Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Bring Them Down

If Layton is forced to table a non-confidence motion on Thursday, I think the Liberals should support it. From a moral point of view, this issue cuts to the heart of whether or not this minority parliament should survive. From a strategic point of view, I can't envision a better scenario to take the case to the Canadian public.

I understand some trepidation in forcing an election while in the midst of a leadership struggle, but I see this condition as opportunity. The conventional wisdom seems to be that the Harper government will orchestrate its own demise after the spring budget. Given the favorable economic conditions, we can all expect this budget to offer a litany of goodies that the government will use to advantage. Do you allow Harper to dictate the terms, or do you force an election based on the achilles heel? Every poll I have seen shows the Tories score lowest on their environmental policy. I would think the opposition should relish the opportunity to make this issue the central theme in the next election.

Please cite one historical example, wherein a party doesn't receive a bounce in the polls in the aftermath of a leadership race. The spectre of a convention, within the confines of an election campaign is pure gold in terms of momentum. I don't see the leadership as a distraction that can be exploited by Harper, but a great opportunity to frame the Liberal Party in a positive light. So long as the fight keeps an eye on the big picture, Liberals are guaranteed positive coverage for the bulk of the election. Liberal after Liberal hammering the government, in front of a rapt audience, broadcast throughout Canada. I am hard pressed to find the negatives in such a scenario.

Back to the moral angle. Layton has forced the government hand, and how the government reacts should dictate the response. If Layton's proposal to allow ALL opposition parties the power to propose amendments to the current Green Plan is rejected, then Harper effectively rejects the minority concept and this parliament has no realistic hope of achieving anything. Presently, the situation is so ridiculous, we have the unprecedented circumstance where the government filibusters itself. The Liberals must forget about Layton's motivations and vote on the spirit of the motion. Do Liberals have any confidence in this government to deal with climate change? From all the rhetoric the answer is clearly no, so I don't see how the Liberals can ethically prop up the government to stop the NDP motion. If Harper doesn't offer an olive branch on this file, then the Liberals are obligated to vote for the non-confidence on principle. Bring them down, on our terms, with the knowledge that the perceived weakness of a leaderless party is really a hidden blessing.

Beware Ottawa Area Trick or Treaters


There's a new sheriff in town. Scarrrryyy.

Good On Layton

I don't care if Harper spins. I don't care if Layton sees political opportunity. What I do care about is achieving some environmental plan that actually has some teeth:
Layton charged that greenhouse gases and pollution won't go down for at least 15 to 20 years under the Conservative plan.

"That's why I made an offer yesterday to the prime minister to sit down together and come up with a plan to tackle climate change that could actually pass this house," Layton said Tuesday.

But it's not clear whether Harper is willing to negotiate a rewrite to his plan for dealing with smog and climate change.

Layton also announced Tuesday that he tabled a private member's bill, which targets climate change.

"Under this act, action to reduce dangerous gas emissions begins immediately, and the government will be forced to put in place targets within the six months of it being adopted," Layton said.

In the short-term, the government would be required to publish a plan for interim targets for every five years, as well as regulations published no later than one year from now.

In the mid-term, the act legislates a target of 25 per cent reduction by 2020 while the long-term targets legislate an 80 per cent reduction of green house gas emissions by 2050.

"It's time for this minority parliament to get work done. We need a plan that addresses climate change today, and this act, which I will be discussing with the prime minister later today, will put Canada on the right track," Layton said.

Where is the harm in Layton attempting to give this legislation some substance? Why are Liberals approaching this from a partisan perspective? How can anyone who cares about the environment thumb their nose at Layton's overture? The bottomline, if Layton pulls this off, we all benefit, so I say GO FOR IT. I could care less who comes off smelling like a rose and who looks relevant and I'm pretty sure most Canadians would agree. If Layton can move Harper, then I say job well done.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Ban Canada From Kyoto Talks

Clearly, the time has come for Canada to withdraw from the Kyoto talks and let serious nations continue their work. Canada is now poised to undermine next week's discussions:
OTTAWA (CP) - Canada wants to go back to the drawing board on plans for dealing with global warming when countries that have signed the Kyoto Protocol open new talks in Africa next week.

The federal government will seek a "comprehensive review" of the 1997 treaty when negotiators from 165 countries meet in Nairobi, Kenya, federal officials told a background briefing Monday.

Canada wants to focus on "the longer term," said officials, who cannot be identified under the rules of the briefing.

But critics say federal strategists are actually looking for a way to escape existing promises and stall progress.

"They want to find a way out of their commitments," said John Bennett of the Climate Action Network. "They're looking at a way to redo the whole protocol."

The Conservatives are undercutting the genuine efforts of other committed countries to save political face. Ambrose wants to argue that Canada is working with other Kyoto nations, but our stance works to derail the entire process. How ironic, that on a day when Tony Blair sounds the environmental alarm bell, advocating immediate action, we head to the talks armed with stall tactics.

I hope other nations begin to demand Ambrose resign her influential position and publicly embarass this cynical politicism. This government hates Kyoto, but appears willing to use our presence to thwart domestic criticism. Think about how ridiculous it is to attend talks aimed at future targets and demand a review of a nine-year old resolution. What an absolute embarassment that demands someone finally call us out. Canada should be barred from these talks, because we are effectively the fox in the henhouse.


UPDATE

The audacity is almost funny.

Liberals And Baggage

Interesting interview with Kennedy in The Hill Times. I would like to focus on this comment, as it relates to his perceived weakness in French:
I'm simply getting more performance capability in French and I have accepted that as a challenge and I'm starting to demonstrate that clearly as something that I can do. Most people in the race are seen to have a drawback or two, that's my principal drawback. It's one that I can fix and people can judge for themselves where others may not be as fortunate."

This statement articulates exactly why I view Kennedy as the most electable, all things being equal. Kennedy's "baggage" isn't necessarily permanent, nor is it firmly entrenched. Kennedy's weakness is something he can "fix", a work in progress. No fair commentator can draw any long term conclusions about Kennedy and Quebec because the dialogue is still in its infancy. The point, Kennedy's "baggage" can easily be shed.

I watched an excellent interview with Bob Rae on the CBC last night. Rae was thoughtful, articulate and his usual charismatic self. The problem, half the interview was spent rehashing the past, in what has become a worrisome pattern. What have you learned Bob? If you could do it over again, what would you do here? Have the mistakes of the past made you wiser? For a party desperate to move forward, the last thing we need is too be sidetracked by conversations about the past, particularly the unpleasant experience of another party. I sincerely worry about the possibility of the next election turning into a referendum on Rae, rather than a discussion about the future of the country. It is important to take the perspective of the opposition, and if I were a Conservative strategist I would relish the opportunity to pour over the Rae record and embarrass him at every turn, making the fight purely defensive. Rae himself has admitted that the media seems obsessed with his past, the question then becomes, why would this reality change in a general, especially with the other side feeding the flames?

Dion's baggage is well-known. While it appeared that Dion was able to re-invent himself somewhat in the summer, the last while has given us painful examples of the old fights blemishing the need for renewal. Do we give the Conservatives a pass on the environment, their chief weakness, by presenting the man who will be forced to defend the abysmal Liberal record. I don't care what any defender says, the record was horrible, too little too late and Canadians largely agree. I envision a scenario where the Tories are allowed a forceful counter to any Dion arguments and the whole issue is lost in the flurry of charges and counter-changes. 13 years, 13 years. Listen to the debates in the Commons, the Tories make no secret of their tactics to neuter the Liberals- and they do it effectively, because the evidence isn't kind. To say, "there were items on my desk ready to sign" is a weak defence and I doubt it will resonate well with anybody. On Quebec, it would appear the whiskers are returning in the French media and the old hurdles will hurt Dion, particularly because he seems proud to mention the names of the vilified.

Ignatieff seems to acquire baggage at an alarming pace. I'm not going to re-hash all the missteps and the fallout, but for a man so new to the political arena the mounting negatives are objectively eye opening. I really like Ignatieff, I don't share the venom others have for him, but this race is a trial run and so far the results should give us all pause.

All this leads me back to Kennedy's comment. Everyone has challenges, but the question, which ones can be overcome and which are destined to haunt? If we want a new image, with a new agenda, that can speak to the future through a clear lens, then Kennedy is a slam dunk juxtaposed against these other men. Kennedy's biggest baggage revolves around an open question, which seems a far cry better than re-hashing old answers.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

McKay Offers Peanut To Starving Elephant

On the surface, investing in the Afghan security forces is something I applaud. However, when the allocation insults your intelligence, it makes you wonder if our government gets it:

Faced with mounting criticism that Canada's role in Afghanistan is all war and no aid, the Foreign Affairs Department has taken the unusual step of purchasing basic equipment for roughly 2,000 Afghan National Police officers.

A tender was issued last week asking for Canadian companies to bid on providing everything from light protective vests and belts to boots and flashlights.

Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay, in an interview with The Canadian Press, acknowledged it's the first time his department has been directly involved in the delivery of this kind of support in the Afghan mission.

But he denied that opposition party pressure and mushrooming anti-war protests had anything to do with the $500,000 purchase.

The absence of a stable, competent and reasonably equipped police force is one factor contributing to the growing insurgency, said MacKay.

"Let's not be naive, we've been in some cases competing directly with recruitment efforts by the Taliban and by those (engaged in) the heroin trade," he said.

"If Afghan citizens are to enlist in policing and armed forces, we have to give them the necessary equipment and better working conditions."


McKay acknowledges the importance of a dependable domestic police force, but unfortunately contradicts the premise by offering a pitance. Does anyone believe a half million dollars matters in the grand scheme? Does McKay expect us to see this initiative as substantive? Add two or three zeros and it might make a difference.

If our mission is too succeed, then pouring massive sums of money into the Afghan security appartus is essential. I think Canadians would fully support a huge infusion of money into equipping and training the Afghan police and army. McKay offers some timid tender and frames it as though it addresses the problem. If this initiative is representative of how our government prioritizes, we are in a world of trouble. The amount of money allocated suggests more damage control than genuine urgency.

Dangerous Signs

Historical precedent would suggest a relative pause in insurgent activity over the coming Afghan winter. The fact we now hear talk of "winter offensives" should give everyone pause as to the situation:
The Observer newspaper says the Taliban show no signs of winding down for winter.

"The Taliban are planning a major winter offensive combining their diverse factions in a push on the Afghan capital, Kabul, intelligence analysts and sources among the militia have revealed," the British newspaper reported Sunday morning.

The insurgent Taliban forces have a stronghold around Kandahar, the country's second largest city, and are reported to be winning both the military conflict and the battle for hearts and minds of Afghans.

Typically, warring groups in Afghanistan take most of the winter off and concentrate on warmth and shelter.

But new tactics adopted from foreign fighting groups -- such as suicide bombings, roadside bombs and targeted assassinations -- make it easier for insurgents to continue their campaign during the most difficult weather conditions.

A "push" on Kabul? On of the major criticism of the Afghan government, Karzai is more the mayor of Kabul than the leader of the country. If the Taliban feels so emboldened to target Kabul, it serves as further proof of how grave the situation has become. If NATO forces were actually winning, then the Taliban would be focused on re-grouping and simply maintaining their sphere of influence. However, the Taliban thinking belies expansionist tactics and the confidence to carry on in the winter.

If the security situation in Kabul becomes unstable, precious coalition resources will have to be diverted to the capital, much the same as we currently see in Iraq. What a complete mess if NATO forces were forced to defend the capital in a more vigorous way. Hard to be on the offensive, eradicating Taliban, when forced to defend already held areas. The rhetoric from the Taliban is bold, aggressive and unparalleled. The danger for Canada, we have a government that sees stubbornness as a virtue, while a fluid situation evolves.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Proof Afghanistan Is Lost

The simple fact that Karzai is extending an olive branch to Mullah Omar is alarming enough. What is even more worrisome, the Taliban isn't inclined to talk, which speaks to their strength:
KABUL — Taliban leaders have ruled out talks with President Hamid Karzai's government as long as foreign troops remain in Afghanistan, a purported statement from the hardline militia said Saturday.

On Friday, Mr. Karzai told reporters he was ready to negotiate with fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Omar if he stops receiving support from neighbouring Pakistan — where the Afghan leader alleges Mr. Omar is hiding.

The purported statement from the Taliban, sent by e-mail Saturday to The AP by militant spokesman Muhammad Hanif, dismissed Mr. Karzai's latest offer of talks and called his administration a “puppet government.”

“We say even today that there is no possibility of any talks when the country is under occupation,” the Pashto-language statement said. “Any talks with aggressors would amount to selling the country.”

What does it say when the Afghan leader finds it necessary to "reach out" to Al Qaeda's political arm? How dire the situation, that one of the world's most wanted men is asked to negotiate? How telling, that the Taliban, which were supposedly on the run, feels no urgency to deal with the Afghan government? The differing postures tell us quite alot about the state of Afghanistan. The side of "freedom" looks desperate, while the former regime seems quite willing to bide their time while things continue to unravel.

It really is staggering that Karzai finds it necessary to ask for reconciliation talks with Osama's chum. Clearly, there is a sense within the Afghan powerbase that the situation is tenious and the future more troublesome. How can Canada be expected to remain in Afghanistan if the forces they fight everyday are eventually melded into the government? What is the point of all these deaths if the outcome is capitulation? That is what these proposed "talks" really are, because the Afghan government is no match for the Taliban. Karzai is willing to legitimize the core reason why we fight in the country.

I see Karzai's overture, and the subsequent Taliban response, as the clearest indication that Afghanistan is lost. Our military objectives are destined to fail, as we engage in some sick game of whack a mole. Our leadership can speak to nobility and honor all they want, what is really relevant is how the home government views the situation. Apparently, Karzai has concluded that the Taliban is woven into Afghan society and will be a player for years to come. This conclusion begs the question- what are we doing there? The time has come to pour all our resources into re-construction(where possible), abandon the military objectives and invest in the Afghan army. There are no military objectives, Karzai has made this fact clear.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Liberals Declaw Harper

Yesterday, Harper made a rare appearance before the House of Commons press gallery. The only reason Harper stopped, he saw a clear opportunity to maximize political advantage. Harper attempted to marginalize the opposition on crime, saying they would “pay a price at the polls” for rejecting his judicial package. I must say, this is the perfect counter:
OTTAWA (CP) - The Liberals are offering an olive branch to the governing Conservatives to pass more than half of their proposed tough-on-crime bills.
Under the Liberal proposal, six pieces of crime legislation the Tories want approved would get speedy passage through the Commons.
Liberal critic Ralph Goodale says that would leave plenty of time to study and debate another five bills that are seen by the Opposition as more contentious.
Goodale predicts the proposal would save the government a month of dealing with the legislation.

This “olive branch” is pure political gamesmanship, effectively taking the heat off the Liberals, neutralizing Harper’s claim and putting the onus back on the Conservatives- when in Rome. Harper’s preference for politicizing every issue makes the Goodale response all the more effective. Now, the Liberals protect themselves from the Harper attack by unilaterally dictating what they will support and what they won’t. Harper can’t make the blanket statement because the Liberals can point to items that they embrace. Goodale’s move isn’t an “olive branch”, it’s “return fire”. Nice.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Lame Conservative Spin

You can criticize the former Liberal government on several fronts, but one area where the track record was relatively impressive was on the economy. With this is mind, Finance Minister Flaherty's latest comments are somewhat hysterical:
A Liberal government in Ottawa would only return Canada to the "old ways" of higher taxes that stifle economic prosperity and global competitiveness, regardless of who becomes the party's next leader, federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said Tuesday.

In a highly partisan speech foreshadowing the Conservative government's attack in the next federal election, Flaherty warned how the Liberals would take Canada's "historically low unemployment, our low rate of core inflation, and higher corporate profits," for granted if re-elected.

A larger, more meddlesome, higher-spending and higher-taxing federal government awaits Canadians if they return the Liberals to power, Flaherty said, adding it was his government's expectation that the election will be held in 2009.

"None of us in the government are naive about the rollback to earlier times that the parties of the left will propose and prefer," he said.

"The minute we let our guard down and allow the old ways to return, we will be setting the stage for an economic storm that is neither sustainable nor affordable."

The Conservative have been in power for 9 months, and Flaherty has the nerve to take credit for our prosperity. In truth, Flaherty should be thanking the Liberals for inheriting such a massive surplus and overall good economy. Flaherty might want to brush up on his recent economic numbers the past 13 years, on both growth and productivity. Flaherty might also have forgotten about the personal income tax cuts that the leftist communists gave us all, only to be taken away by the GST gimmick.

It is simply outstanding that Flaherty can warn Canadians about the economic ramifications of a Liberal return. As a recall, no matter how much disgust there was with the Liberal Party, they always scored high on fiscal and economic matters. What the hell does Flaherty mean by "earlier times", is he trying to summon the ghost of Trudeau?

The greatest legacy of the past Liberal government was their ability to change the conventional wisdom that Conservatives were strong on the economy, while Liberals were weak. No longer can people like Flaherty make such wild claims, that lack any context. I can't believe that a government who has made NO mark on the economy to date, has the audacity to fearmonger about the past government, while they still enjoy the prosperity. Apparently, arrogance knows no bounds and reality is an afterthought. Yes Jim, all Canadians are gravely concerned about returning the Liberals to power. I for one am sick to death of leading the G8 year after year, operating as the envy of the world. Enough.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Mock The Green Plan

The other day I made a snide remark about the new Conservative Green Plan. Scott Tribe at Progressive Bloggers was kind enough to come up with a display for bloggers to put on their site. Here is the link to the code, I think it a good way to address the absurdity:

HERE

Monday, October 23, 2006

Blowback

I really have to question Dion's strategy for winning the Liberal leadership. In fact, in short order, it would appear that Dion is undoing all the goodwill that he has enjoyed these past months. In a race to be everyone's second choice, I don't see how negative politics help the cause.

People will remember that Dion attacked Kennedy at one of the summer debates, effectively calling him an empty shirt. Politics is rough, and Dion actually scored some points with this attack. However, the latest debates have now revealed a distasteful pattern, wherein Dion forgets his message and instead tries to tear into others (Rae is guilty as well- wasn't he the guy who pledged in the first debate in Alberta to never attack a "fellow Liberal" during the campaign?). You can understand Dion's tactics, but under the circumstances they are the polar opposite of what the Liberal Party needs.

If you took a poll of Liberals at the onset of this leadership campaign, I venture to say party unity would have been a top concern. Within this context, Dion's approach is particularly less attractive and begs the question- is this man the best choice to heal old wounds? Gotcha politics are standard fair between parties, but within the internal dynamics of a party they have negative consequences. Where is the big picture in the Dion approach? It would seem personal ambition trumps the greater good for the man who is so quick to point to his Liberal credentials and loyalty.

Obviously I am biased, but contrast Dion with Kennedy and you see that other avenues exist. Kennedy defended Ignatieff during the summer snafu, even though political advantage was easily attained. Kennedy even defended Volpe, calling him a "good Liberal", despite the maelstorm. During the debates, Kennedy has largely resisted the easy soundbite to make headlines, instead putting forth a positive message that speaks to unity. Kennedy understands that time doesn't stop at the convention and how the Party emerges will be a key to future prospects.

When this race began, all the pundits immediately concluded that we would see a bloodless campaign, simply as a function of multiple ballots and the need to look favorable. Dion's tactics seem to fly in the face of this logic, and you have to wonder if being labelled the negative candidate is really a winning strategy. Presenting yourself as a turnoff to other candidate's delegates through attacking their man seems like a loser strategy in my eyes. The environmental champion, that speaks with conviction, displaying wit and intellect is replaced by the arrogant know it all that snarls at everyone. You are starting to see blowback when it comes to the Dion re-invention, that had been so successful to date, and I wonder if we haven't already seen the high water mark for his campaign.

p.s- I don't mean to offend Dion supporters, whom I respect, but this is my humble opinion :)

Harper Exposed

I suspect the Tories thought themselves pretty clever by calling a by-election during the Liberal leadership race. Trouble is, once again, the political motivations are so blatantly transparent that the move invariably will backfire. The pressure is now on Michael Fortier, the unelected minister of Public Works, to run in a strong Bloc riding. How can Harper justify such an anti-democratic stance?

I guess Harper thought he could embarass Rae and Kennedy, but that dog won't hunt, as everyone seems ready to give them a pass:
May also questioned the timing of the byelections, not only because of the Liberal leadership race, but because voters in London will already be going to the polls on Nov.13 for municipal elections. She called it unfair and a cynical move on the part of the Harper government one that she predicts will backfire.

''I think voters will see that and they won't think less of Bob Rae or Gerard Kennedy, they'll think less of Stephen Harper for picking this timing,'' May said.

Apparently, Kennedy hasn't "ruled out" running and it actually might not be a bad idea. Given the fact that former mayor Dianne Haskett plans on running for the Conservatives, it might provide an excellent forum to distinguish views. Haskett has been out of Canada, working for the Republicans in Washington, not to mention the fact she was once fined $5000 for banning a gay parade. The fact that May plans on running will make this a very high profile race, Kennedy might just want to wade into all the free press. There are risks for Kennedy, but there is also ample rewards.

All the news items on this story speak cynically about the timing of these by-election calls. Harper looks detached, in thinking he can honestly get away with this blatant politicism unscathed. The decision denotes an arrogance that is becoming all too common. Did Harper forget that the Liberal Party will be the beneficary of a mountain of free press, mostly positive, during the convention?? Whatever Harper hoped to accomplish with these by-election calls, it has clearly backfired. Bring on the social conservative Haskett, let Fortier hide from voters, and watch as Liberals are given a pass by everyone who sees the manipulation.

UPDATE

The backfire begins.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

"Super Weekend" Distortions

Now that the final results for delegate selection are in, it has become apparent that partial results create distortions that have lasting impact on the race. I must admit, I really enjoyed watching the results pour in over super weekend. However, if the powers that be were aware that some selections would be delayed due to differing meetings and mail in ballots, then results should have been sealed until completion. Of course, the logistical solution was simply to guarantee that all delegates were actually selected on super weekend, but for some reason no one bothered to make this mandatory. Therefore, the incomplete tallies were used by the mainstream media to shape this race.

The big loser in this botched process is clearly Kennedy. All the discussion after super weekend put Dion and Kennedy in a tie for 3rd place. Now that we have full results, it turns out that there is no virtual tie, Kennedy has a full 57 delegates more than Dion. Pretend that the results were published in their completed form at the end of superweekend. The media framing would have been somewhat altered, in that Kennedy and Dion wouldn't have been mentioned in the same breath, but from slightly different realities. You could argue that this point is trivial, but a clear Kennedy in third does have ramifications in subsequent reporting and overall mindset on viability.

Many pundits, operating under the "tied" scenario have arbitarily given Dion the advantage, mostly because of the Quebec factor. Some have even gone so far as to dismiss Kennedy as a legitimate contender, despite the impressive delegate total. If people were forced to make conclusions based on the total results, then Dion is clearly in fourth and I think this fact is powerful symbolism in shaping views moving forward. Dion now has a gap that must be overcome with ex-officos, if he is too overtake Kennedy on the first ballot. Given the conventional wisdom on ex-offico breakdowns, this seems unlikely. Would Dion look as credible now if we came out of superweekend with the real totals, and not skewed total that were inaccurate?

There is enough of a gap between Kennedy and Dion that he looks to clearly be in the all important third position. I wonder if all the "kingmaker" talk would have been muted, had we known the real results. Would Kennedy enjoy more of a buzz, at the expense of Dion? It isn't so much that the percentages are vastly different now, but I never underestimate the power of psychology in terms of framing, nor can we dismiss momentum. How did the results effect the bottom-tier candidate thinking in who to ultimately support? I think the system failed to provide accurate results, allowing false conclusions that have now gelled and this has consequences. No matter who you support in this race, no one can now deny that Kennedy is the solid third choice. Shouldn't we have had this knowledge straight away and framed the race from the real starting point? Thumbs down to a amateur process.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Anticipation

I feel like a kid at Christmas. Only 7008 days left until the Conservatives set national targets for smog and ozone.

How Stupid Are You?

It's hard to wade through all the rhetoric and get to the crux of today's Clean Air Act. Underneath all the posturing and big talk, there is an underlying question that the Conservatives are really asking all of us Canadians- how fucking stupid are you exactly? I mean there it is really, because no intelligent conversation can conclude that this is a credible plan. I see this plan as nothing more than a warped experiment about whether or not government propaganda can hoodwink a disinterested population. Can the Tories do nothing, present it as substantative and trick Canadians into supporting a mirage?

The 2050 "commitment" on emissions is beyond laughable. What is even more astounding, given the fact the government polled Canadians and found smog was the number one concern, we only have to wait a mere 18 years, yes just one generation, to actual do something about smog. Woohoo! Did you hear that kids, your kids kids might not get asthma!! We just have to endure a couple more decades and then you just watch the progress. If ever sarcasm was appropriate, today is the day. Defeat this bill, force Harper to make this a confidence motion and let's go to the polls. What a joke. Problem it's on all of us.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Kennedy On Radar Screen In Quebec

H/T to this colossal embarassment for unwittingly pointing out something I had missed. Gerard Kennedy is now on the radar in Quebec:
By contrast, Mr. Ignatieff was most highly favoured by Quebeckers, 28 per cent of whom said they would pick him first among the other three party leaders.

Mr. Rae had 25 per cent of Quebeckers, Mr. Dion 24 per cent, and Mr. Kennedy 14 per cent.

Among Quebeckers, Mr. Rae, Mr. Ignatieff and Mr. Dion are all seen as better prime ministers than Mr. Harper.

Don't get me wrong, these aren't shout from the rooftop numbers for Kennedy, but considering the 1.7% of delegates he scored in Quebec, I see them as definite progress. Yes Kennedy trails substantially, but he now enjoys half the support of the top choice. I don't think it spin to suggest that Gerard Kennedy has finally shown up on the Quebec radar screen. Not bad, with relativity as my measure.

Future Looks Bright

The latest Globe and Mail poll that shows a dead heat is quite frankly a disaster for the Conservatives. Even if the poll is slightly off, and the Tories still enjoy a marginal gap, it really is bad news all around. Despite the transparent overtures, the lack of a credible opposition, the benefit of a robust economy and the “newness” factor, the Conservatives go nowhere. I guess policy really does matter.

The more Canadians get to know this government, the less attractive they become. The simple fact, the Conservative philosophy doesn’t resonate with the majority of Canadians. Canada isn’t Bush country. How disheartening for Harper, given his obsession with attaining a majority.

The really concerning aspect of the latest polling, for the first time since the election the calendar is no longer kind to Conservatives. As evidenced by the last few weeks, the Liberal leadership is garnering more press and greater interest. It is reasonable to assume that the Liberals will enjoy even greater exposure as the leadership race reaches crescendo. Barring some exceptional development, you can expect a Liberal bounce in the polls following the convention, simply as a function of historical precedent. The new leader will enjoy his own “honeymoon” period, that should provide soft coverage and many puff pieces- the press is unlikely to hammer a new leader.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the government looks to the spring budget as their next best opportunity to sell Canadians on their agenda and possibly force an election. Interesting to note, the Liberals may well see the spring as their best opportunity too. Liberal strategists should be ecstatic today, because the Party has made it through the bleak period relatively unscathed, with much promise for the future.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Trudeau Lends Tories A Hand

I quick scan of the various news sources are all touting this aspect of the Clean Air Act:
The Conservative government plans to breathe life into 25-year-old automobile fuel-efficiency legislation that has languished unused in the lawbooks, a key component of their Clean Air Act to be introduced Thursday.

A senior Conservative insider said the 1981 Motor Vehicle Fuel Consumption Standards Act, along with myriad other existing pieces of environmental legislation including the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, will be combined with new laws as part of the Tories' green plan...

But the legislation is only a framework, and will require the government to develop its own efficiency standards, which is sure to involve competing pressures from industry and environmentalists.

Ambrose will pull the dust off this legislation to create the illusion that this government has the fortitude to use it, while others have failed. Problem one, Ambrose has already said nothing will happen until 2010, at which time "negotiations" with industry will begin- am I the only one who noticed the smiling auto execs leaving their meeting with Ambrose, or Hargrove saying "he felt a lot better" after hearing Ambrose. Cough, hack. Problem two, the legislation has no teeth, the government still needs to set the regulations. This legislation is still dormant until they come up with parameters, so why announce as though you have decided to do something?

A quick glimpse at how demanding the new regulations will likely be were offered here:
Protecting the environment is important, but it shouldn't come at the cost of Canadian businesses, says federal Labour Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn...

"You have to be pro-environment, but it's also necessary to go ahead in a flexible, measured manner so that businesses don't start an uproar," Blackburn told The Canadian Press.

That explains the smiling.

It looks like the Conservatives will bombard us with a mirade of "measures", in the hopes the mirage will get lost in the perceived weight. I have to admit, the Conservatives are doing a masterful job of appearing relevant, while simultaneously doing nothing. The key will be, are Canadians attentive to the details?

Renewal Or Status Quo?

The Globe and Mail has an interesting editorial that wonders aloud about the dedication to renewal within the Liberal Party:
The Liberal Party of Canada clearly needs renewal, but what it provided on Sunday amounted largely to a series of smug declamations about the wonderful legacy of the Chr├ętien and Martin governments. The debate was burdened by the notion that the Liberals are right on just about everything, from the Kelowna accord to the Kyoto Protocol, and that Stephen Harper's Conservatives are wrong on about just about everything. St├ęphane Dion, in particular, wore his Liberal pride on his chest. The only problem with this is that Canadian voters have already rejected the underlying premise. Liberal delegates are not meeting to elect an archivist to lovingly husband the party's legacy. They are not seeking to rekindle old friendships. They are after new leadership and new ideas. Hope springs eternal that one of the candidates might eventually show some.

This time, of the four leading candidates, only Gerard Kennedy desisted from the group hug. He rejected complacency and argued that Liberals have to rethink their policies. Yet while he had the wit to identify the issue of renewal, he hasn't yet revealed the intellectual heft needed to be the one who can bring it about.

This editorial echoes my concerns coming out of the last debate. I winced everytime I heard someone speak with pride about the past record. I realize that Liberal partisans might see it as confidence to point out the past accomplishments. However, this sentiment shows a clear detachment from the electoral reality. Rightly, or wrongly, the general population now sees the Liberal legacy as one of entitlement, corruption, arrogance and lost opportunity. The lack of a viable alternative masked the dis-satisfaction, allowing Liberals to think all was well. As I've said before, if not for hesitation about Harper, the Liberals would have been wiped off the electoral map in historical fashion.

I have voted for several parties throughout my life, but what pushed me to join the Liberal Party was the sense that reform was on the horizon. The idea of real renewal and a progressive agenda was attractive. However, I must say that this ideal is fast becoming empty rhetoric, that lacks any urgency. I don't want to hear about the terrific Liberal record on the environment, because it insults my decision to vote NDP last election, precisely because I couldn't endorse such an utter failure on an issue I hold as primary. The truth- there is virtually no concrete evidence to support Dion's thesis that the Liberals were ready to pounce on the environmental front. If I were a Conservative strategist I would be licking my chops at the prospects of facing a Liberal Party that had the audacity to brag about their environmental record- all that record does is give the Conservatives a relative pass on an issue that should be their achilles heel.

Jean Chretien kept us out of Iraq, and we should all be thankful. On that score, I have no qualms with Liberals reminding Canadians of the record. However, please don't take this stand as evidence to support the bigger thesis of what a wonderful government we had. The names Chretien and Martin should rarely be mentioned, because frankly they are a turnoff for everyone, except diehard partisans. Every cell of the Liberal being should be dedicated to the future, moving forward with new ideas. If Ignatieff proposes that we need to go farther on the environment, we should embrace that mentality and resist defending half-measures as though the holy grail.

Where were the questions on renewal in the last debate? Why was it left to Kennedy to mention the absence in his close? The fact that no one felt it essential to dedicate part of the debate to this question has left me wondering if Liberals actually get it. Tinkering around the edges won't do, a massive overhaul is required to be truly relevant. Is it because Harper has stumbled that renewal is on the backburner? Are people really so arrogant to assume that can get away with half-measures and argue that entitles a return to power? If Liberals don't accept their rejection and look outside the comfortable esoteric womb, then they shouldn't be surprised when Harper wins another mandate. Guess what, Canadians aren't misty eyed about past Liberal accomplishments, in fact they are mostly repulsed. It is important to seperate partisanship from the greater reality, because I see a disconnect that clouds judgement.

UPDATE Another point of view.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Do You Favor Election Blackouts?

The Supreme Court is being asked to hear a case on election blackouts:
OTTAWA — A B.C.software developer says there needs to be a balance between Internet technology and Canadian laws on publication of election results.

Paul Bryan is at the Supreme Court of Canada on Monday, arguing against a section of the Elections Act that prevents people on the West Coast from hearing Eastern election results as polls close.

Mr. Bryan says the law, which forbids the publication of voting results until all federal polls close on election night, is not practical and cannot be enforced.

The Coquitlam resident deliberately broke the ban during the 2000 federal election by posting voting results from Atlantic Canada on his website while polls were still open in British Columbia.

He was convicted in provincial court and fined $1,000.

That conviction was struck down by the B.C. Supreme Court before the 2004 federal election, but later upheld by the B.C. Court of Appeal in the spring of 2005.

In my mind, there are good reasons to keep the blackout in place, although the new technology makes it impractical. All voters should enter the polling booth under the exact same circumstances. I suspect the feelings in the West, that their votes don't matter, would only be heightened if results were known prior to voting. Some people, internally debating whether or not to vote, just prior to the polls closing, might see the results and take a pass.

One option, have all the polls close at the exact same time- possibly open them the night before in the later time zones for complete fairness. In this way, all Canadians could watch the results together and every riding would have the same psychological impact. Eliminate the power of the time zone by whatever means necessary. If an election is on a Tuesday, open the polls Monday evening in the West to give the same access(many countries have multiple day votes).

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Minority Report: Leadership Debate

The early consensus, Dion did quite well in the debate. With all due respect to the people that support Dion, I found today's debate a watershed moment as to why Dion isn't the best choice for leader. The attacks on Rae and Ignatieff scored points without question, but they also revealed Dion's own dilemna. Stephane Dion firmly positioned himself as the old-guard Liberal, the defender of rejected government.

Renewal, that is the central theme that everyone talks about moving forward. Where exactly does that belief find weight within Dion, as he proudly speaks about the Martin/Chretien days? Ironic that Dion attacked Rae's record, because I immediately envisioned the same exchange between Harper and Dion, with Dion on the defensive as Harper hammers his favored talking point. Amazing that Dion lectures Ignatieff on the environment, when he himself admitted that the issue wasn't a "priority" for the Party, except for the last while (even Dryden had the stones to admit the relative failure). You don't ridicule people for suggesting new initiatives, you should embrace anything that distances itself from the sad legacy. I hardly see "there were papers on my desk, ready to sign" as powerful imagery to convince Canadians that environmental progress was at hand.

The record of the past Liberal government might play well to partisans, but I think it complete folly to suggest that will resonate with the public at large. If it wasn't for widespread hesitation about Harper, the Liberals would have enjoyed a Mulroney-like eradication. Make no mistake, Canadians have overwhelming rejected the old Liberal Party, and the last thing the Party needs is a champion of the past.

After the debate, I watched the press conferences with the various candidates. My thoughts about Dion were articulated by Kennedy, who, without using names, argued that it was fine to be proud of the past record, but ultimately the debate has to be a discussion for the future. Kennedy said he saw moments of the "old divisions" up on stage and this was unfortunate for a Party that desperately needs a new image. That's it! The problem with Dion, he embraces the past as testament of his experience, but it serves to remind us all of better to forget times.

I like Stephane Dion, he is an honorable, thoughtful man. He genuinely cares about the country and has extensive ideas on what needs to be done. I agree with Dion on a host of issues, from that standpoint he would be a great choice. However, Stephane Dion at the helm is a recipe for prolonged opposition. Canadians will not respond to any connection with a failed regime. Dion wears his past like a badge of honor, but it looks like an albatross around his neck from here. The big argument, Dion will bring the Liberals back in Quebec. Yes, keep mentioning Chretien and Martin, that is sure winner in Quebec- in the west too!

I'm sure the buzz from this debate will be how Dion took on Rae and Ignatieff. In my mind, the really relevant thing to come out of this debate, Stephane Dion should not be the face of the Liberal Party moving forward. If Dion were to actually win, it means that despite the platitudes, Liberals don't understand the mood of the country, the desire for real renewal. I say this not to slag an impressive man, but because I don't think this country can afford a long Harper reign. I hate to say it, but Dion effectively guarantees that fate in my mind. Two cents.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Kennedy And Dion Pile On Rae

One word, messy:
OTTAWA (CP) - Gerard Kennedy and Stephane Dion have joined forces with Liberal leadership frontrunner Michael Ignatieff in a bid to nullify most of chief rival Bob Rae's delegate support in British Columbia.

Should the trio successfully persuade the party to negate the second-place contender's B.C. delegates, Ignatieff's nine-percentage point lead would widen to about 11 points over Rae, who would be left only marginally ahead of Kennedy and Dion.

The Kennedy and Dion camps joined Saturday in an appeal filed with the party late Friday by the Ignatieff team.

In the appeal, obtained by The Canadian Press, Ignatieff operations director Sachin Aggarwal accuses Rae's senior B.C. organizer of perpetrating "systematic fraud" during the sign-up of potential delegates in the province.

Aggarwal contends that fully 78 of Rae's 111 B.C. delegates are tainted by the fraud and he urges the party to strip Rae of those delegate spots.

Yesterday, when it was just Ignatieff challenging Rae in British Columbia it could be dismissed as a simple attempt to change the channel on a disasterous week. What do we make of Dion and Kennedy joining in? I must say, their participation in the appeal adds weight, in that there appears to be universal opinion, which lessens the partisan angle.

In the words of Rae's operative:
Moreover, Rae's team said the appeal, if successful, would effectively disenfranchise the thousands of B.C. Liberals who voted for Rae since they would no longer have delegates at the convention to represent their choice.

The problem with delegate forms "doesn't and indeed shouldn't change the fact that more people chose Bob in B.C. than any other candidate," said Rae spokesman Alex Swann.

The sensible option, if democracy is too prevail, Rae's delegates should not be stripped, but a re-vote should take place. My first option would be to simply let the Rae delegates go to the convention, censor the campaign and give Rae a few days of bad press. However, if this appeal is successful it will be a travesty if voter intention is throw out with the bathwater. A re-vote would be difficult, although as a junkie it sure would be intense.

I say this as a Kennedy supporter, this pile on has a definite odor of political opportunism, with moral clarity a distant second. It would appear that the gloves are off, and we are beginning to see the death match phase of the campaign. Tomorrow's debate should be a hoot :)

Friday, October 13, 2006

Ignatieff Camp Attacks Rae

So much for old friends:
The Liberal leadership race is getting ugly with Michael Ignatieff's camp urging the party to negate most of chief rival Bob Rae's delegate support in British Columbia.

In an appeal filed Friday and obtained by The Canadian Press, Ignatieff operations director Sachin Aggarwal accuses Rae's senior B.C. organizer of perpetrating "systematic fraud" during the sign-up of potential delegates in the province.

Aggarwal contends that fully 78 of Rae's 111 B.C. delegates are tainted by the fraud and he urges the party to strip Rae of those delegate spots.

Such delegates, he argues "are the uncurable poisoned fruit of fraudulent activity, which the Rae campaign should not be entitled to benefit from."

If Aggarwal's argument is accepted by the party's permanent appeals committee, Ignatieff's lead over his former university roommate would widen by about two percentage points.

There is no question that Rae's organizers in British Columbia didn't play by the rules. However, it is relevant that it was the Rae campaign that brought these irregularities to light and took its own internal action. Cynically, you could argue that the campaign knew these problems would surface and simply attempted to get ahead of the story.

Whatever the motivation, the decision to simply replace the suspect delegates seems like a fair decision. Liberals voted, the delegates are merely representative of their opinions, so in my mind Rae shouldn't be punished beyond what has already been done. Rules were broken, but I don't see how that translates into affecting the overall percentages for candidates. The Ignatieff campaign actual admits this when they attempt to widen the net of suspicion:
Aggarwal also suggests that if delegate forms submitted by Loh were fraudulent, that "raises a reasonable apprehension of fraud by Mr. Loh with respect to memberships." In other words, he casts doubt on Rae's popularity with genuine Liberal members in the province.

That is a serious charge, that shouldn't be levelled without some evidence to support. Did the Rae camp act improperly? It would appear so, but stripping delegates effectively renders the voters judgement irrelevant, and ultimately that is the primary concern.

Kennedy Sets Possible Withdrawal Date

During last week's debate, Kennedy made a comment on Afghanistan that has gone largely unnoticed:
“We need the commitment of the whole international community. If not, we should leave in an orderly fashion after February 2007 with our heads held high as a country that's provided the only other possibility -- short term security need -- on a par with any other in the world.

Kennedy has repeatedly said, if the mission isn't altered, then Canada should withdrawal, but it was always stated in an ambigious fashion. I contacted the campaign to clarify this mention of an actual date. The response pointed out that February 2007 was chosen because American four-star general, Army Gen. Dan K. McNeil will take charge of both U.S. and NATO forces. This date would allow a smooth transition, if Canada chose to change it's commitment.

Kennedy's comments are essentially leverage, in that Canada should use its prominent role to force its own agenda of what is needed to succeed. Afghanistan is a NATO mission, but our disportionionate contribution allows for some Canadian dictation. I think Kennedy's stance operates from a position of strength, demonstrates leadership and a commitment that the mission accurately reflect what Canadians want. I don't care what some NATO nations think, especially those that sit in cozy bases in the north, while our troops die on the frontlines. This is a Canada first proposition, which I fully endorse.

There is a threat within the rhetoric, but pressure is the only way to alter a failing path. Canada isn't along from some joint ride and our contribution isn't open-ended or without demands. Some will argue that Kennedy is simply offering a "cut and run" option, but I think that view fails to listen closely. The military community now agrees that progress is elusive and efforts to quell the Taliban have largely failed, in fact resistence is stronger now that at any time since the overthrow. Kennedy simply embracing this verdict, and demands change or Canada won't attach itself to the guaranteed quagmire. If you admit it's broken, but continue on, how is that supporting the troops or intellectually honest. I see Kennedy's view as an effort to find something that works, and one that isn't afraid to assert Canadian opinion through arm-twisting and threatening language. We are leading on the battlefield, why not lead on what the goals should be?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Harper Plays Gutter Politics

If anyone had any doubts that Stephen Harper is a mean-spirited, political opportunist, who will twist any circumstance to meet his ends, they should disappear after his embarrassing display today. Bob Rae nails it:
They accused him of polarizing the country.

Bob Rae, a strong contender for the party’s top prize, called Harper’s “shameful” comments a “classically thoughtless, deeply divisive thing” to say.

“It’s the politics of the big smear,” said Rae. “I don’t know why he would say such a thing.”

Kennedy:
"Mr. Harper really diminished his post of prime minister by being so unstatesmanlike," Kennedy said.

Ignatieff too:
“It is disgraceful that the prime minister is playing crass politics with the issue of the Middle East,” Ignatieff said in a statement.

“Frankly, it is beneath him and his office to do so.”

Thank-you Mr. Harper. Instead of letting Ignatieff twist in the wind, you couldn't help but try to score a few political points. Now, the issue becomes Harper's despicable attempt to drive a wedge between different ethnic groups, betraying the ideal of Prime Minister who supposedly speaks for all.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I seem to remember a heated debate amongst Liberals as the events in Lebanon unfolded. Some sympathetic to Israel, some critical, accurately mirroring public sentiment. To characterize the Liberal Party as anti or pro is intellectually dishonest.

Harper hates the Liberal Party. It is not a debate about ideas, but a deep-seated disdain that frankly says more about Harper's internal dynamics than any rational critique. On this occasion, Harper spits on his office to undermine his foes. We don't have a Prime Minister in the traditional sense, we have a shady car salesman that preys on any perceived weakness, with no understanding of ethical conduct. Harper revealed himself today, the glint in his eye as he spoke. This is a man that looks at everything through a political lens. Governing is a chess game, ideals are convenience and the goal of power is revealed in every word. Republican style wedge-politics have arrived in Canada, we should all be proud.

UPDATE
No matter who you support for the leadership, I think we can all agree that Kennedy does a great job of exposing the Harper motivations here.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Advice To Ignatieff: Stop Talking

When Ignatieff made the initial flippant remark about the Qana bombing, it was clear that he was the victim of a horrible soundbite, intermingled with a helping of political naivete. In fairness, I didn't take Ignatieff's "losing sleep" comment as some indictment of the man's character. The comment was a mistake, that Ignatieff later admitted upon reflection. Chalk it up to a lack of understanding of the political realm, where carefully chosen words are a necessity.

However, this latest twist isn't so easily dismissed in my mind because on this occasion Ignatieff swings wildly to the other extreme, which suggests political motivation. Ignatieff's overt attempt to appease, in a region that would be sympathetic, is hardly flattering and rightfully blows up in his face. You can't go from no reaction to the most damaging language and not expect fallout. Ignatieff has now achieved the impossible, alienating both diametrically opposed sides.

The "war crime" comment represents the evolution of a political animal. Ignatieff tries to curry favor with a constituency that will likely never support him, given the history, and in so doing betrays his staunch supporters. Did Susan Kadis overreact? Possibly, but that doesn't diminish the fact that Ignatieff has lost his soul on this issue. You can't be everything to everybody, Ignatieff plays the chameleon and rightfully loses. If I could offer Ignatieff any advice, stop talking and take you lumps. The more you talk, the more the verbal gymnastics embarrass.

The "Ignatieff is a rookie" meme now finds more support. More alarming, the "anti-politico" angle to Ignatieff's campaign, that has appeal, is completely tarnished by this transparent political powerplay to win support. I must confess, this latest episode reminds me of Paul Martin circa 05/06, saying anything to anybody and in turn appearing to be nowhere. When you abandon your principles for political expediency, there is nothing left. I don't care what Ignatieff said, it's what provoked him to say it that is most troubling.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Conservatives Insult Us All

I have come to a conclusion, this government takes us all for fools. Today's farcical press conference on the environment demonstrates a concerted effort to create an illusion that can be sold. There is a reason that environmental groups were banned from today's non-announcement, they are too engaged not to smell the scent of deceit:
Several environmentalists hoping to attend the conference Tuesday were turned away, according to David Hocking, acting executive director of the David Suzuki Foundation, who was told it was a "private meeting" with the media.

"I guess you can see why, because they really didn't announce anything," Mr. Hocking said, adding that the government's continued delay in delivering its environmental platform is frustrating the environmental community.

All the experts agree, the government doesn't need a new Clean Air Act to implement change, ample legislative power is already in place:
Environmentalists and opposition party critics have said that the government could immediately crack down on air pollution and greenhouse gases by using existing powers under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, instead of tabling legislation that could take years to implement.

Canada waits while we soldier through an unnecessary vanity exercise, which only delays. The Tory apologists can argue until the cows come home, this initiative is nothingness, as one environmental group put it, simply "re-inventing the wheel".

Even more insulting, despite the fact that industry has been consulted since 1998, this government offers the following:
The government plans to spend a year consulting with industry and the provinces with the aim of coming up with short-, medium-and long-term targets that will have to be met by regulation, rather than on the voluntary basis that exists now.

Translation, the government will call an election within the next year. Canadians want action, this government has the gall to offer talks and try to spin it as though it were substantive. Canadians are taken for a cynical ride.

Where will the talks end? Harper made the tactical error of using the word "intensity" to describe curbing emissions. This argument is a statistical manipulation that the Conservatives will use to argue progress. You lower the intensity of emissions by producing oil, at a cleaner rate per barrel. The intensity is reduced and therefore you have less emissions. The sick part of the joke, Canada will greatly increase its oil output in the coming years, which means a reduction in intensity will still mean an overall increase in emissions. The Harper approach relies on a flurry of numbers to confuse the issue. What is clear, under Harper's "approach" the bottomline number of actual emissions will rise.

So, the Conservatives plan to allocate more money for the hated Liberals transit strategy, enact an unnecessary Hot Air Act to look relevant, consult with big industry while the planet fails and then get down to business. These people think we are stupid, that they can use propaganda to mask reality. Making an announcement to announce you are doing nothing is the epitomy of arrogance, demonstrating how absurd the new reality in Canada has become.

The Liberal Strategy

I was reading Susan Delacourt's article that outlines the Liberal talking points heading into the fall. The Liberals will have five main criticisms of the Tories, as follows:
Those weak spots, according to the Liberals, are:

-Harper's ideological alliance and affinity with U.S. President George W. Bush.

-Ethics — the difference between what the Tories preached in opposition and what they're doing in power.

-Treating the voters as stupid. Telling them, for instance, that the Conservatives are reducing taxes when they're actually increasing them, or changing their story on whether they actually promised to deliver a medical wait-times guarantee.

-The appeal to the Conservatives' base or "narrow-casting," as Goodale calls this government's style.

-The lack of an economic plan. Liberals are now convinced the Tories have no long-term economic agenda after fulfilling their election promises.

One GLARING omission, the environment. Canadians now put concern about the environment on par with more traditional issues. I would argue that this issue has a transparency that makes a counter-argument all the more effective. If I were a Liberal strategist I would make the environment front and center moving forward. The Conservatives score low when it comes to support of their environmental agenda, which provides a real opportunity to distinguish.

I agree that the Liberals should tie Harper to Bush where ever possible. One because it's good politics, two because it's easily articulated. Harper has made a serious blunder in cozying up to a very unpopular administration, the Liberals would be wise to exploit that. This issue will be key in the next election, which makes the leadership selection all the more important.

I don't think the Liberals should go near the ethics file. While acknowledging the Tory hypocrisy, this line of argument effectively provides the Tories with forceful counter. On every occassion that a Liberal has taken the Tories to task on ethics, it has been met with sharp rebuke that puts Liberals on the defensive. Why remind people about the past, and voluntarily give Harper a forum to re-hash? I would put ethics on the backburner.

There is a great deal of play in the "treating voters like they are stupid" line. I think you can make a powerful argument that this government offers policy in a manipulative way to maximize potential votes. All the internal polling that shapes policy, the "marketing strategy" approach to public policy, reveal a government consumed with attaining more power. I think Canadians will respond to this cynical use of government and the Liberals could well make the case that the Tories aren't genuine in their motivations. The pattern is well established, and Liberals could challenge voters to resist manipulation. Is this a government of fundamental principle, or one that uses policy to attain the elusive majority?

On the economy, while the Liberals may have a point in the longterm, the Conservatives have evidence to suggest the contrary. Lowering the GST, and I expect another cut before the election, a healthy surplus, a generally solid economy, all detract from a effective attack on the economy. The Liberals best angle is to remind voters what Harper inherited, which no one can dispute.

I would hammer on the environment, foreign affairs and try to paint the government as a shrewd salesman, consumed with the pursuit of power and winning votes. Position the Party as the mainstream view, while concurrently convincing Canadians that this "new" Liberal Party is far removed from the old- that means avoid issues which allow for a historical re-read.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Ambrose Ready To "Deliver"

Tomorrow, Rona Ambrose will finally start delivering policy on the environment. At a press conference in Vancouver, the Conservatives will offer the following:
There are rumblings about three initiatives that could be announced Tuesday:

-A $300-million-plus contribution for Vancouver's public transit system. An official at the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Cannon will not only deliver on a Liberal promise to use gas-tax money for public transit, but will enrich it.

-Repackaging an air quality health index to give it much higher profile. The index already exists but many people are not aware of it, and it could be given prominence similar to that of the UV index which is reported in most cities on a daily basis.

-A program to retrofit diesel school buses, by either converting them to compressed natural gas or to ultra-low-emissions diesel. Air quality in school buses can be worse than what the children are exposed to outside. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is known to be concerned about asthma, which affliced him in childhood.

Interesting, that with all the Liberal bashing, Ambrose will contribute to a Liberal pledge on public transit. More money, thrown at a Liberal initiative is hardly inspiring.

Repackaging the air quality index is nothing more than a public relations exercise. As someone who has the misfortune of living in rural southern Ontario, we are all quite familar with indexes- everyone knows the air stinks, do something about it! The last thing we need is more expenditure wasted on telling us how bad off we are.

The only redeeming announcement seems to center around school bus refits, although if Ambrose was really "progressive" should would argue for hybrids. Pardon my cynicism, but I see this announcement as a "vote maximizer". Whatever the motivation, at least it is something concrete.

Expect a PR blitz to sell these announcements as substantial. I remain unimpressed, this looks like mostly window dressing that works on the margins.


UPDATE Ambrose LIES to H of C committee.

NATO Commander Supports Kennedy

When Gerard Kennedy took the bold position that Canada was engaged in a longterm "losing strategy" in Afghanistan, he took considerable heat from mission supporters. Gerard's central thesis:
The biggest failure in Afghanistan to date has been the way the international community has alienated the Afghani people. We cannot win the hearts and minds unless we are helping to fill stomachs and creating a sense of trust in future stability...

The basic needs of the local population are not being met and, as a result, the population is returning its support to the Taliban and other local power-holders.

The international coalition should focus on the immediate and long term economic needs of the local communities and any use of force should be balanced with extensive, visible and effective development efforts. Sustainable peace in Afghanistan cannot be achieved by military operations alone: comprehensive and long-term development efforts are desperately needed. The success of the international mission in Afghanistan relies on convincing the Afghani people that development will provide for a better future than the Taliban offers and on the realization of these promises.

The argument that Canada needs a better balance between re-construction and military objectives, if it hopes to succeed, finds support from NATO's Afghanistan commander:
NATO's top commander in Afghanistan warned Sunday that the war is "at a tipping point" and more troops are needed to defeat resurgent Taliban militants.

Gen. David Richards, a British officer who commands NATO's 32,000 troops in Afghanistan, warned in an interview with the Associated Press that Afghans could switch their allegiance to the Taliban if daily life doesn't visibly improve during the next six months.

"If we collectively … do not exploit this winter to start achieving concrete and visible improvement," then some 70 per cent of Afghans could switch sides, Richards said


The Kennedy position is ahead of the curve, more realist than defeatist. The fact that military leaders now agree that drastic changes are needed if the international community is to be successful, puts the Kennedy view into the mainstream. I think it important for Liberals to offer a clear alternative to the Harper view heading into the next election. It is obvious that Harper's stubborness provides an opportunity for the Liberal Party to move the discussion forward in a way that is increasingly acceptable to Canadians. Kennedy's position puts the Liberals squarely between the immediate pullout position of Layton and the stay for eternity view of Harper.

People can question Kennedy's international experience, but it is relevant, that on Afghanistan, he appears to have accurately assessed the situation. The question for Liberals, do we go into the next election with a clear alternative or do we embrace a similar position to the Conservatives? In my mind, Afghanistan will be a central talking point during the next campaign, and Liberals would be well served by adopting the Kennedy position, because with each day his analysis looks far more reasonable and accurate. Kennedy's view isn't reckless, it's pragmatic and offers the best chance to counter the Harper/Bush view of the world. What was considered bold, now begins to look like an electoral winner with each passing day. Do we cede this issue to Harper, or do we offer a clear alternative view?

UPDATE
Former Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy echoes the belief that Afghanistan will be key in the next election, and why it is folly to voluntarily cede the issue:
"Afghanistan is going to be the wedge issue in the next election," Axworthy said. "Mr. Ignatieff has shown horrible, bad political judgment on that issue. And he wasn't just a supporter of the war in Iraq, he was an outspoken apologist and advocate for it. It would make it impossible for a Liberal party to provide an alternative to the Conservative government if he was leader."

Another point of view.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Delegates Based On Population

There has been considerable discussion over the disparity between actual population demographic and delegate selection percentages. The general feeling is the western provinces are under-represented in the calculation, while certain regions in the east are over-representated. I decided to take the 2001 Census numbers for each province and cross-reference the percentages with riding distribution. What I found is that Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec deserve more of a percentage of delegates, while Manitoba, Saskatchewan, P.E.I deserve less. If you take the 469 "Meetings" on the Liberal site and distribute that number based on population, then take the percentages of the top-four candidates in each province (I realize some ridings haven't reported, that is why percentages were used assuming they hold) and calculate delegates you come up with the following:

Ignatieff- 28.9%
Rae- 19.8%
Kennedy- 17.9%
Dion- 16.5%


Conclusion, not a great deal of difference. Rae and Dion come up with the exact same percentage they have currently. Kennedy moves up a full 1.1%, at the expense of Ignatieff, who drops 1%. It would appear that in this case, regional disparity doesn't slant the overall results, although where the delegates reside is still skewed.

Politically, if these were the results it would change a couple perceptions, slightly. Kennedy would be the clear 3rd choice, closer to Rae, with a more noticeable gap to Dion. Ignatieff would be enough under 30% that the media probably wouldn't round-off and this could have some sway with perceptions.

The Liberal Party should go to great pains to make sure that all regions are represented fairly. The last thing the Party needs is a system that feeds western alienation. Delegates should be awarded based on population distribution, both provincially and within each province.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

On Quebec, Again

I'm sure my bias enters into the equation when I look at the Quebec turnout numbers. Others have pointed out low turnout numbers in other ridings, but I still think people should be careful in drawing any concrete conclusions about Quebec based on such paltry representation. Apparently, only 10% of Quebec Liberals bothered to cast a vote, despite the fact that a mail-in was developed to counter the lack of ground support. Comparing Quebec to Alberta (that Liberal hotbed), it shows a striking asymetry (h/t Calgary Grit):

Quebec-
97 ridings (21% of the total)= 3700 votes= 38 people per riding

Alberata-
39 ridings (8% of the total)= 3300 votes= 84 people per riding

2.21 times the turnout in the supposed Liberal hating province, as opposed to the traditional "base" province, who's support is so essential. Imagine the disparity if Quebecer's actually had to go to the polls, instead of hand-fed to coax a vote.

Yes, Rae, Ignatieff and Dion can claim they took the province, I don't dispute that. Yes, Kennedy had an abysmal showing that hurts his chances to win the leadership. However, I caution anyone who makes the logical leap that these results speak to any widespread support in the province (the polls too are simply name recognition at this point). In that same vein, Kennedy's ability to win seats in a general election, in Quebec, should not be weighed based on the opinion of a few old-guard Liberals in the province. These results tell me that no candidate has really "connected" with Quebecers, whereas other regions have shown some interest in the process. You can't say Ignatieff would do well in Quebec, nor can you say this represents support for his constitutional position, based on such a small sample size of highly partisan operatives.

The Quebec results will play a large role at the convention. However, in my mind they say little about the candidates, other than the fact that no one really seems to have distinguished themselves. I will go further, there is nothing in this turnout that suggests any type of real "renewal" in Quebec and I wouldn't expect much of a return to glory in the next election- there is alot of work too do, these numbers support that thesis. So, as Liberals, do we choose a leader based on one province, at the expense of others, who seem to be more engaged? I think it important to look at this race in totality, and not endorse or vilify someone based on regional disparities, especially when people don't seem to care anyways.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Leading Or Leaving Us Behind?

On the same day Stephen Harper is bragging about Canada's "leadership" role in the world:

Speaking in Calgary at the Woodrow Wilson International Center's awards dinner -- where he was honoured for his attention to international relations -- Harper left little doubt that he'll continue to press the need for Canada to accept increasing global responsibilities.

"I believe Canadians want a significant role -- a clear, confident and influential role," said Harper's prepared speech, told to several hundred onlookers packed into the Telus Convention Centre. "They don't want a Canada that just goes along; they want a Canada that leads . . . I intend to make this a country that leads."


We learn this:
Canada will not support a moratorium on bottom trawling in international waters, putting it at odds with a growing number of countries now pressing for restrictions on the controversial fishing practice...

"It really is extremely disappointing and sad and dangerous for the health of our oceans," Jennifer Lash of Living Oceans Society said from Sointula, B.C.

"Conservationists and other countries around the world are just in shock that Canada is taking such a horribly weak position when they are supposedly such a leader in this field."...

"For the Canadian government to have a dramatically weaker position than George Bush's position does not bear well for our international reputation," said Lash. "It's quite embarrassing."

A "leader" honors all of its international obligations, not just military ones. Harper's narrow view of leadership seems to embrace some warped sense that international stature is a function of might. From the onset, this government has focused on the military as the vanguard to increase Canada's role in the world. The fact that Canada has now sided with fisheries lowlifes like Spain and Japan surely doesn't say much for our reputation. Maybe if the Spanish fisherman started bottom trawling in the Northwest Passage we might see some resolve.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Shocking: Ambrose Offers No Details

Today was the supposed to be the day that Rona Ambrose finally fleshed out the Conservative environmental "approach" (they don't call it a "plan" anymore because that would give the impression that they have one). Appearing in committee, Ambrose stuck to generalities and platitudes:
"It's time for a brand new approach to the environment," she told the committee.

"This approach is going to address the real priorities of Canadians in a tangible and accountable way."

She was short on details of what the "approach" will include, saying the fine points will be revealed "very soon."

"Our approach will deliver clean air to Canadians to protect their health while also making genuine progress on reducing greenhouse gas emissions as well as other contaminants that are harmful to our health," Ambrose said.

There was a plan, remember the Tory bluebook that touted the "Made in Canada Plan", but okay it's an approach now. All we know of the approach to date- there will be a substantial period of talks aimed a clarifying the approach. Apparently, we will be approaching 2012 before we know where the approach is headed. Ambrose has approached industry to "work together" on emissions. The fact Buzz Hargrove left the auto industry meeting and said he "felt alot better" after learning of the approach, speaks to the empty rhetoric. Why did Ambrose bother showing up to committee if she wasn't prepared to offer anything concrete? All we are approaching is absurdity.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Poor Quebec Leadership Turnout

I've read a couple items stating that the turnout in Quebec for the Liberal leadership was quite low. Apparently, in some ridings, delegates were awarded based on only a few votes. With such a poor showing, it raises some questions as to how this turnout should be weighted in the grand scheme. Can candidates that did "well" claim to have significant support in a province that seemed entirely disinterested? Is Kennedy unfairly criticized for not connecting with Quebecers when we extrapolate from such a small sample size? My point, no one should trumpet such an overall failure.

I would be curious to see raw vote totals from all the provinces and see what the percentages show. One Liberal, one vote might give a better indication of real support, because afterall we should only concern ourselves with the people that bothered to show up. I was quite surprised to see a lineup at my riding, that extended outside- obviously people had some enthusiasm for the process and maybe a more fair system should factor that in. One suggestion: delegates are only awarded if a riding meets a certain vote threshold, which would provide further incentive for people to show up.

The Quebec turnout forces me to conclude that no candidate can really claim substantial support in the province. The numbers speak to a process that has failed to excite anyone but diehard Liberals, so I would be careful in making any assumptions based on a general failure. I also think Kennedy's argument that Quebec's apparatus is a tight structure, that makes it hard for a newcomer to crack, has some weight when you consider the turnout. I realize it doesn't matter, the delegates have been selected, but maybe we shouldn't overstate the Quebec numbers as a death knell, or an endorsement, considering the paltry representation. It would appear that all the candidates have work to do in Quebec and the delegates merely mask the problem.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

It's Okay Dalton

Ontario Premier McGuinty is upset that Rona Ambrose intends to unfairly focus on Ontario's auto sector in the Conservatives upcoming "Green Plan II". McGuinty is right to point out that oil and gas effectively gets off the hook:
Ambrose told CanWest columnist Don Martin that the federal government will avoid an enforced limit on greenhouse emissions from Alberta's oil and gas sector.

When Martin suggested in the interview that this "soft cap" approach...

Environmentalists were also upset about Ambrose's comments. Allowing a soft cap would allow total emissions to grow provided there was improvement in "energy intensity."

Energy intensity refers to the amount of energy used per unit of output. If a target is set for intensity, total emissions can still rise as new projects come onstream.

"This is basically the Bush approach to greenhouse gases," said Matthew Bramley of the Pembina Institute.

"(President George W.) Bush has adopted an intensity target for the U.S. which translates into a considerable increase in actual emissions."

However, Dalton need not worry, Ambrose's "plan" for the auto industry appears to be mostly bluster as well:
They were told the government will introduce legislation to regulate emissions standards in the automaking sector by 2011, when a voluntary agreement signed with the previous government expires. A lengthy series of consultations would then kick in.

Five more years of nothingness, then let's talk about where we go. Wow, I'm impressed now. I knew when I saw a big auto executive leaving the meeting today, with a shit kicking grin, that this new legislation was hardly progressive. Given the fact that the public is now demanding more fuel efficiency and environmental options, the auto industry will naturally gravitate in the next few years anyway, before the big "consultations" start. These meetings with the auto sector, as well as the earlier ones with oil and gas, were nothing more than an attempt to allay fears that this government might actually enact something with teeth. Working together, how quaint.

Exhale Dalton, nothing to see here.

The "Bandwagon" Effect

Nothing is written in stone, anything is possible, the fat lady isn't singing, but any objective read of the situation has to conclude that Ignatieff is heavily favored to win. Today, we hear musings about Brison moving to Ignatieff:
Brison spoke to Ignatieff yesterday and it is likely all those unkind words will be forgiven and forgotten, if, as sources suggest is likely, the Nova Scotian endorses the current front-runner. Insiders in both camps say it is a "good fit," and Ignatieff sources say they are "feeling good" about the prospect.

Jumping on the bandwagon:

There are further suggestions that delegates who will support Ken Dryden, Joe Volpe and Martha Hall Findlay on the first ballot have already indicated they will slip in behind Ignatieff on the second, even if their candidates do not.

A Brison endorsement would effectively put Ignatieff over the top in my mind. Not so much the potential delegates, but the powerful psychological symbolism that starts the "inevitability" angle. People will not move en masse to anyone if Ignatieff has so much as a hint of momentum- it's simply doesn't agree with human nature. Why put your neck out, risk alienating the new powerbase and effectively put yourself on the outside looking in? There is no doubt that political calculation and self-interest will come into play, both of which benefit Ignatieff.

There is one element to this entire discussion that has been largely missing. Given the past sharp divisions within the Liberal Party, is there really an appetite for "long knives" and overt negativity. Will delegates rally around a mean-spirited attempt to take Ignatieff down, because that is what it will take, polite disagreement won't do it. I fully expect the "unite the party" meme to make the rounds and see pressure mounting to gel around one person. The convention will be an exercise in image, will Liberals want the country to see blood letting and acrimony?

Ignatieff doesn't need much in the next weeks to look largely inevitable. If it appears that a Herculean effort will be needed to knock him off, I don't see people endorsing a messy struggle. The risk of losing is too great and that has consequences for any potential conspirators. Ignatieff looks safe, I expect many to migrate to the safe harbour.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Coincidence?

Please don't confuse this entry with some misplaced sense of self-importance because I don't take this blog or myself too seriously. On Friday, I wrote a post, wherein I endorsed Kennedy for the Liberal leadership. On Saturday, I checked out the Libnews site and they had a breakdown of some blogger endorsements. My post was briefly mentioned, with this quote:
“The Liberal Party house doesn’t need a fresh coat of paint, it needs to be gutted and rebuilt."

Today, I saw a Kennedy interview on CBC. Kennedy was speaking about the Liberal Party and made the following comment:
"The Liberal Party needs more than just a fresh coat of paint"

Is that just a coincidence?

If Kennedy Is Dead, Then So Is Dion

I can't really blame all the spin from Dion supporters that effectively proclaims Kennedy dead, while Dion sits pretty. The actual numbers suggest both men in relatively the same position- bridesmaids. There are a million possible scenarios, or perfect storm outcomes as I see it, but realistically both men share the same fate.

Dion has "growth" potential. All the polls I have seen show Rae with ample potential as well, so that argument is largely a wash- especially when the Quebec candidates remain in for the long haul. Assume Dion finishes third or fourth on the first ballot, that fact makes an en masse delegate move all the less probable. This hope defies simple psychology in my mind, and lacks practicality. Ignatieff will have his 35% to start with and is bound to pick up some support on subsequent ballots. Does Rae simply die on the vine after the first ballot? I think it reasonable to see Ignatieff around 40% or higher after two ballots, which makes the big move to Dion beyond risky- back a loser and lose out on the spoils? People would have to be pretty certain that everyone would move the same way, which seems counter-intuitive, given the many variables at play, not to mention historical precedent. The only chance to overtake Ignatieff lies with the second place finisher, and even that scenario has pitfalls. No one has gone to Dion to date, why would we expect everyone to walk to his perch.

A candidate can't deliver all his delegates, and the desire to back the winner will have some bearing. If you want to dismiss Kennedy, then it would seem Dion suffers the same fate. Afterall, delegates are delegates and positioning is everything. Two peas in a pod. Delegates and candidates aren't cattle, which makes all the Dion arguments more about passion than reason IMHO. Feel free to disagree.