Monday, August 31, 2009

Gentle Jabs

Great quote by Ignatieff today, taking a gentle jab at the media disconnect:
"I'm surprised to see you all, you disappeared on me this summer"

While Ignatieff logged tens of thousands of miles in 8 provinces and terrorities this summer, he was criticized by sedentary scribes for not getting "out there". Most people didn't know this, because nobody bothered to tell them. Instead, it was much more productive to lazily pen from a desk in Ottawa a narrative, that was outdated about a week after it started. I found this dynamic most telling when a Liberal leader, for the first time in YEARS, did an extensive tour in the Bloc heartland. I could think of multiple angles from which to write a piece, what that meant in terms of changing dynamics and offensive thinking, but alas no mention from the same press corp that criticized.

Anyways, it's nice to see everybody back and invigorated for the fall season. There's one irrefutable fact, judging by the "coverage" this summer, the critics took a hell of a lot more time "off" than the one being critiqued.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Music To My Ears

And, I'm sure I'm not alone:
With that in mind, the Liberals are expected to start trying to regain some traction with a massive ad campaign — with a rumoured price tag of $2-million — after Labour Day. Insiders say the campaign is aimed at helping voters, for whom Mr. Ignatieff remains somewhat of a cipher, to get to know the leader and what he stands for.

According to Mr. Goodale, Liberals hope to use the fall to expand on the theme that — unlike Harper's “petty partisan negativity” — Mr. Ignatieff has an inspirational dream of turning Canadians into the best educated, healthiest, most productive, innovative and entrepreneurial people “on the face of the earth” by 2017, the 150th anniversary of Confederation.

That's a sizeable chunk of change, and it speaks to a party that it's in relatively good shape. I like the optics of this ad buy, because it demonstrates to all that the Liberals are no longer broke and at a decided disadvantage- we have the capacity to, and can present our own message. This ad campaign projects confidence, a sideline to the themes, it translates to a party that actually looks ready.

Those secondary optics aside, it's nice to see that the decision has been made to be proactive in defining Ignatieff. There's no question his image has been hurt of late, but he's still largely a blank slate, we need to fill in some of the void with our own narrative.

Lot of talk about regaining "traction", the timing of this effort couldn't be better. On top of that, a positive presentation is a nice contrast to the gutter the Conservatives thrive on. Good stuff.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

If You Say So

The Prime Minister, on putting country ahead of his own self interest:
"My main preoccupation is not my personal image, but rather the country's higher interests.”

Friday, August 28, 2009

Truth Hurts

If former Reform MP Myron Thompson happens by, might I recommend you keep the defibrillator handy while viewing:

All hail the king:

New Angus Reid Poll

The latest AR poll shows the Conservatives opening up a minor lead over the Liberals:
The survey conducted Aug. 25 and 26, shows that 34 per cent of decided voters - up 1 percentage point from July - would vote for the Conservatives compared to 30 per cent for the Liberals, down 4 percentage points since July. The NDP is third with 18 per cent, up 2 percentage points, followed by the Greens with nine per cent or up 2 points and the Bloc Québécois with eight per cent or down 2 points. The Greens are leading the BQ for the first time this year.

It's been month since the last AR poll, so slight movement but something to consider. Of note, their poll two weeks prior had shown a 3% Con lead, prior to that a 6% lead. Probably the most telling data, that explains the change:
Harper's personal popularity has taken off with 27 per cent of Canadians preferring him as prime minister compared to 17 per cent for Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff. Layton is third with 12 per cent. In vote rich Ontario Harper leads Ignatieff by 13 points.

"Taken off" doesn't quite translate, since Harper is basically where he's always been of late. What is different, Ignatieff has tailed off. Ignatieff has taken a pounding in the press of late, which explains his downward trend. As well, Ignatieff's momentum score has steadly worsened since the "honeymoon". With the summer lull over, the hope is that Ignatieff can re-establish himself. These numbers suggest he needs to, Ignatieff is no longer the draw he was a few months ago.

In Ontario, a statistical tie, Liberals 37%, Conservatives 35%, Greens 15%, NDP 13%. The last AR poll gave the Liberals a six point edge. Again, Ignatieff trails Harper badly in Ontario, whereas he was tied or better in previous samples. It does appear, taking all the polls into consideration, that the Liberal lead in Ontario has virtually vanished. Statistical ties won't do it for the Liberals, if they have any hope in an election. This said, the potential is there to regain a wide lead, the campaign will obviously determine.

In Quebec, Liberals and Bloc tied at 33%, Conservatives at 16%. Last poll the Bloc had a 38% to 34% lead, Conservatives at 13%. A relatively good result for the Liberals here, the minor erosion we've seen elsewhere isn't evident.

With the NDP placing fourth in Ontario, one might wonder why they've gained nationally. AR gives the NDP a very strong results in high MOE regions, second in Atlantic Canada and British Columbia.

Here's what the general vibe and polls tell me. The Liberals are essentially entering the fall session stone cold, with little identity or messaging that's attractive. Ignatieff needs traction (which I suspect he will get, simply as a function of Parliamentary realities) and "flesh" that changes this developing negative narrative. Not panic, but pro-active.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sound Strategy

Predictable reaction coming from the usual sources, as the Liberals telegraph their fall strategy. That irrelevance aside, because a general yawn was heard throughout the land, I agree with the direction wholeheartedly. One caveat, I do have a concern with being so public about the after EI part, rarely do parties lay out scenarios so overtly. That said, the thought process is a very "adult" approach.

Since this EI panel began, I've never really seen it as an election trigger, despite securing this opposition day. Over the last few months, it's become increasingly clear that Canadians don't see it as one either- there is not a vocal groundswell. A pretty sketchy proposition for the Liberals to use this debate as the catalyst for an election. Because of this fairly objective fact, it's nice to see us redirecting focus away.

To the wider point, coming off a summer break and then suddenly thrusting the country into an election probably isn't an example of "maximizing your potential". This logic put forth by Smith and Goodale is sound. Harper's relatively "clean" at the moment, he hasn't been battered, subjected to much, no real interest or focus (they don't call it a "break" for nothing). There is wisdom in thinking a few weeks after Parliament resumes, a return to tertiary interest from the public, will provide more favorable conditions for a possible election. Bloody them up a bit first, then see where we are. It's still a fall option, but on balance, equating the unknowns, waiting until October to decide, looks more attractive.

This hasn't been a great summer for the Liberals, which isn't necessarily surprising, nor does that verdict necessitate blame. Getting traction in the summer is a herculian effort for an opposition party, always has been, almost a theorem at this point. Couple that with a "last time we saw you" flavor from June, and we're clearly stalled in the polls, with no obvious booster available. In other words, we're probably not heading into this September opposition day with much wind in our sails. This simple reality provides further logically backing to the supposed strategy. We need to recapture some momentum and/or put the government on the defensive again. This may be maddening to some, but it shouldn't be, because it's a wise consideration.

I still want to go this fall, for a myriad of reasons. However, if I'm choosing between a "cold" call immediately, or a try and "build up a lather" approach, I think I'll take the latter in this instance, without tremendous reservation.

Bizarre Polling

What, you mean we have another poll that doesn't confirm that Ipsos sample that has everyone "buzzing"?. Shocking:
Conservatives – 32.6 (-0.2)
Liberals – 30.9 (+0.7)
NDP – 15.7 (-1.4)
Green – 11.3 (+0.3)
BQ – 9.5 (+0.8) (37.1) (+2.1)
Undecided – 15.1 (-0.7)

Funny, that EKOS actually shows a slight narrowing, a statistical tie.

What's Left?

On the heels of maybe the most obnoxious set of Senate appointments in recent memory, interesting to hear more "feedback" on that other CORNERSTONE Conservative principle- the "open and transparent" government:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives have failed to boost government transparency, despite pledging years ago to improve Canadians' access to public information, says the retired Quebec judge who oversaw an inquiry into the federal sponsorship scandal.

Enlarge Photo David SmithJohn Gomery "The current government ran for election in 2006 on a platform promising integrity, accountability and transparency," John Gomery said in a speech on Wednesday.

"On the transparency issue, its promises have simply not been fulfilled.

"I do think the record of the current government is very bad," he later told reporters. "I think, frankly, the government needs to be criticized for that."

Not so-so, not more needs to be done, not bad, but VERY BAD. In other words, a complete and utter repudiation of the supposed core tenet. We remember well, the pius white knights who would transform Ottawa after years of dirty Liberal rule- make it open to Canadians, make it transparent, no secrecy. Surely it must pain the faithful to know that in practice, the Harper government has ruled with a Stalinist grip, access to information has stalled, at every turn obstruction and delay.

I'm curious, what's left for the principled Conservatives? Not much it seems, the odor of overt hypocrisy is simply PUNGENT.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Move Over Duff

Mike Duffy's status as chief Conservative HACK in the Senate might be in danger.

A real class act.

Idle Thought

I keep reading this sentiment in comments around online sites and the media, that goes something like this:

"With one of the worst economic downturns in history, it's pretty bad that the Libs can only manage to be tied in the polls with the Conservatives. The Liberals should be way ahead."

Obviously, this argument comes from the conventional wisdom that the opposition should be able to capitalize during economic challenges. History would tend to support this thesis.

I'm wondering then, if it's a fair criticism of the Liberals, because it would seem like a pattern exists throughout Canada, not exclusively a statement on the federal party. Why is that McGuinty is riding high in the polls, without the slightest hint of erosion? Why haven't the NDP and PC's capitalized? Ground zero on the economic front and the incumbent doesn't suffer? Surprising, to say the least. Why is that Charest's popularity is almost unprecendented in Quebec, what with this seismic economic downturn? Why hasn't the PQ capitalized? How did Gordon Campbell manage to get another majority, with an election right smack in the middle of the worst of it? Why didn't the NDP capitalize? In other words, why does it appear that incumbents aren't really suffering at all, why are they defying history?

Seems to me, that part of the equation here that might be unique- Canadians have largely bought into the perception that this recesssion is an imported downturn, a global problem that has nothing to do with Canada in particular. That explains why various incumbents aren't "wearing it" in the traditional sense, and maybe why it's a bit erroneous to copy and paste historic analogies. As a matter of fact, the federal Liberals don't appear terribly unique at all, relative to other oppositions in Canada.

New Quebec Poll

The latest Crop Quebec poll shows some erosion in Liberal support, relative to past results:
Bloc 31% (31%)
Libs 30% (35%)
NDP 18% (17%)
Cons 17% (13%)

Still not a terrible result for the Liberals, tied with the Bloc, but relatively poor. This poll tends to confirm other findings, that have shown a marginal erosion in Liberal support over the past few months, now hovering around 30%.

A very good result for the NDP. Of all the parties, their % seems to have the most fluctuation, comparing poll to poll. Everyone else tends to be in the same ballpark, between pollsters, but the NDP tally goes anywhere from single digits to this high teen result. As a result, I still see this percentage has a touch high, but I'm sure my NDP friends would say this is the most reliable pollster, so...

A pretty good number for the Cons, relative to prior results. All the pollsters seem to show some slight evidence of a minor rebound for the Cons, still low but better than the dismal trend seen prior.

In the Quebec City region, it's quite competitive:
Bloc 30%
Libs 24%
Cons 23%

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Cut To The Chase

Interesting piece, with rabid Conservatives raising the spectre of a coalition, Ignatieff trying to "rewrite history".

In the back and forth, I'm reminded of one simple fact that pierces the linguistic haze:


Couldn't have been closer when you think about it. Sitting right there, in his power hungry, ambitious lap, and yet...

Yes history, a useful and telling tool.

Layton/Harper Transcript

Much confusion about this meeting between Harper and Layton. I've secured a tape of the phone conversations that led up to this meeting today, which should clear things up:

Harper: Hi Jack.

Layton: Hi Stephen

Harper: I just checked my call history and saw this number but no message.

Layton: Hmmm, wasn't me. One of our staff was messing with the phones earlier, maybe he inadvertently dialed your number.

Harper: Oh okay, just checking.

Layton: Cheers, see you on the campaign trail, or maybe not.

Hang up. Five minutes later.

Harper: Hi Jack.

Layton: Stephen.

Harper: When I called earlier about that call you didn't make, you said "maybe not" about an election. What did you mean?

Layton: I don't recall saying that, we're ready to go and "turf you guys".

Harper: Oh okay, I must have misunderstood. We're ready too, but we don't want an election.

Layton: We're so ready, the coffers are full. You guys are a scourge that needs to be replaced.

Harper: Okay, if that's how you feel.

Hang up. Three minutes later.

Layton: Hi Stephen

Harper: Jack

Layton: Just curious, when you say you don't want an election, what do you mean?

Harper: Well we're ready, I can smell a majority to be frank.

Layton: Oh okay, because you know nobody wants an election, even though we're roaring to go anytime.

Harper: I keep saying that, nobody wants an election.

Layton: Well hey, since we agree on that, maybe we should meet.

Harper: Meet? Oh, is that why you called earlier?

Layton: I didn't call.

Harper: Yes, your staffer. And, I only called because I thought I missed your call. Anyways.

Layton: You know, we need to "make parliament work".

Harper: We do you know we do.

Layton: Okay, let's get together to see if we can find some common ground.

Harper: Okay, you call me later to set up a time.

Layton: Why don't you call me when it's convenient.

Harper: Okay, I'll wait to hear from you.

Layton: Looking forward to your call.

Hang up.

I couldn't get the final conversation, but they must have worked out the details.

Speaking of DUDS

Earlier this week, Conservative cheerleader Ian MacDonald offered up some more bird cage liner (very absorbent). Criticizing Ignatieff for playing it safe:
He has also been campaigning in safe Liberal ridings, such as Sydney in Cape Breton. A leader's summer tour is supposed to focus on competitive seats.

When I read it, I knew it was bull, but frankly I didn't want to waste the time detailing the ignorance. However, David Akin has a detailed examination of the leader's summer tours, titled On summer tours, Harper on defence, Iggy on offence?. A good read, just the facts please.

DUD is right, but luckily some columnists are rarely subjected to the same scrutiny as their PREY. Oh well, the buggie is happy.

On Election Readiness

There is no question, that the lack of election readiness in 2008 really cost the Liberals. Clearly caught flat footed out the gate, the first days, not to mention the preamble were squandered, which set a very negative tone that haunted. That's why, timing aside, it's nice to hear a quiet confidence coming from Liberal ranks that we will be ready this time:
Michael Ignatieff's Liberals are stepping up their election readiness, preparing attack ads against the Harper Conservatives...

The Liberal Leader has already posed for campaign pictures at his official residence, Stornoway. And as many as 40 candidates out of a possible 75 in Quebec will be nominated by Labour Day.

Senator David Smith, one of the co-chairs of the national campaign, says the Liberals are in “good shape” in the rest of Canada as well with the bulk of the 233 other candidates ready to go by mid-September.

But Albina Guarnieri, a senior Ontario Liberal MP who chairs Mr. Ignatieff's early-morning strategy group when the House is sitting, says the summer really isn't the time to do that. No one is really paying attention.

She says Mr. Ignatieff will begin soon to “showcase his ideas and he'll make his case.”

Of course, the now typical "where's he been" from Rona, I mean Jane, but the rest of the piece actually suggests what he's been up to- getting a platform together and preparing for an election. With the summer lull ending, all this lazy criticism will fade if the Liberals appear confident and capable. Appearing "ready" is clear part of the psychological equation, because we know well how any hint of weakness will be seized upon.

We're starting to get a sense of messaging, by all accounts a great deal of work is going into this platform, in many ways were poised to finally create a compelling narrative. Let's put it this day, you'd much rather have the media beating up on during the summer, than when it really counts come fall. "We've got our shit together", coffers full, ads already in the hopper, a thick red book, ready on the ground, you give the appearance of a credible government in waiting. If anyone doubts this, just look at the opposite situation last year, how the perceived "shaky" prepardness fed itself into a not ready for prime time narrative.

A small part of the puzzle, but maybe not when you consider the importance of optics.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Conservatives Fade

It looks like the Conservatives prolonged surge in the polls has ended:
OTTAWA _ A new poll suggests the Conservatives and Liberals remain locked in a dead heat amid rumblings of a possible fall election. The Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey put the parties in a statistical tie, with 32 per cent support for the Liberals and 31 per cent for the Tories. The NDP were at 16 per cent, the Greens at 11, and the Bloc Quebecois at nine. The numbers have barely budged throughout the summer, a period in which voters are typically disengaged. Some Liberals have been pushing for an autumn election while the Tories have been trashing the idea, saying it would hurt the economic recovery. The survey of just over 2,000 respondents was conducted Aug. 13-23 and is considered accurate to within 2.2 percentage points 19 times in 20.

No internals yet, will update later.

I must say, I absolutely LOVE the timing of this poll, on the heels of that stench released yesterday. The "numbers have barely budged", reaffirming what everyone else has concluded. The fact HD gives the Liberals a lead, even if it's statistically irrelevant, is simply delicious on the heels of the Ipsos TURD.


Poll internals:

Harris Decima replicates recent Ontario results, Libs hovering around 40%, ahead of the Cons, NDP in trouble:
The Liberals lead in Ontario by six points with the NDP struggling in popular support in the province. The Liberals hold 40%, followed by 34% for the Conservatives, 13% for the NDP and 10% for the Greens.

Quebec shows a weakening Lib vote, and a very poor score for the Cons:
The BQ remains in front in Quebec with 37%, followed by 28% for the Liberals, 12% for the
Conservatives, 11% for the NDP and 10% for the Greens.

Might be a tad low for the Cons, other findings have shown a slight uptick. There's no question the Lib vote has sagged in the province, but it's fluid.

HD also replicates a pretty firm trend in Atlantic Canada, Libs out front:
In Atlantic Canada, the Liberals continue to maintain an advantage. Here the Liberals lead with 38%, followed by the NDP with 32%, the Conservatives 23% and the Greens with 5%

Kind of a goofy result for British Columbia, even with the relative manageable margin of error (two week sample):
The Conservatives lead with 28%, followed by the NDP with 26%, the Greens 24% and the Liberals with 20%.

That Green number is an "eye popper". Very low scores for the Cons and Libs, relative to other recent polls.

Ignatieff Interview

With the summer lull winding down, I've been quite curious what narratives the Liberals will push heading into the fall session. This Ignatieff interview gives some very superficial insight on what might lie ahead.

It's important for the Liberals to pivot off the pre-occupation with criticizing the issues in the immediate, and start to articulate a vision. The "down the road" narrative, which I think will be a key argument if we are to have a fall election. EI can be used as the backdrop to reinforce another theme (which Ignatieff speaks to), that being you can't co-operate with these guys, they are an obstacle to stability and good government. However, EI isn't an election winner, the discussion will surround who has a plan to deal with the deficit, who has a plan to reshape our economy to compete in the global economy. The Conservatives are quite vulnerable on this front, because they are more managers than planners, very little in the way of forward thinking that speaks in a cohesive fashion:
What is the vision to help the restructuring of our economy after the recession? Is zero. So that's the problem I have. I am at a government that does not work. What should I do? Keep it alive because people do not want an election? Or bring it down and say what I really thinks of me, that is to say that we deserve better than that. I'm thinking. "

I can't stress enough the importance of the word "vision" here. We crave that, we desire something to get behind that speaks to a better tomorrow. It's cheesy on one hand, but if Ignatieff is armed with a comprehensive plan, that brings all facets together, towards a singular goal, it will and can fly. I don't doubt the messenger in this case, but he needs the substance. Conservatives don't do vision, they do tear downs, they react to liberalism, they manage like Canada is a giant Walmart. We can occupy this ground and it's a winner.

I like the response on the coalition question:
"I'm not against political arrangements between parties to run a minority Parliament. I am ready to negotiate with other parties to advance legislative proposals. But beware, I always spoke arrangements, no coalition. "

There is a central argument here, a contradiction in the Con logic that we can use to push back. Harper can speak of coalitions and he WILL in the campaign. However, on a common sense level Canadians understand that co-operation between parties is required, in fact it's one of their chief beefs with politics as a whole. We attack Harper's inability to work with others, a potent criticism, with ample examples. Beside that argument, this idea of "arrangements" isn't something to be feared, because it simply acknowledges a practicality that people are well aware of. Reject a formal coalition, push the idea of co-operation concurrently, and you neuter their attacks while positioning yourself as the only one that get this "mess in Ottawa" to work. I'd even throw in a few jabs at the Cons, tell Harper he's welcome in PM Ignatieff's office anytime to discuss "arrangements".

I also like the characterization as "arrogant", this push for a majority from the Conservatives. The laundry list of problems at the moment, and this government thinks they deserve a stronger mandate. Labelling you opponent as arrogant, and somewhat detached because of it, is a strong "buzzword".

Just snippets, nothing terribly substantive yet, but I'm encouraged by the language I hear.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


Here's the rumored Ipsos poll for CANWEST, that shows just an enormous lead for the Conservatives:
The Conservatives now command 39% in support among decided voters, compared with 28% for the Liberals, according to the survey, conducted exclusively for Canwest News Service and Global National by Ipsos Reid. Since the last Ipsos poll two months ago, the Tories have climbed five percentage points, while the Grits have slumped seven points.

The NDP stand in third at 14% of the vote, up one point; followed by the Green party at 10%, up two points.

That's right, suddenly the Conservatives have opened up an astonishing 11% lead. Two months without a Canwest poll, the first time I can remember since I started blogging, then coincidentally in the field just as Harper does his most high profile photo op of the summer. The timing aside, interesting that we get this PREDICTED thesis from NP:
a trend that could dampen speculation of a fall election.

How convenient for the Conservatives.

It will be fascinating to see how the media reacts to this poll, if they have the basic sense to look with a critical eye. All you have to do is look at these Ontario results:
the Conservatives now lead the Liberals in vote-rich Ontario by 43% to 31%.

If you average out the last batch of polling, generally the Liberals have had the lead, consistently hovering around 40%, Conservatives mid 30's. As a matter of fact, there hasn't been one poll since the coalition that has given the Conservatives anywhere near this kind of lead. If there was ever a "19 times out of 20" proposition, this polling is the posterchild for that statistical anomaly. Averaging the last batch of polls, this result is 16% offside, staggering by any measure.

Ipsos also pegs Conservative support in Quebec at 20%, the first pollster to do so since a one off poll in January.

Ipsos also asks a series of questions, comparing the two leaders. While Harper leads on these questions, the gap really isn't that pronounced, or noticeably different from other findings. An opposition leader rarely outpaces a sitting PM, so I actually see these numbers as a decent base for Ignatieff prior a campaign:
The poll suggests Ignatieff is having trouble gaining traction on key issues. Asked which leader is best qualified to "improve the national economy," 48% chose Harper, compared with 40% for Ignatieff. The prime minister also leads Ignatieff on "managing Canada's finances" (49% to 37%), and "representing Canada's interests in world affairs" (48% to 41%). The only issue on which Ignatieff leads is "protecting the environment" (45% to 41%).

Not a herculian gap by any means, and given the party support numbers, almost surprising that the gap isn't large.

Conclusion. Don't draw any conclusions from this dud.

Loose Cannon

If I could offer some unsolicited advice to my Green friends, it would be to put the HOOK on this guy, who's cluelessness is breathtaking. May has a unnecessary fight on her hands:
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May is being challenged by a member of her own party for the nomination in her chosen riding of Saanich – Gulf Islands, BC.

"[T]he ‘leader’ of a Green Party is supposed to be a spokesperson, not a dictator. The cult of leadership and its promotion by the corporate media is not Green. I believe that getting the leader of the Green Party elected won’t change anything, except to guarantee the flow of funds to central party coffers and reduce the Green party to being seen as just another bunch of untrustworthy politicians that make self-serving deals...."

"By desperately trying to become a mainstream political party, Green parties are in danger of losing their vision, and soul. It has been said that: 'Without vision, the people perish.' I say that without principles, politics is an empty charade...."

Yes, much better to stay out of "mainstream" politics, which apparently means having NO MP's- you know the people that actually have a PRACTICAL purpose. No offence to Mr. Hertzog but he reads like some wigged out idealist, that is quite content to just remain in theoretical land, with no relevance, just so he can maintain his esoteric purity.

If you actually review the Green platform, it's entirely a mainstream consideration on balance. Progressive, innovative, but not necessarily marginal. It's like the guy who discoveries his obscure indie band, then get's all disgusted when they become somewhat popular, then brands them a sellout because his cherished "underground" tag is lost.

Do you want to be a player or not? Do you want to have some impact on our political discourse, or are you content to hiss from the sidelines and be ignored? Seems to me, Greens have elected representatives in other countries, is it so horrific to want your leader to have a voice?

Whether or not May should run in this riding is an open question. However, to actually think May getting elected "won't change anything" is staggering in it's ignorance. I know what won't change anything, not having a seat at the table, not having a vehicle to push your agenda- you know, the one that attracted you in the first place.

Some Green needs to take Mr. Hertzog for a walk and have the birds and the bees talk, because any day now he might just reach political puberty. All he's doing is causing harm, there is nothing good that will come out this "crusade".

Saturday, August 22, 2009

"Change" In The Air?

I'm on record, arguing that this "majority" argument from the Conservatives, in the name of stability, is a very risky affair for them. A new NANOS survey tends to support this thesis. Rather than an appetite for more Harper rule, and a strengthened one at that, it appears an element of "change" is in the air:

Harper Re-election Question: [Rotate] Some people think that Stephen Harper has done a good enough job to deserve re-election. Others think that he has had his chance and it is time for a change. Which of these two opinions best reflects your personal view?

Time for a change 58.5%
Deserves re-election 31.9%
Unsure 9.5%

Interestingly, Harper doesn't even attain a plurality in the "Prairies", ever region of the country would prefer "change". The numbers are most pronounced where the Liberals need it, Atlantic Canada, Quebec and Ontario, strong support in British Columbia. I don't sense a "kick the bums out" sentiment with the electorate, at least not by historic standards. However, the Harper government doesn't enjoy widespread support, they are clearly vulnerable- there is a latent unease that can be exploited. The question doesn't even ask the "majority" angle, which makes the new Conservatives strategy floated even more suspect.

Nanos also finds Canadians warming to the idea of minority governments, another signal that Harper might be misfiring on his stronger mandate argument:
Impression of a Minority Government Question: Is your overall impression of a minority government situation positive, somewhat positive, somewhat negative or negative?

Positive 18.5%
Somewhat positive 35.4%
Somewhat negative 21.4%
Negative 15.9%
Unsure 8.8%

Given all the frustration with frequent elections, beyond that unending speculation, I admit some surprise that the negative impressions aren't higher. These weak numbers might be a statement on the alternative, and that doesn't bode well for the Conservatives. This sentiment also leaves room for the Liberals to argue that the minority option doesn't translate into a coalition arrangement, all that is required is some sense of co-operation without formal arrangements. Taken further, if we do head to the polls, and a desire emerges for co-operation, Liberals can make the argument that Harper has proven himself to be an obstacle in that regard- he "doesn't play well with others" can resonate.

Harper benefits from a divided opposition, but there should be some concern that almost 2 to 1 Canadians prefer "change" over Harper. There is an emerging pre-election narrative developing, and this poll speaks to the growing conversation about the nature of our government. While the economy is sure to be center stage, this whole debate about majorities, minorities, who can bring stability, who has the capacity to reach out and provide good government, this issue could be the 1A consideration. The preamble with the media suggests this will all be on the table, and from the Liberal perspective I would welcome it on balance, primarily because there is no striking downside. Unless the Liberals flop badly during the campaign, the notion of majority will evaporate, and if a "change" sentiment develops around the idea of stability, obviously we stand to gain and have the potential to siphon off other support. Harper vs Ignatieff on these questions, I love our chances and would actually be proactive to putting the discussion on the front burner.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Layton And Duceppe Endorse Liberal Government

If you want Harper gone, then it really does leave one alternative:
At least two opposition leaders say a federal election just might be the bitter cure needed to rid Canada of the Harper government.

NDP Leader Jack Layton and Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe said Friday they've heard from voters this summer who are tired of the Tories and want them gone.

Both admit there's little public appetite for an election, but they say people are telling them it's time to get rid of Stephen Harper's government.

If Harper is preaching "stable" government, and these two parties are arguing that Harper must be turfed, then I see a wide swath for the Liberals to occupy. Particularly in Quebec, if this is the Bloc argument, then the Liberals have a very logical, sober counter. Voting for the Bloc is the surest way to ensure that the Conservatives stay in office. With Quebec dead to the Conservatives, they see the Bloc as an obstacle, to thwart the Liberals. Take Duceppe at his word, the only solution is to rally behind the Liberals. While this argument has been made before, I see great potential, given the fatigue dynamic.

As for the NDP, the next question that should come after "get that Harper out of there" is- who should replace him? Putting the hilarity of Layton for PM aside, if this election debate centers around perpetual political instability (and it is starting to emerge as an important issue, particularly if the Cons float this "majority" argument), then it may just focus people toward the only realistic options. When Layton says Harper has to go, it's simply intuitive to conclude he means Ignatieff should lead. Even if you want to entertain the coalition angle, it still boils down to Michael Ignatieff for Prime Minister. As cut and dry as it gets, and the Liberals should jump all over this theme in a cohesive and repetitive fashion- not the 9th inning desperation plea to unite behind the Liberal banner, but right out of the gate, over and over and over. One thing I've learned from the Conservatives, co-ordinated REPETITION can drive the discussion towards YOUR talking points. Narrow the debate down to a choice between two approaches, using the other party arguments to support your own ambitions.


I'm just curious about something. Is it possible for a political party to make ANY move that isn't borne out of election strategy? The Conservatives released a completely disingenious and inflated cost analysis of the Liberal EI proposals. The Liberals have responded to the nonsensical claims, asking for an INDEPENDENT analysis of their proposal (nevermind that the initial Liberal cost estimate was based on an INDEPENDENT cost analysis from an NON PARTISAN BANK). I fail to see how this logical "request" is characterized in the way the media has portrayed:
Review of cost analysis of EI reform could set the stage for a fall election

Liberals have stroked the potential trigger of a fall election by asking Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page to examine what they say is an inflated Conservative cost analysis of their plan to revamp employment insurance.

Let's get this straight. It's now "stroking" to try and cut through the partisan spin and get something objective on the table. What's the alternative for the Liberals? Oh, let's just leave the bloated Con pricetag in the public realm, so we look fiscally irresponsible. Maybe, and I know it's hard, the media could REMEMBER why we're here. The Conservatives, and this has already been verified, or could be with a LITTLE journalism, have purposely "toyed" with the Liberal proposal. That's a fact, which isn't partisan and that's why the Liberals are confident turning this over to Page. How is trying to get a sound factual basis electioneering?

Seems to me, it's our media that is obsessed with an election. In fact, I'm willing to bet it all that they spend far more time entertaining and discussing the timing than the parties they routinely accuse of forever posturing. It's amazing to see a simple accounting request "spun" into a overt saber rattling affair.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Holy Shit Is Right

You can actually see roofs going up:

Bang On

This has to be one of the more insightful descriptions of the Harper government and their philosophy. Potential Liberal candidate Daniel Veniez :
“The Conservative party and its leader are permanently angry,” he goes on. “That’s an ingrained part of who they are and what they represent. On a visceral level, they remain a protest party and have turned themselves into a protest government. They manage by negatives and are genetically incapable of inspiring hope or thinking big. They attack, assassinate character, tell lies, lower the bar on public discourse, and engage in tactical and divisive wedge politics and governance. The tone, strategy, and culture for this government are established by Harper, a cheap-shot artist and cynic of the highest order.”

The best part, it's just so true.

Risky Business

If this "majority" talk is the new Conservative strategy, it's a risky exercise at best:
The Conservatives are breaking their own taboo by starting to call on Canadians to award them a majority government in the next election.

The tactic will be part of an appeal for stability in a recession if the opposition defeats the government in the Commons early this fall, a year after the last election.

The Conservatives expect to contrast their call for a majority with two other potential scenarios they hope will prove less appealing: a Liberal minority and a Liberal-NDP coalition.

In fairness, one has to wonder if the Conservatives have much choice. After all, arguing for another minority- which essentially maintains the status quo Canadians are increasingly frustrated with- is a pretty pedestrian approach. With that said, this argument is rife with potential blowback for the government.

Over the past few years, we've seen a consistent backlash from voters when the prospect of a Harper majority are pondered. While Harper has won elections, he hasn't really endeared himself to Canadians- amazingly, in many respects, he remains an enigma, despite the tenure. There is a underlying belief, that a Harper majority would be much different than a Harper in check. That distinction shouldn't be lost on anyone, and the prospect could have the boomerang effect of consolidating opposition to stop Harper. Particularly in a place like Quebec, where Harper is wildly unpopular, the prospect might just benefit the alternative, rallying support that otherwise drifts elsewhere.

There is also this potential angle, which the Liberals would be wise to exploit. All this instability and hyper partisanship, which has lead to constant election talk, has happened under which regime? Do you reward the manager for the chaos under his watch? You can turn this majority talk around into a verdict on Harper's inability to work with other parties, a statement of his own failures. That sentiment can resonate with voters, particularly if Harper insists on interjecting the "coalition" talk. Harper is seen a mean spirited, highly partisan and divisive. Liberals can counter that the architect of instability is the real problem, we can offer a more bi-partisan, inclusive approach, an end to the constant nonsense. Point to the irony of skunk complaining about the smell.

Realistically, I see no chance of a Conservative majority, when you do the math. Yes, they only have to turn a few more seats to achieve, but with the changed landscape, it's not so simple- other seats are also in play, which translates to a probable net nowhere at best. In fact, when you input all the various variables, 2008 was the Conservative "perfect storm", that has little chance of replicating itself. With that in mind, pushing for a majority now, brings just as many pitfalls as it does potential. I suspect the Liberal war room will entertain the same. In fact, I'd lean towards WELCOMING this narrative from the Conservatives, because when voters are asked which they would prefer, a Con or Lib majority, we win every time. Narrow it down to this choice, hard to see the "in totality" downside from our perspective. Harper just might stir up a dynamic that has been his trump card for years, counting on a divided opposition for his own benefit.

New EKOS Poll

The latest EKOS poll pegs NDP support at it highest level since the last election:
Cons 32.8%
Libs 30.2%
NDP 17.3%
Greens 11.0%

In addition, this is also the lowest Liberal percentage for any EKOS poll since the 2008 election. Despite this fact, the Liberals are still quite close to the Conservatives. This suggests neither party really has much wind in their sails. On top of that, while the NDP number is relatively strong, it's still below their 2008 percentage. What this poll basically shows, nobody is doing particularly well, each looks vulnerable. That's a rarity with polls, but if one can crow I suppose it's the NDP, who seem to have benefitted from more coverage each of the past two weeks.

In Ontario, the Liberals have consistently held 39-42% on almost every poll for quite some time now. This poll puts the Liberals slightly down, and the NDP seem to benefit, although the numbers are still less than impressive:

Libs 36.3%

NDP 15.9%

Greens 12.4%

Another strong result for the Greens in Ontario, percentages high enough that the other parties best take notice. If there is any erosion in that vote come election time, the party that can attract soft support will be well placed. I would catergorize this vote as essential for the Liberals, if they hope to pickup enough seats in Ontario to form government.

The pollster gives the Liberals a strong showing in British Columbia, leading with 32%. Liberals down to 27% in Quebec, Bloc 35%.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Liberals Expanded Appeal in Quebec?

The Liberal nomination news, covered ably here, shows some intriguing developments in Quebec. The Liberals under Ignatieff are attracting candidates that go beyond the usual "federalist" tag:
Lobbyist and former PQ ministerial advisor Johanne Brisson will be the Liberal candidate in the riding of Louis-Saint-Laurent...

Brisson being a candidate is interesting, as it fulfills the second part of Denis Coderre saying that he was targeting "ex adéquistes and fatigued sovertigntists." Ex ADQ figures have already emerged in the figures of Claude Morin and others, but I believe Brisson is the first figure to emerge as a Liberal candidate with ties to the PQ/BQ.


Marc Giroux was acclaimed as the Liberal candidate in Mégantic – L'Érable, he will challenge the current Conservative Quebec lieutenant, Christian Paradis. Interestingly, and I hadn't seen this mentioned in any other articles about Giroux, he also has ties to the sovertignst movement, according to this he served on the executive of the regional association of the Parti Quebecois. Interesting, Coderre directly mentions Claude Morin and compares him to Giroux, with Coderre saying that (and this is my translation so francophones will excuse me if I don't get it exactly correct):

"Marc was not always Liberal, he followed a different path, which shows that we are an open and inclusive party. We need people like Marc Giroux, we need people like Claude Morin."

There is talk of more former PQ/ADQ supporters running under the Liberal banner, clearly something is afoot in Quebec. The simple reality, the Liberals can no longer simply rely on the traditional hardcore federalist vote if they want to win more seats. Ignatieff's posture seems attractive to non-traditional support, and could be the beginning of a "re-set" for the Liberals in Quebec.

I have no problem "flirting" with soft nationalists, nor do I see that as a sellout on historical considerations. To be blunt, the Liberal message has been tired and outdated for some time in Quebec, we either modernize the language and messenging or face forever relegation to limited areas. With waning Conservative fortunes, Ignatieff can fill the gap. What's encouraging, people obviously see something in his leadership that's attractive. Maybe, we're finally moving away from the Trudeau era mentality, because one thing is for certain- Quebecers largely did eons ago.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Liberals In China

Ignatieff has announced his September China visit delegation. The optics are delicious:
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff today announced that Liberal Finance Critic and Markham-Unionville MP John McCallum, Vancouver South MP Ujjal Dosanjh and Brossard-La Prairie MP Alexandra Mendes will be joining him as part of the official Liberal delegation visiting China this September.

“As we reach out to engage China on a foundation of mutual respect and understanding, it’s important that the group engaged in that dialogue reflects Canada’s diversity,” Mr. Ignatieff said. “Our delegation represents a range of regional perspectives that will help highlight and capitalize on Canada’s natural advantages, like our large Chinese Canadian Diaspora.

“After the damage the Harper government has done to Canada-China relations, it’s imperative that the Liberal team begin the work of salvaging this important historical partnership right away,” he said.

Mr. Ignatieff and the official delegation will be visiting both Beijing and Shanghai September 6th-9th. The Liberal leader will be meeting with senior Chinese officials and delivering a major speech in each of the two cities.

Liberal International Trade Critic Scott Brison will also be visiting China on a separate trade trip to Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and finally Dalian for the World Economic Forum’s summer conference. He will also be joining Mr. Ignatieff for events in Beijing and Shanghai.

The Conservatives just announced that Harper will FINALLY be making a visit to China in November, almost FOUR YEARS after he took office. The Conservatives suddenly discovered China a few months ago, an embarrassing fact given it's economic and political clout on the world stage.

By being so "late to the party", with a policy that translated to ignorance and a lack of sophistication, the Conservatives have opened a "photo op" door for the Liberals. Ignatieff's visit will get coverage, but it will come with accompanying commentary that puts the Conservatives in a poor light. Ignatieff visits China before a sitting PM, on the job for years, will be the central thesis. The contrast will be clear, so optically this visit is quite a coup.

Ignatieff On Arctic Sovereignty

Thought this was timely, from a recent "not in Ottawa" townhall:

I Love Me, I Love Me Not

This is pretty amusing. Jack Layton is so enamored with his favorite person, HIMSELF:

Jack's fascination with himself has precedent. Lookin good:

Monday, August 17, 2009

Tweet Tweet

I've finally joined Twitter. If you want to "follow me", there's a link on the sidebar.

I've finally moved over to the new blogger template. Some minor swearing, but nothing too serious. If anyone knows how to get the Progblog vote badge on posts, I'd LOVE to know.

I've finally figured out what the "sound of one hand clapping" is. A momentus day.

Opportunity Missed?

I have to confess, from a non-partisan perspective, that the NDP changing their name was probably a good idea, that had plenty of potential. With that in mind, from a partisan perspective, I'm glad the NDP has kept their name.

When I first heard of the name change idea, it all seemed so superficial and callous. Upon further reflection, while the perceptions still held true, you could entertain the possibilities. The number one beef or criticism of our political parties, seems to center around this "same old, same old" and this sentiment has lead to voter apathy, downright disinterest. People don't vote, they don't care, they tune it out because it's all so bland. This overwhelming backdrop means that a simple name change, along with some new messaging, could tap into this disinterest. Change your name, accompanied with a fresh approach, the NDP had the opportunity to re-invent themselves, at the exact moment when people crave something different.

Layton's messaging out of the convention deliberately tried to place the NDP as the "different" alternative. You know what you get from the other parties, the NDP offers "change". A sound strategy, that recognizes the public sentiment, but it comes from a party that is just as entrenched as the others it villifies. A party beholden to labour, lacking economic sensibilities, offering kneejerk leftist solutions to complex issues. People see orange, the association is made, the brand is firmly cemented. It's for that reason that the name change, color schemes, while amounting to nothing, can morph into something else that people would find attractive.

When you consider the rise of the Green Party, it isn't easily contained to a simple environmental response. I know many people who consider or have voted Green because it is seen as alternative to the status quo, of which the NDP is a part. Not so much taking votes away from the Liberals, the Green Party presence stifles the NDP's growth potential. Further, on the environmental front, certain voters who were drawn to the NDP's policies are drifting away. The name change and a new presentation would appeal to a voter subset, people tired with the standard choices might re-visit.

Jack Layton is heading into his fourth election campaign, a career politician, a known quantity. That's hardly the optimal reality to simply change gears and run under the "change" mantra. However, if this messaging were accompanied by several internal "changes", then old and tired has the potential to become timely and fresh. Particularly on the economic angle, where voters have little confidence, a makeover would allow consideration on the credibility front. It's all very superficial of course, but then again we have a government now that relies on a lack of sophistication from the public to find success.

In the final analysis, I see the name change failure as an opportunity missed. From the Liberal perspective, all things being equal, it was a favorable outcome.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


Would you let a party that can't even manage it's own time manage the country? Almost farcical. The Liberal convention now looks downright SUBSTANTIVE compared to this nothingness. Not only the name change, but by all accounts virtually no debate on anything.

Sewered again Jack:

Darrell Dexter to NDP: Become Liberals

I'm getting quite the kick out of this Darrell Dexter love-in at the NDP convention. It's amazing how ideology is tossed aside, so long as you have NDP beside your name. Called a "conservative progressive", Dexter moved the NDP to the center, abandoned the far left thrust, and this lead him to victory. In other words, Dexter became Dalton McGuinty- the horror!!! A taste of Dexter's "escape from the past" message.

Everything I read coming out of the province agrees that Dexter has largely abandoned the traditional marginal left agenda, and he's been doing it for years, tactically moving the party to attract mainstream support. It's common sense really, if you want to be a mainstream party, you need some appeal to the center, because, well, the "center" is by definition the mainstream. It's for this reason, that I denote an air of hypocrisy, which is muted simply because of a party moniker.

A tough pill to swallow. The lesson for the NDP, if you want to win become the Liberals. Make the speaker anonymous, don't give authorship to the platform or ideas, and just take it in. Then ask yourself which party do these ideals most closely align themselves with. I'll bet my shorts the vast majority of people would pick the Liberal Party, not the NDP.

Enjoy the love-in, if you close you eyes you can hear Dalton :)

Saturday, August 15, 2009

NDP Supporters Favor Name Change

Interesting to see if NDP voters at large are representative of delegates at the convention:
A proposal to modify the name of Canada's New Democratic Party (NDP) is supported by a plurality of Canadians and three-in-five NDP supporters, a new Toronto Star / Angus Reid poll has found.

In the online survey of a representative national sample, 45 per cent of Canadians support the idea of removing the word "New" from the NDP's name so that it becomes the Democratic Party. One-in-five (20%) are opposed, and more than a third (35%) are undecided.

Among respondents who voted for the NDP in the October 2008 federal election, 59 per cent are open to the name change, while 23 per cent are opposed, and 18 per cent are not sure.

It has also been suggested that the provincial NDP parties, which operate from Newfoundland to British Columbia with the exception of Quebec, change their name to Democratic Party.

If the federal NDP does change its name, 62 per cent of Canadians—and 75 per cent of federal NDP supporters—would like to see the provincial NDP parties using the new moniker.

A very significant gap with NDP supporters in particular, almost 3 to 1.

How Canadians View Parties

Angus Reid asks a series of questions about how we view our political parties.

55% Conservatives, 43% Liberals

48% Conservatives, 32% Liberals

37% Conservatives, 25% Liberals

24% Conservatives, 15% Liberals

17% Conservative, 27% Liberals

36% Conservative, 38% Liberals

Voters also see the Conservatives as more efficient, the Liberals more inefficient.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Broadbent: No On Name Change

After unleashing scathing rhetoric, directed at the other parties, Ed Broadbent offered his opinion on the proposed NDP name change:
The NDP will vote this weekend on modernizing its image by re-naming itself simply the Democratic Party. Mr. Broadbent said that would be a mistake.

"I think the name of the party is the NDP isn't it?" He asked delegates, to some applause.

"People want us to be focusing on real concerns, not symbols," he added. "(Founding leader) Tommy Douglas once said, the New Democratic Party will remain the New Democratic Party as long as New York remains New York, and I think that's a long time."

Real issues, not symbols. I wonder if Broadbent's opinion will carry much weight, I suspect it might.

Maybe Ed was reviewing his french translation(pede- Comes from the word Pederaste-a man who has sexual relations with a boy- and is considered derogatory):
Jack Layton has remained coy on the topic, but talk of a possible name change for the federal NDP generated growing buzz _ and in some cases outright bewilderment _ as the party opened its convention Friday in Halifax. Layton has played down the significance of a movement afoot to drop the word ``New'' from the NDP, but if approved, the new moniker could be embarrassing for the party, particularly in Quebec. Now abbreviated as the NPD in the province, the party faces the prospect of becoming known as the PD _ initials that sound like ``pede,'' a derogatory term for a homosexual derived from the French word ``pederaste.'' Several delegates expressed concerns that the proposed name change could prove an awkward sell in a seat-rich province.

Nothing says "breakthrough" in Quebec like envoking derogatory imagery.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Les Paul

I'll never forget the day I purchased my custom left handed Les Paul. One, because it was pricey, but more because a Les Paul was synonymous with the power and beauty of an electric guitar. I'd had my acoustic for some time, but there was nothing quite like plugging in a Les Paul into an old Fender tube amp and just getting lost. Here's my "lester":



The new EKOS poll focuses on the approval/disapproval numbers for the various leaders. The trendline isn't good for Ignatieff, improving for Harper:

While Harper has a higher approval rating, normally you combine this with disapproval, and when you do, Ignatieff still retains a hardly noteworthy edge:
Harper received a 36 per cent approval rating, followed by Layton (34 per cent) and Ignatieff (29 per cent). Conversely, 47 per cent said they disapprove of Harper’s job performance, with Ignatieff getting a 38 per cent disapproval rating and Layton 33 per cent.

That means the net positive scores are worse for Harper (-11) than for Ignatieff (-9).

What do these numbers mean? First off, it's a given that a new leader's numbers will wane over time. This is particularly true on the negative front, because it takes time for a new leader to generate their own "baggage", as well as opportunity for their opponents to smear. The historical context considered, you can still see a decided change in June, further evidence that the Liberals badly handled their strategy prior to the summer break. That isn't news to anyone.

If you look at Harper's numbers, the trend is actually positive, his negatives slowly dropping over time. Combine that with the reverse trend for Ignatieff, and concern is warranted. There's no much available to move the numbers this summer, but the key will be a revamped Liberal approach come the fall, that clearly addresses a growing problem.

If it were up to me, I'd be using some of that new found fundraising wealth to get out some positive leadership ads. People don't know Ignatieff, which means we need to be proactive, rather than leaving this vacuum available. Combined with that, and I really do suspect it's coming, issue specific frames that give voters a sense of the party and what it wants to do. It is so blatantly obvious that Liberals and Ignatieff aren't "drawing" voters, most of the improvement is a default consideration, that by it's nature is very weak and feeble support. If we want to move the numbers upward, we need more "pull" rather than relying on the "push" to date. In fairness, when you're in the midst of a economic meltdown, it's pretty shrewd to adopt a conservative approach. But it's an outdated consideration at this point, a nimble strategy requires a wholesale rethink.

The good news, the problem is easily identified, there is no mystery here, so the response seems straightforward. We don't need a platform, but we need borders, we need a definition, that's the thrust and nothing will change until it's addressed. If a snap election is in the offing, then we can probably wait until the campaign (my suggestion on ads now aside), because you can't do much in the short intermediary anyways. However, that logic still brings a danger- can you define yourself in 6 weeks, particularly when campaigns are fluid and you don't control the ebb and flow?

These numbers don't constitute panic time, but they do demand an urgency. Period.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Now It's All Politics

I find the complaints about "the politics of it all" coming from Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq a bit amusing, given the history and her targets:
The federal health minister scolded opposition critics today for calling a special summer meeting to discuss how she plans to deal with the swine flu pandemic in the coming months.

"I'm disappointed with the politics of it all," Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said at a news conference in Ottawa today after outlining how she has shared information with critics.

Liberal health critic Carolyn Bennett (St. Paul's) was the MP who decided to call the summer meeting with the support of New Democrat health critic Judy Wasylycia-Leis (Winnipeg North) and Liberal MPs Joyce Murray (Vancouver Quadra) and Kirsty Duncan (Etobicoke North).

MPs on the committee will first have to vote whether to hold the meeting but that will be a formality as witnesses have already been lined up to testify this afternoon.

Bennett said she plans to focus her questions on the responsiveness of the federal government to the pandemic and also how it expects to roll out the immunization program this fall.

I'm actually quite "disappointed" that Aglukkaq is now reverting to Conservative "speak", redirecting any discussion into a partisan attack. Seems to me, when we're talking about pandemics and what not, maybe, just maybe a break from the summer holidays isn't such a bad idea, particularly with the clock ticking.

As a matter of fact, Aglukkaq's comments are even more "disappointing" when one considers the classy and gracious, almost exceptional praise she's received from her political rivals. A rare sight indeed, opposition members giving credit to a Minister, when they could have made cheap points instead (sort of like what Aglukkaq is doing now). Maybe a refresher of the MP's in question:

Yet even a Liberal was applauding Stephen Harper's choice of Leona Aglukkaq for the portfolio this week. `I love her` said Liberal MP and public health critic Dr. Carolyn Bennett.

`She's really smart, she knows how government works, she knows how to get things done.`

Carolyn Bennett on Aglukkaq's early handling of the swine flu:

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."

New Democrat health critic Judy Wasylycia-Leis after the initial swine flu outbreak:

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

I think Canadians want to know what the government is doing, and if they are so on top of the file, then this should provide a high profile opportunity to gain our confidence. I also think the two MP's in question, who are now suddenly partisan operatives, should be given the benefit of doubt from the Minister, considering they've given her a politically unnecessary pass in the past. What's changed? Aglukkaq had a chance to read the Conservative "playbook" this summer, that's what's changed.


Cam on the same theme.

Coderre On Election: "We are ready and we want one.”

I guess we can safely put Coderre in the Liberal "hawk" camp:
“It is up to our leader Michael Ignatieff if an election is called this fall,” Coderre told the Record.

“But I will not be the reason why we do not go for one. We are ready and we want one.”

...“They have mismanaged spending and have no explanation for it. They may claim they don’t want a fall electon, but I hope they do.”

“We are ready to take over and put an end to this deficit spending,” he said.

A fairly relevant view, given that Coderre is largely responsible for getting Quebec Liberals ready for an election.

One thing is becoming increasingly obvious with the recent rash of candidate announcements, much progress on the platform, "readiness" won't be a factor if there is another show down in the fall. People might remember that during the past few years, the disarray within the Quebec wing of the party was often cited as one reason why we continually shied away from pushing an election.

The "Not In Ottawa" Chronicles

Ignatieff continues his latest summer tour. What's interesting about the following video, you can distinctly see a news outlet microphone(weird), which implies at least one member of the media "gets out much". On the other hand, it's probably local media, but one can dream that the "news" infiltrates the bunker:

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Duceppe Leaving?

There's no doubt, if Duceppe were to leave it would shakeup the status quo in Quebec, although I disagree with the columnists tortured, factually wanting, thesis:
In Montreal political circles, rumours have intensified in recent days that Gilles Duceppe is planning to resign as leader of the Bloc Quebecois before Parliament resumes. If he were to do so, the federal political dynamic would be redrawn in Quebec and the door would be thrown wide open for the Harper Conservatives to stage a comeback.

Assuming there is any substance to these rumors, the potential offers a very intriguing development. Adam Daifallah spends the rest of the article arguing how Duceppe leaving really works for the Conservatives. Apart from the fact that it buys the Conservatives more time- an election surely put off- to regroup in Quebec, the assumptions he makes read more like wishful thinking, than solid analysis:
Bloc voters are more likely to go to the Conservatives than to the Liberals as a second choice, and the Tories have been working hard since last December's election to reinforce riding-level ground organizations in the province and to rebuild bridges

On the latter point, the Conservatives don't operate in a vacuum, the Liberals have been working equally "hard" "rebuilding", with the added benefit of using a provincial party appartus to help the cause. Cancel out, or net positive for the Liberals, on balance.

That's a side issue, this premise that the Conservatives are the "second choice" of Bloc supporters couldn't be further from the truth, just a lazy assertion based on certain political assumptions. In FACT, not only are the Conservatives not the second choice of Bloc voters, they've consistently been the LAST option now and in the recent past.

Whether you look at recent findings or pre 2008 election polling data, the Conservatives don't benefit from a Bloc erosion. EKOS just asked the question, with a large sample size, and found the Liberals enjoy THREE times the support as second choice, over the Conservatives- 26.2% compared to a LOWLY 8.9%. The NDP enjoys 29%, the Greens 15%. These results were mirrored by NANOS last fall, same order, Conservatives dead last on second choice. Where the columnist fabricates this Conservative second choice notion escapes me, the opposite finds empirical basis.

Taken further, the NDP's high preference, as well as a respectable total for the Greens, translates to a left of center preference, it speaks to how at odds Conservative policy is with Bloc voter sentiment. Despite this high potential, it is reasonable to wonder if these percentages would translate at the voter booth. The NDP and Greens both suffer from a "credible option" problem in Quebec, which means when push comes to shove, any movement away from the Bloc would probably go to a party with the potential to win seats, form government. Seems pretty self evident that the Liberals are better placed on the political spectrum to benefit form this potential sensibility. If anything, the NDP total speaks to a resistance to the Conservatives as an option. Factor in Ignatieff having the "nation" angle covered, the advantage Conservative argument even less persuasive. There is also the little tidbit of Ignatieff consistently towering above Harper (Layton bests him too) on the best PM measure.

I'm not saying that a Duceppe departure wouldn't give the Conservatives a new sense of optimism, because there's no guarantee how it would shake out. That said, the other parties can project that same optimism, and they have the benefit of some factual underpinning to support their belief, as opposed to the wishful thinking and tortured logic exposed in the National Post. I suppose when you're dead, any development that changes the standard dynamic is a welcome sign. But, this superficial argument that any Bloc loss is the Conservatives gain is based on tired assumptions that don't hold water after the slightest of examination.

One thing is certain, if Duceppe were to leave, we would enter a fascinating phase in Quebec federal politics.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Strategic Counsel Poll

The new Strategic Counsel poll is virtually unchanged from their previous poll, but actually better news for the Liberals. July 2 results, then the latest:
Tories 34 34
Liberals 33 32
NDP 15 15
Greens 7 8
Bloc 11 10

SC finds Conservative support up in the "west", which accounts for the steady number, offset by a decline in all important Ontario. Another pollster putting the Liberals in the 40% range:
In Ontario, where the Strategic Counsel found the Tories surging into the lead a month ago, the Conservatives have dropped back six percentage points. The Liberals now hold the edge there, 40 per cent to 37, with the NDP at 14 per cent and the Greens at 9. The smaller survey sample for the province means those results have a 5 per cent error margin.

Early today, I wondered if the Nanos poll that showed NDP support higher was a "one off". This was due to all other pollsters giving them a lower percentage, SC now comes in with a more replicated total. Going back to June, using twelve separate polls from four outfits, the Liberals haven't moved from a very exact 40%, plus or minus one. The consistent score is pretty incredible, given the margin of error.

In Quebec, the poll found the Bloc Québécois still lead handily, with 44-per-cent support. The Liberals were down one percentage point to 30 per cent, the Conservatives also slipped a point to 14 per cent, while the NDP was at 7 and the Greens at 6 per cent. (The margin of error is 6.3 percentage points.)

A strong number for the Bloc. It is noteworthy that SC tends to give them their highest totals, so they might be on the outside of reality. Liberal number is consistent, as is the Conservative number. Nanos gave the NDP a higher total in their poll, SC's result is more in line with other recent findings, particular EKOS will a lower margin of error.

Poll to poll, you would think a 2% gap is ever so slight improvement for the Conservatives, but the Liberals actually look better electorally, given the "west", Ontario offset.

Anyways, pretty much more of the same this summer. I suppose there is another encouraging sign, the conventional wisdom about the summer pause helping the government of the day doesn't appear to be materializing.

Fancy That

Even though I've voted for the party as many times as I've voted Liberal in the last four elections, my current party status tends to allow for dismissive "spin" retorts whenever I dare question anything the NDP does, or has done. That irrelevant reaction from kneejerk hacks aside, it is quite fascinating to hear a NDP stalwart echo points I've made before:

The simple fact of the matter, the NDP didn't do well in the last election, despite the "perfect storm" conditions. To qualify that, yes they won more seats, but really it wasn't the rosy result that is now almost folklore. If only a few more Liberals bothered to show up at the polls, that little incremental percentage change would have been nullified, and the fact that less people voted NDP more pronounced. It was default victory, more a statement on the Liberals objectively dreadful performance than some endorsement of the NDP direction. This underlying thesis gets lost, and partially explains why the NDP continue with the same tired themes, we've now heard for years. The false momentum has caused a lack of introspection, although to be fair this has happened with all parties at different points in history- the Liberals were guilty of complacency for years, as they racked up majorities but lost their soul, drunk with circumstantial success. Anyways, it's nice to hear Rebick not particularly satisfied with past results, she seems to have a sense that it really was an opportunity wasted, one that isn't likely to come again.

I also find it quite refreshing to hear open talk of the NDP "backroom", because too often people project this nonsensical frame of the NDP acting with pure conscience, only interested in the issues, while others play their petty games. What Rebick is saying, when she articulates "giving up", a resistance to "change", is that the NDP acts and operates exactly like the other parties, they claim to despise. It's why I find it laughable when the Liberals are constantly accused of political expediency, when it's so obvious that the same considerations abound no matter the affiliation. That's a tough pill to swallow, but there is wisdom in Rebick's words, much objective truth too.

Rebick's comments are a nice preamble to the NDP convention, which looks strangely like the supposed Seinfeld convention the Liberals recently had in Vancouver. With unemployment soaring, all these problems with our society that the NDP love to champion, we are left with this comical obsession over a name change, Lavigne telling the world that election prep is the central focus. Hardly "kitchen table" emphasis, and a bit strange given all the heat directed our way during the Liberal convention.

Anyways, I'm sure that confidence motion count will win the day, because stale is the new fresh I suppose.

New Nanos

The new Nanos poll basically replicates the recent trend, but it also brings a new low mark for Harper on the best PM score. This result is somewhat surprising, given that Nanos also finds the economy fading as the dominant issue- one would think this emerging optimism would help the Prime Minister.

Liberal 33.8% (-2.5)
Conservative 31.3% (-0.9)
NDP 18.7% (+1.9)
BQ 9.2% (-0.6)
Green 7.0% (+2.2)
Undecided 15.7% (-6.5)

This is the first Nanos offering since the June "showdown", these numbers reaffirm what other pollsters have already shown. A 2.5% gap is still relatively good for the Liberals and lets not forget these numbers represent a 15% swing between the two principles since the last election. The NDP numbers are positive, mostly due to an apparent uptick in Ontario:
Libs 38.4%
Cons 35%
NDP 17.3%
Greens 9.2%

Previous Nanos polling has shown the NDP doing quite poorly in Ontario. For example their last poll had them at 11.5%, before that 14%, before that 11%. Looking at the last two polls from EKOS and AR- particularly a much lower margin of error from EKOS- I would be hesitant to put much stock in this number. A one off? A few more results before I would readjust any reading that sees real trouble for the NDP in Ontario. That said, even this relatively high score is still lower than 2008 results.

As for the Liberals, we really are seeing a potential firming up of support, hovering near 40%- poll after poll shows this consistent result. I would catergorize this development as encouraging, because the volatility seems less pronounced, this is a terrific base to begin a campaign.

Nanos gives the Liberals a strong showing in Quebec:
Bloc 35.8%
Libs 34.1%
NDP 14.5%
Cons 13.1%
Greens 2.4%

A little higher margin of error than other recent polling. The Green number appears low, NDP high.

Speaking of high, Nanos also puts the Liberal out front in British Columbia:
libs 34.1%
Cons 32.3%
NDP 22.6%
Greens 11.1%

Nanos actually gave the Liberals a larger gap in their last poll(6%). Maybe a touch high for the Liberals here, but interestingly not that far off the recent EKOS offering that gave the Liberals 30%, only 4% back of the Cons, NDP same terrority.

These numbers translate to the slightest of possible minorities for the Liberals.

Nanos also polled people on issue importance. The economy as top issue is down 5.4%, further evidence that we are becoming more optimistic about the future, a sense that the worst is behind us taking hold. At first blush, I would assume this development would help Harper, because it's been a maelstorm of bad indicators prior to June. If there is a sense of rebound looming, the sitting PM should benefit. However, Nanos captures Harper's "best PM" score at its lowest in quite some time. To be fair, Ignatieff also posts a lower score:
Stephen Harper 29.5% (-2.7)
Michael Ignatieff 26.2% (-1.2)
Jack Layton 15.2% (+2.3)
Gilles Duceppe 5.8% (-0.2)
Elizabeth May 4.0% (-2.0)
None of them 7.4% (+0.6)
Unsure 11.9% (+3.2)

Ignatieff now leads Harper in Ontario, erasing a former large advantage for the PM. I would describe that as significant. Ignatieff still leads in Quebec, although down noticeably. I've said this a million times, but this question has a built-in advantage for Harper, because he is the PM, obvious logic assumed. With that in mind, this tiny gap, trailing in key regions, not a good result at all for Harper. Considering the Conservatives still have a Harper-centric focus, this might be a concern during a campaign.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Close Ridings

The other day, I listed all the "razor thin" ridings, wherein Liberals finished within 5% for the 2008 election, amounting to 18 seats. Here are all the ridings where the Liberals finished 5-10%, amounting to 17 seats:

Alfred-Pellan 5187 votes 9.8% Bloc

Laval 4895 votes 9.7% Bloc

Outremont 2303 votes 6.4% NDP

Pontiac 3617 votes 8.4% Con

Saint-Lambert 3962 9.1% Bloc


Brant 4789 votes 8.9% Con

Haldimand-Norfolk 4080 8.4% Con

Kenora 1967 votes 8.5% Con

Oakville 5583 votes 10% Con

Ottawa-Orleans 3702 votes 6.1% Con

Ottawa West-Nepean 4948 votes 8.9% Con

Thornhill 5212 votes 9.6% Con

Thunder Bay-Rainy River 2884 votes 8% NDP

Thunder Bay-Superior North 3091 votes 8.7% NDP

Trinity Spadina 3475 votes 5.8% NDP

British Columbia:

Vancouver Kingsway 2799 votes 6.2% NDP


447 votes 5.6% Con

Obviously, highly questionable methodology, but if you combine both sets of "swing" seats, you have the following totals:

Conservatives 123
Liberals 112
Bloc 41
NDP 30

When you look at some of the names that hold certain ridings, it's hard to see the Liberals winning all of these, which makes the numbers even more daunting. To balance that, there are a few Con ridings vulnerable, particularly to the Bloc, which would narrow the theoretical gap.

Really, the only value in pouring through the numbers is that it demonstrates how far back the Liberals have to come to win the next election. Right now, the current polling shows about a 12% national swing from 2008 between the two principle parties, the regionals slightly better math for the Liberals. But, a 66 seat gap represents a massive hurdle, especially when you factor in the intangible of incumbency. On the plus side, polling only a couple months ago showed the Liberals well placed to win what is necessary, so that latent support exists, scenarios available.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Cross Country Reality Checkup

Rex Murphy's column does offers some wise advice for the Liberals moving forward. A good read for sure. However, Murphy also sings from the new media hymnbook, that Ignatieff has been "livin easy" this summer. I promise to stop pointing this out, as soon as the media class stops with the lazy frames, that show little relationship to reality. Quite telling, that at the exact moment I was reading Murphy's piece this morning, Ignatieff was on the road again:

"Relaxing" in Peterborough at the Farmer's Market, before another summertime gathering this afternoon. You can just smell the lazy entitlement.

The plus side of all this esoteric, pass the narrative, exercise within our media, they probably all read Jane Taber. If so, they might actually stumble on more counter reality information:
Mr. Ignatieff is headed east next week on a major tour, hopping from province to province in a little plane. The leader, who has been criticized for being in hiding this summer, is stopping in Nova Scotia, PEI and New Brunswick.

Let's start a new criticism. Why isn't Ignatieff spending more time developing policy in Ottawa, rather than wasting his time travelling around when nobody is paying attention anyways (it's summer you know)? Watch for it.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Is This Irony?

You'll note the dig at Ignatieff at the bottom- "It's not about you, it's just about him".

Speaking of HIM's, mirror mirror on the wall...

Flaherty Tries To Calm "Euphoric" Day

On the heels of worse than expected job losses (do these predictors ever get it right?), Flaherty is trying to dampen this end of recession talk:
Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said on Friday he was trying to tamp down "euphoria" over the economy's imminent recovery, saying there was still a long way to go to climb out of recession.

"It's going to be a difficult year. I've been saying that, I try to calm the euphoria about ‘we're out of a recession'," Mr.Flaherty told CTV television in an interview.

Did Flaherty call Stockwell "I'm not kidding. The recession is over" Day, tweet him or via email?

In all seriousness, for once Flaherty seems to be hitting the right note, unlike his colleague. Today's figures confirm the government is wise to lower expectations, rather than looking out of touch when the optimism doesn't manifest.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Get Off The Ride?

It's complicated, and nobody was naive, but this EI panel is turning into a farce of biblical proportions. The only mildly surprising facet, one would think the Conservatives learned something about appearing concilatory, given that overt partisanship is their achilles heel. Apparently, that revelation hasn't set in, so we are now witnessing a asinine display. I think Liberals should seriously consider getting off this ride, let the government present their own proposal in September and we then pass a verdict. This is nothing more than smears and trying to score points:
Cost has become the latest flashpoint between Conservatives and Liberals in their potentially election-provoking squabble over employment insurance reform.

Federal officials charge Thursday that a Liberal proposal to ease access to jobless benefits would cost more than $4-billion a year to implement.

But Liberals charged the governing Tories have “grossly inflated” the number of unemployed who'd be eligible for EI under their plan, thereby producing “astronomical costs” to justify their flat rejection of the proposal.

“I'm incredibly disappointed that they're out [in public] taking information that they have fabricated and distorted and taking it out of our meeting for political purposes,” Liberal MP Mike Savage said.

Where do you start? The Liberals used an independent analysis to cost out their proposal, a proposal that is open to compromise. The Liberals didn't pull the numbers out of their ass, like a Conservative fiscal update, they used non-partisan accounting. The Conservatives have countered with a costing that is intellectually dishonest, bastardizes the requirements the Liberals proposed, to create this bloated nonsense that doesn't resemble anything we've heard to date. Do serious people, trying to reach a compromise on reform, resort to these tactics?:
During the meeting, Liberals said, federal officials admitted that their estimate of the number of people affected by the “360” plan includes new entrants to the work force, re-entrants and those receiving special benefits, such as maternity leave — none of whom Mr. Ignatieff's proposal is intended to cover.

The Conservatives have wasted taxpayer money costing out a proposal that's never existed, all in the name of backing the Liberals in a corner. What's even more offensive, the Liberals have clearly stated, before this "panel" started, that 360 hours is negotiable, the hysterics unnecessary and counter-productive.

I know it brings risk to walk away- in this climate you could look obstructionist, playing games with serious issues. That said, this is amateur hour and it will reflect badly on us, no matter. Liberals would be better served to rise together, leave the room, find a mic and furiously reject this nonsense. That's what it is, call a spade a spade, see in you September, it better be good. The ball is in the government's court, nobody is clammoring for an election, we simply won't participate in such a environment, these people are impossible. Leave the clowns and the misinformation campaign sitting there, full of mock outrage.


Jeff has more.