Monday, November 30, 2009

If It Walks Like A Duck

Read the following, then ask yourself a question:
The Harper government has blacked out large sections of relevant files handed over to the independent inquiry probing allegations of transfer to torture of detainees in Afghanistan, despite the fact that its investigators have the highest levels of national security clearance.

The heavily redacted documents, obtained by The Globe and Mail, underscore the sweeping nature of the government's efforts to keep the documentary record from the Military Police Complaints Commission, which is attempting to conduct an inquiry into allegations that Canada knowingly transferred prisoners to likely torturers in Afghanistan.

The MPCC's repeatedly thwarted effort to get to the heart of the detainee-transfer issue – it has faced attempts by the Harper government to gag witnesses, limit the scope of the investigation and withhold documents – prompted opposition politicians to open their own limited probe through a parliamentary committee, leading to last week's explosive testimony by diplomat Richard Colvin. But that committee's efforts have been similarly stymied, since it has no power to compel the government to deliver the documentary record and no real opportunity to cross-examine witnesses.

In the material delivered to the MPCC, government blackouts render unreadable many of the documents, some drafted by Mr. Colvin. The sweeping redactions were imposed even though everyone who works with or serves on the MPCC must have at least “secret” clearance and all of the senior investigators, as well as the panelists who would conduct the inquiry, have the highest security clearances.

"...someone is going to considerable lengths not to disclose what was known,” said Stuart Hendin, an expert in the law of war and international-rights issues who represented now-retired Brigadier-General Serge LabbĂ©, one of the most senior Canadian officers embroiled in the Somalia affair 16 years ago.

Is this behavior consistent with people who have nothing to hide, NO culpability?

Maybe A Bit Too Candid Thomas

Tom Flanagan outlines the thrust of the entire Conservative strategy, and it isn't pretty:
On CBC Radio’s “The House,” top Conservative strategist Tom Flanagan said this about ten-percenters:

“Canadians seem to be willing to tolerate attacks that are based on half-truths or things taken out of context, or misstatements, partial misstatements, distortions. I mean, as long as there is some basis, there, it becomes a matter of debate.” (November 28, 2009)

This is so offensive, on many levels. A frank admission that the Conservatives sanction lies and mistruths, there is nothing that is "below" them. Flanagan's comments aren't news to anyone paying attention, the government approaches every debate with the same gutter mentality. However, what is particularly amusing, all those sanctimonious Conservatives, who continually reference past SINGULAR examples, to extrapolate a wider theme, are SILENT in the face of the most co-ordinated, systematic delivery of morally questionable propaganda.

Whenever there is a discussion or issue, the Conservatives seem content to forget about the merit of argument, instead believing that they simply have to confuse and blanket to render it all meaningless. The consistency in approach almost resembles a religion. Predicated on apathy and voter indifference, there is no need for depth of argument, there is no DANGER of being exposed. The arrogance we see, is a testament to the utter disdain the Conservatives have for voter sophistication. Today, Harper hides at home to avoid Question Period, but there is no risk, because nobody will notice or frankly care- minor references here and there, but nothing of resonance.

Tom Flanagan outlines the contempt for Canadians and the true nature of this government. There is no honor here, no intellectual debate, no clash of ideals. It's all about smear and FOGGING of issues, and they freely acknowledge their dubious motivations. Classless thugs, who sully our political discourse.

Local Boy Makes Good II

Last week, I wrote about the Liberals embracing Ignatieff's pedigree, as opposed to the current avoidance. Donolo is making initial noise that the Liberals will change gears and counter the current smear campaigns with their own positive narrative of Ignatieff's past. Let's hope that sentiment becomes a concrete thrust, because I've never understood our current strategy. First, our downplaying to date is pure reactionary politics, the Conservatives formulate an attack line, and we effectively buy in to the negative, with our own silence. Second, this misguided notion that time abroad, coupled with the "lofty" circles he travelled in, is somehow a liability that won't resonate with ordinary folks. I think that a shallow conclusion, that truly fails to understand the Canadian identity.

Canadians embrace internationalism, probably more than any nation on earth. As a matter of fact, Canada's image is a template for the world, in some respects. The idea of a Canadian moving abroad, particularly because of merit and talent, has never been a perceived slight, no matter the particular occupation or career. Ignatieff left Canada to pursue intellectual endeavors abroad, he was a WANTED commodity on the world stage- the horror, the shame! From where I sit, that's an advantage that can be exploited. In addition, every leader offers his/her own set of attributes, to fail to mold a narrative around that is the equivalent of giving up. Part of the reason Canadians don't really know who Ignatieff is, is because we've voluntarily failed to highlight his life's work, which is impressive by every objective measure.

Today, another perfect example of Ignatieff's stature on the world stage, completely rare air for a Canadian. Considered one of the world's great "thinkers", speaks to the respect Ignatieff enjoys, and it frankly boggles my mind why Liberals aren't pushing items like these with ZEAL. It would be one thing if Ignatieff was some aloof, detached elitist, that can't "rap" with the commoners, but he can with graceful ease, so why the hesitation? Are Liberals forgetting that part of the narrative envolves time as far away from the ivory tower as humanely possible, talk about "street" creds, Ignatieff has them in spades. That part of the story also speaks to a certain courage and curiousity, it completes the man. I don't think Canadians really have any sense of Ignatieff's past, apart from what the Conservative smears have offered. However, I don't blame them, because we've created the vacuum, we've allowed the negatives to operate in isolation.

I notice Jeff mirrors what I argue, it's time to turn this whole "just visiting" nonsense around and in so doing, give a more accurate picture of Ignatieff. Agree or disagree with his views, any fair person must cede the level of respect Ignatieff enjoys internationally, based on sheer merit and accomplishment. With Harper continually stumbling on the world stage, all the more reason to highlight Ignatieff's creds.

Ignatieff's vocabulary is such that his intellectualism isn't elitist, he's actually prone to slang, rather than enraptured with his own sense of prose ala the Peggy Noonan windbag disease. Ignatieff can mingle with the Tim Horton's crowd, he can relate, so Liberals need not fear the "elitist" angle. I've never sensed it, watching Ignatieff in townhalls or edgy television appearances- sheer ease, that make Harper look even more robotic and wooden. Always remember who we're comparing Ignatieff with, that alone should relieve any worry about who has the "common touch".

Number 64, on a list of world "thinkers", to go along with several other past accolades from other sources. I'll know we've truly changed direction, when I see a press release highlighting today's acknowledgement...

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Truth Hurts

I stumbled on this video, by fellow blogger Jennifer Smith. Well done!

It will come as no surprise, that I love the sarcasm :)

Conservative Afghan Story 3.0

If you listen to all the Conservative apologists, and their media minions, this was apparently the week where Colvin's "account" was completely refuted. All the heavyweights at Committee, offering the sober counter, which rendered Colvin a lone wolf, a flawed source. When sifting through diametrically opposed "accounts", trying to determine who is really credible, one very TELLING dynamic is the consistency. With that in mind, the fact that the Peter MacKay of yesterday, bears NO resemblance to the one from a week ago, tells us where the real evidence lies:
Harper government changes tune on Afghan prisoner issue

The Conservative government now says it was aware of “concerns about the state of prisons" in Afghanistan almost from the day it took office and eventually rewrote a prisoner transfer agreement as those concerns mounted.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay offered a dramatically different Tory narrative on the Afghan torture issue on Friday. This capped a week in which the government went from lampooning as Taliban dupes anyone who alleged prisoner abuse to claiming the government took such reports seriously from the start.

A 2005 prisoner transfer agreement with the Afghan government was eventually renegotiated in May 2007 under intense public scrutiny following explosive media revelations about torture in Afghan prisons.

Now, under the weight of evidence that many international organizations were sounding the alarm about treatment of Afghan prisoners, Mr. MacKay says his government knew of the problems and began to act shortly after taking office in January 2006.

“The decision to change the transfer arrangement would have been as a result of a lot of sources of information including those from Mr. [David] Mulroney, those from other individuals on the ground, Elissa Goldberg, those who were involved in the actual PRT, those who went to Afghan prisons to observe the situation," the minister said outside the Commons.

“That began almost immediately after we took office. … Obviously there were concerns about the state of prisons."

Effectively, MacKay is now admitting that the government was well aware of "concerns" (code for mistreatment) since it took office, and in so doing validating the CHIEF issue, that they did nothing for months and months. It has nothing to do with what the government eventually did, it's all about the period where the knowledge existed and the delay in response, that is where they are culpable. MacKay has moved, because the evidence has forced him. The latest admissions, render his previous statements laughable.

The government position now hangs by a thread, completely relying on no "smoking gun" for cover. This "first hand account" nonsense aside (torturers don't generally pose), the actions of the government contradict their position. Why does MacKay now say we worked to change the transfers immediately, if there was no compelling evidence to suggest the change was required? No evidence of torture, but we acted "immediately"? Nevermind the chronology problem, MacKay is in fact reaffirming what Colvin said, using their own reaction to validate. So, the Canadian government changes policies, based on flimsy "evidence" and not "credible" accounts? If anyone can square the contradictions, please let me know.

Yes, it was a great week for the government side. That's why MacKay is backtracking at an alarming rate and the story changes almost daily.

Ignatieff Speech

Video of Ignatieff's speech on the environment:

For any of the Liberal detractors, don't forget he was out of the country during all those years of inaction ;) Hardly his legacy, and since I didn't vote for them either, hardly my need to defend.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Canadians Believe Colvin, Want Inquiry

Another poll, showing overwhelming support for Colvin. These numbers partially (Nov 24, 25) take into account this week's circle the wagons routine in Committee, showing that the government has failed miserably, putting Colvin's "credibility" into question. The poll also finds majority support for a public inquiry. As an aside, a few quick thoughts on today's proceedings after the numbers.

Rarely do you see such a lopsided finding:
49% find Richard Colvin’s testimony credible; 10% side with federal government ministers

Five to one, find Colvin more credible than the government. Two polls now with the same theme on the crediblity front. This means that these attempts to dismiss his information haven't "struck a cord" with pretty much anyone. Even in Alberta, only 24% believe the government. Further, this lack of support for the government position means that even bedrock Conservatives aren't buying the retort.

The only highlight for the government, as this all unfolds, Canadians aren't necessarily blaming anyone for the torture itself:
Still, Canadians are not ready to point fingers. While one-in-five (21%) blame politicians in Ottawa for the alleged mistreatment of Afghan prisoners, 16 per cent think the Canadian troops in Afghanistan are responsible. A More than a third of respondents believe neither is to blame (36%) and one-in-four (27%)
are undecided.

I believe it's this kind of sentiment that the government is hanging their hat on, an almost passive acceptance that "shit happens", to put it crudely.

However, this debate over a public inquiry isn't one the government is winning:
majority of respondents (53%) support launching a public inquiry on what the government and the Canadian Forces knew about reports of prisoner torture in Afghanistan, while 36 per cent are opposed.

A pretty decisive opinion, in spite of all the baggage surrounding the idea of public inquiries. The government can blame themselves, because their resistance to handing over documents has fueled the idea of an inquiry, to get to the bottom of the confusion.


A couple quick comments on Mulroney's testimony today:

-Apparently, everybody knew that torture was commonplace in Afghanistan, including Mulroney, but a different, more humane culture seemingly existed where Canadian detainees were sent. It's almost farcical to hear Mulroney admit public knowledge, but then make the distinction there was no evidence that it involved Canadian detainees. So, torture was everywhere, just not where we were? Take leave of your senses. That doesn't pass the sniff test, it's merely a way to try and bridge the chasm between knowledge and culpability. Weak.

-Yesterday, there was no knowledge from the military of the Governor using torture. Today, Mulroney not only admits knowledge, but then says the Governor's home was inspected. Okay.

-Mulroney basically said that opinion was heard, in reference to Colvin, but then the high ups would make a decision and surrogates were to accept that policy. Mulroney painted Colvin as a dissenter, who ultimately couldn't accept decision making that didn't completely reflect his personal opinion. I didn't like the tone of Mulroney here, basically it amounted to "you said your piece, we're not addressing it, DEAL".

-We all know that the detainee transfer question evolved over time, and measures were enacted to change the hand over process. Rehashing this, over and over, is completely and utterly irrelevant to what happened prior to that VERY PUBLIC and ALREADY KNOWN change in direction. Meaningless, after the fact, padding.


The latest EKOS poll is a slight departure from the norm- these numbers are over a two week period, as opposed to the normal one week sample. We've seen an uptick in dissatisfaction with the government, which the pollster warns may manifest itself in vote intention, moving forward. Here are the two week national numbers:
Cons 36.9%
Libs 27.1%
NDP 15.3%
Greens 11.4%

I thought I would do the numbers for the last week of polling, which is the normal EKOS survey, normal sample size. Not much different, but more "timely":
Cons 35.9%
Libs 27.2%
NDP 15.7%

What is interesting about this poll, EKOS finds a noticeable uptick in those who think the Conservatives are headed in the "wrong direction". This change may reflect some negative opinion around the torture issue. With the issue dominating the news, Conservative believability clearly in question, there's a certain logic to it.

One other item, I noted that NDP supporters(and one "Liberal" I recall) were quick to rally behind the Ipsos Reid poll last week- despite the fact they previously criticized the consistent anti-NDP bias in their polling. It's a silly game, to cherry pick your polls, particularly from what you argued is a dubious source, just because it looks good. This poll reaffirms a wide gap between the Libs and NDP, a more sizeable margin. This isn't to say the Liberal number is particularly strong, but maybe talk of replacing the party as official opposition might just be a bit premature ;)

Looking ahead, with this torture story having more leg than Gwen Stefani, it's hard to see it working to the government's benefit. I'm not predicting a return to tied polling in the near term, but minor steady erosion is certainly a possibility. The looming embarrassment in Copenhagen, were criticism is a given, another rough patch on the horizon. We'll see if the gap holds...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

12000 Kilometers

Hillier referenced the distance from Ottawa to Afghanistan several times. In an unintended way, Hillier has highlighted the chasm between the opposing viewpoints, with very different recollections. If you're following closely, you'll notice that Colvin is finding support from all the "on the ground" forces, while most of the rebuttal seems to be coming from Ottawa-centric opinion, whether it be the military, politicians or civil servants.

Today we learn that the International Red Cross expressed great concern to Colvin about the detainee situation. This revelation comes on the heels of the Amnesty International view, which was collaborated by several foreign diplomats. On top of that we have award winning journalists like Graeme Smith, who spent considerably time in the field, laugh off denials, saying the idea of tortured detainees was discussed freely in Kandahar amongst the populous, EVERYBODY knew. In other words, Colvin finds support from others who were ON THE GROUND. We also read a couple of Colvin's memos today, which highlight his intimate involvement and EXPERTISE on this detainee issue. I would submit, Colvin alone spent more time around the Afghan prisons than everyone of his detractors combined.

What we have is an incredible disconnect, top brass, top officials, all apparently unaware of anything credible happening in Afghanistan. We heard puffy statements, that spoke to generalities, the totality of the mission, their roles juggling many complex balls- a characterization that actually speaks to a distracted attention on a singular issue. Was it torture or getting new jeeps, as you mentioned today, that was on your mind General? Contrast that with those in theater on a permanent basis, the accusations were the stuff of public consumption. Hillier's 12000 kilometer reference, as well as detailing his various "visits", becomes very symbolic to this whole discussion. I'd be willing to toss Colvin aside, if only his supporters didn't enjoy the INTIMACY with the issue, that the pencil pushers and distant officials didn't enjoy.

You're not going to get your answers from the Canadian military, very much a circle the wagons flavor today. When you examine the consistent soundbites coming from the Conservatives and their surrogates, it provides another pack mentality. When you look outside this veil of denials, you find that many CREDIBLE organizations and people, people who LIVED and WORKED in Afghanistan strongly support Colvin, he himself fully immersed.

I've always preferred the street view, that's where you get a sense of what was really going on, devoid of all the various layers and warpings. I'd be inclined to support the government denials, if they didn't stand in such stark contrast to the view of those on the ground, a view that renders those denials almost ridiculous.

Conservatives Not "Credible" On Torture

The first public feedback on the torture question, provides overwhelming rejection of the Conservative retort, in the face of Colvin's allegations. Even amongst Conservative supporters, the government argument finds conflicted support:
Tories not believed in Aghan torture case: Poll

The Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey indicates Canadians are twice as likely to believe whistleblower Richard Colvin's claim that all prisoners handed over by Canadian soldiers to Afghan authorities were likely abused and that government officials were well aware of the problem.

Those who identified themselves as supporters of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives were most inclined to give the government the benefit of the doubt. But even they were almost evenly split, with 40 per cent buying the government's take on the issue and 34 per cent buying Colvin's.

Moreover, fully 70 per cent said it's unacceptable that Canadian forces would hand over prisoners if it's likely they'll be tortured. No less than 60 per cent in any region and even a majority of Conservative supporters subscribed to this view.

Harris-Decima chairman Allan Gregg said the results suggest the government's initial strategy of attacking Colvin's credibility has backfired badly.

There's a common sense element to it all. Why would a respected diplomat put his reputation on the line, if he didn't feel strongly that he was correct? Hard to see the "upside" in coming forward, unless there was something to his claims. The Conservative rebuttal doesn't pass the sniff test, and the characterization of "backfire" is appropriate.

The resistance to produce all the requested documentation only feeds the COVER UP angle, another NO WIN for the government.

It remains to be seen if this issue moves the support numbers, but clearly the government is losing the dueling narrative battle.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What's Not To Like?

Inviting a host of non-partisan progressive thinkers and activists to a co-ordinated gathering, discussing issues of the day and provoking ideas? In the lead-up, an ambitious outreach to the Liberal GRASSROOTS, soliciting feedback and ideas? The much talked about Liberal "thinkers" conference is starting to take shape. I haven't seen the release on the website yet, so here it is in full:

Dear friends,

I am pleased to announce today that the Liberal Party of Canada will host a special conference in Montreal, March 26 to 28, 2010, "Canada at 150: Rising to the Challenge".

Canada at 150: Rising to the Challenge

The three-day conference, in the tradition of the 1960 Kingston Conference and the 1991 Aylmer Conference, will invite progressive thinkers and activists from a broad swath of Canadian society to discuss the fundamental challenges facing Canada in a new era of uncertainty and global economic upheaval. The conference will be a key step in the development of the Liberal Party's platform for the next general election.

In just a few short years, we'll be celebrating our country's 150th anniversary. But the fundamental question is what kind of country will we be - and can we be? How can we ensure that - in a rapidly changing global economy - we have the industries and jobs we need? How can we ensure that social safety net that Canadians need and want is strong and secure? How can we narrow the growing gap between the wealthiest few and all the rest of us? What kind of careers, what kind of lives can our kids expect?

In short, not just what kind of Canada do we want in 2017, but what do we need to do today and tomorrow to get there?

The Harper government, with its resolute and cynical focus on short-term politics, has shown it doesn't have a horizon further than tonight's newscast. And Canadian families are suffering because of it. They're worried about their jobs, about their retirements, about a future for their kids and care for their aging parents.

If we Liberals want to earn the support and trust of all those millions of Canadians who want an alternative to the Harper Conservatives, we need to address those concerns. We need to do it in a spirit of openness to the best ideas and brightest minds not just in Canada, but around the world. And not just from Big "L" Liberals, but from progressive thinkers and experts who don't belong - or want to belong - to any political party. That's what the Montreal Conference is all about.

The Road to Montreal

From now through to the end of March, we'll be very busy preparing for the Conference - by reaching out to Canadians.

Early in the new year, a Conference website will invite Canadians to participate by giving us their own thoughts and ideas.

I'll be hitting the road in January, crossing the country in a series of town hall sessions to hear first hand from Canadians.

The very first Canadians I'll be meeting with in the new year are young Canadians - in high schools, community colleges and universities across Canada. After all, the world of 2017 will be their world. Their futures, their hopes and dreams are at the core of what we'll be focusing on in Montreal and beyond.

I'm asking Liberal MPs, Senators, candidates and riding presidents to also hold round tables and town halls in their communities.

In fact, the very first round table - on trade - will be hosted by my colleague Scott Brison, on Parliament Hill on December 7th.

An important step on the road to Montreal will be a special meeting of the National Caucus on January 19 and 20 in Ottawa. Together, we'll preview some of the big issues to be discussed in Montreal. It will be an important opportunity for our Caucus to help frame the discussion that will take place in Montreal.

Throughout the coming weeks, we'll be announcing details about the Conference, its agenda and its guests.

Hope vs. Fear

It's no big secret that I'm someone who gets very excited about ideas. Not for their own sake. But for their ability to change our world and - most important of all - to improve people's lives in a tangible, concrete way.

Canadians are yearning for an alternative that understands the transformational power of new ideas and innovative thinking. And they want to look to the future with hope and confidence rather than fear and anxiety.

The Montreal Conference will be a very important step along that road.

Michael Ignatieff

It's easy to be a cynic, but for all of us continually bellyaching about a top heavy party, that lacks an identity, this initiative hits all the right notes. I'm particularly encouraged to know that the conference itself will be a climax, in the intermediary there is an "outreach" component that will allow the rank and file a voice. That's all you can ask for, an opportunity to be engaged. Another positive evolution.

It remains to be seen how the process unfolds, but the terminology of "activists" and "progressives" has me excited. I hope the Liberals aren't timid, because bold is beautiful. A spirited exchange of ideas that pushes the envelope is exactly what the Liberal Party needs, particularly if we allow voices that aren't invested in our partisan wants. It's never a bad thing to engage in a free expression of ideas, and the slow LATHER until March, means it will be a process that has room to breathe and morph. That dynamic, in and of itself, provides optimism, because it incorporates the "long view" that Donolo has spoke to generally, something beyond the day to day gotcha world of Ottawa. The Liberals desperately need fresh perspectives and inputs- where's the downside to soliciting a wide swath of opinion, thinkers, as well as the grassroots?

Good stuff.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Return Serve

The opposition has responded nimbly to the latest Conservative tactic. During a roundtable, then later in Parliament itself, the opposition reacted to the premature attempt to get Mulroney in front of Committee this week. Conservatives have mused for the past couple of days of wanting to see others testify, predicting a different account of the torture allegations. Today, they challenged the opposition to allow David Mulroney to tell his side of the story.

Tory MP Laurie Hawn demanded that the NDP and Liberals allow Mulroney to testify immediately. A clear attempt to do two things- get the looming stench of Harper's Chinese visit off the table, with Mulroney a potential embarrassment, and further muddy Colvin's claims. I was struck by how Rae and the NDP's Harris deftly brushed off the challenge with an effective counter. Basically, produce the documents we've asked for, or your boy takes a powder. Brilliant.

This posture continued later in Parliament:
Not so fast.

Opposition MPs tabled a notice of motion late tonight that will get voted on when the Committee meets Wednesday (a meeting at which they'll hear testimony from Gen. Rick Hillier and others). The motion is from NDP MP Paul Dewar but I'm told the Liberals were ready to table one that was mighty similar and, basically, it tells the government that Mulroney ain't testifying until the committee gets a pile of documents that they've been asking for for ages.

"The issue is simple - we've now asked for documents, and [Defence Minister Peter] Mackay has promised them. A proper inquiry is not "he said she said'. It's about understanding what happened in 2006-2007," said Liberal MP and committee member Bob Rae. "The committee is master of its timetable."

"We have concerns about having Mr. Mulroney appear in front of the committee before we've had a chance to look at the information promised by [Defence Minister Peter] MacKay in Question Period today (briefing notes of the minister in 2006-2007 on detainees), in order to ask the relevant questions," said Jean-François Del Torchio, a Liberal spokesman. "The government has changed its story so many time that their attempt to move this quickly is suspicious. This is another example of the government failing to be transparent.

Dimitri Soudas, the prime minister's chief spokesman, accused the opposition of playing political games. "If the opposition were serious about finding answers they would allow Mr. Mulroney to appear before the Committee."

Maybe there is some gamesmanship on display, but then again you're clearly on the field too Dimitri so stand down.

There is some merit in the opposition demanding documentation, so they can review and decipher, prior to Mulroney appearing. For the government to now refuse, it just reeks of further COVER UP. The Conservatives will be forced to oblige, or risk the amusing spectacle of the willing witness silenced because of their stonewalling. The eventual appearance won't be the opportunity envisioned, more pointed and specific.

A classic case of putting the ball squarely back in your opponent's court. Well done. We look forward to the disclosure, see you in China at the photo-op Prime Minister!


With Ottawa buzzing about the torture issue, the party leaders assembled for Question Period. All except one, the Prime Minister had another serious matter to attend to, rather than be ACCOUNTABLE. G8 meeting? Nope. Major infrastructure announcement? No. Out of Ottawa, attending to the nation's business? Nada. Just down the hall, poising for a strategic photo-op scheduled for 2:15PM, so utterly meaningless it HURTS? You betcha:

Farcical. What's worse, he can get away with it.

Jaundiced Eyes

Personally, I don't think there is much that's particularly noteworthy or insightful to take from Jane Krieber's jaundiced commentary. I notice others, with their own agendas, are seizing on her comments, as though some enlightened prophecy. Please. I understand why Krieber's words are being used to support various biases, but the CONVENIENT lack of context renders the validity meaningless.

Here's a novel idea. Maybe if your husband could have produced a video that didn't make an amateur You Tube presentation look like a relative IMAX, the coalition might have got off the ground. Maybe if the horrendous visual was delivered on TIME, as a nation waited to hear from the next PM, the coalition might have had a chance. MAYBE, if your husband didn't lead the Liberals to the worst defeat in it's history, the idea of a coalition might have generated the CREDIBILITY it needed to FLY. I have one word for the poetic musing from Krieber, WHINY.

Liberals are basically ignoring this story, and really its predictive quality, as well as the useless bitterness, validates any silence. However, it's the revisionism that is being bastardized by others, that deserves comment. Stephane Dion did JACK SQUAT to reform and rebuild the Liberal Party. Only after we were soundly defeated, did the idea even reach the backburner. I know for a fact, many that went to Dion at the convention, seeing him as a vehicle for reform, were ENTIRELY DISAPPOINTED, Dion was OLD SCHOOL to the bone. Let's call a spade a spade shall we, without the romanticized rearview mirror routine.

The Liberal Party is in great trouble. Wow, that's news. The only part missing, it was a relatively worse DISASTER when your husband had the helm. Leaving aside an IPSOS REID poll, any other INTERNAL measure shows the Liberals in better shape than they were under Ignatieff's predessor. Membership, fundraising, organization, strength of team, all the nuts an bolts are a positive, contrasted with the PAST. Let's keep it real, all factors taken into account.

On the "grassroots" front, seems to me the only reason Stephane finished third on the first ballot, was because he enjoyed more support from the ELITES than Kennedy did. Yes, that's right, for all this grassroot crap being bandied about, it was superdelegates that put Dion into motion, and it was the loyalty Kennedy enjoyed from HIS delegates, which put it all together. This grassroots stuff has reached mythical proportions, when in reality my view of the rank and file was always UNEASE overall, with Dion at the helm. As an aside, one could argue the Liberal Party had no TRUE grassroots in 2006, in any sense of the word.

In many ways Stephane Dion got a raw deal. I think he would have made a fantastic Prime Minister, and Canada is the lesser that he lost to Harper. HOWEVER, the fact remains that Dion didn't RESONATE, not only with Canadians, but with Liberal members (the supposed grassroots Kreiber champions). For whatever reason, his approach didn't instill confidence, his paranoid team that kept everyone at bay, his stubborness, these factors all contributed to his short tenure. If the confidence did exist amongst the rank and file, and NO not just the elites, then he could have survived the WORST showing in history. Dion didn't, and for ONCE I'd like to see somebody take some responsibility, rather than blaming shadows. Dion blew it during the coalition debate, I've never been so EMBARRASSED than I was, waiting for the clowns to deliver that horrific tape. It was so symbolic of so many things, that SHIT never happens to a credible team and leader, for such a momentus event.

Jane Kreiber is bitter. I'm so shocked. There are many lessons the Liberals need to learn, but the advice from the disjointed loyal wife of a former leader, isn't something I take seriously or inject my own bias onto. Whatever, given the source.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Local Boy Makes Good

I must say, the initial vibes coming from the Donolo OLO are encouraging. The musing about flesh on the bone, this idea of "the long game", and maybe most important embracing, rather than running from, Ignatieff's pedigree:
The trouble for the current Liberal leader is that the Tories have successfully turned his resume as an internationally acclaimed intellectual and former Harvard professor into a liability. To hear them tell it, Ignatieff is an elitist academic who's "in it for himself" and "just visiting" Canada after working more than 30 years abroad.

Ignatieff and his inner circle have allowed themselves to be spooked by the Tory attack ads. Consequently, they've "hidden his light under a bushel," playing down Ignatieff's lofty academic and intellectual credentials.

Donolo believes his task is "not so much to package (Ignatieff) as to unpackage him," allow him to be himself and to build on his strength as a thoughtful, insightful deep thinker - the very qualities that initially excited Liberals and evoked comparisons to Trudeau.

The Conservatives successfully "spooked" the Liberals. In using Ignatieff's past to attack, there was an element of "buy in" from our side, that tried to avoid the topic, for the most part. I've always felt that was a mistake, because Ignatieff's pedigree is impressive. Personal opinions aside, it is true, Ignatieff is every bit "an internationally acclaimed intellectual". Success on the international stage, never seemed a net negative from this corner. However, in accepting the Conservative frame as the parameter, the Liberals voluntarily robbed Ignatieff of many of his assets. Everybody knows Ignatieff was gone for a long time, this fact established. The Conservative paint this as a negative, but why do Liberals passively accept?

Many great Canadians have moved abroad. Ignatieff isn't unique, nor are his worldly exploits something Liberals should shy away from, in some misguided patriotic sense. That's the Conservatives game, but there's a counter which we might as well play. We know how the attack ads have defined Ignatieff, so since it's out there, it's completely advantageous to put our own narrative on the table. Ignatieff is a celebrated figure, he's a deep thinker, that commanded respect, that won accolades. Again, people with their own axe to grind aside, being fair, Ignatieff isn't a DUD, just as easily packaged as a treasure.

Canadians suffer from a serious insecurity. We constantly crave attention, we're embarrassing proud of any success a Canadian has abroad, we relish "local boy makes good". Is it really a negative that Ignatieff is an internationally recognized intellectual heavyweight, that his service and talents were a desired commodity on the world stage? You mean he wrote novels that won accolades and respect around the globe? That's a bad thing, that's something to hide in the face of Conservative attack lines? Bullocks. Maybe a few skeletons, Harper has a closet full and he's anything but "regular folk". I would relish a detailed comparison of the respective pedigree's.

Internationalism isn't a dirty word in Canada, never has been. I'm glad to hear Donolo is "game" to tell the other side of the story, rather than unilaterally letting the Conservative smears waft without retort. Ignatieff is an impressive guy, it's about time we let him roam and live in his own skin. Besides, what do you have to lose?

"Shine Light Into Dark Corners"

H/T Dawg.

Absolutely amazing statements from the Prime Minister, when one considers the timing. Just as Harper was lauding press freedom, with laughable quotes, we find out that he "personally" manipulated the message, and approved any rhetoric on the torture issue.

Harper on the role of media:
“Instead we believe strongly that Canadians' freedom is enhanced when journalists are free to pursue the truth, to shine light into dark corners, and to assist the process of holding governments accountable.”

Most objective observers agree that this is the most secretive, message control orientated government in Canadian history. That Harper actually uses the word "assist", when he does everything to throw up roadblocks, withholds information at an unprecedented pace, well... The fact Harper makes these nonsensical assertions at the same time we learn the following, simply staggering:
PMO issued instructions on denying abuse in '07

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office used a "6,000-mile screwdriver" to oversee the denial of reports of Afghan detainee abuse when the scandal first erupted in 2007, according to a former senior NATO public affairs official who was then based in Kabul.

The former official, speaking on condition his name not be used, told the Toronto Star that Harper's office in Ottawa "scripted and fed" the precise wording NATO officials in Kabul used to repudiate allegations of abuse "at a time when it was privately and generally acknowledged in our office that the chances of good treatment at the hands of Afghan security forces were almost zero."

"It was highly unusual. I was told this was the titanic issue for Prime Minister Harper and that every single statement that went out needed to be cleared by him personally," said the former official, who is not Canadian.

"The lines were, 'We have no evidence' of coercive treatment being used against detainees handed over to the Afghans. There were very clear instructions for a blanket denial. The pressure to hold to that line was channelled via Canadian military and diplomatic personnel in Kabul. But it was made clear to us that this was coming from the Prime Minister's Office, which was running the public affairs aspect of Canadian engagement in Afghanistan with a 6,000-mile screwdriver."

The above provides another tenticle that puts the PMO at the center of the torture question, their denials almost offensive at this point. Further, this micro-managing of every word uttered, provides culpability- it suggests that Harper was WELL AWARE that torture was taking place and acted accordingly to STONEWALL any investigation. If we are using the "light" analogy, the Conservatives spent considerable energy ensuring that complete BLACKNESS was achieved, paranoid to the point that they oversaw all commentary. "Blanket denial", doesn't quite jive with this notion of a press doing a commendable job keeping government accountable. The chasm between the rhetoric and the reality, truly mammoth.

Harper took no questions from reporters, after his statements on the important role of the press....

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Canadians See Ourselves As "Laggards"

An interesting study on Canada's climate change policy, that passes the sniff test:
On the eve of major UN climate change talks next month in Copenhagen, a major survey of Canadians has found that more than three quarters of the public feel embarrassed that the country hasn't been taking a leadership role on reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

The finding that most Canadians are dismayed over the country's record on climate change is a message to federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice and the Conservative government, says Jim Hoggan, president of Hoggan & Associates.

Even in Alberta, 65 per cent of respondents agreed with a statement that “it's embarrassing that we are not doing more to curb emissions.” Support for the view favouring more action was highest in Quebec, at 86 per cent.

The Prentice view, that Canada just wait on the sidelines until others step forward, isn't supported by Canadians. That copout approach, wherein they continually delay regulation, doesn't seem to hold water with Canadians.

This study was supported by various groups, and Conservative apologists will seize on the David Suzuki connection, as evidence of "flowered" numbers. That criticism doesn't hold water, when you look at some of the other numbers. For instance, the "denier" camp is clearly represented, maybe even over-stated:
The polling also found an overwhelming majority of the public shares the assessment of the scientific community that global warming is a major threat to the planet. A total of 72 per cent thought the impacts of climate change “are going to be very serious,” compared to 28 per cent who agreed with the statement that such concerns “are exaggerated.”

There was also strong support for the view that “most scientists agree that human activity is the primary cause of climate change,” a position held by 62 per cent of the public, compared to the 38 per cent who felt there was “still much debate” among researchers.

The above is a testament to a fair study, the last thing a pro-environment piece would put forth is clear evidence that not everyone is buying into the climate change message.

The study also confirms the normal dynamic in 2009. While the environment is a priority, it lags far behind the economy and health care. However, these findings show that Canadians can walk and chew gum at the same time, concern for certain issues, doesn't equate to indifference on others.

This issue is still a clear achilles heel for the Conservatives. With the looming embarrassment in Copenhagen on the horizon, that may well CEMENT our status as a laggard, the opposition would do well to really focus on our reckless approach. Baird had promised to deliver a regulation regiment in the summer of 2008, after many previous delays. The Conservatives then announced another delay when the election was called. All this prior to the new nonsense of waiting for Obama, and we are still waiting for those regulations, now told it may be years. If one were to document the chronology on this file, I suspect Canadians "embarrassment" would only be confirmed.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Angus Reid

The latest AR poll shows a huge gap between the two principles, Liberal support eroding. The first pollster to peg Liberal support below 30% in Ontario, teens in Quebec. I'd wait to see if these results are replicated by anyone else before inferring anything substantive.

What is interesting about this particular poll, Harper does seem to be enjoying a rebound, in terms of perceptions. This uptick is accompanied by a large downturn in opinion regarding Ignatieff:
Approval Rating: Harper 34%, Layton
24%, Ignatieff 12%,

Momentum: Harper -9, Layton -10,
Ignatieff -41

Ignatieff is now a drag on the Liberal brand. I will say this again however, Ignatieff isn't a "known quantity", at least not to any concrete degree, so the numbers aren't fatal. I'm sure Cons would disagree, but that type of conclusion is just silly, given historical precedent, as well as the length of exposure.

That said, Harper may have benefited from his "tickling the ivories" routine. It's the kind of humanizing event that tends to resonate on a superficial level. Particularly when you're seen as wooden and bland, anything that adds color and commonality works to advantage. It seems strange to say, given all the substantive issues available, this performance is at the root of the rebound. In addition, the failings of Ignatieff have made Harper more attractive relatively.

On the question of the economy, good numbers for the government. 53% are satisfied with their performance, only 40% are not. Given the current economic position, these numbers are surprisingly positive. Part a sense that we've turned the corner, part a lack of alternatives, the Conservatives are in solid shape. In terms of how they view Harper personally, it's an even split, 46%-46% trust his judgement on the economy. By contrast, Ignatieff scores 22%, versus 64% who think he would do the right thing on the economy.

If Liberals are looking for a strategy to turn it around, McKenna offers "great advice".

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Why Do The Conservatives Allow An Incompetent Access To Sensitive Files?

The entire Conservative torture "defence" is obliterated by their own confidence in the unbelievable one. Quite a risky strategy- actually a testament to their own "unbelievability" on this score- to attack the messenger, when the messenger is a trusted government official. Summed up succinctly by the Globe and Mail:
Tories attack credibility of diplomat
who blew whistle on torture

Defence Minister cites ‘incredible holes' in testimony by Richard Colvin alleging Canadian government's complicity in the abuse of Afghan detainees...

Defence Minister Peter MacKay led the charge during Question Period today, saying the testimony from Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin can't be believed.

The awkward fact for the Conservatives however, is Mr. Colvin is otherwise trusted by the Canadian government on sensitive matters. He is currently a senior intelligence officer for Canada in this country's embassy in the United States.

There is no way to square the circle here. IF, you believe the Conservative retort, they voluntarily put their own judgement into question. Why is Colvin privy to very sensitive information, when he clearly has credibility problems, prone to wild exaggerations and half truths? Why has the Harper government shown such confidence in Colvin, when by their own admission, he is of questionable character? How could the government allow an incompetent to hold a high level position, involving top secret material? Why did Peter MacKay just say after QP that Colvin's job in Washington is secure, and then say he isn't "credible, his evidence doesn't hold up"? Contradiction much.

I note MacKay is being asked I as I type about the dueling logic of attacking a man you have such confidence in.

Interesting defence, one that looks ridiculous and DESPERATE.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Gun Registry Poll

Another poll that samples opinion on the gun registry. Somewhat similar to a previous finding, the poll finds Canadians don't think the registry has been successful in preventing crime and a majority support its abolishment. The supposed rural/urban divide isn't very pronounced, both subsets support abolition. These numbers, despite overwhelming opinion that sees gun violence as a "serious" matter.

On whether the registry has been a success:
Just 11 per cent of Canadians think the Canadian Firearms Registry has been successful in preventing crime in Canada, while 32 per cent believe it has had no effect in crime, and 46 per cent brand the effort as unsuccessful.

Part of this is the "boondoggle" effect, but it also speaks to a complete failure in justifying this initiative.

When asked if the registry should be abolished, the results might surprise some:
Half of respondents (51%) support scrapping the long gun registry, while one-third (34%) disagree.

Support for abandoning the registry surpasses the 50 per cent mark in every Canadian province, with the exception of Quebec.

Some regional breakdowns, in Ontario it's 54%-29%, which is actually more than B.C at 50%-30%. Atlantic Canada has it 68%-27%, the other provinces predictable results. In Quebec, the exact opposite, 56% want the registry, 31% want it scrapped.

A pretty clear margin support abolishing the registry. When you breakdown the rural/urban split, you find more rural residents support abolition, but urban voters reject it as well:
Do you support or oppose scrapping the long gun registry?


support 55%
oppose 33%
don't know 14%


support 50%
oppose 35%
don't know 15%

In line with the results from the HD poll, the supposed "split" isn't near as pronounced as people assume, given the rhetoric. Only when the general question of gun ownership legality is asked, do we see the traditional "divide".

What is also surprising, a full 80% of respondents think gun crime is serious, which highlights a resistance to the gun registry as a vehicle to deal with this issue.

Using the two polls in tandem, there doesn't seem to be much public backlash to scrapping the registry. In fact, proponents could argue its abolishment would reflect public will, no matter where people reside, with the obvious exception being Quebec. Even on that score, the Bloc failed to get any traction on this issue in the recent by-elections, so it might not "stir" as hoped.

People can dismiss polls all day long, but I guarantee you that all the people who make decisions in this country don't (whether that is a good thing or not, another matter entirely). What will be interesting to see, do the Liberals and NDP offer up "symbolic" resistance as this legislation moves forward, or do they fight hard to keep it?

Thoughts On New OLO

My overall opinion, a fairly strong thumbs up. When you first review the constant references to former regimes, you wonder if we aren't trying to create past glory. However, experience isn't exactly a negative, particularly this mix of seasoned people, some with an apparent edge.

Part of the equation here, the statement these appointments make. The initial reaction seems to suggest that Ignatieff has attracted a talented team, which is a positive given our current circumstance. The ability to bring Donolo in, now several other "heavyweights", sends a message of optimism- people aren't running from the good ship Ignatieff. As Don Martin commented, it was surprising that a "loser" could put together such a team.

Staff changes don't resonate with the public, it's inside Ottawa stuff. However, if people denote a air of competence and skill, then the conduit may alter their perceptions. It would appear these appointments are "going over" well, so there is room to take advantage of this fresh reality. Clearly, we've hit rock bottom, in terms of polling and perceptions of the Liberals under Ignatieff. These changes allow for a new sense to develop, if crafted properly. A shakeup often has the secondary effect of breaking out of cemented narratives.

Donolo did well to draw from all the former "factions". There is a unifying generality to the appointments, which is a positive.

One quibble, the lack of a "western" presence. I would categorize this as a missed opportunity to send a message. This absence has been noted, I would have preferred more regional balance. Talk of francophone appointments, with their Quebec expertise, some sort of western "tsar" may have been advantageous.

All in all, an objectively impressive team.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Gone Fishing

Literally :) See you in a few.


The latest NANOS poll is pretty much more of the same electorally, with a worrying trendline for Ignatieff. The NDP do appear to be enjoying a slight uptick, particularly where it matter most to them. Nationally, the Cons and Libs both down poll to poll, NDP up:
Cons 38% (39.8%)
Libs 28.8% (30%)
NDP 17.9% (16.6%)
Greens 4.6% (5.9%)

Nanos gives the Cons a 4.5% lead in Ontario, not much change. The NDP rise above their 2008 total, for the first time I can remember. That is a very important number for their side, because for months the NDP were mired in also ran status, many seats appeared to be in danger. It also makes the job tougher for the Libs, as vote splitting becomes more pronounced. We'll see if this holds.

Nanos actually gives the Libs a relatively respectful 27.2% in Quebec. That would seem a touch high, based on other findings. Due to the timeframe, Nanos didn't really capture any impact from the by-elections (3 of the 4 days prior to the vote), so we'll wait and see if there is any change.

On the leadership front, Ignatieff's numbers have plummeted. What was a strength is now a liability that needs to be addressed. A opposition leader doesn't best a sitting PM (mainly because one guy has the job, it's a loaded question), but Ignatieff had been within striking distance. That is no longer the case, as Harper doubles Ignatieff on this core- 34.8% to 17.7%. When a Liberal leader is within the same terrority as a man everybody knows won't be PM, Layton, it's a very poor result. Harper also scores his best result since the last election.

On the plus side, it's not like Ignatieff is seared into the minds of Canadians. Ignatieff can rehabiliate his image, he isn't a completely known quantity that's forever wounded. That doesn't dismiss these results, but there's no need to be fatalistic at this point.

What can you say? Work to be done, on every score.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Wise Advice

It's almost strange, coming from this source, primarily because I've viewed his Liberal "shadow" as part of the problem with current mentality. As Liberal minds wander, I know there is some longing for the next messiah, which is odd in one sense, given the current guy was supposedly just that. Frank McKenna offers some good advice:
Frank McKenna has some sobering counsel for federal Liberals: They could be in opposition for a long time and there is no Messianic leader who can lead them quickly out of the wilderness.

The advice from a man once thought to be the party's best hope for a speedy return to power...

"I never thought it would be easy and I never thought I was a Messiah," he said.

Indeed, his decision to stay on the sidelines was at least partly due to his realization that rebuilding the party would take years of painstaking, relentless work.

"When you've been in power for a long stretch, the tide goes out and it goes out a long way," he says now.

The next messiah rejects the messiah scenario. Perfect.

I appreciate the "years of painstaking, relentless work", because accepting that probable reality will put the focus where it needs to be, rather than short sighted strategies that are mostly opportunistic, not particularly substantive.

For the Liberals to win the next election, we will need a certain amount of luck that works to our timely advantage. That's the realistic landscape, the "odds" will never be in our favor, at least not for some time. Appreciating the gravity of the challenge, without waving the white flag, that's the trick for the Liberals.

I firmly believe the Liberals should adopt a "five year plan" style strategy, a two election template to put together a winning coalition. A simple review of the electoral map, the margins, the intangibles, natural incumbent advantages, it's hard to see a full return in one fell swoop. A return to 2006 seat breakdowns should be a quiet goal, let the unpredictability of campaigns allow for more optimism.

When Ignatieff first took the helm, I thought he was correct to reach out to the less fertile Canadian subsets. Somewhere along the way, decisions were made to mostly abandon the "308" mentality, election fever undercut a slow, plodding vision. Maybe it was the recognition that it would take years, whatever, it was a mistake. Sacrifing a sound logic, on the basis of immediate dividends, the minority mentality wins out. Accepting the fact that Liberals face a tough road, then we start to get to the core problems that haunt the brand. In some respects, a Conservative majority last election was probably the best outcome, because it would allow the Liberals to breathe and re-energize themselves, without the hopeful lure of a quick return.

A solid first step, is to use what you have to advantage. Ignatieff isn't part of the Liberal lineage, so let's stop inserting all these great fawning tributes to past leadership. Ignatieff needs to be a vehicle for a changed identity, and this is never achieved by reminding everyone about the tired brand. Liberals might like it, the public sees it all as STALE. No more rehashed policy positions, no more nostalgia, Ignatieff needs to break from the succession. The good news, Ignatieff isn't part of the old order, he actually possesses the pedigree to frame as the outsider, with a new vision. Embrace his political "rookie" status, people don't like slick, career politicos, it's actually attractive to speak FREELY. Be controversial, step on some toes, stop pandering like Paul Martin, stop taking so much advice you render yourself a two dimensional, TYPICAL politician. Above all else, the leader's primary goal now is to set the tone, that there's something new or different about the Liberal Party, post governance. Almost four years out, and we still haven't made the transition.

Accept the wilderness, get a route back and know it's laborious and long. If the time is shorter, accept the fruits of your fortune, but don't operate with that "hope" polluting your decisions.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Gun Registry Findings

The results from the Harris Decima poll, on the gun registry, reveal slightly surprising results. A large percentage of Liberals favor abolition, the supposed urban/rural divide isn't as pronounced as people assumed, and a wide majority don't think it helped to reduce crime.

Decima finds a slight plurality favor abolishing the registry- 46% of people thought it was a good idea, while 41% didn't. Only one region, by a healthy margin, supports keeping the registry, Quebec. Everywhere else, a majority want it gone, even in Ontario it's 42% for, 40% against. When you break it down by party affiliation, not surprisingly 64% of Conservatives support killing it, only 27% don't. In a testament to the divide within the NDP, 44% want to keep it, 42% don't. Maybe most striking, 39% of Liberal voters want it abolished, although 48% want to keep it. The latter finding suggests that the registry isn't the great legacy that people assume, a sizeable portion don't see the merit.

This whole debate has centered around this rural/urban divide. While Decima does find a difference, it's not the wide chasm previously thought:
A majority of those in rural Canada (52%) believe abolishing the registry is a good idea, while 36% think it is a bad idea. Among urban Canadians, this split was 42%-44%.

Not exactly overwhelming support from urban Canadians, revealed as something of a myth. I found the above somewhat surprising, given that opposition MP votes suggested a great polarization.

In terms of the registry's usefulness, it's hard to argue that Canadians think it's made a difference:
3 in 10 Canadians believe that the long gun registry has helped reduce
gun crime in Canada. Overall, 31% were of this view, while a majority
(56%) believed the long gun registry had not helped reduce gun crime in Canada.

Quebec again the lone exception, but this fact when incorporated, means English Canada has a very firm opinion. Even amongst Liberal voters, a statistical split on the question of the registry reducing crime.

When you consider the almost baseless hysteria about violent crime in this country, a dynamic the government has used to full political advantage, these results stand out. You would think that we would see more of a kneejerk reaction in favor of this registry, because it speaks to the issue of gun crime. That sentiment doesn't translate, despite this supposed inherent "boost", the registry just isn't terribly popular.

The Bloc will try and use this issue, although that has been put into question, given what just happened this week. Apart from that, it may be that the registry goes out with a wimper, as opposed to a...


A quick refresher course, to put it all into perspective. On September 18th, the NDP sided with the Conservatives to pass the ways and means measure, averting the first threat of an election. On October 1, 2009, the Liberals non-confidence motion was defeated in Parliament, again averting an election. There was great speculation during this period that an election was inevitable, Ottawa buzzing about a looming campaign, the "pre-writ" period had begun.

I'm truly shocked, note the DATES:
The Conservative government spent more than $3 million of taxpayers' money in September on an advertising campaign that amounted to little more than self-promotion, a Liberal critic says.

The newspaper and web campaign, called Creating Jobs, didn't attempt to inform Canadians about how infrastructure stimulus spending was creating employment opportunities – only that the Conservatives declared it was, Liberal MP Martha Hall Findlay (Willowdale) said Wednesday.

"That offends me and it should offend all taxpayers," she said.

Hall Findlay said she could understand if the money was spent educating Canadians about H1N1 flu, "but patting yourself on the back and making big pronouncements is not part of what taxpayers' money should be spent on."

The Liberals have been focusing on money the Conservative government has been spending on what the Liberals call "meaningless" advertising campaigns, estimating the figure this year could reach $100 million.

They have also been pressing the government to prove that infrastructure stimulus spending has created jobs.

A government document shows that Cossette Communication Inc., solely responsible for Ottawa advertisement buys since 2003, spent $3,111,877.44 from Infrastructure Canada on advertising from Sept. 14 to Sept. 29.

This finding verifies what my eyes and ears told me. You couldn't turn on a television or the radio during this time, without being bombarded with these dubious government ads. It was a blitzkrieg, and the timing wasn't an ACCIDENT. The question for the government, why exactly did your RAMP up advertising, just as election talk reached a fever pitch? Shouldn't there be a consistent advertising agenda, why the SUDDEN saturation? Through their own advertising history, the government has effectively proven that these ads do have a partisan advantage, they were viewed as an asset in appealing for support. It's so bloody offensive that this ABUSE can occur, with little hint of recourse. It's time for some pointed questioning, because the degree and "coincidence" rise to scandalous proportions, that is not an overstatement. Money destined for stimulus was diverted to promotional ads, at taxpayer cost. How many jobs were lost, so Harper could "pad" his popularity?


More HERE.

New EKOS Poll

The latest EKOS poll shows little change week to week, but a continuing trend of lower Conservative support. This week:
Cons 36.6%
Libs 26.6%
NDP 16.8%

Tracking the Conservative vote over the last month, we see the following week to week:
Oct 15 40.7%
Oct 22 38.3%
Oct 29 38.4%
Nov 5 37.4%
Nov 12 36.6%

A steady, slight decline in Conservative support, as they return to minority status. What is interesting as well, there is really no corresponding Liberal uptick. The Liberal vote has remained static, with virtually no movement week to week. The Liberals have hovered between 26-27% the past four polls. The Conservative support is going elsewhere for the most part, the NDP up 2.5% over this period. I find this a bit concerning for the Liberals, because previously, much of the ebb and flow has been between the two principles. It would appear that voters are hesitant to return to the Liberal fold, despite some Conservative erosion.

Of note, heaps of caution notwithstanding, the last night of polling from EKOS, taken after the by-elections gives the Conservatives their best result 39.4%, Libs 25.4%. While you don't want to read to much into this potentially flawed number, it's hardly surprising that a day of positive/negative press would have some effect. We'll have to wait until next week to see if that was a blip, or if the Conservative slide has countered.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Fortune Favors The Bold

The sky isn't falling, but the cloud deck is low. To pretend otherwise is the equivalent of lying to yourself. There are many scenarios available for the Liberals, particularly when you realize that only 5% of the population needs to move, for us to be a viable option again. In other words, down but not out, but aware that the status quo is probably a recipe for defeat. If you were to sample the opinion of non-partisan observers, you would get some insight into the Liberals greatest challenge. That challenge is completely obvious to me, based on the feedback we see time and again. The Liberal Party is hampered by a lack of identity, Canadians don't necessarily "relate" to the party, it has failed to re-invent itself in the aftermath of it's fall from grace.

If you accept that our CORE problem is an identity crisis, then all energy should be directed towards countering that perception. Forget about references to the past, particularly with a leader that could actually use his lack of Liberal lineage to his advantage. While Liberals love to bathe in the past achievements, that brand is tarnished in the eyes of Canadians, it represents a mixed bag. Accepting the rejection, as more than just a historical anomaly that will naturally rectify itself, is the first step towards a rebirth. Forget about the "natural governing party", that lingering entitlement, and realize that the new realities effectively LAUGH at this presumption. The signs are everywhere, in various regions, the Liberals are becoming an afterthought. This is a dangerous reality.

I'll go back to the word BOLD, because that is nucleus of any potential. Bold does bring risk, but it also gets people's attention, it shakes up the status quo, it strives. Playing it safe relies on outside forces for success. Given that Harper has somehow managed to navigate his way through a serious recession, that should serve as a wake up call for those that rely simply on circumstantial turnaround. In my view, that dynamic has largely passed, and the reality is Canadians are becoming decidedly more comfortable with the Harper Conservatives- not fondness, but some acceptance. This means, if one is using odds as a guide, the probability of a medium long run for the Conservatives is the likely result. "Kick the bums out", that's not a winner for the Liberals.

If you abandon the "government's defeat themselves" as your primary thrust, you are left with ATTRACTION as your only option. This doesn't mean you don't stop attacking, but you realize that this is only part of the overall mix- you must undercut while offering an alternative, in tandem, with equal voice.

Yesterday, we heard another sobering report on the future of the Canadian economy. This serves as the perfect example of how the Liberals can redefine themselves with Canadians. This issue of the deficit and future growth linger in the background. The government is coming under increasing criticism for its vague plan to deal with a sobering reality. Their credibility on this file is vulnerable, but it can only be exploited fully if the Liberals gain a measure of their own. As a matter of fact, the questioning is largely muted, when people entertain the alternative, who's "plan" is equally vague and politically tame. The conversation is blunted, because you have mutual delusionary propositions.

What's the Liberal plan to deal with the deficit? What's the five year plan that will balance the books? And no, the ambiguous politically correct rhetoric isn't a plan, it's more of the same denial we hear from the government. You want to get traction, then lay down some rubber on the road. Tell us where you would nip and tuck, lay out a sequence of events, that considers ANY solution, should circumstances require. You want to position yourself as a different kind of politician, maybe a dose of honesty might be refreshing. Clearly, platitudes that dance around the elephant in the room aren't resonating, made all the more silly by the concurrent future expenditure announcements.

Instead of reacting, why aren't we shaping? Instead of living in fear, being pro-active is actually the best way to "turn it around". People crave an element of truth, it's absence is part of the reason for the current disinterest. People question what the Liberals stand for, seems to me that is rectified by standing for something. I'd start with the number one issue that is sure to dominate the next campaign. The odds are long, no matter the approach, so take no comfort in the timid alternative. I'd rather go down on a principle, than watch the SS "Wishy Washy" drift aimlessly on the horizon, waiting for some fortuitous waves.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Back In The Day

CBC just put this old video of Ignatieff up a few days ago. Thought it was interesting:

No Spin By-election Rundown

Yesterday, I saw the by-elections as pretty much a big nothing, in terms of Liberal party fortunes. This view assumed one thing, that the Bloc would hold on to their two seats in Quebec. That assumption was obviously wrong, and because of that I'd like to revise my earlier opinion. The Conservatives victory has, by extension, hinted toward Liberal failure. Had that riding stayed with the Bloc, the punditry would be left to chasing crumbs, around mostly empty storylines. The minor erosion in Liberal support, mostly meaningless "gains" by the NDP, pretty thin stuff that lacks "legs". The Conservatives winning a traditional Bloc seat, only a couple months after being declared dead in Quebec, well that does matter in the grand scheme (and perhaps rightfully so).

Last night was never going to be a good one for the Liberals, the terrain didn't lend itself to much. However, this poor performance does appear more noteworthy, when one considers a 2 seat pickup for the government. Generally, government's don't pickup support during tough economic times, so there is a useful narrative here. The fact the Conservatives went into Bloc heartland and siphoned off a seat- that completely changes the conversation in Quebec. Unfortunately, the "quirk" factor of by-elections, the low turnout, doesn't get proper credit- the headline speaks to a Conservative win, in a part of the country considered lost. That's big, no matter how you slice it, that allows for "resurgence", "game changing", "new battlegrounds", even a realistic reference to "majority".

With the damage done by Denis the Dufus, coupled with a rising Conservative presence, Quebec is a changed dynamic. Liberals on the decline, Conservatives rebounding, I'm afraid we're back to square one in Quebec. To say that is shocking for me, because I firmly believed the Conservatives were completely and utterly dead in Quebec. Now, holding onto their seats seems realistic, a new focus for expansion surely being considered within the PMO. Not overstating, because it's just a by-election, but the power of the symbolism shouldn't be lost on anyone, nor should one discount how this emboldens the Conservatives. We won't be hearing anymore stories from Quebec Conservatives about "giving up", "all is lost", we will hear spin which actually has a certain practical application.

The Liberals lost, because the Conservatives won, where it actually hurts the most. There's no denying that one.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Quite The "Test"

Is tonight really a "test" for the Liberals, or a test to see just how bored the media really is, desperate to find a storyline? Here's some advice- just because a party hack floats a ridiculous narrative, it doesn't mean you have to take it seriously and digest the "implications".

I do believe that by-elections can be indicative, and I don't automatically fluff them off for the respective parties. People may recall my focus on Outremont for the Liberals, because I felt that was a potential watershed moment, that would have long term ramifications. I reference that, because I'm not engaging in the spin game, genuinely I believe these by-elections represent a gigantic YAWNORAMA, in terms of Liberal fortunes or "signs". There are a couple intriguing storylines for other parties, the only items of value.

Why? Well, pardon me if I don't over-analyze results in by-elections where the Liberals are a complete afterthought. There's a reason Harper fast tracked these by-elections, because he knows none of them hold optimism for the Liberals. The hope was, that the media would latch on to results, furthering a negative trendline for Ignatieff. It remains to be seen whether the media will resist the ridiculousness, but the track record doesn't leave me encouraged.

Anyways, in an attempt to pierce through the haze, let's look at these contests. Did you know that in the last election, the Bloc received 2.5 times that of the Liberals in Hochelaga? Did you know that the Bloc received 3 times the vote of the Liberals in Montmagny? Did you know that the Liberals received a paltry 20% and 15% respectively?

It gets worse. Did you know that the NDP received nearly 4 times the Liberal vote in New Westminister. A whopping 11% for the Liberals, only 29% behind the second place Conservatives. I'm cautiously optimistic. Maybe at bit less in Cumberland, where we received a credible 8% of the vote, only 8 times less than the victor.

So, I'll be glued to the results come 10pm, because clearly the Conservatives are right, this is a huge test for Ignatieff, really a referendum on his leadership. The fact these by-elections occur on such fertile Liberal ground, all the more telling. Gods speed Michael.

On "Poaching" Voters

I'm not so sure I agree with the advice given to the Ignatieff Liberals by Nik Nanos. At the beginning of Ignatieff's tenure, I might have argued that the votes the Liberals would need were on their left flank, looking towards soft NDP and Green support advantageous. There's a simple math to it all, 62% of Canadians didn't vote for the Conservatives and a large majority of those are anything but "right". The perceived "pool" to expand support is obvious, so the Nanos observations have inherent merit.

However, I don't believe in universal arguments, which is why I think Nanos is wrong using this argument, with this leader, at this time. Quite simply- and I reconciled myself to this fact long ago- you can't "re-invent" Ignatieff to make him a champion of the left wing. While Ignatieff isn't Harper-lite, like his kneejerk critics blather on about, he is very much a middle of the road politician, with a certain confounding quality when issues are looked at in isolation. I believe he has a large progressive streak, but that is offset by other positions, which generally give a centrist flavor. In other words, Ignatieff is what he is, to now try and dress him up as something else, more dangerous that staying put. All that move would achieve, cynicism and a furthering of the "say anything" persona that plagued a guy like Paul Martin.

If you look at the current poll dynamics, the old arguments don't quite hold. The Nanos line, that the NDP prosper when the Liberals are down, and vice versa, doesn't seem to be in play. In actuality, at present, both parties are down, there is no inverse relationship. Particularly in all important Ontario, the voting pattern has consistently shown a back and forth between the two principles, the NDP largely relegated to marginal status. When the Liberals faultered, the NDP vote didn't rebound in concert, it stayed virtually flat, despite a 10% swing. When the Liberals were riding high, there was some erosion, but mostly the co-relation was with Conservative support. This isn't to say that the Liberals don't need to poach votes on the left, but clearly in Ontario (ground zero for this argument), at the moment, it seems a battle for the mainstream.

It is noteworthy, that when the Liberals had a slight lead last spring and early summer, the NDP vote was essentially the same nationally as it is now. The Liberals dropped 7-8%, and yet the NDP vote showed no rebound, the Conservatives benefitted. Given that the previous dynamics translated to a pretty healthy Liberal minority, it counters this view from Nanos, something else would seem to be in play.

To be perfectly honest, I would prefer if the Liberals did move to the left slightly. Dion didn't succeed, but I don't think that's a statement on the wisdom of his spectrum positioning. Ignatieff was always something of a compromise for me, a choice I was more than comfortable with, because it's a complicated consideration and it had situational merit. I also never quite bought into these past Liberal analogies as a template for future victory. "Where you win" didn't seem as cut and dry as some proponents argued. There are different ways to skin a cat, which brings us to the present reality.

Ignatieff does need to build a coalition. To assume that Liberals will only succeed if we drive the NDP to 10% seems a bit of pipe dream, given what we have, what the record reveals. With THIS leader, within the current political climate, the Liberals are probably best to straddle the center, with a sprinkling of progressive policy. Ignatieff doesn't need a hard left turn to win. I've already documented Ontario, and let's not forget that hard right Harpo was on the cusp of a big breakthrough in Quebec. It's not always a left/right question with voters.

If I could start from scratch, in another environment, then I'd support the Nanos argument. However, when you have a situation where the Liberals are down, NDP support getting close to core levels, I'm not sure the former "pool" is as attractive as normal assumptions might conclude. Factor in WHO the leader is, and it starts to look to cute to be taken seriously. You've already planted your flag, about all you can do now is flesh it out and broaden it.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Time To Connect The Dots

The first step in defeating a government, undermine their credibility. The notion of an out of control Conservative Party, showing complete disregard for taxpayer money, is something that will resonate, particularly if examples are PLENTIFUL. If I could offer one piece of humble advice, the Liberals should consider attack ads, revolving around the narrative of partisan self promotion, using OUR money.

Two more items today, for the file. One further confirms an already validated theme. The other paints a distasteful abuse of public funds. The Conservatives are spending 3X what the previous government did on internal polling, focus group testing, all in the name of messaging and selling the government agenda. The Conservatives are spending 3X what any previous government has on "close to the line" partisan advertising, promoting themselves. The Conservatives are engaged in a strong arm campaign to force municipalities to pony up taxpayer dollars, to promote the Economic Action Plan in their communities. The Conservatives are blanketing the country with partisan junk mail, spending 500% more than when they took office:
The price tag for sending flyers from MPs to homes across the country has soared during the past couple of years with Conservatives outstripping MPs from all other parties.

In some cases, Conservative MPs are spending more than 500% more on flyers than they did just two years ago.

An analysis by Sun Media of spending figures tabled in the House of Commons this week for the year ended on March 31 shows that the cost to taxpayers for MPs printing has soared to $10 million in 2008/09 compared to $5.9 million in 2005.


Under the rules of Parliament, MPs are entitled to charge the cost of printing two types of flyers to the House of Commons. There is no maximum spending limit.

In the past, Conservatives have defended their decision to take advantage of the flyers program to promote their party's positions, saying it is open equally to all MPs.

However, an analysis of spending on printing by each MP last year shows that the bills racked up by MPs from other parties pales in comparison to spending by the Conservatives. In fact, out of the 100 highest-spending MPs, all but 18 were Conservatives.

Graph (source Sun Media):

Apart from partisans, people generally view these flyers as unnecessary junk mail. I'm not sure most have connected the dots, and realized that not only are these flyers annoying, THEY are paying for them.

The Liberals need to tie all these items together, because the sheer mass becomes very compelling, denoting a consistent pattern of a Conservative Party wastefully spending taxpayer money for selfish gain. The beauty of this line of attack, it also brings into focus the issue of the deficit- how can the government justify such waste, when Canada is awash in debt? There is a certain detached arrogance at play here, and history tells us that Canadians don't take kindly to this sort of waste. The fact this government has NO PEER in this regard, something that needs to be argued with passion and REPETITION.

There is no compelling counter for the government, their retorts are obliterated by the simple math, and any conversation will find independent validation for the Liberals. I think it's time for a donor outreach, to support a sizeable campaign, addressing this issue. This attack line speaks to the whole idea of good government, it undermines the Conservatives and it addresses a core complaint about political excess. What are we waiting for, it's all right there, sitting in our lap?

Friday, November 06, 2009

I Want More Duffy

Are people really upset about Duffy's lastest "incident"? There was a time when Duffy used to infuriate me to no end, when he was disguised as a journalist. I remember many of us clammoring for opposition MP's to refuse to appear on his show, his slant so obvious, to make any discussion pointless. I still contend that Duffy's last act cost the Liberals a handful of seats. I also recall many other people calling people "whiny" for pointing to his bias, it was all a manufactured criticism.

The best thing that has happened, was when Harper appointed Duffy to the Senate. It lifted the veil, it confirmed what are eyes already knew. But, even then, there was still a measure of an old Ottawa soldier being rewarded for a respected career. Of course, most of us didn't buy it, but there was still some cover for Duffy, he was called the "reluctant partisan".

Since he began his tenure in the Senate, Duffy has voluntarily destroyed his supposed reputation, becoming the most noticeable low grade HACK in the Senate. He has essentially validated every single criticism that was ever hurled towards him. What's more delicious, he's done this without prompting, he's become unglued with little provocation.

I don't get mad at Duffy anymore, I relish every appearance or comment. With each successive "incident", he reduces himself to a cartoon figure, so embarrassing his former colleagues now shake their heads at hyper partisan ramblings. No respect from former peers, no respect within the chamber, no reputation, except as a growing laughing stock.

I want more Mike Duffy. Thanks for reaffirming everything we always said about you, thanks for REVEALING yourself for all to see. You always were nothing more than a Conservative shill, and now the period on your "career" will forever leave a pungent SCENT. It's just perfect.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Colossal Waste On YOUR Dime

I had assumed that this 100 million dollar self promotion exercise, under the guise of the Economic Action Plan, included all "expenses". That assumption was wrong, because on top of the gross misuse of public money previously exposed, we now find an addition 45 million allocated for signage, ceremonies, etc, so Harper can look good, and the kicker- most of the cost is put at the foot of the municipalities. That's right, want stimulus cash, then pony up and promote the Conservatives. I would recommend a read of the Schedule G attachment, which outlines what municipalities MUST do for the CASH:
The Harper Conservatives continue to put partisan priorities ahead of the public interest, as Liberal MPs revealed today that local property taxpayers are being forced to pay a share of the estimated $45 million price tag for unnecessary Economic Action Plan vanity billboards.

“Instead of focusing on priorities like public health, the Conservatives are forcing provinces and municipalities to pay for flooding the country with giant partisan billboards,” said Liberal House Leader Ralph Goodale. “With no help from Ottawa, local governments are grappling with challenges like H1N1 under tight budgets. Yet the Harper government requires them to spend property taxes on boosting the image of the Conservative Party of Canada.”

Schedule “G” and other provisions contained in contribution agreements for the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund in Ontario reveal that municipalities are required to produce, erect and pay for Economic Action Plan signs at each project site – costing as much as $4,250 a piece.

I`ll give the Conservatives credit, because they`ve managed to bury additional expenditure for partisan gain onto someone else`s balance sheet:
Siqns and Plaques

The Recipient agrees to produce and install temporary and permanent Project signage to communicate the nature of the Project and the involvement of the Governments of Canada and Ontario and the Recipient, as outlined in the ISF Style Guide.

The recipient is required to give the Conservatives 15 days notice, for any ribbon cutting exercises. This approval ensures that various members of the Conservative Party can show up to curry favor. Another kicker, all this ``communication`` is paid for by the municipality:
For the purposes of events, Eligible Costs include the following:

- Printing and mailing invitations
- Light refreshments, such as coffee, tea, juice, donuts, muffins, snacks
- Draping for plaque unveiling
- Project material for display and/or media kit
- Temporary signage
- Rentals such as:
- flagpoles
- Stage
- chairs
- podium
- PA system

All those events Harper chases and organizes across the country. I wonder how the local property taxpayers would feel if they knew it was at their expense.

I had wondered how much these signs cost, quite flashy, well beyond any other government promotion I`ve seen. A small sign could run you as much as $2250, a large one $4250. The government provides the recipient required labelling for all signs. Quite a price tag, particularly when you comprehend some of the MEASLY endeavors where these signs have popped up. I would say that`s more than the DOORKNOB Mr. Easter :)

Cash strapped municipalities shouldn`t be required to invest in decadent signage, as part of any stimulus agreement. In essence, the government is siphoning off money for partisan gain, that would otherwise be used for the infrastructure it was intended for. The municipalities would obviously agree to any provisions, because they want the stimulus money, but there is something unethical about demanding signage and other promotion.

Next time you drive by one of those pretty signs, just remember you`ll get the bill hidden in your property taxes. We are all DONORS to the Conservative Party of Canada.

Funny, But True

As an aside, the latest EKOS poll (pretty much the same horserace wise, although people may note the graph trend of Conservative support waning) shows overwhelming support for stimulus spending fairness.