Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Maybe It's Just Me

First, let me admit something. In recent months Stephen Harper had looked more and more prime ministerial. The way Harper carried himself, the subtle confidence, he really seemed to be hitting his stride. I'm not speaking about policy, just the sense that he looked comfortable in his role and it showed.

However, maybe it's the slander and such, or my own bias, but Harper looks less "elevated" than before. If you have a moment, take a look at this exchange today with Ignatieff:

I really think Harper has lost his bearing. Everytime I watch him recently he's slightly red, flustered behind the bravado and he generally doesn't look like a Prime Minister. Harper looks like your average politican, there is no air to him. I can't quantify it, others can accuse me of creating something, but I really believe the last week has cost Harper, and it may have a lasting impact.

Soft On Decency

Restoring honor and dignity to government, that was the Tory mantra during the election. You can make a strong case that we are presently witnessing the most unseemly era in Canadian politics. No overt scandals, if that is your measure, but clearly the gutter tactics and mean-spirited rhetoric are unprecedented.

Watching the vote in the House of Commons yesterday, it was striking to listen to what sounded like a drunken frat party as members voted. Catcalls, embarrassing banter, coming from our government, which is supposed to set the tone. Parliament has descended to a point where any sense of decorum is an illusion.

We don’t have intelligent disagreement any longer, no if you divert from the Tory opinion you are labeled soft on something, maybe even extremist. We run dishonest attack ads outside of an election. We use international forums to public embarrass the previous government (see Nairobi). The government website has deteriorated into a partisan propaganda source, with the requisite Liberal bashing. Every sentence, every move is clearly political, nothing just happens without calculation. Issues are toyed with to maximize political advantage, the agenda is really just a marketing campaign.

The real tragedy, you don’t go back. Other parties react to this environment and develop their response within the new rules. If we look at the evolution of hyper-politics to our south we see our future. Partisanship has always been part of the dialogue, but never has it consumed everything the way it does now. Harper views everything as tactical, which has eliminated any sense of common purpose, on even the most simple of questions. The tone is mean, the rhetoric outrageous and the naked self-interest serves to undermine the stature of government. I have come to the conclusion, this government is soft on decency.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Put The Whip Away

Liberal Party Whip Karen Redman was asked if there would be any sanctions against MP's who supported renewal of the anti-terror clauses. Although vague, when asked about "nomination papers", Redman said that was a severe response, but it was one of many options. I don't believe there should be any sanctions whatsoever for an MP who decides, in good conscience, to extend the two provisions.

The Liberal Party should stop worrying about the need for cohesion, at the expense of freedom. There is a certain irony of arguing about Canadians rights, and then engaging in arm-twisting and threats to silence varying opinions. I realize that this issue is largely a question of appearances, in other words, there is a fear that Liberals leave themselves open to criticism of "division", "weak leadership" and "confusion". In whipping the vote it shelters the party and projects a united front.

The bottom line in this debate, everyone already knows the Liberals don't have an unanimous opinion on the matter. Whatever the final vote today, it is largely irrelevant to the perception that has already cemented itself. Many Liberals disagree with the opinion forwarded by the leadership, that is clear. Therefore, what good does it do to force people to vote against their conscience? You don't really achieve anything politically, you just make matters worse by forcing people, leaving the impression that elected MP's are merely pawns, unable to express themselves freely.

My real point, it is high time that the Liberal Party embrace its diversity. Instead of worrying about Harper and Layton calling Liberals "divided", make the case that complicated questions sometimes lead to varying opinion, which is a realistic condition for a party that reflects mainstream Canada. Canadians are largely divided on many of the questions that Liberals are accused of lacking clarity. Let the other parties engage in the goosestep, let them stifle opinion and get their talking points from the PMO, it is the Liberal Party were the serious debate occurs. Debate implies messy, weighing different factors leads to different conclusions. It isn't a negative if MP's vote their conscience, in fact it is a better manifestation of democracy. On any issue where there exists considerable internal opposition, allow a free vote, remove the distaste of arm-twisting.

Let's say every Liberal MP votes against the extension today, what does that say? Will the media say, "wow, look at those united Liberals", "that Dion sure knows how to lead"?. No, they will say the exact same thing they will if a dozen MP's vote against, the Liberals are "divided", they were just whipped. I would rather a spirit of openness, a respect for an elected representative, an egalitarian mood. There is a way to make "division" look "progressive" and "respectable". Canadians don't expect unanimity on every issue, that isn't realistic and the real world we confront everyday reinforces that notion.

Monday, February 26, 2007

"New Government" Dead?

I think these are the end times for the Tories annoying "New Government" tag. Canwest just did a story mocking the use of the phrase, going so far as to query John Baird on how long it will be used. Canwest even consulted with a marketing expert, and no it wasn't Jason Kenney. Maclean's has a story today, with the following:
The Conservatives, who continue to call themselves "Canada's New Government" in all news releases and correspondence 13 months after they were elected

It would appear the media is finally turning on the ridiculous characterization, so I predict it disappears in short order. That means we need another term for the Conservative government. I was thinking maybe:
- Canada's Still Under Warranty Government
- Canada's 12 Years Shorter Than The Liberal Government
- Canada's Toddler Government
- Canada's Worked In Government
- America's Other Government

Any other ideas?

Mountain Meets Molehill

I find Chantal Hebert hard to read most of the time. Hebert's ability to spin every issue into an assault on Dion is quite telling. Newsflash, Chantal Hebert hates Stephen Dion, her grudge is obvious. The latest installment comes from this editorial, titled Trudeau Bid Spotlights Liberal Infighting:
In provincial Liberal circles, the sheer fact that Trudeau is running in a winnable seat is seen as confirmation that Stéphane Dion's honeymoon has truly run its course, a sign that the new leader is not doing well enough in the polls to resist being second-guessed by the Ontario power-brokers of his party.

Dion and his francophone advisers resisted the pressing calls to find Trudeau a top spot in their Quebec line-up. They refused to award him one of their soon-to-be vacant Montreal strongholds. They suggested that he engage in a David-versus-Goliath battle against Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe instead.

The timing of Trudeau's announcement last week – on a day when Dion, who was delivering a major Montreal address on the Afghan mission, should have been the only Liberal focus of attention – spoke volumes about the ongoing malaise between the new federal leader and his first Quebec star candidate.

Infighting apparently means that all Liberals must hold the exact same opinion. If there is a strategic difference it translates into fractious posturing, and a sign of trouble at the top. Huh? Trudeau isn't an easy question, and his running must fit into the grand scheme.

Hebert offers some serious flaws in logic to make her point. First, she argues that Trudeau isn't getting a top-tier riding, then offers the following:
the Liberals would have to be in real trouble to fail to win back Papineau in the next election.

So, the riding is pretty safe? She assumes that Trudeau should win, then contradicts that notion with this:
Vivian Barbot is the kind of candidate every federal party is headhunting for. With strong roots in the Haitian community, she was the first member of a visible minority to lead the Quebec Federation of Women. At this point, her contribution to Quebec's public life outranks Justin Trudeau's by a long shot.

If Trudeau wins the nomination, his battle against Barbot will make Papineau a riding to watch.

Is it the "riding to watch" or a seat Liberals should win? I can't quite tell from the commentary. It looks like a pretty safe seat that could easily remain BQ. Okay, that sounds consistent.

Heberts insinuates that anything less than the red carpet, littered with flowers, means an anti-Trudeau sentiment within the Dion powerbase. Why does it translate to "infighting"? Maybe, just maybe, it is more a discussion of how best to use a "rising star", and weigh that within the greater good for the party. In my mind, Papineau seems a logical choice, not a slam dunk, but one that a high-profile, charismatic candidate can win and put another seat in the Liberal column. Sounds like a good strategy from here.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Quebec Election Translator

Linguistic gymnastics at its finest:

a PQ government "resolves to hold a popular consultation on sovereignty as soon as possible within its first mandate."
Translation- Given the polling, we dropped the word referendum and replaced it with ambigious language to secure the soft nationalist vote. This is really an admission that we can't win a referendum, but will continue on with our single-minded focus. You all know how we feel about "clarity".

Mario Dumont, leader of the third-place Action democratique du Quebec, spoke to supporters about political and financial "autonomy" for Quebec, rather than separation.
Translation- I'm trying to have to both ways, even though political and financial automony constitutes sovereignty. My hypocrisy and hopeless logic knows no bounds.

sovereigntist platform, released over the weekend, for suggesting that the federal payments would continue while Quebec makes the transition from a province to a country in the aftermath of a yes vote in a referendum.
Translation- The rest of Canada lives in a coma, while we rape the coffers at our leisure. You can have your cake and eat it too. Utopia does exist, and the nature of man is always generous. Sovereignty comes without consequences, no really. Heaven on earth is at hand.

I can't wait for the debates.

Suzuki Tells It Like It Is

So much for David Suzuki backing down from his comments on Friday. Instead, Suzuki tells it like it is:
Federal governments have been reluctant to touch Alberta's dismal record on climate change because they're scared of the consequences, says environmental activist David Suzuki.

"Ottawa kind of tiptoes around Alberta all the time, because they're afraid. The closest thing to separation is Alberta, not Quebec," Suzuki said Saturday night after a sold-out talk to over 800 people at the University of Alberta.

"So Alberta is treated with kid gloves."

"Right now, if you look at Fort McMurray, it's an economic, it's a social and an ecological disaster zone."

While Prime Minister Stephen Harper "seems to think that any kind of tax imposed on the oil industry to deal with the emissions is like a socialist plot to drain money out of the economy," Suzuki lauds a call by the Alberta-based Pembina Institute for a tax of up to $1.50 per barrel of oil extracted from the oilsands.

Someone needs to say it:
"If it takes someone to come in and very loudly and vociferously call a spade a spade ... sometimes it's necessary to have those kinds of challenges to get people out of the rut of denial," said Brian Pincott of the Sierra Club of Canada.

You can't even mention curbing oil sands development without the howls of economic ruin, accompanied by the requisite "anti-Alberta" crap. I'm glad that Dr. Suzuki isn't playing nice this time, we don't need timid rhetoric.

No Election?

It might be the first time all the parties agree on something- who really wants a spring election? The only realistic scenario at present, Harper delivers a feel good budget, receives a marked bump in the polls, Charest is re-elected and he decides to roll the dice. Otherwise, it looks more and more that no party can look at the current landscape and desire a vote.

People discount polls, and I appreciate the reasoning, however I have no doubt that party strategists pour over the results on a daily basis. Usually polls will cause optimism in one camp, and disappointment in another. However, if you look at the present numbers on balance, it is hard to find any party that can crow. Dion's leadership numbers are dreadful, there has been some erosion in support, but Liberals are basically in a deadheat with the government. The Conservatives enjoy some favorable internals, but that hasn't manifested itself at all, they are largely stuck. The NDP has no traction, and has consistently lagged behind their election percentage. The Bloc's numbers in Quebec have fallen, the circumstance of a Quebec election works against them, and it is reasonable to think they would lose seats if an election were imminent. The only party that has any momentum is the Green Party, and that is largely irrelevant, since they have no voice in an election call.

I was firmly in the spring election camp, but I'm starting to believe that all the hype will turn out to be just that. Unless a party thinks it can advance its fortunes, then why bother? Harper has some opportunities in the near future, but there are many ifs attached. The Liberals clearly need some time to let Dion get his bearings, you don't hear any election talk from Liberal quarters anymore do you? Everything could change in a week, and probably will, but right now, an early election call looks unlikely.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Harper's Troubles

Interesting poll result, from the same firm that conducted the earlier "Dion in 3rd" leadership poll. The two Ipsos poll results don't quite jive, in fact they suggest big problems for Canada's Used Government.

People will remember Paul Wells rebuttal to the Ipso poll that found alarming questions about Dion as leader:
Paul Wells pointed out the followiung:


The polls are illustrative. Here's one now, comparing the prime minister's performance numbers with the opposition leader's. It's pretty grim for the opposition leader. Here goes:

• On "Trust," the PM gets 24%, the opposition leader 15%.
• On "Vision for Canada," the PM gets 29%, the opposition leader 18%.
• On simple "Competence," it's worse still: 33% for the prime minister, 14% for his leader of the opposition. A 19-point gap on the most fundamental requirement of political leadership.
So why not write Dion off? Because this poll isn't about Dion. It's the SES tracking poll for Dec. 6, 2005. The "Prime Minister" in the poll was Paul Martin, the badly stumbling "opposition leader" Stephen Harper, and the poll shows a massive character and leadership gap for Harper — six weeks before he became prime minister.

The poll Wells uses to make his point, show Martin with a large lead over Harper on all the internals, mirroring the latest comparison between Dion and Harper. The difference, if we look at the party polling numbers from that time, we see the following:
SES CPAC 06/12/2005

Con 28 Lib 40 NDP 17

The internals are manifested in the party support numbers- Martin outpaces Harper, which is mirrored in the party results. This situation is natural and logical. What isn't expected, the Ipso duel polls reach two different conclusions. Despite outpacing Dion by a considerable margin, the two parties remain virtually tied in public support. An objectively strange phenomenon, but one that tells us a great deal.

Despite the slick presentation, the message control, the concerted effort to paint themselves as moderate and reflective of Canadian society. Despite the full government coffers, taxcuts, a host of policy initiatives and what one reporter refers to as "a perfect political storm", Harper has gone NOWHERE. The disconnect between Harper's numbers and party support further suggest a hard cap for the Tories. Canada's Stale Government has failed to expand it's base, win over soft supporters and remains stuck in minority terrority. Barring a complete Liberal meltdown, Harper's Conservatives can only dream about ultimate control.

Dion's numbers can't fall much lower, reasonable to call them bottom. Bottom suggests possible improvement, and now that the issues are clearly identified, it is realistic to believe they will be dealt with to a certain degree. In other words, Dion has room, while Harper is already at his high-water mark in the head to head. If Dion can make any headway, it erodes at the Harper ceiling. Both parties have concerns, but nobody at Tory headquarters should be handing out high fives, when they can't seem to translate "leadership" numbers into actual support.

Friday, February 23, 2007

The Worm Has Turned?

Watching CBC's reporter roundtable, it was interesting to listen to various media outlets all discussing Harper's "problems". No talk about Liberal division, weak leadership or rising Tory fortunes. Instead, what became crystal clear, Harper's behavior this week was so egregious that it flipped the entire mood.

Remember all those polls that showed Harper as the clear choice compared with Dion? Forgotten, the results really demonstrated Harper's inability to grow. The Tories should be quite worried, that despite "the perfect storm", disgruntled Liberal supporter parks their votes elsewhere, suggesting an apprehension to Harper. Dion hasn't failed, Harper has failed to attract support- he is still below his election score. Ceiling?

Harper re-affirmed the nagging concern of Canadians that he isn't really "a nice man". Hardly flattering when a reporter refers to the Prime Minister as a "shark", that knows how to "go for the jugular". Mean-spirited, distastful, all those old complaints are re-born with a new, glaring example. The media has tended to fall for the message control and crafted appearance, but this incident pierces the brainwash, and allows for naked assessment. If I read the panel correctly, it was as if someone poured a bucket of ice water and woke them from their slumber.

I don't want to read to much into the recent change in tone, but nor should we ignore it, there is a significant opportunity given. Liberals need to keep the issue of this government's character, or lack thereof as the case may be, on the frontburner. Pull out all the Harper pontifications on restoring honor and dignity to office and ask the PM the pointed question- "In your view, do you think you have upheld those commitments?" Make Harper defend, on ground of our choosing, as opposed to the usual reactive posture. This new newscycle lasts as long as we keep up the pressure, because it was confirmed to me today, the media is sympathetic to this angle.

Fluff off Dion's problem as unfair, give the man some time to adjust, use historical precedent, whatever, but counter with Harper's "problems". Dion's greatest strengths are his honesty and decency. Develop the talking points, get everybody rowing together, and juxtapose Dion's "style" with Harper's classless politicization. Frame Dion as the anti-politician, unscripted, casual, sincere. In my mind, Harper's greatest enemy is Harper, Canadians clearly haven't been "sold" quite yet, despite the onslaught of orchestration. Speak to Canadians cynicism and offer a different tone. It will be up to Liberals to decide if this week was a brief setback for Harper or a watershed moment that changes momentum.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Harper's "Dark Side"

You know Harper has seriously erred when the National Post finds it necessary to admit the objective obvious. I'm sure tomorrow will bring another Liberal bashing, Harper as decisive doer news item, but for one day everyone is in unison. You just can't wipe the stink off this skunk:

Mr. Harper should apologize and distance himself from the unseemly linkage quickly. But he won't. When his dark side seeps into the spotlight, being this Tory means never having to say you're sorry.

The political gift:
Mr. Harper had the Liberals reeling, their morale battered by poor polling, and leader Stephane Dion punch drunk by internal strife ...

But rather than let Mr. Dion twist awkwardly in the wind, Mr. Harper handed the Liberals a club yesterday and invited them to whack his government about the head.

Of course the Martin piece was interspersed with the little Liberal digs to keep the faith, but admitting Harper's "dark side" is quite striking. Try to think of the last leader, where such an assessment would apply? Isn't this the type of alarmist rhetoric suggested by panzy progressives? Or maybe, just maybe, Stephen Harper is a political animal first, honorable statesman a convenient persona.

Last week, Harper tried to turn around the gutter Goodale ad issue, now again his stubborn nature crests. Not only is an apology not in order, but Harper acts as though his behavior is completely justified. Harper best watch, a pattern of arrogant defiance is taking root, accompanied by a dose of unseemly, naked politicking that apparently knows no bounds.

Thank-you Prime Minister, for taking the spotlight off a bad Liberal news cycle and shining it brightly on your "dark side". Thank-you for forcing your propaganda rag, disguised as a news source, to acknowledge the slight. The next time the Prime Minister stands in front of the cameras and chastizes others for their partisanship and political "games", as though he operates from a higher perch, let us all enjoy a hearty laugh.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Polls And A-Holes

Pardon the blunt characterization, but after today's embarrassment, the word seems appropriate for our Prime Minister. Remember, this is the man who ran on restoring integrity and honor to government. Instead, our national dialogue is awash in venomous, mean-spirited personal attacks, issues are used to sow division and the gutter is king. Whatever it takes to acquire the ultimate power, whatever it takes- Paul Martin looks regal compared to this lot. Decency and decorum are casualties as Stephen Harper lusts towards his goal. It's not about policy differences, it boils down to one fact, these are not good people, this man isn't worthy of his office. Period. Today was an objective disgrace.

On the issue of the latest poll, one point is particularly striking. How can it be that Stephane Dion scores third on climate change? While others waste energy trying to deny a sobering, growing truth, I think it better to acknowledge the challenge. This was supposed to be Dion's issue, and more and more it looks like a wash, which is pure gold for Harper. Is it that we haven't articulated the case, or has Harper marketed effectively, or a combination of both? I'll admit, if Dion loses this issue as a strong talking point, it means serious trouble. Afterall, this was the cornerstone of his campaign, the primary talking point. If the issue gets lost in a discussion of semantics, Harper wins, this was his main achilles heel.

Maybe this is temporary bottom, but Dion needs to release some strong policy positions right now. Something bold, that takes people aback and ends the flood of negative coverage. Knock the media out of the Dion as pinuta mode, it's hard to watch at present.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Economic Ruin?

Everytime someone mentions curbing emissions from the oil sands, invariably the "economic ruin" argument comes up. Interesting discussion today in committee that puts the HYSTERIA into perspective:
The oil sands could be brought into compliance with Kyoto emissions-cutting targets at a cost of about $1 per barrel of oil produced, a Commons committee was told Tuesday.

Lambert said it costs $20 to $30 per to produce a barrel from the oil sands. Oil is selling at around $60, and Suncor earned $2.97 billion in profit last year, up from $1.168 billion in 2005.

What's this, an oil company open to Kyoto:
Lambert said his company prefers an intensity target and consultation on further steps. Suncor also wants access to international trading under the Kyoto system.

"Access to the Kyoto mechanisms and purchase of international reductions would be absolutely essential as an element of a plan of that type (recommended by Pembina).''

Good question:
Liberal MP Francis Scarpaleggia said industry seems to be reluctant to be proactive on the climate issue.

"I hear that everything's going well, the market's strong, profits are good, but just leave us alone. That's the message I hear from a lot of industry sectors and especially the oil industry.

"It's like we can't do anything unless we're giving you money to develop technology.''

From The Pembina Institute, another figure to put the ruin into perspective:
For coal-fired electricity generation, meeting the target would cost on the order of one cent per kilowatt-hour. This cost would fall as government-funded investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency come onstream.

The one dollar a barrel argument puts everything into perspective. Quick math, around a 4% increase in cost per barrel. A pitance, when you factor in the OBSCENE profits these companies extract. Obviously, there is room for these companies to improve techniques, without the government ponying up money. Some of these entities outpace many countries GDP, so let's keep it real when arguing about devastation. Besides, they will just tack the extra dollar onto the price and consumers will pay, just like they always do.


Harper made a curious statement today in an interview with Mike Duffy. Harper made the usual pronouncements that his primary concern was giving Canadians good government, blah, blah, blah. Then, responding to election speculation he said the following:
"I don't want an election, I believe that is best for us, and it's best for the country"

Interesting that country comes after self-interest. A minor point, but an insight into the thought process.

On polls, Harper typically dismisses them as though he doesn't pay attention, but then when the Ontario numbers are introduced, he suddenly has some keen knowledge:
"what are less reliable than national polls are regional polls, which have huge margins of error, and there are different polls out there, with different results"
Of note, as Duffy was reading the Strategic Counsel numbers, showing him well ahead of Dion, Harper tried very hard to wipe the smug smirk off his face, lest he admit his does care.

From the bizarre column, referring to Bill Gates, Harper comes out with this:
"My wife calls the world's sexiest man". Harper asks why? "When a man has that much money he's sexy"

Deep Mrs. Harper, deep.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Dion: "Nosedive"

Allan Gregg, commenting on Dion's leadership. The latest poll has little in the way of good news for Liberals:
But when asked how respondents would vote today, the Liberals showed a significant drop since Dion first won his party's leadership race (percentage-point change from a Dec. 3 poll in brackets):

Liberals: 29 per cent (- 8)
Conservatives: 34 per cent (+ 3)
NDP: 14 per cent (none)
Bloc Quebecois: 11 per cent (none)
Green Party: 12 per cent (+ 5)

just 18 per cent of respondents thought the Liberal leader would do the best job as prime minister, compared to 36 per cent for Stephen Harper..

In Ontario, the difference is just two per cent, less than the five per cent margin of error for the province's sample size (for details see 'Technical notes' below). Here are the results (percentage-point change from a Dec. 3 poll in brackets):

Liberals: 39 per cent (- 9)
Conservatives: 34 per cent (+ 2)
NDP: 14 per cent (- 1)
Green Party: 13 per cent (+ 8)

But the poll hints that Canadians do not consider his environmental plan much more effective than that offered by the Conservatives:

Liberals: 23 per cent
Conservatives: 20 per cent
NDP: 21 per cent
Bloc Quebecois: 6 per cent
Other/don't know/refused: 31 per cent

Dion also scored very low on leadership and national unity, relative to Harper. Watching the CTV news there was also some comments about Ignatieff having too high a profile, a question of who is actually running the show.

The only glimmer in this poll, Harper isn't anywhere near majority terrority, despite outpacing Dion on every issue imaginable. Particularly worrisome in my mind, it would appear Harper has neutralized the environment as an issue, which is concerning given Dion's high-profile on the issue.

I would call "nosedive" a tad harsh, but these findings should give Liberals pause.


I'm not sure why Gregg doesn't reference his last poll:

14/01/07 CPC 31 Lib 35 NDP 15 Bloc 11 Green 8.


A really insightful, balanced reading of this poll from ottlib that is worth a read.

Tories To Pull Ads

Right on cue, the negative reaction forces a re-think:
The federal Tories will yank their anti-Liberal television attack ads off Quebec's French-language airwaves if there's a provincial election.

The party told The Canadian Press today that that it does not want to interfere with any provincial campaign

But the Tories deny they're pulling the three ads out of concern that they might be aiding the PQ.

They say they've held extensive focus groups that demonstrate viewers clearly distinguish an attack on federal Liberals from one on Quebec Liberal Premier Jean Charest.

They say they would temporarily shelve the ads only because they'll be less effective during a provincial election, when Quebecers are focused on provincial politics.

I'm pretty sure the "extensive focus groups" mirrored the media reaction to these tasteless, dishonest ads. Does anyone believe Harper wasn't privy to the Quebec election call? I have a feeling Charest may have mentioned it last week during the big presser. Why start an ad campaign with that knowledge? This excuse acts as though the Tories were surprised, come on! They just started running these ads, with FULL KNOWLEDGE of Charest's plans. Please.

This "decision" has nothing to do with taking the high road, it's simple recognition that the ads are having a net negative effect. In addition, the provincial Liberals may have expressed their unease at attaching their political prospects with gutter politics. Pulling the ads, under the guise of this election, allow the Tories to save face, without acknowledging the failure.


The positive reviews of Harper's stubborn decision to keeping running dishonest ads continues:
The Smear's Golden Era

He behaves as if he is never wrong, and his opponents -- Liberals, at least -- are never right. He never apologizes for anything because, unlike the rest of us, he never makes mistakes. He treats politics like war, not the more civilized surrogate that it is supposed to be. There is little lightness, or play, in his responses to inevitably overblown opposition claims -- we are as likely to see sour contempt.

But sometimes the prime minister's refusal to concede an inch just looks petulant. Example: his response to the vindication of Ralph Goodale last week.

Harper's vitriolic partisanship has nothing to do with ideology.

Pretty flattering stuff, which is mirrored by several other news outlets. Harper's arrogance may cost him this time, because the optics of holding steadfast to a dishonest ad are obvious. The Tories look mean-spirited, stubborn and the "gutter politics" meme takes hold. The Prime Minister sets the tone, the era of hyper-politicism cemented.

The Tories should pull the ad, but they clearly won't. Now that the reaction pours in, from a tactical point, it might be better to let the ad run- it serves as a powerful symbol of the Harper hypocrisy of claiming to restore honor and dignity to government. A small prediction, the Tories must sense the blowback, look for the ad to slowly fade away, in such a manner as not to admit a wrong.

They are pulling the ads, using a convenient excuse. For the good of Canada, cough, hack.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

A Minor Quibble

I cry foul, that is clearly an old depiction of Harper rolling out the Clean Air Act. Or was it from the last election, when Harper outlined the Tory environmental agenda?

Of note, today, for the first time, I heard a Conservative counter the "ruin the economy" argument that is the convenient crutch for nothingness. John Baird actually articulated a forward thought:
"We don't want to be left out of the new economy. This debate on climate change can real SPUR GROWTH in the new economy"

Actual economic opportunity, as opposed to the looming depression. Who knew? Will Harper approve of such freelancing, that contradicts the sky is falling arguments?

Divided Liberals

The latest installment of the "divided Liberals" theme centers around the anti-terror law. The other parties just love to hear the following:
Toronto MP Roy Cullen said he is trying to persuade 30 colleagues to break ranks and side with the government to extend the measures - investigative hearings and preventive arrests

The National Post calls it a "mutiny", I call it "healthy". Once again, the only place where there appears to be any debate is within the Liberal Party. This circumstance has happened before, and is always exploited by others as weakness. Layton loves the "Liberals are divided" argument, Harper uses any example as proof the Liberals don't know what they believe. However, it would seem to me that the Liberal Party simply manifests the tension on complicated issues.

The Afghanistan vote is another example that was pounced on. But, really, weren't the Liberals simply mirroring the population as a whole. Canadians are debating the merits of our mission, weighing the pros and cons, why is it wrong to have a party that reflects differing opinions? Increasingly, the days of rigid ideology are incompatible with societal complexity, and that is why the rise of pragmatism is better suited to balancing competing interests.

The Liberal Party, at present, seems to be the only home for pragmatism. While the NDP and Conservatives take great pride in their unanimous positioning, which apparently corresponds to conviction, the Liberals "waffle". I would argue that this condition allows Liberals to take each issue on merit, rather than pre-disposed posturing. Whether to extend certain anti-terror measures is a complicated question, so I don't see the horror in having different MP's take different positions. That debate helps us better understand the issue, as opposed to black and white propositions. Amending a previous opinion isn't necessarily a "flip-flop", if it based on sound reasoning, in fact it shows an ability to react beyond dogma and stubborn singularity.

Another SMALL point, I have posted a few less that glowing assessments of the current Liberal condition. This "critical" opinion has been seized on by Conservatives as a sign of Liberal division and weakness in the ranks. I guess that is one interpretation, but to be truthful, there is nothing more boring in my mind than the goosestep that stifles internal debate and paints pretty pictures for eternity. I like the fact the Liberal Party is a messy affair, and while it may have some tactical disadvantages, it engages in an openness that is objectively healthy.

Other parties have debates, no question, but the Liberals seem to continually fail on the "party discipline" front. The term implies a subservient posture to the rigid hierarchy, hardly flattering. I don't view elected MP's as minions that tow the line prescribed by head office. Why is it the Liberals are vilified everytime they express a basic tenet of democracy? Different people, with differing views, who can freely express that view, majority wins. In my world, bragging about constant "unity" on every issue under the sun is a sign of narrowness, a sign of top-down structure that isn't attractive at all. Instructing MP's on what they can say, pinpointing people who could "pose problems" is actually scary when you think about, I much prefer my democracy untidy and slightly conflicting. Divide away, question the leader, it's all good from here.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

When Should Gore Get In?

Interesting Al Gore story, that outlines his new appeal and future possibilities. For argument's sake, assume that Gore will make another run at the Presidency. Does Gore need to enter soon, or is he better served by waiting? Some points raised in the article:
By some inside estimates within the Democratic party he could likely raise $200 million (U.S.) over the Internet....

Al Gore could enter the race tomorrow, September or November," said Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, his 2000 campaign manager.

"Anything after November would be a mistake. A lot of candidates got in early for name recognition, or because they need the time to raise money.

100 acts who will appear at Gore's Live Earth, 24-hour concerts in July to raise awareness of global warming.

Gore believes some 2 billion people could attend or watch concerts in China, South Africa, Australia, England, Japan, Brazil and the U.S.

The American show is expected to be in Washington...

He will readily assemble a campaign, and right now he is riding a wave of adulation which is giving him far more positive coverage than any politician could glean from a weekend of town hall meetings in Iowa.

The issue of fundraising isn't really an issue. Timing will not be a factor in Gore's ability to raise money. If Gore enters late, there will be a feverish push that would make the Howard Dean fundraising bats of 2004 look like toothpicks. If Gore can raise anywhere near 200 million, it gives him instant ability to compete with the likes of Hillary.

Gore is on a positive publicity wave that shows no signs of waning. The future affords many high-profile events that can't help but put Gore in a glowing light. The Academy Awards have the potential to ignite the smoldering flame. In the more distant future, Gore's Live Earth concerts in July will be nothing but pure gold publicity wise, with the potential to be a watershed moment. As the article points out, it might be better politically for Gore to stay away from the scrutiny that is bound to come from a bored media and simply bask and grow on the outside. In terms of momentum, it seems like a no-brainer that a late entry has all the intangibles.

A couple cautions on a late entry. Obama is the wildcard. In many ways Obama appeals to the same constituent as Gore. The internet crowd, the progressives, the anti-war crowd, young voters. Waiting affords Obama the ability to solidify his hold as the anti-Hillary, leaving little room for Gore. If Obama proves himself credible, stands up to the inevitable scrutiny, secures key endorsements, Gore might face a steep climb.

Iowa. You can create an instant organization with a huge influx of money, but Iowa is a unique animal. People will remember Wesley Clark's late 2003 entry, which included some fast money, key Democratic insiders and strong support. Clark's handlers decided to bypass Iowa, because the nature of the caucuses work against a late entrant- it cost him dearly. Gore is quite different in many respects, but he would face real challenges competing with candidates who have been on the ground for months, if not years. Iowa isn't necessarily critical, but it sure can be and a late entry puts Gore at a disadvantage.

On the whole, I think Gore would be best served by an October entry. Pretty late in the game, but not late enough that all the endorsements have been carved up. A nice lather of speculation in the late summer, early fall, that distracts everyone from the other hopefuls and then a passionate entry, with the rabid faithful in tow that will make everyone take notice. I can hear the chants of "four more years" already.

Marketing Afghanistan

Tory Inc. is wasting taxpayer money, in an effort to find palatable themes and words to SELL the mission in Afghanistan:
The extensive critique of the Tory communications strategy on the war comes from a series of cross-country focus groups conducted in November 2006 at a cost of almost $76,000.

The report lists "vocabulary/terms/phrases/concepts to reinforce" the message that the government is right about its commitment to the war in Afghanistan. They include "rebuilding," "restoring," "reconstruction," "hope," "opportunity" and "enhancing the lives of women and children."

Words and phrases to avoid include: "freedom, democracy, liberty – in combination this phrase comes across as sounding too American."

Strategic Counsel also advised that the government "avoid developing a line of argumentation too strongly based on values. While the value of human rights is strongly supported, there is a risk of appearing to be imposing Canadian values. Again, this is not seen to be the `Canadian way.'"

"The fact that they would spend $76,000 to try and get arguments to sell the war in Afghanistan to the Canadian public ... really indicates that the war is not saleable," said NDP defence critic Dawn Black (New Westminster-Coquitlam).

"To spend that kind of money just to counter the kinds of arguments that the opposition ... are putting forward is bizarre."

Liberal MP Keith Martin (Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca) said the existence of the report was "quite shocking," though he didn't take issue with its findings.

I could have saved Canada 76 thousand, Bushisms don't fly in Canada. This report begs the question, if the mission is admirable, the right thing to do, important for stability, all the legitimate arguments, why does the government find it necessary to market the war? It belies a disinformation campaign, as though you need to use propaganda to make the case. Let's not forget, Harper constantly tells us that popularity is the least of his worries when it comes to Afghanistan. The fact the government found it necessary to commission this report tends to suggest an obsession with public opinion.

Is there any genuine rhetoric left in the Harper repertoire? On almost every issue, we hear leaks of polls and focus groups. Candidates summoned to workshops on how to "work" a campaign. Pinpointing which people might make "damaging comments", that could hurt party fortunes (by damaging, we mean expressing a real, honest opinion). There is a pre-occupation with message control, and this reality speaks to honesty. Why all the paranoia? Something to hide? With everyday, it becomes more apparent that this government is a corporation, and policy is hidden within a slick public relations campaign. All parties engage in this practice to a certain extent, but it is equally true, Canada has never seen anything resembling this attempt to control.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Fox In The Henhouse

The more Chuck Strahl speaks about his assault on the Wheat Board, the more disturbing the rhetoric:
But the barley plebiscite has already been plagued with controversy.
Wheat board supporters have railed against the fact the plebiscite gives farmers three choices: to maintain the board's monopoly, to scrap the board's role as a barley marketer, or to allow the board to be an active participant in a free market.

The wheat board has said the ballot gives farmers a false impression that the board can survive without its monopoly in the face of competition from large multinational grain companies.

But Strahl reiterated Friday that he believes the wheat board can remain viable and wants it to be one of the options that farmers have to sell their barley.

The minister also continued to be vague on what percentage of the vote he would require to move ahead with wheat board reforms, saying the plebiscite was a non-binding way to provide advice.

"The data will be available to anyone but it's up to me to say what this advice means."

The three options Strahl has inserted clearly attempts to cloud the issue and solicite a desirable response- a clever tactic to prevent a majority. What is particularly alarming, Strahl now says he will interpret the results. The clear implication, if there is anyway that Strahl can reasonably spin the results, he will. The fact Strahl played with a clear question, speaks to the fact that he knew a majority would not choose to opt out of the wheat board. Offering a third option, which is essentially a have it both ways response, plays mischief with the core issue. Chuck Strahl will decide what the results mean, which is akin to the fox in the henhouse deciding what to do with the chickens. This plebicite is being comprised by people with a clear agenda.

Is Harper For Real?

How can Harper make such a statement:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper says the Liberals owe the RCMP an apology after a 14-month probe into the income-trust scandal resulted in criminal charges against a senior civil servant.

Harper told reporters Friday that the charges show "it was a real scandal" and not an invention of partisan politics.

"I believe the Liberals should apologize to [former RMCP commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli] for suggesting to the people of Canada that the RCMP had invented that scandal," Harper said.

I guess you can admire the sheer gall, the political counter, but Harper really is obnoxious here. I have heard some calls for the Tories to pull their PATENTLY FALSE ad in Quebec that slanders Goodale, but I have been disappointed that the outrage isn't more pronounced. Pull the ad, pull the ad, pull the ad, should be echoed from every Liberal corner. The entire attack campaign is discredited if the Tories insist on using a FALSE LIE to hurt Dion.

You can't under-estimated the political damage that these FALSE ALLEGATIONS against Goodale had. If memory serves, I believe the Liberals dropped 8-10 points after this bombshell, it allowed all the baggage to be re-argued, the pattern confirmed. You could make a case it cost the party the last election. Now, today, we have this same FALSE story, used by Conservatives to further damage Liberals, with the added bonus of arrogance, when the PM asks for an apology.

Harper tries to re-direct the debate away from the Tory slander, and validate all the gutter politics. Liberals need to keep asking the question, why are these ads running? How can you run an ad that knowingly deceives? Start calling these people LIARS. Soft on TRUTH, soft on TRUTH. The only way Harper gets away with putting Liberals on the defensive is if we let him.

Some Conservatives uncomfortable with lying:
Off the record, some Conservatives said yesterday they hoped the ad would be amended

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Can We Talk?

Something is afoot, and it’s not particularly good for Liberal prospects. I’ve noticed a building lather in the media about Dion’s leadership, and not much of it is flattering. We are in the midst of Dion being defined, the media is turning on Stephane. I don’t know if the new tone is a result of the attack ads, or relatively poor polling, but there is a new hostility with Dion that wasn’t there only a couple weeks ago. And the sources, the supposed “left-wing” media, should be of some concern.

The basic gist of what I am gathering from the media is this sentiment. There is some hesitation in Liberal ranks about Dion, he has failed to instill confidence and some MP’s privately question his leadership. I’m not sure if all this talk about whispering is warranted, there are always “nervous Nellie’s”, but this serves to undermine Dion’s stature.

Dion has failed to distinguish himself, which has created a vacuum, that the Tories are exploiting. There is a danger of Dion looking the “one trick pony”, on an issue where he surely shares the pie. Dion needs to breakout of the green suit and show Canadians more. The media, in the absence of self-created Dion momentum is filling in the gaps, framing him. My advice, Dion needs to make more news, which neuters a bored media looking for controversy.

Dion’s English has become a key concern, maybe over-stated, but none the less an issue. There really isn’t much Dion can do about this “problem”, in some ways it can be spun as endearing.

I really believe a lot of the negative press stems from Dion’s relatively weak performance in the House of Commons. You can argue the importance, but I think the media takes a lot of cues from the mood created. It is also worrisome that the media tends to seek out Ignatieff more and more as spokesman. Yesterday I actually heard him say “I haven’t decided”, when answering a question on whether the Liberals would attempt to bring down the government over the Kyoto bill. A small slip of the tongue, but it surely doesn’t cement the chain of command.

What I am getting at here, we can pretend everything is fine, but in mind there is no question that, objectively, the tone towards Dion has changed and this should be of concern. We need to ask ourselves why the sudden change in approach, is this a natural occurrence, or is this an indication of legitimate problems. I believe our prospects are best served by recognizing weak spots and finding ways to address them. Things can change in a week, and probably will, so my opinion is merely a relative snapshot, but I don’t like what I’m seeing. If we’re not careful Dion will be defined by outside forces and that framing will become a hurdle to any future success.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Kyoto's New Ally

The political implications of British Columbia’s aggressive greenhouse gas package is profound. Those that defend Kyoto now have a practical ally, those that throw up their hands are faced with a contradiction. Under Kyoto, Canada was supposed to reduce emissions by 7% in 2012, based on 2000 levels. The government of British Columbia proposes a 10% reduction by 2020, based on 2000 levels- very Kyoto-esque. Emissions in British Columbia have rose above the national average, 35% since 1990. This reality suggests the Tory argument, that Canada can’t meet commitments because of the Liberal failure, are over-stated. If British Columbia can propose an agenda to reduce emissions so much in a comparable time frame, then why can’t Canada as a whole? Important to note, no where do we see carbon trading in the British Columbia proposals to artificially reduce emissions. Translation Mr. Baird, no hot air credits to Russia, no billions lost.

Today, the House of Commons goes through third-reading of the Liberal motion to support Kyoto’s principles. The timing of the ambitious British Columbia proposals provide powerful weight for Kyoto’s proponents. The word doable has found concrete application, and the Conservatives are put on the defensive. The “economic ruin” crowd is also neutered, unless of course they subscribe to the view the Campbell government endorses suicide.

The British Columbian approach is a model for the country as a whole. It demands almost immediate action to reach long-term objectives, objectives that resurrect the spirit of Kyoto. Simple pessimism about targets is revealed as a way to mask inaction. I have a strong feeling that the Kyoto debate has just found a practical champion.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Varoom, Varoom

The decline of the big North American automakers is well known. I recently saw a top ten list of fuel efficient and hybrid cars, nary a big-three car among them. It's hard to feel sorry for the big-three plight, when they seem to be consumed with re-introducing "muscle cars". Don't get me wrong, the Challenger was a neat car, but where is the focus fellas:
The Chrysler entrant in the North American muscle car wars will roar out of Brampton, Ont.,

DaimlerChrysler Canada Inc. announced Tuesday that the Dodge Challenger will be assembled in its Brampton plant about a year from now.

"Quickly bringing desirable new products such as the Dodge Challenger to market is critical to keeping our plants humming and our dealerships busy," Reid Bigland, president of DaimlerChrysler Canada Inc., said in a statement.

The Challenger made its re-entry to the Chrysler world at the 2006 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, but it was overshadowed by the return of a rival, the Chevrolet Camaro from General Motors Corp.

Hmmm, do I want the 425 hp V8 Hemi with a 6-speed Manual or the 350 hp V8 Hemi with a 5-speed AutoStick option. Don't worry, fuel efficiency has improved:
With its 4,100 pound weight, it can do 0-60 in 4.5 seconds (with 20 inch wheels on front and 21 inch wheels on back), and runs the quarter mile in 13 seconds flat; top speed is 174 mph (limited by wind resistance), while gas mileage is estimated at 14 city, 20 highway, very good compared with the original Challenger and roughly the same as today's smallest, most underpowered Hummer.

Small and Hummer seem a strange pair. While the big-three conduct the battle of the "muscle car", other companies pour all their energy into preparing for the new reality. No foresight, now playing catch-up, distracted with silliness. Poor Buzz, he must know he rides the titanic.

UPDATE verbena19 has a related entry, with a telling link.

British Columbia's Bold Plan

British Columbia offers bold emissions plan:
By comparison, under the Kyoto accord Canada is committed to a six per cent cut in greenhouse emissions from 1990 levels by 2012.

The province's green targets were outlined in a throne speech marking the start of the legislative session.

"It is an aggressive target and will set a new standard," said Lt.-Gov. Iona Campagnolo, who read the 42-page speech dominated by the government's new environmental agenda.

The Liberal government's plan aims to reduce B.C.'s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 33 per cent below today's levels by 2020, Campagnolo said.

The target will place B.C.'s greenhouse gas emissions at 10 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, she said.

"Because our emissions have grown so much since 1990, our task of reducing emissions in percentage terms will be that much more difficult."

Mostly talk at this stage, it's hard not to applaud such ambitious targets. British Columbia's emissions have grown more than the national average, which makes Kyoto like targets all the more impressive. I guess British Columbian's should prepare for inevitable economic ruin that such irrational targets suggest. Applause.

Hard not to like any of this:
Giving the dog a bone-• Extend a $2,000 sales tax exemption to anyone who buys a hybrid vehicle.

“Moving to a hybrid car from a four-wheel-drive SUV can cut personal transportation emissions by up to 70 per cent overnight,” the government says. “Beginning this month, all new cars leased or purchased by the provincial government will be hybrid vehicles.”

The government is now telling B.C. Hydro that “all new and existing electricity produced in B.C. will be required to have net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2016.”

That appears to mean a tougher approach to two proposed coal-fired generation stations B.C. Hydro has been proposing, the first such coal-fired generation stations in the province. The Liberal government says B.C. “will become the first jurisdiction in North America, if not the world, to require 100 per cent carbon sequestration for any coal-fired project.”

Under the new energy plan [which will be unveiled in the weeks ahead], British Columbia will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas industry to 2000 levels by 2016,” said the government. “That will include a requirement for zero flaring at producing wells and production facilities.”

Landfills are also going to be told to clean up. The government says it will bring in a law that will phase in technology to capture the methane gas coming from dumps, representing about nine per cent of B.C.’s greenhouse gas emissions.

With 40 per cent of B.C.’s carbon emissions coming from transportation, mainly cars, the automobile is also a key focus in the government’s plan. Consumers will be forced to buy new cars that are cleaner and burn less fuel.

“New tailpipe emission standards for all new vehicles sold in B.C. will be phased in over the period 2009 to 2016,” the speech said. “Those standards will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by some 30 per cent for automobiles.”

With 40 per cent of B.C.’s carbon emissions coming from transportation, mainly cars, the automobile is also a key focus in the government’s plan. Consumers will be forced to buy new cars that are cleaner and burn less fuel.

“New tailpipe emission standards for all new vehicles sold in B.C. will be phased in over the period 2009 to 2016,” the speech said. “Those standards will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by some 30 per cent for automobiles.”

Somebody gets it, they really get it :)

Harper Likely To Win Re-Election

This opinion isn't meant to sound defeatist, but I think it realistic. If I had to quantify Harper's chances for re-election, I would say there is an 80% likelihood. Huh? The polls consistently show a dead heat, which should translate into a 50/50 proposition.

Firstly, the advantage should always lie with the incumbent. Voters aren't likely to turf their MP's unless there is a strong feeling that change is required. I don't see a "kick the bums out" mentality manifesting itself. Although I cringe when I hear Harper refer to the government as "new", that doesn't mean that Canadians have developed a firm opinion of our direction. Governments tend to amass more negatives, alienate more sub-groups, simply as a function of time. The Liberals were shackled with a long paper trail, that was easily picked apart by the opposition. It is debatable whether there are enough contentious issues to fight effectively against the Harper government. Time is also the Liberal enemy, in that, Canadians just changed governments, do they really want to do it again so soon?

What is the lightning rod issue that can bring down the government? In my mind, the environment is the achilles heel. The problem, despite the embarrassing performance to date, the Harper government knows that they must shore up this weakness. Yesterday's announcement was another useful brick, in the effort to "neutralize" the environment. Harper doesn't need to win this issue, he just needs to take it off the front burner. There will still be possibilities for the Liberals on this file, but if the debate gets lost in specifics then Harper has accomplished his goal.

Apart from the environment, what other issues would force Canadians to seek change? The economy is strong, taxcuts are a near certainty, employment high. The Tory social agenda has largely been muted with a minority situation. Foreign policy has many concerns, but I'm not sure there is anything there to merit a change. The "just like Bush" argument is a good one, debatable how that would play out in an election campaign.

The problem, while we political geeks debate the fine points and educate ourselves on all the issues, the average person only has a tertiary interest. If you asked Canadians whether Harper has raised or reduced taxes, I'm willing to bet most would choose the latter, despite the fact groups like the Canadian Taxpayers have concluded otherwise. I question whether Canadians truly appreciate the nature of this government, the relative dis-interest manipulated to convey competence.

There is another caution in the polls, the internals usually show Harper with a strong level of satisfaction. A sense that the government keeps its promises, shows adequate leadership, is trustworthy, are all indicators of how hard it will really be to defeat the government. All things being equal, the devil you know argument may finally work to Harper's favor.

The situation isn't desperate, Harper can be defeated, but I don't think partisanship should cause us to delude ourselves into over-stating the chances. I take some solace in the unpredictable nature of election campaigns. I'm not all doom and gloom, but I'm not sure my disdain is representative of the general sense.

Monday, February 12, 2007


You have to hand it the Prime Minister, this manoeuver is nothing but trouble for the opposition:
Ottawa announced $1.5-billion in new environmental funding Monday, with the cash earmarked to help provinces battle climate change.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper made the announcement in Sherbrooke, Que., alongside Quebec Premier Jean Charest. Quebec's share of the cash would total about $350-million. The money will be available under the Canada Eco-Trust and Clean Air Fund.

The outlay will be contained in the Conservatives' budget and will be part of Ottawa's efforts on the fiscal imbalance, Mr. Harper said.

The money will be available to the provinces once the budget receives approval from Parliament.

Tying this expenditure to budget approval puts the Bloc and the Liberals, in particular, on shaky ground. Harper makes the announcement in Quebec, with a dollar figure attached, Charest by his side. The other provinces are clearly an afterthought, Harper frames the issue- vote for the budget or deny Quebec 350 million. A partial resolution of the fiscal imbalance, the Bloc is cornered. If Duceppe votes against the upcoming budget, then Harper is well-armed heading into an election. Harper challenges the Bloc argument that they are in the H of C to protect Quebec's interest. How do you spin 350 million as bad for Quebec?

The Liberals are also declawed to an extent. I heard one commentary say the Liberals are reduced to complaining, while the Conservatives steal all their initiatives. It is almost irrelevant that the 1.5 billion is almost idential to the 250 million over 5 years the Liberals were negotiating, Harper can claim he got it done. All the signals from the Liberals suggest they will vote against the budget, but this announcement complicates the question. Again, do you want to head into an election voting against a sizable environmental initiative?

The problem, this announcement is actually a good idea. Tied to results, targeted, it's an objectively good plan. It's not a solution, nor does it detract from the bigger questions, but a solid move, even if it lacks originality. From time to time I've questioned the "master strategist" label attached to Harper, but I must say today is a strategic jewel. Harper also said he wants the budget passed, but another angle is he banks on rejection, which now includes the added bonus of punishing Quebec. Today has surely left opposition strategists scratching their heads.

Senate Gets It Right On Afghanistan

It's blunt, not particularly optimistic, but the Senate report on Afghanistan is pretty much accurate. The report embraces the "re-balance" so often vilified by the hawks in our government. If I read the report correctly it concludes we will ultimately fail on our current path, unless we become more assertive and pragmatic. This kind of thinking, sets a good tone:
Senate committee chair Colin Kenny said Canada should expect its allies to step up to the challenge. If that doesn't happen, he says Canada must “take another look” at its mission.

“We cannot stay there forever,” Mr. Kenny said. “The solution has to be in us helping the Afghans solve their problem, and our efforts have to be driven towards that.

Putting NATO on notice, that our commitment isn't open-ended, nor do we follow blindly. If Canada is on the frontlines, then Canada's voice must be heard. This logic applies to the Afghan government as well:
The report also pokes at the Afghan government, led by President Hamid Karzai, for the systemic corruption it says runs rampant through the country's institutions. It says the Karzai government should be pressed to develop a "comprehensive, transparent and effective plan" to reduce corruption as a condition of Canada's long-term commitment.

What I really like about the tone of this report, Canada will not be taken for granted, it will set conditions for our involvement. Too often, we have appeared relatively passive, merely following along, not wanting to step on any toes. This report is somewhat threatening, meet these demands or Canada isn't staying.

I also like the "re-balance" towards infastructure and development:
An 250 extra soldiers and another 50 Canadian police officers – up from 10 currently involved – to instruct the Afghan army and police, and a significant increase the $10-million budget for uniforms, benefits and salaries for Afghan police;

• CIDA to give $20-million from its budget to the Canadian Forces for local development projects run by Afghans until non-government organizations can safely function in Kandahar;

When you think about it, 10 people committed to training is pathetic by any measure. Ultimately, if we ever hope to leave Afghanistan, or at the least diminish our military role, it will coincide with the rise of domestic security. IMHO, we should be POURING money into the Afghan army and police force. This report addresses corruption, which gives some hope that any funding is effective.

This report is blunt, and it asks questions:
the report notes that Taliban fighters have "time and geography on their side.

"Are Canadians willing to commit themselves to decades of involvement in Afghanistan, which could cost hundreds of Canadian lives and billions of dollars ...?" it reads.

Just in case we are idealistic:
“Afghanistan is only remotely connected to the modern world,” it says. “Anyone expecting to see the emergence in Afghanistan within the next several decades of a recognizable modern democracy capable of delivering justice and amenities to its people is dreaming in Technicolor.

No guarantee of anything remotely resembling victory, that is the reality. I think Canadians can accept these sober conclusions, as opposed to the arguments of national pride and romantic language. The fact this report is supported by both Conservative and Liberal Senators should give it more credibility and allow this assessment to be the cornerstone moving forward. I see these declarations as a statement to the other players, don't take Canada for granted.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The National Post: Doubting Thomas

The National Post has a piece, that essentially argues the environmental movement is akin to a religion. Drawing on bad historical analogies, it as though a passion for the planet is relegated to some irrational belief system. It is quite unusual for one media outlet to go after another so overtly, but this comment is striking:
It is there in the pious propaganda of media outlets like the, Toronto Star, which on Jan. 28 made the completely implausible claim that, “The debate about greenhouse gas emissions appears to be over.”

The debate over human activity causing global warming is over, some question of degree and scope, but the thesis confirmed, except for the rouge scientists that groups like the Fraser Institute and The National Post prop up in a mischevious way. I find it hilarious, that the Post takes a shot at the Star, at the same time it is running a LONG series entitled Climate Change: The Deniers, which essentially scours the globe looking for any fringe view to cast doubt. There is an irony is using the word propaganda to attack The Toronto Star.

Anyways, according to the religion hypothesis, this man is a now a saint:

And, what of this man, with the greenish beard:

Behind The Headline

Yesterday, I posted a piece, using the Angus-Reid headline, "Tory Attack Ads Have No Effect in Canada". A pretty strong statement, apparently formed by the overall support numbers which showed little change. I saw this finding as more proof that the Tory attacks ads were a complete failure. However, I didn't actually read the poll internals (my bad), and this was pointed out in the comments. Once I followed the link, I was surprised at the results. The title of the poll is completely misleading, those that favor the "seed" argument have lots to chew on:
Of four characteristics tested, the views of respondents of Dion’s leadership remain practically untouched. Before watching the ads, 45% of respondents agreed that Dion “has what it takes to lead Canada”. Following the ads, the number dropped to 42%. At the same time, the number of respondents who disagree with the statement changed from 38% to 43%.

Dion’s perceived aptitude to manage taxpayer money in an ethical and wise manner garners the largest negative impact, as the percentage of respondents who doubt his abilities rises 10 points from 36% to 46% after watching the ads.

The trustworthiness of the Liberal leader to keep his promises also suffers a slight negative impact, as the number of those who express doubts about Dion rises eight points from 38% to 46%. In both cases, the ad has altered the balance of opinion on these measures from a slightly positive perception to a negative one.

The percentage of respondents who do not believe that Dion will improve Canada’s environment increases seven points from 30% to 37% after watching the ads. However, in this case more Canadians (47%) continue to hold a positive view of Dion.
Regionally, the ads were shown to have the greatest impact on viewers in Eastern Canada, particularly in Ontario. The ads were also shown to have a more significant impact on female respondents—both demographics of special interest for the Conservatives.

Those with no firm opinion of the Liberal leader are the most susceptible to the Tory campaign. Over time, the Conservative strategy could prove most effective among undecided voters.

If the goal of an attack ad is too raise doubts, particularly amongst soft supporters, then the above suggests relative success. Dion takes a 7 point hit on the environment, an 8 point hit on trustworthiness, a 10 point hit on ethics and a 5 point hit on leadership. Overall support remains the same, but the ads seem to bring up Dion's negatives, which is a primary goal of these ads. Also, the poll concludes the ads had the most effect in Ontario and women, two demographics critical to the Tories.

I retreat from my earlier conclusion, and I'm not sure how anyone can publish that headline, given the internals. Does that mean the ads were a rousing success? No, and we have other evidence to support that thesis. However, there is some erosion here, the "seeds" argument finds weight. The final line, that the ads could prove effective with undecideds is a key conclusion, because afterall that is the target audience, not hardcore partisans. The goal is too create doubt, while the ads haven't manifested in terms of support, Tories may find some comfort behind the headline.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Have To Love This Headline: "Tory Attack Ads Have No Effect in Canada"

Unless of course you're Jason Kenney. The first time we get a sense of negatives:
The television spots released by the Conservative party to question the traits of Liberal leader Stéphane Dion had a negligible impact on the perceptions of Canadians, according to a poll by Angus Reid Strategies.

The survey allowed respondents to watch three advertisements in their computers through an embedded video link. Before viewing the ads, 40 per cent of respondents said Dion would make the best prime minister, while 36 per cent selected current head of government and Conservative leader Stephen Harper. After viewing the spots, the percentages remained almost identical, with Dion at 39 per cent and Harper at 36 per cent.

Of the following two federal party leaders, which one do you think would be the best prime minister of Canada?

(After watching the ads)

Now, of the following two federal party leaders, which one do you think would be the best prime minister of Canada?


Stéphane Dion (Lib.)

Stephen Harper (Con.)

Don’t know

Some seeds don't take, especially when the climate is wrong and the ground of poor quality.

H/T to Scott Tribe

Dion Honeymoon Over

I've noticed a subtle shift in the media attitude towards Dion this past week. The "free ride" that Conservatives have complained about would appear to be over. I never viewed Dion's positive press as unique, every new leader or government is afforded a honeymoon (try to find a negative Harper piece last March). You need time and evidence before you start to frame a new leader.

I watched a political roundtable of reporters, on the CBC, that was quite critical of Dion. One line of attack, Dion has given Ignatieff too high a profile, the side by side, weakens Dion's presence. Keep in mind, these are the same people who applauded Dion for uniting the "fractured" Liberal Party only a few weeks ago. Harper likes to stand alone, and you could argue this solidifies the image of strong leader. Dion chooses a more collective approach, but I suppose there is a danger in being outshined by others, which diminishes Dion's stature.

The above criticism, ties into another one mentioned, and I believe this one has merit. Reading from a text, in a mostly stilted manner, hasn't benefited Dion in question period. Now, you can debate the importance of the exercise, but the fact of the matter, the media pays attention and forms alot of opinions, based on how you perform in the "arena". Objectively, the Conservatives have largely pounded Dion's questioning. The questions are posed in such a way that they provide EASY rebuttal. Dion hasn't looked comfortable and Harper has clearly gotten the better of him to date. This reality may explain the "outshined" argument, because it is important for the leader of the opposition to lead the charge- so far, others have clearly been more effective.

The linked piece, and the roundtable, both mention some nervousness in Liberal circles over Dion's leadership. This view is probably overstated, but it detracts from the view that the party is united. The criticism also validates the Conservative attacks that Dion isn't leadership material. It will be up to Dion to show a forcefulness that silences this line of criticism.

Some people dismiss polls as useful, we waste far too much energy dissecting every result. This might be true in one sense, but the reality is the media takes many of its cues from polling. I see a direct co-relation, and the polls were used as backdrop, for the changing tone towards Dion. Do we hear these criticisms if the Liberals enjoy a 5 point lead? I doubt it very much, the relatively "weak" polling allows the media to attack Dion with validated cover. Polls shape the debate, whether we agree or not.

The honeymoon is officially over, now it is up to Dion to provide forceful rebuttal, before any gel starts to set.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Coup d'etat

A couple points, as a followup to The Galloping Beaver post on the looming constitutional crisis over Kyoto. If you ignore the bluster from the Tories, it would appear the constitutional experts agree that the Conservatives are boxed into a corner. Does anyone believe the Tories would allow themselves to face lawsuits over this matter? This kind of rhetoric is disaster:
"It's almost launching a coup d'etat — to say: 'I don't care what the Commons says; I don't care what the Senate says; I don't care what all of Parliament says; I'll do what I want. I'm the new king of Canada.'

"You can't do that."

When this vote passes, and eventually makes its way through the Senate, the clock starts ticking. There is no way the Tories will allow themselves to go through this quagmire, and for that reason, the chances of orchestrated fall on the budget just became more likely. The primary election focus Kyoto, or taxcuts and a myriad of other goodies, methinks the Tories choose the latter option. The last thing in the world Stephen Harper wants is an election with Kyoto the cause. The opposition, by contrast, would like nothing more than a battle on this ground.

If this issue plays out as speculated, then I see no political will to spruce up the Clean Air Act. If the Tories wish to go down this path, only an idiot would throw them a lifeline. As a matter of fact, with each successive day, there would be less incentive to help Harper "neutralize". Harper could force the issue, if he had legislation to argue during an election, but with nothing he's naked in the Kyoto wind. You can argue the semantics of Kyoto forever, but the word has become more than the initiative, it stands for something, which keeps the government on the defensive. I don't think Canadians really understand the nuances, they just know it means reducing emissions, rejecting Kyoto is equated to not accepting this premise. Fighting an election campaign, arguing the flaws of Kyoto is a political loser.

Let's see how this plays out, but if the scenario moves the way Dana suggests, the government might have no choice but to force their failure on the budget. The only caveat, the opposition could unite and pass the budget, no matter the tenets, with the full knowledge that complete embarrassment lies on the horizon.

Attack Ad Feedback

Finally, some polling that I am trust as reliable. SES weighs in, with a post attack ad poll, and the results show a dead heat. Of note:
National- Conservatives 33%, Liberals 33%, NDP 17%, Green 7%

Ontario- Liberals 38%, Conservatives 36%, NDP 18%, Green 9%

Quebec- Bloc 37%, Liberals 27%, Conservatives 20%

West- Conservatives 41%, Liberals 30%, NDP 20%, Green 9%

East- Liberals 45%, Conservatives 28%, NDP 22%, Green 4%

This poll is essentially unchanged since the last SES poll in November. The Conservatives have bounced back in Quebec, up 8 points. Interesting that the Tory resurgence comes in a province where the attack ads haven't ran. Tory support is unchanged in Ontario, well down in the West and the Atlantic provinces.

Liberal support has fallen in Ontario, with the NDP and Greens picking up the difference. This is the first post-convention SES poll, and it shows a considerable leap in the West, solid support in Quebec and big jump in the Atlantic (although the Atlantic margin of error is huge).

I'd still like to hear some Dion negative numbers before I completely conclude the attack ads irrelevant, but these results are far more comforting than yesterday's. This is the poll you take to the bank in my mind, and in the words of Dana, it confirms the fact that Canadians are mostly "confused". Something for everyone, no clear indication of anything.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Party Pooper

Olaf, at The Prairie Wrangler posts the results from the first post-attack ads poll and the numbers are certainly interesting:
National horse race numbers give the Harper Tories their strongest score since a week before the 2006 election, 38% to 31% for the Liberals, 14% for the NDP and 8% for the Bloc.

• Tory strength in Ontario too: 40% to 35% for Liberals.

• Quebec numbers are a very different story: while the Tories (24%) are only a point below their 2006 election score and have essentially erased their bad summer scores in Quebec, the Liberals are at 32%, which is three points higher than in another house's poll a week ago and that party's highest score in Quebec since the Adscam audit. The Bloc, at 31%, continues to slide

As I already said at Olaf's, those Ontario numbers seem somewhat odd, given the other regional breakdowns of recent polls, which show the Liberals with a big lead. Did the attack ads have a positive result for the Tories? I want to see some more polling before I backoff my earlier "gloating" about those ads being a failure, but these numbers do give you pause.

To clarify, I agree that attack ads work, and I see the merit in the "seed" argument. I just don't think these ads were particularly strong, in fact they were surprisingly amateurish, given the warchest available. I also think these type of ads, prior to an election, are unprecedented, which makes predictability, based on past successes, all the more problematic. In addition, these ads are unique, in that the media is afforded complete focus, far different from the barrage of an election campaign. Were people's impressions of the ads formed through viewing, or were they aware, first, from the abundant coverage? I would argue the coverage was less than favorable, and allowed for plenty of partisan rebuttal, which furthers my opinion that the ads weren't effective. Having said that, I doubt many Liberal strategists are smiling at the Leger results.

Parliament Website Is a Dud

Almost everytime I visit the Parliament of Canada website, I generally end up leaving frustrated. How is that CNN can post transcipts in two hours, but we have to wait a day, to several days, or never, to get relevant information from our government? By the time the information is posted, it is literally "yesterday's" news. If the goal is too allow Canadians access to their system, then this site is largely failing.

Case in point, I keep trying to get some information for the subcommittee on the Clean Air Act. I shouldn't have to rely on scattered CSPAN coverage, but if you actually visit the subcommittee homepage (once you manage to find it), you find you are better off reading a soundbite or two in the mainstream press. No transcripts, apparently no new meetings scheduled (it said the same yesterday, then presto, we have a meeting this morning), pretty much NOTHING. I want to know what is going on, what is said, uncensored, so I can form my own opinions. The government needs to do a much better job of allowing real access, and this sub-site serves as proof. If anyone wants to bother checking out the link please do, and tell me if I'm just cranky or my criticisms are valid. If anyone agrees, you can complain here-

Same Sh*#, Different Pile

Pardon the title, but it seems appropriate. I'm a realist when it comes to patronage, I view it as a natural occurrence. The old adage "it's not what you know, it's who you know" manifests itself daily in the private sector, so why should we expect the public sector to act differently? It's human nature to reward friends and acquaintances, afterall they're your friends. We've all leaned on people we know to help us get an edge, in a myriad of ways. In fact, there is a certain admirable quality to assisting others, you could even call it loyalty.

Today, I read the following:
The federal cabinet has named a Toronto pharmaceutical distributor with close ties to Health Minister Tony Clement and a company division in India to a government agency that promotes trade and business contacts between Asia and Canada.

The appointment -- which a New Democratic MP says fails the "smell test" -- was included in a round of patronage appointments Prime Minister Stephen Harper has approved over the past three months.

The other plums in the latest round include a second government posting for Barbara McDougall, a cabinet minister in Brian Mulroney's Progressive Conservative government, a $107,000-a-year post for former Progressive Conservative MP Angela Vautour and agency posts for four former provincial Progressive Conservative legislative members from three provinces.

Here is what gets a rise out of me, more than the actual patronage itself. The Conservatives ran the last campaign in a morally arrogant way. Harper put himself on this ethical pedestal, while simultaneously scolding the Liberals as the "party of patronage and cronyism". The claims of moral superiority bother me, especially when they fail to recognize basic human nature. This tendency is largely the domain of the right, the claims of infallibility that affords them the right to pass judgment on others.

The Conservative patronage appointments demonstrate clearly that nothing has changed, this group is consistent with past governments. "New" is actually "quite old". All I ask, pick qualified people and keep the practice within reason, nothing too obscene. What have we learned, the Harper government doesn't tower above us in angelic light, it walks amongst the ordinary others, flawed and imperfect. The horror.

More shocking revelations. Oink, oink!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Canadians Most Tolerant

This is the kind of survey where being last is great:
Canadians are least likely among citizens of 23 western countries to have bigoted attitudes toward Muslims, according to a new international study that measured the level of “Islamophobia” in each nation.

More than 32,000 respondents from 19 European countries, plus Canada, the U.S., Australia and New Zealand, were asked the question: “Would you like to have a person from this group as your neighbour?”

Of the nearly 2,000 people surveyed in Canada only 6.5 per cent said they would not like to live beside a Muslim. Respondents in Greece (20.9 per cent), Belgium (19.8), Norway (19.3) and Finland (18.9) were most likely to answer “No” to the question.

Results in Britain and the U.S. were 14.1 per cent and 10.9 per cent respectively, and the average percentage of negative responses across all western countries was 14.5 per cent...

The Love Thy Neighbour study also gauged the level of intolerance in each country for four other groups: immigrants in general, people of another race, Jews and homosexuals.

Canadians ranked among the most tolerant nations in each of those categories, as well. Fewer than five per cent of respondents from Canada said they wouldn’t want to have a neighbour who is Jewish, an immigrant or of a different race.

It's all relative, but this solidifies Canada as a tolerant nation, that accepts everyone- well except for the queers:
Homosexuals were more likely than any other group — in Canada and nearly every other country — to be shunned by a potential neighbour. Just over 17 per cent of Canadians said they would not want a gay person living next door; the overall percentage for western nations was 19.6, with Italy (28.7) and Sweden (six per cent) at the opposite ends of the range.

Apart from this disgrace, it makes you think Canada is building the great society and model for the world.

Dion Attack Ads: Thud, Crash, Boom

The Tory ads to discredit Dion have failed miserably:
A new poll suggests Canadians are not impressed by Conservative party TV ads that attempt to discredit new Liberal Leader Stephane Dion.
The survey by Decima Research found that 38 per cent of respondents -- out of a sample of more than 1,000 -- recalled seeing the attack ads.
But among the 388 Canadians who remember watching the unusual, non-election-period political advertising, 59 per cent said the ads were not fair in how they described Dion. Only 22 per cent felt the ads were fair.

The fact that only 22% thought the ads fair is a telling number, given it is actually below the Tory’s base support. Thud, crash, boom. Once again Harper’s over-zealous politicism has backfired, he looks like a bully and Dion garners sympathy. The other good news, Harper has essentially wasted his main attack line for the election. I doubt it will have the same resonance after these attack ads, it may actually benefit Dion to have it on the table now. A complete failure all around, and well deserved.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


I want to compare the comments from two leaders, both of which spoke to the Canadian Council for Israel. Which one demonstrates grace and which one attempts to make a sensitive topic a wedge-issue, playing to the lowest common denominator?:

Stephen Harper:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper painted his political rivals as fairweather friends of Israel and said he will stand by the Jewish state even if costs him politically.

"We got a pretty sharp reminder that it's one thing to offer supportive words to Israel when it's convenient," he said.

"And (it's) quite another to stand firm in its hour of need. . . When it was not popular to do so, we stood and told the truth. Israel had a friend that mattered.

"And that, my friends, is the only thing that really counts."

Stephane Dion:
Addressing the same audience later Tuesday evening, Liberal Leader Stephane Dion warned that the cause of Israel should never be treated as a domestic political football.

"Supporting the right of Israel to exist in a secure and peaceful Middle East is not a Liberal cause or a Conservative cause," Dion said in the prepared text of his remarks.

"It is not, and it must never be. It is a Canadian cause. It is the common cause of every democracy.

"That's why I am so proud to be here tonight, not just as a Liberal but as a Canadian, to toast Israel and Canada's partnership with her."

The Liberal Party is not "anti-Israel", and it really grates me that Harper favors scoring cheap political points with a desirable constituent, rather than act like a statesman. Dion, on the other hand, states the obvious and attempts to bring the issue back where it belongs, beyond partisan politics. Despite Harper simplistic analysis of the Lebanon conflict, the entire affair had many layers. Showing some concern for innocent civilians doesn't translate into "anti-Israel". I guess the American administration's recent concerns about the use of cluster bombs means that Israel has lost another friend.

The way Harper approaches Israel is quite revealing. It tells us that Harper likes to frame issues as us vs them, it's divisive and shows no understanding of nuance. Harper also shows us his hyper-politicism, that makes everything partisan, every sentence targeted. Harper already has credibility with the Jewish community, it does him no favors to take the low road to further his support- but, he can't help himself, as he demonstrates time and time again. Harper says Canada will be more "assertive" on the world stage, the more he articulates his approach, the more he should stay home, it's embarrassing.

BTW, history will view the war in Lebanon as a colossal failure, that did exactly what detractors envisoned- emboldened extremists and sent Lebanon back into chaos that will only further de-stabilize the region. History will also show, if it hasn't already, that there was nothing "measured" about the entire affair. Is Israel safer as a result of this war, the recent evidence screams no.