Sunday, November 30, 2008

House Cleaning

Just to be clear, and not that it necessarily matters in the grand scheme, my earlier concerns, will not preclude me from getting behind Stephane Dion 100% if this deal, is the real deal.

I respect Stephane Dion, he has the country's interests at heart and he would conduct himself with seriousness and dignity. Let's make it work.

Politics For Dummies

A parallel universe exists, it's called Blogging Tories. In that world, you hear words like "takeover", "undemocratic power grab", "arrogant opposition", "coup d'etat", etc, etc. Maybe a visual aid, to help clear up some misconceptions might be helpful:

Okay, let's go slow, so we don't lose anybody, even though the concept is simple. See the two darker shades of blue, those are Conservative cabinet ministers and Conservative MP's. Now train your gaze to the red, light blue, yellow and gray colors. You will note the red, light blue, yellow seats outnumber the darker blue seats. Each seat denotes a riding, each seat carries the same weight in a entity we call Parliament. Canadians elect people to sit in those seats, they don't elect governments, they elect a thing called MP's. The above is a situation, called a "minority government", repeat after me, because the term seems to escape some "MINORITY". That means, the actual "majority" of democratically elected officials are not Conservatives, I know hard to believe isn't it.

So, when the red, light blue and yellow guys and gals decide to get together, it translates to a majority of said democratically elected officials and hence it would have the weight to govern, what with representing their constituents and such. You can't really have a power grab, when you had the power to begin with. You can't arrogantly take control, because in totality you always had it, just now, it is being exerted.

It's not the opposition's fault that Conservatives can't add, nor is anyone's fault that the arrogance, political opportunism and delusions prevented a accurate reading of reality. That shit's on you guys, heaps and heaps of reeking dung, completely self-inflicted, entirely and utterly of your voluntary choosing. We aren't witnessing a coup silly souls, we are witnessing an organic expression of democracy in it's purest form. Blame the voters, and beyond that please just keep blaming yourselves and the misguided sense of entitlement.

Can Harper Really Prorogue?

I don't claim to be a constitutional expert, but given the circumstances, wouldn't a decision to prorogue Parliament equate to an admission that the government can't function? Could you not put forth the argument, that the country is in the midst of crisis, and the governing Conservatives have ceded their authority, by paralyzing the legislature, Canada effectively twisting in the breeze? Would we not see mounting public pressure, the government forced to hide, rather than face the will of our elected body? I don't see how a prorogue at this moment can realistically fly, if anything it will further the momentum to topple the government.

The Governor General does have responsibility to ensure we have a government in place, if the Conservatives voluntarily cede their responsibility, then why can't the opposition visit the GG, argue that the government is AWOL, they have a working coalition in place, that can move the country forward? A prorogue now, equates to an attempt to usurp the democratic will, more than procedurial wranglings, it creates a fundamental crisis of leadership, and one has to wonder if the limbo can be tolerated, given the circumstances? That action creates a vacuum, which seems to admit the government can't function, it has failed.

A few procedural games, the government can surely employ, but to actually prorogue a new parliament, with the only motivation to protect Conservative fortunes, state of the nation be damned, doesn't cut it and if the opposition keeps up the pressure, it could turn out to be the last act for the government. Prorogue amounts to an admission that the government has lost the confidence of the House, in essence Canada doesn't have a functioning government. Can the GG step in under these circumstances?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

End Game

If the idea of coalition really comes to fruition, and that still remains a big IF, then it's imperative to get it right, because the stakes are immense. Any coalition must be credible to the Canadian people and for that reason sober logic trumps emotional response. The following will offend some, alienate others, but extraordinary times call for unconventional consideration.

As a preface, remember that I defended Dion in the election aftermath, and I spent considerable time making my view known to people in the party, for whatever that's worth. I mention that fact, because my opinion now isn't merely knee jerk opportunism from an Ignatieff supporter, I see it as situational necessity. Let's face facts, Mr. Dion has little stature with the Canadian people, given the feeble resistance to his resignation, it is probably less than it was in the election, an election wherein he was unequivocally rejected. If people are really serious about a coalition thriving, as opposed to a temporary diversion that ultimately leads to a Harper majority, then we need to get it right, we need to stop with the crusades, the emotional responses, and approach it with cold logic and pragmatic concession. Mr. Dion as Prime Minister is a death sentence for any coalition, rightly or wrongly, he simply lacks the authority with Canadians to lead through a crisis, that's the bottomline and only wishful thinking suggests otherwise.

I probably shouldn't say this, and Ignatieff's team will cringe at the arrogant assumption, but my gut screams the following. I would argue, and I believe rational people would agree, that Ignatieff is much stronger this time, my own sense and reading of the situation allows for a possible first ballot victory. Speculation, "the race has just begun", yadda, yadda, it's true, but sometimes events trump process, and a crisis demands intellectual elasticity. Listening to Rae, it is obvious he senses the same, his team can see the landscape and know the task is daunting. If rapidly changing events occur, then sometimes you deviate from the script, let's be nimble, let's not make a crucial error. If not Dion, and it shouldn't be, then it's Ignatieff and people can't just slough off the proposition or react with irrational fury. The simple reality, Ignatieff has the majority support in caucus, he also has the institutional support within the party and YES, he enjoys formidable grassroots support, his leadership is based on practical strengths within the party. In this unprecedented circumstance, I will put my trust in my elected officials to act with sober consideration, I expect them to think the situation through, and if it means short circuiting a probable outcome, then get on with and make this coalition as strong as we can.

If you're paying attention, then you've noticed that Ignatieff has performed exceptionally well in the last days, his clarity and strength contagious, embodying everything that leadership demands. What I see, is someone that Canadians could get behind, someone who can give a coalition the credibility it demands, instead of watching Dion awkwardly stumble, because he lacks respect from the conduit- why start with weakness, and if so, how do you expect to succeed? I suspect the Conservatives best hope within a bad situation, the prospect of PM Dion and all that pinata entails. Leave your emotions at the door, it's time for serious and COLD realities.

Mr. Dion doesn't enjoy the confidence of Canadians, Mr. Dion doesn't enjoy the confidence of his caucus and Mr. Dion lacks widespread support with the party rank and file. How these simple facts translate to success escapes me, sounds more a recipe for disaster, that will breath new life into Harper and the Conservatives. We need someone who Canadians can take a chance with, not someone that makes them roll their eyes in doubt. Given the support, there is only one option and that is Ignatieff.

Cue the outrage, but if we are really serious about getting this potential coalition right, as opposed to a temporary exercise in probable failure, it's the best move, by a long shot.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Minority- "the smaller in number of two groups constituting a whole"

Stephen Harper, November 27th 3:59pm

Stephen Harper, November 28th, 5:40pm


"Sorry Sir, but there's been a change with the seating plan, you'll have to leave"

Yes, the Conservatives have blinked, but there is more to come, two scenarios, both of which largely achieve the desired result. There will either be more concessions from the Conservatives, namely a serious stimulus package, or we will see a coalition government that introduces exactly that. Despite the rather feeble spin attempts by Conservatives and their reeling supporters, you've already lost, it's just a matter of who makes the ultimate call.

It's an intriguing situation, but it's a win/win for the opposition, and that's the bottomline. The main goal within this maelstorm, to come up with a serious economic update, devoid of callous stunts, proactive and honest. The Conservatives only hope, cave further and bring forth a new action plan, or sit idly by while the opposition plots your demise. We will see further concessions from the government, that is obvious. The question then becomes, is it enough to appease the opposition?

I actually don't care which scenario wins the day, what matters is getting it right for Canadians, a plan that reflects the will of Parliament. A coalition is fascinating, but if the Conservatives cower and present a new proposal that is acceptable, that is a terrific positive. If the Conservatives foolishly stick to their guns, then Monday the Liberals introduce their motion and the wheels are set in motion to reach the same destination, via a different path. Whichever.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Juicy Tidbits

From Don Martin's scathing critique of the government's games, comes this revelation:
So seriously is that threat being taken that former prime minister Jean Chretien has been called in to try and broker a deal between outgoing leader Stephane Dion and the three leadership candidates to see if an new leader could be crowned in time to fight a snap election.

Alrighty then.

On the coalition front, this from NNW:
National Newswatch has learned that the federal opposition parties are considering the idea of forming what can technically be described as a coalition government - in the event the Tory government is brought down next week.

NDP Leader, Jack Layton has cancelled a scheduled trip to the B.C. in order to participate in discussions.

Discussions, I see.

I think it safe to say, that today represents the biggest miscalculation these characters have made (if I'm not mistaken, in chess they call it a BLUNDER), and I'm glad to say my earlier want has come true:
When confronted by a smug bully, the required response is obvious, you coil back and smack em square in the jaw.

And, now the snifling bully retreats...

Liberals Will Not Support Economic Package!

It will be a matter of confidence, and the Liberals will not support the economic update.

You just might have bitten off more than you can chew this time tough guys. Apparently, opposition members are "openly" talking about a coalition government. Fascinating days ahead.

Liberals Need To Take A Stand

We need to see how Flaherty introduces this attack on democracy, but I fully expect the Liberals to reject this obscene and transparent attempt to hobble the opposition. The NDP are already on record, they will vote against any attempt to undercut public financing, for obvious reasons I expect the Bloc to follow suit. The onus will then be on the Liberals to take a principled stand, and anything less than complete DEFIANCE is unacceptable.

Conservative insiders have already let it slip, this isn't about symbolic gestures, belt tightening, this is a salvo aimed at the opposition, using the guise of crisis for political advantage. A complete affront to the rhetoric of finding common ground, moving beyond partisanship, the Conservatives have shown themselves in striking fashion. It is simply amazing, that with an economy crumbling, the Conservative braintrust can afford to put their energies into a meaningless fiscal initiative, it is quite revealing, in terms of priorities. Rather than a singular focus on serious matters, the Conservatives would rather manipulate the situation to introduce a partisan STUNT. Simply unacceptable, I agree with any sentiment that frames this debate as "war", it's a fundamental issue which can't be reconciled.

If it turns out to be a confidence measure, the Liberals have no choice, they must band together with the other parties, they MUST take a stand. I want to see a joint news conference, May included, a united front that SCREAMS. Let the Governor General sort it out, I suspect the result won't be what Harper had in mind, if it is, so be it, sometimes risk is required, political consideration secondary to a core principle, which can't be compromised.

A nation waits for a plan, and we will get games, serious action secondary to political gamesmanship. There is only one response that is satisfactory, unless the fundraising rules are changed to offset, the Liberals have no choice and the fallout will not be of their doing, the responsbility lies with craven opportunists. When confronted by a smug bully, the required response is obvious, you coil back and smack em square in the jaw.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Tory Times Are Sleepy Times

Critics argue, the Conservatives are asleep at the switch, but who knew it was this bad:

Maybe we'll get that economic stimulus once nap time is over.

A Study In Contradiction

Apparently, we are in uncharted economic waters that nobody foresaw, but this government was astute enough to take measures to deal with the unforeseen a full year ago. Apparently, the economic situation is deteriorating on a daily basis, but Canada can afford to wait months before entertaining any stimulus. Apparently, you can chastise the former Liberal government for reckless spending in yesterday's QP, even though your own government holds the title of the biggest spending administration in history. Apparently, the opposition should stop "stop bad-mouthing" the Canadian economy, but things are headed for the shitter in stunning speed, 1929 a good reference point. Deficits unacceptable, deficits a "necessity".

The Conservatives have tied themselves into contradictory knots, it's so bad that each successive sentence, shows no relationship to the logic uttered prior. What the mixed signals tell us, despite the tone of a "steady hand at the tiller", the government is making it up on the fly, and would probably be better served by just admitting they've horribly miscalculated. People would accept that admission, because I believe there is a mature resignation to rapidly changing events. The government only bears more responsibility, when they cling to their past choices as indicative of future health, as though that thought process has any relationship to today's reality. Nobody had any idea what was to come, but we saw it coming and acted accordingly, further urgent action is required, see in the spring. Good luck with that.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Supporting Ignatieff

When you sift through the misconceptions about the man, and focus on the views in totality, then any perceived ideological tension evaporates. I consider myself left of center, progressive, but also pragmatic. In the past few days, I've done my homework, reading or re-reading a host of essays, excerpts, speeches, to make sure I was comfortable with supporting Ignatieff, to reconcile any lingering doubts. I'm glad I did, because it really has made my decision an easy one. I am supporting Michael Ignatieff for the Liberal leadership.

I had the opportunity to meet Michael once in 2006, at an intimate forum, that allowed for a one on one conversation. I found Ignatieff completely sincere and passionate, incredibly thoughtful, it was actually fascinating to watch a man who had the rare capacity to morph deep intellectual consideration into clear and concise expression. I was particularly struck by his ideas on the environment, reconciling the sometimes competiting ideas of planet and profit. I found Ignatieff bold, but reflective, and while I didn't waiver from my support of Gerard Kennedy, I left thinking he was a unquestionable asset for the Liberal Party.

Many people can't get beyond certain controversial positions offered by Ignatieff, these issues have led to many unfair accusations and inaccurate readings of political leanings. I was against the Iraq war from the onset, as a matter of fact, I cut my teeth in the blogosphere railing against that war, supporting the most adamant of opposition. That said, there was a certain laziness in certain criticisms, namely lumping any supporter of that war into a neat category, despite the fact that people can come to the same conclusions for vastly different reasons. Unlike the neocons, unlike Harper, Ignatieff had INTIMATE understanding of Iraq, he knew the Kurds and Shia, he worked within the human rights horror that was the Saddam regime. Ignatieff's view started with a consideration of human rights abuse, it wasn't about oil or some misguided militarism, so we can rightly look at his perspective in a different light. Was Ignatieff right in his view? Obviously not, from my point of view, but that rejection also allows for a consideration as to the thinking, there was actually a noble thought process at the core, even if misguided. When Ignatieff admits a mistake, I take him at his word, and we move forward.

I believe Ignatieff has the capacity to become a great Prime Minister. You can sense a vision with Ignatieff, careful deliberation and the ability to grow. What I find most intriguing about Ignatieff, despite his obvious intellectual stature, he if forever inquisitive, searching for more perfect paradigms, a trait which is exciting in any leader. That's what I crave, a politician with a set of values and beliefs, but one that continually processes new information and realities, always curious, never a prisoner to dogma.

I see a great deal in Ignatieff that can appeal to the progressive wing of the Liberal Party, I just don't buy some of the nonsensical characterizations about the man. As a matter of fact, Ignatieff may well be the perfect candidate to reconcile the sometimes disjointed aspirations within a big tent party. I'm comfortable with Ignatieff, and I look forward with some optimism, that this is the man best equipped to defeat Harper, engage the country and restore some faith in our political leadership.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Red Flags

First off, let me state, that I genuinely like and appreciate Bob Rae, his talents considerable, he would make a much better PM than the current character- that goes without saying. However, in doing your own mental math, to determine which person is best suited to become Liberal leader, who can end the Conservative reign and put the party back into government, it is imperative that you recognize the potential pitfalls ahead.

If I were to ask you which issue you think is likely to be the central point of debate in the next election, what would that be? Further to that question, assuming you answered as I suspect, what lines of attack would give the Liberals the most mileage, what is the government's achilles heel? I would submit, the answers are obvious, it will be the economy, and within that dicussion the Liberal argument will center around deficits and fiscal mismanagement. I can't tell you how many times I've heard various Liberal MP's and party people speak to this issue in the past few days, it's a political no-brainer, a gift in terms of attack lines.

With the above in mind, I listened to Bob Rae do a radio interview on The John Oakley Show this past Friday. Rae did a very able job declawing Oakley, but within that discussion, the challenges Rae will face crystallized, a critical moment for consideration:


"I did not bring in a deficit. The fact of the matter is, the recession caused the deficit, we did not have a tax and spend agenda, that's just nonsense. We had a situation where revenues where dropping like a stone as a result of the recession, that's what happened."

"Okay, so if we have a deficit now, at the federal level or the provincial level, is that going to be the personal fault of Mr. Harper or Mr. McGuinty? I don't think so, these are things that happen"


"If Stephen Harper and Jim Flaherty take us into deficit because of the situation or circumstances, you'd be willing to cut them a lot of slack?"


"With great respect John, they're not taking us into deficit...


"Mr. Rae, if the country runs a deficit, do you give them the benefit of the doubt?"


"It's not a matter of giving them the benefit of the doubt, the fact is there is a very serious recession on John, maybe you haven't noticed. A lot of people are going to be losing their jobs, a lot of people aren't going to be paying taxes, a lot of companies are not going to be in a position to pay taxes. That is going to have a major impact on the revenues of the country. Would I agree with everything they have done so far, in terms of how they've spent things? No, but do I hold them personally responsible for the fact that we're going to have a deficit here, and in Ontario, of course not and no reasonable person should do that"

And there it is, what amounts to red flags of biblical proportions. In order for Rae to defend his record, he must absolve the current government from much of its responsibility. This isn't a question of fairness, this is politics, and the above confirms that a Rae-led Liberal Party can forget about pinning any personal responsibility onto this government. Rae confirms the wasted opportunity, he argues no reasonable person should blame the government, merely a victim of economic circumstance. You can't blame Rae, the fact of the matter, it is really the only logical argument he can make, otherwise he is left with criticizing himself as well.

The question for Liberals to sift through, is it really advantageous to have a new leader, essentially neutered, even something of an apologist, on the central issue moving forward? I simply can't reconcile the wisdom of introducing fundamentally damaged goods to the equation, then expecting that flawed start will result in ultimate victory. It just doesn't work that way, and Rae's own words confirm the problem.

Liberals need to crucify this government on the economy, they need to point to the squandered surplus, they need to make the argument that this is a "made in Canada" deficit, not merely the result of events outside of our control. Rae needs "events outside of his control" to justify his record (whether he is right, completely and utterly meaningless), and that fact will give a free pass every time, we effectively cede any potential advantage. I fail to see the attraction, as a matter of fact, I see nothing but defeat. Love you Bob, respect people that are supporting you, but the above interview is representative of nothing but political poison, it literally makes me cringe.

Time For Some House Cleaning

Have you visited the Liberal website recently? I know everyone is busy, but would it be possible to update the frontpage? The current video link, tends to bring up bad memories, unless of course it's advantageous to remind everyone of a campaign that delivered our worst vote percentage in history:

Just a thought :)

The Big Lie

As Ed Stelmach and friends tour the country, and globe for that matter, trying to improve the image of the tar sands, his central thesis has been the idea of carbon sequestration as solution. No need for concern, early research is promising, Stelmach has a workable plan that will eliminate those pesky environmental concerns, most of the criticism just ill-informed hysteria. It's been a pretty impressive sales job, if you listen to Stelmach, you can easily be seduced by his carbon capture argument to negate. The only problem, and it would appear both the feds and province are aware, the oil sands are a horrible candidate for this technology, any talk of managing carbon in this manner essentially a lie:
The ministerial briefing notes, initially marked "Secret," say that just a small percentage of the carbon dioxide released in mining the sands and producing fuel from them can be captured.

The briefing notes, obtained by CBC under freedom-of-information legislation, are based on the findings of a joint Canada and Alberta task force on carbon capture and storage...

Little of the oilsands' carbon dioxide can be captured because most emissions aren't concentrated enough, the notes say. For efficient capture, there must be a high concentration of CO2 coming out of a smoke stack.

"Only a small percentage of emitted CO2 is 'capturable' since most emissions aren't pure enough," the notes say. "Only limited near-term opportunities exist in the oilsands and they largely relate to upgrader facilities."

Rational people shouldn't focus on reducing emissions in the oilsands through carbon capture and storage, Keith says.

The Prime Minister had this knowledge prior to the government's commitment on carbon sequestration, and cited the oilsands as the first example for implementation. Premier Stelmach uses sequestration to allay any and all fears, it is the magic solution that will make the problem disappear. Stelmach goes further, having the audacity to claim any opposition is driven by propaganda and misconceptions, initiated by people with agendas, his campaign merely a desire to "set the record straight". And yet, Stelmach is the one presenting a false solution, one he is well aware can't deliver in the way he suggests. Stelmach is correct, there is a great deal of misinformation and propaganda making the rounds, but it would seem he is the one engaged in a campaign of deception.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Point Of Clarification

Yesterday, a person I respect left a comment on one of my posts, which raises an issue that everyone involved in the Liberal leadership should keep in mind. In reference to a quote, detailing Ignatieff's organizational prowess, and how that machine has grown in the past two years, Gayle left this thought:
"He had a strong ground organization in 2006 and he has grown it impressively over the last two years."

Which is why I will not support him, and exactly why he cannot stand for renewal.

The premise being, it is hard to support someone who is guilty of duplicity, hard to reconcile backroom maneuvering while the Liberals had a leader. I share the frustration, as I'm sure many others do, and I've made my opinion known several times. The Liberal Party is inherently flawed in this regard, it seems people are forever planning for the next leadership, and this dynamic has gone on for literally decades. "Camps", a reference entirely synonymous with the Liberal reality, standard practice, an institutional constant.

I would submit the following, when people are persuing the various candidates, using past loyalty to influence their eventually preference- all of these contenders are the same. We all know that Ignatieff supporters were working behind the scenes, during the Dion reign, although in fairness, the man himself did much work to help the leader and the party. However, the same criticism applies to many Rae supporters, it's common knowledge that a whisper campaign was afoot for some time. In addition, and this may surprise some entertaining LeBlanc, he has been testing the waters for months, the organizational support he has today didn't just materalize the day after Dion resigned. In fact, LeBlanc, in many ways is the ultimate backroom operator, which means the mantle of "renewal" and something different, is a challenged assumption. It is correct to proceed with the knowledge that all three men are in the position they are today, because they, or more correctly their supporters, have a keen understanding of how the Liberal Party works. It isn't right, in fact in many ways quite disheartening, but there it is, that's the reality, nobody's hands are clean, divided loyalties a pre-requisite for the current crop of contenders.

I don't blame these men necessarily, because after all, they didn't invent the rules, merely a statement on who best able to understand the condition and exploit it. You operate within the rules you find yourself, any idealist sense quickly evaporates because of practical circumstance. The Liberal Party is such, that anyone with purity on the "renewal" front is handicapped, because the backroom doesn't allow a natural process, it forever pulls and prods from the shadows. Further, if you believe people are products of their environment, then it is hard to lay blame on the backroom, it is just the way of things, and it's bigger than the sum of its parts.

The problem is the culture, it has little to do with the current candidates themselves, they are just another by-product of a dysfunctional entity. What Dion experienced is nothing unique, the intensity just as much a reflection on his own inabilities to instill confidence, as it is dubious motivations. I'm treating all these candidates the same in terms of "loyalty", nobody gets to the claim the high ground, three peas in a Liberal pod. To suggest anything else, is simply a factual fallacy. Three good men, supported by good people, tainted by the necessity of process.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Don't "Panic", But The Sky Is Falling

There is a funny contrast over at NNW. One piece, offers a headline, wherein Harper warns against "panic". Right beside it, a title post, with Harper raising the spectre of the Great Depression to describe the current challenges. In other words, everyone remain calm, but just so you know, prepare for downright economic catastrophe. Nothing soothes jittery markets and consumer confidence like referencing the Great Depression. Should I store up on canned goods or snag the 50 inch plasma? Confusing signals, but then again, contradiction is Harper's forte.


"Front runner" status is a a double-edged sword, and with that in mind, there is reason for worry in the Ignatieff camp. There were several instances yesterday, wherein various media pundits declared Ignatieff not just the perceived front runner, but wondered aloud if he was unstoppable.

We all understand the template, perceived front runner, with an added air of inevitability, is the kiss of death in the early stages of any contest. If a frame develops, that elevates one contender, said candidate is then scrutinized ad nauseum, media gather like vultures waiting for any mis-step, a dynamic develops to create a horse race. The other candidates effectively fly under the radar, and their underdog status endears them to the media, while the front runner gets hammered. A classic example can be found in the last Liberal leadership, wherein Stephane Dion benefited from his lesser status, considered a "dark horse", a "long shot", Dion faced little criticism, in fact the media generally fawned with continual "puff pieces", while the perceived leaders were put under the microscope. No one should dismiss the role the media played in presenting Dion as an attractive option, it was part of story, it had impact.

Here we go again, it seems, Ignatieff the anointed, which creates a somewhat boring landscape, so expect idle minds to search for a tightening, it makes for better copy. I'm with Jeff, as he offers a word of caution:
But the media’s would be foolish to write-off Dominic. I can assure you that he is a very serious contender. He is attracting quality organizers and support across the country, many friends of mine whose judgment, and abilities, I respect.

Dominic will be a force in this campaign; the media would be advised not to, as they did in 2006, get tunnel-vision focusing on the Michael and Bob show.

The early "write off", without careful consideration, sets up potential surprise, sets up a scenario where Ignatieff doesn't quite deliver, based on all the subjective handicapping. Dominic LeBlanc is formidable, this isn't a fringe candidate and you can sense wide appeal. That said, the LeBlanc camp should relish low expectations, because it allows for a sense of momentum as the race unfolds.

If we doubt the importance of early frames, then just watch the way the Ignatieff camp downplays the idea of "front runner", the Rae camp embraces the role of "underdog" and the LeBlanc camp relishes the media designation as "upstart".

Friday, November 21, 2008

Leadership Poll

It's early, it's one poll, yadda yadda, but still... There are a few interesting tidbits in the Angus Reid poll of the leadership contenders. I'm going to ignore LeBlanc, because people don't really have any sense of him, any results pretty much useless for drawing even the most superficial of conclusions. The numbers for Ignatieff and Rae do show some contrasts. Neither does particularly well against Harper at the moment, but there is some light between the two:
With Ignatieff as leader:

Con. 38%, Lib. 24%, NDP 18%, BQ 11%, Grn. 8%

With Rae as leader:

Con. 39%, Lib. 21%, NDP 19%, BQ 12%, Grn. 8%

Ignatieff does slightly better, although within the margin of error.

On the question of voter preference, Ignatieff enjoys a wide lead amongst past Liberal voters, as well as the general public:
Among Liberal Party voters:

Ignatieff 35%, Rae 25%, LeBlanc 6%, Not sure 35%

If Canadians could pick leader:

Ignatieff 23%, Rae 17%, LeBlanc 8%, Not sure 52%

I find the Liberal voter numbers somewhat striking. Maybe more curious, you would think if Ignatieff bests Rae with all voters, the Ontario subset would be part of the story. However the two are tied with 21% respectively for preference in Ontario, Ignatieff actually gains his edge elsewhere. In Quebec, Ignatieff is preferred by 31%, Rae only 11%, something to chew on. Also, amongst BQ voters, Ignatieff stands at 32%, Rae at 11%. In fact, Rae only bests Ignatieff in Alberta.

When voters are asked their party preference, we see that with Ignatieff at the helm the Liberals enjoy 6% more support in Quebec, than they do with Rae. Ignatieff also does better in Atlantic Canada and British Columbia, while again, in Ontario no difference between the two.

One of the arguments for an Ignatieff candidacy, he has the potential to improve Liberal fortunes in crucial Quebec. These findings tend to support that, or at least suggest a positive starting position. The other part of this poll that I find relevant, the Liberal voter gap is considerable, Ignatieff has a clear lead, with the only caveat, a sizable "not sure" percentage.


It is nice to see someone in the media call out the nonsensical entity that is the Layton-led NDP. I was going to wait until the NDP officially voted against the throne speech for this post, but Susan Riley makes such good points, what the heck:
The dismal turnout in the recent federal election was one signal that Canadians are fed up with the pettiness and rancour that afflict our politics, and the current economic crisis comes with a tacit warning: this is no time for silly partisan games.

Too bad no one told Jack Layton. The NDP leader denounced this week's vague and timid throne speech within nano-seconds, declaring his party would vote against it.

How long will Layton get away with this tedious game of double-dare without suffering consequences? He is like a bratty kid taunting the neighbourhood thug from a safe hiding place behind his big brother.

The tactic serves him well in a narrow way: he gets to strut around proclaiming himself the "effective opposition" while disparaging Liberals as spineless for doing the adult thing (however distasteful).

But it is getting tiresome. This throne speech, for instance, included token nods to the left: mention of homelessness, energy retrofits for houses, a ban on bulk water sales, a cap-and-trade regime to address climate change.

I suspect Layton will get "away with it" until others join the chorus, and start discussing just how irresponsible and opportunistic the NDP have become. Oh, I can't wait until the next election, when Layton will put his party's vote against a THRONE SPEECH into the "effective opposition" calculation. What a joke.

It's a THRONE SPEECH, it isn't legislation, it's meaningless symbolism on direction, nothing changes if it passes, it's just a vague statement. How any credible leader can justify the logic of voting against a THRONE SPEECH, right after an election inwhich they just argued was "unnecessary" is astonishing, on every level. Nobody believes Layton wants another election, but in voting against, that is exactly what he endorses, in terms of pure symbolism. The catch, Layton knows full well there will be no election, so he is free to look principled, while others are left to act like ADULTS.

You know, I ripped the Liberals on a regular basis, during the abstaining period. It was an embarrassing display for the Liberals, and I predicted at the time, it would allow the NDP a powerful argument, which it did. However, I have absolutely NO qualms whatsoever in this instance, the Liberals should support the throne speech, that's what Canadians want, they have ZERO appetite for posturing and threats of another vote. If you asked Canadians whether they would rather eat a bag of nails or have another election, I bet the results would be TIGHT.

Watching Layton do the peacock routine, the purity almost offensive in its lack of practical acknowledgement, you really do see the NDP's true irrelevance. Yes, Layton can vote against the THRONE SPEECH, and what will happen? NOTHING. There will be no election, the speech will pass, and parliament will get on with it. In other words, the NDP's position is a declaration of nothingness, the adult decisions left to other, serious people.

I've heard the rationalizations from the NDP, and that's what they are, nothing more, the underlying truth so transparent, to be obnoxious in it's clarity. Whatever Jack, whatever apologists, please, it's actually insulting both to rational sensibility, as well as your own credibility.

I believe this game is getting "tiresome", as Riley states, and I honestly see some blowback on the horizon, should the NDP continue to hide behind the Liberals, so they can maintain the air of true opposition. If we are talking about a critical vote, a budget, then fine, have at it Jack, make the case. But, we are talking about a FREAKING THRONE SPEECH, delivered just over ONE MONTH from the LAST ELECTION. Good grief, maybe time to head back to the "kitchen table" Jack so "ordinary" Canadians can give Layton a swift kick in the ass, and tell him to quit wasting our time with the posturing and hyper-partisan brinksmanship.

Amen Susan.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Good Call

Another example of Stephen Harper's shrewd advice, he's a student of economics you know, with an intuitive grasp of current circumstance.

Harper on October 7th:
"...some great buying opportunities out there...I think there are probably some gains to be made in the stock market. That's my own view."

I wonder if any Canadians took Harper's wise advice? Let's say you did, where would you be now? Well...
TSX 9829(Oct 7)

TSX 7734(Today)

Drop of 2095 points(21.3%)

You'd be in deep doo doo, that's where.

Good call Mr. Harper. I hope you took you're own advice :)

Sing It From The Roof Tops

There is one line from Budget Officer Kevin Page's fiscal report that Liberals should repeat ad nauseum, over and over again:
"The weak fiscal performance to date is largely attributable to previous policy decisions as opposed to weakened economic conditions," the report says.

There it is, the "independent" analysis that confirms a "made in Canada" deficit, not simply a result of circumstances elsewhere, the buck stops with the Harper government and their poor choices. This analysis has added weight, when one considers the Harper argument, that being his government foresaw the challenges ahead, a full year in advance, prudent decisions were made. There is no way to reconcile the contradictions, Harper can't claim to be a steady hand that planned ahead, when the Budget Officer highlights the same policies as directly responsible for a coming deficit.

The above statement is a smoking gun of sorts for the Liberals, because it comes from a non-partisan source, it puts the blame directly at the feet of bad policy decisions, not the global economic slowdown. Harper's entire strategy, to frame the challenges as largely out of control, our government merely reactive to foreign developments. If Harper is successful in this strategy, then he largely absolves the Conservatives from responsibility, Canadians will accept a deficit as inevitable. It is CRITICAL that the Liberals seize upon this analysis from Page to hold the Conservatives to account, to ensure they can't take cover because of developments abroad. If Harper did see the looming crisis on the horizon, then it acknowledges that policy was developed within this consideration, a fact that either suggests gross incompetence or revisionist proclamations.

Whether this report fades into background noise, will largely be determined by how well the Liberals use it to bolster their case. We should hear this quote over and over again, until it imprints in the minds of Canadians, until it establishes a clear starting point as we move into a deficit position.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

That Was A Short Honeymoon

I'm not about to read too much into the first post-election poll, but it does show a striking shift:

Generally, the first batch of post-election polls show a government maintaining, or just as likely, increasing their support, as the electorate resign themselves to a new mandate, they tend to rally behind the victor. The fact we see the opposite here, suggests the Harper government doesn't enjoy the confidence it claims, voters are volatile, any support tepid at best. Conservatives down in Quebec, Ontario and a seismic shift in the "west":
Committed Voters - Western Canada (N=299, MoE ± 5.7%, 19 times out of 20)

Conservative Party 38% (-14)
Liberal Party 27% (+11)
NDP 23% (+1)
Green Party 13% (+5)

The above might be a reflection of a rapidly deteriorating economy, coupled with a Dion-less Liberal Party, making a voter "shift" (yes shift) easier. Whatever the reason, it is interesting that the considerable Conservative loss moves directly to the Liberals, suggesting there may be some latent hope for the party after all.

This poll means little in the grand scheme. The numbers don't really matter, because an election isn't in the cards, but it does reaffirm the view that many Conservative voters aren't fully invested, they will revert back to an alternative, if given the proper nudge. The numbers might also reflect some fallout from saying one thing during the final days of the campaign, then completely and UTTERLY contradicting one's self in mere days, once a mandate was secured.

Run Ruby Run

This isn't a statement on preference, because I've already pretty much decided on a candidate, but I do hope that Ruby Dhalla decides to enter the Liberal leadership race. I don't see any scenario where Dhalla could actually win the leadership, but in a certain sense that really isn't the point. It's important to have a diversity of views presented, and Dhalla would certainly bring something to the table, she would expand the conversation. This leadership race is more than just selecting a captain, it's a process that ultimately will give the Liberal Party a fresh direction. Dhalla would have appeal, she's articulate, smart and she possesses the common touch, that enables her to present ideas clearly. Dhalla has already proven herself to be a breathe of fresh air, so her potential entrance should be viewed as a net positive for the party.

I do see it as unfortunate, that the modern Liberal Party doesn't have room for a woman to seek the leadership. Not in a token sense, because Dhalla does have considerable substance, but there is some symbolism in a "white guy" only presentation. Add in a visible minority, and Dhalla brings the superficial optics that do make a statement. This race takes on a whole new flavor, should Ruby run, which goes beyond simple viability. Whatever the outcome, if the process allows for another strong woman to emerge on the front benches, it's a positive moving forward, the Liberal Party is better for the development.

I want a party that presents a representative sample of Canada as a whole, or at least some expression beyond the typical. Again, if Dhalla lacked the talent, then I'd view her inclusion cyncially, but I honestly see her as offering an interesting prespective, she's not a lightweight and she can be a force as the Liberals re-invent themselves. I say run Ruby run.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Decorum And The Liberal Leadership

What do the new session of Parliament and the new Liberal leadership race have in common? The pledges of decorum and civility. Call me jaded, but the "new" always brings the "ideal", which then fades quickly as people revert back to standard practice.

If you look through the annals of history, you will see, and this isn't Canadian specific, political contenders calling for civil debate and constructive dialogue coming out of the gates. We see the same sentiment expressed from the various Liberal leadership camps, "we're all Liberals, this is a discussion amongst family". Sounds great, but rarely does the rhetoric hold, once strategy and ambition move to the fore. The simple reality isn't necessarily a reflection of the characters involved, but it's part of the template to throw a few elbows as well as throwing your opponent under the bus whenever possible.

The "fresh" leadership race has already seen it's first salvo, from a candidate who hasn't even formally announced, maybe a new record. I remember, oh 10 days ago, Bob Rae on television, pledging to run a high signal campaign that focuses on ideas, not his opponents. Well, this past weekend certainly made those assertions ring hollow, the opportunistic Rae rushing to Toronto to cry foul in front of the media, the word STUNT comes to mind. A minor event in the grand scheme, but a clear signal of what lies ahead, it will get messy, it always does. The only question, a matter of degree, and on that score, Liberals can all hope for a relatively mild affair.

The same air of new beginning is wafting through the halls of Parliament, apparently all parties agree that the level of discourse MUST change, things will be different this time. I don't doubt the sincerity, I just question the human nature, many of the same characters, old habits die hard. I'd be more inclined to believe all the proclamations if a party came forward with a concrete code of ethics, talk is cheap, put it in writing. We should all rewind the tape from today after a few weeks of parliament sitting, the deterioration will be noticeable, and that will appear tame compared to a solid year of debate. Again, all Canadians can hope for is relative decorum, and that would be a good thing, but the rhetoric of today is embarassing in it's utopian want.

Come to think of it, we will probably see concurrent vibes develop as both the leadership and the new parliament proceed. Right now, "decorum" is the word, by the time of the vote and the new budget, I suspect it will be replaced by "testy". It is just the way of things.

“The truth is that this will prove to be in court the biggest mistake the leader of the Liberal Party ever made”

Or maybe NOT SO MUCH.

My hunch, the lawyer wanted to drop the case or settle for a paltry sum. After Harper's own expert confirmed the authenticity of the tape, which was the cornerstone of Harper's case, one can see how this entire proceeding might go horribly wrong for the Conservatives.

Richard Dearden may have told his client things he doesn't want to hear, like maybe "the truth is that this will prove to be in court the biggest mistake the leader of the Conservative Party ever made". Something like that.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A Wise Strategy

Some people are shaking their heads, wondering why Bob Rae would make the economy the focal point of his leadership run. What can be served by highlighting an area, where the resume is dicey to say the least? Why draw attention to your weak point?

I actually think it's a pretty shrewd strategy, because it denotes a recognition of the primary challenge for Rae's bid. Rae's economic baggage isn't going to disappear, if he were to focus on other issues, play up his strengths. That approach isn't feasible in this particular climate, the economy is center-stage, Rae can't possibly skirt around it, so far better to embrace the issue as a key theme. Bob Rae makes the economy the focal point, or the economy itself makes it the focal point, better to voluntarily engage.

I have no commentary on whether Rae's strategy will work, any rational observer should have serious doubts. However, I'll give his team credit for correctly recognizing the challenge and embracing it. In this way, at least Rae can try to argue his case in a proactive way, rather than reacting to negative perceptions. If Rae wants to win over weary Liberals, particularly in Ontario, his is wise to address his legacy, he must allay some fears, he must give clear signals that he has a plan moving forward. Charisma and eloquence, stature and character, will only take Rae so far, there's an elephant in the room, foolish to pretend it isn't there.

Bob Rae essentially has to transform himself, he must add a new chapter to pad the past negatives. What might seem odd, is really the only course for Rae, like it or not, how people see him in relationship to the economy is a bottomline consideration. The gradient is steep, but at least Rae looks like he's ready to embark with the proper footwear. There is really no choice for Bob Rae, economy, economy, with an added dose of some economy. Everyday, everywhere, it's Rae's only choice, what that says about his chances, I'll leave for another day.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Conservative-Centric Media

In the 2004 and 2006 elections,, the Conservatives received more favorable coverage than the Liberals, based on an analysis done by McGill University. I've used that information to support my view of media bias. Well, the 2008 analysis is out, and Olaf cites the findings to demonstrate that essentially my criticisms amount to "tedious" and "predictable" partisan musings, with no basis in fact. Never mind the past two elections, let's focus on what 2008 brought, to see if Olaf is correct, or if I have further grounds to cling to my partisan delusions.

When you look at the tone of coverage, Olaf is correct to conclude that no media bias is perceivable:
Overall, net tone was as negative for Harper as it was for Dion. Combining all six weeks, Harper’s net tone was 6.3 points below the average, compared with -6.4 for Dion, +2.3 for Layton and +10.3 for May… The most interesting trend over the campaign is the absence of any considerable gap between the Conservative and Liberal parties. Indeed, in the final week of this campaign the Conservative Party and Stephen Harper received the worst coverage in the major newspapers.

The charts:

Hard to quibble with that data, it clearly shows consistent treatment of both of the main parties, the NDP faired better, the Greens a media darling, lacking any real scrutiny. So, in terms of sheer coverage, 2008 was different from the past two elections, essentially a wash. You can argue circumstance, but let's just leave it be, and confess I'm wrong.

However, am I really wrong? Olaf presents the evidence, with one glaring and frankly seismic omission. While the negative/favorable ratings were essentially the same, the Conservatives and Harper received a massive 3-1 advantage in terms of coverage. The article, unlike Olaf, gives ample focus to this unprecedented "peculiarity":
The sheer volume of Conservative coverage overwhelmed the other parties in a way that certainly has not been evident for any party in the past two elections. One challenge ahead for all parties and leaders may be how to respond to and prepare for this peculiarly Conservative- and Harper-focused media environment.

The declining prominence
of the Liberal Party’s leader is
quite remarkable. In 2004, almost
half of the news stories in the
Canadian press about leaders mentioned
the Liberal Party leader first.
In 2008, Dion was the first leader
mentioned in articles only about 15
percent of the time. This marginalization
by mainstream newspapers
occurred in spite of his position as
leader of the opposition and of the
second-largest party in the country.
Most of the articles concerning
party leaders were led by coverage of
Conservative leader Stephen Harper. In
fact, articles that began with Harper outnumberedall articles beginning with the other party leaders combined headlines were concerned, the gap was
even larger. That is, for Canadians skimming headlines, in both local and
national newspapers, Harper was even
more predominant. Strictly in terms of
the proportion of coverage, Harper was
mentioned three times as often as Dion
by the end of the campaign.

The "marginalization" of the Liberals is a very relevant point in this discussion, one that any fair representation should mention ;)

Back to the graphs:

What is really intriguing, the 2006 and 2008 elections are essentially the same in reverse, meaning you can compare the "incumbent" advantage, which is assumed. A Liberal minority, essentially the same as the Conservative minority, so it's a fair measure. Note the parties received the same coverage in 2006, Harper virtually the same as Martin, despite the supposed power party advantage. Then look at the ridiculous gap in 2008, where Harper received 3 times the coverage. Also, as the article notes, while the Liberal coverage "marginalized", the Conservatives stayed consistent, so on both scores something is amiss. A further point for my NDP friends, how is that Layton runs a flawless campaign, and yet the coverage wanes to almost meaningless mention? If you have a conservative bias, it stands to reason that the farther left you go, the less traction you'll receive, no matter campaign prowess.

Here's the deal. The picture for 2008 is more muddled than the previous two. Those arguing against bias have found something to cling to, even though we still have two example of pre-disposition, one a draw. Taken in totality, you can still argue my point, but let's not split hairs. That said, you don't stop with the fav/unfav raw analysis, because the findings go further. If you asked any party strategist if they would prefer 3 times the coverage of their opponent, with the full knowledge that said coverage would be balanced, relative to your opponent, would they favor that scenario? The answer is a resounding YES, because simple logic assumes that no party has a chance in hell of forming government, if they are ignored in such overwhelming fashion. We aren't taking about 20% more coverage for Harper, we are talking about a staggering 3 times advantage, which is eye catching, no matter your political persuasion. Coverage even, coupled with sheer mass of coverage, that denotes a decided Conservative-centric media, equals advantage Cons no matter how you slice it. Again, confer with a pro, lay out this scenario, when they smile, you have your unbiased judgement.

Olaf calls me out, but for some odd reason, when I take the analysis in totality, I still see a bias, in fact it's quite striking.

Silly Paper

It's rather amusing to watch the National Post continually tie themselves in contradictory knots, all the while conveying a deep bias. Today's turd attempts to attack Ignatieff for "taking the low road" in his first leadership presser. Apparently, it's okay for Harper to slag Dion for two years, but if a Liberal attacks the PM, well that's just low brow politics. Pleeaazzeee! The fact NP finds it necessary to try to paint Ignatieff as "low" is almost hilarious, in its selective memory.

This critique is really what struck me:
This is a somewhat weird opening gambit. For one thing, it's obviously not true that Mr. Ignatieff is running against Mr. Harper.

Yes, "weird", a frontrunner acting as a frontrunner, that is just off the charts strange. Apparently, the nameless NP scribe (don't blame him/her) doesn't know the first thing about politics, that being it is the most standard of practice for a leading candidate to assume an air of inevitability, to focus past the tussle of the moment and on the bigger prize. I seem to recall Obama doing this for weeks on end during the primaries, almost ignoring Hillary, instead training his attacks on McCain, which is a shrewd way to force a contrast, it puts the theoretical matchup into the minds of people, it elevates the challenger. It's quite simply smart politics, that we see everywhere, everytime, a tried and true tactic.

I don't want to quibble about the references, but before I read this NP criticism, I already concluded that Ignatieff's team was on the ball to attack Harper straight away. It sets a tone, it envokes a Prime Minister in waiting, not arrogant, but confident, not misguided, but focused on the real battle, looking past. There is nothing to be gained in Ignatieff contrasting with his fellow candidates, that's a game for the longer shot, pure folly for the perceived frontrunner to go negative on his current opponents. As a matter of fact, the great irony of the NP piece, in attacking Harper, Ignatieff actually chooses the "high road" with respect to the leadership race. I'm not focusing on my fellow Liberals, I'm consumed with beating Stephen Harper, tearing down the real opponent. A classic strategy, but apparently one that surprises the NP, or more rightly, once again demonstrates a titantic bias and ideological blind spot. What a silly paper.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Just Imagine

Location, location, location. This 1970's, structurally sound, architectural marvel, offers breathtaking vistas and virtual lakefront access. Plenty of recent renovations and upgrades, including glass flooring, fine dining and tasteful lighting. Impress your friends and family with this one of a kind, prime property, towering above the center of the universe. This eye catcher won't last long.

To book a viewing, visit listing agent "Deficit Jim's" website. Closing date prior to Budget 2009 delivery preferable.

A Few Good Men

With Ignatieff's entrance in the race, the field for the Liberal leadership is pretty much set. I think it's important to say a few things, before Liberals scurry off into various corners, hopefully to re-emerge united after the process.

The most glaringly obvious point, all of the candidates represent a vast improvement over Harper, so it would be wise to move forward with this knowledge in the back of our minds. Fact of the matter, each man is impressive in their own right, each brings attractive attributes to the table, each seem to recognize where the Liberal Party is today, and where it ultimately needs to go to succeed. We should see a frank discussion, that incorporates some new ideas, this isn't a "rehash", the circumstance different, the actors well aware of that reality. Couple a leadership recognition, with a party apparatus offering clear signals that we can walk and chew gum at the same time, and you have a solid recipe for progress. I was worried that the leadership race would be a distraction, but having heard more now, I see the race working in tandem with practical initiatives articulated by the Liberal Party proper.

LeBlanc was a Liberal shining star in the last Parliament, an effective point man on a whole host of issues, quite able in holding the Harper team to account, no matter the question. A definite asset, there's no doubt that LeBlanc will "wear well" as the leadership process proceeds, this isn't an empty suit.

I must say, Rae amazed me in Parliament, the air about him, the grudging respect you could see across the aisle, when he spoke, they generally didn't heckle, they listened. Rae would rise, ask a pointed question, then sit down, looking comfortable, like the wise old sage that's seen it all before. The confidence and charisma that Rae possesses, not to mention the sheer intellectual capacity, makes him completely captivating and compelling. When Rae speaks, we are reminded of what a mediocre man Stephen Harper really is, the true leadership gap striking.

Ignatieff's eloquence isn't just flowered linguistics, the words are such, because the depth demands it. Ignatieff is a national treasure, held in very high esteem around the globe, and every bit of it deserving. A great capacity to inspire, with an eye for bold thinking, that is more unconventional than controversial. Ignatieff has prime ministerial material written all over him, now armed with practical experience, it's a potent brew.

It comes to a race between a few good men, maybe narrow in some regards, but still an impressive slate that effectively guarantees the next leader of the opposition will give Harper a serious run for his money. That's the bottomline, beyond personal preferences aside, all represent a serious upgrade and a nice contrast.

Let the games begin!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Gerard Kennedy

The rumors are true, Gerard Kennedy is taking a pass on the Liberal leadership. I joined this party because of Mr. Kennedy, quite simply he articulated a dynamic vision of new liberalism that was both innovative and authentic. And, that's the word "authentic", a humble sense of purpose, the more you heard, the more you realized it wasn't politico speak, but a coherent belief system that wove itself into every discussion. The kind of leader that broached your latent cynicism, he was someone you could believe in, without the idealistic cheese that denotes naivety about process, that doesn't elevate someone as savior, just a decent man with decent ideas.

In the coming months, we will be bombarded with the terms "renewal" and "reform". I must admit, it is a shame that Kennedy's voice won't be part of the leadership discussion, because the topic isn't one of convenience, it's a matter of conviction. That said, we can all agree, the leadership race is mostly a side issue, relative to the real challenges the Liberal Party faces, in wanting to re-connect with average Canadians, in a way that pierces the aloof relationship between modern political discourse and the people it claims to represent. Kennedy understands there are no quick fixes, a fool's game to assume a new captain will cure the ills, it must be accompanied by something else.

Kennedy may be taking a pass on the leadership, but that doesn't mean he won't be a forceful voice for institutional change, that pushes the Liberal Party back on the street. In a sense, it's almost fitting, Kennedy argues that the leader is really a bandaid distraction, so it may be completely natural for him to LEAD from the trenches, working with other like-minded Liberals to embrace certain fundamentals, a practical way forward.

Whatever Mr. Kennedy decides his role should be with the Liberal Party, I will back him 100%, because you have knowledge that it starts with correct acknowledgement, understands some hard truths and it works with purpose to find solutions, lofty but attainable, so long as the pre-requisite of genuine conviction is incorporated.

Interesting days ahead for the Liberal Party.

Dropping Like Flies

Another announcement, another potential candidate taking a pass, it's starting to look like a small affair for Liberal leader. I guess the question then becomes, is it better to have a few heavyweights, or do the lesser contenders add some color and depth to the campaign? The worry, this leadership race is beginning to look like a simple redo from 2006, which could present an "excitement" gap with Liberals, attracting new support, creating a buzz, a sort of been there, done that flavor. The opposing view, it's better to eliminate the pretenders straight away, so Liberals can get on with the choice at hand, everyone knows it's a Iggy/Rae battle, so let's just move to the second act now.

I admit to being conflicted. You must acknowledge the simple reality here, Ignatieff and Rae have both assembled formidable organizations, that in many respects precludes serious challenge, barring an unseen event. We can't fluff off those organizations, since they are made up of Liberals, so their strength denotes actual support. A small field allows for a focused decision, with realistic options.

On the other hand, things don't always proceed according to script, more options allow for different calculations, should something go awry with the frontrunners. Given what happened last time, it's important to remember that delegates perceived a problem and looked elsewhere. Have the dynamics, or baggage changed?

Having 11 candidates is overkill, but having 3 could be to narrow. You want different voices, representing and expressing a wider perspective. More ideas brought to the table are a positive, and if those ideas find support, then it sends another signal to the eventual winner on where we need to go. Maybe the dialogue suffers without a more diverse group, without certain subsets of the Liberal tent feeling as though they have a voice. But, maybe this isn't the time for idealistic want, let's be practical and just get on with some foregone conclusions.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Martha Out

Just announced on CBC, Martha Hall Findlay says she won't run for the Liberal leadership. I must say, I liked Martha's reasoning, she felt there were other avenues available to pursue her desire for grassroots renewal. On the question of who she might support, Martha eluded to possible "neutrality", if she does assume a position within the party for the greater good.

I can understand why Martha would take a pass this time, and she did mention her debt, but her voice would have added texture to the discussion. One thing is clear, this leadership race looks to be a far more narrow affair than the previous contest.

Trim The Fat Mr. Harper!

In the spirit of belt tightening, in the age of uncertainty, I have a suggestion for the Conservatives. Why not just fire all the "experts" at Environment Canada, which could result in some timely cost savings? I mean, here we are on the brink of recession, deficits looming, and we have all these trained professionals offering opinions time after time, wasting valuable resources assembling important data and such, advice which is continually ignored. We see these "experts" and their useless input in all departments within this government, but Environment Canada seems particularly top heavy with busy bodies, piping in with their factual assertions. Since the government never listens to these "experts", why not just turf the dead weight and let the ideological laymen do what they want, they do anyways:
OTTAWA - The Harper government was warned by its own experts at Environment Canada two years ago that a multibillion-dollar plan to boost production of green fuels could cause more problems than benefits, Canwest News Service has learned.

The warnings, in briefing notes sent to former environment minister Rona Ambrose, suggested there were too many risks involved from increasing production of ethanol which, in Canada, is largely produced from corn and wheat crops.

"Feedstocks and biofuel production consume large amounts of water, natural gas, biomass, electricity and fertilizers," said one of the briefing notes, drafted on May 16, 2006, by a technology strategies and climate change division at Environment Canada.

The government offered $1.5 billion in subsidies to support farmers, agricultural and energy companies which produce ethanol from corn or wheat last spring.

The documents were released to Canwest News Service under the Access to Information Act.

"Based on global Life Cycle Assessments (LCA) of biofuel production, impacts on acidification, land degradation, waste generation, water use and human and environmental impacts were found more often to be unfavourable than favourable."

Environment Canada's research suggested that ethanol produced from waste products is much more sustainable, but the government created a smaller fund of $500 million, specifically to support this type of "next generation" ethanol.

Given the looming crisis, can Canada really afford to have all these educated bureaucrats on board, with their informed analysis and good guidance? Seems to me, on every occasion, this government develops policy in an isolated fashion, never using the reservoir of talent to get it right, more content with photo-ops and pre-determined points of view. So, what's the point? I say, send a signal to the Canadian public, not only ignore but CAN, get spending under control and do away with pesky suggestions, that make total sense. The last thing Canadians need is people with true knowledge, wasting weeks and months, compiling these nice proposals, only for all the effort to be ignored. I say, just do away with the whole process, the peer reviews, the roundtables, the analysis, the implications, all the nonsense that never finds a voice, cut it off at the knees and save a bundle in the process. The end result is the same, seems like a no brainer from here.

Voter Turnout

As we look southward for electoral inspiration, it is interesting to note, that despite the unprecedented enthusiasm, large rallies, GOTV and compelling figures, turnout for the American election fell short of expectations. An analysis for Politico found:
... roughly the same portion of eligible voters cast ballots in 2008 as in 2004.

Between 60.7 percent and 61.7 percent of the 208.3 million eligible voters cast ballots this year, compared with 60.6 percent of those eligible in 2004, according to a voting analysis by American University political scientist Curtis Gans, an authority on voter turnout.

He estimated that between 126.5 million and 128.5 million eligible voters cast ballots this year, versus 122.3 million four years ago. Gans said the gross number of ballots cast in 2008 was the highest ever, even though the percentage was not substantially different from 2004, because there were about 6.5 million more people registered to vote this time around.

Then the argument becomes a question of more registered voters, a sure sign that people were engaged. Well, that increase of 6.5 million is far less than the 18 million increase between 2000 and 2004. Further, a full 10 million more Americans were eligible to vote in this election, a figure which demonstrates the increased registered voter list is more correctly simply a function of population growth.

We also hear of a more formidable GOTV effort in 2008, as the organizational prowess of the campaigns, fueled by record fundraising, would translate at the polls. Maybe not:
The Democratic increase struck some analysts as modest, considering the party’s immense get-out-the-vote operation, strong anti-Bush sentiment and Obama's popularity.

“It sort of calls into question some of the vaunted ground game discussion, the whole turnout machine,” said a Democratic strategist who did not want to be quoted by name criticizing Obama’s campaign. “The GOTV effort was redoubled in 2008 compared to 2004, but it did not seem to make that big of a difference.”

A couple battleground states:
In Ohio, which has had aggressive GOTV campaigns in the past two presidential cycles, the number of voters appeared to decline from 5,722,443 in 2004 to 5,595,966 in 2008, according to the final but unofficial tally by the Ohio secretary of state. Turnout in those years dropped from 72 percent to 67 percent.

In Pennsylvania, 5,851,730 voters cast ballots with 99.8 percent of votes counted — a rise of nearly 690,000 voters over 2004, according its secretary of state. But due to higher registration, the percent of eligible voters who cast ballots dropped from 68.96 in 2004 to 66.8 this year.

I've also read, that the youth vote, if the exit polls are too believed, only increased to 18% of the total, as opposed to 17% in 2004. That pours a small dose of cold water on Obama's capacity to motivate a new generation, although in fairness, a gain is a gain.

The turnout was high, by American standards, so much of the above is more for balance, than to argue poor turnout. However, when you compare our snoozefest of an election, with a host of wooden characters, with an American election boasting charismatic overload, not to mention a host of compelling issues, it is noteworthy that turnout stateside amounts to about 2% more than in Canada, statistically comparable. That said, Canadians typically have much better turnout, but then again, the last American election was anything but typical.

High turnout, but droves to the polls, as predicted, not so much.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Speaker And "Decorum"

I looks like House Speaker Milliken will face a challenge, with the topic of parliamentary "decorum" the main issue. James offers a defence of Milliken. I would submit that the Liberal caucus take a unilateral initiative on the decorum front, adopting their own rules as to how MP's should act in Parliament.

Let's face it, Canadians aren't watching Question Period, a combination of past disgust and present apathy, the daily proceedings of Parliament, mostly inside the beltway stuff, with little resonance in the real world. That plain reality means all the back and forth is irrelevant, which then means, a party which defers doesn't lose anything, they don't suffer, in fact they could potentially gain. What if the Liberals just remained silent when people like Baird hurl the invective? Would it matter with the Canadian public? Absolutely not, so you then conclude, there is nothing to be gained politically from engaging in low road rhetoric in Parliament.

However, there just might be something to be gained, if Liberals came out with their own code of ethical conduct, a template for how Liberal MP's will act, respond and conduct themselves, with the general thesis, a respect and reverence for their place of work, a signal to Canadians that Liberals want to rise out of the gutter. Let the Conservatives act like clowns, Liberals merely sit on their hands, act respectful, ignore, patiently proceed, it really could be a public relations coup.

The reason nobody cares about Parliament, anybody who has viewed proceeding is quickly put off, die hard junkies aside. If Liberals developed a code of conduct, it would be a small gesture to express a desire to operate differently, endorsing the view that Parliament can do better, the institution has lost the public confidence. What do the Liberals have to lose? You lose the small satisfaction in telling Flaherty what a cad he is, or making jokes, or moaning, but again, all that crap gets you nowhere with the public, so what does it matter? Turning the other chin however, in deliberate fashion, might just get some traction, if there is knowledge that the conduct isn't random, but part of a more overarching theme of a Liberal standard.

MP's have already alienated the public, so to continue with the nonsense simply reinforces the irrelevance. Never mind the Speaker of the House, Liberals would be wise to voluntarily develop a different approach, that brings no political risk, and just might project something attractive to people, who are otherwise indifferent.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

New Rules Have Interesting Twist

When I first heard that the entry fee for leadership hopefuls had almost doubled, it seemed a signal to discourage more people from entering the race. However, now that we see how this fee can be rebated, it seems like an excellent way to enrich the party coffers, and any serious contender should be able to put a dent in the 90 thousand. An interesting twist:
While the leadership candidate entry fee is $90,000, a candidate can get a rebate of $25,000 for each 1,000 individuals he or she signs up to the Liberal Victory Fund. The fund requires a minimum $10 monthly contribution, half to the party and half to a riding association.

The seemingly high entrance fee is offset when a candidate demonstrates the capacity fo motivate supporters. If you can sign up 2000 VF contributors, then the fee is actually less than the last leadership race. That's a steep goal, but one that potentially counters the sting of the entrance fee. Looking at it another way, a candidate only needs to average 7 VF signups per riding to get 50 grand back. All in all, a pretty fair proposition, if one is thinking of the party, as well as the leadership race.

The really encouraging part, Liberals could actually emerge from the convention with a pretty robust base level of fundraising supporters, should the candidates make these goals a priority. I suspect this new setup will apply some "peer pressure", in the sense that the frontrunners, while long on funds, will still make the VF signup a priority, lest they risk looking like frauds on the renewal rhetoric. The ability to sign up VF supporters could actually turn into a litmus test for the leadership candidates, a statement on their ability to inspire and engage Liberals, as well as bring new people into the process. A very clever idea when you think about it.

I also like the 10% tax on all donations, going directly to the party. While a timid percentage, it sends another clear signal that this leadership race mustn't hobble the party's ability to fundraise.

I have some quibbles with the overall announcement, but on the fundraising side, it would appear the party has it just about right, setting a nice tone that choosing a new captain is the least of our problems.

Kennedy's Debt

I don't want to sound too preachy here, but now would be a very good time to make a donation to help retire Kennedy's past debt. I did exactly that this morning.

Go here, if you're so inclined, with the full knowledge that 3/4 of any donation is a tax credit.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Pushing Back

I don't think it any coincidence that the tough talking Conservatives on Tuesday are now the conciliatory Conservatives on Friday:
Conservative government, which won re-election last month, plans to focus on the economy and avoid battles with opposition parties over its justice policies, a senior aide to Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Friday.

The official suggests Mr. Harper isn't eager to immediately push ahead with a series of tough-on-crime proposals, including stiffer sentences for young offenders and reduced use of conditional sentences.

“We are focused on the economy,” the official told reporters at a background briefing. “We are not seeking confrontation in areas that are secondary to the economic focus of this government.”

Prior to the Liberal stance, the government was publicly threatening to make crime legislation an early confidence matter, that opinion from Harper's chief spokesman. Now, the crime legislation is on the back burner, the threats receding, which demonstrates clearly how you need to react to a bully, that the Liberals firm retort forced a reconsideration.

Setting the tone, letting the government know that the Liberals will not roll over, they are prepared to vote against legislation which comes without compromise or consultation, nothing will be jammed down our throats, is really what caused the Conservatives to sing a different tune. How else to reconcile Harper's mouthpiece threatening a mere three days ago, only to now hear Harper "isn't eager" for confrontation? The only thing that's happened in the intermediary, a largely defiant and united Liberal caucus sending a clear signal that this parliament it's a different animal.

The rhetorical revisions also confirm my belief that, despite the Liberals obvious challenges, the public is in no mood for any talk of another election, which means Harper will be on the hook, should he start the "matter of confidence" routine as a tactic. It was always bluster, but it was critical for the Liberals to appear firm from the onset. Force an election, you are essentially forcing yourself out of office, the Liberals can proceed with that knowledge, and today's development is proof that rhetoric aside, the Conservatives understand that too.

Good Idea

Some of the proposals from the Quebec wing, for the leadership race, are somewhat unattractive, namely that anyone with previous debt can't run, but there is one nugget that I very much hope is adopted:
d) Taxation of contributions received per leadership candidate

The Liberal Party of Canada must benefit from the fundraising capabilities of the leadership candidates.

Therefore, the imposition of a 15% tax on the amounts collected by each candidate appears reasonable to us.

The proposal also limits the maximum to 1.8 million, as opposed to the 2.8 million from the last race.

One of the bigger worries moving forward, that the leadership race usurps party fundraising, donors will be fixated on candidates, while the party suffers. I completely support the idea of a portion of all leadership donations moving into the party coffers. A 15% tax does seem reasonable, maybe even a touch higher. In this way, all existing members who engage are contributing to the big picture, while new members are also tapped. Some quick math, even with only a few contenders, that tax could translate into 1 million towards the party. I like it.

I've also heard talk elsewhere of demanding that all convention delegates be required to contribute to the Victory Fund. Given the fact, that the lowest contribution would require a mere $30 dollars yearly (after the refund), I think that idea is hardly much to ask. If you can't endorse that lowly sum, then maybe there are other Liberals more committed, that deserve to go in your place. I've passed this idea on to a couple people in the party.

Tax the donations, that way we walk and chew gum at the same time, with one eye on leadership, the other on the health of the party. It would be a good, practical application, to go along with all the "renewal" rhetoric we will be bombarded with, over the coming months.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Something To Ponder

I just want to put this Gerard Kennedy quote from today up here, because it's a simple commentary, but it actually says something very profound about this party, about rewarding disloyalty and misguided priorities:

"Organizers tend to want to find a home pretty quick, for myself that's a big reflection on whether I'll run, and I think people understand that. I had no standing organization during Mr. Dion's tenure, that's not how I play the game"

You think it just the two big boys, but OH it's not, the new "renewal" darling just as guilty. I don't want to berate this point, because a sense of unity is important moving forward, but partisanship aside, at my core, the above commentary, which is entirely TRUE, makes my stomach turn. A sense of loyalty and/or integrity prevents someone from preparing in the shadows, the entire thrust of their energy dedicated to helping where they can, knocking on doors to win a tough fight ahead, no thoughts of personal fortune AFTERWARDS. We berate those that couldn't keep their eyes on the real prize, and yet a person who did just that is now at a decided disadvantage, because they were singular in purpose, for all the right reasons.

Here we are, that's fine, that's politics. But, this party is LOST when the internal dynamics work in this manner, where everyone not rowing will all their might for the collective goal is an ADVANTAGE. Setting the stage, laying the foundation, flying around ridings to get face time, whispering about the next campaign, making sure the other guy isn't getting an advantage, all this CRAP, that's my Liberal Party Of Canada. And, you know what? We, the grassroots should be crying foul, not simply shrugging the shoulders, falling in line, that's just the way it is, always has been.

"A party of purpose, not of power"

Some might remember who said it, what a shame to see nothing has changed. And NOTHING will change, because this is the Liberal template for victory.


I know what I'll tell him:
Here's a note Gerard Kennedy sent all his supporters yesterday.

----- Original Message -----
From: Gerard Kennedy
Sent: Wed Nov 05 22:47:11 2008
Subject: Your feedback on new Liberal leadership/Votre rétroaction sur une nouvelle chefferie pour le Parti Libéral

I want to share some thoughts with you concerning the recent election and my role in the upcoming Liberal leadership and ask for your feedback.

First, I have received many congratulations on the victory in Parkdale-HighPark, but want to make sure the credit goes to where it is due – to the team that made it happen. Our extraordinary volunteers and chairs did great work on everything from grassroots fundraising to vote identification to outreach to community organizations. We took a seat away from the NDP in the face of their higher national vote.

Second, I have really been moved by the dozens of emails and phone calls I've received about the leadership. My supporters have not heard a great deal from me since the convention because I felt it was critical to put all of our efforts into supporting the Leader.

Leadership is not our only challenge. It is vital to ensure that the upcoming leadership contest does not impair either party unity or our ability to function well for the Canadian public in these times of economic urgency. Only then will our party will be able to gain back the full trust of Canadians, and defeat Stephen Harper.

I believe we need to ask ourselves the following questions:

Who can connect with and speak for the middle class, particularly in smaller cities and towns across Canada and in large Western cities?

Who can make people, first Liberals and then all Canadians, believe that renewal of the party - openness, effectiveness, meaningful grassroots engagement - will actually take place?

Who can articulate a powerful vision for tomorrow's economy?

Who can position Liberals again as the party of progress – the `radical centre' that is able to define the Canadian consensus about new ways to move the country forward?

I came out of the election campaign very energized by the considerable challenges facing us as Liberals. I will be considering these questions myself in deciding the best role I can play. I welcome any advice, discussion or even debate from you. I will be making a decision on whether to run within the next week. You can reach me directly by return email or at [PHONE NUMBER DELETED] during the day or at my home office at [PHONE NUMBER DELETED].

Best regards,


P.S. Feel free to share this email with anyone you think should receive it.

Here's the campaign office phone number and email, if you have an opinion:

Phone: 416-763-2700


This is no time to be shy :)

Copy And Paste

It’s completely natural to think that many of the Liberal ills can be cured if we merely look southward for inspiration. A common theme now, how do the Liberals replicate the Democrats success? There is no question some lessons can be learned, and Liberals would be wise to pick up on the more innovative ideas which we saw during this primary season and Presidential race. However, I confess to some weariness in thinking the American template is necessarily applicable here. Rather than the importation of ideas as a starting point, it might be more reasonable to develop our own unique starting point, which best incorporates the domestic circumstances, then draw on foreign examples as augmentation.

It’s important to sift through what was independently effective, and what was merely an extension of a phenomenon, which offers red flags for the copy and paste. As the pundits and commentators heap praise on all things Democrat, everything brilliant, everything contributing to the overwhelming victory, creating this uneven view of reality, it’s hard to get a clear picture. The bottomline, much of what the Democrats were able to achieve was contingent on the sheer force of personality of one man, a leader that comes around once in a generation if you’re lucky. With that incredibly powerful core motivation, it’s easy to inspire the grassroots, set up networks of volunteers, rake in heaps of cash and become competitive in non-traditional areas.

On top of the “rock star” angle, you have an American electorate that has just endured 8 years of what has amounted to the most unpopular administration in history, unprecedented disarray and basic incompetence. You combine an incredible natural disposition for change, with a leader blessed with the rare ability to resonate, and it created the perfect storm. That situation is unique, which means Liberals best be cautious, if we think simply parroting the strategies will bring similar results, that it will actually work.

We have a tendency to give the victor all the praise, in all facets, while simultaneously rejecting everything about the defeated. The trick now, making no assumptions, based on what has just occurred stateside, because if we think ourselves the same, if we believe that we just adopt the approach here and it will work, then we failed to acknowledge the “one off” characteristics of this past election.. It’s a different electorate, with a different history and set of circumstances, with different leaders and different dynamics. I think it best to proceed with caution, when it comes to mirroring the American experience, because quite frankly, I doubt we see anything like it again in our lifetimes, whether there or HERE.