Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Brain Kramp

It really has become the most amazing spectacle, that speaks to the true nature of this government. Despite a call for decorum from the Speaker, the Conservatives have been busily searching for low brow loopholes to continue their character assassinations. While the other parties applauded Milliken's new code of conduct, the Conservatives griped. So bent on their nonsensical attacks, that are utterly meaningless in the grand scheme, the Conservatives actually invested energy looking for ways around Milliken's new habit of cutting off personal attacks. I wonder if Pierre's constituents think wasting time on ways around high signal debate amounts to "getting the job done"?

Today, we witnessed another installment of the Conservative smear machine, so clever the way they snub their noses at Milliken. Well, it would appear the Speaker is just as committed to having his wishes enforced:
Tory MP warned of suspension over Ignatieff attacks

OTTAWA -- Commons Speaker Peter Milliken has threatened to suspend a Conservative MP if he continues making personal attacks against Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff.

Daryl Kramp received the warning after accusing Ignatieff of hypocrisy on a number of issues.

Milliken told MPs several weeks ago that he would no longer tolerate them using members' statements, which precede question period each day, to engage in personal attacks.

He began cutting off MPs who ignored his ruling.

To avoid being silenced, Kramp and other Tory MPs have taken to issuing scathing assessments of an unidentified politician, whom they identify as Ignatieff only at the very end of their statements -- when it's too late for Milliken to cut them off.

Milliken's warning suggests he's willing to take more drastic measures to put a stop to the personal attacks.

I know the official Liberal position has been to ignore the schoolyard tactics, and I understand the logic. That said, there is also some merit to highlighting this silly dance between the Conservatives and the Speaker, in the name of gutter politics. There's a reason we haven't seen more high profile attacks directed at Ignatieff, so it might be to our benefit, demonstrating to Canadians just what this government thinks important during an economic meltdown. This has become farcical, and the Liberals might be wise to turn these attacks right back in the Conservatives face, as an example of misguided priorities and mean spirited partisan crap.

Tory Times Are Tough Times

The latest installment from GritGirl:

Monday, March 30, 2009

"There Is No Good News In This Poll For The Conservative Party"

And, the pollster isn't kidding. About the only solace for Conservatives these days, despite losing their edge over the Liberals, is that the government has maintained some advantage on the critical question of economic management. Although recent polls have shown the Ignatieff led Liberals have made a sizeable dent on which party can most effectively deal with the economy, this measure is still seen as Harper's best, and last remaining advantage. The new Leger poll provides the first sample, which gives the Liberals a distinct lead on the economic front, along with confirming recent trends in Ontario and Quebec.

On the economy, these type of numbers would translate to a devastating blow to the Conservatives credibility:
Approximately 48% of citizens said they were "dissatisfied" or "very dissatisfied" with the measures adopted by the Government in these times of recession. In contrast, 40% of Canadians said they were "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with the measures taken by the Harper government. The "very satisfied" are only 6%.

When we look more in depth questions about the economy, we realize that Michael Ignatieff Stephen Harper dominates in all categories. Thus, the question, "between Stephen Harper and Michael Ignatieff, in which you trust the most to implement effective measures to address the economic crisis?" 41% of Canadians preferred the Liberal leader, against 32% the Conservative leader. Same scenario for "helping Canadian workers through economic crisis", since 41% of citizens have more confidence in Michael Ignatieff, against 33% who prefer Stephen Harper.

Previously, I've argued that an opposition party and leader are well placed, so long as they remain within striking distance of the governing party, on these type of questions. Given that Harper is the "economist", Ignatieff largely unknown in terms of detail, that we see a poll with such a wide gap in favor of the Liberals, at this stage, is frankly devastating for the government.

In terms of the horserace, we see a tight race:
Libs 35%
Cons 34%
NDP 14%

Another poll which shows faltering NDP fortunes, as well as a decided uptick for the Liberals. The regionals provide even better news, clearly the Conservatives are benefitting from regional bloat, rather than a true "tie" in terms of electoral prospects.

In Ontario, a large Liberal lead, as well as further evidence of the NDP well down:
In Ontario, where 106 seats (of 308) make it an essential battleground, the Liberal Party is now well ahead with 45% of the vote, followed by PC (35%), NDP (12% ) and the Green Party (8%). La marge d'erreur du sondage dans cette province est de 4 %. The margin of sampling error in this province is 4%.

These numbers are quite similar to last week's NANOS poll. Particularly noteworthy, if this trend for the NDP continues, vote splitting will no longer be as much of a factor for the Liberals in Ontario, making a potential seat shift all the more pronounced.

In Quebec, another poll that gives the Liberals a strong number in the 30's, although Leger gives the Bloc a higher percentage, and the Conservatives are nowhere:
Bloc 42%
Libs 33%
Cons 12%

This might be on the low end for the Conservatives, given other findings, but this isn't the first poll to show a barely double digit finding, so it's not outlandish.

Leger concludes that "winning conditions" exist for the Liberals under Ignatieff. Of course, it's the campaign that matters, but given the recent spate of polling, we are well placed. Those economic numbers are beyond anything one could reasonably expect, even if they are in error to some degree, it's still a discouraging brew for the government. Swallow hard.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Ignatieff Does British Columbia

From all accounts, Ignatieff is having a very successful extended tour of British Columbia. A big crowd in Kamloops, 800 people in Vancouver that added another two hundred thousand to the Liberal coffers, and a "overflow" crowd on Vancouver Island yesterday:

Ignatieff attracts overflow crowd for town-hall session

Federal Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff continued efforts to bolster his party’s popularity in B.C. with a town-hall meeting in Saanich Saturday that attracted an overflow crowd. It was the third stop on his B.C. tour, which targets voters outside the province’s large urban centres. On Friday he was in Squamish, and the night before, in Kamloops.

More than 300 people jammed the Spectrum Community School theatre, with chairs hastily assembled on the stage behind Ignatieff. Even then, some were forced to listen via speakers in the hallway.

Ignatieff spent an hour responding to audience questions. “It’s the way of getting close to what people are thinking,” he said in an interview with the Times Colonist before the town hall.

I read elsewhere, that when the overflow was included, there were an estimated 500 people in audience. Almost as important as the attendance, the way that attendance forces positive headlines. "Jammed" seems a recurring theme for Ignatieff, where ever he travels, and that drawing capacity denotes a party on the move, somebody to be taken seriously. Especially encouraging, Ignatieff is making dents where he has to, in many ways British Columbia will be the key in the next election. Good stuff.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Will They Go Negative Now?

We've heard talk of this internal tension amongst Conservative strategists, as it relates to going negative on Ignatieff. You know the Conservatives want to, it's their nature after all, but circumstances aren't exactly ripe for high profile partisan smears, particularly with this government's well deserved reputation. I suspect there is more debate today, with the latest Harris Decima leadership poll, that shows Ignatieff is gaining traction with Canadians.

Although Harper and Ignatieff share similar favorable ratings, Ignatieff enjoys a huge advantage in the unfavorable column. Since the last HD poll, Ignatieff is up 2% on favorability, down 6% on unfavorability, for a net gain, in terms of the all important spread of 8%. Ignatieff enjoys a positive rating from coast to coast, with the gap the largest in Quebec. As the pollster points out, these numbers are quite concerning for the Conservatives, because if the "no opinion" crowd eventually breaks at the same percentages, or even worse a 50/50 proposition, Ignatieff soars above Harper.

Harris Decima also confirms a curious dynamic we've seen manifest itself elsewhere, namely NDP supporters opinion of Ignatieff:
Michael Ignatieff has been able to make gains in favourability and reduce negative impressions, among a broader range of political constituencies, including those that identify as NDP supporters.

NDP supporters have a 47% favorable/39% unfavorable, with a relatively small 13% undecided.

Conclusion. This is the type of headline that drives the Conservative war room crazy:

"Canadians warming to Ignatieff, poll suggests"

Thursday, March 26, 2009


I don't know if this is the Youtube Conservative response to "gritgirl"-the name "toryboy" suggests some attempt at a counter- but it's noteworthy for it's lameness. The quality of the video is high, but that isn't matched by the weak message. Worthy of attention, for the sheer inability to land a glove:

The talking points bring a genuine smile. A eighteen month old admittedly vague reference to a tax, a three year old mention of a dead policy and taking issue with the Senate passing a budget in RECORD time. For the Conservatives sake I really hope this isn't "black ops" response, because that assumes these are actually thought out attack lines. Sleep well "gritgirl".

Ignatieff In Kamloops

I found a few snippets from Ignatieff's appearance in Kamloops today. Apparently, it was an excellent turnout of around 400 people, in a riding that the Liberals garned a lowly 9.8% of the vote in the last election:

Hello In There

I must say, I find Harper's strategy perplexing, because he's essentially setting himself up now, to look the fool later. It isn't about talking down the economy, or demonstrating optimism, it's a matter of reading the tea leaves. These comments are just bizarre, and one has to wonder if there is something else at play:
Harper said Canada is in a period of enormous uncertainty where forecasts are changing rapidly.

His remarks came a day after the country's parliamentary budget officer said Canada's economy has deteriorated so much since Ottawa introduced its budget that more jobs have already vanished than the $40-billion stimulus package was intended to create.

Kevin Page's latest report shows an economy that plummeted in the first quarter of this year and erased most of Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's projections when he tabled the budget in January.

Harper was quick to brush aside Page's claims.

"I think what Mr. Page said yesterday is not remarkable," he said. "Forecasts are going to change very rapidly in this environment."

Harper keeps using this same line, that forecasts are changing rapidly. The problem with his rationalization, EVERY forecast is changing to the DOWNSIDE. Did we miss one forecast that's revisited on the upside since the budget was released? It's as though Harper is saying the government can't reaccess because nobody is sure of the direction since the budget, too unpredictable to put any stock in. If you're "brushing aside" Page, what is the basis?

The simple fact of the matter, since Harper's budget, things have deteriorated further. There are no wild fluctuations, in the way Harper argues, it's all down, down, down, just a question of degree. One would think the government would embrace the universal opinion, instead of stubbornly clinging to outdated information. Harper has all the expert backing he requires to admit further erosion, without necessarily losing credibility. The irony, Harper is putting his credibility on the line, in being so dismissive of the new realities. I actually find it hard to entertain the possibility that Harper actually believes the government numbers, that he hasn't incorporated the freshest information.

Where's the benefit for the government, in refusing to accept a circumstance, which will invariably come back to bite them in the ass? Harper voluntarily lays the groundwork for the "out of touch" meme, and jeopardizes any sense of good management. Today was the perfect example, Harper attempting to re-announce old money, only to be peppered with the apparent disconnect between his stand and what is fast becoming "everybody else". That's the storyline that will haunt Harper, so it's hard to see the upside in not ceding any ground, particularly when it's unclear whether the government would really shoulder blame. If Harper were to embrace the changing forecasts, as evidence of fast changing events that nobody could have foreseen, I suspect he might get something of a pass. That stance can't be worse politically, than "vigorously defending" old news, that nobody is buying. Where are your allies in this argument Mr. Prime Minister?

With each new defence of outdated understandings, I have to wonder what the government is really up to, because for the life of me, I can't think of one rational answer that works.

CROP Quebec Poll

A new poll from CROP for Quebec, which looks similar to other recent numbers, and essentially unchanged from CROP's January release:

Bloc 35%
Libs 30%
Cons 18%
NDP 13%
Greens 4%

Confirmation, that the regional numbers from the national pollsters are pretty much in line with this Quebec only, large sample, poll.

Broken down regionally, in the Montreal area the Bloc and Liberals are tied(33% and 32% respectively), with the Conservatives and NDP well back in the low teens. In the Quebec City region, the Conservatives are holding their own with 32%, Bloc has 30% and the Liberals are fairly competitive at 24%. In the rest of the province, the Bloc have 38%, the Liberals 29% and the Conservatives 19%.

Ignatieff maintains a large lead over Harper on the best Prime Minister measure. Ignatieff gets 35%, with Layton at 21%, Harper a lowly 19%.

Given the pretty much static result from the last CROP poll, the Quebec numbers might be settling into a firmer dynamic. Bloc still strong, but signs of weakness. Liberals with encouraging numbers, Ignatieff a real opportunity. Conservatives down, Harper an albatross, hanging around, with little room for optimism.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Who Needs Puffins?

She's good:

And, the "Deliverance" feel is just brilliant.

Self Inflicted Wounds

I find it hard to defend the Liberals decision to let the 3 billion "slush fund" pass, given our voluntary and unprovoked rhetoric. I would classify our "climb down" over this stimulus as the first potentially major gaffe of the Ignatieff reign. I remember well, the Ignatieff scrum, full of provocative language, entirely confident in saying Harper must "walk back down the hill", there will be no "blank cheques". I also recall many of us bloggers defending our stance, dismissing any suggestion that a Dion redux was on the horizon. In the end, all the bluster looks unnecessary, the strategy questionable, the frame entirely unproductive.

In the budget aftermath, the key challenge for the Liberals is projecting this idea of a government on "probation", don't confuse letting the budget pass with complicity, a real opposition holding Harper to account. Up until this point, I've been entirely impressed, no real sense of Harper walking over the Liberals, in fact Ignatieff very much looks like the defacto Prime Minister. However, with this obvious cower, the Liberals have reminded everyone of a past pattern- threats and tough talk, to be followed by double speak and submission. I'm sorry, but a toothless motion, introduced prior the vote, which the government has already laughed off and pledged to ignore, doesn't distract from the central theme of the bully winning the day, AGAIN. This issue of false bravado is the Liberals achilles heel, we have desperately tried to shed the previous image, with great success to date, which makes this self inflicted wound all the more puzzling.

Harper began this debate with typical partisan threats. The Liberals reacted with their own line in the sand, which meant that a compromise was essential, to avoid the appearance of cowering. What amazes me, the Liberals failed to extract ANYTHING from the government, even the slightest concession to save face. No, the government didn't budge and we simply let the stimulus pass with a wimper, and weak rationalizations. It's one thing to let your opponent best you, quite another to create your own poison pill, that you will later swallow. It all begs the question- what was the point of this exercise in the first place, if our fate was pre-determined? The Liberals could have easily reacted with amusement, Harper's false confrontation, and merely stuck to our line about future accountability dates. Demanding complete transparency before the fact, set us up for failure, because we clearly weren't prepared to follow it through.

Is Harper this strong at the moment, that we don't have any leverage to extract a concession or two for support? Was there any realistic prospect of having an election, with the central point being Harper's resistance to "accountability"? I fail to see the danger, we could have garnered something in the name of credibility. I'm not suggesting lasting damage, but nobody should be surprised, when we see the next pressure point, that the media and our opponents, react with scepticism when we sabre rattle. If the strategy is to bide our time, while still looking relevant in opposition, no sense of "weak", "dithering" or the dreaded "waffler", then this whole affair undercuts our central thesis. A very confusing sequence of events...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

You Scratch My Back?

Given who is lobbying the government for financial relief...:
Both CanWest CEO Leonard Asper and Quebecor’s Pierre-Karl Péladeau, have personally met with Prime Minister Stephen Harper on behalf of their companies in recent weeks. The federal lobbyist database also shows meetings with Minister Moore, senior CRTC executives, and former industry minister Jim Prentice. Douglas would not comment on specific meetings, or reports that Canwest has engaged the lobbying services of Ken Boessenkool, a former senior Harper adviser, but said the company has always kept Ottawa in the loop about its concerns: “The amount of dialogue we’ve had is no different that what we’ve had over the previous years.”

...one can rightly ask- what rate is the government being charged to run high profile advertisements in publications owned by the companies in question?:

I can't seem to find much, in the way of advertising, on any other media outlet (except fellow lobbyist Quebecor). But there isn't a Canwest publication that isn't putting the government website front and center, down the side (in two separate locations), the reader bombarded.

The government website is nothing more than a Conservative propaganda presentation, funded by the taxpayers. Is it just me, or is this "relationship" between a media outlet, in desperate need of government assistance, and said government, a bit of a conflict of interest? Not suggesting ANYTHING, just asking the question.

As an aside, it would appear the egomaniac flavor of the government website might have had some negative feedback, because I note today TWO front page pictures that actually don't contain Harper's mug.

Fill Those Coffers

Plenty of positive indicators, that the Liberals are getting back in the game on the fundraising front. Taber details what amounts to a mega fundraiser, that could well add close to 1 million to the Liberal coffers. We also get the first indication, although not surprising, that this quarter's fundraising will be "significantly" improved, relative to past efforts. Taber puts her usual gossipy spin on the efforts, but all I see are dollar signs, which translate into a formidable counter to the Conservatives:
For $1,100, you can talk to Michael Ignatieff at a cocktail reception and then sit really close to him at the dinner that follows. Pay $500 and all you get is the rubber chicken.

This latest Grit tactic is being employed for the Leader's Dinner, a major Liberal Party fundraiser being held at the swank Fairmont Royal York hotel in Toronto on April 1. More than 1,000 people are expected.

Taking the middle ground, you're looking at around 750 thousand minimum for this type of fundraiser, a staggering figure by Liberal standards.

We also get some indication from Rossi, that this quarter has been a good one for the Liberals:
Mr. Rossi, the party's national director whose background is fundraising, predicted yesterday that total donations for the first quarter of 2009 "will be significantly better than the first quarter last year, despite the recession ...The Liberals raised $846,000 in the first quarter last year"

There are two important factors to consider here. Obviously, the aforementioned CASH, what that means to a party, desperate to compete with the Conservative machine. However, maybe just as important, in terms of free media and positive frames, this idea that the Liberals are on the move under Ignatieff. We've all seen how previous fundraising numbers have been used to promote negative storylines, cementing the sense of a weak alternative to the Conservatives. Robust fundraising, relative improvement, creates more buzz for the party, it keeps a fickle media onside. As an extension of that sentiment, packed rooms validate the sense of a reinvigorated party. In addition, improved fortunes can spook the Conservatives, who see a more formidable opponent, capable of counter. We don't have to match the Conservatives at this point, just demonstrate a positive trend. Hard not to be cautiously optimistic.

Monday, March 23, 2009

This Is Your Government Canada

The call for decorum will not stand:
"The Scene. The Conservatives have identified a loophole in the Speaker’s recent ruling against the use of Parliament’s time to launch personal attacks against political rivals—namely that it’s not a personal attack if you don’t immediately identify the individual you are defaming.

So it was that Mike Wallace, another of the government’s enthusiastically obedient, if relatively interchangeable, backbenchers, was sent up before Question Period to air various allegations against “someone.” Only at the final moment did he reveal that this “someone” was, in fact, the Liberal leader. Suffice it to say, the Prime Minister found this quite hilarious."

The sad part, NOBODY watches Member Statements, and yet the Conservatives are determined to get their smears in, as though important. When one thinks of the mental energy wasted, trying to find ways around the idea of decency and standards, it really is a statement on what a bunch of low class operatives run our government.

Auditor General Didn't Get The Memo

On March 3rd, in response to a question demanding accountability for the government's 3 billion "slush fund", Harper responded in Parliament with the following:
"The fact of the matter is that we have consulted the Auditor General. We will be fully accountable for this money. This money is necessary to make sure that we take full advantage of the upcoming construction season."

Harper explicitly implies that the Auditor General is in the loop on the stimulus expenditure, what is required. But, if you read today's comments from the Auditor General, she essentially parrots the opposition concerns and articulates no such "consultation":
"It's not unreasonable.

$3 billion is a fair bit of money and they must have ideas, even in broad strokes, how that money will flow between April and June," she said.

"I must say that I don't buy the argument that they can't tell them something -- maybe not the detail of, say, what festival, or how much, but they could at least say where the money is going, whether it's (to) infrastructure or festivals."

If "the fact of the matter" is the Conservatives consulted with the Auditor General, why doesn't she "buy the argument" of the government, namely that they can't be accountable. Seems to me, Harper has boxed himself into a corner, trying to undermine the opposition's reasonable accountable demands, using the Auditor General for cover, when in fact she is asking the SAME questions.

Ankle Bracelet.ca

The Liberals have launched a new website, titled On Probation:

What I like about this site, is that although it's clearly a partisan presentation, it isn't overtly so. When you contrast the professional, "just the facts" theme, with the hyper-partisan, Harper orgy, presented on the government's website, the Liberals strike a more serious tone. On a stylistic note, but I'm sure not by accident, the lack of red is clever, because again, one can see this site as more than a Liberal propaganda vehicle. This is a subtle presentation, that gets its point across, without being offensive.

In terms of Liberal propaganda, this site provides another tool to get our message across, that the opposition is holding the government to account. The name choice is great, because it further cements our simple messaging, in soundbite form, a frame that easily resonates.

Thumbs up.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Positive Initiatives, Questionable Strategy

I just watched an interview with Ignatieff, wherein he articulated that EI reform would be at the top of our agenda, moving forward. The idea that the current system isn't equipped or structured to adequately deal with the economic crisis. The Liberals will bring forth ideas to overhaul EI, so that workers are protected. I'm pleased to hear Ignatieff make EI reform a priority for the Liberals. However, I don't quite understand the logic in telegraphing our "strategy" moving forward.

Ignatieff said that in the "next six to eight weeks" the Liberals would present something to Parliament, in the hopes of getting reforms passed. It's hard for me to see the benefit, essentially tipping off the Conservatives, giving them a timeline of what to expect from our side. Particularly when we are talking about weeks, it allows the government to "prepare". Given what we know about Harper's tactics, we can fully expect the possibility that the Conservatives will act pre-emptively, if they see a potential issue which could cast them in a poor light, they will seize the initiative and present something on their own. Ignatieff essentially tells the Conservatives, in broad strokes, what is coming down the pipe from the Liberals, potential pressure points. Does anybody think the Conservatives aren't glad to have this information? Does anybody doubt that the Conservative strategists won't devise counters, won't come up with their own measures to neuter any call by the Liberals? I applaud the focus, but the public pronouncement is questionable at best.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Looking Good

A new NANOS poll, which translates to objectively good news for the Liberals. Nanos pegs the Liberals national support at the highest we've seen since Harper was first elected, and the regionals look even better. First, the horserace numbers:
Liberal Party 36% (+3)
Conservative Party 33% (-1)
NDP 13% (-3)
BQ 10% (NC)
Green Party 8% (+1)
(*Note: Undecided 11%)

Another poll, which confirms the same trends. Liberals on the uptick, with the NDP support tanking to worrying levels( the last NANOS poll also showed a 3% erosion for the party). This poll, while still quite close, gives the Liberals the largest "gap"(still within MOE) we've seen in years.

NANOS gives the Liberals a huge edge in Ontario:
Libs 44%
Cons 31%
NDP 14%
Greens 10%

Those numbers would represent a huge seat swing in Ontario, particularly if the NDP is less of a vote splitting factor.

In Quebec, more good news for the Liberals, as NANOS puts them within striking distance of the Bloc:
Bloc 36%
Libs 32%
Cons 19%
NDP 7%
Greens 6%

The last batch of polls all show a rise for the Liberal in Quebec, which translates into plenty of potential come the next election.

The Liberals are way ahead in Atlantic Canada, with 46% support, a dynamic which is confirmed elsewhere. Also, the Liberals are up to 30%(plus 4%) in the "west", a steady rise over the last few NANOS polls. As a matter of fact, it's pretty much good news across the country for the Liberals, all the numbers pointing in the right direction.

In terms of the best PM measure, no movement from the last NANOS poll, but Ignatieff is very well positioned:
Stephen Harper 33 (+1)
Michael Ignatieff 27 (-1)
Jack Layton 12 (-2)
Gilles Duceppe 6 (+1)
Elizabeth May 6 (+1)
None of them 7 (NC)
Unsure 9 (NC)

Again, we see that Layton's popularity is really suffering. It is quite encouraging to see an opposition leader so close to a sitting PM, and these type of findings bode well for a campaign(Ignatieff now leads Harper in Ontario, which is exceptional).

I don't think it a stretch, to say this is probably the best poll we've seen for the Liberals in literally years, all factors considered. The nationals and regionals point to a clear minority victory.

Friday, March 20, 2009

On Unintended Consequences

It really is an incredibly amusing reaction, because in the final analysis, all the Conservative focus on "gritgirl" does is elevate. Complaining, and the latest call to arms merely brings more attention, the Conservatives are perpetuating any buzz that existed. The bottomline, the Conservatives can always find something to solicit funds from the paranoid minions, their latest effort features the recurring theme of entity under fire from "powerful special interests". With that in mind, in using "gritgirl", a nebulous unknown, whatever monetary gain is offset by highlighting the offense in question. What is really indie, is in danger of becoming mainstream, because the Conservatives reaction amounts to free exposure.

In reality Mr. Finley, it's the Conservatives who are "sloppy" here:
Subject: Liberal hypocrisy is back.

March 19, 2009

Dear [Conservative supporter],

Liberal hypocrisy is back.

After having their Leader and National Director decry the use of negative political advertising, the Liberal "War Room" has been actively promoting television-ready anti-Conservative attack ads on the web.

Given that the style, sourcing and messaging of the ads are identical to attack material being generated by paid Liberal staff, it's clear that the Liberal "War Room" is test-driving ads.

What does this mean?

First, the Liberals are sloppy . The Liberal "War Room" has tipped its leader's hand by demonstrating that the Party's opposition to attack ads and shallow, manufactured outrage is nothing more than a lie.

Second, the Liberals will say anything to win . The ads being promoted by the Liberal "War Room" are full of errors. Time and time again, the Liberal attack ads misquote and distort the words of our Prime Minister

Third and finally, Conservatives must be ready to respond . Unlike the Liberals, we can't rely on powerful special interests to deliver our messages for us. We need to have the financial and volunteer resources to fight back.

Have the Liberals really tipped their hands? Seems to me, the Conservatives are chasing shadows. All the Conservatives have done is create more anticipation for the next video. Don't get me wrong, these videos have been a hit, but let's keep it real. The amount of views are large by certain stands, but miniscule in a general sense, you could walk on any street today, pull aside a thousand people and get nothing but blank looks when you mention this infamous "gritgirl". These videos are inside the beltway stuff, more about psychological warfare, than any genuine attack to shape public opinion. However, by reacting as such, the Conservatives are validating a threat, creating more intrigue, doing everything you shouldn't.

I have no idea the origin, but I'm willing to bet the Liberal war room is quite pleased with the Conservatives out of proportion, hyper-sensitive reaction to mostly obscure jabs.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

I Wonder If It Has Anything To Do With Quality?

As the government ponders aid for life support publications like the National Post, it is quite telling, not to mention beyond embarrassing, that this "paper" can't even snag ONE NOMINATION for the Newspaper Awards. To be fair, NP did receive a nomination, in the highly respected "Most Absorbent Bird Cage Liner" category:
TORONTO — The Globe and Mail leads the pack of finalists with 13 nominations in the running for the 2008 National Newspaper Awards to be announced May 22 in Montreal.

The Toronto Star has 10 nominations, followed by Montreal's La Presse with eight.

The Ottawa Citizen, Calgary Herald and Hamilton Spectator each collected four.

The Canadian Press earned three nominations and the London Free Press, Montreal Gazette and Winnipeg Free Press had two each.

The Barrie Examiner, Brantford Expositor, Edmonton Journal, Lethbridge Herald, North Bay Nugget, Prince George Citizen, Reuters, New Brunswick (Saint John) Telegraph-Journal, Simcoe Reformer, Toronto Sun, Vancouver Sun, Victoria Times-Colonist, Record of Waterloo Region and Windsor Star have one each.

The "guru" has more commentary on the journalistic beacon that is the National Post.

The Blitz

Yesterday alone, I saw a new government commercial three times, pumping the "Canada Economic Action Plan". Today, I note an ad on the CTV website:

It's not uncommon, for the government of the day to use taxpayer money to push their messaging. However, given that this website is really nothing more than a visual orgy of all things Stephen Harper, it raises the question of misuse of public funds. I've never seen anything so political in nature presented, under the guise of communicating with Canadians. The fact that the Conservatives are apparently spending oodles of money, with the sole purpose of making Harper look good, is worthy of real scrutiny.

With massive deficits on the horizon, are we really comfortable with this hyper-partisan expenditure?:

The TV ads are quite misleading, in that encourage people to visit the website, thinking they will learn more about initiatives. When you arrive, all you learn, is that Stephen Harper is an egomaniac and apparently the recession is secondary to improving electoral chances. Nobody in the media, finds this type of obscene waste of money troubling? Maybe, after the bailouts.... ;)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

"Out Of Touch" Poll

Give it a try:

Good Rant

I wonder if Stephen Taylor sees justification?

The quality is quite professional- you do the math. From the CBC no less, I mean come on.

Have You Seen My Forebrain?

It's all part of the vast left wing media conspiracy, don't you know? If there is anything, that's more intellectually BORING, than this auto-pilot reaction to EVERYTHING that dares challenge Conservatives, let me know. Today, unaware of irony it seems, the NP attacks the Goodyear story, referring to it as a "witch hunt" by the Globe and Mail.

Yesterday, I listened to a radio talk show, discussing Goodyear's predicament. What was amazing, the common theme of Conservative supporters calling in, discounting the substance and instead, with singular zeal, going after that "left wing" rag, known as the Globe and Mail. Clearly, and this view is furthered by the unabashed conservative publication, this whole story is really about a media, bent on destroying the Harper government. I actually turned off the radio at some point, amazed at the sheer stupidity on display.

If you want to see the true ideological bent of a particular publication, or more correctly, a sense of "fair" analysis, there is nothing more indicative than a election ENDORSEMENT. Beyond comical, to the point of concerning, that people actually think the G and M is an organ of the Liberal Party. A paper, who's television cousin went out of it's way to undermine Dion, a paper that CHOSE Stephen Harper in the last election. There are always differing "opinions", and then they are bottomline considerations, that cut through the fog of debate- endorsing Harper obliterates any feeble counter, as to bias, in fact, probably more powerful that the OPPOSITE is true. How anyone can actually argue the Goodyear story is another example of the left wing plot, given the clarity of objective FACT, is just stunning. More than a testament to "bias", listening to this counter nonsense, really tells us that common sense isn't that common after all.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

You Started It

It's sort of amusing to listen to Conservatives whine about being attacked, not to mention the paranoia about the source, black ops and what not. Who knew a few little YouTube videos could unnerve the Conservatives, to the point of actually trying to block them, and in so doing making it BIGGER than otherwise would have been the case? According to Taylor, this is all justification for the Conservatives to unleash their fury and rain down on the hapless Liberals:
If the Conservatives are looking for an opening to unleash a barrage against Ignatieff and the Liberals this may be it as their actions would appear to be defensive rather than offensive.

Oh, good luck with that rationale. Remember all this talk about putting the economy first and seeking bipartisanship? Well, it's off now, because some anonymous person on the internet made a few videos, some bloggers linked, and that represents a breach of the non-aggression pact, so here comes the shit storm of negativity. Never mind, that our pathetic minions have been wasting time in Parliament to slam the Liberals for weeks, so bad they had their knuckles smacked by the Speaker, this is game on. Please. Gosh, I sure hope the Conservatives are dumb enough to take Taylor's advice.

Just the mere mention of Conservative attack ads brought a flurry of editorials chastising the timing, reaffirming all the unproductive narratives that now plague the Conservatives. If anyone is stupid enough to think the YouTube assault absolves any blow back, my goodness, get some fresh air. That said, you know these people are itching, negativity is what they do best, and there is a sense that the Liberals have the ball. It really won't take much to tilt the balance, lessen the sense of hesitation and pounce.

I have to admit, I hope the Conservatives miss the plot here and unleash their barrage. This isn't 2006, and this isn't Dion, it's nothing of the sort. This is post cluster fuck 2008, wherein Harper blew any remaining political capital to justify his hyper-partisan ways. Haven't you noticed, that even a hint of "old" Harper now brings a wide ranging rehash of all the things we've never liked, and all the reasons why the Conservatives haven't reached their primary goal? Throw in the economy, the very serious circumstance, and going negative for the Conservatives is problematic at best. We WILL pounce on THEIR tactics, and quirky references to some obscure "gritgirl" won't quite cut it, on the "they started it" front.

Here's a plausible theoretical. The Conservatives respond to the "insurgent" attack on YouTube as Taylor refers, and release an ad, detailing what a pseudo-Canadian Ignatieff is, alerting the masses to the elitist which lurks. The ads come out to much fanfare, as everyone digests the shock and awe that is the Conservative machine. What, pray tell, will the Liberals do? It just so happens, that like everyday, a new measure or forecast is released, a fresh piece of data, that confirms the historical mess that is unravelling. Armed with reality, it's pretty easy to see the Liberal response, that accomplishes a great deal. Every time bad news is released, you contrast that real fear in Canadians with the Conservatives wasting time scoring political points. I can literally HEAR Ignatieff now, as he easily pivots and SHOVES the attack right back in their faces. Probably more important, how many pesky scribes will see the disconnect and point out the issue of priorities? How many more reminders of past behavior, rearing it's UGLY head again? You know, there's a reason why the ads haven't come to date, and it's because a few Conservative strategists do have their wits about them. Should a few YouTube videos push people to discard their rational deduction, in the end, I say it will all turn out to be a BOOMERANG.


Truth hurts. I noticed the Conservative ad, used a dead policy that everybody knows is past tense, and a tax hike that hasn't been put forward. The contrast is striking, one so desperate they invent, the other a simple "on the record" statement of fact. Nice.

New Poll

The last Angus Reid poll had one of the larger gaps between the two principle parties. Today's release brings AR in line with other pollsters, many of the trends we've seen in other polls are largely replicated. Also, very good news for Ignatieff in the internals, the only leader to show a positive score. First, the horserace numbers, which show a 9% spread narrowing to 4%:
35 per cent of respondents (-3) say they would vote for the Tories in the next federal election, followed by the Grits with 31 per cent (+2), the New Democratic Party (NDP) with 16 per cent (-2), the Bloc Québécois with 10 per cent (+2), and the Green Party with seven per cent (+2).

Another polling trendline, that looks positive for the Liberals. AR has consistently shown the Conservatives on the cusp of majority, this is the closest gap since the last election, with the Conservatives at a low for this pollster.

In terms of the regionals, more evidence of an uptick for the Liberals, and a downward trend for the Conservatives in Quebec:
Bloc 38%
Libs 29%
Cons 16%
NDP 13%
Greens 3%

In Ontario, the last AR poll gave the Conservatives a healthy 8% lead. This latest offering shows a significant shift, the Liberals now statistically ahead. Also, another poll that shows the NDP falling off quite badly in Ontario:
Libs 39%(up 6%)
Cons 38%(down 3%)
NDP 12%(down 7%)
Greens 10%(up 4%

Again, we see evidence of a polarization in Ontario, with the NDP getting the squeeze. Last week, two other pollsters mirrored the same very poor trend for the NDP, to concerning levels. Interestingly, the pollster sees the NDP vote siphoning off to the Liberals:
Much of the Liberal increase from the last election seems to have come from the NDP. In fact, nearly a quarter (22%) of people who voted NDP in 2008 are now supporting or leaning towards Ignatieff’s Liberals.

In terms of party leadership, we have two themes. One, Ignatieff is narrowing Harper's advantage, the only leader to show a positive trend. The other trend shows Layton suffering, a situation referred to as "dire" by the pollster.

Best PM, a virtual tie:
A tight race continues when Canadians asked which of the five federal party leaders would make the best head of government. Conservative leader and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper (26%) is barely ahead of Ignatieff (24%). NDP leader Jack Layton is a distant third with 10 per cent

The Liberal leader posted a positive momentum score (+4), while the remaining four federal party leaders did not perform as well. One-in-four respondents (26%) say their opinion of Ignatieff improved over the course of the past month, while 22 per cent report a decline. A third of Canadians (34%) say their opinion of Harper has worsened. May holds a negative momentum score of -11.

For Layton, the situation is dire. The NDP leader posted the worst momentum score this month (-27) and half of Canadians (50%) disapprove of the performance of the party he commands.

The survey shows that the NDP—a few weeks removed from an electoral campaign that was designed to promote Layton as PM material—is facing a tough battle. There is marked increase in the proportion of Canadians who disapprove of the party's performance, and little positive momentum for its leader.

The fact that Ignatieff is tied on the best PM score is quite significant, because we rarely see an opposition leader in this position. Further good news, when we look at some of the individual measures:
Manage the economy:
Harper 31%(down 3%)
Ignatieff 24%(up 4%)

Strong and decisive leader:

Harper 43%(down 3%)
Ignatieff 31% (up 2%)

The two leaders are tied on "who understands complex issues", Ignatieff lead on "inspiring confidence", Harper on "vision". The key number that is encouraging, Ignatieff has cut the economy management gap in half. Obviously, an important measure, and Ignatieff is now well poised to look the credible alternative.

In terms of how the various parties are viewed by the public, the Liberals are the only ones to show an uptick (up 5%), while the Conservatives (down 2%) and NDP (down 3%) are viewed less favorably. These type of numbers show the Liberals are suffering no ill effects, or more rightly the attack lines are weak, because of their post-budget position. If anything, it suggest the official opposition is doing it's job, in the minds of Canadians.

All in all, another positive result for the Liberals, relatively speaking. Many of the internals leave room for optimism, and Ignatieff is performing well.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Quotas And Kneejerk Reactions

As soon as I read the piece today on the Liberals former gender specific "quota" being put into question, it took about a nanosecond to realize it would be seized upon as evidence of a step back, anti-progressive if you will. Bullocks. In the words of someone who got there on her own merit, and is turning into a star within the party:
"Personally I'm not a fan of quotas," Ms. Hall Findlay. "It's difficult for me as a woman to say that because there are a whole lot of people who feel strongly about quotas, but my focus is on getting more women to run period. I don't need a number to tell me that, and I don't need a number to tell me we don't have enough."

Martha articulates where the focus should be, and it's really the most respectful "formula". In my opinion, there is nothing more pandering to women than a system which says you require artificial help to compete with the boys. I've always hated the past quota ideal, frankly it was a end around to doing the really hard work, a pleasant front that was more about process than progress. Much, much better to have people like Martha using her sway to encourage more potential candidates, that seeks quality, rather than some sort of fundraising thermometer feel.

I would rather the Liberals approach the gender issue as one where we seek out, rather than dictate. Maybe we reach a greater percentage, maybe we don't, but you acknowledge disparity and look for talent. Then, you get in the trenches and let the best bipedal person carry the nomination day. Far better to put people through their paces, than telling a membership who can and can't run, frankly it's all very insulting. Strength of resume, articulation of ideas, sound character, the ability to inspire, those are the pre-requisites. I could care less the gender, given the way we lost swaths of "women" in the last election, despite our attractive banner, I'd say it's inconsequential.

Is there a disparity? Absolutely, but I'm much more comfortable with an approach that recognizes without legislating. In the final analysis, the ideal is much better served without the spectre of quotas, which undermines genuine abilities. It's hard to reconcile how equality is achieved using necessitated inequalities- merit not mandate, with a recognition of attracting.

Family Of 4, You Owe 2500 Hundred More (plus interest)

If there is one constant, during this economic downturn, it's that the Conservatives are completely devoid of any foresight. Every time the Conservatives comment or calculate, project or pontificate, they are quickly undermined by the facts, or challenged by independent analysis. It happens with almost ABSOLUTE certainty.

Just seven weeks ago, Flaherty delivered the budget and his deficit projections. Today, a "real" economist delivers a scathing report, which suggests the deficit for the next two years will be a staggering 30% beyond what Flaherty presented. Granted, this is just one forecast, but given this is the same economist who said we were in recession when Harper was saying the worst was probably behind us and Flaherty was in denial, I know who I'm inclined to believe:
The worsening recession will drive Ottawa $18-billion deeper into deficit over the next two years, a leading economist is predicting - an increase beyond existing government forecasts that appears set to push annual budget shortfalls into record territory.

The Toronto-Dominion Bank's calculations - using their updated economic forecasts - would see Canada's federal debt swell by $81.5-billion over the next two years instead of by $63.5-billion as the Harper government forecasted seven weeks ago.

"This illustrates the risks that are inherent in the economy right now," Toronto-Dominion Bank chief economist Don Drummond said.

Canadians are ready to except deficit spending during a recession, in many respects the government receives a free pass. However, when just mere weeks after your budget- which represented a major revision from your fiscal update, which represented a major revision from your election rhetoric- we start to see further evidence of bad forecasting and "rosy" forecasts, that "pass" from the public becomes massive baggage.

What we are seeing here, a distinct pattern, wherein the Conservatives look completely out of touch, continually unable to read the landscape and plan accordingly. You can't keep blaming the changing economic indicators, particularly when the contradictions come so quickly. How can Kevin Page get it right, and not Jim Flaherty? How can Don Drummond see worsening conditions, while Harper thinks it's time to brag? It's one thing to weather a storm, quite another to continually get it wrong, at every single turn.

It's a long time before the deficit projections come home to roost, and we all know how good Flaherty is at covering up the bad news bottomline, but this really speaks to credibility. Tell the average Canadian, a family of four now owes $2500 more than they did just seven weeks ago, not including the interest, and you might start to see more angst. If, we start to see more forecasts, and Carney's climbdown this weekend is further evidence, then this particularly disconnect between the Conservatives and reality, might just be the final nail, from which they'll never recover.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Every Little Bit Helps

CTV's political roundtable today was discussing how the Conservatives have effectively "given up" on Quebec. Judging the sentiment, it looks like Quebecers have given up on the Conservatives, but let's not split hairs. It appears a Conservative MP is trying to help the process along:
Tory MP under fire for language comments about Quebecers

A backbench Tory MP from Quebec City has landed himself in hot water after describing Quebecers as a bunch of "illiterates" when it comes to the English language.

"Whether in elementary or secondary (school), English is practically swept under the rug (in Quebec)," Petit, 60, said last week at the House of Commons official languages committee. "At the university level, it's even worse. We have illiterates of the second language."

But Petit's remarks contradict recent statistics which revealed that French-speaking Quebecers were more likely to be bilingual than their English-speaking counterparts in the rest of Canada. A new research analysis by the Association for Canadian Studies concluded that many francophones are getting enough exposure to their second language in school to propel them to excel in bilingualism in their mid-teen years and after they hit the workforce.

"Whatever (francophones) have learned, however uneven or insufficient their learning is, it seems be enough to push them into a very significant degree of bilingualism, once they've finished school," said Jack Jedwab, executive director of the association, in an interview. "Anglophones in the rest of the country, don't seem to have the opportunity or excitement . . . about learning the other language."

Critics quickly pounced on the gaffe from the Tory MP who has developed a reputation for stirring up controversy.

Every little bit helps.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Getting Lonely Out There

Harper has lost one of his few optimistic allies, the Bank of Canada is coming back to earth:
Central bank ditches economic rebound prediction

The Bank of Canada seems to have ditched its prediction for a made-in-Canada economic rebound next year.

Speaking to reporters at the Group of 20 finance ministers meeting in Horsham, Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney hinted strongly that his last forecast for 3.8 per cent growth in 2010 is no longer valid. “Clearly the risks are breaking to the downside,” he said, referring to the string of grim Canadian and international growth data in recent weeks.

Quite a feat, how Harper consistently positions himself to look completely detached from the reality in front of his nose. If you have stock in the CPC, now might be a good time to SELL.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Another Poll, Similar Trends

Harris Decima poll, which mirrors some trends we've seen from other pollsters recently. Liberals up in Quebec, NDP support eroding and now some evidence of improved Liberal fortunes in British Columbia. Nationally, a slight uptick for the Liberals, relative to the last HD poll:
The Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey put the Liberals at 33 per cent and the Conservatives at 32.

The NDP was at 14 per cent, the Greens at 10, and the Bloc Quebecois at nine.

The last HD poll had it 33% Cons, 31% Libs, so minor movement, with the Quebec numbers looking quite good:
The Conservatives have also seen their support in Quebec cut in half. The Bloc remains in front with 39 per cent support, while the Liberals have moved up to 32. The Tories have slid to 13, the NDP are at nine and the Greens at six.

The last batch of polls have all shown the Liberal numbers improving, while the Conservatives are really faltering. The 32% represents a recent high water mark for the Liberals with HD, as they seem to be emerging as the federalist option. I'd mentioned before, that the Bloc bounce we saw around the budget was part that dynamic, as well as Duceppe's 90% endorsement by Bloc rank and file. That uptick appears to have waned somewhat, and the numbers seem to show the Liberals taking advantage (this week's SC poll also suggested the Liberals were gaining at the Bloc's expense). The Conservatives are in real trouble, with each successive poll, the dire numbers cemented.

Ontario shows a tight race, with the Liberals up 38% to the Conservatives 34%, numbers fairly static from the last HD poll, and reasonably in line with others. What is particularly striking, another poll that shows the NDP hitting new lows. Earlier this week we saw a 12% number, now HD adds weight with a concerning 13%. Given this is ground zero on the economy, whatever message the NDP is putting forth isn't resonating, and they look increasingly marginalized.

We've seen some signs of slight improvement in British Columbia, and HD would also seem to suggest that:
In British Columbia, Liberal fortunes have improved significantly since the last election, but the Conservatives remain solidly ahead. The Conservatives lead with 38% followed by the Liberals with 32%, the NDP at 19% and the Greens at 9%.

High MOE, but if you look at all the polling for HD for the last few months, you see the Liberals pretty consistent, slightly above the 30% mark. You can't understate how important British Columbia might be in the next election, given where the Liberals will need to grow, so these numbers are encouraging.

Also, another poll which shows a strong Liberal lead in the Atlantic provinces.

The pollster concludes that women are moving back to the Liberals, and gives Ignatieff part of the credit:
It suggests the Tories trail the Liberals by five percentage points among women overall and by 12 points among urban women.

Jeff Walker, senior vice-president of Harris-Decima, said that's the important finding.

"Women are moving back toward the Liberals, where they had been leaning toward the Conservatives leading up to and then at the election in (October.)

"It's women overall, but in particular, among urban-dwelling women, the Liberals are ahead of the Conservatives by 12 points now and they were even at the time of the last election."

Walker said the arrival of Michael Ignatieff as Liberal leader seems to be one key to this shift. The economy is the other.

Many traditional Liberals abandoned the party under Stephane Dion, Walker noted.

"Having Ignatieff as leader of the Liberals changes that.

Given the regional distributions, if this poll were true, it would be a slight Liberal minority. That aside, this poll does support similar trends found elsewhere, which are positives for the Liberals moving forward. Interesting to see if the numbers move further in the next few months, or if we're now headed for a holding pattern, until the next election.

What's Wrong With The "Center"?

This quote, from Ignatieff, highlights much of the debate, as it relates to ideological compass:
Ignatieff also acknowledges that he is repositioning his party: “Yes, I’m moving the party to the centre because I think we win from the centre. We win when people believe we are moderate, pragmatic, sensible party that connects to what Canadians are worried about.”

Some left of center people, like myself, get quite animated, after reading comments like the above. Not the low rent, kneejerk, intellectually challenged babies, but the genuine people, with genuine concerns about party direction. I've chosen my own version of pragmatism to reconcile any philosophical disconnect, others are free to do their own math, debate is healthy. The question really becomes- is the "center" a bad place politically?

When Ignatieff speaks of moving to the center, it is really nothing more than positioning ourselves to appeal to mainstream Canada. The center, by definition, is the place on the spectrum that has the capacity to appeal to the greatest percentage of Canadians. The Canadian "center" is nothing more than the middle ground between our societal extremes. With that simple fact in mind, it is hard to argue against positioning that is largely reflective and "connects". It's more a question of degree, than it is approach.

Supporting Ignatieff was always a compromise, based on my leanings. Reconciling the ideal with the practical, very much encapulated within our new position on the oil sands. If I was left to my own devices, put in charge, the tar sands would lie dormant, until somebody figured out a sustainable way to extract without doing great damage, no solution forecoming, no dirty oil. That's my personal view, but I've never been naive enough to think it extends beyond my wants, or is reflective of majority opinion. The fact of the matter, which I've known all along, the oil will be extracted, simple economic realities don't disappear, multi-nationals don't fold up because I attended a rally, the people directly affected will fight to keep projects moving forward- in other words, the tar sands are here to stay. The pragmatic view is to marry some semblance of environmental considerations with the other inate forces within the economy. That brings me back to Ignatieff, not ideal, but some recognition of environment moving forward. Maybe it's to do with my only face to face with Ignatieff, where we talked about the environment, and I came away with a sense of sincerity- he may be a good steward to balance all the forces at play. As it relates to the "center" the balancing act does speak to mainstream society, if samplings are a true indication, Ignatieff is right in the pocket in terms of "connection", not just in the "patch", but in places like Ontario too. One could argue that it's out of step in Quebec, but let's not forget that Harper the most right wing PM in our history was on the cusp of a real breakthrough, which suggests other issues tend to blur the spectrum debate in that province(see Mulroney too).

My point, I'll make the compromise, because after all, the "center" isn't some radical philosophy imposed on the Canadian people, it's where most of us live. It's really no different than Obama, who ran left in the primaries, like every successful Dem in history, then did a sizable shift in the general to curry favor, to amass a winning coalition of voters. I suspect Ignatieff is moving "us" for the same reason, and I have no problems with the Liberals looking "sensible" to the average Canadian, that's your overarching audience.

I see the difference between the two principle parties as such. One moved to the center to try and expand support, but within that political calculation, every opportunity taken to implement right leaning ideals, whether it be policy, program cuts or enhancements, government operation, some subtle things that in totality amount to seismic. I'm thinking needles, funding for science, arts, multilateralism at the UN, hard targets, EI as "lucrative", etc, etc. The other party is moving to the center under the same political calculus, but it will have a flirtation with progressive ideals, where merited, and that makes the contrast all the more important. Returning to my earlier example, if I have two choices as to federal government, overseeing something like the tar sands moving forward, I'll pick Ignatieff every single time.

If one eliminates their own particular view of the world, and extrapolates to Canada as a whole, trying to reconcile competiting interests, rather than imposing, then the "center" is entirely acceptable. Ideal no, realistic, why of course.

" If There Ever Was A Time To Put Away That Legendary Canadian Modesty, It Is Now":Stephen Harper

Sing it from the rooftops, we're leading the pack:
Job losses accelerate
Unemployment rate surges to 7.7 per cent; 295,000 positions gone since October

"Canada now appears to be losing jobs at a faster pace than the U.S...

Employers eliminated 82,600 jobs in Canada last month – a painfully steep decline, but one that was mitigated by the addition of 28,300 new part-time jobs, partially offsetting the drop of 110,900 full-time positions.

The ranks of the unemployed bulged by 105,800 people last month, boosting the total of unemployed people to 1.42 million, Statistics Canada said.

Harper made a point of using statistics to show Canada's strength, relative to the Americans. Interesting, that in the last three months, Canada has shed 40% more jobs per capita than the Americans. Harper's speech in Ontario was telling, because it has the most to brag about, it's unemployment rate now easily surpassing the carnage down south:
In other words, Ontario has shed 160,000 positions since October, including 35,000 in February alone. The unemployment rate surged 0.7 percentage points to 8.7 per cent last month

The American unemployment rate is 8.1%, so again you can see how well Canada's doing relatively. Good luck catching up Yanks, we got game, and the momentum to boot!

March 10, 2009, will be Stephen Harper's "mission accomplished" moment...


I swear it isn't me, but this is the second time this week I've posted, then minutes later saw the latest gem:

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Conservatives Balk At "Decorum"

It really does demonstrate what a low brow bunch is in charge, when you read some of the reaction to the Speaker's call for "decorum" during member's statements:
Speaker muzzles Tory attack dogs in House of Commons

MPs from three parties gave Milliken an ovation Thursday. But the Conservatives were angry.

Ottawa-area Tory Pierre Poilievre vigorously defended the right to criticize. He suggested the Speaker might have succumbed to pressure from fellow Liberals.

“Part of a democracy is promoting ideas. The other part of a democracy is pointing out the flaws in some of those ideas,” Poilievre said.

He said it should be up to voters to scrutinize and judge MPs for their behaviour in the Commons, not the Speaker.

You can't blame the poodle, after all it's not like he does anything constructive in Parliament, apart from taking cheap shots at fellow MP's, or defending alleged illegal activity on the part of his party. Pierre's a joke, and now he's lost his only avenue to get attention.

More from another tough guy:
“I wouldn’t read anything into it. … I think if you’re going to step into the ring, you’ve got to be able to take the punch. This isn’t a classroom at Harvard. This is the House of Commons. This is politics,” Mr. Teneycke said.

There were THREE occasions today, wherein Milliken killed the mic on Conservative MP's, as they continued to hurl the nonsense. We can all assume, while the economy crumbles, Conservatives are huddled together thinking of new creative ways to get the slurs in.

I admit some surprise, that the Liberals aren't highlighting the Conservatives tactics, because they really are obnoxious and Canadians wouldn't take kindly to such shenanigans, particularly at this time. You could provide a nice contrast. I suppose we choose to ignore it, don't give it an audience, because after all the irony is Canadians are ignoring it, so generally disgusted they've tuned out.

What will the poodle do now?:

I'm sure the incision was quite small :)

Behind The Curveatives

Harper is turning into a model of consistency. His rhetoric always demonstrates a clear disconnect from reality, as well as a complete inability to demonstrate any foresight. Instead of bracing Canadians, Harper choses to paint a "rosy" picture, that relies on unproven theories to "boast". Yesterday we heard leading economists question Harper's assertions about the Canadian economic rebound, even the argument that Canada could well come out of this recession AFTER the Americans. We also heard from Kevin Page, who argued that, depending on your measure, the Canadian economy is actually performing WORSE than the Americans. Today, two new forecasts for the economy, that completely contradict the Harper rhetoric, and official Conservative calculations, moving forward:
Canada is in for one of the toughest years in decades with massive job losses, plunging corporate profits and a severe contraction in national income, the Toronto-Dominion Bank says.

In one of the gloomiest economic outlooks of any major forecaster, the TD Bank rejects rosy forecasts by the federal government and the Bank of Canada for a painful, but short recession that has Canada bouncing back to health beginning in the second half of this year.

Rather, TD says, the recession will be painful and long.

"There is no doubt that 2009 will go down in the history books as one of the most difficult economic years for Canadians," says Beata Caranci, the bank's director of economic forecasting.

And Canada won't return to a "normal, steady state" for at least five years, says Caranci.

The bank estimates that the recession will result in 583,000 Canadians losing their jobs, more than the 462,000 that were thrown onto the unemployment rolls during the 1990-91 recession.

I suspected Harper's speech earlier this week might become a "mission accomplished" moment. What we are seeing, mere hours after the Harper view presented, that once again this government is entirely behind the economic curve. Real leadership requires honest assessments (we've seen this stateside), because we you misread the situation, you are ill prepared to react quickly, instead forever playing catchup. I'll make my own prediction, Harper's words are going to bite him in the ass.

More tomorrow, when the unemployment numbers come out...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


The Conservatives have introduced their new website, where you can "track" the government's progress on their "Canadian Economic Action Plan". Take a look, but be forewarned, it's not a very asthetically pleasing site:

Maybe the Liberals can reach a compromise on the 3 billion stimulus provision, wherein Harper merely provides us with his weekly itinerary, and then that way, we'll know EVERY SINGLE EXPENDITURE.

Smart Strategy?

You have to wonder, if "sunny" Harper is the best strategy for the Conservatives, as they try to deal with the economy. Tom Flanagan offers some of the rationale:
But the economy is a different thing, Mr. Flanagan said. If Mr. Harper comes across as pessimistic or discusses the spectre of a depression, Canadians will eventually agree with him that things are bad. Then, they will look to somebody else to replace the Tories.

"That can only help your opposition," Mr. Flanagan said. "If you keep saying how bad things are, eventually people are going to say, 'Well, hey, let's get a government that can fix it.' "

The Prime Minister's approach is also reminiscent of a change in tactics adopted by U.S. President Barrack Obama, who only a few weeks ago began injecting more hope in his speeches. The President and his advisers had picked up that Americans might be blaming Mr. Obama, in part, for the unprecedented collapse of the stock market. Mr. Harper has apparently concluded the same.

First off, the Obama example is a non-starter, because he was running against an incumbent, he had no responsibility for the predicament, "hope" relative to the current administration. If the Conservatives are trying to mirror Obama, it's a mistake, because there is no similarity, in terms of circumstances.

Flanagan argues that by articulating doom and gloom, you help the opposition, but I have to question that logic. When you paint a rosy picture, and we've already seen this before, then you effectively set yourself up for failure, should the indicators not match the optimism. In this way, you actually arm the opposition, because they can paint you as out of touch, not recognizing the true severity. Case in point, just watch for the reaction on Friday, should the employment numbers look bleak- they will surely contrast the reality with Harper's misplaced optimism. Given the unknowns, raising expectations leaves you vulnerable. Fast forward a few months, if things deteroriate further, with little evidence of recovery, Harper's speech yesterday will make for a nice contrast ad, he will look the fool.

In addition, the venue Harper chose for his optimistic assessment is completely inappropriate. Harper basically went to ground zero to offer an upbeat picture, which is strange, given Ontario is experiencing every bit as severe a downturn as the other jurisdictions he used for perspective. I doubt the Harper line resonated with people losing their jobs, if anything he highlighted a disconnect.

I would argue, the best strategy for the Conservatives would be to lower expectations. If a pessimistic view turns out to be accurate, Harper can argue that he accurately understood the situation, and his government moved within this reality, nobody is surprised, you've softened the ground for more bad news. If the economy were to perform better than assumed, Harper can then take credit, his policies are working, light at the end of the tunnel. What Flanagan doesn't seem to articulate, Harper does have some latitude, because people do understand that this is a global phenomenon, nobody realistically thinks we're immune, a political buffer exists for ultimate responsibility. Better to use that reality, rather than trying to paint Canada as poised for a strong rebound, when that is merely a theory at this point. The current strategy voluntarily sets the Conservatives up for future failure, which makes it a curious decision at best.


A couple early assessments, that point to the "gamble" in Harper's position:
Economists said they're not forecasting Canada to recover significantly ahead of peers.

“That's the part I am not so sure about. That's certainly not what we forecast,” Toronto Dominion Bank chief economist Don Drummond said. “We see a fairly similar pace of recovery as the United States. In fact, under the great economic principle of what falls the most usually rebounds the fastest, the U.S. would actually have the advantage.”

Added BMO Nesbitt Burns deputy chief economist Douglas Porter: “I don't think we're going to be a quarter or two ahead of the U.S. I think we'll turn at roughly the same time. And I don't think we're going to come flying out of this.”

Of note, both these economists were also predicting a recession, at the same time Harper was telling people he didn't see one coming, it would have happened already, we would have a surplus and they should buy stocks.


Less than 24 hours later, that pesky Kevin Page is undermining the Harper delusion:
He says an even better indicator is gross domestic income, which measures Canadians' purchasing power, and that shows a plunge of 15.3 per cent in the fourth quarter over the previous three months.

...that it is far worse than the 1.5 per cent contraction in the U.S. during the same period.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

"A Fascinating Revision Of History": Jim Flaherty

Jim Flaherty took to the airwaves today, chiding anyone who dared suggest he was behind the curve on Canada's recession:


"Nobody saw it coming, none of the economists saw it coming...


"You're not surprised we're in a recession in 2009, you thought that was coming? Well, I'm not sure, when you did your fiscal update, it wasn't entirely clear what you thought, you didn't think it was coming then either"


"Well no, no one did. See, this is the fascinating thing, you go and talk to the economists now, "well this was going to happen". Well, that's not what they said in November. This is a fascinating revision of history."

Here's a sampling of what some LEADING "economists" were saying in October and November of last year, all dates PRIOR to Deficit Jim's fiscal, cough, update. Speaking of HISTORICAL REVISION:
October 6th 2008

I think we're looking at a much more serious downturn than a mild recession that most of us are talking about," said Doug Porter, with BMO Capital Markets, at a meeting of senior economists in Toronto...

October 6th 2008

TD Bank's Don Drummond said he sees the economy shrinking until late 2009 and then only gradually recovering.

October 6th 2008

"[We're] forecasting Canadian and U.S. recessions, plus 100 basis points of [Bank of Canada] and Fed cuts that could come at any time. This is not just made-in-U.S.A. weakness as Canada faces its own home-grown recession signals," Scotiabank economists Derek Holt and Karen Cordes

November 1 2008

Toronto Dominion's forecasting director Beata Caranci has issued a new report that not only says a recession has begun, but that it could be severe. While there's still a chance to avoid the worst, it says, the world's industrial nations collectively could be about to suffer the worst economic setback since the Great Depression.

November 12, 2008

A recession in Canada is ``inevitable'' as the economic slump in the U.S. spreads north, Toronto-Dominion Bank chief executive officer Edmund Clark said.

November 20, 2008

"Overall, given that the balance of economic risks is tilted to the downside, our judgment is that the [worst-case scenario] of budget projections represents a more likely range of actual outcomes." Kevin Page

Mr. Flaherty said that Canadians should wait for his government's official numbers, adding he "didn't agree entirely" with some of the assumptions in Mr. Page's report.

November 25, 2008

OTTAWA–Canada has fallen into a recession that will last for most of next year as the world falls into the worst slump in a quarter of a century, says a respected international think-tank.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development says Canada will not be immune from the global malaise, the worst since the deep recession of the early 1980s

"Fascinating" indeed.


I see I'm not the only one who noticed the "revisions" today. This is great:

Kreskin Speaks

Given his track record with prognostications, a unique ability to never see anything coming, Canadians should shutter at the latest musing of Stephen Harper:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper predicts Canada will come out of a global recession faster and stronger than any other country.

Using a theorem I've developed, based on past predictive success, I translate the above to suggest that Canada will be slow to rebound, and it's best to stock up on canned goods now, while we still have the chance.

Today's must read, that will keep your head from exploding.

Monday, March 09, 2009

New Polls

Two new polls today, from Ipsos and Strategic Counsel. The full details for the SC poll won't be released until later tonight, but the national numbers are as follows:
Cons 35%
Libs 31%
NDP 16%
Greens 10%
Bloc 9%

From the last SC poll, which had a statistical tie, the Conservatives are up 3%, Liberals down 2%, NDP down 1% (people might remember, it the last SC poll that had the Greens leading Quebec with 26%). The 4 point gap mirrors Ipsos latest:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives have stalled at 37 per cent support among decided voters, according to the poll, conducted exclusively for Canwest News Service and Global National from Feb. 24 to March 5. Meanwhile, the Liberals have edged up to 33 per cent, an increase of two percentage points from a month ago.

The NDP remained in third at 12 per cent(down 2 percent), followed by the Bloc Quebecois at 10 per cent and the Green party at eight.

The narrowing gap for Ipsos seems to be a result of improved Liberal fortunes in Ontario:
Libs 42%
Cons 37%

What's interesting here, the Liberals are up another 3% in Ontario, while the Conservatives haven't moved. In the last Ipsos poll, the NDP was down to a lowly 14% in Ontario, given the math here, the number is even lower now.

In Quebec, Liberals up 3%, Conservatives down another 2%, Bloc down 1%:
The situation is especially dire for the party in Quebec, where the Conservatives have dropped to 16 per cent in support, well behind the Bloc Quebecois, who stand at 41 per cent, and the Liberals at 27.

The biggest thing that sticks out, is the NDP appear to be losing support. Of note, the SC poll has shown a drop the last two offerings, although not as low as what Ipsos says. There has been a general trend with all the pollsters, showing some NDP erosion, and the real cause seems to a fall in Ontario, as voters seem to be moving to the Liberals as the sole alternative. I've argued in the past, that with the economy tanking, Ontario ground zero, the NDP might get pushed out of the conversation. We are now seeing some evidence that this is occuring, and it might explain why Layton was asked point blank today if the party strategists are trying to change gears, because they feel they aren't getting much traction in the post-budget world.

As for the Conservatives and the Liberals, it would appear the Conservatives have stopped the bleeding. I've sort of expected to see post-Obama polls help the Conservatives slightly, taking the focus off the economy and onto international matters, not to mention looking like a leader for a moment or two, surely didn't hurt the Conservatives cause. I also suspected some evidence of a firming up, when Harper started the tough guy routine, which he only seems to when the Conservatives internal polling is relatively improved.

For the Liberals, I honestly can't remember the last time an Ipsos poll had the Liberals at 33%. Ontario is quite encouraging, Atlantic Canada good, Quebec solid, particularly with the Conservatives falling as a credible federalist alternative. Both results point to a close race, which seems the general trend now, with all the polls. Given where the party was, even when you omit the coalition debacle, the Liberals are well positioned moving forward, very slight movement all that is required to defeat Harper.

Liberal Roundup

A couple of articles today, that touch on many issues for the Liberals moving forward. A few thoughts on some of the highlights.

The Hill Times has a story on Ignatieff's "kitchen cabinet":
Each weekday morning when the House is in session, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff sits down at 8:30 in the boardroom in his office in 409-S Centre Block with the 12 MPs who make up his Strategy and Tactics Committee, the so-called "Kitchen Cabinet."

If you review the list of MP's in this group, you see a wide sample of opinion, representative of various "wings" within the party. I'm pretty impressed that Ignatieff puts such a premium on getting outside advice, rather than just insulating himself, relying on a narrow core. A leader needs to absorb as many points of view as possible, in this way they will make more informed and wise decisions. An inclusive approach is a nice contrast to the one man show on the Conservative side, where we know full well Harper usually dictates, with little interaction. Given these type of meetings really serve no electoral interest, I think it speaks to a genuine openness to different lines of thought and it should serve us well moving forward.

The Toronto Star has a pretty comprehensive story, that offers many hints. On fundraising, while we have no numbers yet for this quarter, we keep hearing signals that there's been an uptick, under Ignatieff, from various sources. Another general indication here:
But Liberal organizers take some solace that in the last three weeks of December, after Ignatieff took over as interim leader, the party raised more than $1.1 million. And they say that momentum has carried into this year.

I'm sure, when this quarter fundraising is released, Liberals will still have much work to do. However, a sense of improved fundraising will send a clear signal that the Liberal Party has some momentum, further cementing an emerging frame within the media that Ignatieff has been a positive. On a similar note, attendance at Ignatieff's events, every one of which has been sold out, is beginning to support the notion of a re-energized party:
And the Liberal leader is drawing crowds. When Ignatieff spoke in Edmonton on Feb. 27, 800 people paid to attend the event with another 200 on the waiting list, he said. "That sort of thing hasn't been seen in ages," Apps noted. A similar crowd appeared to hear Ignatieff the next day.

People may remember, one of the media's favorite pet digs, was constant references to "poorly attended" events in the past. These events were used to convey a larger thesis of a party in disarray, spinning its wheels, going nowhere. You can't underestimate the optical importance of "energy" when a leader tours the country, again this frame gives a sense of momentum. Not only do you enhance fundraising and organization by drawing crowds, but you give the impression that something different is happening here. Public relations gold.

On election timing, it would appear my June argument doesn't have many supporters, which is hardly surprising:
Though June is cited as one window for a possible election, there's consensus that would be too early, both for the party's own organization and Canadians who likely aren't keen for the distraction of a vote while worrying about their own futures.

The real window seems to be the fall, or at the latest the next budget. I can see the rationale, especially if the economy doesn't show signs of turnaround late this year (which looks less likely with each passing day).

One of the most intriguing items I'll be watching- what calibre of new candidates can Ignatieff attract? Already talk of an improved slate:
"There's a lot of people who want to run, so even if we had an electoral emergency, we would be able to field a much stronger slate of candidates" than last time, Apps said.

Attracting "star" candidates is another offshoot of improving perceptions under Ignatieff. We've already heard a few rumors, and the more general view that Ignatieff will look to recruit people with economic credentials. That emphasis is a no brainer in this particular climate. I'll be particularly interested in which Quebecers Ignatieff manages to entice, as well as what he attracts in the prairie provinces.

All in all, if one is being intellectually fair, letting the objective indicators shape the thesis, rather than disjointed attempts to support pre-conceived negative bias, it's hard to argue anything but the following- things are looking up for the Liberal Party of Canada.