Stephen Harper, obviously not yet departed for the G-20 gathering in Washington, showed up to deliver a brief statement about the world economic crisis. "Canada," he said, "is coming to this meeting from a position of strength."
His focus was the economy--period. Our system of national regulation, our best in the world banking system, and so on. Unregulated world markets are dangerous, he said, and given the reluctance of sovereign states to an international system of regulation, a peer-review system of national financial systems is the way to go. Und so weiter.
He clung to his message like a limpet. Would the new regime in Washington force him to "realign?" No. We have a world economic crisis to solve, and Canada comes to it from a position of strength...
What about the convention, swirling around us, just out of sight like the seaside tropical beaches "close to the hotel?" He just blew all that off. Term limits for Supreme Court of Canada justices? Well, ours is a big, inclusive party, he said, and he'll take a laisser-faire attitude to all this. Hélène Buzzetti of Le Devoir asked about the sealed-off convention workshops, bluntly referring to Moscow and Beijing news management. Harper's response was simply that this was up to the party. He did everything but give a Trudeau-style shrug.
On his "pragmatism v. ideology" comment in his keynote speech last night, his one example was Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty's intervention in our economy, in what he called an "unprecedented" fashion. That's pragmatic, he said: Conservatives don't favour a lot of state intervention. But Flaherty did it, he went on, without costing the taxpayer a dime, and without nationalizing anything.
It was an amazing performance, in a way: this was the real world, while somewhere in the distance the delegates to this policy convention are off amusing themselves. No one will be permitted to be off-message in Harper's shop--and certainly not the party faithful. If they want to do that sort of thing, they will be shielded from the media.
After the presser, CPC press liaison Dmitri Soudas was mobbed by angry media. They picked him up on his inaccurate claim that this was the same policy that was in effect three years ago, and generally took him on, but all they got was the usual.
But the good news is that we can attend the plenary session tomorrow, where the workshop recommendations will be on the floor.
In the meantime, possums, a delegate was kind enough to give me the entire gen-in on the "Social and Democratic Framework" workshop. So here you go:
P-201. Fixed terms for Supreme Court of Canada judges. Defeated.
P-202. Support for Charter including notwithstanding clause (wink, wink). Passed.
P-203. Essentially get rid of Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act. Unsurprisingly, passed overwhelmingly.
P-204. Transparency and accountability. Defeated. Concern was apparently expressed that the resolution would compromise quasi-independent agencies like NAVCAN. Make of that what you will.
P-205. Arctic sovereignty. Passed.
P-206. Elected senators from the Territories. Defeated. This was considered superfluous, because the CPC supports an elected Senate in general.
P-207. The disguised fetal rights resolution. Passed.
P-208. Cutting back on student loans, but letting kids with rich parents have access to what remains. Passed.
P-209. Abolition of student contributions to EI when working summer jobs. [I didn't get the result here.]
P-210. SSM issue. Defeated on a close vote--because delegates are still hoping that Parliament will define marriage as between and man and a woman.
P-211. SSM again. Defeated, for the same reason.
P-212. Abolishing position on childcare. Defeated.
P-213. Abolish notion of equal pay for work of equal value. Passed.
P-214. Homelessness. Defeated.
P-215. Urban issues. Defeated.
P-216. Mass-marketing fraud. Defeated.
P-217. Wireless telephone industry. Defeated.
P-218. Finger-wagging on "Canadian values." Passed.
P-219. Amateur sport. Passed.
P-220. Amateur sport again. Passed
P-221. "Genuine" refugees. Defeated. The notion of "criminal record" was deemed to be too vague.
P-222. Immigration by temporary workers. Passed.
P-223. Aboriginal affairs--program coordination and outcome audits. Passed.
Enough is enough. I'm off for a Winnipeg nip. More anon.