côté, a former chief-of-staff to Brian Mulroney, was on stage to protest the cuts as was the president of Montreal’s board of trade, Isabelle Hudon, the daughter of a former two-term Tory MP and once a prime target of Conservative head-hunters.

A similar demonstration is planned for next week in the Conservative heartland of Quebec City.

Meanwhile, the federal cuts are resonating in hosts of small towns and villages where Quebec’s diverse cultural scene unfolds over the summer season.

Harper may have thought that he could use cultural groups and “leftist” artists as sacrificial pawns to demonstrate his conservative credibility with “hard-working” NASCAR fans “who pay their taxes and play by the rules” but being the great chess master that he is (*cough*) Harper should realize that sometimes even a lowly pawn can checkmate an opposing King.

McCain Picks Sarah Palin for Veep

Here’s a bit of a surprise. McCain’s pick for vice-president is 44 yr. old Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, a self-styled “hockey mom” who has only been governor for a little over a year. (She was a small town mayor before that.)

Apparently, she’s staunchly pro-life, adamantly pro-drilling (as you can see from the video above), pro-gun, and terrifically popular in her home state. She’s the mother of five children, the youngest of whom was born in April and has Down Syndrome. Expect to hear a LOT about that.

The Great “Green Tax Con”

It’s to be entirely expected that many “conservative” bloggers would seize on the article in today’s Daily Express that indignantly states “FAMILIES are being ripped off by an average of £783 a year through Gordon Brown’s bogus ‘green’ taxes, it emerged yesterday” and draw a suggestive parallel to the “Green Shift” carbon tax being proposed by the Liberal Party. There are, however, a couple of things that should perhaps be taken into consideration before doing that.

First of all, the Express is allied to the Conservative party in the U.K. and therefore tends to have a political bias in that direction — so take that for whatever it’s worth. Second, the article is remarkably short on detail to the point of being almost impossibly vague. For example, it’s nowhere stated exactly how the £19.6 billion in so-called green taxes is “too much” or how the money is presumably being misallocated — one gathers that it’s going straight into general revenues rather than being directed at any specific programs to combat pollution. Again, details are few and far between and there’s no presentation of the government’s side of the story. And finally, the Labour government in the U.K. has a myriad of these green tax schemes, but it’s not clear from the article that the ones in question are in any way comparable to the Liberals’ carbon tax, other than in name only of course.

Still, it’s something that’s definitely worth digging deeper into as it could prove to be a demonstration of how well-intentioned environmental initiatives can go horribly awry, whether through deliberate fiscal legerdemain or bungled implementation.

The “Old Fogey of War”

Some Letterman jokes:

“But seriously how about that John McCain? John McCain looks like a guy whose head you can barely see over the steering wheel. … John McCain looks like the guy who thinks the nurses are stealing his stuff. ‘Dad, why would they take your socks? It doesn’t make sense.”

“How about that John McCain, huh? John McCain looks like the kind of guy who brags that his new denture adhesive allows him to eat corn on the cob. He looks like a guy who parked his RV overnight at Wal-Mart.”

“How about John McCain? He looks like a guy at a restaurant that says I’m leaving 10%, that’s good enough. John McCain, looks like the guy who goes to the curb for the paper and locks himself outside of the house.”

“John McCain … He looks like the guy that walks up to the mound to settle down a young pitcher. John McCain looks like the guy who picks up his TV remote when the phone rings.”

“I like that John McCain. He looks like a guy who gets tickets for mowing under the influence. He looks like a guy with a collection of movies he bought at the car wash. He looks like a guy on the beach with a metal detector. He looks like the guy who is still confused by the phone answering machine: ‘Hello, is that – hello, is that you? Larry, Larry, hello?’ He looks like the guy who calls his grandson when he screws up the remote: ‘Well, now all the shows are in Spanish. What am I going to do, hello?’”

“How about that John McCain? He looks like the guy at the movies whose wife has to repeat everything. He looks like the guy who has to always be told something is on his chin. He looks like a guy who still has a rotary phone. He looks like a guy who’s backed over his own mailbox. He looks like a guy whose sweater is always mis-buttoned. He looks like the guy who always tells you he’s 72 years young. He looks like the guy who’s bragged that oatmeal has lowered his cholesterol. He looks like the guy who should be co-hosting with Kelly Ripa.”

“Hey, how about this John McCain, huh? Whoa, my gosh – doesn’t he look like the old guy at the barber shop? He looks kind of like a Wal-Mart greeter, John McCain. He kind of looks like the neighbor who says, ‘Oh, that dead tree is on your property,’ one of those guys. He’s the guy who is always early for the early bird special, that’s what he looks like. He looks like a mall walker, ladies and gentlemen. He looks like the guy at the supermarket who is confused by the automatic doors. He looks like the uncle who pretends to remove his thumb.”

“I like John McCain. He looks like an old guy in a coffee shop who’s still complaining about the designated hitter. He looks like the guy who asks the driver if he’s on the right bus. He looks like the guy who’s always saying, ‘What was that? Nothing? That’s what I thought.’”

Tale of the Tape

A timely Nanos Research poll for Sun Media shows national support for the Liberals at 35%, and for the Conservatives at 33%, with the NDP and Greens bringing up the rear at 17% and 7% respectively. In other words, pretty much more of the same, or as the Ottawa Sun waggishly calls it “Grit Lock.”

Here are the figures from the Nanos press release (PDF) for the wonky poll nerds and number crunchers out there.

Speaking of which, Steve V, Liblogs’ resident guru on such matters, has his usual astute analysis (and pleasing spin) regarding this latest poll. The most significant observation however comes from Nik Nanos himself: “If you look at the numbers, they really should not be having an election.” Hmmm. Perhaps Harper is reading a different set of entrails…

As usual, I’m utterly baffled by the stubborn constancy of these poll numbers. It’s simply astounding to me that after the better part of three years with a powerful wind of change originally at their back, a clear mandate before them, a mostly unfettered reign and the fiscal capacity to implement their key priorities and legislative agenda — which taken together, as this gibbering ninny incessantly reminds us, form a supposedly impressive list of so-called Accomplishments® — that the Conservative party is still unable to realize any improvement whatsoever in the polls from where they started in 2006.

It’s an especially puzzling mystery when it’s considered that the Harper government has been countered throughout their term by a largely ineffective opposition in the form of frequently rudderless, hapless Liberal Party still discredited by the taint of the past, headed by a little known, untested “leader” generally mocked and derided by the mainstream press, not to mention trashed by a steady barrage of negative advertising from the Conservative party, A pleasant enough fellow to be sure, but a callow, incomprehensible, vaguely effete egghead, out of touch with “average Canadians” and singularly unfit to arm wrestle with Vladimir Putin. Or so his critics would have people believe.

The question then naturally arises as to why Stephen Harper and the Conservatives have thus far failed to capture the imagination, affection, and most importantly, the trust of Canadians in sufficient numbers to give them their coveted majority. Any thoughts?