Saturday, February 28, 2009

A New Dynamic?

Elizabeth May is on record this week, stating she would run again in Central Nova, unless a by-election emerges before the next election. Given that the next election is probably a sooner, rather than later proposition, the odds are good that May will face MacKay one more time. Tonight, Ignatieff sends a clear signal, that the Liberals will contest that seat, which translates into a much tougher challenge for the Green leader:
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said Saturday he intends to have candidates in all of the nation's ridings, including one in Nova Scotia where the Liberals did not run in the last election after a deal with the Green party.

"I have respect for Elizabeth May but I'm running a national party and in a national party we have candidates in 308 ridings across the country," Ignatieff said prior to speaking at a dinner being held at the annual meeting of the provincial party.

Liberals in the province were critical of Dion for making the deal, saying it weakened support among party faithful.

I'm of two minds, when it comes to this decision. The prospect of a Liberal candidate probably guarantees MacKay's re-election, so there is the issue of vote splitting(although, one could argue the riding really isn't in danger for the Conservatives). On the other hand, I remember well the resistance from local Liberals, who felt Dion's decision didn't consult, reflect their wishes. This choice does speak to local want, and undoes some of the damage caused by Dion's decision. On that score, I'm fine with this choice.

The broader curiosity, was this decision a way to distance the Liberals from the Greens, to demonstrate any informal understanding has evaporated? It will be interesting to see the reaction of May, and whether the relationship between the two parties changes. May rarely criticizes the Liberals, if the Greens feel the Liberals are trying to blunt any progress, we could see a more adversarial debate, no more footsie.

When To Go?

Reading Rae's comments, reacting to Harper's paper tiger tough guy routine, he called him "tarzan"(not an attractive characterization, given the scantily clad imagery). The article also speaks to election timing, with these observations:
The likeliest timing for that would be June.

But Queen's University political scientist Kathy Brock said the official Opposition won't be in financial shape for an election before fall.

Fundraising, which staggered under Stephane Dion, is recovering under leader Michael Ignatieff, but not fast enough for a quick election, she said.

However, Jean-Marc Leger, president of Leger Marketing, said forcing an election after June "will be too late" from the Liberals' point of view.

"All the winning conditions are there" for Ignatieff, said Leger, particularly in Quebec.
The two views denote the tension between election readiness and opportune timing. I'm of the view that the Liberals are wrong to fixate on optimal readiness, at the expense of other factors. The question really becomes- can the Liberals fight an election in three months? The answer is yes, there are tools available that will allow the party to spend the maximum, and logistically it is possible. Obviously, the more time, the better, on several scores, but it's entirely possible, and it becomes even more attractive when you plug in the possibility of diminishing returns in other areas.

The government is largely in reactionary mode at the moment, and that dynamic won't change in the near future. There is a danger in giving the Conservatives a few months to retool over the summer, particularly when you consider that Liberal prepardness doesn't occur in isolation. We are being bombarded with staggeringly bad news on the economy, to the point of saturation. One has to wonder if future bad news, that has any hint of relatively mild, will be greeted with some optimism. Numbers and statistics are funny things, because they are constantly measured against other moments in time. If we begin to see indications that the downturn has slowed, a sense that we've reached bottom, certain indicators show lessening carnage, then the Conservative mood will change from defensive, to arguing light at the end of the tunnel. Assuming the economy will be a gift for the Liberals until late fall or early next year is largely a crap shoot, nobody really knows and the prognostications are varied. What we do know with certainty, there will be no silver linings for the next few months, the first and second quarter is largely a known quantity. This reality makes June attractive, in terms of opportunism.

You also can't assume that Ignatieff will enjoy this blitz of media, and largely favorable reviews for an extended period of time. On top of that, we already see signs of the Conservative smear machine, just waiting to pounce, if conditions change somewhat, expect a rash of negativity. Isn't it astute to recognize that timing is the only hesitation, and react prior?

I see a bounce for the Liberals in the lower mainland after the convention, if history is any guide. I see a Liberal leader who enjoys rare air at the moment, largely left to himself to define, clearly positioned to compete with Harper. I see a Conservative inner circle that's unsteady and recalibrating, a government simply trying to ride out the bad news. I see opportunity, and while it's true that time is our friend on one level, that may well be offset by other factors. June deserves serious consideration.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Iggy In Edmonton

Here's a full transcript of Ignatieff's speech today, in front of the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce. An interesting read for sure, this speech and the presser that followed, offer a few tidbits on future Liberal environmental policy.

What struck me was the following, and it's an extension on what Ignatieff has argued before:
"Albertans are wary of any measure that looks like an extraction device from politicians down east. Clearly, you want to recycle the revenue that you get from a cap-and-trade system to incentivize green technology investment in the province of Alberta."

When Ignatieff first proposed a carbon tax, it came with a provincial component, wherein any revenue generated was returned to the jurisdiction in question. I always thought this a clever distinction, because it eliminates any notion of an eastern power grab. Ignatieff now uses the same formula under a cap and trade, which again should make the overall goal of cutting emissions more attractive to provinces with high output, because the citizens know that money will be redirected to encourage "green" projects in that province. One of the major problems with any national framework, this sense that provinces like Alberta will suffer, we will see a transfer of wealth to other parts of the country. I like this idea, because it removes the irritant, as well as applying pressure on the resident population to walk the walk. This idea, proposed by Ignatieff is "sellable", and it demonstrates a sensitivity.

I must say, I also liked the following characterization:
Ignatieff warned, however, that the controversial megaprojects that have sprung from the oilsands must become greener.

"We're operating this thing like it was the Klondike, and it's not the Klondike. We're going to be there for a century or more.

If you accept the premise that oil reserves will be developed, it isn't realistic to believe any economy would simply leave a valuable resource in the ground, then the above has some attraction. With what we know of human nature, how the world works, it's hard to entertain a complete shutdown, based on environmental considerations alone. Fatalistic, but realistic by any measure.

The current economic climate has done much to slow down development in the tar sands, the exponential surge in production people were predicting mere months ago has been considerably revised. When you consider the fact that the tar sands are effectively money in the bank, just a question of when to make the withdrawal, then the idea of the Klondike is a shrewd analogy. I've always argued that the "hell bent for leather" approach of the Alberta government didn't address a simple fact- you don't need to take it all now, it can be in done in such a way to provide reasonable, steady growth, without sacrificing everything else in the process. Ignatieff seems to be arguing for a slower approach, a long term view, which would be a welcome development in this debate. It's not like this view doesn't have proponents in Alberta, people like Lougheed and others have been arguing for a more sustainable, reasonable growth model for quite some time.

Making no bones about hard caps, provides a point of distinction. While the visit seems to be more of the same on the pandering front, which I've never necessarily disagreed with, Ignatieff, or more rightly the coverage of Ignatieff, looks to be more balanced.

Not to leave it on a sour note, but there's no way Ignatieff can actually believe this line:
Companies in the oil sands are calling for a price on carbon themselves.

Companies operating in the oil sands get it – they get that they’re leaving behind a legacy for our children and the environmental impact of their projects can’t be ignored.

Please, amoral multi-nationals only care about profit, any recognition of consequence or measures taken, are only done so because they are demanded by the political climate. Within that climate, these entities will do the bare minimum allowed to look credible, to remain viable in the public eye. Huge corporations don't have souls, I think we've seen this simple fact in spades recently, it's more about appeasing, than worrying about the "children". I'll see if I can get the photo of Ignatieff with his fingers crossed behind his back, when he uttered the above :) Smooth.

On Balance

I've argued about the political danger within Ignatieff's strategy, not so much the thrust, but the degree. Ignatieff is still pretty much a blank slate, but we've now had a few issues present themselves, which begin to give a measure of the man, and from that people are starting to point to patterns. Any fallout from supporting the budget was more wishful thinking, on the part of political opponents. However, it was always part of the equation, that the "pass" wasn't infinite, and the Liberals would face challenges moving forward. The partisan attacks having a better chance of resonating, should we see successive support, over a long period of time, undermining our own credible as opposition. In addition to that fact, the emergence of more areas of convergence present a problem for the Liberals, it is IMPERATIVE that we distinguish ourselves from the Conservatives.

Not to rehash the National Geographic debate, but it is noteworthy, that since my first caution, we've seen the Bloc go hard at the Liberals, and now we see Quebec weather vein Chantal Hebert starting to connect the dots:
Since he has become leader, he has talked a good game about building bridges to a host of natural conservative constituencies but said very little about maintaining those that link the Liberal party to more progressive ones.

On the day when Trudeau was making his modest first entry on the left-hand side of the legislative ledger, his leader was taking pot shots at National Geographic magazine for a graphic depiction of the environmental impact of the Alberta oil sands, and making a pitch to rural Canada.

There is no doubt the Liberals should try to reintroduce themselves to voters in regions like Western and rural Canada, where they no longer have much presence, but the real question is: on what basis?

Ignatieff talks about the need to make up for years of Liberal neglect, but it is really his party's stance on some of the very issues that have distinguished the Liberals from Conservatives over the past decade – like Iraq, climate change and same-sex marriage – that have kept away many of the voters he is so determined to court.

Essentially what I've argued, the courtship of elusive voters, but done in such a one sided fashion, it leaves your other flank wanting. Nobody disputes the desire to "re-introduce", myself I'm 100% behind that goal, both philosophically and politically. However, if Ignatieff doesn't start demonstrating some balance, some articulation to the center-left, he risks framing himself as largely the same as the Conservatives, and his previous "pass" on the budget is now used against, to demonstrate the wider pattern.

It's no coincidence, or surprise, that we are beginning to hear some negative rumblings coming from Quebec, because Ignatieff is voluntarily positioning as though he's somewhat offside with palatable Quebec policy. If Liberals think the "nation" will suffice, and we can just take it all for granted, as we over reach for voters who require a spiritual epiphany to even consider, then I question the wisdom of the entire strategy.

I would take these early hints as valuable, and take some steps to nullify before they gel and a problem develops, which makes the whole strategy nothing more than treading relative water at best, hurting yourself overall at worst. And, PLEASE don't fall for the Liberal model of the 1990's, because you had the benefit of a political perfect storm, the right divided and largely impotent in key portions of the country for YEARS. It's pure folly to believe a re-creation is possible, because the landscape will never be so kind.

Ignatieff should reach out, Canada desperately needs a national unity figure. My concern has nothing to do with the strategy, but the nuance. Liberals don't need to out-Conservative the Conservatives to appeal, and if that's the gameplan, it fails to realize the erosion and understand the need to "distinguish". A truly sound strategy incorporates the hints and adapts, before things are allowed to fester.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Freshen Up?

The Coen brothers of Fargo, No Country For Old Men, The Big Lebowski fame have done a commercial for the Reality Coalition, which takes on "clean coal":

Tar Can Stick

My friend BCL responds to Ignatieff's tar sands comments as follows, which speaks to a certain strategic perspective:
By definition, the fact that the development of the tar-sands is largely out of the hands of Canadians means it doesn't matter what side of the issue he's on. So let him pander. Its harmless and might help win a seat or two out West (though not in Alberta).
I agree, that what ultimately happens with the tar sands is largely out of Canada's hands. Couple that fact, with the simple reality that the Alberta government will decide, no federal party can reasonably think it can "shutdown" the tar sands, it just doesn't work this way, the nature of Canadian federalism and international economics suggest otherwise. In other words, Ignatieff's position isn't irrelevant, today and now, but it isn't exactly powerful in practice either. So, with that in mind, you can reasonably arrive at the "harmless" conclusion, right?

That conclusion assumes no negative political fallout from such a stance. The Liberals need to appeal to the west, defending the tar sands could actually help their credibility and bring some new support, in a region of the country where it's desperately needed. However, that is a view in isolation, that doesn't entertain the other dynamics, dynamics which question the "harmless" line.

Today in Question Period, it was quite telling to see Gilles Duceppe rise and instantly refer to the National Geographic piece. In both questions, Duceppe lumped the Conservatives and Liberals together as tar sands apologists. The next question went to Bloc MP Bernard Bigras, who again attempted to connect the Liberals to the Conservatives on the tar sands. Bigras went further, referring to Ignatieff as an oil sands lobbyist. Clearly, the Bloc strategy is to pounce on Ignatieff's comments and undermine his credibility on the environment file. Additionally, there is much for the Bloc to gain, by providing further evidence of a Con/Lib pseudo "coalition". And, there's the rub.

I believe, despite the criticisms from the other opposition parties, that the Liberals received something of a "pass" with voters in supporting the Conservative budget. I don't want to rehash all the arguments, as far as I'm concerned public opinion is a slam dunk, the media was largely sympathetic and the Liberals emerged unscathed, Ignatieff faired quite well, through the whole debate. I also believe the "probation" strategy is a good one, although each successive period that goes by, brings a risk that a negative narrative can take root. With that in mind, let me return to the Bloc argument today.

If the Liberal opponents can introduce other policy areas of convergence, beyond the budget vote, to show that in reality the Liberals are largely "the same" as the Conservatives, then you start to see a pattern, a pattern which is problematic. Look, the Liberals supported the Conservatives on the budget, evidence of similarity in foreign affairs, and now we see the same rhetoric on the environment. The reason the Bloc pounced, which I predicted yesterday, is because they see the tar sands stance as a way to show Ignatieff is out of step with Quebecers on the environment, don't look to him as an alternative to Harper, because he's the same. When one starts to look at a REALISTIC electoral map, you begin to see the potential backlash for the Liberals, and the notion of "harmless" begins to unravel. Is it really sound strategy to mimic Jim Prentice, with the best case scenario being a couple of seats, when you give opponents ammunition on more fertile electoral ground? Pretty risky stuff, if you ask me.

In fairness to Michael, he also made these comments yesterday:
We are where we are. We've got to clean it up and we've got to make it a sustainable place to work and live not only for the Aboriginal populations there but for the workers who live there. My concern is that at the moment it's barely environmentally sustainable and it's barely socially sustainable. The Conservative government has done nothing about this. We need to move forward.

What I'm arguing, isn't a complete retreat on the tar sands, because I recognize regional sensitivities, not to mention economic realities. However, Ignatieff needs to stress more of the above, his defence or courtship must demonstrate a balance. Not only will this play better in other parts of the country, but it should play within his target audience. Many, many Albertans are also concerned, so a strategy that recognizes, but also points to Conservative failure, one that presents a clear path to reconcile, has just as much political advantage than simply projecting unequivocal support.

Part of me sees the Ignatieff strategy to date as merely laying the foundation, building a sense of trust, which is the first step in this process. However, that's largely speculation on my part, a fact which is somewhat concerning. While it might not necessarily matter, and decisions made in Washington will determine our path, that doesn't mean we cede any moral ground, because then we don't really stand for anything, practicalities aside. There is a political downside, which means Ignatieff really needs to articulate a balance, he needs to speak frankly, because pandering alone will alienate. The Liberals are fine on the budget, but the more areas of convergence, the more you give credibility to counter narratives, a fact which shouldn't be lost on anyone.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Please Stop Talking

When pandering becomes offensive:
Tories, Liberals defend oil sands

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, who recently positioned himself as a supporter of the oilsands, was emphatic in his disdain for the National Geographic story.

"National Geographic is not going to teach me any lessons about the oilsands," he said.

"This is a huge industry. It employs Canadians from coast to coast. We have oil reserves that are going to last for the whole of the 21st century. We are where we are. We've got to clean it up, and we've got make it a sustainable place to work and live."

Ignatieff has ALWAYS been consistent, this idea of energy policy as national unity issue. The federation is fractured, there is much regional angst in the land, and it's true the level of tolerance is on the wane. It's imperative that the Liberal Party, even if it doesn't translate into sweeping seat totals, appeal to the entirety of Canada, because this country needs a unifying voice. I believe Ignatieff is sincere in his desire to bring people together, and I have high hopes for him as Prime Minister in this regard. I also understand, that in the game of politics, nuance is required along with some heavy petting- kissing ass is part of the equation, always has been, always will be, the tenets of democracy almost demand it. HOWEVER, let's not get carried away, shall we, because you're now ALIENATING part of your base, with a misguided courtship.

Earlier, I linked to the Alberta Environment Minister, responding to the National Geographic piece. Renner actually used the word "fair" to describe the piece, found some positives and stressed the improvements coming in the future. In other words, Renner was less categorical and dismissive than Ignatieff, while Ignatieff sounded exactly like Jim Prentice, who sounds like a Suncor executive half the time. It would seem the Liberals are now trying to out- Conservatives the Conservatives on the tar sands- almost like "no, we love it more, no we love it more, no we love it more..." Sssstttoooopppp!!!

Ignatieff is going too far in my estimation, because he's essentially giving NOTHING more than lip service to environmental concerns, while singing the praises of what amounts to an environmental NIGHTMARE at the moment. As mentioned earlier in the comments, many Albertans share concerns on the tar sands. It's not like everyone in the province is screaming "full steam ahead", the environment be damned. That fact means that Ignatieff doesn't have to be so one-sided in his presentation, he MUST speak to the balance, he MUST articulate how the tar sands can be viable within an environmentally friendly policy. Otherwise, Ignatieff just sounds like the Conservatives, even worse, under some illusion that this now MEGA pandering will lead to a red wave across the oil patch.

I'm actually starting to get quite pissed here. Earlier, I cautioned on waiting for the other shoe to drop, somewhat content allowing Ignatieff to do the necessary work to redeem the Liberal brand. But, with this latest crack, directed at National Geographic, Ignatieff is in danger of losing his soul, for the sake of political expediency. AND, even if you confine yourself to mere strategic considerations, Ignatieff risks undermining support he enjoys now, while he over shoots with attracting the "new". What's the environmental vision here Michael? I think Ignatieff had best starting fleshing out a few things, because at the moment, parroting Jim Prentice isn't quite doing it for me, and I suspect I'm not alone. Unity yes, respecting provincial economies a given, offering solutions to mitigate the damage, let's hear it, slamming NG for a "fair" piece, please stop talking.

Stewart On Obama Visit

And of course the NP reacts in the typical sense of humor challenged conservative way.

It Is What It Is

Don Martin column today which describes the National Geographic story as the "baby seal moment" for the oil sands. There's no doubt that the story undercuts the public relations campaign of the Stelmach government. Martin is correct that this high profile attention will harm the tar sands "reputation", but apart from some vivid language, the piece is hardly unfair.

There is nothing presented by National Geographic that is factually untrue, and they do a good job highlighting the issues beyond a simple discussion on global warming. A propaganda piece is an attempt to "slant" the narrative- but really does anyone dispute how disgusting the tailing ponds are, their threat to waterways, the health risks, the damage to the ecosystem, the energy intensive methods needed, the social problems that accompany rapid expansion? In terms of historic oil production, the methods used, the quality of, really do represent "scraping bottom", so the description isn't in error or outlandish.

People can try to put lipstick on a pig all they want, but the tar sands are what they are, the National Geographic piece simply tells a story. Apologists would argue it's a sensational story, but nobody needs to photoshop the sludge, the moonscape speaks for itself and the health of the ecosystem isn't based on fiction. It's important to consider consequence, rather than a simple economic argument. If that constitutes a "baby seal moment", it should surprise no one, because it's part of a real reality that is conveniently ignored by proponents.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Don't Forget Your Left Flank

Ignatieff used to say the Liberals needed to "plant their flag on the center-left". Since assuming the helm, the rhetoric has changed to "center", and Ignatieff has intimated that the Liberals have the most to gain from winning over "compassionate Conservatives", centrist voters. This belief is obviously based on polling done by the party, and Ignatieff has actually been quite open in referring to the strategy. I don't dispute for one minute, that the Liberals need to appeal to the center, after all the designation implies mainstream society. It is for that reason, that I'm prepared to be somewhat pragmatic, accepting the necessity of appeal and the rationale for "moving", as a means to topple the Conservatives. Any party that hopes to govern must be prepared to compromise, and the act of governing itself generally forces a move to centrist policy.

However, I'm not sure I'm entirely comfortable with this perceived tunnel vision, to siphon off soft conservatives, former progressive conservatives, as our only avenue to take power. While I don't dispute what internal pollsters are telling the party, it seems they are many equations at play, and others which don't necessarily mean you need to abandon you're left flank to expand support. Pointing to the Chretien/Martin model is problematic, because it occured while the right was divided and/or didn't enjoy support in central Canada. I would be very weary of using any reference point which included the words Reform, Canadian Alliance or post Kim Campbell Progressive Conservative. Extraordinary circumstances, which allowed the Liberals to sweep Ontario, remain credible in Quebec, almost by default- in many cases voters had little appealing alternative. The new framework is entirely different, which is why, again, I caution with the "centrist" stuff, at the expense of progressive.

Who was the biggest "gainer" in the last election, an election where the Liberal vote eroded? It was the Greens, with the Cons and NDP only enjoying a minimal uptick. There is really no co-relation between Liberal erosion and a move to the Conservatives. In 2004, you can make a better case, but again the NDP vote was up more decisively, the Conservatives gained at the Bloc expense, so the casual relationship isn't necessarily definitive.

The Conservative base support is probably around 30%, expecting it to fall below that seems to defy common sense at this point. When you consider second choice support, amongst the various parties, you can make a strong case, that the Liberals can draw equally from all the parties. I would hardly classify Bloc support as necessarily demanding a move to the right, nor the Greens, and obviously the NDP. Yes, we can gain support from the Conservatives, but equally, you can appeal to other party voters. My point, don't move so far that you alienate one voter pool, attempting to appeal to another. In my view, the smartest strategy is policy which demonstrates balance, centrist on the economy, center left on social issues, a forward view on the environment, woven within a modern economy.

Again, personally I'm prepared to make the compromise, endorsing a direction which doesn't completely mirror my own view. That's simply a reality in politics, it's not necessarily a game of purism, forever pandering and watered down. That said, it's imperative that the Liberal strategy throws a bone or two in one sense, allows for different perspectives, to latch on to various policy positions, which encompasses the essence of a big tent. Don't let the drive to the center alienate part of your base, because if that occurs, you're essentially doing nothing more than treading water.

Reality Check

CTV has this new segment on their political show called "Reality Check". Today, Sun Media's Greg Weston was on, and the topic of the upcoming Green Party convention came up. In discussing whether or not the Greens would be able to maintain a high profile and voting share, Weston first made some derogatory comment about the Greens in general, then fluffed off any suggestion of Green votes bleeding to the benefit of the Liberals. While there's no question the dynamics have changed with Ignatieff at the helm, as well as no sense that the Green vote is eroding, it was still curious that Weston piped off, stating "all the polls show" that Conservatives have the most to benefit from any crater in Green support. According to Weston, all the data suggests the Conservatives are the second choice of Green supporters. You know, if you're going to be so dismissive, with the know it all tone, you could at least have the semblance of a CLUE:

Harris Decima


The Conservatives never rise from third choice in the Decima poll, this is mirrored by EKOS. As a matter of fact "all the polls" I've seen confirm the above, so I'd love to know Weston's source material, or does working for SunMedia impede basic comprehension.

A small quibble for sure, but Weston was just so sure of himself, I thought I'd do my own "Reality Check" for the reality checker.

Monday, February 23, 2009


I confess, I'm to the point of NAUSEOUS, watching this government contort, reinventing themselves. Such a callous attempt to bask in Obama's popularity, so brazen it assumes none of us are capable of memory, every day a new, fresh reality. We are your canvass Stephen Harper. If Harper is able to pull this off, or more rightly. if a easily distracted media lets him get away with it, it might just be the biggest swindle in Canadian history. It's obnoxious and offensive when you think about it.

A few voices calling a spade a spade, a dose of reality in what is becoming bizarro world:
Mr. Obama will propose what he's always promised: emissions caps for greenhouse-gas emissions that cause global warming. He will create a market for permits to be purchased from the government, then traded among emitters. These permits might bring the U.S. government $300-billion in a decade or so.

Nothing like this has been proposed by the Harper government. It has preferred useless policies such as tax credits for public transit and expensive subsidies for corn-based ethanol that waste taxpayers' money. The centrepiece of the Harper approach has been that companies will have to reduce the intensity of their energy use and emissions and, if not, pay into a technology fund that might some day come up with ways of lowering emissions.

This intensity approach is quite different from Mr. Obama's hard cap. But we are now in the Orwellian world of Ottawa's climate-change policy. The Prime Minister and his spokesmen have been saying the two systems – intensity and hard caps – amount to the same thing, when, in fact, they do not. It's the same weird disconnect that had Mr. Harper blaming George Bush for the failures of Canada's own climate-change policies.

Shut up Jim Prentice, with your nonsensical references to Obama as though global warming soul mate. Put a big wool sock in it Stephen Harper, musing about lost opportunities, finally, finally a climate change partner in your midst. Give me some duct tape for every government minister and crony who can't complete a sentence without the word Obama being uttered. And, please, please PIPE UP supposed reality check, when politicians go horribly astray, because if you don't, it's actually a testament to just how USELESS a medium you swirl in.

Get over the Obama afterglow, and start speaking on the chameleons, because it's actually quite embarrassing. As for the opposition, I suggest a recent history lesson or two, because if you're not careful this fraud will have positioned himself as Obama's key ally on climate change, not to mention absolving himself on the economy and a host of other issues. There's a frame occuring, and whether it sticks is entirely a discussion on the power of propaganda. Don't let the ass ride the donkey.

Fancy That, A "Vision"

In many ways an economic downturn provides an opportunity, if government uses expenditure and legislation to retool and modernize. Probably the most disappointing aspect of the federal government's stimulus plan and overall framework to blunt the current economic fallout, is it provides no sense of a "vision", there's no real road map or coherence, merely temporary band aids. When the Canadian economy does rebound, it's hard to point to any initiative which really revolutionizes our economy, so that it's better placed to sustain itself in the 21st century world. More about political survival, than actual forward thinking, the Conservatives read like a old school, two dimensional template, for governing during an recession.

People can quibble about the details, but it's fair to say that the McGuinty government is presenting a "vision" with it's Green Energy Act, a comprehensive approach to move all facets in tandem towards a over arching goal. It really is a plan that has a transformational component, so that if successful, the Ontario economy will emerge stronger and more diversified, more competitive and greener, in such a way to be a benefit, not a drag.

One of the biggest criticisms of the Ontario Liberals, they tend to move in a timid fashion, small steps here and there, but nothing that evokes the word bold. What we see now, is a recognition that it's sink or swim time, Ontario can't plod along, relying on past powerhouses to fuel the economy, it must modernize:
Ontario's Green Energy Act will create 50,000 new jobs in construction, trucking and engineering while laying the groundwork for developing projects more quickly, Energy Minister George Smitherman said today.

"If passed, the act would ensure that new green power doesn't get tripped up in all kinds of red tape, but instead that new renewable generation would be built and flowing into the system faster," Smitherman told the legislature after introducing the bill.

The Green Energy Act will also set what Smitherman called ``reasonable" domestic content requirements for renewable projects to ensure more money is spent in the province.

Premier Dalton McGuinty said while he understood a switch from making cars to making wind turbines may not be easy for workers in Ontario, green technology is key to boosting the province's economy.

The province isn't turning away from its traditional auto jobs, but has a responsibility to create new work as well as a sustainable energy base, said McGuinty.

"It's not an easy shift, I understand that, but we need to begin to plan for the future with a sustainable energy base," he said.

"We have to see ourselves as vital players. We can't just tinker with a few things."

Progressive Conservative critic John Yakabuski called the legislation vague, noting it "leaves

Encouraging words from the NDP:
New Democrat Peter Tabuns said the change was "way past due."

"The fact that this government is finally saying it will link jobs with climate change is welcome, it opens the debate," Tabuns said in the legislature.

"My goal is to see that we actually deliver; that we don't get trapped in the timidity that I see in the bill before us."

The legislation will amend 15 statutes and the government says it will create 50,000 new jobs.

Is this plan perfect? I've heard encouraging reviews from many sources, others are critical, but given that unanimity is a fallacy, overall I think you can argue, with credibility, that this plan has the comprehensive component, a coherent thread throughout, that it encompasses everything a bold plan should entail. You can't just play along the margins, and maybe the McGuinty government was guilty of this in the past. This economic collapse allows the Liberals to be aggressive, because there is a real, sober understanding, that the status quo is a future anchor.

Governments are given political capital during tough times, we see it in other jurisdictions as well. A crisis is really an opportunity, because the urgency it brings allows for initiatives which cut through the normal pace of change, as long as your articulate the light at the end of the tunnel, you're given room to "try it" so to speak. Whereas, the Conservative government offers vanilla, old ideas, the only goal to "ride out", the provincial Liberals are demonstrating a capacity for BIG ideas, with an eye for the future.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

In A Nutshell

Susan Riley column, which succinctly sums up the Obama/Harper connection on climate change:
"Ultimately, the key difference between the two may be that Obama believes the climate crisis is real and wants to fix it, while Harper wants to look like he is trying."

Lest we forget:

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Where Have I Heard This Before?

As Harper suckles from the Obama teet, as though he the proactive force on reducing GHG emissions, this development today should reveal who is trying to mirror who:
Clinton urges U.S., China co-operation on clean technology

"The United States and China will build an important partnership to develop and deploy clean energy technologies designed to speed our transformation to low-carbon economies," Clinton said in Beijing.

"Areas for useful co-operation include renewable energy, the capture and storage of Co2 from coal plants and energy efficiency in our buildings," she added.

We're just along for the ride...

Didn't Hurt

If you approach the meeting from a non-partisan perspective, it's safe to say Harper's dance with Obama, and the framing afterwards, works for the good news starved Prime Minister. Harper was quite steady during the press conference, forceful on certain issues, a strong performance. The reviews were positive, and the simple optics clearly help Harper's image.

What is particularly noteworthy, Harper has effectively given himself a free pass on the environment for quite some time. Complete bullshit aside, Harper and his minions have managed to create a new starting point, that virtually relinquishes past nothingness. Harper even went so far as to absolve the past Liberal government for it's inaction, with reference to the ongoing struggle to engage the Americans. Directly tying our environmental policy, with that of the Americans, means we now basically wait for legislation to slowly meander through Capitol Hill, all the while no pressure on the Conservatives to do much of anything.

Additionally, and more importantly, this "dialogue" on clean energy assumes the beginning of a process, with little expectation for immediate results. It is hard to underscore the importance of Obama endorsing things like carbon capture, and the "music to our ears" sentiment coming out of the oil patch serves as proof. The Conservatives can now present a unified effort, with a President who brings environmental credibility, their fates are joined. There will be no more embarrassing displays on the world stage, because Canada will merely defer to the American leadership, we will move in lockstep, with little space between us, effectively neutering much of the criticism. Any sense of affinity with the Obama administration is a plus for the Conservatives, expect to hear the "working TOGETHER" talking point ad nauseum anytime anybody dares mention the climate change file.

I view the fallout of the meeting as a "stop the bleeding" scenario for Harper. I suspect any afterglow is entirely temporary, as we return to the onslaught of bad news, but leaders generally do benefit from forums that allow them to look the statesman, this instance is certainly a high profile example. I suspect the PMO has a bit more of a bounce to their step now, sensing some success, in an otherwise gloomy predicament. Does it help Harper's stature? That remains to be seen in any lasting way, but it hasn't hurt, I think that a fair read.

Friday, February 20, 2009

On Photo-Ops

A big nothing, in the grand scheme of things, but a nice jab, given the lengths our PM went to marginalize Ignatieff:
It all started when Liberal officials were faced with the challenge of getting a photo of their leader’s meeting with Ignatieff out to the media despite the fact that the schedule arranged largely by the prime minister’s office relegated the meeting with Ignatieff to late afternoon.

Liberal staffer Michael O’Shaunessy called Marc Methé of CNW Group to arrange for the picture taken by Ignatieff’s official photographer to be distributed to Canadian media. When he asked how much it would cost to distribute it to U.S media, Methé told him that if they added a press release to the picture, they could have the picture posted in Times Square and Las Vegas for no extra cost.

All in all, the PR coup cost the Liberals $1,100 for U.S distribution, $300 for the high definition picture to give them bragging rights and $500 to distribute the photo to Canadian media outlets.

As an aside, much talk about the fact Obama has read "several" of Ignatieff's books. To be fair, while Obama hasn't read anything authored by Harper, the two leaders did discuss books and what they've read recently. Harper mused about the last book he's read.


Here's a photo from the White House website (h/t Knb):

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Company You Keep

Noteworthy, that while Harper is painting himself green, has been for years you know, his old confident offers this jewel:
Prof. Flanagan said the province's plan to spend $2-billion on developing carbon-sequestration technology may be necessary to respond to heightened demands for green energy. “Even if you believe as I do that the whole thing is a hoax, nonetheless, from the point of view of doing business I don't think Alberta can afford to walk away from that,” he said.

Does Flanagan mean carbon sequestration is a hoax, or is he referring to climate change in general?

Cut From The Same Cloth

The PMO released a new photo, to highlight just how much the two leaders have in common:

Conservative spokesman Kory Teneycke:

"You do the math, it's eerie"

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

You Sir, Have No Peer

I guess the only question that matters, can Harper get away with it? In terms of sheer gall, Harper's dizzying spin on the climate change file is almost without precedent. You're reading it, but you can't actually believe he's saying it, and you wonder how it's possible anybody could swallow it. Steve:
Obama's climate policy a positive change, Harper says

Barack Obama's presidency is ushering in a new era of North American co-operation against climate change after George W. Bush's inaction held back Canada's ability to tackle greenhouse-gas emissions, Stephen Harper says.

...the Prime Minister insisted that Canada's climate-change policy has been hamstrung by the inaction of its largest trading partner.

“In Canada, we've been wrestling for the last decade or so with our desire to try to have a regime, a regulatory regime, that would diminish our own carbon emissions. But we've been trying to do so in an integrated economy when the United States has not been willing to do so,” Mr. Harper said in an interview to be broadcast in two parts yesterday and today.

“I think quite frankly the fact that we have a President and an administration that wants to see some kind of regulation on this is an encouragement.”

If you were to ask any international delegation in the world, which country they would consider Bush's best ally within the climate change debate, Canada's name would come up every time, almost immediately. Canada has been such a "laggard" we've actually achieved the unfathomable, collecting more dinosaur awards in Bali than brother Bush. We're the country of "inspirational" targets, we're the one's who have changed the time lines, the baselines, talked of "intensity", that's "made in Canada".

The fact this character has the audacity to snuggle up to Obama, as though he's waited in the wings, finally, finally a dance partner, represents a new threshold in pure, unmitigated bullshit. You sir, have no peer. Stephen Harper actually believes he can move from Bush's sidekick saboteur to Obama's policy twin and nobody will notice. This nonsense is a test, it's a fundamental point, because if Harper is allowed to expouse this line, along with his surrogates (Prentice today, just simply amazed at how close the two countries really are on global warming), then it's true- you can do and say anything, repetition becomes reality. What Harper is saying, the whole argument, it's simply offensive, these clowns should be blushing when they utter the words.

Reality Check

Quite a bit of coverage, surrounding just how much time Ignatieff will get with Obama. Is it 15 minutes, 20 minutes, less or more? That the focus is on this topic is quite silly, but I had a hunch that some Conservatives would twist it into an attack on Ignatieff. So, I decided to take a rare visit over to the cesspool, and sure enough:
Iggy The Spoiled Child

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, sounding like a spoiled little child, is apparently upset that his meeting tomorrow with US President Barack Obama will only be 15 minutes in length...

Iggy sounds a lot like a child complaining to his mother that his bigger brother got a slightly larger piece of cake after dinner...

I wonder if it every dawns on these people, that the ONLY reason this is even an issue is because that hyper-partisan, SCHMUCK of a Prime Minister we have can't just be an adult and give the opposition leader his fair due. NOBODY would even mention Ignatieff's "time", if not for the crap from the PMO. Period.

Kory Teneycke, defending the schedule:
"This is not inconsistent with how past (presidential visits) were organized," he said.

"You try to minimize the movements. When you're moving the motorcade around - all 50 cars - you're going to burn up a lot of time."

Trying to minimize movements? Seems to me, you don't need the motorcade for Ignatieff to visit with Obama on Parliament Hill, when he's ALREADY there. Instead the Conservatives dump Iggy in the backroom of a hanger, maybe Rae can take a quick snap with his cell to prove the event actually occurred.

There's only one "child" here, who has no class, a constant embarrassment, everything he touches becomes a strategic maze of absurdity.

Back Off JT

I read HUD's post, relating to a robo call from Justin Trudeau. Yesterday, I received the same call, and agree Trudeau is a capable spokesperson, that delivers a certain sincerity.

Anyways, a while ago I was lucky enough to receive a SECOND call from Justin, how special I felt. I confess, I did hang up half way through, we've been here before Justin. Well guess what happened about ten minutes ago? You guessed it, JT on the horn for a THIRD time. Robo call error, or man crush?

What a SMALL Man

Only Stephen Harper could manage to turn a important visit by Obama into a statement on petty politics and manipulation. God forbid the GG should be allowed to greet Obama, in front of the cameras. How outlandish, that the oppostion leader should meet Obama in a diplomatic setting. Simply ridiculous to acknowledge that Canadians might want a mere glance or two. The PMO has micro-managed this visit, to the point that they've turned it into a selfish farce.

Yesterday, it was amusing to see Harper speak of the visit, almost giddy at the prospects. You can't blame the PMO for wanting to maximize the benefits to their advantage, that's a natural political reaction. However, the controlling nature to ensure than only HE is the center of the attention, leaves a bad taste and in turn Harper has managed to undermine the positives. The PMO's pathetic attempts to point out the comparisons between the two men (surprised Kory didn't mention that both men stand erect and eat breakfast too) denotes a callous opportunism.

A "working" visit, without the ceremony is fine, given the times, you want to convey a serious, business-like feel. That the visit has become so tightly ccntrolled, to the point of ANAL paranoia, once again provides another disappointing example of Stephen Harper's smallness.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Martin Half Right

Don Martin column today, which mostly posits the folly of Ignatieff "wooing" the west:
But somebody forgot to share those dire stats with Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, who seems to relish banging his head on the western wall no matter how painfully poor the prospects of winning seats...

The guy has been to western Canada twice since his coronation two months ago, pledging to give voice to regional concerns as if they were his own...

“The best way to overcome Western alienation, in my view, is to get a few more Liberals in the House of Commons in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. I don't think that's an unrealistic expectation,” he told supporters in Saskatoon.

That’s still got to be a dream, if not a delusion, which is why it’s a curious strategy for a Liberal leader to focus on the West when, to paraphrase former premier Ralph Klein, he would be better off hunting where the ducks are.

The only glimmer, and a small one at that:
It’s not entirely hopeless, one supposes...

Martin's piece is right, the Liberals are nowhere in western Canadian and: suggest there’s an Iggy mania in the making takes a vivid imagination.

The Liberal brand is a political anathema almost everywhere on the Prairies. It will take more than a few leader trips and mea culpas before The West wants in on any scheme that could toss the Conservatives out.

Where Martin is entirely off base, assuming that any Liberal of sound mind actually entertains a western wave. Martin sets the bar higher than even the most optimist would suggest. In my mind, and I suspect the Liberal braintrust, Ignatieff is merely trying to get the Liberals back in the conversation, which translates into a few seats at BEST, under optimal circumstances. Don't confuse building up from our low of 2008 as a testament to wild desires, nobody's that naive.

Is it really out of the question, for the Liberals to double their seat total in the next election, grab one or two, here and there on the prairies? It's not like that's never happened before, so outlandish to be nonsensical. Way, way back in 2004, the Liberals had 14 seats (14 in 2006 as well), and the vote breakdown for the four western province was as follows(2008 vote percentage in brackets):

British Columbia 28.6%(19.3%)
Alberta 22%(11.4%)
Saskatchewan 27.2%(14.9%)
Manitoba 33.2%(19.1%)

Martin seems to think Liberals want to paint the west red, but really the goals are far more realistic, entirely doable. A few more seats, more regional representation than the present extinction. That's what Ignatieff is up to, in my view, so no need for the head scratching at the "woo", everyone is well grounded. Small steps, which are achievable and sober.

"We Are Lost Right Now": Ignatieff on Afghanistan

Probably the most plain language we've heard, and something which needs more examination, Ignatieff on Afghanistan:
"To be frank, we are currently lost in Afghanistan. I support the mission, but I think we are lost right now. We need to find a new strategy and I think Canada can offer a legitimate contribution," he said.
The debate on Afghanistan has been largely non-existent, basically nothing more than a discussion on the 2011 end of military operations. It's as if Canada is merely playing out the clock, and nobody is putting forth any strategic re-think in the intermediary. Canada will just plod along with it's NATO partners, even though the evidence mounts that the operation is a destined to fail, by any measure.

I don't want to elevate what Ignatieff said, but a recognition of being "lost" is a starting point and I would encourage the Liberals to concentrate on 2009 and 2010, what the policy should be, rather than constantly referring to a position two years out, which does nothing for the NOW.

The Conservatives seem content to debate the "future of NATO", the same old line that more input is needed from our partners, if we are to succeed. That emphasis assumes there is a solution at hand, we just need better participation and commitment. However, that policy endorses status quo tactics, merely a question of degree.

Admitting failure is half the battle to understanding plausible solutions. Rather than talk of end dates, it's about time we heard a debate about whether we're just spinning our wheels until then. If one determines that we are "lost", then they need to offer an alternative vision, and if that isn't conceivable under this international regime, then we can legitimately reconsider our commitment.

I'll be curious to see, now that Ignatieff is getting his internal footing, if he articulates a path which distances the Liberals from a mere endorsement of the 2011 end of operations, as though that's the only consideration. I want to hear what is the "new strategy", because after you admit being "lost", it's incumbent to clearly define a way forward, otherwise you're simply irresponsible.

Monday, February 16, 2009

God's Speed Mike

If you're like me, then you've been on pins and needles awaiting the conclusion of the Michael Phelps saga. I hadn't heard anything for a few hours(weird), which only heightened the unease, but awesome word today, on every news outlet imaginable, across the world- Michael Phelps can remain a member of society. I just hope now that Mike, if I can call him that, gets the help he needs and puts his shattered world back together. A young man and a bong, concerning, shocking and so rare, but at least nobody died in the end.

Anyways, CTV found it compelling enough to put up a poll on the question, so have your say too. God's speed, for a troubled soul, and a big "what up" for the intense media coverage of such a relevant event in the 21st century, that impacts us all.

Coalition Baggage As Weak Attack Line

Last week, in response to a possible Conservative attack line against Ignatieff, using the coalition option to fear monger, I posited this hypothetical response:
"If they raise the spectre of national unity, attempting to fire up their western base, they actually play into Ignatieff'sspan> hand. Part of the rationale, in avoiding the coalition option, was entirely a consideration on national unity, Ignatieff can tell western Canadians that his stance was partially a recognition of western alienation, the belief that the coalition didn't enjoy support across the country. Ignatieff can make the argument, using the coalition, to demonstrate that he is receptive to western sentiment, and he sacrificed a real opportunity for power, because he recognized the "mood". Rather than an albatross, I think Ignatieff can pivot and turn his decision into an example that he is "listening" to the views of all Canadians, personal ambition is secondary to responsibility. If Ignatieff takes western Canada for granted, if the Liberals are primarily an eastern-centric entity, then why didn't he move forward and install himself as PM? The Ignatieff decision, the facts, actually shows a sensitivity to western sentiments, rather than the craven opportunism the Conservatives will argue. The entire coalition debate is a testament to Ignatieff's desire to bring Canadians together, to be a force for unity, part of his grand vision for the country."

Ignatieff, in an interview yesterday in Regina here:
Ignatieff also said it was the West's strong feelings about the proposed Liberal-NDP coalition, supported by the Bloc Quebecois, that contributed to his decision not to continue to pursue it.

"You are after all looking at someone who turned down the chance to become prime minister of Canada and I did so, in part, because I felt that it would divide the country," said Ignatieff. "I want to be someone who unites the country and that includes the West."

As the Conservatives argue, you can't change the coalition facts, letters and what not. Those facts work for Ignatieff, not against, so if our opponents want to raise the issue, the above sends a unequivocal, FACTUALLY based message. Turn it around, because rather than an attack on western want, Ignatieff's coalition "record" articulates his capacity to incorporate western sentiment into his decision making.

Thinking JUNE

If you weigh all the strategic considerations, you can make a strong argument that June is the optimal time for the Liberals to force an election. There's a downside to every scenario, for the Liberals a sense that time is on our side, the more we have to improve fundraising and readiness, the better. It's quite true, it takes time to "rebuild" a party, particularly in areas of the country where the Liberals organization and appeal is currently weak. I'm afraid that sense will lead many to look to the fall "probation" update, as the earliest possible window for forcing an election. I would submit, that what the Liberals may gain on the readiness front could be offset by other factors that could erode the longer we wait.

Ignatieff is riding a pleasant wave, emerging from the budget/coalition debate in a strong position. Ignatieff has positioned himself as a believable PM in waiting, the Liberals have a credibility they haven't had in years, a fickle media generally on side. I see nothing on the near horizon to fundamentally change this dynamic, no bigger tests immediately apparent, than the one's just concluded. Given the primary focus on a cratering economy, which will surely continue through the spring, Ignatieff merely has to stay out of the way, and let events dictate.

I can't remember seeing the Harper team look so unbalanced and in flux. Internal issues, the frame of "strategic genius" now a distant memory, sagging fortunes, principles abandoned, coupled with governing during this economic mess, the Conservatives seem entirely vulnerable. However, to assume this condition is permanent fails to acknowledge the ability of your opponent to adapt. Politics are forever fluid, and with an unknown economic future, there is a risk for the Liberals thinking they can simply bide their time and pounce whenever they choose. If some of the forecasts are correct, the economic numbers may start to flatline, even hints of recovery come the fall, which will surely put some wind in the Conservative sails, a sense that they're coming out the other side. If the Harper government is allowed to hit bottom, and then be able to point to indicators showing the worst is over, that reality is dangerous for the Liberals. Things don't have to be "rosy", they merely have to convey some confidence that it's about to get better. The markets are notorious for being ahead of the economic curve, if there is light piercing the gloom, we could well see some optimism and this will affect the media coverage. Waiting until the fall, is a risky proposition, because nobody really knows where we'll be, so you couple economic uncertainty, with giving your opponent ample time to retool, and you might see an opportunity passed.

June is attractive because you are fairly certain that the economy will be in the "ditch", any campaign rife with poor data, a circumstance which guarantees the government is on the defensive. The Liberals have successfully distanced themselves from the budget, and these "probation" updates provide opportunity to bring the Conservatives down. However, these updates are a double-edged sword, because while they allow control, they also have the capacity to forfeit culpability. Letting the Conservatives live on in March is a given, the budget barely out the door, nobody will expect the Liberals to move, and nobody will really blame them for that decision. Currently, the NDP attacks on the Liberals, this idea of a Con/Lib alliance are feeble and remote, mainstream thought doesn't really entertain the concept, the media largely ignores as nothing more than politics. That said, should the Liberals keep allowing the Conservatives a "pass" on the updates, there is the possibility that these attacks gain steam, because Liberal criticism is eroded with every rubber stamp, on subsequent judgements. March is a given, June is somewhat more intriguing, that is where the narrative can change and we start to "wear" the Conservative budget, or at least we absolve part of the responsibility.

Electorally, the Liberals desperately need to improve their fortunes in British Columbia. Unless the Liberal convention is a historical anomaly, Ignatieff will get a bounce out of the love-in, and it just happens that this event allows a terrific opportunity to showcase the party in a key region. This convention provides a vehicle to sell the Liberal message and Ignatieff's stature will surely rise. The fact it occurs in May, just prior to the June update, means the Liberals could well be riding a wave, some serious momentum.

Parliament isn't in session during the summer, which means if the Liberals did choose to move in June, they can make the argument that this action doesn't impede ability to deal with the economy. An election during the "pause" can be framed as responsible- we can't support the government anymore, we're on the wrong path, a summer election is the best time, if we must have any "uncertainty". I'm not sure that's a powerful argument, but it may help appease a public who wants no part of any election, at anytime for that matter.

I suspect fundraising is on the uptick, we already have some evidence and soundbites to show that things are improving. It will take quite some time for the Liberals to compete with the Conservatives, in terms of money and organization, waiting for that moment seems a far away goal. While the downside of June might be optimal "readiness", one needs to counter-balance that facet with the other issues at play, many of which clearly work to our advantage, many of which might be temporary. When you have your opponent somewhat demoralized, so consumed with merely keeping afloat, coupled with relative "good times" for yourself, it doesn't really get much better than that in politics, and you would be wise to pounce, because the moment may be fleeting.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Busy Guy

The latest cover for Maclean's:

Earlier I made note of Ignatieff's three day tour of Quebec next week. Apparently, the new Liberal leader is a very, very busy man, today and tomorrow in Saskatchewan:
The Liberal party must embrace Western Canada instead of running against it, says Michael Ignatieff, who is making his first visit to Saskatchewan this weekend as leader of the federal Liberals.

Ignatieff told a brunch crowd of about 400 people in Saskatoon on Saturday that the party must work hard to win more seats, and more respect, in the West.

"Sometimes we've fallen prey to the temptation to run against the West, you know, to run against Alberta, to run against the Saskatchewan energy sector. This is not the way to go," he said.

"The western economy is the beating heart of Canadian progress in the future. This is where the action is. And, if this is where the action is economically, then we have to be there too.

Goodale introduced Ignatieff with the traditional "the next prime minister of Canada," igniting a rally of whoops and hollers.

Ignatieff took off his blazer, rolled up his sleeves and answered questions before posing for photos and signing autographs like a political rock star.

Tomorrow in Regina, then Monday to Wednesday in Quebec, taking full advantage of the break in Ottawa, and a good way to keep up momentum.

The really interesting part, Ignatieff is saying the same thing to the "west", that he's said in the "east", a fact which speaks to conviction rather than simple pandering. Talking up Alberta in Quebec really serves no political purpose, but I must say I'm getting quite excited about Ignatieff's "vision" for Canada. At a time when Canada desperately needs someone who can reconfigure the old dynamics and offer a progressive view of the federation for the future, Ignatieff gives reason for optimism. Small steps, a mountain of work to do, but glimmers and a sense the commitment is real.

Ignatieff Quebec Tour

Ignatieff is slated to do a three day tour of Quebec next week, including a tantilizing "wooing" of popular Trois-Rivières mayor Yves Lévesque to run under the Liberal banner. Ignatieff will also travel to Quebec City to meet with mayor Régis Labeaume :
Taking advantage of favorable polls, the Liberal Party leader, Michael Ignatieff, will undertake a tour of great seduction for three days in Quebec next week.

Mr. Ignatieff will leave Ottawa next week to visit Quebec City, Trois-Rivières and Tuesday in the Montreal area Wednesday, according to information obtained by La Presse. The Liberal leader will return to Ottawa Thursday to meet with U.S. President, Barack Obama, who makes his first official visit to Canada.

And, a contrast in style that Liberals should start highlighting at every turn, Ignatieff won't play "peek a boo", unlike our supposed "leader":
" Ignatieff attaches great importance to Quebec. And he believes that one of the best ways to be on the lookout for regional issues is to meet with municipal officials. You must listen to them", said one Liberal strategist

In each of the stops, Mr Ignatieff will be available to the media to answer their questions. "Unlike Mr. Harper, which remains locked in an ivory tower, Mr. Ignatieff will move throughout the parliamentary break to meet with local stakeholders and will make available to the media," said Liberal strategist.

The Liberals finished at distant third in Trois Rivieres, if they could ever convince Lévesque to run for the Liberals, it's would be a tremendous coup. You may remember, Lévesque accused the Conservatives of partisan punishment, withholding funding because the seat went to the Bloc in the last election. Even the mire rumors are a good sign for the Liberals under Ignatieff, a sign of potential appeal.

A visit to Quebec City, a meeting with the mayor, also conveys positive optics, and getting in front of microphones whenever you have the chance, should heighten the focus.

If there is any latent resistance to the Liberal position on the budget, this visit should afford Ignatieff an opportunity to move past and create some fresh buzz. Good stuff.

Friday, February 13, 2009


Stephen Harper Oct 23 2007:

"Clearly, I would say to the Leader of the Opposition, who knows that he makes such allegations in this chamber under the protection of parliamentary privilege, and encourage him to have the courage of his convictions," Harper said. "If he believes what he said, he should make these accusations outside the chamber where those whom he is libelling and slandering have recourse to the courts to hold him responsible."

That was then, this is now:

"Mr. Poilievre slipped out a back door and avoided reporters waiting to speak to him."

More "Kitchen Table" Feedback

I guess maybe it is a good idea to read the budget before you take a "principled" position against it:

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Make It Stop

The Ignatieff love affair continues, and you know it's real when NP's John Ivison joins in. Ivison has a few more internals from NANOS, including Ignatieff's "coat tails", but the thrust of the piece is a party united and upbeat:
the Messiah-like arrival of Michael Ignatieff seems to have reduced the appetite for rebellious mischief to record lows...

In the meantime, the Liberal team around Mr. Ignatieff is over-joyed at the progress made since he became leader. “It feels like 1993 all over again,” said one veteran, referring to the period before Jean Chrétien became Prime Minister. MPs say the mood in the party is the best it has been in six or seven years.

There are few signs of internal division, even among Liberals who supported other candidates in past leadership campaigns.

But no-one should be in any doubt - Iggy is this year’s model. In a matter of weeks, he has succeeded in building what he calls a “culture of belief” in a fractious, if desperate, Liberal Party. The suggestion from the new Nanos polls is that he is piquing interest right across the country. “He should be cautiously optimistic but not doing a victory lap just yet,” said Mr. Nanos.
Cautiously optimistic indeed Mr. Nanos. Moments in time...

Nanos also finds, what we already know, Ignatieff did well during the budget debate:
with 35% of those surveyed saying his performance was good or very good, compared to 14% who thought he did poorly. Stephen Harper was also given pass marks for his handling of the budget, with 40% thinking he did well or very well, compared to 24% who thought he did badly.
On the importance of the leader, Ignatieff, at the moment, would have the advantage over Harper:
But there was less encouraging news for Mr. Harper when respondents were asked whether leaders would have a positive or negative impact on local party candidates. Thirty-eight per cent thought Mr. Ignatieff would have a positive effect, against just 19% who believed he would be a negative influence. He recorded positive numbers in every region of the country.

By contrast, while 37% felt positively about Mr. Harper, 32% felt negatively, with much of the ill-will concentrated in Quebec and Atlantic Canada.

“That’s a problem,” said Nik Nanos. “If you were developing an election stratey in Quebec and Atlantic Canada, you would run on the local candidate, not the leader. Michael Ignatieff has coat-tails across the country.”
You can't expect hostile media to remain friendly, but when you see pieces like the above, it's a statement on objective respect. The new swagger Liberals have is undeniable, projecting confidence, all oars rowing together, and even the most slanted, once and while must take notice. Couple that, with the most amazingly lame attempt to cobble together a feeble attack line against Ignatieff, and you know these are positive days for the Liberals.

And, I have no doubt of this from Ivison:
The clever money is on the Conservatives going on the offensive at the first sign of economic recovery.

No signs yet, haven't even touched bottom. In the meantime, Ignatieff is framing himself, before the Conservatives try to do it for him. I'm thinking June should be seriously considered as the election prepardness goal.

What A Joke

Remember all those hard hitting GHG "regulations" that the Conservatives pledged to bring forward A YEAR AGO ? Remember, just prior to the last election, when pressed on the regulation delays, the government said they would wait until after the election?:
But asked about the indirect costs to consumers of the Tory plan to regulate emissions, Mr. Kenney said that calculation will have to wait until later this fall, when the regulations are published.

Environment Minister John Baird later told The Canadian Press that the regulations will not be published during an election campaign.

Regulations to be published in the fall? I was simply dumbfounded that, during the last election, the Conservatives were allowed to take shots at other party plan's for GHG's, without presenting their own plan. That aside, the government intimated that the regulations were almost complete, after a wide consultation process.

Today, we get the latest round of crap from Jim Prentice, who has basically admitted the government has nothing, and needs directions from foreigners, for it's "Made In Canada" plan:
Prentice, who was appearing before the committee to defend his department's need for about $36 million in additional funds, said the government needed more time to consult with industry and the provinces.
More time?

Good question:
"We've gone from 'Made in Canada' to delayed in Canada and made in the USA. Where is your plan for the three-and-a-half years you've been in government?" asked Ottawa Liberal MP David McGuinty.
It's only been 1115 days since this government came into office, and all we have to date is "more time" needed. What a joke.

Toss Up

Three polls this week, all show a statistical tie, NANO brings the latest numbers. The good news for the Liberals, further evidence that Ontario is trending back and Ignatieff is very well positioned, relative to Harper. The poll also supports other findings, showing that Layton has taken a hit, in the budget aftermath.

The horserace numbers are virtually identical to the last NANO poll:
Cons 34%
Libs 33%
NDP 16%
Bloc 10%
Greens 7%

The only change of note, a 3% drop for the NDP.

Although the national numbers are virtually the same, there is some variation in the regionals. Volatility in Quebec, with the Bloc gaining, the Libs coming back to earth, but still well ahead of the Conservatives:
Bloc 38% (plus 9%)
Libs 28% (minus 11%)
Cons 16% (minus 1%)
NDP 14% (unchanged)

I read the above as a combination of the budget and the Bloc convention, but it's also a statement to fluidity. However, it does appear the Conservatives have serious problems in Quebec, all the polls show very low numbers, which leaves room for Ignatieff to truly take the mantle of the federalist option. The Liberals may have taken a temporary hit, but if that still leaves us above our election total, it's a good sign. I'm not particularly worried about the Bloc bounce, Ignatieff has opportunity, and it will all demand on how he performs, what kind of coherent message he develops to "sell" the Liberals in Quebec.

The counter-balance to lower Quebec numbers, an uptick in Ontario. We are starting to see a trend, taking all the polls into consideration, wherein the Liberals are taking the lead, in some cases a sizeable one. NANOS has a tidy 9% lead now for the Liberals:
Libs 43% (up 4%)
Cons 34% (down 1%)
NDP 16% (down 1%)
Greens 11% (down 2%)

These numbers represent a 9% gain for the Liberals since the election, a 5% fall for the Conservatives. NANOS isn't the only one to show the Liberals now in the 40's, if these hold, it represents a big swing in seat totals.

Atlantic Canada always brings high margin of error, but given the universal agreement of all the polling, it's a pretty safe bet to say the Liberals are doing quite well.

In the "west", the only thing of note, the Liberals have opened up a considerable gap over the NDP for second place, which may be a reflection of the coalition fallout.

What is particularly encouraging for the Liberals, Ignatieff is doing very well. Harper still maintains a lead, but the name of the game for any opposition leader, just look a credible alternative. This poll, coupled with other findings, confirms that Ignatieff is a serious challenge to Harper. Some of this uptick for the Liberals is probably the "not-Dion" factor, but given the relatively positive coverage, with impressive volume to boot, part of it is probably a reflection of Ignatieff himself. Harper's numbers are largely static, slight erosion, but on all measures Ignatieff is credible.

NANOS also reinforces a clear trend, seen elsewhere, Layton is taking a hit. Particularly concerning for the NDP, Layton has always enjoyed personal popularity, the combination of a perceived weak Liberal leader gone, coupled with his own problems, have left Layton a distant third. For the Liberals, a lesser stature for Layton could be critical, because it means the predictable "in bed" with the Conservatives, the NDP the "real opposition" might not resonate as in the past, some evidence that Layton might be getting tuned out in the discussion.

It will be interesting to see, moving forward, if anyone can break out, or if stalemate is the new reality. These numbers probably translate to a slim Liberal minority, but really we seem to be in "too close to call" terrority, which I would submit is a good circumstance, considering where we were just a few months ago.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Worm Has Turned

If anyone would have told you three months ago that the Liberals would now appear relatively more stable than the Conservatives, you would have rightfully scoffed at the mere suggestion. It's almost amazing on one level, reading more glowing stories about the impressive Ignatieff team taking shape, while at the same time a mood of doom and gloom hangs over the once-respected Conservative machine.

It's all about optics, and clearly the Liberals are starting to get the upper hand on the Conservatives. Harper does seem down, the Conservatives bravado evaporating and a real sense that the government isn't on steady ground. All this talk of the inner circle regrouping only feeds a sense of vulnerability and weakness.

On the other hand, I can't count how many times I've heard media reporters, even unlikely sources, commenting on the impressive team that Ignatieff is assembling. A real measure of respect, for a perceived formidable group, it's clear that part of this honeymoon is a result of the appearance of talent and competence. Liberals no all too well, that the media "senses" weakness, so if they are buying into the seasoned and capable team narrative, it will serve us well moving forward. That reverence is only helped, when compared with the government side, their "exodus" and regroup supports our relative strength. And, it's not just the media, in some respect, I think the Conservatives are spooked, looking at the strengthened opponent.

The important thing moving forward for Ignatieff, an almost "no news is good news" posture, wherein the Liberals simply convey a sense of purpose, a team hitting it's stride, professional and focused. The media's gaze has clearly turned to Harper, tired of beating up on Dion for two years, no longer given a pass, the hunter is the hunted. Ignatieff has to avoid self-inflicted wounds, stay above the fray and keep looking like a PM in waiting. Present a united party, with a common purpose, while Harper is under the microscope, people now looking for any further evidence to suggest failing fortunes. There's a new carcass on the plains, and the fickle are circling.

Of course, everything could change on a dime in an instant, so this is no time to be over-confident or complacent. Merely, a recognition of this moment in time, which clearly shows, the worm has turned.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Greens Ahead In Quebec!

One of the more bizarre regionals numbers I've seen, the new Strategic Counsel(h/t Mike) shows the Greens surging to first place in Quebec. I'm surprised SC would publish that result, something is clearly wrong with the Bloc and Green score (now you know what 19/20 times means):
Greens 26%
Libs 24%
Bloc 22%
Cons 17%
NDP 12%
To all my Green friends, enjoy the moment.

The national numbers are more good news for the Liberals:
Libs 33%
Cons 32%
NDP 17%
People will note, the Quebec regionals do show fairly consistent scores for the above parties, relative to the last poll, so that tends to make the national numbers believable. Liberals up 4%, Conservatives down 4%, NDP down 1% since January, numbers that are strikingly similar to today's Decima poll.

I still haven't seen the Decima Ontario numbers, but given the nationals and their Quebec numbers, it safe to assume they have the Liberals regaining the lead in Ontario. Strategic Counsel shows the Grits opening up a commanding lead in Ontario:
Libs 43%
Cons 28%
NDP 20%

Liberals up 6%, Conservatives down 13%, NDP up 4% since January. Margin of error is low, but even with some variation, you can't argue with the trend. I suspect the economy really souring, coupled with the stench of the coalition gone, Ignatieff performing well, voters in Ontario are finding it easier to move their support.

Liberals are also rebounding out "west" to 24% (up 6%), which is probably due to better support in British Columbia. I was reading a column from Vancouver today, which argued that the Liberals had opportunities in the province, and ditching the coalition was the first step. We'll see.

An 8% swing in national support is a big shift. Further evidence that's it's actually the Liberals and Ignatieff that have emerged from the budget drama in the best shape. Bottomline, both polls today translate to a Liberal minority. And, maybe a Green official opposition. I like the sounds of that actually :)


A couple comments from Donolo, which have been echoed elsewhere:
"It's not surprising, given the Liberals have a new leader who seems to have avoided some of the mishaps and traps that were laid for him and that his predecessor stepped in."

Donolo said that Ignatieff has benefited from dismantling the Liberal-NDP coalition, which was to be supported by the Bloc Quebecois and was deeply unpopular with many Canadians.

"He managed to position Liberal support for the budget without looking like they had been co-opted by the government," said Donolo.

Donolo noted that the Grit's political maneuver has created the impression that Ignatieff "is calling the shots, as opposed to Mr. Harper pushing him around."

Liberals On The Move

Encouraging horserace numbers, Ignatieff getting high marks, the new Harris Decima poll is all good for the Liberals:
The poll also suggests Conservatives and Liberals are statistically tied, with 33 per cent and 31 per cent support respectively, well ahead of the NDP at 15 per cent, the Greens at 10 per cent and the Bloc Quebecois at 10 per cent.

Within the margin of error, a statistical tie. Another poor showing for the NDP, and although we don't have the regionals, the Bloc is clearly formidable in Quebec.

The leadership numbers tell a striking story. Ignatieff's negatives are quite low, partially a result of his relative "unknown" status, but still a clear indication that he's had a very good introductory period as leader. Partisanship aside, I've always believed that Layton has handled recent events poorly, and this poll confirms a seismic shift in public sentiment for the NDP leader:
Indeed, Ignatieff was the only national leader to score a net positive rating, with 43 per cent of respondents saying they had a favourable impression of him versus 32 per cent who had an unfavourable opinion.

Harper was viewed favourably by 43 per cent and unfavourably by 49 per cent, relatively unchanged since last October's election.

Layton was seen positively by 37 per cent and negatively by 49 per cent of respondents, almost a complete reversal since the election campaign when the NDP leader was the most favourably viewed national leader.

I've never seen any finding as bad as this one for Layton, it would appear people are tiring of the predictable act. Lesser stature also means the NDP assault on the Liberals is more likely to be seen as posturing, rather than principle. Many people concluded that Layton was "the big loser" in the budget debate, this poll reaffirms that perspective. From most popular, to least popular, hard to fluff that off.

Harper's numbers have actually remained steady, but this poll reflects a 5% drop in support for the Conservatives since the election. The Liberals are up 5%, the drag of the coalition gone, Ignatieff is clearly helping the cause.

I'll post the regionals when they're released :)

Good news on the "growth" front for Ignatieff:
More importantly, the leadership favourability numbers suggest theLiberals under Ignatieff have more growth potential than their rivals.

Ignatieff was viewed more positively than negatively all across the country, except Alberta, and across all age and gender groups. While he was most favourably viewed among Liberal voters (70 per cent), 33 per cent of Conservatives, 44 per cent of New Democrats, 32 per cent of Bloquistes and 38 per cent of Greens said they too had a positive impression of the Liberal leader. By contrast, Harper was viewed favourably by 90 per cent of Conservatives but only 27 per cent of Liberals, 22 per cent of New Democrats, 14 per cent of Bloc supporters and 30 per cent of Greens.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Has Harper Ever Been "Grilled"?

Ignatieff's town hall last night, was described as "Grit leader grilled in Orillia" by a local paper. It wasn't a negative piece, but the title attests to Ignatieff being put through his paces by voters, for almost 2 hours. Conservatives, Greens, probably a plant or two, all comers. Ignatieff has done a few of these, as did his Liberal predecessor Dion, unscripted responses to unknown questions. President Obama did one, just this morning. It really is a great vehicle to engage political leaders, direct dialogue with the voters, a bit of risk in a soundbite world.

I was thinking of Stephen Harper, the man who claims to be in tune with the "Tim Horton's crowd", the hockey dad, he who represents "ordinary" Canadians. The polar opposite of the ivory tower Liberals, a grassroots leader who prides himself on a common touch approach to government. If all the bullshit we hear is true, why is that Stephen Harper doesn't speak directly WITH Canadians? During the election, Harper rejected a CBC interview that included questions from Canadians, only agreeing to appear if he could control the content. As a matter of fact, I can't think of ONE instance that Stephen Harper has been a part of any forum, wherein he has real input from voters.

I haven't seen any columns asking the question, or drawing the comparison, but it's a striking one. Why is Stephen Harper afraid to face the Canadian people? Why is Harper so afraid, that not only will he not schedule any interaction, but he'll go so far, as to threaten to bow out of any appearance that doesn't allow him COMPLETE message control? Has anyone ever seen one voter approach Stephen Harper and ask a question? How can you claim to represent the "Tim Horton's" crowd, when you won't dare enter the establishment? The aloof professor has no problem wading into the crowd, no issue being put on the hot seat, facing the people, matter of fact seems downright comfortable.

Has Harper ever been "grilled"?

Losing Hearts And Minds

A survey of Afghans confirms that NATO is losing support, Afghans feel less safe, the Taliban have grown stronger and support for more troops is waning:
-the proportion of Afghans rating their security positively dipped to 55 percent from 72 percent in 2005

-32 percent said the U.S. and coalition forces are performing well, down from 68 percent in 2005. And fewer than half, 42 percent, have confidence in coalition forces to provide security in their areas.

-More also blame the country's current travails on the United States, NATO or Afghan government than on the Taliban (36 to 27 percent), but the Taliban is viewed as a greater threat for the future.

-Fewer now say the U.S. or NATO forces have a strong presence in their areas, 34 percent now compared with 57 percent in 2006.

-73% believe Ignatieff was right to support the budget

- Few are hoping for the promised increase in troop levels, however, 44 percent said they want a decrease in the number of foreign forces in the country; 18 percent want an increase.

-More blame U.S. and coalition forces for poor targeting than blame the Taliban for keeping assets among civilians (41 to 28 percent); 27 percent said both sides shared the blame.

-For the first time, more Afghans have a unfavorable impression of the United States(83% favorable in 2005, 47% now)

-Taliban presence-But 22 percent say it has at least some support in their area, and this soars to 57 percent in the Southwest overall, including 64 percent in its home base, Kandahar. That’s up sharply from 44percent in the Southwest last year, and up from 41 percent in Kandahar.

Complete pdf here.