Wednesday, October 31, 2007

New Quebec Poll

Maybe this explains the big hurry:
Canada's Conservative Party has pulled even in popularity with the Bloc Quebecois in the province of Quebec, according to a poll published on Wednesday.

The CROP survey for the daily newspaper La Presse put the Conservatives at 31 percent, up 4 percentage points from a mid-September poll, in the mainly French-speaking province of 7.5 million.

That put the Conservatives level with the Bloc Quebecois, a separatist party in Canada's parliament that fields candidates only in Quebec. The Bloc did not gain or lose points from September.

The federal Liberals were at 17 percent, down 2 percentage points.

The survey showed the Conservatives with 32 percent support among Francophone voters in Quebec, compared with 38 percent for the Bloc

A Decima poll yesterday showed a slight Tory fade in Quebec, but this is a much bigger sample, with a lower MOE, so it can't be discounted. First time I can remember a poll showing the Conservatives tied in Quebec, these types of numbers really open up the possibility of a majority.

Too Clever By Half

I think it’s an open question, whether or not the Conservatives have erred with this tax cut barrage. Obviously, the measures announced yesterday are good news for Conservative fortunes in one sense, but the timing might undermine the benefit. It would appear the Liberals have no intention of voting down the government, which effectively eliminates the prospects of an election this year. Given the fact that Flaherty has eaten up most of the surplus in the fall update, you have to wonder what the government can offer in the spring budget. Has the government mis-interpreted the terrain, delivering the goodies at the wrong time?

Flaherty didn’t have to commit yesterday, he could have spoken in broad terms, offered a few things and left the rest for the budget. Instead, the government put all its cards on the table, without the immediate return at the polls. I’m not arguing that the government doesn’t benefit from the announcements, more a question of maximization. Fast forward to the spring, Flaherty has left little room for himself, which means if we do have a non-confidence, the tax cuts are part of the equation, but they might not be the centerpiece of a campaign.

The Conservatives might be too clever by half here, over-estimated their chances to goad the Liberals, too anxious to embarrass, without looking at the longer term. I don’t think the government took full advantage here, benefit yes, optimal benefit no.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Stagnant, Lethargic, Stuck

The latest Decima Poll has some curious results, not the least of which, the Tories lead is actually shrinking:
That poll pegs the Conservatives at 33 per cent, the Liberals at 29, the NDP at 17 per cent, and the Green party at 10.

It suggests the Bloc Quebecois has increased its lead in Quebec to seven percentage points while the Tories have dipped slightly.

The Quebec numbers place the Bloc at 36 per cent, the Tories at 21 per cent, the Liberals at 19, and the NDP at 13.

Decima's poll from October 9th, had the following:
The Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey put support for Prime Minister Stephen Harper's governing Tories at 35 per cent - still well short of majority government territory and below what the Conservatives earned on election day in 2006.

The Liberals, meanwhile slumped to 28 per cent nationally in the wake of three dispiriting byelection losses in Quebec last month.

And it is in Quebec where the Liberal sky is truly falling.

The poll of just more than 1,000 Canadians last Thursday through Sunday put national support for the NDP at 17 per cent, the Green party at 10 per cent and the Bloc Quebecois at eight per cent.

But in Quebec, the Liberals were mired among the NDP and Green also-rans.

Some 35 per cent of Quebecers backed the Bloc, followed by the Conservatives at 26 per cent. The Liberals trailed with 14 per cent, the Greens were at 12 and the New Democrats at 11.

Decima hasn't published the Quebec margin of error, but usually it is a respectable 5-6%, so the Liberal rebound and Conservative fall is noteworthy.

A 7% Conservative lead is now 4%, which is strange, given the circumstances the last few weeks. What is even more staggering, a companion Decima poll(online) which shows Canadians overwhelmingly positive, which should be translating to the government:
Those stagnant numbers fly in the face of a separate Harris/Decima survey that suggests the state of satisfaction with the economy has reached historic levels.

An overwhelming majority of respondents - 82 per cent - characterized the economy as excellent or good while only 17 per cent described it as fair or poor.

Pollster Bruce Anderson says he's been polling since 1980 and has never seen such optimism about the economy.

"We can't recall seeing a situation like this," the Harris/Decima president said in an interview.

General satisfaction with the country's overall direction was also extremely high - 61 per cent of respondents said they were pleased with where Canada was headed, compared with just 38 per cent who weren't.

Anderson says the lethargic poll numbers could be cause for some concern for Tories hoping to capitalize from the country's good economic fortunes.

I first heard a report of this poll on CTV, with Bob Fife responding "I believe the Tory numbers are better". Translation- I'm a closet Conservative who can't except reality and will cling to the Ipsos-Reid result, not the other five polls that mirror this one. Anyways, how frustrating for the Conservatives to see the Liberals in such a state, the economy in overdrive and still NOTHING in terms of growth. I suspect if you were to reverse the roles, under similar circumstances, the Liberals would be in the mid to high 40's. Canada isn't Bush country, it just isn't.

Get Over It

Elizabeth May is set to have dinner with Jack Layton and has decided to bring Stephane Dion as a guest. Pretty innocent stuff in the grand scheme, in fact it would probably be a plus for our political discourse if leaders "mingled" from time to time. This reaction from the NDP is somewhat petty, not to mention childish:
A spokesman for Mr. Layton, Karl Belanger, did not sound keen on the May-Dion-Layton dinner.

"We didn’t talk about who this person might be," he said. "She won the auction, so we’ll see, but co-ordinating the schedule of three leaders . . . two leaders is already tricky. Three leaders could be even more tricky. But you know, it looks like the Liberal party would be well-represented at that dinner, since she’s the Liberal party candidate in Central Nova."

Just go to the dinner, shut your trap, stop with the political gamesmanship. Nobody is equating a dinner with a meaningful summit, simply an opportunity to sit down, chat, see if there is any common ground, on anything. When you think about which federal leader would probably cringe at the thoughts of this dinner party, it tells the NDP all they need to know. Get over it, what's the harm?

Monday, October 29, 2007

What's The Hurry?

Out of nowhere, Flaherty is set to deliver his fall economic statement tomorrow. The Conservatives are in such a hurry, they didn't even follow proper protocol:
Flaherty had wanted to present the economic statement in the House of Commons. But changing the House schedule on one day's notice requires the unanimous consent of all parties, and the NDP has refused, calling the late-notice announcement a political stunt.

One possibility, the Conservatives are merely trying to keep the opposition off balance, with a snap announcement. The other, another poison pill scenario for the Liberals, with a real desire to see if the government can force an election.

I lean towards the latter, and see the sudden move as a recognition of the closing window for a fall election. There is nothing else pending in the next few weeks, that could trigger a vote, if the Conservatives want to move, this statement may be their best chance. The timing of Flaherty's desire is curious, on the same day that Dion makes a strong case against a GST cut. I'll be shocked if we don't see particular emphasis on the GST tomorrow, with the intention of baiting the Liberals.

If the government had presented the statement this week, without the 3 hour notices and sense of urgeny, then it would have seemed more natural. The way this whole affair went down today suggests something else is afoot. Could be that decisions were made over the weekend, the Conservative strategists saw fertile ground and this statement was pushed up as a trigger. Should be interesting.

Dion and the "Middle"

Chantal Hebert's latest column argues that Dion is caught in the "middle" as it relates to Quebec, a tension between nationalist aspirations and the strong federalism, articulated by other "star" candidates:
In an open letter to Quebec newspapers last week, Dion expanded on those points. He described himself as a strong champion of provincial autonomy, a solid defender of the Quebec language laws and an early supporter of the concept of the Quebec nation. He also wrote that the social union he negotiated in 1996 gave the provinces even more leeway than Harper's throne speech promise to curb the federal spending power.

Those assertions are factually correct. But Dion's increasing insistence on his Quebec-friendly credentials is also at odds with the best-laid plans of some of his election strategists.

Trudeau's positions are closer to the federal Liberal mainstream than Dion's. Trudeau is also more in synch with the party's star candidates in Ontario than his leader.

Gerard Kennedy, the former rival to whom Dion owes his leadership victory, fought the concept of the Quebec nation last year. And in a recent letter to the editor, Bob Rae forcefully laid out a Liberal rationale for equating Harper's open federalism with an unprecedented bid to neuter future federal governments.

Dion's current attempts to make himself more palatable in Quebec go against the ideological grain of the very group that brought him to a leadership victory last year; in many Liberal minds, they also run counter to the party's larger electoral interests.

What I find entirely disappointing about Hebert's premise, she seems to take Stephen Harper at face value. Hebert correctly points out that Kennedy was against the nation resolution, but that doesn't extrapolate to opposing Quebec's aspirations. In fact, if memory serves, Kennedy was against the Harper government's poorly thought out, kneejerk, ambigious resolution:
The motion provides "official recognition to the idea of nation without defining it and that is irresponsible," Kennedy said at a press conference on Monday.

"It puts that official concept in the hands of the people who would use it for things that are frankly at odds with what most Canadians believe in," he said.

Kennedy said he felt obligated to voice his opinion.

"It's a wedge for future politics by Mr. Harper," Kennedy said hours before the vote, introduced by Prime Minister Stephen Harper last week, passed in the Commons.

"This is not a small thing -- this is about the identity of the country. It should not be played games with and I will not go along with that."

Part of the problem with Harper's "irresponsible" motion is that the notion of a "nation" is not defined, Kennedy said.

"How will it inform our challenge to bring this country together when there are four or five interpretations possible?" he said.

"This puts us into word-smithing, into semantics, and it puts us into games playing that I think has harmed this country in the past and should not be part of a future.''

Hebert assumes that arguing against Harper's charm offensive in Quebec is the equivalent of anti-Quebec sentiment. Hebert makes the same miscalculation, as it relates to Rae and his defence of federalism, compared to the Harper view. Again, my memory might be sketchy, but Bob Rae has always been a strong defender of Quebec and his record is quite clear.

It would seem, that the new measuring stick in Quebec is whether or not one agrees with Stephen Harper's view of the world. The fact that Hebert uses resistence to Harper's agenda as evidence of tensions seems a strange benchmark. It is simply intellectually dishonest to label someone, based on their opposition to Harper. You want to judge someone like Rae based on real initiatives, like Meech Lake, fairgame, but to frame someone because of a reaction to a vote grab, is pure and utter crap. Stephen Harper and his policies, the new benchmark in Quebec, lord help us.

All Talk

I suppose the best thing about Harper actually holding power, the more time that passes, the more the hypocrisy becomes pointed. Two separate stories, both of which demonstrate that for all the rhetoric about transparency and accountability, the Conservatives are all talk:
The federal government has rejected requests for the report on the Middle East penned by floor-crossing MP Wajid Khan by arguing that documents in the Prime Minister's Office are not covered by Canada's Access to Information Act.

The response suggests that Prime Minister Stephen Harper is hiding his records behind a secrecy policy that he promised to change in the last election campaign.

The government's assertion that ministers' offices are not covered by the access law is not new: In 1999, Jean Chrétien's government began refusing access requests by saying that the minister's office is not part of the department they head.

That interpretation was contested in court by then-information commissioner John Reid, and sharply criticized by the Conservatives and their predecessor parties, the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservatives.

Mr. Harper promised in the last election campaign to scrap it. The Conservative campaign platform promised that the party's first task would be to pass an "accountability act" that would "implement" Mr. Reid's recommendations for reform.

Those recommendations include an amendment intended to dispel any claim that ministers' offices are not covered by the act. "This provision is included to clarify that the offices of ministers form part of the department over which they preside," Mr. Reid's recommendations state.

"It's passing strange how quickly they forget," Mr. Reid said in an interview.

The Canadian Press made a request under the Access to Information Act last January seeking government briefing materials on the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership.
Among the 139 heavily censored pages produced last week by the Department of Foreign Affairs are a number of old documents that end with "talking points."

In every instance, some of the points previously prepared for public consumption (but never publicly delivered) have been blacked out

"Canada is very pleased with bilateral consultations with Australia on uranium and nuclear issues in Canberra on Nov. 20 (2006)," begins one set of talking points, dated Feb. 20, 2007.

"Our officials agreed to seek a trilateral meeting with U.S. officials . . . ," begins the next point, before blacking out the rest of the line.
The entire next "talking point" is black.

A document dated Feb. 10, 2006, cites five talking points and two "Responsive Only" points, prepared in case of specific questions from media. The responsive points are blacked out.

Accountability was always a transparent attempt to hurt the Liberals, more than it was an actual commitment to openness and reform. Under this government, information is harder to ascertain, roadblocks more frequent and secrecy the preference. What a joke, considering the pius indignation during the last election, as the lily white moralists argued for reform. In reality, whatever your measure, the Conservatives have turned out to be worse than their predecessors, which they chastized. How rich.

Another story, on the same theme.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Liberal Riding President Resigns

Some of the comments seem contradictory, but another sign all is not well on the good ship Liberal:
Saying she’s disillusioned with the leadership of Stephan Dion, the president of the Sarnia-Lambton federal Liberal association has resigned.

Anne Marie Gillis said Friday she’s disappointed that the party didn’t vote against the recent throne speech.

Had it done so, it would have sparked an election.

“Insiders have told me after the throne speech came down that Mr. Dion and 30 of his confreres were willing to go to the polls,” she said. “They were going to stand on their principles,” including their support for the Kyoto environmental accord.

But after meeting with the caucus, Dion backed away, she said. “The caucus all sat on their hands,” she said.

“It’s better to die on your feet than to live on your knees,” she continued. “The opposition’s role isn’t to survive, it’s to oppose. I’m a little disappointed.”

Gillis predicts bad times are ahead for the party.

I agree with this logic:
“The longer you delay (forcing an election) the weaker you become. People do not follow weakness, they follow leaders. They are setting themselves up for a real fall.”

Gillis blames Dion, but really her ire should be trained on the caucus and advisors, because Dion was ready to face the electorate. Gillis cites Chretien as an example of a leader consulting with caucus, but ultimately moving forward based on his own convictions. In fairness to Dion, he faced a maelstorm of opposition, given the precarious situation for his leadership, you can at least see the rationale in backing down.

I don't blame Dion for abstaining on the throne speech, I look at all those who spoke of suicide and threatened revolt if he forged ahead. What happens next will be Dion's making, because I believe Gillis' quote above is the bottomline that every Liberal should realize. Let's hope Dion's instincts don't leave him, and he pounces at the first opportunity, with the nervous acknowledging the losing proposition of neutered opposition. IMHO it's a guaranteed slow burn to a Harper majority, and everything I have seen in the last week re-affirms that viewpoint.

Manley Wants You

I saw a few clips of Dion's performance before the Press Gallery dinner last night, the reviews appear to be kind. The best moment I saw, when Dion went into his bag and brought one of John Manley's business cards, rolled his eyes and then threw it over his shoulder. A funny moment, but the symbolism was perfect, sending another message to the press that this panel is a public relations exercise, at taxpayer expense.

Apparently, the Manley panel is set to launch a website, to solicite opinions from Canadians:
John Manley's Afghanistan panel is setting up a website to take written submissions from the public, the head of a Canadian development group said Saturday.

The panel has said it had no plans for public hearings, but Gerry Barr, president of the Canadian Council for International Co-operation, said the website will allow for public input.

Barr and representatives of about a dozen other Canadian aid groups met Manley and his panel on Saturday. They were told an Internet site will be running soon and will accept comments and recommendations.

"Plainly, if they put their address on the website and ask for submissions, they're going to get them from the general public," Barr said.

I can't wait to leave a comment, and I suggest other people do the same. It makes sense to solicite the opinion of ordinary Canadians, because after all, we have just as much expertise, or lack thereof, to speak on the subject as the panelists. I guess a quick draft of my thoughts would go something like this:

I'm sure the panel is aware that the average yearly income for a Afghan citizen is $260 dollars. Given the fact that the Prime Minister has already articulated his vision for the future mission in Afghanistan, rendering the supposed four options considered irrelevant, do you worry that the complete lack of credibility the panel enjoys comes at taxpayer expense?

Mr. Manley is being paid $1400 dollars a day, the other four in the neighbourhood of $800. Rough math, around $5000 a day, $25000 a week just for the panelists. The panel is too conclude at the end of January, which is roughly 15 weeks, with some holiday time included. That translates to around $375000 just to cover the five member panel. I understand some office space has been rented, obviously the website, staff for each of the panelists, travel expenses for hearings, surely a trip to Afghanistan, overhead, mundane expenses, etc, etc. Just to hazard a guess, it seems reasonable to assume the overall cost of this exercise will run into the millions. Let's just say 3 million, which is probably conservative, for arguments sake.

Back to my original comment, at a per capita income of $260 for Afghans, your panel's expenditure is the equivalent of 11538 Afghans total yearly income. I guess the question for the panel, is a public relations exercise, which has already been undercut by the government, panned by the opposition, held in suspision by the media, an efficient use of taxpayers money, when the money squandered could be used to influence the lives of the people we claim to protect? I recommend the panel immediately disband, and dismiss the vanity exercise that amounts to nothingness, then asks the government to re-direct the propaganda money to Afghanistan, with full knowledge that it will contribute to the ultimate goal the panel supposedly ponders.


Saturday, October 27, 2007

Baird Acknowledges Failure

John Baird has always said:
"After 13 years of inaction and empty promises by the previous Liberal government, Canada is going in the wrong direction on the environment."

Yesterday, during Question Period, Baird finally acknowledged the Conservative contribution:
"Mr. Speaker, I agree completely with the member that the Government of Canada did nothing for 15 long years."

And counting...

Friday, October 26, 2007

What If?

Having resigned myself to the fact Al Gore will not run for President, I still found this poll very intriguing:

(Among Democratic primary voters)

....Now... 9/07... 8/07

Clinton 51%.. 44%.. 45%

Obama 23.. 26.. 25

Edwards 13.. 17.. 14

All of the national polls show Clinton pulling away to a commanding position. What is different, the early primary states are now also showing the same Clinton trend. What is beginning to emerge, a feeling of inevitability, that may be hard to counter.

However, what if Gore was added to the equation?:
(Among Democratic primary voters)

Clinton 37%

Gore 32

Obama 16

Edwards 7

A pretty amazing response, Gore very, very competitive. What is also interesting, while Clinton has very high negatives, Gore's have dropped considerably:
(Among registered voters)


All Voters..... Democratic Primary Voters

Favorable 43%.... 72%

Not favorable 41.... 15

Undecided/DK 16.... 12


(Among registered voters)

Now.... 6/2007.... 1/2007.... 10/2000

Favorable 46%... 34%... 31%... 46%
Not favorable 29... 40... 49... 35...
Undecided/DK 24... 25... 20... 17

Gore is now far less divisive than Clinton, which will be a determining factor as the reality of her nomination sets in. Again, it will never happen now, but Gore's entrance would be a seismic shift, in a race that increasingly looks like a coronation.

Apples And Apples

Is there any way to attain the PMO's phone records? I'm willing to bet, a few calls to Afghanistan were made in the last 24 hours:

Canada's Chief of Defence Staff Rick Hillier today rejected accusations he has publicly contradicted the Prime Minister regarding the NATO mission in Afghanistan.

The general's spokeswoman, Holly Apostoliuk, said the General is flying back from Afghanistan and plans to issue a full statement later today that will clarify remarks that have generated a political storm in Ottawa.

Damage control:
Maj. Apostoliuk insisted the Throne Speech reference and the General's comments were about two different things.

“It's apples and oranges,” she said, promising the differences would be explained later through a statement from the General. “From Gen. Hillier's perspective, there is no difference of opinion.”

Actually, it's apples and apples, but I'm sure Hillier will offer semantics to cover for Harper's misleading of Canadians. It will be interesting to listen to Hillier perform verbal gymnastics to save the government's credibility.

Ignatieff, pretty much sums up the situation:
“You can't go out in a throne speech and, and say 2011 and then have your Chief of the Defence Staff saying well actually, it's 2017,” he said. “And then third, to make it worse, let's appoint a panel to look at a third set of options and then in the House of Commons, to hide behind that panel when you don't know what the heck you're doing. I mean this creates, this creates a very bad impression of incompetence and mismanagement. And the troops deserve better.”

Canadians deserve better, just the facts please.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

All Over The Map

Talk about conflicting signals, the Conservatives are all over the map on Afghanistan. First they undercut the supposed "panel", and declare that Canada will need to stay until 2011, now they seem to have more knowledge of the situation than the military:
The Tories say Afghanistan should be stable enough to handle its own security by 2011 - a view reiterated late Thursday by a spokeswoman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

But opposition parties pounced on far less cheerful assessments of the situation from two leading authorities: Canada's top soldier and the head of NATO.

Gen. Rick Hillier declared it will probably take "10 years or so" for the Afghan army to meet its security demands - and NATO's secretary-general suggested it could take far longer than that.

The opposition accused Harper of ignoring his own military experts and allies because the truth makes him politically uncomfortable.

How does the government respond to the glaring contradictions, they fall back on the "panel" for cover:
"This government has established an independent commission to study the issue and provide advice to this government," Tory House leader Peter Van Loan replied when pressed on the matter.

"It's headed up by the former deputy prime minister John Manley. We anticipate a report to this House which will give the House an opportunity to vote on the best course forward."

Then Sandra Buckler offers what amounts to an admission that the "panel" work is symbolic political posturing:
"Building up the capacity of the Afghan people so that they can defend their own sovereignty has always been our goal and we know this will not happen overnight," said Harper's communications director, Sandra Buckler.

"However, our Government believes that this objective should be achievable by 2011."

All the mixed messages form a cowardly compromise of supposed principles, to minimize political consequence. How can the government offer a timeline on the one hand, then use the "panel" to sidestep any discussion on future plans? How can the government offer 2011, when their own military, not to mention NATO, offers an opinion that shows no relationship to their presentation to Canadians?

The government is playing a dangerous dance, because there is no coherence in the message. All the efforts to take Afghanistan off the table will backfire if the government looks manipulative and withholds basic truths for self interest. There is a clear opportunity here for the opposition to peel off the "panel" as a convenient rebuttal, reveal it for the rubber stamp distraction that it is, through the Conservatives own words. Also, the logic chasm between the military opinion and the government is a gift to the opposition.

As an aside, Allan Gregg foreshadowed the results of the newest Decima poll by saying the Conservative momentum in Quebec may be stalling due to Afghanistan. I doubt this muddled message will improve fortunes.


Jeff's post on the federal NDP candidate for Fredericton's defection to the Liberals is interesting, for a number of reasons:
Saint John Member of Parliament Paul Zed on behalf of the New Brunswick Federal Liberal Caucus welcomes Fredericton NDP candidate Kelly Comer to the Liberal Party.

“We are delighted to welcome Ms. Comer to the Liberal Party,” said Mr. Zed. “The Liberal Party is a diverse, open party, and we are pleased that Ms. Comer has chosen to join us and our Leader Stéphane Dion as we work to build a better New Brunswick and a better Canada.”

Mr. Zed notes that Ms. Comer is the second federal NDP candidate to leave the party to join the Liberal Party. Terry Albright, the former President of the New Brunswick NDP and federal NDP candidate in Saint John in 2004 and 2006 left the party to join the Liberal Party in 2006.

“Clearly, people are very disillusioned with the NDP under Jack Layton’s leadership,” said Mr. Zed.

Comer described the NDP's policy on Afghanistan as "naive". The timing of this move is noteworthy, because it comes on the heels of Layton's outreach to disaffected Liberals.

What I find curious, the complete lack of media coverage for this defection. I've scanned all the usual news sources, nary a peep, nothing, nada. Let's pretend that this was a Liberal candidate defecting to another party. You can just imagine, another series of opinion pieces, every outlet using the story, another cycle of negative Liberal coverage. In the spirit of fairness, if you want to point out the Liberal failures, should you not also point out the positives? Where is the journalistic balance in this instance? Seems to me, we heard a great deal about Layton targeting soft Liberal support, doesn't this development speak to that theme?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Economists Pan Conservatives Tax Policy

I'm not sure you can make an anti-GST cut argument politically attractive, but clearly the Liberal position on the government's flashy tax policy finds foundation here, in a big way:
The Conservative government's plan to trim the GST for a second time has been soundly rejected as a top tax-cutting priority by a large group of economists surveyed by The Globe and Mail.

All 20 economists said other tax cuts would be better for the country than trimming another percentage point from the goods and services tax, which represents more than $5-billion in revenue.

It's a remarkable show of unanimity on public policy, given that the responses were from organizations as diverse as the Fraser Institute, the Canadian Auto Workers, Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, Bank of Montreal and the Halifax-based Atlantic Institute for Market Studies.

Mr. Drummond and others have plenty of ideas about where that $5-billion could go.

Personal and corporate income tax reductions, “if properly structured,” would be one, he said. Another would be reversing the earlier GST tax cut and shaving every Canadian's marginal personal income tax rate by two percentage points.

All told, 16 of 20 respondents to The Globe's survey called the government's announcement to cut the GST a bad move, while two said it was irrelevant and two said it would be good for the economy.

The Conservatives have the easy soundbites to deflect any criticism of their tax policy. The only way the Liberals make an impact is if they hammer the point at all turns, and the media does something extraordinary- give Canadians a meaningful discussion, beyond the obvious spin. That said, when you have such universal opinion amongst economists, it provides powerful backing for a somewhat counter-intuitive political position.

"The Denial Machine"

The Fifth Estate had a fascinating show on the global warming debate. I thought I would post the link, in case anyone missed it. Maybe one or two members of the flat earth society might get a clue, or maybe not:

"The Denial Machine".

Probably the best part is listening to the master of disinformation Luntz acknowledge that the problem is real and it needs to move beyond "political arguments", basically puppeting Gore.

Which Is Worse?

Reading Hebert's latest column, which articulates the relative failure of Harper's latest attempt to woo Quebecers, with his toothless federal spending restriction proposal, it would seem the reaction plays to the Bloc's advantage. Given the fact that the Liberals are less and less relevant in Quebec, for the near term at least, federalists are left with the Conservatives as the serious counter to the Bloc. If Stephen Harper achieves his majority, basic math demands that much of the gains must come at the Bloc's expense. It presents a interesting dilemma, which is worse, a Harper majority or a robust separatist contingent on the federal scene?

I understand why Quebecers vote for the Bloc, but for anyone who believes in a Canada that includes Quebec, their presence in Parliament is clearly unwanted and unproductive. The Bloc represents a narrow perspective, articulating a maddening knee jerk negativism to anything that could be construed as pro-Canada. That's the dynamic, that's the agenda, Quebec first, period. Fine for Quebecers in one sense, hardly constructive on so many other levels. Therefore, Harpers flawed view of federalism aside, any national party that can marginalize the Bloc should be welcomed, right? At first blush yes, but then when the consequences of the waning fortunes of the separatist cause are realized, you are left with a Harper majority.

In terms of real damage to the country, a Conservative majority is far more practical than the presence of a fringe party, that rarely influences much, rhetoric aside. With that reality in mind, I couldn't help but think "good" while reading Hebert's column, despite the fact that Harper's failure gives Duceppe a powerful talking point. Barring some miracle, wherein the Liberals rise from the ashes, the best scenario for Canada might include a healthy Bloc for the present, a check on Harper and his agenda. I'd never thought I'd say this, but I would rather have a large gang of cranky separatists in the House of Commons for now, rather than unchecked power for these new Conservatives. Rotten eggs or curdled milk?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Kill It, Fix It, Leave It Alone, My Head Hurts

I don't take Senator Segal's words at face value, the political angle is obvious- put Senate reform on the front burner in an election campaign, with the hopes it will be play to Conservative advantage. Having said that, a referendum on the Senate is intriguing:
A Conservative senator wants voters to decide whether to put Canada's sleepy upper chamber into permanent repose.

Senator Hugh Segal — who could be doing himself out of a job if people say yes — says he believes in the value of the Senate, but its legitimacy as a non-elected body is dubious.

Mr. Segal, a former chief of staff to Brian Mulroney, says he wants a debate and a referendum on the Senate's future.

“We've had 17 efforts at reforming the Senate since 1900,” he said. “All of them have failed.

“The legitimacy of the place is under attack on a pretty regular basis.”

Mr. Segal says he'd personally vote against abolition because he feels the Senate offers regional and provincial interests and can be a check on poorly drafted laws rushed through the Commons.

Senate reform seems a never ending saga, everyone has an opinion, solutions are piecemeal. A national referendum would end the debate once and for all. If Canadians chose to keep the Senate, then it could get on with business, without the constant distraction of legitimacy and power struggles. If Canadians chose to abolish the Senate, then the irritant is removed and the landscape is clear. Either way, there is clarity, a solution.

I suppose any referendum would have to include a dreaded third option, that of Senate reform. The only way this question could be included is if it was clearly defined, otherwise we would just re-enter the malaise. That fact demands a great deal of consultation on what reform would be offered. Given that we have had many attempts at reform, it is hard to see a consensus on the question that would satisfy the various interests and regions. The third option might be a non-starter, because it really speaks to the problem in the first place.

Therefore, I would favor two options at this point, abolish or maintain, which might not be satisfactory to large segments of the population. Come to think of it, this whole discussion of a referendum on the Senate is so inherently problematic, it makes the whole idea wishful thinking at best. In the end, there would be no clarity, just latent acrimony and divisions. Nevermind.

Is Layton Right?

As expected, Jack Layton is taking full advantage of the opportunity to criticize the Liberals. Today's musing:
The NDP says Stephen Harper's Conservatives now basically have a majority government - and it's all thanks to the weak Liberal opposition.

Leader Jack Layton says that by agreeing to roll over on the Tory throne speech vote, the Liberals have helped the prime minister govern without fear of being defeated in the Commons.

"What effectively has happened is the gift of a majority government has been given by that party (the Liberals) to Mr. Harper."

"It's going to be very symbolic to watch our members rise in the House - willing to put their jobs, their principles, their commitments on the line - and then to watch the official opposition sit it out."

Not normally a fan of Layton's persistent attacks on the Liberals, this particular point might have merit. I guess it depends on how things proceed, but the logic for avoiding an election doesn't evaporate anytime soon, which means that the Harper government won't be defeated. If bringing down the government was Liberal "suicide" last week, that thought process will remain for the foreseeable future, which gives Layton's charge context.

It would appear that the number one issue for the Liberals in this session is too find ways to avoid a direct confrontation, manoeuvre to sidestep a confidence question. We can all live in denial land, but this posture has consequence, both for the relevance of the party and the prospects for the leader.

How do you create the "winning conditions" within this environment? Simple, you don't, not even close, you merely survive. With that reality in mind, you then are forced to entertain the idea of a long Harper reign, possibly a dodge and weave until 2009. It is this scenario where Layton's comment find solid ground. The main forum for the Liberals is effective opposition in the House of Commons. This opportunity is eliminated, with Layton and Duceppe attacking, Harper poking at a toothless tiger and Liberals pre-occupied with avoidance. Someone please explain to me how this improves the situation for Dion?

In the coming weeks, there will be tests and how the Liberals react will frame the debate one way or the other. I would suggest the emerging theme in the last days tells us all we need to know, either we act like the opposition, or someone else will do it for us and our arguments will largely surround the question of relevance.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Canada Is Back

Stephen Harper says Canada will lead by example, not by rhetoric. Stephen Harper says that Canada is back on the world stage, others are taking notice. Stephen Harper is impressing nobody on the international stage:
Canada's vote against a United Nations declaration of aboriginal rights was an "astonishing" move for a country that claims to be a model of tolerance and diversity, says UN Human Rights Commissioner Louise Arbour.

"Canada claims to be an important player in the international community on the advancement of human rights," she said.
"You cannot play if you're not on the rink. You cannot play the whole game sitting on the side, positioning yourself as the arbiter of others' performance without putting your own into question."

Arbour called it a "very surprising position for Canada to take after not only years (but) decades of progressive involvement on that issue . . . . I found it rather astonishing."

Harper is making an impression:
Asked how the world views Canadians, she told the media,"There is a sense that Canada is moving away from its total commitment to multilateralism and is now, I think, advancing other forms of either national or regional alliances."

Damaging Canada's reputation, free lancing, undermining, basically a rogue entity that doesn't play well with others. The sense of pride we should all feel, as Canada "astonishes" the world.


Disappointing regional poll numbers, nasty internal divisions, an inability to recruit star candidates. You thought I was talking about the Liberals didn't you?

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Once again, the rhetoric fails to match the reality. The Conservative platform offered this:
Harper government's promise to bring additional openness and transparency to Ottawa in the 2006 election campaign. At the time, the Conservatives blasted the Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin governments' handling of the file.

"The Liberal government has consistently rejected attempts to provide Canadians with better access to government information. The present Information Commissioner has gone to court several times to force the government to open its windows," the Conservative platform said.

The hard truth, not more transparency and accountability, but LESS. The harpocrisy:
a comparison of the flow of information between the 2005-06 fiscal year, which was mostly under Liberal rule, and the 2006-07 fiscal year, which was fully under the Conservative regime, shows the system has been slowing down.

In 2005-06, the government's access-to-information officers cleared 77.5 per cent of all requests within 60 days. Under the Conservatives, that number dropped almost three points to 74.7 per cent.

The percentage of requests that were met with a full disclosure of information stood at 28.4 per cent in 2005-06. The following year, however, the government started using a greater number of exemptions to censor information. In 2006-07, only 23.1 per cent of requests resulted in the release of unexpurgated documents - a drop of more than five points.

The government is increasingly refusing to release some information by claiming that it would endanger Canada's "international affairs and defence." That exemption was invoked in 14.5 per cent of cases in 2006-07, up from 11.9 per cent two years ago, which explains difficulties in getting documents out of the Department of National Defence.

The federal statistics are in line with comments made by public servants who say there are growing delays in the approval of the release of information. In particular, officials said increasingly requests have to be vetted by the Privy Council Office, which is the bureaucratic department working for Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Do as I say, not as I do.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


The bully has met his match:
A Conservative riding executive in northern Nova Scotia is refusing to resign over its contentious nomination of ousted MP Bill Casey and instead will seek a new mandate from local members.

Scott Armstrong, president of the Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley riding association, says national council president Don Plett told the board members today they could either choose a different candidate or resign.

But he says the board will do neither, and instead will hold an annual general meeting next month to let local members voice their opinion.

Armstrong says the board still wants Casey as the candidate, and he expects local party members will agree at next month's meeting.

Harper's "my way or the highway" approach has led to more acrimony. Maybe we will have two Conservative candidates in the next election? I find this whole affair amusing, because all Harper had to do was offer an olive branch to Casey, in the new agreement aftermath, and he would be well on his way to repairing the damage in Nova Scotia. Instead, the political tin ear, with a dash of vindicative stubborness, has undermined any agreement, and ensured future embarrassment for the Conservatives. Self-inflicted wound.

Great Idea

Someone was kind enough to email the link to the ShunLunn website, which represents a fascinating attempt to end vote-splitting. The goal:
The Shun Lunn campaign is a call to action in an effort to prompt a pre-election "run off " style election, by the people for the people. It is a non-partisan, grassroots campaign currently encouraging the federal riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands (S-GI) to undertake a democratic process that delivers appropriate representation for the Riding's majority. The result should establish one candidate to run against and defeat Gary Lunn, the Conservative incumbent and Natural Resources Minister, in the upcoming Federal Election.

I had read a few weeks ago that the Liberal and NDP candidate were already on board with this "run-off" concept, but the Green Party candidate was against. Hopefully this website is the beginning of a grassroots movement to bring people together, in a common goal.

There seems to be a lot of resistance in some quarters to progressive candidates "working together", based mostly on partisan considerations. The concept could work, if the democratic approach is respected, as outlined above, because people choose the best candidate, not the by-product of party directives. Each party still has opportunity through a run-off and the Conservatives don't benefit, in a riding they shouldn't hold, if you take majority opinion into consideration.

I'm not sure if this approach works every where, but if it were adopted widely, Conservatives would be rightly concerned, their sacred "wedge" eliminated. Good luck to all involved.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

How Special

Guess which national paper was magnanimous enough to offer Jack Layton a special op-ed, with the main thesis- Liberals bad? Great to see our media giving politicians another platform to get there message out, particularly one that helps with the "agenda".

Not Buying

Maybe inner denial, but I'm just not prepared to buy the Ipsos Reid polls of late. The new offering:
Conservatives hit the magic majority number of 40 per cent for the second consecutive week.

The Liberals trailed by 13 points at 27 per cent, a spread that pollsters attribute to weeks of unrest with Dion's leadership, party infighting and ruptures within the Quebec wing of the party. The NDP garnered 14 per cent support and the Green party had eight.

Here's where I smell an odor:
The Conservatives' lead over the Liberals in seat-rich Ontario widened to eight points from three points last week, virtually guaranteeing they would score a "solid majority" victory if an election were held today, Bricker said.

Tory support was 42 per cent, up two points from the previous survey, while the Liberals dropped three points to 34 per cent. The NDP had 13 per cent, and the Green party 10.

The only polling outfit that has the Tories ahead in Ontario, now widens the gap.

For context, here are three other polls of Ontario, released in the last week:
Strategic Counsel:

Aug. 10-12 Oct. 11-14
Liberal 40% 40%
Cons 35% 33%
NDP 17% 14%
Green 8% 14%


Libs 38(+3)
Cons 31(-6)
NDP 18(+1)
Greens 12(+2)


In Ontario, the Liberals led the Tories 38-33...

Just to add, the Environics poll had a larger sample size.

Conclusion, based on other polls, not to mention the last year of polls, which consistently show the Liberals firm in Ontario, I'm considering Ipsos an outlier, both on the regionals and the nationals. Next.

Friday, October 19, 2007

More Of The Same

Another poll, this online one from Angus Reid:
The polls results, released at a time when the Conservative government is daring the opposition Liberals to force an election, show 34 per cent of Canadians support the Conservatives; Liberals 29 per cent; New Democrats 17 per cent; Bloc 9 per cent; Green party 9 per cent and 2 per cent for others.

Dion's numbers are bad, but Harper still trails nobody:
Only 9 per cent said they would prefer to see him as prime minister, compared with 32 per cent for Harper.

it's quite telling that so many Canadian (45 per cent) would not pick either man.

When you have an either/or question and 45% won't pick that speaks volumes.

Further proof that women are smarter than men:
The survey shows 40 per cent of men support Harper and only 24 per cent of women.

This poll is pretty much more of the same. I suppose the most useful part, further confirmation that the Ipsos Reid poll, with the "majority terrority", 14% lead that sent Conservative hearts racing, was more an apparition than real.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Signs Of A Pulse

In terms of perception, this development is exactly what the Liberal Party needs:
Former astronaut Marc Garneau has decided to run for the federal Liberals after all.

But now Dion is set to announce Friday that he's appointing Garneau to carry the party's banner in the Montreal riding of Westmount-Ville-Marie, one of the safest Grit bastions in the land.

Dion spent a lot of time persuading Garneau to change his mind.
Insiders say Dion was never indifferent or hostile towards Garneau. He simply had not turned his attention to the matter of his candidacy until recently, being more focussed on the three Quebec ridings where byelections were held last month.
Insiders credit Dion's new principal secretary, Johanne Senecal, for striking the rapprochement between the two men. Garneau's about-face is a ray of good news for Dion...

Just to add, there wasn't one pundit today who didn't concede this was objectively good news for the Liberals. With rumors of more potential candidates in Quebec set to take a pass, bringing Garneau back into the fold sends a positive signal. Dion now has a photo-op moment in Quebec, and no matter the riding, it can be spun as a turning point.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Paper Tiger

Environics polls, with a healthy sample size, which reaffirms the notion that the Harper Conservatives are hardly something to fear:
Among decided Canadian voters, 33 percent say they would support the Conservative Party in an election, compared to 29 percent who would support the Liberal Party, 19 percent who would support the NDP and 11 percent who would support the Green Party. This marks a four-point decline in Conservative support since the previous Environics survey in June. The Conservatives’ losses have been matched by marginal gains by all three of the parliamentary opposition parties.

The lowest Con total since the election, the Liberals consistent and competitive.
Some interesting regionals:

Libs 38(+3)
Cons 31(-6)
NDP 18(+1)
Greens 12(+2)


Bloc 32(+10
Cons 25(-3)
Libs 17(-)
NDP 17((+5)
Greens 10(-1)

British Columbia (MOE 6.6):

Libs 29(-1)
Cons 26(-8)
NDP 25(+1)
Greens 18(+6)

Atlantic Canada (MOE 6.2)

Libs 36(-4)
Cons 30(+3)
NDP 28(+4)
Greens 5(-4)

The usual leadership numbers:
As the preferred choice of 37 percent of Canadians (up 1 point since June), Stephen Harper remains the most popular choice for prime minister. NDP leader Jack Layton (19%, down 1 point) is now firmly in second place. The proportion of Canadians who name Liberal leader Stéphane Dion as their choice for prime minister continues to decline (12%, down 4 points). Four percent (down 1 point) choose Green Party leader Elizabeth May.

In Quebec, support for Stephen Harper is holding at 30 percent (up 1 point). He is followed by Jack Layton at 18 percent (unchanged). Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe now sits at 15 percent (down 2 points) and just nine percent of Quebecers choose Stéphane Dion (down 1 point).

This is a big poll, over 2000 responses, and enough of sample to have some faith in regionals, outside of Ontario and Quebec. What is striking, the Liberals and Greens in British Columbia and the NDP in Quebec, not to mention the lowest Conservative total since the election for this polling firm.

If anyone listened to Elizabeth May's comments last night, concerning the throne speech, it was pretty evident that there is some co-ordination with the Liberal Party. The government agenda isn't something May "can live with" at face value, but I read her analysis as complimentary to the Liberal position. This angle is something which is flying under the radar, but one that could be the sleeper in an election campaign.

Call me "hawkish", but apart from the Ipsos poll, which is generally Tory friendly, the landscape shapes up to be quite interesting, which is why I don't subscribe to the "hand Harper a majority" sentiment. Quebec is a concern no question, but that is clearly balanced out elsewhere. Furthermore, the Liberals have an ace up their sleeve, which every poll shows to be a real force, the Green Party. The prospects of Elizabeth May pushing Dion, which yesterday's "convergence" only validates, could be pure gold when push comes to shove, in the dying days of a campaign. I'm not suggesting the Green vote isn't real, in fact I believe it is, but if itwere to move, it is hard to see it not drift to the Liberal column. Take a look at the numbers in British Columbia and Ontario, a few points could translate into many seats.

I still subscribe to the idea that the environment is "the" issue for the forseeable future. When you read these polls, and think of the alliance, think of one of the most well versed environmental speakers like May championing Dion as Prime Minister, it addresses the leadership question, it speaks to the environmental voter, it sounds the alarm on a Harper mandate, it resonates beyond partisanship and asks the voter to subscribe to higher purpose than party. The little deal that everyone forgets might just turn out to be seismic once we head to the polls. There is nothing to fear in these numbers, in fact there is room for potential.

If Not Now, Then When And Why?

Surprises aside, all indications point to the Liberals cowering to avoid an election. The reasoning is obvious, hardly optimal conditions for an election fight, the notion of "suicide" a common reference. However, if the Liberals pass now, then when and why?

The assumption, things can and will improve, a leap of faith, that is purely theoretical. Things may well improve, but even if you buy into this proposition, you must acknowledge that inaction now also brings negative consequence. No sane person could argue that Dion and the Liberal brand doesn't take a hit by allowing the government to stand, that is just a self-evident truth. Therefore, those that argue we wait must accept the short term damage to a party already reeling. The now is sacrificed for the potential tomorrow.

I posted the above picture because it speaks to the essence of Dion and his mandate, following the leadership convention. The color is key, and the issues at hand challenge Dion at the core. All the talk of "poison pills", or lack thereof, are fine and dandy, but there is no question that the Conservatives have completely rejected the Liberal vision on the environment. Last time I checked, the environment was the number one issue with Canadians. Last time I checked, the environment was the centerpiece for all things Dion. Last time I checked, everyone agreed that the environment was a Conservative weakspot, that would be a key issue in any campaign. With all these realities well established, it is hard to see another opportunity on the horizon, wherein Dion can exploit the issue, should he decide to sit on his hands in the present. By all accounts, Dion seems to agree, which is why he remains one of the few election "hawks" within the caucus.

Moving forward, the questions are as follows. Will Liberal prospects improve in Quebec? Answer, a resounding NO, not anytime soon, to think so fails to acknowledge the circumstance. Will Liberal fundraising improve? I just read a piece today which says the latest fundraising will show a growing gap with the Conservatives and I seriously doubt avoiding confidence motions will be a big draw with the faithful in the future. Will Harper flounder? With a gigantic surplus, the promise of the "largest tax decrease in Canadian history" looming, don't expect the government to do the Liberals any favors. If the Conservatives are able to put serious coin into the pockets of Canadians, as opposed to the spending spree of the previous budget, common sense tells us it is a plus for their fortunes. If "suicide" is your word, trying fighting an election campaign against a cutting taxes theme. Will Dion improve? I suspect Dion might, and grow into the job, much like his predecessors. The only problem, this will occur as Dion is simulateneously bombarded with cries of weak leadership and irrelevance, as he constantly navigates and compromises, desperately trying to avoid an election.

I understand the situation is dire, but I'm of the mindset that this is reality for the time being. When you factor in the further damage done in compromising, it is hard to see any net benefits, on balance. Do we wait until 2009, two years of ineffective opposition, two years of quasi majority rule? When will the "winning conditions" materalize? I don't see it, and all the while principles and credibility are tarnished.

Fear Mongering For Votes

Quite a contrast in the morning papers. On the one hand, you have the Conservatives putting their "law and order" agenda on the frontburner, and fueling media-driven paranoia about crime:
"Canadians feel less safe today and rightly worry about the security of their neighbourhoods and the country," the speech said.

"There is no greater responsibility for a government than to protect this right to safety and security."

Tough on crime sells, particularly in vote rich urban centers. The irresponsible rhetoric of the government feeds the inaccurate perception that Canada is becoming less safe. If you ask Canadians, they always respond that crime is on the rise, communities are less safe, this opinion is a by-product of a media pre-occupied with the sensational, with every incident exposed and brought into living rooms.

The concurrent news story today, which completely contradicts the Conservatives hysteria, gun crime is down:
The national homicide rate dropped 10 per cent in 2006, while the number of killings committed with firearms fell...

The homicide rate has been on a general decline since it peaked in the mid-1970s at just over three homicides per 100,000 population.

It had reached a 35-year low of 1.73 in 2003.

Of the 605 homicides, 190 were committed with a firearm, 33 fewer than in 2005 and a 16 per cent drop in the rate of firearm homicides.

In fairness, the article also says violent crime was on the rise, but if you take the overall trends, there is no indication of a rise, in fact we see a decline.

It is a losing battle to argue against the "tough on crime" agenda, because facts are secondary to appearances. It is no coincidence that the Conservatives have decided to make their crime package the centerpiece of the new session, they know they can exploit the issue for maximum political gain. However, this tactic doesn't distract from the reality, supported by actual evidence, that a prosperous society, that focuses on prevention and rehabiliation, is the best remedy to crime, proven in the Canadian experience. Fear mongering for votes, the truth the real casualty.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Wanted: Ideas

Remember last June, when the Conservatives were slumping through the final days of Parliament, bereft of ideas, openly soliciting responses from the rank and file for direction? The Conservatives needed the summer to "re-tool", "re-define", get their heads together and come up with a new set of goals, moving forward. The government delayed the return of Parliament another month, which meant they enjoyed a full four months to flesh out policy. Tonight, we wonder "where's the beef?":
Under the leadership of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the Government of Canada is pursuing a mandate based on five core priorities, including:

1)A Proud and Sovereign Canada in which the Government rigorously defends Canada’s place in the world including through the realization of our strong Arctic vision and a responsible, effective path forward in Afghanistan.

2)A Strong Federation in which the Government will continue to strengthen the federation – and modernize its democratic institutions – through measures including formal limits on federal spending power and long-overdue reform of the Senate.

3)A Prosperous Future in which the Government will provide effective economic leadership and a prosperous future by aggressively moving forward with broad tax relief that includes a further promised reduction in the GST.

4)A Safe and Secure Canada in which the Government will continue to tackle crime and strengthen the security of Canadians by reintroducing important crime legislation with the new Tackling Violent Crime Act, and by putting a strong focus on safe communities and youth and property crime.

5)A Healthy Environment for Canadians in which the Government will continue to improve the environment and health of Canadians by delivering realistic and achievable results in areas such as environmental enforcement and product and food safety.

The Arctic and Afghanistan are already well known priorities, hardly a fresh idea. A strong federation, wherein you mirror(how rich) the Liberal legacy as it relates to spending power, well short of all the rhetoric. A GST cut that was outlined in the last election campaign. A re-introduction of crime legislation, put in a different package. A commitment to safe food and products. Wow, it might take me days to digest the myriad of innovative ideas, from this gang of policy wonks. Weak, thin, superficial, re-hashed.

This throne speech proves once again, that the new Conservative Party was always more a statement of opposition, than direction. The anti-Liberal motivations only takes one so far, the memory of "13 years" fades and you are left with your own creativity and vision. I guess we shouldn't be surprised, after all it was this Party who's election platform began by attacking the Liberals, before it actually spoke on policy.

Today is the day the government officially drops the "new" portion of their moniker(already?). I would say that decision is quite timely, given what we heard tonight, "new" is apparently a foreign term.

Amateur Hour?

This is just amazing, if accurate:
Liberal Leader Stephane Dion has lost his Quebec lieutenant and is having trouble finding a replacement.

Hull MP Marcel Proulx confirms that he resigned over the weekend as Dion's right-hand man in the province. While Proulx says he's a team player and has no problem with being replaced, sources say he quit after learning that Dion had offered the post to Montreal MP Denis Coderre.

However, Coderre declined and Dion was left scrambling to find a new lieutenant.

Dion is trying to persuade a reluctant Pablo Rodriguez, another Montreal MP, to take the post.

I'm not sure what to say.

One Step Forward, One Step Back

Harper was all smiles last week, announcing his new fiscal arrangement with Nova Scotia. Pundits lauded Harper for shoring up a weak spot, another coup to mitigate the damage heading into a possible election. However, it would appear that Harper has accomplished nothing, when you factor in the "blowback" over the hardline stance with Bill Casey. Harper may have done harm, beyond just Casey's seat:
Stephen Harper's steadfast refusal to allow maverick Nova Scotia MP Bill Casey to return to the Conservative party has ignited an internal backlash at a time when each seat is critical to building a majority government, say party stalwarts.

In Amherst, N.S., Ron Elliott, 79, has prided himself on being the first to plant a Tory lawn sign during the past 20 provincial and federal elections. But in an interview Monday, he said Harper's decision will prompt him to end his long history of supporting the federal party in the next election.

"He (the prime minister) doesn't take anybody else into consideration," Elliott said of Harper. "It's his way or the highway."

Jeffrey MacLeod, a professor of political science at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, said Harper has ignored a regional Tory culture based on accommodation and "forgive and forget."

"The fact that Casey wasn't invited back just doesn't play well in Atlantic Canada," he said.

Harper, he argues, was "more concerned with the abstract concept of party discipline over resolving this political impasse in Nova Scotia."

Brooke Taylor, Nova Scotia's agriculture minister, said the prime minister's approach simply isn't good for the party in the province.

"My first choice is to bring Bill Casey back into the tent, (but) that's not doable," said Taylor, a staunch Harper supporter. "So, there will be some lingering effects."

With one vindicative stroke, Harper has undone any goodwill that was intended with the new arrangement. The fact that Harper found it necessary to "tweak" the fiscal agreement says quite clearly that the arrangement was flawed, which makes his stance against Casey all the more confounding, the consequences all the more deserved.

Back To Reality

Last week's Ipsos poll came with the headline "Tories Lung Toward Majority". Today's Strategic Council poll is less encouraging, "Tory Majority Seen As A Long Shot":
The Conservatives have gained public support but not enough to give them a majority government, despite a month of troubles for Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion, a new poll shows.

The Prime Minister's Tories now have a five percentage-point lead over the Liberals, 34-29, according to a new poll conducted by the Strategic Counsel for The Globe and Mail and CTV News. The NDP has 15 per cent, the Bloc Québécois 10 per cent, and the Green Party, 12 per cent.

In August, the Tories and Liberals were tied, 33-33. Now, a new survey of 1,000 Canadians taken between Oct. 11 and Oct. 14 shows the Conservatives have opened up a five-point lead, largely by gaining in Quebec while the Liberals fell there.

In Quebec, the numbers mirror the Ipsos poll:
The best news for the Tories is in Quebec, where the Conservatives are now solidly in second place behind the Bloc. It has 37 per cent support in the province, the Conservatives have 26 per cent, the Liberals 17 per cent, the Green Party 12 and the NDP 9.

In Ontario, Ipsos had the Tories with a slight lead, which was an eye-opener, because most outfits usually show the Liberals with the lead. Strategic Counsel offers the Liberal some good news:
But in Ontario, the picture is more discouraging for Mr. Harper's Tories. There, the Liberals lead the Conservatives by a 40-33 margin...


Aug. 10-12 Oct. 11-14
Liberal 40% 40%
Cons 35% 33%
NDP 17% 14%
Green 8% 14%

The difference between these two polls seems to be in Ontario, which explains why one has majority flirtation, the other well short. I'm inclined to take the SC numbers, simply because they seem more in line with other polls, while the Ipsos finding looks the outlier. What is interesting, both firms find virtually the same results for Quebec, which is hardly surprising.

The last SC poll had a 33-33 tie, so while we have seen Liberal erosion, Harper has failed to capitalize, reaffirming the theory that many Canadians approach the Conservatives with great trepidation. SC lays out a telling timeline, that illustrates Harper's failure to move his numbers:
Cons. 36%.... 39%.... 34%
Liberal 30%.... 28%.... 29%
NDP 16%.... 18%.... 19%
Bloc 11%.... 9%.... 10%
Green 5%.... 5%.... 12%

One other point on the Quebec numbers, while Harper has increased his support, relative to the last poll, and the Liberals have fallen, it is noteworthy that the Conservatives are basically (+1.4%) at the same level they were at in the election. For all the Liberal troubles, they are only down 3% from the election. The Greens are up 8% (12%), and where that vote moves, or if it holds, will be the big story come any election.

Conclusion, majority is still very elusive and the Liberal floor is firm.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

"Getting Things Done"

This is the week, finally. Did you know when Parliament (big, majestic building in Ottawa) reconvenes, it will be the first time in 116 days? If an election is averted, I sure hope Harper and company can last until the 7 week Christmas break. Pace yourself "new" government, burnout is real.

Hold The Phone

Remember this angry quote from Harper, on a possible return of Bill Casey:
"Mr. Casey is not welcome into our caucus ... when there is a next federal election, there will be a Conservative candidate in Mr. Casey's riding, and it will not be Mr. Casey," he said.

Hold the phone tough guy:
A Conservative riding association in northern Nova Scotia is defying Prime Minister Stephen Harper and throwing its support behind renegade MP Bill Casey.

Scott Armstrong, president of the Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley riding association, says the board has voted to support Casey, who was booted from the Tory caucus in June for voting against the federal budget.

Armstrong says the riding association wants the district to be part of a federal Conservative majority government, and it believes backing Casey is the best way to achieve that.




Little Ole Man

Reading a criticism of Al Gore by denier Dr. William Gray, I was struck by this sentence:
"The human impact on the atmosphere is simply too small to have a major effect on global temperatures," Dr Gray said.

I've heard this line of argument before with people that question things like global warming. The earth and atmosphere are so vast, little ole man can hardly impact such a monstrosity. That viewpoint extends to issues like forest management, fisheries, urban sprawl, etc. The tension seems to fall between the idea of a fragile planet and a hearty rock that can be exploited, with minimal impact.

I subscribe to the notion that man has reached the point of critical mass, wherein its presence is so overwhelming that it many ways, its thirst is bigger than the capacity of the planet to absorb. A simple image, demonstrates that it isn't alarmist to believe that we can influence the natural balance:

People like Dr. Gray understate the impact of man, with no acknowledgement of consequence. The days of man, the benign player are over, no matter what the subject, you can see that as a collective, we yield great power to alter. Why are we so ignorant to assume that the earth is able to operate in a unilateral way, outside of our activities? I think people like Dr. Gray give the earth too much credit. In my mind the more we learn, the smaller and more susceptible the earth appears each day.

Manley And Partisanship

What I find amazing about this debate on John Manley, the way in which defenders take this "panel" at face value, as though it really is a principled attempt to reach "consensus". Pretty much every pundit I have read, from all sides of the political spectrum, have concluded that Harper constructed this panel, based on pure political calculation, in a shrewd effort to nullify Afghanistan as an election issue. Shoring up his weak spot, diffusing, wedging the Liberals, but not a hint of honest outreach. What is happening here seems obvious, in the most basic sense, which makes the "called to serve" defense of Manley a false premise.

I don't question character, but I strongly question judgement. John Manley may think that he is participating in a honorable way, that the issue is beyond partisan considerations. However, the irony, his presence is entirely a partisan affair, Harper uses him as front, a calculation that ensures credibility. Why someone as seasoned as Manley can't see Harper's motivations is a complete lapse in judgement. A "good Liberal" doesn't defend Manley, simply because of his party pedigree, you call a spade a spade.

Whether public, or private, the judgement is the same:
Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion publicly welcomed Manley's attempt to contribute to the divisive Afghanistan debate, but was privately fuming over what many Liberals saw as a betrayal that would help Harper build a case for prolonging the Afghan military mission contrary to the wishes of all three opposition parties.

Dion should be fuming, because Afghanistan is one of the few issues that the Liberals are well positioned. Now, we must all enjoy the spectacle of Harper name dropping, everytime the issue comes to fore. Travers sums it up:
Point, set, and maybe even match to Stephen Harper. With the single stroke of recruiting Liberal John Manley to help rescue Conservatives from Afghanistan, the Prime Minister is protecting his party from voter backlash in a looming fall election and putting knee-buckling pressure on Stéphane Dion.

This is how politics is played when it's played shrewdly. Days before Tuesday's throne speech, Harper is neutralizing the combat mission as a ballot issue while steering the country toward the consensus Conservatives favour on a continuing Afghanistan role.

So Harper is doing what successful politicians always do: He's buying time while prepping the country for a foregone conclusion. By the time Manley reports in January the election may be over and, even if not, his findings will only make it easier for the Prime Minister to argue for a continuing, if modified, Afghanistan presence.

Canada needs a honest, public debate on our future in Afghanistan. John Manley seems to be under the illusion that he is at the center of the debate, when in fact he is being used, to ensure that debate is neutralized, to give credence to the Conservatives position. The argument that we all need to cool our jets and see what Manley comes up with is interesting, if irrelevant, because I can sit here right now and I already know the outcome. Is there any doubt? Why is that every Blogging Tory and Conservative partisan is "applauding" John Manley?

Saturday, October 13, 2007


You sir, are a fool of the highest order. Absolutely staggering, that a man with Manley's political pedigree can't see that he is a willing pawn, in a game of Harper's choosing. Kudos to Harper, this is a shrewd political move, that is playing quite well and achieves much, in his attempt to neutralize Afghanistan as an issue.

This "panel" isn't representative of Canadian opinion, so transparent in intention, a stacked deck to solicite the desired response. Manley does great harm through his involvement, primarily because he does have credibility, his presence gives this panel the needed appearance. Has John Manley watched how Stephen Harper operates? Is Manley so naive, to think that Harper would willingly concede authority and final decision? Manley is Harper's muse, and he appears to lack the basic sensibility to see the obvious.

Harper chose Manley, a "hawkish" Liberal, because his opinions are already well known, there is no risk to his desired conclusion. Furthermore, Manley is given the "head" label to counteract the decided right slant of the panel. Manley isn't just a member, Harper is so deft to make him the face, while the obvious partisans work the shadows. Manley framed his involvement as question of duty, to serve his country, apparently oblivious to the fact that he enables Harper. How such a supposed intelligent statesman can be so dense is frankly beyond me. Instead of rising about partisanship, as Manley seems to believe, he voluntarily carries Harper's water. The problem, this isn't just Manley's blunder, he undercuts a serious and real debate, through his participation, not to mention helps Harper on his quest for a majority. Nice "duty".

Friday, October 12, 2007

People Are Paying Attention

When the polls showed little movement, we assumed this was a reflection of the fact that people weren't really paying attention to the internal machinations of the Liberal Party. The latest Ipsos offering suggests there is real damage:

The federal Conservatives have surged to 40 per cent in the popularity sweepstakes, opening a 12-point lead over the Liberals and moving within sight of majority government, a new national poll says.

The poll, conducted by Ipsos-Reid exclusively for CanWest News Service and Global National, also says that almost seven in 10 respondents believe Canada is "moving in the right track these days," and that almost half (49 per cent) identified with the sentiment that "Stephen Harper has done a good job and deserves re-election" as prime minister.

The poll found Liberal support had dropped to 28 per cent, down four points from the August survey. The NDP dropped one point to 16 per cent, the Bloc Quebecois held at eight per cent, and the Green party was down one point to seven per cent.

Bricker said the latest survey's Quebec results show how the Liberals have fallen in Dion's home province. At only 18 per cent support, the party is only four points ahead of the NDP, and trails far behind the Bloc at 33 per cent and the Conservatives at 27 per cent. The Green party polled at seven per cent.

The really concerning part, Ontario, where Harper takes the lead:
The picture was slightly brighter for the Liberals in Ontario, where they trail the Conservatives by only three points, 40 per cent to 37. The NDP was well back at 14 per cent, and the Greens had eight per cent.

British Columbia (high margin of error):
the Conservatives held a strong lead in British Columbia, with 40 per cent support, compared to 30 per cent for the NDP and 23 per cent for the Liberals.

Atlantic (high MOE):
Atlantic Canada was a bright spot for the Liberals. Their support stood at 45 per cent, compared with 37 per cent for the Conservatives, 15 per cent for the NDP, and four per cent for the Green party.

The Quebec numbers are good news for Harper, hopeful for Layton and predictably bad for Dion. What should be giving the Conservative strategists the final election push, the encouraging numbers in Ontario, where Harper takes the lead for the first time in months.

As I've argued before, it is pretty intuitive to think a barrage of negative press coverage translates in the polls. Harper has finally moved his numbers, while the Liberals hit bottom.

Somehow I suspect the throne speech language just got tougher. My opinion remains the same, primarily because I see nothing on the horizon that changes the dynamics.

Layton Looks To Fill The Void

Further proof that people are deluding themselves, if they think the Liberals can simply abstain on the throne speech, with little consequence. Layton will exploit to the maximum:
OTTAWA – NDP Leader Jack Layton today issued a challenge to Stéphane Dion for next week’s Throne Speech: “If the Liberal Party believes in anything, order your MPs to show up for Throne Speech votes.”

“Throne Speech votes are a time to show leadership, to make a decision. You either stand with or stand against Mr. Harper’s agenda,” said Layton. “By ordering Liberals to abstain or be absent for Throne Speech votes, Mr. Dion is not showing leadership.”

Layton added, “Mr. Dion cannot hide from the responsibility of deciding whether he is with Mr. Harper or against him by ordering Liberals to remain absent or abstain on Throne Speech votes. That’s not leadership.”

“If Mr. Dion and the Liberal Party are incapable of serving as an opposition to the Harper government, the NDP will,” concluded Layton.

Then again, what do I know.

Well Deserved

As an added bonus, the stragglers are now forced to turn their venom onto the Nobel Peace Prize. What next, puppies? I guess 2007 won't be remembered as the year the "global warming theory" died after all.

Let the speculation begin.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


If this "announcement" isn't a transparent attempt to pacify voters on Afghanistan, I don't know what is:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper will announce on Friday a five-person panel of prominent Canadians who will be tasked with coming up with a consensus on Canada's future role in Afghanistan, CTV has learned.

Insiders told CTV that Harper wants to take the partisanship out of the Afghanistan mission that has divided the country, especially as the death toll has risen over the past two years.

The panel will come up with options on the role Canada should play in the war-torn nation after the combat mission ends in February 2009.

The panel of high-profile Canadians is expected to include:

Former Liberal deputy prime minister John Manley

Derek Burney, Canada's former ambassador to Washington and former chief of staff to Brian Mulroney

Respected broadcaster Pamela Wallin, who was Canadian consul general in New York

Former Progressive Conservative cabinet minister Jake Epp

Paul Tellier, former Clerk of the Privy Council and former president and CEO of Canadian National Railway and Bombardier

The panel may consider whether to withdraw or significantly reduce combat troops and replace them with CF-18 fighter jets at Kandahar airfield as the French are doing.

Harper wants to take the "partisanship" out of the equation, so he announces a panel of five, with three Tories, a Liberal who has been a firm supporter of the mission in the past and a former TV anchor for flavor. Non-partisan? Apart from that insult to the senses, do I really think Pamela Wallin is qualified enough to tell Canadians what we should do in Afghanistan?

This is a stunt, more than a real outreach, meant to diffuse the issue, heading into an election. I can just hear Harper now out on the road, telling everyone about his expert panel of non-partisans, his magnanimous approach. We are all fools if we buy into this marketing campaign.



Rubbing Salt

I say, give them what they want:
The Conservatives have drafted a throne speech aimed at forcing the Liberal party into a politically embarrassing abandonment of its Kyoto crusade.

Government sources told The Canadian Press that Prime Minister Stephen Harper believes the Liberals are so desperate to avoid an election that they will roll over and accept a throne speech that describes Kyoto climate-change targets as unattainable.

It is among several unpalatable options for Liberal Leader Stephane Dion that the government is considering salting into its blueprint next Tuesday for the new session of Parliament.

All this talk about "winning conditions" for the Liberals is irrelevant in the current climate. Harper is preparing to squeeze the Liberals, which means they roll over and fade away, or they stand on principle and fight. There is no conceivable way that Dion can tackle the leadership gap if he is forced to cower, in the face of a complete affront. As a matter of fact, allowing the Liberals to be bullied will solidify perceptions and destroy any thoughts that things will improve with time.

I think Liberals need to come to grips with the fact that the present reality trumps all the long term strategic planning. Conditions are certainly far from optimal, but by the same token, allowing Harper to run amok and embarrass the Liberal Party is unacceptable, on every level. If Harper is planning to pour salt in the wounds, then the Liberals have one choice, maybe not the preferred choice, maybe one that was made for them, but one that has to answered. Dion is nowhere if Harper walks all over him and the Liberals react by disappearing for a vote.

Harper assumes the Liberals "are so desperate they will roll over", quite a statement and hardly one that can go unchecked. IMHO, it will be a terrible mistake, that Liberals will regret in the future, as the ramifications of saying "uncle" gel. This throne speech looks to be completely obnoxious, one that shows no respect for a minority parliament, one that basically laughs at a supposed impotent Liberal Party. How can anyone accept that?

"The Ball"

Harper has rejected a meeting with Dion. What is missing in this story, the fact that Harper has already met with Layton and Duceppe. That fact undercuts this pitiful excuse:
But he said he is willing to work on compromises with the Conservative government – a notion Mr. Harper dismissed Wednesday.

“I had not heard from Mr. Dion except through the media. Mr. Dion made his intentions very clear. He made his non-negotiable demands, and, as I just said, the government will consider all the opposition positions and we will respond in the Speech from the Throne,” he told reporters.

Layton spoke of his meeting with Harper just last week, despite the fact the NDP has made its "conditions" known for weeks prior. Harper already understood Layton and Duceppe's position, so what was the point of meeting, if the logic with regards to Dion follows?

What is really happening here, which the media somehow fails to mention, Harper doesn't want to make Parliament work and his snub of Dion is a transparent example. Why doesn't someone ask the simple question- if you can meet with the other two opposition party leaders, why is that you can't meet with the leader of the official opposition, especially when you admit that the Liberals will decide whether the government continues?:
Mr. Harper said that with Conservative MPs supporting the Throne Speech, “it appears to me that members of the Bloc and the NDP will likely be voting for an election.

“So really the ball's in Mr. Dion's court at this point.”

If you don't want an election, as Harper contends, then you take the elementary step of speaking with the party that has "the ball", don't you? What a transparent joke really.

Changing The Landscape

Everything pretty much went as expected last night, but the really interesting storyline in my mind was the Green Party. The big question for the Greens, could the poll numbers translate to actual votes? There was an assumption, based on past elections, that the Green support was soft, when push came to shove, many would move to other parties. However, last night saw the Greens match their polling average, which is a testament to future party prospects.

A full 8% of voters is beyond the "fringe" label and while no seats were won, this level of support changes the landscape. The Greens are now a legitimate part of the conversation, something which other parties best take seriously. If Ontario voters were prepared to support the Greens in the provincial election, I see no reason why this expression can't replicate itself in the federal arena (especially with a leader that is more high-profile and media friendly). How this new reality translates in tight ridings is yet to be determined, but people should take notice.

After last night's vote, I suspect pollsters will be far less apt to disregard the Green numbers as soft and unproven. One of the biggest hurdles for an emerging party, look credible, look relevant. The Ontario election represents a huge step for the Greens because they have achieved a new level of legitimacy. In the next Ontario election, the cries for Green participation in any debate will have added weight. In the next Canadian election, the Greens could well play a key role in many ridings, and the Dion/May pact may be something to watch. I view last night as a watershed moment for the Greens, a great foundation to build on for the future.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Waste Of Paper

John Ivison penned this turd of a column today, wherein he offers the absurd:

"Dion Laughs In The Face Of Crisis"

Yesterday, Mr. Dion sounded like the ludicrously optimistic Liberal leadership candidate from last summer who did not appear to be well-informed enough about his own chances to be pessimistic...

Perhaps the reason Mr. Dion is able to keep his head, when all about him are losing theirs, is because he hasn't grasped the dire nature of his predicament.

Ivison questions Dion, for holding a press conference and offering an upbeat demeanor, as though this stance is curious. Apparently, Dion would score points with Ivison if he took to the mic and said, "We're a mess, the PM has us by the throat, I don't know why we bother, we're finished". "Dion Crumbles, Retreats Into Cocoon In Face of Crisis"- that's the better headline.

Dion was actually quite candid yesterday, and acknowledged some difficulties. However, it seems to me that every politician, at every turn, attempts to put a positive spin on every circumstance. Dion is unique in this regard? What exactly does Ivison expect and why does optimism necessarily convert to naivety? Dion's job, like all the other leaders, is to put on a brave face, hardly unique or noteworthy. What a moronic critique when you think about it.


Harper's new deal with Nova Scotia is basically an admission that there was a problem that needed to be rectified. No substantive issue, no need for the announcement today, sounds fairly straight forward. With that basic logic in place, Harper's comments on Bill Casey are just plan vindictive:
Harper said this deal will not clear the way to Casey's return to the federal Tory caucus.

"Mr. Casey is not welcome into our caucus ... when there is a next federal election, there will be a Conservative candidate in Mr. Casey's riding, and it will not be Mr. Casey," he said.

The Harper political tin ear comes to the fore once again, because Casey will likely retain that seat, no matter his political affiliation. Harper is prepared to sacrifice a Conservative seat because his wounded ego can't fathom a reconciliation. Today has vindicated Casey's stance, proven him correct, given his refusal justification. Instead of leaving the door open, Harper the dictator slams it shut and shows himself to be petty.

If you want to heal the wounds created through this controversy, what better way then to extend an olive branch to Casey, because whether you like it or not, he is a symbol of principle through this entire mess. Harper might not like what Casey did, but we all know it was a decision that caused him great personal anxiety. The decisio was one not taken lightly, but one Casey was prepared to take, in order to protect his province.

The obvious rebuttal, Harper must have discipline in his caucus, voting against a budget is a serious matter. However, today shows Casey's judgement to be correct, the deal proposed in the budget was flawed, he was merely ahead of the Harper curve. If you admit the flaw, then it holds that you change the tune on Casey as well. Having said that, Harper's firm reaction is hardly surprising, in fact it is entirely predictable. A shrewd politician makes an effort, a person with a grudge makes a mistake.