Sunday, August 31, 2008

Good Move Stephane

An election is a certainty, which is why Dion agreeing to meet Harper TOMORROW is shrewd politically:
OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper will meet with his Liberal rival St├ęphane Dion in a Labour Day showdown that will almost certainly precede an election.

Mr. Harper's spokesman says the afternoon meeting will take place Monday at the Prime Minister's residence at 24 Sussex Drive.

Dion's proposal to meet on September 9th would never have happened, given hyper Harper's drive to avoid the by-elections, among other things. In agreeing to a meeting Monday, Dion gets the opportunity to put out his talking points to an attentive press corp. No meeting, Dion loses another chance to frame Harper as opportunistic, he can muse about Harper's posturing, he can look like he is amenable to moving forward.

I look at the meeting like a bonus press conference for Dion, so politically it's a good move, regardless of what happens in the meeting itself. Thanks for the free coverage, if I were the Conservatives I would have had Harper busy tomorrow, prior to his unilateral election call.

All Palin, All The Time

Didn't Obama just deliver a "historic" speech, a shining moment that should have brought a size able media afterglow? Palin may be a global warming denying, gun totting, anti-abortion, controversial woman, but apart from the policy debate, she has sure STOLEN the limelight, and don't expect it to stop in the coming weeks (good or bad, remains to be seen).

Who is Sarah Palin? What makes Palin tick, where are the ghosts, we need to know more? The media is falling over themselves, busily asking questions, trying to get a handle on McCain extraordinary selection. So out of RIGHT field, everyone taken by surprise, it is obvious that the fascination will now dominate the discourse moving forward. Add to that, the simple reality of superficial appeal (let's not kid ourselves) and you have a recipe for prolonged interest.

Is the pick a game changer? I've already expressed my opinion, that overall it's a bad selection, but in some ways that's irrelevant. McCain has stolen the focus, it is actually amazing to see Obama virtually ignored, as everyone tries to digest. Of note, the Obama convention bounce plateaued abruptly after the McCain announcement, in terms of seizing the agenda, mission accomplished, in spades. I don't buy into the arguments from some, that shifting focus for a couple days is reason enough to pick Palin, because in the grand scheme, it's a small window. That said, the lingering quality here is the interesting part politically. Conservatives are fawning, downright giddy, the base rallied, what remains to be seen is interest outside of the now devoted.

I included the above picture, because I think it representative of the curiosity. The maverick Governor, who hunts and fishes, loves a day at the shooting range, takes on vested interests, opinionated, by all appearances a strong character. McCain is a known quantity, to the point of boredom, which partially explains the media pre-occupation with all things Obama. I don't think any reasonable observer would dispute the fact, Palin has altered that dynamic. The "old as dirt" guy, with the bland speeches, now has added something "exciting", something to fill the celebrity void, and that could prove useful moving forward. The focus on Palin could well bury her, it will be interesting to watch how she holds up under the scrutiny, but the key word is interesting and that's all the media requires to keep their attention.

In terms of "buzz", McCain's selection is almost unprecedented. The normal two-day VP story is now set to become a weeks long examination, expect to see massive media interest following Palin everywhere she appears. If the goal was to mix up the presidential race, then McCain has done just that, irrespective of whether it helps or hurts. We shall see, but in the meantime it's all Palin, all the time.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Conservatives To Campaign On "We'll Get Back To You On That"

Let's get this straight, the Conservatives won't release a key component of their platform during an election, but will counter with the "it's coming" defence. So, while other leaders spell out their approach to GHG's, the Conservatives will sit on the sidelines and smear, while simultaneously trying to slip by with nothing, hoping nobody will notice. Yes, Dion's plan will hurt the economy, lead to layoffs and higher prices, but don't expect any fair attempt to compare and contrast with our plan. Taking Canadians for a ride:
But asked about the indirect costs to consumers of the Tory plan to regulate emissions, Mr. Kenney said that calculation will have to wait until later this fall, when the regulations are published.

Environment Minister John Baird later told The Canadian Press that the regulations will not be published during an election campaign.

Won't be published during an election, isn't that a gigantic, not to mention convenient, cop out? The absurdity of poking holes, pointing to costs of another's plan, when you avoid the same scrutiny by simply taking a pass on accountability. The ambiguity allows the Conservatives to attack a concrete offering, while countering with broad stroke mumbo jumbo. This slight of hand only works if we let it.

We do have some indications of the possible economic impact, should the Conservatives implement their plan. Baird himself admits to .4 -1.0% of GDP, which translates to tens of billions. The lack of certainty allows the Liberals to effectively fill in the gap, and they would be wise to bring forth some independent analysis of the broad strokes, to present a compelling picture. In other words, the Conservatives only get off the hook if we let them, and strategically we can manipulate their lack of hard data, fill the void if you will.

I want to see some visual presentation, whether an ad, a flyer, a press release, a press conference, whatever, that does a compare and contrast of the two approaches. Here's the Liberal costs, clearly spelled out, along with the tax breaks, independently verified versus the trickle down costs of what the Conservatives suggest. It is imperative that we don't give the Conservatives the cover, we clearly spell out, in a factual way, the hypocrisy of telling Canadians that Dion wants to take money out of your pocket, when the Conservatives already admit the same scenario with their plan. That speaks to fundamental dishonesty, utter hypocrisy, not to mention the simple fact that the Liberals are the only one's to put money back in your pockets, the package not a one way affair. The Liberals are being up front with Canadians, the Conservatives hiding their cost, hiding their plan, failing to come clean with voters. Who is really trying to "trick" voters here, we can make a powerful case if framed properly.

The above highlights the already assumed Liberal theme on style. Dion, honest and sincere, offering a positive vision, Harper's slight of hand, content to fear monger, content to attack. Contrasting the two plans, not only helps sell the Green Shift, it also puts the spotlight on approach, what type of dialogue do Canadians want from their leaders, which approach is high signal, which is unattractive?

As far as I'm concerned, this whole debate is a farcical exercise, the Conservatives NOTHING but smoke and mirrors. The Liberals don't have to defend, there is amble room to expose the Conservatives as dishonest frauds, their attacks not supported by simple facts, facts which reveal the worst in politicians, an insult to the intelligence of voters. Stephen Harper thinks you're stupid, is he right?

Friday, August 29, 2008

Conservatives Fading In Ontario

I finally had a look at the Decima regional numbers, which provide more bad news for the Conservatives, and some interesting results on which party is preferred on an array of issues. Much like NANOS, the Decima poll shows clear erosion for the Conservatives in Ontario:
In Ontario, latest results show the Liberals leading with 47%, the Conservatives with 29,the NDP at 14%, and the Greens at 9%.

Averaging three weeks, the Liberals lead with 41% compared to the Conservatives at 30%, the NDP at 15% and the Greens at 12%.

Using the three week average, the Conservatives are at their LOWEST point in any Decima poll taken since 2006. Using the last week of polling, that gap is simply staggering, if it were to hold it would represent a Liberal romp in the province. Just to add, given what has happened the past few days, I don't see any rebound on the horizon. So, NANOS and Decima both show the Conservatives fading, the Liberal opening a double digit lead.

The Quebec numbers provide more bad news for the Conservatives:

In Quebec the latest week shows the BQ at 35%, the Liberals 26%, the Conservatives 19%, the NDP 11% and the Greens with 7%.

Averaging three weeks, the BQ leads with 32%, the Liberals are at 28%, followed by the Conservatives at 21%, 8% for the NDP and 7% for the Green Party.

Compared with NANOS, the Bloc number is the same, the only difference, Decima shows the Liberals a well placed second. Maybe Chantal Hebert is right, people taking another look at the Liberals? Whatever, another poll that rejects the CROP offering, still waiting for duplication.

To be fair, the Liberals have tailed off in British Columbia (high MOE), which explains why the national numbers don't show much movement overall, compared to the last poll. British Columbia and Atlantic Canada:
In BC, three week averages show the Conservatives at 32%, NDP 28%, Liberals 23% and the Green Party at 15%.

In Atlantic Canada, three-week averages show Liberals with 40%, the Conservatives at 35%, the NDP 15%, and the Greens at 8%.

Overall, once again, the devil is in the details, details which I must say provide Liberal encouragement.

Decima also compared the parties on various issues, with some noteworthy results. The Conservatives hold a 10% edge on taxes, 7% on defence, but only a scant 6% on the economy (that is the closest margin I've seen to date, so the trend is bad for the Conservatives). Striking, on the "trust in leader" question, there is only a small 5% gap in favor of the Conservatives, one would expect more. The parties are tied on the question of "trust in the party".

For the Liberals, up 10% on foreign affairs, 10% on child care, 9% on the environment, 8% on health care and 13% on aborginal issues. The Liberal gaps on their strength issues outweigh the difference for the Conservatives, another decent sign.


Maybe Harper should meet with Dion ;)


Hat tip to Big City Lib

The bad news for the Conservatives is relentless, especially when you consider the fact that in the last two elections Ipsos overstated Conservative support, while simulatenously understating Liberal support (off by about 6-7% overall).

I'll just spit it out:
Since Ipsos Reid completed its last poll of voting intentions on Aug. 14, national support for the Conservatives has dropped three percentage points while the Liberals and NDP saw their support grow by one point and two points respectively. Support for the Greens was unchanged.

National Results:

Conservative: 33 per cent (down 3 points since Aug. 14)

Liberal: 31 per cent (up 1 point)

NDP: 16 per cent (up 2 points)

Green Party: 10 per cent (unchanged)

Regional Results:

Atlantic Canada

NDP: 37 per cent

Liberals: 29 per cent

Conservatives: 23 per cent

Green Party: 7 per cent


Bloc Quebecois: 34 per cent

Liberal: 27 per cent

Conservatives: 21 per cent

NDP: 10 per cent

Green Party: 8 per cent


Liberal: 41 per cent

Conservative: 29 per cent

NDP: 16 per cent

Green Party: 13 per cent

Manitoba and Saskatchewan

Conservative: 40 per cent

NDP: 32 per cent

Liberal: 24 per cent

Green Party: 4 per cent


Conservative: 71 per cent

Liberals: 15 per cent

NDP: 7 per cent

Green Party: 6 per cent

British Columbia

Conservative: 45 per cent

Liberal: 25 per cent

NDP: 16 per cent

Green Party: 13 per cent

You do the math :)

Double Ouch

The Liberals initially floated the Walkerton connection to the current listeria outbreak, a comparison that apparently was hatched by Dion himself. That frame is political dynamite for the Conservatives, and now today, we have the spectacle of the mayor of Walkerton making the comparison, pointing out the fact that the key players are largely the same. Double ouch, on a narrative that is gaining steam:
Walkerton mayor calls for public inquiry on listeria outbreak

Mayor Charlie Bagnato released a statement today decrying the current outbreak as “outrageous” and noting that some of the cabinet ministers who were in the Ontario government in 2000 are now in the federal cabinet.

“There are currently three federal Conservative cabinet ministers shaping policy for the [Stephen] Harper government who also sat around the Mike Harris cabinet table when decisions were made to cut programs, privatize and regulate,” the statement reads.

Those three federal ministers are Health minister Tony Clement, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and Environment minister John Baird.

“Governments should have learned from the mistakes that led to the tragedy in Walkerton. I am completely shocked that Mr. Harper has opted to make the same mistakes nationally that led to our disaster. Food security should never be placed on the chopping block in the name of cost cutting.”

Reached at his office, Mr. Bagnato said local Conservatives have called accusing him of playing politics with the upcoming federal election.

I take the reaction from local Conservatives as indicative of just how politically toxic this issue could become in Ontario. Any reminder of Mike Harris, particularly one on as critical a topic as public safety, will cost the Conservatives in Ontario. Reminding Ontarians that the Harper team is quite similar to the Harris team is an easy attack, most notably because it's TRUE. The added kicker, it isn't just political, you can weave a coherent comparison, based on political philosophy, the idea of cutting or privatizing vs ensuring public safety. We've seen this story before, the Conservatives will be hurt if voters sense a repeat. Period.


Hard to say anyone saw McCain's VP selection coming, the choice is best described as a shocker. Alaska Gov. Sarah "Barracuda" Palin, a relative unknown, wasn't even on the VP radar, and yet McCain picks her as running mate. Overall, while the pick brings potential, I would say it was a poor choice on McCain's part, and the reasons are mostly obvious.

John McCain's biggest strength is experience, that fact allowed for an distinct contrast with the relatively green Obama, in many ways his ace in the hole. Poll after poll shows McCain towering over Obama on foreign policy, terrorism, even Iraq in terms of readiness to lead. Apart from the experience angle, Obama tends to have the advantage, which makes the selection of a novice for VP very curious.

McCain likes to reference his age, and he openly suggests he would only be one-term President should he win, largely because of that fact. The age question raises the stakes for a VP pick, because it is natural to see that person as potential President, and it is because of this realit that McCain has probably erred. As the pundits are already noting, McCain's experience argument is hurt when in choosing someone with little, the person more likely than any other VP selection to actually assume office, requires lots of "on the job training". In essence, McCain has undercut his own narrative with this selection, a risk I'm not sure he needed to take, all things considered.

Within the inexperienced angle, there is also an element of political opportunism that could backfire. John McCain contradicts his experience message with an overt attempt to win over woman voters. Obama didn't pick Clinton, so McCain makes a transparent play for that ground. The optics aren't necessarily good in the first analysis, I suppose the thinking is that cyncism will yield over time, and Palin could have the right appeal.

What McCain does do, is show up his base further, and one can assume they will now be more energized. A gun-toting, anti-abortion Christian, from a tough environment, is a sure winner with the rank and file. The fact Governor Palin also seems to share McCain's anti-pork drive, a champion of ethics, outside the beltway mentality, not to mention a sometimes non-partisan perspective, should have some appeal to independents, or so they hope.

This pick is risky, a word used ad nauseum today, but it's true. There is potential for McCain with this "outside the box" selection, it surely has created buzz, and the media will give her considerable attention in the coming days. The pick could help him with key demographics, but it just as easily could blow up in McCain's face, given his true motivations. From everything I've seen, this race was tight, for all intent and purposes a draw (temporary bost-convention boost blips aside). That fact begs the question- did McCain really need the "hail mary" pass? The selection almost assumes he did, which then lends an air of desperation, hardly a good frame. Time will tell, but at first blush, I see this pick having just as much potential to hurt McCain, as to help, so for that reason, the choice might have been a mistake.

Nanos Weighs In

A statistical tie, but room for Liberal optimism after the numbers:
Liberal Party 35% (+1)
Conservative Party 33% (NC)
NDP 17% (+2)
BQ 8% (-3)
Green Party 7% (-1)
(*Note: Undecided 16%)

Consistent with Decima's numbers today, and another Liberal high water mark from an individual pollster. Hard to find fault in that fact, especially when you consider Nanos isn't pushing leaners.

BQ 31% (-9)
Conservative Party 25% (+2)
Liberal Party 24% (+2)
NDP 13% (+8)
Green Party 7% (-2)
(*Note: Undecided 14%)

Before my NDP friends get to excited, let's not forget the last NANOS offering had a major slump in support, so this is simply a rebound to the previous mark percentage. Again, another pollster doesn't quite mirror CROP, which makes me more suspicious. If CROP is the best indicator, surely someone else would replicate, the fact no one does- you decide.

Now, the good news, yes GOOD news:
Best PM Question: Of the following individuals, who do you think would make the best Prime Minister? [Read and Rotate]

Canada (N=1,000, MoE ± 3.1%, 19 times out of 20)

Stephen Harper 36% (+2)
Jack Layton 17% (+1)
Stephane Dion 15% (NC)
Gilles Duceppe 5% (-2)
Elizabeth May 4% (-3)
None/ Unsure 23% (NC)

Hello in there! Remember when Harper lagged well back in PM numbers, dwarfed by Martin? Cross reference those results with the horserace numbers and you will see a corresponding double digit Liberal lead. The fact that, and this is quite a telling anomaly, the Liberals are slightly ahead, despite this giant leadership chasm, translates to DEEP trouble for the Conservatives. What the above tells me, the Conservatives are at their high water mark, while the Liberals have real potential for further growth.

Is there anyone around, outside of the koolaid crowd, that doesn't think an election campaign offers Dion a chance to improve his standing with Canadians? All Canadians have seen to date, relentless attacks, pundit cynicism, very RARE glimpses of the man himself, that is an objective truth. A campaign affords Dion an OPPORTUNITY (what he does with it, another matter), a feisty debater, a guy who actually can mix it up thank you very much. In other words, this is the bottom for Dion, and yet the Liberals are well positioned. So, at worst, it remains the same, but anything else, should result in increased Liberal fortunes.

Harper routs Dion on leadership, and yet the Liberals have a slight advantage. There are only two places for that gap to fluctuate, either it stays the same or Dion narrows. The latter is victory, the former is potential victory. I'll take that everyday, and the Conservatives inability to capitalize on the perceived weakness of Dion should be quite concerning.


The regionals provide more good news:


Libs 42%
Cons 29%
NDP 21%
Greens 8%

NDP showing an uptick, Conservatives still fading. Maybe we aren't in a "technical" recession afterall Mr. Harper. Those numbers translate to a sizeable seat gain for the Liberals.

Nanos also shows the Liberals up almost a whooping 30% in Atlantic Canada (very high MOE, but that's cushioned by the sheer lead). So much for the fear mongering campaign in this region, another sign of a seat gain. West, whatever that means, largely unchanged.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

New Decima Poll

No big changes from the last Decima poll two weeks ago, still a statistical tie:
In the last week, the Liberals stood at 34 per cent, the Conservatives at 33 per cent.

The New Democrats were well back, at 15 per cent support, followed by the Green Party at 11 per cent and nine per cent for the Bloc Quebecois.

The last three week average result had it 33% for both parties, the NDP and Greens unchanged, the Bloc at 7%. No regionals released yet, but one can assume the Bloc number is up in Quebec, moving out of the tie with the Liberals.

Will have to wait to see the three-week average, but if the 34% holds, that will be a high water mark for Liberal support in any Decima poll since the last election.

Update later, once the internals are released, but if they are similar to the last Decima regionals, a statistical tie translates to razor slim Liberal minority.

Stephen Harper's "Tax On Everything"

Assume for a moment, that the Conservatives plan to deal with GHG's is real, it will deliver what it promises. That assumption is a gigantic IF, because every independent analysis suggests the plan is a sham. However, for arguments sake, let's take the Conservatives at their word, their plan will impart costs "that are not trivial". So, if the argument becomes a debate about the relative merits of each parties plans, then the Conservatives will be forced to confront a fundamental hypocrisy- accusing the Liberals of doing exactly what the Conservatives propose, while failing to provide relief on the other side of the ledger.

Isn't this interesting:
Tory or Liberal greenhouse plans will raise gas prices: experts

Energy industry experts say consumers will pay more for gas at the pump, regardless of whether Conservative or Liberal policies are adopted to cut the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

But the Conservative approach to cutting greenhouse gases -- a mix of regulations, technological investments and new markets to trade emission credits -- will also result in higher pump prices, said energy industry executives after testifying yesterday at a House of Commons committee.

Warren McLean, who recently retired as a vice-president with Suncor Energy, said the Conservative plan to put a cap on emissions will push pump prices up.

"How do you get to those caps? You have to make investments to get to those caps. And that investment ultimately has to be passed through," said Mr. McLean, who cautioned that he was expressing his own opinion and not that of any company or association.

That's right, so when we see Harper and his minions tell easterners that their reliance on fossil fuels, "dirty" energy sources, will make them big losers under the Liberal plan, they are indirectly acknowledging the same burden under their plan, since the "big emitters" will simply pass the cost to the consumer. The Conservatives are presenting a intellectually dishonest argument, and it might explain why Baird's recent release on the regulatory framework was issued late on a Friday. The last thing the Conservatives want is an honest analysis of what their supposed claims will mean to consumers.

Let's get the message out, backed up by expert analysis- under the Conservative plan, you will see a "tax on everything", not upfront like the Liberal plan , but prices will rise on electricity, natural gas, oil and gasoline. Have the Liberals done any analysis to compare the impacts of the various plans? And, if we have, shouldn't that be part of any mailing during an election?

The real kicker, in this entire debate, is that the Liberal plan is the only one to acknowledge the impact of rising prices, with an offset on the income tax, credit side. The Conservatives offer NOTHING to mitigate the rise in prices, under their plan, yet have the audacity to accuse the Liberals of unfairly hurting people, particularly those in the most precarious economic position.

Anyone who is paying attention can see the glaring hypocrisy, not to mention the dishonest presentation. The trick for the Liberals, to be properly armed and succinct enough to make that case, expose the fact that the Conservatives have really backed themselves into a farcical corner. You know what is realy "insane" and "nuts", projecting doom and gloom, while simultaneously embarking on a supposed similar path, all the while pretending it isn't so, all the while telling consumers TOUGH LUCK.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Conservatives Tanking In St Lambert By-Election

A curious post, on a day when Conservative strength is supposedly demonstrated with a fresh Quebec poll, and yet the picture from the street tells a different tale, or so it appears. Let's just say "well placed source", which provides a glimpse into Harper's manic drive for an immediate election.

Impolitical offers an interesting post, which details why the Conservatives may actually be fading in a riding they should be demonstrating some momentum, if the latest poll is too be believed. Just to add to that sentiment, it would appear that the Conservatives internal polling for St. Lambert shows erosion, in fact the Liberals look suddenly competitive, so much so the words "potential upset" were uttered without laughter. Yes, not only are the Conservatives life or death to hold second in Guelph, the supposed bellweather, they are poised for third in St. Lambert. Much can change, but the trends are decidedly bad, and the Conservatives KNOW IT.

And, it starts to make sense. The worst case scenario, the by-elections demonstrate ZERO momentum for the Conservatives in Quebec, a potential disaster in Guelph, left to answer questions on disappointing results, the Liberals the potential story. While theoretical provincial results comfort Conservatives, their own feedback on the ground suggests otherwise, they are running scared, based on their own information. Couple this, with a sense from the Liberal campaign that things are going "very well" and the suddenly hyperactive Harper is revealed.

Avoid September 8th at all costs, that is a chief driving factor, and Harper's urgency is consistent with that reality.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Fun With Hansard

Listening to the nonsensical rationalizations from Conservatives, trying desperately to justify a snap election call, I thought it might be fun to remember the wise words of these same people when they introduced the Fixed Election Act:

Jay Hill, Parliament Debate

If a prime minister went against the spirit of this legislation and purely called an election because he or she felt the opportunity was ripe, that the situation for his or her particular political party was very advantageous to go to the polls, I suspect that person would quite likely be punished by the Canadian people in the subsequent election campaign.

Let's hope you're right Jay, this type of cynicism can't be rewarded.

Tom "Type A" Lukiwski Parliament Debate

We currently have a system where at the will of the government it can call an election. That obviously leads to many things along the lines of manipulating voters and manipulating dates to get the most beneficial time to the governing party to call an election. Obviously, as many speakers before me have indicated, this would bring an element of fairness to the whole equation.

That allows the governing party to have a political advantage over its opponents. Only the governing party knows the dates of the next election. If the polls happen to be favourable and it looks like the governing party might be returned in either a majority government or at least a strong minority, the governing party can call an election at its whim.

This legislation would take care of that. It would make it incumbent upon the present government and governments in the future to adhere to a fixed date for federal elections. The manipulations of governments trying to buy voters with their own money would come to an end. This is a very important step in our package of democratic reform.

Canadians do not want to think that the timing of a federal election will be held behind closed doors where a bunch of party hacks and pollsters get together and say that this would be their best chance to win the next election and that they should call the next election on a particular date. That should have no bearing on the timing of a federal election...

We want an election after four successive budgets. That would ensure that we stay in power for an awfully long time.

Party hacks, good point Tom.

Rob Nicholson, Leader of the Government in the House, during committee debate of Bill C-16:

What we have is a situation where the Prime Minister is able to choose the date of the general election--not necessarily what is in the best interests of the country, but conceivably what is in the best interests of his or her party. Bill C-16 will address this situation and produce a number of other benefits.

Rob Nicholson, Leader of the Government in the House, Parliament Debate

When the prime minister, under the current system, requests the dissolution of the House, the governor general, unless there are unusual circumstances, agrees and the country finds itself in an election. What we have is a situation where the prime minister is able to choose the date of the election, not based necessarily on the best interests of the country but on the best interests of his or her political party. I believe Bill C-16 would address those concerns.

Instead of the prime minister and a small group of advisers being the only ones who know when the country will move into the next general election, once this bill is passed, all Canadians will have that knowledge, which makes it fair.

I can't disagree Rob, who wants political advisors deciding when the country should go to an election.

Hey, have any of you guys raised these relevant points recently to your Prime Minister, or any of the political hack advisors that are manufacturing a crisis to avoid future unfavorable terrain? Oh ya, that was then...

I think the first quote would make an excellent ad ;)

Monday, August 25, 2008

We've Got A Deadline People

Listening to Harper's team, it's too the point of completely absurd, how they are framing this election call. Are they so arrogant, that they think Canadians will buy an election because Stephane Dion can't meet with the Prime Minister until next week? You mean, if Dion doesn't discuss Canada's future path OVER THE PHONE, that is reason to head over to the GG's? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the stupidest logic I've heard in some time:
“[Mr. Dion] is essentially refusing to meet and, not only refusing to meet, refusing to speak by phone,” Kory Teneycke, Harper's communication director, said Monday.

“This is a sign that he's, for all intents and purposes, broken off communication with the prime minister

Harper is expected to indicate Tuesday whether he'll wait to meet Mr. Dion before determining whether he should call an election. But Mr. Teneycke hinted there's no need for a meeting, arguing that the Liberal leader's failure to arrange a meeting so far speaks volumes.

“In the age of modern communication, if some body's saying they can't find a way to talk to you, with cell phones and telephones and the fact that they live in the same city, only a handful of blocks apart etc., I think you're getting an answer.”

Handful of blocks apart, isn't Harper heading off to another Arctic photo-op, all patriotic and what not? Isn't Dion scheduled to be in Winnipeg for a Liberal caucus meeting early next week? Is there some DEADLINE that nobody knows about? Harper is acting like a bomb is about to detonate unless Dion immediately cuts the yellow wire (or is it the blue one, egads man!) The Conservatives are actually trying to sell Canadians that Dion must "text message" with the PM before the middle of next week, or that amounts to not wanting a meeting? Are you stooges for real?

This sounds reasonable:

Mark Dunn, Mr. Dion's spokesperson, said the Liberal leader is committed to meet with Harper before Parliament returns on Sept. 15. But given Mr. Dion's travel schedule and a planned Liberal caucus meeting from Sept. 2-4 in Winnipeg, he suggested a meeting isn't likely before the end of next week at the earliest.

“What's the rush?” said Mr. Dunn, accusing Mr. Harper of “manufacturing a crisis [over parliamentary dysfunction] when none exists.”

I know it's hard to keep track, Harper ups the ante almost daily. Wasn't it just a few days ago that he mused about "taking the next few weeks" to decide, that he wanted clarity prior to the September 15th Parliament return? Now, here we are, and Dion must meet today or it's a sign that we DESPERATELY need an election. Last time I checked "late next week" is about 10 days prior to September 15, ample time for Harper to get a feel, about half the time he originally needed.

If the Harper team thinks this sort of nonsense is "softening" up the electorate for a fall vote, I think they are in for a rude surprise. Meet me right this minute, or forget it, let's have an election. Opportunistic, cynical, VERY transparent, juvenile, petty, condescending, it all congeals to paint Harper in a very bad light. Yes, manufactured desperation is incredibly attractive and convincing. How are those by-elections internal polls looking Mr. Teneycke? Ouch.

Well, Isn't That Interesting

For those of you into conspiracy theories, the similiar dates here are pretty delicious:
Couillard Book to Hit Stores Oct. 14

Moreover, it looks like Couillard is going to use the book to set the record straight and settle more than a few scores. "In this profoundly human autobiography, she responds to the multiple lies, half-truths and speculation that has been written about her over the course of the last few months," reads the catalogue.

According to McClelland & Stewart's website, the 320-page English version of her book, entitled simply My Story, will also hit the shelves Oct. 14.

For those wondering why Harper is suddenly gungho for an election, note the date here:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper may go to the Governor General as early as Sept. 5 to ask for a general election, senior Conservative sources have told CTV News

Sources say Conservatives favour a short election campaign because anything longer would waste taxpayers' money. The shortest allowed by law is 37 days, so an election call on Sept. 5 would mean a vote on Thanksgiving Monday. Because of the holiday, the vote would be pushed to Tuesday Oct. 14.

Wow, so if Harper moves quickly, it just so happens that the calendar would allow the election to take place on the same day Couillard's book will be released. No time to digest the contents, no time for embarrassing angles, isn't that convenient. Just saying.

Get Over It Already

One thing was apparent during the Democratic primaries, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton shared a lot in common. As a matter of fact, as the primary schedule moved forward and Obama pulled ahead, the chief obstacle for Clinton was trying to differentiate herself from Obama, on policy any distinction that would turn the tide, hard to come by. The similarities so striking, most debates turned into quibbling over details, a discussion of the fine print. Only when one compared Obama to McCain or Clinton to McCain, could you determine real, substantial differences in policy. With that objective truth clearly evident, I must say, I find it amazing to see so many former Clinton supporters unable to get over their personal bitterness.

The latest CNN poll shows a deadheat, but the real story is the following:
Sixty-six percent of Clinton supporters -- registered Democrats who want Clinton as the nominee -- are now backing Obama. That's down from 75 percent in the end of June. Twenty-seven percent of them now say they'll support McCain, up from 16 percent in late June.

"The number of Clinton Democrats who say they would vote for McCain has gone up 11 points since June, enough to account for most, although not all, of the support McCain has gained in that time," Holland said.

It is truly remarkable, that John McCain, the man vilified by the right-wing in his party, has been able to rally his troops, while the Democrats, in the best position in years, can't seem to GET OVER IT ALREADY. Remember all the attacks against McCain, whether Limbaugh, Delay, Santorum, Coulter and countless other wingnuts, the supposed base of the Republican Party? All that acrimony has essentially evaporated, and a strange twist of fate, it is now Democratic division that threatens to hand the Republicans the White House.

Obama didn't pick Hillary. Boo hoo. Is it really surprising, that a man who wants to put forth his own agenda doesn't want a meddling former President and his ambitious wife at his side? Political powerhouses aside, the fact Obama looked elsewhere is of no surprise to anyone who has an ounce of perspective. Besides, is that real the point, are people Hillary Democrats or Democrats? Every primary season is divisive, for both parties, and yet, consistently the former foes find a way to unite, because the stakes are high.

Is Obama a better candidate that Clinton? If I had my dithers, I'd probably lean slightly to Clinton, all things considered. But, that's not the point, is it? Obama's the nominee, and everyone can take solace in the fact that he represents the Clinton perspective in overriding fashion. Compare the policies, compare the rhetoric, compare the chasm with the Republicans. It's an easy call for Democrats, and yet a full third seem willing to hold a grudge.

In fairness, McCain is attractive to some Democrats, always has been, always will be, so this reality inflates the "bitter" numbers. However, that doesn't explain the huge defection contingent, and it really is strange to see how many have lost sight of the big picture. Isn't it time to move on?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Another Talking Point

The opposition would be wise to seize upon the recently released lobbyist data. In July, while the Canadian economy shed a staggering 55000 jobs (32000 manufacturing), the Harper government was busy meeting with every big oil company imaginable. That's right, while companies are closing their doors, or on the brink of bankruptcy, rather than developing a national strategy to deal with the manufacturing crisis, the PMO and the Conservative Ministers spent 50% of all "face" time meeting with people who's profits are best described as obscene.

In central Canada, noteably Ontario, the spectre of a government focused on sectors of the economy that are riding high, while virtually ignoring those that desperately need attention, is a political winner for the opposition. The simple facts demonstrate quite clearly where the government's priorities lie, Ontario's concerns largely an afterthought, Harper showing his western bias. The government can argue it is doing many things to help Ontario's struggling economy, but the facts suggest a casual attitude, more important to make sure Shell and Suncor are happy, that demonstrate any urgency with regards to manufacturing.

The NDP's Pat Martin makes the point:
Despite the limited amount of information available in the lobbying files, NDP MP Pat Martin says the new reporting law is worthwhile because it reveals the extent of contacts between the oil industry and government on an issue that will likely be central in the next election.

“That's not lobbying, that's a blitzkrieg,” Mr. Martin said. “It's easy to see who's got the ear of this government.”

Many Canadians already hold the view that the Harper government is too close to big oil. Canadians also have little sympathy for companies that now regularly report profits that rival the GDP of many nations. Harper in bed with big oil, indifferent to the manufacturing sector, is an issue that can be exploited. The argument now finds empirical evidence to show the warped sense of priorities. Let's hope this new lobbysist disclosure is used to hammer the Conservatives, I suspect voters won't approve.

Never Give Your Opponent What He Wants

Yes, Harper has the constitutional right to ask for an election whenever he chooses, despite the horrible optics of ignoring his own LAW. However, rather than just assume the timing of an election is out of the opposition's control, there are tools available to derail Harper's quick vote plans. One angle, that would provide a powerful counter, the still lingering issue of election financing rules.

Currently, there is complete confusion as to what is legal and what is not. How can Canadians go to the polls, when we have a situation where the rules seem a matter of partisan interpretation? The Conservatives argue they did nothing wrong in the last election, "everybody does it", their legal case is "solid", which assumes that they could possibly invoke the same tactics in this election, so long as the current issues aren't resolved. We would enter any new election without the necessary clarity, so muddied that the notions of "fair" and "legal" seem subjective.

What I would propose, the opposition parties unite and issue a joint call for all parties to sit down with Elections Canada and agree on what is mutually acceptable. The NDP is already on record arguing that no election should take place until we have election law clarity. The Bloc, and Liberals, for obvious reasons, would both support the NDP position, which means you could have the spectacle of all three opposition parties singing from the same hymn book, all demanding that everybody understands the election rules, prior to any election call. In fact, it is easy to argue that an election call should be put in a holding pattern until these issues are resolved. In this way, you force the Conservatives hand, unless they are so arrogant to not see the political minefield of entering an election with the spectre of possible "cheating" on the table.

Imagine all the party leaders emerging from their farce of a meeting with Harper, telling reporters that they told the PM that an election now was impossible, given the current "crisis" surrounding election law. If one were to do this, it could be dismissed, but all three, then Harper is completely isolated and any quick move to an election is rife with negative perceptions.

The above is based on a principle, but it's more a tactic. Attempting to delay an election call a few weeks isn't a statement on "readiness" or "fear", but it's important to separate the bravado of "bring it on" with being shrewd. Everyone agrees, that it is too the opposition's advantage to get Harper back in Parliament, where they can pound him. The simple fact that Harper looks set to try and avoid Parliament's return, tells us everything we need to know about our strategy. With that in mind, attempting to delay an election, even if only for a few weeks, should be advantageous for all the opposition parties. Using the uncertainty about election financing rules is one possible avenue to undermine the Harper plan.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A Strong Choice

Anyone who bothered to watch the Democratic primary debates won't find this comment shocking- Joe Biden out classed everyone on stage, on many different occasions. Review the pundit scorecards, it will bear this fact out, everyone left to wonder why Biden wasn't benefiting from his strong performances. Well, the simple fact, Obama, Clinton and to lesser extend Edwards had taken the oxygen out of the room, the "star" power left Biden as respected, but primarily an also ran.

Joe Biden has had his historical moments, some would argue if not for previous gaffes, he would have been a serious presidential player. I don't always agree with Biden, but there is no question he is a pitbull, passionate, off the cuff, demonstrating refreshing candor, a pretty engaging figure. Couple the persona with the experience, easily one of the most respected Democrats on foreign policy, and you can see why Obama gave Biden the nod.

The VP selection generally gets some press for a few days, then it is relegated to the backpages, apart from occasional "moments". The VP only really shines in the debate, and this is where Obama's strategy should pay off. A theoretical Biden vs Romney would be a potential slamdunk for the Democrats. Aside from that, Biden actually could buck conventional wisdom and make some waves through the process. Biden is highly quotable, not afraid to attack relentlessly, do the dirty work for Obama, allowing him to project a Presidential air. All things considered, a good choice, somewhat risky, but solid.

As an aside, I notice Jason is framing this decision as a sign of fear. That's fine, but this quote deserves a response:
Now, when it came time to pick the number 2, he went with bland and boring.

Biden is a lot of thing, "bland and boring" about the last adjectives I would choose. I thought this video a good representation, one that shows Obama's selection of Biden is anything but Jason's characterization. This is what Obama is banking on:


Nova Scotia Premier Can't Handle The Truth

Nova Scotia Premier Rodney MacDonald's inclusion of the carbon tax calculator on his party's website, is actually a testament to the wisdom of the Green Shift. Huh?

This is simple logic, and a clear example of the Conservatives inability to present an honest argument. IF, as Premier MacDonald argues, the Green Shift will place a heavy burden on Nova Scotians, then he should have no problem demonstrating this with any calculation. The fact that this calculator OMITS the taxcut component of the Green Shift, presenting only half the equation, is a clear indication that the plan isn't the burden he argues. Why not include the entire package Mr. MacDonald, if your are being truthful, then you should have no problem showing the people of Nova Scotia the true cost?

The plan will hurt Nova Scotians, well then, why the need for an disingenious calculation? I mean, it's a tax grab, put it out there and show people the Liberals ruse. INSTEAD, it is MacDonald that is forced to misrepresent, which speaks volumes about his own rhetoric. Why is MacDonald afraid to deal with the policy, forced to manipulate to show a dishonest conclusion? That's the issue here, it obviously isn't as bad as you suggest, otherwise you would have no qualms about an accurate calculation. The fact the Premier has resorted to incomplete propaganda is really a indicator of who wants a real dialogue, and who can't deal with the facts, but must resort to lying to the voters.

This calculator says more about Mr. MacDonald than it does about the Green Shift. In fact, the inability to present the complete picture, is really an indication that the Green Shift is balanced, we need to ignore this dimension, otherwise our fear mongering EVAPORATES.

Friday, August 22, 2008

What's Your Hurry?

Something is up, it's as simple as that. There is a reason Harper is suddenly so bullish for an election, and it has nothing to do with the reasons we've been given to date. The question for the Liberals, deciphering just what exactly the Conservatives are up to, and responding accordingly. I'm of the belief that you never give your opponent what he wants, if you can help it. I have several theories, and here's one.

Today, Minister Flaherty released the latest surplus figures, which suddenly show Canada back in a comfortable surplus, a complete reversal in just one month. Flaherty also "pledged" to do a fiscal update sometime in October, and update that will never happen if Harper takes us to the polls prior to Parliament's return. So, while government Ministers are clearing their September schedules, is it credible for Flaherty to muse as though it's business as usual? Pardon my cynicism, but it just doesn't add up.

In the first two months of this fiscal year, we had a 500 million dollar deficit. Then, in just one month, Flaherty announces a quarterly surplus of 1.2 billion. That translates to a 1.7 billion dollar surplus in the last month reported, which is a staggering figure, considering Flaherty projected a scant 2.3 billion surplus for the entire fiscal year, a figure which was based on a 1.7% growth rate. Today, Flaherty admits that the growth rate will be 1.1%, a large drop from his earlier projection. And yet, despite increased spending and all these economic warnings, we are to believe that Flaherty is half way to his surplus in just the first quarter? That doesn't pass the smell test, especially when one considers Flaherty's previous proficency in moving numbers around. A sudden fiscal turnaround, just after talking heat for the initial deficit, occuring at the same time when Flaherty reduces his grow projection by a full third. If anything, one would expect the surplus to be behind Flaherty's targets, given the growth drop that he admitted today, not a sudden uptick. Couple this quirk in logic with the simple fact that the economy has really started to tank this summer, and the numbers look even more suspicious.

Back to one of my theories. Is Harper moving so fast, because the government has knowledge of a looming deficit? Isn't it interesting, that just as we hear all this election talk, presto, back in the black, in a big way, so much so, that even if another monthly update is released during an election, the buffer is enough to keep the perception of "in the red" at bay? The timing is a little too cute from here, and it becomes even more intriguing when you hear Flaherty floating his October update, while everyone around him goes full tilt into election mode. Harper wants to get to the polls, before he has to face the economic and fiscal music.

What Are You Afraid Of Mr. Harper?

All these supposed achievements, all this conviction and drive, all these ideas to move Canada forward, and yet, Harper hides from voters. The good news, Harper's cynical attempts to manipulate and control are blowing up in face, revealing a stark contrast with his main competitor. What are you afraid of Mr. Harper?:
Nine words won't soften up this turf

In London he didn't talk. Actually, he did. Nine words during a 71-second event billed as a "photo opportunity" at the General Dynamics Land Systems plant on Oxford Street East.

Staff from the Prime Minister's Office had stipulated only media carrying cameras or video recording equipment would be allowed to witness this moment in history. I had to borrow a palm-sized video recorder from a photographer to get around this ban. And then, once inside, a Harper staffer buttonholed me and said: "No questions. We let you in, but there can be no questions. Promise?" I agreed. Moments later, at the behest of the same PMO staffer, a General Dynamics official confrontedme again and warned: "No questions from the floor. That's the deal. Any questions and it's over."

Any questions, and "it's over"? Meanwhile, in another part of the province, Stephane Dion talks with voters, in a unscripted, spontaneous town hall, attended by friend and foe alike. The chasm is striking, and one has to wonder if Canadians are best served by rewarding an approach which treats them with such disdain. You will get our propaganda, our marketing campaign, but you don't deserve a dialogue. The arrogance is staggering, but it remains to be seen whether Harper is right to assume voters lack the sophistication to see through the staged presentation.

The strategy assumes you have something to hide, that in reality, the Conservatives don't trust their own leader to convey a message to the people. I wonder how it is that Conservative supporters can condone this approach, especially those with Reform roots, this strategy so diametrically opposed to the core tenets. Your leader is effectively a mascot, who waves and nods, but doesn't mingle with the masses. The most elitist, detached, top down organization in Canadian history, a complete departure from all the lofty rhetoric of the past.

Stephen Harper is a manufactured fraud, apparently so inept and wooden, he lacks the most basic of political characteristics, the ability to speak to his constituents. How anyone can endorse this approach, partisan or not, is beyond me.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Out In The Open

Reading La Presse, they are reporting on the likelihood of Harper calling an election prior to Parliament's return on September 15th. According to Conservative sources:
"The option to call a general election before the resumption of parliamentary is on the table. Everything will depend on the results of meetings with the heads of the other parties"

When I first heard of the meeting, at Harper's request, it seemed unusual, given his style. I actually take the above quote as entirely true, because it fits nicely with the emerging Harper election rationalization. We already know how Duceppe and Layton will react, leaving the discussion between Dion and Harper as key. In a sense, I see this meeting as a trap, Harper can use this dialogue to justify the "dysfunctional" argument. Pretty easy to picture the following- Harper emerges from his meeting with Dion and tells Canadians he sees no common purpose, it is clear from Dion's stance that Parliament can't work. In this way, Harper takes the onus off himself, attempting to show he extended an olive branch only to be rebuffed by the other parties. Harper throws up his hands and calls an election.

There was a curious development last week, Harper's calling of another byelection, to take place after Parliament reconvenes. This call wasn't necessary, but its timing is quite revealing in my estimation. What better way to send mixed messages to the opposition, than to float the idea of a quick election call, then throw in a by-election to make it appear that Parliament would reconvene? It's the kind of gamesmanship Harper loves, this belief in keeping others off balance. This latest by-election call isn't what it appears, and I see it as a way to get the dogs off the scent.

La Presse speculates that the election would take place on October 20th or 27th, just prior to the American contest. In many ways, I can understand Harper's hurry, I honestly think the decision has already been made. Whether he can or not, is another matter, but easy to see why calling an election before Parliament reconvenes is advantageous. If you sense the opposition wants an election, why give them a high profile forum to make their case, why allow them to batter the government, soften them up prior to a vote? Moving prior, allows Harper to go on his own terms, without the limelight of pesky accountability, the spectre of scandal. If we see a real ramp up in Conservative ads in the next couple of weeks, it will provide another clue.

I think the economy is tanking, beyond what Flaherty projected. I also think the next financial release could well show a further deficit, something which isn't easily fluffed off like the previous update. How can the government make their case, if we have another indicator of fiscal mismanagement? A slumping economy, a government who will be on defensive if they pass out typical election goodies, not a optimal situation for Harper. Better to go sooner, before the chickens come home to roost.

Harper has revealed himself, if we read between the lines. This allows the Liberals to react with that knowledge, and Dion could well short circuit this ultimatum style meeting with his own preamble. I think Harper has already decided, what could he possibly think could come of these face to face meetings? It's a joke really, there is nothing constructive about it. The smart play is to assume, and react in a magnanimous way, don't give Harper the cover he desperately needs to rationalize. We want to see what the government proposes when Parliament returns, and we will react depending on their proposals. Any thoughts of an election call prior to the return, shows Harper is desperate to avoid scrutiny, he is worried about scandal, he is manufacturing a crisis that doesn't exist. The Harper argument is really a nonsensical one, the only way it works is if we fall for his trap by appearing combative.


My first thought, when I read about the Conservatives plan to privatize food inspection, was that the Liberals would be wise to draw a comparison to Mike Harris and Walkerton. Apparently, I wasn't alone, Mr. Dion goes for the jugular:
Dion links Walkerton, planned cuts to food scrutiny

The cabinet document, which has not been approved, outlines plans by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to give the food industry a greater role in the inspection process. It also spells out plans to cut millions in federal spending on surveillance for mad-cow disease.

"It's unacceptable," Mr. Dion told reporters during a stop in Toronto.

"These are the same people – Mr. Flaherty, Mr. Baird, Mr. Clement – who are responsible [for] what happened in Walkerton, who privatized [Ontario's] propane inspection, and they want to do something equivalent about food inspections, which is at the core of what the government should do," he said.

"This very conservative government does not understand what is at the core of the responsibility of a government in a society."

I've always believed, that all of the old Harris surrogates in the Harper government could come back to haunt them in Ontario. Dion uses this cabinet document, to not only scold the government for cutting food saftey, but too remind Ontarians of what happened with the previous provincial government. That comparison equates to political gold for the Liberals, the issue of Walkerton and the Harris government's complicity, are still very fresh in the minds of voters. Any sense that this gang, which just happens to be the same old gang are implementing the same sort of ideology, and the Conservatives take a very large hit.

Like I said earlier, when I first heard the story, I immediately thought of Walkerton, and it wasn't even a tactical thought. Dion is quite shrewd here, because I suspect I'm not the only one who can see the similarities, whether it be the actors or the plot. Right between the eyes.

Bad Trends

No wonder Harper is itching for an election, he has passed his best before date:
As prospects for a fall election grow, a new survey indicates public satisfaction with the Harper government has deteriorated since last fall.

The extensive survey, conducted for the Privy Council Office, found Canadians are split in their judgment of the government's performance, with 34 per cent positive and 35 per cent negative. The rest are neutral.

In the previous Harris/Decima survey in December 2007, 35 per cent expressed satisfaction with the government's performance, while 30 per cent gave it thumbs down.

The results offer scant encouragement to a Conservative government that nonetheless seems eager to trigger an election this fall. In nearly every policy area, the public mood is noticeably more sour than it was late last year.

The government gets some of its worst marks for accountability, a supposed priority area, with just 28 per cent positive and 42 per cent negative. Only on climate change is its performance more harshly judged.

Ominously for the Conservatives, the survey found that satisfaction ratings have declined across the board since December, even in areas where the government's marks are still positive.

Even one of the government's touchstone issues - crime and justice - isn't playing particularly well. While the number giving the government good marks has risen slightly, to 37 per cent from 34 per cent last December, negative ratings have jumped even more, to 38 per cent.

There's also been a big slide in satisfaction with the government's handling of the economy. Last December, nearly half said it was doing a good job of economic management. In the latest survey, that fell to just 39 per cent, while the number expressing dissatisfaction shot up to 30 per cent from 19 per cent.

Those are dreadful numbers, especially when you consider accountability and crime are supposed strengths.

Conclusion: The more we see, the less we like.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Where Did He Say That Exactly?

I saw this headline "NBers oppose carbon tax: premier" on NNW, so I followed the link, and sure enough the actual article uses the same headline. So, I read through the article and can't quite seem to find where Premier Graham said anything remotely close to what the headline suggests. Here's what Graham did say:
"Very clearly, New Brunswickers are not in agreement, from what we've heard from the consultations held to date," Graham said yesterday.

"Our government is attentive to that but we'll only be (able to give) a proper response to the actual committee report when we hear it later this fall."

All Graham said is there is no clear agreement on a carbon tax, how that equates to NBer's oppose carbon tax escapes me. The very quote itself implies that SOME do support the carbon tax, SOME others don't. A majority may very well reject the idea, there does seem to be quite a lot of resistence, from what I've read from afar. However, there is nothing said in this article that makes that headline credible.

What about "Premier: NBer's Divided On Carbon Tax", or "Premier: Lack of Consensus on Carbon Tax", much better than some definitive nonsense, that isn't borne out in the comments. A pet peeve, small stuff in the grand scheme, but they don't call them headlines for nothing, and that is why they shouldn't misrepresent.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Bosom Buddies

I think were going to find this new Registrar of Lobbyists database very intriguing. July looked like a particularly good month for big oil:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's senior advisers filled their calendars in July with one-on-one meetings with some of the country's biggest oil companies, including Shell, Petro-Canada and Suncor.

Newly released federal records show that half of the lobby groups who got some face time with the PMO last month were energy companies, or their industry associations.

Oilsands giants Suncor Energy, Petro-Canada and Shell Canada also had dozens of meetings on Parliament Hill with top ministerial advisers, including some with senior Harper advisers. Additionally, Petro-Canada representatives had a one-on-one meeting with Industry Minister Jim Prentice and Shell had a meeting with Environment Minister John Baird.

Hazell said his organization has had meetings over the last 18 months with PMO staffers but says other green lobby groups have had less success. In Hazell's view, Harper's PMO tries to punish its harshest critics by limiting access to influential decision-makers within the PMO.

Strange, that as the government was supposedly putting the finishing touches on its greenhouse gases regulatory framework, nobody in this government met with anybody but oil interests. "Dozens of meetings" with oil execs, and yet nary a visit from other organizations? In fact, HALF of ALL visits for the entire month, were with oil interests, a staggering percentage, given the sheer volume of issues the government faces. You know what a cynic would say, or anybody with common sense for that matter.

Kory Teneycke was quick to point out, that this is only the first month for the database. Now that government realizes this new transparency, what do you want to bet that we start seeing a more balanced "meetings" calendar in the coming months? Optics are everything you know.

Debt Free

Dion on target to clear all leadership debts prior to the return of Parliament. Pretty impressive to clear $ 250 000 in a matter of weeks (translated):
"The debt should be settled in September, perhaps even before the start of the September 15 return of Parliament"said the Liberal source.

What will Pierre say? More importantly, this might show what the Liberals can do on the fundraising side when they have a focus. I also find this interesting, given what I was told about a "noticeable" uptick with the Victory Fund in the last few weeks, which means party fundraising isn't necessarily hurt because of the effort to clear Dion's debt. In fairness to Dion, he never really made a concerted effort to pay down his debt, and I actually applaud him for trying to raise money for the party, rather than himself. That said, it would be great if the debt was cleared heading into an election, for a number of reasons.

Good stuff.

Read Your Own Act Mr. Harper

Harper is at it again today, this time blaming the opposition for not adhering to his own Fixed Election Dates Act. Harper:
It's clear that none of the opposition parties intend to hold out until the fixed election date of October 2009, he added.

"They have no intention of respecting the fixed election date," Harper said. "So I think obviously we're going to have to judge how the parliamentary agenda is unfolding."

Actually, Mr. Harper, the opposition doesn't have to respect the fixed election date, you allowed for this provision in your own Act:
The Fixed Election Dates Act establishes that Canadian federal elections be held every four years on a fixed date, except when the government loses the confidence of the House, in which case an election would be held immediately.

The opposition has the power to vote non-confidence when it so chooses, despite the fixed dates, so Harper's rationalization doesn't fly. Actually Mr. Harper, this is really the only relevant point here, what about FAIRNESS:
Fairness - A fixed election date eliminates the advantage given to the government party to call an election when conditions are favourable to that party.

Canadians are clearly warming to an election, and in the end, Harper can go to the GG to dissolve Parliament. However, even with this growing sentiment, there will still be the unease of comparing the Harper rhetoric, actually enshrined into law, with the flimsy justifications. Harper should rightly start any election campaign with questions on the apparent hypocrisy. Hopefully someone can examine just how much energy, time and money was wasted crafting legislation which is nothing but a public relations fraud in the end.

Monday, August 18, 2008

New Poll

Ipsos Reid poll, on Canadians desire for an election, as well as the requisite horserace numbers. First the party numbers, not much change nationally, although an apparent swing in Quebec (cough):
It put the Conservatives’ popularity at 36 per cent, the Liberals at 30 per cent, the NDP at 14 per cent and the Green party at 10 per cent. Six per cent were undecided.

That puts the Conservative up two points since the last Ipsos poll(end of July), Liberals unchanged, same for the NDP, Greens down one. The Conservatives have their talking poll back, although I would mention that Decima has decidedly different results, and NANOS looks set to release a new one soon.

The strange part of this poll:
On party popularity, the survey said the Conservatives maintained their substantial lead in western Canada, and picked up support in Quebec, Ontario and Atlantic Canada since early July so they are now in a statistical dead heat with the Liberals in those three regions. In Quebec, the Bloc Quebecois had 34 per cent of the popular vote, well ahead of the Liberal and Conservative parties which were tied at 25 per cent.

Quite a different result from the last Ipsos poll, which had the Conservatives at a scant 18% in Quebec. The Liberals are down 2%, the Bloc 3%. I fail to see why there would be such a wide difference in the Conservatives numbers, although the margin of error tends to be 6%. This change explains Ipsos uptick in the Conservative numbers, take it for what it's worth.

Where I really think Ipsos has it wrong, the supposed statistical dead heats in Ontario and Atlantic Canada. Now, Atlantic Canada numbers are always dubious, given the sample size size, so a sizeable "whatever" to that one. The Ontario numbers are consistent with Ipsos tending to show a much closer race than other pollsters. As a side note, NANOS just released an Ontario provincial poll, that put the Liberals up 10%. While you can't make the jump, that number is in line with the federal numbers most pollsters show for the province, another small indication of Ipsos possibly being an outlier. Until someone else verifies these numbers, I chalk it up to the usual with Ipsos, shorter version, sorry not buying.

A curious comment from the pollster:
“The Tories are competitive where they need to be competitive. The Liberals are competitive where they need to be competitive. If they do decide to throw down (the gauntlet), it’s going to be a very interesting fight.”

I confess to not understanding that comment, given the poll findings. If the Cons are statistically tied in Ontario, Atlantic Canada, then the Liberals would lose seats in areas where "they need to be competitive". Maybe he isn't sold either ;)

What is interesting, Canadians seem ready for an election:
The poll says the proportion of Canadians who favour an election “to clear the air” has risen to 40 per cent from 27 per cent in March. Moreover, the proportion of Canadians who said “there’s no need for an election at the moment” dropped dramatically to 38 per cent from 66 per cent. Almost one in four, or 23 per cent, said they did not know which statement best captured their views, up from seven per cent in March.

Pollster Darrell Bricker says the findings suggest signals from Harper and the Liberal leader that they are itching for an election fight are starting to have an impact on what Canadians are thinking.

Okay, let's go already.

On Fundraising

Reading an article on Gerard Kennedy, I was struck by this sentence:
He also became disenchanted that the party renewal Mr. Dion had pledged to promote wasn't happening.

I'm not even sure I buy the above as true, so this post isn't about stirring the pot. However, I've always believed, and this is one of the reasons I supported him and joined the party, that Kennedy "gets it" when he speaks of party renewal. That stance has irked some people, entrenched interests never react particularly well to talk of insurgencies, or criticisms. But, in the final analysis, it speaks to the notions of entitlement, it understands that the Liberals tend to be lacking, relative to other parties, when it comes to grassroots support.

Which leads us to fundraising. The new fundraising rules are actually a blessing in disguise for the Liberals, if you adopt the long view. These rules are clearly hurting the Liberals in the immediate, but ultimately they will provide the path to renewal that needs to occur. The new system demands grassroots support, it relies on average Canadians, donating small amounts, to make a party fiscally viable. That reality translates to a need to reach out to the rank and file, build the party from the ground up. Within that, it then necessitates a better dialogue, or engagement, between the party appartus and its supporters.

We already see the seeds of a new dynamic, when you consider the Victory Fund, which involves direct interaction with participants and their leadership. Still in the embryo stage, it is easy to see how the need to attract donors will only be successful if people feel plugged in to the process. Under the old rules, the Liberals could rely on heavyweights to compete, and this reliance is partially responsible for the party appearing top heavy. That relationship has evaporated, which means in the end, there will be a transfer of power to the "person on the street" if the Liberals are to thrive.

When the dust settles, Kennedy's want may come about, not voluntarily, but because of circumstance, because party prosperity may depend on it. In a few years, I have a feeling we may look back on the new fundraising rules as the best thing that could have happened to the Liberal Party.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Wasting Taxpayers Money?

Two days ago, Harper is threatening to dissolve Parliament when it returns. Today, he seems intent on wasting taxpayers money with another by-election call, one that he didn't have to make:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has added a fourth byelection for September, as speculation grows that the Conservatives are gearing up for a general election later this year.

Voters in the Toronto riding of Don Valley West will elect a new MP on Sept. 22. The seat was previously held by Liberal John Godfrey, who officially announced his intention to resign on Aug. 1.

So, let me get this straight, parliament is dysfunctional, Harper is saber rattling, and then he plunks another by-election right after the fall session begins. Considering the high probability of a fall election, it begs the question- isn't this byelection a big waste of taxpayer dollars?

Strategically, from the Liberal perspective, I see nothing wrong with Harper's announcement. September 8th will be a good day for the party, and all this means is another victory two weeks later, providing further momentum. In addition, I'm sure there will be one or two questions about the timing of this latest announcement, which probably doesn't put Harper in a good light.

Just a further point, I heard a radio ad attacking the Liberals the other day, from a Toronto station. The ad was the usual garbage, but at the end it mentioned the coming by-election. I thought, what by-election? Now, it makes sense, Harper had already decided and they purposely ran ads prior to the official announcement, which is fair play I suppose. What is contradictory, this means as Harper was speaking of dissolving Parliament, he had already decided on this by-election date. That is a fact voters should keep in mind.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Walking The Halls, Tail In The Air

Today's Lawrence Martin column does an excellent job of exposing the Conservatives hypocrisy on "dysfunction". I've used the analogy before, but Harper complaining about parliament functioning properly is akin to the SKUNK bitching about the SMELL:
Cry us a river, Tories, but who wrote the book on chaos?

Oops. Maybe they forgot.

Last year, the governing Conservatives prepared a secret handbook on how to disrupt parliamentary committees and create chaos. No mere pamphlet, the book ran to 200 pages.

It instructed committee chairmen to select blatantly biased witnesses and tutor them in advance. It gave the chairmen pointers on how to obstruct parliamentary business, to storm out of meetings if necessary.

Team Harper never expected its opus to be made public. But the media got hold and the headlines poured forth - "Tories blasted for handbook on paralyzing Parliament" and the like.

The Prime Minister's Office had all the committee chairmen return their dirty-tricks texts. Given the Conservatives' red-handed embarrassment, it was expected that they might show a touch more temerity in the future.

Hypocrisy, of course, abounds in the nation's capital, all parties being guilty. But this week's hypocrisy moment may rank as one for the ages. The Conservatives wrote the handbook on obstructionism, they've followed it to the letter on many occasions, and they now come forward to proclaim that they are somehow the victims and that they may have no recourse but to go the polls.

Harper really comments on his own party's success, his plan achieved. Let's hope this point is made in an election campaign, because it really does reveal the most basic Conservative hypocrisy, undercutting everything they supposedly stood for in the last election.


Something pungent in the air.

Friday, August 15, 2008

"It is false to pretend that I don't care about culture."

Josee Verner's decidedly weak response to criticism of the Conservatives cuts to culture. Verner says:
"What we intend to do ... is to look at how we can create a new program or new avenues that will be even better-performing and with a stronger impact for our culture abroad."

What a complete load. If you do "care", then you announce your "new program or new avenues" as a replacement. You don't slash, and then have the audacity to argue that we will now "look" into other initiatives. What serious person operates in this manner?

The fact of the matter, it's just a smokescreen, there is ZIP coming, by her own admission Verner says nothing is even on the drawing board. It's a simple CUT, end of story, period, fini, buh bye. Not only don't the Conservatives care, they are in fact HOSTILE.

BTW, I just upped my contribution to the Victory Fund, I find this sort of crap motivating. As an aside, I spoke with one of the solicitors and he said there has been a "considerable" uptick in contributions in recent weeks. Good, Canada can't afford these backward ideologues much longer.

Nice Fish

I guess Dion has decided to fish Mr. Harper. BTW, Dion won the fishing tournament, proving he can do well against slimy, cold blooded, razor toothed adversaries :)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

No Time For Complacency

Don't get me wrong, everyone needs a vacation, but I'm getting the sense the last few weeks that the Liberals are generally taking a breather. This lull in the "sales" pitch comes at the same time that Harper is ramping up his attacks on the Liberals. Fortunately, the Conservatives are also dealing with considerable negative press, due to their self-inflicted wound routine during the Committee hearings. That development strikes me as more luck than sound strategy, overall circumstance demands a extraordinary push.

Reading these comments from an anonymous Conservative offical, you see a rare admission:
The official, who spoke on the condition that he not be named, said that the Conservatives believe Mr. Dion had a good July, with the launch of the Green Shift, but lately the balance has tilted

Dion did have a good July, easily his best patch since becoming leader. Don't take anything that follows as panic or doom and gloom, because the Liberals are fine as of today. My concern is more the trend, the Liberals just don't have the luxury to let up, it has to be push, push, push, all the time, everywhere. The opponent hasn't relinquished in the least, it's still daily offence. For all intent and purposes, the election has already begun, the Liberals simply can't afford to let Harper dominate the headlines without an effective counter. Idle media, with no real Liberal story to tell, allows for the Conservative attack machine to get maximum coverage. It is noteworthy, that Dion's high profile in the weeks prior tended to balance the hysteria. If Dion is on vacation, then Liberal strategists should be creative to keep their message in the news. Any "void" is risky, especially when you consider most Canadians haven't really developed a firm opinion either way.

The Green Shift is still malleable, the frame isn't completely established, which means its ultimate fate may come down to one simple reality, which side, the advocate or the detractor, works the hardest. This is no time to pat ourselves on the back for a pretty good release, this is the time to kick it into overdrive, every challenge met with a response. No dead air, complete overlap.

It's the middle of August, and I'm still waiting for anything Liberal in the province of Quebec. Fertile ground for The Green Shift, opportunity for Dion to get some traction. To date, no sense of any gameplan in this key province, if there is one, so under the radar to be irrelevant.

Again, the sky is not falling, in fact I see partly sunny skies. However, that current reality can change in short order, especially with rabid dogs everyone, primed to pounce.

Will Conservative Plan "Screw" Canadians?

Oh, here we go again, this time John Baird with the Green Shift means Canadians get "screwed" rhetoric. Back in the playground, nothing substantive, appealing to the gutter, Baird follows the Conservative mantra. Politically speaking, it's all good, because there is no evidence to suggest the bombastic language works, in fact we've seen criticism when the Conservatives respond like juveniles. All that aside, in reading this piece on Baird's grave warnings to Nova Scotians, I was struck by this one sentence, in reference to the Conservative plan:
The Conservative document Turning the Corner says there would be higher prices for Canadians.

"Canadians can therefore expect to bear costs under the regulatory framework that are not trivial," it says.

People will remember, that when the Conservatives released their "plan", it was met with much criticism. In an effort to project credibility, people like Baird were running around telling reporters that the Conservative plan would come with a "cost" to Canadians. In fact, Baird emphasized the "costs", because that worked politically, the measure of effectiveness seemed to be how hard the plan bites.

The above quote is where the Conservative argument falls apart like a house of cards. If Canadians can expect an impact for the Conservative plan, which is "not trivial", then the question becomes- what are the Conservatives doing to offset the "cost"? If Nova Scotians are most reliant on carbon producing sources of energy, does it not make sense, that under the Conservative plan, they would be "screwed"? The Conservative plan will increase the cost of energy, by their own admission, much like The Green Shift.

Here's the kicker. Unlike The Green Shift, the Conservative plan comes with a "cost", but does nothing on the "relief" side. So, people in Nova Scotia get higher "costs", "screwed", and that's it, you simply pay more. Let's say for arguments sake that the Conservative plan "costs" much less than the Liberal plan, which is probably true, because behind all of this bluster, their plan has more holes than Glen Abbey. Even under that scenario, when you factor in the Liberal offsets on the tax side, you are probably worse off under the Conservative plan. Your "screwed" factor is higher.

Bringing it down to soundbites, the Conservative want to apply a "not trivial" cost increase on voters, period. The Liberals want to raise prices, but also offer substantial reduction on the income tax side, as well as credits, to offset any impact. Now, you tell me, who actually gets "screwed"? The Conservatives nonsensical arguments, the entire premise is counter-intuitive. I think they've boxed themselves into a irrational corner, it's now the job of the Liberals to expose it for all to see.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Low Road To Nowhere

Keep up the negative ads, keep up the smears, the fear mongering, the outlandish rhetoric, in case you haven't figured it out yet, Canadians don't much care for your tactics. First the numbers:
Liberal support was up slightly to 33 per cent, statistically tied with the Tories at 32 per cent and followed by the NDP at 15 per cent and the Greens at 13 per cent.

Liberals are actually up 2% nationally since the last Decima offering(beginning of July), but the good news comes in the regionals. I've said this before, when certain polls have shown a statistical tie, that the Conservative regional support is uneven, which means a tie is really a Liberal lead electorally. This pollster concurs:
But Walker said it's the regional numbers that signal potential trouble for the Tories.

When is the last time, we have seen the Liberals out front in Quebec (margin of error aside):
In Quebec, the Liberals appeared to be benefiting most from a collapse in support for the Bloc Quebecois. Liberals were at 30 per cent, virtually tied with the Bloc at 29 per cent, followed by the Tories at 24 per cent, the Greens at eight per cent and the NDP at six per cent.

Liberals up 4% in Quebec, although the Conservative numbers have improved as well. Part of the Bloc vote collapse may have to due with largely being ignored during this Green Shift debate. I know some will argue that the Quebec only polls are more indicative, and that may be true, but you have to like the trends for the Liberals in Quebec.

Ontario is largely unchanged from the last poll, except for the NDP totals, with this pollster mirroring other findings that show real erosion:
In Ontario, the Liberals enjoyed a healthy lead with 40 per cent, compared to the Tories with 31 per cent and the NDP and Greens with 14 per cent each.

What I find most encouraging, absolutely no sense whatsoever that the Conservatives constant attacks have done any damage to the Liberals. Couple this fact with an uptick in Dion's personal numbers, and it's a fairly positive picture.

British Columbia (high MOE):
In British Columbia, a three-week average of weekly telephone polling results suggests the Tories were ahead at 32 per cent, with the Liberals and NDP tied at 26 per cent and the Greens at 15 per cent.

No real movement since the last Decima poll, nor in Atlantic Canada for that matter.

I've been of the opinion, that the first few weeks would be the biggest challenge for the Liberals tax shift proposal. It's a simple idea, but the details are complicated, not easily explained in soundbite form. The Green Shift is also sensitive to the most superficial of attacks, because it has to do with taxes, easy fodder for opponents. In the grand scheme, if the Liberals could get the plan out without initial rejection, then time would allow for the idea to penetrate, allow a better understanding. This poll is another indication that the Liberals have weathered the initial storm, the oily ads, the virgins in yellow shirts, the NDP's attacks, none of it seems to have hurt the Liberals, if anything encouragement. Factor in the usual opposition lull during the summer, and it's a decent picture heading into the fall.

Does It Even Matter?

It's Olympic time, so cue the standard hand wringing about whether Canada is doing enough to be competitive on the world stage. Our national pride at stake, where's the medals, what are we doing wrong?

First off, they're called GAMES for a reason. In the grand scheme of things, whether or not somebody wins a medal, is of little relevance to the state of world affairs. I don't think Canada's stature in the international community in anyway hinges on our medal total. If anything, Canada's reputation as a civil, nice society is somewhat enhanced by not performing well, the love able losers I suppose. Let other countries take four year old girls out of their homes to put them in programs (see Chinese gymnastics team), so they can secure gold, in some warped pursuit of glory.

I just don't care. I actually enjoy hearing about how certain Canadian athletes made it to Beijing, it's the journey, not the result. So, someone places 8th or misses the final, I think our mediocrity makes us appreciate the experience, rather than a fixation on winning at all costs. I'm not interested in hyper-nationalism, how someone performs at a game as a reflection of societal prowess.

Our athletes should have funding available to pursue their Olympic aspirations. Apart from that, I don't favor pouring obscene amounts of money into programs, as other countries do, tax dollars are better spent on things that actually matter. So, with that in mind a poll:

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Beating Baird

Well, it looks like John Baird is set to face some stiff competition in the next election. Baird won the riding by 9% in 2006, prior to that the Liberals had held it for the past three elections. A former Liberal cabinet minister, is rising to the challenge of turfing the blowhard:
Former Liberal defence minister David Pratt, who was a rising star in the government of Paul Martin, will likely run against Conservative Environment Minister John Baird in the next federal election, he says.

Mr. Pratt, a veteran Nepean politician, said he is "almost 100-per-cent certain" that he will go for the Liberal nomination in Ottawa West-Nepean.

"I'm very, very interested and very motivated," said Mr. Pratt. "I almost have to do it. The party has to field a strong candidate against Mr. Baird."

Mr. Pratt told the Citizen Tuesday that he has talked to both Liberal party and riding officials and become convinced that the riding can be won. He grew up in the Crystal Beach neighbourhood of the riding and notes that the riding historically has swung between the Liberals and the Conservatives.

He said he feels compelled to run to defend the role and finances of the federal government, to speak out against the "hyper-partisanship" of the Conservatives and defend the role of Ottawa as the nation's capital.

I'm glad to see the Liberals are making a push in this riding, while it will be a challenge, having a candidate of this stature presents a conceivable win. Anyone who is disgusted at the level of discourse in our Parliament should welcome any development that threatens to unseat the likes of John Baird.

I wonder if The Green Shift was the primary motivator that enticed Pratt to run ;)

Nothing To Hide, Then Why Hide?

If, as you claim, your actions are perfectly legal, much ado about nothing, then you don't conspire to derail a process, which according to your arguments, will actually vindicate your point of view. Conservatives should relish the opportunity to have their party agents explain how they did nothing illegal, expose the lynch mob for what they are, partisan opportunists. So far, the only witnesses to show up to the Committee, consist of people who have had a falling out with the Conservative Party, in one way or another, not ONE "scheduled" appearance by any person still aligned with the party.

Four more no shows today, a pattern which is irrefutable, apart from "take leave of our senses" hyper-partisans. Why hide, if you have nothing to hide?:
The Conservative Party is being accused of obstructing a Commons committee investigating elections financing after three potential witnesses said they were told by the party not to show up.

The Tories categorically denied the allegation after four more summoned party agents failed to appear this morning, raising further concerns by ethics committee chair Paul Szabo that there is a pattern.

“It appears to be consistent with the (previous) indication that proposed witnesses had given us” that the party had told them not to co-operate, Szabao told reporters after adjourning the morning’s session.

NDP MP Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre) said there is an onus on the ethics committee to investigate reports that some witnesses are being urged not to testify, even though they have received summons to appear.

“It is an obstruction of justice to advise somebody to not to not attend a parliamentary committee when they are summoned, just as it would be wrong for a lawyer to advise their client to ignore some court date,” Martin said.

Conservative MP Gary Goodyear (Cambridge) absolutely denied that anyone from the party has instructed witnesses not to show.

"That is absolutely false,” Goodyear said.

False? More like blatantly obvious.

The Conservatives must have concluded that things would go very badly for their party agents, deciding to take the hit of obstruction, over the spectacle of illegalities. Neither option works, although it seems the Conservatives are just drawing more attention to a mid-summer Committee, than would otherwise be there under normal circumstances.

I'm not sure I understand the wisdom of having every news outlet plastering this juicy angle onto their sites, not sure how that helps the Conservatives claims of unfair treatment, we did nothing wrong. As a matter of fact, between today and yesterday's developments, it seems the Conservatives are fueling the perception that something is amiss with their past practices, doing more damage than any witness could possibly do. Pulling stunts, obstruction, added to the already uncomfortable dynamic of attacking democratic institutions, and the Conservatives are clearly losing the battle of perceptions. Contrast this behavior with Harper's boastful "confidence in our legal position" bravado, and it suggests reason for suspicion. If you are "solid", then you don't need to hide, obstruct and confuse, you just throw out the facts and let reasonable minds see your credible position. Conservatives are dreaming, if they think their case is bolstered with these tactics, if anything they are only reinforcing an unflattering perception with the public. What we are seeing is within the realm of the guilty, it shows no relationship to the unjustly accused.