Thursday, March 31, 2011

So Far So Good

Rather than offer a million caveats, let's just assume it's part of the equation. Disclaimers aside, the campaign is now starting to take shape and I'm hard pressed to find any real positives for the Harper campaign.

People will note, starting yesterday Harper edited his phrasing, coalition was for the most part replaced by these bland references to alternative government's. No accident, in a matter of few days, the word "coalition" has become a double edged sword for Harper, no longer able to pummel opponents with impunity. The word now brings questions about Harper, moreso than his targets, this explains why the Conservatives have massaged the language, at least from the leader himself. The fact Harper has adjusted speaks to, at least, partial message failure.

There is a fast growing theme emerging, on that paints Harper as detached, unaccountable and defensive. Ignatieff, Layton are taking all comers, Harper has chosen to limit access, creating an unflattering air. Harper doesn't look comfortable answering questions, he is somewhat flat and reactionary, this comes across, this has an impact. Particularly noteworthy when contrasted with Ignatieff, who by all objective accounts is on his game, at every stop, relaxed taking questions. I always look to body language as one of my key intangibles- pretend you no nothing else about the campaign- it says a lot about how things are going at the moment.

I take a different opinion than some, I don't believe Harper's one on one debate challenge was an accident or spontaneous comment. Nothing that happened last night dissuades me from my view, in fact the Harper team did push for just this concept, a fact which shouldn't be lost on anyone. The problem for Harper, the Liberals simply bested him, we didn't bite on either/or, we demanded both, which has lead to Harper on the defensive today. Harper offered a debate, Ignatieff is now taunting that challenge, further cementing a frame of a man who isn't accountable, won't debate, won't take questions, won't even wade into crowds of ordinary Canadians, unlike his opponents. Ignatieff looks strong, offensive, Harper has lost this back and forth in a decisive way.

On the policy front, Harper has really offered nothing that has grabbed attention, apart from the mocked commitment to maybe do something in the distant future, dependent on scenarios which could change. That is the signature announcement to date? Contrast with Ignatieff, Harper comes up short again. Take away the fear, so far a pretty THIN presentation from the Conservatives.

I see the Conservatives scrambling a bit, I think they are off message and tinkering. I see the Liberals calm and cool, a leader looking beyond comfortable, out there and thriving. Again, here is where all the disclaimers come, but let's just isolate ourselves to the first few days, I certainly like the way this campaign is shaping up, go so far as to see it's been pretty much best case scenario. And YES, it can all change in heartbeat, and probably will for that matter, a few times too :)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Why Harper Wants A One On One Debate

I'm a bit shocked, the general consensus, that can't see any upside for Harper to actively pursue a one on one debate with Ignatieff. The Ignatieff rationale is obvious, one on one fits very tightly into our election argument, we relish any opportunity to narrow the viewer lens, "two choices" has always been our choice. But Harper, people seem stunned that he would agree to this format, when really if you look at the alternatives, it just might be the shrewd call. In other words, a one on one works for both leaders, for their own reasons.

Does everyone forget the 2008 debates? I recall quite vividly a Stephen Harper always on the defensive, the dynamics never in his favour, basically doomed from the outset. May attacked Harper, then Duceppe, then Layton, then Dion, just wave after wave of people going after the Prime Minister. When you consider that 2011 will be exactly the same, there is no other real scenario, then the idea of Harper wanting to narrow his attackers makes some sense.

Have you heard Gilles Duceppe? I have already stated, that this coalition question will be in the debates, it's a done deal, there is no avoiding. In addition, rather than Harper making the accusations, he will be subjected to Gilles Duceppe, a seasoned, effective debator, RIPPING a strip off him, calling him a liar, reminding Canadians of his own duplicity. Layton will confirm, and Harper will effectively be destroyed on this question, I really have little doubt. I believe the Conservatives know this too, they FEAR Duceppe, much better to just have a one on one with Ignatieff, wherein Harper can actually land a few as well, rather than continually fend off the onslaught.

When you consider the alternatives, the idea of a one on one looks less "insane" that first blush suggests. We have one format that is a guaranteed loser, made that much worse because your core scare tactic is neutered, becomes a liability. Where is the attraction for Harper in having this five headed debate? Again, did we all forget 2008, because he lost, and the format guarantees a repeat, just a question of how badly.

These Conservatives don't do voluntarily go off message, if they are getting aggressive on this one on one debate it's because they've found a "lesser of two evils". Sure, debating Ignatieff has risks, but that isn't a question in isolation, because risk is inherent in EVERY option. No, I believe the Conservatives are pushing, because they see relative merit, it's the better of two possibilities, he could actually WIN this format. This fact, in and of itself, has a certain logic to it- one option I lose, just degree, another I might lose, but I might actually best Ignatieff. Crazy, not all, cold calcuation and maybe not bad math at that.

NDP Candidate Drops Out To Support Liberals

This is BIG, for a multitude of reasons:
An NDP candidate in London has surprised everyone, including his own party, by withdrawing from the election race and throwing his support behind a Liberal rival.

Ryan Dolby, who was running in Elgin-Middlesex-London, made the sudden announcement through a news release emailed to the media, party officials and others Wednesday morning.

"I am worried if Stephen Harper gets a majority. I made a strategic decision," Dolby said.

Feeds the Liberal narrative, but also feeds the Conservative narrative. Interesting to see how this plays out, but the tone has been set and it's moved to the practical.

Time To Come Clean With Canadians

Yesterday, the F-35 debate was taken outside the domestic arena, in a way that once and for all renders the Conservative numbers as pure BUNK. It is now time for a frank discussion, before Canada is saddled with possibly the biggest boondoggle in our history.

Mike Sullivan, director of acquisition management at the US General Accountability Office, was on CBC yesterday discussing the F-35. In response to the Conservative figures they use for the cost of the aircraft Sullivan offered an almost comical response:
"That's not a number that I am familiar with at all," he said in an interview Tuesday with CBC's Power & Politics

Think about that for a second, this third party expert can't even fathom the Conservative 9 billion number, it isn't even a rational presentation. Maybe that's because Sullivan lives in the present and isn't trying to pull the wool over people eye's with TEN YEAR OLD figures PROVIDED BY THE VENDER. Sullivan comes in with costs far above the Conservative line, in such a way that any reasonable commentator should drop the 9 billion price tag from any story on the subject- it is pure FICTION, pure propaganda, bearing NO relation to reality. Canadians deserve an honest discussion, the Conservatives are essentially misleading, bordering on outright lying at this stage.

Laurie Hawn had an incredibly hard time on CBC yesterday, hollow retort a kind characterization. His lone assertion left, no no, these "audits" are wrong because they don't account for the sweetheart deal Canada is getting for these planes, due to when we purchase the planes. Again Sullivan:
Sullivan said that while the last planes off the production line cost less than the first ones, Canada's jets are set to be delivered in 2016, which he viewed as early in the production run.

"That tells me I don't think that's going to be the least expensive buy," he said.

Another blatant distortion, that has no support outside of Conservative spin. This debate is actually SAD, it does a disservice to what will be the biggest military purchase in our history.

The Conservatives are trying to pull a fast one on the Canadian people, this isn't a difference of opinion, this is a question of coming clean. The discrepancy is so vast, the dollars essentially undercut the entire Conservative fiscal plan, as WELL as supposed future commitments they are selling as we speak. None of the numbers, pledges have any credibility until the Conservatives update their dinosaur expenditures, that NOBODY can even entertain at this point, nevermind debate. It is insulting, Hawn and company, men who love to wrap themselves in the flag and troops, are misleading Canadians in a fundamental way. Already obscene costs, are set to worsen, these planes are something we simply can't afford, and we certainly can't afford to get lost in the nonsensical back and forth the Conservatives use to muddy an otherwise crystal clear picture. BOONDOGGLE.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Debate Debate

First off, in 2008 I argued VEHEMENTLY for Elizabeth May to be included, so no hysterics please. I'm a bit torn on this decision to exclude May this time out, let me explain why.

On the one hand, all the arguments from 2008 hold, with the added emphasis of more votes in that election, further legitimizing the Green Party as a viable option. It's also true that the Greens didn't secure any seats in 2008, once again, one could argue May had her chance at the national table- that seems to be part of the logic in today's decision. You can pick arguments on all sides, but I want to pull back and think in a wider context.

What do we want out of these debates? I admit, five people arguing, yelling, everyone trying to be heard, stand out from the herd, the format creates a less than optimal presentation for voters. There are simply two many people in these debates now, to politically correct, at the expense of the best discussion. Duceppe shouldn't be in the English debates, but this is Canada, we can't dare offend people that are offended by Canada, go figure. Aside from this blight, maybe we need to pear down the competitors, maybe we need a series of debates, more "head to head" so to speak. Further, maybe we need to dispense with the niceties entirely and give the two guys who can actually lead this country, travel abroad as our elected head, the chance to have a focused discussion. Crazy talk I know, but while it's cute and all that Jack is running for PM, everyone knows it's a farce.

I'm just tossing out ideas. What about an "all candidates" debate, featuring the five leaders, or better yet a series of these debates, involving different participants each time? On top of that, I would love to see, partisan I know, DA HORROR, Harper and Ignatieff actually sit down for an hour and discuss things. The Brits get it with their QP, the Americans system has a focused debate for the top job, but in Canada no seats May is created the same as the Prime Minister. This whole debate about May is braced by a sense of fairness, and yet her inclusion also brings another measure of unfairness.

I don't know what the answer is, but 2008 is in the books and I'd rather not have a repeat of that hog the spotlight, talk over each other, yellfest. Quite simply, the five person format doesn't work, so we need to rethink everything, not just a kneejerk "let May in" reaction. Bigger questions for me, welcome comments.

Free Money

As predicted, the coalition talk is fading away- at least for Ignatieff- the only focus now seems to be entirely on Harper's historical problems, which are never resolved. Today, the campaign moves to the real debate, and the Liberals begin to frame a clear, what I believe, compelling choice. A 1 billion dollar expenditure, based on the premise "you get the grades, you get to go", a sizeable commitment on education.

When the Liberals decided to put out their corporate tax position last year, my first comments mentioned that this pledge opened the door for new spending initiatives. Previously, there was a "sucking and blowing" component, but the corporate tax savings instantly gave the Liberals fiscal room to put items in the window, without looking overtly irresponsible. Today, Ignatieff wisely puts out the education pledge on the back of the corporate tax cuts, the link is clear, it provides superficial financial cover, but it also puts out the distinct choice. Do you want money for fat cat corporations, or money to send your kids to post secondary education? For all the polling focus, let's not forget the Liberals win all day long on this question, every moment spent on this frame, a net positive.

It's not a huge amount of money, particularly when contrasted with the 6 billion corporate tax figure, the untold billions for planes, further billions for prisons. In fact, the allocation looks a pittance, easily incorporated into a coming fiscal platform to get us to balanced budgets. There is no blowback with this commitment, every conversation will lead to the Conservative commitments, a weakness they simply can't hide from. No matter what the Liberals offer, the Conservatives have given them fiscal cover with their own big ticket items. We are then left to CHOICE, and you can't overstate the significance of this discussion. Also worth noting here, Harper is in such a fiscal bind, his signature announcement yesterday is left to offer far in the future promises, that's all he can do now, his "room" now non-existent, further spending risks mockery.

People can argue about the corporate tax cuts, what the real price is, that is a debate that never ends or brings clarity. That debate is also entirely irrelevant to this frame we now see taking shape, with more to come. Do you want help with education for your kids or help for the big banks? It's a slam dunk proposition, and it explains why Ignatieff didn't bite on the lingering coalition question this morning (even though offered a softball, clear shot at Harper over Flanagan contradicting), because this is our ground and it's rock solid. Today, the campaign turns, let's see if the Liberals can keep it on here.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Latest Polls

Harris Decima out with a new poll, showing a large change in their week to week findings. This poll runs from Thursday to Sunday, all post-budget:
The Canadian Press Harris-Decima poll suggests the Conservatives opened up a 38-24 lead over the opposition Liberals in the dying days of the minority government and the start of weekend electioneering.

The NDP was at 19 per cent, the Bloc Quebecois at 10 per cent and the Greens at seven per cent.

In Ontario, the Conservatives were leading the Liberals by a 38-32 margin, with the NDP at 20 per cent and the Greens at eight per cent.

Per usual, internals will come off like the dance of a thousand veils, but we see a tie in Ontario last week, turn into a slight lead for the Conservatives. The Liberals are down 5%, while the NDP are up 5%, Conservatives actually unmoved in Ontario (bit surprising given the 4% national move). I would argue the NDP upward move sort of blunts the obvious conclusions surrounding the coalition chatter. Harper doesn't benefit in Ontario, where the Conservatives have always used coalition to move soft support, yet the socialists are up? The numbers support my theory that this shift in support is more about election backlash than coalition questions. That said, I'm told HD will be releasing compelling coalition questions, so the connection will be made.

I've frankly been a bit surprised at the reaction of voters to this election, lots of bitching and moaning, lots of "waste of money" talk, a bit more visceral than I calculated pre-writ. I suspect the numbers are influenced by this dynamic, and here I'm including the other pollsters as well. One wonders if this is a blip, akin to "your time is up" or a sustained trend that the Liberals should fear. Time will tell, but we will certainly have a bombardment of polls to shift through. As an aside, I'm actually cringing at the sheer volume that looks to be coming, even as a poll junkie, it looks like saturation point will be crossed, maybe to much of a distraction.

I can sense some Liberals are nervous about this rash of polls. I'm not saying it isn't justified, and maybe I've entirely missed the true underpinnings here, Harper love is spreading and we're doomed. However, if I'm forgetting the polls for a second and just focusing on the campaign, I've actually been really pleased with the first three days. People are describing the Liberal tour as "night and day" to 2008, talk of a surprising Ignatieff, we look poised to be a credible alternative IMHO. I'm also not sold on the fear factory as an ultimate winner for the Conservatives, more a marathon than a sprint bland analogy. In other words, polls duly noted, but not the primary just quite yet, let things settle and then see where the baseline resides. As well, my probabilities for "victory" are well stated, we were never good odds, so maybe that explains my calm in the face of poll slap downs.


Remember I said saturation point? Oh look, nine seconds later, a POLL!!. Abacus shows no change in the numbers, things quite static:
A new national survey by Ottawa-based Abacus Data finds that the Conservative Party holds a 9-point lead over the Liberal Party in the early days of the campaign.

Nationally, the Conservative Party was the choice of 36% of decided voters while 27% of Canadians said they would vote Liberal. The NDP was at 20%, followed by the Bloc Quebecois at 9%, and the Green Party at 8%. Fourteen percent of respondents were undecided.

“Compared with late February, very little has changed in the national numbers in the first few days of the campaign,” said David Coletto, CEO of Abacus Data. “Ontario remains an important battleground, and the federalist vote in Quebec is still fragmented.”

In Ontario, the Conservatives and Liberals are statistically tied. The Conservatives have the support of 39% of decided Ontario voters while the Liberals have 34% of the vote preference. The NDP trails both with 18%.

Why is Heroin by Velvet Underground in my head?

The Joke Is On Canada

We are all trained to look at political promises with certain scepticism, learned because of past failures to follow through. Today, the Conservatives introduced a family tax cutting "policy" which rises to the level of absurd, and amounts to a disguised fraud perpetrated on the Canadian people. Strong language yes, but when one considers our own election law demands an election every four years, promises that can't even begin to be entertained after the current mandate, amount to nothing more than a ruse.

Most economists don't even consider long term deficit targets as "written in stone" because they know to many variables exist to allow for definitive conclusions. That these Conservatives think they can put out pamphlets, promising families tax breaks, based on some theoretical reality in the future, really amounts to a scam. I suppose the proposal demands voter sophistication to realize the promise is a pipe dream, but the Conservatives are banking on voters not understanding the full picture. If you read a headline today, a bold pledge on a campaign flyer, will you take the time to review the timeline? It really is the classic seedy sales pitch, wherein the client only realizes true reality once they see the fine print- I guarantee the Conservatives will fail to BURY this fine print in their disingenuous literature.

The Conservatives have again lowered the accountability bar. There is no nothing stopping other parties from making outlandish promises, within unlimited time frames, policies that can operate outside of the known and appeal in patently irresponsible ways. I'm sure the Liberals would offer tax breaks when the budget is balanced too, just like in the past, but the CURRENT situation is that of a massive deficit, that will leave a shortfall for YEARS. Nobody disputes the deficit, nobody thinks it will disappear quickly, the Conservatives are trying to preach fiscal discipline, while simultaneously pointing voters to the pot of gold that is within grasp.

This "policy" demands outright mockery, comedic taunts, it isn't serious, it doesn't deserve coverage, it deserves rebuttal, it deserves a sharp challenge. This is a test of our media to be responsible and simply not parrot the distorted promises made for another another election. This is the 2011 election, not the 2015 campaign, but the Conservative war room clearly has so little respect for the media, the voters, that they think they can pull the wool, get the coverage, have people thinking that a tax cut for their family is at hand, when nothing could be further from the truth. It's day three, and already, this is shaping up to be the most intellectually insulting campaign we have ever seen. Who will counter the descent, is there anyone left to keep reasonable accoutability, or do people just paint whatever picture they choose? Today is a test, enough is enough.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


The press aboard the Conservative campaign plane apparently have christened it "Scare-Mongair", which is absolutely fitting. I don't know if the polls are moving, and frankly at this point that isn't top concern. What I am focused on is my perception that despite some talk of Harper "on offence", I see more evidence of pure defence. To support this thesis, look no further than the Prime Minister himself who seem strangely frazzled and hostile for a guy supposed flirting with electoral bliss. The body language is that of a person threatened, no air of cool confidence that normally exists with a clear front runner.

I believe the coalition question has taken a positive turn, from the Liberal perspective. Ignatieff has offered a clear stand, delivered with confident conviction, enough to force questions to the back burner, more lingering than "dogged" at the very least. Where questions remain, are at the feet of Harper, who hasn't fully explained his own historical record. Apologists argue 2004 is ancient history, but I would submit Harper himself has volunteered the rehash with his own relentless focus on these type of "arrangements". He is talking separatists, socialists, most seats wins, so it DEMANDS the re-visit, not even really a choice.

Ducepee is running around Quebec waving this letter, a touch of poetic irony for Conservatives who love to point at a less meaningful, and subsequently rebuffed, Ignatieff signature as the big "gotcha". I believe Duceppe will haunt Harper throughout this campaign. More importantly, Harper's unilateral decision to make this a big issue will demand some attention in a debate, wherein Duceppe will summarily destory Harper on this question. In addition, today Jack Layton has jumped into the debate, offering his recollections of Harper in 2004:
"What Mr. Harper was intending to do was absolutely crystal clear to me. He was attempting to become Prime Minister even though he had not received the most seats in the House. And, that letter was signed to illustrate such an option is legitimate in Canadian constitutional traditions. There is no question about it, I was in the meetings where this was discussed...

"Mr. Harper PROPOSED this letter, it was his proposal, signed by the other leaders"

Attempting to become Prime Minister, DESPITE not having the most seats, a clear, irrefutable example of naked hypocrisy, a practical epiphany that obliterates Harper's entire argument. Harper was prepared to do what he attacks now, we now have his two partners in full agreement, the letter as almost independent verifier. That Layton offers the letter was Harper's idea, just a delicious, bursting with flavour cherry.

Harper has nothing here, the facts contradict every single one of his tenets. Rather than Ignatieff being challenged on hypotheticals, here we have two clear cases, one man prepared to undo the election results, the other PASSED on his clearer than clear shot at becoming Prime Minister. Fair to say Ignatieff was strategic, he was, but the record is the record, and Harper's is an utter logical disaster now. Yes Scare-Mongair, when the facts aren't your friend, try to scare the shit out of them and hope nobody notices.

All They Have

Below, another Canadian gets word of the election:

I remember that last time an incumbent government ran primarily on fear, little in the way of vision or positive undertones. Apparently, the Conservatives have forgotten how they rose to power and seem quite content to shift places, raising the possibility of similar outcomes. Watching Harper kick off his campaign yesterday with an almost surly disposition, he looked like a guy on the verge of losing it all, rather than one with poll wind at his back. Harper chose election eve "hair on fire" rhetoric for Day 1 of his campaign, and in so doing ended up stumbling out of the block. By contrast, calm, cool, confident, Ignatieff offered as tight a coalition rebuttal as possible, while Harper was left to defend his clear historical hypocrisy.

Reviewing the messaging, it does seem to appear the entire Conservative argument is predicated on fear. Parties conspiring to do untold harm, the economy in jeopardy, apparently waves of refugees on our shores, basically Canadians you risk it all unless you vote for the Conservatives. The problem, even the positive messaging seems to get lost in the overwhelming negative undercurrent. Now is not the time for change, so much is at stake if you dare flirt with the Liberals. Against an upstart, never tested party, possibly effective, but when fighting an opponent who's chief weakness just might be their all to known brand, the hysterics might get a bit hollow. Throw in an Ignatieff which is no lightweight, but any available "success in life" standards, the job of demonizing might not work, once people actually contrast the fear mongering with the flesh and blood. I note here, already indications from some quarters that Ignatieff will easily outpace low expectations.

A bit of a tired cliche, but there is an element of fear vs hope here, contrast the thrusts and it becomes readily apparent. The Liberals seem to be running a duel campaign of Harper ills and their alternatives, dare I say they have some semblance of a "vision". I don't see it with the Conservatives, at least their war room in all the pre-amble, not to mention the toe stubbed launch, seems to prefer fear mongering, gathering storm clouds everywhere.

I will never get ahead of myself, campaigns are forever and this one is still basically in utero. But, I must say, I'm encouraged by the early frames, particularly when one chief fear card is turning into a burning brown bag at Harper's doorstep. Fear, it's all they have apparently... Good.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

New Look

Finally, after a quite some time I've upgraded by blog. I've had many "complaints" in the past about the black background being hard to read. Hope you like the new look.

The Coalition Conundrum

More ink spilled this morning on the coalition question, one column in particular a good, sober read. The gist of the thesis, damned if you, damned if you don't, or maybe a fairer representation that could be the ultimate logical evolution- nobody knows, it's all hypotheticals, so let's focus on the practical. Maher argues that Ignatieff could be haunted by the coalition, and I agree he needs to sharpen his responses. However, Maher also states that nobody will believe Ignatieff, no matter what pronouncements he makes, which is also true. If you concur, then Ignatieff is caught in an endless feedback loop, there is NO CORRECT answer that satisfies all possibilities.

It seems people search for the definitive comment, that puts it all to rest, when the fact of the matter the various scenarios never allow for something so unequivocal. At best, snappy lines that blunt the questioning, and here I admit some disappointment that our answers aren't more tailored, YET. That said, maybe that assessment is harsh, because how can you give a definitive answer to a complicated host of hypotheticals. What if Mr. Harper has 10 more seats, then what? What if you and Mr. Layton form a majority, then what? What if you and the NDP have more seats than Harper, but not enough to form a stable gov't, would you then seek agreement with the Bloc. And on, and on, and on, and none of it is reality, it's all speculation, you can't put a cute bow on it and call it a wrap.

Stories can only sustain themselves when new information is provided. In many regards, this PMO inspired in depth discussion is really a rehash of already digested scenarios. People say Ignatieff has had two years to come up with lines, which also confirms, nothing NEW has happened on this front in two years, the same questions, same scenarios, same fear mongering. Do we just keep going over this ground, or do we actually do the unthinkable- move off theoreticals to practicals, things called ISSUES. I think this story is peaking right now, if history is any guide, don't expect next week's columns to focus on this angle, primarily because there is NOTHING NEW coming down the pipeline, there is no oxygen to sustain. One wonders then, when we get down to the last week of the campaign, polls that more clearly define possible outcomes, if this issue will have the steam to resurface with a vengeance or will the PMO have played the fear card to early? Reports are going to ask the same question for a five week campaign? I guess there is a FIRST time for anything.

Maybe there is no "perfect" answer, even the "no coalition, no way" line still doesn't bring closure, as Maher so aptly points out. If you accept this reality, then maybe the best course is to just tell reporters, I'm not going to get into hypotheticals, that is a STANDARD answer, used for milieu, and to great effect I might add. I would rather deal with realities, the issues, the things Canadians are concerned about. I give no thought to a coalition, I've never discussed it with the NDP, period, let's talk about things that matter to Canadians. Something of that order, that's as good as you're going to get. Reporters want more, but there isn't more, there is consistent answer to a host of conflicting scenarios. Threats that reporters will keep asking are just that, you get the same answer everyday, you look about foolish beating a dead horse. Doubt me, recall the THOUSANDS of times the Conservatives have done just that, on a host of files, some more important for that matter. If I'm wrong, this might just be the first time in history where the starting point discussion is the actual ending point focus. Day 1.


And Ignatieff just released:

Statement by Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff: The rules of our democracy
Posted on March 26, 2011
This election is not just an exercise in democracy, it’s about democracy. So as we begin the campaign, let’s be clear about the rules.

Whoever leads the party that wins the most seats on election day should be called on to form the government.

If that is the Liberal Party, then I will be required to rapidly seek the confidence of the newly-elected Parliament. If our government cannot win the support of the House, then Mr. Harper will be called on to form a government and face the same challenge. That is our Constitution. It is the law of the land.

If, as Leader of the Liberal Party, I am given the privilege of forming the government, these are the rules that will guide me:

■We will face Parliament with exactly the same team, platform and agenda that we bring to Canadians during this election. What Canadians see in this campaign is what Canadians will get if we are asked to form government.

■We will work with ALL parties to make Parliament work, and deliver sound policies – even the Conservative Party in opposition.

■We will not enter a coalition with other federalist parties. In our system, coalitions are a legitimate constitutional option. However, I believe that issue-by-issue collaboration with other parties is the best way for minority Parliaments to function.

■We categorically rule out a coalition or formal arrangement with the Bloc Quebecois.

■If I am facing a minority Parliament, I will work like Liberal Prime Ministers Lester Pearson, Pierre Trudeau and Paul Martin did: to provide progressive government to our country, by building support issue-by-issue, and by tapping into the goodwill, generosity and common sense of Canadians across the political spectrum. These are the governments that gave Canada the Canadian Flag, Medicare, the Canada Pension Plan, the Kelowna Accord and a National Daycare Plan. With the right kind of leadership another minority Parliament could strive for such heights.
That is my position. Now I have a few questions for Mr. Harper:

■Does he agree with how I have described the workings of our democratic system?

■Why does he insist on fabricating lies about an impending coalition, something he knows is false?

■Will he tell Canadians the truth about his secret hotel room meetings in 2004 with the Bloc Quebecois which resulted in a signed letter of agreement to the Governor General, proposing a Conservative-NDP-Bloc coalition?

■Will he finally acknowledge the unprecedented finding of contempt against his government yesterday in the House of Commons?

So, Ignatieff has ruled it out, which still leave Maher's "nobody will believe him" scenario. No matter, it's an answer, and a firm one at that, he's starved the issue of oxygen and we already have indication that the media will move on.

Friday, March 25, 2011

New EKOS Poll

The latest EKOS poll includes post budget findings, as they set the baseline for the election campaign. In line with this week's Harris Decima poll, similar underlying theme to NANOS, EKOS shows a slightly narrowed, but statistically irrelevant 7 point lead for the Conservatives:
National federal vote intention:
¤ 35.3% CPC (up 1.2%)
¤ 28.1% LPC (up 2.4%)
¤ 14.2% NDP (down 2.2%)
¤ 10.6% Green (up .2%)
¤ 9.7% BQ
¤ 2.1% other

The Liberals enter the campaign where they were in 2008, the NDP 4 points lower, the Conservatives 3 lower. The Conservatives enjoy a 5 point in Ontario, the Bloc a gigantic advantage in Quebec.

NANOS pointed to some underlying weakness for the Conservatives. EKOS tends to confirm in one sense, as we see a sudden spike in the "direction of government" numbers:
Direction of country:
¤ 51.6% right direction
¤ 38.5% wrong direction
¤ 9.9% DK/NR •

Direction of government
¤ 41.7% right direction
¤ 47.9% wrong direction ¤ 10.4% DK/NR

For context, the numbers were virtually identical two weeks ago, and we see no corresponding change in the direction of country findings. In fact, we are now seeing a disconnect between mood of country and attitude towards the government. It would appear EKOS supports the idea that Harper and company have taken a hit with the recent scandals.

A solid Conservative lead, but not enough for anyone to feel confident. It would appear the ad barrage bounce has stalled, and some evidence of a soft underbelly.

Cookie Cutter Won't Cut It

Whenever you recommend something different from the status quo, you get resistance from, well, the status quo. Reinforcement loops exist, because the known provides comfort, the notion of anything different and feedback unchallenged can easily turn into reckless, even dangerous. It is for this reason why the word bold is so often disregarded by politicos, rather than playing it safe, the standard cookie cutter campaign. There are countless examples of leaders, party's, that dared to stick their neck out, only to get it severed off by ready to pounce opponents.

I agree that bold in and of itself is risky, particularly in a campaign where things can spin out of control quickly. However, I also believe one requires a sober, accurate read, to best gauge the potential benefits and inherent pitfalls. Let's face it, the electorate is absolutely bored stiff, they see nothing attractive, they see nothing to motivate beyond a sense of duty. We lack a passion in the land, outside of the diehard contingent, and because of this irrefutable reality, the Liberals will simply not gain the necessary traction in the standard campaign. By standard, I mean the all to common political ads, the same old stump speeches, the robotic daily messenging, all the standard fare that the pros use to run a campaign. I'm not suggesting one abandon the accumulated knowledge, the campaign templates, but the "seen it a million times" presentation will simply not shake the electorate, not in a way that can lead to a Liberal victory. Boredom is the Conservatives ally, nobody is going to pick change when they see more of the same. The Liberals need a spark, and that can come with a outside the box policy, an edgy ad that challenges conventions, unique ways to connect.

I will be looking for creativity, a sense that the brand is being reinvigorated using new techniques and strategies. I want to see the Liberals use social media provocatively, I'd love to see Ignatieff actually use twitter, on the road, beyond stale messaging for example. I want to see ads that don't resemble every ad I've ever seen for the last decade, the feel, the message, the music, the blah! Not reckless, but modern, push the boundaries, do things that make people actually stop for a second and say "I like that, that's different". If left to established templates, standard operating procedures, I think we will fail to capture people's imaginations, and given the odds at hand, that equates to a less than optimal result.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Imperfect Plan

According to some, that master strategist, the Kasparov of politics, Stephen Harper has duped the opposition into forcing an election. The theory requires one disregard almost every single public comment, from almost every single Conservative, but apparently conspiracy and deep intrigue trumps glorious blue sky. To often, people prefer to torture reality to fit their pre-determined bias, rather than just letting events tell a clear story.

I don't doubt for one minute the Conservatives aren't prepared for an election. I also don't doubt that through this entire budget lead up, many Conservatives have concluded if the opposition pressed, they wouldn't hesitate to go to the people. However, that stance is far different from this idea that the Conservatives have actually goaded the opposition into an election. Apparently, the Conservatives have always wanted an election, itched for it, but wanted to appear kicking and dragging, wanted to let the opposition own the call, while quietly high fiving each other at their strategic brilliance. Oh bullocks, use your eyes and ears, not you imagination, again sometimes things are actually as they appear, as hard as that may be to believe.

When I saw Flaherty on television, I saw GENUINE disappointment that the NDP was so quick to reject the budget. When I saw Tim Powers on television a day or two prior, I saw GENUINE disappointment that the NDP were poised to reject the budget. As a matter of fact, I can't think of one Conservative I've seen that has come close to articulating any GENUINE desire to go the polls- not fearing an election by any means, but also not particularly enthusiastic. In fact, the body language has been clear, this is not a Conservative strategy that unwittingly trapped the opposition. People are free to articulate whatever they want, but I would submit the normally absent BRAVADO coming from Conservatives (as we've seen in the past, every single time an election has been threatened by the way) is more telling that bastardized theories, that rely on suspicions, rather than the on the record materials at hand.

If this was some master plan, I think we all need to reaccess the supposed strategic prowess of this PMO. Afterall, does anyone actually believe there is one Conservative in Ottawa, who would PREFER the opportunity to head to the polls with scandal and negativity story lines swirling all over? Can anyone point to a single time when so many unflattering issues broke in such a short time frame? And YET, we are supposed to believe the PMO plowed ahead with their plan, while the hapless opposition did nothing but accomodate. I fail to see how a PMO that prides itself on controlling the message thinks the current state is optimal. Rather, I see more resignation than GENUINE want. A majority is a reach a this stage, high water polling touches the holy grail, but the medium makes it look improbable. SO, when a government says it would rather continuing governing than have an election, maybe we can dispense with the over analyzing, sympathetic spin and just take it all at face value.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Graphs Tell Stories

From the PBO report today, a picture of out of control F-35 costs. Ouch:

Conservatives might dispute the above, but UNFORTUNATELY another third party validation "expert" is on side with Page's conclusions.

A nice illustration of government priorities


Harper's Election

I note the Conservatives have already released some kind of amateurish ad about Ignatieff forcing an election. It really is a bit odd to have a government who ultimately CONTROLLED their own destiny lamenting an election, they EASILY could have avoided. One simple fact, in a minority government, non confidence is a testament to the government's inability to secure majority support. All the more a government failing, when one tallies up the objectively understood reasonable, even small, demands from one party to secure their vote and survive.

Flaherty said the government doesn't operate this way, they don't negotiate on their budget document. That is complete and utter arrogance, but the statement also suggests NEGOTIATION prior to the budget. Can the Finance Minister produce his phone bill so we can track calls to the LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION? How many meeting did the Finance Minister have with Scott Brison, Tom Muclair? Where is this negotiating process prior the budget, where is this justification to now throw up your hands and say "we tried, but"? NO, what we have is a brief meeting with Harper, with the FOURTH party, no meeting with Ignatieff, no meeeting with Duceppe, basically a "negotiation" based on what is published in newspapers.

Compare and contrast with the last Liberal minority, and you will see what is required to pass a budget in this Parliamentary context. It is not a preference, it is a MUST to extend a hand to an opposition party, the democratic makeup means you control NOTHING alone! The Conservatives simply don't understand this reality, they don't understand our system, they snub the democratic will and just operate as though we gave them a majority. This budget process is symptomatic of the entire problem with the Harper government, the same rationale that explains withholding costs, shutting down Parliament, redacting legally required documents, etc, etc. Rather than an indictment on the opportunistic election, really we go to the polls because the Harper government simply lacks the capacity to "play well with others". Layton and the NDP were available, and you failed to secure their support, despite an easy swallow. What does that say about the government?

This is Harper's election, this is about a government that doesn't understand basic math, is so arrogant that they don't feel the need to operate with the democratic restraints. This is Harper government which has betrayed every core tenet of the old Reform Party, they piss on the populus roots and behave more like a despot than a democrat. This is Harper's election, it's all about Steve. If Canadians are upset we are going to the polls yet again, if they are sick of the poisonous atmosphere, you don't send back the culprit, you kick his ass to the curb.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

And We're Off...

Still digesting, as I'm sure everyone else is, but just a few quick observations. First off, I was actually proud of Jack Layton, clearly not an easy situation, many factors in play, but he stood by his principles and did the right thing. In the weeks leading up to this vote, the "dance", circumstances have changed, there has been a distinct evolution on the baggage front, this IS the opposition's moment and Layton recognized that.

Further to that point, I believe this is the first election in recent memory, wherein parties forced an election without immediate self interest apparent. In fact, you can say there is a bit of logic defying here, the polls aren't kind on their face, it looks superficially bad, timing just odd by strategic standards. And yet, the Liberals held firm in the face of slipping polls and criticism, now the NDP have ignored warning signs and stood up against Harper. Finally, the opposition has performed perfectly, these people have stepped all over our democracy, our institutions, no matter the polling, simply can't endorse this behaviour, as well as their "vision" for the country. There is some kind of honour to this forced showdown, or at least it feels rooted in the "right" reasons, rather than naked political expediency alone.

I'm looking forward to this election, because I believe this stale environment needs an election, Canadians need to have a focused discussion, this is when our political system is really at it's best in terms of engagement and participation.

And we're off...


Don't think I can recall a large 9 point lead being referred to as "tentative" by a pollster, but when you delve into some numbers, Nik Nanos' hesitancy is better explained. What you see is a Conservative strong suit waning, coupled with very troubling numbers on a signature opposition attack line.

First, consider that the economy as a voter priority has no fallen to it's lowest level since the recession began. A little commented on finding, but one that clearly suggests, along with the Ipsos poll, that the economy isn't the singular focus issue people assume. Given the economy is the last remaining Conservative strongsuit, less importance equates to greater risk. Ipsos found we care more about good government than economic management, now Nanos pegs economic concern at it's lowest since the last election. Might be time for a rethink on what will or will not be the "defining" election issue. The opposition, particularly the Liberals, have made a big deal about the F-35 purchase. Nanos also finds the Conservative lead on the issue not as daunting as ome have assumed.

The Nanos result might partially explain the "tentative" designation, because the results are entirely one sided:
Sixty-eight per cent of Canadians agreed that “now is not a good time” to proceed with the $16-billion purchase of the F-35 fighter aircraft...

Even a majority (56 per cent) of voters who identified themselves as Conservative supporters oppose the acquisition. And three out of four undecided voters are opposed.

Only 27 per cent of those surveyed thought the federal government should “purchase now to prepare for the future.”

Sticking with the F-35s “is not necessarily a way to grow voter support,” Mr. Nanos concluded, in what might be a bit of an understatement.

Very rare to see a majority of Conservatives oppose a government decision, but this finding speaks to just how overwhelming unpopular the F-35 purchase has become. It gets worse, when you consider that a massive 75% of undecided voters don't want the F-35, suggesting sound ground for the Liberals, potential growth.

The F-35 isn't a complicated issue, the figures are large, the intention is known, this issue can and will resonate. I say will because the Liberals have made the F-35 a cornerstone criticism, it will be raised at every campaign stop, in ads, literature, we will have this discussion in some capacity. Additionally, these type of lopsided findings only serve to embolden the Liberals, very little "risk" in attacking the government on this file.

The polls aren't necessarily showing a shift in opinion (of note though, Harris Decima has moved from a 10% lead, to 8% lead, to 6% lead in the last month), but there is clear evidence of underlying weakness for the Conservatives. This reality might assist in understanding the very real apprehension the Conservatives have shown regarding an election, despite apparently attractive top line numbers.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Second To "No One"

Two polls yesterday, which do deliver striking results. Particularly, this dismissive notion that any election will be solely about the economy is challenged by Ipsos Reid. In fact, the Liberals chosen ground on ethics and accountable looks quite fertile, despite the fact the focus doesn't suggest immediate gain. Nanos brings another large Conservative lead, and yet the pollster finds rumblings that suggest all is not well with good ship Harper.

The headlines for the Ipsos poll reads "Conservatives best party to deliver honest government:
Here’s why:

• 28% of Canadians believe the Conservatives, if re-elected, would do the best job of “providing honest, open and trustworthy government.”

• 22% believe the NDP would do the best job of this.

• Just 15% say the Liberals would be best at providing honest, open and trustworthy government.

• 7% say the Bloc would be best.

• 29% don’t endorse any of the major parties as best to deliver this type of government.

The conclusions suggest a glaring omission. A sitting government second to "no one" on questions of trust, honesty and openness isn't "best", it's actually alarming. Voters opt for these issues over the economy by a massive margin, a result that flies in the face of all the conventional wisdom. The Conservatives don't want a focus on these issues, if any one doubts, note how their entire thrust to date is economic in nature. Despite the superficial headline, and it's arguments, this result is anything but good news for the Conservatives.

I'm not mimimizing the Liberals challenges, these results also show a radical brand change is required. Both this poll and the Nanos offering show Conservative weakness, in one form or another, and yet the Liberal aren't benefiting. The Ipsos poll partially explains, voters simply don't trust the Liberals, so despite the Conservative transgressions, they are somewhat immune, maintain almost by default. Despite this circumstance, we see once again that the Conservatives really aren't formidable, the party that ran on openness and accountability enjoys paltry support on this score, meaning opportunity exists. From the Liberal perspective, rather than discouraging, this result provides optimism, develop a bold, forward thinking argument and you might just pump fresh air into a stale brand. THEN, the hesitant attitude of the electorate can be addressed, and we can see direct co-relations, Conservative failing equate to Liberal gains. All you can ask for is a chance, Ipsos says our thrust has surprising resonance, but the messenger is lacking in credibility.

Nanos shows all the scandals are taking a bite out of the "Harper Government". Ipsos shows that Canadians actually do care about good government, it can be a central theme in an election. Ipsos shows that the current government barely enjoys 1 in 4 support on these good government questions, meaning a huge pool of discontent is available to alternative presentations. Conservatives can comfort themselves with "first" and still large leads, but I doubt anyone in the PMO is happy today with either poll, and that says a lot moving forward.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Shove It Back Down Their Throats

If you caught Ignatieff today on Question Period, you saw him respond to the latest personal attack, this time on his family. There is a school of thought, pointed out by Andrew Coyne, that you don't respond to attacks of this sort, primarily because the argument is on terrain chosen by your opponent(Coyne mentions "whiny"). However, in this instance I would argue you not only respond, as Ignatieff forcefully did, but you VOLUNTEER the discussion at every turn possible:
The ploy has infuriated the Liberal Leader, who used an interview with CTV’s Question Period Sunday to call the Conservative attack a distortion of the truth that crosses the line.

“My family lost everything in the Russian revolution. They started over again in Canada. They came here with nothing,” Mr. Ignatieff said. “My dad laid [railway] track in British Columbia. He put himself through university. He lived the immigrant story.”

The quote here doesn't do justice to the disgust Ignatieff demonstrated, turning this issue around into a statement about Stephen Harper, how they will say or do anything in the name of power, how they are no boundaries, it's just gutter politics of a kind Canadians won't endorse.

Unlike our American cousins, our political discourse tends to have "don't go there" parameters, we like to think a certain civility exists, an honour amongst thieves at the very least. This low, low brow assault the Conservatives have launched against Ignatieff's family is actually an opportunity. Not an opportunity of our chosing, but one the Conservatives have clumsily given us, and one we should now welcome.
In response, the Liberal Leader accused the Tories of twisting the facts and acting outside the bounds of decency. “Their attack on me is a disgrace. They’ve attacked my patriotism. They’ve attacked my commitment to the country. And now they’re attacking my family.”

He said the Tories’ targeting of his character and family is unparalleled in this country. “These personal attacks are unprecedented in the history of Canadian democracy,” Mr. Ignatieff charged.

“[Stephen Harper] is absolutely out of control. He thinks he can get away with and say anything,” the Liberal Leader said. “A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian. I am a proud Canadian. I won’t take that from him or from anybody else.”

He added: “Canadians got to ask themselves is this the kind of politics you want? This is a prime minister who is prepared to say anything to hold on to power.”

Do you reward these people with your vote? Do you sanction the lowly attacks on Ignatieff's family, is this what you want, will you endorse it at the ballot box? I can't think of more fertile ground than a discussion about all that is wrong with Ottawa, clearly implicating this "regime" as the primary force, a referendum on how the Harper government operates. While the Liberals aren't setting the world on fire, Conservatives shouldn't comfort themselves, because their is clearly widespread "disgust" with our current political discourse. Who bears responsibility?

On this question, Ignatieff can get heated, indignant, the issue almost demands a free pass on the soapbox, a lecturing tone. No, rather than just let this pass, Liberals need to embrace the attacks on Ignatieff's family, because you simply will never find a more offensive example of the "politics of personal attacks", it's the money shot, the glory hole.

I can almost guarantee, on this issue, the Conservatives will lose and Ignatieff will have a sympathetic ear. People can get lost in the semantics of what is historical fact, it doesn't matter in the least, the general theme is clear and unmistakable. There is nothing worse than going after someone's family, we all know that line and this is why the Liberals should shove it back down their throats, with zeal!

Friday, March 18, 2011


In terms of magnitude, we've seen worse, but in terms of frequency, I've never seen anything like it, not even close. Rather than run 30 second ads, a mini series might be more apt, the latest "scandal" has every intangible imaginable. Rather than delve into the salacious, as well as ethically disturbing details, pull back, observe the entire landscape, and this notion of forcing an election on ethics not only looks shrewd, but NECESSARY.

What makes recent events all the more remarkable, these were the people sent to office to clean up the ethical mess. In all seriousness, one wonders if the electorate will ever recover, we will ever believe anybody again, the disconnect between rhetoric and reality so apparent. I would submit, part of the reason the Liberals can't seem to get traction, the voters simply see a pox on all houses, empty words, the political world so tainted, we just shrug and go about our business. This sentiment isn't to say that Harper hasn't fallen in standing, only that he isn't feeling the full brunt just yet, primarily because "they're all the same". However, I still hold, once we force a gaze during an election, this government is vulnerable, they will be on the defensive, there is opportunity for a spark. The fact every day puts new combustible material on the pile, all the more reason for cautious optimism.

Is anyone talking about the economy right now? We have a barrage of Harper ads, government ads, but the paid media is focused on scandals, contempt, etc. That might not move numbers in the pre-writ, but you get a few days of this coverage during an election, past experience paints quite a story, every time, with everybody, in every jurisdiction. Scandal kills!

There is a wave building, and the Liberals would now simply be foolish not to ride it into a campaign. People are focused, people are "fired up" about these issues, don't discount what a bit of genuine passion and conviction can accomplish once the "masses" tune in. The government doesn't control the agenda, we go now, and all this stuff swirling around will surely spill over, despite best efforts. The pre-writ is important, and despite the poll lead, no one can say these Conservatives are driving the narrative. That objective fact is worrisome from the Conservative perspective, we all know what happens when Harper isn't in full control, in reactive mode.

No matter the Parliamentary games, this government will fall on ethics, this will be the springboard to an election, this will bring the red faced indignation of the opposition, this will bring the pounds on the lecterns across the country. What happens seat wise, nobody can predict, but one this certain, if I'm on Team Conservative, I'm don't feel in control of my own destiny and from the opposition perspective, that translates to "go time".

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Rethinking Nuclear

You don't want to be reactionary, but I admit I feel like I lost the plot on nuclear energy the last couple of years. I was against nuclear power, but softened, influenced by some rethinking within the environmental community, particularly alternatives to carbon fuels. Prepared to accept nuclear as part of the mix, you weighed increasing demand with global warming concerns and it suddenly seemed acceptable. In addition, the lack of any real "incidents" in a generation, one starts to believe the "safe" claims, you become complacent.

Again, I don't want to come off as reactionary, but I'm amended my appeasing mentality- we simply can't afford TO have nuclear power. The risks, no matter how small, are dwarfed by the consequences. Re-reading some of the facts on Chernobyl, you realize it will be 10000 years before the area is habitable again, then understand how many "accidents" we've had in .5% of that time frame, the numbers just don't add up.

Nuclear energy requires perfection, it requires that every eventuality is covered, there is ZERO margin of error. The idea of no unforseen events, the notion that you can GUARANTEE something, well we all know that this standard is logically impossible. You hear the claims of industry, you note the rigid standards, the backup plans and you begin to accept. Then you witness the events of this week and you realize you were lulled into a intellectual sleep.

You don't get do overs with nuclear, you don't get to say "oops", you don't get to say "well this was an extraordinary situation", because it's over, the effects far to severe, the very existence of the usage looks MAD. The idea that things are better now, this could never happen with the latest technology, again I now see as just more "security blanket" rhetoric, because there are no absolutes here, we don't know everything, every scenario isn't known, even the most minisule of possibilities results in the most nightmare of results. We don't get to leave this planet, we destroy it, we destroy ourselves. There are other means to generate power, maybe more expensive, more restrictive, but available none the less- factor in the risk quotient, they look CHEAP by comparison.

Improvements will be made, the entire industry will progress to a better place, the idea that this will "never happen again" stated clearly, and yet it will all be speculation, because probabilities are just that. Nightmare scenarios happen, scenarios our human brains haven't yet conceived can happen, you can never get to 100%, and with this technology, anything less simply isn't good enough. I'm a bit disappointed in myself that I required this event to bring me back to sober reality, but I guess if it does wake me, and others, from our collective slumber, that might be the only good to come out of this horrific event.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Shiny New Ads

Required timing, particularly because a sense of frustration was clearly growing, with the lack of perceived concrete response to the Conservatives. Fiscal restraints always at top of mind, it's still a morale booster to see some sharp, concise ads coming from our side, on themes that will highlight our central message. I've put the ads on the sidebar for viewing if you haven't seen them yet.

I like the economy ad, the tight shot of Ignatieff gives a personal message. Cookie cutter for sure, the standard ad, with the germane language, makes its point, but a bit pedestrian to be honest. The ad is fine, looks professional, sharp, gives another glimpse into our election thrusts.

The abuse of power ad is a strong theme for us- people can dismiss all they want on resonance, but a PM who came to office on ethics and accountability, that FAILURE is a real weakness that can be woven into a compelling argument, it can HURT. Does this ad achieve that goal? It's a start, although the lead with the Oda angle, I don't quite understand, given all the examples available. That's a quibble, I like the thrust. I'd hammer this angle all day long, at every turn imaginable, in your face, repetition to the point of nausea, assume for every hundred times you say it, most people caught a couple words, once, if that.

I'm curious how big the buy, sometimes I feel like we are forced to fight with one hand tied behind our backs, given fundraising limitations. This is it though, an election a virtual certainty, every penny we can scrape together pre-writ should be used to offset the stampede of Conservative ads. Good ads, a good start.


From the guru, it would appear we are making a serious purchase:
"I can tell you they are accompanied by a very, very big ad buy."

Nice to hear.

Democratic Reform Package?

Apparently the Liberals have one, and the package was almost released a while ago. I also suspect some measures on the "abuse of power" front, or at least I would hope so. The question now becomes, why aren't the Liberals seizing the moment and filling the large vacuum available to them?

Is there a better time to release a democratic reform package, any other reforms on accountability and/or transparency? Particularly after last week, is it possible to get any more traction than this exact moment? Notwithstanding the contempt hearings which are set to launch today, I'm wondering if we aren't missing an opportunity to show a true contrast. If the Liberals wait until the campaign begins, any reform package will be a one day story at best, whereas right now there is this current void just begging to be filled.

No one knows what the Liberals will offer, but it needs to be bold, timidity will be met with a collective yawn. There is a vocal and engaged subset that will respond to a progressive presentation, but reforms have to challenge self interests and really shake up the status quo. The Liberals have an opportunity to capitalize on the present disinterest in the same old, true reform a springboard to a renewed brand. To maximize any impact, I'm left scratching my head why we aren't all over this golden opportunity that has presented itself? Events have presented themselves, reactive is required, dust it off, spruce it up, but get it out there now while it's topical. Hard pressed to think of better timing, rather than opining about arenas, stay in the fashion of the day and make some noise, on a file begging for some content.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Yes, He DID

I think this comment by our "leader" speaks for itself:

NEVER misses an opportunity, wheels ALWAYS turning.

We can do so much better....

Con MP On F-35: "It's Not A Firm, Fixed Price"

An interesting exchange yesterday on the CBC, Conservative MP Hawn on air to defend the F-35 plane, responding to the ballooning costs. When asked if they are any guarantees, the price tag the government is banking on realistic, Hawn offered the following:


Hawn goes on to tell us that the costs are in line, maybe even better! And yet, when asked the most basic of questions on cost, his response is the price is entirely up in the air, there is really no basis for their figures, apart for dated sales job figures from the vendor. In other words, confirmation that the Conservative figures that they cite really have no real world resonance, they are arbitrary numbers, outdated(when were their figures first quoted, just how old are they?), nothing concrete to counter the numbers the international conclusion the PBO was part of.

In addition, this now recurring argument (might be paraphrasing here):
"F-35 is the only plane that meets the requirements"

We keep hearing this argument, which begs the question- if this plane meets our requirements, why oh why does this government REFUSE to release the Statement of Requirements for this plane? I won't rehash previous posts, but we have a situation wherein this government can't confirm the costs, admit the price can change, plus their argument on fitness is handicapped by their own inability to produce KNOWN verification? How anyone can be comfortable with almost surreal scenario escapes me.

Next time a Conservative challenges the critic costs, cites their own costs, just remember they haven't done their own math, the ADMIT their analysis isn't "firm" or "fixed" and their justification for the plane is being withheld, despite normal protocols. A recipe for voter confidence if I've ever heard one. Screaming BOONDOGGLE, high pitched shrieking!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Something Doesn't Quite Jive

Another poll this morning, this time from Leger, showing a huge Conservative lead, Liberals in abysmal terrority. By all appearances, the government has wind in their sails, they appear utterly bulletproof on the scandal front, it's all going their way. Conversely, the Liberals are bordering on historic lows, any measure one chooses, it's pure bad, fueling the legitimate questioning of wanting an election. We can all agree on the appearances, what the "snapshot" is telling us, who has the momentum and who has the anchor. And yet...

If you caught Question Period yesterday, you saw Tim Powers make an appearance. The topic was election speculation, namely the stronger language coming from the NDP, less likely they will support the budget. Powers reaction, was one of disappointment, you could see it, he said it, unless you believe it a ruse to look apprehensive when really hawkish, quite telling. Have you noticed, this latest ramp up in the polls for the Conservatives hasn't come with the usual bravado? My memory is clear, in the past, any hint of momentum and Conservatives instantly gloat, taunt, puff out their chest and yell from the rafters "BRING IT ON!" I see little evidence of past posture now, no matter the anecdotal reference. In fact, my read of body language tells me unequivocally that the Conservatives really don't want an election, they genuinely would prefer to govern rather than go to an election. Powers another example of apparent hesitation.

It is understandable why the Conservatives wouldn't want an election if it would merely reinforce the status quo. Trouble is, these poll numbers represent the biggest swing for the government since the Dion coalition, a sustained move, on the cusp of majority, targeting certain seats, it looks within grasp. Heck, EKOS has put the Conservatives ahead in Toronto, TWICE now in the last three offerings. We are almost at unprecedented regional potential, and I'm sorry but I still don't see any real enthusiasm. Ready, of course, laying the groundwork for a call, absolutely, preferred, not sensing it in the least.

Posture is everything, rhetoric just that. I would submit, something doesn't quite jive here, the Conservatives obviously see some pitfalls that the polls aren't addressing or reading properly. These Conservatives poll more than any in history, they know the mood, shifts, potentials, down to a microscopic level. With all this data available, it is curious that the Conservatives don't seem to share the euphoria that polls possibly present. Here it is Conservatives, right there in front of you, within your grasp, look poised to roll over the Liberals, and people like Powers still look sullen when processing the fact the NDP apparently backing away from budget support. It is fair to say the numbers won't get any better, fair to see this budget won't have to make tough choices, it will be attractive, and still the macho taunts are absent. Why? Why, the break from the pattern seen previously? To say it is a clever strategy to look "kicking and screaming" while quietly wanting one, doesn't pass the smell test for here.

I think it all speaks volumes...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Taken For A Ride

Given recent events, "abuse of power" accusations, along comes an obscene expenditure, which could well bring critical mass in terms of outrage. Or, the ridiculous waste of taxpayer money for partisan purposes will make no blip with the electorate, and Harper will once again FLIP the bird at the notion of good government, laughing as the poll numbers rise. I'm feeling hopeful for a moment, so let's go with the former, because really this is bullshit so pungent my nose hairs are burning:
Taxpayers are shelling out $26 million over three months for all those Economic Action Plan ads the Harper government is airing on TV and radio.

A marketing specialist says the outlay is more cash than a big advertiser like Procter and Gamble would spend in a year in Canada.

Alan Middleton, marketing professor at York University's Schulich School of Business, called the dollars involved "huge."

"A major advertiser like Procter and Gamble wouldn't spend that within a year in Canada, it's that big," he said.

Annualized to about $100 million for a full year, "not even McDonald's and Tim Hortons spend anywhere near that."

Corporate giant Bell Canada spent $89.5 million on measured media in 2009, according to Marketing Magazine.

You knew it was a big number, and I've been openly wondering if anyone was digging to get the figures. Thankfully, CP has done just that, because really the figures border on criminal- maybe not in a strictly legal sense, but by any moral measure. Critics have already noted this government has taken self promotion to new levels, "bordering" on partisan ads. The nature of the ads, coupled with ludicrous spending (for comparison the dirty Martin Liberals spent 41.3 million on advertising in a full year) have congealed to paint a Conservative government misusing the levers of power in unprecedented fashion. There is simply no point of reference, what the Conservatives are doing is a new abuse of power.

Everyone pointed to the attack ads as probably prime poll mover. Now we have evidence of a 5-10 times expenditure on government ads, which are really just watered down partisan presentations. The amount of taxpayer paid ads DWARF the Conservative Party buys, tallied up together, is it any wonder that opinions have moved, we suddenly see an uptick on "direction of gov't" numbers, improved performance by the government? It's a complete and utter outrage what is going on, the likes of which Canada has NEVER seen. All the more maddening when one weaves this abuse with other transgressions, all actions by a government who supposedly cares about the taxpayer, "your money". They allegedly skirted Elections Canada rules during a campaign, now they seem hell bent to game the pre-writ on MY DIME. Where's the moral compass here? Where's the guy/gal in the PMO that says "whoa, we can't do this?" Nobody, nothing, nada, it would appear we are suckers and our money is simply a vehicle to ensure these people retain power.

I'm hopping mad, because not only are we facing legitimate attacks, but our money is being used by the Conservatives in SHADY fashion. There is no rationalizations, no way to square this with past "regimes", this is just total, complete abuse. Now the question becomes, can and will they get away with it?

Failing Libyans

We now have this somewhat unique situation where the Arab League is demanding the United Nations act on Libya, a development that begs the question- just who is opposing military action against Gaddafi? You have the Arabs themselves on board with international interjection, further obliterating the overly cautious perspective that some still argue.

The day Gaddafi pledged he would die in Libya, three weeks ago, any reasonable person should have realized that the current situation was entirely plausible. Instead we saw nothing but useless tough language, the forever ineffective "freezing of assets", the whatever "sanctions", the same historical pattern of self delusional responses to a madmen bent on a bloodbath. I've watch the Gaddafi "pressers", almost comical to think he is moved by the great debating society and their paltry threats. While the world went at a snail's pace, Gaddafi was planning his counter offensive and now we are in a situation where the Libyan "revolution" is days, weeks away from utter collapse. Is the world prepared to watch the people of Benghazi slaughtered, because barring any real intervention, the birth of the uprising is now set to fall back to Gaddafi's advancing forces.

It's time for the West to stand up for our supposed principles, we stand for freedom, democracy, we stand against repressive regimes, or at least we like to think we do. There is little risk of backlash from the Arab world, IN FACT clear indications they welcome INTERVENTION. And yet, we wait for impotent nations to drive the ineffective United Nations towards an urgent conclusion. THREE weeks since the no fly zone entertained, and all we've heard is it's "complicated", along with some odds reliance, Gaddafi would fail, the rebels would succeed. Guess what, Gaddafi is winning, brave people that dared to challenge are now threatened, while we "debate" further. Madness.

There are no longer any rationalized stumbling blocks to delay a military intervention in Libya. The Arab world is on side, the west faces no blowback for an aggressive response. The saddest part, American planes have already flown over Libyan skies previously, already bombed, already went after Gaddafi, there is a precedent, further proof that EXCUSES now are just that. All that is required is will, conviction, otherwise we will sit and watch Gaddafi crush people we supposedly champion. If these countries believe their rhetoric, if what they say about Gaddafi is true, if they TRULY do support the "freedom" forces, then the time is clearly right now. A few cruise missiles into Tripoli, ground the aircraft, the world is waiting, apparently everyone is on side, SO...

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Knife To A Gunfight

The government is "hitting" back at Kevin Page and his pesky "numbers", denoting both detached arrogance, as well as complete and utter incompetence. The Prime Minister has said he's "not going to get into a lengthy debate on numbers" relating to the F-35. What's a few billion here and there, but more importantly the PM is right, he won't get into a debate on numbers, because they DON'T REALLY HAVE ANY:
While Hawn trashed the budget officer’s methodology and the eye-popping price tag, he offered no concrete figures to rebut the assessment.

How can one question another's numbers, when you have no idea yourself of the cost:
While Hawn trashed the budget officer’s methodology and the eye-popping price tag, he offered no concrete figures to rebut the assessment.

Hawn said commercial and international agreements limit what the government can say publicly about the program.

“There’s a mass of data,” he said. “There’s probably millions of pages out there. It’s not an unfair question to say: Where’s the information? And we’re going to work to get as much of that as we can.”

Page’s report said the Defence Department did not do its own independent analysis of the numbers and relied too much on estimates from the manufacturer, U.S. defence giant Lockheed Martin.

Here we have a situation, where a signature purchase, massive expenditure no matter how many billions, and YOU rely solely on the company trying to SELL you on the plane? You don't do any analysis, you still need to get information on costs, you basically are using outdated information provided by the VENDER, and you actually have the temerity to question the PBO's independent, internationally referenced figures? Harper, Hawn, zero credibility to question, because it appears they are still trying to secure information on cost.

In essence, you can toss aside the government claims, because they appear to be nothing more than unverifiable fantasy. Hawn's attempt to discredit Page only HIGHLIGHTS the amateurish, go along, don't ask any questions, mentality that is at the heart of this emerging fiasco. The government doesn't agree with the PBO's methodology, and yet they are so out to lunch they have NOTHING concrete to counter, despite months and months of debate, just smoke and mirrors.

What I find amazing, the government seems able to come up with hard figures related to industry investment, job potential, relating to the F-35 and yet NADA when it comes to cost of plane, Hawn is left with basically "we'll get back to you on that". Hawn uses the term "illogical" to describe Page's numbers, yet his presentation, or lack thereof in this case, is simply absurd. Page looks that much more formidable, now that we hear the government retorts. The Conservatives won't get into a "lengthy debate on numbers" because they don't have any, YET. A knife to a gunfight.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Poll Schmoll?

I pose the title as a question, because I'm not sure if I'm mad or crazy like a fox. Two polls yesterday, one showing a massive Conservative lead, the other decent but formidable, the wider picture from all pollsters, it doesn't look particularly good for team Liberal. And yet, I remain unfazed, despite the fact I keep expecting the numbers to turn back and they show no indication of doing so. Both releases yesterday, particularly Angus Reid, capture this week from hell for the Conservatives, and NARY a dent, no traction for the opposition, the Conservative resemble teflon.

Is this denial, is this heart before head, because rationally it's hard to believe the Liberals are the ones pushing for an election. Cautious words from some quarters clearly warranted, but I still want to plow ahead, still believe we are in the best shape since the Conservatives took office. A leader with dreadful numbers, yet I see a person who has FINALLY found his voice, a certain authenticity now that seemed lacking before. I note Hebert commented on Ignatieff last night, sensing a change in the rhetoric to a more genuine place. My feelings changed with the caucus speech Ignatieff made, I think that a watershed moment, a little known secret now, but a presentation that can resonate come a campaign.

I'm not sure the Liberals have a "vision" yet, but I think they have a narrative now, they can contrast, they can differentiate, they can hammer the government with a coherent logic, armed with SCADS of third party validation. There is now so much material available, a virtual buffet of attack ad ready fronts, that can be woven into a powerful rejection of the very foundation these Conservatives first won office. Andrew Coyne used the proper term "debatable" when we discuss comparisons with the past Liberal government on ethics, transparency. I would submit, the fact we can even cobble together a "debatable" argument to make the comparison, argue a Conservative government WORSE than the dirty Liberals, a simply REMARKABLE evolution.

Outright victory, hard to see, given the hard math. However, despite the current "snapshots", the dire prognostications, I remain cautiously optimistic that we have finally found the "goods" that will cause people to give a second look. It now falls to the OLO to make the case, the material is there, the contrast has been developed, if the messenger can forcefully grap people's attention, opportunity despite current circumstance. In addition, again referencing Andrew Coyne, we are now in the rare situation where principle is trumping the polls, a party actually moving forward on a conviction, rather than simply trying to find the perfect weather vane moment. Ignatieff said he "relishes" a fight on the issues discussed the past couple weeks, and I concur. The debate goes to the heart of our democracy, I think cynics will be surprised, ONCE AGAIN, that people can be stirred from their slumber when core tenets are challenged, debated. A latent passion does exist, rather than frustrated, I see potential spark, which could challenge the conventional wisdom.

The polls are dreadful, as bad as they've been, there is no silver lining to be found, logic dictates a reconsideration. And yet, I'm more eager than ever to see the opposition vote non confidence and go to the people. Craziness, I know...

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Other Shoe Drops With A THUD

Yesterday, the Conservatives were found to "may be in contempt" of Parliament for withholding, among other things, the F35 fiscal information. Today, we get a clear "independently review" that provides partial explanation for the Conservatives withholding cost information. About the best way to describe the PBO release is "alarming", the government's F35 numbers complete propaganda, the discrepancy is simply staggering:
An explosive independent report on the Harper government’s controversial purchase of new fighter jets estimates their full cost, including maintenance, could hit $29.3-billion (U.S.).

That’s about $12-billion more than what the Tories have been telling Canadians it would cost.

...His report was independently peer-reviewed by non-partisan experts at the United States Congressional Budget Office, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, and Queen’s University. Opposition Liberals, who’ve promised to cancel the F-35 contract if they win office, said Mr. Page’s report is proof the Tories have been hiding the program’s full costs of nearly $30-billion.

It is reasonable to conclude that the government was purposely hiding known information from public view, they intentionally withheld information for partisan reasons. In addition, the government is also withholding the normally released Statement of Operational Requirements document for the F35- one now wonders what jewels that paperwork contains??

Yesterday the Speaker held the government in contempt, today we learn why, the F35 issue just got a whole lot bigger. The Liberal position has been entirely vindicated, in fact it now looks downright sensible. Page confirms that sole sourcing is partially to blame, and he also states that we are not obligated to purchase these planes. The cost has become offensive, without a legally binding commitment, the Conservative case now looks completely irresponsible, rather than pragmatic, stubborn refusal in the face of glaring overruns, a hard sell is kind.

This government didn't release the SOR on this plane(hopefully today forces a media revisit on this curious omission), they didn't release their numbers on this plane, there is zero evidence of transparency. In fact, today is confirmation of a secret, behind closed door process, which now looks like a sham at the taxpayer expense. Today, highlights another example of the now emerging opposition theme that you can't trust this government. The 12 billion dollar figure obliterates any reasonable line on fiscal discipline, as well as neutering any attack on the Liberals spending commitments.

If played properly, I think today's release will haunt the government throughout a campaign, an already weary electorate will now move to astonished concern. It's a big number for Canada, which no amount of fear mongering or spin will necessary purchase. In addition, the F35 is now another primary example of all the themes the opposition has been cultivating recently, tailor made, a concrete dollar figure to highlight all the stems from it. The discrepancy between this independently reviewed, INTERNATIONALLY reviewed figure, and the government's sales job borders on a fraudulent presentation given to the Canadian people. There is really no other reasonable conclusion, factor in the Speaker also being forced to hold in contempt for STONEWALLING, intent seems quite clear.

Another sad day for transparent and open government....

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

NDP Have Crossed The Rubicon

It would appear the NDP are now on board with a spring election. Events are changing rapidly in Ottawa, what was a budget debate has now turned to "pre-emptive strikes", and with that an entirely different and more equivocal NDP tone. While Martin doesn't speak for the party, these comments seem representative of an evolving posture:
Liberals and New Democrats told the Toronto Star they hope to use the so-called in-and-out election spending scandal and other missteps as the springboard to Election Day 2011.

“We want to fight them on our playing field. Why not fight them on their lack of ethics, scandals and political corruption. We want home field advantage,” NDP MP Pat Martin told the Star Tuesday.

“Why let them spin us with their own tax dollar (with the budget) when we can take them down clean and simple with rigged elections, forged documents, Stephen Hubris naming the government after himself,” said Martin, who added he plans to raise in the Commons further evidence of Conservative election fraud with respect to phony local polling during the 2006 campaign.

The same logic I argued the other day, the Liberals latest tactic makes it "morally impossible" as Hebert points out, for any opposition party to support the government. On the budget, there is room for negotiation, although I would submit the NDP seem increasingly resigned to no deal in the offing. On a question of ethics, wiggle room is at a premium and judging by Martin's comments, other NDP figures yesterday, they seem entirely prepared to support the Liberal strategy.

If an election looks likely, why let the government pass out goodies in a budget, when you can short circuit the process and take them out on ethics? Martin calls it "home field advantage", I see ethics as the chief Achilles heel, far more fertile than a budget springboard. The Liberal attempt means the NDP would have to side with the Conservatives on their ethical record, an almost unfathomable scenario.

There has been plenty of talk about divided opinion within the NDP ranks. Seems a reasonable storyline, considering the stakes and the complicated nature of budget support. However, the balance seemed to tipping to the pro-election argument, and now that the Liberals have opened up a new front, all indications are of a more "ready to go" NDP.

Again, things are changing quickly, but it would appear the NDP have crossed the Rubicon, hard to see how we pull back from here.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Everybody Didn't Do It

If you caught CBC's Power and Politics yesterday, you witnessed maybe the harshest exchange between MP's I can remember. The NDP's Pat Martin is known for overblown rhetoric and hyperbole, but even by his standards, the exchange with Con MP Candace Hoeppner was downright nasty. Here is the segment, only because beneath the acrimony and vitrol, lies a very salient point:

Wowsers. Now, it is fair to say Martin over-reacted, engaged in behavior unbecoming of a Parliamentarian, over the top, unseemly, all valid observations. However, it is also true that Hoeppner, or more broadly the Conservative defence,is entirely inexcusable and deserving of outright scorn-maybe not in this way, but an amount of frustration and anger entirely justified.

The Conservatives keep making BASELESS ACCUSATIONS towards the other parties, the "everybody does it" defence. That is a serious accusation, for a number of reasons. Firstly, it suggests Elections Canada is biased, turning a blind eye to illegal behaviour by the NDP, Bloc and Liberals, while unfairly singling out the poor Conservatives. If true, then we need an investigation, because the organization we rely on to provide fairness, the underpinning of our democratic system, is acting with malice towards one party, while allowing others to engage in illegal activity? Can this suggestion be any more serious or worrisome if true? If "everybody does it" as the Conservatives argue, then we should all have grave concerns about Elections Canada, this government should be demanding an INQUIRY, the very integrity of the next election at stake. If you believe the Conservatives, Elections Canada are favouring certain political parties, handicapping others, directly interjecting themselves into our democratic choice.

In addition, the "everybody does it" argument offends other parties who ACTUALLY didn't do the same thing. If I am a member of the NDP and I'm being accused of illegal activity, I suppose I might react with a certain indignation at the suggestion. Assuming we can rely on Elections Canada, to make wild accusations that have no apparent basis in fact, an inexcusable line of argument. NO, Elections Canada found the Conservatives engaged in a SCAM, they didn't find the same SCAM used by "everybody".

These Conservative defences are getting tiresome and offensive. If I'm caught stealing, cheating, do I get to accuse my neighbour of doing the same without recourse? If my neighbour tells me I'm full of shit, I should be ashamed of myself, does he/she have that right? "Everbody" didn't engage in this scam, "everybody" didn't take taxpayer money, "everybody" didn't have a 1.5 million dollar advantage that probably won them some seats. The Conservatives insult Elections Canada, they insult other parties, they insult we the taxpayers, they insult our democratic rules. We should all be angry...

Monday, March 07, 2011


In the last few weeks, many pollsters and pundits have questioned the idea of the Liberals winning an election with the economy as the core issue. Little evidence to suggest much traction, the mood of the country such that Harper probably will hold an advantage on this file. Some advice argues the Liberals are better off to highlight other issues, if they have any hope of eroding Conservative support. When I look at the polls, you do see evidence that Harper scores best on economic management, direction of the country is fairly stable, not exactly the most fertile ground for the opposition. With that fairly objective reality in mind, this latest potential gambit by the Liberals is entirely sound and shrewd:
The Liberal Party is considering a snap confidence motion in the House of Commons that could plunge the country into an election over one of several recent Parliamentary confrontations and a series of affairs that go to the heart of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's pledges for transparent and accountable government.

Should Mr. Milliken rule against the government on a privilege claim from Liberal MP Scott Brison (Kings-Hants, N.S.) on the crime finance details, Mr. Brison would have the opportunity to propose a motion that normally would send the issue to the Commons Procedure and House Affairs Committee for an inquiry and recommendations to the House for possible censure of the government.

But sources said Mr. Brison might instead move a motion that would call for a vote of "no confidence" in the government instead, which could be worded in such a way that it could touch on a series of recent controversies.

This revelation comes on the heels of a Liberal fundraising plea, wherein we stress the lack of transparency and authoritarian nature of this government:

The Ignatieff Liberals have issued a scorching assessment of the Harper Conservatives as an instinctively anti-democratic group that subverts Canada’s governing institutions whenever it suits their interests.

In a fundraising letter that underlines a new theme in their election strategy — entitled Our democracy is on the line — the Liberals warn that given more time and, particularly if given a majority government, the damage to the country’s social fabric and governing principles would be immeasurable. The appeal to party supporters says recent controversies are part of a sustained assault on Canadian institutions.

Assume the Liberals are still content with an election, why not force on the ground of your choosing? I entirely agree with this strategy, while it remains to be seen if transparency, democratic want, etc are electoral gold,-these issues do represent the "soft underbelly" for this government, they are vulnerable, people do have a certain unease. This thrust is particularly relevant because this is the government that rode to office, NOT on the economy, but on their pledge to bring accountability and transparency to Ottawa. A bit of a full circle argument to now see the Liberal opposition using the former rationale against this government.

It is becoming abundantly clear that this budget will avoid the "tough choices" that the deficit demands. As I suggested last fall, the deficit situation is now slightly improved, which means Flaherty doesn't need urgent action, he can massage numbers, offer some token belt tightening, but really a budget that will be entirely palatable to the public. Why give the Conservatives this opportunity, particularly when the central theme will be the economy? No, it is quite wise to attempt a pre-emptive strike, even more attractive when you bring unseemly developments to the fore.

We all know election campaigns become their own animals, but I would be quite comfortable jumping off with the Liberals championing our democratic institutions and a disturbing pattern of secrecy and stonewalling by this government. A question of character, questions that potentially resonate with all the anti-Harper sentiment currently fractured. In other words, the issues surrounding transparency and accountability could be a rallying cry.

If events unfold in such a way that the Liberals are given this opportunity to bring a non confidence motion, I say go for it, no better argument available to start an election campaign. The examples are now endless, you can weave a coherent, consistent, intentional pattern, put together to argue a powerful case.