Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Leger Poll

A new Leger poll that puts Conservative support "at it's lowest since 2005". An interesting result. A couple of other polls were starting to show evidence that the Cons had possibly bottomed out in Quebec, a SLIGHT recovery.

A nice result for the NDP in this poll, not much different from Leger's last result, but much higher than a couple recent offerings from EKOS and AR (supporters will note that both the Quebec pollsters give the NDP their best showing).

Nothing particularly earth shattering within the Bloc/Liberal dynamic. More evidence of a marginal Liberal pullback, a 4% lead is now a tie. This minor movement seems consistent with other findings, but the Liberals are still well placed.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Ignatieff And Waterfowl

All you have to do is accept one simple premise, for those that find it hard to reconcile their environmental wants with Ignatieff's tar sand rhetoric. If you accept this premise, which is really a simple, mature fact, then hesitations are somewhat squared. THE OIL IN THE ALBERTA TAR SANDS WON'T REMAIN IN THE GROUND, THE RESOURCE WILL BE DEVELOPED. Anyone with a tertiary understanding of the global economy, commodities, knows that there will be some demand for this limited resource. You can debate the price points, how those will affect demand, force changing habits. But, you can't honestly believe that environmental want will lead to dormant resources. There are too many interests involved that will guarantee the tar sands are developed further.

I take the above as simple fact, despite my very real concerns about the environmental horror show at present. The two views aren't exclusive, nor contradictory. This leads me back to Ignatieff, and why I'm more prepared to listen, rather than scoff. Ignatieff and the goose:
So it's slightly bad faith to beat the goose that lays the golden egg over the head with a stick. The goose is a little messy. The goose needs to be cleaned up. The goose needs to make better use of the yard, but let's make this a sustainable industry that all Canadians can be proud of.”

Essentially, trying to work to make the environmental impact as minimal as possible. Ignatieff has previously referred to our current policy as the "gold rush", and within that a recognition that we might need to take it slow until technologies come on line. The only way Ignatieff can implement environmental standards, if he first presents himself as a good faith messenger. You don't hear Ignatieff absolving the tar sands, what you hear is a roll up our sleeves, recognize the real problems, make it work. Again, if you accept the resource as reality, then that's your only solution.

We already see how dynamics will force change. We already see some potential, but more required. The price of doing business is poised to rise considerably, as we put value on pollution. Environmental concern is now part of the mix, it will drive up the cost of dirty production, which will force cleaner alternatives. That is a positive development for alternative sources of energy, we will watch the dependence wane over the coming decades. Environmentalism will marginalize the tar sands, but it won't leave the tar in the ground- human nature suggests otherwise. The counter balance will be, a cleaner product but never pure. That fact will make said product expensive, which in turn relegates to a lesser portion of the mix, which then results in a clear net positive for the worldwide environment overall.

About all I see, Ignatieff recognizing reality while simultaneously pushing to improve. I'm not sure what more we could ask for under the circumstance. Unless of course you actually think the world's most powerful multinationals are going to disappear tomorrow and oil will cease to exist in any capacity as a commodity. Not anytime soon that I can see, but one can dream I suppose... Until then, Ignatieff just sounds like an adult, trying to forge some good faith, which allows Albertans to buy into what needs to be done.

On Winning Narratives

Part of the reason the Liberal strategy failed during the election "show down", is because we over reached. We weren't prepared to fully follow through on our demands, which made a climb down inevitable. However, the underlying thesis of Ignatieff's approach is a sound one and should be used as a point of differentiation.

Warren's post today highlights a theme I would argue should become a centerpiece of our message:
Now, Michael Ignatieff is not a professional politician or a lobbyist, like Harper is and was. Ignatieff has done other things with his life.

Because of that, he has — genuinely and truly - tried to do things differently since entering public life. Because of that, he has come to believe that Canadians are fed up with politicians who put naked grabs for power before everything else. They’re fed up with the kind of games Harper excels in.

So, when Harper’s Reformatories whipped up a crisis at the end of last year, my leader had lots of people — including some in the Liberal Party — urging him to push Harper out and lead a coalition government. Ignatieff certainly could have done that. But that just isn’t how Ignatieff wanted to win.

I understand why you don't directly respond to your opponent's attack lines, because effectively you've lost half the battle arguing on their chosen ground. That said, there are ways to address any festering negatives, in a way that highlights a strength. Ignatieff isn't a career politician, he isn't a polished operative, forever consumed with tactics and posturing. That fact provides a telling contrast with Harper, and it also speaks to voter cynicism.

Ignatieff should use his past as part of a more over arching message. Rather than "just visiting", Ignatieff actually enjoys a compelling story, a pedigree that shows a wide array of experience, all of it outside of politics and partisanship. If one wants a compare and contrast, then you can frame Ignatieff as the worldly figure making significant contributions, Harper the perpetual backroom partisan, a political creature that embodies everything that turns off Canadians, that alienates them from their political class. You don't react to Conservative attacks, you turn the argument on your head as a choice between politics as usual and a different approach.

The Liberals made a mistake, part of this was due to the Dion legacy. In order to avoid the dreaded "weak" characterization, we tried to make Ignatieff appear strong and steady, but in so doing set himself up to fall short. Beyond that though, the idea of trying to make Parliament work, attempting to find common ground at the expense of pure political calculus is one that resonates. Canadians are largely disgusted with all political parties, the strategic mistake of the Liberals undercut what could have, and still can be, a positive narrative. As cheesy as it seems, the notion of a "new kind of politics" is poised to be a winning storyline.

As we head into the summer and beyond, the Liberals should embrace Ignatieff's past, in a way that puts the emphasis on Harper's less than attractive characteristics. Harper's chief weaknesses revolve around the sense that he's hyper-partisan, petty, mean spirited, forever playing political games. Ignatieff succeeds when he distances himself from the status quo politician. I would embrace his relative inexperience in the arena, highlight the fact that he isn't seasoned. Surrounded by career politicians, the "outside the beltway" approach to politics has an audience, just waiting for a messenger.

There's a certain authenticity when I've heard Ignatieff speak on his approach, how he sees his role and his obligations. That message has never really been co-ordinated, more snippets here and there, but nothing terribly coherent or purposely repetitive. Reading Kinsella, I wonder if the Liberals would be wise to focus and brand Ignatieff as an political anomaly, address voter cynicism head on and make a plea for a new kind of discourse.

On the practical front, we need to arm Ignatieff will real world examples of how his thesis would apply. If you want to address attacks, without being reactive, Ignatieff should tout his background as representative of a unique path to ascendency. The idea of a career politician isn't a plus in today's environment, being a novice brings opportunity to mold. If Canadians get a sense that the Liberals are lead by a guy who isn't business as usual, an honorable man that conducts himself in a high signal way, that could well be the frame that puts the Liberals back in government.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Nanos Poll

A new poll from Nanos that shows minimal tightening nationally, but somewhat more telling regional numbers. For the first time since the last election, a Nanos poll shows the Conservatives leading in Ontario, with a pretty dramatic rise. Nanos seems to confirm what others have shown this week, slight Liberal pullback in Quebec, Conservative fortunes improving in Ontario. Nationally, a 5.4% Liberal lead is now 4.1%, hardly noteworthy:
Libs 36.3% (37.2%)
Cons 32.8% (31.8%)
NDP 16.8% (15.7%)
Greens 4.8% (7.4%)

Looking at the regionals, the numbers are a bit more telling electorally. While the NDP are up nationally, that tends to mask a very poor score in Ontario. The Conservatives haven't moved much, but a questionable result in Atlantic Canada tends to offset important gains in Ontario, and further evidence of a SLIGHT rebound in Quebec.

In Ontario, Nanos now puts the Conservatives out front:
Cons 42.4% (33.8%)
Libs 40.9% (42.1%)
NDP 11.5% (14.4%)
Greens 5.2% (9.6%)

That's a big gain in volatile Ontario. Nanos duplicates other pollsters, the Conservatives seem to have benefited from the election posturing episode. The Liberal number remains strong, but that kind of dynamic doesn't translate to a minority, no matter the national percentages. Nanos puts the NDP in very concerning terrority, falling below what was already weak support. Nanos consistently shows the NDP below their 2008 support.

In Quebec, we see further evidence of a change between the Bloc and the Liberals, with another pollster showing the Conservatives getting an every so slight uptick:
Bloc 38% (35%)
Libs 35.4% (38.2%)
Cons 14% (11.6%)
NDP 10.8% (13.3%)

Still a strong number for the Liberals, but the trend is the same.

Part of the reason the Conservative national number doesn't rise as much a one would think, given a large move in Ontario, up marginally in Quebec, is partially due to a questionable result in Atlantic Canada. Nanos shows the Conservatives falling to 19% from the previous 33% support level. A very high MOE, and that number seems suspiciously low for the Conservatives.

Nanos does seem to confirm apparent Liberals strength in British Columbia, with the party leading with 36% support, Conservatives 30%, NDP 24%. Another high MOE, but that Liberal number isn't out of line, relative to other pollsters.

On the question of party leaders, Nanos finds a very unpopular Harper, Ignatieff fairing much better:
Harper Impression Question: Do you have a positive, somewhat positive, neutral, somewhat negative or negative impression of Stephen Harper?

Net Impression Scores*

Canada: -14.8
Atlantic Canada: -28.6
Quebec: -33.3
Ontario: -13.9
Prairies: +9.1
British Columbia: -8.4

Ignatieff Impression Question: Do you have a positive, somewhat positive, neutral, somewhat negative or negative impression of Michael Ignatieff?

Net Impression Scores*

Canada: +5.2
Atlantic Canada: +18.0
Quebec: +12.9
Ontario: +5.6
Prairies: -11.1
British Columbia: +4.5

No previous poll with the same question, so it's hard to denote any trends. Ignatieff has a far higher "neutral" score with voters, which is a testament to his relative unknown status compared with Harper. I suspect the Conservatives will retool their message in the coming months, taking the focus off Harper and more onto the party brand itself. For the Liberals, Ignatieff has some latitude with Canadians, but these numbers don't dissuade me from my view that we need to define him quickly, particularly on the economy.

I would categorize this poll as somewhat better for the Conservatives than the national numbers suggest. Ontario will be the election battleground, the Conservatives appear to be rebounding according to all the pollsters. That said, despite this ebb and flow in Ontario, the Liberals have reason for optimism, primarily because the dynamic seems to be a fluctuation between a big lead and statistical tie. This fact suggests we are well placed, but the campaign will be the key in moving soft support.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Crime Agenda Popular

If anyone wonders why the Conservatives seem to spend a disporportionate amount of their energy on crime legislation, and then use said legislation as a "wedge" issue, this poll provides the context:

91% support a mandatory two-year jail term for anyone selling drugs at or near a school

82% would include all sex offenders in the national registry

72% would repeal "faint-hope" clause

68% support ending conditional sentences for non-personal injury crimes

At least 63% support mandatory sentences for anyone growing marijuana with the purpose of trafficking

61% think mandatory minimum sentences are a good idea

Mandatory Jail Terms for Drug Crimes

Respondents to this survey were provided with some of the provisions of Bill C-15, which was passed by the House of Commons and must be ratified by the Senate before becoming law. Three-in-five respondents (63%) agree with enacting a mandatory six-month jail term for anyone growing from five to 200 marijuana plants, with the purpose of trafficking.

Support for two other marijuana-related provisions is higher, with 73 per cent agreeing to a mandatory one-year jail term for anyone growing from 201 to 500 marijuana plants, with the purpose of trafficking, and 75 per cent consenting to a mandatory two-year jail term for anyone growing more than 500 marijuana plants, with the purpose of trafficking.

Nine-in-ten Canadians (91%) support a regulation that calls for a mandatory two-year jail term for anyone selling or sharing Schedule I substances (such as cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine) on or near school grounds.

Rare Footage

Below, Stephen Harper gets within 30 feet of the Canadian public:

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Momentum No More

The latest EKOS poll comfirms something of a setback for the Liberals and Ignatieff, as the Conservative now lead for the first time in months. Ignatieff's disapproval rating continues to rise, although he still holds an advantage over a very unpopular Prime Minister:
Conservatives: 34.8 per cent.
Liberals: 32.6 per cent.
NDP: 14.3 per cent.
Green: 9.3 per cent.
BQ: 9 per cent.

For the most part, the shift in national support seems to be a Ontario consideration. Again on the volatility front, what was a 10% Liberal lead last week has evaporated with the two parties now tied. EKOS, unlike yesterday's Angus Reid poll, doesn't show any NDP rebound at the Liberal expense, their numbers still well down from the last election. EKOS shows the more familiar dynamic of support jockeying between the two principles, the NDP mostly on the sidelines:
Libs 38.2
Cons 38.2
NDP 14%
Greens 9.6%

Graves mentions a "temporary" circumstance, as Liberals are hurt in the short term, resulting from the strategic misplay. I would tend to agree, but these Ontario numbers show us once again that nobody can take anything for granted, the support SOFT, SOFT, SOFT. When you see wild fluctuations week to week, month to month, it speaks to a large subset that will be up for grabs up until election day.

EKOS actually gives the Conservatives a relatively decent percentage of 18.4%. The Liberals and Bloc virtually unchanged, while the NDP drops further to 7.8%.

From the Liberal perspective, we've clearly reached a sort of plateau phase, wherein the status quo needs a reconsideration. A slightly worrying storyline, with Parliament on break, people less engaged, the lasting impression this summer may well be the events of the past couple weeks. For this reason, apart from theoretical government missteps, it will be hard for the Liberals to re-seize any momentum. In other words, we're probably stuck here until the fall.

I'd also be somewhat concerned about Ignatieff's rising disapproval numbers, for the first time the leader is being challenged. EKOS gave Ignatieff a 50% approval, 28% disapproval just two months ago. Now we see a 32% approval, 37% disapproval. Part of that is a natural dynamic that happens to all new leaders. However, part of that is a reflection of recent events, as well as being attacked from all partisan sides. Whatever, further evidence that it's time to get aggressive in defining Ignatieff and the party.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

New Poll

A new poll from Angus Reid that shows some slight pullback for the Liberals, as well as Ignatieff registering his first net negative momentum score. Not much movement in the national numbers, although AR now puts the Conservatives ahead in Ontario, the Liberals falling off some in Quebec:
32 per cent of decided voters (+1) would cast a ballot for the governing Conservatives, while 31 per cent (-2) would support the opposition Liberals. The New Democratic Party (NDP) is third with 18 per cent (+1), followed by the Bloc Québécois with 11 per cent (+2), and the Green Party with seven per cent (=).

Conservatives up 1%, Liberals down 2%, NDP up 1%, Greens unchanged. This is the first time the Liberals have scored a low of 31% since March. The NDP are also back to their 2008 total, with some encouraging signs in Ontario.

The regionals show a pretty steep drop for the Liberals since the last AR poll (past results in brackets):
Cons 37% (36%)
Libs 35% (43%)
NDP 20% (14%)
Greens 8% (5%)

Interesting that the Conservatives haven't really benefited from the Liberal fall, the support is bleeding to the NDP and Greens. For months now, we've seen a back and forth between the two principle parties, with the NDP pretty much relegated to worrying status. This poll is the first to show positive news for the NDP. It will be noteworthy to watch if this is a one off suggestion or future polling confirms this shift.

AR also shows a bit of a drop off for the Liberals in Quebec, the Bloc now with a sizeable advantage. It's valid to wonder if the Bloc assault is having an impact:
Bloc 42% (36%)
Libs 29% (33%)
Cons 13% (10%)
NDP 8% (17%)

NDP supporters tend to cherry pick any poll that show Quebec momentum, while curiously ignoring the far more available offerings that show no such thing. I averaged out all the latest polls from each organization, and found the NDP slightly below their 2008 total. That included the past AR result of 17%, so the average has lowered further (anyways, I'm sure the Ontario numbers will suffice this time). As for the Liberals, once again we should wait and see if a true trend develops. That said, this is the first large gap we've seen from anyone for some time, so worth watching.

In terms of leadership scores, the pollster notes that Ignatieff has "negative momentum". While this is the first time we've seen Ignatieff in the "red"- prior he was the only leader to score a positive score- the numbers aren't that bad either:
Momentum Scores: Ignatieff -10, May -10, Duceppe -15, Layton -17, Harper -28

Ignatieff is still relatively strong, compared with everyone else. However, a couple possible warning signs, namely on the question of inspiring confidence, where Ignatieff dropped considerably. Ignatieff also dropped on the question of strong and decisive leadership. Harper expands a fairly large edge on the economy.

All in all, it's hard to draw any concrete conclusions. I do believe however, that we are starting to see a Liberal plateauing, furthering my view that the "honeymoon" phase is over and Liberal strategists should recognize and react proactively to this fact.

Liberal Fundraising/Membership Soars

The Liberals National President Alf Apps has divulged some very encouraging information. Last quarter fundraising showed the Liberals more than doubling their year to year totals. Apps reveals, with some quick math, that this quarter fundraising will be in excess of 3 million dollars, which effectively puts the Liberals within striking distance of the Conservative juggernaut. To put this figure into perspective, the Liberals are now raising about FOUR times what they had, during non election fundraising quarters:
"You can assume that we’re going to report somewhere over $5 million for the first six months (ending June 30)," Apps said in an interview following a speech to the Laurier Club of Manitoba.

He added that the past three months have been the best fund-raising quarter for the party in "many, many years."

Apps, in town for meetings with provincial Liberals, attributed the boost in fund-raising to the momentum generated by crowning a new leader in Michael Ignatieff and to "the recovery of the party generally."

He also argued that recent Conservative attack ads targeting Ignatieff have backfired and spurred Liberal supporters to open their wallets.

"People reacted very strongly to that," he said.

The Liberals raised around 1.8 million for the first quarter, so Apps assertion translates to an eye catching 3 million plus for the quarter that ends this week. Any objective observer has to be impressed with how quickly the Liberals have ramped up fundraising, certainly much faster improvement than I expected.

There is also very good news on the membership front. Prior to the convention, I had heard membership was around 40 to 50000. According to Apps, the party has doubled membership and this has been done prior to the co-ordinated push this summer, which will swell the ranks further:
Meanwhile, national party membership, which dipped to 36,000 at the end of last year, is "closing in on 90,000," and the Liberals are shooting for 200,000 by the end of 2009, he said.

Another impressive gradient that demonstrates the Liberals are getting their house in order in rapid fashion.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


The PMO released a photo of Harper meeting with the Chinese Foreign Minister. The picture was described as a "warm moment":

Yes, nothing conveys warmth like a photo op with a constipated looking Prime Minister. Chalk it up to the limitations of your subject matter I suppose.

Ignatieff also met with the Foreign Minister:

The standard smily photo op, wherein neither participant is in urgent need of a stool softener.

As an aside, Ignatieff will embark on a novel idea for a Canadian "leader", actually visiting China in September. Bizarre I know.

After The Honeymoon

There seems to be some sort of consensus building, that the honeymoon is over for Ignatieff. I don't put much stock in pointing to a certain poll which shows waning personal popularity in Quebec, because when you are being relentlessly attacked by all sides that's a natural initial development. However, back to the more broad theme, if the honeymoon is truly over it's probably a positive, thinking long term.

Up until this point, the Liberals have had the latitude to simply play it safe. I appreciate the wisdom of this strategy, primarily because when indicators are on the upswing, there's no need to be particularly "daring" in your approach. Reasonably positive press coverage, several encouraging frames, rising in the polls, evidence of organization renewal, the coffers filling, the government imploding, the economy tanking- it's a wise call to just keep plugging along, without being too provocative.

The trick moving forward, seeing the terrain change on the horizon and reacting proactively. I would argue now is the time for a strategic rethink, because you can see enough signs of a changing mindset to realize the status quo won't do. There isn't anything particularly worrisome at hand for Ignatieff and the Liberals, but minor qualms can become major problems if things aren't addressed while still in the "festering" phase.

First and foremost, while I don't endorse releasing a full platform before the election, the Liberals would be wise to start putting out substantive arguments that demonstrate how we differ from the present government. Simply relying on the old adage "government's defeat themselves" takes much for granted, and I'm not sure traditional conventions really hold in today's environment. As one columnist aptly pointed out, despite the upheaval, there is no obvious "kick the bums out" sentiment in the land. Rather, there is a certain level of disenchantment, and if the Liberals can seize the initiative and give people a compelling alternative, that strategy may well win the day.

There's no better way to demonstrate a government in waiting, then to show how you would do things differently, in a way that's consistent. This reality means no concurrent "sucking and blowing" messages for instance- no demanding more money for this and that, then criticizing deficits as problematic. If there is one issue where the Liberals need to present some firm policy, it's on the economy- a Liberal path to get Canada back on track, and the bottom line back in black. The Conservatives have given the Liberals a large opening on the economy and fiscal management- no bold ideas, no vision and more importantly no realistic plan to address structural problems. The only way we seize on this opening, if Liberals treat Canadians like adults. You can be timid and fear soundbite counter attacks which renders you inconsistent, or you can look mature and responsible with a frank plan for the future. The only way we really take hold of the economic file, if Liberals are willing to stick their neck out, otherwise we are just malcontents that essentially mirror the Conservatives superficial arguments.

There are a host of issue available to differentiate, and in so doing you address many potential problematic narratives developing. Who is Ignatieff? You want to flesh out the leader, arm him with ideas, not lofty words, but practical solutions. You want to look like a PM, then display the leadership to make tough calls. With cynicism at an all time high, without precedent for reference, it's easy to see how some basic honesty will play like a breathe of fresh air. Only when the "honeymoon" ends will people consider getting out of their comfort zone, and for that reason if the Liberals and Ignatieff are taking a few hits, it's really a welcome development.

To date, I think the strategy has been fairly spot on for the most part. That said, the difference between ultimate success or failure is the ability to predict and foresee, rather than react and attempt to undo. I sense a slight change in the air, certain conditions conducive for future storm development. Let's hope people that actually matter have that same feeling, because in the end I think it will save the Liberal Party many headaches in the future. "Play it safe" was once potent, but being nimble and agile is the key requirement now methinks.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Net Negative

A little late to the party here, but a few thoughts on last week's developments. I'll try to approach my analysis from a non-partisan perspective. I don't think there is any question whatsoever that the Liberals completely fumbled their strategy, whereas Harper managed to improve his standing moving forward. I also think the NDP and Bloc have solidified themselves as practically irrelevant and superficial.

Since I was away, my impressions were confined to newscasts and publications, which meant little exposure to the partisan rationalizations and mostly marginal "details" of the final resolution. What I saw, a Liberal Party that boxed itself in on probably the least advantageous issue available. Ignatieff came out guns a blazing, with ultimatums on a few issues. The stance was such, it unnecessarily raised expectations on what would be required for a final resolution. Harper's reaction was steadfast, and although Ignatieff secured a face to face, which ultimately left a few scraps, the climbdown from the initial position to the conclusion was striking.

For the first time, the characterization of "weak" was applicable. What's worse, the Liberal strategy lent itself to self inflicted damage. The problem was the Liberals never had the stomach for an election, and the maneouvers after the initial "tough" stance proved it in spades. If one has that knowledge beforehand, it's pure folly to over reach, because you know a backtrack could transpire. What the Liberals did, is firmly put the ball in Harper's court, but in such a way that he had the leverage. For all intent and purposes, the Liberals were a paper tiger. Posturing without conviction to see it through, all unnecessary and risky.

The "concessions" the Liberals received where really nothing of the sort. Our main tenet on EI reform, the qualification number is off the table, it's dead and to be truthful we've already lost the PR battle on "45 days". What's left, Ignatieff now parroting Harper on EI- the Conservatives already had the self employed inclusion in their platform and Harper is on record saying the different regional standards are a problem. Harper was right to shrug in his post-resolution presser, that really he's agreed to nothing he already didn't want. Ignatieff was left to champion part of the Conservative platform as though his own, hardly a compelling talking point. There won't be a fall showdown over EI, because Harper will give enough to make an election over an impasse look ridiculous. The kicker, what the Conservatives end up "compromising" on will be on ground they already largely own. Harper agreed to this discussion over the summer because he effectively will get a Afghanistan redux, wherein he neutralizes the Liberals by presenting a non-partisan approach to Canadians.

As it relates to the opposition day in the fall, that's a strategic point and I'm glad we have it. However, to Canadians, a big whatever, so it's hard to argue this is a feather in Ignatieff's cap. The Liberals extracted another chance to force an election nobody wanted anyways- hardly something that resonates or matters in the grand scheme.

It's fair to beat up on the Liberals for their game plan the past week, but it sure as hell shouldn't be coming from NDP or Bloc partisans. Once again, knee jerk rejection that really looks more foolish with each successive example. The NDP are broke, their fundraising sucks at the moment, their polling is particularly bad where it matters most- an election now almost rationally absurd. And yet, there we see the toothless lion roaring, chest glistening, all a by-product of marginalization. The simple fact of the matter, the NDP have absolved themselves of all reasonable responsibility to make Parliament work, instead they effectively endorse the concept of 4 or 5 elections a year. That's the NDP stance in a nutshell, using the Liberals for cover, letting them be the adults, while they operate in theoretical land in a misguided attempt to look "strong". If there is one piece of advice I would offer to the Liberals, rather than ignoring the NDP, strategy wise I would make a point of highlighting their voluntary irrelevance to the proceedings.

Harper extracted what he wanted- time and a modest agenda moving forward. Harper actually addressed his chief weakness, he looked stately rather than petty. EI is now the fall benchmark, and I see little difficulty in manoeuvring enough to effectively neuter the issue as a trigger. Meanwhile, the Liberals have exhausted a certain amount of political capital, Ignatieff is left with his first truly below par performance and the media frame is adjusting. I see the wisdom in wanting a fall election, rather than plunging us into a campaign nobody wanted, the threat of voter backlash probably more likely than any recent example. However, if the Liberals had that knowledge in the first place, it's hard to justify the unnecessary posturing, because the conviction was forever lacking and subsequent events revealed that for all to see.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Getaway Day

Heading off to visit a few old haunts in southwestern British Columbia. Cheers.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Liberals Lead On "Issues"

The new extensive EKOS poll has plenty of good news for the Liberals, as they widen their lead. What's also interesting, the Liberals now lead the Conservatives by a healthy margins on "issue" based questions.

Nationally, EKOS gives the Liberals a 5% advantage, up from the narrow 1% edge we saw in the last EKOS offering. Pretty much in line with others, although EKOS notes the gap soared to 8% after the Raitt fiasco.

Regionally, while Ontario remains fluid there seems to be a new volatility range. A couple of weeks ago, we saw several firms that showed a narrowing, the Liberal lead shrinking, although ahead. Prior to that, we had seen double digit gaps, the Liberals in the 40's. Now, a few polls are showing a return to the wide gap, which suggests that the volatility is a question of size of lead now, rather than the previous back and forth we've seen in previous years. EKOS has the Liberals at 43%, Conservatives 32% and the NDP still at a concerning 15%. This type of gap, coupled with a lack of vote splitting, as we've seen elsewhere recently, translates into a large swing in seat totals.

EKOS maintains the dynamic in Quebec, Liberals and Bloc neck and neck, both up slightly from the last poll, Conservatives trending down.

A huge advantage for the Liberals in Atlantic Canada, over both the Conservatives and NDP. Given the size of this poll, the margin of error is relatively low for this reason, so the numbers are noteworthy. Liberals 43%, Conservatives 26%, NDP 24%.

Interestingly, EKOS again shows a neck and neck race in British Columbia. The last EKOS polls showed a dead heat, and this is replicated with this latest offering. Conservatives 31%, Liberals 30%, NDP 25%. My friends in British Columbia tell me to be cautious, but positive signs indeed.

While the numbers are good across the board for the Liberals, what is particularly relevant with this poll, the issue orientated numbers. Canadians are asked to comment on importance of issues and who is best able to deal with them. The overall score on issues gives the Liberals a substantial lead:
Which party is best able to deal with these issues, overall score?

Libs 38%
Cons 29%
NDP 17%

Of particular importance, on the question of jobs and unemployment, the Liberals lead 41% to 31%. That suggests real erosion on the last remaining "strong suit" for the Conservatives, managing the economy. We also see the two parties basically tied on the question of who is best able to deal with the deficit.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Cheese Factor

I honestly don't know if I can stand to watch this stunning spectacle:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is expected to present a rosy picture of his Conservative government's handling of the recession Thursday in a slick made-for-TV presentation designed to forestall a quick summer election.

The planned event in the southwestern Ontario industrial city of Cambridge will feature the prime minister releasing the government's report on the effectiveness of government policies at the Armenian Community Centre.

The presentation will be moderated by Senator Mike Duffy, a former television journalist, and feature Harper, flanked by Human Resources Minister Diane Finley and Gary Goodyear, the local MP and Minister of State for Science. It will include a staged interview segment between Harper and Duffy.

Duffy has been doing staged interviews with Conservatives for years, so this should be old hat.

The fact the government is resorting to this cheesy approach to sell themselves, is a statement in itself. You don't need slick if you've got the goods, you don't fear a REAL interview, if you have compelling answers. This concoction reeks of a charlatan.

“Am I going to get blamed for this?”

Lisa Raitt seems to have a preoccupation with appearances. Today, we learn more about the Jim Prentice angle, and it's noteworthy not because she calls the wind energy group "whiny" and again shows concern for her career, but because it reveals something about this government's environmental priorities:
Money earmarked to support wind energy producers was diverted to research and development in the oil patch in backroom budget wrangling, the minister of natural resources said in a conversation with an aide in January.

Lisa Raitt told aide Jasmine MacDonnell that she suspects Environment Minister Jim Prentice took the money for wind power and redirected it to his Clean Energy Plan – a $1-billion fund for research and development in the oil sands.

The revelation is likely to intensify criticism of the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper as unfriendly to the environment.

Now that this priority discussion is in the public record, I think Canadians would like to know what Mr. Prentice has to say. Apparently, something is afoot, because Prentice won't talk, always a sign with this government that something substantive lies underneath:
Mr. Prentice's office refused to comment on the recording on Tuesday, and the minister's office told reporters he would end a media question and answer session on Wednesday if anybody asked him about the recording.

Ooooh, they'll end media availability, if someone dares ask Prentice a question about his file. The nerve of some people.

Harris Decima Poll

A new release from Harris Decima, which provides a very positive trend in Ontario's 905 region for the Liberals. Apart from that confirmation, which was sort of self-evident given recent polling for Ontario, this poll is more of the same:
On a national basis, voter intentions give the Liberals 35 per cent, the Conservatives 31, the NDP 15, the Bloc nine and the Greens eight.

No regionals yet, although HD gives the Liberals a "double digit" lead in Ontario.

This poll from HD is similar to their last offering, and it's similar to other pollster findings. It appears we are settling in here at the moment, a slight Liberal lead nationally, barely outside of margin of error. A more noteworthy advantage when you factor in the regionals, Quebec looks to be firming up as a true dynamic, as does Ontario.

I'll post the regionals when they come out...

Silly Me

I have to stop projecting my own sense of what constitutes an acceptable response. Yesterday, resignation or not, I fully expected Raitt to rise prior to QP and offer some sort of apology. When that didn't happen, I thought we would surely see something during the back and forth. CBC's Susan Bonner commented after QP that the opposition seemed "caught off guard" by the Conservatives posture (I sensed that too). Not only did the Conservatives not find it necessary to offer anything contrite, they had the gall to turn it around on the opposition as though they in the wrong.

It really is amazing to see how the Conservatives react to controversy. The inability to contemplate a humble response, or see the need for some type of verbal revision is striking. People were caught off guard, because they made some basic assumptions about decency. I guess the cardinal rule was forgotten, when these guys get cornered, they get aggressive, they ignore the heart of the discussion and turn to some diversion that puts others on the defensive. There's a smugness to it all that is really distasteful, but hardly surprising I suppose. Silly me for thinking otherwise.


Raitt decided to apologize today. Doing this yesterday is one thing, doing it now, after the PMO has heard the outrage, well... I take her words as sincere, the timing, not so much. It's a sweater vest day in the PMO.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

What Others Are Saying

While Lisa Raitt questions Leona Aglukkaq's competence, it's interesting to note what people with a partisan slant have to say about the Minister and her abilities:

But rather than earning scorn from her political opponents for ducking for cover, Aglukkaq is receiving praise.

"I think she's done a terrific job," said Carolyn Bennett, the Liberal health critic and herself a doctor.

"Politics is politics and public health is public health. I'm really impressed that she knows where that line is."

"For a rookie minister, she's on top of this file and she's responded very effectively," said NDP Health Critic Wasylycia-Leis. "She's probably one of the better rookie MPs in the House."

Pretty sad, when your political opponents can demonstrate the ability to offer a fair judgement, while a Conservative colleague and her sidekick talk behind her back.

Status Quo

A new Strategic Counsel poll, which is essentially the same as their last sample:
Liberals: 34 per cent (-1)
Conservatives: 30 per cent (no change)
NDP: 16 per cent (no change)
Greens: 11 per cent (no change)
Bloc Quebecois: 9 per cent (no change)

Another narrow Liberal lead, that looks more attractive once you drill down into the regionals. A solid lead in Ontario, and a worrying number for the NDP:
Libs 44%
Cons 35%
Greens 11%
NDP 10%

Both the main parties are up slightly, the NDP have dropped 5%, now polling fourth behind the Greens. I'm not sure I buy the fourth place percentage, but it's still a bad number for the NDP, who continually poll well below their 2008 totals. All the pollsters now seem to give the Liberals a lead, within the same range, which could be even more pronounced if potential vote splitting wanes.

In Quebec, the familar storyline, Grits and Bloc jockeying for first, Conservatives poised to lose virtually everything:
Bloc 37%
Libs 35%
Greens 11%
Cons 9%
NDP 8%

Another single digit finding for the Conservatives, another poor showing for the NDP, Quebec increasingly looks like a two horse race. Donolo says the "Quebec numbers are now solid".

The Conservatives still maintain a healthy lead in the west, the NDP rebounding somewhat. What is interesting, the Conservatives stand at 41%, which is 12% lower than the 2008 election.

Monday, June 08, 2009


Nothing says resignation like turning terminal illness into a career opportunity. As someone who has lost someone to cancer, and is in the process of losing someone else to cancer as we speak, Raitt's comments can't be glossed over, no damage control, no bullshit from the PMO. Almost everyone I know has been touched, to some degree, by this incessant disease. This terrible fact won't allow excuses, and won't excuse looking at something so serious as "sexy" and good on the resume.

Lisa Raitt is DONE! Just get it over with, show some class and RESIGN. It's over, and if you decide to hold on, I'll be cheering with red in my eye as we go for the jugular. Get Raitt the hell out of there.

Good Hire

Good Hire:
The minister of natural resources is probably looking for some divine intervention these days.

Last week she barely held onto her cabinet job, while her press secretary wasn't so lucky. Jasmine MacDonnell had to resign after a binder of secret documents was left behind in a national newsroom.

Now, the minister, Lisa Raitt, has hired STEVE OUTHOUSE to help fill MacDonnell's shoes.

Probably a wise decision, because Raitt's career is headed for the shitter.

More About The Messenger

A pretty clear indication, that not only are the attacks NOT working, but they're actually HURTING the Conservative cause. The Nanos poll shows, when it comes to these ads, they say more about the messenger:
Effectiveness of Ads Question: Would you say the ads were effective, somewhat effective, somewhat ineffective or ineffective? [Recall Only]

Effective 20%
Somewhat effective 15%
Somewhat ineffective 8%
Ineffective 53%
Unsure 4%

Impact of Ads on Impression of Ignatieff Question: Did the advertisement leave you with a positive, somewhat positive, neutral, somewhat negative or negative impression of Michael Ignatieff? [Recall only]

Positive 14%
Somewhat positive 3%
Neutral 45%
Somewhat negative 12%
Negative 22%
Unsure 4%

Impact of Ads on Impression of Conservative Party Question: Did the advertisement leave you with a positive, somewhat positive, neutral, somewhat negative or negative impression of the Conservatives who paid for the ad? [Recall only]

Positive 7%
Somewhat positive 3%
Neutral 20%
Somewhat negative 12%
Negative 53%
Unsure 6%

Important to note, that almost 40% of Canadians haven't seen the ads, which is another indication of overall effectiveness.

I heard Nik Nanos on the radio this morning, and his basic thesis was really no resonance outside of hardcore Conservative supporters and anti-American NDP supporters. In other words, even if Conservatives want to point to a "marginal" net negative for Ignatieff, it gets lost in the audience it's having an effect. Liberals don't care what the Conservative base thinks, nor a certain segment of NDP support, the target is the soft support that can potentially move votes, and these ads overwhelming fail.

Nanos doesn't directly this point, but when you add up the slightly negative, negative numbers for Ignatieff, you find 34%. The rest are neutral or positive, so having 1/3 see any measure of negative impact is pretty irrelevant, once you factor in party support numbers, once you consider kneejerk reactions from demographics hostile to Liberals in general. Objectively, it's a nothing number, although Nanos uses the term "marginal".

What isn't marginal, the negative reaction to the Conservatives running these ads. Even their own supporters recognize that these ads reinforce the Conservatives baggage, namely that of hyper-partisan, prone to nastiness government. Nanos finds the ads overwhelming "reflect poorly" on the government, adding up the positive/negative reaction, we see a decisive -55 score for the Conservatives. I've argued from the outset, that after the prorogue debacle Harper's political capital is spent on the partisan front. Whatever gain the Conservatives hoped to achieve from these ads would be offset by CEMENTING their own achilles heel. Nanos, and others for that matter, seem to confirm this belief, it's a net loss for the Conservatives. As Nik himself pointed out today, it's never considered a successful ad campaign when you alienate more than you attract.

The bottom line conclusion:
The Conservative attack ads have not arrested the incremental trend which currently favours the Liberals. The conclusion is that the ads have had no discernable short term impact.

The only remaining question, the "long term" argument. Mostly a Conservative apologist talking point at the moment, to deflect from the FAILURE of these ads to resonate, one must still consider. People like to use the Dion example, but there is one thing to consider and I believe this vital moving forward. Attack ads can work if the target plays into the narrative. It is a fair question to ask if the Dion ads would have worked, if not for the Liberals continually volunteering evidence to suggest the "weak" tag was accurate. The ads needed real world manifestation to be effective, they weren't effective just because they aired. Everything about the Liberals screamed weakness, whatever your measure, so the connection was made, the attack was reinforced. It is for that reason, that people should be careful using the Dion template and extrapolating from there. If Ignatieff, in the next few years months acts like an elitist, with no understanding of Canada, then these ads could have a impact over time. I'm not particularly worried on that front, the Conservatives would be best to find another attack angle if they must. What is clear, Stephen Harper just spent 5-6 million so he could firm up opinion that yes, he really is a CAD. Bravo Sir.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Scraping Bottom

The companion piece to "Favorite MP's", a list of our representatives that are prone to display the worst traits, generally lowering the level of discourse:


As a student in history, I'm quite confident that Stephen Harper will go down as the most divisive, hyper-partisan Prime Minister in Canada's history. It all starts at the top, all the nonsense before QP, all the obstructions in Committee, all the ridiculous robo responses of surrogates, Stephen Harper is without question the WORST. The level of discourse will rise immediately after Harper is defeated, addition by subtraction.

Quite simply, Pierre Poilievre is a perpetual GOOF. No matter the forum, has the unique ability to interject completely unrelated information, with the sole focus on smearing opponents. I've actually never heard Pierre engaged in a high signal debate, it always degrades to the lowest level. An embarrassment at every turn, one would like to think high minded Conservatives would agree.

The master of bombast, a heckler who stands alone, John Baird always makes it personal. One of the most laughable appearances I've seen recently, John Baird taking to the airwaves to defend Pierre's "tar baby" crack, lamenting the "gotcha politics" we seen in todays Ottawa. Talk about a live in a glass house moment, Baird
represents all that is wrong with partisan politics.


Denis Coderre is prone to exaggeration, rarely able to make a coherent argument without interjecting something off color. When he rises in Parliament, you can almost hear the moans, as everyone wonders what over the top rhetoric is to come.

I've never been a fan, and while he doesn't share some of the other notables penchant for gutter politics, I always have a hard time believing anything that comes out his mouth. Volpe's seems phony, a career politician who's been in Ottawa too long. As far as I'm concerned, the Liberals should have turfed him after his scandalous leadership run.

Jim Karygiannis is a loudmouth. Jimmy K's CLASSLESS performance when Dion was already ready to step down really showed his true colors. Prides himself on being a "straight shooter", I think that's just a cover to rationalize RUDE.


Somebody who might need some anger management, get Thomas Mulclair excited and we enter the unglued zone. A really smart chap, but another politician who can't just make a strong argument for it's own sake, forever looking for the partisan shot. If anyone noticed Mulclair going ballistic during the Raitt QP this week, they might have seen his NDP colleagues squirming in their seats, barely applauding when he was done. Mulclair has been a huge disappointment since coming to Ottawa, and watching him makes me think Charest is glad he's gone.

Whenever a "scandal" breaks, nobody is more sanctimonous and indignant than Pat Martin. There always seems to be a nasty edge to any of Martin's commentary, in Committee he's a grandstander of biblical proportions.

I'm going to give Jack Layton an honorable mention, because he does display class and grace on occasion and he is a genuine advocate most of the times. However, sometimes Jack is so transparent in his arguments, forever looking for the edge, and alot of the times missing the real target as a result. I think Jack just knows the game to well now, and sometimes his valid arguments get lost in his partisan calculations.

Favorite MP's

Paul Wells column, which laments the state of discourse in Ottawa. Wells makes one assertion, which gets lost in the "madness", and it's largely true:
This doesn’t get said often enough, but your members of Parliament are good people. They are decent men and women who upend quiet lives, endure the indignity of electoral campaigns, leave their loved ones at home and jet weekly to Ottawa. They bring big hearts and steady purpose. They want nothing better than to help their constituents.

On the "good people" front, I'd thought I throw out a few names of MP's that I see as sincere, genuine, representing all the best attributes we desire from our elected officials.


Paul Dewar is quite adept at making his arguments, without turning any discussion into a "scoring political points" affair. Always on issue, always demonstrating class, Dewar seems to have his priorities straight. I would peg Dewar as "the" star within the NDP caucus.

Nathan Cullen can throw some elbows, but rather than political posturing, you always get the sense it's more about defending core beliefs. Cullen comes across as tireless, and he is always well versed on any topic. On the environment, Cullen is probably the best MP in Parliament, always sifting through the spin to make accurate arguments, factually based and honest.

Libby Davies seems the perfect character for NDP House Leader. Whenever she makes an appearance, Davies generally comes across as dedicated to getting things done, moving things forward and trying to find common ground. Her tone is disarming, and while the nature of the job demands partisanship, Davies looks like somebody who wants to roll up their sleeves and get to work.


Quite simply, the conscience of the Liberal Party. Some would argue that Gerard Kennedy has made some questionable political moves, but I think that really speaks to putting principle above self interest. I heart Gerard Kennedy, he's in it for all the right reasons.

If I had to describe Martha Hall Findlay in one word it would "refreshing". Martha speaks in plain language, she cuts through the bull, but she's a smart cookie. Very effective in focusing on the real issues that matter, rather than parroting party spin.

If we measure things in terms of respect, then Bob Rae has no peer. People will note a curious anomaly in Parliament, when Bob Rae rises to ask a question or speak, the catcalls and background noise evaporates, the room turns silent and people actually listen.


Although nuttier than a Snickers bar, Stockwell Day has afforded himself quite well since the Conservatives took power. Day is always serious and he tends to argue the government position without reverting to partisanship. Day is a sincere advocate, and his demeanor is all the more noteworthy, given the company he keeps.

Michael Chong would be a prominent player in this government, but he's been handicapped by not towing the party line, when it conflicts with his principles. Chong has been punished in the past, but I've always been impressed with him in Committee, trying to find resolutions rather than grandstanding.

One of the few Conservative MP's I can listen to, because he comes by his views honestly and he tries to keep any debate high signal. I don't have to agree to recognize a certain amount of integrity.

Any other suggestions welcome...

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Just Rising

The new NANOS poll puts Liberal national support at the highest level we've seen from any pollster since Harper took office. Not exactly a sign of attack ad effectiveness, it looks more and more like the 6 million dollar smear campaign is a BUST. Yesterday, I saw uber hack Tim Powers on television, telling us all to watch for the new poll that he was apparently privy too, he seemed confident. Tim must have got his numbers backwards, poor thing:
Libs 37.2%
Cons 31.8%
NDP 15.7%
Greens 7.4%

Not a huge change from the last NANOS poll, a 3.8% national gap is now 5.4%, but the trend continues. NANOS also shows a new pollster high water mark for the Liberals in Quebec, now ahead of the Bloc:
Libs 38%
Blocs 35%
NDP 13%
Cons 12%

The Liberals have a solid lead in Ontario, the gap comparable to other findings:
Libs 42%
Cons 34%
NDP 14%
Greens 10%

The last NANOS poll only showed a 4% gap, now 8%. You can make a timid argument that Ontario is trending back to the Liberals, although the requisite caution is in order.

NANOS has the Liberals up everywhere, with the exception of the "west". That said, it's also encouraging to see polling in the 30's for this region, because it suggests some strength outside of Alberta and Sask.

NANOS also asks voters what they think about a summer election. In a shocking finding, we see very little support for going to the polls. Whether the Liberals should heed the overwhelming sentiment against an election call is a debatable point.

Given the regional breakdowns and national gap, these type of numbers would translate into a solid Liberal minority. As the post attack ad polls come in, Conservatives are reduced to the argument that you must wait a few months before drawing any conclusions. Personally, while I understand that these ads can have a cumulative effect over time, it's a pretty weak retort at this point. Fact is, when you unleash the largest non-election advertising buy in history, on par with a full election expenditure, one would expect to see some evidence by now. The "you just wait" argument looks more wishful thinking than anything.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Conservatives Hit New Low In Quebec

The first time any pollster has given the Conservatives 8% in Quebec, running LAST in the province. The number might be on the low side of reality, but it shows just how far the Conservatives have fallen. Ipsos puts the Liberals back ahead nationally:
Liberals 36% (33%)
Conservatives 33% (35%)
NDP 12% (14%)
Greens 9% (8%)

Ontario volatility explains the change, and it's noteworthy that two polls ago, Ipsos had the exact same national spread as they do now. In the last Ipsos poll, the Conservatives appeared to rebound in Ontario, this latest one puts the Liberals back with a solid lead. When the last Ipsos poll showed a swing, I posited that the Dhalla controversy might have hurt the Liberals (something which EKOS seemed to confirm in their three week poll). The latest numbers revert back to the trend prior to that rough week, a return to real issues seems to help the Liberals:
Liberals 41% (37%)
Conservatives 34% (39%)
NDP 14% (12%)

Ipsos shows the Liberals with a healthy lead in Atlantic Canada, a positive trend in the Prairies. Ipsos gives the Conservatives a wide margin in British Columbia.

This is clearly a blip, but Ipsos pegs the Greens third in Quebec:
Bloc 38%
Liberals 37%
Greens 10%
NDP 8%
Conservatives 8%

The Liberals numbers keep edging up in Quebec. Tonight, I read a pile on piece, with the Bloc, Cons and NDP all going after the Liberals in Quebec (first they ignore you, then they...). Two recent polls have put the Conservatives at 9%, but this is the first 8%. I would say "dead to Quebec" is probably around 12-14%.

The big question moving forward is whether Ontario really firms up for anyone. The Liberals are generally ahead, their top end numbers hit for periods suggests real big pickup possibilities, but that's a fluid argument.

Another poll out tomorrow apparently...

Naked Politics

Much discussion about Bill C-15, wherein the Liberals will support mandatory sentencing for drug crimes. Susan Delacourt peruses the online reaction, calling it a "Liberal Revolt". I won't rehash all the sound reasons for opposing our stance, but just a few comments on what is really going on here.

I'll make one basic assumption, the Liberals DON'T really support this measure. In fact, if left to our own devices, Liberals wouldn't even entertain the concept as a credible option to deal with drug crime. It's pretty obvious, the impetus to support is a pure political calculation, based on the misguided notion that we must neutralize the crime issue.

I'm disappointed in Ignatieff, but if one is being honest here, this "approach" has been present for a few years now, as Liberals continually bend and contort reacting to Conservative wedge politics. The government has never had the facts on their side, with almost all the crime legislation they've introduced since they took office. It's not different in this instance, little empirical support for C-15. It's actually embarrassing how little real justification the government can muster.

The entire premise of the Conservative agenda, exploit unsubstantiated fear within the public, use the disconnect between perception and reality to appear tough on crime, and in so doing paint your opponent as weak. Whenever the government gets in any sort of trouble, they beat the crime drum, whether it be for fundraising, shoring up their base, or trying to score points against the Liberals. The Liberals have always had the benefits of statistics, facts on the ground, concrete international examples, but in one sense it's a losing argument because on this issue perception IS reality. Don't tell me crime is diminishing, don't tell me that this initiative or that will be ineffective, don't tell me the Conservative agenda won't work, with the public your almost screwed as soon as you show dissent. I'm sure the Conservatives honestly believe much of what they propose, their ideological bent blindly guiding the agenda. However, the issues around crime take such prominence because tactically it's a wedge issue that they can exploit.

The Liberals are trying to nullify, trying to keep up their "creds" on crime, sound policy an afterthought. That's the bottom line, this latest example so transparent, I don't think I could stand to listen to any rationalization. I'm not necessarily outraged, because really it's all just another chapter in a reaccuring theme- the Conservatives have us SPOOKED on crime and we're always on the defensive, trying to improve the optics. People have made the conclusion, a mentality that has permeated Liberal ranks WELL before Ignatieff took the helm, that we have to counter the Conservative frame, because it's a winner for them with the public. Principle is sacrificed for a naked political calculus. Shocking I know...

Thursday, June 04, 2009

The Right Pitch

Besides apparently raking in $600000 tonight, at a very successful fundraiser, Ignatieff's speech was pretty spot on from my perspective. Of course, the piece I read comes with the "woo Quebec nationalists" angle, but really in this speech, and in his earlier comments today, Ignatieff actually argues from a firm Liberal tradition. This isn't Mulroney or Harper playing footsie, this is Ignatieff stating unequivocally "no new powers for Quebec", the country is already decentralized, the federation works, lets get on with it.

At first blush, Ignatieff opens up the kneejerk response from seperatists, another rigid, centrist Liberal that will deny Quebecers aspirations. However, it's where Ignatieff moves from the traditional Liberal terrain that could have appeal beyond hardcore federalists:
“In the last election, Quebeckers protested against the right-wing government of Stephen Harper, and many Quebeckers voted for the Bloc Québécois,” he said in a fundraising speech last night. “Quebeckers protested, but Stephen Harper is still there.”

The option, Mr. Ignatieff said, is for Quebeckers to help the Liberals return to power. In exchange, he said, the Liberals will ensure that Quebeckers get a real taste of power.

“The best Canada possible is a Canada inspired by Quebec. The best Canada possible is a Canada with Quebeckers in power,” he said

In an interview before the speech, Mr. Ignatieff said he will increase the number of first ministers' conferences if he becomes Prime Minister, and work toward increasing interprovincial trade. But he insisted he will not offer major jurisdictional shifts to win over Quebec.

“I certainly don't have a constitutional package in my back pocket, and I don't think Canadians or Quebeckers expect me to,” he said. “Let's make the federation work as a practical, operational, day-to-day matter, above all on working together to get us out of the economic crisis.”

The Liberals are manipulating the unhappiness with the Harper government to their advantage, while simultaneously asking soft Bloc support what their vote really achieved. There is a underlying, compelling rationale to the argument that it's better to have some influence on the levers of power, rather than sitting on the sidelines perpetually marginalized. It's about giving Quebecers a voice in government, and it's said without the folly of expecting a new paradigm. Ignatieff is arguing we have the tools already, so the alternative is to make Canada work, within that protect, respect and recognize Quebec's unique standing within, or thumb your nose and revel in your idle purity. Where Ignatieff can pull off this argument, is if he's seen as sincere. There's a real sense that Ignatieff has some measure of intrigue with Quebecers, and while opponents will try and undermine, he still has a relatively attentive audience to get out our perspective.

I have to say, I like the way our approach to Quebec is fleshing out, there's a lot of potential. What I find most attractive, Ignatieff isn't prostituting a core Liberal position with this "woo", unless of course a vocal, engaged Quebec voice at the federal table is considered counterproductive.

Obsess Much Gilles?

I heard the Bloc are sending out flyers attacking Ignatieff, so I thought I would venture over to their party website. Wow, looks like Gilles and the Bloc are pretty obsessed with Ignatieff, he's EVERYWHERE:

Not much mention of Harper strangely enough...


Apparently I'm not the only one who felt compelled to visit their website today.

The Conservatives Doth Protest Too Much, Methinks

It's sort of amusing that Conservatives are now reduced to warning Liberals against entertaining a vote of non conidence. Stephen Taylor gives Liberals some friendly advice, detailing why we might want to think again. In so doing, the defensive posture actually speaks to why the Liberals really should entertain. I found this passage particularly noteworthy:
Strategically, going to an election in July wouldn’t be ideal for Mr. Ignatieff as a $5-6 million Conservative pre-writ ad buy defining the Liberal leader would be much more effective if the Conservative messaging is fresh in the minds of Canadians.

There's another way of interpretating this logic. The fact your opponent has recently found it necessary to unleash the largest non-election attack ad expenditure in Canadian history, confirms that the situation is quite desperate and you're generally worried. It's also fascinating, that Taylor argues the "fresh" angle, when for the last two weeks, Conservatives have responded to the initial blowback against these ads, evidence of virtually no immediate impact, with the retort that people should take the "long view"- these ads are such, that there true impact can only be measured after many months of "framing". Now, Liberals should worry about the wildly successful short term impacts. Alright then, duly noted.

In a strange way, the more Conservatives warn us why we need to avoid a non confidence, the more I'm inclined to believe the timing deserves further consideration.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

What Happened To Tough Guy?

If you google "Harper threatens election", you'll be bombarded by so many manufactured tough guy routines, it's simply staggering. As a matter of fact, it's hard to think of any pivotal moment since he became Prime Minister where Harper hasn't intimated going to the voters. With that in mind, it's particularly amusing to listen to the guy who ditched his own mandated fixed election date, fabricated a crisis when Parliament wasn't even sitting, now argue that Canadians have had "enough" with elections. I'm not sure who would win an election, although I fancy our chances, but one thing is certainly clear, Stephen Harper doesn't fancy his:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper "strongly advised" Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff Wednesday against bringing down the Conservative government.

"I've had three elections in four years," Harper told reporters in Quebec City. "I think that's more than enough for the Canadian public. I don't meet anyone … of any political persuasion who wants to spend the summer fighting an election."

The country doesn't need the "political stability" an election would trigger just as it begins to emerge from a recession, Harper said.

"So you can certainly count on this government being against any kind of election in the near future. I would strongly advise the Opposition of the same thing."

Wasn't it just a few weeks ago that Harper was in British Columbia threatening the opposition, something about going to the voters? Wasn't it a few weeks prior to that, where Harper said he was ready to go to Canadians over something or other? Now, all of sudden, when Harper has finally realized that his opponent is formidable, he can't bully his way anymore, he's suddenly found salvation. Canadians have never wanted an election, and they never have EVERY time you've threatened one in the past. So PLEASE spare us all this nonsensical routine, that insults our most basic comprehension.

Here's the bottom line, with the new "strongly" advising Stephen Harper, he sees himself as a LOSER. The new posture isn't Harper's organic predisposition, he only reverts to it when he sees it all slipping away. When he was faced with a coalition he caved, because he had no choice, but Harper's natural state is to be aggressive, to sabre rattle, to appear resolved and strong. More than the polls, Liberal optimism, the most telling evidence that the math looks really bad for the Conservatives, the sombre conclusions they've voluntarily made, as they try at avoid an election at all costs.

Stephen Harper has used the election threat to his advantage time and again. It's really been his chief club to get legislation passed, to force his agenda. Quite interesting now, to watch Harper without his former bravado as he now reacts to something which appears more compelling than anything he could return in kind. It's sort of like watching the transformation of a bully, when the other kid just completed a growth spurt and now has a swagger of his own.

Rae Defends Raitt

With all the drama surrounding Raitt and the secret documents, Bob Rae offers the embattled Minister a lifeline:
"One plausible explanation is maybe she thought CTV was a branch of the government, I can't explain it"
Said with a wry smile and a telling glance, Rae takes a pointed jab at Conservative TeleVision.

On a more serious note, what others are saying about Minister's accountability and missing government documents:

"It obviously was not done on purpose. It was a mistake. But it doesn't matter. It was clearly done and that has to be treated appropriately. There are precedents and this obviously is a warning to all Ministers."

- Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Macleans.ca, May 26 2008

"Mr. Bernier has learned and informed me that he left classified government documents in a non-secure location. This is a serious error. The minister has accepted his responsibilities in offering to resign."

- Prime Minister Stephen Harper, CTV News, May 26 2008

"This is about one thing, and that is a failure to uphold expected standards on government documents. It is a very serious mistake regardless of who the minister is."

- Prime Minister Stephen Harper, CBC Radio's World Report, May 27 2008

"We certainly take adequate care to ensure that they are not disclosed, and that they are not left behind somewhere, and unfortunately, the minister broke those rules."

- Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Global National, May 27 2008

"Mr. Speaker, the rules governing classified documents are always serious. That is why, when the minister became aware of the situation, he told me and tendered his resignation, which I accepted."

"Ministers are always responsible for the protection of classified documents. The minister admitted his mistake in this matter and resigned his post. That is why I accepted his resignation. The former minister did the honourable thing by resigning."

"The minister admitted that he failed to protect classified documents. That is why he offered his resignation and why I accepted it."

- Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Hansard, June 2, 2008

"The former minister of foreign affairs informed me about the problem with the documents on Monday and offered his resignation, and that is why I accepted it."

"The former foreign affairs minister admitted that he left classified documents in unsecured premises. That is the reason why he tendered his resignation and I accepted it."

- Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Hansard, June 3, 2008

"We know the reason the former minister of foreign affairs offered me his resignation was because of his own actions. He left classified documents in an inappropriate and unsecured location. He offered to resign and I accepted his resignation."

- Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Hansard, June 18, 2008

Sounds pretty cut and dry, according to Mr. Harper.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Getting Frisky

I first read, then heard, Ignatieff's scrum today. Measured and serious, not really a opportunistic tone, but more a rational reasoning as to why the Liberals find themselves exploring all options. What I find striking, this isn't transparent bluster, there will be serious deliberation.

Part of this is surely a byproduct of the real latitude the Liberals enjoy. The overwhelming odds, no matter the decision there will be no election, but there are no guarantees. If I can be blunt, this can all be described quite succinctly- the Liberals are saying "fuck it". We're the opposition, we don't have any faith in this government, almost everywhere you turn, there's a stench. If we go to an election, we go to an election, not necessarily the want that others are trying to paint but fear of possibility no longer an overarching concern. Ignatieff wasn't playing safe today, and clearly people are feeling frisky:
Question: Will you be moving a motion of non-confidence before the summer break and will you also be supporting the Main Estimates, voting for the Main Estimates (off microphone)?

Michael Ignatieff: I don’t want an election. Canadians don’t want an election. But here’s where I am. I’m trying to make Parliament work with a government that every day is displaying more flagrant examples of incompetence. We’ve got a major medical crisis with the isotopes. They’ve got no plan. We’ve got, Toronto Dominion Bank just announced that the deficit over five years will be, wait for this, $168 billion. That’s the biggest number anybody has ever heard of. The public finances of this country are not under control. Right? Third, we’ve got an unemployment crisis with unemployment surging across the country. We’ve got Premier Campbell, we’ve got Brad Wall, we’ve got Premier McGuinty saying let’s do something about a national standard for EI. I’m not fancy about how we do it, but let’s do it. Right? We’ve got stimulus that needs to get out the door and only 6% of the stimulus has actually reached the country in the middle of the construction season.

So look, I want to make Parliament work. Canadians don’t want an election. I don’t want an election, but we have a problem, a serious problem about this government’s confidence, and I’m getting to the answer, next week, next week they have their second report card. Right? And as I said at the beginning of this, we’re holding these guys on probation. We’ll look at the data when we get it and we will make a serene and clear decision probably in the middle of next week. Thank you.

Outcome notwithstanding, for someone who's been embarrassed time and time again in the past as we scurried in the shadows, I'm enjoying the spine.


In a stunning report, TD bank concludes Jim Flaherty can't add. Suffice it to say, the revelation is simply shocking:
TD questions Ottawa's surplus forecast‏

The federal government will miss its projected return to surplus by a whopping margin, economists at Toronto-Dominion Bank wrote Tuesday.

OTTAWA -- The federal government will run a cumulative deficit of roughly $162-billion over five years, or nearly double what Ottawa projected in its most recent budget, economists at Toronto-Dominion Bank said Tuesday. As a result, the government will be nowhere near a return to surplus in 2013-14, as Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said in his January budget. According to the TD forecast, Ottawa will record a $19-billion deficit that fiscal year, as opposed to an anticipated $700-million surplus. The only way the budget gets back to balance in 2013-14 is if Ottawa freezes program spending growth after fiscal 2012-13, at which time TD expects the economy to fully rebound from the current downturn.

Deficits are to continue up to 2013-14, with a $19.4-billion shortfall, which is expected to amount to 1.1% of nominal GDP. That means $162-billion of deficits for a five-year period ending March 31, 2014, compared to the $83-billion anticipated during the same timeframe in the budget.

What's another 80 billion, especially when you won't own up to it, until FORCED by the calendar.

These type of numbers, and TD argues this fact, mean the government either has to map out a massive cost cutting exercise and/or raise the spectre of TAX INCREASES. I would argue that the party that comes to grip with simple realities and formulates mature policies, will be best placed come the next election. These are sobering numbers, and one can't expect to be seen as credible if people hold onto unrealistic recovery scenarios.

Strange Timing

For the past three years, critics have lamented the government's inability to reign in spending. Leave it to the Harper government to suddenly turn off the taps just as the country and economy actually need it:
Government spending growth in Canada actually slowed to below the historical average in the first three months of 2009, even as the recession's grip tightened...

Government spending rose only 0.3 per cent in that period over the previous quarter. This increase even fell short of the 30-year historical average of 0.5 per cent for quarterly government spending growth.

"In a quarter they're supposedly rolling out big stimulus, government spending actually rose less than a typical quarter," BMO Nesbitt Burns deputy chief economist Doug Porter noted.

As Mr. Porter observed, it's a surprise that government spending growth actually softened as the downturn grew.

"We were actually expecting a bit more of a positive impact from government spending."

I've heard a rumor that as we get more mandated disclosure on spending, ending this past fiscal year, we could see a suspicious effort to hold back spending, so that it didn't count against the deficit. The above tends to lend some credence to that belief. It will be interesting to see if the government put the optics of their bottomline presentation above spending that was already allocated, clearly needed.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Attack Ad Impacts

The Angus Reid poll details the possible impacts of the attack ads. The Toronto Star headline reads "Tory Attack Ads Backfiring, Poll Finds". In the spirit of fairness, I should point out a few things that go beyond the soundbite presentation. The Angus Reid poll does show that Harper fars worse, relative to Ignatieff with those that have seen the ads, and with those that have seen the ads and the Liberals You Tube response. However, and this is an important factor that seems to be ignored by the pollster and the piece, Harper's numbers are equally abysmal with those that haven't seen the ad or the Liberal response. Angus Reid breaks voters into these three categories, but Harper's numbers are virtually identical across the board. One could argue, that those who haven't seen the ads or the Liberal response still think less of Harper because of what they've read, but I think this fact shows a wider sentiment, namely that people just don't care much for Harper these days, regardless of these attacks. Harper's numbers:
Seen the ad:

Opinion of Harper improved 10%
Stayed the same 35%
Worsened 50%

Seen the ad and the Liberal You Tube:

Opinion of Harper improved 9%
Stayed the same 35%
Worsened 52%

Haven't seen the ads or the Liberal You Tube:

Opinion of Harper improved 7%
Stayed the same 42%
Worsened 49%

I'm prepared to accept that the horrible media response to these ads has impacted the last category, but it's also relevant that Harper suffers equally, no matter the subset. To conclude the ads are the reason for Harper's horrible score isn't quite conclusive. As a matter of fact, previous AR polls asking this question have continually shown Harper with considerable negative momentum, regardless of attack ads, so this makes the final group all the more curious.

When it comes to Ignatieff, the conclusion is the attack ads have had slight impact. This is true in terms of voting intention, as well as relative scores to Harper. One small caveat, and I don't want to overstate this, because I agree with the minimal impact thesis, this AR poll is the first to show Ignatieff with negative momentum since he became leader. Previous AR polls continually showed Ignatieff bucking the trend amongst the party leaders, the more Canadians saw, the more they liked, he the only one with positive momentum. In this poll, Ignatieff scores a -7 momentum score, paltry compared to Harper's -41, Layton's -20, but a first time negative number nonetheless.

What AR does show, Ignatieff's numbers are completely stagnant with those that haven't seen the ads, those that have, but have also seen the Liberal response. But, with those that have seen just the ads, Ignatieff does see some erosion:
Seen the ads:

Opinion of Ignatieff improved 24%
Stayed the same 26%
Worsened 42%

Seen the ads, Liberal response:

Opinion of Ignatieff improved 29%
Stayed the same 35%
Worsened 31%

Haven't seen the ads or the You Tube:

Opinion of Ignatieff improved 28%
Stayed the same 38%
Worsened 28%

The subset that have seen both the ad and the response is irrelevant, because it isn't representative of average Canadians. Only 30000 people have viewed the You Tube ad, this poll presented it to them, so the general population really falls into two categories, seen or haven't seen. When you factor in the millions of Canadians who have seen these ads, then the first category, wherein Ignatieff takes a slight hit is worth taking seriously. However, I'm not trying to elevate marginal impact, merely taking issue with a few superficial conclusions.

AR also asks a whole range of questions about the party leaders, and it's here that we find Harper takes a real risk. Harper is seen as more arrogant, decidedly more secretive, uncaring, dishonest and out of touch. Ignatieff is seen as more intelligent, open and strong, as well as scoring quite low on the measures that haunt Harper.

If you wanted to wrap this entire poll into a couple ofsentences, I would suggest the following. Stephen Harper has serious problems with the electorate, his image is cementing in a negative way. Ignatieff had best keep on eye on the attacks, but he still looks a winner beside Harper.