Friday, February 29, 2008

Conservatives Question Cadman Audio

The Conservatives are questioning the authenticity of the Harper audio tape(thanks kris). Here is the bizarre press release, courtesy of CTV:
"the audio clip in question, while simultaneously monitoring the wave form, there are two noticeable audio and visual inconsistencies. This is exhibited in the voice pattern and background noise dropping by several decibels at first and than a background noise jumping up several decibels, for no identifable reasoning for the timeframe of two seconds"

I'm not going to get into the validity of the technical questions, one because I can't, and two, this is clearly a sideshow. What is relevant here, the fact that the Tories felt it necessary to have the tape analyzed in the first place, with such speed.

In attempting to discredit the tape, is that not an indirect admission that the contents are damaging? If this tape is really benign, Harper fails to implicate or acknowledge any wrong doing, then why go to such extremes to question the tape itself? This smells of a desperate attempt to cast some doubt, cloud the issue, distract, a disinformation campaign. In going to these lengths, the Conservatives actually lend credence to the view that this tape is toxic for Harper.


Another release from the Conservatives. Apparently, if you play the tape backwards, it repeats the words "Stephane Dion is not a leader, not worth the risk" over and over. More, as becomes available...

Harper Implicates Himself

Reading the transcript of Harper's interview (h/t Buckdog) with Zytaruk, is there any doubt? This is not a he said/she said proposition, this is not a "fishing expedition", this is not a case where Harper's role in unclear. What we have, with this interview is the smoking gun:

Zytaruk: "I mean, there was an insurance policy for a million dollars. Do you know anything about that?"

Harper: "I don't know the details. I know that there were discussions, uh, this is not for publication?"

Zytaruk: "This (inaudible) for the book. Not for the newspaper. This is for the book."

Harper: "Um, I don't know the details. I can tell you that I had told the individuals, I mean, they wanted to do it. But I told them they were wasting their time. I said Chuck had made up his mind, he was going to vote with the Liberals and I knew why and I respected the decision. But they were just, they were convinced there was, there were financial issues. There may or may not have been, but I said that's not, you know, I mean, I, that's not going to change."

Zytaruk: "You said (inaudible) beforehand and stuff? It wasn't even a party guy, or maybe some friends, if it was people actually in the party?"

Harper: "No, no, they were legitimately representing the party. I said don't press him. I mean, you have this theory that it's, you know, financial insecurity and, you know, just, you know, if that's what you're saying, make that case but don't press it. I don't think, my view was, my view had been for two or three weeks preceding it, was that Chuck was not going to force an election. I just, we had all kinds of our guys were calling him, and trying to persuade him, I mean, but I just had concluded that's where he stood and respected that."

Where is the grey area here? Zytaruk asks Harper a DIRECT question about the insurance policy. Harper answers that question with a DIRECT response. Harper doesn't say "what are you talking about?", or "I never heard about that", no, Harper says he doesn't know the details. Harper doesn't admit knowledge of the details, but he clearly admits knowledge of an insurance policy offer. Harper admits that there were discussions about an insurance policy.

If someone approaches you, and asks you a question, about an issue that you have no knowledge, how do your react? Do you just accept the accusation or do you question the premise of the question? Harper's only concern, whether or not his response is on the record, which tells us he was immediately concerned about the nature of the question, and yet he accepts the content of the question. You are either completely devoid of common sense, or a rabid, drooling partisan to not see the obvious here- Harper distanced himself from the detail within the proposal, but he clearly accepted the detail in the question. Here is a normal reaction:
Zytaruk: "I mean, there was an insurance policy for a million dollars. Do you know anything about that?"

Harper 1: "An insurance policy, I know of no such thing"

Harper 2: "Where did you get that information, as far as I know that is completely false"

Harper 3: "That is ridiculous, I have no knowledge whatsoever of any insurance offer"

Harper: "I don't know the details. I know that there were discussions, uh, this is not for publication?"

I'm willing to bet the RCMP finds the last response quite curious.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Dona Cadman Interview

A CTV reporter conducted a phone interview with Dona Cadman today. Here is the transcript of that interview:
Reporter: "Okay, can I ask you, because it's going to be in this book that is coming up. Can I ask you what you husband told you before that critical vote?"

Cadman: "Just that two gentlemen have visited him, offered him a 1 million dollar life insurance policy and a few other things.

Reporter: "A few other things?"

Cadman: "Well, one was being welcomed back into the Conservative Party"

Reporter: "Were you surprised by that story?"

Cadman: "No, not really. It was something that any party would have done.

Reporter: "And, what did he say to them, when they made him this offer?"

Cadman: "Oh, he was angry"

Reporter: "And, he told you about it that night?"

Cadman: "Um hmm, when he can home"

Reporter: "Did he every show you any documents when he came home?"

Cadman: "No. There were papers shown to him but they were taken with them."

Reporter: "I guess I'm's such an interesting story in that your husband had cancer and he was offered a million dollar life insurance policy. How could that even work?"

Cadman: "Ya, I don't know"

Reporter: "Can I also ask you, you're running for the Tories now, does this put you in an awkward situation in terms of the party and the allegation?"

Cadman: "A little yes"

Reporter: "Have you spoken with the Prime Minister?"

Cadman: "I spoke with his office today"

Reporter: "And, what was said, if you don't mind me asking?"

Cadman: "Umm... just that they were going to release a press release."

Reporter: "Do you denouce what was offered to your husband, you said earlier you understood?"

Cadman: "Ya, I do"

Reporter: "How angry does it make you, or does it?"

Cadman: "Not as much as it did before"

Reporter: "Why is that?"

Cadman: "Time has passed"

Reporter: "Would you consider it a bribe then?"

Long pause

Cadman: "Umm...yes in a way umm huh"

Reporter: "How much regret to have telling this story, now that you are running for the Tories?"

Cadman: "None"

Reporter: "And, would it be okay to discuss this with you on camera?"

Cadman: "No"

Reporter: "And, why is that?"

Cadman: "I just don't feel comfortable with it. I don't mind talking over the phone, but not on camera".

You could tell she was choosing her words quite carefully, particularly when asked about speaking with the Prime Minister. Cadman reaffirms the idea that this was a bribe and she stands by her story in the book.

Duffy interviewed the author of the book today, and Duffy presented his clip, discussing with Cadman what was offered. When asked to explain the discrepancy between what Duffy was told, and what Zytaruk wrote, Zytaruk stated the obvious- sometimes people tell their wives things they wouldn't share with reporters. Oh the horror Duff...

Why Do The Conservatives Allow Liars To Run For Office?

You can't have it both ways here, and I think Ignatieff nailed it during Question Period. The Conservatives response, their only response in fact, was that Chuck Cadman publicly rejected, in a CTV interview, that any bribe was offered for his vote. The Prime Minister went so far as to demand an apology from the Liberals, for sullying a dead man. Ignatieff then asked how it is that the Conservatives can run a candidate in Surrey North that is lying?

If the Conservatives are suggesting that this story is fabrication, it never happened, then they have a candidate in Surrey that tends to "misspeak". How can you run for the federal Conservatives when the leader of your party says you are a liar? Will the Conservatives force Cadman to step aside, to demonstrate to Canadians that lying isn't acceptable for their candidates?

This story has more legs than a centipede.

Conservative Television?

Bob Fife of CTV is a Conservative apologist under normal circumstances, but his reaction today to the life insurance bribe story reveals his pre-disposition in spades. I would really recommend a viewing of his comments today, because his posture is obnoxious, he embarrasses CTV as a impartial journalistic entity.

There were two people in the room, besides the Conservative operatives. One was Mr. Cadman, the other was his assistant Dan Wallace (nobody disputes this fact). Mrs. Cadman relays what happened, based on what her husband had said. Now, a journalist would look for confirmation, see if Mr. Wallace can collaborate these outlandish accusations. When asked, this was Mr. Wallace's response:
"I believe Dona Cadman as the day is long. She has no interest in fabricating anything"

The second source says you should take Dona Cadman at her word, there is no interest in lying. No clarification, no "I don't recall" any offer, no denial that it happened. All Wallace did was "recoil" at first, when questioned, then he offered support for Dona Cadman. There is no stretch in logic to say that the man in the room at the time confirms Dona Cadman's story.

Maybe Bob Fife could do his job today, instead of wondering aloud about the practicalities of a terminally ill man securing life insurance. The only question relevant, is not whether it was feasible to do so, but was that offer made, by overly zealous Conservative operatives, desperate to get Cadman on side? Fife was embarrassing today, so overt in his personal attempt to kill a story, which he himself hasn't bothered to confirm or dispute, just lazy armchair analysis, which speaks to a disturbing bias.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Offering a terminally ill man a 1 million dollar life insurance plan, to secure a vote in parliament. Just vile:
The widow of former B.C. MP Chuck Cadman says two Conservative Party officials offered her husband a million-dollar life insurance policy in exchange for his vote to bring down the Liberal government in May of 2005.

“The Tories actually walked in with a list of offers written down on a piece of paper. Included in their proposal was a $1-million life insurance policy – no small carrot for a man with advanced cancer,” the book states.

Dona Cadman, who is now running for the Conservatives in the Vancouver-area riding of Surrey North, was not in the office at the time. But she says her husband was furious when he returned to their apartment. “Chuck was really insulted,” she said in a telephone interview with The Globe Wednesday. “He was quite mad about it, thinking they could bribe him with that.”

Harper, the control freak, is of course oblivious, even though he admits the meeting was discussed, as well as the financial angle:
“They were legitimately representing the party,” Mr. Harper confirmed. “I said ‘Don't press him, I mean, you have this theory that it's, you know, financial insecurity, and you know, just, you know, if that's what you say make the case,' but I said ‘Don't press it.'.”

I'm not sure how anyone could defend this sort of tactic, it really is unbelievably crass.

Ignatieff, An Election "Hawk"?

We already know the Liberal leader wants an election, now it would appear the deputy leader also wants to go to the polls. What's the holdup then?:
An insider says the meeting lasted almost three hours, during which Mr. Dion and House Leader Ralph Goodale exchanged strong words with Liberal Senate Leader Céline Hervieux-Payette.

About 15 people attended and they were divided on whether the caucus should defeat the government. Insiders say that Deputy Leader Michael Ignatieff made a "passionate plea" for the Liberals to trigger an election.

Mr. Ignatieff is on the "hawk" side of the caucus. Many of his supporters want to go to the polls now so as not to be seen continually supporting the Tory economic agenda.

But he was shot down, most significantly by national campaign co-chair David Smith, a veteran organizer and senator from Ontario. Mr. Smith said simply that the party wasn't ready to mount a national campaign, one insider said.

Again, how can you not be "ready", given the inherent volatility of a minority parliament, not to mention this is the third year of said situation? I tend to agree with this harsh position:
"It's a mess," said one MP about the state of play in the caucus over triggering the government's defeat. Some MPs believe that if the campaign team is not ready, after being put on notice as far back as the fall, then the leader should fire them all.

There is simply no excuse to not be ready at this stage, and if the Liberals aren't than there is clearly an issue of competence. If the situation is so dire presently, no one can reasonably expect anything to improve in the next few weeks or months, which translates to a toothless Liberal Party heading into the fall. Maybe it's time to face reality here, do some major house cleaning, some sober second analysis and just accept the fact that October 2009 is the only timetable. How can anyone have confidence in this campaign team, when they can't even get the fundamentals prepared to fight an election in the first place?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Breaking: Harper Wins Majority

The Liberals face some hard decisions moving forward. Do they abstain on the budget, vote with the government or have some vote against, while others come down with the flu? Such is life when a minority government has the latitude to act like a majority.

Not sure if the Liberals want to abstain again, I mean it's been done before, nobody wants to be predictable. If the Liberals vote with the government, well the optics of that are ugly. It is winter, so a nasty flu, that renders most of caucus immobile does have a certain credible appeal. I vote for the last option, now for the application.

Tomorrow in question period, Dion should get up to ask his first question, then in mid-sentence throw in a husky sneeze, enough to get attention, nothing to overt. At the same time, make sure that a couple Liberal MP's sitting behind Dion, within camera frame, are holding a hanky, maybe a packet of Neo Citran clearly visible on their desk. After Dion is done with his questions, then Ignatieff rises, but much to everyone's surprise his voice is raspy, denoting weakness. What everyone doesn't know, the night prior Liberal strategists gave Iggy two packs of filterless Pall Malls and a mickey of Southern Comfort. Terrific theater.

Lay the foundation, then the next day have someone in the Leader of the Opposition's office (no not Layton) release a press release saying Dion is spewing fluid from every orifice, many in the caucus are falling ill. When the votes come, the Liberal benches are empty, except for Goodale and a few others, who later brag to the press scrum about the importance of regular flu shots. Perfect, the Liberals were prepared to vote against this "mile wide, inch deep" budget, but they were stifled by forces outside of their control. If Layton or Duceppe calls the Liberals "weak" they look harsh, Canadians understand aches and chills. I smell a winner people.

Good On The Liberals

It's good to hear the Liberals aren't prepared to give the Conservatives a blank check on the Afghanistan mission. There are still some questions that need to be resolved, particularly better clarification of our role moving forward and some justifications for the Manley recommendations:
But deputy Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff delivered a stern ultimatum to the government less than two hours later, clarifying the Liberal position.

"If the government does not accept a clear focus on training and reconstruction, if they believe that they can sneak past Parliament a motion that continues the existing mission ... I am afraid that they will have difficulty securing the Canadian consensus that this party is seeking," Ignatieff said in the House of Commons.

You need to have some clarification on priorities, because as it stands now, the motion leaves too much control in the hands of the Conservatives. Given the government's previous preference for the status quo, it is imperative that the Liberals secure clear language on expenditure for training and re-construction.

I was also pleased to see that Dion isn't accepting the "1000 additional troops" at face value, that the Liberals would like the government to clarify the descrepancy between this recommendation and what commanders feel is necessary:
Dion said the government must still explain:

The need for just 1,000 additional soldiers when some commanders say 5,000 or even 10,000 more troops are needed.

This demand represents the first time anyone has really challenged this arbitrary number, it is a critical point. If, the troop increase recommended by Manley is woefully inadequate, as suggested by military officials, then the question then becomes, is this new formula simply a recipe for failure? It is incumbent on the government to explain how this recommendation adequately addresses the security challenges. If this dialogue reveals a fatal flaw moving forward, then the Liberals may need to reconsider their support, until this central argument is addressed.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Conservatives Reject "One Of Canada's Best Economists"

Remember last year, when John Baird appeared before the Senate, armed with a scathing report that projected economic ruin should Canada implement Kyoto? Remember which economist the government hired to make the case? This is what the Conservatives where saying about economist Mark Jaccard at the time:
John Baird called Jaccard “one of Canada’s best economists outside of government” and by his parliamentary secretary as a “well-respected expert on environmental issues.”

When Jaccard agreed with the Conservatives, he was lauded, Baird quoted his conclusions often in hearings. The bright light has now become a dull bulb:
The Harper government has rejected a new report that calls for the introduction of a levy on pollution to be coupled with a 50% income tax break for the average Canadian.

The report, released on Monday by environmentalist David Suzuki and economist Mark Jaccard who heads a consulting firm that conducted the study, suggests that a levy on greenhouse gas emissions -- also called a carbon tax -- could be phased in, generating between $53-billion to $103.1-billion in new revenues without increasing the tax burden of the population.

One of the sharpest analogies I've heard, that completely nails the simple logic:
"While most Canadians have to pay about $90 a tonne to dump waste at their local municipal landfill, anyone can dump thousands of tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere absolutely free of charge," said the report. "The bottom line: we must stop using our atmosphere as a free dumping ground."

That Mark Jaccard, he used to be such a economic sage, now he's all washed up, pretty much clueless.

Clinton, Polls, Sarcasm

Clinton seems to have stopped the bleeding in Ohio, maintaining a healthy lead, as the rhetoric sharpens:
Hillary Clinton holds a clear lead over rival Barack Obama in Ohio according to three new polls out Monday, though the Illinois senator is gaining ground in the crucial March 4 primary state.

New surveys conducted by Quinnipiac University, the University of Cincinnati, and the American Research Group all show Clinton with roughly a 10 point lead over Obama, with eight days to go until Ohioans head to the polls.

In the Quinnipiac University poll, Clinton leads Obama by 11 points (51- 40 percent). She holds an 8 point lead in the University of Cincinnati poll (47 percent to 39 percent), and a 10 point lead in the American Research Group poll (49 - 39 percent).

Clinton did enjoy a bigger lead a couple weeks ago, but the trends have flattened since, Obama stalled.

Some biting sarcasm:


The first Texas poll, to show Obama in the lead:
In the CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey released Monday, 50 percent of likely Democratic primary voters said Obama is their choice for the party's nominee, while 46 percent backed Clinton.

But taking into account the poll's sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points for Democratic respondents, the race is a virtual tie.

Clinton had a statistically insignificant 50 percent to 48 percent edge over Obama in last Monday's CNN/ORC poll in Texas.

"The 2-point gain for Obama and the 4-point drop for Clinton are both within the poll's sampling error, so although the survey appears to indicate some movement toward Obama, we cannot say for certain that he has gained any ground since last week," said CNN polling director Keating Holland.

What Do The Liberals Want?

It's actually kind of pathetic when you think about it. We know where the NDP stands, we know where the Bloc stands, both have laid down lines in the sand as far as the budget is concerned. A minority government needs the support of another party to pass its budget, this fact guarantees that said party can demand certain concessions for their support. Within this reality, isn't just astounding that all we have heard from the Liberals on the budget is this "if it isn't too bad, we might support it" line.

Is the party in such disarray, that it has forgotten its role as official opposition, that it enjoys leverage? Why haven't the Liberals demanded that the budget confront certain issues, to secure their support? It seems to me, that if you there is a chance of voting against the budget, forcing an election, you would want some clear demands to demonstrate your reasonings. If you are trying to avoid an election, shouldn't you be working for some "consensus" on the budget, engaging the government to curry your favor?

I find it amazing that the Liberals enter the Parliament tomorrow with no specifics in mind, just a calibration of how hard they are prepared to swallow. If the budget is "not too bad", doesn't damage Canada too much, then the Liberals will possibly support. What nonsense. There is really only one question, is the budget good for Canada or not? And, if you can't make that stark determination, then the next question, does the budget move towards some of our positions? What exactly are the Liberal positions, why hasn't the leadership released a set of pre-conditions for support? Why are the Liberals so passive that they essentially allow Harper to act within a quasi-majority frame, the only caveat, just don't be too outlandish, mitigate the harm.

What do the Liberals want from this budget? I haven't a clue.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Nanos Poll

A new Nanos Poll, which comes just a couple weeks since his last offering. The striking parts of the poll, a national deadheat, with the Liberals well ahead in Ontario, the NDP withering:

A new Nanos Research-Sun Media poll shows the two main parties each with 34% of support from committed voters. Both have made slight gains since early February -- at the expense of the New Democrats.

Support for the Bloc Quebecois and the Greens remained stable through the month.

"We have a dead heat," said pollster Nik Nanos. "If an election were precipitated as a result of the budget, it's really anybody's game."

Nanos poll released February 4 had it:

Cons 31
Libs 34
NDP 19
Greens 8

Conservatives up 3, Liberals up 1, NDP down 5, Greens no change.

Part of the reason for the NDP's apparent decline, which we have seen elsewhere, might have something to do with the Afghanistan debate. The NDP has been largely marginalized in the media coverage, as people focus on the two main party positions. I think it fair to say the NDP has been relegated to the sidelines on this issue, really not part of the process moving forward. I'm not suggesting that the NDP won't have an argument in an election campaign, but during this exercise, clearly in the shadows.

Many of the other polls have shown a tightening in Ontario, or an outright Conservative lead. Nanos offers a completely different finding, in fact the Liberals have extended their lead:
Liberals 46%(+3 Feb 4 poll)
Conservatives 31%(unchanged)
NDP 14(-5)
Greens 9(+2)

Interesting dynamic in Ontario, the NDP drops considerably, which would appear to benefit the Liberals and Greens. Nationally, there is no co-relation, the NDP drop isn't accompanied by a Liberal rise, in fact it is the Conservatives that are up.

I honestly don't know what to say about these Ontario numbers. If Nanos is correct, then the Liberals are positioned to gain considerably in Ontario. I know Nanos is the "guru", and I generally trust his results, but I'm reacting with some suspicion to these Ontario numbers, the gap just seems too wide to be believable. My gut tells me Ontario is closer than this poll suggests, but who I am to question the soothsayer.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Best Spin Ever?

Take a rival party leader, one that you are on record criticizing, then place him in a position that could possibly foreshadow your own party leader's future, spin it to lay the groundwork why a leader deserves two elections. The mind boggles:
So John Tory got 66.8% of the vote.

If I were an Ontario Tory, I would say that he has more than enough support to remain leader.

As an Ontario Liberal, I say thank God. Of course, who knows if that's my honest opinion?


Actually, I'd rather be honest before Tory announces his plans. I think it's crazy to switch leaders after one election, unless the person proves to be completely incompetent like Stockwell Day. John Tory made a lot of mistakes, but he deserves another chance as long as he is willing to change his closest advisors.

Goodness me.

Clinton Ups The Ante

Probably the most scathing attack of the campaign:

visibly angry Sen. Hillary Clinton lashed out Saturday at Sen. Barack Obama over campaign literature that she said he knows is "blatantly false."

Sen. Hillary Clinton waves campaign literature she says is false. Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland is behind her.

Clinton jabbed the air with her hands as she told a crowd in Cincinnati, Ohio, that two Obama mailings spread lies about her positions on universal health care and the North American Free Trade Agreement.

"Shame on you, Barack Obama," she said.

Here's the clip:


Manley's Conclusions Questioned

One item I've always been curious about, with regard to the Manley panel recommendations, how did they come up with the 1000 extra troops argument? You assume, that this figure came after detailed consultation with the military, as to what was needed to ensure "success". If you actually read the report, there is really no substantive reference to support this demand, it is presented in such a way that you just assume the number is a careful conclusion.

Today, we learn that people in the military, those in the know, don't believe 1000 extra troops is sufficient. This admission brings into question the Manley panel reasoning, was the figure agreed upon because it was palatable to "sell" to Canadians, or was it really a sober analysis of what was truly needed?

According to the military, we need more troops than Manley recommends:
Canada needs as many as 5,000 professional NATO soldiers — double its current force — to hold Kandahar's key districts, a senior commander says, suggesting that previous demands for extra troops are not enough for basic security in the province...

Military officials have spoken more bluntly about their lack of numbers recently, in private conversations and even publicly at meetings with Afghans.

Even more than 5,000 NATO troops may be required for the province, Major Moffet said, because beyond the troops needed for the core districts, NATO would also require forces to intercept the Taliban's supply routes in outlying areas.

Moffet basically argues that 1000 additional troops will not achieve what we in Canada are lead to believe, because of Manley's conclusions. Everyone has embraced what Manley has offered, but there has really been little in the way of critical analysis, it is just assumed. In other words, is Manley presenting false expectation, are the conclusions masking a bigger problem, trying to find a political solution in the short term? Did Manley come up with the 1000 troops because they concluded that the number was attainable within NATO, a benchmark that we could reach, therefore ensuring broader support?

We've already seen that when Canadians are presented with the idea of these additional troops, support for the war rising considerably, if we could secure that recommendation. Canadians are apparently buying into the Manley demand, because we are taking this recommendation at face value, we assume that this number is vetted, this number will improve the situation. If you listen to the military, it would appear this number is not a conclusion, reached through their advice, it is insufficient. A critical point, because we move forward with benchmarks which are put into question, by those in the know, while we all assume a false goal has been reached.

Before we agree on a final Afghan "compromise", I think it is up to the Liberals to ask some tough questions on the methodology to come up with these 1000 troops. What was the panel's basis for this figure, can they provide sound military opinion to support the idea this is what is required? It seems this part of the story is getting lost, it is critical to resolve it, and allow everyone to move forward with eyes wide open, instead of some false expectation, that doesn't address the core problem. If we need to double our troop strength, or more, then decisions should be based on this reality, instead of presenting something which is based on political achieveability.

Friday, February 22, 2008

St. Ralph Prepares To Screw Dems Again?

St. Ralph preparing another presidential run to quench his monstrous ego? There once was a time I had high regard for Nader, now not so much:
Ralph Nader could be poised for another third party presidential campaign.

Nader's appearance on "Meet the Press" was announced Friday in an e-mail message from Nader's exploratory campaign. The message from "The Nader Team" urges supporters to tell friends and family to watch the show and requests online contributions.

"As you know, we've been exploring the possibilities in recent weeks," the message says.

In 2004, Nader had little impact, primarily because he was unable to get on many state ballots, should he choose to run this time, expect a full 50 state candidacy. What is the point of a marginal campaign, which primarily uses the platform to criticize the Dems, erode some support, in states that are razor close? When you peel the onion, all that is left is vanity.


Another poll today, which now means we have recent polls from all five of the usual suspects. I thought it would be interesting to take the Nanos, Strategic Counsel, Decima, Angus Ried and Ipsos offering and average out the results. Here are the national averages, and the Ontario averages, since that province seems to show the widest gaps:
National Average:

Cons 35
Libs 30.6
NDP 14.8
Greens 9.4

Ontario Average:

Libs 38.2
Cons 36.8
NDP 13.8
Greens 10.4

The national average almost mirrors the election night results, apart from erosion for the NDP. The Ontario numbers pretty much convey a deadheat, the NDP well down, the Greens respectable.

I know it is pretty unscientific to average out different poll results, but it might help balance out the implications of one particular poll.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Common Trends

Two different polls, two very different overall results. However, there are some common themes in the Decima and Strategic Counsel offerings, which represent good news for the Conservatives, bad trends for the Liberals, depressing results for the NDP.

Looking at Decima's latest first, it seems to contradict the SC poll, with the following:
The Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey put the Tories at 35 per cent and the Liberals at 33 per cent, a statistical tie given the poll’s 3.1-percentage-point margin of error.

Both parties remain well short of capturing majority support and neither appears to have strong momentum.

Support for the NDP and Green party slipped slightly to 13 per cent and nine per cent respectively.

On the face of it, nothing particularly bad for the opposition, until you compare these results with Decima's previous poll. That poll, done three weeks ago, showed the following:
the Liberals stand at 32% compared to 29% for the Conservatives, 16% for the NDP, 12% for the Green Party and 9% for the BQ.

The trend is clear, movement for the Conservatives, a full 6% increase. The NDP falling into official party status terrority.

The real troubling news for the Liberals, the Conservatives have rallied in Ontario:
The poll also found some modest good news for the Tories in vote-rich Ontario, where they climbed into a tie with the Liberals at 40 per cent. The NDP were at 11 per cent and the Greens at eight per cent.

Decima three weeks ago:
latest results show the Liberals with 44%, compared to the Conservatives 30%, the NDP 15%, and the Green Party 10%.

Decima shows the Conservatives gaining nationally, particularly in Ontario.

When you look at the Strategic Counsel poll, you have to be concerned by the fact that the 12 point spread is the largest recorded by this outfit since the last election. We can debate the accuracy, but the trends are similar to Decima, which gives some validity:
Conservatives the first choice of 39 per cent of Canadians, 12 points ahead of Stéphane Dion's Liberals, at 27 per cent. NDP and Greens tied at 12%

If you look at the last two SC polls, you see solid upward movement for the Conservatives, Liberals basically stagnant, erosion for the NDP. In terms of trending, basically the same as Decima.

Strategic Counsel also finds the same worrying trend in Ontario:
Some of the poll's key findings are in Ontario, where 42 per cent pick the Conservatives, an increase of 7 per cent from 2006 and of 5 per cent from last month. The Grits are down six points from the last election to 34.

In the span of a few weeks we see the Conservative move from 2 down to the Liberals, to a full 8 ahead. Comparing that finding with Decima, we saw a 14 point lead for the Liberals three weeks ago evaporate into a deadheat. Both polls convey the same trend, both show real erosion for the Liberals in Ontario, a big uptick for the Conservatives, the NDP wallowing(actually fourth in Ontario).

For the first time I can remember, a polling outfit other than Ipsos, has the Tories ahead or tied in Ontario. Given the fact we now have three polls, all telling basically the same story, I tend to believe these results, and they represent real trouble for the Liberals, very encouraging news for the Conservatives, the NDP bordering on irrelevant.

Ontario was the Liberal firewall, in fact the older polls that showed a national tie, actually pointed to a Liberal minority, once you factored in the Ontario numbers. Everything changes with these results, if taken at face value, the prospect of a Conservative majority seems possible.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


I'm pretty much ready to conclude that the Conservatives attacks on the Liberals spending plans have failed miserably. A combination of easy retort, which actually allows for a positive reminder of past deeds, as well as a media frame which is mostly suspicious, if not entirely dismissive. I would describe this piece in the left-leaning National Post as indicative of the reception:
Terence Corcoran, Financial Post

To hear the Conservatives tell the story, Liberal Leader Stephane Dion has announced new budget principles that would create a new round of federal deficit spending. The Tory Web site, full of their typical putdowns of Mr. Dion, includes a visual suggesting a Liberal budget would sink Canada into "$62.5-billion in new debt."

It's just partisan gamesmanship. The Tories took a list of Mr. Dion's latest pronouncements on spending and his earlier fiscal comments, added them all together, and came up with a big number. Mr. Dion, and his finance-minister-in-waiting, John McCallum, quickly branded the Tories as thieves and liars, or something like that. Actually, Mr. Dion -- speaking yesterday in Montreal -- used the following phrases against the Tories: deliberate miscalculations, misrepresentations, misinformation, the epitome of desperation, and distortion of the facts.

I'd check the veracity of all this if I weren't already certain the Conservatives had done all of the above, and maybe more.

The Conservatives were too clever for there own good in this instance. A dash of arrogance, mixed with wild exaggeration and dicey math, the whole argument simply reaches to far, it insults the senses. There might be a point to the glossy book, but it gets lost in the bombastic, over the top, rhetoric.

One thing I have noticed, in every interview, in every response, is the confidence with which Liberals defend themselves. It's a stance rarely seen this days, completely dismissive on the one hand, denoting a sense of pride in reminding people of the record on the other. There is actually a "bring it on" posture, almost relishing the chance to point to the Conservatives ridiculous accusations. The best line of all, and one that Canadians can understand, the Liberals understand the challenges of operating with large deficits, the last thing in the world they would endorse is a regiment that would bring us back to that predicament. It is said with sincerity, it highlights a past positive, the Conservative attack brushed off with apparent ease.

These attacks were supposed to put the Liberals on the defensive, introduce the frame that Dion is a reckless spender, "not worth the risk". As this line develops, I would argue the Conservatives have actually presented a gift, an opportunity to point to a positive, which otherwise would have been seen as old news, a nothing reference. It is the Conservatives that increasingly look foolish, the argument is so extreme, it lacks believeability. The Conservative point men keep trying, but it isn't working. In fact if I were a Liberal strategist I would hope the Conservatives maintain the assault, it's actually turning out to be a delicious talking point.

Hey Jim, What About That Other Province?

The Conservatives are once again lambasting Ontario's Liberal government, this time Flaherty criticizes McGuinty's economic policies:
Federal finance minister Jim Flaherty sharply criticized the Ontario government Wednesday for its reluctance to cut business taxes, and what he called a “lack of vision.”

The McGuinty government suffers from a “lack of leadership, a lack of vision and a lack of economic stewardship,” he said in an early morning speech in Toronto to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. The provincial government “fails to understand the long-term benefits of tax relief,” he added.

The business tax burden is putting Ontario manufacturers at a disadvantage, Mr. Flaherty said. It is also driving away new business investment.

Bailing out individual industries “is just the kind of protectionism that hurts trade and kills jobs” he said.

Nevermind the fact of the fiscal disaster Flaherty left for the Liberals, his criticisms are pretty juvenile for the federal government.

If anyone doubts Flaherty is playing politics here, as opposed to genuine criticism, then the answer is found in his omission. Last time I checked, Quebec's taxes where quite high and their manufacturing base was in trouble. Why does Flaherty continually chastize Ontario, while remaining silent on Quebec, which may well be relatively less "visionary"? Shouldn't Flaherty be calling out Charest too? Flaherty might have some credibility, if his comments weren't so obviously political in nature, rather than a genuine attempt to offer a path forward. What an ass.

Obama On A Roll, But...

Last night's impressive win in Wisconsin clearly makes it more likely that Obama will be the Democratic nominee. I listened to most of Obama's "victory" speech after the results came in, as I did that first night when he won in Iowa. What I found curious, and this may be a caution for the campaign, my completely different reaction to the two speeches.

I've already said that I found Obama's Iowa speech to be one of the most inspiring I could remember. Most of the pundit class agreed, saying the speech was memorable and "historic". A great moment that made it seem like a movement had begun, something different was brewing, anything was possible.

Fast forward to Obama's speech in Texas, and I have to admit it all seemed too perfect, too idealistic and repetitive to the point of annoying. Maybe I was feeling a tad cynical, but the constast references to two words "change" and "hope" tended to render the terms meaningless. It was almost this bad:
I hope we can change, because that change is the foundation for hope. We must bring change, we need to change the changes that hopefully bring change"

There is a real danger in constant referencing what amounts to simplistic generalities. The fact I found a stunningly talented orator like Obama decidedly stale after a few minutes I think isn't something unique to myself, I suspect over time these lines will lose impact in a general sense. It almost seemed like Obama is becoming a caricature of himself, too slick by half, almost like the lead in a lofty production.

I don't mean to suggest there is no substance, that criticism is a pretty silly if you listen to the man, scan his policies. However, I did find that the substance took a decided backseat to the linguistic spectacle, the constant hammering of key words which began to ring shallow.

Everyone wants change, everyone wants hope, that isn't a new concept, or particular to a certain time. I think Obama will be successful in the long run, should he begin to realize that his concepts will convey change, speak to hope, without the barrage of overt references, that sometimes tend to cheapen.

In Iowa, I was glued to my set, amazed at what I saw. Last night, I was easily distracted, a tad cynical, feeling that to believe all of this required a certain naivety on my part. If I don't hear the words change and hope for a few weeks, I'm okay with that.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

B.C Leads The Way

Ohhhh, scary, a carbon tax woven within a revenue neutral framework:
As part of the new tax plan, carbon-based fuels — including gasoline, diesel, natural gas and home heating fuel — will be taxed at $10/tonne of greenhouse gases generated, starting July 1, 2008.

That will translate into a new 2.4 ¢/litre tax on gasoline at the pump and 2.8 ¢/litre for home heating fuel.

The carbon tax rate will rise by $5 a year for the next four years, until it hits $30/tonne of greenhouse gas generated in 2012, said Taylor.

The tax will earn the government an estimated $1.85 billion, but Taylor said the plan will be revenue neutral. The government will give all of the money back to taxpayers in the form of tax breaks, she said.

Income tax rates for the first $70,000 earned will be cut by five per cent in 2009, giving B.C. the lowest personal income tax rate in Canada for those earning under $111,000.

The corporations' tax rate will also be cut one per cent to 11 per cent in 2009, and 10 per cent in three years, making B.C.'s corporate tax rates on par with the lowest in Canada.

In total, businesses in B.C. will pay a total tax rate of 25 per cent when federal and provincial taxes are combined, making B.C.'s corporate tax rate 10 per cent lower than the U.S. average, said Taylor.

She also said that in the first year there will be $100 rebate to every adult and child in the province to offset the cost of the carbon tax.

The British Columbia plan provides an incentive for people to cut their own carbon footprint. Under this carrot and stick approach, if you can lower your own emissions, through efficiency or upgrades, you will not be burdened by the carbon tax- you can neutralize the fiscal impact. On the other side, traditional taxes are lowered, which means conservation could translate to a lower overall tax burden. Also, by reducing personal and corporate taxes, there is fiscal room to make improvements, more money available to "upgrade".

The gas guzzling, fuel wasting, leaving the heat up all day while at work, monster home dwelling, environmental parasite, pays through the nose, while the conscientious person who makes an effort sees a reward. Sounds like progress from here, and we now have a concrete provincial plan which nicely contrasts the Conservatives excuses.

Why Aren't You "Ready"?

The Liberals are currently into their own version of Groundhog Day, the exact same script we saw play out last fall. It would appear the "nervous nellies" are winning the day, as Dion softens his election rhetoric:
Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion gave the clearest indication to date Monday that he may let the Harper government's Feb. 26 budget pass instead of voting against it and triggering a federal election.

During a stop in Quebec City Monday, he acknowledged he won't get what he wants in the budget and appeared to lower the bar for what he'd accept, saying he might let it pass if it's “not too harmful” for the economy.

“It won't be a Liberal budget. Unfortunately, the ideas I have put forward won't be in the budget,” Mr. Dion said of the looming fiscal plan.

“But we also have to respect the decision of the voters in 2006,” he said, referring to the Conservative victory in the last federal election.

“Therefore, if it's a budget that appears to us as being acceptable or at least not too harmful for the Canadian economy, we could let it pass and avoid $350-million in [taxpayer] expenses for an election,” the Liberal Leader said.

The old, "we don't want to have an expensive election, paid by the taxpayers" line. Gee, where have I heard that lame rationale before? Why don't we just copy and paste the events of last October?

Greg Weston column today, titled "Dion Signals Retreat", outlining why the Liberals want to avoid an election like the "plague". I find this reasoning curious:
They point out the party is short of money, candidates, organizers, ground workers and planks for a platform.

At this writing, the Liberals can't even find a campaign plane, and Dion's practice sessions for the pivotal televised leaders' debates are described by one party insider as "frightening."

Don't get me wrong, I understand the Liberals have challenges to confront. With that said, it is also inexcusable that a party isn't election ready, given the fragile minority situation, not to mention a full TWO YEARS since the last vote. Makes you wonder if the party will ever be ready.

How can you still be short of candidates? How can you still not have the organization in place? How in the world can you still not have a platform in place? Should I call Air Canada, see if I can line up some transportation, or maybe Dion can bicycle across Canada, highlighting his environmental creds? Wasn't Kennedy put in charge of "election readiness" over a year ago? Given the lack of current prepardness, how can anyone argue that the party will be "ready" come next fall? They won't, if recent history is your guide.

The real fallacy here, Dion needs more time to establish himself, confront the negative stereotypes. Nothing conveys leadership like abstaining from votes, giving your critics powerful ammunition. Those that argue it won't hurt Dion, must also acknowledge the fact it certainly doesn't help either. So, come next fall, expect the same Dion perceptions, treading water, making no progress. Are the Liberals just delaying the inevitable?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Obama Even In Texas

A new Opinion Research poll says that Texas is now a statistical tie. This is the first offering to show Obama even with Clinton, olders polls showed her with anywhere from a 7-16 point advantage. If the numbers shakeout as suggested, an Obama victory, or a "too close to call" finish, this race is essentially over:
A new CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll suggests the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination between Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois is a statistical dead heat in Texas, which holds primaries March 4.

In the survey, out Monday, 50 percent of likely Democratic primary voters support Clinton as their choice for the party's nominee, with 48 percent backing Obama.

Likely Democratic primary voters view Clinton and Obama on roughly equal terms. Seventy-nine percent say they would be satisfied if Clinton were the nominee; an equal number feel the same way about Obama. Seventy-nine percent say it's likely Clinton can win the nomination; 82 percent say the same about Obama.

To be fair, there was also a American Research Poll released that has Obama with a six point advantage in Texas. I usually omit these polls, because from what I've read ARG is a very suspect, very suspicious outfit, so much so, places like RealClearPolitics no longer report their results. ARG also has Clinton up six points in Wisconsin, a result that shows no relationship to any other polling.

I've always assumed that Clinton would win Texas, it seemed a more natural fit than Ohio, a steeper hill for Obama. A lot will depend on what happens tomorrow in Wisconsin. Should Clinton surprise with a very close finish, or possibly a win, that could be enough to tip Texas. However, a solid Obama win and you would have to assume a deadheat leans to Obama, or at the very least assures a virtual tie. That scenario is basically the endgame for Obama, Clinton has to sweep the March 4th states, anything less just isn't enough.

Bush Feels The Love

President Bush is in Tanzania, as part of a week-long visit to Africa. In another sign, that Bush's personal appeal extends around the world, some locals came out to greet the Presidential motorcade:

The world counts the days.

When You Live In A Glass House

How can we take these attacks by the Conservatives seriously? Dion would lead us back to deficit, with his big spending, is akin to an alcoholic giving a lecture on liver health. Let's keep it real here, this government is no position to pontificate about reckless spending, their record is abysmal. So, you can almost laugh at comments such as these:
"Stéphane Dion has a spending problem," Tory Industry Minister Jim Prentice told reporters...

"His disregard for the consequences of his own overspending is more evidence that he is not a leader and not worth the risk," he said.

One reason the Conservatives can even raise the spectre of a return to deficits today is they've tapped the treasury heavily for tax breaks and spending since taking power in 2006.

They've nearly emptied Ottawa's coffers of spare cash by taking about $30-billion worth of annual government revenue and doling it out in tax cuts and spending, including $12-billion in reductions to the goods and services tax.

Speaking of "overspending":
"Flaherty biggest of the big spenders":

Jim Flaherty officially becomes the biggest-spending finance minister in the history of Canada.
It’s true. The $200-billion Mr. Flaherty proposes to spend this year works out to about $5,800 for every citizen. Even after you adjust for increases in prices and population, that’s more than the Martin government spent at its frenetic worst, when it was almost shovelling the stuff out the door. It is more than the Mulroney government spent in its last days, when it was past caring. It is more than the Trudeau government spent in the depths of the early 1980s recession. All of these past benchmarks of over-the-top, out-of-control spending must now be retired. Jim Flaherty has outdone them all.

In two years of this “conservative” government, spending has climbed a historic $25-billion.

Andrew Coyne

"We are certainly overspending," said Nancy Hughes Anthony, president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. "I'm concerned because the level is not sustainable.

Canadian Chamber of Commmerce

"The trend rate of program spending growth will no doubt raise some eyebrows"

TD Economist

"The size and recent growth of federal government spending is startling. All told, the federal government expects program spending to reach $199.6 billion this year (2007/08), an increase of $24.4 billion or nearly 14 per cent from just two years ago. The rate of growth in spending is well beyond what was needed to compensate for inflation and population growth – the spending goal of the Conservative Party proposed during the election. More worrying is that the size of the federal government as a share of the economy is expected to increase from 12.8 per cent of GDP two years ago to an estimated 13.3 per cent of GDP this year."

Fraser Institute

I thought Mercer summed it up nicely:

Maybe I'm being harsh, the Conservatives may well be right about Dion. If there is one thing this gang knows, its big spending, so their expertise shouldn't be discounted. As an aside, if Dion has trouble costing out all these programs, he might want to speak to Flaherty, who has shown in the past he has a great talent for hiding deficits, "cooking the books" if you will.

Hypocrisy knows no bounds, apparently.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Dion Would "Plunge" Canada Into Debt

I'm not sure if anyone formally told you, but the 2008 election campaign began today on Question Period. Jim Prentice arrived in the studio, armed with a glossy booklet that "independently" costed out all of the Liberal promises, and concluded Dion's proposals would translate to 62.5 billion of new debt, in just four years. According to Prentice, this is a conservative estimate, because there are dozens more promises that have yet to be costed out, due to lack of information from the Liberals. The figure could actually grow, once we get the details from the Liberals.

Clearly, the Conservatives plan to paint Dion as a big spending Liberal, themselves the prudent fiscal hawks. Here is what Liberal Finance Minister John McCallum said in response:
"That's a 62.5 billion dollar lie. Interestingly enough they tried to pull the same stunt in the 1993 election and I have the ad here (pulls out ad). They said Chretien would plunge the country into a 100 billion dollar debt in four years. What are the facts, the Liberals inherited a 43 billion dollar Conservative deficit and within four years balanced the books."

In the last two years, government spending has increased by 15% under the Conservatives. Let's do some quick math with the Conservatives unsubstantiated claims. Dion would raise spending by 62.5 billion over four years, around 16.5 billion per year. If we take total government spending, which is estimated to be 240.5 billion this fiscal year, we are left with the following. Under Dion, using the Conservatives obviously biased estimates, spending would increase 6.8% per year. So let's see, Conservatives 15% increase in two years, Dion 13.6% every two years. You don't want to give the Conservative propaganda any validity, but pretty hilarious that you can present the naked numbers to show Dion would actually reign in spending, compared to the Conservative record.

I find it hard to judge the Liberal platform, before it has been released. I also find it hard to believe that the party which demonstrated tremendous fiscal disipline in the past, has now morphed into a reckless spender, that will harm Canada's fiscal position. As a matter of fact, I suspect Canadians may well look with scepticism at the Conservatives outlandish claims. Say what you want, one thing is clear, Canadians never had a problem with the Liberals economic record, while in office.

I'm certain that the Liberals will cost out everything in their platform, which is probably why we have this pre-emptive strike from the Conservatives. Develop the election theme now, force the Liberals to defend a disinformation campaign.

Who Knows?

You have a Democratic contest, wherein every delegate is crucial, the math absolutely critical. I'm starting to wonder if ANYONE actually knows where each candidate stands. Depending on your news source, you get different numbers, whether it be pledged delegates or super-delegates. It makes me wonder, does the Democratic Party know with certainty the delegate count, and if they do, could they please fire off an email to the media, in the interest of clarity. A sampling:
Real Clear Politics:

Obama 1301 delegates (1133 Pledged)

Clinton 1235 delegates (996 Pledged)


Obama 1262 delegates (1102 Pledged

Clinton 1213 delegates (978 Pledged)

Washington Post:

Obama 1280 delegates (1112 Pledged)

Clinton 1218 delegates (979 Pledged)

New York Times:

Obam 1275 delegates (934 Pledged)

Clinton 1220 delegates (892 Pledged)

ABC News:

Obama 1297 delegates

Clinton 1224 delegates

For arguments sake, let's say that Clinton somehow closes the gap, in the coming weeks. The apparent subjectivity in reporting could lead to different storylines, different endgame scenarios. Isn't priority one, getting the numbers right, in a uniform way, to ensure people have an accurate understanding of the landscape? I hate to say it, but I suspect the Democratic National Committee isn't even certain of exact numbers at this point. If the DNC does possess clarity, maybe they could get the word out, so everyone isn't speculating, based on numbers which appear to involve some guesswork.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Harper Safe?

The Globe and Mail outlines the prospects for the various party leaders, in the aftermath of an election. The consensus seems to imply, that as long as Harper retains power, he has little to worry about in terms of his leadership:
If his party failed to achieve a majority in the election toward which Canada seems propelled - if the Conservatives were unable to increase their seat count, or even if they lost a few - politics watchers say Mr. Harper could hang on to his party's top job.

Mr. Harper's leadership will remain unchallenged even if the party does not gain ground "as long as the Conservatives continue to form the government," said Tom Flanagan, a University of Calgary political science professor who is a close friend and former campaign chief of Mr. Harper's.

Harper's biggest asset, he has created an atmosphere where he is clearly the central figure, in a sense he is the Conservative Party (see website). A concerted effort to centralize control, none of the surrogates given much latitude. There is no sense of any heir apparent in the Conservative ranks, Harper has ensured that everything flows from his office, others are left to parrot.

With all that said, I'm still not sure I buy the argument that Harper is safe, should he maintain, or even lose a few seats in the next election. The looming election will be Harper's third as a leader, which means that Canadians know him well, plenty of time to form concrete opinions. Should the Conservatives fail to expand, cling to another fragile minority, it seems reasonable for people to start wondering if Harper is the right person.

The article also mentions Dion, with some caveat that should the Liberals gain more seats, he may hold his position. I'm not buying that for a second, anything less than victory, Dion is quickly removed, there are just too many doubters waiting in the weeds. Conservatives are unanimous in their belief that Dion is an exceptionally weak leader, which should translate into questioning, should Harper fail to capitalize. It's hard to see Harper remain strong, should he not benefit from the perceived advantage over Dion, if he were to lose seats, a fairly negative verdict.

I don't see a scenario where a sitting PM is ousted, but to say Harper would carry on, business as usual, should he fail to gain seats or maintain, seems a simplistic view. I would imagine some frustration, and the beginnings of a whisper campaign to establish a successor. Harper's iron clad hold on the party would be erased, he would lack the authority to squelch any dissent. Three tries, the last against a perceived gift in Dion, and no progress, maybe a minor setback- doesn't sound like the stuff of firm hold from here. Safe, but weakened.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Don Martin To Be Sued?

The other day, Scott sent me an email, with a link to John Wright of Ipsos Reid threatening legal action, if anyone were to question their polling:
CanWest has been running polls by Ipsos-Reid, which have consistently been giving the Conservatives a showing five or six points higher than other pollsters. Ipsos pollster John Wright, who says he's been getting heat on this from bloggers, says there is no bias and anyone who makes such a suggestion will be sued. Other pollsters I talked to aren't suggesting any bias. They just find the discrepancy, as pollster Nik Nanos put it, "strange."

Don Martin today on Politics offered up the latest poll from Ipsos for his employer. Should Mr. Martin retain legal counsel?:

"Our latest poll results. Ipsos Reid Conservative36, Liberal 29, which is sort of the way Ipsos-Reid works, they tend to give the Conservatives more support than others."

Don Martin

Strange isn't it? When the guy who works for the company, that commissions the poll, speaks to Ipsos being an OUTLIER, you know you have little credibility. Nobody is suggesting bias, well maybe Martin, but not myself ;) How about consistently BAD polling, is that okay?


The poll is now online:
The poll, conducted by Ipsos-Reid exclusively for Canwest News Service and Global National, said the Conservatives dropped one point to 36 per cent since the last survey two weeks ago, while Grit support remained at 29 per cent. The NDP slipped one point to 13 per cent and the Green party held steady at 10 per cent

I would describe the Ontario numbers as quite STRANGE, the only pollster to show the Tories ahead, while every other outfit has them down considerably:
In vote-rich Ontario, the two leading parties remain in a statistical tie with the Conservatives at 37 per cent while the Liberals are at 34.

Meanwhile, the NDP slipped another point to 14 per cent in the central province while the Green party rose to 13 per cent of decided voters.


Texas Leans Clinton

Yesterday, I commented that there had yet to be any Texas polls released on the Democratic race. Well, today brings a slew of polls, all of which give Clinton the edge:
Rasmussen 02/14 Clinton 54 Obama 38 Clinton +16.0

InsiderAdvantage 02/14 Clinton 48 Obama 41 Clinton +7.0

TCUL/Hamilton 02/13 Clinton 49 Obama 41 Clinton +8.0

There is also another poll, ahead of Tuesday's Wisconsin primary, that confirms a tight race, Obama 47%, Clinton 42%, 11% Undecided.

The Ohio polls give Clinton a wide lead, if she can stay close in Wisconsin, take Texas and Ohio...well you know.

A Win/Win Proposal

Dion's announcement today, regarding infastructure funding, is a solid proposal that blunts any fiscal criticism. In a sense, Dion's idea represents the best of both worlds politically:
A Liberal government would spend any windfall surpluses beyond $3-billion on fixing Canada's failing infrastructure, Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion promised Friday.

He said the first $3-billion of any surplus would be used to pay down the national debt....

If the Liberals were in government now, Mr. Dion's pledge would mean Ottawa would dole out as much as $7-billion to new infrastructure spending after the books had closed this current fiscal year. A planning surplus of more than $10-billion has already been projected for the year ended March 31, 2008, all of which the Tories have pledged to paying down the debt instead.

I like this proposal for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it offers a distinct contrast with the Conservatives. The Liberals demonstrate fiscal responsibility, acknowledging the primary need to pay down the debt, while pledging to invest in infastructure beyond that. Dion's proposal innoculates the Liberals from any criticisms that they won't be able to fund their promises, because the initiative only kicks in if there is a healthy surplus. Whether or not that surplus materializes in the future is debatable, so in a sense Dion's proposal achieves the political goal of recognizing the need, without a firm commitment to do anything.

It's a pretty basic idea, that Canadians will understand. You pay off your bills first, any remaining money in the bank is put against your mortgage and then if there is still more, you do some maintenance or renovations. Simple, concise, and best of all, immune from Conservative criticisms that your promises are fiscally irresponsible.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Rumors Of Clinton's Demise Exaggerated?

Don't get me wrong, I've argued that Obama is a good bet to win the nomination. However, I'm not quite ready to say Obama is a lock, Clinton is clearly finished. There are a few encouraging signs for Hillary, that at least dampen the euphoria. I guess what I'm saying, Clinton still has a chance, a pulse.

Tuesday's primary in Wisconsin is the last big contest before the Ohio and Texas primaries, primaries that even longtime Clinton strategist Carville calls "do or die". Wisconsin is actually looking very competitive, and the proof that can be found in Clinton's late focus on this state, both in ads and presence. The last two polls show a close race, the only caveat being, they were done without including the fallout from Obama's Potomac Primary rout:
Rasmussen Feb 13:

Obama 47
Clinton 43

Strategic Vision Feb 10:

Obama 45
Clinton 41

In the world of expectations, a close finish might actually be good news for Clinton, a win, well you know. The media are beyond fickle, I don't doubt for a second, they could potentially "over frame" a close result.

I can't seem to find any polling for Texas, it's assumed strong for Clinton, whatever that means. In Ohio, there has been some polling, all of which give Clinton a sizeable lead, AT THE MOMENT:
Rasmussen 02/13 Clinton 51 Obama 37

Quinnipiac 02/12 Clinton 55 Obama 34

SurveyUSA 02/11 Clinton 56 Obama 39

Millions of arguments why Obama wins, many of which I agree. That said, still a glimmer in the Clinton camp, maybe even a ray or two.

Just Go Already

Here we go again, the nervous nellies fearing an election, better to hold off, seize the correct moment. Where have we heard this apprehension before? How many times can we play this script, getting prepared, raising the alarms, then we cower, the prudent party waiting in the weeds? Please.

The argument seems to suggest nobody is paying attention anyways, the millions of Canadians who watch the nightly news, the people that vote, they aren't engaged, not need to worry about the optics of hiding, jiving, doing anything to avoid the dreaded election. If you follow that logic through, then nothing will improve either, because, well, nobody cares, apart from a few geeks on blogs. I've never believed that view, people do develop impressions, people are aware of the issues of the day, maybe not the details, but the broad strokes.

The spectacle of the Liberals abstaining again is frankly unacceptable. It is gutless, it is cowardly, it actually speaks to a lack of leadership, fueling the already held negative impressions. Dion's leadership score is actually less than it was a year ago, a hard feat to erode from the abysmal. Nothing says leadership, principled direction, like hiding from an election, OVER and OVER again. The Liberals have already played this game last fall, using the lame argument that Canadians don't want an election (which is true, but nobody believes that is the Liberal rational for a second).

Dion talks tough, then Dion backs down. Liberals ready for an election, oh wait nevermind. The shelf life for this parliament is long past due, this minority has lasted beyond anyone's expectations. The argument that there is nothing to run on seems ridiculous, there is plenty. So we wait for the magic bullet, the economy to maybe tank and then pounce? Guess what, it might not tank the way people expect, Canada is already demonstrating resilence that wasn't forecasted- in other words it may be a smooth landing. What then? Wait until the fall, next spring, all the while sitting on our hands, looking mostly irrelevant.

You can't keep threatening and posturing, only to back down, time after time. You can't call yourself the official opposition, when you continually scurry the corridors, hiding from the open light. You don't get to keep abstaining, which is simply an affront to the idea of principles, without paying a price. Those that believe it all occurs in some esoteric playground, nobody notices, I think are out to lunch. It does harm Dion to continually rationalize, backdown, it puts him on the defensive. Maybe Canadians aren't glued to their sets, but they pickup things here and there, a common theme tends to stick. All this sage advice to wait, all it really says, the Liberals are scared, they lack confidence in Dion, the party isn't prepared. Given the infinite, neverending hesitation, maybe it's true.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Which Poll Was That?

Reuters story, which outlines the "split" amongst Liberals, over whether to trigger election. You know, if you are trying to make an argument, it might be a good idea to get your facts straight:
Some in his party are itching for an election, despite polls that show the most likely result would be another minority Conservative government.

Which poll was that? Was it this one?:
Tory Support Slides

Liberal Party 33% (-1)
Conservative Party 31% (-4)
NDP 19% (+2)
BQ 10% (+1)
Green Party 8% (+2)

Or was it this one?:

Conservative Support Sags

Liberals 32%
Conservatives 29%
NDP 16%
Greens 12%

Maybe it was this one?:
Conservative (PC): 33%

Liberal Party (PLC): 33

New Democratic Party (NPD): 18%

Bloc: 8%

Others: 8%

Or, maybe somebody needs to pay attention.

What Is Cherniak Saying?

I don't mean to pick on Jason, everyone has an opinion, but I read his Afghanistan post today, and it leaves me scratching my head.

According to Jason, everyone is wrong, there is no compromise, it's just words:
Mr. Dion does not need to get the wording right to get his policy on Afghanistan...

The exact words of a wishy-washy Parliamentary motion are all but meaningless.

This isn't word play, this isn't politics, this is the Liberal position, which Harper has deemed acceptable on certain levels. Ignatieff said the following yesterday:
"This is not a negotiating document. We put this motion together in the full expectation that the Liberal Party will be the governing party of Canada, and we will have to have responsibilities with respect to the mission. So we thought, how would we run the mission, how would we change it and how would we run it. I think the public should understand it in that sense."

There it is, according to Ignatieff our amendments are the Liberal position, which is something they will "run" on. Jason tries to argue that we have to wait for the other shoe to drop, we will only really learn if Dion want to end the combat mission in an election. Someone should tell Ignatieff, because those amendments are clear and they are now official policy.

Jason then holds on to this illusion, that Afghanistan is "our" issue, using Kinsella for backup. In trying to rationalize why Dion agreed to work with the government Jason offers:
The only reason I can think of for doing what we did, was that there were too many divergent opinions in caucus.

Jason acknowledges that the party was somewhat divided on how to approach Afghanistan moving forward. Nothing says "our" issue, something that could catapult us to an election victory, like a disjointed, divisive caucus. That reality undercuts any fantasy that the Liberals could effectively dictate the debate on Afghanistan, in fact I'm willing to bet Harper was counting on exploiting internal Liberal divisions, armed with a barrage of contradictory quotes, from various figures. Afghanistan was never "our" issue, it was always a minefield.

Proof of the Conservatives fear of an election over Afghanistan is offered in the timing of the various confidence motions. The budget vote is scheduled before the Afghanistan motion, which somehow means Harper was hoping to go down on the budget, and not have to deal with Afghanistan. Remember, the government moved up the budget date, earlier than previous years, which speaks to intent, a strategy. Think this through for a moment, you have the country plunged into an election on the budget vote. What issue is sitting there, unresolved, unknown, demanding clarification? Afghanistan the unknown is a far more powerful election issue than Afghanistan the largely resolved. It is for that reason that I think Harper, while wanting a resolution, purposefully placed the Afghan motion after the budget, because they had calculated they could fight the Liberals on this score. At the very least, not much worry that the Liberals would "own" the issue. Now that the Liberal position is clarified, there is less room for Harper to twist the ambigious to his advantage, there is a coherence which forces him to reaccess.

There was a compromise, that seems pretty clear, everyone isn't wrong. I know there has been movement because I now understand the Liberal position, whereas a few days ago it seemed an incoherent tight rope. Everyone moved somewhat, I would suggest the Conservative much more, if you look at the evolution over the course of the last year. That said, the fact it took Harper all of 30 minutes to react positively to the Liberal amendments speaks to their assessment that the Liberals did move closer, enough to move forward. It's okay to admit it, afterall who cares about the politics, isn't this supposed to be about trying to get it right in the end?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Where Does This Leave Layton?

The forgotten player in the Afghanistan debate, what does the "meeting of the minds" mean for the NDP?

There are different ways to look at, and I suppose your political leanings will determine the particular perspective. Have the Liberals ceded the anti-war vote to the NDP, leaving them the only voice for those who think the mission is doomed to failure? Are the NDP now marginalized, there hardline position out of step with mainstream Canada? Can the NDP argue their case, now that you will have the two main parties selling the agreement to the Canadian public?

I wonder if the NDP strategists see these developments as a plus for their prospects, or are they worried that the train has left, their arguments no longer relevant? I'm not sure at the moment, how this all shakes out.

Let's Make A Deal

Harper seems uncharacteristically gracious when it comes to the Liberal amendments, making a deal look probable:
A conciliatory Prime Minister Stephen Harper welcomed as “important progress” Liberal amendments to his government's motion in the House of Commons to extend the Canadian combat mission in Afghanistan to 2011.

Mr. Harper said his government would seriously consider the Liberal proposals, which include an end to combat operations in 2009 and full troop withdrawal from Kandahar in February 2011.

Mr. Harper said the Liberal's commitment to a continued military presence in the country post 2009 is “really very close to the government's position” and he raised the possibility the Conservatives would introduce a new motion on the matter.

“I'd like to say just how pleased I am to see greater clarity by the Liberals on their position in Afghanistan,” Mr. Harper told reporters in French.

“The government intends to examine these proposals in greater detail ... so as to give a more wide-ranging answer and perhaps a new motion.”

The fact Harper offers to introduce another motion is a huge signal that a compromise can be reached. The last remaining point of contention, defining the "military presence", what constitutes combat. I suspect the Conservatives may give in on the other Liberal requirements, introduce them in a new motion, but holdout on allowing for a combat role. You would then have the appearance of a deal, hinging on this one aspect, and in the end, the Liberals may find enough to support it. Some careful crafting of the combat language, which doesn't tie the hands of the military, and it could all come together.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Conservatives Blink?

CBC is reporting that the Conservatives have agreed that the Afghanistan mission will end in 2011, a departure from Van Loan's vague responses today. This concession would seem to narrow the gap between the Conservatives and the Liberals on a key point. Quite interesting, given the fact the end date was the focus today for the Liberals, in Question Period and the scrums:
His second line in the sand makes it that much more unlikely.

"Our position is that in 2011 the mission is over," Dion told reporters Monday.

"And we need to make that clear otherwise NATO and the government of Afghanistan will assume . . . that Canada is setting for a never-ending mission.

The National said that several Liberals responded positively to the news, an encouraging sign there could yet be a deal.

At the very least, this concession does suggest the Conservatives are willing to try and find a compromise, how far that goes is anybody's guess. The government may be calculating it is better to get an agreement, than leave the question open-ended heading into a campaign.

As for the other line in the sand, I found these comments from a Liberal MP telling:

"If you're out there with some people that are building a road and suddenly you're attacked with mortars or whatever but people are hiding somewhere away from the road, what do you do?" asked Liberal MP Roy Cullen. "Do you just sort of stand guard and put on your helmets or do you call for the ‘search and destroy' people?"

I think Harper may have blinked here, which means there is room for the Liberals to ask for firm commitments, hard numbers for allocations, percentages devoted to what priorities. If Harper is throwing the Liberals a sizeable bone, chances are he is willing to go further, because this move reveals a genuine want. If the Liberals accept a combat component, without strings and protocols, they might just find they get the "re-focus" they have argued for, for the better part of a year.

On "Rotation"

The new Afghanistan buzzword, but what does it mean and does it show any relationship to reality? One thing that Afghanistan has taught Canada, NATO is simply not an equal share military organization. You can knock on doors for eternity, certain countries will not make commitments consistent with other nations. Forget the Germans, forget the Italians, just forget the idea that all parties see Afghanistan in the same way. This is the starting point for a honest discussion of rotation.

The idea that Canada is part of some rotation makes sense when you prescribe to the idea of mutual self-interest, a band of countries together for a common cause. Canada has done its part on the frontlines, now different member states can takeover, while we operate in the background implementing other necessary work. That position sounds entirely reasonable, and it does to speak to the idea of fairness. However, when the ideal meets the reality, the notion of rotation sounds like pure fantasy.

There are only a few countries that are committed to Afghanistan, or better said, willing to put soldiers in areas that are hostile. When you couple this sobering reality with the widely held view that there needs to be more forces in volatile areas, it seems reasonable to wonder where in the hell the "rotation" comes from- how do you not only secure more troops, but in addition, find even more to take on our current role? Given past history, given the tremendous arm twisting needed to find a few hundred soldiers, the idea that you will find enough troops to do the job, with Canada out, is just counter-intuitive.

If you believe that Canada must stay committed to Afghanistan, and a military component is necessary (whatever the countries), you then have to go beyond the buzzword and tell everyone how you make up the difference, how you stay in Kandahar doing re-construction and training? If there is no equal rotation, then the security situation only deteriorates further, leaving our forces on the backlines prime for attack.

Here's my take, there is no rotation coming. There are only a few countries committed to the mission in the south, that is the pool from which to tap, and in many ways, it's tapped out. You can augment(France), which is required, but there is no replacement on the horizon. The question then becomes, is Canada staying or not, because our continued involvement demands a role on the frontlines. We can talk about focus, where the emphasis should lie, but I see all elements working in concert, more a matter of degree, than exclusivity. Until I see different, rotation sounds like a noble ideal, that has little chance of real application.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Liberal Amendments Preview

Some indication of what the Liberal amendments to the Afghanistan motion might look like:
The Liberal amendments fix the Canadian combat end date at February 2009; extend the military mission by two years for training and security duties; allow any military operation except "search and destroy" missions against the Taliban; and would give NATO notice immediately that Canadian troops will withdraw in 2011. They contain proposals for development and diplomacy.

Rules of engagement allowing self-defence by Canadian forces in the event of attack during training of Afghan army or police or during security duties will be made "crystal clear," Bryon Wilfert, the Liberals' associate foreign affairs critic, said in an interview with Canwest News Service Sunday.

The above seems to suggest a "combat" component, excluding the idea of offensive operations. Interesting to see if "search and destroy" means taking ground, or does it extend to eliminating known threats that intend us harm.

Bad Timing

You've just been lambasted in a series of primaries and caucuses. You need to change the channel, project a confident front, appear solid and unwavering. So, what do you do? Apparently, it's time to announce you are shuffling your campaign staff, a sure signal to the media that all is well:
Clinton Shuffles Campaign Team

Former Hillary Clinton chief of staff Maggie Williams will take over as campaign manager, Clinton staffers were told today. Current campaign manager and longtime friend Patti Solis Doyle will assume the role of senior adviser.

The switch has been rumored for more than a month – ever since Election Day in New Hampshire, when it was revealed that Williams would be joining the campaign in the wake of Clinton’s loss in the Iowa caucuses. At the time, Solis Doyle was urged to remain on board.

This announcement essentially guarantees another news cycle that raises more questions, clearly gives the appearance that a change is required, right before Tuesday's primaries.

According to the link, the change has been rumored for a month, why the campaign decides to announce this today is hard to believe. I suppose the campaign figured this was a bad day anyways, maybe this announcement would just slip through. I would argue you never make this announcement, if these people are staying on board, no need to formally define roles for the media.

Shuffling, especially at this stage, validates the idea that something had to give, the direction was wanting. However, by publicly acknowledging the need for change, it just fuels the speculation that Clinton's campaign might be in trouble. I say you shut up, keep everyone where they are, even if it a ruse, and ride it out, status quo appearance wise. If this was the decision of the new campaign manager, I don't like Clinton's chances moving forward.

Clinton: The Guiliani Strategy?

Last night's landslide victories for Obama highlights the inherent problem with the Clinton strategy. The campaign argues that Clinton just needs to hold on until the March 4 primaries in Texas and Ohio, assuming those states will re-energize what I would characterize as a faltering campaign. The problem, and last night was the first wave, Obama will continue to rack up impressive victories, ensuring momentum, positive storylines, while Clinton absorbs defeats, essentially on the defensive.

On Tuesday, we have the "Potomac" Primaries, with a healthy share of delegates at stake. Clinton is competing hard in Virgina, but by all indications, she is staring at an Obama sweep. Some polling:
Virginia (101 delegates):

Survey USA (Feb 8)

Obama 59%
Clinton 39%

Insider Advantage (Feb 7)

Obama 52%
Clinton 37%

Rasmussen (Feb 7)

Obama 55%
Clinton 37%

Maryland (99 delegates):

Survey USA (Feb 8)

Obama 52%
Clinton 33%

No numbers for DC, but everyone assumes that Obama will easily take the District. Conclusion, a healthy amount of delegates available, with Obama poised to win considerably more.

It seems every outlet has differing delegate numbers, which makes it hard to get a good read on the situation. However, you can see a worrying trend for Clinton, Obama now leads with pledged delegates:

Obama pledged: 969
Clinton pledged: 910

With Super-delegates:

Clinton: 1121
Obama: 1106

Obama has already surpassed Clinton with pledged delegates, this gap will only grow before the March 4 primaries (Wisconsin and Hawaii Feb 19, both are assumed strong for Obama). Obama will also surpass Clinton with in the dubious super-delegates included, dubious because they can change their minds, not to mention the decided anti-democratic flare.

There is also another fact, which tends to go under the radar, but may become a powerful argument, as Democrats look to break the deadlock. Obama has now won 18 states, to Clinton's 11. By the time we reach the March 4 showdown, Obama may well have doubled Clinton's state total. Imagine the spectre of a convention, wherein super-delegates give the nod to Clinton, without her leading in pledged delegate, or with Obama having won the majority of states, speaking to breadth of support. Ugly.

Obama will ride a wave of momentum heading into the March 4 contests. Don't be surprised if the framing takes hold that these primaries represent the make or break for Clinton. As the prospects of a brokered convention begin to sober the party brass, I see an effort to end this battle prior. Obama surges ahead prior to March 4, then Clinton forms her Guiliani firewall in Texas and Ohio. If Obama somehow manages to draw, which is conceivable, then Obama is sitting pretty, having racked up victory after victory, while Clinton waited, only to be denied what she needed.

Saturday, February 09, 2008


I don't share the enthusiasm that some have argued on the prospects of the Liberals fighting an election over Afghanistan. As a matter of fact, the more this story develops, the more it looks like the government is successfully painting the Liberals into a tight corner, that starts to look unrealistic.

The polls do show that Canadians want this mission to end, in it's current configuration. However, there is also a sense of some responsibility, the majority of Canadians are not in favor of abandoning Afghanistan. You could argue, and I've prescribed to this view earlier as well, that the Liberals have struck the right balance between demanding change and further commitment with their nuanced stance. That said, what has happened over the past month may have eroded that ground for the Liberal position, as the government has moved with vigor.

We can argue about Manley until the cows come home, but the bottomline, that panel has provided this government with a backdrop, a set of requirements, that if met, suggest "success". Harper is armed with Manley, a public relations exercise, that achieved the goal of setting out parameters that everyone can focus on. Should the government meet those objectives, it then presents a more attractive argument for extension.

At this very moment, the government is involved in intense negotiations with the French to secure the required troop increase, "demanded" by Manley. While this is occuring, word comes of Poland helping us with our helicopter requirement, not to mention MacKay suggesting there would "be more news" on that front in the coming days. Fast-forward to securing commitment from other NATO allies, you then have to wonder if it is realistic to then argue that Canada's combat role should end. Think about the optics, we have secured more troops and helicopters, others have stepped up to help Canada, then Canada turns around and says we are leaving the front, for less risky terrain. The spectacle of that diplomatic hypocrisy is something every Liberal should keep in mind.

Here is the Conservative motion, introduced yesterday:
Canada should build on its accomplishments and shift to accelerate the training of the Afghan army and police so that the government of Afghanistan can defend its own sovereignty and ensure that progress in Afghanistan is not lost...

House supports the continuation of Canada's current responsibility for security in Kandahar beyond February 2009, to the end of 2011, in a manner fully consistent with the UN mandate on Afghanistan, but with increasing emphasis on training the Afghan National Security Forces expeditiously to take increasing responsibility for security in Kandahar and Afghanistan as a whole so that, as the Afghan National Security Forces gain capability, Canada's combat role should be commensurately reduced...

The Conservatives leave room for a combat role, but put emphasis on a shifting mission that focuses on training and re-construction. The Liberals are essentially arguing the latter aspects, while stubbornly insisting that the combat portion be eliminated. The simple facts, if Canada remains in the volatile south, there will be casualties, there will shots in anger. It is almost naive to think that Canadians can remain this region, without the Taliban attacking the invaders. Common sense assumes that there will be some combat, maybe not offensive operations, but clearly a "security" component. I think it folly to dismiss the opinion of Hillier, when he says it is unrealistic to think we can entirely eliminate the military component, not in the south.

The government will emphasis the shifting emphasis on the mission, armed with Manley and the powerful commitment of other nations to "help" Canada. Where are the Liberals, if they demand an end, just when the conditions of Manley are met. Other countries, willing to fight with us, then we say "this isn't for us", we will do other things. I see that as a hard sell for the Liberals, given that Harper only needs 40% of Canadians to get on board. Harper has moved onto the Liberal position, maybe the best course for the Liberals is too jump on board, eliminate the issue entirely. Otherwise, the Liberals risk arguing the margins, while the thrust is mostly consistent, a stance that isn't necessarily the advantage many of us saw earlier. Right now, at this moment, Harper is out-flanking the Liberals.