Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Why The Wedge Works

I was a bit surprised at first, just how aggressive the Liberals are on this gun registry front. However, the more you digest the possible ramifications, playing hardcore wedge politics with the NDP, on this file, makes perfect sense.

Brad Lavigne articulates the emerging NDP retort (twitter):
"bradlavigne #lpc has lost almost every rural seat it held in 2000. Today it announced it is writing-off what is left"

I've also heard that Layton's press conference yesterday was part of a wider strategy, which I think Lavigne articulates above. To be honest, this supposed "strategy" looks like reactionary damage control, certainly not a preferred thrust.

It could be true, that the Liberals risk further eroding what is left of their support in rural Canada. However, as Lavigne himself notes, the Liberals have pretty much lost their way in rural Canada anyway, so one wonders. It becomes particularly interesting when you counter the potential gains, and it is here that this wedge makes perfect sense.

If you peruse the last election results, riding by riding, you will find that rural seat pickups are mostly a pipedream for the Liberals. On the other hand, when you look at urban, suburban seats, you see dozens in the 5-10% back range- it is these seats that will make or break Liberal fortunes. An added dynamic, vote splitting in those key ridings, which reveals the true wisdom of this wedge play. Even if the overall voting is a wash (lose some in rural, pickup some in urban), it's translates to positive electoral weighting.

In addition, and I believe this facet to be the true kicker- kill Mulclair, kill the NDP in Quebec. Outremont was already setting up to be a herculian battle, but with today's speech by Ignatieff, it becomes even more pointed. A bold move, naming Mulclair, but not a reckless one, that's for certain. If the Liberals can knock off Mulclair in Outremont, the NDP dream in Quebec is dead, we go back to virtual oblivion. On the wider front, if you can shave a few points off the NDP support in Quebec, then that makes the Liberals all the more the defacto federalist option, once again. In Quebec, there is no downside for the Liberals to come out strong on the gun registry, particularly when the upstart is vulnerable.

The Liberals have already been hammered in rural Canada over the gun registry, the damage so clearly done. I suspect the NDP strategy is no such thing, an after the fact, make the best of it reaction. On the other side, the more you think it through, the more it looks shrewd for the Liberals to push this issue with fervor, drive the wedge.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Bad Ideas

Layton's bizarre presser today (could have done without the juvenile subtitles in this video), which actually brought the gallery to laughter:



I'm not sure why the NDP brain trust put Layton out today. I'd put this decision in the "medium gaffe" binder. Layton parroted the usual hollow lines, offered reforms which the Liberals adopted months ago, and basically did jack(pun intended) to help the NDP position.

This post sums it all up very nicely.

...

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Beware The "Spring" Strategy

A pretty good read on the Liberals summer, and where they go from here by Joan Bryden. This particular passage was interesting:
Ideally, Liberal strategists would prefer to wait until spring, giving the Harper government more time to accumulate baggage, wrestle with a weakening economy and produce a promised restraint budget packed with painful spending cuts.

One word comes to mind here- NIMBLE. I would argue that the Liberals abandon these long term plans, or more correctly, adapt to events and be pragmatic. The above premise probably sounded wise at one point, but it's now full of risk and uncertainty.

Conventional wisdom holds that the next budget is where the government must make the tough choices, unpopular choices. The last budget, mostly a free pass, the 2011 budget will be where the deep cuts come and with that dissent and dissatisfaction. I believed this theory, but I have serious doubts now as events change.

Most economic forecasts for this year NOW project better growth than Flaherty budgeted for in the spring. As well, we just had the first quarter deficit numbers released, figures which every Liberal should pay attention consider:
Ottawa's budgetary shortfall narrowed in the first quarter of the fiscal year, the federal deficit dropping to $7.2 billion from the $12.5 billion it reached a year earlier.

That puts the government on track to meet its prediction of a $49.2 billion deficit for 2010-11, though there's still plenty of reason to keep an wary eye on the global economy, the Finance department said Friday.

Flaherty is wise to be cautious, politically and philosophically. Three months does not a year make, but it does start to confirm what economists are projecting. Extrapolate the quarter out to the year, and you see a deficit of around 29 billion. Even if growth slows, there is still AMPLE room for Flaherty to come in well below what the government projected. Fast forward to the spring, are Liberals really that keen on a budget which allows a much rosier picture? There is also evidence that the government is already reigning in spending- can Flaherty argue that our position is so much improved, the huge cuts assumed aren't required?

I think the situation NOW allows for the possibility that the 2011 budget won't be the "meet your maker" budget everybody assumes. Instead, it could well be a relatively positive presentation, that puts the government in a favourable light, able managers. Canadians are expecting huge deficits. While Flaherty would be foolish to predict anything, I'm sure the government is pleased and sees upside. Something like "because of our sound management and prudent policy, I am pleased to tell Canadians that our fiscal house is much improved since the 2010 budget..."

The key thing for the Liberals is not to get tunnel vision with this spring strategy, but keep a fluid perspective. As the picture unfolds, nobody should be surprised if, in fact, the spring budget is the preferred election scenario for the Conservatives, not the Liberals.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Quebec "Boosts Liberal Fortunes"

Remember when the Liberals were polling in the mid 20's, talk of mergers, leadership, complete disarray? That debate was all the way back in June. At the time, I posted that at the heart of the problem, where all the negativity originated, boiled down to Quebec:

Turning our gaze to Quebec, we see another pathetic 18.9% score for the Liberals, a number which is now commonplace. I would submit, that most of this merger, Liberals in free fall conversation, would be muted if the party was simply doing better in Quebec. The Liberals were in the 30's for more than a few months, then drifted back to the high 20's and its been downward since. Even if the party had MODEST numbers in Quebec, you can add a couple points nationally, and SUDDENLY you've got a close horse race and most of these "story lines" run basically as background noise.

Fast forward today, and we are starting to see those "modest" Quebec numbers, nothing spectacular, nothing to get excited about, but just enough that the Liberals suddenly look viable:
Nationally, the Tories were at 33 per cent, to the Liberals' 30, the NDP's 16 and the Greens' 10.

In Quebec, the Bloc stood at 37 per cent with the Liberals in a solid second at 28 per cent. The Tories were at 15 per cent, the Greens at 10 and the NDP at nine.

Returning to when the Liberals were polling in the high teens in Quebec, you can shave 2-3% off the national numbers, and I guarantee the negative narratives find more oxygen. If you look at the regional numbers- comparing the June bloodbath with the latest batch of polling- you find the Liberals haven't really moved in Ontario, haven't really move anywhere. And yet, suddenly we have "narrowing leads", "Liberals off the mat", "race tightening", all because the Liberals have merely returned to a half decent showing in Quebec, nothing more, nothing less.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Free Votes And Optics

The release of the RCMP report on the long gun registry is another powerful tool for the pro-registry side. The frame is starting to gel, in a general sense another expert vs ideology debate. While I see no direct consequence for the government, primarily because many Canadians agree with their position, the gun registry is another example of a negative narrative. Supressing reports, not listening to the advice of those in the know, that theme is a dangerous one for Harper, and in that sense this debate could bite. However, the party with the most to lose here is clearly the NDP, and that conclusion raises a host of questions.

I have always supported free votes, more power for individual MP's, because that better reflects democratic will, constituent wants. When I say the NDP will pay a political price for not supporting the gun registry, this isn't a commentary on free votes, merely the OPTICS, which are undeniable, based on past experience. The Liberals are generally the party that suffers from the "internal" policy division presentation. I've always believed that dissenting debate is healthy, but I've watched time and again how the slightest prospect of division becomes a negative headline. When I say the NDP will pay politically if the gun registry falls because of a free vote, this isn't a criticism, it's a recognition. If people believe otherwise, then there is some new reality in Ottawa, which I've never seen.

We aren't talking about what is fair, reasonable or philosophically attractive, we are talking about the optics, important not to confuse the two. People will notice pretty much ZERO in the way of critical thought, when it comes to the supposed united Conservative front on the registry. Do people really believe every single Conservative MP favours killing the gun registry, no dissenters, no one that would vote to save it, if a true free vote allowed? Bullocks. But, the appearance is that of a monolith, no cracks, no division, unanimous and for some reason strong. In Ottawa, any second guessing is pure poison, you want the most seamless, consistent presentation.

The NDP are without question providing the best expression of democracy on this issue. While that allows a moral, ideological argument, it doesn't do much in the real world translation. The headline will read that renegade NDP MP's didn't follow the stated party policy, and in turn the gun registry died. In places like Quebec, nobody will applaud the allowance of a free vote, the overriding frame will be that the NDP helped Harper kill the gun registry. Is that right, is that fair? No, and it's also true that doesn't matter in the least, when it comes to the optical game. And, before anyone feels to bad for the NDP predicament, one must remember how partisan have RELISHED past opportunities to jump on the same, even though the same principles apply. All the parties know how events are reported, how certain facts override all other consideration, how it all comes down to the most superficial of analysis. It is that knowledge that doesn't generate any contradiction in the fundamental belief in the free votes, and the recognition that this vote could be a negative politically.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Never Poke A Bear

John Ivison has a very good piece on the manufactured Russian threat. Ivison expands on a point raised by the Liberals today, namely that this government is jeopardizing international relations, in the name of political expediency:

This is understood only too well by Canada’s bureaucrats in the Department of Foreign Affairs, many of whom have been left holding their heads in their hands in despair after the latest intervention by the PMO.

Sources inside the department said there is increasing frustration at a hostility toward Russia that is manufactured for entirely domestic political purposes. The relationship between this government and its bureaucracy is showing signs of fraying to breaking point. Conservative politicians might joke that a public service strike would bring government to a standstill, if it were not for the fact that it is already. They might not be laughing so hard if they tested the theory. “More and more, the system is starting to resist,” said one senior Conservative, who lamented the aggressive approach taken by the PMO.

...But it is fair to suggest that there should be a more mature, sophisticated approach taken by the Prime Minister’s Office. To speak in the style of a wannabe Top Gun is not grown-up government.

It is entirely reckless and irresponsible for Dmitri Soudas to issue a provocative press release, just so this government can justify their F35 fighter expenditure. If we really need these planes, then a reasonable case can be made, and Canadians will accept the purchase. What is entirely offside, the notion that this government can manufacture a threat, and in so doing offend the Russians needlessly. Where is the diplomatic upside, creating tension where no reasonable person says exists?

This is the second time the government has pushed Russian bombers close to our airspace. Quite something, that in between these two "incidents", Canada and Russian planes took part in joint exercises, making the "threat" presentation all the more unnecessary.

Rather than get sucked into this debate about the F35's, the real issue here is the behaviour of this government, who so easily use Russia as a pawn to sell their domestic agenda. Not only is it ill conceived, but it is a bit dangerous and denotes ZERO comprehension of foreign relations- a fact which will surprise no one, given the abysmal track record of the Conservatives. Today's press release bordered on tacky and bizarre. It would be comical, if not for the simple fact there could be real reprecussions, that could actually setback Canada/Russia relations.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Ignatieff On B.C. HST

A really good substantive news item with Ignatieff, on a host of topics. Ignatieff was asked about the HST, during his British Columbia tour, and his comments were refined, but the message was clear:

“We’ve always believed that tax harmonization is a good thing. But the way you do it is absolutely crucial. And the way it was done here has given every politician pause for reflection. The issue is not the tax, in my view. It had to do with democratic accountability and whether trust was broken. That’s an issue for the provincial Liberals, it’s not an issue for me. We’ve been clear on HST all along. But you have to do it right. If you lose the consent of the people on this, that’s a problem for Premier Campbell.”

Dressed in jeans and a casual shirt, Ignatieff spoke without notes or a lectern in front of a packed room in the West Vancouver Community Centre.

Ignatieff is clearly speaking to the fact that Campbell ran an election campaign, without any mention of the HST, only to announce it mere weeks after he won. That he brings the argument down to a question of broken "trust" is an interesting characterization, one I'm sure Campbell doesn't welcome. Not a particularly political answer, but a fairly honest one.

Gun Registry Poll

The most frustrating part of this entire long gun registry "debate" is the lack of any middle ground, as proponents and detractors distort and present one sided arguments, that can't even entertain any evidence which doesn't fit nicely into the preconceived bias. As a matter of fact, the long gun debate is really symptomatic of a larger commentary on how discourse seems to unfold in the modern political world.

For the life of me, I still don't know how much this gun registry actually costs? If you're in favour of the registry, it apparently costs next to nothing, if you're against, it is an obscene waste of taxpayer money. For anyone trying to decipher the dueling the exaggerations, you're left with nothing but confusion and frustration. How many times a day do police officers actually use the registry for "real" applications? Again, I haven't the slightest and I basically give up on anyone providing a detached review of the true facts. Do police officers unanimously support the gun registry or does every single one of them hate it with a passion, can't wait for the day that it's gone? You're guess is as good as mine.

There's one more question, that thankfully is outside of the confusion- what do Canadians think of this gun registry, and do they believe it worth saving? Today, Angus Reid releases a poll, which seems to be in line with previous findings. The bottom line conclusions- Canadians don't see much value in the registry and more of them want it scrapped then saved:
44% support scrapping the long gun registry; 35% oppose such a move

The only province where people support keeping the registry is Quebec, and by a large margin. In the rest of the country, sentiment is clearly in favour of scrapping the registry. It is worth noting, that 1 in 5 Canadians is unsure, and I suspect part of that is due to the confusing presentations criticized prior.

Maybe more troubling for those on the pro-registry side, Canadians really don't see it as a useful tool. An embarrassing low 13% of Canadians think this registry successful in preventing crime in Canada, while 43% think it unsuccessful. A further 29% think the registry has had no effect whatsoever. The only caveat here for the anti-registry side, people believe crime is increasing, gun crime a serious issue(as outlined in this poll), so one would expect a negative response to any question on effectiveness. However, it is fair to say that Canadians don't see this registry as a meaningful tool.

So, there you have it. I don't have a clue what is what with this gun registry, but it would appear that once again, a sampling of opinion shows a "two solitudes" divide, but an overall negative impression of the registry and its usefulness. And, that's the no spin reality...

Saturday, August 21, 2010

What A Stupid Poll, What A Stupid "News" Organization


We've all seen some shit polls in our time, but this latest QMI/Leger "offering" might be the worst yet. If this is indicative of the new Kory Teneycke reign, it would seem the term LAME has found new relevance. Intellectually dishonest, it reads more like a PMO press release, than a supposed news organization.

"Iggy's summer tour a flop: poll" reads the headline. Did you know that Ignatieff had been on the road for 3 weeks when this poll was taken? Did you know that Ignatieff has been on the for 3 weeks SINCE this poll was taken? Did you know that Ignatieff will be on the road for another 3 weeks?

I expect absolutely nothing (except for David Akin- run David run!) from the new Sun Media manifestation, but the pollster here is insanely disappointing:
Dave Scholz with Leger Marketing. "Now near the end of the summer tour, we're finding that only 8% of people know more about him now than they did before. That's a pretty small number.

Good grief, "near the end" eh Dave? Try 1/3 through the tour when you took the poll. Scholz goes further, citing Ontarians as disproportionately aware of the tour and having their views impacted. Well golly gee Dave, might have something to do with the fact the tour was primarily in ONTARIO during the small subset of the tour you've used to extrapolate over the full calendar. I guess the sad part, clients actually pay for this "analysis". Absolutely astounding that the pollster makes definitive comments when he knows the poll is THREE WEEKS OLD! Take heart Liberals, using the above logic and statistics, we can conclude that 24% of Canadians will know more about Ignatieff by tour's end- of those by a 3 to 1 ratio they will have an improved opinion. Sounds like success I say, thank you Sun Media!

More from Scholz:

"I think the Liberal Party would like to forget the summer of 2010."

Dave, Canadians are going to be mightily pissed when they find out that Leger Marketing has unilaterally cut SUMMER IN HALF! Kory Teneycke wants to take away your summer Canada, he really is that scary.

So far, the only "flop" I'm sensing is the new Sun Media. What a disgrace, if not entirely surprising, given the quality of new management.

Anyways, I missed the Leafs game last night, so off to the PVR to see if they can continue this early season winning streak...

UPDATE:

BCL had a similar reaction. Impolitical with more.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Go Time?

There seems to be an assumption, that a fall election is very unlikely. This prediction is largely based on Conservative fortunes, down in the polls, no real apparent upside or realistic prospect of the coveted majority. Within this mindset, an almost after the fact analysis of the Liberal situation. Surely, the Liberals wouldn't consider an election, given what happened prior, given where they are in the poll, even entertaining the possibility sure madness. I would submit, contrary to conventional wisdom, the Liberals should seriously consider a fall election.

It always seems to come down to the polls. I believe there is much more to the equation, but on this score, the numbers are actually encouraging. If you isolate yourself to the Liberal support, then the idea of an election is somewhat laughable, but that is to narrow a view. The fact that this government sits well below their tally in the last two elections, closer to their 2004 LOSS to Martin, is a very powerful indicator that they are ripe for defeat. Some voters are clearly bypassing the Liberals, but that doesn't detract from the fact that there is no love in the land for Harper and company. The polls tell me, on a personal level Harper has never been less popular, as a party, the Conservatives show more vulnerability, than at any point since they came to office. Rather than a "where we are" exclusive consideration, one should be well aware of "where they are" and then decide if we can capitalize. At the very least, I don't see the polls as the great dissuader that some to, in fact I see opportunity.

Beyond the polls, I sense a real change on the narrative front. There are two storylines here, both of which work in the Liberals favour. Harper is getting hammered, the most negative narratives are cementing in a very coherent, easily understood way. At the same time, Ignatieff is gaining a certain measure of respect from the media class, as he completes an almost flawless tour, proving he is up to the challenge of a campaign. While the numbers have yet to show a seismic change, there is no question Ignatieff is better off today, than he was at the beginning of the summer. My political instincts see a certain momentum, that might serve us well when Parliament returns. Eliminate the self inflicted wound, internal divisions routine, and you might just keep the focus on the government and start to look the credible alternative.

Some Liberals are waiting for that day when the Liberals are well ahead in the polls and victory looks almost assured. I would argue, that day may never come UNTIL we have a campaign, unless of course people are prepared to wait for a couple more years, even that offering zero guarantees of anything. A campaign offers the Liberals the best high profile opportunity to bring the soft support back into the fold. Should we wait until the budget, we might be surprised when the government announces the deficit fight is ahead of schedule, a relative "good news" feel, the Conservatives look competent. No one should assume the future is always brighter, timing is everything and this moment has many attractive attributes.

I think it's "go time". I would very quietly and cautiously move in that direction come the return of Parliament.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ice Age

In a democracy, different points of view are not only tolerated, but ENCOURAGED. This core belief explains why people protect the most egregious or offensive viewpoints, in the name of freedom of speech and expression. What does it say then, to have a government, which tramples, suppresses and actually punishes any person, or organization which DARES to disagree.

I'm sure when the dust settles on the latest example of Conservative "chill", we will be left with a confusing mess of conflicting arguments. There will be no real smoking gun(pun intended) that this government actively suppressed opposition to their gun registry policy, but given past patterns and KNOWN tactics, those with half a clue will conclude the obvious. You see, with government, if you dissent, you now know full well that you may face consequences.

These are the supposed people that champion the whistle blower, believe that government can't be trusted and checks must exist, to ensure full light is cast in all corners. And yet, in practice, this Conservative government is the most secretive, least transparent, patently hypocritical manifestation that has graced the federal scene. Fall in line, don't challenge, a thread of fear to keep opposition stifled. One wonders what else is going on behind the scenes, on a host of files, that will never reach the light of day, because of the current climate in Ottawa?

I'm sure it's all coincidence that the biggest pro-gun registry advocate in the RCMP is suddenly brushing up on his French, at the critical moment. I'm also sure it takes a certain degree of willful ignorance to believe the above is the full story.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Loons

Heading up to northern Ontario for a few days....

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Taking Notes For The Book?

I'm not sure what's more disturbing and patently absurd, Cherry's suit or that the other guy actually leads a modern nation:

Some Evidence Ignatieff Gaining Traction

A small bit of "evidence" that this summer's tour is helping Ignatieff's fortunes. I'm sure the trends below would have given Mario Lague a small measure of satisfaction, with the summer tour he helped orchestrate.

First, the horserace numbers, which show a 9 point Conservative lead, down to 4, poll to poll:
Cons 33%(-3)
Libs 29%(+2)
NDP 19%(-1)
Greens 9%(+2)

Another pollster shows a closing trend. Of note, for Angus Reid, this result is the closest the two parties have been this year.

What is also noteworthy about this poll, the party leader numbers. At first blush, Ignatieff's numbers are objectively dismal, but using relativity and the all the important trendline, room for optimism is warranted:
Ignatieff's momentum—on the heels of his cross-country tour and appearances in the barbecue circuit—has increased markedly.

Ignatieff has ranked last on the AR momentum score for months and months. For this poll, Harper is noticeably weaker than Ignatieff, an entirely new dynamic.

When you drill down into the various questions, you see that more Canadians now see Harper as arrogant, compared to Ignatieff(42-35%) While Harper's number continues to rise, Ignatieff's are heading lower. The trend is important, when one considers a chief attack line revolves around this criticism. Overall:
The silver lining for Liberal supporters is the apparent recovery for Michael Ignatieff, who no longer is the de-facto third place finisher in the momentum category. His approval rating remains low at 14 per cent, but the numbers suggest that some people are starting to change their mind about him. For Stephen Harper, the summer did not provide a boost. A third of Canadians now have a worse opinion of the Prime Minister.

Ignatieff`s disapproval is down 6% in just one month, his approval remains unchanged. While still third on this measure, interesting to note Ignatieff is the only federal leader who showed no erosion. Reviewing some of the more detailed questions, you see a very noticeable move on a crucial point. Ignatieff is up 3% on the "in touch" measure, down 5% on "out of touch". This 8 point swing is important, because it represents Ignatieff's chief appearance hurdle. Harper NOW leads Ignatieff on this score.

A long way to go, but it's a good start.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

There's A Word For It

There's a term used to describe the behavior of knowing one truth, but telling others something entirely different.

I guess the most fascinating part of these census emails, the concerted effort by the government to sanitize their ideological push, and make it appear as though Statistics Canada was on board. We see emails, wherein government references are removed and replaced, part of the "communications strategy" to sell these census changes.

Tony Clement completely misrepresented the position of Statistics Canada:
Industry Minister Tony Clement was well aware that Statistics Canada had little use for a voluntary census when he was telling Canadians that StatsCan was onside with his decision to scrap the mandatory, long-form survey, internal government documents show.

In an email to the minister’s advisers in March, a StatsCan official says a self-administered voluntary survey “provides a response rate of 50 per cent.” The email goes on to say that, with follow-up and interviewer support, the response rate can be increased to 65-70 per cent, “which is still not an acceptable outcome for a census.”

Yet Clement publicly gave the impression that the respected federal data collecting agency supported the Conservatives’ move to scrap the mandatory nature of the 40-page, long-form survey that has traditionally gone out to one-in-five households at census time.

“We’ve come up with a way that is statistically valid, that StatsCan feels can work,” Clement said during an appearance at McGill University last month.

StatsCan didn't feel the changes "can work", IN FACT they argued the exact opposite, expressive grave concerns that the government's changes wouldn't work. Clement tries to hide behind StatsCan, consistent with other requests to remove government references in press releases.

Obviously, it is entirely predictable that any government would try and sell their policies, nothing unusual there. However, to purposely cite support from the bureaucracy, where NONE exists, in fact the opposite, raises serious questions about the moral fitness of the Minister.

If you ask me, looking at the sequence of events, the wrong person was forced to resign.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Blackest Out

Reviewing some of the newly released census documents. Note the extra level of darkness the super sensitive stuff gets. Makes you want to know, just that much more...




Barn owl proof black.

Monday, August 09, 2010

"He Seems To Connect Very Well With Common Folk.”

At the beginning of the Ignatieff tour, I dubbed it the "Last Chance Express", and in reality I don't think that characterization hyperbole. At some point, one either gets some traction or the negative narratives gel, and you are left with your opponent self destructing as the only realistic hope. I believe Ignatieff was at a crossroads heading into this summer, and while I didn't expect a radical turnaround, some projection of a credible alternative was desperately needed.

I've held off making any definitive judgements on this tour to date, because you need time to see if any themes have really developed. Hebert's column today confirms many of my gut instincts, and I think she's bang on.

I've sensed a different tone with the media, in regards to Ignatieff. The piling on mentality that dogged Ignatieff for most of this year seems to have waned. Part circumstance, part projecting different narratives, Ignatieff seems to be generating a certain amount of respect. The improving perception is warranted, because really this Liberal Express, save for the first day hiccups, has gone very, very smoothly, both logistically and professionally. Ignatieff has waded into crowds with ease, a far cry from the gaffe prone rookie that ran for the leadership in 2006. Ignatieff looks comfortable, his new summer garb now routine and ordinary.

Ignatieff hasn't shed all the baggage, obviously, and really I never expected him to. However, the notion of the out of touch elitist has taken a serious hit. I've scanned the local news on a daily basis, and for the most part, puff pieces that paint Ignatieff in a "on balance" positive light. This under the radar coverage, coupled with a certain re-think on the national media front congeals to a success by any definition.

The polls really haven't moved, there is no Iggymania sweeping the land, but when you consider realistic goals for this summer, it's hard to see failure. The team looks professional, the leader looks engaged and at ease, making it all the more realistic for those covering, and those voting, to see the Liberals as a viable alternative to this government. The "Last Chance Express" has become the "Greens Shoots Express" in my view, horribly overused wording aside :)

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Harper's Gift

There's an excellent editorial in today's Toronto Star, detailing the new Conservative expenditures and the wider theme of imported ideology. There is another thesis developing, which hasn't quite made it on to the political radar, but one that could prove central come an election.

With all this talk about planes and prison, upwards of 25 billion allocated for these two expenditures alone, the Harper government has inadvertently given the Ignatieff Liberals a WIDE berth on the fiscal front. One of the supposed chief attack lines- that Ignatieff has made expensive promises, his agenda is something we just can't afford in these "tightening purse string" times. Harper had the clear edge as money manager, Ignatieff attacked by the PMO for every new policy utterance as another example of "big spending" Liberals. It would appear, NOW, with these massive numbers in the public realm, that the Conservatives have lost the "appearances" advantage, any fiscal high ground argument almost laughable, inviting forceful retort.

If the Conservatives argue you can spend 25 billion dollars, AND cut corporate taxes, amounting to another 5-6 billion lost, you've essentially given the Liberals 30 billion to promise this and that, with NO THREAT of credible criticism. The Conservatives can balance the books with all these new measures- heck they deficit is now slated to end a year ealier that previous forecasts- so Ignatieff has a mountain of money available to push the Liberal platform. We won't cut corporate taxes, we think the prison expenditure is ludicrious and we will review the F35 expenditure. The Liberals can nimbly make a mockery of these "fiscal conservatives" and/or pivot and use the same Flaherty balance sheet for other, more pressing, needs. Sure we can afford national day care, and THEN SOME, according to this government, there's money EVERYWHERE and the deficit is still slain- according to this government anyways.

Harper's chief advantage is evaporating before our eyes. The Conservatives are voluntarily eroding their own fiscal image, while simultaneously providing the Liberals with a free pass, to check off a few big ticket items of their own. Then the question becomes, just what expenditures are most important to Canadians. Planes and prisons, hardly a compelling "kitchen table" consideration, allowing for an interesting contrast. Neutered on the "big spending" front, obscure and distant on the allocation front, I'd say thanks for the massive opening if I'm a Liberal strategist.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

CRAP From CAPP

You may have noticed that the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers are in the midst of a heavy advertising blitz, in an effort to improve the image of the tar/oil sands. Fair enough, each side of the environmental debate should have a voice, the more information available, the better. A word of advice for CAPP, particularly as it applies to this ad, in heavy rotation on the networks:



I love the "oh there's two squirrels", "sorry to interupt". CAPP, how about treating us like adults? Squirrels? Pretty much the most adaptable creature in Canada, they'd nest inside the Pickering reactor if you let them. Not exactly a resounding commentary on a region reborn.

What bothers me about these commercials, the BLURRY background, the tight angles, the whole obvious manipulation to make MORE of less. IF, the situation is as argued, then CAPP shouldn't need these type of crafty cinematic tricks and the CHEESY squirrel spontaneity (we never did see them did we?) See, where I come from, when you're trying to trick me, or sell me in such amateurish fashion, it makes me EVEN MORE suspicious, you've lost the attempt.

I'm curious as well, if the area is now as pristine and reclaimed as argued, what the hell are doing with the hard hat? Nothing says raw nature and kicking back in a safe environment like attire akin to entering the earthquake impact zone. Great visual guys, who's your production company?

Maybe the squirrels are aggressive?

Friday, August 06, 2010

What's Harper Afraid Of?

A bit of a media kerfuffle today, over which questions the elusive Prime Minister was asked during his press conference. On the wider theme, this tweet from David Akin to my friend Jeff Jedras delves into the real story:
We think bigger issue is a PM who will only take 4 questions after nearly a month of 0 questions.

I have to admit, Harper isn't bad in the rare interviews he's done, and he's pretty quick on his feet for the most part. These admissions make it all the more difficult to understand just why Harper seems so terribly afraid of the media and the notion of accountability. I note, Ignatieff is taking uncensored questions daily, and no blood has been shed, if anything it has helped his image.

It is a statement of fact, to say that Harper hasn't taken one unscripted question since he became Prime Minister. There have been online "town halls" and other propaganda events, but everything is screened, just like Harper's press conferences, where people are chosen. Today, another example of a controlling PMO, and a Prime Minister that really looks the paranoid COWARD. All this debate about the long form census, and Canadians STILL don't know what the leader of the country thinks, his rationale, his position articulated. What a complete joke.

Yesterday, Harper "allowed" the media into the Conservative caucus meeting. To say the speech was a thin farce is actually kind, the fact it got any coverage at all maybe more telling. Here's the rub- rather than lament the "bigger issue" of unaccountability, why not show a degree of fortitude and REFUSE to cover propaganda events. The scarcity of access to Harper has had a warped reaction, the media then falls over themselves for the slightest scrap. That speech yesterday deserved ZERO coverage, and journalists should have told the PMO, give us some meat or there is no obligation to cover. Where does it say the media MUST attend propaganda events and give it a voice? If people are really upset about only taking a few questions, travelling around the country and getting nothing but photo ops, why not REFUSE, thanks but no thanks.

In reviewing this week, it would seem the PMO got exactly what they wanted, and once again a certain manipulation has taken place. Journalists are obviously aware of the policy, but their voluntary COMPLIANCE belies any line in the sand or principled resistance. I agree with David, and I would recommend the next time the press gallery is summoned, they demand a more accountable exchange or they take a pass. Wouldn't that be an interesting development, and long overdue. Tired of the leash, stop wagging your tail :)

Thursday, August 05, 2010

All Depends

For the second time this year, a pollster has pegged support for both main parties below 30% concurrently- a dynamic never seen before. This poll is sort of a mixed bag from the Liberal perspective. On the one hand, hard to argue with a statistical tie, given polling of recent months. As well, Liberal support shows an uptick, coming off the almost dangerous levels we've seen recently. For these reasons, a bit of optimism is warranted.

This poll is a very bad result for the Conservatives, showing serious erosion from both their 2008 and 2006 election totals. That these numbers come during the supposedly favorable summer break is all the more concerning. Also an issue, despite the perceived strength of the Canadian economy, international praise, this government is seeing no benefit to their fortunes. The problems for the Conservatives would be more discussed I suspect, if not for one simple fact- the Liberals aren't capitalizing. Go back a few years, to the last time the Conservatives were scoring at the 30% level and you had a Liberal party well in the lead, forming a steady minority government. Today, the Conservatives at the same level, and yet their anemic competition would still allow a slender Conservative minority. In other words, the Conservatives don't receive full negative analysis, because the Liberals are perpetually stalled, unable to capitalize. Voters are looking beyond BOTH parties, the 13% plus Green number in Ontario a prime example. As I said when the Conservatives had a sizeable lead, if you look carefully, there is really no love in the land for either option.

An improved poll from the Liberal perspective, but really a fascinating testament to a very fractured and unimpressed electorate.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Monday, August 02, 2010

A Nation Electrified

David Akin writes a interesting blog today on social media. One of the statistics he provides is a bit surprising, and offers further proof that nobody outside of die hard junkies are paying attention, most of the "debate" nothing more than a marginal, esoteric dance, with little real world resonance:
The average audience for the all-news channels of CBC and CTV can drop as low as 15,000 and rarely gets much above 50,000 at any point during a regular news day.

Ratings that give new meaning to the word anemic. Between 30 to 100 thousand watching the news channels, represents around 1 to 300 viewers per riding. Pretty pathetic when you think about it, and a partial explanation why politicians of the day can operate with virtual impunity. These numbers also undermine the justification for a third news network, no matter the LAME arguments, but that's a side point.

You know when you watching Pierre Poilievre do the low brow routine on a political panel and you want to give him an atomic wedgie? Take comfort in the fact that NOBODY is really watching, NOBODY really gives a toss, it all takes place within a bubble that elevates the relative nothingness, to something resembling meaning. Only rarely does any "issue" penetrate beyond diehards like myself, which is why it becomes extraordinarily difficult to predict what is resonating and what is useless noise, solely for our own narrow digestion (like this blog for instance).

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Happy Feet Strikes Again

More Ignatieff dancing, this time a little country:




Now if we can just get him into a mosh pit, he will truly have become "everyman".

Amateurish

Not taking anything away from Georges Laraque- who does seem to have a genuine social conscience- but the Green Party decision to name him deputy leader reeks of amateurism, at the worst possible time in the history of the party:
The federal Greens are hoping a former NHL tough guy will boost the party's profile and help it to score big in the next election.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May named Georges Laraque as a deputy leader of the party on Saturday.

The 260-pound former Montreal Canadien will focus on promoting the link between physical health and the environment.

Laraque only just joined the Green Party six months ago, which makes his ascendency to the number two slot almost embarrassing and woefully transparent. There is some value for the Green Party, having a former Hab on the ticket will give needed exposure in Quebec. However, that rationale is quite narrow, because the move also cements the message that the Green Party lacks a professional demanor. For any upstart party, piercing the credibility barrier is job one, this move does nothing in that regard, if anything a step backwards. Again, nothing against Laraque, but his former role in the NHL was that of a goon, low on skill. Quite a feat, from bruiser to the Green Party deputy LEADER in a few months. People already question May as a legitimate alternative, having Laraque by her side- I fail to see the ultimate political upside.

The Greens are at a bit of a crossroads at the moment, part curiousity, part serious alternative. It isn't exactly encouraging, that the Greens choose to artifically elevate a complete novice to such a position of perceived importance and power. The perception isn't one of a sophisticated party offering a true alternative, but more a "not ready for prime time" quirky sideshow.