Monday, March 31, 2008

New Talking Point?

Nothing says "strategic patience" like this headline:

"Liberals call Tory reforms anti-immigrant, but might let them pass"

I can hear the leadership numbers ticking up as we speak.

Anyways, instead of saying Canadians don't want an election, I think the Liberals may have found another talking point. Helena Guergis, speaking on her marriage to fellow Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer:

"I can't plan a wedding. Why don't you call Stephane Dion and ask when we are going to have an election so I can set a wedding date."
Just an idea, but maybe in tomorrow's scrum, when he is asked about an election, Dion could say he is concerned that the two MP's really don't know each other well enough, better to take things slow and establish a solid base before diving in.

Incompetent And Proud Of It

You know the Conservatives are grasping at straws, when they are reduced to promoting their own incompetence as defence. First read this story:
The Harper government was warned last year by its environmental scientific experts that Canada would have to join an aggressive international campaign to fight global warming to avoid "substantial global and Canadian impacts" or risk irreversible damage to the planet, newly-released memorandums obtained by Canwest News Service reveal.

The warning was contained in memorandums sent in June 2007 by Brian Gray, head of Environment Canada's science and technology branch, to the department's deputy minister. The documents were delivered days before Prime Minister Stephen Harper attended a summit of industrialized countries, hosted by Germany which was seeking consensus among countries for an international agreement to contain global warming to two degrees Celcius above pre-industrial levels.

Mr. Harper recognized the threat of climate change at the meeting, but his government has never taken a stance on Mr. Gray's warnings that allowing average temperatures to rise over a sustained period by two degrees could drastically affect the world.

Delivered in June 2007, which is amazing, when you hear this lame excuse from Baird's office:
Eric Richer, a spokesman for Environment Minister John Baird, said he was not able to comment on whether the government agreed with all the conclusions listed in the memorandums without examining them in detail.

Nine months later, and nobody has read the conclusions "in detail". Nobody in Baird's office bothered to read a report by it's own scientific experts? That is just a staggering excuse, we can't comment, because we're not sure what they said.

Such is life when you are trying to pull the wool over everyone's eyes. In fairness, incompetence does seem reasonable.

Ignatieff Should Stay

I can't think of a worse way to bring more unrest, than replacing Ignatieff as Deputy Leader. Hebert reports that the issue was raised this past week, and today we hear:
Some of Stephane Dion's top advisers are planning to press the Liberal leader in the coming days to dump Michael Ignatieff as deputy leader, CTV News has learned.

But some in the Dion camp believe that that Ignatieff, Dion's former leadership rival, is privately undermining the Liberal leader with critical and disdainful remarks.

Earlier this week, Dion demanded an end to the political sniping within his party after several shots were made at his leadership.

Some of his advisers want Dion to project a tougher image as leader. They argue it would send a strong message to party dissidents, by demoting the politician perceived as his greatest threat.

Let me get this straight, people would rather have Rae as Deputy Leader, that somehow sends a message. You can say whatever you want about Ignatieff, but seems to me you just replace one threat with another- is there a person alive who believes Rae runs for office, without the ambition of future leadership?

The argument seems to stem from the fact that most of the dissent in Quebec comes from former Ignatieff supporters. Considering the fact that the majority of Quebec Liberals supported Ignatieff, isn't just basic math that complaints would come from that camp? How is it Ignatieff's fault that Dion lacks supporters in his home province, why do people demand that Ignatieff have Stalin-like control over free thinking individuals? I think Ignatieff is clearly the scapegoat here, an excuse to gloss over the real problems in Quebec.

Yes, demoting Ignatieff would send a message alright. It would have the effect of a purge, which would trickle down in Quebec, and may well lead to more revolt. What everyone seems to be forgetting here, there is no Liberal Party in Quebec without the Ignatieff supporters, that's just reality. The party now has less than 10000 members, I suspect if you cull to get to Dion loyalists, you wouldn't be able to fill a Junior B hockey arena. No, circumstance demands that you find a way to work with these people, you find ways to include them and to some degree, you must appease. The alternative is political suicide, plain and simple, and it will backfire, the gateway to a Harper majority.

Demoting Ignatieff and putting in Rae, is the equivalent of replacing Cassius with Brutus. What's the difference in the end, especially when you factor in the damage. Leave it alone.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

What Is Wrong With You People?

Symbolism aside, probably the most tangible development to come out of this Earth Hour idea, it has reaffirmed, in clear terms, that modern day conservatism is a selfish, primitive thinking ideology. No matter which blog I visit, which online newspaper comment section, there is unanimity amongst Conservatives, and all of it is entirely unattractive. Outright scorn, sarcasm, boycotts, the me first attitude, all congeals to make a stew with a repugnant stench.

You have been revealed. You have shown that you possess no sensibility that can comprehend a world outside of your own small space. You are the people that lack compassion, take no responsbility and then have the audacity to criticize others. You turn a goodwill gesture into a cynical ploy, a conspiracy, you basically shit on good intention. Truth be told, you are a disgrace.

It won't be Conservatives that help make the planet a better place, no they will sit on the sidelines and complain, while people who actually care, try and make a difference. The fact that you can't endorse the simpliest of ideas, the most superficial and least invasive, speaks volumes about your role in society. Parasites may be harsh, but the lack of ownership lends credence.

In the last few days, I've read some truly staggering psychological rationalizations, to the point where some of you actual scare me. You walk amongst us? Comfort yourselves in your mutual selfishness, band together with the other misfits and "belong". You deserve each other, you really do.

Shame On You

One thing about symbolic gestures, they reveal much as it relates to commitment, intent. Yesterday, John Baird took the airwaves, and was asked why his government had done nothing to promote earth hour, why it was he only spoke on the matter at the last minute. Of course, Baird offered the usual, he was focused on real results, blah, blah, blah. That's fine, nobody every assumed that earth hour had any concrete solutions, it was always a small gesture.

I was pleased to see my entire neighborhood went dark, apart from one "cheater", the gray glow of the television particularly bright on this night. The people that decided to "boycott", so beyond ridiculous, have exposed themselves for the selfish, narrow, unproductive irrelevants that most of us already knew. Whatever, they are clearly in the minority, given the awareness of our youth, they will simply die out ouver time like other dinosaurs of the past.

What is really inexcusable, the leader of our country, the guy who makes all these grandiose claims about the "greatest challenge the earth faces", takes a pass, and in so doing exposes himself for the charlatan he really is:
The ever-illuminated Peace Tower on Parliament Hill went black at the stroke of 8 p.m., as did the lighted "Canada" signs that adorn federal buildings in the capital.

Stornoway, official residence of Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion, was almost impossible to find among the mansions in Ottawa's upscale Rockliffe neighbourhood. Dion, a former environment minister, even delivered a speech by candlelight in Toronto to a gala dinner recognizing Greek independence.

Rideau Hall, home to Governor General Michaëlle Jean, was dark and federal Environment Minister John Baird was at his Nepean home "with the lights off, of course," said spokesperson Eric Richer.

But two ground-floor rooms in Harper's house stayed on and inquiries to a PMO spokesperson were not returned. The third-floor offices on Parliament Hill that house the Prime Minister's Office were also among the few lights that stayed on, prompting a jeer from a handful of Green Party activists who had gathered in the cold to mark the occasion.

A small gesture, but in another sense it says it all. Stephen Harper is "not a leader", he's a fraud.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

"We have an enormous amount of work to do."

According to the latest CROP poll in Quebec, Dion's words are accurate:
Bloc 30
Conservatives 29
Liberals 20
NDP 15

In the Quebec City region, the Liberals run fourth:
Conservatives 41%
Bloc 25%
NDP 17%
Liberals 14%

Bloc 32%
Liberals 25%
Conservatives 21%

A bit of disconnect between this poll, and recent national offerings. It seems that Quebec pollsters tend to get different results, generally showing Conservative support much stronger than the national polls. Given CROP's good record previously in the province, these numbers probably have more weight.

The last CROP poll had the Bloc up a full 6 points, and now it is statistically tie, with the Liberals stuck around 20%. Good news for the NDP, 15% is more than respectable, and they definitely have the potential to be competitive.

If you want to understand why the Liberals are polling so low, the "best Prime Minister" question is quite telling:

Harper 35%
Layton 24%
Dion 16%

Ouch. Dion is actually down another 3% since the last CROP poll. One caveat, part of this poll was conducted during the last week, and we all know how that went for Dion and the Liberals in Quebec.

I thought Dion conveyed a sense of urgency, after the open criticisms, and the reaction of some of the malcontents afterwards, suggested that a change in focus has occured. I said this last spring after Parliament went on break, Dion should live in Quebec for the entire summer, even if it means ignoring other regions. I'll say it again, don't worry about the rest of the country for now, put all your energy and focus into getting some traction in Quebec. The entire Liberal machine should go in crisis mode, don't write off anything, and act swiftly.

I don't want to detract from the NDP showing, clearly a good sign moving forward. That said, it would seem there are wandering federalists in Quebec, looking for a party, unhappy with the Liberals, no affinity for the Conservatives, parking with the NDP. However, let's not kid ourselves, this NDP support isn't rooted, some of it is clearly soft by any definition, if a healthy alternative is given, then that support could bleed back. It's still an unknown whether the NDP can deliver at the ballot box, an almost "Green" scenario, Mulclair aside. The Liberals should zero in on winning some of that vote back, it's their best chance.

Election Unlikely

Yesterday, I had the chance to meet Ken Dryden. Dryden is making the rounds, having just completed a busy week speaking to Liberals. Some thoughts on what he said, and what it might mean moving forward.

First and foremost, no matter your political affiliation, Dryden is the type of public servant who embodies the best, genuine to the core. If we had a Parliament full of Ken Dryden's, much would be accomplished, with class and apolitical determination.

The main thrust of Dryden's speech revolved around the idea of election timing. It immediately became clear that Dryden was anything but a "hawk" in forcing an election. Dryden was quite frank in arguing that the Liberals really aren't ready, that we haven't made the case to Canadians as to why they should invest in our party, over the government. Until Liberals present a compelling case, then it isn't worth the risk of an election, facing the prospects of 5 more years of a Harper majority. The fact Dryden is sending this message to the grassroots, here and elsewhere, leads me to believe that his opinion isn't freelancing, but part of a wider strategy to dampen expectation.

Dryden argued that the Conservatives have a support ceiling, and this belief had been proven in all the polling since the last election. Harper is a known quantity, and while people admire some of his accomplishments, his leadership skills, there is still "an unease" with his government, a fact the Liberals can exploit. On Dion, Dryden said he is largely a blank slate, opinion on him is superficial, which provides an opportunity to make an impression. Dryden clearly believes that it is essential to equip Dion with more policy, in order to compel Canadians.

I had a good chat with Dryden after his speech. We discussed election timing, and I argued that there is a tension in creating a compelling narrative for Canadians, while simultaneously taking a pass on issue after issue, the two realities pull in opposite directions. Dryden argued that Liberals need to show Canadians what they stand for, but I question how that develops within the reality of abstaining.

Whatever the stance on election timing, I was very pleased to hear Dryden say he didn't agree with "the conventional wisdom" of withholding a platform until the election. Dryden was quite passionate in his belief that it was important to put flesh on the bone now, and not worry about the Conservatives stealing ideas, or developing counters. It was obvious that Dryden was pushing hard, he is clearly an ally on that front.

The basic thrust of Dryden's visit, be patient, we're not quite there, Cadman may pay dividends, but in the meantime let Canadians know that a Liberal government would have their best interests at heart. I still think we should go now ;)

Friday, March 28, 2008

Conservative Fading In Ontario

I finally saw the internals for the latest Ipsos poll, which helps explain why the two parties are statistically tied. I've heard a couple of lame commentaries, trying to argue how Harper's attack Ontario strategy may pay dividends. Yesterday, I characterized Harper's olive branch to McGuinty as an admission of failure. Conservative supporters have a hard time admitting political missteps, it's always part of some greater plan, that only the mystical can comprehend. Well, back on planet earth, you just need an extensive scan of Ontario papers, national ones for that matter, to see that the Flaherty assault was landing with a thunderous thud. And, you need some basic math:

Liberals 43%
Conservatives 33%
NDP 15%

This result from Ipsos, the Conservative holdout, the only operation that consistently showed the Cons out front in Ontario.

It was only two months ago, that the Conservatives had legitimate claims to argue momentum in Ontario, many outfits showed a close fight, some even supported Ipsos numbers. If anyone doubts the impact, the complete and utter disaster, that is attack Ontario, just look at the numbers a mere seven weeks ago:
the Tories enjoy the lead with 39-per-cent support while the Liberals trail at 33 per cent.

That's right, a full 16 point swing in voter support from then to now, a seismic shift by an objective measure, and anyone with a hint of common sense knows why. To add context, let's not forget that this erosion has occured at a time when the Liberals were abstaining, a flurry of negativity.

Yes, the strategic genius, has effectively killed any momentum the Conservatives were starting to enjoy in Ontario, and set them back to levels which could take them out of power. Brilliant I say, we play checkers while the master plays chess. Back to the drawing board.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Harper Says Uncle

The only time our Prime Minister is magnanimous is when he is in retreat. I take today's press release, wherein Harper praises McGuinty, as an admission that the bash Ontario strategy is an abysmal failure:
“I want to congratulate Premier McGuinty and his Government for developing programs that will use these federal funds to strengthen the Ontario economy, improve public safety, and expand the public transit system,” said Prime Minister Harper. “Working together, our governments are getting things done for all Ontarians.”

Given the unprecedented incursion into provincial matters, these comments are laughable:
“Our Government is committed to the federalism of openness, an approach to federal-provincial relations that relies on respect for jurisdiction...

We read plenty from "unnamed" Liberal sources, interesting to hear what Conservatives are quietly saying about the government's misguided strategy:

Two longtime provincial Tory organizers privately expressed their bafflement, but didn't want to speak for the record.

We even have a disgruntled Conservative (sound familar):
"The sense I get from talking to people is that it looks like a one-way fight," said Mark Warner, the erstwhile Conservative candidate in Toronto Centre who was dumped last fall by the party and subsequently supported Liberal Bob Rae.

"It kind of looks like Patrick Roy's son going after the other goalie. People are talking about it, but it's more framed in the way of 'Why?'

"Some of the (Tory) candidates running in the ridings they're targeting have said to me they don't understand what this is all about."

James Travers tried to figure out what this was all about today, but he never did explain how alienating voters was a positive.

CTV reported today that John Tory was unhappy with the offensive, which seems reasonable, given the increasing perception that he was really a bit player in the entire debate, reduced to repeating Flaherty's lines.

People can spin all they want, but today's press release from Harper was no accident, it was damage control. I guess some of those internal polls were telling them the same thing everyone else already knew, this strategy was a political boner of the highest order.

Calling John Baird

One of the Harper's government's favorite arguments, when people question their lack of commitment to binding targets on the international stage, is that it would be suicide to act "unilaterally". Any agreement must include developing nations, otherwise the economic impact is entirely onsided, Canada at a massive competitive disadvantage. That is the core defence, and supporters have rallied to that logic. Of course, most people have correctly viewed the argument as a smokescreen, a convenient talking point to shirk our responsibility to "lead".

I remember a couple of discussions, around the time of the Bali conference, where I floated the idea that Canada could take leadership on the issue, and if our commitment was sincere, this would allow us the moral high ground to implement a tax on imported goods, from countries which didn't "share" the load. In this way, you could negate the costs associated with our "unilateral" implementation.

Needless to say, I was very pleased to see this idea put forward today:
Manufacturers that have relocated to China may soon be coming home if the Western world imposes a “carbon tariff” on countries that spew greenhouse gas emissions, according to Jeff Rubin, chief strategist and economist at CIBC World Markets.

Given the increasing emissions imbalance between the developed world and countries such as China, Mr. Rubin said the “only leverage is through trade access,” specifically a “carbon tariff.” Mr. Rubin predicted such a tariff, based on $45 per tonne of carbon dioxide or equivalent, would be $55-billion annually, a 17-per cent levy on all Chinese imports to the U.S. — almost six times greater than the effective current import tariffs.

“Without such a tariff, the earnest efforts of [developed] countries to decarbonize their own economies would become absurdly quixotic in the face of the avalanche of emissions that will come from the rest of the world.”

Rubin argues that such a tariff would cause industry to "return home", but such a measure would also pressure other countries to implement a parallel fight against carbon. If, for example, the Chinese came on board and pledged to meet international standards, then you could have exceptions, there is now economic incentive to move.

If people like John Baird are really serious (cough), then they should embrace this idea and use it to achieve a binding, effective, international framework. At the very least, the opposition parties should jump all over this suggestion. What Rubin demonstrates, countries have leverage if they take measures, it isn't the doomsday nonsense, used to mask political inaction.

Canadians Reject Afghan Extension

I admit some surprise, given the compromise agreement by Canada's two main parties, but according to Angus Reid, Canadians overwhelming reject the Afghan mission extension. Some concern for both the Liberals and Conservatives in these numbers:
Opinion on extension:

Disagree 58%

Agree 37%

Support for an extension is lowest in Quebec (66% to 27%), which clearly plays well for the Bloc.

Bad news for the Conservatives, a 2 to 1 margin believe the government has failed to explain the mission (61% to 31%).

For the Liberals, it would appear the political support for an extension isn't reflective of supporters opinions. When Liberal voters are asked their opinion:
Strongly agree with extension 11%

Moderately agree 24%

Moderately disagree 20%

Strongly disagree 43%

Only 35% of Liberal supporters agree with the extension, a full 63% disagree. By comparison, Conservative supporters are on side 72% to 25%. It would appear the Liberal support is vulnerable on this issue, the potential for other parties to peel off voters.

A curious result, despite Canadians disapproval of the extension, they still believe our presence is a good thing in Afghanistan:
Benefiting Afghans 59%

Not Benefiting 27%

Maybe, the best way to reconcile the results, is that Canadians still see this as a military mission, and they don't support that concept.

My own instincts assumed support would be higher for the extension, simply as a function of the perceived compromise, the main players in agreement. However, that union would appear to have no bearing on public opinion, and now that the ownership is somewhat shared, both parties have a long way to go to make their case with voters.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

"Show What He's Made Of"

I would characterize this Quebec MP's comments as healthy advice, that sets the right tone:
“Now's the time for him to show what he's made of,” she said in an interview. “I am not in favour of a putsch. He is my leader, he is the person elected by the members of the party and I respect that. But he has things to do, and he has to do them quickly.”

“When there are people who are ready to run, who have experience, who are Liberals and known to us, we absolutely have to go and get them,” Ms. Folco said. “And when they're ready to run, we have to accept their candidacy.”

Ms. Folco said she expects Mr. Dion to set clear deadlines for nominating candidates, fundraising and organization.

“That's what we expect from a leader,” she said. “The reality is we absolutely have to put more energy, more effort than we have up until now.”

Folco also took a shot at Céline Hervieux-Payette, but her candor is mostly constructive. This is Dion's moment to take the bull by the horns, act swiftly and with authority. If Dion responds with urgency, then people will rally. Fast track some candidates, get the ball rolling, give people a sense on the ground that there is direction.

Dion needs to be hands one, surrogates behind his leadership. I have no problem with "time to show what you're made of", Dion can rise to the challenge, that's what leaders do in a crisis. If Dion conveys a sense of urgency, then some of the disconnect will wane. I believe Folco's comments are more about opportunity than unproductive criticism. More pep talk, than sour grapes.

When Cousins Marry

Even if you don't believe in climate change, everyone can agree that pollution is harmful, conservation a key component. I don't attach any meaningful significance to Earth Hour, apart from another vehicle to raise awareness, get people thinking about their habits, their impacts. At the very least, some urban kids might get a chance to see the milky way, little things.

With that simplistic notion in mind, it almost turns your stomach to listen to people, who essentially amount to piss in the gene poll. The misguided have a cause, boycotting Earth Hour. If you listen carefully, you can almost hear their knuckles dragging.

Here We Go

Let the games begin:
Federal Liberals from Quebec will move to show Stephane Dion the door if he doesn't give up leadership of the party on his own, Sun Media has learned.

Former Liberal candidate Pierre-Luc Bellerose, who ran for the party in Joliette, northeast of Montreal, said dissatisfied members will begin the process to revoke Dion's party membership if he doesn't quit as Liberal leader.

He said his strategy is supported by a number of influential members of the party, along with a dozen riding association presidents and a few elected MPs from across Quebec.

Bellerose said he is convinced Dion has lost control over the party in Quebec and the organization is no longer following its leader.

Should Dion fail to heed this warning, Bellerose has threatened to invoke Article 3.7.1 of the Quebec wing of the federal Liberal party's statutes and regulations to force him to resign.

The provisions of this article give the Quebec wing the right to strip a party member of his membership.

Dion would become the first Liberal subject to this rule, though Bellerose expects Dion's actual expulsion would be unlikely.

What can you say?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Let Us Do Your Thinking For You

Are you able to regurgitate pre-approved talking points? Are you tired of thinking for yourself? Have you ever heard of the Borg? Are you unoriginal, lack spontaneity, or the mental capacity to act as a free citizen? Come, join the Conservative Party of Canada, be a minion in our war on real discourse:
Next time you're listening to your favourite radio phone-in show, those pro-Conservative opinions you hear from callers might not be as spontaneous as they sound.

Some of those apparently ad-libbed musings are actually being choreographed at the Conservative Party of Canada's national headquarters.

For Conservative supporters, the process is as simple as 1-2-3.
Surf the party website. Type in your postal code. Click on a topic you'd like to discuss on the radio.

And the website spits out the times, phone numbers, and names of local talk shows to call - along with a handy list of good things to say about the Conservatives and bad things to say about their opponents. The website includes similar advice for letter-writers to newspapers.

"The process for the Conservative one is a little more automated: punch out your topic and your postal code, and we'll spit out a script for you to follow."

Yes, that's quite the grassroots, bottom up approach the Conservatives love to brag about. And, does anyone doubt that some of these commentators on blogs, aren't reading from the script too?

Willing cattle.

The Sound Of Settled Science

The poor flat earth society, they had a few things to cling to recently, namely the misguided view that Antarctica isn't experiencing any warming, it's all a liberal media generated hoax. Don't expect to see the following link at KKKate's:
A chunk of ice the size of the Isle of Man has started to break away from Antarctica in what scientists say is further evidence of a warming climate.

Satellite images suggest that part of the ice shelf is disintegrating, and will soon crumble away.

David Vaughan, a scientist at the group who in 1993 predicted Wilkins would break apart within 30 years, said today in a telephone interview from Cambridge, England. ``We predicted it would happen, but it's happened twice as fast as we predicted.''

``The importance of it is it's further south than any ice shelf we've seen retreating before, it's bigger than any ice shelf we've seen retreating before"

Back to chasing snowflakes I suppose.

A Sense Of Urgency Please

Today's scathing article on Dion and the Quebec Liberals, in the Globe and Mail, is part hit piece, part disappointing. The typical unnamed sources, the disgruntled "senior Liberals", but underneath the good copy, some things that are really inexcusable:
Senior federal Liberals are publicly questioning the party's lack of election readiness in Quebec, placing the blame on Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion and his key organizers in the province.

“He has no instinct,” former Liberal minister and political commentator Liza Frulla said in an interview.

“At a certain point, people feel it if there is something wrong, even if they don't know exactly what it is. But he, poor Stéphane, doesn't feel it.”

Ms. Frulla also said publicly what many Liberals are saying privately about Mr. Dion's lieutenant in Quebec, Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette.

And on, and on.

The part I want to focus on, which seems part of a disturbing trend, dragging our heels on getting candidates in place. Let's face it, there have been several instances where potential candidates have taken a pass, people aren't beating down the Liberal door to run in Quebec. With that real environment in mind, there is no excuse for the constant dithering, and slow reaction, when we have willing people, ready to run:
Former Liberal MP Nick Discepola, who won three elections for the party in a riding just outside of Montreal, said he offered to run again and is still waiting for an answer.

While he sits on the sidelines, Mr. Discepola said that Bloc Québécois MP Meili Faille is working to retain her seat, while Conservative minister and Senator Michael Fortier is organizing his own bid in Vaudreuil-Soulanges.

“They know I have an interest,” Mr. Discepola said of Liberal Party officials.

“They haven't decided as far as I know.”

Mr. Pinkus said the Liberal Party has lost a number of potential candidates through these types of delays, explaining that strong people have grown tired of waiting.

It was only a few months ago, that the Liberals went through this process with Garneau, who was supposed to be in, but heard nothing, then decided to take a pass, which in turn lit a fire, and now he is back in. I find it odd that Dion is firing off emails to the ridings in Quebec, telling them to "be ready for an election", while the brass is dragging its feet on getting candidates in place. Again, if there are qualified people, ready to run, there is no excuse for delay, no excuse for pissing away goodwill through inaction. What is the problem, and why haven't we learned from the past?

If the Liberals are forced to avoid an election because of what frankly amounts to systemic incompetence, it represents a real shame, because conditions are ripe. A new poll from Ipsos today, the outfit which generally tends to overstate Conservative support, has the two parties in a deadheat, the Liberals with there highest total in months. Just a month ago, the Conservatives enjoyed a 7 point lead. When Ipsos has a deadheat, it's a good sign.

Plenty of talk about waiting for the "winning conditions". Fast tracking potential candidates, in a region where volunteers are scare, might be a good start. Get it together, a sense of urgency is clearly lacking, and I don't understand why.

Monday, March 24, 2008

"Growing Chorus"?

Flaherty's press conference today was a joke on so many levels, about all it achieved was to solidify the impression that his crusade is purely political. The best part from my perspective, was watching Flaherty speak of the "growing chorus" amongst economists, who were supporting his position. Speaking of the chorus, I seem to remember another tune, where Flaherty failed to listen to the choir, but let's not split hairs.

I was able to find one economist on the record today, the well respected chief economist for the TD Bank, Don Drummond. Not only did Drummond fail to sing in tune, but he basically excused McGuinty, because of the mess he inherited from Flaherty. Simply delicious:
"It really comes down to money and other priorities. Of course, when the McGuinty government took over they started with a deficit, there had been years of underfunding of education and infastructure, so they have put a substantial amount of their money to that.

But, when Mr. Flaherty says they haven't been responsive on the corporate tax cuts, we have to point out, they are phasing out the capital tax, and I can tell you from the perspective of corporations, that was the most damaging tax. They've also lowered the provincial portion of corporate property tax, so those are important steps, of 3 billion dollars. So, yes they have to deal with the third tax, and get that done, but they have taken important actions that have given substantial corporate tax relief"

Drummond argues that, despite what Flaherty has said, McGuinty has lowered taxes on corporations, taxes which are the "most damaging". Drummond must be a Liberal operative.

Keep talking Jim, or digging, as the case may be :)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Golden Opportunity?

Election readiness aside, Harper's Conservatives may have just handed the Liberals a golden opportunity if they want it. More opinion is coming out against the Conservatives proposed changes to immigration:
Members of some of Canada's largest immigrant communities say plans to give the Immigration Minister more power to decide who gets to stay are misguided and they are urging the Dion Liberals to vote against the proposals, even if it means plunging the country into an election.

Victor Wong, the executive director of the Chinese Canadian National Council. "“The Liberals have been promoting themselves as the party of immigration and they have so many seats in the urban areas where they draw heavy support from the immigrant communities … I think they should listen to their constituencies.”

And the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants said in an e-mail last week that “responding to Canada's economic needs should not compromise Canada's vision to build this country through the settlement and integration of immigrants as fully equal participants in society.”

Immigration is a bread and butter issue for many Liberals, anything that elevates a perceived Liberal defence of that tradition is something which could solidify support and motivate. On the flip side, abstaining on these immigration changes, and you send another message to key constituents that you are weak, ineffective advocates.

Politically speaking, taking a stand on this issue is a no lose proposition for the Liberals. A fairly simple frame, a not quite ready Liberal Party decides to draw a line in the sand, based on a principle they must defend. On the ground, you would effectively inspire, demonstrate the stakes, firm up any potential erosion (talking to you Jason Kenney). The Conservatives effectively allow you to champion an issue, they have allowed you to bring out the "anti-immigration" card. You can argue the details, but the soundbite is priceless, and I guarantee it wouldn't be the Liberals on the defensive.

Eventually, the Liberals have to take a stand. In the words of everybody's polling guru:
"What it does is that it validates perceptions that Stéphane Dion is weak or that the Liberals are afraid to have an election. In a way, it validates the messaging that the Conservatives are trying to put out there in regards to Stéphane Dion and the Liberals. Every time the Liberals abstain from a particular confidence measure vote, the question becomes, what won't they abstain from? What is the breaking point for the Liberals?

Nik Nanos

In so many ways, this is clearly the breaking point. To my mind, the Conservatives may have miscalculated, slipping these changes in, thinking the Liberals too weak to make a fuss. When you think about, the Conservatives arrogance may just be a gift here, provided you still have some spine. Even if you subscribe to Rae's "strategic patience", calling an election on this issue is a move worthy of any quality chess opening.

May Takes Swing At NDP

Quite a lot of acrimony between the Greens and the NDP. Elizabeth May's comments today probably only make matters worse, although they may be factual:
'I'm going to vote Green because I think the NDP is more interested in eliminating the Liberal party than in restoring to power a government that actually cares about issues I care about,'" she told CTV's Question Period on Sunday.

"My advice to (NDP Leader Jack) Layton which is open and really in the spirit of co-operation -- rethink the policy of constantly denigrating the Greens and acting hostile towards us."

I know that line of argument is the last thing NDP supporters want to hear, but I also don't doubt for a second that some people have moved to the Green column, for preciously the reason mentioned by May. I've heard first hand that sentiment, not to mention my own disappointment, after voting NDP, then watching Layton and company fail to recognize the real enemy on the political spectrum.

The Liberals might be in the political wilderness, but I don't think there much question that the NDP has lost its way as well. A combination of delusion and ambition, could just be the catalyst to marginalization. Instead of scoffing at May, which will be the first response, better to heed the advice, because there is truth in them there words.

Does anyone ever wonder why the NDP has failed to capitalize on the glaring ineptitude that is the Liberal Party these days?


The other day, I said Canada should boycott the Beijing Olympics. As a point of clarification, I believe Canada should threaten a boycott, because that stance applys pressure, if there is no response, then you move beyond the threat. These Olympics provide a unique opportunity for the world to leverage China, if not now then when?

The idea of a possible boycott is gaining steam, working in concert with pressure applied to Olympic corporate sponsors.

The European Union President:
The president of the European Parliament said European countries should not rule out threatening China with an Olympic boycott if violence continues in Tibet.

Poettering told Bild that ''we should not rule out a boycott of the Olympic Games in Beijing.''

''Only Beijing can decide this question,'' he said.

Leaving the option on the table, is the best way to force the Chinese to move on Tibet. Essentially, as the EU President says, the onus is on Beijing, how they react determines what happens. Canada should develop this posture, beyond the nice soundbites we have heard coming from Foreign Affairs.

It is debatable, whether the Olympics is a spectacle for sport, or an economic vehicle. Maybe more important than government pressure, the corporate community becoming uneasy with the appearance of supporting repression, by indirectly investing in these games. The pressure is starting to be applied:
Chinese officials' harsh response to protests in Tibet has brought a fresh wave of accusations that corporate sponsors of the Beijing Olympics are partners with a government that ignores basic human rights.

Amid a widening crackdown in the remote Himalayan province, human rights organizations have renewed demands that Coca-Cola, Visa, General Electric and other international companies explain their dealings with the Communist government as it prepares to host the Summer Games.

"The role of the sponsors in subsidizing this event, while monks are being shot, is not going to look very good," said Sophie Richardson, the Asia advocacy director of Human Rights Watch. Major companies have the ability to "get the ear" of the Chinese leadership, she said.

Nothing makes corporations more squeamish than bad publicity. If that bad publicity works in tandem with a threatening stance by governments, it provides the best chance to move China. After the Olympics, where exactly do you find the leverage?

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Just Win Baby

There seems to be some frustration with people who aren't ready to concede the Democratic race is over. You can present a compelling case for why Hillary has no chance, plenty of sound arguments, much of it comes down to simple math. I don't dispute that, nor is my hesitation any indication that I don't think Obama would be an excellent nominee. Why I maintain that the race isn't over, Obama still hasn't closed the deal, at least not in terms of perception.

If the race was over, why then did Obama lose two key states Mar 3? I suppose he won the arcane Caucus in Texas, but he lost the primary, and he was defeated soundly in battleground Ohio. People will argue the delegate math, and I acknowledge that reality in spades, but seems to me if it's "over", then voters should be supporting that thesis. They didn't, which validates a continuation.

If it's "over", then Obama has nothing to fear from Clinton, he should beat her in Pennsylvania, in North Carolina, in Indiana. If it's "over", then Obama's camp should be championing a re-do in Michigan and Florida, in the name of democracy, as opposed to a lukewarm, splitting hairs, approach. Someone who enjoys widespread support, who towers over the competition, isn't concerned about a also ran's manoeuvers.

If it's "over", why is it that Hillary is neck and with Obama in national polls? That seems strange, voters apparently haven't got the memo from the DNC. This fact, which has no bearing on the real math, is very relevant, because it speaks to a competition, it says in clear terms, that nobody is rallying behind Obama. The presumptive nominee should see a surge in support, as people disregard the clear loser, and support the standard bearer. In other words, voters clearly haven't reached the it's "over" conclusion.

From my point of view, any lingering doubts about Obama evaporate, based on one simple need- win the next contests. Win in Pennsylvania, a state which is demographically representative, apart from a small latino vote (Obama's weak point). Just win, show everyone that it is over, Clinton the bitter loser, that can't face reality. No need to argue math, no need to pressure the process, just win the primary and end it once and for all. Let's not forget, if Obama did win in Ohio and Texas, Clinton would be gone, the coronation a guarantee. But, Obama lost, which was clearly a statement that something was afoot.

Just win baby, and Obama has nothing to worry about. And, if you Obama can't win, then maybe people are justified in taking another look, because clearly there is something terribly wrong with it's "over". Seems pretty simple from here.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Quebec Liberals In Disarray

Anyone who bothers to read this blog knows that I am an election "hawk". However, even my commitment is tested, as I learn more about the disaster that is the Quebec wing of the Liberal Party of Canada.

Last week, an emergency meeting of the Quebec executive committee, to discuss "non-existent" election preparedness. When I read that story, I wanted to chalk it up to jitters, an attempt to hash out organizational problems, a meeting to lay the foundation for a credible election fight. It turns out, the meeting was just the precursor for today's developments, namely an attempt to oust the President of the Quebec wing. What a mess (rough translation):
The president of the Quebec wing of the Liberal Party, Robert Fragrasso, could be forced to resign today...

The grumbling continues for the Liberals, where active militants criticize the approach of the President Mr. Fragrasso and Dion's lieutenant Céline Hervieux-Payette.

The motion today would be presented by Marc Belanger and Francis Xavier Simard, the two instigators of the meeting of last week. According to the constitution of the party, it would be binding and could force the president to relinquish his post. In such a case, an interim president would be appointed until the next.

Six months after Outremont and this is where the Quebec Liberals find themselves? Mr. Fragrasso is expected to survive the vote of non-confidence, but the optics are dreadful. Instead of preparing for an election, there is a civil war occuring, and it appears NOBODY is in charge.

No contracts for election signs, no phone lines for offices, no offices for the phones, many ridings without candidates, a complete and utter clusterfuck. Membership is now 1/10th the number under Martin, despite a 50% off sale to sign up (5 bucks).

Somebody needs to get control of this situation, it really is ridiculous, and it actually makes me entertain my "nervous nellie" side.


Knb has a different perspective, worth considering.

Cadman Smackdown

Rick Mercer, sums it up very nicely (h/t Mound of Sound)


Obama Losing His Mojo?

This is not a statement on whether or not Obama will win the Democratic race, but there does seem to some disturbing trends developing. For the first time since Super Tuesday, a respected national poll has Clinton statistically ahead:
The latest Gallup Poll Daily tracking shows Hillary Clinton with a five percentage point lead over Barack Obama in national Democratic voters' nomination preferences, 48% to 43%.

This marks the second consecutive day of Gallup Poll Daily tracking showing Clinton with a statistically significant lead over Obama, something she had not accomplished since Feb. 7-9 polling.

One of Obama's central arguments, that had worked to his favor, the notion that he is a stronger opponent than Clinton vs McCain. Obama has often cited polling which shows him doing much better head to head than his rival, to support the claim. That line of argument has apparently evaporated, with polls now showing no advantage:
CNN Mar 19

Clinton 49% McCain 47%
Obama 47% McCain 46%

CBS Mar 19

Obama 48% McCain 43%

Clinton 46% McCain 44%

USA Today Mar 18

Clinton 51% McCain 46%

Obama 49% McCain 47%

If you take the lastest average of all the head to head polls, you find McCain beats Obama .8%, Clinton 1.1%. In other words, Obama's once significant advantage has disappeared.

When you look at some state polls, you see Clinton doing much better than Obama in bellweather Missouri vs McCain, better in Ohio, Kentucky, Mass, California, Florida, Pennsylvania. In fairness, there are many states where Obama does better, but I present these to counter the notion that Obama has swing state appeal, relative to Clinton.

Looking ahead, North Carolina was supposed to be friendly terrority for Obama, earlier offerings showed a significant lead. The latest poll, shows a deadheat:
Obama 44
Clinton 43

I'd rather not debate Obama's chances, or if Hillary really has any. However, it does seem counter-intuitive that the race is over, and yet we see no evidence of people gravitating towards the supposed victor, in fact the opposite is occuring. It might just a small blip on the road, everything is fluid, but the trends are clearly with Clinton at the moment.

Good Answer

McGuinty's response to the Flaherty/Harper rhetoric is a terrific frame:
"Seventy-five per cent of all the money we spend around here goes to health and education and supports for the vulnerable, so you can't take $5.1 billion out and not close hospitals, and not fire nurses, and not make cuts to education, and not give rise to dramatic increases in tuition, and not fire water inspectors and not make cuts to social assistance," McGuinty told reporters.

"It just can't be done. There's just not enough money in the other 25 per cent to fully give effect to that $5.1 billion tax cut. It's not there. I'm not prepared to do that."

What this type of answer does is completely declaw Flaherty, while at the same time reminding voters of the past regime. McGuinty presents a simple choice, corporate tax cuts vs cuts to hospitals and schools. I don't think it takes much imagination to see where mainstream voter opinion would side.

Quite clever of McGuinty to position himself as the champion of health care and education, defending a perceived threat. The federal argument means taking away resources for core departments, it reminds everyone of the Harris regime, a very unattractive alternative.

McGuinty frames the question down to a most basic premise- do you sacrifice your children's education, access to health care in order to give corporations a tax break? I know which side of that argument most resonates with voters. The "strategic geniuses" have been out-flanked by the calm Liberal Premier, BADLY.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

"Bad Voters"

Garth Turner today, admonishing voters for poor turnout in the by-elections:
Canadians in four ridings ought to have their little backsides twaddled. Bad voters. Use it or lose it.

One one level, you understand the comment, but in general it misses the mark badly. Politicians need to look at voters as their audience, and their performance as the draw. If people aren't turning out, is it not more a reflection of political failure, rather than an electorate shirking their democratic responsibility?

By-elections are notorious for low turnout, this last batch setting a new precedent, which I don't think is an anomaly. As a matter of fact, I wouldn't be surprised in the least if voter turnout hovers around 50% in the next federal election. There is a growing disconnect between our political class and the people, which is the root cause of apathy. There is a complete lack of inspiration, and our political parties are casually dismissed as mostly irrelevant.

If anyone comforts themselves in thinking lower voter turnout is simply a function of modern society, a quick glance down south, where voters have come out in record numbers, should pierce that vacade. Garth Turner shouldn't be spanking voters, he should be spanking some of his fellow MP's, the party spinmeisters, and everyone else who has contributed to turning our system into more circus than substance. Good gracious, political junkies find it hard to watch these days, you can hardly blame others for tuning you out. I'm at the point, where I would rather eat a bag of nails, than watch embarassing fools like Tim Powers, Scott Reid and Brad Lavigne kick sand in an absurd playground. These are the people in charge of getting the "message" out to voters? Lord help us all.

Here's the thing the political class needs to realize, people have a rather inate ability to smell the bullshit. They don't believe Dion when he rationalizes abstention with "Canadians don't want an election". They don't buy Layton when he answers a valid question about poor by-election results with "remember Outremont". They aren't impressed with a government that preaches accountability and transparency, while simultaneously implementing the tightest information control regiment in Canadian history. In other words, politicians words have lost their weight, they will say anything, do anything, spin anything, whatever it takes and this promotes cynicism, which in turn leads to apathy, which manifests itself in the ballot box.

If nobody is turning out to the performance, it might have something to do with a simple fact- the bands suck. Bad voters, or bad choices?

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Jim Flaherty might just be the Liberals biggest asset in Ontario. Despite every pollster in agreement, Flaherty's assaults on McGuinty are backfiring with the electorate, these politically tone deaf Tories continue with the rhetoric:
Ontario is on track to become a "have-not" province within two to three years, federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says.

"I'm quite concerned with the weakening of the Ontario economy," Flaherty said yesterday.

"If this continues -- this is not hyperbole, this is a fact -- Ontario will become a 'have- not' province in confederation.

"And it will be Premier (Dalton) McGuinty's legacy that he in two terms took Ontario from being the strongest economic province in the federation to a 'have-not' province," he said.

And on, and on, and on...

An error of almost herculian proportions, Flaherty continues to make the fight personal, offering absurdity to Ontarians, that everything is McGuinty's fault. Nobody forgets the speaker is the same man who left Ontario in debt, part of a very unpopular "revolution".

People can debate the merit in Flaherty's arguments for eternity, the fact of the matter, the Conservatives just reinforce the image of mean-spirited, divisive politics, more interested in bashing than working together. Common sense dictates that the federal government will never win in a feud with a provincial Premier, especially one that just won another majority. Rather than put McGuinty on the defensive, Flaherty gives him a platform to champion Ontario, against a hostile federal government. Any reading of Canadian history shows that calling out a relatively stable Premier never works to the feds advantage. In fact, it usually results in a rallying around the "locals".

By more than 2-1 Ontarians favor McGuinty over Flaherty/Harper in this war of words. Four polling outfits show erosion for the Conservatives in Ontario, with two on record citing Flaherty as partial cause. And yet, the heated language continues, the fight personal, all the while cementing a negative frame for the Conservatives. I have to laugh at it all, because Jim Flaherty is really, for the Liberals, the gift that just keeps on giving.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Different Numbers, Same Trends

Two new polls today, both of which are worrying for the Conservatives, potentially good news for the Liberals. Decima shows a deadheat, while Strategic Counsel has a large lead for the Conservatives. I'll explain why I think both polls are good for the Liberals, first blush aside.

First the numbers:

The latest Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey had support for both the major federal parties flatlining at 32 per cent.

The NDP was at 17 per cent, the Bloc Québécois 9 per cent and the Green party was at 8 per cent.

Strategic Counsel:

Tories had the support of 38 per cent of the electorate, down only one point from last month. The Stéphane Dion-led Liberals remained static at 27 per cent, while the NDP jumped two points to 14 per cent and the Greens stayed the same at 12.

Decima actually has the Liberals up 32-30 in there last week of polling. Of note, the Conservatives were as high as 35% four weeks ago, Liberals unchanged.

Where is the good news in the Strategic Counsel poll? National results can tend to skew seat totals, and in this poll, we see that the Conservatives ridiculous support in Alberta, and other parts of the west, are skewing the national results, leaving a false impression. Last month, SC basically had the same national results, but in the regionals we saw the Conservatives ahead 42-34 in Ontario, beating the Liberals 22-19 in Quebec. Things have changed, and when you factor these results, any perceived Conservative "lead" is less impressive:
In Ontario, the Tories are marginally ahead of the Liberals, 37-34...

In Quebec, the Tories enjoy the support of 20 per cent of voters, compared with the Liberals, at 23 per cent.

Trending down in Ontario, now in third in Quebec. Certainly not the majority numbers the national presentation entertains. One caveat for Conservative supporters, Strategic Counsel, while it recognizes erosion in Ontario, it is the only pollster to still give them a lead. In fact, Ipsos, Nanos and Decima all give the Liberals large leads, so SC would appear an outlier.


In Ontario, Liberals lead with 43 per cent, followed by the Conservatives at 32, the NDP at 14 and the Greens at nine....

In Quebec, the survey put the Bloc on top with 37 per cent support, followed by the Liberals at 27, the Tories at 19, NDP at 12 and Greens with four.

One month ago, Decima had the Tories and Liberals tied in Ontario at 40%, Tories tied in Quebec 23-22%. There has been erosion every since, to the point now, supported by other polls, where the numbers actually suggest a Liberal government.

Strategic Counsel overstates the Conservative support in Ontario, and this may explain part of the national lead. However, watching the trends with a particular outfit, you see that SC isn't much different from Decima, both show the Conservatives falling in Ontario and the Liberals rebounding somewhat in Quebec. In fact, every single national pollster has shown the same trends, making the prospects good that this is real movement.

Decima's Anderson was on Newman's show today, talking about his poll. He mentioned Cadman, and said he thought that had cost the Conservatives "a couple points". Interestingly, while SC tries to downplay Cadman, we get this admission:

The pollsters said the Liberals should not give up on the Cadman issue, as there may be some underlying weakness to exploit.

Overall, these are good numbers for the Liberals, and nobody should be afraid of the Strategic Counsel results, once you break it down. Two polls, both with encouraging signs, relative to their past findings.

By-Election No Spin Attempt

Sifting through the spin from last night, it seems there are a few objective truths buried beneath the partisan stench. I thought I'd do this analysis on a party by party basis.

I hardly think the Liberals getting thumped in a riding they once held, coupled with a prospects of a recount in a supposed "stronghold", represents a banner night. The victories in Toronto were great, and the margins were very impressive. But, the Toronto results are about as relevant to the big picture as the Conservatives winning in Calgary. That said, the real bonus for the Liberals, having two more high profile MP's in Parliament, giving the "team" great depth.

I would describe last night as a so-so proposition for the Liberals, bordering on disappointing. Yes, 3/4 seats won, but barely, and it still represents a net loss of 1 to the Conservatives.

Losing in Saskatchewan isn't a surprise, but the margin is noteworthy, and the reasons for don't paint Dion, or his tactics, in a particularly good light. Desnethé--Missinippi--Churchill River was handled poorly from the start, and in many ways, the Liberals lost this seat through their own actions.

In isolation, you can probably deal with Saskatchewan, but once you factor in the result in Vancouver Quadra, any talk of "a big night" for the Liberals should really evaporate. Yes, by-elections are tricky animals, but to go from a 20 plus % win in 2006, to basically a deadheat is a very disappointing result. Another supposed "safe" seat, proves to be anything but, which raises questions, beyond some convenient excuses.

I'm not suggesting a horrible evening for the Liberals, but to claim momentum out of these by-elections is a little too optimistic, and very selective, for my tastes. A net nothing for the Liberals, all things considered.

To my mind, the big loser from last night was the NDP. Battling for third place in three ridings should be a wakeup call to NDP strategists. The NDP likes to position itself as a different alternative to the two major parties, but clearly, voters who seek change, aren't drawn to the NDP, in fact they are looking elsewhere. People can play with the numbers, argue no erosion, but you still can't escape the optics of a dogfight for third, which used to be a given on the bottom end.

On the flip side, the big winner last night was clearly the Greens, who once again proved that they are establishing a beachhead with Canadians, shedding the "fringe" label. The biggest hurdle for the Greens, show real relevance to voters, last night was another important step in looking credible.

I would also say last night was a fairly good one for the Conservatives. On Tuesday, we now have one more Conservative MP than we did on Monday, hard to spin that as a negative. The fact that the Conservatives came within a whisker in a Liberal urban stronghold, offers some encouragement, a positive development. Obviously, getting no traction in Toronto maintains a common negative theme, but these two riding were always coronations, given the actors.

My scorecard, based on expectations:

Greens A
Cons B
Libs B-

Monday, March 17, 2008

Canada Should Boycott Olympic Games In China

How can Canada send its athletes to a country that has no respect for human rights, suppresses freedom, and just flat out murders people:

Canada should take a stand, because everything this country supposedly stands for on the international stage, is presently being mocked, in the most heinous way.

The main rationale for having the games in China, the thinking it would move the government forward, the international attention would bring some reform. What has become painfully obvious, the world will celebrate sport, give China a platform, while people are tortured and killed. Quite a backdrop. What a disgrace. It's actually a pretty easy call when you think about it, Canada should boycott the games in Beijing.

Then And Now

The other day, I posted on the disconnect between what the Conservatives are saying now on Cadman, as opposed to what was written by Tom Flanagan.

Apparently, I'm not alone.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

A Game Of Expectations

Heading into the four by-elections tomorrow, the biggest challenge for the Liberals is meeting pre-determined expectations. How the results are spun by the media is the key, and in many ways it's a no win scenario.

Should the Liberals manage to win all four ridings, then the result meets expectation, a fairly positive development. I actually see the quality of candidates entering Parliament as the biggest plus to Liberal fortunes, but a sweep maintains the status quo, a restless media declawed. Win all four, then the Liberals have maintained the brand, pretty photo-ops of all the shiny new MP's. You could even argue the Liberals receive some momentum, making an election more likely.

Where it gets tricky, and it isn't necessarily fair, is if the Liberals only manage to win 3 out of the 4. The two ridings in Ontario, and the one in Vancouver Quadra, are safe seats, reasonable to expect victory. The riding in Saskatchewan, however, is anything but a sure thing, in fact it always has been a 50/50 proposition for the Liberals. That said, there is the optics of a potential seat loss, which is magnified when you consider the hand-picked candidate, a direct connection to Dion. Again, if we are being fair in our analysis, a Liberal loss really isn't significant, or telling, but I fear the media will see it differently, at the very least an "okay" night for the Liberals, at worst some questions.

Should it happen, that the Liberals were to lose in Saskatchewan and in British Columbia, then you have the worst case scenario, which opens up a whole host of unattractive possibilities. We can debate the "wacky" quality of by-elections, low turnout, but that is really irrelevant to the frame- Liberals suffer two loses, another "safe seat" gone. In many ways, this is a more troubling development than Outremont, mostly because it reinforces that result, a more wide ranging pattern developed. There would be a media shitstorm of the highest order and we all know the angles.

Should be a fascinating night.

"It was common knowledge among Tory MPs at the time that Mr. Cadman was concerned about his life insurance policy."

One of the chief defences for the Conservatives, the idea that Chuck Cadman, a dying man, was offered a life insurance policy, is simply illogical. Apologists point to the fact that no company would offer a terminally ill man life insurance, that fact alone renders the charges ridiculous. An interesting article today on the Cadman affair, which extracts a few interesting quotes from former MP's, who aren't under the gag order, so common with these new Conservatives. Here is what a couple of Cadman's former colleagues think of the story:
Some of Mr. Hanger’s old colleagues from the Reform days — former MPs who knew Mr. Cadman well — believe that someone offered Mr. Cadman something, and that the powers that be in the Conservative party will try to prevent anyone from finding out what.

Randy White and Val Meredith are so confident in the integrity of the Cadmans that they speak about the million-dollar offer as if it were fact.

"It doesn’t surprise me that an attempt was made," Ms. Meredith said in a telephone interview.

"It’s the logical sort of thing to have done."

Mr. White, who persuaded Mr. Cadman to run for the Reform party in the first place, has no doubt an offer was made.

"If Chuck Cadman says someone made him an offer like that, an offer like that was made," he said.

"Chuck Cadman was not in any way, shape or form the kind of person who would mislead anybody."

Ms. Meredith doesn't think the charges ridiculous, she calls an offer "logical".

The most telling sentence in the article, which might explain why these former MP's accept the insurance bribe as fact:
It was common knowledge among Tory MPs at the time that Mr. Cadman was concerned about his life insurance policy. In the event of an election, if he didn’t run, the policy’s payout to his wife would be cut in half. Some Tories may have wanted to let Mr. Cadman know he shouldn’t worry about that, Mr. Wood (John Reynolds aide) says.

It was "common knowledge" that Cadman had concerns about his life insurance. Within that environment, the ridiculousness of a "financial consideration" becomes far more believable, and this probably explains why former colleagues so easily take the allegation as truth.

It's really common sense. You are trying to secure Cadman's vote, and as such, you are looking for ways to leverage his support. Everyone knows that Cadman's chief concern is the risk in losing half of his insurance policy, as the result of an election. If one wanted to allay those fears, then is it so outlandish to think that his concern might be addressed? We don't need to debate the practicalities of such a policy, all we need to understand, where conditions such, that people might make a financial offer to sway Cadman, alleviate his concerns? Isn't it just WAY too coincidental that everyone knew Cadman was concerned about his life insurance, and then it just so happens that Cadman tells his family that an insurance offer was made?

I find it quite telling, that those who haven't been muzzled by the PMO, people who served with Cadman at the time, partisans, have no problem whatsoever believing an offer was made.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Selling A Mirage

The apologists love to downplay any criticism of Baird's greenhouse gas plan. "Environmental activists", "socialist crusaders", people with a political stake, who are unfair, failing to recognize the "tough" measures put in place. Anybody who is paying attention knows that Baird is a lingustic fraud, his actions more mirage than substance. Within that reality, it is quite interesting that Baird's own department has concluded:
Alberta's oilsands industry will be allowed to triple its annual greenhouse-gas pollution over the next decade, and more than 20 per cent of emissions from the rest of the oilpatch will be exempt from Prime Minister Stephen Harper government's green plan, revealed Environments Canada documents released this week.

New provisions introduced into the climate change plan would allow oilsands operations in Alberta and the coal-fired power plants of Ontario to offset 100 per cent of their pollution by paying themselves "pre-certified investments."

Meantime, Environment Canada has confirmed that millions of tonnes of pollution from small facilities will be exempt for companies in sectors such as oil and gas, natural gas pipelines, electricity, chemicals and fertilizers.

A department estimate in December predicted about 10 million tonnes of greenhouse-gas pollution would not be covered as a result of the exemptions proposed to reduce administrative burdens on the smaller companies, including 20 to 30 per cent of emissions from small oil and gas companies outside of the oilsands sector.

Shariff said it appeared the government has introduced loopholes that were tailor-made to help out oilpatch companies and coal-fired power plants.

Absolutely staggering, that Canada's number one producer of greenhouse gases will be allowed to triple its output in the next ten years. How can anyone take seriously a plan which allows this to happen?

This reaction pretty much says it all:
"It's an interesting flexibility mechanism. We're intrigued and we will be looking at it," said Pierre Alvarez, president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

No mention if Mr. Alvarez was doing cartwheels when he spoke.

Baird's plan isn't a plan, it's a public relations ruse. No reasonable person can look at the conclusions of Environment Canada and feel otherwise. What a joke.

Friday, March 14, 2008

"I look forward to seeing the Leader of the Opposition actually let this go to trial so he can hear the whole truth and admit his own role in it."

Stephen Harper, yesterday in Question Period. Harper can't wait to hear Dion in court, defending his role. Only trouble with that wish:
Liberal MPs could invoke parliamentary privilege to delay testifying in the prime minister's libel suit over bribery allegations - a tactic Stephen Harper himself has used before.

Harper invoked parliamentary privilege last year after longtime Tory Alan Riddell sued him and the Conservative party for allegedly libelling him during the last federal election.

Canadian courts have ruled that parliamentarians aren't compelled to appear at legal proceedings while the House of Commons is in session.
Nor do they have to appear 40 days after the end of a session, or 40 days before the next one begins.
That narrows the window when an MP might be compelled to testify. Sessions only end when elections are called or when the government prorogues Parliament.

It's actually kind of comical, Harper makes threats, then backs down, Harper tells Dion to be weary, but seems to forget the precedent he set, hiding from the courts.

The best part, this story, which just rehashes the entire affair, only makes it to publication because of Harper's libel suit. Harper, the strategic genius, throws a few logs on a fire.

One suggestion, when asked by reporters, the Liberals should refer to the parliamentary privilege angle as the "Harper Defence". Too rich for words.

As an aside, Kady O'Malley has a great post on the bumbling pointman for the Conservatives, James Moore.

Reconcile This

One of the main lines of defence, reiterated over and over by the Conservatives, Chuck Cadman was offered help in an re-election bid. When confronted with the absurdity in logic, Conservative MP James Moore has responded with the following:

"Mr. Speaker, the only offer was the one I mentioned yesterday, and on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and last week. We wanted Chuck to run for the Conservative Party.

" Mr. Cadman was offered any help he needed to be re-elected as a Conservative."

"Mr. Speaker, the specific offer given to Chuck Cadman, the specific offer of May 19 had three components: first, to rejoin the Conservative caucus; second, we would help him secure the Conservative Party nomination; and third, we would support him in his re-election in whatever financial help he might need getting re-elected as a Conservative candidate. Those are the three elements he received.

"the only offer made to Chuck Cadman was our desire to have him run for us in the campaign, and for him to be the Conservative candidate in that election. That is the central fact of this."

The central fact, according to Moore, the offer was a return to caucus and help during a election. Moore has also argued that only three people were in the room, when the offer was made, we should take their word for it. Tom Flanagan was in the room, a central figure. When you read Flanagan's book, you see that the idea of a re-election is patently ridiculous:
May 19 (the infamous meeting):

Chuck was gracious when he received us in his Parliamentary office, but he was visibly tired, and I could see that he wasn’t up to negotiating a return to caucus.”

Nevermind, not up to fighting for re-election, Cadman, according to Flanagan, wasn't even up to discussing a return to caucus.

Flanagan, had a very real sense of Cadman's health:
“Doug Finley wanted to make one last attempt to persuade Cadman to rejoin the Conservative caucus, but Chuck was very sick with skin cancer—he would be dead in two months—and wasn’t answering his phone.”

"Dead in two-months", and yet we are to believe the same man who thought this, was so detached from reality, that an offer for re-election would be feasible. These are Flanagan's words, Flanagan realized Cadman had weeks to live. The only way to reconcile what the main principle thought, and what Moore is spewing in Parliament, is too lose all of your intellectual capacities. It makes no sense, none whatsoever, in fact it such a cynical defence, it insults Cadman's real situation.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

"This will become the biggest error in judgment in Mr.Dion's career"

What might be getting lost in Harper's statement of claim today, it would appear that the wounded duck has backed down to an extent, or at least that was the characterization of the apolitical, noted Canadian libel lawyer, Peter Jacobsen today:
"This statement of claim does not include them as defendents. So obviously the Conservatives are backing off the allegation that Mr. Dion, or Mr. Ignatieff, or Mr. Goodale knew what was on the website."

"And, that is significant, because it leaves open the question, why did they include them in the notice of libel in the first place, if they didn't have the goods"

Jacobsen also doesn't seem to think this matter belongs in the courts, and offers Harper a suggestion:
"One thing to remember is Mr. Harper has said, one of the reason they are doing this is so Mr. Dion can find out what the truth is at trial. It seems to be that the PM, of all people, has a very large pulpit to tell people what happened, what Mr. Cadman was offered or wasn't in some detail, and that would go a long way to resolving the matter. Once that was in the open, then the Liberal Party could come a long and say, "okay now that you've explained it, we're no longer asserting that you're involved in bribery, and that's the end of it" would be better for the Canadian people I would suggest"

"Legal Eagle", Joe Comartin of the NDP sees the same thing:
"I must admit, it's very surprising, and maybe a good sign in terms of lowering the temperature, that Mr.Dion, Mr. Ignatieff, Mr. Goodale who had been named in the notice, haven't been named in the lawsuit...So, they're not on the hook personally, so maybe that's a sign that the Prime Minister is backing off"

So, now that we start to peel the banana here, it would seem this isn't the "biggest error in judgement" Mr. Dion has made, in fact he isn't even part of the suit. Quite a different circumstance, compared to Harper's posturing a couple weeks ago. And, to all those Con apologists, just itching to watch the Liberals get their's, get comfy:

"The thing to remember, a libel suit is going to take MANY YEARS to come to fruition, likely one election, maybe two before this gets heard in a court of law, so one wonders if this was the best to deal with this dilemna"

One other thing to keep in mind, someone like Duffy (who has tried to ignore this story) was forced to devote 15 minutes of his program to discuss the matter, because of the legal case. This case (which will probably never see a courtroom, or when it does it will be so old nobody will care) keeps the Cadman story in the news, more headlines, without giving the Conservatives any positive development. The Liberals are not backing down, the website remains, they rise everyday in QP, so the legal threat does nothing, nobody has the "chill". I suppose people can take some comfort in the unknown, years away, but this lawsuit hurts the Conservatives when it matters, today, tomorrow, a few weeks, a few months. The libel case adds oxygen to a story that has nothing but bad news for the Conservatives.

Wah Wah

Below, members of Prime Minister Harper's inner circle meet to discuss what legal action to take against the Liberals:


Apparently, the meeting ended abruptly, after Harper complained of a poopie bum.

Harper Follows Through On Libel Suit

Harper will sue the Liberals for two and a half times the money he and his cronies "allegedly" offered Cadman:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is following through on his threat to sue the federal Liberals for $2.5 million because of accusations, posted on the Liberal party's website, that he knew of "Conservative bribery."

The lawsuit — a statement of claim was served today — is a response to the "defamatory" statements made by the Liberals, Harper spokesperson Sandra Buckler said.

"He's doing what any other person with integrity would do to defend himself and his family," she said.

Actually Sandra "I misspoke" Buckler, people with integrity answer basic questions, people that are telling the truth don't dodge and weave, stonewall and use the legal route to try and kill a story.

Harper sets a horrible precedent here, but hardly a surprising one. The good news, Canadians overwhelming disapprove of this tactic, it actually furthers the notion that Harper is a mean-spirited bully. Will he win or not? Who knows, but one thing for certain, none of us will know for years.

Iraq Neutralized?

Conventional wisdom always assumed Iraq would be an albatross for any Republican Presidential nominee. On the flip side, the Democratic candidate would have no more effective talking point, Iraq would sway independents, giving them the advantage in the fall. A new PEW poll brings fairly startling results, and while temporary, fluid, volatile, these numbers might give Democrats pause:
According to late February polling conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, 53 percent of Americans — a slim majority — now believe “the U.S. will ultimately succeed in achieving its goals” in Iraq. That figure is up from 42 percent in September 2007.

The percentage of those who believe the war in Iraq is going “very well” or “fairly well” is also up, from 30 percent in February 2007 to 48 percent today.

As many voters now believe that the war is going “well” as “not well” — 48 percent each, according to Pew.

Pew also found that 49 percent favor bringing the troops home as soon as possible while 47 percent say the troops should stay in until the situation stabilizes — statistical parity between the two positions.

The big electoral prize, independents are equally divided:
Half of self-identified independents polled now believe the United States should “keep troops in Iraq until the situation has stabilized,”

Iraq is McCain's issue, he has never shied away from bringing it up, even when it was politically perilious. For the Republicans, the prospects of any Iraq debate, which essentially amounts to a draw with the public, is really a victory, relative to the past circumstance. If the Republicans can take Iraq off the table as a point of criticism, that represents a worrying sign for Democrats, who always assumed advantage.

What these numbers tell us, there is a growing perception that America has turned the corner in Iraq, whether that is accurate or not is clearly debatable. However, in terms of perception, I doubt anybody would have predicted this change in opinion, and it clearly works against the Democrats.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Chuck Yuk's

Pretty funny, not to mention factual(h/t Matt).

Kady O'Malley has another good post on the insanity that is the Cadman Affair in the Justice Committee. Conservatives seem to be quite committed to stonewalling something which is apparently baseless. Interesting.

Misguided Loyalty

Cherniak asks the big question today of Liberal bloggers, “is your blog hurting or helping the cause?” Such an offensive post, on so many levels, I frankly don’t know where to start.

According to Jason:

I'm asking people to think about what they are writing and why they are writing it. That's communications 101.

In other words, people should censor themselves, people shouldn’t articulate an honest opinion, because the primary consideration is appearances. Libloggers are really meant for propaganda, another tool to argue the pre-approved, easy on the eyes, talking points. If one were to criticize, this somehow harms the party, this is counter-productive. What UTTER RUBBISH.

Let’s keep it real for a minute, especially on this “communications 101” angle. For communication to be effective, it must be credible, the reader must have some respect for the words conveyed. If people are reduced to reciting lame talking points, because all they care about is required presentation, they aren’t taken seriously. Take yesterday for example, Jason tries to argue against going into an election, but is reduced to using Easter as a prime rationale for Liberal opposition- what person takes that crap seriously? Is Jason so arrogant he assumes his readership operates with the intellectual sophistication of a 10 year old? No, it’s just dismissed as partisan nonsense, it doesn’t help any cause, in fact it makes you look desperate.

I honestly believe that the Liberals are doing themselves irreparable harm by abstaining, delaying an election, conveying weakness. I have no personal agenda, I am not here to curry favor with the Liberal leadership, I have no ambitions, I don’t need to kiss ass (you do the math). I will continue to “moan and whine” as I see fit, but I also will offer support when warranted. In that way, people who bother to read this blog know that my views are my own, they aren’t a filtered calculation. Bloggers don’t harm anything by expressing themselves, in fact that is what the medium is supposed to be, it isn’t a commercial. If Jason thinks his approach is productive, he is frankly kidding himself, and I use the laughter some of his posts generate as proof. I think Liblogs should be a vehicle for the grassroots, not a forum for censored propaganda.


Scott says it better here.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Talking Tough IV

Where have we seen this movie before?:
Election-shy Liberals are suddenly threatening to bring down Stephen Harper's minority Conservative government as early as next month over legislation to implement the latest federal budget.

The about-face Tuesday followed several weeks of humiliation for Liberals, who've been finding novel ways to avoid defeating the government on crucial confidence votes – including a series of votes on the very budget that they're now warning could prompt a spring election...

Actually, others are suggesting the same:
Some Liberals in high places now believe there's a window of fresh opportunity opening that could make what seemed like a mission-impossible takedown a theoretical possibility.

But Liberal hawks with influence dissected the latest Ipsos Reid poll conducted for Canwest News Service and from the raw numbers, mysteriously deciphered 123 Liberal seats versus 114 for the Conservatives. Unless the Libs suffer a St. Paddy's Day massacre on Monday and lose more than one of the four by-election contests, they predict spring election fever will continue to rise.

The most comforting line I've read recently, that people might just get it:
Privately, a good number of Liberal MPs, including deputy leader Michael Ignatieff, have been urging Dion to pull the plug. They fear that propping up the government has made the party appear spineless and unprincipled, a perception that will only get worse the longer Liberals refuse to take a stand.

Worse indeed, in fact we are almost at the point of no return. This is as good as it gets.


Justice Committee chair Art Hanger doing his best "I'm taking my ball and going home" routine, after the opposition (minus the NDP) challenged his ruling on Cadman. Hanger ruled Leblanc's motion to investigate out of order. When challenged, poor Mr. Hanger left his post as chair, stomping out of the room:
Hanger says he's stepping out of the room and—refusing to serve as chair?...

He's refusing to call the vote, which means the opposition has to fill his spot...

The motion will be first on the agenda when the committee meets again, although I'm not sure when that will be, what with the chair abandoning his post.

Discussions with someone far more knowledgeable than I reveal that the clerk may have made a critical mistake by allowing the chair to stomp off without dealing with the challenge to his ruling. Apparently, that renders everything since that point of somewhat dubious procedural legitimacy.

Like little children, the way the Conservatives react when they don't get their way. Mr. Hanger was last seen trudging through the snow, on his way home. What will his mother say when she learns he forgot his mittens?

It Matters

When faced with the harsh reality, that yes, hiding behind curtains, abdicating your role in parliament, might come at a price, the popular defence seems to be, it doesn't matter, nobody is really paying attention. Liberals can act with relative impunity, their actions have little impact on a disengaged public, only junkies care, they aren't representative of the greater population.

I would agree, that Canadians are generally apathetic at the moment, certainly not engaged enough to care about the details. However, to extrapolate that fact into a rationalization that Liberals don't pay a price for their performance, is wishful thinking.

First off, you can immediately eliminate half the electorate, because these people don't vote, their indifference is irrelevant to any equation, they don't exist in terms of impression. Now that you've narrowed your audience, you've taken "joe blow" out of the mix, you are left with the other half, of which a reasonable percentage are somewhat engaged.

When asked if people follow events at a national level closely, 28% of Canadians said yes. Another 50% say they follow events somewhat closely. This finding supports another study, which tracks people's new access:
Sixty-five per cent of Canadians read a daily newspaper on any given weekday, and 72% read a newspaper on weekends. Canadians spend an average of 45 minutes a day reading their daily newspaper and almost 90 minutes on weekend editions.

I would argue 99% of the people who actually vote encompass the 65% who read a newspaper, we need not concern ourselves with the completely disinterested, nor should we find comfort in their habits. Again, they are irrelevant to the equation. When you see a stat, that a quarter of people follow events closely, we are really talking about half of the voting public. The rest, the other half, are at least exposed to the level of casual information absorber.

What the people who defend the Liberals at the moment forget, it doesn't take a high degree of engagement to grasp the broad themes. Let's look at one example, Dion's leadership. By an overwhelming majority, Canadians have developed an impression that Dion isn't a strong leader. I've heard many argue that this is a by-product of the constant Tory attack ads, they have damaged Dion somewhat. That might be true, but I find it odd to use a medium to help explain, the same medium which apparently nobody watches. If people see the commericals, hear the ads, they are also catching the odd newscast, a couple moments on the radio. In other words, night after of night of negative stories about abstaining and lame excuses eventually has an impact, even if people aren't consumed, like political junkies.

When people react to the NDP, Bloc, Conservative attacks on the Liberals with "so what?", it conveys too things, partisan arrogance and bad spin. It does matter, it does feed an already held perception of the Liberals, it cements the frame, it makes it hard to break out of that negative image. If you think that conditions will somehow improve, within a climate which oozes weakness day after day, then you are kidding yourself. If you think nobody cares, all of this occurs within some esoteric playground, detached from people's busy lives, then you are kidding yourself. Actions have consequences, and while one individual vote might not resonate, patterns do, broad strokes sink in, impressions are made.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Tough Guy

Despite the fact Canadians overwhelming reject Harper's legal threats, according to Duffy, the Liberals can expect the paperwork to move forward "any day":
Top Liberals recently became the subject of a legal threat after posting claims about the incident on their website. It marks the first time a sitting Prime Minister has sued the opposition for libel.

Liberal Leader Stephane Dion, the Liberal Party of Canada and MPs Ralph Goodale and Ignatieff have been threatened with a lawsuit and expect the paperwork any day, something Ignatieff says is not in keeping with Canada's democratic traditions.

"In the House of Commons I raise matters that are of legitimate public concern," Ignatieff said. "What do we get? We get sued. Why is the prime minister trying to sue members of Parliament when they're trying to do their job?"

I thought Travers said it best, very unbecoming for the Prime Minister to "hide behind the skirt of the legal system". Given the fact you can still view the articles in question on, it would appear people are shaking in their boots tonight. The service will guarantee one thing, another round of discussion in the press, which invariably brings more questions about unsatisfactory answers.