Today, for your reading pleasure, three little thoughts very loosely connected by a vastly overstretched thread:
The Liberal government went down tonight. Apparently the House was in a jocular mood with much hand-shaking and back-slapping and Speaker Peter Milliken joking about a post-vote reception. According to the CBC TV broadcast, Paul Martin tried to get the Press Gallery to do the wave but failed. If that's not a sign that your time is up, I don't know what is. So, get ready for a dirty election. If you want a campaign on policy and a positive vision of where Canada should be headed, don't hold your breath. The election bogeymen are all lined up. What are you most scared of -- Liberal corruption? Quebec separation? Seven-tier health care? Then there's the popular "who's to blame for all those canvassers drinking your eggnog and dripping slush all over your foyer?" game. It's who you know? Several parties are playing the celebrity card. The Liberals add human rights intellectual Michael Ignatieff (who's already facing some opposition from the Ukranian community in his riding and will no doubt come under fire for his longtime absence from Canada), while the Conservative Party has lined up sponsorship scandal whistleblower Allan Cutler to run against David McGuinty in Ottawa South. The bottom-line question: how angry are we? Everyone keeps telling us to be angry -- even Paul Martin. But I think the sponsorship scandal issue is largely burnt out. The last poll hit barely lasted a couple of days, and the exoneration of Martin and the current Cabinet certainly won't help the opposition. Things weren't going to get any better -- hence the no-confidence motion -- but Harper's best chance may have already come and gone in the form of the previous election.
Yesterday I went winter boot shopping. I have to say that I was genuinely amazed at the competition generated by the free market. All the stores I visited competed fiercely to offer me the worst possible service. At the Bay, one salesperson tried to help 10+ different customers simultaneously. When I asked about a size on a particular boot on display, I got a gruff "bring it to me" in reply. Several times the salesperson forgot what I had asked for. At Feet First (ambiguous, it turns out -- doesn't mean the customer's feet), my salesperson left the store after finding one of the two pairs of boots I was interested in. His colleague who took over stared off into space while I asked a question about the boots and then gave a half-assed reply. At Globo, the sales staff ignored me entirely after pointing me in the general direction of the boot section I was after. When I finally cornered someone to ask a question, they looked at me as though I had two heads (or perhaps three feet). The bottom line? Globo had the boots I wanted for $50 less than Feet First. The Bay didn't even have the sizes (memo to Jerry Zucker: are you sure you want this?) It's who you know? It was my mother who directed me to Globo for the good deal, naturally.
Adam Logan recently won the world Scrabble championship. Jack Mitchell's "The Roman Conspiracy" is getting a few good reviews on Amazon.com. It's who you know? Both Adam and Jack went to the same high school as I did. Adam was impressing us with insane math competition placements before leaving at the age of 16 to pursue a mathematics degree at Princeton. Jack was a friend who, amongst other things, kept me entertained with creative late-night monologues at our friends' parties. These days you can catch Jack performing his Canadian epic poetry across the country.
As I took this photo, I had a pretty strong feeling I had seen it before -- and I knew almost right away where. My friend Madhava had taken a nearly identical photo with which I was quite familiar; his version has earned him a not insubstantial amount of fame and fortune. :) It seems they've painted the doors (and a neighbouring house, at left) since Madhava snapped his photo in August 2002.
St. John's, Newfoundland [view large]
Here's one lesson the Liberal government appears not to have taken away from the sponsorship scandal and Gomery inquiry: it's not so easy to spend your way out of trouble.
Damned if they won't try, though. With an embarassingly rich ($39b) so-called "economic update" today (methinks the Finance Minister doth protest too much), the Liberals put the finishing touches on a triad of truly bald-faced stuff-the-voters'-pockets initiatives -- the first two being (1) relief for rising energy and heating costs and (2) the ridiculous surplus allocation bill which would automatically tie up 2/3 of any surplus in debt reduction and what effectively amounts to a citizenry-wide "cash back" program.
Not that it hasn't been slick. The energy/heating cost relief was targeted at lower income individuals and families, and today's tax cuts make benefits for lower income taxpayers a priority in terms of timing (including some retroactivity) while pushing the raising of the highest-income-bracket-bar out a few years so that no one frets too much about it now. Meanwhile, the surplus allocation bill takes a page right out of Ralph Klein's Alberta book, promising to distribute ever more widely (and directly) the fruits of Canada's economic success (per the proxy of government revenue). Those Liberals are such populists!
While you have to admire their chutzpah, you can't help but wonder what they're thinking. Somewhere between Paul Martin's big-time healthcare deal last year, the everything-is-a-priority 2005 budget, and today's modest "government fiscal framework", this minority Liberal government is proposing to tie up every surplus in the foreseeable future. I can't help but think this isn't just a sound attempt at "planning ahead".
Update: John Ibbitson has a nice line in his Globe and Mail piece today: "The biggest reductions don't come into effect until 2010. [...] The way things are going, we might as well ask the leader of the Green Party what his fiscal plan for 2010 might be."
I don't know why exactly, but I fell in love with this adorable little structure near the Bonavista lighthouse.
Cape Bonavista, Newfoundland [view large]
One of these days I'm going to muster up the energy to write about Gomery or the avian flu or perhaps invent a conspiracy theory about the connection between the two, but in the mean time I must share with you this horrifying example of what happens when you mix statistics with sports journalism:
"Crosby's latest score left him just 689 goals behind Messier, seventh on the NHL's career list." (from sports.yahoo.com)
I know, I know ...