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Blue Blogging Soapbox
...rambling rants, thoughts and musings on mostly political topics - from your late night blogger.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Liberal Leadership Website Review - Update 4 
(en francais)

Michael Ignatieff

Ignatieff's webteam has done a complete overhaul of the site. Gone is the Joomla install in favour of Active Server Page (.asp)

Clean, professional looking and appealing. The menu is straight forward and simple. French/English available. About the only page that seems to be still under development is the 'Get Involved' page and this isn't a big issue at this stage as the well designed site offers numerous other opportunities to 'Get Involved'.

Mi Community is still there, but greatly revamped. The Mi Community Home Page is the Union Station of the campaign, connecting users to features. Based on Community Server 2.0 , the section will keep users active and engaged. MI Blogs, Forums, Photo Gallery, Multimedia Centre and Upcoming Events. Every feature execpt the calendar allow comments in one form or another. The blogs have permalinks and comments, no trackbacks. The new forums feature focused policy debates, an opportunity to debate on subjects of the users choosing and a breakdown by Province. (What about the Territories?). Emails went out to all the users from the previous site with a new password and login. There were 412 users when I first looked, 414 when I just checked the site again.

RSS is available for all of the sites content. No autodiscover on the home page, the RSS icon is in the bottom right corner. Clicking on it will take you to a page listing three feeds. The forums also offers feeds for topics and comments and I found another feed, 'Speeches' tucked away on the site. I think this one has the possibility of being a podcast.

Donations, Joining and Volunteering are easy to do. With the exception of the MI Community section, the options to donate, volunteer and join are easily available on every page. The Ignatieff campaign remains the only one with their own eCommerce section allowing for online donations. The reworked donations page is easy to understand and use. Pre-set donation amounts, user entered and monthly contributions are available. Standard phone, fax and mail donations are also available along with a form.

As with the previous site, policy is not really evident. This seems to be more a campaign decision/strategy than any function of the website.

Privacy Statement opens in a javascript window.

Significant improvement over the last site. Ignatieff's site now represents the gold standard for others to reach for. There are still many features that can and may be added to the site but in it's current for Ignatieff's site is head and shoulders above the rest.

8.5/10

Note: Ken Dryden's site has reverted to a placeholder page again. Expecting some changes and updates there after the weekend.


Related Posts, Blogs and Websites

Liberal Leadership Candidates Website Review - original review

Liberal Leadership Website Review - Update 1

Liberal Leadership Website Review - Update 2

Liberal Leadership Website Review - Update 3

Rob Cottingham - other reviews on the candidates websites

Liberalia.ca - a Liblogs member's reviews

Liberal Leadership Odds
- a great little site put together by Cerebus. Tracking many aspects of the race

Paul Synnott at 2:22 PM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


Happy Birthday Prime Minister Stephen Harper 
(en francais)


Happy 47th Birthday to Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Send your greeting to the PM

Paul Synnott at 1:05 PM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


Blogging Tories Site of the Week 
(en francais)



Canadian Blue Lemons

A public moderated forum that will dress down stupifyingly self interested sycophants especially those of the liberal humanist faction that know all the answers, but none of the questions and know what's good for everyone else, never having asked what others want.


Update: my apologies - I forgot to change the link title. It's been updated to reflect Canadian Blue Lemons as site of the week.

Paul Synnott at 12:11 PM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


Saturday, April 29, 2006

How much childcare for $261,469 ? 
(en francais)

Sara at Choice for Childcare has a good post on the funding of daycare lobbyists. I thought I would follow through on one of the links and take a look at what value for money Canadian taxpayers were getting for this.
Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada: $261,469

Minding our Ps and Qs: Pedagogy, Policy and Quality

The Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada is a pan-Canadian, non-profit membership-based organization dedicated to promoting quality child care which is accessible to all.

The project's objectives are:

to increase knowledge of curriculum issues in national policy making through dissemination of research findings and current issues;

to increase collaboration between sectors involved in early learning and child care through public consultation to identify and implement common values and early childhood educational goals; and,

to create a national curriculum/pedagogical framework that will provide a common foundation on which to build programs that enhance children's early learning and development.
So were giving them over a quarter million dollars to lobby the government on 'curriculum issues and network with other like-minded advocacy groups. The third point is supposed to provide the justification for the funding. If the federal government wants to develop a 'national curriculum/pedagogical (teaching) framework' they have the appropriate public servants to do so, in conjunction with their provincial counterparts.

The Canadian taxpayers should not be funding advocacy/lobbyist groups to develop policies and programs or to conduct research. If the government wants to fund research on these issues, then direct the funds to the appropriate accredited university.

If these organizations wish to continue advocating specific issues, they are free to do so with their members money, not the taxpayers.

If you want my money than ask me up front and convince me to support your cause. Stop picking my pocket through the government.

Paul Synnott at 6:44 PM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


Liberal Leadership Website Review - Update 3 
(en francais)

Ken Dryden
Big Red enters the race, and I do mean BIG.
No entry page, French offered, although it might be a little hard to find at first. Another Joomla Open Source Content Management System(CMS) installation with a custom template. Professional look and feel. The front page contains Ken's slogan "A Big Canada" with a link to his vision. One problem though, is many people won't find that link. With the very red front page and the small little arrow underneath, it kind of blends in.

Menus are straight forward, broken up into two sections - Get Informed and Get Involved. The Get Informed section works well. It also includes an actual real live blog. A Wordpress Joomla mod complete with permalinks, moderated comments and trackbacks. You must register with the site in order to comment. News Centre is very well done. If you register with the site, you can comment on the posted news stories using a Joomla component called AKOcomment. Almost like a blog.

The Get Involved section starts off with Join Team Dryden. Filling out this form also registers you with the website, providing a Username and Password. You will receive an email shortly after registering with links to donate, info on how to be a delegate, and a (insert link here) link to the Liberal party join page.

Join the Liberal Party is a confusing page. Info on why to join and what the process for delegate selection is, just no info or links on exactly how to join the Liberal party. The very bottom of the page provides a link to the Become a Delegate page, where if you are very diligent, you can find a link to the Liberal Party online membership form. There is a "Join Now" bar on the front page, but it kind of blends in with everything else red.

Two big 'Get Informed' and 'Get Involved' sections on the front page with nice pictures but what do they do other than take up space? Considering their prominent placement, I tried mousing over them, expecting a link to take me some where.

When you surf to other pages, the big header is replaced with a smaller one. In the top right there is a small form for Email, name and a subscribe button, but what are you subscribing for? The site, emails, newsletters, 12 issues of Liberal Life magazine?

Donating is impossible unless you register with the site. I could find no link or menu item to a donation page other than the link I received in the registration email. Not sure if this is by design or by omission..

Volunteering - Join Team Dryden, register for the site. Lots of opportunities to do so. Makes for good email/name collection.

No RSS feeds - should be a no brainer for both the Blog and the site. Joomla itself is feed enabled by default.

Policy (Issues) - easy to find and lots of it.

Privacy Policy - extensive policy available, although it opens a new instance of the site in a window in order to view it.

Overall a good start. Obviously the site's goal is to inform and engage with it's users.

6.5/10

Google Link Search - 0

Google Search
- #2 (Stephen Harper gets top spot again.)

At least as things stand now, this rounds out all the candidates currently declared for the race. (I'm not going to bother with Ashley). So here is my final ranking for the first round.
  1. Bob Rae 7/10
  2. Scott Brison 6.5/10
  3. Ken Dryden 6.5/10
  4. Gerard Kennedy 6.5/10
  5. Michael Ignatieff 6.5/10
  6. Maurizio Bevilacqua 6/10
  7. Joe Volpe 5/10
  8. Stephane Dion 4/10
  9. Carolyn Bennett 3/10
  10. Martha Hall Findlay 0/10 - Donation Page still not fixed.
Next up will be an Accessibility test on each site along with freshness reviews every few days. All ten reviews are now included on the original review page.


Liberal Leadership Candidates Website Review - original review

Liberal Leadership Website Review - Update 1

Liberal Leadership Website Review - Update 2

Rob Cottingham - other reviews on the candidates websites

Paul Synnott at 7:00 AM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


Friday, April 28, 2006

Revealing blog survey 
(en francais)

Blogads recently completed a survey of 56,000 bloggers in the US. ClickZ reported they found that bloggers broke up in the following groups:

Political Blogger
  • read five blogs per day
  • 18% spend 10 hours each week reading blogs over the last 6 months:
  • 70% contributed to a cause of campaign online
  • 41% spent $100 or more
  • 60% bought software or clothes
  • 87% bought books, of those 52% spent more than $100
  • 72% percent of political blog readers are male;
  • 77% have a college degree;
  • over 20% have a household income between $60K and $90K.
Music Blogger
  • 72% male
  • 4 percent are ages 31-40
  • 86% have bought music online in the last six months
  • 47% spent over $100;
  • 70% bought books online
  • 63% bought clothes.
  • 25 %are students, over 58 percent have college degrees
Gossip Blogger
  • 77% of gossip blog readers are women,
  • 50% are age 22-30;
  • 60% plus have a college degree;
  • 68 percent purchased clothing online,
  • 48% plus spent more than $100.
  • 15% of gossip blog fans read three blogs daily
  • 15 % spend two hours each week
Motherhood/Parenting-related Blogger
  • 90% percent female;
  • 12% plus read five blogs daily;
  • 17% pend two hours a week reading blogs;
  • 72% bought clothes online in the last six months, and
  • 46% spent over $100;
  • 83% purchased books;
  • 46% contributed to a cause or campaign;
  • 23% bought toys.
  • 45% of mom blog readers are 22-30 years old;
  • 73% have a college degree;
  • 21% + have household income between $60K and $90K.
You can't beat free research. Something for political strategists to think about when targeting groups. Many online ads are no cost or low cost compared to traditional media.

Paul Synnott at 6:45 PM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


Hot Air takes off 
(en francais)


No, I don't mean Jack Layton's running away.

Hot Air is a new video blog venture by Michelle Malkin


About

Welcome to the world’s first full-service conservative Internet broadcast network!

Internet video is booming. Apple’s iTunes store has sold a gazillion videos since its debut. YouTube gets more traffic than the New York Times web site. And politically-oriented video is on the rise:

  • Google teamed up with Al Gore’s Current TV network to provide Google Current.
  • Amazon.com broadcasts Fishbowl featuring left-wing comedian Bill Maher.
  • iTunes offers a discount price for Comedy Central’s liberal Daily Show.
  • AOL joined with the Huffington Post to provide Contagious Festival, a collection of conservative-bashing short movies.

These efforts have one thing in common: they are all produced by liberals for liberals.

I formed Hot Air Network, LLC, to bring ideological diversity—because we all love diversity–to the videoblogging world. And because it looked like a lot of fun. Two of the most cutting-edge bloggers on the Right have joined me in my cyberquest: video editing whiz Bryan Preston and the almighty Allah Pundit. Allah likes to think of us as a little Internet garage band. Only we’re playing in three separate home offices and a basement. But you get the idea.

Paul Synnott at 10:17 AM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


Carnival heaven 
(en francais)

What a fantastic tool. I smell a Liberal Leadership Carnival coming - Carnival of the Inane anyone?

We want you to spend more time reading submissions and writing your carnival, and much less time on carnival administration.

You can run all your carnival administration from , or mix and match with your own stuff. The service is free (we cover our costs through advertising).

makes your life easier by

  • simplifying collection and arrangement of submissions (with complete source information) for each edition of your carnival,
  • coordinating activities with the other people hosting your carnival, and
  • keeping your readers in the loop and developing your carnival community: readers, contributors, hosts, and organizers.

Paul Synnott at 8:31 AM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


Liberal Leadership Website Review - Update 2 
(en francais)

Three new sites for review today. I'll amend the original post so that all the initial reviews are on one page. My apologies to Maurizio Bevilacqua for missing his site in the first round. I could have swore that I searched under his first name, but I must have been fumble fingered that night and spelled his name wrong.

Maurizio Bevilacqua
Entry page with English/French option. Header area and menu is clean and simple if a little over "Maurizio'ed". (all Maurizio, all the time). I'm not sure if I care for the main page layout. 3 equal columns. In my mind the left and right sidebars take up too much space, distracting from the main, centre real estate, and limiting what can be done in that space. The menu bar looks good but the traditional 'Home' location is replaced by 'Maurizio Links'. The link page itself is of dubious value, so it's placement here is strange. The header is clickable to the home page, but I'm not sure how many people recognize this as a standard. The links would be better off in one of the sidebars, replaced by a 'Home' page. The 'Media' link could go to the sidebar as well. The three things that campaigns need to do is get people to Join, Volunteer and Donate. These three make such a nice combo together. Maurizio Fans? Not sure if this is just a place filler or if there will be some purpose to this section later.

Online donations not available. Phone number and a promise of a link to the National donation page later.

Volunteer is easily found on the top menu, sidebar and bottom of page. Good duplication

Become a member takes you directly to the Liberal Party's online form.

Media Centre - lots of 'click here's' and external links. No RSS here or anywhere else on the site. Great photo gallery with lots of pictures, you just don't know what the pictures are. Always try to caption pictures by identifying people and places and event. People like seeing their name on a candidate's site. Enhances the value of being on the team.

There is a so called 'blog', but no comments enabled, no trackbacks, has sort of a permalink on the side. Is it a blog or isn't it? There are certainly differing opinions on this. Personally I think these are more like static pages than a blog.

Policy (MaurizioViews) - easy to find on main menu. I would take the fourth paragraph, bullet it and move it up. Check out Brison's site for an example. Would make the page more readable and get the policy highlights across quickly.

No Privacy Policy

Overall a good start. Some tweaks will improve navigation and usability. As with many others though, the site falls down on the interactive part. None.

6/10

Google Link Search - 0

Google Search - unable to find maurizio.ca with just a first name


Gerard Kennedy

No entry page. French option available in the top right corner. Professional looking and quick loading. Best 'Action Centre' I've seen of all the sites. Volunteer, Donate and Join all there along with a yet to be ready "Share the message" feature. The icon row in the top right corner seems to be a strange placement to me. This eats up about 1 inch of valuable front page real estate for questionable value. The Menu bar initially looks easy to use, but the tabbed format is confusing because the tabs do not change colour as you navigate. You're never really sure which tab you're on. For some reason I didn't even notice the sub-menus until my third or fourth time through the menu bar. I think I was so focused on trying to figure out where I was on the tabs, that the sub-menus escaped notice. I'm assuming that as the campaign goes on he'll have more than one speech and one media release so we'll be able to do away with each of those opening a .pdf unexpectedly.

Breaking News - this isn't CTV Newsnet or CNN Headline news. Unless the Candidate falls down and breaks something, there really isn't a lot of "breaking" news on a leadership campaign. Takes up more valuable front page real estate. Usually these end up being nothing more than stale distractions.

Huge flash area for such a small page template. The calendar is well done. Most of the other features are still 'under development', but certainly show a lot of promise. The online community looks to be a chat feature. Share the Message has some interesting potential. There is a placeholder for a blog in the multimedia centre, but it's not active yet. One video and one .mp3 there. Hint - it's not a podcast unless you're actually casting it. Requires RSS of which there is none.

National Networks - I thought I was actually going to find something interesting here, but alas, no. Some good ideas but the site doesn't give people the tools to follow through. "Organize a coffee party or a pub night to raise funds for Gerard. Follow the instructions on this website on how to donate." Give your volunteers the tools to do this through your site. Integrate social networking tools into your site and the people will really help build a national network.

Policy - link is on the menu, but it opens up another one of those surprise .pdf files. I'll assume that this too is still under development.

Privacy Policy - link is there, but not the page. Mailto link for Contact the Webmaster is broken. (missing the l in mail)

Overall a good professional looking site, with tons of potential if all the features are developed.

6.5/10

Google Link Search - 0

Google Search - #1 spot


Bob Rae
Splash entry page with French/English choices. I guess waiting to launch paid off for Bob. This is my pick for best of the bunch so far. Simple, clean, fast and easy to use. The only issue I have with the front page is with no 'Home' button, the entire header needs to link back to the home page. Currently only the far right panel does (at least in Firefox - haven't tested in IE yet)

All the right elements are there (Policy, Join, Donate, Volunteer etc) . The media centre is kind of thin and the font rather small leading to readability issues on pages like the Issues, but these are minor points.

Killer Feature - phase one of the campaign is all about signing up members. Click on Bob's join page and you get a form, but it's not just any type of form. I was beginning to wonder if anyone would figure this out. The form requires at least a name and email for contact purposes before sending you directly to the Liberal Party's online signup page. They now have a name and contact method to see if you actually joined the party. Someone had their thinking cap on here and it's the little things like this that will pay off in the long run.

Bob's Virtual Community is still under development, but I'm assuming this is going to be some sort of board or messaging feature.

Donation link is there, but not active yet. Join, Donate and Get Involved are always front and centre.

No RSS or other interactive features

No Privacy Policy

Overall a very good job. As mentioned above, the leader of the pack so far, but not by much.

7/10

Google Link Search
- 0

Google Search - site not listed. (Google Adwords would probably help here) You can find it on the #1 Wikipedia entry for Bob if you scroll way down.


So that gives us 9 of the 10 so far with just Ken Dryden to come. His campaign launch is today, so I would expect his site to go live some time soon.

A couple of random thoughts that may inspire a campaign or two:

Little or no front end/back end volunteer resources on most sites. Web banners, buttons, desk top wall paper, email templates. Blogrolls - Blogs for Brison? Mi Blogs? Bennett Bloggers? Maurizio Fans? Bob's Bloggers? eCards, Message forum - coordinate letter writing, phone call in campaign, motivation, rally organization etc. Meetup

Online donation - with only the Ignatieff campaign having their own ecommerce solution, I'm starting to wonder if the party is offering to collect for all the candidates. That would allow them to take a rake off the top and supposedly the candidates then don't have to worry about it. It's the only reason I can think of why all the rest of the campaigns have just a form or a notice saying that a secure donation link will be forthcoming from the party.

I found a limited link to Belinda Stronach's last leadership site. Many of the pictures are missing, but it gives you the general idea. Considering this site was built almost 3 years ago, it would still be head of the class in this group of leadership sites. I believe the only thing it was missing was RSS feeds, but I could be wrong. (RSS wasn't really big then). Some of the most powerful features were in the backend, which unfortunately can't be accessed.

Belinda Web Archive

My overall ranking for the sites right now:
  1. Bob Rae
  2. Scott Brison
  3. Gerard Kennedy
  4. Michael Ignatieff
  5. Maurizio Bevilacqua
  6. Joe Volpe
  7. Stephane Dion
  8. Carolyn Bennett
  9. Martha Hall Findlay
The top four are very close. Anyone in the top six right now could easily vault ahead with some work. Should be interesting to watch things develop. Once all the sites are up I'll run them through some accessability checks.

Liberal Leadership Candidates Website Review - original review

Liberal Leadership Website Review - Update 1

Rob Cottingham - other reviews on the candidates websites

Paul Synnott at 8:30 AM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


Thursday, April 27, 2006

Liberal Leadership Website Review - Update 1 
(en francais)

I'm going to try and maintain an ongoing review and comment of each of the leadership candidate's websites.

I'll make note of any new features and improvements found, rate the freshness of content and highlight any significant errors.

Freshness Scale:
  1. Piping Hot! - less than 12 hours old
  2. Fresh - new within last 24 hours
  3. Day old - new within last 48 hours
  4. Stale - no new content for more than 48 hours
  5. Mouldy - no new content for more than 5 days
  6. Putrid - no new content for more than a week
(Note: Freshness relates to original content on site, not external links to MSM stories)


Carolyn Bennett - Fresh
Photo Website still lives as the default option. Standard site has a much improved entry page. Fast load and clean look. I missed an interactive feature in my initial review. 'Words of Encouragement' and 'View Testimonials' work as a tandem. You can submit your support for Carolyn and then view all the testimonials in a sequential order. Nice little feature as long as it's not allowed to get stale.


Maurizio Bevilacqua - still looking for a website


Scott Brison - Stale
Still stuck at the campaign launch. Two upcoming dates in the calendar. Still wondering what the price is for campaign information sold from one volunteer to another.
"Any information provided through this website is not disclosed or sold to anyone except employees of the Scott Brison Campaign who need the information to carry out their duties."

Stephane Dione - Putrid
ZZZZZZZZZZZ!


Ken Dryden - not yet declared
Election website is gone now, new placeholder page in place.


Martha Hall Findlay
- Mouldy
Dangerous Credit Card Page still live. Page looks like an online donation page, but is actually nothing more than a form. Clicking submit launches your email program with all your personal and Credit Card information ready to be sent via unsecure email. One upcoming event listed on calendar


Michael Ignatieff - Piping Hot! (latest post on policy board from 7:34 am)
370 Posts in 46 Topics by 410 Members, and that doesn't include all those coming by to just look. Even if it's the opposition visiting, they're still visiting your site, seeing your policy and discussing/debating on your terms. What does it say about your campaign when your people spend more time on your opponents site than yours? Without the discussion forum, site content would rank as Mouldy.


Gerard Kennedy
- not yet declared.
Still looking for a website.


Bob Rae
- Campaign launched but website must be stuck in Committee.
"Call me Bob" (but don't call me slow off the mark). New placeholder page. Different colour and a dash of flash.


Joe Volpe
- Mouldy
RSS Feeds added (RSS 1.0 and ATOM), unfortunately, they're broken. Google Translate removed. Hopefully this feature will return, just better identified and displayed. Media Materials section added to Media Centre. We all realize that Joe likes to be larger than life (with the lunch bills as well) but is it really necessary for all the photos on the site to be the same way. The huge photos hide and distract from the site's content.


For a little bit of perspective, I'll offer up a website that I'm working on for the Windsor-Tecumseh EDA. If you're interested in joining the Conservative Party or Donating money to the EDA, I'll bet you can find a way to do it in under 3 seconds. You'll have to take my word that the site has interactive features as they are private, for EDA members only. I welcome all comments and critiques. That's how you improve.

Liberal Leadership Candidates Website Review
- Original Review
Rob Cottingham - another review on the various candidate's websites.

Paul Synnott at 10:01 AM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


Re-Elect David Miller Mayor of Toronto 
(en francais)

Short term pain for long term gain. As Bob Rae immunized Ontario from ever having to worry about another Provinical NDP government this century, Mayor Miller can accomplish the same for Toronto. (At least Rae can point to a recession as part of his woes. )

One more three year term should provide the final nail in the coffin for Mayor Miller and his socialist hordes. By that time Toronto should be hovering on the brink of bankruptcy with crushing debt, crumbling services and an irate electorate.

Only a sharp dose of reality will make the citizens of Toronto realize that platitudes and promises don't equal substance and action. Grandiose programs and slogans abound while Toronto smoulders, tinder and dry.

Ignorance may be bliss, but it is also costly and the bill is fast coming due.
Last stop for station

By SUE-ANN LEVY

I think Mayor David Miller's new "Building a Great City" website should be renamed "How to Destroy Toronto the Good in Six Easy Socialist Steps."

With the demise this week of the $150-million deal to revitalize Union Station, His Blondness has done little on the key promises he made when he came to power three years ago (to clean up the city, cut crime, renew the Waterfront, etc.)

Now he can add to his list of so-called accomplishments the scuttling of a deal that would have restored a 77-year-old transportation landmark using the kind of bold public-private partnership that is popular in many North American cities -- except socialist, union-friendly Toronto.

Paul Synnott at 6:19 AM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Last word from me on the Flag debate 
(en francais)


No half-mast for every death - Good decision

Media ban of arriving coffins - about as stupid a decision as they get.

This may fade away over the next several days, but it will be resurrected every time there is a returning flight of fallen soldiers. Let a pool camera in for joint coverage and put the issue to bed. If individual familys request privacy, then give it to them.

I'll let Lorrie Goldstein have the last word. He sums up the whole deal perfectly.
A matter of respect

Lorrie Goldstein

Wed, April 26, 2006
By LORRIE GOLDSTEIN

The "flag flap" over how to honour our soldiers killed in Afghanistan says so much about our country, none of it good.

As military historian Jack Granatstein wrote in Who Killed the Canadian Military?: "There is, unfortunately, a soft-headedness about Canadians and their politicians. An unwillingness to focus on the essentials."

And that's all this flag flap is. A non-essential, with the chorus of "support" for our soldiers being led by hypocritical Liberal and New Democrat MPs -- all of whom should be ashamed of their parties' records when it comes to our military.

Paul Synnott at 7:38 AM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


Those 'scary Conservatives' ! 
(en francais)

Another myth put to rest. Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice is taking things one step at a time, moving in accordance with the agreement.

Various native groups have been sounding alarms and raising all sorts of speculation about the "impending doom" sure to befall them if the Conservative government ever assumed the reins of power.

In Minister Prentice I believe we have someone with the potential to effect the most far reaching changes ever on this complex issue of native affairs. The question native leaders must ask themselves now is whether they want to engage in a constructive environment of improvement or continue to hold on to their fantasies of Conservative boogey men.

Final deal to compensate residential schools students reached

SUE BAILEY

OTTAWA (CP) - A final deal has been reached that will offer about $2 billion in compensation and healing programs for former students of native residential schools.

"The government will now immediately consider the settlement agreement and the interim payments and the timing of those payments," Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice said Tuesday in the Commons. The deal must be cleared by cabinet, a formality that's expected within days. It must then be approved by courts in several provinces.

Paul Synnott at 3:29 AM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Liberal Leadership Candidates Website Review 
(en francais)

As a political and web junkie, I thought it would be worthwhile to take a look at the various Liberal Leadership sites. It never hurts to see what the competition is doing and most often you can learn a new trick or two.

I'm not a designer or programmer in any sense of the word, rather more of a power user. I like to learn as much as possible from the best on the web and try and apply it in the most cost effective ways to my own efforts.

Considering someone went to a great deal of expense to bring Joe Trippi to Toronto, it looks like they didn't get a lot of value for their money. I think most of the candidates must have been sleeping. Some sites show potential and as a wiser gentleman than me said, they will probably not start hitting their stride until a month or so into the campaign.

Regardless, if I was working on any of these campaigns I would run as fast as possible to Belinda Stronach and find out if someone is available from her previous web team. Her site from the CPC Leadership campaign would leave all of these in the dust.

Carolyn Bennett
Nice entry page with French/English choice. But then everything goes crazy! What the hell is a photo blog doing in a Leadership race? While this may be appealing for artistic purposes, it's functionality is useless, especially as the default choice. There is an option to use a "more traditional or accessible website", but the link is buried in small text at the bottom of the page. That's about all I'll say about the photo site.

Once you finally find the "traditional" website, things improve somewhat. The site has a left hand menu but many of the terms are confusing and much clicking will ensue until you figure everything out. The whole site is crammed into the upper half with a newsroom sidebar on the right hand side.

If you want to donate, you'll need to be persistent and maybe a bit of a detective. Donating online is not possible, but a form is available for submission.

You'll need to drill down a level in order to volunteer (form) or join (form). No link to the new Liberal online membership page.

The navigation leaves much to be desired.

No RSS feeds. There is a blog, but not comments are possible. Carolyn states that she will be alternating blog posts between french and english. The closest thing to an interactive feature is more form filling and the opportunity to email using the "Tell a Friend" tool.

If you want to find Carolyn's policy ideas or positions, they're there, just not where you might think. (Personally, I tried the Policy link first - go figure. )

The site has a Privacy Policy, but again it's certainly not where you think it might be and is not labelled as such.

Newest content - Monday, April 24th

Overall a fairly confusing experience. Some of the basics are there but a great deal of organization and housecleaning is required to get things in order.

3/10

Google Link Search - 34 (33 2006 election or Parliament related)

Google Web Search - # 1


Maurizio Bevilacqua
Entry page with English/French option. Header area and menu is clean and simple if a little over "Maurizio'ed". (all Maurizio, all the time). I'm not sure if I care for the main page layout. 3 equal columns. In my mind the left and right sidebars take up too much space, distracting from the main, centre real estate, and limiting what can be done in that space. The menu bar looks good but the traditional 'Home' location is replaced by 'Maurizio Links'. The link page itself is of dubious value, so it's placement here is strange. The header is clickable to the home page, but I'm not sure how many people recognize this as a standard. The links would be better off in one of the sidebars, replaced by a 'Home' page. The 'Media' link could go to the sidebar as well. The three things that campaigns need to do is get people to Join, Volunteer and Donate. These three make such a nice combo together. Maurizio Fans? Not sure if this is just a place filler or if there will be some purpose to this section later.

Online donations not available. Phone number and a promise of a link to the National donation page later.

Volunteer is easily found on the top menu, sidebar and bottom of page. Good duplication

Become a member takes you directly to the Liberal Party's online form.

Media Centre - lots of 'click here's' and external links. No RSS here or anywhere else on the site. Great photo gallery with lots of pictures, you just don't know what the pictures are. Always try to caption pictures by identifying people and places and event. People like seeing their name on a candidate's site. Enhances the value of being on the team.

There is a so called 'blog', but no comments enabled, no trackbacks, has sort of a permalink on the side. Is it a blog or isn't it? There are certainly differing opinions on this. Personally I think these are more like static pages than a blog.

Policy (MaurizioViews) - easy to find on main menu. I would take the fourth paragraph, bullet it and move it up. Check out Brison's site for an example. Would make the page more readable and get the policy highlights across quickly.

No Privacy Policy

Overall a good start. Some tweaks will improve navigation and usability. As with many others though, the site falls down on the interactive part. None.

6/10

Google Link Search - 0

Google Search - unable to find maurizio.ca with just a first name



Scott Brison
The most polished and professional looking of all the candidates sites so far. I don't care much for flash entry pages, but it does look nice. English/French entry choice. Site navigation is simple and easy to use. The "Get Involved" icon follows as you travel the site.

No online donations available, but there is a link to the Liberal Party's online membership form if you hunt a little.

Volunteering is front and centre on the main page and follows via the "Get involved" page.

There are 3 different RSS feeds available, although not on the front page and there is no overall feed. Feeds do not autodetect from the frontpage.

Unfortunately, this is the closest the site gets to any sort of interactivity. There is no blog, volunteer tools, downloads, videos, podcasts, volunteer back end, discussion opportunities etc. This is where the site falls down and leaves it as nothing more than an internet postcard, albeit a very professional one.

Policy (Vision) is easy to find and readable.

Site Privacy Policy is present, although very brief. (I hope Scott's volunteers don't have to pay too much for your information that might be sold to them!)

Newest content - Sunday, April 23rd.

Overall, very sharp and professional looking, just not very engaging. All sizzle but no steak.

6.5/10

Google Link Search - 0

Google Web Search
- #1 (entry # 5 - CTV.ca item - Brison defects to Liberals)



Stephane Dion
Simple entry page with English/French choice. The whole site screams retro 1990s. Site navigation is simple because there isn't much of it.

No online donations or link to Liberal Party online membership. Joining, donating and volunteering are all lumped under one "Get Involved" form.

No RSS feeds or any hint of interactivity for visitors.

Policy is sort of available on the front page and spread throughout the site in various speeches and papers. One redeeming point is some excellent quality videos found in the newsroom.

No Privacy Policy

Newest content - Saturday, April 8th

Overall a very simple and functional site, but it's certainly not going to cut it in 2006.

4/10

2nd Website
Dion becomes the latest leadership candidate to bring his website in for a complete overhaul. The difference is profound. The new site is a Joomla Content Management System (CMS) install, utilizing what looks to be a heavily customized Rhuk Solar Flare II template. Entry page with English/French choices as well as English and French direct links to items on the site such as 'Why I'm running' and 'Get Involved'. Works well, but that picture ? !

The new site represents a leap forward for Mr. Dion. The header looks professional. Included is a search feature. If you want to see the power of CMS, try entering something like 'environment' in the search box (one of the themes of Dion's campaign). Top right of the header contains a 'Quote of the Day' feature. Nice touch, as long as it's kept current. This shouldn't be hard in Joomla as there are numerous 'Quote of the Day' plugin modules that will automatically rotate the quote based on a database that you load.

The menu is straight forward, easy to use and understand. The only thing missing is a 'Join' and 'Donate' option. The 'Get Involved' menu item takes you to a page with a catch-all form for volunteering, joining and donating.

The main page is clean, crisp and well organized.

The 'Highlights' section features 'Upcoming Events' and 'Latest News'.

The right hand side of the page is setup as a sort of action centre. The 'Get Involved' works here, but again, the site could use a Join and Donate link. Still no link to the Liberal Party's online membership form. Some graphics to highlight the section would also help. Approach the front page as if you only have 10 seconds to get a user to do something.

RSS - no RSS feeds present. As with all the other Joomla installs of candidates, this is puzzling. Joomla installs with RSS turned on by default, and is quite simple to manage for various site categories. RSS is an effective content distribution tool. No blogs or other interactive features.

Policy: I guess the 'Why I'm Running' section qualifies as the Policy section. After spending over half an hour on the site, I couldn't really point to any set of issues that define Stephane's campaign. It's there, just not presented in a way that I would remember it when I left the site.

Privacy Policy - no privacy policy

Overall a much needed improvement. The site now has a much more professional look and feel. The content presentation is greatly improved. The only thing remaining now is to take that final step to turn the site into an active tool instead of an internet postcard.

6/10

Google Link Search
- 0

Google Web Search - #6 (Stephen Harper gets #1)


Ken Dryden
Big Red enters the race, and I do mean BIG.
No entry page, French offered, although it might be a little hard to find at first. Another Joomla Open Source Content Management System(CMS) installation with a custom template. Professional look and feel. The front page contains Ken's slogan "A Big Canada" with a link to his vision. One problem though, is many people won't find that link. With the very red front page and the small little arrow underneath, it kind of blends in.

Menus are straight forward, broken up into two sections - Get Informed and Get Involved. The Get Informed section works well. It also includes an actual real live blog. A Wordpress Joomla mod complete with permalinks, moderated comments and trackbacks. You must register with the site in order to comment. News Centre is very well done. If you register with the site, you can comment on the posted news stories using a Joomla component called AKOcomment. Almost like a blog.

The Get Involved section starts off with Join Team Dryden. Filling out this form also registers you with the website, providing a Username and Password. You will receive an email shortly after registering with links to donate, info on how to be a delegate, and a (insert link here) link to the Liberal party join page.

Join the Liberal Party is a confusing page. Info on why to join and what the process for delegate selection is, just no info or links on exactly how to join the Liberal party. The very bottom of the page provides a link to the Become a Delegate page, where if you are very diligent, you can find a link to the Liberal Party online membership form. There is a "Join Now" bar on the front page, but it kind of blends in with everything else red.

Two big 'Get Informed' and 'Get Involved' sections on the front page with nice pictures but what do they do other than take up space? Considering their prominent placement, I tried mousing over them, expecting a link to take me some where.

When you surf to other pages, the big header is replaced with a smaller one. In the top right there is a small form for Email, name and a subscribe button, but what are you subscribing for? The site, emails, newsletters, 12 issues of Liberal Life magazine?

Donating is impossible unless you register with the site. I could find no link or menu item to a donation page other than the link I received in the registration email. Not sure if this is by design or by omission..

Volunteering - Join Team Dryden, register for the site. Lots of opportunities to do so. Makes for good email/name collection.

No RSS feeds - should be a no brainer for both the Blog and the site. Joomla itself is feed enabled by default.

Policy (Issues) - easy to find and lots of it.

Privacy Policy - extensive policy available, although it opens a new instance of the site in a window in order to view it.

Overall a good start. Obviously the site's goal is to inform and engage with it's users.

6.5/10

Google Link Search - 0

Google Search
- #2 (Stephen Harper gets top spot again.)



Martha Hall Findlay
No entry page. French is available on a small tab on the side of the site. Site navigation is simple and straight forward. Martha wins the award for the quickest direct link to a membership form - on the front right side of the page. The problem is, it's not very prominent and it's placed with an unmarked .pdf link to some sort of strategy document.

The front page is not very readable. There is an action centre, but it's only partially visible on the bottom right. I actually thought I'd found my first online donation form, but in actual fact discovered a very dangerous little item. First clue that something is wrong is the supposed online donation form is not a secure page. Second clue is hitting the submit button launches your email program with all that nifty Credit Card information ready to send. A VERY BAD IDEA!

Volunteering, joining etc, is easy through either the menu or the action centre.

No RSS feeds, blog, discussion....

Policy is easy to find (Issues) but not very readable. The bolding, italics and colour send your eyes all over the place.

No Privacy Policy Correction - a Privacy Policy exists. It's actually both detailed and bilingual.

Newest content - Friday, April 21st

Overall another internet postcard with slim possibilities. The Credit Card problem is an immediate problem and must be rectified. I'm sending an email to the campaign to inform them.

0/10 (until the CC card page is fixed)

Google Link Search - 5

Google Web Search - #1


Michael Ignatieff
No entry page. French is available via link in the top right corner. At first glance the site holds promise. This is the first Content Management System (CMS) site that I've seen so far. The site is a Joomla Open Source installation with a custom CSS template. I may be prejudiced towards Joomla, but CMS's should be a no brainer in Canadian political campaigns today, especially with so many good Open Source candidates available. (Mambo, Joomla, Drupal etc).

Navigation is front and centre although a little confusing. "Run to Leadership"? "Jump in"? JOIN, VOLUNTEER, DONATE usually work pretty well. The front page contains a blog of sorts with Michael and various team members posting. No direct commenting is available but their is a link after each post to another area. (I'll cover this later)

Eureka! Someone in the Liberal Party has discovered e-commerce! Online donations can be made on the site through a secure e-commerce system. (VirtueMart) This is one of the strengths of CMS sites. Numerous features can be added to the site as a simple component or module plug-in.

After finding an actual online donation form, I was surprised not to find even a link to the Liberal membership page. The Joomla site even has the capability of placing the page in a "wrapper" the same way they implement another feature I'll discuss later. Doing it this way allows you to signup using the parent Liberal site without leaving the candidate site.

Volunteering is available once you "Jump In". The action centre on the front page is far too wordy and denies the opportunity to volunteer directly from the front page.

There is 1 RSS feed on the site, but you have to search very hard to find it. Again this is surprising as Joomla comes RSS enabled and is very simple to implement. (It's actually turned on by default)

"Mi Community" - an actual dyed-in-the-wool, real, live discussion board. (Simple Machine Forums). Congratulations to Mr. Iganatieff for being the only candidate to include a live, interactive feature on his site. While many may debate the virtues of discussion boards or blogs, they can be a powerful tool, and at the very least a continuing draw for the site. (for example, Mr. Ignatieff wins for freshest content with the latest post being 6:49 this morning. ) The only problem with the forum is that it is implemented in a wrapper and the narrow template really squishes things. Even those familiar with boards may find it a little off when they first start using it. The forum contains an RSS feed, but the only way you will find it is if you search the source code or try auto-detecting feeds with a reader. Signup for the forum is simple, but the login takes you to the French side of the site. The forum is still English, just the menus change to French.

Policy is not really evident on the site. Another one of those click the Policy links but find something else. I left the site without really knowing what policy or vision Ignatieff wants to project.

Site has a Privacy Policy but be prepared to scroll. It's worth it as you'll also find another handy little link hidden away - A site map! The only one found so far. This is such a handy thing for so many people - why hide it?

Newest content - 8:57 am, Tuesday, April 25th. (interactive works. )

Overall a good first effort. I'd spend a few bucks on a professional template. Scott Brison's site looks flashier, but this one has the engagement and the capability to easily add other features.

6.5/10

2nd Website:
Ignatieff's webteam has done a complete overhaul of the site. Gone is the Joomla install in favour of Active Server Page (.asp)

Clean, professional looking and appealing. The menu is straight forward and simple. French/English available. About the only page that seems to be still under development is the 'Get Involved' page and this isn't a big issue at this stage as the well designed site offers numerous other opportunities to 'Get Involved'.

Mi Community is still there, but greatly revamped. The Mi Community Home Page is the Union Station of the campaign, connecting users to features. Based on Community Server 2.0 , the section will keep users active and engaged. MI Blogs, Forums, Photo Gallery, Multimedia Centre and Upcoming Events. Every feature execpt the calendar allow comments in one form or another. The blogs have permalinks and comments, no trackbacks. The new forums feature focused policy debates, an opportunity to debate on subjects of the users choosing and a breakdown by Province. (What about the Territories?). Emails went out to all the users from the previous site with a new password and login. There were 412 users when I first looked, 414 when I just checked the site again.

RSS is available for all of the sites content. No autodiscover on the home page, the RSS icon is in the bottom right corner. Clicking on it will take you to a page listing three feeds. The forums also offers feeds for topics and comments and I found another feed, 'Speeches' tucked away on the site. I think this one has the possibility of being a podcast.

Donations, Joining and Volunteering are easy to do. With the exception of the MI Community section, the options to donate, volunteer and join are easily available on every page. The Ignatieff campaign remains the only one with their own eCommerce section allowing for online donations. The reworked donations page is easy to understand and use. Pre-set donation amounts, user entered and monthly contributions are available. Standard phone, fax and mail donations are also available along with a form.

As with the previous site, policy is not really evident. This seems to be more a campaign decision/strategy than any function of the website.

Privacy Statement opens in a javascript window.

Significant improvement over the last site. Ignatieff's site now represents the gold standard for others to reach for. There are still many features that can and may be added to the site but in it's current for Ignatieff's site is head and shoulders above the rest.

8.5/10

Google Link Search - 5 (4 2006 election related)

Google Web Search - #3

Gerard Kennedy
No entry page. French option available in the top right corner. Professional looking and quick loading. Best 'Action Centre' I've seen of all the sites. Volunteer, Donate and Join all there along with a yet to be ready "Share the message" feature. The icon row in the top right corner seems to be a strange placement to me. This eats up about 1 inch of valuable front page real estate for questionable value. The Menu bar initially looks easy to use, but the tabbed format is confusing because the tabs do not change colour as you navigate. You're never really sure which tab you're on. For some reason I didn't even notice the sub-menus until my third or fourth time through the menu bar. I think I was so focused on trying to figure out where I was on the tabs, that the sub-menus escaped notice. I'm assuming that as the campaign goes on he'll have more than one speech and one media release so we'll be able to do away with each of those opening a .pdf unexpectedly.

Breaking News - this isn't CTV Newsnet or CNN Headline news. Unless the Candidate falls down and breaks something, there really isn't a lot of "breaking" news on a leadership campaign. Takes up more valuable front page real estate. Usually these end up being nothing more than stale distractions.

Huge flash area for such a small page template. The calendar is well done. Most of the other features are still 'under development', but certainly show a lot of promise. The online community looks to be a chat feature. Share the Message has some interesting potential. There is a placeholder for a blog in the multimedia centre, but it's not active yet. One video and one .mp3 there. Hint - it's not a podcast unless you're actually casting it. Requires RSS of which there is none.

National Networks - I thought I was actually going to find something interesting here, but alas, no. Some good ideas but the site doesn't give people the tools to follow through. "Organize a coffee party or a pub night to raise funds for Gerard. Follow the instructions on this website on how to donate." Give your volunteers the tools to do this through your site. Integrate social networking tools into your site and the people will really help build a national network.

Policy - link is on the menu, but it opens up another one of those surprise .pdf files. I'll assume that this too is still under development.

Privacy Policy - link is there, but not the page. Mailto link for Contact the Webmaster is broken. (missing the l in mail)

Overall a good professional looking site, with tons of potential if all the features are developed.

6.5/10

Google Link Search - 0

Google Search - #1 spot


Bob Rae
Splash entry page with French/English choices. I guess waiting to launch paid off for Bob. This is my pick for best of the bunch so far. Simple, clean, fast and easy to use. The only issue I have with the front page is with no 'Home' button, the entire header needs to link back to the home page. Currently only the far right panel does (at least in Firefox - haven't tested in IE yet)

All the right elements are there (Policy, Join, Donate, Volunteer etc) . The media centre is kind of thin and the font rather small leading to readability issues on pages like the Issues, but these are minor points.

Killer Feature - phase one of the campaign is all about signing up members. Click on Bob's join page and you get a form, but it's not just any type of form. I was beginning to wonder if anyone would figure this out. The form requires at least a name and email for contact purposes before sending you directly to the Liberal Party's online signup page. They now have a name and contact method to see if you actually joined the party. Someone had their thinking cap on here and it's the little things like this that will pay off in the long run.

Bob's Virtual Community is still under development, but I'm assuming this is going to be some sort of board or messaging feature.

Donation link is there, but not active yet. Join, Donate and Get Involved are always front and centre.

No RSS or other interactive features

No Privacy Policy

Overall a very good job. As mentioned above, the leader of the pack so far, but not by much.

7/10

Google Link Search
- 0

Google Search - site not listed. (Google Adwords would probably help here) You can find it on the #1 Wikipedia entry for Bob if you scroll way down.



Joe Volpe
No entry page. Another Joomla install, using a stock template, modified. (rhuk solarflare II) French is available in the top right corner.

Navigation is simple and easy, although the Action Centre is probably too small. This is a common fault of many stock Joomla templates. The rotating image banner will interest some, but others will not care for it. I don't mind one way or another, but one problem is where's my city? I think Windsor has a Liberal or two left.

The front page isn't there. The page is overwhelmed by the photo on it, forcing the visitor to scroll down to find the content. This is a common problem throughout the site. The size of the photos makes it difficult to find content, links etc.

The Volunteer link in the Action Centre takes you directly to the signup form, but the Get Involved link takes you to another one of those gigantic photos. No online donations, just another form.

No RSS feed, no blog, etc....

Policy is there (Joe's views) and easy to find but not very readable.

The site contains one of the best uses of Google Translate that I've ever seen, it's just a shame most people will probably never find it. For campaigns reaching out to ethnic communities this can be a powerful feature. Although Google translations leave something to be desired, they will at least convey the general idea and may bring the person to your campaign looking for further info.

No Privacy Policy

Newest content - Sunday, April 23rd.

Overall a shaky start, but in Joomla the site has a strong platform that is easily modified and built on. As with Ignatieff's site, invest in a professional template and go interactive.

5/10

Google Link Search - 0

Google Web Search
- #1 (3rd Entry actually registers as 'LPOC Leadership Candidate Home")

Final ranking for the first round.
  1. Bob Rae 7/10
  2. Scott Brison 6.5/10
  3. Ken Dryden 6.5/10
  4. Gerard Kennedy 6.5/10
  5. Michael Ignatieff 6.5/10
  6. Maurizio Bevilacqua 6/10
  7. Joe Volpe 5/10
  8. Stephane Dion 4/10
  9. Carolyn Bennett 3/10
  10. Martha Hall Findlay 0/10 - Donation Page still not fixed.

If you've actually struggled through my ramblings and are interested in someone else's review, check out Rob Cottingham's site.

For what it's worth - that's my opinion. Like it, hate it -who cares. That's what blogging's for.

Paul Synnott at 11:00 AM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


Liberal Sticky Finger Award 
(en francais)


As in, congratulations for finally getting the finger out and figuring out how to get the Membership page working.

Welcome to the 21st century web! With one bold, albeit extremely slow, stroke they've finally managed to make the five pages of rules regarding membership applications a moot point. Leadership candidates rejoice!

Now if they could only figure out how to get rid of Paul Martin.

Oh well, we're used to 13 years of do nothing so I guess we can't expect too much all at once.

Paul Synnott at 4:54 AM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


Monday, April 24, 2006

MP advocates unwavering support for the United States 
(en francais)




Monday afternoon Canadian Jeopardy.




What current Canadian MP said:
"I want to see a strong government in Ottawa that matches the iron-will of the Canadian people to support our best friend – the United States.

We stand beside America and we shall never abandon her."
Answer: Who is...

(Hint: thanks to this person and other friends, the wish above recently came to pass)

Paul Synnott at 2:35 PM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


Public fleecing ending, special interest groups rage 
(en francais)

Academic research is a valuable asset in the realm of public policy debate.

Special interest groups funded by the taxpayers are a completely different issue. Political parties of all stripes have increasingly been using these groups to support their own agendas.

We have a federal Public Service to assist governments in researching and drafting policy. If further research is desired or required, then academic institutions can be called upon.

If special interest groups wish to provide input, then they should derive their funding from those that share the same interests, not the public purse.

Lets stop funding the special interests and start funding the issues.
Alarm bells ring over Tory cuts
Interest groups feel abandoned
BY MIKE DE SOUZA CANWEST NEWS SERVICE

OTTAWA
Child-care researchers, aboriginal communities, affordable housing advocates, environmental activists, artists and the CBC all have something in common these days.

For more than a decade they built bridges with the federal Liberal government to negotiate grants, funding and subsidies. Now they are at odds with Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Conservative promises to lower the GST and send out new family-allowance cheques to parents for child care could cost them hundreds of millions of dollars in public funding.

“There’s a preference (in government policy) for financial transfers to individuals, therefore directly to citizens,” said Christian Rouillard, the Canada research chair in governance and public management at the University of Ottawa. “As for everything that supports civil society, different community groups and the social movement, they are at risk of seeing their transfers diminished or in some cases, eliminated.”

The government has already confirmed it would eliminate 15 programs dedicated to the fight against climate change, prompting an outcry from the groups affected.

“I think it’s fine for a new government to come in and say we want to look at things a little bit. We want to rejig things a little bit, but that’s not what they’re doing. They’re cutting everything,” said Greenpeace spokesman Steven Guilbeault.

“So basically we’ll have bureaucrats sitting around doing absolutely nothing, because they have no budget. There will be no programs, there will be no incentives, there will be nothing.”

With a budget expected within weeks, the next likely targets are childcare advocacy groups, researchers and academics who have gotten hundreds of millions in research grants and subsidies over the years.

Human Resources Minister Diane Finley has said all programs are under review in her department.

Meantime, Harper complained last week about “the armies of academics, researchers and special interest groups” who are taking Ottawa’s childcare money away from parents.

Public child-care advocates are furious since they have not been able to meet with anyone in the Harper government, while Conservative-friendly interest groups are regularly consulted and invited to participate.
If you want to 'advocate' on a position or cause, do it on your own dime, not the taxpayer's.

Paul Synnott at 2:30 PM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


The Great Flag Debate Pt II 
(en francais)

After publishing my previous post, I came across this article which as far as I'm concerned reinforces my opinion that the correct decision was to return to the tradition as it was.

Time to tone down official mourning as Afghan casualties climb, say analysts

By BRUCE CHEADLE

OTTAWA (CP) - Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor wrote this letter explaining the Harper government's protocol on national remembrance:

I would like to take this opportunity to explain the Government of Canada's policy regarding national remembrance; which has been critized by members of the Opposition.

For more than 80 years, our national tradition with respect to those who have died in the service of our country has been to honour all of them equally on November 11th, Remembrance Day. On this day the national flag is lowered to half-mast on all federal buildings and establishments throughout Canada, including the Peace Tower, from sunrise to sunset. This policy ensures that our nation equally and non-discriminately respects and honours our fallen service members.

In the event of a Canadian Forces' operational death, the Department of National Defence protocol ensures flags will be half-masted within the operational base, the home base of the member, and the National Defence Headquarters from the day of death until sunset the day of the funeral. Also, all flags within the service (Navy, Army, or Air Force) of the member will be half-masted from sunrise to sunset on the day of the funeral.

The previous Liberal government broke with this long-standing tradition that confidently brought Canada through its wartime history and instead decided on an ad-hoc basis to lowering the flag of the Peace Tower. As Minister of National Defence, I can tell you that this adhockery unfairly distinguished some of those who died in Afghanistan from those who have died in current and previous operations. Lowering the Peace Tower's flag on November 11th ensures that all of Canada's fallen heroes are justly honoured.

There is no greater loss to a family than that of a loved one and there is no greater loss to the Canadian Forces family than that of one of its own.

Their contributions and sacrifices in defence of Canada will never be forgotten.

The Honourable Gordon O'Connor

Minister of National Defence

Paul Synnott at 1:47 AM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


The Great Flag Debate 
(en francais)

I'll offer a little context to my thoughts and opinions on this issue before I actually comment.

I spent 8 1/2 years in the Navy and left as a Master Seaman Naval Signalman. One function 0f the Signalman is to be the Ceremonial expert of the Navy. For those that might think that this is a trivial subject, there could be nothing further than the truth. Any ship, squadron, battalion or other formation within the military has at it's very core the foundation of tradition. At every level of training for Signalmen, the MINIMUM standard for any subject was 95%, with the exception of Ceremonial Procedures, which required a pass of 98%. The keeping of Naval traditions, as with any service, is done with the utmost care and respect.

Military traditions are formed over decades if not centuries. Most are ignored at your peril and rarely if ever changed. If change is ever considered, it is done with the basis of the tradition in mind and only after serious study and contemplation.

With the above in mind, I would suggest that the decision to lower the Canadian flag every time a soldier died in Afghanistan was a purely political move designed to show the Liberal party's "support" for the troops. As with most political moves of this nature, the deeper ramifications of the decision are usually not considered. Here are a couple of examples:

1. An Hercules pilot has a heart attack and dies shortly after returning from an Afghanistan flight;

2. A Sgt. in Petawawa is killed in an off base traffic accident while returning home after a days work training pers prior to deployment;

3. A Naval Captain dies at home of natural causes while sleeping.

With each of the above situations, there are appropriate customs and tradtions to be followed. With the Liberal's change of tradition, we are now left with a new decision. Which one of the above situations would rate the lowering of flags at all National buildings? All, none, some?

Are their deaths any more or less important than the death of someone in the Afghanistan theatre of operations? What is the new criteria to determine whether or not you rate the honour of a National flag lowering? Who makes that decision?

Imagine yourself as the spouse or relative of someone in the examples given above. What would your reaction be if the decision is not to lower the flags?

Regardless of my partisan political leanings, I fully support the current government's decision to return to the previous tradition. Within the military there is a time, place and reason for virutally everything that they do. Many of these reasons are based on the customs and traditions of a particular service or the military as a whole. They are not meant to be changed on a partisan whim or used as a political football. Return the tradition to whence it came and leave well enough alone.

Paul Synnott at 1:05 AM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


Sunday, April 23, 2006

Blogging Tories Site of the Week 
(en francais)



Weeping and Gnashing

"If the blogosphere has a Hell, you have arrived. At least my little corner of it. Expect to be bored numb."


PS. it doesn't hurt that he's a Hab's fan.

Paul Synnott at 12:04 PM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


Saturday, April 22, 2006

God bless 'em all 
(en francais)


Recruits flock to join military(subscription required)
Seeking good pay, adventure


Trevor Wilhelm, Windsor Star
Published: Saturday, April 22, 2006

Despite a controversial mission in Afghanistan and the highly publicized loss of Canadian lives, Canada's Armed Forces are exceeding recruitment targets as people come in search of high pay and big adventure, according to recruiters.

Capt. Holly Brown of the Canadian Forces Recruitment Group, headquartered at CFB Borden, said that success has come in the face of advertising embargoes on government agencies during the Gomery inquiry and federal election.

"We exceeded our targets this year and that was without being able to advertise," she said. "I think Canadians are patriotic people. The young people we're seeing come in have that patriotism and want to get there and change the world."

As of April 1, the Armed Forces had 63,000 regular forces and 23,000 people in primary reserves.

In the fiscal year that ended March 31, 2006 - the first of a five-year recruitment drive - Brown said more than 5,800 people signed up for full time regular service in Canada, surpassing the target of 5,500.

With recruitment for part-time primary reserves, a total of 11,400 people joined last year, she said.

The aim this year is to recruit at least 6,400 regular forces.

In Windsor, 86 people enrolled for full-time service and 124 people joined up part time with the reserves, said local recruitment officer Capt. Valerie George.

She said that's also an increase over past years, though she didn't have the previous numbers to compare.

"Recruitment is up from last year and it's anticipated that trend will continue," said George. "We tend to see more people come in for combat arms occupations on the army side of things."

She said the potential of being put in harm's way in hot spots like Afghanistan doesn't seem to be deterring people.

So far in Afghanistan, 11 Canadian soldiers and one diplomat have been killed. About 50 soldiers have been wounded.

If anything, the Afghanistan mission is actually attracting recruits, said George.

"People are just interested in the opportunity to deploy and help out," she said. Brown said the military's prominence in newspapers and on the airwaves because of the Afghan mission is raising awareness.

George said the economy is also likely contributing to strong recruitment in Windsor, with the auto and manufacturing sectors facing uncertain futures.

"People are looking for stability," she said.

It's also a good time of year for recruitment, George said, because young people are finishing school and exploring their options in the face of that uncertainty.

Brown said travel opportunities and good pay tend to be draws everywhere.

Paul Synnott at 5:44 AM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


I suppose we're waiting for something important to happen 
(en francais)

Update to yesterday's post. Both men claim to have family in Toronto and one of the accused attended high school there.

While I'm certainly not paranoid, I am deeply concerned.

Living in Windsor, where between the Tunnel and Ambassador bridge 42% of Canada's trade with the US travels, failure to deal with these threats has grave implicatons for both countries.
Atlanta men met with extremists in Toronto: FBI

Updated Fri. Apr. 21 2006 11:28 PM ET

CTV.ca News Staff

Two Atlanta-area men met with Islamic extremists in Toronto, where they discussed "strategic locations in the United States suitable for a terrorist strike," according to an FBI affidavit made public Friday.

Syed Haris Ahmed and Ehsanul Islam Sadequee -- U.S. citizens from the Atlanta area -- met with at least three other targets of FBI terrorism investigations during a trip to Toronto last month, according to the affidavit.

The affidavit said the men discussed attacks against oil refineries and military bases. They also planned to travel to Pakistan for military training at a terrorist camp, which authorities said the 21-year-old Ahmed then attempted to do.
The question is, who are the "three other targets" that the accused met with? Both stories have very little comment from the RCMP and there has been no word of any arrests in Canada.

Paul Synnott at 5:07 AM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


Friday, April 21, 2006

Disturbing implications for Canada 
(en francais)

For all the head in the sand types who think everything in Canada is just peachy.

I wonder if Alexandre Trudeau would like to be a sponsor for some of these gentlemen.
FBI: Georgia men talked of U.S. terror plan
From Henry Schuster
CNN

Friday, April 21, 2006; Posted: 6:10 p.m. EDT (22:10 GMT)

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Two Atlanta-area men in federal custody as part of a terrorism probe discussed possible locations for a U.S. attack, including military bases and oil refineries, according court documents unsealed Friday.

The U.S. attorney's office in Atlanta on Thursday unsealed an indictment against Georgia Tech student Syed Ahmed, 21.

Ahmed was arrested last month in Atlanta and pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of material support for terrorism.

...

An affidavit from FBI agent Michael Scherck says the duo traveled in March 2005 from Atlanta to Canada, where they met with three men who are the subject of an FBI international terrorism investigation.

Ahmed "explained that, during some of these meetings, he, Sadequee and the others discussed strategic locations in the United States suitable for a terrorist strike, to include oil refineries and military bases," the affidavit says.

"They also plotted how to disable the global positioning system in an effort to disrupt military and commercial communications and traffic."

The affidavit alleges the "assembled group developed a plan to receive military training at one of the several terrorist-sponsored training camps." It also says Ahmed traveled to Pakistan in an attempt to get such training.

The government says that Sadequee lied about the meetings when an FBI agent questioned him last year. He was traveling to Bangladesh to get married, according to his family.

At a news conference Thursday in Atlanta, U.S. Attorney David Nahmias said Ahmed was charged with providing material support for terrorism, not planning or carrying out terrorist acts.

FBI spokesman Richard Kolko said "no imminent threat" existed at any point during the investigation.

Court documents reveal the investigation included court-authorized wiretapping, recounting a conversation between Ahmed and Sadequee's sister.

The FBI affidavit also says agents found two CD-ROMs in the lining of Sadequee's suitcase when he was leaving the United States. One disc contained pornography and the other was encrypted with a code the FBI was unable to crack, according to the affidavit.

It also says Sadequee had maps of the Washington area with the discs.
Hopefully we'll be hearing about some arrests in Montreal shortly. (Correction - the city they travelled to is Toronto)

Paul Synnott at 9:40 PM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


Pay More. Get Less. 
(en francais)


Interesting new web campaign by the Ontario PC Party.



Pay More. Get Less.

McGuinty 2006 Ontario Budget: Pay More Get Less

Ontario families are hard pressed to make ends meet and were looking to Dalton Mcguinty's 2006 budget for some relief from increasing taxes and user fees.

Unfortunately, for the third year in a row, that did not happen.

For the third year in a row, Dalton McGuinty broke his promise to balance the budget - despite having a $3 billion windfall for the 2005-06 year.
Nice clean looking, fast loading site. Several interactive features on the site. (ie. email to Dalton, Share your Story, Send to a Friend)

Paul Synnott at 6:56 PM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


Prime Minister nails Lowell Green 
(en francais)

Rightfully so.

Toasted and roasted.

Update: mp3 Audio of phone-in by PM.

April 20, 2006
Ottawa, Ontario

Notes for an Address by

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Prime Minister of Canada

Lowell, it’s Stephen calling from Ottawa. Thanks for taking my call.

Sorry I can’t be there with you in person, but for once you will have to listen to my comments without nailing me with one of your hardball questions.

I’m sure you can handle it. After all, it’s only fitting that after 50 years, you let others do the talking.

Lowell, you deserve everything you get tonight.

But you also deserve recognition as a giant of talk radio in Canada. I’m sure I speak for all your listeners in thanking you for your huge contributions to democratic debate in this great country.

All the best and enjoy the roast – you’ve earned it!
Congratulations Lowell. Hopefully we'll be listening to you for many more years to come.

You can listen to Lowell's show on CFRA from 9am to noon.

Paul Synnott at 9:17 AM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


Long tail cats in a room full of rocking chairs... 
(en francais)


or Liberals in Quebec. I can't remember which group it is, but one of them is very nervous this morning after reading something like this:
New respect for Harper in Quebec
'Open federalism' well received

Graeme Hamilton, National Post
Published: Friday, April 21, 2006

Getting elected prime minister tends to increase public interest in one's pronouncements, but yesterday's speech before the Montreal Board of Trade drew far more than the curious. A Board of Trade official said the 1,900 tickets sold were the most for a Board event since Pierre Trudeau visited in 1980.
For a guy born and raised in Ontario, schooled in Alberta and currently living in Ottawa. Not bad!

Paul Synnott at 9:10 AM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|


Toronto Star declares childcare a "right" of working women 
(en francais)

Can't say I'm surprised. The Toronto Star and their quest to impose a socialist utopia on everyone. The editorial headline screams that Harper is doing all the distorting in the child-care debate.

Editorial: Harper distorting child-care debate
Apr. 20, 2006. 01:00 AM

With the budget just weeks away, supporters of child-care centres must throw themselves and their dedication to their children into the battle to persuade Canadians that access to quality child care is not a frill, but a right of working women and, more significantly, their children.
* only "child-care centres" have supporters dedicated to children

* only "child-care centres" provide quality child care

* only women are responsible for childcare

The issue is not about day care, a term based on the clock. It's about the proper care of infants and toddlers by trained, supervised professionals.

Someone should tell my two nieces what poor care they received over the years from their untrained grandmother and unsupervised Aunts and Uncles. The result of years of such shocking care:

* one niece in 3rd year university, the other in advance stream subjects - Grade 11
* both speak two languages
* both have highly developed social skills (too developed if you ask my traditional leaning Italian brother-in-law)
* both have a passion for reading passed on by the entire family of untrained people, in spite of suffering through the whole language learning concept while attending elementary school
Do we, as a society, not have an obligation and a vested interest in ensuring the children who do not spend the days with their mothers get the kind of care that will help them become well-adjusted, creative, productive adults?
I don't know how I'm going to break the news to my nieces that they're doomed to be un-creative, mal-adjusted, unproductive burdens on society. I think I'll be gentle and hold off until after graduation.

Good thing this editorial came out when it did. I now have time to run out and let my brother know he should cease the three day a week daycare provided by my untrained, unsupervised amateur sister before untold harm befalls his children.

Paul Synnott at 6:30 AM links to this post    | en francais | Go to Top|




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