Thursday, December 30, 2010

Liberals Bait NDP

Let's put this press release in the "new dynamic" folder:

Liberals call on NDP to stand against additional unaffordable Conservative corporate tax breaks

OTTAWA – As Finance Minister Jim Flaherty makes pre-budget overtures to the NDP, Liberal MPs today called on the NDP to demand the cancellation of Conservative corporate tax breaks at a time of deficit in favour of easing the economic pressures on average Canadian families.

“Choosing families over large corporations is a matter of principle that the NDP can’t barter away,” said Liberal Public Works Critic Geoff Regan. “We’re calling on the NDP to take a principled stand against billions in more corporate tax giveaways during a time of deficit – money that would be better directed towards relieving the burden on middle-class families.”

On the first anniversary of Stephen Harper’s decision to shut down Parliament, Liberal MPs decried the Conservative government’s choice to shut out hard-pressed Canadian families by forging ahead with billions in more debt to give Canada’s biggest corporations a tax break on January 1st. Canada’s corporate tax rates are already among the most competitive in the G7 and 25% lower than the rate in the United States.

“One year ago today, the Conservatives shut down Parliament with a promise to ‘recalibrate’ their agenda, but have since delivered nothing to ease the burden on middle-class Canadian families,” said Liberal Finance Critic Scott Brison. “Instead, the government has refused to budge from their original plan of adding to their record deficit in order to pay for more corporate tax breaks that we can’t afford right now.”

Liberals have called for measures in the upcoming budget that will alleviate the economic pressures on Canadian families struggling with record personal debt, like support for family care, post-secondary education, and pension reform.

“We’re disappointed that the Conservatives ignored our advice to stop borrowing money to cut taxes for our largest corporations,” said Mr. Regan. “Now it falls to the NDP to take a principled stand in favour of middle-class families by refusing to support the Conservatives’ unaffordable corporate tax cut plan.”

A fascinating release, given recent stances and talk of former foes playing footsie...

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Plant The Seed

The other day, I wrote about the wisdom of the Liberals clearly defining a Us vs Them frame early on, in the pre-writ period, to get everyone thinking about the stakes, prior to the unpredictable flow of a campaign. Other partisans obviously scoff, but really the diehards are irrelevant to this equation, the thrust is all about soft supporters, the non engaged, the easily swayed, the fence sitting, non committed, undecideds, you get the drift... Why not? Why not try to narrow the debate, wherein you try and position yourself as the only legitimate alternative to the "status quo".

There are two options, more of the same or a different outcome. One wonders, if voters are faced with this choice, if they won't see the merit in "change", particularly when it's fair to say nobody is particularly enamoured with the status quo. Early evidence that the OLO is spot on to set the early frame comes from fellow blogger Impolitical:
This is notable, from the influential Andre Pratte, a column stating that Quebecers should think twice about the logic of voting for the Bloc in the next election if they truly want to ensure the Conservatives are defeated.

Here we see how the Liberals have planted the seed, others digest and see merit in the argument. Pratte lays out a sensible support for the Liberal rational, primarily because Ignatieff's position is rooted in cold, hard realities.

In Quebec, support for the government is simply abysmal. However, as Pratte acknowledges, voting Bloc only serves to entrench a government that very few Quebecers support. There is a a simple logic to the Liberal argument, which Pratte adopts. One column, one view, but also quite true this particular column is never penned, if not for the Liberals floating the frame. I suspect this column solicits further discussion. At the very least, it would appear there is some merit in taking a pro-active position, planting the seed hardly arrrogant or assumptive, but more rightly politically shrewd.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Flushed Out?

There are moments where the political rhetoric is forced to accept an emerging probability. The last time the threat of an election moved from theory to practical reality, the NDP did a bear hug on an already floated Conservative plank on unemployment, adopted it as their own, and essentially propped up the government to avoid an election. The previous stature, CUSHIONED by perceived Liberal weakness, evaporated once the political jockeying moved from inside Ottawa to potential election.

In the last few days, the Liberals have signalled they won't support the budget. This early posture has heightened the chances of an election. The Liberals provocative move has also flushed out the other players it would appear, and I would argue should force a sober re-think on just where we are politically speaking. The Conservatives are SUDDENLY playing footsie with the NDP again. Of secondary importance is whether the overture bears fruit, it's the fact the government is trying to build alliances, to avoid an election, TELLING and quite informative, denoting a reality beyond the current Ottawa narrative:
Tories soften tone with NDP ahead of 2011 budget

The Conservatives are suddenly saying nice things about Jack Layton and the NDP, a party they once dismissed as irresponsible socialists...

Mr. Soudas’s e-mail included a note regarding the NDP Leader: “Mr. Layton has written a letter to the Prime Minister asking the government to invite Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi to Canada. We thank Mr. Layton for his positive contribution to this matter...”

Last week, in a year-end interview with the Reuters news agency, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty spoke of the “common ground” that exists between Tories and New Democrats.

The Finance Minister said he had met separately with Liberal finance critic Scott Brison and NDP finance critic Tom Mulcair. Mr. Flaherty said it was clear from his chat with the Liberal critic that “I guess they’ll vote against the budget.”

But Mr. Flaherty suggested there’s a better chance of agreement with the NDP, particularly on programs to train workers.

“That doesn't mean they'll support the budget, but it does mean there's some common ground,” he was quoted as saying in reference to his discussion with Mr. Mulcair.

Again, it is hard to imagine these two parties can agree on a budget passage, but just the EFFORT is what we should focus on. I mean, here we have a Liberal Party which is apparently on the verge of complete collapse, tired, a horrible leader, and yet the government isn't ready to pounce and take advantage of their HAPLESS foe? Are they not reading some of these polls? What about the cluster strategy, all these theories that make it seem like a majority is actually in their grasp? Seems a bit of a disconnect here, between what everyone is assuming and the real world reactions now starting to unfold. If I'm just look at actions, rather than rhetoric or pundit analysis, I'd dare say this looks like a government that sort of fears an election. Why? Maybe more vulnerable than people are entertaining.

A hint perhaps, today's AR poll shows a superficial advantage for the Conservatives over the Liberals on the economic file, sure to be the centerpiece issue of any near term campaign. However- and this dynamic may explain the apparent government unease- there are more people undecided than support the government, there are more people who want to see the policies during a campaign before they make up their mind. In other words, there is nothing certain. People already know the government's agenda, the wait and see crowd clearly a concern when face with a not yet know opponent and policies.

I am marvelling at how quickly this government has pivoted, actively looking to avoid an election. I expect a big move on the Quebec HST file to secure Bloc support. It also looks like the government is entertaining a backup plan, via the NDP. Whatever, quite telling that this government is suddenly involved with separatists and socialists. At the very least, real world machinations demand a reassessment in current thought processes, because this doesn't look like a juggernaut on the cusp of anything, except perceived relative setbacks, outright vulnerability. Whether we have a spring election or not, it would appear the government will only come kicking and screaming... Imagine that.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Us Vs Them

My friends in other parties will mock the frame, but from the Liberal perspective I think the early "two choices" distinction is spot on. While clearly in dispute, I'm inclined to believe the 2011 election campaign has already begun. Seems a certain inertia is now in play, barring a major concession, a Bloc appeasement, I think we are already in the important pre-writ campaign.

In recent elections, the Liberals have gone to the narrow "us vs them" distinction, to try and siphon off soft support from other parties. The trouble with this strategy, it usually manifested itself in the dying days of a campaign, denoting some desperation. In the lead up to this election, we are seeing a different tract, a central theme, that may yield more practical benefit, just by sheer repetition and voluntary focus.

If you've listened to Ignatieff's end of year interviews, you'll see that the "two choices" frame is effective in several ways. The coalition question is sure to be part of the conversation, Ignatieff uses the two party choice as an excellent counter, a great segue into why voters need to make a clear choice. The response turns the coalition question around into an argument why you need to vote Liberal. Detractors will say it's typical Liberal behaviour, but I see this early, deliberate frame as an important departure. Factor in a government that is clearly in the "majority or bust" frame, and you can see how their posture will actually feed the Liberal narrative.

Again, I believe we are already in the phony war phase of an election campaign. If we enter a campaign with weeks of pre-sell on the clear choice front, it could well benefit the Liberals. The distinctions between the two parties are now there, sell able divergence on direction, so if we can frame it as a this or that, A or B, a real focused choice, then you very well could grab some soft support from elsewhere. That soft support exists, so the idea of targeting it straight away, prior to the unpredictable storyline of a campaign, is sound and very wise strategy IMHO.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

Wishing all my readers a happy holiday. Hoping everyone is warm, with family and friends, enjoying those around us and remembering those no longer here.

Anatomy Of A Deal

Great piece today, providing a rare glimpse into the politics behind the F35 fighter jet. At the very least, I would expect to see some investigative journalism to help uncover the events that lead to the Canadian purchase. A bit hard to believe the Americans didn't apply pressure on Canada, given what has been revealed elsewhere:
In this case, U.S. diplomats worked closely with officials from Lockheed Martin, the jet’s manufacturer, to combat negative media coverage, woo decision makers and publicly promote the fighter.

They even weren’t above putting Norway’s relationship with Washington on the line.

“We needed to avoid any appearance of undue pressuring . . . but we couldn’t let stand the view that the choice didn’t matter for the relationship,” one diplomatic note says.

In public, the U.S. took the line that buying the F-35 would “maximize” Norway’s relationship with the U.S. “In private, we were much more forceful,” the note says.

At one point, as debate raged and public opinion appeared to turn against the F-35, U.S. diplomats in Norway warned that intervention was needed to seal the deal.

“High-level Washington advocacy on this issue is needed to help reverse this trend,” the memo said.

I would hope, we go beyond calling up MacKay for comment, as was the case in this article, because his view is frankly beyond useless. It's actually amazing, that the Americans were willing to put their diplomatic relationship with Norway on the line to secure this purchase. In other words, Lockheed Martin is just a front for the American government, this is their plane and they are pressuring everyone to sign on. What sequence of events led to Canada signing on? Was there a similar strong arm campaign to secure our purchase? What does it say about the MERIT of the plane, that the Americans needed to threaten other countries to seal the deal? Is this plane really about requirements, or is it about appeasing our American neighbours?

I've had my suspicions that this plane purchase is more about geopolitics than real world application. The lame rationale provided by the government during the initial sales pitch speaks to the lack of firm justification readily available. These revelations about the Norway purchase demand we get a better understanding of how this deal really came to be, somebody needs to shed light on this shadowy process.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Do We Want An Election Or Not?

Two polls on whether we want an election, two VERY different results. The divergent titles tell the story, from Angus Reid we get Half of Canadians Want to Hold a Federal Election in 2011 while Ipsos Reid warns Country in no mood for an election.

Strangely, Ipsos finds no fence sitters, or they leave them out- we don't know, because Ipsos doesn't publicly release the questions for their publicly released polls, that everyone publicly draws conclusions from, helping to reshape public opinion. I find it hard to believe that everyone expressed a firm opinion, particularly when Angus Reid finds almost 2 in 10 "aren't sure". This is important, because if you look at the Ipsos poll you are lead to believe that 60% of Canadians don't want an election, when really the number is probably far less, considering they just cite the firm responders. I think this is pure crap, that distorts the numbers, but hey, what do I know, pundits in Ottawa will run with the numbers without these bothersome considerations.

In the Angus Reid poll, we find only 34% don't want an election, a FAR cry from the huge majority found in the Ipsos poll. We all understand differences poll to poll, but when you have a 26% gap, absolutely massive, poll to poll, it begs some questions. Who to believe? Here I would look at past predictive records, which makes this a very easy call from where I sit. There is something instructive with these polls, that being, it is pure laziness to take any individual poll and run with it, form narratives, basically shape newscycles and with it public perception, without some SCRUTINY. People don't just use any source, which is why I am continually amazed that we just lap up every finding, from anybody, no matter the framing, who paid for it, whether or not said pollster is reliable, anything- nope just puke out the numbers and everyone runs with it, only to be stopped in their tracks with the next inevitable counter finding. I also don't like the trend graphs that include everyone equally, because some are better than others, some poll more frequently, some have higher margins of errors, drawing any conclusions is problematic at best.

Do we want an election or not? If I had to pick one, I'd go with Angus Reid. Why? They have a more realistic sample, the "don't know" crowd inclusion gives a better sense of real world views, rather than arbitary omissions which fluff up numbers. I'd add, Angus Reid poses some other questions which show the Conservatives enjoy a marked advantage, so this isn't some partisan consideration, or simply picking to support a personal preference. If one is inclined to take a more neutral position, these polls tell us the public mood isn't absolutely certain, so to say a party risks or doesn't, a speculative game at best.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Power Over Principles

The other day, Harper was referred to as a "strongman" in a Flanagan article, detailing life under this guy's rule. An noteworthy characterization, particularly for the leader of a Parliamentary democracy. Then again, when we see the control this person exerts, when we realize his favourite historical leader was Joseph Stalin, when we see how he doesn't give a whip about core tenets of democracy, the secrecy, the lack of accountability, power before principle, it fills out the term in an uncomfortable way.

Harper has already make a mockery of his former reputation with his Senate appointments. Supporters are twisting themselves in philosophical knots to rationalize the "King of patronage", but the facts are clear. However, Harper doesn't seem content with merely contradicting everything his supposed "movement" used to stand for, he takes it a step further, giving democracy the end around, just daring a complacent populus to care for a second:
But Mr. Harper clearly isn’t prepared to wait for an election to make use of Mr. Smith’s talents. By appointing him to the Senate now, he becomes available, along with Mr. Fantino, for a major cabinet shuffle that Mr. Harper plans for early January.

Smith is set to announce a run as an MP, in a riding that he's not likely to win (this isn't Vaughan, he faces an incumbent), but is put into play because of his stature. That stature may only be enhanced when Harper announces Smith as part of a cabinet shuffle. Once again, Harper will sidestep democratic choice and put an unelected person into the inner sanctum of our elected system. Not that we need confirmation at this point, but my goodness, the chasm between Reform ideals and this government is now biblical in proportions.

In addition, it appears Smith might have a role in getting an arena for Quebec City. It's all about power now, Harper will do, and has done, anything that enhances his political fortune. When you think how this crowd used to rail against the Liberals pre-occupation with self interest, it really is astounding where we sit today- something which probably won't come into true focus until history passes a sober, detached judgement.

So, we have another unelected Senator, who could also be swept into our federal cabinet, partially to help with a political payoff in the form of an arena, to bolster electoral fortunes in Quebec. Yes, you read that right old Reformers, keep your defibrillators close, you really do make dirty Liberals looked principled by comparison. Imagine that.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

End Of Year

I just finished watching the At Issue end of year edition, which is always fascinating for the political junkie crowd. Everyone has their opinion, so here are my thoughts on the questions (feel free to add you own):


This one is a slam dunk for me, based on sheer ability to wiggle off the hook. When the Speaker ruled on the Afghan detainee file, it appeared a complete and utter rebuke, the Conservatives had lost, Parliament supreme, the opposition position vindicated. However, as we learned the details of the subsequent agreement, we saw that the Conservatives had managed to make lemonade out of lemons. The government found a process which would delay, which would take the issue off the table and basically forgotten. As we sit here seven months later, it requires some impressive spin to argue that the government didn't make the best out of a perceived failure, so much so, it looks like a downright win at this stage. Factor in the stipulation that this "agreement" ceases to exist when this Parliament dissolves and it's hard to think of better political play.


Most people probably don't realize that the day before the UN Security Council membership vote, the Conservatives had attack ads in the CAN, ready to spin any failure as Ignatieff's fault. Those ads never actually saw the light of day, a testament to the ridiculous thought process hatched this strategy. The Conservatives did try to blame Ignatieff, but the unrelenting mockery from all quarters forced them to quickly abandon. When the Conservatives finally argued the loss was due to standing up for Israel, taking tough stands (what they should have spun from the outset), only then did they find cover, but in many respects it was to late. That nobody in the PMO waved a red flag on the "blame Ignatieff" strategy is surprising.


Rights And Democracy. Unless you read Paul Wells- who's been on the story throughout- or the occasional poorly read blog post somewhere, you'd be hard pressed to hear anything on this issue. I confess, I wouldn't have a clue what was going on, if not for Wells work. A bit sad isn't it?


Crime. We are at the point of absurdity, and yet the Justice Minister can still play offence on the crime agenda file. This government has failed to push some of their bills, let them die, prorogued Parliament necessitating "square one", and yet it remains a central thrust in attacking the opposition. The issue is all the more "shameless" when you consider NO factual basis for much of the argument, the government merely playing off the sensationalist fears to manufacture a crisis where none exists. In some ways, the Conservatives deserve praise, but really it all boils down to nonsensical attack lines, in the name of exploitation.


Gregg picked Paul Dewar. A few months ago I pointed to Dewar as the one to watch, so I wholeheartedly agree with this pick. Dewar is quite nimble, he has a wide range, able to tackle many issues with intelligence and an even temperament, that makes him attractive. I think Dewar is the rising star, that increasingly looks like an heir apparent. Dewar represents the new NDP in my view and he is somebody that might have appeal beyond their traditional base.


Peter MacKay. The Dubai affair tells us one thing, MacKay isn't as plugged in as we tend to assume. However, I pick MacKay as overrated because when the heat is on, he is anything but impressive. On the detainee file, it was hard to keep up with the evolving rationalizations and admissions, MacKay almost caught daily in "mis-speaks". We are witnessing a bit of the self inflicting wound routine again on the F35 file, MacKay seems to prefer definitive statements, that later bite him and lead to backtracking. For a supposedly seasoned politician, I find MacKay's inability to show nuance when the spotlight comes, a serious flaw. MacKay is affable, but I still see an empty suit for the most part.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Canadians Are Ready

Conservatives in a tizzy this morning, as Ignatieff starts laying the groundwork for an election. My only quibble, whether it is wise to telegraph the future, but then again, it boils down to simple logic at this stage. The Liberals don't support the Conservative agenda, particularly what we expect to come out of the budget, so to say we oppose isn't exactly shocking. I suppose if one is glued to every poll, any proclamation is shocking, but if you delve deeper you see Ignatieff is entirely right- Canadians are ready for an election.

Graves finds approval for direction of the federal government at a TEN YEAR low, the only solace for the Conservatives, their opposition is divided. However, that divided resistance doesn't distract from the central theme that Canadians aren't happy with the status quo, there is no love in the land, we want change, we just don't know where to go. After a seem less summer tour, that showed professionalism and readiness, the raw campaigner surprising firm of foot and relaxed, one can understand the Liberal bluster, despite the front line numbers.

In the last few months the Liberals have put forth policy that differentiates them from the Conservatives, even the formerly sceptical at least give this admission. Listening to all the year end speeches, from all quarters the Liberals were highlighting the divergence, now soundbite worthy, there is enough there for Canadians to make a decision. With this budget, those differences will be highlighted, so unless the Liberals are prepared to swallow hard, an election seems likely. In a wider sense, Ottawa has ground to an uninspiring, mostly irrelevant halt, an election is hardly the perceived obscene proposition it was in the fall of 2009.

Liberals had best be ready, if an election is in the air, we can expect a flurry of pre-writ attacks. If we want to project the future, we better understand it begins now, and I suspect we do. In all honesty, I don't fancy our chances in an election, the odds are clearly not in our favour. However, I also firmly believe the odds aren't likely to change, a "this is it" circumstance, which precludes waiting for the perfect moment to "pounce". If we catch fire in a campaign, we can win, because the electorate is ansy, Ignatieff's real world perceptions are spot on. The trick for the Liberals, they must define a clear choice, "us vs them" and somehow manage to get the sizeable anti-Conservative vote to coalesce behind our brand. Clearly a large challenge, but not outside the realm of possibilities either.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Are We Ready To Have This Debate?

The last time I even hinted at the Liberals tackling this issue, it was met with a fairly surprising, what I found irrational reaction. That said, everyone is entitled to their perspective, so I found it enlightening. I support euthanasia from a moral standpoint, not blanket endorsement, but under certain circumstances. In Quebec, they have begun to try and address euthanasia in the political realm, which has spilled over to Ottawa, through the Bloc.

There is a new poll out, which I submit as a possible political argument, to underscore the moral argument. It would see, that Canadians overwhelming support euthanasia in certain instances:
63% support legalizing euthanasia; 24% are opposed

The numbers are more dramatic, when you look at the voting demographics. It would seem, the older you are, the more you support limited euthanasia, which is instructive when you consider who is most likely to vote:
18-34 age 53% support, 30% oppose
35-54 age 65% support 22% oppose
55+ 71% support 20%

Now, overlap those numbers with who is likely to vote, and you see a superfically compelling political angle.

When you break the numbers down regionally, you see further evidence of a political upside- for the Liberals specifically. Support is highest in Quebec, British Columbia and Atlantic Canada. In Ontario, we see a 55%-30% split and in Alberta support stands at 48%, while 44% oppose. In every region of the country support outweighs, but the numbers are more pronounced electorally.

The numbers are particularly interesting because Canadians make clear distinctions what they deem acceptable and where they draw the line on euthanasia. I would submit, this makes a modest reform proposal palitable, particularly if it is very well defined:
-A patient is in a coma with little or no hope of waking. The patient had previously specified they wished to have their life terminated if they were ever to find themselves in this condition: 81% support, 13% oppose

-patient is terminally ill and will die in less than six months. The patient is expected to suffer a great deal of physical and mental anguish during that time: 78% support, 15% oppose

-A patient has a lifelong, but non-life threatening condition such as being quadriplegic and wishes to end his or her life: 36% support, 55% oppose

You can see a clear drop off, where we draw the line. You can also see staggeringly strong support for dealing with end of life issues. Opponents argue "let nature take its course" but anybody who has dealt with terminal illness knows, the amount of drugs involved, the assistance required to sustain, there is NOTHING natural about any of it, so let's dispense with that illusion.

I think it's time a political party stepped up and dealt with this issue that everyone whispers about. Canadians have strong, developed opinions, because many of us have dealt with them personally. To just ignore is somewhat cowardly, but also politically understandable, if that makes any sense. Again today, I'm reading about the lack of identity for the Liberal brand, the party desperately needs a signature stand that both defines it and denotes certain bravery. I would submit, the above numbers, like others before, show there is support in the land for anyone who dares stick their neck out a bit. That said, I expect nothing...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Call Off The Majority

Harris Decima weighs in, and it looks like last week's majority is now off:
A new poll by The Canadian Press Harris-Decima suggests the Tories have the support of 31 per cent of Canadians, statistically tied with the Liberals at 29 per cent.

That's far from the support levels needed to win a majority.

"I cannot see any political party being advantaged by precipitating an election."

Gregg said the results reflect the "political stasis" that's gripped the federal scene for most of the last five years. The two main parties have been stalled in a virtual tie, with occasional, but short-lived, surges or dips for one or the other.

For the most part, Gregg said the brief fluctuations have been the result of missteps by the Tories but the Liberals have never been able to "hold them to the ground" for more than a few weeks.

Nationally, the latest survey put NDP support at 15 per cent and the Greens' at 11.

In Quebec, the Bloc Quebecois continued to dominate with 44 per cent to the Liberals' 23. The Tories were well back at 11 per cent, statistically tied with the NDP at 10 per cent and only marginally ahead of the Greens at seven.

In the key electoral battleground of Ontario, which will likely determine the outcome of next election, the Liberals and Tories were tied at 36 per cent each. The NDP trailed with 14 per cent, just ahead of the Greens at 12.

Of note, not only does Harris Decima fail to show "wind in the sails" for the government, we see a tightening race. From the last HD poll, the Conservatives are down 2%, the Liberals up 1%, a slight Conservative lead is now a statistical tie. Gregg's analysis of the results is eerily similarly to Graves from EKOS last week, who also sees little movement in the polls. Of the more reputable firms, NANOS results diverge, while Angus Reid shows a sizeable Conservative lead, although their numbers are static as well.

I keep highlighting Ontario as volatile, poll chasing a waste of time, given the consistent, persistent, reaccuring movement we've seen since the last election. HD has the two parties in a dead heat, each at 36%, which incidentally is the midway score for both, within this well established range.

I suppose the one interesting tidbit, this is the first poll since the much covered assault on the ear drums by the Prime Minister. No evidence of any bounce, but I'm not particularly surprised- been there, done that.

This poll is instructive in one sense, because it once again hammers home the error of chasing each result and then ramping up election speculation, based on a NOT yet established trend. I don't think the polls are particularly great for the Liberals, but it's also true that the Conservatives remain vulnerable. If people want to make definitive arguments, based upon SOFT support vaciliating around, well that's mostly a fools game from here.

These Are Not Nice People

Last week, if you complained about the Harper photo op, it was sour grapes, petty, basically a no win argument. It was JUST a Christmas party, be charitable, don't politicize a NON political event. That's fine to think that way, but I prefer the learned reality, today I submit two PERFECT examples that show the wheels are always turning, the realm of pettiness a central Conservative trait.

From ipolitics:
This is not to say there are no party hijinks in the air. Case in point: Prime Minister Harper scheduled his annual Christmas party with the media to coincide with the Liberal Party annual caucus Christmas party, an event at which Michael Ignatieff is expected to give a speech aimed at rallying the troops.

Anybody who pays attention, knows there is a consistent pattern at play. The Conservatives always try to overlap any scheduled Liberal event, to steal headlines, play psychological warfare, etc. That we see this nonsense employed for a CHRISTMAS event is just to rich for words, given the events of last week. Anyone who thinks this is an accident is either a blind partisan or a complete idiot, devoid of the most basic of critical thought. Harper had his event, the media fawned and now this week the Liberals aren't afforded a similar courtesy, because this PMO is as dirty and classless as they come. That the Conservatives have done this completely validates anyone who took issue with last week's staged manipulation.

What kind of a message does this say to would be political candidates:
The Liberal who lost to Conservative Julian Fantino in the Vaughan federal by-election says he was fired from his position as chair of the regional hospital board as political payback.

“This is a real kick in the teeth,” Tony Genco told the Star of his firing from the volunteer position early Monday. “It’s bizarre to me, but they’ve decided I’ve become a political liability. I feel humiliated.”

The board of York Central Hospital is working to expand health service in the area with a new hospital in Vaughan. Fantino embraced the issue during the campaign, making the fight for federal infrastructure dollars for the hospital a central plank in his platform.

Genco says he believes the board wants him out to facilitate relations over the new hospital with Fantino and the Conservative government. Genco lost by about 1,000 votes in the Nov. 29 vote, after a rough and often personal campaign.

The board is “doing what the Tories want them to do,” he said, “which is to get rid of me . . . Now I’ve lost twice. This isn’t how things should be done — this is not a Third World country.”

Again, if one is deliberately ignorant, I'm sure you can cobble together some lame rationalization, that doesn't included POLITICAL PAYBACK. However, it is clear, Fantino loyalists, that Genco was turfed because of this by-election, because of who he fought against, because he spoke out and fought for his ideals. This firing should never occur in Canada, it amounts to political intimidation, provides a chill, an affront to our democracy. Everyone, everywhere should be offended, but the Conservatives know this is a one day story, with no legs, that will be quickly forgotten- unless of course your name is Tony Genco. Crazy.

So festive, so charitable, so Christmasy, tis the season. In reality, it's full on nasty politics, no matter the time of year. NEVER forget it, because our opponents never take a breather. What a shame, react accordingly...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Support The CBC

It looks like Sun Media is on an embarrassingly baseless ideological crusade against the CBC. Rarely have I seen a supposed journalist distort, pushing storylines without the most basic of fair representation. Of course, the CBC deserves scrutiny, but this latest attack is so clearly much more than an instructive investigation, it's a crude, shoddy hit job, pure and simple.

If you support the CBC, you can never be complacent, because its enemies are tireless and driven. With that in mind, take a second to sign this petition and pass it along if so inclined.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Canadians Split On Afghan Extension

The latest Angus Reid poll samples opinion on the Afghanistan extension. The numbers are interesting, we see better support for a strictly non-combat role, relative to the present mission, but Canadians remain divided:
 48% agree with the decision to keep 950 soldiers in Afghanistan until 2014 in a strictly non-combat role to help train the Afghan military; 44% disagree

 56% (+1 since October) oppose the military operation involving Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan; 36% (+1) support it

You see a 12% increase in mission support, when the distinction between military and non-combat is made. We can all debate the practicality of that distinction, but Canadians are clearly more comfortable with a non-combat role, relative to the present mission constitution. However, despite the increased support, Canadians are still equally divided. Regionally, resistance to any extension is strongest in Quebec and Atlantic Canada, in every other region a non combat role achieves at least plurality support.

One noteworthy finding, Canadians aren't happy with the amount of information the government has provided on this file. Of the 85% who gave an answer, 56% felt the federal government has provided "too little" information on the mission. The amount that feel the government has been open is below the number that supports a military mission.

It's hard to say what these poll means politically. Regionally, it's a mixed bag, but it's also true that the NDP have a wide swath of voters who support their position, there is no split, as is the case on the other side. But, it is also true that Canadians are more amenable to this type of extension, whether it is a ballot issue remains to be seen. Personally, I think the issue will fade to the background for the mainstream voter, now that we have a perceived direction. Of course, this opinion could change if we see casualties in this supposed non-combat role.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


When you're on top, you can do now wrong. And, of course, the opposite is true...

Plenty of advice, as happens every time the Liberals stall. I agree, a lot of the second guessing is mostly useless, much of the current circumstance a well established, historically validated, trend for the official opposition and their leader. That said, the Liberals would be wise to not merely comfort themselves in past analogies, because every situation is unique and healthy concern is warranted.

I watched Question Period Sunday. On the program, there was Rob Nicholson hammering the law and order agenda, using the same lines he's used for years, making the same baseless, maddening accusations, facts be damned, over and over and over. The appearance highlights, in the simplest terms, a lesson the Liberals do need to learn.

Jennifer Ditchburn made the point on At Issue last week that day to day, she didn't understand where the Liberals were going, as a reporter she found it hard to get direction. It's true, anyone who watches Question Period or scans the daily press releases from the OLO, can see a host of issue tackled. In theory, this practice is sound, because there are a myriad of issues which deserve equal attention. However, in terms of political strategy, I'm not sure this philosophy is helping the party brand or the leader.

If there is one word Liberals could learn, I would submit it is "imprinting". The Conservatives are masters at it, simple, concise messaging, on the same topics, over and over and over, to the point of nausea for the frequent observer. The key point, the ordinary voter isn't engaged, meaning the repetition is less pronounced, but particularly effective.

Have you noticed recently that advertisers have used repetitive advertising? A program now will have the same ad, shown a few times for any given episode. It is annoying on one level, but seeing the same ad two or three times in a short span has the desired effect- you remember the ad, the product, the message. I don't like the idea of political parties as corporations, but that doesn't mean you discount the psychology here. When you use repetition, you tattoo your audience, you cement what you stand for, your brand is easily perceptible. I would submit, Rob Nicholson's appearance Sunday is an example of imprinting, the art of repetition to gel opinion. Political junkies get lost in the minutiae, the inherent validity of the arguments, but that's irrelevant, because the target audience isn't this engaged.

In the last few months, the Liberals actually have brought forth new polices that distinguish. But, if you were to ask Canadians, I doubt they could cite the home care plan, I doubt they have heard about the "planes, prisons" argument, I doubt they can give a clear, concise answer as to what the Liberals stand for. Part of the reason, we pick an issue, emphasis it for a day or two max, then move on to the next matter. In today's reality, with a completely disengaged electorate, this strategy doesn't cut it, you need to bore the snot out of we political junkies, repeat, repeat, repeat.

I would argue, when everyone in Ottawa is moaning about the home care program, saying the Liberals need to shut up about it and move on, then and only then are they truly starting to get the message out. If anyone doubts this fact, look no further than the government of the day...

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Axe The Albatross

My blogging compatriot provides the low down, I'd like to add the necessary outrage. Anybody who knows anything knows that this government is under selling the cost of the F35's, and it seems a little research shows a 21 BILLION cost- but hey what's another 5 billion on top of an already obscene expenditure.

We don't need these jets. The fact this government is reduced to the most ridiculous threats to justify, actually provides the most striking support. I mean, if real, serious threats, do exist, one doesn't need to invent and exaggerate straight away, denoting NO real world rationalization. The Conservatives have been downright insulting, the way they have tried to "sell" this aircraft.

Canada does need a replacement aircraft. The cost of any replacement will be high, Canadians will accept that. What is unacceptable is a plane which goes well beyond our needs, that reeks of appeasing the Americans, accompanied by a healthy dose of juvenile testosterone. Canada can't afford trying to impress others, we need a plane that does the job required, nothing more, nothing less. Canada isn't a superpower, and if the Russians are coming, you can bet our 60 planes won't hold off jack squat in the final analysis. Never mind the fact we now conduct joint military operations with the Russians, and they will probably have some status within NATO before this albatross hits the runway. If not the Russians, who? Muslim extremists, is this the best way to counter a threat? Are the Chinese suddenly going to need "living space", only to be deterred by a small amount of fancy aircraft? Come the %%#@ on, let's start with a real conversation and act accordingly, rather than imagined threats.

This is big, big bucks people, enough money that it could bring about fundamental change, if allocated elsewhere. Money that could be used for real threats to Canadian sovereignty, real needs, so enough of this flippant "stand up for Canada" blind patriotism that supports this plane, with LITTLE real inspection. You don't support the military, if you question the expenditure, the classic wedge. You'll note, the only institutional support comes from those with a direct self interest, there is little third party validation.

The cost of this F35 demands we look elsewhere for better value. The fact we already see evidence of downplaying cost, years before actual delivery, should alarm everyone. I am more convinced than ever, this plane purchase will haunt Canada for a generation.

Friday, December 10, 2010

"Conservatives Closer To Losing Power Than They Are To A Majority"

Oh great, just when we were planning the funeral, people smelling things and whatnot, the brink of mutiny, despair, along comes EKOS with their reputable track record. According to Frank Graves, there is no trend, the parties stuck in the mud, no movement to speak of. While others ponder a majority, EKOS sees defeat as a more likely scenario. What does all this mean? It means, nothing has changed, so let's all stop chasing every bump up and down, we're chasing people that can and will and have moved on a DIME.

EKOS gives the Conservatives a 4.5% lead. Compared to the other pollsters, we find the discrepancy culprit resides where it always does, ONTARIO. EKOS shows a dead heat in Ontario, while others have shown a sizable Conservative lead, this the point of divergence. Who's right? Well nobody, because you are trying to gauge the most volatile of electorates, the 10-15% of Ontarians that change their minds often, a fact which every poll since the last election will support. The Liberals have bested 40% in Ontario, the Conservatives the same, and both seem to find a bottom around 30%. The numbers move around, they never maintain themselves, the slightest breeze and they flip. It is here where the national numbers move, here where we all try to find meaning, and really its all about a percentage of the population that doesn't have any real strong ties to anybody- up for grabs and always available come election time, no matter the pre-writ leanings. That's a fact, and I bet if the pollsters tried to gauge firm commitment, they would find Ontario is exactly as I argue.

Rather than overstate, every time we see the same pattern manifest itself, I think it better to see if the trend holds for a few months. If we see this circumstance- which we haven't by the way- then we can say something is afoot. Until then, maybe review the last couple years, watch how things ebb and flow within a range, and realize we are applying large meaning to the most superficial of movement.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Parliament Is Submissive

Six months since the much vaulted deal, and we have nothing but empty promises from the participants, I'd say Layton has a powerful case:

“Stephen Harper has done everything in his power to hide what his government knew about the treatment of Afghan detainees. Now he’s doing it again, but with help from the Liberals and the Bloc,” said Layton at a press conference today. “Mr. Ignatieff, Mr. Duceppe, end this charade today and join us in holding Mr. Harper accountable.”

“A full year after Parliament demanded those documents, this charade hasn’t made a single document public. It flies in the face of the Speaker’s ruling. Instead of holding this government to account, my opposition colleagues are helping to shield records at the heart of this investigation,” said Defence Critic Jack Harris. “If they couldn’t see it six months ago, surely they can see it now: We need a public inquiry.”

My earlier predictions for context:

Detainee Deal A Dud

Afghan Detainee Document Sham

Nothing Settled

Parliament isn't supreme, it's hidden in a back room while the PMO laughs its ass off. Embarrassing.


He Sucks

I appreciate the former novelty. I admit, I enjoyed Harper's "performance" the first time, partisanship aside it was nice, organic moment. However, last night's full set of butchery, deserves some critical thought, rather than simply fawning over sub par musicality.

Oh, it was just a Christmas party, don't poo poo... Trouble is, it's never that simple with the PMO and last night amounts to a staged photo op, hoping the media would report and Harper would benefit. Period, anything else requires one to suffer from amnesia or denote no understanding of present realities in Harper's Ottawa. Nothing is spontaneous, nothing "just" happens, nothing is benign, everything has an angle.

With learned reality in mind, a couple observations. Harper sucks, he sucks real bad. I listened to some of the tape, and it was god awful, the worst wedding band imaginable, a cruel joke that assaulted your unsuspecting ears. This wasn't a hidden talent on display, this was something no one should have to endure. I may never be able to listen to The Who again, but that's another story...

First time, we revel in the surprise. When you go to the well again, with the sole purpose of improving your image, well then we should treat you like we would any other musical offering. Man, that's some kind of special bad....


Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Angus Reid Poll

The latest Angus Reid poll is similar to two others released, a significant Conservative lead.

In my mind, the latest batch of polls, the recent trend lines, confirm my working thesis- when we have a huge controversy, we move to a statistical tie, but in the absence of a real mover, we return to the normal state of a Conservative lead. I would argue the last few weeks, pretty much since the return of Parliament, no real issue has emerged that has resonated with voters. The opposition has moved from this and that, but no real singular focus on any matter that dominates the landscape. In this circumstance- and the last two years have supported this dynamic- the Conservatives tend to benefit, they hover near majority territory, the Liberals languish. When we have an issue that causes the government some backlash, a flurry of negative coverage, then we see the Conservatives fade, Liberals rebound somewhat and we move back to a statistical tie scenario. We never really reach full on majority status for the government, nor do the Liberals ever realize a lead, the polls operate within this range.

The polls all boil down to 5-10% of the electorate moving around, mostly in Ontario, we see this over and over. We are locked into a narrow political reality, nobody will "breakout", Ignatieff won't get "traction, the Bloc will remain strong, the NDP will live or die based on 1-2%- a very static and established pattern. The Liberals can wait for the next "census" debacle, some issue that is so offside, the scary Harper meme scares a few old Liberals back into the fold, but apart for that, this is it folks. With that clearly reality in mind, I would submit that everyone forget about the polls as a crystal ball into election speculation. I believe all the parties realize the narrow band they operate within, as well as a realization that not much will change until the next election- it's just laying the groundwork, developing messages, preparing for the moment when people actually will care, at least a little.

Conservatives up big, which will be followed by Liberals narrow lead, which will be followed by Conservatives open up gap, which will be followed by both parties below 30%, which will be followed by statistical tie, etc, etc.. We all chase every statistical hiccup like it is some seismic, meaningful change, when really if you step back it's just more of the same, the exact same really. Until we have an election, this is it....

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Zero Credibility

So, let's get the dynamics straight. You have Jim Flaherty overtly bashing the budget officer, which requires sheer gall, given the past public record on "predictability". That Flaherty is able to get away with his criticisms represents a failure to simply track the record. Those very clear and easily supported facts aside, when now have the spectacle of a Finance Minister who can't even keep his office in check, never mind the country:
OTTAWA – Finance Minister Jim Flaherty couldn't keep his own office budget in the black last year, published figures suggest.

Flaherty breached Treasury Board guidelines by overspending by more than $430,000 last year, according to government documents.

Flaherty spent $2,868,222 on his ministerial office in 2009-10, while Treasury Board rules cap spending for ministers with extra regional responsibility and a parliamentary secretary at $2,437,370.

"I'm amazed," said Liberal Treasury Board critic Siobhan Coady. "If you can't control your own budget for your own department, how can we be assured that you are going to control the budget for the whole country?"

Let's start connecting the dots here, because the pattern is clear and striking. There are plenty of excuses, but no matter WHERE you look, whether it be the PMO budget, cabinet, spending on self promotion, event spending, every expenditure imaginable, shows a Conservative government that has ZERO credibility on the fiscal restraint front. The fact Flaherty and Harper are able to go on offence, actually preach, is stunning and frankly represents a failure to hold to account. The Conservatives have managed the most BLOATED government in Canadian history, by a country mile, completely betraying the messaging we hear.

Here we sit, with Flaherty crafting his next budget, the the central theme being restraint in trying times, and yet we have all these contradictions swirling around. It's like the leader of the AA meeting has booze on his breath. Stunning.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Tom Flanagan

Not sure this will be a popular view, but... I actually feel sorry for Tom Flanagan. Anyone who watches CBC knows that Flanagan used to be a stiff, matter of fact commentator, pretty bland but thoughtful. I've never agreed with his views, but Flanagan always offered valuable insights from a right wing perspective.

As a regular viewer would know, Flanagan has undergone a bit of a transformation in recent weeks and months. The deadpan delivery waning, Flanagan was loosening up before our eyes, using humour on a regular basis. Prior to THE incident, Flanagan had dressed up like Sasquatch, brought props, made horribly inappropriate sexist jokes, he was Tommy Flanagan now. Rather than offer serious analysis, Flanagan was searching for the zippy one liner. It was this "new" Flanagan which lead to the horrible judgement that caused a international uproar.

I watched the show. My initial reaction was an obvious attempt at humour, that failed badly. I think the important thing here, to separate the partisan, the philosophy of the man, from the poor judgement in this instance. If I thought Flanagan was serious, I'd throw him to the wolves, but he just looks the awkward conservative playing it up, trying to be funny. I understand the seriousness, so some sanction is probably in order, but I'd say Flanagan has already learned his lesson. I suspect if Flanagan was more palatable politically, some of the reaction would be muted, but that's just a hunch.

Again, I understand why people are upset, so this isn't an attempt to minimize necessarily. My point of view merely thinks we don't require a pound of flesh, when Flanagan clearly saw no real world application to his clumsy ham routine on CBC. Flanagan has apologized, so I'll defer to intent, rather than the maelstorm that followed.

Two cents.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Is There Anything More Fundamental?

Although there seems to be some denials from the government, the thrust of Ibbitson's piece is supported by the inaction, the real time nothingness. I must say, while one can understand the potential emotional blow back, the fact that such an intrinsically logical and fair bill can't muster any resolve, puts our entire system into question.

The added seats for Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario are long overdue, there is simply no rational reason to abandon this bill, obvious self interest aside. If the parties are worried about losing seats in Quebec, then fast track the changes, so the new seat gains easily offset any potential losses. That's a strategic response, but really, once and for all, it would nice for a federal party to champion basic democracy, rather than cowering at the first sign of trouble.

If this bill does die, I think it such an indictment that it might be time for federation rethink. I can just imagine the reaction in Alberta, and I can't blame for a second, it's a sellout of the highest order. I suppose the cute and quiet"die on the vine" approach will curb visceral reaction, but eventually it will sink in the west is being SCREWED once again, and this time it will be rightfully so, no question. Representation by population, growing regions having their voice suppressed to placate an increasing minority. That scenario just doesn't wash, and while you understand Quebec's concerns, this is one issue where we require leadership to do the right thing. Anything less, this almost gutless process, and you're left with the conclusion that this country, in its current makeup, just doesn't function properly, a pretty mirage that disappears with the slightest inspection.

I don't buy my party position:
Liberal Democratic Reform critic Carolyn Bennett, from Toronto, said her party was not ready to support the bill “without robust consultation with the provinces.”

“This is no way to run a federation,” she said. “Where is the consultation? Where is the first ministers’ meeting? Where is any understanding of how this country is supposed to work?”

Where is the understanding? This is just an elementary reform, it doesn't require a first ministers' meeting, all it requires is a commitment to representation by population, or at least some move closer to this reality. Why do we need to consult the provinces, when we know FULL well that those who want more will argue just that, and those whose who's percentage will decline will vehemently oppose. Sounds like a recipe for exasperating the situation, no where near a solution. We already have an entrenched Senate which handicaps certain regions, over inflates others, so the naysayers can take comfort in this non-representative body, not demand we do the same in our other house.

We already have a situation in this country where our Parliament is held hostage by people who support the nation's destruction. A now permanent fixture, no federal party has the resolve to make the case, instead it's become a who can out pander each other, with little impact anyways. This reality cemented, we now must endure further insult- no one brave enough to dare address fundamental inequalities, basically giving the west the bird, telling Ontario to once again accept compromise for the greater good, just a complete sham of a federation no matter how you slice it. Maybe it's time for a sober debate, maybe this failure tells us that the federation doesn't work and we need reform or we need a new arrangement. I'm a staunch supporter of a strong central government, but it is rendered useless when it can't mandate the most basic respresentation.

Canada doesn't work, it just doesn't. Something has to give...

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Sure As Shit Not Paying For Ezra Levant

SunTV has every right to broadcast, I'm fine with the CRTC decision in the final analysis. The notion of a propaganda arm disguised as a news outlet is another matter, but in a free society people should always be able to make their own choices. Within that spirit, under no circumstances do I support my cable provider unilaterally FORCING me to support right wing television, through bundling or other tactics to include SunTV in a news package. If there is such a demand for right wing television, then the free market place will surely be kind, as people rush to include the station. Sink or swim, but leave me out of it.

There is a new initiative to write your cable provider, asking for the right to decide. My provider isn't on the list, so I have written my own letter, which states clearly I will IMMEDIATELT terminate my cable if they include the station in any package I otherwise subscribe to. I would encourage everyone who feels the same to do likewise, complacency is the enemy, money talks especially when it WALKS:


Spread the word, if inclined.


Is "Inferiority" Really Up For Debate?

I saw an online poll yesterday that asked if Canadians really have an "inferiority complex". What shocked me, the poll was divided, which meant some people actually believe we don't. I've thought this for years, that the one number one defining quality of what makes someone a Canadian is a sense of inferiority, it's existence permeates every dynamic imaginable.

Have you noticed when a big American personality visits Toronto, invariably the very first question goes something like this "so what do you think of Toronto, how do you like Canada?". We then get the "world class city" response, because Toronto is just that, and all our insecurities are soothed for another moment, we've been validated.

Now, before anyone who lives in another city pokes fun at Toronto's insecurities, it bears mentioning that everywhere I've been, Toronto seems to be an unhealthy obsession. Tearing down Toronto is a national pastime, someone people feel better and it cleanses their own jurisdictional insecurities. It's not a pride, so much as trying to be comparable. I don't sense the same type of insecurity with say New York, London, Paris, but in Canada the hate on is almost required and it belies some commentary on relative worth.

Quebecers are insecure in Canada, that dynamic plays out in every debate, what seems rational is reduced to pride. When Danny Williams retires, he cites his main accomplishment as giving NFLD an equal voice, showing the rest of Canada that the province is no longer the poor sister of confederation, it is all about addressing the inferiorities . This mentality extends all across Atlantic Canada. Turn your gaze out West, the new pride is to often a "well show em" attitude, again the psychological underpinning of which is sheer insecurity.

I firmly believe when a nation, a province, a city, a demographic, has truly arrived, they no longer seek validation, they just are, confident and assured. Unfortunately, our confederation suffers because what motivates isn't geniune confidence, but a true inferiority complex and all the handicaps that pre-disposition brings to the table. I'll know Canada has arrived when we don't react to not getting a Grammy nomination, when Alberta can display its pride without slagging the center of the universe, when Quebec can enter into a federal arrangement without a threatened disposition, when Brad Pitt comes to town and Toronto doesn't require a head pat. Until then, we are arrested, divided, all because of inferiorities, both real but mostly just perceived.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

"What Makes A Great Story?"

A terrific read, Liberal MP Glen Pearson offers some thought provoking insights into the media culture that dominates Ottawa. I'm reminded of a CBCNN self promotion commercial, wherein "what makes a great story?" gives a list of essential key ingredients. One thing is clear, it isn't so much a search for truth, but a search for a compelling story that motivates. Add in a dash of learned cynicism and the dynamic Pearson speaks to becomes apparent.

Canada is blessed with so many great journalists, reporters, meaning any critique isn't some sweeping condemnation. That said, as Susan Delacourt writes this morning on twitter, if you "dish it out, you should be able to take it", and that's a very healthy, reinvigorating perspective. To often the questioners get defensive the moment the spotlight turns and a critical eye is cast. I chalk that reaction to simple human nature, everyone loves to be the criticizer(self included), but nobody likes to be criticized. However, it is imperative that media constantly re-examine, otherwise the medium becomes stale, predictable and fails to live up to it's supposed part of the bargain in our democracy.

It's the pursuit of the story, as Pearson details, and if it lacks juicy bits it fails to be relevant. In addition, if a story has that required edge, it is overblown, exaggerated and given far more attention that it deserves. What is really going on, and what is reported, becomes warped beyond belief, to the point where it no longer speaks to the reality at hand. I would submit, this circumstance is dangerous, because Canadians have no other true window into our political system.

I've mentioned term limits for journalists before, a point Pearson raises. I mean that in jest in one sense, because they are many seasoned journalists in Ottawa that are treasures, their wisdom and experience irreplaceable. However, let's call it the cynic quotient, which can afflict any age group, and when it it reached, the analysis, the emphasis, fails to have any relevance or inherent worth. To be more specific, the immediate "scoff" take, on every issue imaginable, wherein it's all game play, it's all posturing, that perspective is maddening and indicative of someone who's become to jaded to matter.

Canadians are tuning it out, journalists know this well, ratings, circulation don't lie. With this harsh reality in mind, maybe it's time for rethink on "what makes a great story?", because from here, it looks like the audience doesn't necessarily agree.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


The sleeper scenario, that no one predicted, which avoids weeks of second guessing and nauseating over analysis. Prior to the by-elections, I wrote a post Ignatieff's Outremont, basically a realization that there was risk of a leadership crisis repeat, if we didn't appreciate the stakes and act accordingly. In the final analysis, Ignatieff's attention, the "all hands on deck" approach in both ridings, made a difference and offered a clear rebuke to the nonsensical naysayers who said "why bother?". Last night the Liberals showed some Grit, of that there is no question.

This was my sleeper scenario, primarily because it destroyed all the pre-election narratives that were establishing themselves. A Liberal win in Vaughan seemed an uphill battle, as did one in an NDP stronghold. From what I was able to gleam, we had the momentum in Winnipeg North in recent days, there was a buzz in the air, people cautious but upbeat. Ignatieff sent in the troops, organizers and outside help augmented a strong ground game. We had a well know candidate, but as the NDP pointed out yesterday, the overlap only amounted to 1/4 of the riding, something which makes the victory that much more impressive. Name recognition, with a work until the last minute attitude (the amount of MP's on hand last night in Winnipeg a testament) congealed into a surprising victory, which turned the punditry on its head and rendered all pre-conceptions obsolete. The kind of result which makes politics what is, and thank goodness.

The Liberals lost Vaughan, there is one more Conservative MP today than there was yesterday, but the pure facts aside, it feels like a moral victory of sorts. All the doom and gloom prognostications, of which I admit I began to believe, it seemed the stage was set for much hand wringing. As it turns out, Fantino squeaked out a slight victory, the gap less than 1000 voters, something no one predicted. A bit of a slap in the face to the peekaboo campaign style, clearly some were turned off by the entitlement flavour of the Fantino campaign. On the name recognition front, Fantino is as high profile as they come, even Don Cherry comes calling for added emphasis. I think this result was closer than expected because the Liberals didn't give up, GOTV was impressive, people worked their asses off, the leadership included. Again, had Ignatieff listened to some of the Liberal "insiders" and other snake oil salesman, we would have downplayed, kept people away and we probably would have lost by a much bigger margin. There is a lesson here for everyone- dubious sources are just that and definitive statements fail to understand historical precedents. By-elections, by their nature are unpredictable and bring surprises. You have to applaud the Liberals for effort, it made a difference in the end.

The NDP are the big losers last night, no question. For a fourth place party, anytime they lose a seat, it's a setback. The Conservatives can claim victory, simple math their ally. For the Liberals, we lost one, gained one, but when you factor in the predictions, the lead up, the general consensus, the EXPECTATIONS game, feels like a winner from here. Grit.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

NDP's Winnipeg North Candidate Donated To Federal Liberals?

The Winnipeg North bi-election looks to be a tight battle between the NDP and Liberals. Interesting that, when it comes to the wallet, the NDP candidate Kevin Chief would seem to prefer the federal Liberals, or at least the Winnipeg Center Federal Liberal Riding Association:

There doesn't appear to be any donations to the NDP coffers, just these two donations to the Liberals. Note the date, just a couple weeks after the last federal election, which begs the question- did Kevin Chief vote Liberal in the last election? A bit odd to say the least...


Pundits Guide has an NDP response.


There seems some confusion about Lloyd Axworthy and endorsements. Maybe a quick refresher is in order:

October 1, 2010
Kevin Lamoureux demands apology from NDP candidate for misleading voters

WINNIPEG – Winnipeg North Liberal candidate Kevin Lamoureux today demanded an apology from NDP candidate Kevin Chief for blatantly misleading the people of Winnipeg North by falsely portraying a statement from former Liberal MP Lloyd Axworthy as an endorsement in a campaign brochure circulated throughout the riding.

“Mr. Chief should be ashamed for creating the false impression in Winnipeg North that he has the support of former Liberal MP Lloyd Axworthy,” said Mr. Lamoureux. “This is the lowest form of politics, and if the NDP think they can get away with fooling voters through this kind of deceit and trickery, they’re dead wrong.”

The brochure prominently features Dr. Axworthy and is clearly styled to appear as a political endorsement. Dr. Axworthy has said that, given his position at the University of Winnipeg, it would be inappropriate for him to endorse any political candidate. Dr. Axworthy did not give his permission for his photo or comment to be used as an endorsement.

“If Mr. Chief has any honour, he will do the right thing by retracting this false endorsement and apologize immediately,” said Mr. Lamoureux. “The people of Winnipeg North should be able to expect any individual seeking to represent them to act honestly and in good faith, and this deliberate attempt to mislead them shows a lack of respect and judgment from Mr. Chief.”

A federal by-election is expected to be called soon in Winnipeg North, to elect a new MP to fill the seat vacated by former MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis who stepped down to run for mayor of Winnipeg.

“I had hoped that Mr. Chief and the NDP would run a clean and fair campaign focussed on the issues, but after bringing this breach to his campaign’s attention, I am deeply disappointed by the continued circulation of this flyer and the dishonourable conduct this shows before the by-election has even started,” concluded. Mr. Lamoureux.


The Lamoureux campaign has put out an open letter:
With the federal by-election campaign entering the home stretch, I am appealing directly to you and your party to stop the dirty tricks and clean up your campaign.

Critiquing the policies of other candidates is fair game, but I’m disappointed that you have sunk to misleading and personal attacks.

With only a few days left in this election, your campaign has distributed official literature that mentions nothing about the issues in Winnipeg North, but instead attacks the Leader of Liberal Party – a man who has visited Winnipeg North four times since July, participated in two town
halls and understands the needs of our community.

Before the election, you sent out literature which gave the false impression that former Liberal MP Lloyd Axworthy endorsed you.

My eighteen years in politics have taught me that Winnipeggers don’t appreciate dirty tricks. They want an honest representative with a record of community-based solutions who can deliver results

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Fantino Releases Cure For Insomnia

Julian Fantino will once again avoid the voters of Vaughan tonight, failing to appear at an ALL candidates debate. Honestly and truly, what a gutless campaign this guy is running, surprised he isn't wearing a cone around his head to keep him from licking the incision. Anyways, to be fair, while Fantino is afraid of the voters he wants to represent, his campaign has been kind enough to make a valuable contribution in the fight against insomnia:

Good grief.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Right Decision

It would appear the Liberals are moving towards the only reasonable option, a full debate on an Afghanistan mission extension:
Ignatieff open to vote on Afghan training work

Michael Ignatieff says he's willing to go along with the idea of a vote in the Commons on Canada's decision to keep troops in Afghanistan until 2014.

I had a discussion with a very prominent and passionate supporter of extending the Afghan mission. I won't reveal that person's name, but there was some concern that people weren't being fair to Rae's courageous decision. My argument, the process, the lack of full debate before our representative body is siphoning off many people who would otherwise be supportive of this type of mission extension. The problem- this notion of bypassing Parliament has created other issues surrounding our democracy, the idea of backroom deals, a bunch of self inflicted nonsense that doesn't need to be part of a serious debate. Remove the irritant, and one can expect more support for the idea. I would argue many Liberals expressing concern aren't undermining the idea of extension, just the process by which it is coming to be, a very big distinction.

I still have a problem with the idea of Liberals coming to this vote conclusion late and in reaction to criticism, but how we get there is secondary to actually bringing this extension to a more formal public debate. I would add however, we've seen once again that you can't do an end around and not expect blow back, any attempt to avoid Liberal divisions has only exasperated them.

Now that Ignatieff, and others, have signalled a vote would be amenable, we can move on to the actual substance of the new mandate. In that regard, I fully support a training mission, that's been our policy and it's a sound, reasonable response to a trying situation. No matter your personal view of how we got there, whether we should have gone in the first place, the fact remains we did go, we are there and "dates" are arbitrary realities that don't do justice to the ongoing process, whether it be training, development, nation building, etc. Canada has invested much, so the idea of fully retreating seems intellectually immature- not only isn't it practical but it isn't morally irresponsible in IMHO. Canada also has an obligation to it's partners, so if we can find a way to offer support, while respecting domestic concerns, it's a satisfactory compromise.

The Liberals are very much a big tent on this issue. I simply don't fear dissent, and I'd argue that the path to avoid open debate actually risked creating worse divisions. Let's have the debate, supporters of the mission need not worry, the numbers are there, even if some in our party are squimish or against. Let all views be heard and put it to a vote. Ignatieff is expressing the only real option, as I argued earlier, it really is vote or bust, anything less, met with a stench that will cloud the legitimacy of this mission- it's as simple as that.

Democracy is messy and protracted. Supporters might not like the disjointed path, but it's a necessary part of the equation, which we can't sacrifice, just because one take a particular view. If the Liberals have truly taken the voting option off the table, then it eliminates chief hesitations, allowing many of us to support this extension purely on the grounds, rather than the process distractions. It's the right decision.


It's been hard to get details about the Afghan detainee document working group's progress. I've been a big critic of the "deal", but today we finally have something substantive. Here's the group in action:

Looks about right.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Where's Waldino?

The now fully established standard operation procedure for Conservative candidates is really quite disturbing, maybe moreso because they seem to pull it off with little recourse. The latest installment, tough guy Julian Fantino afraid of voters armed with questions, some maybe loaded even:
Fantino’s camp has cleared things up: Mr. Fantino will attend the Rogers debate (to be aired Nov. 23, but prerecorded). On Nov. 23, though, he has a family commitment to attend to that evening and cannot attend the Citizen’s debate. Stephen Lecce from Fantino’s campaign says they weren’t given any options for debate dates.

Of note, Fantino's camp was offered Nov 16 for the same debate, but also declined that date, so this excuse of no options is categorically false. Fantino has agreed to the Rogers debate, which just so happens to NOT include an audience, unscripted questions, media and is moderated by a former Harris cabinet minister.

It's just pathetic, the way these Conservative candidates do the bare minimum, in terms of exposure. We've seen the same in Winnipeg North, and the examples are endless during previous bi-elections and/or general elections. What are they afraid of? Are these Conservative candidates so inept and incompetent that they can't face the voters? Every party thinks they have the solutions, everyone has a point of view, an audience, so to actually fear exposure and dialogue, it's just an affront to the pure notion of grassroots democracy.

I keep ending up in the same place these days. Astounded on one level, then resigned, because the Conservatives DO get away with this endless crap. Fantino should be drawing the rage of voters for this peekaboo style of campaign he is running. And yet....

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Julie Javier Mania Sweeps Winnipeg North

If you visit Conservative candidate Julie Javier's website, you find pictures of Jason Kenney's recent visit to the riding, to boost her bi-election bid in Winnipeg North. A few tight shots that denote a pleasant visit from a high profile Conservative Minister. However, those pictures don't quite give the visit the justice it deserves. I found another photo- which I might forward to Jane Taber- illustrating the massive momentum enjoyed by the Javier campaign, not to mention what a terrific draw Jason Kenney can be:

I can't confirm if the fire department was called, but you do the math.


I just can't get my head around the slew of columns, praising the "bi-partisan", "above politics" result on the Afghan file. There seems the most serious error in logic, as well as a fundamental betrayal of the word "bi-partisan".

Both the Conservatives and several Liberals are saying that the government of the day doesn't need Parliamentary approval to extend this mission, so long as it is not military in nature. If you take this defence for the lack of a formal debate and vote, then you have effectively neutered this notion of politicians from both sides putting aside partisanship and working in "bi-partisan" fashion. If the government doesn't need Parliament's approval, then why the hell do they need to get the Liberals on board?? If the government is well within its mandate, as argued by Liberals themselves, then there is no need to cobble together a multi-party approval, right? All these accolades, people rising above the fray, is pure bull, because there is no "bi-partisan" effort.

I'm arguing a fine line here, because I don't approve of the leaks, at least those that name names. However, what is clear and NOT surprising, the Liberals are anything but "bi-partisan" on this issue. In fact, it would appear the Liberals are horribly divided on this Afghan issue, so to claim that we have some real mutual agreement only stands if you toss out democracy, and instead focus on what amounts to a few people coming to a meeting of the minds. "Bi-partisan" is a complete and utter mirage, and it's sad that people praise this horribly flawed description.

I can understand why this issue is blowing up in the Liberals face, because it looks like MP's weren't consulted, at least not in a way our DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED representatives deserve. The after the fact "oh by the way" flavour to this whole story is disturbing. Once again, we see evidence of a top down approach, which snubs core tenets.

There is something anti-democratic, backroom, end around, to this whole affair. No matter the rationalizations, the stench is there and it is very, very real. It has become even more bizarre now, that we have people lauding this process and bastardizing the word "bi-partisan". Frankly, it's a joke at this point to say the Liberals support this Afghanistan extension. As a matter of fact, it looks like most Liberal MP's don't, which explains the detour tactics employed (I actually do, in general, but that is completely irrelevant to the notion of democratic accountability). Just don't insult everyone with these nonsensical characterizations, and misguided praise that fails basic logic.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I think we can all agree, partisanship aside, there is nothing worse than a RAT. The Liberals have been plagued by anonymous sources, "senior" Liberals, and they've done harm to the party over the years. Sometimes people should step forward and challenge, I have no qualms with this type of "dissent". However, this column by Jane Taber represents the ultimate betrayal. To actually name individual MP's who expressed an opinion, inside a closed door meeting, is just pure and utter crap:
Several Liberals, including Toronto MPs Rob Oliphant and Gerard Kennedy, spoke about their displeasure with the way in which the decision was handled, the source said. At least one Quebec MP also spoke out against the process.

Another MP told The Globe he came to the Liberal Party to “have a voice,” adding that he was “very, very displeased with how this was handled.” Many MPs first heard about the Liberal position in the media.

“They were furious,” the caucus insider said. “The general consensus ... was that Harper has pulled the rug out from underneath Michael and that Michael should have been prepared.”

The source noted, however, that Mr. Oliphant did say that at the end of the day he supported the leader, but he believes the Liberal position could be a “tough sell” for him in his riding.

You know what's funny? I agree with everything in the piece, the way the Liberal brass has handled this Afghan file is ridiculous. If I was an MP, I'd be furious too, the lack of consultation simply insulting. I'm proud that Kennedy rose up and questioned this process, good on ya Gerard! However, I shouldn't know what Kennedy said behind closed doors, during a private meeting, wherein MP's should have the freedom to speak their minds. That a fellow MP would leave this meeting and run to Jane Taber, well, I'd move heaven and earth to find out who and TURF them from caucus immediately.

We know have a situation where MP's can't even debate, without the fear of the RAT outing their concerns by NAME. What a coward, what a cad, what a low life, that doesn't deserve to be part of any "team", or any party I want to associate with. Again, no matter your affiliation, we should all decry this betrayal. A general comment on a raucus meeting, I have no problem with, but to out these MP'



Wow, everyone just running to the press with names. Sheesh.


Biggest Frauds In Canadian History

Never before, have we seen a gang take office and so truly and fundamentally betray everything they supposedly stand for. The Conservatives aren't unique in failing to live up to their promises, but when it comes to projecting overt moral superiority, they simply have NO peer. The gap between reality and rhetoric becomes that much more pronounced when you grasp the populist origins of the new Conservative Party.

Last night, in Winnipeg North, the Conservative candidate was a no show for the candidates debate. Important to note, this complete affront to the notion of democratic accountability isn't unique, the Conservatives have pulled this stunt, time and again, across the country. Taken further, incorporate Fantino, his "protective custody" style of campaign, and you are left with what just might be the biggest fraud of party since confederation.

Where are you Reform hypocrites, blogging bories, all you white horse mount pure types, as you watch the transparent, accountable party operate like a totalitarian regime? Not only are Harper's Conservatives not accountable, transparent, populist, they make the former Liberal regimes look downright progressive by comparison. It's absolutely stunning, that the Tim Horton's party can operate in such an elitist, detached, snub your nose, bite me electorate, fashion. And yet, they can....

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Vote Or Bust

Having just finished watching the NDP's Paul Dewar speak on the Afghanistan question, it only confirmed a "becoming obvious" point- the Liberals will be on the defensive until we demand a vote on the mission extension.

First off, the Liberals have supported this type of mission for months, there is no philosophical alteration. If anything, this whole process is merely the Conservatives coming to the Liberal way of thinking, moving forward. In that sense, one can understand why the Conservatives developed this extension math, because they foresaw broader support for the concept. In addition, in the most simplistic fashion, one can also follow the logic that would see the Liberals giving approving "cues", again because the idea is nothing foreign to on the record, stated Liberal policy. However, and this is the key point, none of these facts, the chronology, really matters, because it is this lack of a VOTE that casts a massive shadow over the entire affair.

Until the Liberals agree to a vote, then they might as well resign themselves to giving the NDP carte blanche to pound the snot out of us, make us look like co-conspirators, usurping democratic will, blah, blah, blah. The Conservatives "broke their promise" to consult Parliament, and by arguing the finer details of Parliamentary protocols, the Liberals allow themselves to get lumped in and opponents have a free ride. The NDP doesn't make sense on Afghanistan, in many respects, but by not holding the government to full and formal account, it's no matter, they are allowed to go on pure and effective offence. Fair? Whatever. Right or wrong? Who cares. Bottom line? We'll lose the argument, because we lack the soundbite position, we are lost in the detail, while others react with powerful indignation.

IMHO, it's vote or bust for the Liberals. Forget about the "system", what government's can or can't do, it is not the Liberals job to educate us all on Parliamentary precedent. The Liberals are running around the country telling us all "you can't trust these guys", a persuasive narrative, rife with easily understood examples, and yet we don't take this Afghan debate to the most transparent conclusion. It's not to say a vote guarantees anything, but a vote says to Canadians "here's what we will support" and if it strays from those voted on parameters, then the government is offside. A vote still allows the NDP to protest the position, but all of the behind closed doors stuff, the guilty by association, broken promise routine, is neutered. No matter the semantics, you will forever lose the public relations battle, when your position refuses to bring a matter this important before the elected Parliaments, the optics NEVER work.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Help Me Out Bob?

For the life of me, I don't get what the Liberals are doing on the Afghanistan file. Well I do, in terms of wanting to avoid a potential divisive debate, but apart from the politics, it just reeks on the principle front. Here's the problem:
Mr. Dewar was reacting to news from Korea that the Prime Minister will not seek parliamentary approval to allow Canadian troops to remain in Afghanistan post-2011 in some yet-to-be defined training mission. In addition, Bob Rae, the Liberal foreign affairs critic, told The Globe on Friday morning that he was fine with that.

“Whether there's a parliamentary resolution is not a matter of law (or even custom) but a choice of the government,” Mr. Rae said. “In the current circumstance I fully understand the government's decision.”

Mr. Dewar noted that Mr. Rae was in conversation with Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon about a training plan. The Liberals have long pushed for Canadian troops to remain in Afghanistan after the combat mission is scheduled to end this summer.

How can Rae sign off, when the mission is "yet to be defined"? Isn't that lack of accountability a recipe for abuse? Why isn't Rae saying we support the training principle, but want a formal proposal that must go through the elected Parliament?

The Liberals have supported continued training, that's nothing new, the broad strokes consistent with the party stance. However, that philosophical consistency falls to pieces when one considers the ambiguity of what "training" entails. It is fair to ask if this is just an end around way to remain in theater, as we wait for the other shoe to drop?

Where are the Liberal safeguards here, to ensure that what the Conservatives have vaguely outlined meets our criteria? You mean, we are left to private conversations between the Conservatives and Liberals, without the light of day, without the most basic of public accountability? I'm sorry, but any democrat can't endorse this process, no matter if one agrees with staying or not. There's a way to proceed, and this is starting to resemble a star chamber feel, that insults the notion of true representation.

First, we have a key foreign policy plank articulated by a useless political hack, which is then followed days later by a strange out of country declaration by the Prime Minister. It would seem the Liberals are feeding this bizarre announcement with our own lack of basic accountability. Bob Rae giving the okay to a unilateral decision, under cover of some procedural precedent is weak, PARTICULARLY because nobody knows what exactly the government has in mind. I don't get it, don't support it and judging by my email inbox, I'm not alone...

BCL: "A Backroom Deal"