Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Keep Shovelling Pierre

Below, Pierre Poilivre demonstrates the correct method for spreading manure:

Little does Pierre know, he is really digging his own grave.

We've already seen a couple of polls, showing the "in and out" scandal hitting the Conservatives hard. This Harris Decima poll finds overwhelming rejection of the Conservative spin machine, Canadians aren't buying the bull:
Fifty-eight per cent of respondents told The Canadian Press/Harris-Decima survey they don't believe the Tories' insistence that they did nothing wrong. Only 26 per cent found the Conservative defence to be believable.

You see a lot of polls, rarely do you such unanimity, a full 70% of people that responded don't believe the Conservatives. Even when you factor in those that didn't respond, the 26% who believe the Cons is below their base support, nevermind any hope of attracting swing voters.

What is possibly worse for the Conservatives, the "don't believe" numbers are highest in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia. You can't spin these results away, Canadians, in convincing terms, don't buy the weak excuses, they believe the Conservatives "cheated" in The kicker, I would argue a good percentage of these numbers where driven by the Conservatives own mis-management of this entire affair, their amateurish reactions, silly rationalizations.

Everyone can take great comfort, the next time Pierre rises to spew the nonsense, knowing full well NOBODY IS BUYING.

CROP Quebec Poll

Robert's post on CROP reads like a kid with a blackberry out on recess. James notes that the Bloc is falling, the Liberals stable. My take, after the numbers:
Bloc 28%
Conservatives 27%
Liberals 20%
NDP 17% here or 18% here
Greens 9% here or, you guessed it 7% here

The Liberals occupy a distant fourth with francophones, a full 5% behind the NDP. In the Quebec region, the Liberal numbers have reached a new low at 10%. However, if you look at the regional breakdowns, the Liberals are still in position to maintain their seat totals, still the possibility for pickups.

Both the Bloc and Conservatives are down 2 points since the last survey, the Liberals unmoved, the NDP up 3 or 4 depending on the source (strange that). As James notes, the erosion of the Bloc and Cons seems to benefit the NDP, but unlike him, I think Liberals should take little comfort in that dynamic. What that situation really tells us, voters are bypassing the Liberals as a second choice, a viable alternative. I would also argue that this dynamic might be the reason why Conservative numbers remain high, as voters don't see much choice, apart from the unproven NDP. That said, the Conservatives are clearly in position to pickup seats.

The NDP has ever right to be gleeful at these numbers, if they were to hold, then the Quebec caucus would surely grow, a beach head established, piercing through the most important hurdle- the perception of viability. The only caution, these numbers are softer than the Maple Leafs defence, a long way to go before they translate to the voter booth.

From the Liberal perspective, I would take these findings as opportunity. The Bloc are clearly on the wane, the appetite for seperation at a very low ebb. The Conservatives have established a base of support, but I suspect their policies still keep people at arms length. There is clearly a void here, and rather than the NDP winning "hearts and minds", I see the surge as more voter "fishing" than fundamental breakthrough. Whether that flirtation translates to concrete results is still largely a function of the Liberal reaction.

The Liberals desperately need to update their language in the province, present a progressive policy vision that appeals to mainstream Quebec, and above all, make Dion relevant to the discussion (Charest's astounding turn around does offer some hope, both are known quantities). Right now, it would appear as though voters, outside of the last bastions, don't even consider the Liberals, a distasteful afterthought. If the Liberals do take a pass on a spring election (the horror!), then I expect Dion to live in Quebec for the entire summer, all energy focused on this albatross, some innovative ideas, confronting his image in a forceful and focused way (unlike the quick hits, here and there, with no sense of gameplan, that we have seen to date), anything less than urgency denotes delusion.

Nothing To Hide?

Remember when Liberal MP Marlene Jennings was accused of suspicious campaign expensions, she immediately went to the media, producing all documentation, to show no irregularities. The reason- everything was within the rules, no problem being forthcoming. Contrast that reaction, with former Conservative candidates being muzzled:
The three Nova Scotian Tory candidates who participated in the in-and-out scheme in the last election have all declined to be interviewed on the subject.

Elections Canada records show that the campaign of Rakesh Khosla, the Tory candidate in Halifax West, wired $11,841 to the national campaign on Dec. 31, 2005. His campaign was reimbursed for the same amount on Jan. 4, 2006.

Halifax candidate Andrew House’s campaign received $4,733 from the national party on Jan. 12. On Jan. 23, it sent the same amount back for an advertising purchase.

The campaign of Dartmouth candidate Robert A. Campbell, a former Mountie, wired $3,947 to the national party for advertising on Dec. 23, 2005, and received the same amount from the party on Jan. 9.

Contacted this week, all of the candidates declined to be interviewed on the subject.

More important the the court case, the court of public opinion. Surely, a wrong has been committed, these people did nothing untoward, we should see a concerted effort to clear the air. That's the reaction of people with nothing to hide, refusing to answer questions, hiding in the shadows, well that suggests something else.

The Conservatives will argue that, with the looming legal question, they have been advised not to speak. Strange that, considering Pierre and company have had no trouble laying out their legal case, hurling accusations at others, in public. What we have heard from the Conservatives constitutes the basis of their legal defence, which means there is no excuse to "muzzle" people, no excuse not to produce the documentation others have asked to see.

You can get lost in the noise of spin. Sometimes, the best way to get to the truth is observing the body language, the way in which parties react. A Liberal is accused, we see full disclosure immediately. A Conservative is accused, they are buried deep within the earth's mantle to avoid the cameras. That distinction tells us all we need to know. If you have nothing to hide, why then are you hiding? Strange.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Government Should Recall All Elections Canada Representatives Working Abroad

It's days like these that make me question the supposed strategic "brilliance" of the Harper Conservatives. It was really pretty simple when you think about, but once again the Conservatives have amplified the damage. The Bloc introduces their motion, expressing confidence in Elections Canada. The easy response for the Conservatives, simply abstain, send a message, without having the government declare no confidence in a national institution, the bedrock of our democracy, an organization that we proudly parade around the world to ensure fairness. You abstain, you just do, you're the government! Everybody would understand, the debate moves on, no harm, no foul- we have a "disagreement with Elections Canada", but we still have confidence in the organization.

You can't be melodramatic here, what the government has done is effectively undermine the credibility of Elections Canada. That vote has implications, that vote tells Canadians that the government doesn't believe we should put any faith in the organization that cradles our democracy. How can the government allow Elections Canada to work abroad, in Haiti, in Afghanistan, the Ukraine, part of many multi-lateral initiatives, with the sole purpose of exporting our expertise, laying democratic foundations based on principle? The government has expressed non confidence in Elections Canada, as a result all their representatives should be recalled home, until we solve this crisis. If the government voted against the Department of National Defence and Hillier, what message does that send to the Afghans, is that not an admission of failure?

The government of Canada, think about this for one second, is so consumed with it's own narrow self-interest, that it tells Canadians it has no faith in an institution which will oversee the next election. Ignatieff is not over-stating here:
Deputy Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said the Conservative decision to vote against the motion was "shameful" and "dangerous."

"I find it unbelievable that a governing party in Canada would refuse to support a motion expressing confidence in the institution that keeps our country's elections fair. I just find it unbelievable."

Unbelievable and dangerous indeed. What is the greater good for the Conservative Party of Canada at a given moment, not what is the greater good for the country, for our pillars of democracy.

On the political front, today's boneheaded decision to vote against the motion and not abstain represents the latest installment of the Tory self-inflicted wound routine. After watching how the Conservatives have mishandled EVERY SINGLE development in this squabble with Elections Canada, managed to pour gasoline consistently, I have to say, I don't fear these keystone cops in the least. Today's move is the latest rank amateur decision, demonstrating a mind boggling tunnel vision, that just can't seem to understand the idea of consequence, can't seem to operate with any foresight. No wonder these people need message control, when forced to freelance they are nothing more than incompetent BOOBS.

Dangerous and dumb, quite a combination.

Hey Pierre

Pierre Poilievre during Question Period today, answered ever question with an example of opposition use of their own "in and out". Duceppe asks a question, Pierre responds with examples of the Bloc doing the "same thing". LeBlanc asks a question, Pierre gives an account of how he and other Liberals did the "same thing". Point, counter-point, hard to find the truth, maybe Pierre is really on to something?

I was wondering if Pierre could go one further, considering other parties where playing on the margins, just like the Conservatives. Surely, there must exist some former Liberal candidates, disgruntled Bloc candidates, forsaken NDP candidates, who would be willing to come forward to question the ethics of their own parties "schemes". Clearly, there must be a riding somewhere, where an opposition candidate refused to participate, their moral compass out of whack?

Since everyone is doing the "same thing", then why is it that only former Conservative candidates like Cynthia Downey, Joe Goudie, Gary Caldwell, Barbro Soderberg are on record questioning their party's actions? Why were there two Conservative ridings that flatly refused to participate in the perfectly legitimate expenditures? Why do we only hear of Conservatives smelling something "fishy"?

Hey Pierre, we don't need to compare and contrast with other parties. Seems to me, we can just use CONSERVATIVES to prove the point. I wait with anticipation for former Liberal, Bloc and NDP candidates to come forward and demonstrate their own reservations and questions about their respective party's activities. Seems entirely logical, after all everybody was doing it. Right?

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Obama Myth?

Yesterday, an Obama supporter parroted the often used line that he is a stronger candidate than Clinton, based on the ability to win "red" states, draw support from new voter polls, expand the Democratic brand. This argument is central to the Obama campaign, Clinton is too divisive, only Obama can appeal, he is a better match against McCain.

Just for fun, I thought I would put that theory to the test. I've taken all the polls, the head to head matchups with McCain, in every state available. The criteria is as follows, I've awarded both candidates the Electoral College votes for each state, if they meet the minimum threshold of at least a statistical tie. Here are the results:
Arkansas: Clinton 6 Obama 0

California: Clinton 55 Obama 55

Colorado: Clinton 0 Obama 9

Florida: Clinton 27 Obama 0

Indiana: Clinton 0 Obama 0

Iowa: Clinton 0 Obama 7

Maine: Clinton 4 Obama 4

Mass: Clinton 12 Obama 12

Michigan: Clinton 0 Obama 17

Minnesota: Clinton 9 Obama 9

Missouri: Clinton 11 Obama 0

Nevada: Clinton 0 Obama 5

New Hampshire: Clinton 0 Obama 4

New Jersey: Clinton 15 Obama 15

New Mexico: Clinton 5 Obama 0

North Carolina: Clinton 0 Obama 0

Ohio: Clinton 20 Obama 20

Oregon: Clinton 7 Obama 7

Pennsylvania: Clinton 21 Obama 21

Texas: Clinton 0 Obama 0

Virginia: Clinton 0 Obama 0

Washington: Clinton 11 Obama 11

West Virginia: Clinton 5 Obama 0

Wisconsin: Clinton 0 Obama 10


Clinton 208
Obama 206

If anyone (Obama supporters) want to quibble with the use of a statistical tie in the polls, I would remind them that Obama gains both Pennsylvania and Ohio using this measure- it seems fair, since a tie is the unknown, both candidates subject to the same methodology.

There you have it, a slight Clinton lead, really a deadheat. That shouldn't really surprise anyone, given the closeness of the race, but it does challenge a central tenet of the Obama campaign- electability. The projected numbers tend to make the claim look more myth than actuality.

"In And Out" Feedback

Another poll looking into the fallout of the “in and out” scandal suggests awareness is high and the Conservatives may take a hit. The online Innovative Research poll found:
52 per cent of Canadians said they would be less likely to vote for the Conservative Party if it is confirmed that the Tories did commit some irregularities in their spending in the last federal election and 41 per cent polled said that the outcome of the investigation won't have any effect on their voting decision in the next election.

The poll revealed that 82 per cent of those surveyed said that they have heard about the "in and out" election financing investigation and 59 per cent of those said that, as a result, they have a less favourable view of the Harper Tories, while 36 per cent said the investigation into the party's advertising spending made no difference in their opinion about the party.

The pollster concludes the scandal hasn’t affected the base, but there is the potential for some erosion, especially with undecideds:
The poll also showed that one in four Conservative voters and more than half of the undecided are left with a less favourable impression of the Conservative Party. And one in six Conservatives said that if the Conservatives were found guilty of violating election law, they would be less likely to vote for the Conservative Party.

One in six translates to about 5-6% of national support amongst Conservative supporters, a clear turnoff for swing voters.

One the question of the Conservatives claims of heightened ethical standards, Canadians aren’t buying:
On the question of ethics, 52 per cent of respondents opined that the Conservatives are the same as other parties, 29 per cent said that Tories are worse than most political parties and 16 per cent said they are better than most political parties.

It’s still pretty early to accurately gauge the fallout of this scandal, but in terms of cumulative effect, it would seem the Conservative brand has been undermined. Being viewed the same as the Liberal Party is a net negative given the previous superior posturing. Just as bad, maybe worse, is hardly a positive sign for Harper.

This one might be sticking, primarily because it feeds a developing pattern.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Unions and Pragmatism

I don't understand the criticism of the "back to work" order issued today by the Ontario government, with the help of the NDP. I don't see it as anti-union, I see it as a pragmatic response to an untenable position. My view might be somewhat different, if not for the circumstances, but the poor choices here make my view pretty simple.

You go to work Friday night, maybe an office cleaner, whatever. You rely on this service, this is your only means of transportation, for many the only financial alternative. You finish your shift, it's time to go home, but alas, an out of nowhere strike and you are stranded. No notice, no consideration, no sense of responsibility, just "we" reject the offer, we're outta here. The kicker, no picket lines, no union members on the streets decrying the injustices of the man. No, the membership is home safe and sound, while the poor bastard stranded 8 miles from home is SOL.

Most people approach this strike, based on their own philosophical arguments on the relationship between worker and employer. Rights, protection, acknowledgement, power, I know it well, I've seen it first hand, in my younger days. I've always understood the spirit, although the relevance tends to lessen as labor laws entrench rights, new initiatives further tip the pendulum.

My view now is one of pragmatism. When I see what happens at Wal-Mart, I'm 100% pro-union. When I see pretty much unskilled workers making 60 grand, a boom benefit package, all the bells and whistles, working for an employer, the city, which is essentially broke, I tend to be more on the fence. When that union walks out, despite getting, from what I can see, a very progressive package, it makes me think this union has lost touch with reality. If this was a private company, the membership would be facing layoffs, there would be no leverage, because the company is in trouble. But, this isn't the case, because what cities provide, on many levels, aren't private services, but ESSENTIAL services. That's right, the workers have an artificial job security, a built-in protection, because they provide a service which is required, whether profitable or not. With that in mind, some consideration for the people affected, some responsibility should be in order.

You have to balance the rights of the workers, with the rights of citizens to depend on a service which is essential to them. This strike would most affect those without options, those people who least deserve another kick in the teeth, from people, who in reality, are ahead on the food chain. For that reason, I have no qualms with "back to work", the situation wasn't dire, the membership clearly not exploited or treated unfairly (when I look at the package, the first word that comes to mind is SWEET).

I'm a union pragmatist, a case by case stance, appreciating the need, applauding the ideal, but also able to separate a rose from a skunk. This strike, the way it was handled, the posturing, the reckless timing, I have no qualms saying the government and the opposition moved correctly.

Indiana The "Tiebreaker"?

Barack Obama, referring to the upcoming open primary in Indiana:
"You know, Sen. Clinton is more favored in Pennsylvania,” he added, “and I'm right now a little more favored in North Carolina, so Indiana right now may end up being the tiebreaker."

The "tiebreaker" comment has been seized upon, which has tended to put even more emphasis on Indiana. In retrospect, probably not terribly smart politically for Obama to raise the bar on one state, especially when you possess all the "it's over" arguments. With that said, there is really no reason why Obama can't win Indiana, when you add up the intangibles, the demographics, it really is a "fair" state for both sides.

If you look at the polls, you see a statistical deadheat, no sense that one side has any real advantage heading into the final 10 days of campaigning. What I am saying, there are no built-in excuses for either campaign, no rational reason to not see Indiana as competitive and telling.

Should Obama win in North Carolina and Indiana May 6, Clinton will be forced to drop out, it's just that simple. Should Clinton win Indiana and keep it relatively close in North Carolina, then the emerging concerns about Obama are elevated, fair agreement that we enter a real period of unknown.

I was struck by Howard Dean's recent comments, which represent a clear departure from his pre-Penn rhetoric:
The Democrats’ national chairman, Howard Dean, told The Financial Times in an article on Friday: “I think the race is going to come down to the perception in the last six or eight races of who the best opponent for McCain will be. I do not think in the long run it will come down to the popular vote or anything else.”
h/t Wise Law Blog

Dean basically acknowledges that the last "six or eight races" will gel "perception" about who is best suited to lead the Democrats. Who can win, as opposed to who has pledged delegates, who has popular vote. As pointed out in the link, Dean does Clinton a favor with this frame. On the other hand, as I've said all along, Obama just needs to win some crucial primaries in the last half of this primary season to end all the debate, his fate is very much in his own hands.

If the debate becomes one of electability, recent history would tend to favor Obama, the perception that he can draw independents, expand the Democrats base. As we move forward, that earlier truth is becoming less apparent, the earlier Obama advantage looks largely muted. Gallup has the race tied, with Clinton actually doing better in the head to head with McCain, for the first time that I can remember. A recent Newsweek poll, which had Obama up 19 points a week ago, is down to 7, with some concerning internals for Obama. Even more concerning, Obama's appeal to independents appears on the wane, no real advantage over Clinton:
Obama vs McCain:

Independents 45-43 for Obama

Clinton vs McCain:

Independents 45-44 for McCain

The supposed strong suit, appeal to the mushy middle, isn't really an advantage. Couple that fact with a growing problem with white voters, a disturbing racial pattern, and you may see cause for concern. Important to remember that African American voters make up a much larger percentage of Democratic primary voters, than they do a general election, nevermind the fact that in many states, the high population come in firm RED terrority.

That's the backdrop, which does lend credence to the Indiana as "tiebreaker" idea. It really provides an excellent opportunity for Obama to quell the concerns, secure the nomination, move forward. There are no real excuses, Obama has many advantages that work in his favor, enough to counter the pro-Hillary state argument. Indiana is a good measure, and I put more faith in a result there, than I do all the spin coming from both camps. Win Indiana, Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania are forgotten, Obama seals the deal. Lose Indiana, delegates aside, one has to wonder what is happening, the inevitable one losing key contest after key contest to Mrs. "No Chance". That's ridiculous on every level, there is no reason why Obama shouldn't win, no reason to fluff off the later voters as somehow irrelevant.

Knock her out, or give Clinton life, ultimately Obama controls the narrative. No excuses, no spin, just win Indiana. Seems a reasonable frame, and really there is no reason why the supposed presumptive nominee shouldn't win, in a state that oozes "fair contest".

Saturday, April 26, 2008

No Shame (with poll)

Quite a week for the Conservative spinsters, working so hard, getting nowhere, embarrassing themselves in the process. Maybe the worst example, Ryan Sparrow's attack on a former Conservative candidate, for committing the ultimate sin- telling the truth:
In response to former Conservative candidate Joseph Goudie:

In an affidavit sworn on Wednesday for Elections Canada, which is investigating the scheme to determine whether election laws were violated, he says: “I feel angry that I and [the] campaign team have been dragged into this mess.”

Conservative Party spokesman Ryan Sparrow says the allegations are merely gripes from a failed campaign.

“These advertisements purchased by the local campaigns were identified as such in the tag lines required by the rules for election advertising,” Mr. Sparrow wrote in an e-mail Friday. “These are people who wanted to run for the Conservative Party. They knew the program was legal. They are speaking out now – a full two years later because they lost.”

Eating your own, has it come to this?

Who's the worst of the worst:

"In And Out" And Down

A new Angus Reid online poll, which shows a noticeable swing in support, relative to a poll done one month ago. The numbers:
Conservatives 33%
Liberals 30%
NDP 20%
Greens 8%

Quite a change from the last Angus offering, and the authors of the poll attribute much of the swing to the "in and out" scandal. Angus Reid March 28:
Conservatives 36%
Liberals 26%
NDP 18%
Greens 9%

A 10 point lead for this firm, has become a statistical tie. The culprit:
A majority of those polled – 58 per cent – believe that the Conservatives' credibility has been damaged by their ongoing dispute with Elections Canada over the so-called "in and out" financing of the last election, which resulted in the RCMP raid of party headquarters more than a week ago.

I've argued for quite some time that Dion is hurt within this current strategy. This poll confirms a sense of "weakness", but it also offers a interesting statistic, which could be used in a future campaign:
The Prime Minister was rated by 51 per cent as strong and decisive, for instance, compared to only 8 per cent who see Dion that way.

An absolutely abysmal number, which translates to killing Dion slowly by abstaining. However, this finding offers a possible narrative for Dion, one that might be considered surprising, given the previous Liberal challenges with ethics. Dion's major strength, his integrity, nobody questions his honesty (see quotes from all the other party leaders). Could Dion run on a return to honest government?:
Dion does outrank Harper on being honest and trustworthy, though, with 38 per cent of respondents seeing him that way compared to 33 per cent who said they'd describe Harper that way.

That finding is all the more striking, given the overall low opinion of Dion, it shows that he has political capital when it comes to the basic question of trust. Clearly, this is Dion's strength, and if any Liberal is capable of arguing this line, it's Dion. I've always thought an election ad, with old quotes from the other leaders commenting on what an honorable man Dion is would be a powerful symbol.

The regional numbers show the same trends in Ontario others have found. The Liberals lead by 8%, when just last month Angus Reid had a tie. Interestingly, in Quebec, the parties are also tied, when just last month the Conservatives were the clear second choice (in line with CROP and Leger). This poll also shows relative gains for the Liberals in British Columbia, the NDP in the Prairies.

It's still too early to gauge the fallout of "in and out", but it might just be the issue that works in concert with things like the Cadman affair, to chip away at the government's credibility. The conclusion of this pollster, it has had a damaging effect. The good news, unless you are a Conservative, it's far from over.

Friday, April 25, 2008

"Leaders Don't Mislead"

A quote from Duff Conacher of Democracy Watch. Mr. Conacher is demanding an apology from Peter Van Loan, as well as urging the Prime Minister to strip Van Loan of some of his duties, in light of his misrepresentation of Democracy Watch's position on the "in and out" scandal. Conacher appeared on the CBC today, and the formal request is here.

Here is what Peter Van Loan said during Question Period on April 16, in response to opposition questions of illegalities:
“In terms of our spending practices, I would like to quote Duff Conacher of Democracy Watch, who was on CTV today. He said, “The Conservatives did something in the last election that all parties have done for years. That's legal, and parties can donate as much as they want to a local candidate and often do to candidates that don't have a lot of local support and can't raise money on their own. And then what happens is those candidates use some of that money to buy materials for national headquarters, like pamphlets, signs, platforms to hand out to people. That's all--”

Another question:
“Mr. Speaker, let us remember that this was a dispute initiated in the courts by the Conservative Party of Canada because of the unequal treatment of the Conservative Party compared with other parties, including the NDP, which engages in the transfer of funds between riding associations from its central party to assist in local targeted ridings. It has been going on for years. Duff Conacher said that on television. He said it is legal.

There is no question Van Loan was using Democracy Watch as evidence to support the Conservative claim of legal use of funds. However, what Van Loan didn't reveal, Conacher actually thinks the scheme is entirely illegal and the Conservatives will lose in court.

From the CBC:

"He said that I said it was legal. In fact, that was only half of what I said. Part of it was legal, having the central part transfer money to local candidates, that is allowed under the Elections Act. But, the entire scheme, I went on to say I believed was illegal and they will lose in court. He said I said it was legal, when in fact I said it is illegal."

"He quoted half of what I said, leaving the clear impression that Democracy Watch's position was that this whole scheme is legal, when in fact Democracy Watch's position is this whole scheme was illegal and the Conservatives will lose in court, and I said that very specifically....Mr. Van Loan can't use half of what someone says and then claim that's the position of the organization, when the other half of what was said contradicts that entirely. It's a half truth, a half measure, and claiming it's the full truth. Leaders don't mislead."

What Duff doesn't realize, these people have never been leaders and will twist anything to serve their purposes.

Conacher's letter:
Either you knew the other half of what I said on Canada AM, and deliberately made a false statement, or you did not know the other half of what I said, in which case you are negligent for not checking whether I had said anything else about the situation. In either case, you made completely false public statements about Democracy Watch’s position on the situation.

As I am sure you are aware, the “Ethical Guidelines for Public Office Holders” contained in Annex G of “Accountable Government: A Guide for Ministers and Secretaries of State-2007” require ministers to be honest.

As well, section V.1. “Ministerial Conduct” of the Guide states:

“Ministers and Secretaries of State must act with honesty and must uphold the highest ethical standards so that public confidence and trust in the integrity, objectivity and impartiality of government are maintained and enhanced. As public office holders, Ministers and Secretaries of State are subject to the Ethical Guidelines for Public Office Holders and Guidelines for the Political Activities of Public Office Holders, set out in Annexes G and H. Moreover, they have an obligation to perform their official duties and arrange their private affairs in a manner that will bear the closest public scrutiny. This obligation is not fully discharged merely by acting within the law.”

The first guideline in the Annex G Ethical Guidelines is as follows:

“Ethical Standards: Public office holders shall act with honesty and uphold the highest ethical standards so that public confidence and trust in the integrity, objectivity and impartiality of the government are conserved and enhanced.”
Therefore, I demand an apology from you for violating this guideline by falsifying Democracy Watch’s position on the Conservative Party’s TV ad election spending scheme so blatantly.

Given that you made your false statements publicly in the House of Commons, the appropriate place to make your apology to myself and Democracy Watch is also publicly in the House of Commons.

This isn't the first time the Conservatives have pulled this nonsense in the House, attributing false positions to people or organizations, when in fact their opinion is the exact opposite. People will remember Baird using a Al Gore quote to support the government, when in fact Gore was SCATHING in his criticism.

I see the need to misrepresent people, to create false allies, as a sign of desperation, an admission that you have no backing, you must project dishonesty to create an argument. It really is amazing, that Van Loan needed to use a respectable organization for cover, even though he knew full well that they rejected the claims.

Don't hold your breath waiting for an apology Mr. Conacher, that's not how these people operate.

Down, But Not Out

They released the pdf for the latest Decima leadership poll. Bad news all around, for both leaders, but a few things stick out. The basics:

Opinion improved 43%
Opinion hasn't improved 53%


Opinion improved 27%
Opinion hasn't improved 61%

Dion's numbers are worse, which isn't surprising given his present circumstance, plus the normal challenges of opposition leader. However, I find it quite interesting that the gap between Dion and Harper is largely because of the difference in partisan opinion. Almost 80% of Conservatives, within the sample, say their opinion of Harper has improved, while a mere 40% of Liberals say the same about Dion. Even more striking, 50% of Liberal opinion on Dion hasn't improved, which translates to the majority opinion.

I would argue that these feelings amongst identified Liberals are largely a function of perceived weakness. The problem isn't regional, first blush might point to Quebec, but you see the same negative impression in Ontario:
Improved 26%
Hasn't Improved 58%

A interesting result, in a province with relative strength of the Liberal brand. Others might offer different reasoning, but I see these numbers as further proof that abstaining and hiding are costing Dion personally, the rank and file aren't impressed. Sometimes this reality gets masked in favorable horserace numbers, but there is no question that Dion's image must improve, to have any chance in an election.

The good news, thank-god for Stephen Harper. Opinion on Harper is far more rigid, outside of Quebec, a much more known quantity than Dion, and decidedly disliked. Harper's numbers might look better than Dion, but they should, history provides countless parallel examples. What should really concern Conservatives, Harper's lacklustre numbers are worse, when you consider his ability to gain traction outside of Alberta, outside of his base. If you look at the numbers, Harper has done little to expand his support, make a positive impression on swing voters. The majority negative opinion of Harper helps explain why the Liberal brand remains strong, despite Dion's challenges.

If Dion can get his act together, or more fairly, present an image of strength, he actually has more potential than Harper. Harper is pretty much cemented in our minds, there is little in the way of re-invention, Harper is the known. What voters do know of Dion they don't seem to like, in overwhelming fashion, but most of this is largely superficial (Quebec aside), the numbers aren't terminal.

Nothing an election couldn't remedy ;)

Quebec Poll

A new Leger Marketing poll of Quebecer's federal voting intention. A very large sample size (1002), much larger than generally seen in the national polls, with regional results. Leger suggests some movement for the Conservatives, at the expense of the Liberals:
Bloc 33%
Conservatives 29%
Liberals 21%
NDP 12%
Greens 4%

The last Leger Marketing poll was done in February, with a much smaller sample size (360):
Bloc 35%
Liberals 27%
Conservative 21%
NDP 11%
Greens 6%

Two possible factors for the flip between the federalist parties- the negative press surrounding the Quebec wing of the federal Liberals and the recent sponsorship arrest. That said, this latest poll puts Liberal support exactly where it was in the 2006 election, so it isn't a hopeless result.

The last CROP Quebec poll showed a dead heat between the Cons and Bloc, but since then all other polls haven't replicated this result. Leger comes close, and the large sample lends credibility to the results. I'm still somewhat tentative, because if you look at the Leger results for the past year, you see support wavering back and forth between the Libs and Cons, Bloc fairly stable. That tells me, there is plenty of fluidity, soft support that could move in an election campaign. That sentiment doesn't translate to no appreciation of the challenges the Liberal brand faces in Quebec.

On the sovereignty front, only 31% of Quebecers support independence. Even more surprising, amongst PQ supporters 45% think the party should seek to improve the position of Quebec within Canada, 50% think the party should persue independence. I saw a scenario where Harper uses this type of sentiment to argue his approach to federalism has been successful, the need for the Bloc less persuasive.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

"Something Fishy Or Not Quite Right Here"

The above, from another former Conservative candidate, Joe Goudie, commenting on the "in and out" scandal today on the CBC. You know, with all the distractions, you simply have to focus on what CONSERVATIVES are saying about their own party's behavior. Joe Goudie, in his own words (I can't confirm if the video was doctored):
"We received some instructions from the federal campaign indicating that two thousand plus dollars would be put into our account and that this money was to be immediately transferred back to the federal Conservative campaign."

"They sent an email, outlining exactly the procedure we were to follow to make sure that the money was sent back"

"We were advised that of that two thousand and some odd dollars, we could actually claim 60% of it in our election return, but we didn't"

Reporter: Why not?

"Because my official agent Gordon Barnes, thank god for his astuteness thought there was something FISHY OR NOT QUITE RIGHT HERE. He had a number of discussions with Elections Canada and decided no we are not going to claim it"

Goudie didn't apply for the 60% back because it was "fishy or not quite right". That's not Elections Canada, that's not the Liberals, that's not the RCMP, that's not the liberal media, that's a CONSERVATIVE CANDIDATE smelling a rat, or more accurately Gordon Barnes. Hello in there Conservative apologists, HELLO INDEED.

At the beginning of the clip, Newman said the following:
"Joe Goudie ran for the Conservatives in Labrador. Goudie said the party contacted him twice in the last few months and asked him not to talk to the media"

I found this article from two days ago, where Goudie said:
Goudie said he was unaware until Tuesday morning of any problems with election spending. He said he found out in a coffee shop in Labrador.

Goudie said he will track down his official agent and campaign manager to see if any money flowed in and out of his campaign.

Obviously Mr. Goudie was aware of some issues, because he acknowledged previous calls from the party to keep quiet, don't talk to the media. Seems pretty simple, today Goudie has decided to break his silence and speak about what he knew. Why the party would want him to keep quiet, despite not claiming a rebate, speaks volumes about a concerted cover-up.

You know what? People like Steve Janke can exhaust hours poking holes at Elections Canada. People like Pierre Poilievre, Rory Sparrow, Bernard Lord and all the other snake oil salesman can peddle their nonsense to the press. However, if you just stay focused on the main stage, you find all you need from the comments of Conservatives themselves, these partisans thought something was wrong, these people were concerned about the tactics, these people tell us that something was clearly afoot. Everything else is noise. "Fishy" is right, you can't talk away the STENCH.

Shouldn't Be A Problem, Should It?

One thing about innocent people, they have nothing to hide. With that in mind, I expect a Conservative press release any minute, endorsing the Liberals "in and out" demands. I mean, this shouldn't be a problem, because after all, everything was legal:
Following the RCMP raid on Conservative Party headquarters and the revelations contained in both the affidavit and media reports, Mr. LeBlanc demanded the Conservative government:

1) Publicly release all ads and details of where and when the ads ran for the 67 candidates named by Elections Canada as participants in the “in-and-out” scheme. The Liberal Opposition has only been able to identify 38 that actually had an ad produced with their tagline on it.

2) In order to maintain public confidence while investigations are pending, suspend all political officials alleged to be connected to this scheme from their government duties, including Conservative MP Lawrence Cannon, Harper’s Deputy Chief of Staff Patrick Muttart, and Michael Donison, Senior Policy Advisor to Government House Leader Peter Van Loan.

3) Call in the RCMP to review all matters of this scheme that may involve the Criminal Code – in particular, to examine concerns by Elections Canada of document altering – and ensure that all Conservatives fully cooperate by disclosing all relevant facts and documentation.

4) Direct the 67 candidates and order them to cooperate fully with Elections Canada, and encourage any other candidates not named in the probe to come forward with any information that may assist Elections Canada in their investigation. Of the 18 interviews Elections Canada asked for, only two candidates obliged.

5) Let the Procedure and House Affairs Committee meet – without any Conservative filibustering – and conduct hearings on this matter.

This would be a great opportunity to clear the air, put this witchhunt to an end. The Committee itself would provide an excellent opportunity for Canadians to see how Elections Canada over-stepped their bounds, behaved badly, singling out the poor Conservatives, we could all see how "everybody does it".

Get all the candidates on record, release the media buy details, let the RCMP investigate I say. When they find nothing, everything done properly, then we will see who has egg on their face, who has "co-operated" from the beginning. The Liberals have provided the Conservatives with a gift, a path to expose the real story here, clear their good names.

I will update this post when the Conservatives release their statement, agreeing to these small, reasonable demands. Should be any minute.


Nothing yet, I'm sure it's just a faulty fax machine or something.


Probably just letting the Liberals wait, they're strategic and crafty you know.

Why I Don't Like Harper

In response to this post I thought I would add my two cents on the topic. I don't like Harper, primarily because I think he is fraud, the present a constructed calculation based on self-interest, with little regard for consequence.

Stephen Harper doesn't care a lick about Quebec, or Quebecers, any measure or outreach is simply a recognition of what is required to attain, keep or expand power. When he speaks of de-centralization, provincial jurisdiction, it all stems from the belief that Quebec has too much power in the federation, it's origin is actually anti-Quebec, as opposed to the presentation of greater flexibility.

Stephen Harper has the audacity to run on openness and transparency, market himself as progressive in that regard, and then when in office, institute the most repressive and stifling regime in Canadian history. No access to information, no access to the media, no access to MP's, no ability for anyone to speak freely, outside of pre-determined and approved talking points. The man who presented himself as the champion of open government, is in fact Stalinist in his approach.

Stephen Harper runs government, as though he is packaging a product and we are his potential consumer. Rather than develop sound policy, preference is given to measures which produce the desired perception, which can be sold. Expert opinion is largely irrelevant, empirical evidence is less persuasive than the idea of vote potential. Decisions are more about what is good for the Conservative Party politically, than they are what is good for the country.

Stephen Harper isn't a builder, his entire political career is predicated on negativity. Any ideas are developed in reaction to a perceived undesirable, a pessimism towards many of our institutions, a anger towards political foes, more about tearing down than moving forward. Stephen Harper hates the Liberals, he loves the gutter, he wants to destroy rather than compare and contrast. Anything that gets in Harper's way is subject to brutal assassination, threats, attacking without consideration for consequence, an inherent meanness.

It's not that Stephen Harper is a conservative, my dislike isn't necessarily kneejerk. I liked Joe Clark, I liked Peter Loughheed, I liked Bill Davis, I like John McCain. Philosophical agreement isn't entirely a pre-requisite for respect or acknowledgement of principled position. I don't like Stephen Harper because I don't like the approach, I don't see authenticity, I don't agree with the tactics or the motivations. I don't like Stephen Harper because he's a false prophet, what you see is edited fiction, a recipe for maximum digestion. The Harper model doesn't appeal to the best in people, it relies on divisions, it uses fear to force compliance, it requires an enemy, a foe, to find it's own union.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Electoral Math Fun

What if, the Democrats ran their primaries and caucuses in similar fashion to the Republicans? Most of the Republican contests were winner take all, which provides a much more neat process, similar to the system employed in the general election. I thought this was an interesting way to breakdown this race, using the Electoral College formula for state designation. I've calculated all the states, won by Obama and Clinton, with the winner take all Electoral College approach. If you exclude Florida and Michigan entirely, you get these results:

Clinton 244 electoral votes

Obama 203 electoral votes

If you include Florida and Michigan, which no one disputes would have been Clinton victories, you get the following:

Clinton 288 electoral votes

Obama 203 electoral votes

If the Democrats had employed the Electoral College math, with winner take all states, the race would already be over, Clinton the clear victor. I post this out of curiousity, rather than a realistic argument. However, it is noteworthy, given that it employs the same system used to elect a president, and has the same breakdowns, similar to how the Republicans conduct their primaries and caucuses. If only Hillary was running for the GOP ;)

If It's Over, Then...

If you confine yourself to the math, not much changed last night in the Democratic race. However, there is no denying that Clinton did what see needed to last night, a big victory if one is being fair. Despite being largely outspent, despite persistent commentary that gave her no chance, despite calls to bow out, despite pressure for people to lineup behind Obama, despite all that Clinton beat Obama in fairly convincing fashion.

I don’t buy into the notion that Clinton should have won, because the state played to her demographic. If you look at the exit polls, you will find, that with the exception of African Americans, her demographics consist of the Democratic base, the crucial segments that will make or break an election campaign. Strange to say that carrying the rank and file of the party is inconsequential, that she “should” win those votes. People assumed Clinton would win Pennsylvania, based on previous results, which really means Obama has trouble with core Democrats. People keep fluffing off these victories, but they consistently show strength for Clinton, in states which are central to any potential victory in the fall. Have we reached the point where Obama can’t win, unless he has over-representation of African Americans in a state?

Here’s my deal with the race, numbers aside. Since Super Tuesday, Clinton has won three crucial primaries, despite being outspent and facing long odds. There is tremendous pressure to get behind a nominee and prepare for the fall election. Despite that environment, Clinton continues to thrive, there is no sense that people are rallying behind Obama, at least not the voters anyways. What is happening now, is in some respects more important that what happened two months ago. Voters know more, further information is available, events have occurred, the questions are clearer. If you are standing here today, and the goal is beating McCain, what is more important Iowa or Pennsylvania, South Carolina or Ohio?

Why can’t Obama close the deal? Why is that the voters, with full knowledge of the circumstance (a majority last night thought Obama would be the nominee) still vote for Clinton? Clinton didn’t just squeak by last night, she won by a healthy margin, and she won despite having “no chance”. That fact to me is remarkable, spin aside, quite telling. The Obama camp argument that Pennsylvania is “her” state, is really an admission that the majority of traditional Democratic voters tend to favor Clinton. In primaries, in states that Democrats need to carry, Clinton seems to have an advantage. That is okay with everyone, that isn’t indicative of some underlying problem?

My counter to “it’s over” has always been “just win baby”. If Obama is the presumptive nominee, if Clinton is finished, then it should translate in the voter booth. The simple fact of the matter, Obama hasn’t closed the deal, Clinton continues to do what she needs to, in order to survive. Yes, Clinton still trails in delegates, and she probably can’t catch him, but that reality should make her victories less likely, that math should work against her in the NOW. Why it doesn’t manifest itself with voters, why she continues to march forward, why Obama still struggles with core constituents, those are important questions moving forward.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

It's A Beautiful Thing

H/T to Buckdog.

I thought I'd post this radio interview here, so Libloggers can also enjoy listening to Pierre Poilievre get absolutely DESTROYED.

A beautiful thing.

"These Guys Can't Even Tell The Difference Between Right And Wrong"

This ad brought to you, while the Conservatives were "cheating". In fact, you may have seen this ad, as a direct result of the "cheating". The kicker, they wanted YOU to pay for it. Right and wrong?

Shut Up Pierre

If there is a more annoying Conservative MP than Pierre Poilievre let me know. In another sign of thin Conservative ranks, Poilievre seems to have been chosen as the point man to defend the "in and out" scandal. This morning Poilievre was on Canada AM, making the usual weak excuses, attacking Elections Canada, bringing up the Liberal camera, the usual, decidedly lame retorts, that have nothing to do with the allegations themselves. Fair enough I suppose, when you have nothing, you are forced to work the margins and try to create diversion. The funniest thing Poilievre said was:
"We think that in a free country, candidates decide what goes in their materials, and not a government bureaucrat."

How high-minded, even if it isn't true. I guess Pierre forgot about the part where the candidates actually didn't decide:
"Conservative candidates and their official agents knew next to nothing about election advertising that their campaigns had helped pay for, Elections Canada discovered during its probe of the party's in-and-out financing scheme.

They scratched their heads trying to recall details of the ad-buying arrangement orchestrated by the party's headquarters. Several simply remember Conservative officials telling them money would land in their accounts, cash that must be swiftly returned to Ottawa."

"Candidates decide what goes into their materials"? Hmmm:
"In the B.C. riding of Nanaimo-Cowichan, for example, Conservative candidate Norm Snowden was in a tough fight against NDP incumbent Jean Crowder. Mr. Snowden's campaign, along with other Conservative campaigns on Vancouver Island, had received the request from national headquarters to consider participating in the "in-and-out" proposal.

Mr. Snowden's campaign sent $8,089.20 to the national office for the ads which would be seen by Mr. Snowden's potential voters. Next door, the Conservative campaign in Esquimalt, running against incumbent Keith Martin, sent in $9,999.15.

But the ads that the national party bought and placed in the Vancouver Island market were anti-Liberal ads. Mr. Snowden's campaign was furious. They weren't fighting the Liberals in Nanaimo-Cowichan, they were fighting the NDP. To them, the $8,000 they'd sent to national headquarters was a waste of money they could have spent on local ads attacking Ms. Crowder."

You know what? It's time for Conservatives to just accept some blame here, own up to pushing the envelope and take their lumps. I can't listen to "ankle biters" (h/t knb) like Poilievre employ the scorched earth defence, wherein the only option is too cast doubt on institutions that form the foundation of our democracy. Elections Canada isn't biased, anyone with any objectivity can see that their evidence of a co-ordinated scheme to circumvent the election laws for partisan advantage is sound. Other parties didn't do the same thing, because there is only one party under investigation, only one party engaged in this technique, only one party who's own MP's were concerned about the practice, only one party who presented doctored documentation.

Isn't it ironic, that at the exact same moment in history that Harper's Conservatives were telling Canadians that we needed a return to honest, ethical government, they were in fact "cheating" for their own self-interest, laying waste to fundamental fairness. Even worse, some of those ads on accountability, that people across the country viewed, where actually the by-product of unethical behavior. Dishonest behavior to tell Canadians they were honest.

Put a sock in it Pierre.

Monday, April 21, 2008

See A Pattern?

Here is a list of the 67 Conservative candidates that participated in the Conservative in an out scheme. A clear pattern of funneling money into uncompetitive ridings, or very safe seats, and then returning it for what is assumed battleground "regions". The only exception is Quebec, but important to remember the Conservatives had little organization in that province at the time, operating with scant resources, which meant the "max" was rarely meant:


Hynes- Liberal incumbent, Liberal won

Goudie- Liberal incumbent, Liberal won

Downey- Liberal incumbent, Liberal won


Noble- Liberal incumbent, Liberal won


House- NDP incumbent, NDP won

Campbell- Liberal incumbent, Liberal won

Khosla- Liberal incumbent, Liberal won


Leger- Liberal incumbent, Liberal won

Doucet- Liberal incumbent retired, Liberal won


Blaney- Bloc incumbent, Conservative won

Laberge- Bloc incumbent, Bloc won

Boucher- Bloc incumbent, Conservative won

Petit- Bloc incumbent, Conservative won

Harvey- Bloc incumbent, Conservative won

Verner-Bloc incumbent, Conservative won

Boisvert- Bloc incumbent, Bloc won

Helie-Lambert- Bloc incumbent, Bloc won

Gorde- Bloc incumbent, Conservative won

Bruce- Bloc incumbent, Bloc won

Bernier- Liberal retired, Conservative won

Pineault- Bloc incumbent, Bloc won

Paradis- Bloc incumbent, Conservative won

Landry- Bloc incumbent, Bloc won

Lambert- Bloc incumbent, Bloc won

Nadeau- Bloc incumbent, Bloc won

Paine- Liberal incumbent, Liberal won

Drabkin- Liberal incumbent, Liberal won

MacKenzie- Liberal incumbent, Liberal won

Rae- Liberal incumbent, Liberal won

Alam- Liberal incumbent, Liberal won

Poirier- Liberal incumbent, Liberal won

Cannon- Liberal incumbent, Conservative won


West- Liberal incumbent, Liberal won, Conservative third

Leskowski- Liberal incumbent, Liberal won, Conservative third

Graham- NDP incumbent, NDP won, Conservative third

Bowers- Liberal incumbent (Redman), Liberal won, Conservative second

Majkot- Liberal incumbent, Libera won by 20 000, Conservative second

James- Liberal incumbent, Liberal won by 12 000, Conservative second

Rodrigues- Liberal incumbent, Liberal won, Conservative distant third

Klufas- Liberal incumbent, NDP won, Conservative distant third

Clausen- NDP incumbent (Layton), NDP won, Conservative distant third

Goldstein- Liberal incumbent, NDP won, Conservative distant third

Halicki- Liberal incumbent, Liberal won, Conservative distant third

Mailer- Independent retired, NDP won, Conservative third

Davidson- Liberal incumbent, Conservative won

Teshuba- NDP incumbent, NDP won, Conservative distant third


Sterzer- NDP incumbent, NDP won, Conservative distant third


Anderson- Conservative incumbent, Conservative won with 70% of vote

Harrison- Conservative incumbent, Liberal won


Harris- Conservative incumbent, Conservative won 50% of vote

Cannan- Conservative retired, Conservative won 50% of vote

Abbott- Conservative incumbent, Conservative won 55% of vote

Day- Conservative incumbent, Conservative won 55% of vote

Mayes- Conservative retired, Conservative won 45% of vote

Hill- Conservative incumbent, Conservative won, 60% of vote

Drazenovic- NDP incumbent, NDP won, Conservative third

Dalton- NDP incumbent, NDP won, Conservative third

Pagtakhan- NDP incumbent, NDP won, Conservative distant third

Wong- Liberal incumbent, Liberal won, Conservative distant third

Sowden- NDP incumbent, NDP won, Conservative second

DeSouza- Liberal incumbent, Liberal won, Conservative third

James made this comment on his blog:

I'm gonna bet, in Ontario, those on the list finished third in their ridings.

Not far off James ;)

What I see here, with VERY few exceptions, the Conservatives topped off ridings that weren't in play, in order to use that money where it could make a difference. The above supports the idea that this extra money was very important for Conservative fortunes, spent in targeted regions, it could very well have made a difference, as suggested by both the Liberals and NDP.

"Purer Than The Driven Snow"

Tons of commentary, but I thought these quotes pretty much sum up what "in and out" ultimately means for the Conservatives:
Ned Franks, professor emeritus of political studies at Queen's University, said he expects the allegations will taint the Conservative brand.

“Really, it's a loss of face issue because the Conservatives campaigned on being purer than the driven snow and then they get brought up in their tracks by Elections Canada who say you've misinterpreted the act,” Mr. Franks said.

“You can't both claim that you are purer than the driven snow, have a lawsuit against Elections Canada, get your offices raided where possibly some incriminating material is found, and appeal to the electorate on consistency and superior moral principles.”
Yellow snow?

I read most of affidavit, and the most striking part is the co-ordination, candidates specifically given instruction from Conservative Party headquarters, on how to move the money back and forth. Interestingly, some candidates smelled a skunk and sought reassurance:
"I had contacted the Conservative Party in Ottawa and was re-assured that this was OK. As a bookkepper I know that sometimes you have to use creative accounting between two small companies, but I found this move was being a little too creative"

Ms. Barbro Soderber York South-Weston candidate.

Another candidate seemed to understand entirely:
"I do seem to recall a wash in and out of our account. I do seem to remember an entry of 6 500 and then it was taken out again. This is what I mean by a wash."

Garreth McDonald Winnipeg-North candidate

The Liberals are floating the idea that this scheme puts the election results into question. Interestingly, NDP MP Pat Martin echoes that sentiment:
"That $1 million frankly could have bought the election," Pat Martin, the NDP ethics critic, said Sunday. "That's a really big advertising buy in a very close, razor-thin difference in a federal election."

So, we can add another footnote to history. Not only did Harper only manage a very fragile minority, despite optimal conditions, a "kick the bum's out" sentiment, a timely RCMP smear on Goodale, but he needed to cheat to do it. I'm impressed.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Let's Stay Focused

Okay, Monday is going to be a spinorama of biblical proportions. All the usual suspects will be out, pointing to nefarious aspects, diversion, counters, basically a maelstorm of bullshitification. Just remember one thing:

The agent for the federal Conservative Party in the last general election "made materially false and misleading statements" on its financial returns, Canada's elections commissioner alleges in the court documents...

Allegedly, people knowingly LIED.

There's the beacon in the rolling Con fog.

Defining "Victory" in Pennsylvania

If you listen to Obama supporters, Clinton has to win by a massive amount to carry on, while her supporters say a small victory is good enough. Most of that spin is largely irrelevant, all that matters is the game of expectations as it relates to the media. Overall, it would appear the media frame is Clinton must win by at least 8-10% to claim "victory"- that would be enough to give her campaign oxygen, raise further doubts about Obama and keep the superdelegates at bay. Anything less and there will probably be great pressure on Clinton to concede.

At the moment, the polling averages give Clinton about a 6% lead, which sets the stage for an interesting night. However, the two most recent polls bring some promising signs for Clinton. An American Research Group poll, finished last night puts the race at:
Clinton 54%
Obama 41%

A caution, ARG's track record has been spotty this primary season.

Speaking of "spotty", Zogby is conducting nightly rolling polls for Pennsylvania, and the results show movement for Clinton. Tonight's poll has Clinton leading by 6 points, up from 3% the night prior. What seems particularly good for Clinton, the last day of polling:
John Zogby: “A big one-day of polling for Clinton. If a 10-point victory is the pundit-driven threshold she needs on Tuesday, it looks like she can do it. This does not look like a one-day anomaly – undecideds dropped to only 5% in this latest single day of polling, and they are breaking Clinton’s way. As I suggested yesterday, if white and Catholic voters, who still are the biggest portion of undecideds, actually vote, Clinton will have her double-digit victory. Just today alone, she polled 53% to Obama’s 38%.

For Obama supporters, there is the Mason-Dixon poll, which stopped polling on Friday. That well respected outfit only gives Clinton a 5% lead, with 8% still undecided.

I would argue that an 8% margin is enough for Clinton to claim victory. While that means little in the way of a delegate dent, it still represents a solid result, in another key state, within the environment of Obama supposedly "unstoppable". I accept the lower margin, primarily because Obama has brought out all the stops in Pennsylvania, he has campaigned very hard, established an impressive ground game, not to mention outspending Clinton on ads a full 3-4 times(incredibly important in a big state).

Bernier Almost Kills Major General Louis MacKenzie

Conservative apologists have tried to mimimize the extent of Bernier's latest gaffe, and in so doing reveal their lack of understanding when it comes to diplomacy. This quote, from former Conservative candidate Major General Louis MacKenzie, pretty much puts any debate to an end:

"It was the biggest cockup diplomatically in my lifetime that's for sure. I almost drove off the road when I heard it being reported over the radio. All the effort, all the negotiations, all the working together with the Governor of Kandahar, including a number of projects with the provincial reconstruction team, was impacted by this comment. I don't know maybe he got his talking points mixed up, but it really was an unforgivable error".

Two hands on the wheel at all times Lou, the Conservative road is full of potholes.

Earth To Conservative Party

When I read these lines of attacks on the Conservative Party website, it furthers my view that most of the supposed strategic prowess the Conservatives enjoy is more media construct, than practical application. The Conservative site is juvenile at the best of times, but the latest attack on Dion's environmental record is just plain stupid:
The facts:

In December 2005, environmental groups awarded the Liberal government with the “Fossil of the Day” award at the Montreal conference that was being chaired by Stephane Dion (ECO, December 2, 2005, and ECO, December 3, 2005)

The Liberal government that Dion was a part of received 89 Fossil of the Day awards from 1999-2005, second only to the U.S. and a head of Saudi Arabia. (

The Conservatives detail the Liberal record, using the fossil statistics (their link doesn't work, but let's take their word on it). What I find amazing, that this response welcomes the easy retort, and that is pointing to the Conservatives unprecedented haul of fossil awards. The Liberals received 89 in six years? Well, the Conservatives received 25 awards in just 12 days. Beat that Liberals! The Liberals were second, only to the United States? Well, the Conservatives had no peer in Bali, securing the most first's, and even with the Americans overall. Take that Dion! You're no John Baird my friend.

If you have the most abysmal record on a particular measure, the last thing you do is draw attention to it, in trying to discredit your opposition. You mention other things, the usual Baird spin, try to make your point. You don't highlight your weakness, and invite the unfavorable comparison. The Liberals were bad, but somehow we are even worse, is hardly a persuasive argument. Good one brainiacs, clearly a keeper for an election campaign.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Harper "Ready To Go To The Polls"?

Harper was out yesterday, defending his immigration reforms, with the inference that the government is ready to go to the polls over the issue:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper chose an important immigrant business audience in Toronto last night to launch a vigorous counterattack against criticism from ethnic communities of his government's proposed immigration policy changes.

His Conservative government is prepared to go to the polls over the proposals, Harper added.

"Frankly, this is becoming a crisis. And, if we do not fix this, the long-term performance of our economy will be affected."

Dion is already on record saying the Liberals will vote against (how many MP's seems to be an open question), if the reforms aren't altered. I think it is important to remember, that as this process moves forward, the Liberals will offer a series of amendments to the proposed reforms. The government have said they will reject any changes to their legislation. The end result of all this, the Conservatives will reject the Liberal vision on immigration reform.

My point, the Liberals will have a counter to present to Canadians in an election. This means Harper's cries of "crisis" (interesting that characterization given their manufactured crisis on refugees claimants), his attempt to frame their proposals as necessary, will be undercut by a Liberal counter. The Liberals can acknowledge the same "crisis", but offer a more compelling solution. This debate will not be a situation where the Conservatives sound the alarm, and the Liberals reject any action. No, it will be a flawed plan presented, which was altered, with possible support from other parties, and an alternative presented. The Liberals take the Conservative plan and try to "improve" it.

The Conservatives are cornered, in not accepting any amendments. There isn't an immigration expert alive that believes the expenditure allotted by the Conservatives is anywhere near sufficient to deal with the problem. The Liberals have the opportunity to present something which can address the same issues, but in a way that will be effective, a plan that can win support of those in the know.

Harper also stands to lose, because their proposal puts considerable power in the hands of the Minister, a situation many aren't comfortable with, particular when it involves this Conservative government. If the Liberals offer certain "checks" to unilateral decision making, a more comprehensive mechanism to fast forward certain claimants, again they can out-flank the Conservatives, offer a more acceptable remedy.

The final point, a matter of credibility. You will have an election with one plan, countered by another, with the added caveat of how said plan came to be. The Conservatives will argue this, the Liberals that, it will be a confusing storyline to sift through. The kicker for the Liberals, how these reforms came to be, which suggests reasonable suspicion. Canadians may lack a sophistication of parliamentary manoeuvres, but I think everybody can understand the strange circumstance of putting fundamental immigration reform into a budget bill, at the last minute. There is a superficial "trying to pull a fast one" aspect here, which will be echoed by the other opposition parties. Dion has the added advantage of presenting the counter as thoughtful, while painting the Conservatives with unclear motivations. If their proposals are so urgently needed, so sound, then why the lack of consultation, why the truncated process?

This looming debate in a election will hardly be framed as Harper assumes, a take it or leave it proposition. It is not one party trying to do something, where other parties offer nothing. In fact, it will be a Conservative proposal rejected, with an alternative that attempts to improve the flawed solution. In the end, a battle of ideas, ground which may be relatively firm for the Liberals.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Bringing Them Down On Immigration

Scott posts on Hebert's election timing column, cautioning the Liberals against a quick vote. I wanted to expand on this point, which is important:
I keep saying this: bringing down the government on one particular issue doesn’t mean that it will be the only issue talked about for a 6 week election campaign.

That is a crucial argument to remember, when people wonder about the logic of forcing an election over immigration reform. The Liberals have already framed their stance as accumulative, the "markers" approach, which I think easily translates into a campaign. Yes, by bringing down the government on immigration, you effectively make it a central talking point, it is the catalyst, but it doesn't mean a campaign revolves around this one issue.

First off, the government is more likely to want their campaign to revolve around their supposed "achievements". I suspect the main lines of attack will revolve around leadership, a concerted effort to paint Dion as fiscally irresponsible. In other words, I don't see how a protracted debate over immigration plays to the Conservatives preferred arguments. Hebert mentions Quebec, but I don't see how the Liberals are mortally wounded, given their remaining base, in fact it could shore up things, or at least make it all a wash.

If the Liberals take down the government over immigration, I think it will be rightly framed as the final straw, a tipping point in ending this long minority reign. Couple that fact, with a Liberal Party platform finally released, which is sure to hold a few surprises, some bold measures, and immigration is probably on the back burner by the end of the first week.

If Dion is serious about a carbon tax, then the environment will rear it's head as the defining issue. The idea is fresh in the minds of British Columbians, Quebecers are largely on board, it will make for an interesting debate in Ontario, and the Conservatives will rally their base, who are strongly opposed. In other words, the environment will become the lightning rod, a combination of voter interest, regional considerations, stark contrast, not to mention all the parties willing to engage. If the Liberals release their environmental platform during the election, an issue like immigration will fall off the radar, but it will have served it's purpose, demonstrating to certain groups that the Liberal tradition remains.

In Ontario, you already have Liberal buttons, which say "My Canada Includes Ontario", does anyone doubt that the provincial Liberals and the federal party won't do everything in their power to make Flaherty, the economy, manufacturing, working together, a central thesis in a campaign? Does anyone seriously think we will all be consumed with the immigration reforms?

I just don't see an environment where the country is plunged into a debate on immigration, at least not in a way that dominates this campaign. I also don't buy into the idea that voters would "punish" anyone for forcing an election, after all this minority already has historic distinction for longevity. So long as the Liberals properly characterize their vote against, as more the absence of proper consultation, hiding these changes in a suspicious way, I don't see the negative fallout. A vote against is a matter of principle, woven within the greater theme that the Liberals have decided it's time for an election, based on a host of considerations. I suspect the media will accept that rationale, because after all they have been consumed with election speculation for months, waiting on any trigger.

An election campaign is very organic, there are bound to be twists nobody can predict. To base apprehension for an election on the premise that immigration isn't "the" issue for the Liberals to bring them down seems to rely on unnecessary tunnel vision. With all the points of distinction, a platform everyone has desperately wanted to see, a government less than inclined to fight on this ground exclusively, other issues which continually show themselves as important in the public consciousness, I think the trigger, in this case, is mostly secondary.

"This Is Not For Publication?"

You can almost smell the stench, every time you listen to it.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Tactical Aptitude

The Harper government is generally acknowledged as pretty shrewd, tactically proficient, the media tends to fawn over their supposed "chess" play, sometimes attaching much more than is really there, but that comes with reputation. I've never really bought into that characterization, there are volumes of examples to suggest otherwise, plenty of empirical evidence to show little in the way of actual results, apart from the bluster. Capable sure, but hardly the stuff of grandmasters, hardly something to fear, as many gifts given as deft manoeuvers.

What is quietly going unnoticed here, in amongst all the controversy, the Liberals are demonstrating their own tactical prowess at the moment. Prior to Question Period today, news linked to reporters that the Liberals would re-focus on Cadman, when really it was the same emphasis as every other day. Dryden asks his question, gets no response, but it lingers and it connects nicely with the other scandals, the other themes in committee. In presenting a false new focus, it generated some discussion with the media, it allowed them to put it into context.

That was sharp, but what was really shrewd, having Rae come out of nowhere and demand Bernier resign. Bernier actually resigning is meaningless, but the broadside received attention, put some oxygen into the theme that this government is failing on foreign policy. Rae, positioned as the worldy sage, operates the B stage, another line of attack, while the RCMP raid swirls. Easy to forget everything else, and solely focus on the big story for the week, surely enough politically. However, interesting to watch the Liberals multi-task, driving the news, using different lines.

Good stuff.


A similar view.

Liberals Demand Bernier Resign

The Liberal Party is demanding that Maxime Bernier resign as Minister of Foreign Affairs:
Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae called today for Bernier to be fired, describing him as incompetent and irresponsible.

And the NDP put a motion before a Commons committee demanding the minister appear to explain why he publicly called for the removal of the governor of Kandahar.

Bernier ended his visit to the war-torn country on Monday by effectively calling for the removal of Asadullah Khalid, linking him to the rampant corruption that plagues the impoverished region.

He was quickly forced to issue a "clarification'' after the Afghan government expressed concern about foreign interference in its internal affairs.

Rae says it's just the latest in a series of embarrassing gaffes by Bernier.

In an unusual move, Rae went further, offering up a possible replacement:

At first blush, it would appear a marginal upgrade.

Summer Of Love?

It would seem those that don't want an election, see the summer break as an opportunity to boost Dion's fortunes:
St├ęphane Dion wants to spend the summer selling the idea of a national carbon tax on fuels that damage the environment. His top advisors are telling him that he still has work to do convincing Canadians to buy what he is selling and the summer would give him time to craft a campaign narrative.

Yes, the summer barbeque circuit, didn't we hear the exact same thing last year?? Seriously, last spring, all the talk was about getting Dion out there, touring the country, establishing a dialogue with Canadians. A new wrinkle if this summer brings some policy, but basically the same theme.

The summer break is traditionally very hard for opposition leaders. The public glare of parliament gone, people distracted by vacation and such, nobody really paying attention, it's tough to get any press, nevermind establish a narrative. Concurrent with that struggle, the government is free of scrutiny, able to make the odd announcement, it really is their best season. With all that in mind, I'm hard pressed to see the summer break as savior, an environment that will improve our fortunes.

I would argue that the summer brings more risk than reward, as the recent problems of the government fade, we allow them the lion's share of coverage, all of it scripted. Quiet is the government's best friend, and I fully expect a LONG summer break, similar to last year. Dion can tour the country, but he doesn't do so alone, and he operates in a controlled environment.

It sounds great, bide our time, allow Dion to get out there and sell the Liberal vision. However, if history is our guide, Dion will mostly be forgotten in the summer, it will really amount to nothing. Nobody disputes that the government tends to get more negative coverage when parliament sits, nor does anybody dispute the challenges for the opposition during the summer break- those two realities make the summer of love scheme more wishful thinking, than sound strategy. Anything could happen, but I'm willing to bet things don't look any better, possibly worse, than they do at this exact moment, come the fall. The summer is rarely the friend of the opposition, certainly not the season to sell a vision, your audience is entirely distracted.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Liberals Ahead

New Harris-Decima poll out, which has the Liberals statistically ahead, for the first time since just after the Liberal leadership convention:
April 10-13:

Liberals 33%
Cons 30%
NDP 16%
Greens 11%

Ontario (3 week average)
Liberals 40%
Cons 32%
NDP 13%
Greens 13%

Decima's Bruce Anderson:

"In Ontario, we now have a situation, where the Liberals have a massive lead in the 416, a pretty good lead in the 905, a 5-6% lead in the 519 southwestern Ontario region. They only trail the Conservatives in eastern Ontario".

If these provincial regional numbers were to hold, we would see a healthy Liberal seat gain in Ontario. As an aside, did anyone hear about the new Liberal buttons- "My Canada Includes Ontario". Brilliant :)

Quebec (3 week average):
Bloc 37%
Liberals 22%
Conservatives 21%
NDP 10%
Greens 8%

Pretty consistent results, which suggests the recent infighting hasn't hurt too badly.

The most intriguing story is the British Columbia results. While the margin of error is 5.1%, Anderson offers an interesting development:
Liberals 35%
Cons 26%
NDP 23%
Greens 15%

"Each of the last three weeks, we have had the Liberals ahead of the other parties in B.C., which hasn't happened before."

More bad news for the Conservatives:
Urban voters:

Liberals 35%
Conservatives 28%
NDP 15%
Greens 12%

"In 2006, around the time of the election, we measured urban voters as a 5% advantage for the Conservatives. It had always been a tough situation for the Conservatives, but they overcame that. In the election they won by 5%, now they trail by 7%, a pretty important swing."

Hard to find a silver lining for Conservatives, they are also falling further behind with women voters, especially older women, who tend to show up at the polls moreso than other demographics.

I see a window here, the trends are pretty firm, with all the pollsters. I would argue we are now at Conservative bottom, nobody should expect the numbers to drop below 30%. The Liberals still have room for expansion, if you subscribe to the notion that soft Green support is more likely to move to the Liberals, IF anywhere, should an appealing case be made.

Does it get any better than this??

That's The Best You Can Do?

What's with Conservatives, both the leadership and the minions- any negative coverage, any criticism from any organization, all part of some Liberal conspiracy? When an environmental group criticizes the government's policies, we are presented with "well we know they support the Liberals". When any columnist pens a negative piece, "it's the Liberal media at it again". When the Conservative Party breaks the law, the only thing that matters, Elections Canada is in co hoots with the Liberals. Predictable, and entirely lame:
The bigger concern was that media cameras were present Tuesday when the Mounties were entering and leaving the party's offices, said Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.

"I do find it odd, when I look at a photograph this morning and I see someone knocking on the door with cameras, with news cameras present," Flaherty said as he left a Conservative caucus meeting on Parliament Hill.

Yes Jim, the "bigger concern" isn't the raid itself, the legal implications, the stench of scandal, no it's the cameras. Okay.

Ottawa-area Conservative Pierre Poilievre took it further, accusing Elections Canada of offering the Liberal party front-row seats to watch the raid unfold.

"Somebody should ask who in Elections Canada invited the Liberal party to make a home video out of the visit to our headquarters," he said.

Or, somebody should ask why Elections Canada was forced to ask the RCMP to intervene, why they felt it necessary to get a search warrant? That's a good question, maybe even more relevant that why the Liberals witnessed the sorry display.

The accusation doesn't deserve merit, but Kady shoots it full of holes here. This line of defence is akin to the Cadman scandal, where all the Tories could do was infer the tape had been doctored. When you have nothing substantive in defence, the only recourse is too attempt to blur the lines, offering juvenile doubt, try and smear the messenger.

It's a sad day, when the Conservatives try to sully Elections Canada, question their independence, make it appear to be a partisan conspiracy. Conservative supporters should be embarrassed, that their leadership forever employs the scorched earth policy, when reasonable questions are asked. In trying to discredit, they undermine confidence in our institutions, institutions which have a job to do, their independence above reproach.

Yes, what were the Liberals doing there, is Elections Canada in bed with the opposition? Canadians demand answers. That't the best you can do? Pathetic.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Why It Matters

I saw this post on Liblogs, lamenting the frenzy of "fellow" Libloggers jumping all over the RCMP raid:
Scream, foam at the mouth and point the finger of blame at the Tories all you like my Liberal friends. In the real world, Tories and Liberals smell pretty much the same.

That sentiment misses the point, but at the same time it nails it, if that is possible. All that matters, from my point of view, isn't scoring partisan points, but exposing these frauds for what they are, bringing them down to the level of the rest of us.

These Conservatives rode into Ottawa as the most sanctimonious, moral elitists this country has ever seen. Their entire campaign, or campaigns as the case may be, was predicated on this lofty notion of transparency, accountability, trust, honesty, a different breed, HOLIER THAN THOU. The sentiment trickled down to the supporters, so righteous in their tsk tsk, looking down on the government of the day, painting everyone with their white brush of purity.

When they came to office, what was their signature issue? Cleaning up government, campaigns, presenting Canadians with values, so lacking in those dirty Liberals. And, therein lies my joy, because it was always a lie, always destined to reveal hypocrisy, because it forgot a simple fact- we are all human. The Conservatives like to think they operate on a different plain, so squeaky clean, so above it all. I love watching them fall, because they were so deluded to place themselves in the rare air.

So, yes, in the end, voters will probably conclude that they are all corrupt, they "smell pretty much the same". But really, that's all I wanted anyways, the white knights in the muck, back on the ground, living amongst the "others". Eat the crow, Conservatives and their supporters, you're judgemental predisposition shattered. That is why these scandals matter, Canadians see the naked hypocrisy, the cheap rhetoric for what it always was, a perch of self-deluded arrogance. Enjoy the fall- popcorn anyone!

"It's unclear why Elections Canada undertook this action today"

The Prime Minister doesn't understand, so let's cut through the fog for him- poor guy. Generally, when your office is raided by the RCMP, in connection with an investigation, it usually means that you have been stonewalling, and this was the last resort to acquire information. See, Elections Canada wouldn't ask for the raid, if they felt you had been honest, as you claim. If you really were "forthcoming in handing over all relevant documents", then there isn't really a need for a raid. Seems sort of clear, dare I say logical, doesn't it? I'm sure Canadians understand.

The best part about the RCMP raid, it brings an issue which never really capitivated the public to the fore. The in and out scandal is complicated, in many respects it had fallen off the radar. However, nothing says juicy like the RCMP raiding your party headquarters. So much for trying to slip this one under the rug.

I really feel bad for Van Loan, because he has lost his "tyranny of the majority" argument, as it relates to the committee chaos. Pretty simple math, two of the committee's in limbo are being obstructed, in matters to do with potential illegal activities by Conservatives. This raid brings the focus back to the Procedure and House Affairs Committee, and it supports the notion that the Conservatives are stonewalling for partisan purposes. Good luck with those lame talking points now Pete.

What goes around, comes around.

Flaherty: Before And After

The final polling outfit, yet to do a poll since Flaherty's assault on Ontario has weighed in, offering further confirmation of the damage:
"Flaherty's anti-Ontario comments appear to have struck a sour note, stripping the Harper Conservatives of support ":

The Strategic Counsel survey, conducted April 10-13, found that 36 per cent of voters would support the Tories if an election were held today, compared with 30 per cent who would back the Liberals. Support for the NDP has dropped three points from 2006, to 15 per cent... while the Greens have the support of 10 per cent of Canadians, double their election level.

The last Strategic Counsel poll had the Conservatives with a 12 point lead over the Liberals, it is now down to 6, despite an uptick in support in Quebec. The difference:
Ontario voters currently prefer the Liberals over the Tories by 42 per cent to 33 per cent, a jump of eight points for the Liberals from one month ago. NDP 14%, Greens 12%.

The last SC poll, done in mid-February, showed the Conservatives with momentum in Ontario, a fact mirrored by some of the other polling companies:
Cons 42%
Libs 34%
Greens 13%
NDP 11%

A massive 17 point swing, before and after, well outside of any recent vacillation. In this poll, you see a direct co-relation with voters swinging back to the Liberals en masse, at the Conservatives expense. Anyone who questions whether this change lies at the feet of Flaherty needs to give their head a shake. Every poll has shown the same trend, and it reaffirms the characterization that this strategy of attacking Ontario represents the biggest political blunder of this government.

In Quebec, the Conservatives have seen an uptick in support. The pollster attributes this to the Liberals recent troubles, but most of the gain seems to come at the Bloc's expense:
Bloc 36%
Cons 27%
Libs 20%
Greens 10%
NDP 7%

The last SC poll had the Bloc 40%, Cons 22%, Libs 19%, Greens 14%, NDP 5%. No Liberal erosion, but bottom tends to be firm ground.

Overall, another good trend for the Liberals, the Conservatives big lead evaporated. SC is now somewhat in line with other outfits, or at the least, no longer an outlier. One fact is indisputable, the Conservatives are at a low mark in Ontario, the Liberals riding high, which makes an election more attractive, all things considered.