Wednesday, March 31, 2010

King Prentice And Lines In The Sand

Despicable, but hardly surprising, the Conservatives have buried a massive GUTTING of environmental assessments. Prentice effectively has the power to unilaterally override normal environmental protocols, which will allow projects to move forward, with no regard for impacts:
The federal Conservatives are giving Environment Minister Jim Prentice clear legal authority to avoid ordering full assessments of environmentally controversial projects, such as major mines and oil sands operations, according to a provision contained in the bill implementing details of the government’s new budget.

The new provisions weren’t publicly announced at the time the budget was unveiled earlier in March, and only came to light late Tuesday after the release of the bill implementing financial aspects of the government new economic measures.

The key provisions of the legislation will give Mr. Prentice the power to order reviews of only small aspects of potentially damaging projects, and not the entire undertakings, as is now usually the case.

I know the Liberals position isn't necessarily popular, but Ignatieff has been quite clear that we have to do a much better job on the environmental impact front. Prentice's new usurping power amounts to a line in the sand for the Liberals, because we simply can't endorse a weakening of our environmental laws:
By placing the items in a budget bill, the environmental measures can only be repealed if the legislation is defeated, triggering an election call.

“Frankly, it’s a devious political tactic,” contends Stephen Hazell, a lawyer with Ecojustice, a non-profit group that undertakes legal actions against polluters. “The Liberals can’t vote against the budget so they brought in all of these unpalatable little tidbits that are in essence poison pills for the Liberals.”

The Liberals must DEMAND these provisions be removed. I understand this is a complicated argument, because you could well trigger an election, but this is every bit the poison pill, BURIED to allow passage, that has to be addressed with a forceful rebuke. The Liberals simply can't allow Prentice the power to undermine our conservation laws, this move goes beyond the pale.

I would argue the Canadian public will not support this Conservative initiative, and I'd use the "slip in under the rug" approach as proof positive the government is aware of the optics. With this knowledge in mind, the Liberals do have some latitude to push hard, and by making this a make or break issue, they could well re-establish themselves on the environmental file. We can't let this bullshit go unchallenged.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Canada Most Competitive Country in G8

Sorry for the repetitive theme, but it's not my fault we see more evidence, supporting the Liberal position on corporate tax cuts. This time, international accounting firm KPMG release their bi-annual analysis, and they put Canada at the top of the G8, second only to Mexico, in terms of competitive business climate. This headline says it all, from the Liberal perspective:
"Tax cuts turn Canada in to a cost leader"

A decade’s worth of tax cuts at the federal and provincial levels is beginning to bear fruit as Canada has emerged a cost leader among industrialized countries in terms of doing business, says a competitiveness analysis conducted by KPMG...

The last time KPMG did such an analysis, in 2008, it found the cost of doing business in Canada was virtually identical with that in the United States. Tax cuts account for part of the reason why Canada’s competitiveness has improved, says the report...

“Cumulatively this has had quite an impact on competitiveness for Canada, to a point where [with the dollar] close to parity, Canada is able to hold its own in terms of having a competitive edge over the U.S.,” said Glen Mair, co-author and head of MMK Consulting in Vancouver.

“Go back to the early days of this study, in the mid-1990s, and that definitely wasn’t the case.”

The Conservatives only real argument for further corporate tax cuts is the competitive angle. Unfortunately, we are starting to see a counter picture, which clearly shows we've already made great progress on the tax front, further reductions aren't required to keep us competitive. Factor in some common sense, namely that other nations face a much higher debt load, which will preclude further tax cuts, and Canada is in a very enviable position indeed.

This from the Toronto Star:
Canada world leader in competitive business: KPMG

The report offers some ammunition to Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff’s proposal to scrap the remainder of scheduled corporate tax cuts, which the Conservative government has said will improve Canada’s international competitiveness.

Yesterday I posted a survey of the business community, which showed they overwhelming rejected further tax cuts. This latest study, does provide Ignatieff "ammunition", the Liberals are on VERY solid ground, they've captured the current mood and they have ample non-partisan backing for their position.

The Conservative arguments operate in isolation, whereas the Liberals are finding allies. Further, we still have many economists on board with actually raising taxes, so expect to see some endorsement from that crowd, relating to a corporate freeze. The FACTS are Canada has the lowest corporate taxes of the G8, and now we see overall competitiveness has never been stronger. I don't want to be dismissive, but the Conservatives have a daunting task, if they hope to paint Ignatieff as reckless and anti-business, a "job killer", all that other nonsense. The Conservatives will surely try, and I don't under-estimate the capacity for CRAP, but it is comforting to know the Liberals find outside affirmation.

This looks to be a lonely fight for the government, and when you consider the added lunacy of tbelieving Canadians will rally behind perceived cuts for the "rich", I'd say it's a loser in the end. The Liberals job is to use the outside "backing" to demonstrate their sensible, responsible and competitive approach to the economy and the deficit.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Tim Hortons Meets Bay Street

David Hearle was on BNN tonight presenting the quarterly survey from the business community. An extremely encouraging finding for Ignatieff's corporate tax position, and one that suggests the Conservative ravings may fall on deaf ears. Remarkable in a way, the business community, with a vested self interest, demonstrates the capacity to see beyond simple greed and the greater economic good(a rarity indeed, but a fact that speaks to sound and responsible policy). I expect to see public support for freezing corporate tax cuts, not exactly a populist cry, but the fact the Liberals can count on some strong resonance with business, may just prove invaluable when the smears come. A FULL 2/3rds of business opinion disagrees with the Conservatives pledge to further slash corporate taxes:

The government receives high marks in certain areas, which makes this decided rejection all the more marked contrast. What this may mean in the grand scheme? The Conservatives will say the Liberals are stifling economic growth, but when the business community is asked to weigh in, the government will find little support. Something like the above is obscure in one sense, but I see it as an added bonus that will serve Liberals well. Strong evidence, that a pause on tax reductions is spot on politically. Tim Horton's and Bay street, good luck Dmitri and friends!

Corporate Tax Freeze Puts Liberals In The Game

Everyone was waiting for policy, and the ground the Liberals chose was shrewd, for a host of reasons. I've commented before, or more correctly criticized, the duplicity of trying to argue fiscally responsiblity while offering new big ticket spending initiatives. Fair to say the Liberals were guilty of "sucking and blowing", there was a certain incoherence within our presentation, which left the party open to easy retort. In one move, Ignatieff has repositioned the Liberals on the fiscal front and given himself latitude.

I note today, a piece detailing business executive sentiment. Not only does a freeze on corporate taxes seem reasonable, but people are actually arguing for increases. These views are indicative of some sober realities, and the Liberals now have a new credibility.

The idea of further corporate taxcuts isn't exactly an easy sell with Canadians. We've already seen many corporate reductions, the record is clear and the facts support an already "competitive" climate in Canada. If the argument centers around to reduce further or not, the Liberals can expect some sympathy for their position. The Conservatives are effectively reaching, if they think voters will reject the Liberal position- ordinary Canadians won't shed any tear if corporate Canada doesn't get another break, good luck with the "Tim Horton's" crowd. The optics are on our side, and this "savings" can be manipulated by the Liberals for other initiatives.

I don't mean to be to cynical here, but it's pretty easy to massage the numbers to present a fiscal framework. Where a party gets in trouble, is when they are offering competing narratives. The Liberals were guilty, but by now giving themselves some fiscal room, any new initiatives gain some credibility. With the pricetag in the range of a 5-7 billion dollar savings, the idea of a childcare initiative no longer looks reckless. The Liberals can present priorities as investments, and still give the appearance of reigning in the debt. Contrasted with the slash and burn Conservatives on the one hand, "fat cat" reductions on the other, I wonder what is the easier sell?

The Liberals bought themselves some hope "capital" with this tax freeze. We can still provide a measure of vision, investments, and argue we're being responsible. Ignatieff also offered a realistic deficit forecast, which denotes an overall plan. A bit early to tell, but these ideas put forth in Montreal look to put the Liberals back on the "economic front" radar. Given the entirely feeble response from Conservatives today, I am even more confident that we're now a more elusive target.


I'm back from Montreal. Just wanted to offer a quick heartfelt congratulations to the Liberal team. I was thoroughly impressed, and I know others were as well, at how seemless the proceedings. Given all that was going on, in the hall and online, the fact it went off without a hitch is a testament to the professionalism and talent working behind the scenes. Awesome job.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Raising The Bar

I suppose my expectations have changed slightly, now that I'm actually here in Montreal. I've found the experience to be entirely stimulating, if not somewhat depressing given some of the daunting tasks at hand. The organic component, this conference really is taking a life of its own, as various speakers and questioners put their stamp on the proceedings.

My chief worry, and really nothing more than a unknown at this point- can the Liberals stay focused and build off the momentum here? One would think, our center of government would be conducive for substantive debate, but if anything this sort of forum highlights the contrast with the superficial realities that dominate Ottawa. Ignatieff said the challenge here is to see if a political party can effectively respond to complex issues in a practical way. The answer is becoming OBVIOUS, it can, but only if policy is developed on merit, rather than palatability. Does the spirit here fade, as people return to the land of safe presentations and nimble dodge? Will the adult morph back into the impulsive juvenile, with no attention span?

This is a big speech today for Ignatieff, but tomorrow is actually more telling. The Montreal afterglow must manifest itself, don't let bold run cold. A moment of candor- the Liberals are long odds to win the next election. If one accepts probabilities, rather than the optimism of best case scenarios, then it allows for a different perspective. Would you rather fight for sound ideas and risk defeat, or be defeated because you fear how adversaries will twist those ideas? I'd rather go down on principles, rooted in hard fact, than tuck in to safe positions and avoid being provocative.

The predicament the Liberals face isn't unique, all parties now seem stuck in full on pander mode, jockeying to see who can be the least offensive. I wonder if this approach accurately reads the mood of the country, because a little "tough talk" might just be refreshing. You also might get murdered, apathy at a historical high, little engagement beyond the odd soundbite, we can't "handle the truth". Reconciling this inherent tension is the really the biggest challenge, coming out of Montreal.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


If I could choose one word to describe the general tone here, it would sober. It's not like the challenges outlined are any epiphany, but when you hear speaker after speaker articulate tremendous challenges, it congeals into an uncertain future.

I think Ignatieff was right when he framed this weekend as a challenge to see if a modern political party can respond effectively. Within this theme, one does have to wonder if Canadian voters are prepared to face some of these challenges, because many of the remedies aren't popular and/or palatable in a political sense. As David Dodge just pointed out, we are currently in a state where politicos are telling voters they can "have their cake and eat it too". The question then becomes- do the Liberals have the stomach to present unpleasant realities, because the risks are obvious?

Answers will be for another time, and past history suggests watered down remedies, as strategic considerations warp sound response. The inherent problem with "bold", you risk making yourself a target, particularly when your chief opponent is quite content to live in the world Dodge outlined. I'm not sure Canadians can "handle the truth"- it's simply human nature to gravitate to a vision that brings the least resistance, gloom and doom, accompanied by costs simply doesn't sell.

I appreciate the hesitations, but I firmly believe that the Liberals must distinguish themselves, or our chances are remote at best. If you accept the premise that the odds are long, then it allows for a more risk taking. Not reckless policy, but a consideration that maybe frank talk and sober solutions could resonate. It could all boil down to who has the most realistic vision, with the porviso that should we make the tough choices now, better days do lie ahead.

Timidity almost guarantees defeat, and while "straight talk" is full of landmines, at least the vision presented is honest and true, which no matter the outcome is helpful to the Liberal Party as it redefines itself.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Off To Montreal

Heading out to Montreal, to attend the Can150 "Thinkers Conference". Given recent events, this gathering couldn't come at a better time, and I'm excited about the possibilities. I'll blog from the venue about the happenings and whatnot.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Dicey From The Start

I don't want to address the moral imperatives here, because my personal opinion is in entire agreement with the philosophy. That said, I've had reservations about the Liberals "push" on the abortion question from the start, from a strategic point of view. I do think the Liberals should have challenged the Conservatives sudden concern for women and children, an obvious manipulative ploy to curry favor with a weak demographic. However, instead of addressing the duplicity of cutting foreign aid while concurrently positioning as Bono, the Liberals decided to play wedge politics. In so doing, the debate has centered around a "gotcha" component, and allowed the Conservatives to defend themselves in a way that's actually beneficial, politically speaking.

A little noticed finding earlier in the week reinforced my hesitancy:
The poll indicates fully 74 per cent believed the plan should include government funding for contraception; only 21 per cent were opposed.

But respondents were almost evenly split as to whether Harper's initiative should include funding for abortion services, with 48 per cent opposed and 46 per cent in favour.

What the above shows, a wide chasm between contraception and abortion, resulting in a net benefit for the Conservatives, if positioned to stay ALONE in opposition. In other words, you can score the desired points on the contraception question, but that evaporates as soon as you introduce abortion. 48% of respondents are opposed, the slightest plurality, but legions above the current Conservative support level. Those that oppose are left with one option, the Conservative Party of Canada, whereas the opposition divides the rest. I believe our "thrust" here was tactical, which makes the decision all the more baffling. We didn't have the support on the abortion question, both inside and outside of our caucus. If anything the tension within the Liberal ranks is representative of wider problem, that should have been recognized.

Again, I'm not addressing the moral questions here, merely the strategy. If you accept the premise that the Liberals were motivated by a desire to embarrass the Conservatives (which they clearly were), then within this lens, the whole thing was nuts from the start. There were many different angles to challenge the government on this file, they are hardly credible and this initiative has all the hallmarks of opportunism. Unfortunately, that point is lost, because it is met with equal opportunism.

People are calling for sanctions against the Liberal MP's who didn't support our motion. I understand the frustration, but really it's a distraction, because the real culprit here is a poorly thought out "plan", the inherent pitfalls should have been obvious and the blame lies where it should and has already been articulated. The Liberals were a paper tiger on this issue from the start, and that we plowed ahead DESPITE internal and external cues, is disappointing. Hardly a positive to head into the "thinkers conference" with a "what were they thinking?" debate.

Even if the motion passed last night, politically speaking there was no upside for the Liberals. More succinctly, just as much risk as reward, which made the whole proposition dicey from the start.

Getting The Brown Off

The great humanitarian mingles with the people of Haiti:

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Not A Great Moment, Let's Just Say

This sums up today's motion on maternal health from the Liberal perspective:

I know, I'm being to kind.

Expectations For Can150 "Thinkers Conference"

I notice a lot of people attaching expectations to the Liberals "Thinkers Conference". I'm attending the conference, but perhaps my "expectations" are somewhat more pedestrian than others.

I see this conference as nothing more than part of a larger process. If Can150 acts as a springboard for further policy development, then I will consider it a success. To criticize a political party for engaging in an issue orientated discussion seems unfair, particularly when one considers previous "demands" if you will. This is a healthy process, that can only enrich the party, the extent a judgement for another day. I heard a comment yesterday from a journalist I do respect, wherein he basically said something is wrong when a party needs to seek outside help to find ideas. Bullocks. I'd be more concerned if a bunch of MP's locked themselves in a room and formulated policy, WITHOUT canvassing as much outside, EXPERT opinion as possible. Seems to me, politicians constantly rely on expert opinion when addressing any issue, and I'd use our Parliamentary committee work as the perfect example.

I don't expect to draw anything conclusive from this conference, nor am I looking for some meaningful crescendo moment at the close. If people are entering with this mindset, then they will be disappointed, but in my mind they were never paying attention. If anything, I see a "food for thought" flavor, and I would expect some manifestation when the Liberals do release a full platform. I just want a productive, in depth discussion around various primary issues, that ultimately outline a broad direction. The Liberals won't suddenly find an identity in Montreal, but we will see substantive investigation that can only lead to sounder policy for the future.

I've asked the questions myself, surrounding what the Liberals stand for. That said, I don't see Montreal as providing the ultimate answer, merely a positive development that hopefully leads to compelling narratives. As a policy wonk, I look forward to listening to the discussions. This isn't a forum for knee jerk cynicism, it's a healthy exercise that will prove itself to be productive in the long run. I've found in my own life, "thinking" is never a negative undertaking.

Friday, March 19, 2010

On Confidence Motions

Now that the opposition has asserted the supremacy of Parliament, I note Conservative supporters are moving the goal posts. The opposition is just blustering, they will fold as soon as the Conservatives make this whole affair a confidence motion. First, some background:
Bob Rae was asked yesterday how far the opposition was willing to go to obtain documents related to the Afghan detainee affair and, paraphrasing Pierre Trudeau, responded, “Just watch us.”

Jack Harris was asked about the possibility that the government might declare any vote on the matter to be a confidence vote. His response: “Well, you know, the government and the Prime Minister can declare any motion a confidence motion. They may decide that this is a confidence motion. If so, so be it.”

Doesn't sound like a timid opposition, and I think people knew FULL well what yesterday's proceedings could ultimately mean. In other words, none of this is rash, entirely calculated.

I'm sorry, but as much as I try, I can't find ANY upside for the government to force an election over these demands. The issues surrounding the opposition demands are fundamental and those themes would dominate a campaign. Would the Conservatives really want an election about accountability, transparency, democratic will, secrecy, "stonewalling"? I understand the government has their retorts, but any fair minded observer must note little to no support for their arguments within the media filter. In other words, we would have an almost guaranteed defensive posture, the opposition attacking, the government justifying. This discussion would also raise the issue of CHANGE, pure poison for any incumbent. From the Liberal perspective, I can't think of a better focus than one surrounding how this government operates, how they avoid responsibility, can't "play well with others", a buffet of negative narratives.

Conventional wisdom assumes the next election will be primarily a fight centering around the economy. On this file, Harper has a distinct advantage, that is the ground they would choose to fight on. About the last thing in the world the Conservatives want is an election derailed towards a referendum on their conduct. At best dicey, problematic when compared with preferred storylines.

Conservatives can talk tough all they want, but their recent posture doesn't suggest a party itching for election. I don't see any swagger in the least. Of course, the Liberals aren't exactly in optimal shape, but given the options, I could see a serious rethink on the "long view" strategy, if we see the probability of the type of campaign I outlined.

If this issue leads to a confidence motion (I still don't think it will), I don't buy the fear mongering that the opposition will wear any election. Harper has the ultimate choice, and the opposition has provided sensible options that protect his supposed concerns. Should the Conservatives refuse, then ultimately they are raising the matter of confidence, they are arbitarily making a decision to force an election. At best, "blame" is a wash, at worst, we head off on the trail with Harper defending his refusal.

As it relates to the polls, again their is little immediate upside from the Conservative perspective. Harper's popularity has eroded for months, a majority seems the most unlikely of scenarios, possible but hardly probable. More likely a reduced mandate, more a chance of outright loss of power than ultimate. This is not the optimal moment for the government, if anything it is rife with risk.

As Harris said, if the Conservatives are hell bent on forcing an election over this issue, "so be it". I'm just not terribly frightened by the big blue machine, especially with relatively advantageous narratives certain to drive any campaign.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


It's been a pretty confounding week, with all the opposition parties giving mixed signals on the Afghan detainee file. The apparent stonewall seemed to be working, as pundits and politicians started to train their gaze elsewhere, nothing to see here, Harper had muted the discussion. From a grassroots perspective, much angst, because people rightly see this issue as fundamental, striking at the heart of our democratic tenets. And, then today, all hell breaks loose as the opposition rises en masse, effectively offering a flurry of repudiation, showing TEETH and resolve.

I don't know if today's blitzkrieg was co-ordinated or not, but all three parties rose in unison and demanded accountability, defended their rights as our representatives and effective kicked Iacobucci to the CURB. I'm sure there will be many more twists in the road, nothing is guaranteed, but for today at least my waning faith has been restored.

Harper the bully, just got a wedgie.


The new EKOS poll is out, showing minimal change. Looking week to week, we see the Conservatives with a 4% lead this week, 2% last week, 3% the week before, 3% the week before, showing a static trend. This week, the Cons gain a point, the Libs lose one:
Cons 33.1%(31.9%)
Libs 28.9%(29.6%)
NDP 15.7% (16%)
Greens 11% (10.8%)

Looking at the regionals, the slight Liberal lead is gone in Ontario, both parties score 35.6%, the NDP 16.3%, Greens 10.4%. That's the main change week to week.

On the right direction/wrong direction question, voters are evenly split. However, when you consider the disporportionate negative reaction in Quebec, the numbers are slightly better overall for the Conservatives.

Overall, it looks like EKOS give the Conservatives the slightest of leads, which minor fluctuation week to week. Looking at all the polls in totality, we see a statistical tie to slight Conservative lead, that appears to be the new normal.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

NDP "Ten Percenter" Sham

The NDP voted with the Liberals to ban "ten percenters". Now, if the NDP didn't agree with the Liberal motion, then it was their prerogative to vote against, no qualms with that. However, to VOTE for the motion, while simulaneously working in "cohoots" with the Conservatives BEHIND the scenes (as Fife said today) to KILL the Liberal initiative, is the definition of "hypocrisy". I'm not terribly interested in the apologist rationalizations, because it boils down to a simple, irrefutable fact. The NDP are being disingenious, manipulating optics, while actually agreeing with the Conservatives.

Both broadcasts today, whether it be Lavigne, Comartin, Layton, all conveyed complete duplicity. Lavigne said the Liberals should use the ten percenters more, Comartin said the NDP would stop if others do (with full knowledge that the Cons have no intention, rendering his pledge nonsense). Layton was straddled on the fence, to the point of absurdity. So, when the Liberal initiative moves to the arena of application next week, it has become clear that the NDP will sandbag, all the while claiming to be in agreement. The NDP will be chastizing the government, at the same time they're working together to thwart the Liberals.

The Liberal motion isn't binding, just as the NDP prorogue package is really nothing more than desired presentation. What it all means, parliamentarians passing measures means nothing, apart from providing talking points. However, if the NDP was truly sincere, then they could join the Liberals next week at the Board of Internal Economy to curb the ten percenters, they just VOTED against. Sadly, it's apparently all a ruse, because the NDP has no intention of fulfilling their vote obligation.

What a sham! Oh, and spare me the pontifications from Mount Pure, it looks more like a mole hill everyday.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

"Under Great White Northern Lights"

People might remember, in 2007 the alternative band White Stripes did a unique cross country tour of Canada. The tour footage is being turned into a movie, titled "Under Great White Northern Lights". I still say, this "show" in NFLD is one of the great moments in music history:


Nanos And Detainees

Nanos has a new poll out with a fairly static results, apart from a slight narrowing, resulting in a dead heat. A high water mark for the Liberals nationally, as well as some encouraging regionals. I'd like to look at this poll within the context of the detainee question, because I believe this offering, as well as other pollster findings (minus Oopsos Reid of course) provide leverage.

First the national numbers:
Cons 34.7(-0.9%)
Libs 34.6%(+.0.7%)
NDP 17.8%(+1.4%)
Greens 5.2%(-0.4%)

Nanos tends to show the Greens lower than other pollsters, which accounts for both main parties having a reasonably high percentage. When you look at the regionals, you see a "could go either way" electoral reality. The Liberals have a slight lead in Ontario, with a replicated 42%, but the Conservatives only lag 3% back. The Liberals assume a good lead in Atlantic Canada, and come out with a statistical tie in Quebec, over 30%. You do the math, minor quibbling aside and either party could form government with these numbers.

All the polls show a tight race, the numbers translate into a situation where NO party would enter an election with momentum and/or confidence. What is particularly noteworthy, a deadheat scenario isn't exactly the preferred starting point from the Conservative perspective. In fact, that situation presents a likelihood that no matter the eventual "winner", the Conservatives would lose seats. On the flip side, it's hard to see how the Liberals, minus a disasterous campaign, wouldn't add to their 77 seat total. I'd still give slight odds that the Conservatives would form gov't, but I'd also give long ones that it would be in a DIMINISHED position. If that seems a reasonable scenario, how an election now actually WORKS for the Conservatives escape me.

Harper has one more election, should he return with less MP's, we will undoubtedly start to hear whispers, Conservatives will look for a successor, he would likely retire at some point. In many respects, it's majority or bust for Harper in the next election, if he can't replicate or best the 38% in the last election, the natural political demise begins. There is ZERO motivation for Harper to force an election, unless the Conservatives have some confidence that a majority is at hand. Where's the upside, from the Conservative perspective to force an election today?

With the above in mind, and I believe the logic sound, the Liberals have little to fear from the shallow chest thumping from the Conservatives. In other words, the Liberals can be aggressive on the detainee document front, because I believe the Conservatives will blink. I also believe, if the Conservatives don't fold, that means the information is so damaging and explosive, they will do ANYTHING to avoid. Either way, we have the initiative and I'm sure a campaign would prompt more leaks and "put on the defensive" material.

These polls aren't great for the Liberals, but relatively speaking they're worse for the Conservatives. We should proceed on the detainee front with these considerations in mind. Ultimately, any "demands" the opposition make will only lead to an election, if the Conservatives CHOOSE. They have the power to avoid an election, this isn't non confidence, this is complying with the democratic will, Parliamentary supremacy, accountability and transparency. I don't fear any of those questions, and I don't fear these polls. How anyone can see the Conservatives "itching", when faced with 40-50 of their seats on the line, little hope of addition, probability of subtraction really, really doesn't compute from where I stand.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Liberals Must Reject Iacobucci Immediately

I admit, I almost fell off my chair. CBC said tonight, that according to several people, the Iacobucci Afghan detainee document review could take A YEAR AND A HALF to complete. This timeframe was floated, under the reasonable assumption, that this issue wouldn't be resolved prior to the next election.

I'll offer a succinct opinion. The Liberals MUST reject Iacobucci IMMEDIATELY, this is a farce, with the soul purpose being to take this issue off the table. The time for diplomatic response is over, before this SHAM gets off the ground, the opposition MUST cut it off at the knees. Anything less than outright rejection, amounts to CAPITULATION. It's spine time.

Parliament Is "Supreme"

A pretty weaselly worded "terms of reference" for Judge Frank Iacobucci, that looks more stalling tactic, than any genuine desire to accommodate Parliament's demands. The opposition was wise to wait and see what the government would formally offer, now that they have, I expect some serious resistance. Judging by the initial comments from the Liberals and NDP, it would appear "parliament is supreme" is back on the table.

I agree with the Amnesty International reaction, in that Iacobucci will just rehash ground already covered, nothing more than a "second opinion" under the same constraints previously argued for redaction. This paragraph outlines the murky mandate, which leaves a very subjective determination:
Mr. Iacobucci will provide recommendations to the Minister of Justice as to whether information would be injurious to Canada’s international relations, national defence or national security and whether any such information should nevertheless be released because the public interest in disclosure outweighs the public interest in non-disclosure.

One must remember, the Red Cross is already on record rejecting public disclosure, not because allegations are unfounded, but because international protocol demands "confidentiality". This framework provides Iacobucci an easy out on the "international relations" front. Nicholson categorizes the opposition demands as "potentially injurious" and he's basically asking Iacobucci to uphold this decision. Given that arguments can be made either way, the government has already stifled concurrent attempts by other bodies, namely the MPCC, it's hard to see how Iacobucci contradicts.

Iacobucci is left with a vague interpretation, because any allegations of torture are potentially damaging to our international relations and national security. We've already heard the defence, that any release of documents could harm our troops in the field, reprisals and such, so Iacobucci is left with a flawed balancing act. Additionally, Iacobucci already has the initial resistance arguments provided by DOD and the JD, so he would have to be extraordinary in rebuking those original stances. Iacobucci is not acting in isolation, he's determining if he should override what's already been put forth, and that makes any bold re-examination unlikely. I'd add, Iacobucci has already spoke to these issues of national security and "injurious" releases in the past, showing a tendency to defer.

People will note, Nicholson referenced verbatim to the language used during Iacobucci's previous posting. From his official report, you can see that Iacobucci has already established a precedent, which is INCREDIBLY similar to this investigation:
However, the responsible Minister is of the opinion that disclosure of this information would be injurious to national security, national defence, and/or international relations. If it is ultimately determined that further information can be publicly disclosed, I intend to take the necessary steps to supplement the public version of my report...

There remains certain information that bears directly on my mandate that I believe can and should be included in the public version of my report. However, the responsible Minister is of the opinion that disclosure of this information would be injurious to national security, national defence, and/or international relations.

Exact wording, and Iacobucci deferred to the government's desire, using the same justifications. I believe the above- and Nicholson's choice of VERBATIM wording confirms- Iacobucci was chosen because the government believes he is predisposed to uphold redaction, using the above rationales. There is no way Iacobucci is chosen, if the government believed he would reject their arguments to date, they don't work that way and Nicholson's lifting of past language suggests they are BANKING on similar adherence.

On the question of timing, adding in the 2001-2005 period is agreeable on an intellectual level, but clearly designed to delay any eventual release. The contempt allegations demand release of certain documents, by expanding the review, this may amount to the government's first formal attempt to cloud responsibility and/or ensure release doesn't occur until after this spring session. If I'm a betting man, Iacobucci's review will be released at the end of July, early August, when all is quiet, nobody paying attention. In this way, no matter his conclusions, the government can use Iacobucci in the fall, and hope everyone tires of this story(I note some in the media are already questioning the continual "opposition", disappointing given the stakes, but attention span has never been a modern day strength).

If I'm the NDP, I continue on with their contempt charge. If I'm the Liberals, I dust off Lee and reject this "inquiry" outright. Now that we know have some clarity on Iacobucci, it's imperative that the opposition doesn't allow a probable pre-determined exercise to distract, delay and ultimately relegate. The opposition isn't obligated to play this game.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Studies In Hypocrisy

Media Position 1:
The Liberals need policy, they're bereft of ideas. What do the Liberals stand for, where's the substance? The Liberals will never regain power until they reinvent themselves with a fresh vision. You can't just release policy during an election campaign and hope to win. We DEMAND POLICY now.

Media Position 2:
Ideas don't excite anyone, this entire Thinker's Conference appears "boring". What's the point of having a policy discussion without an election looming, when nobody cares? Haven't the Liberals already had recent policy roundtables, enough all ready. It's hard to get traction out of a bunch of policy wonks hashing out ideas.

For the LOVE OF gOD, all these media pundits pre-judging an event they've basically CLAMORED for, month after month. Nobody expects a free ride, but it might be nice if you left the CYNICISM at the door.

Maybe if they have some time in Montreal, they could add a discussion paper on "Most Of The Media, WTF?" Personally, I would propose term limits ;)

Reacting "Emotionally"?

Thursday, March 11, 2010


The latest EKOS poll shows a slight narrowing nationally, with the Conservative total down for the second week in a row, although not terribly significant. EKOS does tend to support the earlier Harris Decima poll this week, which showed a noticeable change in British Columbia, margin of error cautions aside. Nationally, last week in brackets:
Cons 31.9%(32.4%)
Libs 29.6%(29.4%)
NDP 16%(15.2%)
Greens 11%(10.5%)

The week prior the Cons were at 33.4%, so you see a slight trend downward trend, from that massive Olympic bounce everybody was buzzing about ;)

Really, a pretty static national total, when you incorporate the regionals, you see either party equally positioned to form government.

EKOS showed a deadheat in British Columbia last week, but this time we see the Cons up 8%, Libs down 7%, NDP down 4%, resulting in a 14.5% lead for the government. Harris Decima also saw a swing in British Columbia towards the Cons, away from the Libs, so it might be something to watch, although "volatile" was the chosen characterization.

Elsewhere in the country, Libs still enjoy a small lead in Ontario, retake the lead in Atlantic Canada and receive a better result in Quebec. Again, the regionals translate to an electoral sawoff, no real advantage for any party.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Liberals Need To Get Aggressive In Quebec

Hebert's column today highlights a sentiment that needs to be exploited by the Liberals. I think Ignatieff was wise to gently enter the debate surrounding Bouchard's recent comments on sovereignty. However, we really haven't seen any followup, nor is the Liberal strategy in Quebec apparent, or denoting any urgency. In reality, since the Coderre dustup, the Liberals have been pretty much dormant in Quebec, no overtures or concerted campaigns.

I believe the Montreal Conference could be an interesting springboard, but beyond that, the ground is fertile for the Liberals to seize the initiative, position themselves as the federalist alternative, and in so doing take DIRECT aim at the Bloc. For some odd reason, the Bloc has managed to maintain, even with separatist sentiment waning, their provincial counterpart struggling. I'm not sure this reality is a testament to shrewd politics from the Bloc, as much as it is a FREE pass from its rivals. The Liberals seem hesitant to get aggressive with the Bloc, even though the vulnerabilities are obvious.

As Hebert notes, separatist sentiment is down, the rationale questioned, and federalist affiliation an evolving consideration, waiting for a coherent messenger. Where are the Liberals, beyond isolated forays? We need a focused strategy that targets the underlying debate and re-positions the party to capitalize on old arguments. The Liberals have always thrived on the rigid conflicts, with a more subtle dynamic evolving, it needs to re-invent itself. Some of what Ignatieff has said speaks to the "dual identity" sentiment, but it's hardly a compelling thrust, that moves voters, or engages in any new way.

Everyone is watching to see what the Liberal do on the policy front, how they create the "alternative" that will underpin the future campaign. I'll be watching to see the Quebec specific arguments, because I think that should be a primary and aggressive focus.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Harris Decima

A new Harris Decima poll gives the Conservatives a slight lead, mostly due to a peculiar change in British Columbia. National results, with last week in brackets:
Cons 33%(31%)
Libs 29%(31%)
NDP 16%(16%)
Greens 11%(12%)

Gregg makes a strange observation relating to British Columbia. Gregg notes no Olympic bounce for the government, with B.C. the possible exception. I agree, the national numbers have moved as a result of this province, but really it's a case of falling Liberal support than any measurable uptick for the Conservatives. British Columbia:
Cons 35%(32%)
Libs 21%(30%)
NDP 25%(24%)
Greens 16%(12%)

A couple of points here. Strange that it's the Greens that actually get the biggest bounce poll to poll, and even that change is marginal at best, given the margin of error. Also, if you look back to the weekly poll before, and the one before that, you'll note the Cons were at 35%. In other words, the trend is a flatline, with minor variations, absolutely no momentum apparent. What is really significant, and this does explain Gregg's focus on the province, the Liberals see a decided drop, which accounts for their national fall. Gregg refers to B.C. as "volatile", and for that reason I'd like to see more polling before rejecting this as one off result(recent trending for all pollsters has actually shown a small Liberal uptick in the last two months).

What is particularly interesting, HD shows the Liberals maintaining their lead in Ontario, Gregg notes strength in the 905:
Libs 39%(38%)
Cons 35%(35%)
NDP 14%(14%)
Greens 10%(12%)

More stable numbers you will not see, and absolutely no "bounce" for the Conservatives. If anything, when you start doing the regional math, this poll is basically an electoral tossup.

HD shows little statistical change in Quebec amongst the federalist parties, but the Bloc rising a full 8% to a commanding 44%.

Atlantic Canada shows significant change, but the margin of error brings the usual caution. It is AC that explains the rest of the national move, with the Libs down 8%, Cons up 8%, NDP down 2%, narrowing the Liberal lead to 4% from the gigantic 15% they enjoyed last week. This type of fluctation is the norm in AC, and nothing from which to draw definitive conclusions.

HD also shows that both the party leaders basically stink in the eyes of Canadians, similar findings to everyone else.

These national results are in line with other pollsters(with the exception of Oopsos), pretty much status quo, electoral sawoff.

Fall Election?

Travers makes the case for a fall election in his latest column. Yesterday, we discussed just that possibility here, and I see a powerful argument from the government side.

I see plenty of pitfalls for the Conservatives if they do a 2008 redux, basically creating a crisis where none existed, forcing an election. To assume the government can pull that off again, without any blow back, fails to consider recent events. I would argue that the Conservatives would suffer the same polling fate as the Liberals did last fall, should they arbitrarily push for an election. The appetite for an election hasn't grown in the slightest, and I see little reason to believe that changes in the near future.

In addition, Harper has expended all available political capital with his prorogation move. Should Harper emerge from the summer break and dissolve Parliament, any campaign will start with his government on the defensive, the same issues that have plagued him recently will be revisited. The slightest perception that Harper is trying to avoid accountability, the Conservatives will pay dearly.

I believe the Conservatives would much prefer to go in the fall, as opposed to next spring or later. Unpopular choices are on the horizon, deferred until the next budget, to avoid that presentation, best to secure another mandate first. When you consider the various timings, the Conservatives logically conclude sooner is better than later.

The only way the Conservatives could pull off a fall election, if they can avoid overtly chiming. In other words, the government needs to bait the opposition, but no so blatantly that their motivations are beyond obvious. I would look for certain new initiatives that push the opposition, without the appearance of poison pill. A very subtle dance, that provides mutual culpability, allowing for a dysfunctional Parliament that requires another mandate. This calculation means that the fall session must begin, you can't dissolve prior, it has to be a reactive development.

I'm with Travers, and I believe the PMO is already playing out different scenarios to bring about an election, without appearing terribly eager. Within this want, maybe an eventual climbdown on the detainee issue, give enough that the "wheels are in motion", but not far enough process wise, that it interferes with a fall election. I could actually see a surprise proposal in the offing, towards the end of this spring session, if the Conservatives conclude fall is their best moment.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Deniability Debunked

About the only defence left, leaving common sense aside and debating linguistic meanings. Today's relevation that the government full expected torture allegations, prior to any "public knowledge" very much fits the timeline:

The memorandum, drafted by officials at the Department of Foreign Affairs, says that if "NGOs, relatives, media or otherwise, make credible allegations that detainees transferred by CF [Canadian Forces] to Afghan authorities have been potentially abused following their transfer," officials must inform the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission and the Red Cross "and to follow up separately to address potential concerns with the conditions of detention."

First drafts of the documents were written as early as March 2007, months before the Globe and Mail reported that 30 transferred Canadian detainees were "beaten, whipped, starved, frozen, choked and subjected to electric shocks during interrogations."

The obvious- the government was aware of abuse problems and were preparing a SOP to deal with any revelations. What the CBC doesn't do is join this revelation with another made by the Chronicle Herald last December. In that article, we learned that the Red Cross was concerned about torture allegations, so the Conservatives devised a 8 point strategy to appease. This communication strategy was put in place in February 2007, around the same time these other rules were applied:
The document also warned officials to prepare "an interdepartmental approach" for dealing with "the potential scenario where allegations of mistreatment or torture are substantiated."

...No. 1 on the eight-point plan for officials was to "Prepare standard key messages (ie. importance of adhering to obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law regarding the treatment of detainees.)"

What you have is a congealing picture of the government desperately trying to get their messaging in order, as well as laying down channels to deal with allegations. It defies logic that a government would go to the lengths of co-ordinating messaging strategies between agencies, as well as documenting how to deal with allegations, if they were UNAWARE that credible torture existed. We have a gov't working behind the scenes to prepare the ground, in case of public release. All of these measures PRIOR to any public hint of wrongdoing.

Taken in totality, you have see a flurry of activity, within all departments involved to formulate a damage control plan, and it's multi-layered. It is entirely clear, that this was a government BRACING for public disclosure. This amount of effort is never expended unless the government was aware of credible allegations, unless they feared actual proof existed. The CBC release show the gov't expected allegations, at the same time we have evidence of a public relations campaign to deal with the issue. Hello!

Liberals Reject Detainee Stall

Nice to see the Liberals up bright and early diplomatically rejecting the Harper government's latest stall on the detainee file. Ignatieff writes an open letter to the PM, wherein he doesn't outright reject Justice Iacobucci, but the parameters of his yet unknown task. Basically, the Liberals will accept Iacobucci, but only under the auspices of a FULL PUBLIC INQUIRY:
Justice Iacobucci will not be empowered to do his job adequately, unless the government gives him the mandate to hold a full public inquiry.

Under the process you have proposed, Justice Iacobucci could review documents provided to him by the government, but he would have no way of getting at the complete picture or even of knowing which documents should be made public.

A public inquiry would give him the power to demand materials from the government, to call witnesses and to subpoena testimony. An inquiry could establish the facts and make recommendations for the future.

Accordingly, I am writing to urge you, in the strongest possible terms, to appoint a full public inquiry, in accordance with Part 1 of the Inquiries Act, to report to Parliament and Canadians, in a timely manner, on the transfer of detainees in Canadian custody from 2001 to the present.

Note the unnecessary reference to "2001 to the present" which takes a decidedly non partisan perspective, regardless of regime.

I see this letter as perfect pitch, in the sense that the Liberals are endorsing Justice Iacobucci, but only within a full judicial review. This posture leaves the Conservatives to defend half measures and ambigious direction. With recent developments, the calls for a public inquiry will grow, so in essence the Liberals stay ahead of the Conservative stall tactics. Anything less than accepting a public inquiry, under Iacobucci's direction, again creates the impression of wanting to hide, a lack of accountability and transparency, last week's move by Nicholson fails to take the issue off the near term table.

This response leads to a basic question, which Conservatives can never reconcile- if you have acted in a legally and morally acceptable fashion, if these charges are baseless, then you should have NO fear of a full public disclosure, you really should welcome it. The national security arguments are muted, because Iacobucci has already dealt with these consideration in previous postings, a public inquiry will not threaten as argued. To ignore the Liberal request will only increase suspicion, and in a strange way, force the calls to grow louder. It really has become a "kicking and screaming" scenario, the more resistance, the more concern rises. The Conservatives have already lost many normally friendly allies, and this is a testament to the absurdity of thwarting investigation while simultaneously dismissing the validity.

The Conservatives are fighting common sense at this point. The Liberal response keeps the pressure on, without summarily rejecting. In fact, they've embraced this proposal, but put it in their own terms. A good response.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

"This Is Ugly. This Makes Somalia Look Very Small"

It's never a good thing when Terry Milewski starts sniffing around. For those who haven't seen it:

Greg Weston outlines WHY the opposition MUST reject the Conservatives latest stalling tactic:
"No one seems to know how long it will take Iacobucci to complete his review, but the move could plausibly put the whole issue out of the public spotlight until after a fall election."

The government will have a motivating argument to triggering a fall election, in the same way they forced one in 2008. Parliament may not reconvene, so if the Conservatives can run out the clock this spring, the detainee question might never reach crescendo. Couple this concern with a budget next year, that can no longer avoid tough and unpopular decisions, the rationale to go this fall becomes quite sound from their perspective, maybe even a necessity.

Weston, with one more succinct point, that has always "said it all" from my perspective:
"For a government with nothing to hide, it is certainly going to extraordinary lengths to hide it."


Saturday, March 06, 2010

Game Changer?

The unequivocal allegations made by Professor Amir Attaran are every bit of the bombshell variety, that could well prove to be a game changer:
"If these documents were released [in full], what they will show is that Canada partnered deliberately with the torturers in Afghanistan for the interrogation of detainees," he said.

"There would be a question of rendition and a question of war crimes on the part of certain Canadian officials. That's what's in these documents, and that's why the government is covering up as hard as it can."

The Afghan detainee story is the lead on both CBC and CTV, with the former doing the heavy journalistic lifting. One can be sure, that this issue will dominate Ottawa next week and beyond. The allegations are explosive, which will embolden the opposition to REJECT the latest stall tactic from the government.

Personally, I'm inclined to believe these allegations, because the seriousness entirely fits with the gov't reaction to date. From the outset, the Conservatives have seemingly over-reacted in trying to obstruct any type of examination. It is the way the gov't has conducted itself that suggests something scandalous is at the heart. If you have nothing to hide, you don't operate in this way. In fact, these charges are completely consistent with a government desperate to hide information. Apologists have argued "nothing to see here", but that argument is undermined by the Conservatives posture. I've always felt there was much more to this story, not because of what we've learned, but because of the lengths the Conservatives have gone to obstruct.

Politically, one has to wonder if this is a game changer? This detainee story once again dominates Parliament, with the added weave being prorogation. The entire narrative centers around a government usurping Parliament's will, operating outside of the law, covering up information, misusing it's power to thwart accountability. It's a potentially fatal concoction, because once a government loses it's moral authority, history shows its days are ultimately numbered.

Rather than this story fading, as the Conservatives had hoped, we now have a situation where the stakes have been raised. While Conservatives took some comfort from the fact that detainee treatment wasn't a top tier concern of Canadians, the issue has morphed into an entirely different set of questions. This story has reached scandal proportions, with all kinds of domestic and international considerations. Attaran is correct to characterize these allegations as much more serious than the Somalia affair, they could well dominate the political landscape for months. Calls for an inquiry will grow louder, more leaks will emerge, the Conservatives have boxed themselves into an untenable position. There is no upside now, political damage a foregone conclusion, the only question, extent.

In the final analysis, these allegations only serve to cement the view that Harper ran from Parliament, to thwart accountability. The government is right back where they left off prior to proroguing, but in reality it is much worse. Canadians will now demand full disclosure and the entire spring session(and beyond) will be hijacked by these charges.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Why The Conservatives Flip Flopped On The Anthem

This pretty much sums up why the Conservatives ditched the revised anthem proposal:
The highest level of opposition to the proposed change to the national anthem was recorded in Alberta (82%).

My initial comment that the idea was turning into an "unmitigated disaster" for the government:
75% of English-speaking Canadians oppose changing the line that reads "True patriot love in all thy sons command" to "True patriot love thou dost in us command."

Nice one chess master. Renaming Calgary International Airport to "Trudeau Rocked" International would have garnered more popular support.

Afghan Detainee Diversion

This isn't the first time former Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci has been asked to weigh the tension between publicly releasing documents and national security interests. In fact, Iacobucci has already headed an inquiry into torture allegations and released a formal report. I found this passage applicable to the questions he will now face:
National security confidentiality review. In preparing a version of the report suitable for public disclosure, Inquiry counsel and I considered the constraints imposed by the Terms of Reference (which required that I must take all steps necessary to prevent the disclosure of information subject to national security confidentiality), section 38 of the Canada Evidence Act (which prohibits disclosure of information that would be injurious to international relations, national defence or national security), and the factors identified by Mr. Justice Simon Noël in Canada (Attorney General) v. Canada (Commission of Inquiry into the Actions of Canadian Officials in Relation to Maher Arar).

With these factors in mind, I engaged in the national security review process with a view to providing the public with as complete as possible an account of the actions of Canadian officials and my findings in respect of those actions. With one exception, I am satisfied that the information contained in the confidential version of my report, but omitted from the public version, is properly subject to national security confidentiality. The information that forms the exception is, in my view, directly relevant to my mandate and should be disclosed to the public.

However, the responsible Minister is of the opinion that disclosure of this information would be injurious to national security, national defence, and/or international relations. If it is ultimately determined that further information can be publicly disclosed, I intend to take the necessary steps to supplement the public version of my report...

There remains certain information that bears directly on my mandate that I believe can and should be included in the public version of my report. However, the responsible Minister is of the opinion that disclosure of this information would be injurious to national security, national defence, and/or THE INQUIRY PROCESS 61
international relations.

In this case Iacobucci deferred to the Minister in question, when deciding whether to publicly release certain documents. One will also note, Nicholson quoted VERBATUM the bolded portion today in the H of C.

An interesting passage on blacked out documents:
In preparing the public version of my report, I chose not to use the technique of indicating where information has been omitted through black-outs or ellipsis marks. In my view, doing so would have impaired the intelligibility and coherence of the public report, particularly since, in many instances, the best solution to a national security confidentiality concern was to summarize the information or convey its essence in a different way, rather than omit specific words or phrases. The text of the public report includes approximately 20% fewer words than the text of the confidential report (excluding footnotes).

I'd invite others to review the massive report, but I suspect one will find the Conservative government has a VERY CLEAR understanding of how Iacobucci views classified documents in the context of Ministerial opposition and/or national security considerations. In other words, there is NO way Iacobucci is chosen, unless his past opinion and record doesn't denote some sympathy towards the government's current stance.

I'll leave it to the legal beavers to decide if my interpretation is correct.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

No Bounce

The latest EKOS poll confirms the findings from two other reputable polls(sorry Oopsos), namely no Olympic bounce for the Conservatives, stalled in the low 30's. Week to week, the Conservatives are actually down a point, which is noteworthy, because last week was where our patriotic expression reached crescendo. The latest:
Conservatives: 32.4 (-1.0)
Liberals: 29.4 (-0.9)
NDP: 15.2 (-0.6)
Green: 10.5 (-0.1)
Bloc Quebecois: 9.4 (+1.2) (in Quebec: 37.8 +4.8) )
Other: 3.1 (+1.2)

Undecided: 12.6 (+0.1)

If you look back to the pre-Olympic standings you find the following(pre in brackets):
Cons 32.4%(31.2%)
Libs 29.4%(29%)
NDP 15.2%(15.1%)
Greens 10.5%(9%)

Absolutely no statistical change, numbers virtually stagnant pre and post Olympics. A bit disconcerting for the Conservatives, because this period is probably the most favorable environment they will enjoy. With the return of Parliament, plenty of negative storylines in play, the advantage moves back to the opposition.

EKOS shows the Liberals actually widening their lead in Ontario, which is offset by a curiously large drop in Quebec. Other pollster have shown a slight downward trend in Quebec, so this poll might be capturing that trend. EKOS also shows a deadheat in British Columbia, which is another trend we've seen recently- a particularly poor result for the Conservatives, further evidence that the Olympics had zero impact.

When Graves argued the Liberals would be "crazy" to not force a spring election, it was met with immediate reaction from people like Tim Powers. The attempt to discredit the logic tells me the Conservatives internal polling show a similar risky proposition. Sometimes the reaction is more telling than the suggestion.

For Harper, so many photo ops, so little mileage....

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Why The Anthem Is Bad Politics

I think this anthem revision proposal is a case of to clever by half. The motivation seems to be some superficial play towards female voters, which remain somewhat elusive. That massive generalization aside, this "gender neutral" argument is already being exposed for what it is, namely a poorly conceived gimmick.

In trying to distract attention, the Conservatives seem to have unwillingly distracted from a serious tone. The Liberals nimbly seized on this anthem revision as evidence of symbolism over substance. Throw in another beauty, Senior's Day, and you present a case of government more interested in optics than actually addressing the issue. The argument can go further, to an insulting reaction, wherein certain subsets are assumed easily impressed or swayed. More woman voters will be drawn to the Conservative cause, not because of real gender equality policies and issues, but because a word was changed, that nobody frankly cared about in the first place. Taken a step further, I can assure you that the cadre of anthem activists- if they even exist- aren't your prototypical Conservative target voter. In other words, there is no real audience for this initiative, and you really risk alienating with pat on the head exercises. Where's the beef, so to speak, is the obvious end game.

The government positioned this throne speech as evidence of the recalibration they needed. Nobody really bought that argument in the first place, but that's the frame the Conservatives held to, and everything is judged within that marker. To then offer relative nothingness, the most trivial of "ideas", makes a mockery of the whole process. It's almost as though the government had to MUCH time on its hands, that they concocted this crap as meaningful. Worse, by drawing attention to the anthem, the government has undercut their own sober message on the economy.

What are people talking about, what has enjoyed wildly disporportionate attention? The sad part, people in the PMO probably thought it shrewd to put the shiny objects, in the window, when in fact they've overshadowed their own economic thesis, while concurrently opening up an effective attack line for your opponent. This idea showed absolutely ZERO foresight, because you already see the can of worms, plus you don't appear serious.

We have a record deficit, a jobless recovery, problems with pensions, problems with productivity, etc, etc, and you give us a changed anthem. A job well done PMO, yes everyone is distracted with your surprise, but for all the wrong reasons. Gender neutral is turning into a net negative.

New Anthem

I was able to get my hands on the rumored changes to the national anthem, proposed by the government:

O Conada!
O Conada!

Our home and increasingly right leaning land

True patriot love in all thy straight sons command.

With indifferent hearts we see thee rise,

The True North strong and free from parliamentary supremacy

From far and wide,

O Conada, we stand on guard for thee.

God keep our land glorious and tough on crime

O Conada, we stand on guard for thee.

O Conada, we stand on guard against Iggee.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Angus Reid Poll

The new Angus Reid poll shows little change, the Conservative 4% advantage remains. A good result for the NDP, both on the party front and regarding Layton's leadership. Unlike yesterday's "release", this pollster actually has a favorable track record and earned credibility.

Tie in Ontario, British Columbia. Relatively low Liberals score in Quebec. Unusually high NDP score in Ontario, could be an outlier.

Results Here


Thanks to Scott Tribe, Harris Decima is also out with a poll. Liberals and Conservatives deadlocked at 31% each, NDP 16%, Greens 12%. HD also shows a tight race in British Columbia. Gregg calls the "deadlock the new norm" in Canadian politics.

Ipsos Reid, outlier once again. What else is new? Two reputable polls, no evidence whatsoever of any Conservative bounce.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Forcing An Election Would Be "Crazy"

While I appreciate some of the arguments made by Frank Graves, I don't share the election enthusiasm. In fact, I think it pretty much "crazy" for the Liberals to force an election this spring.

Despite narrowing polls, Liberals would be foolish to consider a firm pattern. I believe the sentiment surrounding Harper has a certain growing rigidity, but the Liberal numbers have a underlying artificial flavor. Couple that fact with inability to full maximize dissent, and it's hardly a strong presentation. If you want to prove this thesis, pushing for an election would surely work. The Liberals simply haven't made the case for an election, at least not enough of one to sail through the voter headwind. You can chop 5% off in Ontario with the slightest evidence of sabre rattling, it's that volatile(or fickle, depending on your perspective). The Liberals have already chosen this path, to dismiss that outcome would be truly irresponsible.

Graves makes the argument that Ignatieff's only real chance to resonate is an election. That argument is probably true, but that will always be true, regardless of timing. Also, there is room to get traction outside of a campaign, and I'd argue we've seen evidence of that, of late. I also see positive potential framing on the horizon, particularly if Ignatieff is armed with a more coherent agenda. Graves makes it seem like Ignatieff is stuck, which I find a bit to simplistic- there is non-election space to occupy. Big moves? Obviously not, but a firmer backdrop is entirely doable and advantageous pre-election.

The coming budget is the next opportunity, and by all accounts it will be a tame affair. Quite a challenge to translate this type of a budget into a rallying cry for an election. The Liberals don't operate in isolation, the mood must be there to justify. I genuinely believe- for the first time I might add- that a "kick the bums" mentality is fermenting in the land, Harper a damaged character. However, I also don't believe we're quite "there yet", in terms of optimal opportunity. Unless we see another massive blunder, there is little impetus.

The Conservatives have two inherent advantages. The Conservatives still enjoy a more robust "machine", whatever measure you choose. Within a tight election, it's the type of factor than can decide the eventual winner. When you couple this type of advantage with the incumbent card, you need more than dead even to have half a chance (if that makes sense).

The Liberals should waste little effort debating the merits of a quick election. Instead, let's focus on the Thinkers Conference, and all the policy considerations it encompasses. Let's get a message that resonates, present a compelling alternative vision, firm up our support and try to expand it.

The earliest window I see is the fall, more likely next spring when Harper finally has to address the economic realities and make tough, unpopular choices.