Friday, November 30, 2007

Dion On Bali

Interesting comments from Dion, on why is attending the Bali climate conference:
"My role is not to be a substitute for the government of Canada. My role is to try to push everyone to get a better result,"_said Dion.

...said his office has already been flooded by e-mails and phone calls from international politicians, business leaders and environmental organizations, who hope to meet with him at the conference in search of solutions to stop humans from causing global warming.

"I'm not going to claim that 180 countries want to see me. But, yes, there is movement," said Dion. "As the former chairperson of the conference, with a big network and a degree of expertise, I will see what I can do to create some good momentum."

At the Montreal summit, environmentalists have credited Dion with brokering an agreement that would prevent a gap between the end of the Kyoto Protocol's first commitment period in 2012 and the next set of binding targets.

I'm taking Dion at his word here, I believe his first concern is pushing the agenda. The critics have argued that Dion does a disservice by embarrassing the government on the international stage. I would counter, that the government has nothing to worry about if their rhetoric manifests itself in action. Unlike his hyper-partisan counterpart, I think Dion would actually endorse something substantive. What is the problem with some scrutiny, given the fact we are "leading the world" with our "aggressive plan"?

Didn't Get The Memo

A local controversy, surrounding a proposed highway expansion, drew the following comment from the riding's MP:
Building new highways, or expanding existing ones, will only encourage greater use of the automobile, resulting in even greater greenhouse gas emissions. This is contrary to obligations we have under the Kyoto Protocol, and international treaty of which we remain a signatory and under which we have obligations. It counters the commitment we have made to reduce greenhouse gases, both as a nation, and as a province."

The surprising part, the comments came from Conservative MP Michael Chong. Apparently, Mr. Chong didn't get the memo on Kyoto, particularly the part about legal obligations. Head office will be none to pleased.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


I would characterize this decision as a strategic stroke of brilliance:
Liberal Leader Stephane Dion says he will travel to Bali, Indonesia, next month for the United Nations climate change summit to ensure that the Harper government doesn't push the world in the wrong direction in the fight against global warming.

"I will do everything possible to make sure this conference works well," Dion said. "I don't have a mandate to negotiate, but I know a lot of people [from other foreign delegations] and I take the cause of climate change to heart."

Dion said he has asked the government to accommodate him as part of the official Canadian delegation, but he has not received an answer yet. He did not say, however, how he would pay for his trip if the government refuses.

Might I suggest a "Send Dion To Bali" fundraiser on the Liberal website?

This decision is an aggressive move, because clearly the stakes are raised when you have the Leader of the Opposition attending, as opposed to the environmental critic. Dion does have clout with this crowd, a measure of credibility despite what the naysayers argue. Great public relations to have Dion speaking with delegations, undermining the Conservative spin, and ultimately defending Canada's good name on the international stage. Dion will emerge as the spokesman for the gathering anti-Conservative delegation that will be attending, which now includes Quebec, the other opposition critics and the environmentalists.

If Dion is questioned on his decision, if there is a hint of trying to embarrass the government on the international stage, Dion can claim the moral high ground, arguing the matter as urgent. In a sense, this bold move could act as a springboard, which allows Dion to re-take some lost ground, on his supposed strong suit. I don't see much downside, but plenty of potential from a political perspective. Couple that with the obligation to articulate to the world that the Canadian majority is not represented within the Conservatives policies, and you have a win/win. I like this move, no matter the angle.


It what seems like a daily occurence, another study, this time by a United Kingdom outfit, which concludes that the government's environmental rhetoric is nothing more than hot air:
The Tyndall Centre used published tarsands growth and greenhouse gas mitigation scenarios to assess the impact of the government’s proposed intensity-based regulation for Large Final Emitters, a key element of Canada’s current climate change plan. Key findings include:

- The government’s proposed requirements dampen
but don’t reduce global warming pollution
from the tarsands; emissions will grow
between 112 per cent and 219 per cent by 2015

- The proposed slowing in emissions growth is
in line with or less than what is expected in
the absence of these government requirements
and in some instances less than what has
already been voluntarily committed to by

- The ability for companies to sell extra
greenhouse gas reductions as carbon credits
under the government’s proposed plan means
that the windfall profit for tarsands
companies could be in the order of $30 – $700
million, according to the report

- The cost of compliance with the government’s
proposed requirements is expected to be
minimal for tarsands companies, ranging from
zero to a maximum eight cents per barrel

“This is a plan in which it pays to pollute. Handing a cash bonus through carbon credits to the companies responsible for the fastest growing source of global warming pollution in Canada does not make sense for the health of the planet, or for Canada’s credibility on the world stage,” said Mike Russill, President & CEO of WWF-Canada and former oil industry executive.

The funniest conclusion, market forces, if left alone, who actually achieve more than the government's initiatives. The sinister part, the more you study the various conclusions, from what now amounts to a mountain of reference, the more you realize that Baird's supposed aggressive approach, is nothing more than projection of pre-existing realities at best, a hinderance at worst.

This week alone, the United Nations criticized Canada for moving the goalposts to create false progress, the CIBC questioned the wisdom of intensity targets, and now we have the above. How can these people talk with a straight face?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


The Prime Minister makes wild, unsubstantiated claims, while simultaneously turning a mere statement into a binding international agreement. Harper makes no sense:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says the Commonwealth's original climate-change plan would have meant a doubling of greenhouse emissions over the next 50 years.
Harper told the House of Commons that is one reason why Canada blocked an agreement last weekend in Uganda, which would have seen the organization set binding targets for reductions.

It's unclear what scientific studies Harper used to make the statement, but he says it would have been irresponsible to agree to a deal that would have forced some countries, but not all, to cut emissions.

Harper elevates a simple statement into an agreement, in a desperate attempt to distract from his failure. There were no negotiations to hammer out an arrangement at the Commonwealth Summit, the communique was just a declaration of intent. Harper turns the question into something more to justify his resistance. That aside, according to John Baird, Canada has already accepted the original statement that Harper panned:
Canada believes we have an important leadership role to play. Leadership means going first. That is why we have set aggressive targets: a 20% absolute reduction of greenhouse gases by 2020 and up to 60% and 70% by 2050

The Baird argument, Canada has already accepted binding targets, which sets an example by going "first". I believe the original statement simply said that binding targets must be endorsed by the developed world. That is in complete agreement with Baird's logic that Canada has gone first, to show leadership and bring others aboard. There seems to be tension between the rhetoric and the action.

Where Harper comes up with his "doubling of GHG's" in 50 years is curious. It would be noteworthy if Harper can cite the scientific underpinning for this claim, because he seems to ignore all the other scientific opinion that has universally panned his "Made In Canada" mirage. Speaking of dissent, the Harper climate approach is going over like a drunk at a MADD rally in Quebec.

We Know Best

A government is incompetent, when it fails to base its policies on sound reasoning or factual support. There is a pattern developing, on a host of issues, wherein the Conservatives plow ahead with an idea, despite the fact that the catalogue of evidence suggests the policy is flawed. We can now add the Conservatives plan for mandatory prison sentences to the growing list:
Federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson is pressing ahead with plans to create mandatory minimum prison terms for drug crimes in spite of two studies prepared for his own department that say such laws don't work, and are increasingly unpopular as crime-fighting measures in other countries.

"Minimum sentences are not an effective sentencing tool: that is, they constrain judicial discretion without offering any increased crime-prevention benefits. Nevertheless, mandatory sentences remain popular with some Canadian politicians."

That's one conclusion of a 2005 report prepared for the Justice Department, titled Mandatory Sentences of Imprisonment in Common Law Jurisdictions.

An earlier 2002 report, titled Mandatory Minimum Penalties: Their Effects on Crime, also compiled for the department while the Liberals were in power, offers a similar view:

"Harsh mandatory minimum sentences do not appear to influence drug consumption or drug-related crime in any measurable way."

There is a fundamental arrogance attached to presenting legislation which finds little support from those that have examined the issue. Ignoring reports and studies, instead of using them as guides, is a recipe for bad policy.

The Conservative's have obviously concluded that they are more interested in appearances, rather than the actual substance. All that matters is the optics, the Conservatives are getting tough on crime, the facts irrelevant to the presentation. Good politics trump good government, and the calculation assumes that no one really notices the details. Flaherty went on the same path with the GST cut, despite overwhelming opinion from economists. Baird introduced policies that ran completely counter to what was recommended. Van Loan proposes a seat distribution scheme that introduced fundamental unfairness, articulated by expert opinion. Strahl embarks on an ideological pursuit against the CWB, despite consistent advice that he was acting outside of the legal framework. Etc, etc...

No matter the portfolio, you see increasing evidence of a pre-determined agenda, that is deaf to any advice. The Conservatives make the initial decision, and then lack the pragmatism to accept the rationale of differing viewpoints. You can characterize this posture as dangerous, because it pre-supposes a "we know best" mentality, that isolates the government from outside influence.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Baird's Rhetoric Finds More Support

Just once, when John Baird is making the rounds, spewing his nonsense, I would love for a reporter to actually challenge him to produce ONE independent analysis or study that confirms his wild claims. Today, another paper is released, this time by two respected CIBC World Market economists. The conclusion, the same as EVERY other study, the Baird/Harper plan is a sham:
The paper by CIBC World Market economists Jeff Rubin and Benjamin Tal (TSX:CM) suggest the Canadian government's efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions through intensity targets likely won't work because the more you make more efficient use of a commodity, the cheaper you make it and increase its usage.

"The implication is that intensity targets won't work, that you need to have absolute targets."

Quite telling to have another banking entity endorse the idea of a carbon tax:
Rubin and Tal argue that while it may not totally resolve the problem, the only effective way to ensure that gains in energy efficiency do not make matters worse is to ensure consumers don't get lower prices.

The best way to do that, they say, is by putting a price on carbon through a carbon trading system that penalizes energy usage and rewards those that reduce energy consumption, rather than merely efficiency.

"The moment you put a price on carbon, people will use less of it," said Tal.

Partisan exchanges are mostly noise, and it makes it hard for people to sift through the spin. Beyond that, arguments find credibility when they are reinforced by those outside of the arena. In other words, when you are trying to find the truth, you need to look beyond the rhetoric, and see if the claims find some outside relevance. Generally, with complicated issues, you find a host of opinion, which allows various sides to validate their positions.

The most striking thing about the government's global warming policies, we actually see unanimity outside of the political spin, and NONE of it supports the Baird/Harper arguments. I would love to see a campaign ad, with Baird or Harper speaking about their aggressive, world leading plan. Over the noise, the written conclusions, one by one, of every organization that has studied the government's approach. An interesting contrast, that would expose the hollow claims, that finds no support, from anyone.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Small Party Of Confederation

Maybe some bad press will spur an acknowledgement, but at the moment it appears the Conservative's pettiness extends to a great statesman:
The federal government is keeping quiet about any plans it may have to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Lester B. Pearson's Nobel Peace Prize win, which has critics worried the Tories will ignore the event altogether.

But the Conservative government has yet to announce whether it intends to mark Pearson's win in any way.

The Foreign Affairs Department and the Pime Minister's Office did not respond to repeated questions by The Canadian Press about their plans for the anniversary.

Meanwhile, opposition parties, the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre and the Francophone Research Network on Peace Operations all say they have not been told about any commemorative events.

The Bloc Quebecois' foreign affairs critic attributed the government's silence to partisan politics.

"Pearson is a giant," said Francine Lalonde. "I am Quebecois and sovereigntist, but that doesn't prevent me from considering him to be one of the greatest figures of the century."

The NDP's deputy leader, Thomas Mulcair, also chalked up the Conservative attitude to strictly political interests.

"I don't think the Conservatives have any pretext for not underlining the 50th anniversary," said Mulcair. "It's a shame."

If these people were any smaller, I'd need a microscope.

Gore Meets Bush

Seven years too late, but Al Gore finally makes it to the White House:

I would have loved to listen to this conversation:

"It was very nice, very cordial, he was very gracious in setting up the meeting and it was a very good and substantive conversation," Gore told reporters after a 40-minute talk with Bush in the Oval Office.

"It was a private conversation," Gore said repeatedly to a throng of reporters, avoiding giving details. "Of course we talked about global warming, of course, the whole time."

Bush stood silently next to Gore during the group photo and the White House declined to comment on their chat.

"Small Man" Finds An Ally

The problem with many of the Conservatives policies, the lack of independent confirmation, to demonstrate that the ideas have merit. Whether it be the Conservative's disingenuous claims for their GHG emissions plan, the folly of a GST cut or most recently Bill C-22, the government doesn't seem to find any backing from "experts". Electoral reform expert Peter Aucoin weighs in on C-22, and the analysis isn't kind:
"We have to have over-representation and under-representation because of the territories and four Atlantic provinces because of the Constitution," said Dalhousie University political science professor Peter Aucoin, who served as the research director on the Lortie Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing. "What that means is that there has to be under-representation elsewhere or at least in some other places. The formula that's being proposed doesn't do it adequately, because it penalizes one province with no principle for penalizing it. It's just the way the formula works. So Ontario's case is absolutely correct. The notion that Ontario's getting more seats is irrelevant. It's not a good formula."

Aucoin lays out the numbers, effectively supporting Ontario's position:
In addition, while the new formula would move Alberta and British Columbia closer to being represented by population, over the years, Ontario would continue to be under represented. Prof. Aucoin said under the new formula, Ontario would be worse off going forward, because it is currently under represented by 3.6 per cent, while the new formula would increase the under representation to 4.3 per cent after the 2011 census, to 4.8 per cent after the 2021 census and to 5.3 per cent after the 2031 census. This is in contrast to Alberta, which is currently under represented by 0.8 per cent. If the bill passes, Alberta's under representation would decrease to 0.3 per cent after 2011, 0.2 per cent after 2021, and zero per cent after 2031.

"The government's proposal flies in the face of representation by population. It has Ontario carrying the whole load and that's not fair," Prof. Aucoin said. "They're getting more seats, but they're underrepresented. Every body's going to be close on the basis of representation by population except Ontario. It's going to be worse off than it is now. ... They're going to carry the whole load. That's the problem."

Van Loan argues that the Bill achieves much in lowering under-representation, a far cry better than the current formula. What Aucoin demonstrates, under the Conservative plan, we effectively institutionalize a formula which ensures a growing disparity, for Ontario alone. Fundamentally unfair, which makes Van Loan's bombastic rhetoric all the more distasteful. I suppose one could argue, that the reason the Conservatives like to play "hardball", is the hope that the noise masks the lack of independent support for their policies. If Van Loan is correct, then those within the discipline should be applauding his initiative, not panning it so fundamentally as Aucoin does above.

Surprise, Surprise

After the rash of polls that showed a tight race between the Liberals and the Conservatives, I was actually waiting for Ipsos-Reid to adjust their polling, lest people breakout in cynical laughter. Still an outlier, but Ipsos has closed the gap:
Liberal leader Stéphane Dion and his party have narrowed the gap in support among decided voters between them and the leading Conservatives, a new national poll shows.

The recent survey, conducted exclusively by Ipsos Reid for CanWest News Service and Global National, revealed that the spread between the two parties has been reduced from 14 percentage points in early November to 10 points last week.

The poll said that the Tories had dropped to 39% support -- a decline of three percentage points -- while the Liberals had been bumped up one point to 29% of decided voters. The New Democratic Party held steady at 15% support while the Green party went up slightly by one point to eight per cent of the vote.

Ipsos still seems to overstate Tory support, but I see the narrowing gap as pure calculation, to remain somewhat relevant. It's all conjecture of course, but a polling firm risks ridicule if its results are so abnormal, that nobody takes them seriously. In the name of self-interest, is anybody surprised that Ipsos "tinkers" to stay on the margins, as opposed to another reality?

Saturday, November 24, 2007


The Harper spin, Canada has been consistent, as though he gets credit for a common theme of inaction;
Canada has been insistent now at three consecutive international forums that we need one effective international protocol that ultimately involves action by all major emitters," he said.

Harper pointed out that Canada's position at the Commonwealth is the same to one it took at the G-8 and APEC summits earlier this year.

We did nothing there, and now we are doing nothing here. How commendable.

Canada amounts to the fox in the hen house, insisting on language and concepts which dilute the entire process. Heading into the next phase of talks, it is clear that Canada's role will be to supply cover for the timid and weaken any final decisions. The statement has Canada written all over it:
inclusive in nature and should work towards outcomes that are ambitious, comprehensive, equitable, have respect for different national circumstances, and provide for flexibility in addressing climate change.

"This should include a long-term aspirational goal for emissions reduction to which all countries would contribute."

Canada's standard line, revolves around the unique circumstances we face in tackling GHG's. Nevermind the reality, that a country like Norway, with similar energy reserves, has enacted firm targets, that go well beyond Kyoto, Canada is setting the stage to get a pass. "Different national circumstances" sounds like it came straight out of Baird's mouth. I predict that in future talks, Canada will push for a global reduction target, with individual nations contributing differing reductions, based on their "circumstance". The argument will go as follows, because Canada is an energy exporter, it should achieve lesser targets than nations who import. Basically, our entire policy will revolve around the idea of unlimited tar sands expansions, with the idea that you don't punish the supplier.

It is absolutely maddening to have the scientific community demanding immediate action, with real percentages, that can mitigate the effects, while people like Harper throw out nonsense like "flexibility" and "aspirational". Imagine if Mulroney had used those references when discussing the effects of acid rain. Imagine if Mulroney had argued that technology could take care of the problem, that industry produced goods that the world needed, so why should we curtail activities, because we supply needed product. Harper offers the absurd, and the reason- deep down, he doesn't buy the projections, his heart is still in the sceptic camp. People can champion the rhetoric, point to the Liberals, waste energy debating Kyoto, but the bottomline, Harper and company are engaged in one of the biggest dis-information campaigns, that has international implications, in Canadian history.

I would have more respect for the government, if they just admitted that they don't see an urgent problem, that they see hysteria and prefer caution. Just admit that you are merely trying to appease, engaged in a concerted effort to negate the issue at the ballot box, a public relations exercise, hoping for a "draw". The rhetoric doesn't match the action, there is no credible, independent source, that has come forward to verify the claims, nobody, nothing, nada. And yet, we are forced to endure the baffoon Baird pontificating to all, while Harper tours the world, the charlatan who betrays good intentions. What a disgrace.


John Howard is gone, George Bush is a lameduck, Stephen Harper has no allies to mask his duplicity on climate change. What has become evident at the Commonwealth Summit, Canada has backed itself into a corner, increasingly the pariah of the developed world. What is left, ridiculous statements by spokesperson's, in a desperate attempt to deflect:
"We are not blocking a binding target. We are, however, looking for a declaration that is as strong as the APEC declaration (which was agreed to by China and the United States) in terms of the importance of comprehensiveness – that all countries, notably major emitters, must contribute to reducing (greenhouse gas) emissions," she said.

Buckler points to the APEC delaration, and actually tries to frame it as "strong", in what amounts to a pathetic excuse. For context, the tough as nails APEC declaration:
"We agree to work to achieve a common understanding on a long-term aspirational global emissions reduction goal"

Lots of adjectives come to mind, strong isn't one of them. What Buckler's comments do demonstrate, the government is now in full damage control mode, with no where to hide.

The Australians are now on board, and look set to actually take some real leadership on the issue. Harper has lost his cover, under the guise of the fraudulent Asia-Pacific Partnership, a Bush vehicle for distraction. The talking point of including all the major emitters is a temporary reprieve, because the last great holdout is in his final days and a comprehensive plan has time on its side.

I take the developments of the past few days, as the beginning of the end for the Harper/Baird smokescreen. Harper has lost a key ally, another is increasing irrelevant, the criticisms are pointed. Canada may well leave this week's meeting as the lone holdout, isolated to the point of embarrassment, hollow rhetoric that clearly doesn't match the reality.

In addition, the convenient references to Kyoto and the Liberal record become less effective each day, as the focus moves forward, the blame game tiring. No support at home, whether it be impartial economists or climate experts, plus an increasing theme of Canada as counter-productive abroad, translates into a gathering storm of universal rejection.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Look In The Mirror

One of the most interesting dynamics in political discourse, the way the media perpetuates a story, while simultaneously commenting on it as though distant observer. Watching the CBC round table today, the political pundit panel was consumed with the Mulroney affair, for the entire 20 minute segment, to the exclusion of every other issue. Susan Delacourt, whom I usually enjoy, made the following comment (paraphrasing):
"This will dominate the agenda, because it will be a media circus."

The relevant part, Delacourt makes the circus statement, while commenting from the center ring. It was though Delacourt failed to realize that she is the circus, the participant, not the passive observer merely acknowledging the conduct of others. A group of journalists, speaking as though detached, when they are the vehicle. Nobody made the panel spend the entire time on Mulroney, it was conscious decision, they give it importance.

The average Canadian isn't talking about Mulroney at the water cooler, but I guarantee every newsroom is consumed. The media decided we need a steady diet of Mulroney, non stop, nobody is demanding it from the hinterlands. Sometimes, the media needs to realize that if they want to lament the circus, then maybe they should drop the tent poles and get rid of the clown paint.

"Leading The World"

There we go, "leading the world" again, which seems to be a code phrase for "embarrassing":
KAMPALA — Canada was accused Friday of acting as the major obstacle to a Commonwealth consensus on climate change as the Harper government resisted the wording of a proposed statement that would bind Canada to achieving substantive cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions.

”My understanding is that there is pretty much unanimous agreement except for Canada and Australia, but Canada is the major objector,” said a well-placed Commonwealth government source, who expressed surprise at the ”vehemence” of the Canadian position.

”It's not a casual position,” the source continued. ”It's a strong personal view of Harper himself.”

According to the Commonwealth source, what has upset Mr. Harper is a single line in the proposed statement that would say: ”We call for a long-term global goal as well as binding commitments to deep, absolute emission reductions by developed countries.”

Some conjecture on my part, but if you eliminated the words "absolute" and "binding" Harper might sign on. How about something like "we acknowledge that a problem exists, and pledge to do something about it soon, based on the unique challenges of each member state" Nice and vague, a statement that allows plenty of interpretation (propaganda), so that one can save face at home and keep making ridiculous claims.

If we believe the Harper/Baird rhetoric, Canada is already embarking on a plan that moves beyond the world community, we are on the forefront in the fight against climate change. Simple logic follows, surely then, we should have no trouble signing on to all the inferior declarations that others are offering. The sense of pride you feel.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Babies Know

Interesting study, that suggests babies have an inate ability to distinguish between "nice guys" and "bad":
"The presence of social evaluation so early in infancy suggests that assessing individuals by the nature of their interactions with others is central to processing the social world, both evolutionarily and developmentally," the authors stated.

"This supports the view that our ability to evaluate people is a biological adaptation--universal and unlearned."

The study demonstrates that babies can sense the inherent character of others, and will react accordingly:

What Are They Thinking?

One thing is clear, these new Conservatives don't know when to stop, to their own determent. The "portly man" of Confederation, aka Peter Van Loan, keeps up the self-inflicted wound routine, with further words for McGuinty:
And in an interview later, Van Loan said McGuinty was "being partisan and small-minded" for seeking greater representation.

"At some point, he's got to decide whether he wants to play the traditional nation-building of an Ontario premier or be the small man of Confederation who complains and whines all the time," Van Loan said.

The high road, which must look like the Alps, from where Van Loan operates:
At Queen's Park, McGuinty insisted he had no interest in a petty squabble with Van Loan and warned that Ottawa should look at the bigger picture. "Why is it that whenever we Ontarians stand up for ourselves we're accused of being un-Canadian?" he said.

The Conservatives are just damaging themselves in Ontario, the vitrol actually sharpening the focus and fueling the theme that this government is anti-Ontario. Whether that is true or not is almost irrelevant, the perception is reality and Van Loan's approach lends to the narrative.

Almost comical to listen to an Ontario MP play the "west" card to discredit legitimate concerns:
However, traditional supporters of Confederation realize that we want to see every province and every region treated fairly, and not this cloaked effort to suppress the west that we see from the Liberal Party over there.

Simple math demonstrates that Van Loan's plan is an objective attempt to "suppress" Ontario. When this story first broke, I was completely on the side of compromise, because Ontario can tend to dominate affairs, and cohesion might trump absolute numbers. However, the more we hear, the more the posturing and bully behavior, the more I find myself solidly in McGuinty's corner. Afterall, do we expect anything less from a Premier? The Premier's are always narrow, always pulling for their own self-interest. When it comes to this angle, the irony, there is no gain for McGuinty or his party. McGuinty will be long gone when this legislation takes effect, there is no direct benefit to himself in this instance. This reality lends itself to a debate, based on principle, which makes the government reaction all the more unattractive.

There are already a myriad of compromises entrenched in our system, and for the most part people see the value. However, when you attempt to deal with a real disparity, you recognize the slight and the need to rectify, how then do you think you can offer two seperate solutions, depending on the province and meet no resistence? Why should someone apologize for equality, just because residency doesn't jive with geography. I'm happy that Alberta and British Columbia are getting more representation, it's about time. That fact doesn't translate to another province getting the relative shaft, and I think no matter your location, you can appreciate the tension.

The government lacks basic sensibility, with absolutely no understanding of nuance. When challenged, they bite, bite back hard and in so doing they just alienate further, reinforcing the "mean spirited" theme. Van Loan thinks he is rising to the challenge, when it reality he crystalizes the focus, which amounts to horrible optics for the Conservatives in Ontario. What are they thinking?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Is anyone surprised?:
Environment Minister John Baird's office confirmed Wednesday that representatives from the three opposition parties would not be welcome as part of Canada's official delegation at the United Nations conference.

That's a departure from a long-held government tradition of bringing critics along to major international conferences - opposition MPs participated in the last major UN environmental conference in Nairobi last November, for example.

The Liberals note that while Leader Stephane Dion was the environment minister, he brought Tory critic Bob Mills "to pretty much everything," and arranged for Mills to participate in some meetings with foreign ministers at which Dion wasn't present.
Liberal environment critic David McGuinty calls the move censorship.

"I thought that I had a responsibility as the Official Opposition critic for the environment, who ran to get elected to work in this field - I kind of thought I had a special responsibility to represent millions of Canadians who have a competing point of view."

Said NDP Environment critic Nathan Cullen: "It's so petty. It doesn't speak to a confident government. If they felt good about how they were dealing with climate change, then they wouldn't mind criticism."

Environmental groups have also been told they would not be part of the Canadian delegation.

Normally, I don't endorse embarrassing the federal government abroad, but I do hope the opposition leaders make the trek. The fact that the government is shutting out the opposition and the experts speaks volumes about their flimsy environmental policies, not to mention an admission that Canadians don't support their approach. When you are forced to censor people, ignore people, break from tradition, it is really more a statement on your own failure.

I wonder if one of the opposition websites can set up a fund. For example, "Help Send Nathan Cullen To Bali". My wallet is itching, the world needs to know that this government doesn't speak for Canada on this issue. The majority has made their view well known, if not for parliamentary games, we might actually have something substantive to bring to the table.


People will remember the Conservatives calling Goodale whiny, and the Liberals in general, for demanding an apology regarding the dishonest attack ads. As a matter of fact, the theme of the wimpy opposition forever demanding apologies is a common talking point. Contrast that unseemly approach to the tough as nails Conservatives and it is clear who leads and who moans. Of course, all this is utter bull, whining is an entire non-partisan affair. Maclean's has a piece, entitled "The Commons: Say you're sorry-Someone's hurt the Prime Minister's feelings" which demonstrates how entirely sulky the Conservatives can be:

A day earlier, Harper's Minister of Defence had whined about the opposition's moral indignation...

...Karen Redman, the soft-spoken Liberal whip, asked what had happened to a justice department investigation of the Mulroney affair. All but pouting, the Justice Minister lamented his besmirchment.

Poor things.

And In This Corner...

The supposed master tacticians in the Conservative braintrust seem to have a glaring blindspot when it comes to Ontario. No matter how you do the math the Conservatives must, at the very least, make marginal gains in Ontario, if they hope to form a majority. With that obvious reality in mind, the complete lack of diplomacy exhibited by Van Loan, in reference to a legitimate point by McGuinty is amazing:
The Harper Government accused Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty yesterday of being "the small man of Confederation" after he appealed to his federal colleagues for help fighting proposed legislation that would increase the number of seats in the House of Commons.

Mr. McGuinty spoke privately yesterday to federal Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion as part of a bid to build grassroots support for his campaign for what he sees as a fairer deal from Ottawa on legislation that he says shortchanges the province. He has also asked Ontario MPs of all political stripes to spread the word that the legislation is unfair.

"He seems to prefer to become the small man of Confederation, focusing only on taking partisan shots while not concerned about the strength of Canada as a whole," Mr. Van Loan told The Canadian Press.

The use of the phrase “small man” is relevant, because it accurately describes the government reaction. You don’t start dishing out personal attacks, on a question of legitimate disagreement. Last time I checked, McGuinty represents Ontario, why should he react any differently, then every other Premier, when his province is at issue?

Van Loan’s comments demonstrate a complete lack of understanding, because there is no way he wins this fight. Good luck trying to curry favor by attacking the Premier, who is defending the interests of his province. The people of Ontario will not side with the feds, when the perception of unfairness is created. The simple math, Ontario is being treated differently than the other provinces who are also receiving seats. The federal government does have a case, in terms of the Canadian compromise and the fact the legislation lessens the present disparity. Why not make the argument, on substance, instead of turning the whole affair into a public pissing match? In other words, what are you thinking Van Loan, are you purposely giving McGuinty a club to pound you with?

I’m starting to think that the government’s biggest drawback, the main factor that inhibits expansion, is their approach to a conflict. Every challenge is met with a macho response, and it usually is reduced to the personal. In some warped sense, the rationale seems to be that you rise to the challenge and belittle your “opponent”. Trouble with that logic, particularly in this instance, you attack the man who is defending his constituents, which just happens to represent electoral gold, or coal as the case may be.


Ontario Liberal Caucus Opposes Divisive Electoral Reform

November 21, 2007
OTTAWA – Ontario Liberal Caucus is united in its opposition to a Conservative electoral reform bill that fails to adequately address the population growth of Canada’s largest province, Ontario Caucus Chair John Maloney said today.

“We will oppose any legislation that forces one region of Canada to fight against the other regions to get their fair share of representation in the House of Commons,” said Mr. Maloney, building on last week’s criticism of the bill by Liberal National Caucus Chair Anthony Rota.

Bill C-22, introduced last week by government House Leader Peter Van Loan, modifies the current formula used to determine the number of seats for each province in Canada’s Parliament. If passed, this legislation will effectively weaken Ontario’s position in the House of Commons, adding fewer seats to the province than their population should dictate.

“What’s shameful is the silence on this bill from Ontario Conservative Members of Parliament. While their House Leader is busy making inappropriate personal attacks on the Premier, they’re sitting on their hands, and allowing the people they represent to be shortchanged,” said Mr. Maloney.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Decima Poll

Decima shows a widening gap between the Liberals and Conservatives:
The Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey indicates the Conservatives actually increased their lead over the Liberals, despite days of highly charged politicking over the dealings between the former prime minister and the German-Canadian businessman.

The poll, conducted last weekend, showed the Conservatives with 36 per cent support, compared with 28 per cent for the Liberals.
The NDP were at 17 per cent, the Greens, 11, and eight per cent of respondents backed the Bloc Quebecois.

Last week's Decima poll for context:
The Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey put popular support for the Tories at 33 per cent - well short of majority government territory - with the Liberals at 29 per cent.

The NDP was at 17 per cent, the Green party at 12 and the Bloc Quebecois at eight.

Anderson said the provincial sample is small enough that drawing conclusions from a single survey is iffy, but the trends are clear over three weeks and they show the Tories challenging the Bloc strongly.

"You could probably make the case that in Quebec, where the Conservative numbers have shown up pretty strongly this week, that we do know that Quebec voters are pretty fed up with allegations of corruption and scandal and that sort of thing," he said.
"It's probably reasonable to assume that they like the way that Stephen Harper reacted to the Mulroney affair."

He said the Tories seem to be making progress in Quebec.

"On balance, it looks like those nationalist Quebec voters, those BQ voters from previous elections are saying that the Conservatives, so far, are on the right track."

This is all margin of error stuff, but if you look at the apparent uptick, Quebec might be the key. Mulroney is a different entity in Quebec, than in the rest of the country, so the government may be less vulnerable. Last week Anderson was cautioning that the fallout of the Mulroney affair wasn't fully reflected in their poll, this week would give a clearer picture. At the very least, further evidence that this entire affair has been met with a giant yawn from the people.


Today in Question Period, the Liberals asked the Prime Minister about the juvenile detainees in Afghanistan. Instead of answering the questions, Harper become quite huffy, turned the issue into a question of patriotism. The Liberals are dishonoring the brave men and women, they should apologize, blah, blah.... This response has become standard government policy, whenever anyone ever dares question any facet of the mission in Afghanistan, and frankly it drives me mad.

If there is anyone who is using the soldiers as political pawns, it is Harper. The disingenuous outrage exhibited today, more an attempt to distract, than to deal, really does a disservice to the necessary role of the opposition, in its parliamentary duty to hold the government accountable. Ignatieff actually cracked- "we will not apologize for doing our jobs, maybe the government could start doing theirs".

In the black and white world that Harper likes to project, you either blindly endorse everything military or you do the traitor's work. This frame is so infuriating because it undercuts honest debate, akin to the American neocons. Somehow, people are less Canadian, less concerned about the troops, less supportive, if they ask serious questions about torture. Harper ups the ante into an entire indictment of every single member of the military, when really this is about a singular issue.

Watching the Prime Minister get irate, waving the flag, is frankly embarrassing and petty. Last time I checked it was the Canadian military, not the sole domain of the Conservative Party. Harper's entire posture is that of someone who has ownership, all others enemies. How entirely lame, how entirely Republican.

Back From The Dead?

Left for dead in the summer, John McCain is gaining some momentum in the Republican presidential race. A fresh New Hampshire poll demonstrates potential, just as McCain basically abandons Iowa and pours his resources into the Granite State. In 2000, McCain took a pass on Iowa and concentrated on New Hampshire to launch his presidential bid. With polls showing McCain a distant sixth in Iowa, the strategy is now the same, and the numbers lend credibility. McCain is now second in New Hampshire, with room for growth:
A CNN/WMUR poll out Monday shows McCain in second place among likely Republican New Hampshire primary voters with 18 percent, trailing front-runner Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, with 33 percent.

McCain moved into second place when former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani lost 8 points from the previous month, dropping from 24 percent in September to 16 percent in October.

The poll suggests McCain's strength on national security issues, and particularly the war in Iraq, could provide an opening to move up on Romney and Giuliani, the national front-runner.

Forty-two percent of New Hampshire Republican primary voters, according to the poll, believe McCain is the best candidate to handle Iraq.

"The war in Iraq remains the top concern among GOP primary voters," CNN polling director Keating Holland said. "McCain beats Romney as well as Giuliani by nearly a three-to-one margin on the war."

On the question of negatives, those who would not vote for the candidate under any circumstance, McCain looks more attractive:
McCain's rating on the same question declined from 38 percent to 29 percent over the same period; Romney's showed a slight increase, from 17 percent to 19 percent; and the number of people who said they could not support Giuliani on any terms grew from 22 percent to 28 percent.

McCain also received another key endorsement yesterday, which further shores up his national security credentials:
BOSTON (AP) — The chairman of the panel that examined the nation's security before Sept. 11, 2001 and the aftermath of the terrorist attacks announced Monday he was endorsing John McCain — and not former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani — for president.

Former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean, a Republican like Giuliani and McCain, said the Arizona senator's blend of congressional, military and foreign affairs experience left him the best equipped of the GOP candidates to serve in the White House.

Couple that one, with the announcement today, and McCain increasingly steals Rudi's 9/11 thunder, the centerpiece of his campaign.

A lot will depend on what happens with New Hampshire independents, who can vote in either the Democratic or Republican primary. If Clinton wins Iowa, New Hampshire looks to be anti-climatic, which might move many independents to vote in the Republican primary. McCain has always enjoyed impressive support with independents, given his maverick image. While the Iraq war is hardly popular, outside of core Republicans, McCain's consistent stance, advocating a "surge" for years, may mitigate what looked an albatross a few months ago.

The biggest challenge McCain faces is the impression with voters (outlined in this poll) that he isn't a serious threat to win the nomination. Only 8% see him as the national victor, which undercuts any momentum. That said, the McCain campaign does have a case to make moving forward, as all the national polls show McCain matching up best against any Democratic nominee (several show him the only one ahead of Clinton).

McCain ain't dead yet, especially in a field that looks more volatile than ever.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Media Narrative

The only substantive development in this entire Mulroney affair is the changed dynamic, as it relates to the media. The fact that the Liberals are trying to implicate the government in a cover-up is mostly meaningless. What does matter, the pundit and media class have forgotten the recurring theme of Liberals in "disarray", now obsessed with the fate of Mulroney and all the accompanying tenticles. What we have here is not an opportunity to dirty the Conservative brand, but a timely reprieve for the Liberals to re-invent theirs.

From a tactical point of view, if we must endure this Mulroney saga, it serves as a useful distraction. Within that frame, it is advantageous to keep the story alive, try different angles, consume the agenda with the largely irrelevant. As I've already said, there are real issues that need to be discussed, but since nobody in opposition seems interested in that, I say "uncle" and now turn my attention to naked strategy.

Basically, the Liberals have broken the vicious media cycle, as it relates to all things Dion, the party woes. Reporters are now focused on the Conservatives, looking for cracks between the old PC's and the Reformers, wondering about the connections, obsessed with the scandal. What is important for the Liberal braintrust, make sure the party looks relatively strong when the gaze turns back to Dion. Nobody expects utopia, but after the reprieve, the media may proceed with a somewhat fresh perspective. The key for Dion, and the party in general, appear confident, renewed, focused, moving forward, when the scrutiny returns.

Time is not irrelevant, a couple months of silence and you can begin to re-frame, because you are now out of the realm of the reactionary. Dion might actually be able to cobble together two sentences, without a question on leadership or fortunes. It just so happens, we are nearing the end of the first year of reign, which again provides a terrific benchmark to project a change. Dion "finding his way", Dion "rising from the ashes", Dion "grows into the job", all those themes are available, because of the calendar and the circumstance.

I still don't care about Mulroney, but what I do find interesting, how the Liberal braintrust can use the gift of trivality for full advantage. Media narrative's aren't absolute, and we are now in the midst of the first prolonged window to present a different thesis.

IR Poll

Innovative Research chimes in with their own poll, that gives the Conservatives a solid lead:
The poll found national support for the Conservatives at 36 per cent, 27 per cent for the Liberals, 16 per cent for the NDP, seven per cent for the Bloc Québécois, and six per cent for the Green Party.

The IR poll actually has the Conservatives up 2% from their last poll, using the same panel of voters. Obviously, these numbers don't jive with last week's barrage of polls, although the common theme of a Conservative voter ceiling is consistent.

The poll concentrates on the Mulroney affair, and the findings are fairly benign. People that would never vote Conservative anyways say the affair is a negative on Harper, supporters ignore it. The findings amount to a whole lot of nothing IMHO.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

I Want To Know

Dion has asked that the scope of the inquiry into the Mulroney affair include the actions of the current PMO. No doubt, there are serious questions that do need to be addressed. However, all this talk about Mulroney and what happened in 1993 got me thinking- what else do we need to know?

I thought I would add one of my own concerns surrounding that time, on another question that has haunted the nation:

Why did these guys breakup?

Lots of rumors and innuendo, but no one really knows why these Canadian icons packed it in. A restless people need answers.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Must See TV

The body language for this meeting should be priceless:
WASHINGTON (AFP) — Former US vice president Al Gore will make a triumphant return to the White House on November 26 when US President George W. Bush honors US Nobel Prize winners, a Bush spokesman said Friday.

It will be Gore's first time visiting Bush at the White House since the Republican took office in January 2001 after the flawed 2000 election pitting them against each other ended with a controversial US Supreme Court ruling.

White House spokesman Tony Fratto said Gore would be part of a group of five US Nobel laureates that Bush will welcome into the Oval Office.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Time On My Hands

I was reading a story about a Quebec man, who was ordered to remove a Greek flag from his home, because it represented "visual pollution". This story raises many issues regarding freedom of expression, censorship, etc. However, what I found interesting is the following:
Antonopoulos painted the two by four metre blue and white flag on his garage doors in July 2004 after the Greek soccer team won the European championship.

It took him more than two months to do the job, working nights and weekends.

Here is the masterpiece:

Some quick math, Mr. Antonopoulos needed a week per stripe. I'm no Van Gogh, but I probably could have whipped that baby up in an afternoon. I guess Mrs. Antonopoulos should be grateful that the family wasn't from St. Pierre & Miquelon:

Don't Care

I'm pretty sure I'll be in the minority on this one, but I react to the whole Mulroney saga with a gigantic yawn. It's a story, but it shouldn't be the maelstorm that has engulfed the entire political and media class. What Mulroney did or didn't do is completely relevant, for obvious reasons. However, why that fact translates into a discussion of the current government, or the timing of an election, or all the other partisan considersations is beyond me. With all the problems and challenges faced, to see our system consumed with this issue is disappointing.

Yesterday, Garth Turner was making the rounds, telling everyone who would listen that it was counter-productive to let this Mulroney issue take over the public agenda. What happened Garth?:
But now that events have compelled the government to agree to hold a public inquiry into the Mulroney-Schreiber dealings, the attitude among Dion's caucus has been transformed almost overnight.

"The chemistry is completely different," Liberal MP Garth Turner (Halton) said after a caucus meeting in which Dion was reportedly able to tap into a rare atmosphere of collective enthusiasm.

"This really opens up a whole new chapter in this session of Parliament," Turner said in an interview. "For now, I don't think the opposition parties would dream of going to an election."

Wouldn't dream of an election, now that we see opportunity to dirty Harper's nose, on questions that are largely irrelevant in the grand scheme. So much for Garth, the champion of the people's agenda, I suppose. Don't get me wrong, quite an interesting turn to see the Harper government pulled into the mud, given the vulture-like stances of the past. That said, if I'm being impartial, this whole mess is at best a tertiary matter as it relates to the current government, certainly not something that rises to the level we are starting to witness.

This issue boils down to some simple points in my mind. Is the public interest best served by a process that bogs down the government for months to come? Is it productive to have good people, spending hours daily, trying to connect a dot and make someone look bad? An issue yes, an obsession, a worrying statement on the present circumstance.

I skipped most of the talking heads shows yesterday, couldn't bear to watch Question Period, tried to sift through the papers to find a nugget in another world, basically meandered my way around a story that I frankly don't care about.

A Mixed Bag

A pretty bad week to be away from blogging for a poll addict ;) The SES poll has some interesting results. Obviously the statistically tie is striking, which further validates the results from Decima and Strategic Counsel. What I found quite telling, the SES internals, which are both a good news/bad news scenario for Harper and Dion.

On the leadership question, the Conservatives can take some solace in the widening gap with Dion, particularly in Quebec and Ontario:


Harper 31….37

Dion 23….13

Layton 18…..17



Harper 24….41

Dion 15….11

Layton 19….15



Harper 24….35

Dion 33…..15

Layton 17…..19

These type of results make sense, given the turmoil surrounding Dion’s leadership in the media. The Ontario results are of particular concern, because while the Liberals still enjoy a healthy lead, based on brand, this represents a definite weak spot heading into a campaign, where the leader is front and center. That said, it is hard to remember another time where we have seen such a massive leadership disparity and that sentiment hasn’t translated into the party support numbers.

The Liberals can take comfort in the fact that, while Dion has serious challenges, he remains largely unknown outside of Quebec. When asked what people like or dislike about Dion, the overwhelming responses were “nothing” or “unsure”. If you look at what people don’t like about the two leaders, apart from Dion “not a leader”, the Harper ledger is far more daunting. Lots of references to Harper’s policies, too Bush-like, arrogant, stand-offish, secretive. It would seem the perception of Harper is more concrete, while Dion has challenges, but the edges are still blurred. On that score, Dion has more opportunity to change his image than Harper.

My read, while the horserace numbers suggest a tie, I would still give the Conservatives the advantage, based on the internals. Leadership does matter, Dion has huge hurdles, but there is hope, the unknown factor could work to his advantage.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Harper And Quebec

It would appear, the Conservative fortunes are rising in Quebec. I missed the new Leger Marketing poll, which mirrors the CROP and Ipsos findings:
A Léger Marketing poll published Thursday showed the Tories are now nose-to-nose with the sovereignist Bloc Québécois in the province – each with about 31 per cent support – and the Liberals are a distant third at 20 per cent.

Some of the other polling shows different results, but the fact that two Quebec specific polls, with low MOE show the same result, is persuading. If these type of numbers were to hold, then the Conservatives would be looking at a possible pickup of anywhere between 15-30 seats.

I don't claim to have intimate knowledge of Quebecers opinion, but since every other commentator from the other solitude has a perspective, I might as well add mine. People are right to say that voter preference is volatile, and I would argue that while trends are positive for the Conservatives, the support is softer than Harper's abdomen ;) Quebecers may be flirting with the Conservatives, in the absence of another credibile alternative, but there remains a fundamental tension between the policies of the Tories and the Quebec mainstream.

If you believe issues matter, then there is reason to believe the Conservatives will suffer during a pointed campaign. The counter to that perspective is the idea that the Conservatives have appealed to the soft-nationalist, with their overtures to Quebec. However, and this sentiment seems to be taking hold in the media class, for all the pronouncements, the Conservatives have done little in terms of substance. The "nation" resolution has no practical application and the federal spending limitations formalize the status quo. Some mileage on the fiscal imbalance, including Quebec in UNESCO, but that will be weighted against the Senate stance, which will be wildly unpopular in Quebec. Chantal Hebert had a good quote, "Harper talks a good game in Quebec, but he has delivered nothing". I would translate that perspecitve to mean people are still suspicious of Harper's true motives, it is principle or is appeal?

The Conservatives should be happy, because there is the possibility of a real breakthrough in Quebec. However, I don't think the Conservatives are anywhere near to "closing the deal" with Quebecers, flirtation does not a marriage make.

Friday, November 09, 2007

New Ipsos Poll

These numbers should make Conservative hearts flutter:
Fuelled by unprecedented support in Quebec, the federal Conservative party has zoomed to 42 per cent support among decided voters, a high water mark that puts Prime Minister Stephen Harper closer to his goal of winning a majority government, a new national Ipsos-Reid poll says.

The survey said that while the Tories were up three points from last week, the Liberals remained stuck 14 points back with the support of 28 per cent of voters. The NDP rebounded two points to 15 per cent and the Green party held steady at seven per cent.

For the first time, the Tories were tied with the normally dominant Bloc Quebecois. Each party had the support of 31 per cent of the decided voters. The Liberals trailed at 23 per cent, although they were up six points from last week. The NDP had the support of 10 per cent, and the Green party five per cent.

Whoa, quite the change from last week's poll:
Ipsos- Bloc 50%...Cons 22%...Libs 17%...NDP 7%

If you eliminate last week's head scratcher, the poll from two weeks ago shows continuity:
In Quebec, the Bloc leads with the support of 34% of Quebecers (9% nationally), which represents a decrease of 2 points within Quebec since last week, while the Conservatives are not far behind at 30% support (an increase of 4 points in Quebec). The Liberals have the support of just 16% of Quebecers (decrease of 3 points), and the NDP trails at 13% support (increase of 1 point). The Green Party has the support of 7% of Quebecers (unchanged).

Ontario, still the only outfit that shows the Tories in the lead, but the gap has narrowed:
The poll is not void, however, of good news for the Liberals. They are running second to the Conservatives in Ontario, and are "still in the game" in that pivotal province, Bricker said. They climbed two points to 36 per cent, while the Tories dropped to 40 per cent from 43 per cent, the poll said. The NDP slipped one point to 13 per cent and the Green party moved up to 10 per cent from eight per cent.

British Columbia (high MOE):
In British Columbia, the Conservatives continued to hold a strong lead over their competition with 43 per cent support. The NDP climbed nine points to 27 per cent, while the Liberals dropped to 24 per cent from 28 per cent.

I'm actually prepared to buy the Quebec numbers as reasonable, primarily because they mirror the extensive CROP survey of the province. I'm less inclined to believe the national numbers, because they are completely out of whack, relative to all the other firms. Some would argue the ability to replicate, but I prefer to see another independent example to reaffirm the spread. Having said that, the trends within this poll are objectively positive for the Conservatives, so there is certainly room to crow.

One interesting comment:
"They are in majority territory, but it's not comfortable," Bricker said of the Conservatives. The Tories lopsided support in Alberta and rural Canada means its national support has to reach 45 per cent before the party can seriously consider itself in the running for a majority mandate.

You Want Some Cheese With That Whine?

Apparently, the Blogging Tories are aghast at a Toronto Star headline, copied on the National Newswatch site. The headline read "PM Tells Cities To Drop Dead", and according to one over the top commentator, that would be grounds for legal action:
Actually, attributing words to someone that we never actually said could be grounds for legal action if those words cast that person in a poor light.

I doubt Prime Minister Stephen Harper will take any action -- the Toronto Star pulled their terrible headline. But a major Canadian news site is taking the heat for the Toronto Star's unprofessional behaviour, and that's not right.

What's worse, the headline was change but without any apology or acknowledgment, which forces National Newswatch to rely on the Google cache to defend himself against complaints that ought to be going to the Toronto Star.

A quick search reveals that the word "dead" does not appear in the story.

Nor, apparently, does an apology to Prime Minister Stephen Harper for misleading Canadians as to what the prime minister said.

I think the Toronto Star owes the prime minister and the readers of the newspaper an explanation.

Interestingly, the National Newswatch has provided another link to the same "drop dead" reference, as it relates to Liberal Dalton McGuinty:
"Premier to city: drop dead"

The only difference, the whiny right didn't care when it was a dirty Liberal, just when dear leader was implicated. It is a turn of phrase, something which all the news outlets do on a regular basis to prescribe a tone or theme to a story. Drop dead seems entirely consistent with:
"I raised the issue directly with Mr. Harper as to whether his government had any interest whatsoever in lending direct support to our municipal partners," McGuinty told reporters later.

"It would be fair to say that he is not particularly receptive to that approach."

The Tories are such a sensitive bunch. Were they up in arms when the Conservative ads implicated McCallum, even though they knew the inference was intellectually dishonest? No, but just watch the flurry of emails and criticism, should anyone disparage Harper. Should the title have been changed? Maybe a little harsh, but hey they all sell papers don't they? Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. It is nice to know the Conservative posse is on the scene, demanding a higher standard of journalism. Wait for the crickets the next time the comments are directed toward the opposition.

Retail Politics

There is no question that retail politics "rule the day", as pointed out in another post. Any proposal or policy is now viewed within the lens of saleability, framing, packaging, branding, etc. There seems little room for a substantive debate in the era of soundbites, any argument that takes more than two sentences to articulate is largely irrelevant. I guess the question becomes, is this new reality a temporary predicament, or is it the new reality of political discourse?

In one sense, you can't argue the fact that retail politics are effective, and the ever growing prominence speaks to the success. That said, as the era of retail politics has expanded, there has also been a concurrent rise in the rate of public cynicism. Voter turnout has consistently eroded, on average, which is a powerful statement on the entire process. Also, there is a growing disconnect between the "beltway" and the hinterlands, with very curious polls, that demonstrate little interest in the daily affairs of government. Successes or blunders, which normally translate into support, have largely been ignored and the status quo defies intuition. In other words, you could make the argument that retail politics have been a failure, in that the branding has actually created more voter apathy.

Could we be at the political crosswords, wherein a return to more philosophical, detailed debate could resonate? Is the public so tired with the manipulations and the sales pitch, that they would welcome another approach? I don't think you can disregard the opportunity for a party to morph into the anti-retail entity. When you consider the massive voter pool that no longer bothers, then the prospects for the apolitical perspective has value. Retail politics may rule the roost, but that doesn't mean that the condition is permanent. In fact, the public is entirely unimpressed, which suggests a vacuum waiting to be filled.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Now We're Talking

There has been a good and honest debate, on whether or not the Liberals need to deliver policy now, or wait until an election campaign. I've always sided on the policy now side, particularly because of Dion's predicament, the need to define himself and the party. Dion is set to deliver a major speech tomorrow, highlighting a direction which puts flesh to the Liberal bone:
Stephane Dion is poised to unveil a central plank in the Liberal election platform — a "bold" plan to reduce poverty in Canada.

An insider close to Dion said the Liberal leader will set ``aggressive but realistic" multi-year targets for reducing poverty in general and child poverty in particular.

He will also outline the policy tools a Liberal government would use – bolstering existing income support programs and new investments in things like child care and education – to meet those targets.

According to the insider, Dion will argue that there is a moral imperative to address the issue in Canada where almost one million children and one in three single mothers live in poverty even as the federal government racks up massive annual surpluses.

The plan has been fully costed but the price tag will not be revealed until the entire platform is released during the next election campaign.

This is an issue on which the Liberals can plant the flag, distance themselves from the past regime, contrast themselves with the Conservatives and appeal to the soft "left". The long term approach speaks to the idea of a Liberal vision, which is desperately needed, as well as a fundamental statement on what kind of society we want moving forward.

Politically, it could be quite shrewd to make this issue a centerpiece. One, poverty is really an issue that doesn't register on the Conservative radar, which presents an opportunity to fill the vacuum. Two, this is an issue that the NDP continually addresses, so Dion inserting the Liberals into that conversation might appeal to some on the left, or at least make the Liberals more palatable, relative to the Chretien/Martin era. Thumbs up!


Are you sitting down? I know this may come as a surprise, but a new poll suggests Canadians actually like tax cuts. Go figure:
A new poll suggests the vast majority of Canadians like the Conservative government's mini-budget – especially the income-tax cuts. But it's not clear if that will translate into more votes for the Tories.

The Canadian Press Harris-Decima poll – conducted in the three days after the Halloween economic update – found that 83 per cent of Canadians surveyed said they supported the income tax cuts.

Seventy-six per cent approved of reducing the GST by one percentage point.

The impact on Conservative fortunes was significant, but not massive, according to the numbers.

One in four Canadians said the tax cuts would make them more likely to vote Conservative, while 14 per cent said it would have the opposite effect.

Other insightful findings, 88% of Canadians are in favor of a 4 day work week, 92% think winter is too long and 83% would like to live forever.

I suppose the only grain of relevance in this poll, the fact that the income tax cuts were more popular than the GST rate drop.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


If there is one report, or economist, which has come out and praised Flaherty's tax package, I've yet to find it. This time, the think tank that prepared the government's own figures is criticizing the economic statement:
Global Insight's chief economist Dale Orr:

"What the Finance Minister Flaherty didn't tell us is that the lowest marginal rate was 15% in 2005, and in 2006 until the Conservative government raised it to 15.5% in budget 2006, to help finance the first GST reduction," Orr said, adding that the rollback of the earlier Tory tax hike accounted for almost 80% of the total personal income tax relief .

"Thus, this personal income tax 'relief' is relief only because the Conservative government took it away in their budget 2006, to have it restored again in the November, 2007 economic statement."

"This is a welcome bit of tax relief, but it is obvious that if it was any smaller it would be undetectable," the paper noted, adding that even at 10.9 per cent the tax burden is as high as it has been at any time over the past 15 years.

Yesterday, I proposed that Dion address the GST issue head on, challenging the government. Knb made the point that Dion could walk into the House of Commons with a stack of papers, each one a separate criticism of the government's approach. It would appear today that we can add another sheet, to what is fast becoming a book of unanimity.

Quite The Team

Not to harp on this point, but the Afghanistan panel is almost comical on so many levels. In looking at the website, it provides a detailed bio for all the panel members, listing their “experience”. Nothing says expertise on military and humanitarian matters like backgrounds in banking, railroads, trade and gas pipelines. I suppose you could argue Manley has some assets that would give him a degree of credibility, but the same can’t be said for the others:
Derek H. Burney:

Senior Strategic Advisor, Ogilvy Renault
As Senior Strategic Advisor to the firm, Mr. Burney assists clients in dealing with cross-border and domestic issues as well as trade and investment policy matters.

Mr. Burney is Chairman of the Board of CanWest Global Communications Corp. and a director of TransCanada Pipelines Limited.

Mr. Burney also once had a neighbor, who’s son became a heroin addict, which gives him some valuable experience as it relates to the opium trade.

The Honourable Jake Epp:

Chairman of Ontario Power Generation Inc. since 2004 and served as the interim Chairman from December 2003 to April 2004.

Mr. Epp was the Senior Vice President, TransCanada PipeLines and President of TransCanada International (1993 – December 31, 2000).

Mr. Epp also serves as Chairman, Health Partners International Canada, 2002 – present

Mr. Epp once flew over Afghanistan, in a 747 wide body, on a connecting flight from Paris to India for a family vacation. This experience will lend itself to a better understanding of the geographic challenges that Afghanistan faces.

The Honourable Paul Tellier:

Paul M. Tellier was President and Chief Executive Officer and Director of Bombardier Inc. in 2003 and 2004. Prior to this, Mr. Tellier was President and Chief Executive Officer and a Director of the Canadian National Railway Company (CN), a position he held for 10 years.

Mr. Tellier is a director of several corporations including Alcan, Bell Canada Enterprises (BCE), Bell Canada and Telesat Canada, GM Canada and McCain Foods Ltd. He is Chairman of Global Container Terminals Inc. (GCT). He is also Strategic Advisor to Société Générale, a global bank headquartered in France.

Over the years, Mr. Tellier has purchased several Afghan rugs for the family home, which gives him intimate knowledge of domestic commerce and economic matters.

Pamela Wallin:

In Canada, she serves on several corporate boards, including CTVglobemedia, Canada’s premier multimedia company with ownership in CTV and The Globe and Mail; Gluskin Sheff & Associates, an investment and wealth management firm; Oilsands Quest, an energy development company; and Jade Tower, an independent antenna site and tower company.

Pamela was also a broadcaster, and reported on Afghanistan for years for the CTV, from her cushy chair in Toronto. Pamela also was known to frequent Bamiyan Kabob, an exceptional restaurant located near Don Mills and Eglinton. This cultural experience will serve Pamela well as she tackles the myriad of problems faced by the Afghani people.

Quite an impressive field of expert opinion that Harper has brought to the table. Canada will be well served by the final report, because clearly this panel represents the best of the best.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Dion And The GST

The fact the Conservatives immediately jumped all over Dion's comments on the GST, speaks to the widely held notion that any proposal, that involves raising a tax, is political suicide. The Conservatives saw an opening, approaching taxes as they always do, as a matter of good retail politics. The posture assumes that you win the tax debate on a superficial level, paint yourself as putting money into people's pockets, your opponent as a thief. The detail is irrelevant, because the public is generally disinterested, optics rule.

However, what we have seen in the aftermath of the Conservative's tax announcements might suggest an opportunity, that first blush dismisses. Two points today that underscore that sentiment. First, talk that the Conservatives own polling shows no real bounce from the GST cut, in fact the reaction is mostly bland. The second point, the entire media class, fed by the economists consensus, has panned the GST cut, with a defacto endorsement of Dion's plan. When you have a Sun Media column ripping the GST cut, it speaks volumes to an almost universal opinion.

I think Dion is actually fairly well positioned to challenge the government, meet the attack ads head on and try to engage people into a honest debate. It has to be done forcefully, it has to be done clearly, but the GST issue isn't necessarily a losing one. When question period resumes, what if Dion were to directly mention the attack ads? Speakers love to hold a piece of paper from an editorial that shows support for a position. Dion could rise, address the attack, then pickup a stack of editorials, from every major media outlet, coupled with report after report that details why the Liberal approach is sound. Frame the debate as substance over flash, acknowledge the political risks, but argue that principle trumps a sales pitch. The retorts from the government are obvious, but the jewel in this whole scenario, the Conservatives now have no backing with the media, which means there is a sympathy for the Liberal point of view. Couple the direct confrontation with the government, with a simultaneous plea to the media too be heard, and you stand a fighting chance.

The Conservatives think they have the Liberals on the defensive when it comes to taxes. I would argue the Liberal reaction will dictate whether that sentiment is accurate, because when you seperate the wheat from the chaff, the Liberals are right on the issue, the Conservatives irresponsible for not listening to the expert opinion. Dion doens't want to raise your taxes, it is up to the Liberals to demonstrate the misinformation, in a way that forces a real engagement. A real discussion, with substance- stranger things have happened.

Have Your Say

The Manley panel on Canada's future role in Afghanistan is now accepting public submissions:

"The whole idea is to allow the public to submit stuff in a limited time frame," said a spokesman

I encourage everyone to "submit stuff", because this panel of nothingness is very important. I've already copied and pasted my submission, although I should have amended it, now that we get a better idea of the expenditure involved:
It is consulting experts and academics and plans trips to Afghanistan, Brussels, London, Washington and New York as part of its deliberations.

Have your say:

Monday, November 05, 2007

Why Cherniak Is Wrong

Jason argues that the Liberal council of the presidents meeting should include a motion in support of Dion:
A high-profile Dion leadership campaign worker and blogger, fed up with what he calls "incorrect," but powerful media reports, says he may force the leadership issue and move a motion to support leader Stéphane Dion at next month's first-ever council of presidents meeting of the 308 riding association presidents in Montreal.

Jason Cherniak, riding association president for Richmond Hill, Ont., said although there isn't supposed to be any vote on Mr. Dion's (Saint-Laurent-Cartierville, Que.) leadership at the meeting, he's considering putting forward the strategic motion of support.

"I personally think we should pass a motion saying that we support his leadership and I might even be proposing it, but this is something that's in the early stages and I haven't organized anything," Mr. Cherniak said in an interview. He runs his own popular blog and served as blog campaign chair for Mr. Dion's leadership campaign in the last Liberal leadership campaign.

"Media reports about challenges to Mr. Dion's leadership are incorrect. As the grassroots of the party, we need to remind everybody that we're the ones who make those decisions and we have full confidence in Stéphane Dion."

Why I will be telling my riding head to avoid this idea like the plague. I understand the sentiment, I know Jason means well, and on one level there is some appeal. However, this meeting isn't a referendum on Dion, it's supposed to be about engaging the grassroots, seeking input. Why introduce a motion on Dion's leadership? That introduction is frankly an admission of weakness, it only feeds the perception that Dion needs reassurance. Conservatives, the NDP, the Bloc, don't find it necessary to tell the leader that he should be leader, it's supposed to be a given.

If the presidents want to meet and decide to pump Dion at every turn with the media, put on a united front, then that idea may have merit. Give the perception that the party is in lockstep, a feel good meeting, without the obvious pitfalls of a formal motion on Dion. You can see some potential problems, with a quote from another riding president Ernest Lustig in the article itself:
We have a leader up there, some people like him, some don't, we still have a leader, you have to support him.... Not everybody is agreeable with every body's thoughts and the ways and means of doing things. No body's perfect, but we elected him and that's the guy we have to support,

I would describe the above as anything but a ringing endorsement of the leader. Just imagine what some of the Quebec presidents might offer on the question of Dion. In other words, why go there, why open up a process that at best reaffirms what should be obvious, at worst, opens up another chasm and more bad press? I seriously doubt anybody would actually vote against the motion, simply as a function of loyalty and the obvious optics. However, we all know Liberals love to talk, and we would surely get some juicy quotes when the subject of Dion is raised.

If all the presidents vote unanimously in support of Dion, the press yawns, it's a ten minute story. Does anyone believe they will drop the Dion narrative because of a public relations exercise? The obvious answer, what did you expect them to say. The scenario works this way, you get no real benefit from the motion passing, but on the flip side, you create the impression that Dion is weak and needs a public proclamation. You also move into the unknown, allowing opportunity for the mischievous, with an agenda. IMHO, little real reward, outside of esoteric satisfaction, plenty of potential risk= bad idea.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Be Seen, Not Heard

A powerful theme is cementing itself this week, and it isn't attractive. Today, another Red Tory is speaking out, former Conservative candidate, now Green, Gary Caldwell:
A former Conservative candidate said Sunday that the party muzzled him and kept him from freely engaging in public discourse.

Gary Caldwell, who will now run for the Green Party in the Quebec riding of Compton-Stanstead, claimed he had to ignore Tory rules to speak openly with reporters.

"If one wanted to communicate with the local media, one had to take it upon oneself to override instructions that we had," Caldwell told CTV's Question Period on Sunday.

He said candidates "were told that we could not speak to the local media and this meant that I couldn't continue the public debate in my area."

Caldwell described himself as a "Red Tory" in the tradition of political thinker George Grant, who was concerned with social issues and the common good.

But he said he wasn't able to express those ideas in open public debate, and said Parliament is now being run by political parties rather than individual MPs who represent their constituents.

Canadians are less and less receptive to the "hidden agenda" theme, and Liberals can't expect to get much mileage out of that frame. However, there is a very open agenda at play, with plenty of anecedotal evidence, which accurately paints the Conservative Party as singular entity, obsessed with message control, stifling honest debate. The Conservatives freely admit the approach:
In an indication the Conservative campaign will be as centrally managed as the last election, candidates will be able to call upon the war room for even the most minute of details, such as drafting a local press release.

''We have a support team in Ottawa and they're just a phone call away,'' the official said.

The party started showing off its state-of-the-art 1,500 square metre campaign headquarters last May -- a suburban Ottawa building dubbed ''the fear factory'' by the Liberals.

In the last election, colorful candidates were silenced, press exposure was limited and Canadians were presented with a slick marketing campaign. All indications point to the next campaign being an exercise in puppeteering, candidates merely conduits for the head office propaganda. This reality presents an opportunity for the opposition parties, because people want to feel that their local riding candidates speak for them, the indication of message control and resistence to accountability glaring negatives.

The Liberals should make a concerted effort to contrast their approach in an election, with the Conservatives. Local candidates should seek out media, call out the Conservative candidates, give candidates the latitude to freelance and challenge voters to see the manipulations. If you frame the debate as an insult to Canadians intelligence, the Conservatives operating as though they are advertising, rather than articulating, then that can erode the effectiveness of the "war room". The Conservatives are operating in a very transparent way, almost arrogant, which presents an opportunity that should be exploited.

Comparing the Polls

Reading the latest Ipsos-Reid poll, I was struck by the wide lead the firm gives to the Conservatives in Ontario and British Columbia, results which seem at odds with other polls. In trying to seperate the conflicting signals, I thought it might be interesting to put all the latest regional polls side by side to get a better handle on what is real and what is misleading:

Ipsos- Cons 43%...Libs 34%...NDP 14%...Greens 8%

Decima- Libs 38% Cons 32% NDP 17% Greens 12%

Strategic Counsel- Libs 40% Cons 33% NDP 14% Greens 14%

Environics- Libs 38% Cons 31% NDP 18% Greens 12%

Margin of errors are comparable, with the Environics poll having the biggest sample size. Three of the four polls show the Liberals leading by an average of 6.7%, while Ipsos has the Conservatives out front by 9%. Ipsos also has the Conservative support a full 10% above anyone else. Conclusion, fairly obvious which polling stands out as suspect.

Ipsos- Cons 42%...Libs 28%...NDP 16%

Decima- Cons 31%...Libs 26%...NDP 26%...Greens 12%

Environics- Libs 29%... Cons 27%... NDP 25%... Greens 17%

Strategic Counsel(west) Cons 41%...Libs 27%...NDP...21%

The SC poll is for the "west" as a whole, but a little common sense with Alberta eliminated demands a tight race in British Columbia. Again, Environics with the largest sample size, margins of error comparable, although higher than Ontario. Conclusion, Ipsos vastly overstates Conservative support, while underscoring the NDP support. In general, British Columbia is understood as a three-way race, with no one enjoying a solid lead. All the polls, except Ipsos, demonstrate that fact, which again makes its results suspect at best.

Ipsos- Bloc 50%...Cons 22%...Libs 17%...NDP 7%

Decima- Bloc 36%...Cons 21%...Libs 18%...NDP 13%

Strategic Counsel- Bloc 37%...Cons 26%...Libs 17%

Environics- Bloc 32%...Cons...25%...Libs 17%...NDP 17%

Crop(exclusive Quebec poll)- Bloc 31%... Cons 31%... Libs 17%... NDP 14%

Fairly good agreement on the Bloc support, apart from Ipsos, same for the NDP, apart from Ipsos. The Liberal numbers are very consistent, with all the polling, it would appear the teens are real. The Crop poll is the only one to show a close race, but it is noteworthy that they have a very good reputation for accuracy in Quebec. Apart from that, Ipsos once again produces a strange result.

When you look at the national numbers, it is the Ipsos results that look suspicious, with all the other polling outfits showing a far closer spread, and Harper nowhere near majority terrority. I suppose the Ipsos poll gives Conservatives great comfort, as they love to tout the results. However, if you are truly interested in accuracy, the above findings speak loud and clear, Ipsos results should be viewed with a sceptical eye. The Conservatives are not way out in front in Ontario, British Columbia is very competitive and the Bloc is not running away in Quebec.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

He Actually Said...

Harper, with a hilarious line, during his speech yesterday:
"I remind people that although this is a minority Parliament where the Liberals, the Bloc and the NDP hold most of the seats together, the fact is all they do is criticize," Harper said in a campaign-style speech to local Conservatives in Yarmouth, N.S.

"And as a consequence, all of the accomplishments of the 39th Parliament have been Conservative."

You want to see nothing offered, and "all they do is criticize", I suggest a quick scan of Harper's party, during the 37th and 38th Parliament. Harper has nerve, you have to give him that.

Making Inroads

The Conservatives have done a horrible job of marketing their brand in Ontario, with the ill-conceived decision to turf democratically elected candidates. The message to Ontario, there is nothing Progressive in this new Conservative party. Blowback, in both ridings:
Hal Jackman, the former lieutenant-governor of Ontario and a long-time Conservative supporter, fundraiser and sometime candidate, is outraged that the party has ousted Mark Warner as its next candidate in Toronto Centre.

Jackman called the Star yesterday to register his anger.

"I'm so mad at someone in Ottawa telling us, the party in Rosedale, who their candidate should or should not be," Jackman said.

"I think that is offensive, it's offensive to the constitution of the party, to the whole tradition of responsible government in Canada. We in a riding pick members of Parliament and the members of Parliament pick the prime minister."

Former PC federal cabinet minister in Guelph:
Barr, who told reporters he wouldn't rule out running locally as an independent in the next election, was accompanied at the news conference at the Holiday Inn by his wife Sheila and by William Winegard, a former Progressive Conservative cabinet minister and local MP who'd nominated Barr as the local candidate in March and was his senior adviser in the 2006 campaign.

Barr said Winegard sent letters to the party after Oct. 19 trying to resolve the situation, but party officials "didn't even have the courtesy to respond to a former cabinet minister."

Barr also said the local Conservative riding association had been sent copies of the exchanges of e-mails since Oct. 19, but it had been "surprisingly silent throughout this process." He said he didn't know why.

Winegard told reporters that "unknown people" had accused Barr of not doing enough for the party.

"How would they know?" he asked. "Is this the way the Conservative Party operates, by unknown people making an accusation that he hasn't been working hard enough

"So I think democracy has gone wrong in my Conservative Party," Winegard said. "Something has gone wrong."

The funniest part of the story, Stephen Harper distancing himself, as though we are all fools and really believe he has no say:
"Frankly, I'm not involved in those kind of decisions," Harper said. "The National Council is democratically elected and makes those decisions under the constitution of the party."

The biggest control freak in Canadian history, who micro-manages everything, has no input with the National Council. Yep, sure, okay. The interesting part, Harper references "democratically elected", which serves as a nice contrast to head office usurping the democratic wants of the locals. Surely, somewhere, there is an old Reformer shaking his head, as the new Conservative Party has morphed into the anti-thesis of a grassroots, bottom up organization. People in Ontario are seeing the fraud first hand, and these two minor stories are joining to form a distasteful theme, that resonates with people already weary of the Harper brand.