Tuesday, September 30, 2008

We Play Chess Too

Tell me this new Liberal ad isn't timely:


Harper Scandal Goes International

Oh, it's really a nothing little issue, just a sideshow. Apparently, the international media disagrees, as the Harper government is once again "embarrassing" (Kory Teneycke's word) us on the world stage:

A sampling from the American press:

Here, here, here, and here.

New Zealand:



Here and here.





Not to mention every international news organization. There's more, but you get the gist.

Imagine if this was really news, Conservative apologists?

Poll Summary

Nanos has the gap at 11%, with some interesting tidbits. Decima has the gap at 10%, with signs the NDP are trending downward. EKOS has the gap narrowing again, this time to 7% (the Liberals at their highest for this pollster since the election call), and plenty of room for Liberal growth.

One additional poll, which does a detailed analysis of key Quebec ridings, shows the Conservatives dreams of a breakthrough are fading fast:
A poll released yesterday by Léger Marketing indicated the party might not win any more seats at all.

If the results are too be believed, the Cons will lose a cabinet minister and Fortier is in big trouble. Another interesting note, in the Decima poll, when Bloc supporters are asked for their second choice, the Cons have fallen to an abysmal 5%, down from as high as 34% since the election began (the Liberals the second choice of 21%). Bad numbers, and little evidence of growth potential, it would appear opinion is firming up against the Conservatives in Quebec.

Speaking of growth potential, this from Decima:
The Liberals have considerable room to grow, as they are the second choice of 44% of NDP voters, 37% of Green Party voters, 38% of Conservative voters and 21% of BQ voters.

This brings me to what I think is the important aspect of today's polls. There is real evidence that the NDP are pulling back from their high water mark, especially in Ontario. Decima has them life and death for 3rd with the Greens, all of the polls have them well back. It would appear the NDP's platform has done absolutely nothing for their prospects, if anything we see some pullback, even with urban women, a clear target with the childcare initiative. Maybe outdated socialism isn't the answer afterall.

Now that the Liberals are getting some real distance from the NDP, and this media inspired battle for second is evaporating, Layton's talking point ringing hollow, it allows for a more focused choice. This is step one, if the Liberals do have a chance, the electorate must see a clear alternative, if they hope to use this potential for "growth". In the dying days, if Layton is a distant third, then some of the second choice vote could move to the Liberals (it's happened before). Ditto for the Green support, but this only happens if the Liberals stand apart.


If anyone doubts the premise, that Harper takes his political cues from foreign inspiration, I'd love to see them spin this:

Yes, that is real leadership, too bad it's just imported.


Another empty chair in the war room.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Attention War Room: Might Want To Edit The Website

It's almost kind of sad really. The Conservative website rolls out Harper's tough on kids crime agenda, relying on the wisdom of the Honorable Merlin Nunn. This is the person the Conservatives use for inspiration, they base their approach on many of Nunn's conclusions, or so the website argues. Trouble is, Mr. Nunn is out today PANNING the proposal, sort of like Marc Jaccard trashing the Green Shift if you will.

Might want to edit the website, you war room buddha's you:
Canadians would be unwise to follow the Conservative plan for harsher jail sentences, up to life imprisonment, for young offenders, warns the retired judge who shone a spotlight on the flawed youth justice system.

Merlin Nunn issued a landmark report on youth justice two years ago that Stephen Harper claims supports "many" of the Conservatives' newly unveiled proposals to toughen the youth justice law.

But the former Nova Scotia Supreme Court justice took issue with the Tory proposal to boost jail sentences for young offenders, including ratcheting up the maximum youth sentence for murder from 10 years to life in prison, and up to 14 years for other violent offences.

They have gone beyond what I did, and beyond the philosophy that I accepted," Judge Nunn told The Lawyers Weekly in an interview.

"I don't think it's wise," he added, speculating "it might be politically appealing to people who say 'these kids should all be in jail'."

More glowing reviews here:
Merlin Nunn, who penned a 381-page youth justice report two years ago in Nova Scotia, publicly panned the Conservative push for longer jail terms - up to life in prison - for violent convicts as young as 14.

It's a hefty blow given that Prime Minister Stephen Harper repeatedly cites Nunn's work as tacit support for his promised legal overhaul.

Nunn said he agrees that less is more when it comes to sentencing minors. Harsh penalties don't deter crime, he said in an interview from his home near Halifax.

"There's no evidence anywhere in North America that I know of that keeping people in custody longer, punishing them longer, has any fruitful effects for society.

"Custody should be the last ditch thing for a child ... I have no doubt that some of the kids who get convicted have to be held in custody for some period of time - but not lock the door and put away the key.

"Instead of rehabilitating him, you've got a kid that may be 10 times worse than when he went in."

Mr. Nunn, enough with the lavish praise, they're blushing.

The search continues, for one expert, on any file, that genuinely supports a Conservative policy. Fingers crossed, it's only a matter of time, law of averages and what not...

Tracking Polls

All three of the tracking polls today have the Liberals with the identical national score of 26%. Decima leads with "Liberal Brand Shows Some Resilience", and shows the gap down to 10% (15% two days ago), the closest we've seen in close to two weeks. Interestingly, EKOS also releases it's poll, and it too shows the narrowest gap since the election call, at 8% today. The NANOS poll is virtually unchanged from yesterday, although the gap moves from 9% to 10% today, but still much better than the earlier days results of a 14-15% lead.

Overall, some sense of a complete Conservative stall, real erosion in Quebec, which makes any talk of a majority more unlikely. The NDP momentum would appeared to have stalled for the time being, and Liberals should be encouraged to hear Decima's representative scoff at this notion of a race for second, simply because that talk is a real distraction. The Liberal uptick, should help blunt that media narrative, which is an obvious positive if we hope to get some real traction.

The gap is still quite daunting, but there are now glimmers and the doom and gloom coverage should wane. Even if the numbers stabilize now, strong debate performances could get us to manageable numbers by the end of the week, and if that were to occur the last week would be a real frenzy. A quirky potential reality to remember- if the Liberals were to get back to 29-30% by week's end, that would appear relative strong, even though it's still less than pre-writ numbers, we would see this bizarre sense of momentum. I've always believed that, complete meltdown aside, if the Liberals can appear viable to voters in the last days, there will be a natural return of some soft support, we've seen it before.

Layton's Reality Check

In an effort to defend against the argument that an NDP government isn't something that should be feared economically, Layton envoked NDP Premier Gary Doer as a practical example. On a day when the NDP released it's platform, Layton fielded questions on his corporate taxes policy and in so doing actually undercut his entire argument. You don't provide a practical example, the Doer government, when that reference shows the folly of the NDP approach. All Layton did, was highlight how out of step the NDP's tax policy is with economic realities.

Gary Doer, Layton's example, has done the EXACT OPPOSITE of what the federal NDP proposes. In fact, the Doer government has recognized the need to have competitive tax rates for corporations. The Manitoba NDP budget for 2008:
The general Corporation Income Tax rate will be reduced to 13% in July 2008 and to 12% in July 2009 with a goal of reducing it to 11% in subsequent years.

The Corporation Capital Tax for manufacturers and processors will be eliminated July 1, 2008 – freeing up $25 million for these businesses.

So Layton's argument- just look at the NDP in Manitoba if you're worried- essentially confirms that his tax proposal is reckless and lacks a basic understanding of the economic global circumstance. It really is a serious blunder, to voluntarily highlight an example which contradicts your entire premise.

Maybe Jack should use Saskatchewan's former NDP Premier Lorne Calvert, there's another practical example to allay Canadians concerns. Oops, didn't Calvert bring in a 95 million dollar corporate tax cut in his 2006 budget? I guess Layton is really chastizing, not only Harper and Dion, but fellow NDP Premiers, who unlike Jack actually had to GOVERN.

Yes, if we look at the NDP Doer government, as Layton suggests, it should serve as a giant red flag for Canadians, that the NDP platform is completely and utterly on the fringe when it comes to future economic prosperity. Rational people realize the global economic realities, that Canada doesn't act in isolation, that we must react to some simple hard truths, rigid ideology aside. If the federal NDP wants to criticize corporate tax cuts, then they are essentially attacking their own, because it would seem anyone who is forced to move beyond the convenience of theoretical idealism, has come to the same sober conclusion, no matter the political stripe. At the core of the NDP's platform is an inherent fallacy, a base argument which is dangerous, behind the curve, and completely and utterly naive, not to mention lacking a elemental understanding of the modern circumstance. Canadians should compare the real world example of the NDP government in Manitoba, as Layton recommends, and that reading will speaks volumes.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Off The Mat?

You don't want to read too much into a suspect trend, and even if it's true the gap is still large, but both tracking polls today show a narrowing race, possible evidence of the Liberals coming off the mat. What I find intriguing, the narrowing seems to be occuring just as Dion has done away with the scripted approach, revealing a more organic presentation, which has caught the eye of some in the media.

NANOS has a sizeable change today, a 14% gap down to 9% nationally, the regionals starting to look better. Also, Dion's leadership index has soared in the last two days, he now achieves his highest rating since the election call. Whether that is just a statistical blip remains to be seen, but again it is curious it comes just as Dion has changed gears.

The Decima poll also shows a 15% lead now down to 11%, statistically significant. Decima mirrors NANOS on a Conservative slump in Ontario, they now have them at their lowest total since the election. The Liberals are rebounding, but the NDP remains strong, which may explain why Dion went after them more directly today. Both pollsters show a slight uptick in Quebec, with the Liberals coming up from their historic lows.

You can debate whether something is afoot, or this is simply some soft Liberal support coming home (a fact which I'm still confident we will see in the dying hours of this campaign, complete meltdowns aside). However, what may be relevant, if the media begins to buy into the "narrowing" heading into this crucial week. Dion did seem to curry some favor with his tactical pivot late this week, so couple that with better polling, and a fickle media might change focus. I'm not counting on anything, but I also know from past experience, the media likes to tear down what they've built up, particularly when the horserace gets boring. We'll see....

21 A.D.

Probably the most fascinating aspect of this election campaign, the apparent inability of anyone to put claims into context. Not really a daunting task, I mean one only has to go back THREE weeks ago to demonstrate the patent hypocrisy, the gross mis-characterizations. It's as though the big bang occurred on September 7th, the beginning of time, everything viewed from that moment forward.

Harper is positioning himself as the prudent steward of our fiscal house, recognizing that now is not the time for big spending, anyone offering new initiatives reckless, downright dangerous. The Conservatives have come up with these clever, unsubstantiated calculations, to demonstrate that the Dion agenda will bring us into deficit, undercutting all the sound fiscal management of the government. Simply astounding to listen to a drunken sailor preach sobriety, but in this campaign there appears little accountability, so you can't really blame the Conservatives for recognizing the passivity.

Let's go back in time, I mean way, way back to early September, just prior to the election call. I know it's hard, we've all aged so much since then, the "good ole days" have little revelance to the modern circumstances from which Harper draws his fiscal arguments. However, just indulge me for a moment, because I believe the ancient times deserve some attention.

Remember when the economy was contracting, we saw record job losses in the summer, banks were challenging the government's fiscal projections, inflation became a real concern, the prospect of deficit real? What was the fiscally responsible Harper government doing?:
The Conservative government announced just over $19-billion worth of pledges in the three months before the Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, had Parliament dissolved and launched an election campaign, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation said Wednesday.

The federation updated a list it had released on Friday, which included items that the government announced at the last minute.

From June 2 to Sept. 6, the federation calculated the government made announcements with a $19.2-billion pricetag, or the equivalent of $198-million a day or more than $8-million an hour.

In its 2008 budget, the government projected spending would increase by 3.4% this fiscal year. But recent statistics released by the Department of Finance indicate spending has grown 8.4%

That calculation was released 18 days ago, but my how things have changed since. Now that we're in an election, Harper is suddenly worried about the future, even though the government was recklessly blowing money at an incredible pace all summer, a summer where every one was fully aware of the economic challenges ahead. Apparently, one can act irresponsibly prior to an election, but are then given a blank slate post-writ. You can morph into anything you choose, and nobody seems to notice. You can criticize you opponents for adopting your fiscal approach, and nary a dissenting column or question. It's just too hard for our empty heads to remember the distant times, better left to historians, little revelance to the modern realities. Life was much different in late August...

Saturday, September 27, 2008


The guy who seems content to tear down on a continual basis, who can't seem to get over a very juvenile bitterness, has the audacity to accuse others of destroying what he and others "built". Warren Kinsella is obviously a shrewd man, with great political instincts, but frankly his inability to GET OVER HIMSELF is beyond tiresome. I confess to not reading Kinsella's popular blog much, but I catch certain things from others, and today I did read the post highlighted on NNW. Kinsella:
It's sad, too. Stéphane Dion and his team didn't reach out to very many experienced Grits, so many, many folks are watching the carrnage from the sidelines. But I have to say, it's sad to see what we built up get pissed away.

Why don't you cut through the bullshit Warren, because I suspect you understand the dynamics. I didn't support Dion for the leadership, truth be told he was my fourth choice, because I saw massive baggage, not easily dismissed. That said, Dion won the leadership, and it was accomplished without many of the big backroom boys blessing. If the Dion team has an air of paranoia, lacking trust and outreach, can you really blame them, or does the blame lie with the posturing of others? Ignatieff and Rae have NEVER stopped running for the job, and despite the public face, EVERYONE, including Mr. Kinsella knows darn well that the positioning continues to this day. Has Dion isolated himself, or has his team merely reacted to life within a wolves den, where loyalties are divided, where nothing occurs on its own, it's all part of a greater scheme?

You put faith in people you trust, and every campaign relies on sources who's advice is pure and isn't conflicted. If there is a hint of doubt, or if things have been said or moves noticed that cause some to question loyalty, then do you blame the team for exhibiting a seige mentality? Dion has always been an outsider with the Liberal elites, who long ago decided which two people they would back, and Warren knows well how the old camps divided in the last leadership. Did that just evaporate after Dion won, or did people begin to think about the next time? Maybe people shouldn't be on the sidelines, we are clearly stronger with everyone together, but that is a false presentation, because during Kinsella's reign many others were on the sidelines, during the subsequent reign of the "other" side, the same occurred. Teams within the team, almost hilarious to hear Kinsella cry foul now, when he thrived in that environment.

Guess what Warren? You had the benefit of a DIVIDED right, the Liberals winning within that environment about as impressive as Ralph Klein's ability to balance the budget in Alberta. In other words, it was a perfect storm, which made strategy much more elemental and simplistic. Seems to me that the current problems started during the Kinsella reign, or did Dion lose 90 000 Quebec Liberal members since 2006? That doesn't give Dion a pass on Quebec, I personally think our strategy since he took the helm has bordered on disgrace, but the erosion of the grassroots started under Chretien's watch and that is an objective fact, if Dion has failed, it's because he can't get us off the mat, a bottom he inherited.

The silliest part of the argument, if any of Dion's people actually read what Kinsella writes, they would have to be categorically insane to welcome him into the inner circle. Clearly, he lacks the most basic of requirements, the ability to put old scores on hold, the sense that any contribution is without ulterior agendas. I heard him on CBC this morning, he called himself a Liberal, but other than the declaration I frankly see no substantive evidence to support that, unless of course subjecting YL's to horrible music will bring us back to the promised land.

What was "built" might have brought electoral success, within favorable conditions, but it didn't "build" the Liberal Party from within, it relied on divisions and sides, fat cats with big wallets and self important elites with ambition. The Liberal Party became a tactical entity, and that's marvelous, but it lost it's soul along the way, prior to Dion, reaching a crescendo of pandering nothingness. I don't consider a characterization as the Canadian Karl Rove complimentary, as a matter of fact I'd be embarrassed.

If Dion is isolated, it's because the Liberal Party is such a cluster fuck of competing self interests, factions and bruised egos, it's better to adopt a bunker mentality. Kinsella chastises Dion, but really Dion is just reacting to the reality of the Liberal Party of Canada, as others have done before. And, the next time Warren is chatting with his old "experienced" Grits off the record, when the conversation turns to the post-Dion Liberal Party, he will have his answer.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Harper: Media Coverage "Balanced"

In response to a reporter's question today, Stephen Harper actually said, that despite the media not spending enough time on policies, he felt that "overall", the media coverage this election had been "balanced". Harper first looked over to Prentice and others on his left, paused, and with a hint of a smile, gave his judgement on the media.

If ever there was proof of media bias, then an endorsement by their arch enemy is it. If Harper admits balance, that means he is happy with the coverage, that means he and his handlers are content. Contrast that with Dion supporters trying to shout down the media today, and you see why Harper is satisfied. A politician only sees an objective media when he/she is having their way, when they are getting soft ball treatment, when they see a benefit.

As far as I'm concerned, the Harper verdict is the clearest evidence yet that my perceptions aren't merely those of a bitter partisan, too invested to be objective. Stephen Harper is fine with the media coverage translates to "thanks for the free pass" and "thanks for savaging the other guy". If the guy that has instinctual hatred from the media is giving them their due, you know something has gone astray.

Layton's False Choice

The NDP have ran a very credible campaign, professional, focused and slick. However, as Layton tours the country, positioning himself as the real steward of the environment, the one that targets the true culprits while protecting you and I, it is interesting that the environmental expert community REJECTS the NDP stance. It's all about packaging, and I suspect Layton does get mileage from his environmental opportunism, but sifting through the talking points you see it's more politics than real debate.

May laments that many in the environmental community are muzzled for fear of the fallout in picking sides, her belief one that we've heard from other sources. However, we do hear tidbits, and those opinions are entirely negative towards the NDP in this election. Layton's intellectually dishonest either/or proposition which preys upon people's fears to score political points is catching some heat from the same people the NDP has COURTED all these years. Partisan NDP supporters will just fluff it off, rationalizing that many environmentalists support their position, but really they DON'T, or at least they are uncomfortable with using the various policies as a wedge issue:
VICTORIA, B.C. -- NDP Leader Jack Layton's harsh critique of the carbon tax concept has earned him the scorn of leading environmental groups.

But as Layton lobbed criticism at Dion's Green Shift carbon tax plan, environmentalists accused the NDP leader of misleading the public.

"These statements confuse the issue and do not contribute to an informed debate about the best ways for Canada to fight global warming," said Matthew Bramley, director of the Pembina Institute's Climate Change program. "Mr. Layton has a track record of leadership on climate change. His statements (yesterday) fall far short of that standard."

Many environmental organizations, including the Pembina Institute and the David Suzuki Foundation, have argued the best way to fight climate change is with a carbon tax, a cap-and-trade system, or a combination of the two.

They object to Layton's declaration that one is better than the other.

"The countries that are most successful right now at reducing emissions are using both policies," said Ian Bruce, a climate change specialist with the David Suzuki Foundation. "We strongly believe that a carbon tax is an essential tool at addressing the problem of global warming."

People might remember, not so long ago, Layton was quite proud to plaster photos of himself with Suzuki on his website, because it highlighted the close relationship between the NDP and the environmental community. Layton would argue that we needed to take our cues from what environmentalists were telling us, as part of his call to action on climate change. Heed the words of the experts, the NDP rallying cry to support their progressive agenda. Funny, those same people, those same experts, are now entirely disappointed with the NDP posturing at the expense of the issues they claim to care about. That's not this Liberals opinion, that's the opinion of the people who's only interest is tackling the problem, and therein lies an objective truth that rises above all the noise.

It was never an either/or argument, or at least nobody in the KNOW buys the oppositional argument. The only one's making it a either/or proposition are political hacks, who see an opportunity to exploit in the name of self interest. The "honest" debate has been anything but, just watch Jack get his hackles up and change the subject everytime some dares ask what his former allies are saying now. That's fine, all is fair in politics I suppose, but it really does highlight an inherent hypocrisy between the purer than driven snow bullshit we hear from the faithful and the practical exploitation in the name of self interest, an interest that works at cross purposes with the issue people claim to champion.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

We Get What We Deserve

We whine about wanting a campaign based on ideas, and yet we see a seismic voting shift after a few touchy, feely sweater ads. We continually say we hate negative campaigning, and yet we buy into the frame those attacks suggest. We say we want transparency and openness, and yet we seem to be rewarding the campaign which is decidedly detached from the people, secretive, aloof and manufactured. We say we are sophisticated, too cynical and wise to be fooled by slick politicians, and yet we lap up the superficial, anything beyond a soundbite too complicated for our feeble minds. We have a media class that constantly laments our political discourse, and yet they treat substance like a novelty. We get what we deserve.

Kudos to the Conservatives, they've correctly figured out that voters have the attention span of tadpoles, the entire concept predicated on voter apathy. The Conservatives have manipulated, or better yet accurately read, a lazy media, demonstrating a full understanding of the news cycle, understanding that past deeds are irrelevant, the trick is distraction and you only have to do it for a few weeks. You can't blame Harper for offering nothing new, the most idea bereft campaign in Canadian history, after all the focus groups show it doesn't really matter. The Conservatives have "gamed" the system, because they have figured out the players, a fickle media and a distracted electorate.

What worries me, isn't so much the fortunes of my party, but beyond that, the prospects for the future. The Harper "template" will become standard practice for political campaigns moving forward, tight control on local campaigns, pretty photo-ops, limited media availability, ideas as secondary to presentation. Get this, you can delay release of your environmental plan and still be on the offensive, you can usurp the court process and nobody notices, you can stifle the Heritage Department, you can hide candidates, you can ignore the media, you can ignore expert opinion on an array of issues, you can do all this and it's considered a competent campaign.

I've always known that superficiality trumps substance, and that explains why I hesitated with Dion for so long. I understand the game, but then I bought into a bold policy, and thought we might see something new. I've always believed in a carbon tax, it was at that moment that I moved from semi-detached observer to invested partisan. Who cares if the English is slightly off, who cares if the messenger lacks charisma, the common touch, the ideas are beyond the shallow perceptions, all we need to do is engage and there is potential. I knew better, but I saw this election as a referendum on substance, a chance to understand competing visions, a real dialogue. After all, isn't that what voters say they crave, isn't that we the talking heads demand OVER and OVER, so critical of the "game", so deep, wanting more.

Whatever happens, certain things are clear. Attacks do work, we eat it up, but claim it tastes bad. The media is easily manipulated, so pathetic they arrogantly comment as though detached, when really they've been co-opted (played like a cheap fiddle). Ideas are merely a tool to target key demographics, in this campaign the less offered the better, the less shown the more advantageous. What's the point?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Breaking: Harper Candor

A rare moment of off the cuff candor from the Prime Minister, which reveals his ideological contempt. Almost strange, listening to Harper take shots at the arts community, after all, the Conservative campaign is predicated on tight scripts, manufactured imagery and pretty pictures.

What we heard last night was Stephen Harper at his core, the philosophy behind the policies, the angry guy with the harsh view, the anti-intellectual ideologue. A brief moment, but a telling one and hopefully one that doesn't get lost in the relentless propaganda:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has sparked a culture war in the federal election campaign with a claim that "ordinary people" don't care about arts funding.

Under fire for his government's $45 million in cuts to arts and culture funding, the Conservative leader yesterday said average Canadians have no sympathy for "rich" artists who gather at galas to whine about their grants.

"I think when ordinary working people come home, turn on the TV and see a gala of a bunch of people at, you know, a rich gala all subsidized by taxpayers claiming their subsidies aren't high enough, when they know those subsidies have actually gone up – I'm not sure that's something that resonates with ordinary people," Harper said in Saskatoon, where he was campaigning for the Oct. 14 election.

Dion was even more pointed.

"We need to stop this man. He wants to pit everyone against everyone, Canadians against their artists," the Liberal leader said at a North Vancouver film studio.

Rejecting Harper's suggestion artists are privileged, Dion said their average wage is $23,000 a year.

"Most of them need to rent their suit and beautiful dresses at these galas," he said. "We have a great arts and culture industry. We need to protect its freedom. This man wants to censor our movies."

A direct shot, at the promised land:
The Prime Minister's comments appeared to be aimed at Quebec TV stars who railed at the government's arts and funding cuts at the annual Gemeaux awards over the weekend in Montreal. The Gemeaux are the French version of the Gemini Awards.

People tend to get dressed up for big "elitist" events, whether it be the arts, receptions or even posing with millionaire hockey players:

For Harper to characterize the arts community as a bunch of elitist "wine and cheesers" demonstrates a breathtaking ignorance, not to mention a decided us and them mentality, attempting to create a artificial wedge. This is what happens when you dare to challenge Harper, he belittles and creates division.

Harper has muzzled the Heritage Department, not allowed to comment until the election is over, but he slipped up yesterday, his self censor routine failed for a brief moment. Harper hates artists, and he demonstrated this fact in stark terms by attacking a celebration of their medium. The fact he directed his attacks at Quebec artists will be all the talk today on the election trail, because it cuts through the vote buying fog, Harper doesn't give a lick about culture.

Back to the sweaters, back to shutting down every vehicle which has the potential to derail, back to the complete bullshit being presented to Canadians. If there is one thing that strikes fear into Conservative strategists, it's ad lib commentary, the last thing they want, people to get a sense of the real character and motivations. T

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Today's NANOS poll shows sizeable movement, putting their numbers in line with the other pollsters. The biggest surprise, the Liberals are now fourth in Quebec, and while the MOE can give one comfort, it doesn't detract from a worrying trend. First the national numbers, which show a double-digit gap:
Conservative Party 38 (+3)
Liberal Party 27 (-3)
NDP 21 (-1)
BQ 8% (+1)
Green Party 6% (NC)
Undecided 17% (-1)

The lowest total for the Liberals I've seen in a NANOS poll. It would appear that as the Ritz controversy rolls off the poll, we are returning to a big Conservative lead.

NANOS finds the Conservatives with increasing support in Ontario and Atlantic Canada, but from the Liberal perspective, this should give everyone pause:

Bloc 34%
Cons 27%
NDP 19%
Libs 16%
Greens 6%

A noticeable uptick for the Bloc, which we've seen elsewhere. I said this at the beginning of the campaign, Duceppe has the luxury of campaigning in the province everyday, he's an excellent advocate, so a slight Bloc resurgence should surprise no one. What is shocking, and this is borne out elsewhere, the Liberals are fading badly, while the NDP is getting some serious traction. Nanos offers one caveat, that being a highly volatile Quebec electorate, but flirting is still concerning regardless.

The Liberal comfort blanket, which just happened to be the most reliable, has now evaporated, we face a big uphill battle.

More See Shift Than Shaft

If you listen to the media, the Green Shift is an albatross around Dion's neck. However, if you look at the only empirical measures, the polls, we consistently find plenty of latitude with voters to sell the plan. NANOS asked a very specific question, and the results show that, once again, the Green Shift doesn't necessarily hurt the Liberals. The question:
QUESTION: In the election there is currently a proposal to tax utilities, oil companies and others that pollute and use the money primarily for income tax cuts and social programs for the poor. Thinking of your personal situation do you think this proposal, if adopted would…

Three possible responses, the initiative would "make no difference" to personal finances, it would "increase you taxes and living costs" and it would "save you money on taxes and living costs". The results:
No difference...38%
Unsure 8%

The percentage that sees a savings, or personally revenue neutral, stands at 52%, while those that see an increase is 40%. I think it entirely correct to lump the neutral and savings categories together, because they represent the percentage of the populous that don't buy into the "tax grab", "economic ruin", and all the other fear mongering. By a fair majority, people see no economic impact with the Green Shift, the shift is either net neutral or beneficial.

More interesting, NANOS breaks down the numbers by party affiliation. Almost 63% of Bloc supporters fall into the two desirable categories, 55% NDP, 60% Lib, Greens 50%, Cons 44%. What that means, a third of self described Liberal voters see an increase, 40% of Green voters, the two parties who promote the plan. This fact means that, even the sceptical are still willing to support these parties, which also means, that the issue isn't entirely make or break for voters. The numbers also say, many who vote for the other alternatives believe the plane will be neutral or beneficial, that fact speaks to potential growth.

When you see 40% of total respondents think the plan will lead to higher costs personally, then you drill down, and find many in that group already support the Libs and Greens, you realize that outside of the Conservative base, there is plenty of room for traction. Put differently, there is really nothing to support this created narrative that the concept is too complicated to understand, people tend to project perceived weak leadership onto acceptance of an idea. The idea still has potential, no one need abandon or downplay, it just needs to be sold effectively, and the populous hasn't bought into the Conservative frames. Noteworthy, 44% of Conservative voters don't buy the higher cost proposition, only by a small majority do they see a big downside, the faithful are divided.

At the very least, the above confirms what others have shown, Canadians have different opinions on the subject, and anyone who assumes rejection or horrible political optics, has nothing but their own personal bias to support that opinion. Yes, many don't buy the Green Shift, but clearly many more see a benefit, or don't see the economic impact that the propaganda suggests. I say, keep selling hard, the more informed the better, the idea anything but an albatross.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Just Imagine

Despite what some argue, the vast majority of Canadians don't care for Stephen Harper, the Conservatives policies aren't representative or supported. And yet, here we are, the prospects of a further reign likely, in a sense the current political dynamic almost coronates the Conservatives by default. If you embrace the notion of compromise, a belief that any alternative can't encompass your views in totality, then you see a path towards a new center-left paradigm.

I've voted Green, I've voted NDP, I've voted Liberal, I suspect I'm not alone. Today, and in the future, I will always vote Liberal, because I've made the internal calculation that there are only two options, in terms of implementation of policy, better to be on the inside, express my voice, than essentially protesting or exercising dissent by supporting theoretical alternatives.

The Liberal Party still irks me, so much unseemly nonsense behind the scenes, in a way nothing seems to change. There are many partisans, more interested in personal ambition than actual philosophical conviction, and this dynamic is a decided turnoff. That said, the Liberal Party is essentially what you make of it, it can become whatever people want, should the grassroots organize and expand to affect change. That reality leads me to a basic point- just imagine if all the Greens and NDP party members collectively joined the Liberal Party? The suspicion of the Liberals, as offering progressive policies in principle, abandoning them in practice, is one of the chief reasons why people search for alternatives. However, if all those same people did as I've done, embrace the party and try to have an influence from the inside, we would see a reconfiguration, we would see a progressive agenda. There would still be compromise, because a big tent demands acceptance of differing opinion, but if you can accept a practicality, you can see more is achieved by an internal influx, than a fractured center-left.

Hebert has a column today, which details the "fractured" opposition, and it highlights a basic point- divided we fall. A few days ago, I heard a representative from the David Suzuki Foundation, commenting on the various environmental plans. Quite diplomatic, the person went to great pains not to overtly endorse any party plan, merely pointing out that all four opposition parties have received good marks, only the Conservatives fail. That's fair, but really it's too passive. For anyone that cares about global warming, there really are only two practical alternatives, so people have to forget the politically correct niceties and back the only plan that has a chance of implementation. Having the environmental vote scattered across different parties, simply allows Harper the "laggard" to win, it allows for the worst case scenario, where none of us win, instead stuck with bitching from the sidelines. I see no logic in that reality, partisan defences aside. But, we all have our "teams", we've all invested in different paths, but the simple fact, the minority conservative vote salivates at our purist intentions.

It's time for compromise, it's time to think beyond our limited self-interest and embrace a united alternative. That alternative becomes more attractive if people engage, because their presence actually changes what they resisted in the first place. Imagine if every riding association was inundated with former Green and NDP workers, does anyone think that wouldn't change the Liberal Party, does anyone think a progressive voice wouldn't be stronger, does anyone think the party wouldn't morph into something else. So long as nobody assumes absolute adherence to old doctrines, it would be the first and biggest step to taking back our country, the minority conservatives put in their rightful place, electoral obscurity, apart from a rump here and there. It's only the lesser of two evils if everyone is scattered, if we were to unite behind one party, I suspect it would seem far more credible and accountable, so that the principles do become practice, give and take aside.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Chicken Or The Egg

Given the fact the election coverage seems to be poll driven, it is nice to see NANOS shows a tightening race. Other polls have decidedly different results, with the Conservatives enjoying a massive lead, the Liberals mired in historic low numbers. NANOS also showed a big Conservative lead, just two days ago up 11%, but that gap has narrowed quickly, down to a managable 5%. Clearly, the NANOS poll shows that Ritz has impacted the race, whatever momentum the Conservatives had gone, some pull back, Liberals and NDP up.

I honestly can't see the narrative changing until the polls change, which is a interesting dynamic, considering coverage affects the polls. It's almost a chicken or the egg scenario, but it is very hard to close any gap, when the coverage is fickle, it almost feeds what the polling says. Whatever, at least somebody is showing a different trend, good news for the Liberals, but also very good news for the NDP:
Cons 36
Libs 31
NDP 20
Greens 7

The NDP total represents the highest number we've seen in a NANOS poll, since before I can remember, only ten days ago the party was at a lowly 13%. If you look at the regionals, you see the NDP doing well just about everywhere, Ontario particularly striking:
Libs 36%
Cons 34%
NDP 21%
Greens 9%

On Sept 10th, the NDP were down to 10% in Ontario. Since then, its been a steady march upwards, the NDP now slightly above their 2006 total. The NDP are also up in other regions, so clearly some sense of momentum for Layton.

For the Liberals, NANOS has never shown them in the mid to low 20's like some other pollsters. However, today's result puts the Liberals back within range of the government, although you clearly see a dispersal of the anti-Con vote, something that must be addressed moving forward if the Liberals have any hope.

Let's hope the Liberal team is pumping this NANOS poll, reminding people of their past accuracy, because sad to say, we need something to derail the Liberal bashathon. If a couple more polls start to show a narrowing, then the campaign might reach another stage, one that comes with some scrutiny, as opposed to the coronation style laziness we've heard to date. Dare to dream.

What A Novel Concept

It's probably the most ridiculous policy debate in Canadian history. A party who's policy has been panned by EVERY expert imaginable, domestic and foreign, is on the offensive. A party's who's plan, even if you accept it as feasible, purposely DELAYED until after an election to avoid scrutiny, is on the offensive. A party who consistently distorts the truth, allowed to spew one-side nonsense, without being held to account, is on the offensive. I've never seen anything like it, you offer crap, you won't tell us how that crap will affect the economy, and you're allowed to get away with it, even worse still, you're allowed to attack others relentless. Well, at least some people are asking questions:
Tories should present alternative to Green Shift
Carbon tax. Tories won't release details of their plan

As the Liberals struggle to show their Green Shift carbon-tax proposal as just one of many election campaign pledges, environmentalists say it's time the Conservatives switched from attacking the Grits and started explaining and defending their own carbon-pricing plan.

"This is the first time in the history of Canada that we're having a debate about the environment as a central question in an election," said Graham Saul, executive director of Climate Action Network Canada.

"But it's been all about the Liberals' plan and that's happened as a result of fearmongering rather than a constructive public debate about the relative merits of the different plans of the different political parties."

Environment Minister John Baird defended the government's strategy in an interview and said he has been vigorously promoting Turning the Corner - the Conservative proposal to set carbon-pollution reduction requirements on big industry in 2010.

Baird declined, however, to commit to releasing the government's final regulations on industrial polluters before the Oct. 14 vote and said the costs of the government plan that would trickle down to consumers cannot be calculated because commodity prices are subject to the international marketplace.

The Liberals have accused the government of hiding the regulations and the potential cost until after the election.

Baird "wont commit" to releasing the details until after an election. That stance is completely unacceptable, and the real tragedy, the Conservatives are getting away with it. "Turning The Corner" is really "Hiding In The Corner", and yet, these characters are given incredibly latitude to attack other plans, that are quite forthcoming. Please name me another policy debate where this dynamic is legitimate?

Let's hope we start to hear more of the above, because really it's the Canadian people that are getting the shaft, the Baird Shaft. But that's okay, moronic scribes would rather target the honest, leaving the people who BURY free to roam. Outrageous, and yet reality. It's a disgraceful debate, and a testament to a lazy, reactive media that has proven itself to be easily manipulated.

Friday, September 19, 2008

I'm heading off to the Algonquin area, for a week of early fall goodness. I might be able to get internet computer access, but given my lack of technical aptitude, if I don't post, I'm still alive (rutting Moose aside).


A Brief Interlude

A journalist wakes from the collective slumber.

What do those two stiffs know? And the sad part, there's more of them, some even control our financial markets. How frightening is that? People have no idea, our best minds, duped.


Well, so much for the contrast ads, this new one, apparently ready to air tonight, is just pure attack:

It's a pretty good ad, although it's not high signal, a hint of smear. I would have drawn more attention to the newsclips, detailing the government's failures on inspection, because I think it speaks to something deeper.

From what I'm gathering, while some people are outraged because of the tasteless jokes, some also don't think it ground for firing, alone. When you add in the cutbacks, the self-policing angle, far more see Ritz and the government in a poor light. While this ad focuses on the comments, I think it could have hit harder, had it also highlighted the co-relation between Conservative policies and inadequate food safety.


There is another new ad, which effectively addresses Dion's "leadership" challenges:

Warning: Venting Below

It's probably not best to blog when you're pissed, but I've sort of reached a threshold today, so I'd rather be honest. Just what in the hell is Dion doing today, or better yet, who is giving him such dreadful advice?? It's politically shrewd to talk about other issues, and let the Green Shift fade for a few days, afterall, it's not the only policy the Liberals are offering. No politician wants to be a one-issue candidate, and given the economic challenges, it's important for Dion to convey a coherent vision on other fronts, even though the Green Shift tends to bleed into other matters. What is a colossal error, political suicide of the highest order, to publicly try and downplay the importance of the Green Shift.

Let's face reality, whether you like it or not, the Green Shift is our MAIN policy plank. Period. That fact doesn't preclude moving to other issues, highlighting the totality of our plan, addressing a wide range of topics. However, this is the Liberal bed we've made, any talk trying to undercut the importance of the Green Shift is simply a ridiculous proposition at this stage. Bone headed is a kind characterization.

Whomever is giving Mr. Dion advice, doesn't seem to understand one basic fact- you don't get to turn back the clock, you don't get to change the playbook half way through the game, especially after you've spent MONTHS selling your idea. Besides, is it really that bad, is it really the Green Shift, or is it the inability to effectively sell it? The irony here, just look at the Green vote, it doesn't seem to be suffering because of a carbon tax, in fact it's reaching new highs(EKOS has the Greens at 13%, a polling high, Decima also shows them reaching new heights at 12%). If the Green Shift is the albatross, please explain how a party with no seats is in the teens, when it's main policy is a bigger carbon tax?

Let's cut to the chase, the issue isn't the plan, it's the messenger, and again, I will point to an analogous Green narrative. So, instead of backing down on your CORE idea, people should be focused on consolidating the environmental vote behind Dion. In my view, that is the ONLY way to get this campaign on track, the Liberals are simply bleeding too many supporters to other parties. Some harsh words for the NDP too, they're a joke on this file, more interested in scoring points than listening to what environmentalists are saying, completely exposed and vulnerable. In other words, go after the soft Green support and tell environmentally conscious NDP supporters to come on board, using the vast array of environmental support for context. Narrow the debate, it's Harper's plan or Dion's plan, shit or get off the pot, stark, desperate, whatever, make the pleas, instead of dithering, reaffirming negative perceptions.

The biggest problem isn't the Green Shift, it's the perception of Dion, until he is credible with the Canadian public, NO SALE. In "hedging", Dion's comments just feed the idea that he is an indecisive, weak leader. How anyone can't see that moving away supports exactly what you are trying to correct, is beyond me. Stupid, dumb, no foresight. Wow.

Ahh, feel better now.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Nice Lines

I'm still not sure what to make of this Strategic Counsel swing riding poll, but it's the only one today, that shows much of anything in terms of trends. For the first time in this format anyways, the Liberal have an edge in battleground Ontario, which is supported elsewhere. So much for the Bob Rae theory:
“It's where the Liberals want this thing to go,” said Peter Donolo, a Strategic Counsel partner. “The story now is about what the hell has happened to the Tory lead in these key battlegrounds.

The Liberals have 37 per cent popular support in the 20 Ontario ridings with the closest margins of victory in the last election, compared to the Conservatives at 35 per cent.

In Quebec, there is now a three-way race between the Conservative Party, the Bloc Québécois and the Liberal Party in the battleground ridings, although the situation is fluid and varies between Montreal and the rest of the province.

Overall in Quebec, the Conservatives have the support of 27 per cent of the respondents in the selected ridings, compared with the Bloc and the Liberal Party at 26-per cent each.

British Columbia no change, although NANOS shows the Liberals rebounding.

For the last few days, we've seen a consistent erosion for the Cons in Ontario, the Liberals coming back to pre-writ levels. All this prior to Ritz, common sense suggests it has more potential impact in the coming days.

One other tidbit, moving forward. NANOS was unequivocal, his polling showed the Liberals still have the most potential for growth, far outpacing a real Conservative ceiling (the temporary sweater spell notwithstanding). If week two was the team, week three has to be the outreach, the Liberals must pull some Green and NDP support.

Conservative Candidate's Last Media Availability

Someone in the war room better get the hook on Conservative candidate Gerry Labelle, he's expressing an independent thought, and it's not good for the party. Mr. Labelle's LAST radio interview:
Conservative candidate calls Harpernomics “horrible”

It looks like Ontario Tories are having trouble toeing the party’s economic line.

In an interview today with Radio-Canada, Conservative candidate Gerry Labelle blasted the Harper economic record, stating that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s attitude toward Ontario has been “horrible.”

“That’s not how you do things,” he said, referring to Minister Flaherty’s statement earlier this year that Ontario is the “last place” in Canada businesses should invest.

“It’s the federal government, so you’re not supposed to have favourite provinces, you treat everyone equally,” continued Mr. Labelle.

Labelle also characterized his party’s environmental plan as “insufficient” and said about the Tories’ recent cuts to cultural programs that, “If there is a fault that I think the Conservatives have, it’s that they explain things poorly.”

Labelle basically admits that Ontario is getting the shaft from Ottawa, we're not one of their "favorites", Flaherty's "horrible", the environment plan a sham.

If you haven't received a call or email yet from the bunker Mr. Labelle, expect one soon, when they find the time- so many fires, so little water.

Friendly fire.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Beyond Bad "Jokes"

The real story here, isn't Ritz necessarily, it's the issue of how the Conservatives have handled food safety. While I'm glad that the media is taking another look at the issue, it only comes as a sideline to the salacious. What should be on the frontpage, what Canadians have the right to know, when deciding what approach to governance they want:
Conservatives to kill meat inspection in Manitoba-Source: Canada NewsWireSep 18, 2008 12:30 News release via Canada NewsWire, Toronto 416-863-9350 Attention News Editors WINNIPEG, Sept. 18 /CNW Telbec/ -

If elected, a federal Conservativegovernment plans to stop delivering provincial meat inspection programs in Manitoba leaving local consumers exposed to the risk of unsafe meat. The plan is revealed in a secret Treasury Board of Canada decision record, dated May 6, 2008, documenting the acceptance of a proposal concerning "Provincial Meat Slaughter Establishments (Manitoba,Saskatchewan, British Columbia)" which calls for the "elimination of federal delivery of provincial meat inspection programs." "Meat produced in provincially registered facilities in Manitoba would not be inspected by anyone under this plan," says Bob Kingston,President of the Agriculture Union.

The Treasury Board decision record says that following approval of a detailed implementation plan, "including risk mitigation and communications strategies," the cuts will come into force. In Manitoba, the federal government delivers provincial meat inspection programs ensuring provincially registered slaughter facilities meet sanitation and other safety regulations. There are more than 30 provincially registered meat establishments in Manitoba that produce everything from beef to bison, ostrich to turkey and whose products cannot be shipped outside the province. "As we've seen during recent weeks, the federal government should be increasing food inspection, not cutting it," Kingston says.

When Harper takes to the mic, and defends Ritz, saying he is doing a good job on the file, and that's all that matters, the follow up question should ask about that JOB. Why are you putting the onus on companies to self-police, when their chief concern is profit, sometimes at the expense of public safety? Why are you CUTTING inspection? Canadians need to understand that this government is putting public health at risk because of ideological considerations. The Conservative policies are the bad joke here.


I must say, one of the highlights of the Liberal campaign to date, the smart advertising campaign. The latest English ad is a clever attack, because it isn't overtly negative, it merely offers a distinct contrast. The trouble with most attack ads, they run the risk of leaving a bad taste. The beauty of the Liberal ad, it offers as much vision as venom, which leaves the viewer a neutral presentation. By all accounts, the feedback for this ad has been very positive.

I see today that the contrast theme is more than a one off, here is the new billboard campaign for Quebec:

I think the above is a terrific visual, you don't need to pay much attention for the message to sink in. It's also quite shrewd to use the names of the two leaders, a subtle reminder for Quebecers.

The Liberals have clearly found the right balance, and the contrasts are presented in a high signal manner, quite different from the juvenile Conservative attacks ads. Good stuff.

Ritz Might Be Done

The NDP is calling for Ritz to resign, so too Wayne Easter, but it's more the reaction that suggests this one has serious legs. You really should listen to Bob Fife on this clip, because if he's outraged and looking for blood, it means the entire media agrees on the seriousness. We already know what tomorrow's theme will be, you can't contain and micro-manage this one Mr. Harper.

The sad part, it will take something this sensational to get the focus back on the listeria question, and just maybe today's relevant news might get woven into the controversy. You needed some color, now you have HD, the Conservatives are in full damage control now. The opposition will devour this story, it speaks to the Conservative approach on so many levels, nastiness is back, the whole issue re-visited.

Particularly bad in Ontario, where we see another sliver of evidence that things have already started to shift, real damage if we have the rest week rehashing listeria, the government role, their Minister laughing off people dying.

I'm not sure Ritz can survive, either way, this is more than a blip on the campaign trail. This one hurts.

This Is Why You Vet Candidates II

Some of our NDP friends were quite gleeful about Liberal candidate troubles, to which my response was "when you live in a glass house..". See, the trouble with taking the high ground, it better be firm. What does it say about Jack Layton, and the NDP, that they didn't properly vet a candidate in British Columbia, who has written books about young kids doing drugs?

There are other issues that have caused Dana Larsen to resign today, and frankly it's not that big of a deal to me, although it speaks to poor judgement on the part of the NDP. What is a big deal, Mr Larsen also penned a book, widely available, that has a child using drugs. A couple excerpts for context:
He bent his great, shaggy head over Hairy and exhaled a thick cloud of sweet smoke which surrounded the sleeping child, then leaned in closer and gave him what must have been a very scratchy, whiskery kiss. Suddenly, Hogride let out a wail like a wounded pit bull...

Hairy reached up and touched the thick joint that was hanging between his lips. He realized he had unconsciously put it there when Hogride had passed it to him. He inhaled, tentatively at first, then deeply. The smoke filled his lungs. It felt good, it felt natural, it was delicious!

Hairy felt like the smoke flowed from his lungs and into every part of his body. He felt it filling him, touching him from the inside, becoming part of him. His mind filled with smoke. He felt his thoughts expanding, his head opening up with new ideas and connections.

Hairy closed his eyes. His thoughts were moving so fast that he felt like time was slowing down. His skin felt prickly. He inhaled again, even more deeply, and then felt Hogride pluck the joint from his mouth.

"Take it easy 'airy," said Hogride.

Keeping his eyes closed, Hairy took a deep breath of air. He felt almost like he was floating. Intricate patterns of colours streamed past his eyes. His mind was reeling with profound ideas, each new revelation whizzing by too fast for him to remember. He could hear Uncle Norm speaking, but the words didn't seem to make any sense.

Hairy opened his eyes. He looked around the room, his eyes blazing. He looked at Norm and Vanilla, and felt as if he was seeing them for the first time. He saw them not as his terrifying Uncle and his manipulative Aunt, but as two human beings, flawed, scared, lonely and confused, yet also noble and magnificent. Harry felt like he understood them. Even though they were both ruddy great gits who had made his life miserable for fifteen years, at that moment, Hairy forgave them.

Hairy smirked. Then he chuckled. He tried to hold it in but he could not, and suddenly a great spurt of laughter burst out of him.

Hairy laughed harder than he had ever laughed in his life. He suddenly got it! He got everything, and it was hilarious! Hairy laughed until he couldn't breathe. He thought of his life, his miserable sad life, and he laughed at what a loser he was.

A spoof on Harry Potter, Hairy Pothead, but look at the website, and tell me if that is appropriate. The book uses a child character to promote drug use, RED FLAGS everywhere, and CLEARLY something that should have alerted the NDP antenna.


Don't Hold Your Breath

Now I understand why Harper has suddenly endorsed the release of the report, on the cost of the Afghanistan mission. Does anyone doubt, Harper doesn't have knowledge that this report will NEVER be released during the election?:
But Kevin Page, Canada's new Parliamentary Budget Officer, announced that he now feels comfortable releasing it during the election campaign because all political parties in the House of Commons have consented.

Still, Mr. Page said, said it could be “weeks” before the report is out. The election is 27 days from today.

“The independent report outlining the estimated financial costs of Canada's mission in Afghanistan is expected to be completed and released in the coming weeks,” he said.

“The … [office] is finalizing its analysis related to the costs of veterans' programs, after which the complete report will be submitted for peer review to its international advisory panel,” Mr. Page's office said in a statement.

Mr. Page wasn't entirely clear on exactly when the report would be released, but a staffer in his office said the intention is to make the study publicly available before Oct. 14.

Earlier Wednesday, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper said he didn't oppose the report's release during the campaign.

Weeks? Less than four of those left, and you know things tend to get DELAYED, especially while we wait for peer review, which is bound to have a FRIENDLY voice or two. Mr. Page might be saying the right things, but I will be shocked if this report comes out before the end of the election (especially when it the window for release equates to the last days, best case scenario). I wondered why Harper was so quick to change his tune, now we have our answer.

Never doubt Harper's capacity for delay.

Liberals Coming Home In Ontario?

Not much change in the national numbers today, but there does appear to be a favorable trend for the Liberals in Ontario. Important to remember, in the months leading up to the election call polling generally showed the Liberals well ahead in Ontario, so the recent flip to the Conservatives is clearly soft support. What we might be seeing now, those voters returning to the Liberal fold. Whether it be NANOS, Decima or Strategic Counsel, they all show a good trend line for the Liberals.

NANOS shows the Liberals re-taking the lead in Ontario:

Libs 40% (up 3%)
Cons 33% (down 5%)
NDP 17% (up 1%)
Greens 10% (-)

A pretty sizeable jump, but that tends to be borne out in the Strategic Counsel battleground poll:
The Conservatives have lost altitude in swing Ontario ridings, a new poll suggests, with their lead shrinking to its lowest level so far this campaign in these key battlegrounds.

The Tories have a five-point lead over the Liberals in 20 Ontario ridings where the race was tightest in the last election or by-election, according to Strategic Counsel polling conducted for The Globe and Mail and CTV between Sept. 13-15.

That's down from the 19-point lead the Conservatives enjoyed over the Liberals in those battleground ridings Sept. 10-13.

Decima has different numbers, but the all important trend is the same:
In Ontario, the race continues to narrow, with Conservatives at 39%, Liberals 36%, the NDP 14% and the Greens 10%. The Liberals have picked up 6 points from a low-water mark last week.

Something to keep an eye on...

Canadian Medical Association: Conservatives "Helped Bring About This Listeria Epidemic"

The Canadian Medical Association Journal releases a SCATHING editorial of the Conservatives complicity in the listeria outbreak, and they warn of more to come. Some highlights, or "things the Conservatives don't want public", as the case may be:
Last November the Canadian government instituted a
strategic review of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency
(CFIA). Among its outcomes was to transfer inspection duties
for ready-to-eat meats from the government inspectors to the
meat industry. Cabinet decided to “shift from full-time CFIA
meat inspection presence to an oversight role, [thereby] allowing
industry to implement food safety control programs
and to manage key risks.”1

In practice, the new policy meant that CFIA inspectors
would rarely enter meat plants to test for bacteria and testing
was left mostly to companies. Self-inspection came largely to
substitute for, and not just to supplement, government inspection.

Government policy errors helped bring about this epidemic.Yet surprisingly, government has taken no remedial
steps beyond issuing a food recall.

The listeriosis epidemic is a timely reminder that the
Harper government has reversed much of the progress that
previous governments made on governing for public health.

And listeriosis may be the least of it. The same November
2007 Cabinet decision that handed self-inspection to the
owners of meat plants did the same for operators of animal
feed mills and cut back the avian influenza preparedness program.

Overall, it would seem that,
as a country, Canada is far less prepared now for epidemics
than in the past.

I know minor electrical problems on a campaign plane is a very relevant story, but I'm willing to bet Canadians would rather see a story or two on FOOD SAFETY, what with people dying and such. Harper calls for an investigation, and all is forgotten, despite what EXPERTS say, despite the fact that their approach to food safety speaks to a core election issue, a core philosophy. When those in the know, say the government is culpable, I think people need to understand, I'm weird that way.

Shell Game

One of the most frustrating parts of this campaign, the free pass given to the Conservatives, when it comes to their blatant attempts to delay anything that might cause embarrassment on the campaign trail. While everyone focuses on the supposed costs of the Green Shift, the Conservatives have the audacity to say Dion hasn't been forthcoming in their attack ad, nobody seems to care about the fact that Baird has buried his own plan:
Environment Minister John Baird later told The Canadian Press that the regulations will not be published during an election campaign.

How convenient, and how entirely disappointing that the media let's them get away with hiding their own plan, while simultaneously ravaging someone who speaks openly. It's actually appalling, and a complete indictment of our supposed watchdogs.

Then there is the Cadman case, the supposed biggest mistake ever made by the Liberal Party. Why is it then, that the Conservatives are going to ridiculous heights to STOP the case during the election?:
Chris Paliare levelled the charge after Harper's lawyer sought to postpone a hearing into an earlier application to postpone a hearing into Harper's request for an injunction to prevent the Liberals from using a controversial tape recording at the heart of bribery allegations in the Cadman affair.

In his 37 years practising law, Paliare said he's never seen a case where the plaintiff requested an adjournment on an adjournment hearing.

"It's sort of adjournment squared," the Liberal lawyer said in an interview.

Paliare said it's evident that the Conservatives are foot-dragging because they don't want the case to become fodder during the election campaign.

"I don't know what their motives are, but they don't seem anxious to have this matter dealt with expeditiously," he said.

Asked if he believes the election has anything to do with it, Paliare added: "I think it has a great deal to do with it."
Something to hide tough guy?

Speaking of hiding, why don't the Conservatives want the cost of the Afghanistan war released during the campaign:
That's the question being asked today about whether Stephen Harper will give the OK to release a potentially explosive report on the true cost of Canada's Afghan mission. Parliament's budget officer has tallied the cost of the six-year mission and says he would like to release it.

But he's worried about interfering with the election and wants all-party consent.

No problem, say the opposition parties, but the prime minister has been vague.

Couple all of the above, with the tightly controlled photo-ops, and you really have a Conservative campaign which trying to bury anything that might lead to scrutiny. As a matter of fact, we see a coherent pattern of basically "trying to pull a fast one" on the electorate, the truth delayed until after a potential victory. I guess the question then becomes- why are the Conservatives getting a FREE PASS, why isn't someone connecting the dots and holding people to account? If this type of behavior is condoned, then doesn't it effectively endorse the tactics?

What's important here, a question on fruit or vegetable, or a question of co-ordinated secrecy, stonewalling and basically trying to hoodwink the electorate? Oh, maybe it's just me.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"What A Bunch Of Turds" Former Conservative Party National Director

The above reaction, from head office, after a Conservative candidate didn't want to participate in the "in and out" scam, because he had "some concerns". It really is a fascinating email exchange between the National Director and a regional organizer for the Oxford riding, courtesy of the Ottawa Citizen. This is how the Conservatives speak of their own, threatening and condescending, when they choose to follow the RULES:
"These idiots in Oxford have now told me they don't have room for the $10K," Mr. Bracken (Regional Organizer) wrote. "These people really take the cake."

Mr. Donison(National Director) wrote back: "What a bunch of turds - this is not going to cost them a cent nor give them a moment of cash flow problem and in fact will allow them $6,000 more in their reimbursement and they still try to wiggle out!"

In the emails, Mr. Donison advises Mr. Bracken to attempt to find another campaign to take on the $10,000 cost, but adds, "the fear of God needs to be put into these Oxford people and they need to be told that they may get billed for this and that it will (sic) their election expense under the Act."

Mr. Bracken writes back to say he's found a solution for "the Oxford betrayal" --- the campaign of Conservative Pat Davidson in the riding of Sarnia Lambton could absorb the $10,000 cost. But he asks Mr. Donison to "do me a favour Mike and have the heavies from Ottawa come down like a ton of brick on BRUCE RICHARDS."

Amazing to hear the intimidation, sounds more like the mafia than a political organization. What I find quite telling, the Conservatives only defence "we did nothing wrong, we thought we were following the rules. This email exchange highlights that HEAD OFFICE was well aware that these money transfers were causing "concern", people saw that it wasn't right, and some refused because it was obviously inappropriate. I wonder how many other campaigns were strong armed into accepting the cash?


Conservatives admit they were "national ads".

Why Polls Matter

Three polls, two of which show a compelling battle for second, as the NDP threaten the Liberals. A third, which just happens to be the most reputable, NANOS, shows no such thing, but I doubt that will matter to our restless media, looking for an angle.

The new EKOS poll, puts the Liberals at another new low:
Con 38%(+3% yesterday)
Libs 23%(-2%)
NDP 19%(no change)
Greens 11%(no change)

Angus Reid also shows the Liberals reaching a new bottom:
39 per cent of decided voters would back the Tories in the Oct. 14 federal ballot, three points above the party's share of the vote in the 2006 electoral process (36.3%).

The Liberal Party is a distant second with 23 per cent, seven points below its 2006 total (30.2%). The New Democratic Party (NDP) is third with 18 per cent, followed by the Greens with 10 per cent, and the Bloc Québécois with nine per cent.

NANOS shows virtually no change since yesterday, the gap moves from 6% to 7%:
Cons 38%(+1%)
Libs 31%(no change)
NDP 17%(no change)
Greens 8%(-1%)

Obviously, I give NANOS more weight, in terms of what I think is really happening, but that might not be the point.

Regardless of the source, we already have a situation where the media is dying to make a story out of "second place". Any poll which supports that thesis is bad news for the Liberals, and it one reason why people who say polls are irrelevant don't understand how they influence coverage. The results might be irrelevant, but the subsequent "run with the ball" mentality of our media certainly isn't. In many respects these things tend to become self-fulfilling prophecies, as the perception of a close race, allows people to promote the situation, in turn gathering more perceived momentum.

We saw last week, how several outlets seized on one poll, amongst many, to suggest the NDP were competitive with the Liberals. Now that we have two fresh offerings, which show the Liberals at historical ABYSMAL numbers, expect a few more negative columns, not to mention Layton telling the world "he can feel something happening out there", his handlers waving the above findings.

Monday, September 15, 2008

"Don't Forget, Don't Forget This"

Lest we forget:

If you are forgetful, let this site jog your memory.

Now We Are Talking

I love the new Liberal ad:

Quite smart, well produced, tight and focused. The ad strikes the right note, an attack ad for the first half, a sense of the Liberal vision in the second, which alleviates any lingering sense of "nastiness". Right between the eyes on Ontario, the Flaherty quote perfect (let's not forget there was a 20% swing in Ontario when Flaherty criticized the province, a reminder is shrewd).

If one person bellyaches about the Liberals going "negative", particularly a Conservative, please, please, let rabid laughter echo the halls. This is a high signal ad, and it does have a balance, quite a contrast from the grade two Conservative smear jobs. If there is such a thing as a classy negative ad, this one achieves it.

Great stuff, more of the above, and the battle will be joined.

Poll Roundup

It would appear that the Conservatives have peaked for the moment, the "sweater" starting to fade, as a new batch of polls come in.

NANOS had the gap down to six points nationally, with growing NDP strength, particularly in Quebec:
Conservative Party 37% (-1)
Liberal Party 31% (+1)
NDP 18% (+1)
Green Party 9% (NC)
BQ 6% (NC)
Undecided 20% (-1)

Note, the very large undecided vote. Harper's personal numbers have dropped, well off the high water mark he attained last week.

In Ontario, NANOS has the two parties essentially tied, with the NDP showing a gradual uptick, up to 17%, a full 7% rise in a week. In Quebec, the Bloc is at their lowest total for a NANOS poll, a mere 26%, tied with the Conservatives, the Liberals close behind at 23%. Good news again for the NDP, another high water mark of 17% (up 7% in two days). In Atlantic Canada, the Liberals are back out front, up 6%, the NDP well back.

Decima, which had a staggering 17% Conservative lead now has it down to 11% (14% yesterday):
Nationally, over the last four days, the Conservatives lead with 38%, followed by the Liberals
at 27%, 16% for the NDP, 9% for the Green Party, and 8% for the BQ.

Interestingly, Decima includes leaners, with no real undecided vote. I suppose the good news, the Conservative lead is clearly waning, although it's still sizeable. Optics wise, and this may be why the Conservatives were playing down the polls, it does create the impression of a tightening race, which is a positive media frame for the Liberals.

What is particularly striking about Decima, the "women" vote has essentially flipped, from previous polls done in the pre-writ period. For all the other parties, the percentages are fairly constant, but the Liberals lead of 10% is now a Conservative lead of 5%. The Liberals must regain the advantage, if they have any hope of victory.

EKOS haven't released their poll numbers, but they do have a seat projection today, based on the most recent results. EKOS gives the Cons 147 seats, Libs 71, Bloc 49, NDP 40 and Greens 1. EKOS shows no Conservative breakthrough in Quebec, although they do show gains in Ontario, Atlantic Canada and British Columbia. A strong minority, but again down from the last seat projection.

The NDP is starting to get some traction, if these polls continue to show some momentum, then Layton can take advantage with more favorable coverage. While the Conservatives are waning slightly, the Liberals haven't really benefited, and there is a danger of the "second place" narrative taking hold, which is obviously the last discussion the party wants.

The "Harper peaked too early" meme is a bit premature, but if we see more indications, then that storyline might get some play. Stay tuned...

Before "Not A Leader"

I remember it well, the same media that vilifies Dion now, was singing his praises. Interesting to hear the words, before the media carried Harper's water, completely seduced by the relentless attack ads. Back in the day:

"What he lacks in charisma he makes up for in common sense. He possesses a remarkably clear-eyed view of the possibilities. That he has been the most lucid on the crucial unity file is unsurprising, but he has also presented a compelling vision of a 21st-century environmental economy. If a leader is going to exercise mastery over any files, those are among the most important.

But Mr. Dion has mastered more than that. Through the campaign, he has shown that he has mastered the art of politics.

While he has been burdened with an image as a stiff academic, he has added humour, passion and humility to his defining attributes of intelligence and principle.

Globe and Mail endorses Dion 2006


"Which makes him a rarity in Canadian politics: a candidate for high office whose rise to prominence was fuelled, not by back-stabbing his colleagues or the patronage of powerful families, but by closely reasoned arguments.

Yet if Mr. Dion has exceeded expectations in this campaign, it has not been for parading his virtue, as the principled intellectual who floats above the fray. He has not campaigned as an "anti-politician," promising to "do politics differently" and otherwise advertising his disdain for his chosen profession. He has simply demonstrated a practical mastery of it.

"When Stephane Dion spoke, his [Cabinet] colleagues put down their coffees, stopped signing correspondence and listened attentively," Eddie Goldenberg, Jean Chretien's lifetime factotum, writes in his just-released memoirs. "He had learned a lot about government, a lot about politics, and a lot about how to get things done." This sounds right to me. Even as a political scientist, Mr. Dion's work had tended more to the applied than the theoretical. In office, his studies continued, only with himself as the research subject. He was learning how to do politics -- not differently, but better.

Or more precisely, how to do politics, while remaining true to himself."

Andrew Coyne November 2006


"Which brings us to Stephane Dion, our choice for leader because he was willing to fight for Canadian unity when it counted, despite the fact most of his academic peers in Quebec were separatists, who made his life hell. That took courage... we also think he's smart enough and tough enough to be a leader.

Toronto Sun Endorsement of Dion 2006


"A word to the wise: when the subject is Dion and the odds are long, it is generally a good idea to bet against the house... But there is an element of fearlessness to Dion that keeps surprising Liberals by how frequently it charms them.

Dion offers only confidence, encyclopedic interests, and a decade at the centre of the nation's most gruelling debates, a trial by fire that he endured, we can say now in hindsight, with extraordinary good grace. He has surprised his adopted party at every turn. It would be reasonable to expect he is not done surprising."

Paul Wells 2006


"Some say Dion is too dry and academic to win an election, a criticism we do not share. People said that about Stephen Harper, too, but he's PM today. Having both major parties led by individuals of undeniable intelligence is not such a bad fate for a country, after all.

Liberal grandees have been making their choices, and expect rank-and-file party members to follow them to this or that candidate. But this weekend, at least, each card-carrying Liberal still has some individual clout. Using it to advance the cause of Stephane Dion would be a service to the party, and to the country."

Montreal Gazette endorses Stephane Dion 2006


"Stéphane Dion, the most underutilized talent in the Liberal Party, was superb on election night, as he almost always is. The Liberals should do a lot more than they appear to do to hold on to Stéphane Dion."

Rex Murphy 2006

Has Dion really changed, or have you??

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Dion, Dion, Dion

In the lead up to this election, I've argued over and over that the massive gap in leadership numbers were the Liberals achilles heel. It's one school of thought, others pointed to similar gaps between PM's and opposition leaders in the past, a natural circumstance, nothing to get terribly alarmed about. I would submit that this past week has demonstrated one clear thesis, the Liberals are nowhere unless Dion starts to make an impression. Even where the supposed Liberal brand remains strong, we are seeing glaring evidence that in a campaign, perceived leadership weakness will cause erosion.

The polls today show little change, Decima has the gap narrowed to 14% from 17% yesterday, NANOS unchanged, slight NDP uptick. The Strategic Counsel poll of battleground ridings maintains, the Liberals are in serious trouble. I'd like to focus on the common theme, a theme we've seen for months and months, and something which needs to receive laser-like focus from the Liberal team.

Question: Of the following individuals, who do you think would make the best Prime Minister? [Rotate] (N=1,201,MoE ± 2.8%, 19 times out of 20)

Conservative leader Stephen Harper 36% (-2)
NDP leader Jack Layton 18% (+2)
Liberal leader Stephane Dion 13% (-1)
Green Party leader Elizabeth May 3% (-2)
Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe 3% (NC)
None of them 9% (+1)
Unsure 18% (+2)

Question: Which of the federal leaders would you best describe as:

The most trustworthy leader
The most competent leader
The leader with the best vision for Canada’s future
Leadership Index Score (N=1,201, MoE ± 2.8%, 19 times out of 20)

Stephen Harper 102 (+13)
Jack Layton 53 (+2)
Stephane Dion 42 (NC)
Elizabeth May 14 (+1)
Gilles Duceppe 10 (-2)

A new Canadian Press Harris-Decima poll suggests the leadership gap may be the single biggest obstacle standing in the way of the Liberals as they compete for the right to govern the country the next four years(or less ;)).

“The challenge for the Liberals appears to rest squarely on Mr. Dion,” said Harris-Decima president Bruce Anderson.

“The Liberals must find a way to improve his appeal or make clear that they offer an appealing team of capable and experienced people.”

At week's end, 52 per cent of respondents said they had a positive feeling about Mr. Harper, compared to 34 per cent for Mr. Dion. Fifty-five per cent reported negative feelings about Mr. Dion, compared to 40 per cent for Mr. Harper.

Strategic Counsel:
Which leader talks about issues you care about?

20 Ontario battleground ridings (Sept 11-13):

Harper 37%
Layton 14%
Dion 12%
May 9%
None 9%

Quebec battleground ridings:

Harper 24%
Dion 14%
Layton 13%
Duceppe 13%
May 6%
None 11%

British Columbia battleground ridings:

Harper 29%
Layton 21%
Dion 13%
May 11%
None 9%

Liberals simply can't take any comfort in their brand anymore, in this campaign Dion is so far behind, that even Layton is a serious threat. The above numbers are dreadful, if anything they are worse than the pre-writ floor. Bottom line, Dion closes the gap or we are toast. Period.

I've watched about a half dozen Dion events, in their entirety, and in contrast to the media frame, he's looked very good, quite feisty in my estimation. One can hope that Dion starts to get traction, but it's better to make something happen, rather than passive rely on events to unfold. The good news, the Liberal braintrust can now focus with singularity, it has to be Dion. The "this is Dion" online application is great, but it's not enough. If the party has Dion-centered ads in the can, now is the time to unleash them, and maybe tape some more. THIS WEEK Dion desperately needs to gain some credibility, and sadly policy announcements don't seem to be changing poor perceptions.

We can't count on the debates, the fact there are five participants, and some of our opponents could well shine, should tell us that any reliance is pure gamble. Much better to be proactive immediately, and throw everything in our arsenal towards boosting Dion. IMHO, it's really the only option, other things merely bandaids, other ideas don't deal with the core problem. Dion, Dion, Dion, and then some more focus on Dion.