2 min

Pack your bags, Liberals – you’re going to Sudbury!

It was announced over the weekend that the Liberal Caucus Summer Retreat of 2009 will be in Sudbury. Even better, it’s at the local Holiday Inn. Because I guess there’s nothing like demonstrating your frugality as you give a nod to the regions. But every time I hear that someone is heading to Sudbury, I can’t help but think about this:

The Conservatives had their own training sessions in Ottawa yesterday to help get campaign volunteers and staff prepared in the (likely) event of an autumn election. “Just in case,” they say. And that may be even more likely, considering we’ve just heard more about the inauspicious beginnings to the EI “working group.” Apparently Pierre Poilievre came in announcing that the government would never agree to reducing the number of qualifying hours for EI benefits. Well then – perhaps everyone should start ordering their lawn signs now, then?

Elsewhere, Canwest’s David Akin tries to unravel whether the Conservatives really are spending more on culture than their predecessors, as they so often proclaim. The problem is that the Conservatives seem to define culture far more broadly than the Liberals ever did, and their definition seems to include things like sports and funding Olympic athletes, rather than the more traditional arts and culture – museums, Telefilm, the CBC, and so on. These numbers were picked over in the past, and the consensus does tend to be that sure, the Conservatives are technically funding at higher numbers, but their definitions are far looser than one could traditionally call spending on culture, and with very different priorities at that.

There was a very interesting post on the Maclean’s blog roster about an Access-to-Information request by one of their reporters that only took eight-and-a-half months to get a partial answer to, and the answer there isn’t all that pretty – that there was a concerted effort to say as little as possible. Meanwhile, the issue that he was asking after – the inquiry into the death of Canadian journalist Zahra Kazemi in Iran – seems to be going nowhere despite government assurances that they’re taking it seriously, and even with people who have information on her death coming forward. It was pointed out elsewhere that this paralysis of communication by the government does predate the Conservatives’ time in office, but it has become far worse in that time. It’s especially concerning, given that if you will recall, this was the government of “openness” and “accountability,” and that was going to be whiter than white about just how transparent they were going to be. But as has been demonstrated time and again, they’re far more opaque and closed than any government before them, and I fear that it just sets a precedent that makes it harder for future governments to back away from.

And finally, sombre news for Liberals on the Hill in that Jerry Yanover, one of their strategic gurus, passed away. It was said that, “Yanover is to Liberalism what Yoda is to the Jedi Council.” And while the party had been training a successor to Yanover when it comes to strategy and knowledge of all the rules and lore of the Hill, said successor has since been sidelined by a terminal illness. I am forced to wonder if this perhaps won't also have an impact on the timing of a fall election – with their strategic guru gone, will they feel as emboldened? There does seem to be a sense on the Hill that an old guard is moving on – especially up in the Press Gallery – but considering the calibre of party workers coming in to replace them, Kool-Aid drinkers who have little thought about civility and working together with other parties, but would rather score cheap points at every available opportunity – I’m not sure that it bodes well for the future.