Saturday, January 30, 2010

Lead Balloon

It actually makes you angry on one level, the way this Prime Minister is clearly manipulating genuine human plight for NAKED partisan advantage. That said, I do find it somewhat refreshing that Harper's new projection, the great international humanitarian, is basically going over like a lead balloon, the disconnect so striking to border on embarrassing.

The principles Harper is proposing to the world are sound, the issues real, some response warranted. Improved health care for moms and their babies, boosting food production, promoting economic growth, all laudable goals to help the impoverished. It's not the message, but the messenger. Here's my cynical take on the chronology, which I'd wager is BANG ON.

Serious political problems at home, plummeting support that has sent shock waves through the PMO, completely derailing their ENTIRE winter and spring strategy, which was supposed to set the stage for electoral bliss. In the midst of the hammering the Conservatives were taking, a natural disaster occurred. The government responded with opportunistic zeal (I'm sure there was a genuine component, but only a fool doesn't consider "the wheels turning" in the PMO), high profile photo ops, swamping the media, seeing this event as the channel changer they desperately wanted.

The PMO saw the positive press for their Haiti response, which SUDDENLY produced this epiphany- we can re brand this Prime Minister as a humanitarian, taking a lead on the world stage, an advocate for the disadvantaged. Never mind, that all policies to date either contradicted the new messaging and/or demonstrated COMPLETE AND UTTER INDIFFERENCE, the PMO plowed ahead with the notion, cobbling together new initiatives. It was all political calculus, but this PMO believe if you say it, they will come, any level of true historical inspection a temporary obstacle.

I admit to a pungent VOMIT taste in my throat, reading and listening to this new creation coming out of the PMO. It's so callous and opportunistic, so at odds with this guy's career and record, the poor used as a pawn to improve a tarnished image. Supporters will give Harper the benefit of the doubt, probably defend the authenticity of his motives. Lap it up, repeat the words, never question, basically turn off all brain activity to accept HARPER THE HUMANITARIAN. I'll leave those to their almost pathetic delusions.

I suggest a read of Travers today, because I think it representative of the general tone, as people digest this AWKWARD metamorphosis:
No, the problem is Harper is a political changeling. Instead of the rigid ideologue feared by many voters, his guide rail is expediency. He will say and do whatever is necessary to take, protect and manipulate power.

An initiative borne of political calculation, further fuelled by desperation and timely opportunism. Nothing more, nothing less, to suggest otherwise proves that common sense isn't as common as advertised.

I think it's all shameful in the end. On the plus side, Harper is now contorting wildly, which only undermines his credibility further. Canadians will soon put this political animal out of its misery.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Run For The Hills, It's The T Word

I find it a fascinating question, the tension between frank honesty and political survival. On the one hand, you can see why the Liberals would avoid the issue of tax hikes at all costs. First, because last time I checked the words TAX INCREASE are the equivalent of political suicide. Second, because you're dealing with an opponent who distorts and manipulates with unprecedented zeal. On the other hand, I don't care what any politician says today, the odds are a tax hike will be required, we are in structural deficit. Avoiding this discussion amounts to a certain dishonesty, we do need to have this debate and all considerations should be on the table.

I would imagine Gerard Kennedy is feeling some heat today for his very candid, not to mention refreshing, comments:
For months, Liberals have recoiled at any talk of raising the GST. But a senior Liberal MP says the idea needs to be on the table as the party crafts its long-term plan to balance the country's books.

Toronto MP Gerard Kennedy, the party's infrastructure critic, says he's speaking for himself - the Liberal leadership want nothing to do with his remarks.

"I think we do need to talk about it," Mr. Kennedy said yesterday in an interview with The Globe and Mail.

"I do think we need to talk about a fiscal plan. That debate is internal to the Liberal Party now and I'm not pronouncing on it."

"I wasn't afraid to raise it," he said. "I think we're very prepared to put things on the table. I'm not the economic lead on the tax discussion. I'm not unilaterally trying to launch that into the public. I do think we need to have the debate."

He said tax increases shouldn't happen now while the economy is struggling, but should be considered as part of a longer-term deficit plan.

Policy wise, Kennedy is spot on. I do see a way that the Liberals can propose a "five year plan" that CONSIDERS tax measure in the final year or two. This type of proposition allows the government to truly see where we are, once economic recovery is well under way, without harming said recovery. The Liberals can focus on other measures to eliminate debt, and no one should underestimate job creation, but when other avenues are exhausted, THEN it's time for sober calculation.

The trouble with this type of plan, it still remains an easy target for a Conservative government, seemingly bent on denying simple realities, instead focusing on politically palatable arguments. With that in mind, it's easy to see why the Liberals might be better off playing the same game, keeping their heads down and putting off the "adult conversation".

However, in so doing, the Liberal position doesn't provide a great deal of differentiation. Focusing on jobs instead of deficit reduction, well that's a strange argument, that has the potential to fall flat. I'm sure the Conservatives will highlight job creation to, there are plenty of levers available in the budget to make that argument, rendering our thrust a "saw off" of sorts.

Do we applaud Kennedy, or do we cringe? Depends on the particular moment from here.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Your Morning Smile

Let's not get carried away, but the last time the Liberals had any lead in a poll, even statistically insignificant, was early last summer. The new EKOS shows more movement in favor of the Liberals:
Liberals 31.6%(30.9%)
Conservatives 31.1%(31.5%)
NDP 14.6%(14.9%)
Greens 11%(11.5%)

Last week's EKOS started to show the Liberals finally getting some traction. The trend continues this week. In Ontario, the Liberals are effectively back, hovering around 39%, while the Conservatves are at 32%, NDP 15%, Greens 12%. I still maintain a very volatile electorate, but the momentum has swung heavily to the Liberals over the past month. EKOS also gives the Liberals a relatively strong result in Quebec and British Columbia. These three provinces are critical for Liberal fortunes, so good signs all around.

Of note, EKOS releases their polling for each individual day. One must remain cautious inferring anything, but the Liberal vote rose each successive day, culminating with a 33.4% Tuesday. As I said yesterday, the last two weeks have been quite good for the Liberals, better than any recent time I can remember. This week in particular, solid policy proposals, a general air of government in waiting, with this terrific strategy of showing up for work. The improving fortunes might speak to a true "second look" at Ignatieff and the Liberal brand.

In terms of right direction/wrong direction, the Conservatives are in the RED, which is another worrying sign from their perspective. British Columbia and Quebec are decidedly pessimistic, followed by Ontario, again highlighting the potential problem for the Conservatives.

I honestly think the Liberals are starting to benefit and look like a credible alternative. With a renewed focus on policy development, culminating with the Montreal Conference, there is plenty of opportunity. What might be more important, the new negative media narrative towards Harper finds more fuel, while Ignatieff enjoys this supposed "new bounce in his step". In other words, the channel has been changed, from one of constant bombardment directed towards the Liberals to a redigestion of all that's wrong with Harper.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"Too Close To Call Terrority"

A new Harris Decima, which shows a change from last week's publication. One thing to point out, it was actually a two week gap in polling despite release time. This poll was done last Thursday to Sunday. Another statistical tie, the piano has left the building:
The latest Harris-Decima survey conducted for the Canadian Press suggests the Conservatives and Liberals are in a statistical dead heat, with 32 per cent supporting the Tories and 31 per cent for the Liberals.

The NDP were at 15 per cent, while the Bloc and the Green party each had 10 per cent

Per usual, HD doesn't release much else in the way of regionals. However, we see a 4% national gap now fall to 1%, as the Conservatives shave off another 2% in support, the Liberals up 1%.

Gregg attributes the new polling reality to Harper`s self inflicted wounds, rather than anything Ignatieff is doing. One slight quibble, Gregg is relying on the same two week old data to support this characterization. My instincts tell me that Ignatieff has enjoyed the best two week period since his initial honeymoon. I suspect some measure of traction, which is now starting to edge the Liberals up ever so slightly. I`ll be paying attention to some of the leadership numbers in the coming weeks, to see if there is evidence of minor rebound. That said, the now normal theme of statistically tied polls is clearly a by-product of Harper`s tactical superiority, he does deserve full credit.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Conservative MP Takes Prorogue Vacation

Oh, this is more than a tad EMBARRASSING:
Despite the rally, Prince Albert MP Randy Hoback said the government's decision to prorogue parliament until March hasn't caused a flood of emails or phone calls to his office.

"Our constituents have more concerns on their minds," he said by phone Tuesday from California, where he is vacationing. "They want us to concentrate on jobs, get people back to work, and get the budget back in order. And that's what I'll focus on when I get back to Parliament and that's what I'm focusing on now."

Focusing on jobs, while VACATIONING in CALIFORNIA. You must have a pretty big set of BALLS to actually book a vacation the week you were supposed to return to Parliament. Reaching elephantitis-like dimensions to posit you're focusing on jobs while you're away from yours.



Apparently, the vacation was taken just prior to Parliament's return. Wasn't clear from link, but I should have checked original article. Apologize for error.


You have to give the Prime Minister some credit. On several occasions Harper has shown the capacity to morph and redefine himself, in the face of very negative impressions. The mean, hyper-partisan, preoccupied with divisive tactics, all these narratives looked to be on the wane. Harper managed to position himself as co-operative in the coalition aftermath, and he also managed to project a "softer" image, somewhat helping his "affection" score with Canadians. All the negatives remained, but it was back burner stuff, Harper had effectively manipulated the political short term memory dynamic. However, if you scanned recent editorials, and the overall tone of coverage and voter reaction, all that "good work" has evaporated and we are back to dissecting the cold partisan, self interest before good government, all those frames that have held Harper back. The question now becomes- is this just another temporary setback or has Harper finally cemented himself as a tragic figure?

While things in politics do tend to change quickly- only a fool is entirely definitive- it is relevant to mention that each time you reinforce negative narratives, the chances for rebound diminish. When you judge the character of a person, if you see an almost pathological recurring theme, you eventually conclude that's the persons nature and it takes much effort to convince you otherwise. In the political realm, when enough voters reach a personal conclusion, it equates to ceilings, it suggests past your political prime.

At this point, I honestly believe much of Harper's future opportunity will rely on the Liberals and their perceived effectiveness. Should the Liberals project strength, vision, competence, Harper may have a very hard time "recalibrating" if you will. Let's not forget, his fall surge in the polls was largely a by-product of Liberal self-inflicted wounds. Left with no credible alternative, the Conservatives benefit, but this support shouldn't be misconstrued as solid or firm.

I have no doubt that Harper is capable of rebound, the chameleon qualities and propaganda machine formidable. That said, how many times can you project the same negative attributes and not pay a permanent price? Every former leader would agree, the public tolerance isn't infinite.

Monday, January 25, 2010


I love these "reform" proposals philosophically, strategically and most of all because it denotes that, yes, in fact the Liberals are listening, it isn't just lip service. The Liberals released a series of concrete reform proposals, which are frankly hard to find fault with:
To prevent future abuses of prorogation, the Liberal Party of Canada will seek to amend the Standing Orders of the House of Commons to:

• Require at least 10 days written notice from the Prime Minister of his intention to seek to prorogue, together with his specific reasons for doing so;

• Require the Prime Minister to bring the issue of prorogation before the House of Commons for a full debate;

• Prevent a request for prorogation within the first year after a Speech from the Throne, unless the House consents;

• Prevent a prorogation longer than one calendar month without the consent of the House;

• Prevent a request for prorogation if a matter of confidence has been scheduled in the House unless the House consents; and,

• Allow Parliamentary Committees to continue to function during the period when Parliament is prorogued until the start of the new session.

The above moves power away from the whims of a Prime Minister to our elected legislature. The Prime Minister can still prorogue, but he must justify his reasoning, he must face Parliament and debate merits. The item curtails future abuse, denying any prorogue request, should a matter of confidence be forthcoming. In totality, all these measures congeal to create a new climate, wherein the PM is subjected to the will of Parliament, to a certain extent. Prime Minister's will think twice before they decide to prorogue, because their decision will be under scrutiny. I applaud these measures all around.

Last week, Ignatieff resisted calls for prorogue reform, arguing instead that it was more a question of THIS Prime Minister abusing, rather than an inherent flaw in the system. I was quite critical of this argument. I note that during last week's online townhall, there was much resistance and criticism directed towards the Liberals, failing to offer any concrete reform, only offering the mostly useless and non resonating "trust us" argument. The fact that the Liberals have reconsidered demonstrates a nimble approach, criticism was digested and revisions were made. This reaction illustrates that Ignatieff is listening, these exercises of outreach are more than just public relations fluff.

On the strategic front, the Liberals have seized the agenda, they have put themselves at the center of the reform debate. In terms of frame, it is critical important that we redefine the Liberal brand. Steps such as the above might be a small step, but it does allow for some sense of differentation between the two main parties, as well as speaking to voter "drift". Is there a political motivation here? Well hello, isn't there always to a certain extent, no matter the party. This fact doesn't detract from a sense of dialogue, responsive policy, which is never a negative.


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Ipsos Poll

Not my favorite pollster in terms of reliability, but their numbers confirm the trend, from a 13% lead to a virtual tie in two months:

Conservatives would garner 34% of the vote if an election was held today, compared to 31% for the Liberals.

The NDP would capture 17%, the Bloc Quebecois nine% and the Green Party eight%, the poll suggests.

The poll by Ipsos-Reid is the third national sampling of voter intentions released within the past week that has said the Tory lead over the Grits has all but evaporated.

A rarity, only one party is up from the last Ipsos poll, the Liberals. Mind you, it's not hard to rebound from a 24% finding, but this does represent another poll which puts the Liberals back over 30%. Poll to poll, Libs up 7%, Cons minus 3%, NDP minus 2%, Greens minus 2%.

IR shows a statistical tie in Ontario, quite a change from the 10% lead in late November, and the Liberals up 9%. NDP sit at 15%, which explains their drop- Ipsos had them at a curiously high 21% in November.

In Quebec, the first 30% score we've seen from any pollster for the Liberals in some time. 37% for the Bloc, 15% for the Cons, no result posted for the NDP. I'd remain sceptical of this finding, seems a tad high, but all the polls have shown a small Liberal rise recently.

Anyways, whenever you see a story in the National Post detailing the "evaporated" Conservative lead, accompanied by a concession that NO, Haiti isn't helping the government change channels, it's a good day.

Looking forward, I've seen virtually no criticism directed towards the Liberals for showing up in Ottawa tomorrow. A very professional tone, this looks to be another week where the opposition effectively fills the political vacuum, created by Harper.

No Prorogue Rally

A couple of pictures from the Guelph No Prorogue rally yesterday. A fantastic turnout of around 500, which looks to be one of the bigger ones, per capita:

Actually, we do care.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Off To The Rally

Will tweet later with updates.

Globe And Mail Endorses "Legislative Restraint On Prorogation"

This editorial doesn't seem to be getting much attention, but it should, particularly from my party of choice. Effectively endorsing the NDP's proposal, the Globe and Mail argues you can limit prorogue power, without constitutional amendments:
The solution: Legislative restraint

It is time the rules governing prorogation changed. Canada's Parliament has shown itself vulnerable to an excessive concentration of power, and hence is hampered in fulfilling its role as the “ultimate sovereign body.” The prorogation of 2008 has now been followed by another, this time simply for partisan tactical convenience. The Prime Minister is misusing the power to shut down Parliament, and in the process destabilizing Canada's democracy. For that reason, prorogation should be made subject to legislative controls.

There is a precedent. Mr. Harper himself once backed a similar reform. His government enacted Bill C-16, the fixed-date election law, which it was claimed removed the power to call elections at times of their own choosing from prime ministers, while acknowledging the law did not affect the powers of the governor-general. While not airtight, the law seemed binding at the very least on the prime minister who instigated it. Instead, Mr. Harper, sensing political advantage, disregarded his own law, sought and received dissolution of Parliament on Sept. 7, 2008, a year ahead of the fixed date.

Prorogation is or could be a more dangerous political tool than dissolution, and a more effective reform can be envisaged. A limit could be set, for example, on the length Parliament could be prorogued. Similarly, if advice to prorogue Parliament came not from the prime minister, but on an address of Parliament, Mr. Harper would have been unable to slip his request for prorogation through just before New Year's with a curt telephone call to the Governor-General. He would have had to bring the matter before the House of Commons for a debate and vote. Only when armed with House support could the request have been made. It does not violate the principles of the constitution for the House of Commons to control its own schedule. According to the Queen's University political scientist Ned Franks, the British Parliament has twice legislated on prorogation, in 1867 and 1918. The NDP has already indicated it will pursue legislative means to rein in the prime minister's misuse of prorogation, but MPs of all parties have a responsibility to resist submission, as Junius said, “to arbitrary measures.”

The Liberal response to date, "trust us", when asked about any prorogue reforms. The issue isn't prorogation, but the abuse, initiated by THIS Prime Minister. While I entirely agree, Harper bears responsibility for abusing the levers at his disposal, simply pointing this out doesn't go far enough, it doesn't address the genuine concerns of Canadians. For the Liberal criticism to truly be effective, it must be armed with real world application, otherwise it's simply endorsing the status quo. I see no reason why the Liberals can't champion certain legislative reforms, because to resist, implies a position based on FUTURE self interest. Judging by the reaction to the hollow platitudes offered to date, I would argue a missed opportunity, should the Liberals continue to defend current conventions.

Harper is the problem, but beyond that, this issue speaks to a system out of balance. The Liberals should champion any initiative which speaks to a more representative and egalitarian parliament, one that puts more control into the hands of people we elected, rather than the whims of a Prime Minister.


A bit after the fact, but I'd like to issue a public apology for any disparaging comments I made about columnist Paul Wells. I have tremendous respect for Mr. Wells, and consider him an asset to Canadian journalism. Any comments I made were probably the result of "bruised ego", but this fact doesn't justify cheaps shots that can be construed as personal in nature. Again, sincere apology.

That is all.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Remember To Be "Impartial"

Am I the only one that has noticed, a certain underlying desire by SOME to see these prorogue rallies fall flat? I think it's important to leave the EGOS at the door tomorrow, and not try to re-establish what is an already refuted perspective- namely that nobody cared, prorogation wasn't on Canadians radar, not an issue that mattered. Despite what happens tomorrow, the evidence is in, this issue does matter and it's shuffled the entire political narrative. That changed dynamic is an objective fact, unless one must interject nonsensical consideration.

As I see it, the role of the media tomorrow is to report on the protests, it isn't an occasion to revert back to told you so. People got it wrong initially, let's move on with a clean slate, rather than a biased effort to downplay, based on said "first impression". Canadians aren't inclined to protest, we don't get our pitchforks and storm perimeters. As a matter of fact, I'm hard pressed to remember any serious protest, at least not one entirely driven by simple grassroots. Rather than belittle a "click of a mouse", much more insightful to recogize some level of resonance, a healthy fact in an of itself given rampant apathy.

I've been struck by a certain disconnect. Last year, when the coalition formed, we heard universal agreement of unrest in the land. There was no questioning of impacts, it was FACT, and I actually tended to agree. And yet, much of that "rebellion" was articulated in the simpliest ways- a phone call to a radio station, a Facebook page (which was used as indicative of WIDER anger) and yes rallies. Given that nobody questioned the real world angst in that instance, the hesitation here, despite as much evidence if not more, is perplexing. Again, it makes me wonder if personal bias plays a role.

Anyways, this should be required reading for all those ready to pounce tomorrow:
For those looking to somehow quantify whatever happens on Saturday…

According to a quick and entirely unscientific survey of already unscientific media estimates, anti-coalition rallies last December in Edmonton, Moncton, Ottawa, Victoria, Calgary, Toronto, London, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Windsor, Halifax, Regina, Fredericton and Saskatoon combined to draw about 9,600 protesters.

Pro-coalition rallies in Edmonton, Calgary, Ottawa, London, Vancouver, Moncton, Halifax, Regina, St. John’s, Montreal, Toronto, Windsor and Saskatoon drew, according to media reports, about 9,300.

That seismic event, the palpable anger throughout the country, mustered less than 10 000 protesters across the country (less than .0003% of Canadians, for those who apparently love such math). I never disputed the passion then, nor dismissed the resolve of those opposed. I saw those protests as indicative of great unrest at large. All I ask tomorrow, please don't view with the JAUNDICED eye, that entirely misses the relative realities. Many Canadians will be expressing their displeasure, we will stand in the cold because we care passionately. Count heads, I have no qualms, but an impartial observer never forgets the context or past reference. I expect the exact same coverage as the events of last year, leave the preconceived slants at HOME. This isn't France, never has been.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Stop Talking

Harper had one of those moments today. You know the one where he can't help himself, interjecting a completely unrelated issue, VOLUNTARILY, rending the opposition paralyzed, faced with his uber strategic prowess. The video really is a must see, it embodies so much about the man, his character. For those paying attention, you'll note a pattern to, Harper generally starts becoming unglued when it's "tight around the collar" time. It confirms their 24/7 internal polling mirrors the public trends. Today, Harper thought LYING might be the rallying cry.

The old standby, tough on crime, weaved into an obstructionist Liberal Senate, with an added kicker- throwing brown people with bad intentions into the mix. Ooooh, what a concoction, a wedge orgasm. Trouble is, a couple people noticed, namely Chris Hall, followed up by another actual fact checking journalist. Turns out, the crime bill in question shot like a gazelle through the Senate, only to be delayed by the CONSERVATIVE GOVERNMENT. Nice one Stevo:
But a quick check of the legislative playbook from last session confirms that the only bill that he mentions specifically as a hapless victim of Senatorial stonewalling -- C-25, or, if you go by its government-affixed moniker, the Truth in Sentencing Act -- actually spent just as much time in the House as the Other Place.

A quick check of the record suggests it was actually one of the speedier bills to make it through both House and Senate last year. C-25 made it through the Senate committee in five meetings (which took three weeks, about the same length of time that committee stage took in the House), and just three days of report and third reading debate.
That's where it gets even more interesting, at least in context of the Prime Minister's comments today:

Although the bill was granted Royal Assent on October 21, 2009, the new provisions won't come into force until February 22, 2010 -- a full four months after the fact.

So, who's to blame for that hold up? Was it those criminal-coddling Liberals once again? Not exactly. According to LegisInfo, the coming-into-force date was to be fixed "by order of the Governor in Council," which it - the cabinet, that is - didn't get around to doing until mid-January.

"There goes my majority" Harper is always fun to watch. A bit off key if you will ;)

Liberals Get Some Traction

A bit late to the digestion game, but a pretty intriuging result from EKOS. For the first time since September, the Liberals are above the 30% threshold. For the first time since last spring, we see a seat breakdown that would theoretically put the Liberals in power. For the first time in months, we see the Liberals actually gaining some traction with voters.

This is the second week in a row that EKOS has showed a noticeable Liberal uptick, there is a healthy gradient to their curve. The Conservatives are actually up slightly, which reinforces the belief that they've reached "bottom". Despite this levelling out, breaking a 12 week downward trend, the Liberals still narrow the gap, with increased support:
Conservatives: 31.5 (+0.6)
Liberals: 30.9 (+1.6)
NDP: 14.9 (-0.4)
Green: 11.5 (-0.4)
Other: 2.1 (-0.2)

I posited a few days ago, that we look to be entering the "second look" phase for Ignatieff. They tear you down to the point of oblivion, but inevitably the piling on gets old, people search for new storylines- everyone loves an underdog, especially when it's their partial creation! It's fair to say, that Ignatieff's relatively favorable press coverage have helped the Liberal fortunes. In order to fully capitalize on Conservative missteps, the Liberals must look the credible alternative. If not an overwhelming sense, at least Ignatieff's tour and high profile have allowed a few more people to drift into the Liberal column.

In Ontario, the gap between the two principals. has actually narrowed about 3%, Liberals holding a small 4% lead. What is noteworthy, and this speaks to my "putting items in the window" perspective, the Greens are now tied with the NDP for third at 13.3% (that Strategic Counsel 22% for the NDP looks every bit the outlier that tends to plague that outlet from time to time). That translates to almost 27% of the electorate parked with the lesser parties, a massive total that demands attention. If recent polling is still accurate, the Liberals enjoy much "second choice" support amongst this subset, so exploiting that will be key, if the Liberals hope to get into serious governance terrority.

Solid results for the Liberals in Atlantic Canada and Quebec. I note that EKOS now has the Liberals tied with the Conservatives for the "male" vote.

This is a good news result for the Liberals, no question. It provides enough momentum to continue the new narratives, it provides further opportunity for Ignatieff to truly redefine himself, and in so doing rebrand the party. There is still a "drag" that exists, as evidenced by a consistent 3% uptick year to year for the Greens.

Advice aside, it is entirely pleasing to see the once daunting Conservative majority now reduced to an equation that relates to sitting in opposition.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Outflanked Again

I've written several posts, arguing that for the Liberals to truly capitalize on this prorogation question, they must put something in the window in terms of reform. Many have made the observation, that the opposition is missing partial opportunity, if they simply criticize Harper without offering any alternatives. I've waited to see if the Liberals would stay ahead of the curve and position themselves as a true alternative. Nothing to date, just further compliants, accompanied by essentially nothing. With that in mind, I'm entirely pissed that once again the NDP have outflanked the sloth-like Liberals and seized the agenda:
Fixing prorogation central to New Democrat plan

OTTAWA – New Democrat leader Jack Layton, after slamming Prime Minister Harper for his dismissal of Parliament, today set out constructive proposals for reform, including new rules for prorogation.

"Today I am announcing that the New Democrats will bring proposals for legislation to limit the power of prorogation so the Prime Minister cannot abuse it. The government should only prorogue Parliament on a vote in the House of Commons. This will inform the Governor General of the will of the majority, so that prorogation happens when it is needed – not simply when the Prime Minister feels like it."

Not exactly an earth shattering proposal or particularly daring, but it accomplishes what it intended, namely placing the NDP as the driver for reforming this arcane prorogation power. It speaks to parliamentary supremacy, which is the core slight that Harper engineered. You can debate the constitutional arguments, but that's hardly the optical point- the NDP wants to negate the whims of a Prime Minister. People will respond to the above proposal, a simple measure that confronts the nature of the perceived problem.

The Liberals have been doing a lot of good things lately, plenty of positive signs that have me encouraged. Why we voluntarily ceded this prorogation ground to the NDP escapes me. This proposal is so basic, so transparent, that anyone can understand what it means. Would it have been so "outside the box" to have taken the initiative and put the Liberals out front on this issue? Do we think other parties sit on their hands, while we plot slowly? Outflanked again, and worse still, you could see it coming...

Rick's Rant

Like A Drunk Preaching Sobriety

I'm curious to see if anybody connects the dots, apart from my blogging brethren. Here you have a government which has spent at an unprecedented pace (a full 50% more than the previous Liberal government) pontificating on the need to belt tighten. This proclamation all the more obnoxious, given the current prorogue decision. Many are focused on the democratic component of prorogue, but underlying that is the sheer WASTE of taxpayer money, which completely contradicts this new presentation the government is trying to sell.

BCL mentions that the Conservatives are still pumping out 10 percenters on their crime agenda. This translates to using public money to highlight how you've squandered public money, by killing your own legislation in Parliament. Bizarre and a flagrant WASTE of money.

The actual cost of prorogue is subjective, but you can ascertain the broad strokes. One example, the Agriculture Committee had commissioned a study relating to one piece of legislation. This study was a seven figure endeavor and it has now been rendered useless, given the prorogue decision. There are countless examples available that amount to public money being flushed down the toilet in the name of political expediency.

When Harper or his Ministers march toward the cameras, preaching fiscal restraint, "every dollar counts" as Day argued yesterday, maybe a quick question about the cost of prorogue. How can you have the audacity to position yourself as protector of taxpayer money, when you so FLIPPANTLY waste OUR money? It's like a drunk preaching sobriety.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Bold Is Beautiful

The Liberal have launched the Canada 150 website to coincide with the Montreal conference March 26-28. A few weeks ago, I was given indication from former National Director Rocco Rossi that this adventure would engage the grassroots in a very substantive and innovative way. Given the recent tour, and some of the details within this endeavor, it would appear advice is being solicited and ultimately listened to. I sense something more than a simple "pat on the head" approach, hopefully that's the case. No matter your political persuasion, this type of outreach is healthy, a theme within a theme to bridge the disconnect between politicians and people. No party needs this re-connection more than the Liberal Party of Canada, so the desire to engage is a positive sign.

Here is itinerary:
FRIDAY MARCH 26 (10:00 – 17:15)

Welcome and opening remarks
Setting the context: Today to 2017
Jobs Today and Tomorrow: The Productive Society in 2017

The Workers of Today and Tomorrow: Meeting the Challenges of Diversity, Demographics and Community
Learning as a National Priority
Canadian Innovation: Generating and Leveraging Success

SATURDAY, MARCH 27 (8:30 – 17:30)

The Creative and Competitive Economy

Will Canadian Culture Matter in 2017?
Replacing Walkman Regulation in a Post-iPod age: New Directions for the Digital Society
Real Life Issues for Canadian Families: How Do We ‘Care’?

Policies for Securing Retirement in the Turbulent 2000-Teens
Choosing Social Priorities
Energy, Environment, Economy: Growth and Responsibility in 2017
Geopolitics and Canadian Interests in the North American Energy Market
Clean Energy and Canada’s Potential in the Low Carbon World: What’s Missing?

SUNDAY, MARCH 28 (8:30 – 15:00)

A Strong Presence in the World of 2017: Commerce, Values, and Relationships

Where will the World be in 2017? Ideas Shaping the Future
Canada’s Presence in the World of 2017: Where are the Priorities?
Canadians Making a Difference in the World

Closing address

People can participate online, the conference streamed online and "interactive tools" available to "ensure" Canadians have a seat at the table, people can ask questions from home. The party will submit a weekly discussion paper on the website, soliciting feedback, leading up to the conference. There is also an outreach for Canadians to send their "bold" (hey, the word does exist in the Liberal lexicon!) ideas, in the form of a 500 word submission or YouTube presentation. Two winners will be brought to Montreal and their submission will be discussed. In totality, the presentation congeals into anything but an elitist affair, more rightly a conversation that draws from all quarters. Hard to find fault with this endeavour, the flavor is entirely attractive.

Ignatieff's recent tour is the kickoff. Apparently Montreal related discussions began today during the caucus meeting. You can see a co-ordinated gameplan, which hopefully culminates in something we all desire- namely a Liberal Party that has reconnected, armed with "bold" and innovative ideas, that Canadians can relate to, and invest in. The feel and tone of this launch leaves reason for optimism.

Monday, January 18, 2010

National Post Makeover?

It's a kneejerk conservative rag at the moment, a fact which partially explains its sad financial state. Even the odd "olive branch" delivered to people of other political persuasions is met with cynical qualifications, another fact which speaks to the outlandish bias that paper espouses. I absolutely despise the National Post, not just because of its leaning, but its advocacy, which goes beyond anything Canadian journalism has ever seen. The paper ignores, downplays stories, which put Dear Leader in an unflattering light.

Apologists will point to other publications, accusing them of similar biases, but that argument doesn't hold water. You want to target the Toronto Star, I remind you of a McGill study which showed relatively favorable coverage for the Conservatives in the 2004, 2006 elections. You want to point to the CBC, I suggest you consider a four person round table looking into the Afghan detainee issue that included Tom Flanagan and John Ivison. On the other hand, you can't point to one example of counter presentation with the National Post, it's unbridled Conservative cheer leading all the time, on every issue. Any diversion is just that, a bit scrap presented, but the overall thrust always remains the same- it's actually a dangerous rag, in that the less sophisticated don't understand the propaganda component. The National Post operates with a mission, every bit as biased as Fox, every bit as woefully unfair. The National Post is such a useless rag, disguised as journalism, it doesn't even garner ONE nomination for the journalist awards, never mind actually winning anything. This fact speaks to the crap component, the lack of contribution to journalism as a whole.

With all these facts in mind, I've actually enjoyed watching the NP flounder. This isn't to say I want to see all the local Canwest papers go belly up, but as for the flagship, the sooner the better. Addition by subtraction for Canadian journalism.

Today's news of a bid for the National Post, along with two other papers, brings reason for optimism, primarily because of the players. Jerry Grafstein has past Liberal ties, as well as an impressive media resume and while this may not translate, at least it speaks to less ideological rigidity. Beryl P. Wajsman has an impressive resume that shows a progressive streak. Ray Heard worked for John Turner, but he also supported Peter Kent, so there is an air of balance to his inclusion. In other words, I get no sense of right wing ideology within this new group. Grafstein is already on record saying he won't change the editorial board for NP, but I see room for long term optimism. Grafstein also spoke to losing money in Toronto and finding a way to connect with that audience. Playing Harper's print stooge isn't a recipe for success in this market, so that admission is another indication that business as usual isn't in the eventual cards.

I don't want a Liberal mouthpiece. As a matter of fact, if the NP were to morph into a decidedly centrist publication, I'd appreciate the balance, it's not about mirroring my own bias. The Globe and Mail is a perfect example, pisses you off one moment, refreshing the next, what fair journalism tends to do, taken with a panoramic view.

Maybe the National Post can become an asset to Canadian journalism, rather than propaganda with a runny consistency. If not, I'll revert to my previous opinion, DIE AND DIE FAST.

On Illogical Positions

I read a passage of Ignatieff's response to a question on marijuana, relating to Liberal candidate Ross Rebagliati and his favorable "lifestyle". For the life of me, this position makes absolutely NO sense:

“I never make comments on the personal lifestyle choices of my colleagues and friends, and I’ve never felt that marijuana use or, for example, possession of small amounts of marijuana are to be criminalized or that anybody should suffer consequences for personal recreational uses of marijuana. But then I have to say to people who then ask me if I want to legalize marijuana, and I know you don’t want to hear me say this, but I’d say no.”

Frankly, this is the typical bs response, simultaneously condoning the activity, but also rejecting legalization. So, people are free to make "personal" choices, no one in possession of personal marijuana should be sanctioned and there should really be NO consequences, but it will remain illegal. Huh?

The debate on marijuana has reached the level of absurdity, wherein politicians effectively skate around the edges and actually try to have it both ways. How can you say the law shouldn't intervene, there is no consequence and also keep the activity illegal. You've effectively neutered the legal component, but kept the activity technically illegal. In so doing, you've robbed the treasury of billions in tax, instead preferring to leave the proceeds in the hands of organized crime. Where is the sense in that position? You're allowing people to feed organized crime, you're saying you can buy it from illegal sources. My head hurts.

The most maddening thing about this debate, the above position pretty much favors legalization, but doesn't have the "jam" to come out and formally say so. Instead, you get this inherent contradiction, and all the while you reward the supposed "criminals", waste resources that could be used elsewhere, and squander a huge revenue stream. With the new fiscal reality, accompanied by all these supposed promises, a sober re-think might find a common equation.

It's not about becoming some advocate, it's about nonsensical policy and ridiculous doublespeak. On top of that, this political hesitancy seems misplaced, because for the Liberals there is really little downside, maybe potential gains. Am I missing some finding that shows the massive liability? Are people afraid of the "tough on crime" Conservatives fermenting a wedge issue? Is there some belief that full formal acceptance will lead to higher usage amongst young people? I honestly don't understand why this is such a taboo issue, that necessitates such smoke and mirrors response.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

200 000

No Prorogue FB group goes over 200 000 members. See what happens next Saturday.

Democracy In Action

I fail to see the negative within an organic exchange between a "put yourself out there" Ignatieff and a group of environmental activists. Given our current state of staged photo ops and cautious message management, a bit of spontaneous friction is welcome from this quarter. I have Greenpeace on my sidebar, I've given in the past, no "attack" on the Liberal leader makes me any less inclined to support, nor to do I see an ideological conflict. The video in question:

I think most fair observers would give Ignatieff some credit for his recent tour, in the sense that it allows for unscripted expression, it denotes a certain grassroots conversation. I've watched a few videos from the various stops, and Ignatieff has been put through his paces throughout, some tough questions accompanied by nimble and engaging response. If there is one thing our political discourse needs, it's this type of forum, any "risk" an afterthought. Uber partisans like Stephen Taylor rush to find any "protester" to discredit Ignatieff's initiative, but that is the useless domain of robotic HACKS. Liberals shouldn't fear any potential "blow back", because really I see it as wind in the sails, more than anything. Let's get some spice into the conversation, let's get engaged, let's debate and let's not fear dissent.

Greenpeace has a vital role to play within the environmental conversation. Their role is awareness and ensuring important issues make it into the public domain. The presence of Greenpeace pushes the envelope, they apply pressure on our political leaders. In this instance, a conflict over the tar sands, which quickly turned into a consideration of the ideal vs the practical. I agree with Ignatieff, the tar sands are a reality, it's hard to envision any scenario where the energy simply lies in the ground untouched, in the name of environmental consideration. To take that view in totality means one must ignore the other powerful forces at play, as well as jurisdictional realities. Ignatieff can't turn off the taps, and the policy proceeds with that sober consideration in mind. I have no qualms with this view, because it's simply a "sky is blue" position.

However, none of this is to say the tar sands shouldn't be attacked, pressured, embarrassed, decried. That is the counter required, the essential part of the puzzle that will lead to the best possible scenario moving forward, the better practice arrangement.

Stephen Harper hasn't put himself in ONE potentially unflattering appearance since he's become Prime Minister. It is so PATHETIC, this supposed man of the people, that he actually refused to appear on CBC last year, if had to respond to a question from A voter. Think about that reality for a second, what that says about our democratic debate. After you consider the micro-managed, propaganda machine approach, it's hard to find any fault in a guy who gets up on stage, confronts a mostly non-partisan and potentially hostile crowd, takes all comers and answers every question. Looks like democracy in action to me, or more rightly something I'd like to see more of from our political class. Agitation is healthy, voluntarily putting yourself within that medium, welcomed.

Friday, January 15, 2010


Dear leader made a mistake and is paying a price. No wait, actually, Harper is still the master strategist, just playing the long game, you silly people. I see the Conservative forces are quickly trying to regroup, now framing Harper's HORRIBLE decision to prorogue as a calculated decision to sacrifice short term pain for eventual gain. PLEASE.

Let's keep the revisionism in check, because it's embarrassing. All these Conservative apologists and commentators were in UNIVERSAL agreement, there was NO PRICE to be paid, Harper operated with impunity. Canadians didn't care about "process", it was actually a clever move to outflank the opposition, more Harper brilliance. The arrogant assumptions were on display, and not ONE of these people ever hinted at any short term political cost, especially the magnitude we've seen.

By no means am I suggesting another Conservative rebound in the polls is out of the question, there are levers available in the next few months which could help the cause. However, to actually posit that all this blow back was INCORPORATED into Conservative decisions, is sad spin (It's akin to Liberals arguing that Ignatieff wanted to force an election and plummet in the polls, so he could position himself as the "comeback kid" a few months later). Just take your lumps, admit you completely miscalculated, your arrogance got the better of you and move on. None of you saw this coming, you were actually playing checkers and you've negated all of your September advantage, completely and utterly.

As an aside, can someone ask Tom Flanagan why he didn't point out any potential hazards when spoke on CBC, just prior to the prorogue? I seem to recall a "win/win" proposition, even recommending the government go ahead because nobody would notice, NO RISK. No mention of long games, no talk of the grand strategy, just what a PLUS it would be for Conservative fortunes to prorogue, especially over the holidays. Listening to the pompous commentary now, you'd swear Flanagan is aghast at Harper's horrible decision. You pushed the idea, I'm sure some in the PMO were influenced by the glowing scenario you proposed Thomas. Pull out the tapes CBC, and remind us all of Flanagan's confident dismissals. To come full circle, Flanagan appeared with the sorry excuse for a "pundit" I linked to, who's penned his latest turd in today's National Poop.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Oh Look, A Poll

It's been 46 minutes, time for a poll!:
A new poll suggests Prime Minister Stephen Harper is paying a price for underestimating opposition to his decision to suspend Parliament.

The Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey shows Harper's personal popularity has taken a big hit and his party's lead over the Liberals has been cut almost in half.

The number of Canadians with a favourable impression of the prime minister has dropped seven points since last November to 44 per cent; the ranks of those with an unfavourable impression have jumped seven points to 48 per cent.

Overall Conservative support is unchanged at 34 per cent, the Liberals are up three points to 30 per cent, while the NDP stand at 16 per cent and the Greens at nine per cent.

The telephone poll of just over 1,000 Canadians was conducted Jan. 7-10 and is considered accurate to within 3.1 percentage points 19 times out of 20.

More of this same, except this time, the Liberals are moving. Harris Decima is probably the most "static" of pollsters, the numbers generally don't move much over time. Anyways, Nik Nanos where are you!!

I'll Say It

The PMO is manipulating a natural disaster for FULL partisan advantage, and I think it's despicable. Really, really, with all that's going on, the HORRORS, it's "URGENT" that reporters assemble so Harper can partake in an AWKWARD appearance at the Red Cross:

PMO never too busy for photo-ops

The practice of sending out official photos of the Prime Minister to the media was pioneered by the Harperites, whose commitment to ensuring the media has everything they need to do their jobs is so strong that no matter how grave the crisis there is always an official photographer on hand to capture the statesman at work. Perhaps I’m just paying more attention now that I don’t have Parliament to distract me, but this week it’s seemed particularly bizarre.

Update: I just received this message from the PMO marked “Urgent.” Take a read and then decide whether the PMO’s definition or urgency matches your own.

OTTAWA – Public event for Prime Minister Stephen Harper for Thursday, January 14th is:


3:00 p.m. – Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mrs. Laureen Harper will make a donation to the Canadian Red Cross.

Canadian Red Cross

340 Catherine Street

Ottawa, Ontario

*Photo opportunity only (cameras and photographers only)

I'm not trying to be cynical, but this looks like naked exploitation from here. I think it's actually disgusting, how much effort is being wasted within the government halls, worrying about APPEARANCES, rather than the issue at hand. There, I said it.

R.I.P. Piano Man

The latest EKOS, supports yesterday's polls, the Conservative vote in freefall. Graves accurately points to the detainee issue as the beginning of the erosion, with the prorogue question supporting a worrying negative narrative. It's so bad, the Conservatives have entirely squandered their once impressive lead, and are now in trouble in Ontario. Worse still, on the question of country direction, the Conservatives have now managed to post worse numbers than they did during the height of the recession. Well done master strategists!:
National federal vote intention:
30.9% CPC
29.3% LPC
15.3% NDP
11.9% Green
10.2% BQ
2.3% Other

Direction of government:

40% Right Direction
47% Wrong Direction
13% DK/NR

As pointed out elsewhere, Liberals need to temper their enthusiasm. It is worth remembering, that the last time the Conservatives were this low in the polls, the Liberals were in the mid 30's. Now, we see the Liberals around 5% lower, so the question becomes- how can we bring those voters back into the fold? The biggest reason for this disparity, the Liberals no longer enjoy strong support in Quebec. The Ontario numbers are actually quite strong, not much different from one's seen when the Liberals had a decided edge nationally.

This poll doesn't show much advantage for the NDP. Yesterday, SC gave the party an impressive 22% in Ontario, which explained their national uptick. EKOS brings a much different 15.3%, so it's fair to see SC as an outlier at this point, particularly because of past reliability.

The fact that Canadians are relatively optimistic about the economy moving forward, makes the "wrong direction" numbers that much more alarming for the Conservatives. An objectively dreadful score, the Conservatives are paying a huge price for their recent decisions.

Here's why these polls are really important, beyond the obvious. Ottawa is entirely poll driven, it shapes storylines. Now armed with real world evidence of a "stunning turnaround", I now look to see if the Liberals get a reprieve, as the "pile on" cycle is broken. I've seen it happen a million times, here and down south, they tear you apart to the point of oblivion, something changes, and all of sudden a "rebirth" is possible. Columns such as this one "First Signs of a Rebound for Bruised Ignatieff" aren't coincidence. Harper is now the hunted, Ignatieff has some room to take advantage, the narrative is now- what happened to the Conservatives, all the old negative impressions of Harper re-digested.

I had a very strong, intuitive feeling, immediately when I first contemplated this prorogue idea. It is starting to look like "pundit" prophecy ;):
"Mark my words,if true this will be worst political move of Harper's career." Dec 14th

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Ignatieff Obscured By Light

Ignatieff on "social media". Thought his comment about future online referendums was noteworthy:

Raining Polls!

One from Strategic Counsel shows a deadheat. Angus Reid has two polls, one shows a narrowing gap, the other very worrying trendlines for Harper, opinion hardening against his prorogue decsion. Phew(read the links, it's to much to digest in one post).

One common thread in both polls, the Conservatives are on the decline, but the Liberals have yet to full capitalize. Angus Reid:
Con. 34%, Lib. 28%, NDP
19%, BQ 9%, Grn. 8%.

Conservative suppport eroding in Ontario, a good result for the NDP. Liberal support static, although there are some encouraging signs on the leadership front.

Strategic Counsel:
The newest numbers show 31 per cent for the Conservatives, 30 per cent for the Liberals and 18 per cent for the NDP.

A deadheat, and a massive change from the majority heights the Conservatives scored in October.

To be fair, I tend to put slightly more stock in Angus Reid, so I'm still inclined to give the Conservatives a shrinking lead(although they see declining support "across the country"), but clearly in trouble on a host of fronts.

Angus Reid also gives some more prorogation feedback, which is objectively DISASTEROUS for the government. More Canadians are following the issue closely, another worrying sign for the Conservatives. Within that, Harper's numbers drop considerably, Ignatieff actually coming off the mat.

By over 3 to 1, Canadians now disagree with Harper's decision, the strongly disagree up another 8% from last week. 61% disagree, a pitful 19% agree, of those 44% strongly disagree, including a whopping 50% in Ontario.

The prorogue rejection is starting to hurt Harper's popularity:

In the aftermath of prorogation, a majority of Canadians (52%) believe Stephen Harper is secretive, 48 per cent deem him arrogant, 41 per cent say he is intelligent, 37 per cent believe he is out of touch, 34 per cent feel he is uncaring, and 34 per cent find him boring.

Since October, Harper's score has increased on several negative categories, including secretive (+6), arrogant (+4), dishonest (+5), and inefficient (+3).

Harper now has the biggest negative momentum score, a title Ignatieff had previously held for months. On that score, Ignatieff sees an uptick:
Since October, Ignatieff has shed several points on some of the negative character traits, including arrogant (-6), secretive (-6), out of touch (-5) and dishonest (-5).

The above suggests Ignatieff is in slightly better position to make the case against the government.

Looking at all the data, from these polls, a few things are clear:

-The Conservatives have completely lost the prorogue public relations battle.

-Prorogue has the potential to be a "game changer".

-The Liberals are not fully capitalizing on this issue, because of latent hesitation in their brand and leadership.

-Most pundits don't know shit about anything. Seriously. Esoteric circlejerk, for the most part.

Shelly Glover: Tom Flanagan "Is A Canadian I Understand"

She can also apparently see Calgary from Winnipeg:

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Help Out A Conservative

The Conservatives are having a heck of a time, coming up with a "credible" talking point, to justify their prorogue decision. I notice today, the media again mocking Harper's latest attempt, something about helping the markets, whatever, it doesn't seem to be working. With this problem in mind, I thought some non-partisan inspired help is in order, because frankly it's painful to hear/watch all the lame rationales.

Let's help out the Conservatives with a few new talking points. Here's a couple of mine:

We had to prorogue Parliament, because Wiebo Ludwig was recently spotted in a hardware store, near the Glebe.

Rick Mercer was short of material, and we want Canadians to laugh. A happy Canada brings a happy economy.

Mike Duffy refused to submit to a body scanner, won't return to Ottawa.

The Liberals "Death To Israel" private member bill was set to pass.

Work on our environmental platform continues, as it always has, on Capitol Hill. Canadians get CSPAN.


Monday, January 11, 2010

Staying Ahead Of The Story

Yesterday, I proposed that the Liberals need to offer some substantive alternatives, that actually deals with the political climate, which allows a Prime Minister to act unilaterally. That post was met with a collective yawn, but I find some of the commentary today quite interesting, downright validating.

In the span of an hour, I heard no less than four references to my proposal, from interesting sources. First off, both Tom Flanagan and Rick Anderson acknowledged that the Liberals have done a good job to date, on this prorogue issue. Those kudos aside, the foreshadowing frame is starting to gel. Anderson said that this prorogue question will only be a "game changer", if the Liberals propose changes to the system. Mike Robinson agreed. The opportunity will be lost, in the final analysis, this issue will lose steam, if they fail to be a champion of reform. Wise words indeed.

Later, during the same CTV program, a panel of talk show hosts were debating the prorogue question. CKNW's Bill Good posited that the issue is resonating, but unless opponents offer something substantive as an alternative, it will fail to capture. Wise words indeed.

I then watched Ignatieff's townhall. Questions from the audience about our system of government, the issue of reform, what would Ignatieff do differently. Ignatieff later acknowledged that the students gave him much to think about. Wise words indeed.

In the media scrum that followed, Susan Delacourt asked Ignatieff if he would curtail the Prime Minister's whimsical authority. The obvious inference, what are the Liberals prepared to do, apart from complaining? We would be wise to ponder the question.

Everyone acknowledges, some grudgingly, that the Liberals are making a strong case, there's a new wind in the sails. However, rather than being content with the present reality, we would be wise to see where this story is ultimately headed, and today's recurring theme speaks to that looming fact. If the Liberals truly want to capitalize on Canadians disgust, then we have to offer a package of democratic reforms. We can debate degree, but our arguments will have staying power if they're armed with ideas, rather than simply criticism. In addition, for a party desperate for a reconnect with Canadians, what better way to seperate from your historical shackles than to be a vehicle for change, rather than the rigid institution, more part of the problem than solution.

My ears were ringing today. I hope people who actually matter noticed too, because that's when we can really entertain a solid "game changer".

On The Road

Here's a clip of Ignatieff, doing something Harper "man of the people" has NEVER done. I think they call it a townhall:

By all accounts, they had to set up an overflow room and beyond that people were turned away.

Has Harper Squandered The Olympics?

The Olympics have been on the Conservative radar for months. A feel good affair, that fits nicely into their budget timetable, many Conservative strategists had salivated at the potential "bump" that might transpire. After all, with the country immersed in a sea of patriotism and pride, hard to envision how this sentiment doesn't play well for the government of the day. The PMO has planned to maximize benefit, with Harper high profile and centerstage, an international ambassador welcoming the world. The Conservatives have been wrapping themselves in the Olympics since last fall, and it was all supposed to climax for them in a few short weeks.

One has to wonder now, if Harper's prorogue has not only neutralized the preceived political positives of the Olympics, but turned them into a symbol for negative narratives. The Conservatives have volunteered the Olympics as partial rationalization for this prorogue, and with the blowback now apparent, has Harper tarnished his image? When Canadians see Harper at events and whatnot, will they be reminded of his democratic slight? Harper at the Olympics doesn't seem to have the same appeal, as it did when Conservatives were first plotting their strategy. In many respects, Harper's prorogue might have undermined this signature event, at the heart of Conservative plans.

The government thought they could shutdown Parliament, avoid scrutiny, then ride the positivity that surrounds the Olympics, to deliver a budget that no one dared oppose. The fact the Conservatives haven't found it necessary to consult the opposition on the budget, speaks to their Olympic assumptions, they see a bounce and the "hammer". So, not only are the Conservatives paying a political price today, but their decision might also have nullified what should have been a winning scenario, from their perspective. In joining the Olympics to the prorogue decision, Harper has squandered the stature he would have enjoyed. Expect no "bounce" as was previously expected.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

"Arrogance Is One Of The Quickest Ways To Get A Pink Slip For A Politician In Canada. "

Bruce Anderson pens, what amounts to the winning narrative for the Liberals, the must read. It's this notion of "arrogance" that flew over the heads of all the knee jerk cynics. Prorogue is process and "complicated", but acting with apparent impunity, like an unaccountable king, that's what has people stirred. It comes as no surprise that I think Anderson has it right, I've argued since the outset that Liberals should repeat the word "arrogance", to the point of nausea. Ignatieff's strategists should write the following on a tablet:
For opposition leaders (and other concerned Canadians), the surest way to make this issue stick is to hammer away that this decision is born of a profound arrogance, and chronicle how it fits a troubling pattern. This would create the potential to destabilize partisan lines, and bring into play the one in three Conservative supporters who already feel awkward trying to defend this action to their friends and neighbours.

The pattern is there, it's come into play, from time to time, since Harper took office. With this latest, profound example, you can connect the dots and create a powerful criticism- particularly when it completely undermines the steed that these people rode in on. A narrative of arrogance is where this issue erodes the government's standing. Everything to date, their spin, is predicated on being the Tim Horton's party, in touch with average Canadians. Once you establish the ivory tower, you show complete detachment, things can change in rapid fashion.

ARROGANCE is the single most dangerous word within our political dialogue. I made the point, December 14th, that this prorogue decision could prove to be Harper's biggest mistake, because it "reeks our arrogance". A bit to cozy, fearing no backlash, the Conservatives acted, completely dismissing. I remember people like Flanagan, smirk displayed, actually arguing there was no downside, a "win/win", no matter how you viewed it. It was this mindset, that failed to see what were always obvious pitfalls.

Canadians don't like arrogance, never have, never will. They're called public "servants" for a reason. Whether this label finally "sticks", will largely be a question of how effectively the case is made. I'd start with repetition, even installing a remote electrical device, that provides a minor shock to any MP or advocate that fails to mention the word during an interview or appearance. Shutting down Parliament, arrogance. Defying Parliament on torture, a question of arrogance. Appointing hacks to the Senate, an example of arrogance. Thwarting Kevin Page, arrogance. Not consulting with the opposition on the budget, despite a minority, blatant arrogance. Whatever the issue, the word appears. The Conservatives have become masters of messaging that "stamps" the target through repetition. Let's get in the game, because we have the downfall "elixir" at our disposal.


I see Mark agrees.

Liberal Ads

Pretty effective imagery, that makes the point succinctly. Nice to see we are being proactive:

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Sitting In Our Lap

Below, the party trend line since September:

People will note that the normal ebb and flow between the two principles is stunted in this instance, the Liberals unable to fully capitalize on the Conservative downward trend. I would posit, the Conservative numbers would have fallen further, if the Liberal brand was the least bit attractive- our perceived weakness an artificial barrier.

If we're paying attention to the cementing narrative of the past week, you see a tremendous opportunity for Ignatieff to reacquire some credibility, and much more importantly, for the Liberal to stay ahead of the curve and seize the storyline. It's all about notions of democracy now, within that accountability at the most basic level. This reality that now haunts Harper, the new poster child of all that is wrong with our Parliamentary democracy means a bold Liberal Party can benefit, and in so doing reshape the brand that desperately needs a moral shot in the arm.

Ignatieff has no political baggage, in the sense that he isn't part of this historical erosion in Parliament, apparently climaxing under Harper. This affords Ignatieff the chance to champion democratic reforms in a substantive way. In fact, Ignatieff can use his time abroad to highlight his disgust at how our government operates. "I came to Ottawa, and I'm amazed at the dysfunction". We need a change, we need to "recalibrate" the way our democracy works, we need a more egalitarian expression, that isn't beholden to the whims of pseudo-kings. A tricky discussion, but one that will capture the sentiment behind prorogation.

There are a host of ways to attack the institutional problems, and position the Liberals as the anti-Harper. Whether it rises to the level of constitutional consideration or not, there are levers available to present a new vision of how democracy needs to, and can work. Saying something is wrong with the Harper approach is only part of the story, to truly distinguish you have to embrace "reform".

If Liberals really want to move the numbers, and see a return to the "mirror" effect and beyond, we have to recognize that we aren't exactly a beacon of hope on the democratic front. Harper is worse, Harper has gone further, Harper has no historical peer, all valid, but we must realize that "Liberal" is saddled with institutional malaise, nobody sees it as a force for change. Canadians dislike the current situation, that's at the heart of the perceived apathy, voter drift. We want to fully capitalize, then we take this issue head on, with a new democratic presentation that speaks with a certain authenticity.

Friday, January 08, 2010

"No One Believes Our Crap"

This is hilarious:

And before Conservatives gets all offended, GET A LIFE IT'S COMEDY(not your strong suit, I know). I've seen these done for the Maple leafs, Canadiens, so don't take it literally. Besides, everyone knows Harper is a STALIN man ;)

"A Very Serious Issue"

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Nobody Should Care About The "Unaware"

Another EKOS finding, this time on prorogation, effectively mirroring today's Angus Reid poll. There are a couple additional points to consider, to fully understand just how devastating these numbers are for the Conservatives.

I know desperate apologists will seize on the "not following" segment of the electorate, to try and undermine the powerful results. Both polls show that one third of people are completely "unaware" of the prorogue debate. Not an abnormal finding, but one that needs to put into context. It is fair argument to posit that the VAST majority of the completely ignorant DON'T VOTE. It's a statement on the utterly disengaged, that segment of the population that doesn't enter into any electoral consideration. Maybe a sad commentary on the state of the country, but we all know voter turnout numbers. In other words, nobody sifting through these numbers should give any consideration. In fact, the awareness level is well above expected voter turnout, that's your pool of voters to consider, that's where the problem for the government becomes even more acute.

EKOS finds that of those with the even the slightest awareness, a full 69% oppose the government, a limp 31% support. Further, and Graves made the point as well, the strongly oppose is the largest sub group, by 2 to 1 over any alternative answer. These numbers represent landslide rejection. Another worrying sign, undecided voters oppose Harper's decision by more than 6 TO 1.

In addition, EKOS mirros Angus Reid, showing strong opposition in Ontario. Interestingly, EKOS also shows the highest resistance in all the "battleground" regions, Quebec, British Columbia and the Atlantic. 2/3rds of Canadians view Harper's decision as "undemocratic".

There is actually a VERY high level of awareness on this issue. Graves also alluded to the fact that awareness INCREASED over the polling period. If you're looking for a Conservative comfort blanket, don't look to the portion of "unaware", because they'll be equally "unaware" of their polling station location on election day. Bottomline.

Report From The Hinterlands

With all the usual caveats aside- as well as an acknowledgement that falling Conservative fortunes represent only part of the Liberal equation- these two polls today demonstrate that the prorogue issue is resonating to a certain extent. It also tells us that cynical people holed up in Ottawa offices, who make snap definitive pontifications, aren't always the best "gauge" of what is occurring in the "hinterlands".

The Angus Reid poll is important for a couple of reasons. First, we now can replace the most useless HD poll, done prior to the actual prorogue, that didn't incorporate the fallout. Many of the pundits, and increasingly desperate Conservative apologists, constantly referenced that outdated finding, despite the obvious, so at least this poll denotes more serious feedback. It's an objectively dreadful result for the government, even worse when one scans the regionals. By almost 3-1 Canadians disapprove of the government's decision, almost 40% strongly disagree. A pretty worrisome number, when a mere 19% support the government. Further, even Conservative partisans express noticeable displeasure, the government doesn't even enjoy majority support from the faithful. People have claimed that "process matters" don't translate to the general population, but these strong opinions in this poll suggest otherwise.

The numbers are even more problematic for the government, when you deal with the regionals. Particularly in Ontario, we see a rarely seen gap, 59% disagree, only 17%agree, a full 43% strongly disagree. The Conservatives have a clear perception problem, and this represents an opportunity, if we develop the narrative correctly.

Tied into these result, we get an EKOS poll, which brings a few noteworthy items, not the least of which, the once huge Conservative lead in Ontario has vanished(the last NANOS poll was the first to show the Liberals out front since September). When the gap was wide, I reminded people that Ontario is volatile, a large percentage of soft support ebbs and flows. Factoring in the strong resistance to this prorogue idea, some softening on the torture question, these numbers aren't particularly surprising. I suspect they would look worse for the Conservatives, if the Liberals had more credibility.

Overall, what was a 15% gap a few months ago has been whittled down to a mere 5%. The polls have been pretty static lately, this EKOS poll represents the first serious move, poll to poll, we've seen for months. Graves articulates the obvious, the prorogue question actually is hurting the government (that procalamation completely supported by AR). In fact, the Conservatives have lost all of the gains made last September, back to square one. The lead is only maintained, because the Liberals haven't full capitalized. In addition, a little discussed portion of this poll shows that disapproval of the government is now consistently the highest it has been since the brunt of the recession, right direction the lowest.

I would catergorize the above as an opportunity for the Liberals to develop the arrogant narrative, as well as a chance to reacquire the confidence of voters. There is a disconnect, wherein the Conservatives enjoy a voter "buffer" because the alternatives aren't attractive. More evidence of voters looking for a place to park, the fact the Greens score so high with EKOS, even above the more traditional "protest" NDP port in two key provinces. For the Liberals, build a compelling brand and we can maximize Conservative misfortunes.

As an aside, my first comment, when the idea of prorogue was floated:
Mark my words,if true this will be worst political move of Harper's career.

Non-prominent citizen- 11:00 PM Dec 14th, 2009

At least that prediction is still open for debate, at this point ;) Canadians HATE arrogance.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Great Move

I had heard rumblings that the "return to work" idea was on the table, but feared timidity would win the day. In what I would categorize as a shrewd strategic move, Ignatieff signals that the Liberals will show up for work on January 25. The Liberals seem to be adopting an aggressive posture on the prorogue question.

There is a certain momentum surrounding the prorogue issue. Plenty of detractors, but curiously they to seem consumed with the issue, so mission accomplished from my perspective. In signalling a return to work, Liberals have effectively guaranteed that this issue fills the political vacuum that Harper has created, voluntarily. This move also provides a shot in the arm to the grassroots efforts. So long as this decision brings a serious tone, I fail to see the real downside.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

"22 Days"

I note the government apologists can't entertain intellectual honesty, when debating this notion of prorogue. Instead, over and over, I hear this nonsensical dismissal about "22 days". What silliness to get worked up over a decision that delays Parliament's return a mere 3 weeks. That's the sarcastic "go to" response of Conservatives, desperate to provide cover and short circuit any substantive debate.

Kady does a fine job detailing how this prorogue is much more than an extended three week vacation. MONTHS of work has died, and on top of that a colossal waste of taxpayer money. Studies for Committee work are now obsolete, that expenditure goes POOF. All those supposed urgent bills, clowns like Nicholson rushing to the cameras, demanding immediate passage of CRUCIAL legislation, now revealed a FARCE of the highest order. Don't review the words of the opposition, review the words of the government about the importance of it all.

I find it quite telling that Conservatives seem unable to debate the actual merits of this decision, and the REAL implications. Willful ignorance or deliberate denial, they are left to present an affront to the most basic common sense. Keep hammering the "22 days" angle, it demonstrates nothing more than weakness of argument and deliberate evasion. Then again, what else is new, depth is like kryptonite to that crowd.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Pre-Prorogue Poll

H/T for the pdf of the Harris Decima poll on prorogation. The poll was taken well before Harper actually did prorogue, so the results are more theoretical, than indicative of true reaction. The overall thrust, Canadians are "indifferent":
Asked how Canadians would feel if the government were to prorogue
Parliament again, this time until after the Olympics, the plurality of
Canadians (46%) are now indifferent.

To be fair, one can hardly expect any other result to a potential reality. "Indifferent" tells us nothing, apart from a lack of present emotion. What I find interesting, is the "unhappy with" BASELINE segment. Overall, more than double those that expressed an opinion are unhappy, the numbers even more pronounced regionally. When you take out the Conservative western powerbase, you see potential problems in Ontario for example. 39% of Ontarians would be unhappy with proroguing, only 12% happy. That suggests the mere idea is problematic, nevermind where we are now, with mostly negative coverage incorporated. Of note, even amongst Conservative supporters, the unhappy contingent outnumbers the happy.

I don't take much from this poll, for obvious reasons. Let's see where we are in a few weeks, once the reaction is digested. I would describe most of the feedback as worrisome for the government, even criticism from normally supportive sources. With Harper creating a political vacuum, this prorogation debate could well fill the void. This facebook group is becoming impressive, by relative standards. I was just told that the Council of Canadians are actively exploring the protest route, which is slated for January 23rd around the country. I was also told, other like-minded organizations are mobilizing to express their displeasure. On another front, solid word of opposition MP's actively discussing showing up for work on the 25th, people writing to their representatives to push the matter. In other words, there is potential for this to snowball into something significant, something that keeps this issue in the news for weeks to come. If anyone thinks that it doesn't matter, I would highlight the PMO's chosen date for prorogation release- you don't pick that date, without considering the "news" angle.

There is one very, very dangerous word that is creeping into this conversation, political death if you will- ARROGANCE. Should that word become the centerpiece of this debate, then prorogation will hurt this government. The notion of arrogance is generally the first signal that the ground is fertile for a change.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Dear OLO

The 2010 hip terminology- RAPID RESPONSE

For clarification, the following examples don't qualify:

-Benign press releases, that nobody reads anyways.

-Relying on surrogates for counter, prompting the obvious questions.

-Rationalizing the absence of response, by releasing itineraries for the coming weeks, as though adequate or FORCEFUL. Not that I disagree with what you're doing January 22nd, but that hardly addresses something called a "newscycle".

You get the gist.

As one reporter commented today, there is a "casual" feel to the Liberals. Let me offer a humble opinion, should this vibe continue, expect to get our ASSES KICKED.

You drive me crazy, Liberal Party of Canada, you really, really do.