Friday, February 25, 2011

Someplace Warm

See you in a few :)

Robbed While We Sleep

I hate commercials. I turn the channel to avoid for the most part, any viewing a product of the remote being just that. But, even with my attempts to avoid, I can't help but notice an OBSCENE amount of Economic Action Plan ads polluting my screen, everywhere, at all times, a blitzkrieg I don't think we've ever seen- and that's saying something, given past excess on this self promotion. What is particularly ALARMING, these ads come as our Finance Minister speaks of "winding down" the EAP, finishing up products, because the fiscal situation demands we cut off the taps. That's a reasonable argument, people understand and the government has shown some flexibility to allow completion of lagging projects. However, rather than "winding down" the ads, which are AFTER THE FACT at this point, we are seeing a ramp up of staggering proportions.

Every government manipulates the levers of power to self promote, so the Harper government isn't unique in terms of intent. However, when we move to SCALE, simply no peer, comparisons embarrassing, this is a new animal, the likes of which Canada has never seen. Through disclosure, we already know that past advertising for the EAP has been in the order of 3 to 4 times that of previous spending by the former government. Little evidence of repercussion, the government was able to pull it off, taxpayer on hook, but nobody seemed to notice, or worse CARE.

That was then, but now we see another round, more intense than before, the timing insulting, the frequency metaphorically criminal, the tone more partisan than anything we've seen. Rather than thinly disguised partisan ads, these ads are like triumphant exclamations, making sure Canadians know what the plan has done, how it's positioned us for the future, basically a "we are in good hands with Stephen Harper" feel, any other interpretation a stretch.

What is the government spending on these ads? Anyone bother to ask the question? It is clear, this government has opened the pre-writ flood gates, knowing full well, the expenditure won't come to light until AFTER an election, and even then past history suggests little real recourse. This is our money, and the government has become so obnoxious they've dropped any pretense, these are partisan ads, pure and simple.

What is going on right at the moment is ridiculous, but it is going on. Sort of like being robbed while you sleep, except you never wake up I guess.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ignatieff Mania Begins To Take Root?

Just joking, but maybe instructive for poll chasing. The latest EKOS is just one poll, but it's also a large sample that has shown some "wild" swings in support, leaving people scrambling for reasons. As I argued last week, it is the "realm of fools" to be definitive or draw far reaching conclusions based on a not yet sustained trend. I also mentioned a caution with Ontario, particularly the subset of voters that change on a whim, they've done it the past, they've done it in the present and we will see more in the future. The Conservatives have a 30% floor, as do the Liberals, while both seem to top out around 40%, the national numbers largely move with the flirting voter. There is nothing new in that proclamation, in reality it is the most well established fact in polling. The EKOS poll the latest example to back up the theory, as once again the vast majority of the huge shift comes with the "whim" Ontario voter.

Nationally, a large move, a 13% lead has largely evaporated to a mych more precarious 5% lead. Not only are Conservatives suddenly not flirting with majority, they are well below their 2006 election total, a very unimpressive 32%, all those weeks of upward momentum gone, right back to the previous predicament. The Liberals bounce back a bit, still challenged but enough to quite the jackals for now. When you look at the regionals, the Ontario volatility shows itself once again. Last EKOS in brackets:
Liberals 36.4% (30.3%)
Conservatives 35.9% (41.5%)
NDP 14.2% (13.6%)
Greens 10.3% (12%)

MOE 3.3


A terrific shift, the Conservatives go from a commanding 11% lead to the Liberals slightly ahead, statistically tied. There's your story with this poll, soft as Phil Kessel in the corners, these voters move on anything and everything, predicting where they land on election day, well... What is instructive, to know this reality, which probably explains why I didn't feel compelled to jump off a bridge the last two weeks as negative polls poured in. A few months of the same, then you can argue a new normal in Ontario, but we've simply seen this game way to many times to not preach caution. Digest yes, change direction, absolutely not. Okay, so Ontario volatile, Ontario whimsical, a large subset of voters available come the campaign, not particularly impressed and/or committed to anyone.

Moving to Quebec, there does seem to be a new dynamic that is becoming a common occurrence, namely the Liberals now mired in the teens, poll after poll, lumped in with the Conservatives as the federalist option. If people wonder why the Liberals can't touch 30%, it is the steady erosion in Quebec that provides the answer. When Ignatieff took the helm, for months we saw neck and neck with the Bloc, above 30% in the province, providing a nice boost to the federal numbers. The Quebec numbers stagnating, plateaued, until Coderre, where we went back to the mid 20's, again another meander period and now in the last few months a steady, slow decline to the present abysmal numbers. Students in Quebec politics will also remind us that Quebecers are completely disengaged at the moment, so while disappointing probably not dire. That said, one still wonders why the graph has such a persistent downward gradient over time. If I'm looking to the polls for any guidance, I'm ignoring Ontario, but I think Quebec is a present problem for the Liberals.

Until next time....

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

F-35 Stonewall Doesn't Add Up

Common sense dictates that if you are purchasing something that we do need, that does meet our requirements, that is suited for Canada, you want to share that information to bolster you case. Common sense also suggests that any disclosure resistance, any sense that you are withholding, leads one to wonder if that resistance is due to potential negative information coming to light that will undercut your argument for purchase. In addition, if you still balk at disclosure in the face of sustained questioning, one gives the appearance of stonewalling.

More information on the "Statement of Operational Requirements" , a formerly dry document that is quickly becoming intriguing because of its absence. It would appear the government's own website completely contradicts their arguments for withholding this crucial documentation:
The Department of National Defence says it is hiding a key F-35 document from the public because that type of document is classified. Yet its own website hosts many of these same types of papers for public downloading, almost all of which are marked as "unclassified."

"SORs are classified documents" that are "not disclosed publicly," added spokesperson Evan Koronewski.

However, those claims don't appear to hold water as the government's own publicly accessible website currently hosts at least four of these types of documents, three of which explicitly state that they are unclassified. One such document even concerns another recent Air Force equipment purchase.

What's more, their publication dates show that the department has often declassified and released versions of these documents before signing any contracts.

The "classified" defence falls apart, using the government's own website to show a disconnect. Once you incorporate the public debate here, the government defence becomes that much more suspect:
Military experts are calling for the release of the operational requirements document as they say if it is not released, the heated political rhetoric in Canada over the F-35, which could spill over into an election as early as next month, will continue to be based on merely speculation and allegations.

They say the onus is on the government to release the military's requirements in order to clear the air.

The situation is even more pressing after media reports last fall showed that the military had been recommending the F-35 as far back as 2006, even though Lt.-Gen. Deschamps said in November that the document was finalized internally in early 2010—meaning that the military bypassed its own procurement process.

Quite common to release the Statement of Operational Requirements under normal circumstances. Add on the very public debate, the correct "onus on the government" to tell Canadians why we need these planes, and it would seem release of the SOR should be an automatic given. Questions have been raised, the SOR would clear up certain concerns, and yet the government departs from apparent standard practice, keeps the documents hidden from view? Why? Does this present reality lead to unnecessary speculation and innuendo? Any suspicion is solely a reaction to government actions, they are creating this climate of uncertainty because of the lack of transparency, because they will not use the common underpinning to support their claims.

Again, nothing to hide, then why are hiding? And, why are you hiding something you normally don't? Doesn't add up from here.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What He Said

Yep, that sums it up.



.

The Forgotten Math

How does Harper pull it off? How does the Prime Minister carry himself like he has a majority, when everyone knows he doesn't? How can this person say he doesn't want an election in one breath, and the very next say he isn't interested in "horse trading"?

Forget about the NDP's desire for an election here, the fact of the matter is they have offered a very reasonable set of "demands". One could say the laundry list is paltry, meaning if the Prime Minister really did want to avoid an election, the "out" is sitting in his lap, with little pain. And yet, we get this odd stance from the government, they have their course and while they will listen, nothing will make them compromise. Hello? That's the posture of a majority, not the Parliamentary reality of a minority government. The Martin government was forced to deal to survive. In fact, you look at any minority around the world and "horse trading" is an inherent GIVEN, not even a question.

Why has everyone forgotten the math? Why can Harper make these proclamations about not wanting an election and the contradict in striking fashion, without any dissent? The math demands compromise, it laughs at Harper's "we will do what we feel is right" posturing, it insults common sense and it deserves to be challenged. Instead, the almost unthinkable, Harper is able to pull out "horse trading" resistance as though a virtue!

This is a minority, which demands the government curry favour with another party or risk non confidence. The inability to reach a consensus is a testament to government failure, PARTICULARLY when faced with a scant list of demands from a party clearly read to "deal". You really, really want to avoid an unnecessary, opportunistic, damaging to the economy, election Prime Minister? Well look no further than in front of your face Mr. Harper, the resolution is staring at you with alarming clarity.

Again, how does Harper pull it off? How has Harper so easily manipulated intelligent people into giving him a free pass on the most basic considerations? How has Harper managed to make everyone forget the math, forget how our Parliamentary democracy works?

Perhaps a visual aid?:

Monday, February 21, 2011

Nanos

The latest Nanos poll tends to confirm what others have found. In the last week, we've now seen four separate outfits, with almost consensus results, each showing a wide Conservative lead, majority support within reach, while the Liberals are mired at recent historic lows.

Nanos puts Conservative support at their highest level for this pollster. The Conservatives are at 39.7%, a high water mark only matched the last time Ignatieff threatened an election. What makes this poll more pronounced, while the Conservatives have "touched" 40% during the aforementioned period, Liberal support never ebbed this low, 26.6%. In other words, from the Liberal perspective just about the most brutal NANOS finding recorded.

Poll to poll, the Conservatives are up slightly, but the real story is cratering Liberal support, down a well outside MOE 4.6%. Across the board erosion, but a particularly odd 15.6% dip in the "Prairies", almost 50% support loss. That numbers smells fishy, and the high MOE makes it virtually irrelevant. That said, this incredibly low total does impact the Liberal national number more than most "Prairie" findings.

A decent poll for the NDP, up to 18.9%, from 17.2%, particularly healthy at 23% in Ontario, something we haven't seen recently. Layton also bests Ignatieff on the leadership index, as he hovers in Dion terrority.

Okay, so we now have a slew of polls telling the exact same story. Rather than dismiss, important to digest and understand. I still see soft support moving here, nothing written in stone, step away from the ledge but note the breeze. A combination of attack ads and election sabre rattling might be the real movers. I'm inclined to believe attack ads, as WELL as the bombardment on the EAP ads, are having an impact. Canadians still don't want an election, but we've seen evidence that we're resigned, so I don't know how much of the shift is due to the Liberals appearing eager. One other factor, we've also seen more comfort with the direction of the economy, a core issue that might also be contributing.

The polls are what they are, I don't see any need for the Liberals to reaccess their strategy. I've watched to many campaigns, here and down south, to know the pre-writ is just that, particularly with a new leader, writing off and being conclusive, an amateurish pursuit to be honest. That said, one does wonder how the Conservatives amend their stance, because they must see some enticement now, the elusive majority at least a possibility. This new reality may explain why the Conservatives seem less responsive to deal making, outright rejecting some NDP demands, their internals might now be showing similar possibilities.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Layton On Question Period

Jack Layton made his first public comments since the Friday meeting with the Prime Minister. I watched the interview, but I decided to re-watch on CTV's video site because the media read seemed a bit off from my "take". It appeared from this interview that initial reactions to Friday's meeting were in error, YES Layton had raised corporate taxes, in fact "a third" of the forty minute meeting was devoted to this topic. This revelation brought the "Layton draws strong line on budget" headline in the Globe and Mail.

Before I put up the text of key portions of the interview, some context. At the end of this meeting, we heard nothing but mutual praise, healthy discussion, productive, blah, blah, blah. On Saturday, we started hearing more pushback language from the Conservatives, rejecting the home heating tax proposal, complaining about the cost of Layton's proposals. At the same time we see anecedotal evidence that this Friday footsie fest was causing some backlash amongst the rank and file. I use social media, plenty of negative commentary on Layton's facebook page as well as non-partisan jabs on twitter- we can dismiss as irrelevant, but I'll bet the farm NDP headquarters were getting the same reaction in a wider sense. So that's the backdrop heading into today's comments from Layton, so one would expect a slightly "firmer" tone from him, given the Conservatives are playing hardball and Layton is out on a dangerous political ledge. Of those two facts I concede as givens, if people want to quibble with that underpinning, that's their perogative because I don't have "evidence", just a sense based on some indications.

Alright, so let's look at "line in the sand" Layton. Here is the corporate tax portion:
Oliver

"You know that's a non starter for the PM, that's end of conversation. He is not giving up anything that has to do with corporate tax cuts, you know that, so why don't you just say it doesn't look like this is going anywhere?"

Layton:

"Well, because we're going to look at the whole budget all together. But, he knows very well our position on corporate taxes is clear, in fact he said so right in the meeting"

Oliver:

"We also hear from people around the PM that your list is way to costly, way to high a pricetag on it and they are fighting to control a burgeoning deficit"

Layton:

"Well they're just not telling the true there, you can't trust the PM and his people on this sort of thing. In fact our proposals are very reasonable, modest, practical and doable"

Where is the line in the sand on corporate taxes? I mean they discussed, Layton said Harper was "puzzled by the Liberals", he acknowledged how consistent the NDP have been over the years, but I don't see anywhere, in this entire interview where Layton said corporate taxes are make or break. IN FACT, we get the "whole budget" consideration, in response to the "what's the point?" question by Oliver. Does that sound like taxes are make or break, or a man who has this other laundry list and is looking for some concessions? I don't see any departure here? We also see Layton disputing the concern about cost, trying to frame his wish list- not corporate taxes- as reasonable and "modest". In other words, Layton is selling his plan as something the government can afford. Layton even goes so far as to argue the government deficit will be lower than forecast.

Then we have this enlightening exchange:
Oliver:

"Is it wise Mr. Layton politically for you to be going to the PM, offering a deal to save them defeat on their budget when you know very well that there is no group of Canadians as fiercely opposed to everything the PM and his party represent?"

Layton:

"Well we of course we take a very practical view of this, get the right thing done and do what we said we would do when so many Canadians voted for us... I'll give you an example, when we forced the Conservatives to consider extending EI during the height of the recession, when jobs were at a premium and people were not able to find work, we got a lot of support. Mr Ignatieff said "time's up Mr. Harper" and we said wait a minute, a billion dollars...if the Conservatives would agree to our proposal there then we would keep the government going to get that done."

Oliver brings up the point of blowback, and Layton returns with practicality, then volunteers the EI climbdown as proof, even says "we would keep the government going". Sorry, but where is the "strong line", sounds more like someone trying to find a deal he can swallow, give me something I can hang my hat on and it's on.

You can watch the entire interview here. What I see is someone walking a tightrope, reacting to the Conservatives strong bargaining position, but still leaving the door open. One will note, no mention of corporate taxes as make or break, Layton moves to seniors, doctors, as what he needs to support. His plea to Canadians are within that context.

Four weeks to go...

Silence Is Deafening

Is it the Egyptian hangover? Is it because media coverage is more muted? Is it because there isn't one just country to key in on with a coherent focus? I have no idea, but I'm a bit disappointed with the silence from all political parties on violent repressions happening as people fight for freedom, democratic reform, all the same things that transfixed us in Egypt.

Libya is turning into a bloodbath, ditto for Yemen, as government forces open fire on protesters. Bahrain might be turning in favour of the protesters after a slew of violence. Algeria is fluid and unsettled. Basically a sea of uncertainty sweeping the region, people being killed, communications shutdown, and I can't even find a simple press release from my party in particular on the topic. Not that a few words from a distant land matter in the least, but AT least a sense that we understand the gravity, we deplore the tactics, we stand for free expression and democratic want.

It's like everything ended when Mubarak stepped down, or at least that's how political attention in this country seems to convey. Again, not to overstate, because any "statement" is more symbolic than practical, but it still denotes concern as well as a defence of our principles. The government say fit to issue a release on the Royal Wedding the other day, but nothing on snipers mowing down people in Libya who crave freedom? Maybe we need a Libyan ex-pat enclave in a key 905 riding to give the nudge required, I'm not sure? What is certain, the silence is deafening from all quarters, and it isn't particularly flattering.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

"Capitulation" Is Right

Apologists can tell themselves whatever they want, oh there might be a crumb here and there, but the beloved NDP, the party that puts principle first, is about to "capitulate" in a way that would make all us Liberals proud. If this budget goes down as it appears, one is left to wonder what is the point of the NDP, the supposed moral separation from the Liberals gone, the ENTIRE political argument of the last FIVE years obliterated in the name of naked self interest.

Let's start way, way, way back, farther back than anyone in Ottawa can entertain apparently. Go look at every single NDP press release for 2010, and you will see the CORE thesis to reject a budget they didn't bother reading was corporate tax cuts. Google it, do yourself a favour, and the words of Layton and company will now ring more hollow than Harper speaking about accountability. If this wasn't serious, it would be drop dead funny, but such is NDP reality as soon as the Liberals get a "spine" and the great party of theory moves to the practical world. In other words, the NDP become the Liberals when forced to play adult, a irrefutable reality that should cause pause.

I'm not really into bashing the NDP necessarily, but I can't stomach this duplicity. Yesterday we have confirmation from the NDP that they've "dropped" the corporate tax demand. Whoa? While I know the measures were already voted on by the Liberals in the past, how can the NDP suddendly drop what was their entire economic thesis? How can the NDP play footsie with Harper on the budget and ensure another YEAR of reign? Yes, that's right, budget support- and everyone agrees- means Harper has another year of power, you will own that, you can't blame the Liberals for propping up anymore, when the time came to go to the "kitchen table" you hid under it because your strategists don't fancy your chances. Period, sky is blue, don't insult yourself with rationalizations, here it is, naked and proud.

Liberals have caved time and again, mostly because other parties are so quick to oppose, without even reading, in front of the cameras prior to words even uttered. That irresponsible approach to opposition has been championed by supporters, they bake cakes for the Liberal confidence climbdowns, they mock, they have this air of superiority. Well no more! I don't even care if we have an election now, the intent here is clear, the NDP have already caved, now it's just up to Harper to see if we wants to give them a face saving scrap, one everyone can bear hug as though "making Parliament work", reality lost in pushed optics, whatever, pure bullshit.

Harper and Layton had a very productive meeting yesterday, given past history, the gag reflex is warranted. Layton has laid out his paltry demands and now it's up to Harper to see if he believes a majority is within reach. If the Conservatives conclude another minority is likely, they will give the NDP something and they will suddenly become Liberals and we will become the NDP, and rational people will wonder what the point of the last five years of voting against the government, trying to force more than 100 elections or whatever the former bragging tally, was all about in the first place????

Why is that everytime the Liberals take a stand, the NDP take a knee?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Politicizing The Military

Another alarming story today- that will resonate with no one, outside of junkies- but still important in terms of the "evolving" Ottawa under Harper. The Canadian military doesn't engage in partisan undertakings, or at least that was taken as a common sense given prior to this government. Think about this new reality for a second:

Defence Department sources have told the Ottawa Citizen some officers have been uncomfortable with the situation but the military is being pressured by the Privy Council Office and the Prime Minister's Office to spearhead the sales effort.

This isn't the first time we've heard some in the military are uncomfortable "selling" the F-35. Surprising to no one, because the military aren't normally part of the political debate, it is not their role and it's actually DANGEROUS to take sides. When your military sides with a particularly political party and/or partisan position, it has the potential to undermine their perceived authority, independence. What is happening here is actually unbelievable, such a departure for accepted practice, and yet with no recourse apparent, the government can do these things with virtual impunity.

This government systematically employs any means possible to promote its agenda, it operates with no shame. The Conservatives know it is wrong to put the military in this position, but their hyper partisan instincts trump all moral underpinning. No, in Harper's Ottawa, military personnel are pawns, to be used, to not employ them a waste of potential political advantage. We've seen it before, the first priority is always messenging, the public service isn't at arms length, it is another lever at people's disposal.

The use of the military to pump Conservative talking points is offensive, unheard of, stunning really, but reality. That said, these Conservatives have cracked the Canadian political code- one day stories, no legs, little resonance equate to freedom to do as you wish, no matter the implication or legacy. Bloody depressing really...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Such Shit

Pardon the eloquence. You know, this Oda story is quickly moving from a question of her actions to an indictment of the PMO. Yesterday, I noticed Ambrose seemed to be "shielding" Oda from camera view, somewhat confirmed by the smirky wink given to colleagues. Today, we get this tweet from Bob Fife:
RobertFife

Public Works Min. Rona Ambrose is used to block camera shot of Bev Oda when PM on feet in House. #cdnpoli

For real, I mean that is actually what is going on here? This is the accountability government, and they actually sit around in the PMO coming up with designs to hide Bev Oda from the camera? Propaganda moves to outright manipulation, not only doesn't Oda defend herself, we have people physically trying to make sure CANADIANS get no view of her. Is hyperbole even possible in this instance?

I don't even care about what Oda did anymore, it's more alarming to watch how the government is trying to rewrite history and actually hide her. I want my country back, there is nothing more to say than this whole affair is SUCH SHIT! Gawd, I'm embarrassed to live here, embarrassed to follow politics in this country, what an asinine place Ottawa has become!!

Quite Curious

This is a government that doesn't miss an opportunity to bolster their policies, leaves no stone unturned in getting their messaging out. With this irrefutable backdrop in mind, today's F-35 story on the mystery surrounding the statement of requirement is a very curious element. Why would this government withhold a document which would support their decision and declaw the opposition? This angle to the F-35 story simply makes no logical sense, but it does make one wonder just what exactly this statement does or doesn't say:
When the military wants to buy a new item, they draw up a statement of requirements detailing the role and vision of the military in the future.

Put simply, a statement of requirements allows everyone to understand what the military wants, and it would be more obvious whether the F-35 fit the requirements of the Canadian Forces going forward.

"I think if the Conservatives wanted to give this procurement an aura of legitimacy, and not let people question it, or at least disarm the Liberals on it, they would have done far better having a very clear statement of requirements," said Philippe Lagassé, an assistant professor of public and international affairs at the University of Ottawa

Supporters argue the F-35 is the plane we need to suit Canada's military needs, and YET the document which articulates that "vision" is absent? To not disclosure is not only not the norm, it's unheard of:
Former assistant deputy minister for materiel Alan Williams, whose job it was to take these requirements, meet with industry and translate the military's needs into contracts, even goes so far as to say that he is unaware of any other major procurement project that has not produced a public statement of requirements.

Yet the government is refusing to release this document when it comes to replacing the CF-18, something experts say is strikingly odd at this stage in the game

Odd is right. We are left to speculate here, the fact there is resistance allows for imagination as to why? If this document provides the foundation for the government decision, one would think this PMO in particular would be quick to get it into the public domain:
"I don't know if you can sense how twisted that kind of approach is. It undermines everything, the whole integrity of the process," said Mr. Williams.

We know this government is a complete and utter fraud on the transparency front. However, we also know they are in the midst of a hard sales job on the F-35, going so far as to "fan" Ministers across Canada, a public relations blitz to sell, sell, sell. And yet, a document which experts could point to as proof of need is hidden, isn't used to promote the decision.

This whole affair makes no sense from here, and this secrecy should be raising red flags everywhere.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

It's A Trend

Harris Decima out with a poll, which tends to confirm the recent move found in the EKOS and Ipsos offerings. The only caveat, the headline reads "widen lead", but really HD is static month to month, in January they had a 8% lead, so a bit of a misleading headline given MOE:
A new poll suggests the Harper Conservatives are gaining strength across the country and hold a solid lead over the Liberals.

The Canadian Press/Harris Decima survey suggests the Tories have 37 per cent support, with 27 per cent opting for the Liberals, 14 per cent going NDP and 10 per cent each for the Bloc and the Greens.

The survey suggests the Conservatives are gaining strength in Ontario, including the horseshoe of ridings around Toronto.

In Quebec, the Tories and Liberals are tied, with the Bloc holding a strong plurality.

HD notes renewed Conservative strength in Ontario, given their last offering had them touching 40%, one assumes they are in that range for this poll. This means three polls in quick succession showing the Conservatives over 40% in Ontario, a trend we've seen before, but not for quite a while. I've argued forever, Ontario is quite volatile, it changes on a whim, so the question is what is the motivator this time? Will the numbers hold, or while they narrow again, as they have previously? With all the discussion about polls in recent days, worth pointing out, especially with Ontario, definitive conclusions are the realm of fools and/or the "pounce" crowd.

HD has shown Liberal weakness in Quebec, as have the other polls the last bit, so it is fair to wonder why what happened to the gap between themselves and the Conservatives. MOE is reasonable, particularly for a two week, 3000 sample, so nothing to dismiss.

From the Liberal perspective, people should digest without overstating. Important to also remember, these same polls also show some real promise on the issues, which might be the more important findings coming election time. Whatever, this "snapshot in time" does tend to support a move in the polls that we haven't seen for awhile. Attack ads, election threat, people think Shelley Glover is a rockstar in her new portfolio, who knows? But, they have moved for now, let's see if it holds....

UPDATE:

Here are the regionals:

•The BQ remains well in front in Quebec. Here, the Bloc stands at 40%, to 19% for the Liberals, 19% for the Conservatives, 11% for the NDP and 8% for the Greens.

•The Conservatives now hold a 9-point lead in Ontario. The Conservatives hold 43% support, to 34% for the Liberals, 12% for the NDP, and 10% for the Greens.

•The Conservatives are now in front in British Columbia. Here, they stand at 35%, to 29% for the Liberals, 19% for the NDP and 16% for the Green Party.

•The Conservatives remain the dominant party on the Prairies. In Manitoba and Saskatchewan the Conservatives are at 48%, to 22% for the Liberals, 20% for the NDP, and 9% for the Greens. In Alberta, the Conservatives stand at 56%, to 21% for the Liberals, 12% for the NDP and 10% for the Greens.

•The Conservatives now hold a ten point lead in Atlantic Canada. The Conservatives are at 39%, to 29% for the Liberals, 24% for the NDP and 6% for the Greens.


So, we do see a 4% move up to put the Conservatives at a very high 43% in Ontario. We also see the Liberals tied with the Conservatives in Quebec, again now below 20% in the province.

Jim Flaherty Look A Like Contest

A lighthearted(easy robocons!) discussion yesterday, on who Jim Flaherty looks like. When I see Jim, I see Spanky. Some agreed, others candidates were suggested, so to end the raging debate, how about a poll. You decide:











Monday, February 14, 2011

Polluter Harmony

This video has some funny bits, providing further evidence of how Harper really did Kent a favour with the new gig:



Total Failure

Imagine if a leader was elected on a free market platform, and then after elected nationalized core industries. How would people react? What if a leader was elected promising a passive foreign policy, diplomatic engagement, and then after taking power suddenly starting declaring unilateral war and invading neighbours? How would people react? Okay, now imagine a leader was elected promising to bring openness, accountability and transparency to Ottawa and then upon taking power becomes the most secretive, controlling, resistent to shed light, least accountability regime of recent memory. How would people react, or more rightly, how should they?

Ibbitson piece today highlights the absurdity of withholding basic expenditure, revenue figures, in the name of "cabinet confidence". What the Conservatives have done on the prison, corporate tax files, is a complete affront to the most basic and fundamental tenets of our democratic system. That this obscene example of secrecy isn't a "one off", all the more alarming.

Ibbitson is right to note a vulnerability for the Conservatives moving forward, but I find it concerning that this government can still mention accountability with pride and not be laughed off the stage. In other words, it remains to be seen if voters will hold these complete failures accountability at the voter box, or if we are such a detached lot, nobody even notices. We have a government that personally mocks watchdogs they've campaigned for, has put a "chill" across the public service, has done everything in their power to withhold, frustrate, oppose, every attempt to extract even the most basic of information. What is happening, has happened, gives every indication will happen in the future, simply astounding and yet...

Enjoy your deep sleep Canada, because while you slumber, these bandits are robbing all of us blind.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

More Duty Than Desire

People are right to point out that Canada hasn't been a substantive "player" in the Middle East for some time. It is also true that Canadians tend to overstate our international influence, demands for commentary and initiative, self congratulatory want that has no little real influence outside our borders. Probably true that we Canadians like to see ourselves as more relevant on the international stage than practically justified. However, none of these "truisms" detract from justified criticism directed towards this government, and their embarrassing shallow and thin responses to many world events, in particular what has happened in Egypt.

The Conservatives display little curiousity about the world; you don't sense any real passion for foreign affairs, cookie cutter, superficial, and sadly amateurish far too often. On the international stage, you can create influence, you can position yourself, you can find a niche and exploit for maximum input. This idea that Canada isn't a factor in Egypt so why bother, is defeatist, as well as self fulfilling. History is full of an overwhelming number of examples wherein middle powers "punch above their weight", but what is required is desire to have influence. This government treats the international stage much like they treat federalism, hands off, only react when threatened, really no "agenda" or overarching philosophy. Defenders will mention Israel, but really most would agree the prominence is more a function of electoral prospects than burning desire. Canada has always been a strong, consistent defender of Israel, the recent controversies are partisan creation rather than bold policy.

Where is Canada making a mark on foreign policy, where is this government distinguishing itself? Everything I read, foreign diplomats openly ask "what happened to Canada?", "where is Canada?", you never read much praise, apart from nuts and bolts acknowledgement of our banking system, other realites that really are separate from this government's outreach.

The Conservatives react to events in Egypt in robotic fashion, here's the statements, bland, more duty than desire. There is no sense of genuine involvement, it has no resonance even domestically, never mind beyond our borders. I would argue that while we are marginal players, the inability to understand diplomatic nuance, the forfeiting of a voice for domestic electoral consideration, has rendered us even less influential, to the point of laughable.

I listen to Rae from the Liberals, Dewar from the NDP and you can hear passion in their voices, as they speak about Egypt. You listen to this government, the deadpan doll eye routine and you realize it's only obligation that motivates. While it's true that we overstate our importance, it's also true that this government's low priority vibe only contributes to a falling stature. Canada might not be a "player", but it's also credible to argue Canada has never been more of a "bit player" than it is today, right now, under Stephen Harper and his simplistic, black and white view of a complicated world.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

World Leaders On Egypt

Which country got the short straw?:

American President Obama:

"The people of Egypt have spoken, their voices have been heard and Egypt will never be the same."


German chancellor Merkel said:

"Today is a day of great joy. We are all witness to an historic change. I share the joy of the people of Egypt."


British PM Cameron:

"Egypt now has a really precious moment of opportunity to have a government that can bring the country together."


French PM Sarkozy:

"Hopes Egypt finds the path of democracy and not the path of another form of dictatorship, religious dictatorship."


Canadian PM Harper:

"They're not going to put the toothpaste back in the tube on this one."


So proud!

New Poll

EKOS released a poll yesterday which has got people's attention. Lately, the polls have been meandering within a fairly static range, but this EKOS poll breaks that trend line, giving the Conservatives a very large lead, so much so "majority" would be conceivable:
National federal vote intention:

¤ 37.3% CPC
¤ 24.8% LPC
¤ 14.2% NDP
¤ 10.7% Green
¤ 9.9% BQ
¤ 3.0% other

Direction of government:

¤ 44.0% right direction
¤ 43.3% wrong direction ¤ 12.7% DK/NR

A 13.5% Conservative lead, close to their 2008 total, both the Liberals and NDP below their numbers. Of note, for the first time since last summer more Canadians think the government is moving in the right direction.

We see a large Conservative lead in Ontario, on the edge of the fluctuating high water mark, punching above 40%:
Cons 41.5%
Libs 30.3%
NDP 13.6%
Greens 12%

The NDP and Greens statistically tied, the Liberals at their low polling floor. Before anyone gets overly excited, this is the point where we need to remind people, that we've seen this dynamic before, it's never held and it's also flipped back wildly. Not discounting this result, just a caution that we need to see if the trend holds before panic is justified. EKOS does have a very good track record, but one poll is just that, so let's wait for more. I note this tweet last night:
RobertFife: Ipsos pollster Darrell Bricker writes of Ekos poll: " We've got almost the same. No anomaly."

That really doesn't mean much to me, apart from the fact it could provide the perceived statistically backing for the media to run wild with the changed dynamic. Nobody bothers to entertain past accuracy records, but that's another story and it's actually irrelevant, sadly, to how numbers are perceived. In other words, Ipsos does have similar results, making EKOS that much more concerning I suppose.

EKOS has the Liberals trailing the Conservatives in Quebec, 20% to 16%, another finding which I'm certainly sitting on before trying to translate.

The obvious search for "answers" leads right to attack ads, and just as important the blitz of EAP ads, congealing into an full on assault. Is EKOS evidence that the attack ads have worked? Quite possibly, but we've also seen previous offering showing no move while the ads have ran, so the jury is still out. Attack ads do work, but do they work over and over and over again? If people looked at the Dion era, you'd have seen "diminishing returns" with each subsequent salvo, some evidence that the effect waned over time. However, we have the ads, now we have a poll that shows a new political reality, of course people will connect the dots.

From the Liberal perspective, I would just carry on like we were on Thursday. I sense a party getting a compelling narrative together, on the issues we are pushing, polls also show a HIGHLY receptive audience, so don't lose the plot. The ankle biter crowd, the bitter margins, take great pleasure in bad polls, but really that says more about them than their target, so ignore the background noise. Fair to point out, the government quickly contacted their membership to warn them not to believe EKOS, their own numbers don't mirror.

Lets wait and see, and even if we see more evidence, remember we've been right here, these numbers, about a dozen times in the last few years. Everytime, outside of a writ, they've settled back, so that may well be the real wide angle shot to remember.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

R.I.P "Penlan"


If you hang around on progressive blog comment sections, if you are on twitter, you'll be familar with the name "penlan". A lot of us have wondered where she has been the last few days, and today I was told by her friend, that she has passed away.

You know, it's just blogs, comments, twitter, most of these people I don't know personally, but I am welling up as I write this, so that speaks to something.

Penlan was a passionate, engaged person, who loved her country and spoke out about issues that mattered to her. Penlan was friendly to me, and others, she was feisty and stubborn, she was an honest voice, she was a compassionate asset. I will genuinely miss her tweets and comments, her presence online.

A very sad day....

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

“This Bill Isn’t Tough On Crime, It’s Dumb On Crime”

The political reality is such, fear trumps facts, at least that is the entire thrust of the Conservative "tough on crime" agenda. I will give the government credit, they have continually cornered the opposition, leveraging the superficial optics to force bad bills through Parliament. The Liberals have been guilty of cowering, primarily because "soft on criminals" is an electoral killer, the Conservatives know it and this fact has allowed embarrassing bullying in the past. With the backdrop in mind, I have to say how proud I am to be a Liberal today, we have taken a stand that has inherent risk, but is ABSOLUTELY the proper, mature, responsible position:
The Liberal Party of Canada announced today that it will oppose Bill S-10 over concerns that the bill disproportionately targets youth and would cause an explosion of costs to build new mega-prisons.

“This bill isn’t tough on crime, it’s dumb on crime,” said Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff. “We’re all in favour of cracking down on serious criminals, but this bill doesn’t distinguish between massive grow-ops and a first-time offender with a small amount.

“What’s more, the Conservatives won’t tell us what the fiscal implications of this bill are. How many billions will it cost? How many mega-prisons will have to be built? For these reasons, we just can’t support it,” he said.

The government is hiding the numbers, as I said earlier this raises serious red flags, speaks volumes about actual cost. However, more importantly from this quarter, the Liberals are finally standing up for common sense on the crime front. This bill doesn't distinguish, it lumps the casual with the true criminals, it's a poorly written, blanket, piece of legislative garbage. The Liberals have offered amendments to go after the real targets, but the government has refused. There is no spirit of co-operation, it's just the typical ram through and force the opposition to blink. Enough!

I appreciate the risk the Liberals have taken, you can instanteously think of several soundbite counters that can warp what this stance really means. That said, it makes it easier to support a party which is prepared to take that risk, particularly given past capitulations. This stance is another signal to the Canadian people that the Liberals actually do stand for things, pander is replaced by principles in some regards. I see today's decision as a show of strength, another sign of an evolution into a true alternative to this government.

I think this party is finally, finally, finding its voice and the opposition to this nonsensical bill and the accompanying stonewall, is something I can surely get behind in a committed way. If you want people to believe in you, you have to give them something to believe in! A good day to be sure.

"Cabinet Confidence"

If one is being reasonable, this idea of "cabinet confidence" is justifable, in certain instances. Even on the Afghan detainee file, one can see a grey area or at least some type of logical counter, however flimsy that maybe. However, on the question of costs, how much initiatives will cost the TAXPAYER, US, that the Conservatives think they can hide behind "cabinet confidence" is pure, unmitigated bull, that is insulting on so many levels:
The federal government is trying to keep the cost of its law-and-order agenda a secret — and its refusal to make the figures public could set Parliament up for another high-stakes battle between the Conservatives and opposition MPs over access to information...

Opposition MPs say the government's rationale for keeping the estimated price tags out of the public eye — cabinet confidence — doesn't hold up and taxpayers deserve an answer.

"Their American-style justice approach has a very hefty price tag. They're trying to hide that information from Canadians using the false argument of cabinet confidence," Liberal finance critic Scott Brison said.

One, the fact the government won't release "price tags" should raise numerous red flags, that these measures cost way more than anyone has yet entertained. If the numbers were reasonable, it's hard to see why the government would be so bent on keeping them out of the "public eye". The apprehension speaks volumes, and makes it that much more important that we do have full disclosure.

There are no state secrets here, nobody's lives are being put at risk, there is really nothing to justify withholding simple facts and figures from Parliament, our representatives. The Conservatives once again trapple all over the now hysterical pledges of transparency and accountability.

If you have nothing to hide, why are you hiding? That the government seems prepared to unilaterally withhold information, creating a conflict, is all the more reason why we NEED to know the numbers. Where there's secrecy, there's secrets, and they're never flattering.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Waiting On The Trickle Down

A decent read today takes issue with all sides on the corporate tax debate. The Liberals simply disingenuous, the Conservative exaggerating, the entire issue "laughable".

I'm no economist, but it's also true that many economists deal in theoretical arguments, that don't necessarily translate to the real world. For example, if you looked at the predictions made in 2000, when the federal government began cutting corporate taxes, you will see many of the "claims" don't hold water. Business investment hasn't increased as was first argued, in fact it has remained stubbornly flat, rather than re-invest, wealthy corporations have HOARDED, providing no measurable benefit to anyone, other than themselves apparently. Did you know that Canadian corporations now sit on more cash than at any time in our history, inflation included? As well, the job claims simply haven't panned out. Google "bank job cuts" and you will see the BIGGEST corporate tax payers have been slashing jobs like mad since 2000, despite record profits.

Here is the perfect example, one that certain people scoff at (article included) as a misread of how it all works- the CEO of the Royal Bank made 11 million last year, up from 10.4 million. According to the experts, I make an error by noting this obscene salary, bonuses, stock options, plus god knows what other goodies(wonder what his dental plan is, kids get glasses?). I saw bull, because we are dealing with a FINITE amount of capital here, so if we're paying the top echelon more, it is coming out of somewhere, this money isn't separate, it is part of the equation. This particular CEO is not unique, his 5.8% RAISE, during a year when the economy was shaky is obscene and no amount of trickle down arguments will undo the blue sky as it presents itself.

Here's another number which is fascinating, the gap between rich and poor is growing, by any measure you choose. A bit of an odd development, considering all these tax cuts are supposed to re-distribute wealth, lower cost to consumers, etc. In the real world, what we see is the top wage earners making a killing, while SIMULTANEOUSLY trimming cost elsewhere. We have a serious problem, that free market types merely ignore, GREED is rampant and corporate tax cuts only reinforce this dynamic.

The argument that consumers benefit also seems a weak proposition. Are you telling me that if Suncor doesn't get a break, gas will go up? We live in a international climate- as proponents argue- which also means that prices, particularly COMMODITY prices core to the Canadian example, aren't set here, our little regime has no bearing on world supply and demand.

I supported corporate tax cuts years ago because every measure showed Canada wasn't competitive, multi-nationals didn't find us attractive, other jurisdictions were stealing manufacturing jobs. However, those same statistics used in 2000 now show a very competitive climate, thank you very much, so there is little fear mongering required on the economic front. Maybe some provincial rates are still to high(not the debate here), but last time I checked combining the total does a disservice to the FEDERAL reality.

We have the HST, we have all these incentives for business, all these ways they can ALREADY manipulate taxes and credits to maintain profitability. We have jurisdictions everywhere, provincial, municipal, offering corporations "deals" to set up shop. In other words, I see nothing but effort everywhere to make thing competitive, to make things attractive, to basically move the burden from the corporations to the consumer. Enough is enough.

The largest amount of corporate taxes are collected from Canadian banks. Proponents don't like to talk about this fact, because the bank reality is so obnoxious, their support brings a red blush. However, this is a fact, this is your quintessential example of the corporate tax cut legacy. Where are the jobs? What does the profit graph look like? How does that co-orelate to salaries, who seems to be benefiting and who seems to be lagging behind? Yes, it's laughable all right and we've clearly reached the stage of diminishing returns on the corporate tax front.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Great Idea

You have to give the Liberals points for creativity on this one. I can't remember another example of a catchy song, sanctioned by a political party, used in this way. It's a terrific idea, a modern approach to retail politics, cost effective and outside the box. What's not to like?:



It will be interesting to see if this idea resonates, how much free press it earns, buzz it creates, but this thrust clearly sends a message that the Liberals will use social media in ways we haven't seen prior. Good stuff.

"We've Got To Get Our Fiscal House In Order"

A quote from Ignatieff yesterday, as he toured the Liberal bastion of Alberta. A now reoccurring theme, and one that owes any legitimacy to the corporate tax cut policy. In the past I noted the Liberals were guilty of "sucking and blowing" on the fiscal front, the Conservatives able to carve apart the idea of offering restraint, while simultaneously promising Canadians new expenditures.

Hard numbers are the lonely domain of wonks. Truth be told, in the political arena appearance trumps math, you can massage this and that to create a credible plan, so LONG as you have some artillery at your disposal. People that doubt the impact of the Liberal corporate tax policy, fail to realize it is the jump off point for much of the party distinctions. When the Liberals adopted the freeze on corporate taxes, my first post argued that this move put us in the game on the fiscal front. Prior to this pledge, the title quote would have brought laughter, aggressive counter from the government, the rhetoric lacked a concrete underpinning. Now, with the corporate tax cut freeze, Liberals have something to point to, something that says we can fund programs, while still looking fiscally responsible. The government can't attack on the fiscal front, because they are now saddled with a perceived lost revenue stream. I suspect the government is aware of the problem, because their only real attack angle centers around jobs, absolutely dead quiet on the fiscal front.

The corporate tax cut freeze has given a measure of teflon, as well as an ability to play offence, on an issue which was previously a liability. There is a certain sophistication in play, that involves adding up one item, minus another, ending up a certain point. I don't want to short change voters, but it's a bit of a stretch to think the Liberals will have to fully answer all the minuet in play. No, just like the Conservatives, all you need is the big banner items, something compelling to put in the window, and there is little risk that calculators will decide your ultimate fate. Cynical yes, but also a reality which plays itself out everywhere and anywhere come campaigns.

The Liberals will release a deficit fighting plan, and it will show a road to surplus, just as the Conservatives argue. The corporate taxes will provide a sense of restraint, as well as making Ignatieff bullet proof on certain new expenditures. Liberals can actually say "we can't afford" and not look hypocritical, at least not on the most basic of levels. Liberals can say "we've got to get our fiscal house in order" and actually look relatively reasonable.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Apathy As Advantage

This morning's story, detailing a new advertising campaign from the government promoting tax cuts, comes on the heels of a similar item earlier this week, showing another Economic Action Plan ad ramp up. I think any independent observer would agree, relative to past governments, accepted norms, that these Conservatives spend OBSCENE amounts on advertising, advertising that is thinly veiled partisan propaganda.

There is no coincidence here, these various ad campaigns do "dovetail" the party ads, which taken together represent a blitz. The trouble is, obviously, WE are paying for these ads, particularly insulting the EAP ads pumping a program which the government is trying to "wind down". Is that good value for the taxpayer? The fact the government can and WILL get away with these ad buys, slotted for prime spots, is a testament to the role voter apathy plays in our political process. I would submit, a more engaged electorate would crucify these obnoxious expenditures, and yet this stuff goes on year after year and no evidence of any implication.

The Canadian Taxpayer Federations speaks out, but that organization rarely penetrates, their kneejerk reaction to everything and anything has rendered them mostly predictable background noise. We do have media stories, as the above links show, but they never seem to generate much outrage. The government is almost brazen here, even though any statistical measure shows a real problem. The Conservatives have made the right calculation, knowing they can push the envelope and face little backlash. These partisan ads, disguised as government business, are the classic example of how apathy can be used for full advantage.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Cheap Date

NDP supporters will think this is just bashing, but honestly as a political junkie, the evolving NDP budget capitulation is simply breathtaking. The other day I noted that Flaherty seemed to outright reject that "core" NDP demand on home heating taxes. I mentioned that we should look to see if the NDP drops the heating demand and looks to bear hug something else, to rationalize propping up the government. In fairness, CPP has always been ONE NDP demand. However, with the government signalling they want CPP reform as well, it is fascinating to see the NDP quickly move to this item as the "make or break". Last year at budget time we had almost daily NDP press releases demanding an end to corporate tax breaks. This year it was a list of paltry NDP demands, which has now been peared down to one apparently, ONE the government has already signalled they intend to reform. In other words, the NDP have transitioned to people who don't read budgets to people who will chain themselves to a paragraph, in a budget to avoid an election? It's starting to sound like it:
“If the government said to us ‘look we want to spend the next four months working on CPP, we want to work with you. If we can get you onside, will you consider supporting our budget?’ The answer to that is yes. And that is what I’d rather be doing,” said Christopherson.


All of Hamilton’s NDP MPs stated they would follow leader Jack Layton’s support for the Conservative budget and prevent an election if the NDP could get something substantive in return.

Pretty clear language- if we can get an agreement on one item, the government is already floating, we will support the budget. There is also mention of what the NDP did in the past when an election looked possible, namely the EI reform. An interesting reminder, because if you were paying attention, you would remember Min Finley telegraphed the EI reform in the summer, the NDP then mirrored and adopted as their own, knowing full well the government was already on board. Bingo, bango, the Conservatives brought forward EI reforms that were ALREADY in their bluebook and the NDP claimed victory. It was all such utter nonsense, but hey, optics rule and the NDP had their talking point to justify. It would appear we are in the midst of a similar manufactured deal, find something the government already plans to bring forward and make that the ONLY consideration, everything else is secondary. NDP supporters can roll out "making Parliament work", the rest of us can gag.

I'm not sure what will happen, this NDP desire to avoid an election could all fall apart easily. However, one thing is painfully clear, the NDP really, really, really don't want an election. I wonder if the Liberals will bake them cakes and whatnot?

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Love In The Land?

It's fair to say the Liberals aren't exactly a juggernaut these days. However, what we find is exaggerated analysis, wherein weakness on the one hand, strength on the other, is over stated. Politics no different than sport, in the sense the fine line between winning and losing becomes a gigantic chasm when you read the post mortems. A seasoned viewer knows a play here, a break there, an untimely gaffe, is really what largely separates, things are far more competitive than the accolades of winning and the scorn of losing suggests.

Abacus has released more data, and what they clearly show- as others have as well- is that there really isn't any deep affinity for the Harper Conservatives. I know, hard to believe, if one relies solely on the almost daily praise that comes from certain conduit quarters. Here was a key finding in my view:



Only 32% have any affection for the Conservative messaging, most of that weak, whereas a whopping 62% agree with the Liberal frame. People simply don't agree that Canada is stronger, that only Harper's leadership is what Canada needs. Interesting that the Conservative message can't even mirror the party support number in the poll, which is also the case on a host of competency questions in the same survey.

On the question of the economy, only 30% give the Conservatives a "good" rating, 27% on defending Canada's interest, 23% on creating jobs, 21% on the environment and an absymal 16% on working with the opposition. It's only when we see comparative studies, that Harper looks strong, the most natural of occurences, a sitting PM besting a opposition leader on clear either or questions. Those type of findings mask weakness, they are predictable, but not insightful. It is numbers like above, clear commentary on the government, where we see vulnerability, where this "chess master" that is on the cusp of majority looks a farcical proposition. Truth be told, divided opposition is the only real strength, Canadians really aren't enamoured with this government, in fact they don't like the Conservatives much at all. And, it is this objective fact that allows for some cautious, still long odds, optimism come a campaign, because the Liberals don't face an opponent that enjoys inspired, widespread support.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Flaherty Rejects NDP Home Heating Demand?

I don't notice Flaherty's interview yesterday getting much play- surprising given how we over analyze every turn on the election front- but the Finance Minister said something very important on CTV's Power Play. When asked about the NDP's list of budget demands, particularly the home heating fuel break that Layton continually mentions, we get this from Flaherty:
"That home heating fuel idea is an extraordinarily expensive, and I think when opposition parties come up with ideas they should cost them, and be open and frank with the Canadian people in terms of what it means for taxation, what it means in terms of deficits when they come up with these ideas. If they want help costing them, I'm happy to get the Finance Department to cost them, because when I look at their ideas the first thing I do is say is what would this cost."

The emphasis on EXTRAORDINARILY expensive was striking, and I don't see any other way to read Flaherty, other than a complete rejection of the core NDP demand. If the government are balking at Layton's favourite new talking point, it surely doesn't bode well for any deal. A hard swallow on corporate taxes almost defies pure philosophical logic, but the added rebuff on federal tax on home heating is to the point of insulting.

A key thing to look for moving forward, if Layton continues to put home heating relief on the top of his agenda or if the "demand" falls off the rhetoric radar. If we do see Layton stop mentioning home heating costs, we can assume the NDP are willing to do almost anything to avoid an election... Otherwise, given Flaherty's comments, this rejection should be about the last straw from the NDP perspective and an election looks unavoidable. Stay tuned...