Sunday, September 30, 2007

Why Can This MP Air Laundry In Public?

This might be a trivial point, but while reading another brief article on Liberal MP Bryon Wilfert's argument for no fall election, this sentence was striking:
One of Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion's staunchest supporters is making a very public plea not to force a fall federal election.

Very public indeed. Assume that Dion hasn't made up his mind on what he should do moving forward. How does a public airing by Mr. Wilfert benefit that thought process? Mr. Wilfert questions the wisdom of going to the polls, and has offered many reasons why the Liberals probably won't win. Wilfert details why the Liberals might be too weak presently to fight effectively. Wilfert is entitled to his opinion, and he has told us all that he will discuss his viewpoint with Dion, but why the public comments, what are you doing on Question Period?

Let's say that Dion eventually decides to pull the plug and head to the polls. I would seem to me that Mr. Wilfert undercuts that position with his public display, is this not an internal matter? Why tell the world that the conditions aren't right, if there is a possibility that the Liberals bring down the government. We seem to vilify anyone else who casts doubt or questions, so why is it that the "confidant" gets a pass here? Other MP's speak their minds, and people wonder if Dion has control over his caucus, by the loyalist muses and nothing. Isn't strategy, the pros and cons, best left to the "closed door", and what does it say of unity, if we have an MP on the record saying an election would be silly? Why is Wilfert telling Canadians that the Liberals aren't ready? I guess counter-productive displays are in the eye of the beholder.

Comeback Kid?

There are growing signs that John McCain's campaign is rising from the dead, further clouding the Republican race. The actual successes of the Iraq "surge" aside, there is no question that McCain is getting traction for his consistent pro-Iraq, more troops, stance. The more the media reports that the troop surge is working, the more relevant McCain becomes, especially with Republicans who are easily seduced. Today we learned that September say the lowest American troop casualty number in over a year, the why is irrelevant to the perception.

The polls are starting to show a McCain resurgence. Most of the national polls show a general uptick in support for McCain, compared with results taken last month. The more relevant story, McCain appears to have momentum in New Hampshire:
American Res. Group 09/26 - 09/29

Romney 24 McCain 20 Giuliani 20

CNN/WMUR 09/17 - 09/24

Romney 25 Giuliani 24 McCain 18

*Polls taken since July previously had McCain 10-12%*

Iowa, which was never a must win for McCain, also shows improvement. This is shown using the same polling firm results for Aug and Sept:
American Res. Group 08/26 - McCain 5%

American Res. Group 9/26- McCain 11%

Obviously, I want a Democrat to take the White House, but from a political junkie perspective nothing is more tantalizing than a return from the dead, comeback kid scenario, especially when the Republican race has been a giant snoozefest to date.


Call me crazy (again), but I'm of the opinion that the NDP victory in Outremont is anything but a "fluke", in fact more a watershed moment. For a party with no lineage or context, the biggest hurdle is credibility, the appearance of viability. Mulclair's victory at the very least allows the NDP into the conversation in Quebec, to what extent is dependent on how other parties react and the NDP's own strategy. The best way to capitalize on the momentum, draw other high-profile people into the party, demonstrating that this victory isn't a one off. If the latest news comes to pass, then the NDP might just be on their way to establishing a real foothold in Quebec:
Constitutional lawyer Julius Grey is pondering a step into federal politics, most likely as a candidate for the New Democratic Party.

"I haven't made up my mind; I'm weighing the pros and cons," Grey said yesterday in a telephone interview from his home.

On the heels of Thomas Mulcair's decisive victory for the NDP in a federal by-election in Outremont on Sept. 17, there has been a flurry of interest in signing up other well-known candidates to run in Quebec.

"I have been approached and I have been talking with friends," Grey said

I've heard talk that the NDP will focus on a few key ridings, in an effort to pickup a seat here and there. That is a shrewd stategy, because if the NDP can elect more than one MP in Quebec, it is easy to see how you can build from there, for the future. I don't know of Grey, but by all accounts a very impressive person, which would amount to quite a coup for the NDP. If Grey does run, it would also provide an interesting contrast to the Liberal "star" candidates who have taken a pass, another indicator of momentum.

There is no question in my mind that Layton and Muclair are playing for keeps, partisanship aside you have to give them their due for tenacity and focus. How it all plays out remains to be seen, but the NDP has already punched through the first obstacle, and given the phase two push, people would be foolish to dismiss any future prospects.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

War On Reason

Here comes another gang of ideologues, who think they can succeed where EVERYONE else has failed, all the while wasting money and resources, on a lost cause:
Health Minister Tony Clement will announce it’s anti-drug strategy this week with a stark warning: “the party’s over” for illicit drug users.
“In the next few days, we’re going to be back in the business of an anti-drug strategy,” Clement told The Canadian Press.

The truly assinine part, Clement seems posed to target marijuana:
Shortly after taking office early last year, the Conservatives decided not to go ahead with a Liberal bill to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana.

Since then, the number of people arrested for smoking pot has jumped dramatically in several Canadian cities, in some cases jumping by more than one third.

Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa and Halifax all reported increases of between 20 and 50 per cent in 2006 of arrests for possession of cannabis, compared with the previous year.

As a result thousands of people were charged with a criminal offence that, under the previous Liberal government, was on the verge of being classified as a misdemeanour.

Police forces said many young people were under the impression that the decriminalization bill had already passed and were smoking up more boldly than they’ve ever done before.

Clement says his government wants to clear up the uncertainty

“There’s been a lot of mixed messages going out about illicit drugs,” Clement said in an interview Saturday after a symposium designed to bring together Canada’s arts and health communities to combat mental health issues.

There’s also a health-care cost element to suggesting to young people that using illicit drugs is OK, the minister said.

“The fact of the matter is they’re unhealthy,” Clement said.

“They create poor health outcomes.”

Planning to outlaw cheeseburgers too? I don't need an out of shape PM, who's arteries are more clogged than the 401 at 8am, telling me what's good for my health.

Just when the Canadian government was starting to treat a "soft" drug like adults, instituting a policy of consistency, when compared with legal forms of "abuse", the Conservatives enter the scene, prepared to save us all from ourselves. How many times has this approach been tried and failed, failed badly? What a complete and utter waste of time. Focus on the really bad characters, I can't believe we have to endure another "war on drugs".

Canada Should End Military Operations

What is the point of touring the Afghan countryside, hunting for insurgents, who are supposedly bent on undoing all the "good" we have achieved, when the Afghan leader wants to welcome Mullah Omar back into the government:
Karzai, who has repeatedly offered peace talks, said he would personally meet with Taliban's fugitive leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, chief of another insurgent group.

Karzai said he would allocate some government posts to the Taliban and if Hekmatyar and Omar wanted power, both could stand in the elections, due to be held in 2009.

To even consider allowing Omar a role in the government is a complete affront to all the moral arguments posited to support the war. Karzai is prepared to allow the man who harbored and sponsored Al Qaeda, repressed all those woman and school children who we are supposedly liberating, destroyed the country by our own estimates, back into the fold. What exactly are Canadian troops doing then, what exactly are they dying for? This desire by Karzai is amazing, considering what is happening with our troops at the moment.

Canada should suspend all military operations, focus on the "safe" areas, reconstruction and training, until Karzai figures out if there is an enemy afterall. People are clearly operating at cross-purposes. The term Taliban is a loose characterization, because the insurgents take different forms. If someone proposed negotiating with some tribal elders who are resisting, that is one thing, but to bring Mullah Omar, the leader that plunged the world into this mess in the first place, another opportunity to yield power, is preposterous. All the rhetoric to support the war is nonsense if this development actually occurs, and military operations amount to a sick joke.

Running Scared

Abstaining from a vote on the throne speech is the quintessential expression of weakness. I don't agree with any of the logic, put forward by Dion's confidant:
Wilfert proposes an unusual tactic of partial abstention by the Liberals if they have the deciding vote among the opposition parties on a confidence motion over the government’s Oct. 16 speech from the throne. “We could register our displeasure without bringing down the government,” he said.

“You need three things to win an election: money, organization and money,” he added. “We’re doing better now with money after that lengthy leadership process, but if anybody tells you we have all of those things, they are obviously deluding themselves.”

Wilfert’s proposed tactic to avoid defeating the government would have Dion and other front-bench Liberals vote against the throne speech while the majority of the 96-member Liberal caucus remain in their seats, abstaining from a vote.

Does Wilfert think no one will notice as Liberals sit on their hands and perpetuate the myth that they stand for nothing? Good grief, you let Duceppe off the hook and provide Layton with a powerful tool to argue Liberal irrelevance. Abstaining oozes weakness and solidifies the idea that the Liberals are running scared.

Wilfert also makes a cute comment about money, which is irrelevant. Realistically, the Liberal fundraising isn't competitive with the Conservatives, and shows no signs of anything close to parity in the future. If we are waiting on that "winning condition", the train will never arrive. As it relates to organization, if that fundamental piece isn't already in place, particularly within the volatility of a minority, then I have more concerns about competence.

You don't get to run and hide, especially when Dion has already put out his demands. Dion's bread and butter issue is the environment, how the Liberal Party can endorse this sham of a plan, the further erosion of the international movement is beyond me. Abstaining isn't an effective way to "register our displeasure", its a copout and everyone but the spinmeisters will view it as such. Wilfert also references Harper's 2005 abstaining, and his present position, as evidence that the tactic can work. Don't expect Harper to be the scandal ridden reeking mess we saw from the Martin campaign.

If the Liberals abstain, provided the throne speech doesn't meet the conditions, then it serves as another example of weak, irrelevant leadership, a party more concerned with survival than principle, which will be exploited at every turn. It isn't getting any better, anytime soon Mr. Wilfret, especially with a government bathed in surplus, the winning conditions you crave will never come.


Fall or Bust

Friday, September 28, 2007

Upon Further Review

Was my idea "insane"? In many respects, unequivocally yes, which is why I referenced the opinion with "jumping off the deep end". Tactically, practically, logically, plenty of downside, with a heavy dose of rashness. If you conclude A, Dion can't win, then you search for an out B, which lead me to Ignatieff, warts and all. Plenty of people have opined on that potential disaster, and there is a soundness to the rebuttals. In retrospect, I should probably have left Ignatieff out of the equation, but then again it still left an open question with no alternative. Which leads me to the only realistic conclusion, we have to keep Dion and make the best of it.

I stand by my perceptions on our chances, the challenges and the problems. I guess the epiphany is that the reality is irrelevant, because the train has left the station, for better or worse. I know that, which is why I suppressed these feelings for a period of time. All that can be done now is put lipstick on the pig, or better yet leave it in the barn and work the margins. I'm not going to stop criticizing the mistakes, digesting the errors, demanding more and acting the cranky Liberal, who can't seem to reconcile the disconnect between partisanship and honest discourse.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Open Revolt

I think it safe to say, that an open revolt is underway:

And a candidate who was set to run for the party called The Canadian Press without any prompting - saying he was asked to do so by a well-known Liberal - and announced he was no longer interested.

Paul Leduc, a three-term mayor of a large Montreal suburb, says that he's changed his mind about running for the Liberals and that one of the party's household names provided him with phone numbers for journalists and urged him to go public with his story.

The former Brossard mayor had been endorsed in April by the Liberals' provincial election commission to run without a contested nomination - but he said Dion kept him cooling his heels all summer.

"I never heard any news from Mr. Dion or his entourage," Leduc said.
"A leader who doesn't follow a recommendation, I call that inaction and indecision and it's a lack of respect not only for me, but also for the commission, and for members of my riding."

Leduc's decision not to run follows a similar one from astronaut Marc Garneau.

Carroll isn't the issue:

"If Dion didn't have enough headaches with candidates dropping out, woeful fundraising, poor recent byelection results, and a possible federal election approaching, he now also has to deal with a public war between members of his party and one of his top organizers.

Senior members from Quebec have been pleading privately for him to fire Jamie Carroll, the Liberals' national director and one of the key players in Dion's leadership victory.

They are now making their demands public."

Leduc's decison not to run is disturbing on so many levels, but the fact that he was pushed to make it public suggests a co-ordinated expression of open revolt. Who calls CP?

As I mentioned at Scott's blog, Coyne made the comment tonight that the Carroll incident was less to do with the phrasing and more a convienient excuse to attack another, bigger target. Agreed. Maybe I was ahead of the curve ;)

The Dark Side

Since I've already jumped off the deep end, I thought I might swim around for a moment, before toweling off. Why doesn't Dion fall on his sword and resign, then have an emergency meeting of the executive and install Ignatieff as interim leader? If an election is averted after the throne speech, then we could have a proper, fairly quick leadership and prepare for the spring. If an election is called, the Liberals take their chances with Ignatieff and hope to salvage something. The notion of democracy seems a subjective circumstance within the Liberal Party, so you could rationalize that a "hand-picked" leader is just an extension of what happens in the ridings.

I mention Ignatieff, not because he is my first choice, but really the only logical one at this point. In my mind there are two scenarios- the present one, where we rally around almost sure defeat because of protocol and resignation or the proactive one, where we acknowledge the landscape and take decisive action to do something about it. Which presents the best option? Well, one is the virtual known, the other a wildcard, advantage the latter. Is it better to lose an election, then spend another year in uncertainty, as Dion is quickly dismissed and the next competition begins? Harper effectively gains a majority, even if we are able to prevent the seat totals, because the Liberals will not be in position to go again, the official opposition toothless.

I realize this is all blasphemy and I effectively make myself a pariah, but I don't understand the logic of going through a process, in a passive fashion, as though there are no options. Instead of silencing people, presenting the illusion of a united front, why not acknowledge the problem and fix it? The best solution, which is actually quite wise, if you accept the no option proposition, is to highlight the "team", show Canadians the government in waiting and hope that is enough to mask the leaders shortcomings. However that solution is a frank acknowledgement from the braintrust that Dion is baggage, that needs compensation. Why exactly do we have to accept that fate, and how the hell can you expect to win an election when you have to hide the leader?

The Liberal Party has a lot of problems, many of which can't be fixed overnight, some of which have nothing to do with the leader. However, this leader has shown that he doesn't resonate with Canadians, and his handicaps will not be overcome. Why do we need to lose an election to prove the obvious, that people privately admit?
Dion should resign, throw in Iggy, roll the dice, with full knowledge that it can't be any worse than the present.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Rock Bottom

Apparently, she received an earful for her public comments, but Quebec Liberal MP Raymonde Falco paints a really pathetic picture:
"It' clear that Mr. Dion isn't getting across, we know that, particularly with Quebecers. A man of his age, any man or woman can't change overnight. We will have to bring in other bodies from the party to shoulder him and perhaps even travel with him across the country. However, the structure of the party works very well. And there is tremendous unity within the party. Well, there is a small problem with Mr. Garneau. It's true, but all political parties face similar problems."

I don't interpret these comments as undermining the leader, more correctly an accurate read of the situation (at least she went on record). Let me get the analysis straight- we have concluded that we have a lame duck leader, who will need the help of surrogates to mask the problems. Falco basically admits that the Liberals would be better off without Dion, but we're stuck with him, so we have to find other people to take the glare off the achilles heel. Wow.

Jean Lapierre, with another morale booster:
"Director of the Liberal Party of Quebec that if they don't deposit 250 000 thousand by Friday, they will probably have to close down the office in Montreal, and they can't even honor the payroll"

Lapierre also said that the Liberals will have a hard time fielding quality candidates, which makes the Garneau fiasco all the more ridiculous.

This poll was taken in the aftermath of the by-elections, so there is probably some temporary skewing (lets hope so), but again the word pathetic comes to mind:
Crop Poll: Sep 17-23

Bloc 31%
Cons 27%
Libs 19%
NDP 17%
Greens 5%


Bloc 37%
Cons 27%
NDP 19%
Libs 11%
Greens 6%

8 points behind the NDP with francophones, you're kidding right?

Here's what should happen, and I'm only saying this once, because it will never happen and ultimately banging this drum is counter-productive. Stephane Dion should read the tea leaves, and conclude the best thing for Canada and the Liberal Party moving forward is for him to resign. Right or wrong, good man, great heart, Dion is an albatross around the Liberal neck and it isn't about to change. In my mind, Stephane Dion's personal fate is irrelevant, I want to see the Harper government gone- that is never going to happen with Dion, and it pains me to admit that. I'm hoping to work in two ridings during the next election, so my oar is clearly in the boat, but the reality of the ultimate outcome is painfully obvious. Anyways, maybe this will be pass....

Liberals Need Reform

We hear a lot of lip service, about engaging the grassroots and the idea of renewal within the Liberal Party. I don’t think anyone would deny that the Liberal Party in its current configuration is a top-down organization, prone to cliques, camps and inner circles. Clearly, there needs to be new approaches and reforms, if the Liberal Party is to adapt to a changing political landscape. If I could offer one reform that would be beneficial, for a host of reasons, it would be that the Party adopt a MANDATORY nomination process for all candidates, in every riding.

I don’t want to criticize Dion, because the practice is now an institution, but the whole of idea of appointed candidates, hand-picked by the leader, parachuted into a riding, is an affront to the grassroots. Are local Liberals not capable enough to decide who is best suited to represent them? How exactly do you energize people on the ground, when they aren’t part of the process? If someone is truly a “star”, why do they need the crutch of appointment? Doesn’t a nomination process demonstrate whether a particular person has the “right stuff”, sharpen the talking points, better represent the feedback from the members? If you are having problems with fundraising, doesn’t a healthy debate motivate people to get involved?

As I recall, Justin Trudeau made out just fine in a contested contest, and I would submit he is a better candidate for the experience. Why does the Liberal Party find in necessary to dictate to the ridings? The Liberals in MacKay’s riding were told there would be no candidate, other ridings have the anointed “star”, while many others must adhere to the idea of the gender quota. Where exactly does the grassroots fit in, where is the local voice? The message is clear, head office calls the shots, now be good little minions and tow the line, father knows best.

If the Liberal Party is really interested in re-building itself from the ground up, then there has to be a clear signal that the ground is important, as opposed to a convenient vehicle for the Party brass. Every local riding should have the final say on a candidate, the stamp of approval. The “inner circle” can suggest, coax, encourage, offer, but not dictate. In this way, no one is alienated, people actually feel important and relevant, and you build a real team.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


I don't quite understand the Marc Garneau Liberal saga. Earlier today, a story on Garneau seeking the Liberal banner in Westmount-Ville Marie:
Some potential star candidates, like astronaut Marc Garneau, aren't taking any chances and already have begun to campaign discreetly.

A website for Garneau was registered last week in the wake of the Outremont debacle, joining a campaign page on the social networking site Facebook that has been in place for some time.

His organizers appear to be getting impatient, saying Garneau will probably close the door on the Liberal Party if he doesn't get the Westmount-Ville Marie nomination.

"Personally, I would counsel him against (another riding), particularly with the situation the way it is," said Fabrice Rivault, a former Liberal Party communications official who is helping to organize for Garneau.

"Mr. Garneau cannot allow himself to put his name on the chopping block again. He is already very courageous to have done it once."

"We're preparing," he said, adding that Garneau has support among Liberals.

Rivault said Garneau is a well-known national hero who can help the Liberal Party increase its support in Quebec.

Apparently, Garneau has been advised that he will not be the candidate in Westmount-Ville Marie:
Faced with ambivalence on the part of the Liberal party and the need to support his family, former Canadian astronaut Marc Garneau said Tuesday he has closed the door on the idea of seeking the Liberal nomination in Westmount-Ville Marie or any other riding.

The news came as a surprise to a group of Liberals who had been discreetly organizing and setting up a campaign website for him, who believed up until Tuesday their star candidate was in the running. It also came as a surprise to some Liberal party officials who believed, since Garneau never officially withdrew nomination papers he had filed, that he was still interested.

Garneau, who quit his job as head of Canada's space agency to run unsuccessfully for the Liberals in the 2006 election in the riding of Vaudreuil-Soulanges, said he approached the party in January after former Outremont MP Jean Lapierre resigned, saying he was interested in running as the Liberal candidate in Outremont. However, Garneau said he was told the riding was being reserved for somebody else.

In the spring, when Liberal MP Lucienne Robillard announced she would not run again, Garneau filed nomination papers -- as did several other candidates.

"I said this is the fit for me. I live here, I work here, I know people here," said Garneau, a Westmount resident. "This is the natural place for me."

However, Garneau became discouraged when Liberal Leader Stephane Dion announced three or four days later he would handpick the Liberal candidate for the riding.

While he said some ridings were suggested to him, they were not ridings in which the Liberals had a strong likelihood of winning.

Factor in this admission, which I believe:
But the list of potential hopefuls has shrunk, insiders report, with some people seriously rethinking the idea of running under the Liberal banner at the moment.

Local Liberals asking for a open nomination process, why not? Why offer Garneau another longshot riding, particularly when he appears to have a team and brings "star" power? Garneau said he decided a month ago, but I find that hard to believe, given the quotes from people close to him in the first article. It would appear that Garneau has resigned himself to the fact that Westmount is reserved for a Dion appointment. Given the state of affairs, and the reality that some may now run away from the Liberal banner this time out, I think it silly to be so casual with someone who could be an asset.

I guess we have to wait for the other shoe to drop here, and see the person Dion has in mind, but there is something unsettling about the way Garneau has been handled, here and the previous desire for Outremont. I don't get it.

No Accountability

Faced with universal criticism, John Baird issued a press release today, saying the government will now fund the Canadian Wildlife Service:
"In recent days there have been a number of stories written about financial pressures within my department. I want to assure all Canadians that priority programs related to all areas of the environment are maintained," the Minister said. "I have instructed my department to provide the financial flexibility required to programs and services in critical areas, such as the Canadian Wildlife Service and the Meteorological Service of Canada so that they are maintained, and that there are no layoffs of indeterminate staff."

Objectively good news, that the government has retreated from their slash and burn approach on this file. However, Baird, in typical Conservative fashion blames the gutting of these programs on the Liberals. Yawn:

"The current financial pressures come from many sources, but a major factor was the $17.1 million cut agreed to by former Environment Minister Stéphane Dion in 2005."

Blaming a 2 1/2 year old budget for your independent decision to re-direct funding away from these programs, how accountable of you Mr. Baird. It's Dion's fault that Baird instructed his department to pull money out of the programs. Huh? It's Dion's fault that the government has a 6 billion dollar surplus in the first quarter, and yet they can't find a few paltry million to maintain vital work. What a pathetic copout, and further proof that no matter what, the Conservative government is incapable of taking responsibility for their own actions, nevermind admit a mistake.

Heading To The Polls

It looks like an election is now inevitable, with Peter MacKay making tactical statements that effectively put the Liberals in the non-confidence column. Dion demands:
Canada notifying NATO that it will end its combat mission in Afghanistan in 2009. The government must make clear the wording of the motion, and confirm how it will vote.

MacKay offers:
Defence Minister Peter MacKay said Canada has the option of waiting until April 2008 before choosing whether to extend its mission in Afghanistan, despite pressure from opposition parties for an early decision.

On Monday, MacKay said Canada can wait until the NATO summit next year in Bucharest, Romania, before clarifying whether combat operations will continue past February 2009.

"There is a NATO meeting in April 2008," MacKay told reporters.

"It will be necessary to communicate a final decision before that meeting."

MacKay clearly signals there will be no formal notification, and his timing basically ensures the Liberals won't support the throne speech. MacKay's comments aren't off the cuff, they work in tandem with the sudden ramping up of the Tory machine:
The Conservatives have been told to ready themselves for a mid-October federal election, says a report.

Sources have confirmed to the Toronto Star that an election could be called three days after Prime Minister Stephen Harper delivers his minority government's throne speech on Oct. 16.

The newspaper reports that the Tories have already reserved two buses currently in use by Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory -- who is campaigning ahead of the Oct. 10 provincial election.

Two more Greyhound buses are also being prepared and "wrapped" with party logos and large photos of Harper, reports the Star.

I assume the government has decided they would rather fall on the Afghanistan question, than the environment. Probably a wise decision, since there is more divison on the Afghanistan question, than the woeful handling of the environment file. Can someone in Ottawa stroll by the Conservatives "war room" tonight, I bet the lights are on?

Monday, September 24, 2007

Auto Pilot

John Tory is just so naturally negative, even when one of his own questions his policy, he can't help but react in a mean-spirited fashion:
John Tory ran into more trouble over his promise to extend taxpayer funding to religious schools today when one of his Progressive Conservative MPPs broke ranks and said he'd vote against the plan.

Bill Murdoch, the member for Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound, became the first Tory MPP to say he could not support the controversial promise. Others, including veteran MPP Bob Runciman in eastern Ontario, have so far said the pledge has not been popular with voters in their ridings.

Tory dismissed Murdoch's opposition after a rally in Guelph.

"When you look up maverick in the dictionary, you find his picture there in colour," Tory told reporters.

Anyone who possesses any understanding of nuance and political tact doesn't react by slagging one of your own candidates. "It's an issue that brings out passion in people, not everyone is going to agree". "I regret that he feels that way, but I am committed to this policy, because it is the best way to move forward". "A leader makes tough decisions, that doesn't bring univeral acceptance" Blah, blah, blah. Instead, Tory reacts like a thin skinned adolescent and ensures more controversy. When you look up "low road" in the dictionary, you find Tory's picture there in black and white.

Fooling Nobody

It is nice to see that nobody (hard-core Conservative partisans aside) are buying into the Harper/Baird propaganda campaign. Keep trying:
"Harper on wrong side of climate change debate: poll

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, at the United Nations Monday for a climate change summit, is running with the "wrong crowd" of international allies on the issue,"

The survey of 1,000 Canadians by the firm Harris/Decima, commissioned by an environmental group, indicated that six in 10 respondents (61 per cent) want Canada aligned with European countries that favour strict Kyoto-like emissions targets.

Only one-quarter agreed with the notion that Canada "should be siding with countries like the U.S. and Australia who want non-Kyoto targets."

"Canadians want our prime minister to quit running with the wrong crowd when it comes to international efforts to combat climate change," said John Bennett, executive-director of, in a news release.

So many speeches, so many mistruths, so many exaggerations, so many photo-ops, so little progress.

Time To Give Harper The Hook

How can any Canadian be proud, as we watch Harper offer watered down nothingness to the world, under the guise of leadership? Reading some of the text of Harper's speech today, it is clear that Canada's role in the climate change debate is that of fox in the henhouse. Offering "flexibility" as solution, Harper is undermining the idea of real progress, in a cynical campaign meant for domestic consumption. The lasting damage of Harper's public relations exercise, he presents a path to the world that offers an out for the disinterested, which in turn leads to disaster:
But on the question of targets for reducing heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions, he said the world was gradually shifting to the idea of "flexible" goals that take into account the need for continued economic expansion.

"There is an emerging consensus on the need for a new, effective and flexible climate framework, one that commits all the world's major emitters to real targets and concrete action against global greenhouse gas emissions," Mr. Harper said.

"We are balancing environmental protection with economic growth ..." he said. "We are promoting a balanced international approach to emissions that engages all major emitters while respecting the unique characteristics of their economies.

Harper's line is the same crap spewed at the G8, "unique" is a replacement for "special", which is code for unbirdled economic expansion. I'm tired of watching Harper appear before the world, with his embarrassing, toothless rhetoric, all the while distracting from real achievement. Anyone who has studied the Harper approach has dismissed it, and yet he is given this platform to act the mover and shaker. These comments sum up the pride we should all feel:
Harper drew sharp criticism from two Canadian youths participating in the one-day event. They said the Conservative government's emission targets are way too low.
"I, for one, am sick of being ashamed of my country and its poor behaviour on the world stage," P.J. Partington of the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition told a news conference.

"The government keeps saying Canada's playing a bridging role in the negotiations, but with our current plan we're on the road to nowhere."

Catherine Gauthier, who told leaders the future is in their hands and that too many world capitals are "spinning" their positions, was equally scathing.

"Canada needs to step up our action on climate change or get out of the way of progress," said Gauthier, a member of the Quebec-based Environnement Jeunesse.

Get out of the way is right.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Dion's Terms

I don't see how the government can agree to the list of demands, presented by Dion:
Dion said he will need to hear Prime Minister Stephen Harper's response to four key issues before deciding how to vote after the Oct. 16 speech. They include:

-Canadian notification to NATO that it will end its combat mission in Afghanistan in 2009. The government must make clear the wording of the motion, and confirm how it will vote.

-A commitment to reintroducing Bill C-30 in the new parliamentary season, which is designed to protect the environment and fight the effects of climate change.

-Addressing the manufacturing challenges facing Canada's economy.

-Setting out a plan to combat poverty in Canada.

I'm sure the Tories could agree to the third and fourth points, enough so to allow "wiggle" room for the Liberals. However, I don't see any scenario where the Conservatives re-introduce C-30, as a matter of fact their repeated disdain for the Liberal amendments make it impossible. The NDP plan to re-introduce, through a private members bill, but that is the only way this legislation will see daylight. C-30 is a deal breaker, you can't reconcile the two positions.

As it relates to Afghanistan, I find Dion's demand interesting, because it comes on the same day we hear this admission:
Canada's top general in Afghanistan says NATO is making plans based on the assumption that Canada and the Netherlands will extend their combat missions here past their 2008-09 deadlines.

"We do not plan for a reduction of battalions. It is as simple as that," said Brig.-Gen. Marquis Hainse, deputy commander of NATO forces in the war-torn south. "We have to remind ourselves why we are here in the first place. After 30 years of war (Afghanistan) was a failed state and a clear breeding ground for terrorists and all nations know that terrorists do not stop at their borders."

Harper has made comments about the mission ending in 2009, but that doesn't mean he is prepared to formally commit, in such a transparent way. Hainse's comments endorse the view that Harper is merely buying time, fully intent on extension, once he gets his way. The best the Liberals can hope for is ambiguous language that leaves the door open, hardly enough.

If everyone stays true to their demands and positions, a fall election looks a certainty.

John Baird's Alternate Universe

I'm surprised Baird's head doesn't spin off, with his outlandish statements, that show no relationship to reality. If, your plan is credible and worthy of your own praise, doesn't it follow that someone, outside of the inner circle, would acknowledge your commitment? Eliminate the environmentalists for convenience, and you are still left with non-partisan domestic panels, foreign delegations, economists who you trumpeted to trash Kyoto, foreign banks, every critique negative, except for Buzz Hargrove and two oil-execs. The sheer weight of the criticisms, from all quarters, doesn't seem to effect John Baird, he just continues to spew and spew:
"We've got to get developed countries like the United States and the European Union and Canada on board playing a leadership role as we're fortunate and wealthy enough that we can do so," Baird said.

"At the end of the day, people will judge us not by our talk but by our action," Baird said Saturday.

At the end of the day, people have already judged your plan as a hot-air, disingenious, propaganda exercise. As already mentioned elsewhere, when will the media stop giving Baird a forum to offer up the bull, unedited and virtually unchallenged? Where are the tough questions? Where is the responsible journalism that confronts the rhetoric that would insults us all? John Baird shouldn't be allowed to present this myth, unless he can find some credible allies to back-up his claims. Is the media a check or a conduit?

Liberals Will Vote Against Throne Speech

Despite unsubstantiated assumptions, if Duceppe is offering more than just bluster, then the Liberals really have no choice but to vote against the government. In a scenario where the NDP and Bloc reject the throne speech, it is tactically improbable that the Liberals could prop up Harper, without negative consequence.

Prior to the by-elections, Dion had ramped up the rhetoric and was positioning the Liberals as anything but conciliatory when it came to the core issues, that could trigger an election. It seems logical, that the Conservatives strong showing in the by-elections, will translate into more rigid vocabulary in the throne speech, which leaves even less room for compromise. Within that environment, election readiness and organizational problems take a back seat to political necessity. Just imagine the howls from Layton, the new-found credibility of Duceppe, if the Liberals are left in supporting the government. The appearance of a toothless tiger, scared to face the people, more consumed with survival than defence of policy is real.

The Liberals will vote with the other parties, if that actually happens (Duceppe has been known to change his mind quickly), because they can't afford to look irrelevant, emboldening the other opposition parties. Abstaining from the vote is a strategic non-starter, because the optics are still the same, as a matter of fact the term "gutless" receives context. I don't really see a choice.

Despite problems, it is hard to imagine things drastically improving for the Liberals in the next few months, the relative landscape not as bad as the last week assumes. Heading into an election, tied in the polls, isn't exactly disaster. Whether illusion or not, the prospect of success is at least plausible, particularly when you consider people's hesitation with Harper. You could go so far as too argue that an election provides Dion the opportunity to "connect" with Canadians, which he desperately needs to do. An election also deals with the "what do the Liberals stand for?" criticism, because we would finally see some fleshy policy. Ideal conditions, no, but there is enough there to justify bringing the government down, especially when the alternative is isolation and the visual of collusion with the government.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

John Tory Is A Joke

Tory is touting nuclear power to meet Ontario's energy needs. Fine, but everytime he is asked about coal, he responds with:
Tory has said he will look at closing the Ontario's coal-fired power plants - the province's worst polluters - but not until there is a reliable alternative.

The kicker, Tory won't commit to closing coal plants, and yet he has the audacity to run scum ads on McGuinty's failure:
The last advertisement attacks McGuinty for breaking his pledge to close Ontario's coal-fired electricity plants. It shows a young girl coughing and concludes that "broken promises have consequences."

McGuinty is irrelevant, what is noteworthy, a leader and party who claims that McGuinty is killing people with his policies, while concurrently sanctioning those same policies. Maybe if Tory was advocating closing the plants immediately, then he would have a point, but because the PC's have taken the low road, logic dictates that John Tory pledges to kill more Ontario residents. The inference of broken promises is overshadowed by the knowledge that coal kills, and McGuinty has allowed this to happen.

John Tory is a joke. Tory's pathetic hypocrisy is akin to people drinking bad water, and him responding that until we find another well, bottoms up! Tory lowered the bar, he can roll in his own muck. John Tory is letting Ontario residents die, with full knowledge of the source. That's what the ad and the policy tell me.


As Stephen Harper prepares to pontificate to the world about the global warming crisis, Canada's own advisory panel exposes the ruse. People will remember that Harper and Baird have both argued that Canada can lead through example. It might be a good idea for someone to pass out the latest internal report to international delegations, prior to Harper's speech, to put the rhetoric in context. The really sad part, not one of the government's initiatives met with approval:
All nine programs in the plan, unveiled last month after Parliament passed a law that ordered the government to comply with the Kyoto Protocol, won't do the job, the National Roundtable on the Environment and Economy said yesterday.

The highly critical report came just three days before Prime Minister Stephen Harper is to defend his government's actions on climate change at a major UN meeting in New York.

The report accuses the Conservative government of using "systematic" exaggeration, "double accounting," "not accurately reflecting" emissions reductions, "important inconsistency" and "overestimated" reductions to produce false conclusions about the effectiveness of its plan.

It concludes that of the nine federal climate-change programs it studied, the government had exaggerated the benefits of three and failed to produce sufficient information to support the other six.

Systematic "exaggeration" speaks to deliberate fraud, and the panel went so far as to use the word "misleading", which translates into lying. Conservatives have countered that the report is also supportive of their Kyoto perspective, as well as weak arguments on time and scope of the conclusions. A great way to seperate the conflicting signals, is merely to look at when the report was released. The old Friday afternoon news dump, is a classic damage control technique, hoping no one notices heading into a slower, weekend newscycle. The timing of the release tells us all we need to, in distinguishing the spin from the substance.

Can't wait for the "leading by example" tone of Harper's speech, because this latest report is another critical item to put in the ever-growing negative dossier. Economists, environmentalists, government agencies, all in agreement, the Conservatives are pure bluster. Frankly, Harper should be blushing through his entire speech, as he tries to snow the world once again.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Duceppe's Line In The Sand

Conventional wisdom assumed the Bloc was less likely to support a non-confidence, given the poor results in the by-elections. Instead, Duceppe draws a line in the sand:
The Bloc Quebecois has issued a five-point set of demands for the Conservative minority government that appears to be a muscled reaction the party's bruising in byelections earlier this week.

It also appears to be setting the stage for a fall election.

The demands set out Friday are that the government:

1)Eliminate all federal spending powers in provincial jurisdictions

2)Respect the Kyoto Protocol and establish targets for greenhouse gas reductions

3)Assistance for workers in the ailing forest industry

4)Changes to supply management for dairy farmers

5)And finally, "non négociable," in the Throne Speech, an announced end to the combat mission in Afghanistan by Feb. 2009.

These demands come a day after Harper's Quebec lieutenant, Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon, gloated over his party's byelection victory and called the Bloc "useless" in Quebec.

Harper might throw a carrot on 1, in his own self-interest, 3 and 4 room for comprimise, 2 and 5 showdown. I suppose the government could weasle around Kyoto and "targets", but given the favorable results for the Conservatives, I don't think Harper is prepared to commit to ending the Afghanistan mission, in such clear terms.

Duceppe's tough stance is an effort to look relevant, but it does raise the stakes considerably. The NDP has been equally combative, which may mean the Liberals will decide the government's fate.

Dion Interview

Pretty interesting interview with Dion in Macleans. First the good- offering some longterm vision, which is a nice contrast to the Harper vote grab:
I think what this country needs is somebody who is committed to make Canada a champion of sustainable development. It’s not to be a tree hugger, although I like the natural environment. It’s to understand the 21st century. The big challenge of this century will be no less than the reconciliation of the people and the planet. To me, it’s first and foremost an agenda about the economy.

It’s a big challenge, but you have to have the conviction. Mr. Harper doesn’t have the conviction. He will come with programs that are so improvised he will be unable to implement them. He will spend, but it’s not a plan. I will have a plan for this economy that will make it sustainable for our children and grandchildren. In politics, you need a big ego and a lot of modesty. A big ego to think you are the one, a lot of modesty to do it with others. I think I have both.

I love the idea of "reconciliation of the people and the planet", because it has tenticles that speak to everything we do. As a matter of fact, that is the sort of progressive thinking that can help re-define the identity challenged Liberal Party. People are starting to understand that we need a balance, if Dion can tap into that sentiment, his message is very relevant and compelling. I guess it is a question of how you articulate that.

That bring me to this point, which I've heard before and I think it's wrong:
M: You’ve announced some policy, but nothing like a complete platform. When can we expect a bigger, more detailed vision?

SD: It is a bit frustrating for me. I have a team of policy people, many of them part of the caucus, and we would be so pleased to get out with more ideas. But we want to keep many of them for an election that may come. If we put out everything in advance, it will be difficult to come with surprises during the campaign.

On of the better by-election post-mortems was Jeff's blog on policy. Listening to another political roundtable today on CBC, the big criticism of the Liberals moving forward, "what do they stand for?" While I commend Dion for the "reconcilation" angle, we really can't afford to wait for the details. I know the conventional wisdom, but frankly, given the circumstance, do Liberals really have the luxury of sitting on ideas?

A good example of over-stating the election "surprise" theory is the McGuinty campaign. Did McGuinty really get a big bounce from the barrage of policy announcements in the early days of the campaign? I'd say any uptick we saw was more from Tory's missteps, than any momentum from the policy dump. Actually, people reacted with some cynicism- why now, trying to buy some votes? In other words, I don't think you can argue with certainty that it was best to wait until the heat of a campaign. Also, releasing point after point in rapid fashion tends to create overkill, and people can't digest fast enough, or keep pace.

Ask yourself what is the Liberals biggest challenge. In my mind, there is an identity crisis that needs to be reconciled, accompanied by a sense of urgency. The tacticians make a mistake in holding back, because that essentially ensures the status quo. Nevermind the general population, you have to energize the grassroots, throw them some meat to inspire. Love the concept, but maybe too clever in thinking the standard playbook is sufficient.

Liberals Add Wheat Board Director

Not a bad coup for the Liberals:
Saying he is frustrated by the Conservative government "attack" on the Canadian Wheat Board, a board director plans to represent the Liberals in the next federal election.

Rod Flaman, an Edenwold area farmer, was to be acclaimed Thursday night as the federal Liberal candidate for Regina-Qu'Appelle.

Flaman, a farmer-elected director with the Canadian Wheat Board, said the Conservative government's attempt to dismantle the board's monopoly on barley sales is one of the main reasons he is entering the federal political fray.

Flaman was himself once a vocal opponent of the Canadian Wheat Board's monopoly on wheat and barley exports. He was among a number of farmers who protested the single-desk system of selling in the 1990s, when the federal Liberals were in office.

But after being elected as a Canadian Wheat Board director in 2000, he came to call the wheat board a success story.

The Liberals finished a respectable third in this riding(23 %) in 2006 and Flaman would appear to have an interesting perspective on the entire barley debate. Throw in the new equalization formula, and the Liberals might just be onto something.

Smoke And Mirrors

Harper is preparing another propaganda exercise, masquerading as world “broker” on climate change. This time, Harper is set to deliver a high-profile speech at the United Nations. The funny part, the speech seems more a matter of convenience, than actual desire:
It's customary for Canada's prime minister to address the opening of the UN General Assembly each fall. The fact that Harper is talking at the summit instead is testament to the issue's importance to Canadians and Conservative political fortunes.
A Harper spokeswoman chalked it up partly to scheduling conflicts but noted the environment is a priority of the minority government.

Not a “testament to the issue’s importance”, more aptly a fill-in speech, to substitute for a no-show at the General Assembly- how inspirational and sincere.

Let’s just hope the media develops a more critical eye with this speech, because we already know the arguments in advance. Harper will position himself as the great bridge, bringing the world community together for action. All that rhetoric evaporates, as soon as you introduce the word “voluntary”, or “aspirational”, so let’s call a spade a spade. What this speech represents is another venue for Harper to sell himself at home, more “leading the world” frame, which has no relationship to actual substance. Why is the United Nations giving Harper this forum to further undermine the idea of hard targets and set goals, replacing the concept with the nothingness of “we pledge to do something, someday, at our own pace and without interference”?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Go Loonie Go

I find it amazing to watch the media reaction, as though the dollar is a symbol of national pride. Beaming smiles from the newscasts, "a proud currency", our insecurity on full display, so desperate to be "on par" with the Americans. "How high can it go?", "Loonie on a roll", etc, etc. The dollar's rise is Canada's rise, we are as good as the Americans.

Reading between the lines, "ugly cousin" syndrome aside, I'm not quite as ecstatic about the abrupt rise of the loonie. In a rare move, it would appear Mr. Flaherty isn't all that proud either. The fact of the matter, stability is a pre-requisite for sound economics. The rapid rise has changed the dynamics so fast, that beleaguered industries can't adapt. The manufacturing sector is getting hammered, and no investment in new techonology or productivity can keep pace with a 16% rise in one year. Slow and steady, people can adapt, meteroic, a death sentence.

The illusion of lower prices on imported goods is a longer term reality. Today, I heard a retail representative say that prices wouldn't be lowered, because the price of rent and other fixed costs has increased, all the dollar has done is mitigate any increases- translation, a great time to gouge and maximize profits. Ditto for the auto industry, books.... The savings will not be passed on to the consumer, in the way first blush would suggest, at least not anytime soon.

You know who is ecstatic, downright delirious? American border towns. I can't even describe the shit kicking grin on the auto dealer's face today in Bellingham, Washington. I swear his eyes turned green, so kind he offered to fill out the border papers for the purchase. Take a stroll down to the border, watch the traffic flow, south in the morning, north at night- it tells a story.

I'm not saying the story is entirely negative, but I am decidedly miffed at the loonie hysteria, as though Team Canada is "soaring". The loonie isn't a muscular penis, that tells the world, look at us, pretty impressive isn't it? I just wish we could seperate our national insecurity from economic realities, because the balance sheet is a mixed bag.


Dion’s tone in his interview last night is exactly what the doctor ordered. A fairly accurate read of the situation, with an honesty that tells us Dion might just get it afterall:
"I've never put my personality on the table, and I'm now realizing that a leader has to do that because if people don't know who I am and what I'll do for them, they won't be interested the Liberals.''
I've always focused on the stakes … but I've never put myself on the line and I understand now that a leader must do that.… A leader has to put himself out there and I didn't do it," he told Radio-Canada host Céline Galipeau during a candid interview in French.

The money quote:
"I think a lot of people in Quebec think I am not pro-Quebec, it's as simple as that,'' he said.
For Dion, the solution lies partly in overcoming the perception that he is overly bookish man with few concrete ideas.
"We have to focus the debate on Stephane Dion, who I am and what I can do,'' he said.
"The caricature has taken over the person.''

The last quote tells us Dion appreciates the challenge. Dion, the Mr. Clarity “rat”, vilified in editorial cartoons, the Chretien stooge, the enemy of Quebec’s aspirations, all that conventional wisdom has to be overcome. Talk is cheap, but I’m impressed that Dion doesn’t sugarcoat the landscape and understands that he alone must change his image, if the Liberals have any hope in Quebec.

Dion’s “very worrying” reference to the two francophone ridings is sober and accurate. Identifying the problem, and not spinning like Dion did after the vote on Monday, is a far better strategy. People appreciate someone who can admit his flaws, call a spade a spade and is willing to show a vulnerability. As a matter of fact, this frank talk is a nice contrast to the Harper approach. A good sign indeed.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Liberal Fundraising Facts

Thought these figures were interesting:
According to briefing notes, obtained by The Canadian Press, only 5.6 per cent of Liberal party members have donated so far this year to the party, one of its riding associations or to one of the former leadership candidates, who are struggling to pay off about $3.6 million in cumulative debt.

Only 29 per cent of Liberal MPs have donated to the party and almost none of their staff members. By contrast, 65 per cent of Liberal senators have contributed.

The party will put on a major push this fall to boost donations. Among other things, it will employ former prime minister Jean Chretien and Paul Martin to make email solicitations.

High profile Liberals, including MPs, will be asked to commit to raise anywhere from $5,000 to $50,000 each.

And in November the party hopes to simultaneously stage 100 fundraising dinners across the country, each attended by 50 people paying $50 a head. The event is being billed as "One Night, 100 Dinners."

The good news, if the Liberals can ever tap into that other 94.4% of Liberal members, it could translate into a fundraising bonanza ;) How about the 71% of MP's (what would Harper do)? In all seriousness, the lack of donations from hardcore partisans is another indication of something amiss. If you can't motivate the base to donate, seems to me you will have a pretty hard time motivating the general population to support you.

On the plus side, I did recently receive a call from a party worker in Ottawa, saying they were going through the national membership list to solicite donations. On the negative, if the above is any indication, I wouldn't expect a great third quarter in fundraising, which will fuel the negative flames. That fact might explain the mass email I received from the Party President yesterday, which started ominously:
It wasn't our first setback and likely won't be our last.

BTW, I have donated, not to mention the two cents spewed daily :)

Bad Day For Baird

Tough day for John Baird. First, we learn that the government is slashing spending on wildlife protection, which apparently caused the phone to fail at the Minister of the Environment (hope they get that fixed):
The press spokesman for Environment Minister John Baird did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Later in the day, that little Kyoto bill, that the Conservatives are so desperate to ignore comes up again, this time in court:
An environmental group is taking the Conservative government to court for not meeting its obligations under a recently passed climate-change law.

Friends of the Earth filed an application for judicial review in Federal Court on Wednesday, with the help of Toronto lawyer Chris Paliare and Ecojustice.

The group charges that Environment Minister John Baird is ignoring the rule of law by failing to comply with legislation that requires the government meet its targets under the Kyoto Protocol and submit a plan illustrating how it would do so. The Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act was passed with the support of the opposition in June.

Beatrice Olivastri of Friends of the Earth says that just as a deadbeat dad would be forced to provide money to his children, so too should a judge order the federal government live up to its legal obligations.

Friends of the Earth had filed another application against the government in Federal Court earlier in the year, alleging the government was violating the Canadian Environmental Protection Act by not living up to Kyoto. That case has been abandoned in favour of the new one based on the more specific Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act.

Ontario Polls

Two new Ontario polls released, one shows the Liberals with a big lead, the other a close race. The Ipsos poll has the Liberals at 40%, PC's at 37%, NDP 16% Greens 6% (no link, television), which is the same as last week's offering. Decima however, shows a wide gap, with McGuinty enjoying the leadership nod, for the first time I can remember:
The five-day survey that wrapped up Monday found the Liberals at 41 per cent support, the Conservatives at 32 per cent, the New Democrats 14 per cent and the Greens 12 per cent.

When it comes to who would make the best premier, 27 per cent of respondents chose McGuinty, compared with 23 per cent for Tory. Ten per cent chose NDP Leader Howard Hampton.

Partisanship aside, I'm more inclined to have confidence in the Decima Poll, simply because the Ipsos-Reid polling has never shown any negative consequence for Tory's faith-based school argument, even when the internals show decided disagreement. In my mind, it justs seems intuitive that the rocky start should have been reflected in the Ipsos poll. If you take the average of the two polls, it's Liberals 41%, PC's 35%, NDP 15%, Greens 9%.

McGuinty was complaining about negative campaigning today, and while I wouldn't recommend a leader whining, he does have a point. Tory has bombarded the airwaves, and I've heard a miriad of ads, but I haven't really learned much on the policy front, it's just bash, bash and more bash. As a matter of fact, the sheer volume of the vitrol is more a turnoff than a testament to why John Tory should be leader. If "leadership matters", an idea or two would be nice, as opposed to Dalton McGuinty, human pinata.

Fluke Or Foundation?

Obviously, the NDP is in an optimistic frame of mind when it comes to Quebec. The next question for the NDP, was the by-election win a fluke or does it represent opportunity, to establish a bulkhead in the province? If you listen to Muclair, any talk of a one-off underestimates the NDP:
Mulcair will stay on as the party’s Quebec lieutenant and is already busy fundraising, organizing and recruiting candidates in a province that has traditionally been a wasteland for New Democrats.

But he said Monday’s result has already made an impression on his possible recruits. One name being bandied about as a possible candidate is Julius Grey, a high-profile human rights lawyer from Montreal.

"The victory will make it easier for us to recruit high-profile candidates," Mulcair said.

"We’ve been speaking with people all along. But let me just say the body language is becoming far more positive (after Monday)."

The New Democrats will now turn their attention to specific pockets of the province where they believe they have the best chance of making additional gains. A main target will be ridings similar to Outremont: multi-ethnic, federalist and urban.

Mulcair said that parts of Montreal are prized targets, as are some resource-producing regions in outlying areas.

The latest poll shows the NDP tied with the Liberals in Quebec, and although it has a high margin of error, the uptick for the NDP is confirmed in other findings, by-election aside. I admit to never hearing of Julius Grey, but the fact that Muclair is bold enough to drop names suggests the prospect of another "star" candidate is real. The by-election is clearly significant, in that the NDP is now armed with the practical, as opposed to pie in the sky aspirations. Half the battle for the NDP in Quebec is the appearance of viability, a dose of real potential. Muclair's convincing victory at least presents the idea of possibilities, which makes the prospect of more formidable candidates believable.

The thing that impressed me most about the NDP in this by-election- the complete dedication and sharp focus. That example is a great asset moving forward, particularly in a dynamic where Quebecers appear to be shopping around. Layton and Muclair both enjoy favorable opinion, relative to other leaders, which also lends to the idea of a hearing out. I don't want to overstate the possibilities, but if the NDP is shrewd, puts all their resources in a few target ridings, with high-profile people, then it would be foolish to dismiss their chances. Couple that with a natural policy affinity, and you might just be on to something.

Quebecers aren't sold on Harper, the Liberal problems are obvious and the Bloc looks to be in decline. I guess the question, is there a vacuum there that the NDP can capitalize on? From what I saw in the by-election, if the NDP fails, it won't be for lack of effort. It would seem there is an aggressive plan in place that hopes to capitalize on the new-found sense that something is building. Should be interesting to watch moving forward, and I wouldn't be surprised if we see more surprises, if you know what I mean.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

How About A Poll

The Conservatives biggest asset might be Stephane Dion, and the Liberals best chance might be Stephen Harper's Conservatives. New poll:
Conservatives had 32 per cent support, compared with 29 per cent for the Liberals. That spread is covered by the poll's margin of error, which is 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The poll found the NDP had the support of 17 per cent of respondents nationally, while the Green party had 14 per cent and the Bloc Quebecois five per cent.

Results from the last three weeks of polling suggested the Tories and Liberals were tied at 31 per cent, with the NDP at 15 per cent, the Greens at 13 per cent and the Bloc at eight per cent

The money quote:
"For the Liberal party, these numbers reveal an opportunity dropped, at least so far; if voters seem cool to the Conservatives, they are not warming to Mr. Dion."

Where were these numbers yesterday:
The survey, conducted earlier this week through Monday's Quebec byelections, also suggested that the Bloc Quebecois had slumped to 22 per cent in Quebec, compared with 26 per cent for the Conservatives. The Liberals and the NDP were tied at 16 per cent in the province, just a point ahead of the Green party.

First time a poll has put the Conservatives out front in Quebec, which is less surprising than it would have been yesterday. For anybody who thought Muclair was a one off, note the NDP tied with the Liberals in Quebec.

Kinsella is still trashing Paul Martin, but here are the raw vote totals for all three by-elections:
Conservative 31475 36.9
Bloc 23983 28.1
NDP 14587 17.1
Liberal 12118 14.2
Green 2197 2.6

Spreads are comparable to the Decima poll.

I have a bad feeling that the last week of this poll, that shows a margin of error lead for the Conservatives might be a sign of a new gap, the last few days have to hurt. Time will tell. In the end, the key might be where the sizable Green support ends up, is it solid or soft?

Quebecers Don't Like Dion

Bottomline, to suggest otherwise is delusional. The by-elections are just another item to put in the ledger, every other indicator suggests the same. Coming to the realization is a healthy first-step, if there is a glimmer of hope in the next election. The Liberals are now at their lowest seat total in Quebec since Confederation and Dion shows no signs of bucking the trend.

The question we should be asking today isn't whether or not to turf Dion, but how exactly the Liberal Party goes about selling its brand, with Dion as leader. Dion desperately needs to re-invent himself in his home province and recite Trudeauisms isn't the way to do it. Speaking highly, and defending Chretien isn't wise, personal opinion aside. The challenge for Dion, bring the Liberal version of federalism into the 21st century. The old arguments are largely irrelevant, and from all indications Quebecers are moving beyond the traditional dichotomy.

Dion is known to be stubborn, but I would argue that he needs to be pragmatic, because the Liberal Party has essentially wasted another year, with no real effort to re-introduce the party to Quebecers. As a matter of fact, Dion seems content to just carry on with the usual language, no new ideas to excite Quebecers and at least present the notion that party has moved forward. We have even heard whispers that Dion is prepared to sacrifice Quebec in the short-term, hoping the "Captain Canada" routine bears fruit elsewhere, for counter-balance. I like to refer to this strategy as the suicide pact, because it ensures defeat. You don't have to play footsie with nationalists like Harper, but you do have to confront the reality of a leader who is highly unpopular in his home province. Pretend that it isn't as bad as it seems, prepare for a Harper majority and the Conservative full-monty. Quebecers don't like Dion, and anything short of a complete makeover and acceptance guarantees future failure.

No Cream, No Sugar

What becomes crystal clear, as you digest last night's results, no matter the angle, the Liberal story has no silver lining. I don't see the benefit in downplaying the results, because that effectively masks the fundamental problems and creates an atmosphere where half-measures will do, when clearly they won't.

The Bloc suffered a huge blow, but that implosion leads to a question of why voters have adopted a "anybody but Liberal" mentality. The fact that Bloc voters went to the Conservatives and NDP suggests the Liberal message isn't even part of the conversation. Plug in a francophone leader and the results are a powerful statement on the state of the Liberal Party. Liberals can make the case that the Bloc were the big losers last night, but that result leads to more questions, rather than convenient diversion.

Dion doesn't deserve all the blame, and you don't want to overstate the implications. Having said that, the Dion "team", the inner circle, made many critical errors in judgement and with leadership comes responsibility. When you hand-pick a candidate, and you know that you face a formidable opponent, there is NO EXCUSE for the gong-show that apparently went on in Outremont. As the storm brewed, people seemed content to rest on historical laurels, the illusion of the "big red machine", nobody acted with any sense of urgency. Whether people like it or not, these by-elections were always framed as a mini-referendum on Dion, so the stakes were well known and the brain trust should have reacted in kind.

The way to rally the troops, is too convey a sense of confidence. Unfortunately, leadership races never seem to end in the Liberal Party, so rather than whine and project a paranoid insecurity, the Dion team is far better served to inspire people, as opposed to the siege mentality. If Dion doesn't enjoy the support of his caucus, then the bottom line is more a question of his failure to lead effectively, than it is a testament to hidden agendas. In other words, actions and words will make people "believe", and the lack thereof will lead to more questioning. How can you hope to lead the country, when you can't seem to lead the rank and file?

Last night was abysmal and disturbing, it wasn't just a few fluke by-elections that have no relationship to a general election. What we witnessed last night was the potential path to a Conservative majority and the realization that the Liberal Party is on the endangered species list. When you consider the NDP, the NDP, outpaced the Liberals in two ridings, it is more than a brief apparition. Unless people are content to accept Dion as "dead man walking", the gravity needs to sink it, because frankly this type of wipeout been coming for a long time. Business as usual, some tinkering here and there, equals total defeat, Harper unchecked.

Monday, September 17, 2007

By-Election Open Thread

I thought I would put up a post that I can update as the by-election results come in. Feel free to add your two cents.

Bizarre quote of the day, has to go to Conservative Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon. On Outremont:
"This riding here has been held by Liberals since God wore short pants,"
Thanks for the awkward visual Lawrence- on with the votes.


I’m of the mindset, that no matter the outcome in tonight’s by-elections, the Liberals have already lost, now just a question of degree. If speculation isn’t your cup of tea, then this isn't the post for you.

Best case scenario, the Liberals pull off a convincing win, which appears unlikely. A solid victory in Outremont allows for some positive spin, although the result is almost a net neutral, given all the bad press and talk of division in the last few days. Having said that, a strong result at least allows a sigh of relief and the bastion is intact, despite formidable opposition and relative uncertainty.

If the Liberals win by a narrow margin, then there is a sense of hollow victory, because after all this was supposed to be a slam dunk riding. All the questions about the Liberals in Quebec and Dion’s leadership remain, there is nothing in that result that will quell speculation about leadership or future prospects. In fact, a narrow win is a testament to vulnerability, where none previously existed. In the aftermath, the Liberals can hardly carry on, business as usual. There will be tough questions about organization, strategy and the lingering doubts about Dion in Quebec remain. The vote total suggests victory, but the underlying themes suggest a fair amount of taint that isn’t easily discounted.

An NDP win represents nothing short of crisis for the Liberals all around. Internal strife aside, there is also the prospect of Harper smelling blood and delivering a hard-line throne speech, meant to force an election, or at the very least expose an impotent official opposition. I see many “unnamed Liberals”, plenty of fodder for the media and academics who want to paint a party in disarray. A guaranteed cycle of bad press and low morale, evaporating any sense of momentum that may have existed. Liberals can debate the finer points, but the broad strokes are entirely negative, you can’t effectively counter-spin the idea of a francophone leader in Quebec, not only getting shutout, but losing ground in his home province. The whispers become more pronounced and people can’t dismiss hard realities. A bad night in Quebec feeds all the negative story lines the Liberals are trying to overcome.

Should be a fascinating night, with a buffet of possibilities for political junkies.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

McCain Back From The Dead?

Basically written off a couple months ago, with pundits openly musing whether he would drop out by the fall, John McCain is starting to show signs of life, and the strangest part, Iraq is breathing life into his campaign. A quick sampling of recent news items, to give a flavor:

"Sen. John McCain Resurges in Iowa":

"Republicans are giving him a second look," said Rich Lowry of the National Review. "They're reminded about what they always liked about John McCain, his stalwartness, his credentials on national security."

"I have seen a significant increase in enthusiasm and the turnouts in townhall meetings, and from my experience that's kind of a precursor in increasing traction in a campaign," McCain told ABC News.

"Iraq Report Gives McCain a Boost":

WASHINGTON (AP) — Gen. David Petraeus' high-profile report on Iraq is pumping new life into Sen. John McCain's presidential bid, his backers say, making the Arizona Republican appear prescient and courageous on the campaign's most vital issue.

Whether the new dynamic in Iraq can salvage McCain's troubled campaign is far from certain. But he is wooing voters with a sense of momentum not seen since he drastically reduced his staff and spending two months ago.

"Can New Hampshire Revive McCain?":

A recent uptick in national polls and a strong performance in last week's New Hampshire debate has the campaign hopeful that the Senator's decision to, as an internal memo framed it, "own the surge" will reinvigorate McCain's chances...

McCain own surge in the polls is admittedly modest: he's gone up six points in the CBS/New York Times poll, four in USA Today's, and just two in a survey by the Washington Post and ABC. Those results predate Petraeus' Capitol Hill performance, but they do coincide with start of McCain's tour, and with his testy rebuttal to Mitt Romney's assertion during the most recent G.O.P. debate that the surge is "apparently working": "The surge is working, sir, no, not apparently," McCain scolded. "It's working."

You don't want to get carried away, but in a field that has generated no enthusiasm, McCain the "comeback kid" might just be plausible, particularly with an American media that loves to tear people down, and then hypocritically resurrect them.

I don't want to argue the merits of the Iraq war, or whether or not the "surge" is responsible for an apparent decline in violence, but it is clear that McCain's steadfast opinion is gaining traction. McCain has been arguing for years, in contrast with other Republicans, that the Americans needed to increase the troop levels in Iraq to have any chance at success. McCain's stubborn devotion looked more and more an albatross, a man who was out of touch with the mainstream. Funny thing happened on the way to the funeral, the Americans increased troop levels and there is now room to make a credible case that the tactic has worked.

In a strange way, McCain looks ahead of the curve, as the military and Bush play catch-up to an idea he has argued tirelessly, no matter the political climate. McCain's opinion might still not resonate with moderates and independents, but in a Republican primary, with the faithful looking for reasons to jump back on the war wagon, McCain is uniquely positioned.

The polls give reason for cautious optimism, McCain is still in the game, with plenty of time for a revival. In fact, if the notion that the "surge" is working actually takes hold in the Republican psyche, the "No Surrender" rallying cry McCain has adopted might just work. McCain's line, when he seemed out of touch, "I'd rather lose an election, than lose a war" looks more and more a statement of conviction, rather than resignation. The old man still has life, and the strangest part of all, Iraq may prove to be his trump card. Go figure.

The Sound Of Settled Science

It must be hard to be a climate change denier. Think about it, you scour the globe seeking any contrarian view available, then quickly seize upon it and present it as proof of a manufactured scam perpetrated on the world by a left-wing agenda and misguided scientists. Then, as people digest the new "claims", the denier posterchild fails to stand-up to scrutiny. Such is the case with the scientific "consensus" idea, as it relates to man-made global warming.

Naomi Oreskes released a study in 2004 that sampled scientific journals to gauge support/resistence to the idea of man-made global warming. Oreskes conclusions supported the "consensus" idea, with an overwhelming number of papers in agreement. Recently, Dr. Klaus-Martin Schulte conducted a "similar" study of all papers released between 2004-2007. Schulte's conclusion found only minimal support for the "consensus", in fact the vast majority of papers showed no agreement whatsoever. Enter the denier crowd, the Schulte conclusions spread like wildfire through the online flat earth society (mostly conservative blogs, go figure), hailed as more proof that global warming was a ruse.

However, and don't expect to find the follow-up on the denier sites, Schulte's "study" is now crumbling, once people actually point a critical eye. Here is a terrific rebuttal (h/t desmogblog) that essentially shreds the conclusions, and exposes Shulte and his conclusions for what they are. Oreskes responds here, some highlights:

The Schulte piece is being published in Energy and Environment, a known contrarian journal. It was posted on the minority blog of the Senate Environment and Public Works committee, whose leader thinks that global warming is a "hoax." It was circulated on the internet by Marc Morano, a long-standing contrarian and former reporter and producer for the Rush Limbaugh Show, and who was involved in the "swift boat" campaign against John Kerry.

The piece misrepresents the results we obtained. In the original AAAS talk on which the paper was based, and in various interviews and conversations after, I repeated pointed out that very few papers analyzed said anything explicit at all about the consensus position.This was actually a very important result, for the following reason. Biologists today never write papers in which they explicitly say "we endorse evolution". Earth scientists never say "we explicitly endorse plate tectonics." This is because these things are now taken for granted. So when we read these papers and observed this pattern, we took this to be very significant.We realized that the basic issue was settled, and we observed that scientists had moved on to discussing details of the problem, mostly tempo and mode issues: how fast, how soon, in what manner, with what impacts, etc.

Oh well, I suppose the deniers still have that miniscule, statistically irrelevant, can't even see the deviation on a graph, NASA temperature adjustment to cling onto. The reality based community is already booking advance cruises through the Northwest Passage, the deniers too clever to see the concrete, determined to stop the left-wing conspiracy. Keep scouring, something will stick, I'm sure of it.


Another ouch.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Not Buying It

I'm putting this charge in the complete bunk column:
Michael Ignatieff supporters are sabotaging Liberal efforts in the Outremont byelection in hopes of weakening Liberal Leader Stephane Dion, Dion loyalists say.

Dion loyalists suspect Liberal organizers who support Mr. Ignatieff have been undermining the campaign, hoping that a loss would force Mr. Dion out of the leadership once Liberals realized that he couldn’t deliver seats in Quebec.

"I only know what I see, and I see some suspicious stuff," said one Liberal worker on the ground.

The Dion people say organizers in the riding have made a series of bizarre, counterproductive moves.

"There’s one of two options," said one source close to Mr. Dion. "There’s some folks there who are either grossly incompetent or intentionally malicious."

Only a mindless fool, with no foresight, would actually sabotage this by-election, effectively introducing a new player into the province and undermining the Liberal Party in such a fundamental way. These "loyalists" offer pathetic rationalization for potential failure, and if the claims are true, the conclusions actually reflect poorly on Dion. The leader of the Liberal Party has no control over the organization, in a by-election, with his hand-picked candidate? Things are far worse than the press speculates, if the above accusations are true. Did Iggy's minions prevent Dion from campaigning in the riding weeks ago?

The more people bellyache about undermining, the more they actually articulate weak leadership. Iggy made us lose in Outremont is hardly a positive statement on who's really in charge. If there are people who aren't "inspired" by Dion, and don't put out full effort, then that is a failure, not a conspiracy.


As an aside, I'm not sold on the idea that the Liberals will lose this by-election, far from it, more a commentary on the signals and situation, as it stands. Others have articulated all the mechanisms in play, which make definitive predictions impossible.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Nightmare Scenario

You can't spin these results, the word "devastating" comes to mind, for the Liberals at least:

NDP 38%
Libs 32%
Bloc 14%


Bloc 49%
Cons 32%
NDP 7%
Libs 5%


Cons 43%
Bloc 37%
Lib 12%
NDP 4%

Outremont aside, the fourth place, paltry 5% in Saint-Hy speaks to basic extermination with francophones for the Liberals. Hard to find anything positive in these numbers for the Liberals, really hard.

If, and this is still a big if, these numbers come down like the above, then Dion and the Liberals suffer a huge blow, that isn't easily discounted. A possible Conservative victory provides plenty to crow about, and the NDP would be beyond ecstatic to win in a former Liberal stronghold. The Liberals would be left to damage control, as the realization that the last bastion of support is threatened and Dion looks an albatross.

You don't want to sound alarmist, but neither should anyone rationalize away the fundamental problems. The above is the worst-case scenario for the Liberals, a nightmare that will haunt the party moving forward. Should be a fascinating night, that looks a watershed.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Shell Game

It would almost be funny, if the issue wasn't so serious. The PMO deferring questions to the department, despite the fact we all know the department gets its marching orders from the PMO. Pass the potato:
The Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, an initiative launched by U.S. President George W. Bush last year, meets in Vienna on Sunday and Canada's participation – or lack thereof – remained a closely guarded secret Thursday.

A spokeswoman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper referred questions about the nuclear group to Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier's staff.

And with only three days before the event, a spokeswoman for Bernier said no decision had been made.

"We are fully assessing possible future implications prior to making any decision on joining the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership," said Isabelle Fontaine, the minister's director of communications.

Queries to Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn, who has responsibility for nuclear issues, went unanswered Thursday.

The silence speaks volumes- are we really to believe two days before the meeting that no decisions have been made? So, our "partners" are just waiting idly by, wondering if Canada will attend? Is this a party?

I'm with Cullen:
The continuing silence means only one thing to New Democrat MP Nathan Cullen: the decision to take part has already been made.

"These guys are in this negotiation and they're terrified to bring this back to the Canadian people because they will be slapped silly," he said.

The really disturbing part, Harper claims to be a "leader", who holds strong views and isn't afraid to take a stand. Contrast that rhetoric, with government officials scurrying like frightened rats, no dialogue whatsoever and a clandestine negotiation under the cover of darkness. How courageous, or cowardly, depending on your point of view.

"Canada Is Back"

Another proud day for Canadians, with further evidence to support the “Canada Is Back” claim of Stephen Harper:
Canada has voted with three other countries against a United Nations declaration on aboriginal rights.
The non-binding declaration passed 143-4 in Thursday's vote in the UN's General Assembly. Australia, New Zealand and the United States also voted against the declaration, with 11 countries abstaining.

Not even the symbolism of abstaining to recoginize the spirit, if not the final text. Nope, right in lockstep with Bush and Howard. Dion hits the nail on the head:
"By opposing this declaration the Conservative government has signalled to Aboriginal Canadians that their rights aren't worth defending," Liberal leader Stephane Dion said in a statement. "The government has also dramatically weakened the leadership role Canada has long enjoyed in the global human rights movement."

Dion’s criticism echoes what we have heard from delegations, who often view Canada as a leader on human rights. The damage to our credibility will go largely unseen, but it is real and Canada's future leverage is minimized.

Can someone point to one area where the Harper government has distinguished itself on the international stage (verbal gymnastics aside)? We hear all the rhetoric about Canada’s new role in foreign affairs, but apart from the Liberals commitment in Afghanistan, all the government seems to do is side with the other deadbeat countries, on any particular issue. We seem pretty adept at “undermining”, but no evidence of accomplishment. Another disappointing day, in what is beginning to look like a consistent trend.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Big Brother

Here's a slippery slope if I every heard one:
Privacy watchdogs are crying foul over an attempt by the Public Safety Canada to come up with legislation that will force telecommunications providers to cough up personal information about their clients to authorities...

Due to a current lack of legislation, the document states, some telecommunications companies choose to provide customer information to police when it is requested, while others demand a court order before releasing any information at all.

The Public Safety Department hopes to establish new legislation to ensure police are granted the information on demand.

Funny thing about a court order, it ensures reasonable grounds and accountability. What exactly is wrong with the current system?:
the government hopes to gain access to customers' names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, IP addresses and cellphone data...

But Geist said the current system is working fine, and there's no evidence that police actually need greater access to such information without having to go through the courts to get it.

"We've been living in an online environment for a number of years, close to a decade, and there's been scant evidence to suggest the current system, whereby law enforcement does have to obtain in most instances a court order, has really created any problems from an investigative perspective."

Philippa Lawson, of the Canadian Internet Public Policy Interest Centre, agrees the status quo is serving police well.

"We know from history that the more powers you give law enforcement agencies and the government, the most potential there is for abuse," she said.

Geist said that a customer's name and address can serve as a "lynchpin" for other personal data. For example, if police can link an IP address to a specific person, they suddenly gain the ability to track their activity on the Internet.

"From an individual Canadian's perspective, their privacy and their concerns about how that information could be used and conceivably misused, suggests that it's important to ensure we do have some oversights in place," Geist said.

There are already mechanisms in place to allow access, what exactly is the justification in opening the door for abuse of personal freedoms? I guess Day doesn't want those "activist judges" getting in the way of seamless impunity. Scary stuff, and who exactly decides the parameters for what justifies "tracking" someone online?

More here and here.