Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Year In Review

A review of the year that was:



I predict more of the same in 2009.

Happy New Year, should be a fascinating one to say the least :)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

More Coalition Feedback

Hat tip to Big City Lib. A new Compass poll, which asks a mirade of questions on the coalition, how the Liberals should choose leaders, and oh, btw a horserace question, with largely predictable and already replicated results.

What this poll reveals, or more correctly, what is relevant moving forward, another finding that shows just how unpopular a coalition is with the Canadian public. It's so unpopular in this poll that we find contradictory results. For example, Canadians largely disagree with the process of installing Ignatieff, without a proper democratic expression, that doesn't consult the rank and file (the result is expected, especially when you ask if people prefer elitism or democracy). Okay, so Canadians disapprove of the Liberals installing Ignatieff. However, and this is key, when asked if "Liberal politicians in Ottawa were right to force Stephane Dion to step down immediately because his coalition with the NDP and Bloc Quebecois was so unpopular", all of sudden the vast majority suddenly think it was right to turf Dion (63% to 37%). The Liberals shouldn't choose leaders through an elitist process, but when you connect the question to the dreaded coalition, it's fine by me. I consider the disconnect here to be another stark example of the poison that is the coalition. The pollster also points to the "conflicting results".

More bad news for the coalition, not only is it largely unpopular, but Canadians aren't particularly engaged, they can't really decipher the difference between what Dion agreed too, and what Ignatieff is now arguing ("a coalition if necessary, but not necessarily...). Apparently, we just see separatists, socialists and a powergrab, don't expect a detaled analysis of the merits:
The Liberals are not successful at distancing themselves from the coalition policy that enraged Canadian voters and led to Dion’s premature departure in early December. Almost half of Canadians (46%) consider the current policy of “a coalition if necessary but not necessarily a coalition” to be essentially the same as the Liberal policy under Dion, as shown in table 2f. Irrespective of whether they perceive the policy as the same or different from under Dion, a 58% majority considers the new Liberal policy as bad policy, as shown in table 2f.

The continuation of the Liberal commitment to the coalition idea is a major reason explaining why Liberal support is stalled despite having a new leader.

Liberal commitment to the coalition idea harms the Liberals not only because of public opposition to the policy itself but also because the policy reinforces public perceptions of the party as unauthentic. During the height of the controversy over the coalition in early December, most Canadians believed the Opposition parties were motivated mainly or entirely by a desire for power rather than by an honest belief that Harper was a bad manager of the economy

Here's where all the Conservatives can get weak in the knee, the horserace numbers:
Cons 43%
Libs 30%
NDP 13%
Greens 8%
Bloc 6%

The pollster concludes that the only reason the Liberal number is up, because they are drawing support away from their coalition parties, but also hemorrhaging to the Conservatives. I don't really buy that argument, you could easily make the case that much of the NDP erosion in the west is moving directly to the Cons, although the Quebec numbers do suggest some Bloc support moving the Libs way (Libs 42%, Bloc 28%, Cons 16%, NDP 7%- don't get too excited, margin of error is large with a 600 national sample). Anyways, I'll make the same point I made a BCL's and prior, any pollster that asks coalition questions will get these horserace numbers, people simply reject the idea and flock to the party that has no role. I'm actually surprised the Lib vote is this high, considering the Con total, but it's mostly a whatever for me, unless of course we jump off the coalition cliff, then they're real baby. For now, I'll stick with the AR horserace only poll, that showed a much closer result, and also showed how far Harper's stature has fallen, because of this crisis. These coalition polls tend to mask Harper's role, and I maintain the damage is real and sustained. I'm sure the Conservative koolaid crowd will disagree, but if they want to delude themselves, have it at, works for me.

Conclusion. Unless Harper goes the poison pill route, or the budget so misses the mark to be obscene, the coalition is an albatross that any prudent person should avoid. That's my view, and the above poll is just further validation.

Be Afraid


At the moment, I would argue both sides are wrong, whatever real and reasonable justifications Israel had are being lost in the severe response. Pulling away from the current state, I look to the potential horizon and see something far more dangerous. If there is one Israeli leader that strikes me as just as rigid and extreme as supposed enemies, it's Benjamin Netanyahu. The fact Netanyahu is poised to become the next Prime Minister, if the February elections play out as expected, is something that should alarm everyone, because make no mistake, if you think the situation is bad now, a Bibi reign will make it look friendly.

I almost can't believe that this far right ideologue, is on the cusp of a complete political comeback, but then again Israeli politics are so confusing and complex, anything is always possible. Whatever your view of the current crisis, everyone largely agrees that the only ultimate solution is moving forward with the peace process. With that objective reality in mind, just think of the climate, should Israel have a leader who unequivocally rejects every tenet of a possible deal. Jerusalem is off the table, Palestinian refugees are out in the cold, complete withdrawal a non-starter, rejects a Palestinian state, rejects any return of land, favors not only maintained settlements but wants to expand them, you pick the area of debate, Bibi has no appetite for any of it.

I maintain, that if this egomanical, right-wing hawk, who makes Sharon look like a hippy, takes control, the Middle East will deteriorate to a state that will make recent events look like peace in their time. Be afraid, and let's hope the convention wisdom changes, Netanyahu is denied, because this is one scary man, who would enter at the worst possible time.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Bill Casey Supports Withdrawal?

With recent events, adding to an objective worsening circumstance this year, it is hardly surprising to hear the following rationale, and it's certainly something to consider:
After attending the funeral for another young Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan, Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley MP Bill Casey is beginning to feel it may be time to end an unwinnable mission.

Casey attended the funeral last Monday of Cpl. Thomas Hamilton in Upper Musquodoboit. The 26-year-old was killed on Dec. 13 when a roadside bomb destroyed his armoured vehicle.

His death represented the fifth fatality from Casey's riding and he's wondering if the price is becoming too high and if there is a clear direction for Canada's mission that's supposed to end in 2011.

"I just do not feel if we're paying the attention that we should to this issue and I'm not sure we're addressing the way we should," Casey said. "I think we should re-evaluate our mission all the time and if we come to the conclusion that it's not a winnable conflict then we should be coming home."

There's nothing worse than a "stay the course" mentality, which fails to constantly re-examine the situation. Whether it's a question of refocusing our main thrust in Afghanistan, moving away from missions which are largely futile, I don't know, but the lack of debate at the moment seems entirely inappropriate. Things are getting quite bad in Afghanistan, whatever your empirical measure, evidence exists to support failure. On that score, this graph details the yearly coalition casualty figures, and the trend line provides alarming support for a pragmatic view, despite the apparent timetable:


Opponents of the war will rightly point out, that all of these trends didn't begin after the recent extension. That is entirely true, but I was of the view that it was the emphasis of the mission that was flawed, not the spirit of the commitment. What I want to know now, are we having any success with re-construction and re-training, or are we still largely pre-occupied with the "whack a mole" routine? As I interpreted the latest extension, it was to bring a move away from the military and more towards helping Afghans take control of their own country. With the recent surge in Canadian deaths, we hear arguments that much of this is due to increased "engagement" with the enemy, a more "aggressive" approach. That reality doesn't seem to jive with a changing mission, in fact it seems like more of the same, that we've now heard for years.

I hope we start hearing more Bill Casey's ask some tough questions, because we largely seem to be on auto-pilot at the moment, the artificial deadline effectively stifling any subsequent debate. The situation is evolving, and if we're unable to move on our stated goals, then the question changes on the 2011 commitment. It all seems a bit too quiet, given the circumstances, that passivity worrisome.

Seeing Red, Instead Of Green

I support 99% of all "green" initiatives, but one glaring exception is the electric-powered ZENN car. I first heard of the Quebec manufactured operation on the CBC, and I couldn't understand why a domestic automaker faced so many roadblocks getting its environmentally friendly product onto the streets. The big automakers conspiring to keep the little car that could down, bureaucracy getting in the way of new technology, it all just seemed wrong, wrong, wrong. What the CBC report failed to mention, was a simple fact that completely explained the hesitations- this ZENN car is the equivalent of unleashing a squadron of 80 year old, half blind drivers on our roads. The prospects of a car, with a MAXIMUM speed of 40km, touring our roads is a stupid idea, for a myriad of reasons. I would favor government investment, to improve the technology, but until this ZENN car literally "gets up to speed", the downside outweighs any perceived benefit.

An article today on some possible plans for the ZENN in Ontario, speed and safety the chief concerns:
Help is on the way for struggling automakers in Ontario.

No -- not those struggling automakers from Detroit with their smoggy SUVs and corporate jets -- but Canada's builders of low-speed electric vehicles (LSVs), the perky but unproven technology that could jumpstart the green economy.

"LSVs are a new kind of vehicle and it will take a new set of standards to allow them to be safely driven on Ontario roads," Transportation Minister Jim Bradley said after releasing a National Research Council study on the vehicles' safety earlier this month.

"Based on the study results -- and after consulting with manufacturers, municipalities and stakeholders -- we plan to announce LSV safety standards and the rules of the road for LSVs this winter."

LSVs are powered by electric motors and rechargeable batteries and reach a top speed of 40 km/h.

They are currently allowed only in parks, some university campuses and gated communities but a recent pilot project in Quebec is unleashing them on public roadways, provided they have additional safety features.

I don't view the above as "help", in fact it's a hinderance to productivity and challenges common sense. I used the aging senior analogy, not to be cruel, but because we've all seen the parades of motorists following the little old lady, who's travelling well below the speed limit. If there is a more dangerous circumstance on our roads, than watching driver after driver take chances trying to get around what amounts to a moving obstacle, I haven't seen it. Oh sure, one could argue, everyone should just slow down, what's the big hurry? That logic is a fine ideal, but it has no relationship to the realities of busy life, nor does it acknowledge driving habits, which aren't about to change, because some subpar car is introduced. That's right, "subpar", this ZENN car (apparently there is another generation on the way, with better performance) simply doesn't cut it, based on standards established for our roads. I'd rather focus on environmental energies on technologies which actually achieve performance requirements, the new Volt comes to mind (top speed above anything required, based on road limits).

I sense a great deal of pressure to get the ZENN car on the road, a combination of environmental want and domestic production. I think it wrong, to treat any "green" technology as an absolute, because this ZENN car is a liability, it's performance so woeful, to be almost a joke. This ZENN car will kill people, one because it's safety performance is wanting, two because it's speed is a complete hazard. Maximum speed of 40km, what happens when you have a slight head wind for the light vehicle, dare to dream 35km? Good grief, sounds like a nightmare from here. The argument of "selected" roads the great appeaser, but all that tells me is this car is a practical dud at the moment. Let's get the ZENN up to snuff first, before we subject the vast majority of drivers to this melon. I don't see green, I see red.

UPDATE

Note the side view impact angle, at a lowly 40km. Reminds me of a boot and a pop can:



Quality. Safe. Peppy. This is the 21st century?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Attitude

In some ways, one of Stephen Harper's "accomplishments", is the way in which he has gotten into the heads of many Liberals. Much of this psychological worry is the result of what occurred under the leadership of Stephane Dion, the "war room", the "chess master", the well funded machine that aims for the jugular, all congealed into an almost paranoia of what Harper would do next, what is he plotting? I have a certain measure of respect for the Conservatives, and their operation. But, I've also always believed that the Harper persona is largely hype, this isn't a great leader, as a matter of fact his political tin ear and real limitations, make him entirely ordinary, someone to watch carefully, but not someone to fear or worry about, to the point of self induced paralysis. Pretty easy to look superior, when your opponent has been fighting with one hand tied behind it's back for two elections.

Attitude is everything, what you convey to the public is half the battle. With that in mind, one of the main reasons that I'm genuinely giddy at the prospects of Ignatieff at the helm, is his complete and utter lack of intimidation. Ignatieff brings a different sense of confidence to the Liberals, and that is where leadership is key, it sets a tone that trickles down to the rank and file, and from that, to the broader public. Michael Ignatieff has NO fear of Stephen Harper, as a matter of fact he is prone to subtle jabs, which reveal his authentic belief that he can truly "take him down". Another example of this attitude today, in response to a typical question on CTV today:
Taber: "One of the criticisms, you're a bit too professitorial, you're a bit too aloof, you lack the common touch. What do you say to that?"

Ignatieff: "Well, just show me going door to door across the country. I'll take my chances against that great popular man of the people Stephen Harper, any day of the week."

Said with a sly smile, completely unnerved and telling, a terrific response to a silly question. What I find exciting, Ignatieff seems to understand his adversary. Concerns about his persona aside, Ignatieff rightly points out, that Stephen Harper isn't exactly a compelling figure, that Canadians feel some deep affinity for, he's not gifted, he's not someone to fear. That's the general sense I get from Ignatieff, it's not a lack of respect, it's just a self confidence that appreciates much of the ordinary in his opponent. That confidence is infectious, and it's a crucial primary element that is key to any eventual success.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Thanks Jane

Jane Taber receives a lot of unwarranted criticism from many in the blogosphere, for her tabloid approach to journalism. Some view Taber as a gossip hound, but today's column shows her keen political analysis, that leaves the reader wondering if she possesses an extra sense, that others can only read in awe. On Ignatieff's moves in the coming year, this mind numbing prediction:
Watch for Mr. Ignatieff and his Liberals to support the budget to avoid an election or trying to govern as leader of the coalition with the NDP, supported by the Bloc.

Wow, watch for it, you heard it here first. So, the Liberals will either vote for the budget, or vote against it and move on the coalition. How was Taber able to decipher the potential Liberal moves, does she possess a crystal ball?

I have a couple of my own "watch for it" predictions, along the same vein:

-In 2009, there will be another federal election, or there won't be.

-The Liberals will improve on their fundraising, unless they don't raise more money.

That's all I can come up with right now, but then again I'm not a seasoned political commentator, armed with "insider" knowledge and exceptional instinct.

Friday, December 26, 2008

After The Holidays

Let's hope the holiday pause doesn't let Conservative regional organizer, ethnic outreach, now industry "aide" Georganne Burke off the hook, for what amounts to inexcusable bullying and threats. Just an "aide", well not quite, Burke has done extensive work for the Conservative Party, developing their ethnic strategy, particularly with the Jewish community. Nothing less than termination is acceptable, turning a non-partisan expression of inclusion into a political powerplay, with threats to boot:
On Sunday, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff attended a menorah lighting ceremony at Toronto's Zareinu Educational Centre, but according to organizers, a Conservative aide tried to shut the event down and block Ignatieff from attending.

Georganne Burke, who works for the Minister of State Gary Goodyear within Industry Canada, also insinuated that having Ignatieff at the ceremony could pose a problem for the school, according to event organizer Gary Gladstone.

"I am advising you that Georganne Burke called me this evening at about 10:30 pm (on Sunday) enraged, advising me for the benefit of the Jewish community the menorah lighting should be cancelled," Gladstone wrote in an email obtained by CTV News.

"(Burke) further went on to say that she felt it would do serious damage to Zareinu to have the event there," he said in the email.

Rabbi Mendy Zirkind, who arranged Iganitieff's appearance, said that Conservative MP Peter Kent was also invited to the event. However, Burke still did everything in her power to try and stop the event from occurring, Zirkind added.

If anyone doubts that the Conservatives punish non-compliance, recent history suggests otherwise. It really is unfathomable, this attitude that because the Conservatives, under Burke, had made considerable "outreach" efforts, it should equate to complete political loyalty, it's as though this community should be viewed as "property". How else can you reconcile such an indignant attitude, at the mere prospect of Liberal being invited to an event, an event that also was to include a Conservative? What this reaction should tell the Jewish community, the Conservatives view them as a monolith, that should be beholden to a certain party, or else. Staggering, when you think it through, offensive to the core.

After the holidays, let's hope Georganne Burke's behavior is re-visited, as it should be, with the ultimate conclusion being her termination. And, let it be another reminder, that genuine outreach and "concerns" are an illusion, just another subset to cultivate for political gain, cold and calculated, despite the warm smiles. Feel the manufactured love, or feel our wrath.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays



Hope everyone enjoys the holidays :)

Ignatieff Interview

Ignatieff interview with the Globe and Mail, and his comments on the coalition sound strangely similar to recent one's by Jack Layton:
Mr. Ignatieff, installed as Liberal Leader earlier this month, expressed pessimism that the Harper government would unveil a budget in January that his party could support.

“The thing that frankly concerns me is that the autumn statement so failed the test of leadership that Canadians required of the situation, that I'm not optimistic that the government will come up with a budget that meets Canada's needs,” Mr. Ignatieff said.

“But I live in hope, as it were, that Mr. Harper will rise to the demands of the hour.”
At the very least, that kind of attitude keeps the pressure on.

Ignatieff also commented on a possible future election theme, one that may resonate, although it's pretty involved:
“The market meltdown has been a moment of truth for conservative ideology, and a moment of validation for liberal ideology,” Mr. Ignatieff said.

I think you can make a pretty powerful argument now, for the benefits of regulation and government intervention in the market. People have a graphic example of the dangers of laissez-faire economics, the amoral market, that fails to put public interest ahead of self-interest. If one was ever to make the case against conservatism, Ignatieff has found his moment, but it must be a concise argument. Whatever the eventual budget, it is important to demonstrate that Harper revised, only as a matter of last resort, completely reactive rather than proactive. More an acknowledgement of philosophical failure, than doing what's necessary. It will be interesting to see how Ignatieff makes the case, because while it rejects the Harper ideology, it also breathes new life into the Liberal identity.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Returning the Favor?



What others are suggesting, not myself ;):

Andrew Mitrovica, a journalism instructor at Sheridan College, near Toronto, says that agreement raises questions about Duffy's political leanings in the past. Mitrovica, a former investigative reporter for the Globe and Mail, said Duffy should have turned down the offer.

"Mike Duffy and I are friends. We've exchanged e-mails on a number of issues. But I feel Mr. Duffy has made a terrible choice here, a terrible choice," he said.

Stephen Ward, a former political reporter who later went on to head the Centre for Journalism Ethics at the University of B.C., said he believes journalists have a right to accept Senate appointments. However, he added Monday's events will prompt valid questions about the relationships both journalists had prior to their appointment.

"Did one, or both of them, [act] nicely to the sitting prime minister or to the Conservatives to be favoured with this appointment?" he said. "It's a legitimate public issue. I don't think Mr. Duffy was hanging around Mr. Harper looking for a Senate appointment. But I do think people wonder."

Christopher Waddell, a journalism professor at Ottawa's Carleton University, says the timing of the offer is an important piece of the puzzle.

"It's always the same thing, which is when were you approached and how much time were you seriously considering it and what were you doing during that period when you were seriously considering another job offer," he said.

National Post editorial:
'Long-time CTV Parliament Hill journalist Mike Duffy is an exceptional selection"

Monday, December 22, 2008

I Wonder If Jacques Parizeau Approves?



According to Stephen Harper, anything that makes Jacques Parizeau happy is bad for Canada. Remember the Conservative fear factory arguing the coalition was supposed to give the Bloc Senate seats, but the Conservatives beat them too it, appointing a former PQ MNA, who fought with Parizeau in the 1995 referendum. What, you couldn't find 18 "Canadians" to appoint?

Now, apologists will argue that Rivard once ran for the Alliance under Stockwell Day, but then again Day was always cozy with separatists, so that's consistent.

Well Earned


Finally, all that grossly biased coverage has paid dividends. The tomato is off to the Senate and we can now all dispense with any talk that Duffy was ever a "journalist".

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Speaking of Canadian Public Support

Harper's pet rationalization for trying to decapitate party subsidies, is this notion that the public strongly supports the measure. Nevermind, it's based on an after the fact poll, Harper now spins it all into him simply acting in the public's interest, a measure that reflects their wishes, during an economic slowdown.

I'm just curious if someone could commission a poll on this piece of spite, on my dime. You're own people say you did, it was entirely orchestrated and deliberate, anyone with common sense, who doesn't get a cheesy form Christmas card from Harper, knows it. And yet, Canadians are expected to foot the bill, so you can try and split hairs, because nobody challenges these Conservatives. Let's focus on the economy shall we and drop the frivilous lawsuits because the kids got caught in the cookie jar.

Yes, let's get some public feedback on this matter. I'm willing to bet people tell you, in overwhelming fashion, stop wasting our time and money, pony up and quit clogging the courts for an enternity. And, the KICKER, part of the reason for the legal action, you didn't get you PUBLIC PARTY FUNDING money back. Think about that full circle fact, there's a name for it.

A Flip Flopper With NO Peer

Things are happening so fast, the flip flops coming at warp speed, I thought I'd do a small compilation. All these, and more, in just a matter of weeks and days. Stephen Harper:


* Said if a recession were to occur, it was "his view that it would have happened already" in October. Yesterday, comparing this downturn to the Great Depression, and the lessons we've learned.

* Argued that the government would run a 100 million surplus next year. Three weeks later, he tells Canadians to expect a 30 billion dollar deficit.

* Wrote a letter to the GG, arguing that an alternative government was available to her, should the Martin government fail, signed by himself and SEPARATIST Gilles Duceppe. Also argued that an election wasn't necessary if a government were to fall and an alternative exists, because that's "not how our constitutional system works". Now argues an election is "constitutionally" necessary should his government fall.

* Told Canadians his government saw the economic maelstorm coming last year and acted accordingly, but now argues that all of this was "impossible to predict".

* Gave Ontario 21 more seats under redistribution, despite the intial argument that 10 was sufficient, to reflect regional representation.

* Will appoint unelected Tory hacks to the Senate, despite a refusal to do so being a signature commitment throughout his political career.

* Argued that anyone who supported a carbon tax was "crazy" and "insane". This week named the "father" of a carbon tax, economist Jack Mintz to his economic advisory council.

* Said unequivocally, that Canada's mission in Afghanistan would end in 2011. Now categorizes any talk of what happens in 2011 a "hypothetical", not the time to discuss "other scenarios".

I'm sure I've missed a few...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Feeble



I see the Conservatives have finally updated that toilet they call a website, Stephane is finally gone, which left half the site empty. And, in Dion's place, the first Ignatieff entry, something about a theoretical tax hike, possibly in the future, depending on what unknowns confront us, based on yet to be determined fiscal realities. Hard hitting stuff, particularly the 1991 quote from a Canadian paper (wasn't he supposed to be AWOL then boys, don't confuse us).

Anyways, the piece is a complete dud, but desperate times call... What I wanted to do is offer the Conservatives some advice. You remember the Dion picture, the shrugged shoulders pic, that the site used for 2 years? Well, the Ignatieff one is pretty placid, apart from a little flaring of the nostrils, doesn't really convey much. Surely, you can find a better signature photo. I know early days, but come on Michael has been in front of cameras for decades, you mean to tell me there isn't one or two gems around. Pick it up bottom feeders, this isn't your best work.

That Was So Yesterday

I was sent this video via email. Personal views on a coalition aside, it provides a terrific contrast, or more rightly a graphic example of utter duplicity:

Friday, December 19, 2008

Get A Job

In response to a question on expanding EI benefits, Harper's ideology reared, and it demonstrated a complete lack of sympathy for people's predicament. With the economy going in the tank, more people expected to lose their jobs, the capacity to find other work drying up, Harper offers this gem to his CTV friends:
"We are not interested in making it lucrative to pay people not to work, it's not what this government is about, that's not what the taxpayers expect us to spend money on...not making Employment insurance more generous"

Lucrative? It's fine and dandy to put money into re-training, that's a great idea. However, as unemployment creeps up, it's harder for people to re-enter the work force, because, well, umm, I'm no economist, but the JOBS aren't there. You can acquire all the new skills you want, but if the market isn't there, nobodies hiring, because we are on the cusp of depression, sort of hard to land a new job.

Extending EI benefits, in a time of economic crisis, isn't social welfare, it's not some great gig for lazy people, it's a temporary necessity. Quite telling, Fife assumed Harper was considering the move, then Harper rises and says he "isn't like some other parties", then starts in with making it lucrative to sit on you ass. This government, and the former Liberal one's, had no trouble collecting the EI cash cow when times were good, why can't we see some "generous" initiatives during a crisis.

Re-training is mostly a long term goal, it takes time to acquire new skills, and it's a useless endeavour when jobs aren't available. What you need, in a time of uncertainty, is too give people more certainty, extending the period where a person can get back on their feet is exactly how government can make a difference. Harper's solution, let people run out their claims, force them into welfare or other avenues, or just lose their houses, etc, whatever. A VERY cold response, that suggests a real detachment and an underlying "you're on your own" mentality, underneath all the feigned concern.

Ignatieff Interview


If you didn't catch Ignatieff's appear on "The Hour" last night (think you can see it on Newsworld today), I suggest a viewing, because it's impressive stuff. Anyone who has any hesitation about the "stuffy academic", unable to connect with average Canadians, should put their mind at ease. Ignatieff comes across as genuine, thoughtful and above all confident, without looking smug.

Here's one quote, which is quite revealing, when it comes to what's ahead:
"He might survive for awhile. If that budget is the kind of joke that the autumn statment was, and I mean a joke, it was a disgraceful document, we vote him down."

"If Mr. Harper manages to survive, he'll be a wounded beast. He's made terrible errors in the last eight weeks... The man can't get his story straight, this is not leadership. So, he's wounded, if he escapes this time, then I get a little time to rebuild the Liberal Party, we have some rebuilding to do, then we take him down later. Make no mistake, his days are numbered".


Numbered indeed :)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Spite

Just a coincidence? Budget Officer Kevin Page has been at odds with the government over projections, transparency and basic accounting. With this public conflict in mind, Page essentially undermining the Conservatives bogus sales job, is it ANY surprise to learn the following:
The Parliamentary Budget Office, source of two reports this year that have been critical of the government, is about to have its annual operating budget slashed by one third, Global National reported Thursday.

This year, the Library of Parliament’s budget, to be allocated by Young, is about $40 million. Of that, just $1.9 million is set aside to operate the Parliamentary Budget Office.

Global National has learned that Page is about to have that annual budget slashed by about 33 per cent.

"If the Harper government is serious about engaging opposition parties in meaningful discussion about the budget, it ought to co-operate fully with the House Budget Officer and not attack his office’s capacity to give Members of Parliament the fiscal information they need to serve Canadians," said Liberal MP Scott Brison.

Now, the article states it is "unclear" if this cut was initiated by the government or his "bureaucratic boss", but it's not unclear to anyone who knows this government's history.

When Page first challenged the government, from a position created by Harper, my first thought was the Conservatives would look for ways to stifle the dissenter, because that's how they operate. The sad part here, Flaherty has just validated Page, his deficit admissions are what Page has argued all along. If a component fellow is getting his wings clipped, what should then become of the disingenious incompetent? What a spiteful bunch, and a move that should alarm all Canadians, because the Conservatives are essentially limiting Page's ability to do his job.

Hard To Keep Up

I've finally figured it out, Jim Flaherty is operating with a three week lag time. Flaherty speaks or releases, but for some reason it takes that much time for the news to make to the outside world. We've seen this lag pattern since the election, wherein everyone is taking about one scenario, but Flaherty is speaking in outdated language, only to catch up later, about three weeks.

Think I'm crazy, well consider the following:

1)Yesterday, Flaherty revises his economic forecasts in line with private forecasts, available to him three weeks ago when he released his economic update.

2)Today, the Flaherty announces that we will have a deficit of 5 billion next year, which happens to be quite similar to Budget Officer Page's assessment, released exactly three weeks ago.

3)Today, Flaherty announces a economic advisory council, which seems strangely similar to a concept floated by the coalition almost three weeks ago.

4)Remember, during the last week of an election, Flaherty said deficits were unacceptable and then three weeks later, he argued that they might be necessary.

5)Remember when Flaherty was arguing that Canada could avoid a recession, while economists were suggesting a "technical" recession. Three weeks later, when Flaherty was talking about a "technical" recession, economists were talking about a real recession. Now, three weeks later Flaherty is talking about a real recession, while economists are talking about a deep and long recession. Look for Flaherty to concede a deep recession in the second week of January.


There's more, namely on stimulus, but you can see the pattern. I'm no expert on worm holes, time continuum's and what not, but I bet Jim Flaherty thinks today is November 28th. Can't wait until he learns Ignatieff is the new Liberal leader.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Things Have Changed

There have been two constants the last couple of years. One, columnist Ian MacDonald forever arguing the case for rising Conservative fortunes in Quebec, while simultaneously kicking sand at the Liberals. I just kept telling myself "former Mulroney speech writer, former Mulroney speech writer". Two, Chantal Hebert perpetually bashing anything Liberal, Dion a frequent target, the idea of extinction for the party a recurring theme. With that in mind, how REFRESHING to read said columnists today, enough to be downright optimistic.

Liberal hater MacDonald, in the Conservative Post no less:
Ignatieff may not be from here, but he fits in here. He has a cosmopolitan finish and easy fluency in French that enhances his public conversations. In short, he interviews well. He’s passed difficult Quebec tests, such as obligatory appearances on the popular Tout le monde en parle TV show. And as he has just demonstrated in mounting a bloodless coup for the Liberal leadership, he also has a flair for what Quebecers call the “velvet glove and the fist of steel.” His fingerprints aren’t anywhere on the glove.

In essence, a strong leader with style. Quebecers like that.

The result of the coalition crisis is that Harper doesn’t have Dion to kick around anymore. He’s now looking at a real opponent, one with a real chance of restoring the Liberals as the competitive federalist option in Quebec.

Chantal, with another column, speaking to how the Liberals are off the mat:
Michael Ignatieff is widely seen as the most Quebec-friendly leader the party has had in decades. He certainly is the least encumbered by constitutional and referendum baggage. Many Quebecers have not forgotten his proactive role in the nation debate two years ago.
Decades? Oh, I like the sound of that.

It's a honeymoon, nothing has really happened, but more signals that there is a real openness to Ignatieff in Quebec. All you can ask for is opportunity, then it's a matter of what you do with it. It will be exciting to see if Ignatieff can bring the Liberals back to the true federalist option. I'd be lying if that potential wasn't a chief consideration in supporting Ignatieff, because the Liberals near exile in Quebec is a pet concern of mine. I have a cautious grin, maybe it's the rum balls.

Private Sector Forecasts, Who Knew?

Back peddling in lightning fashion, Jim Flaherty has now conceded .4% NEGATIVE growth for 2009. That's right, just two weeks ago Flaherty predicted .5% GROWTH for 2009, but now all of sudden private sector forecasts have caused him to REVISE:
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has lowered his official economic outlook to an outright contraction next year.

Canada's gross domestic product will shrink 0.4 per cent in 2009, compared with a November estimate of growth of 0.5 per cent, Mr. Flaherty said Wednesday after a meeting with his provincial and territorial counterparts in Saskatoon.

The forecast is based on the average of 16 private sector forecasters. Canada's economy hasn't shrunk on an annual basis since the early 1990s.

You might have to use your long term memory here, but you may recall that when Flaherty came out with economic statement, way back at the end of November, there were cries that he ignored private forecasts, his numbers were junk. One example, which just happens to now be in line with Flaherty, the OECD report, released at the same time as the economic statement:
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) expects considerably slower growth for Canada: 0.5% in 2008, -0.5% in 2009 and 2.1% in 2010.

Now, all of sudden, Flaherty is basing his projections on private forecasts, which were available to him when he released his disingenuous update. I mention this, because Conservative apologists argue that events are unfolding so fast, one needs to constantly re access (we've heard this since the election, as the Conservatives have continually tripped over their rhetoric from week to week). The simple fact, that everyone needs to remember, Flaherty and Harper will well aware of the situation in late November, they were TOLD by private forecasters that their numbers were "too rosy", completely out of line with reality, and yet they presented Canadians with a dishonest assessment. Now, when they've been smoked out by the opposition and must come clean, we see these drastic revisions, so obscene in their scope, incompetence is a kind word.

As I mentioned elsewhere, first there was no recession, then a "technical" recession, then talk of possible depression. At this rate of catchup, Harper might be predicting the "end of days" by the weekend. One thing is clear, despite attempts to hide behind a real deterioration in recent weeks and months, there has been a DELIBERATE attempt to misrepresent the situation for political purposes. Wear it well, you deserve it.

Legitimate

One of the lingering concerns, for certain people, the events of last week tarnished Ignatieff's legitimacy as leader. I never really shared that view, despite a true grassroots component, I always thought a simple gushy Rae presser, a show of unity, would be enough to put the stamp of legitimacy on Ignatieff, in the minds of Canadians. A new Decima poll would appear to show Ignatieff has that legitimacy, Canadians approve:
Half of respondents to The Canadian Press/Harris-Decima survey said they reacted positively when the Liberal party last week chose Ignatieff to replace Stephane Dion at the helm.

Only 11 per cent reacted negatively while 36 per cent had a neutral opinion about the change.

Ignatieff's ascension garnered more positive than negative reviews in every region of the country, particularly Ontario and Quebec where a majority cheered the change.

Specifically, on the question of process, people are more positive than negative in Quebec and Ontario, some resistance in the Prairie provinces, but as the pollster admits, this is simply coming from voters that would NEVER vote Liberal anyways:
"The change in Liberal leadership was favourably received in virtually all quarters but Liberals in particular are most positive about Mr. Ignatieff's new role," said Harris-Decima's senior vice-president, Jeff Walker.

"While the numbers suggest some resistance to how Mr. Ignatieff was installed, much of this resistance is among Conservatives, with NDP, Green and Bloc voters being relatively content with the selection process."

I can see why Conservatives would disapprove, after all they've lost their pinata and are now faced with a highly credible alternative to Harper. We are not afraid :)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Shame

Proof, that every "technical" depression has an upside.

Walk The Walk





It was reported in the media the other day, that the number of Liberals signed up for the Victory Fund is about 1000. A few weeks ago, I was told by a reliable source that the number was 1200, so let's use that as accurate. I admit, the more I think about this figure, the more it frankly pisses me off.

Does that figure include all 307 Liberal candidates from the last election? I mean, if you want to run for the party, surely to christ, you've signed up for the most basic of party support. Does that figure include all 308 riding presidents, because how could anyone head a riding and not sign on to this intiative? What about all those ex-officos, riding executives, Senators, former and current party bigwigs, plus all the lesser lights, are they all on board? What about all us bloggers and commentators, all these members of facebook groups for Liberal 308, Grassroots Liberals, etc, who rail daily against the evil Harper, surely we're all on board with the VF, right? Calling all deadbeat Liberals.

Some quick math, 1200 VF members works out to be FOUR Liberals PER riding. That's right, a woeful FOUR, you've got to be kidding me. Now, I do realize there are many ways to contribute to the party (good on those that do), but FOUR per riding is just so astoundingly lame, it boggles my mind.

Put up or shut up, pull out the wallet or put a sock it, don't bitch about Harper, when you can't dish out a minimum of $2.50 a month. We Liberals need to start walking the walk, because our collective apathy and paper tiger rhetoric is effectively hobbling our party, our impotence disallows our strongest position. Surely, we can do much, much better than the current participation, and if we can't, well then, we deserve our fate.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Harper Has Seen A Ghost



Okay, I've seen enough now to confirm my instincts. I know you can't trust Harper, believe me, but watching the body language, the tone, the way the government is now caving, this isn't a man who's feeling particularly cocky. Maybe the GG warned him, "get it right, or get the coalition", maybe he's read the polls that show his popularity plummeting, maybe he's own people are nervous about his leadership, whatever, Harper has seen a ghost.

I put the above picture up, because it's indicative of Harper's posture during the entire interview. Small, meek, the same way he's been in all interviews since this parliamentary crisis appeared. Even more amazing, in this interview, Harper talks openly about himself in the PAST tense:
"Make sure I can walk away from this, saying I did the best for the Canadian economy."

"I love this job, and the day I leave it I always be thankful to have had it. I'm not going to be a guy, who sits around and writes all kinds of memoirs about how everybody did him wrong"

"Enjoy it as much as I can. It's going to be a tough year, and do the best job we can. And, always be thankful for having had the opportunity. The day I'm through with it, and the day my party is through with me, I'll find a way of serving people in another capacity."

I'm reading the usual bluster from Conservative partisans, arguing that Harper will run over the opposition like a "freight train", a majority in his grasp, he holds all the cards. I believe this mindset is utter delusion of the highest order, as I mentioned earlier, people make a critical error using opinion of the coalition to comfort themselves. Stephen Harper is less popular NOW, than at any other time during his reign. The Conservative Party has no identity, it all revolves around their leader, Harper has made himself the central thesis. This strategy was a good one, because "leadership" was the Conservatives trump card, when faced with Dion, but that has largely evaporated now. The fate of the Conservative Party will largely be a question on Harper, and I suspect Harper's braintrust is now well aware that this is a risky proposition.

Every move we've seen to date, suggests Harper doesn't share the confidence of his minions, he looks and acts like a man trying to cobble together a solution to save his skin. Again, I have no trust in Harper, as soon as he sees his next opening, he will revert to his more genuine self, but that clearly isn't the case now. I honestly believe Harper wants to avoid an election, despite the nefarious results of some findings, he knows that he's damaged himself and needs time to regroup. Let's keep it real, Harper will never steam roll through Ontario, he would lose seats in Quebec, which means another election would bring at best the same mandate, but more probable a lesser one, maybe even defeat. Anything less than the same, and Harper is effectively done, his party will turn on him. So, why head to the polls now, when you chances are iffy at best. I would argue, Harper's moves to date, tell us he agrees with the above, this is a man trying to avoid a confrontation, not find one, because he's on the cusp of ultimate control.

Others may have a different perspective, but from what I've see, Harper is oozing insecurity and lessened stature. His own actions betray an objective truth, and it's why I can understand why Liberal MP's were "quite optimistic" today after meeting with Flaherty. A temporary circumstance, but one I won't be surprised to see hold true until after the budget delivery.

Smoking Out Deficit Jim

First we heard Ignatieff, now his surrogates meeting with Flaherty, the main thrust seems to be smoking out the government, disallowing rosy projections, based on sketchy math. Before the Liberals will put forth specific demands for the budget, they first want the Conservatives to "come clean" on our true fiscal state. Was there one person who wasn't surprised to hear the Conservatives would avoid a deficit in the coming fiscal year?

Instead of focusing on measures, it's a fairly shrewd tactic demanding to "see the books", ensure that we have an accurate picture of our fiscal house. In this way, discussions are contingent on the government essentially admitting that their surplus/deficit projections were an intentional ruse. Flaherty must be honest with Canadians, before the Liberals will consider negotiating (today's demand included full disclosure prior to Christmas). This move is about transparency, but really it's a political play, the Liberals don't want Flaherty to get away with a disingenious presentation to Canadians, particularly when those erroneous numbers can mask the magnitude of the problem through a probable next election.

The Liberals have a powerful argument, the government's own Budget Officer also smells a rat, as do most private forecasters, Flaherty stands alone with his projections. Forcing the government to come clean on our fiscal state will expose the Conservatives and it will challenge the notion of a "steady hand" at the tiller, because it erodes the trust factor. The Liberals can then take credit for providing Canadians with an accurate portrayal of real situation, while making the Conservatives wear their rightfully earned deficit.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Layton Begins The Dance

A very sedate Jack Layton today on Question Period, and while he stuck to the coalition argument for the most part, for the first time I saw a slight retreat from the absolute. Here are a few quotes from Layton, which look strangely similar to some of the lines I've heard from certain Liberals:
"Look, I think the coalition has already shaken things up. Mr. Harper has been forced to go back to the drawing board, and say as a government I've got to change. So, the coalition has already had a positive impact"

"It's the season of miracles. Are we going to get a miracle in the budget, maybe we have to be open to that possibility"

"Canadians want action on the economy, and I think the coalition has already begun to change the government's approach to the economy. And, we're going to keep the pressure on"

Very telling, to hear Layton argue that the coalition has already been successful, to some degree, in changing the government's approach. I'm sure some will argue "no such thing", but my read of the above, not to mention the body language, suggests the first sign that the NDP may be considering how to frame the debate, should the coalition cease to be. Whatever, I thought those quotes were noteworthy to say the least.

A Narrative That Can Stick?

If the opposition are looking for a frame that can work to their advantage, one that the media will buy into, one that Canadians will ponder, it's the idea that Parliament can't work under this government. Further to the Wells piece that is making the rounds, I believe the public is receptive to Harper as a roadblock to "good government".

Even if the coming budget does make it through Parliament, which would occur sometime in February, Canadians may well be horrified to realize that this legislation would be the first piece passed in the Commons in 9 MONTHS. That's right, during a coming economic storm, that the government supposedly predicted, our Parliament has been silent for almost a year, under the Harper regime. The nation has effectively ran on auto-pilot during the most crucial period in a generation. Last spring, Parliament largely spinning it's wheels, nothing on the agenda, so thin, MP's were sent home early. Since then, the events are well known, but they speak to complete paralysis, maybe one of the most non-productive parliamentary periods in Canadian history.

It's hard to say now, whether the Conservatives will "wear" the recession, they do have a couple escape valves, namely the global situation as cover. It's hard to say whether the Conservatives will "wear" any deficit, again Canadians can see the same circumstance in other jurisdications, allowing for potential understanding. However, one narrative that seems completely unique to Canada, the theme of "Parliament can't work" with Harper at the helm. Despite a host of issues swirling about, it seems clear that Canadians do place a healthy dose of blame at Harper's feet for the current political crisis. The idea of Harper, the hyper-partisan, continually kicking sand, belligerent and divisive, is cementing itself. That reality provides a counter theme, if Canadians want a government that can function properly, they need to remove the irritant.

Ottawa is a disaster, everyone agrees. The trick is reminding people that all this chaos has occured under Harper's watch, the government sets the tone, pure lunacy to reward dysfunction with another mandate, even sillier a majority. You don't reward bad behavior, you punish it. No matter how this budget drama unfolds, the Liberals can still make the argument that Harper has failed to lead, remind people that a new LOW was reached under his watch. Liberals can make a credible pitch, that if Canadians want a return to relatively civil discourse and productivity, they are the option, Harper has created such a toxic atmosphere, his government can never reclaim the high ground.

Embrace the chaos and dysfunction, and argue that the obvious responsibility rests with the government. I think, beyond all the noise, Canadians are receptive to this argument, they do see Harper as divisive and counter-productive, he can wear that narrative.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

They Hate It, They Really Do

I think it's important to separate personal want from rational thought. If confronted with clear evidence that rejects a concept, it is far more astute to incorporate that knowledge and react accordingly, rather than to pretend it doesn't exist or put one's faith in the unlikely possibility of seismic change. I would argue, that in the last two weeks, Canadians have been more engaged in our political process, than any other time in recent years. With that reality in mind, opinions expressed are not easily dismissed, they have weight and people would be wise to recognize.

Another poll, that provides further evidence of a simple fact- Canadians, overall, HATE the idea of a coalition. The Ipsos poll isn't a one off, I believe we've now seen four separate outfits present the same theme, in overwhelming fashion. Ignore at our peril:
65% of those surveyed said they believe Mr. Ignatieff should try to find a compromise with Mr. Harper, compared with 27% who said he should "stick with the Liberal-NDP coalition." Eight per cent said they didn't know how Mr. Ignatieff should proceed.

The coalition does find support in Quebec, a fact which shouldn't be ignored, but also a result which isn't enough, looking at Canada as a whole. As a matter of fact, this support in Quebec means the results are even more negative in rest of Canada. Some quick math, you are probably looking at a maximum of 20% support in the rest of the country, a disasterous total by any measure.

People would also prefer an election, over the possibility of a coalition:
Poll results also suggest Canadians are so uncomfortable at the prospect of a Liberal-NDP coalition government, backed by the Bloc, that a majority -- 56% -- would prefer going to the polls again early in 2009 if Gov. Gen. Michaƫlle Jean is forced to choose between the two options.

The obvious counter, principle should trump opinion polls, you don't govern with your finger in the air, testing the breeze of the day. If the results were mixed, I might agree, but when you have such a decided rejection, it is almost silly to argue politicians should ignore the will of the people they represent, especially when the idea of a coalition demands public legitimacy to thrive. If it comes to a head, expect Harper to remind the GG of public sentiment, as she weighs her options, and don't think for a moment that sentiment is a meaningless consideration.

Conclusion, unless we see a change in public mood, the idea of a coalition is political suicide. I suppose if Harper introduces more poison pills in his budget, that transparent partisanship could change some minds, so you can't be entirely absolute, but you also must recognize where we are and react within that knowledge.

On the subject of party support, which our Conservative friends, and this pollster, see as good news for Harper, I would offer a serious caution. You commission a poll, wherein you ask a host of questions surrounding the coalition. Respondents are decidedly against the idea of a coalition, express their views, but within that poll you also ask a party preference question. I hate the coalition, I want another election, rather than that coalition, but if I had to choose, I think I'll vote Liberal or NDP. Huh?:
Those surveyed favoured the Conservatives over the Liberals by 45% to 26% when no leaders' names were mentioned. The 19-point gap was repeated when the question was rephrased to name Mr. Ignatieff. The New Democrats trailed at 12% and the Green party came in at 7%. The Bloc scored 39% in Quebec, and 10% nationally.

I'm not surprised to see the above, nor am I particularly concerned, unless of course the Liberals actually do end up supporting the coalition. The Liberals are currently woven within the idea, respondents aren't about to separate the two questions, if they reject the coalition, they will also reject the parties that support it- it's as simple as that, and it's disappointing to read the following horrible analysis of the pollster:
Mr. Bricker said he is surprised the Liberals didn't get a bump from Mr. Ignatieff's selection

How can anyone be surprised, especially with the tone of the questioning? Come on Mr. Bricker, you're the pro, pretty shoddy stuff to reach that conclusion when you can't separate the coalition from leadership, when you rile up the respondent. I read a recent poll, last week, that showed Canadian opinions of Mr. Harper have deteriorated considerably. It's pretty self-evident to conclude that Harper's games have cost him, tarnished his image. But, wait, look at the numbers, the Cons are riding high? Again, the crucial point here, recognizing that any "boost" is in reaction to an unpopular idea, it doesn't translate to genuine support. Remove the irritant, and we may get a better gauge of where we really are with the public. In other words, consider me entirely unmoved by a large gap between the Cons and Libs, it's expected, given the coalition question. And, as I've argued before, because of some shrewd positioning, Ignatieff has given himself room to walk away from the concept and position himself as sacrificing a lust for power for the greater good of the economy. I'm just not concerned, nor do I buy for one second that Harper is "stronger" now. The opposite is true, but the coalition provides cover for Harper's preformance, so offensive it trumps everything else.

UPDATE

Another poll, that is "pure" in the sense that the leadership question isn't confused within the question of a coalition. This result supports my theory that you can't get a clear read of Ignatieff when you pepper respondents on the coalition too, as well as the idea that Harper really isn't "stronger", the coalition masks his problems:
Ignatieff tops the list of party leaders Canadians would prefer as prime minister, with 28 per cent of respondents naming him the best head of government, according to the Toronto Star/Angus Reid survey.

Harper came in at 27 per cent – a virtual tie because it's within the margin of error, but the first time the Conservative leader has polled below 30 per cent in two years.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Things I'd Like To See

1) Ignatieff, Rae and LeBlanc pay back their ENTIRE leadership entrance fee using the Victory Fund membership rebate system. A former candidate receives a $25000 rebate for every 1000 new VF members. That's 3600 new members, per candidate to pay off the fee. Make it so.

2) The Liberals develop a "rapid response" strategy, wherein any Conservative attack or distortion is met with an immediate counter. Whether that be surrogates in front of the camera, press releases, ads, whatever, it's imperative that we eliminate the "dead air" syndrome that plagued us throughout the Dion era. Dithering=Done.

3) Realistic chances aside, I want to see Ignatieff do a tour in the heart of Bloc country. The only way to rebuild the Liberal brand is too dispense with the defeatist attitude that resulted in paralysis. Better to try and possibly fail, than not to try at all, like the previous regime.

4) Spend more time talking about the present and future ideals of the Liberal Party, rather than continually referencing our past legacy. This is a point of contention with many Liberals, who are rightfully proud of certain achievements of past Liberal administrations, but it's a double edged sword in many parts of the country. Apart from the big ideals of a strong federation, fiscal discipline, if you're trying to rebuild a tarnished brand, it's better to provide a fresh perspective that doesn't remind one of a well established church, tablets and all.

5) Edgy. The Liberal Party appartus tends to play it safe, especially when it comes to presentation. Almost always competent and professional, there is a cookie cutter feel to much of our "connection", a hesistancy to try something different or unique. The Liberal Party is a bit boring and conventional, nothing would suggest a new direction, like a "outside of the box" approach. Same old, same old doesn't generate excitement or grab attention.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sitting Pretty

Does Ignatieff support a coalition or doesn’t he, “dithering” or “pragmatic”? I must say, I’ve been entirely impressed with how Ignatieff has handled the coalition question from the onset. While some have criticized his early hesitation, and pundits like Coyne demand a clear response, Ignatieff has positioned himself within the optimal terrain. It was very shrewd to keep all options on the table, accurately reading an extremely fluid situation. There is no room for absolutes, no need to box oneself in a corner, when you have no idea how future events will unfold. I admit a grin, watching Ignatieff carefully navigate and resist, what some saw as uneven, I saw as political maturity.

As it stands right now, Canadians hate the idea of a coalition. Canadians are so weary of it, they move to support Harper, despite blaming him for the crisis. I’ve seen a lot of polls, rarely have I seen a batch so decisive in their rejection, and this fact is the bottom line consideration. A coalition simply won’t fly, unless there is public support, if the perceptions are negative, the idea is DOA. To ignore public sentiment is beyond reckless, so the fact Ignatieff has left the Liberals a clear path out, without looking entirely hypocritical, is a strategic winner. Things can change, how Harper reacts may well influence future acceptance of a coalition, but it is beyond wise to not marry oneself to a real and potential albatross.

Ignatieff has placed himself at the center of this debate, both Harper and Layton need him, ultimately he will decide the direction. If Harper caves, and the Liberals achieve a budget which reflects many of the initiatives floated in the coalition agreement, then we can declare victory and look conciliatory at the same time. However, having the threat of an alternative, leaving that option on the table, allows for leverage on the one hand, another course if need be on the other. Ignatieff has given himself so much latitude that he has control, no small feat for a party with a ¼ of seats in Parliament.

I watched Layton on CBC last night, and his main argument was the issue of “trust”, no matter what Harper presents, that issue negates any support. I appreciate that point of view, and no Liberal should “trust” the chameleon, but in the minds of Canadians that justification just doesn’t cut it. Fast forward to January, the Conservatives make concessions, essentially adopt many of the demands, and the opposition still decides to topple based on “trust”. The Canadian public, pre-occupied with the economy and wanting Parliament to just get on it, would erupt if a compromise budget was introduced and the opposition still went forward on “trust”. That scenario is a death sentence, and that absolute conviction, could well marginalize any party that ascribes to it. Much better to have wiggle room, because you simply can’t pre-judge future events.

I’m not sure if a coalition is still in the cards. I’m not sure if the public mood can, or will, change. I’m not sure if Harper will adopt the opposition’s demands. I’m not sure if we could be headed to an election. I’m not sure about much, and nobody else is for that matter, which makes the Ignatieff position an enviable one for the Liberal Party.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"I Like The Smell"

A few thoughts on Ignatieff's press conference. You don't want to get carried away, but there is no question in my mind, a new era has begun in Canadian politics. What I heard was a leader, on every question, a blend of thoughtfulness, vision and firm, firm resolve.

A master stroke to put the onus completely on Harper- you started it, you get us out, or I'll take you down, the Liberal Party is not your life raft. Furthermore, to demand the government come clean on the deficit, "we don't believe the numbers", means that the Liberals will smoke out the government, they will wear THEIR deficit, no more Ontario's Jimbo. Above all, a sense that the Conservatives will be held to account, they will not dictate to the Liberals.

On the question of attack ads, Ignatieff's response was wonderful. Basically warning the Conservatives, that with a crisis in our midst, it would be a mistake to engage in partisan nonsense. The high road, if you choose different, expect the Liberals to identify to Canadians. Clever.

Speaking of the Liberal challenges, Ignatieff was frank but optimistic. I particularly liked his Quebec analysis, essentially telling reporters the Liberals are back, not cocky or presumptive, but a calm confidence. Ignatieff's most substantive answer revolved around the rural/urban divide, within that, a deep urning to connect with Western Canadians. Calling "the west" Canada's future, lavishing praise on the entrepreneurial spirit, it's a small step, but it came with a genuine respect which will be helpful. Again, nobody is getting carried away, but I sensed a desire to begin, a long view, with a goal. Respect.

On the coalition, clear and concise, we've made our view know, "walk down the hill" or all options are on the table. Harper has an opening, the Liberals will always act responsibily, but the government must regain the trust it squandered. In my view, the perfect position, the Liberals need not marry themselves to anything, keep ourselves nimble.

I must say, I feel like a weight has been lifted, the Liberals really do have a fresh opportunity. You can sense it in the media play, predictable sources aside, that Ignatieff has greater stature than Dion, the pundit class buys him as PM material. What comes of it, entirely impossible to predict, but nobody doubts that Ignatieff is a serious player. Further, with a caucus behind him, the pundit class will see a new air around the Liberal Party, and nobody should understate the importance of perception.

I think Ignatieff nailed it today, taken in totality. "I like the smell" too.

Sweater Man

Harper’s uneven performance during an interview with Mansbridge offered many clues for the Liberals moving forward. It’s imperative to stay ahead of the Conservatives, as their strategy clearly attempts to box the Liberals in, Harper the “olive branch” leader, looking for a good faith partner in the name of the economy. Harper’s attempt at revision, to now position himself as conciliatory, in the wake of his self-inflicted crisis, must be responded too forcefully.

The Liberals need to frame the outreach for what it is, namely an after the fact attempt to remove responsibility for an objective failure on the economy. It was this government that presented an unacceptable economic update, that was provocative and insufficient, one that completely failed to “reach out” to the opposition. To offer co-operation now should be framed as nothing more than a desperate attempt to cling to power, a political strategy to cloud ultimate responsibility. The onus is not on the Liberals, it is not up to us to step up to the plate, it is up to the Harper government to bring acceptable measures to the table.

Ignatieff should meet with Harper immediately and make clear to the public, that any concept of stimulus is a Liberal thrust, if Harper chooses to agree, then he is adopting our day one policy. Within that, Liberals should continually hammer the point, Harper is not too be trusted, any outreach is tactical, all part of the typical passive/aggressive behavior. We can work on the economy, that’s what we’ve wanted all along, it’s the Prime Minister that’s late to the party, and his new found spirit of co-operation is more political necessity than genuine desire. For the sake of the economy, we will get down to work, but let’s not forget how we got here.

Harper screwed up, and now he looks to the Liberals to provide cover and save his government. No matter the ultimate outcome, any sense of “good faith” is a political mirage, this Prime Minister is not to be trusted, he has failed. The Liberals will attempt to SALVAGE something out of this unnecessary crisis, but make no mistake, Harper’s actions have permanently soured this Parliament, don’t confuse concern for the economy with confidence. Sweater man is just a character, working together a ruse to get Harper out of HIS bind. Let’s keep our foot on the snake.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Class Act


I suppose some were worried about what he would say, but I wasn't, Bob Rae has been a class act all his public life, why would it suddenly change now. You could see disappointment, clearly a tough day, and why wouldn't it be. Still, Rae was able to be his usual charming self, eloquent and measured.

Rae said all the right things, but it was the conviction with which he said them that impressed me. The best part, when he told reporters that the Liberals would be "boring", stories of internal strife no longer, he was committed to working with Ignatieff unequivocally. Kind words for his old friend, sometime foe, a very generous press conference, given the circumstance. Rae also spoke to the extraordinary times, and rightly acknowledged that it isn't fair to expect a normal process, within these conditions.

I look forward to watching Rae by Ignatieff's side, hopefully, and probably, he will become deputy leader. What a remarkable front bench the Liberals enjoy, today is day one of a new era for the Liberal Party, I feel that in my gut. Stragglers and the immature aside, I see a new found sense of purpose and priority, I see confidence. Bring it on Harpo.

Rae Out

CTV reporting that Rae will drop out today.


Monday, December 08, 2008

Legitimacy Meets Expediency

Very interesting idea floated by David Herle today, that isn't perfect (let me know when one comes around, I love FIRSTS), but seems to meet many of the criteria demanded, with a flavor for compromise. Herle makes the point, and I agree, that it's imperative Canadians have a sense of legitimacy, that the new leader starts with no baggage. Herle also accurately notes that time is of the essence, six weeks is nothing, when one considers a new team being put in place, preparations for a possible election, developing a strategy to counter Harper, a daunting timeframe.

With the notions of expediency and legitimacy as crucial, this concept is attractive:
"We need to get on with the leadership question very, very quickly, and I would argue within the next two weeks...

You could conduct a process that would take seven days. You start next Saturday with a nationally televised debate between the two candidates, in front of the decision making body. I suggest the decision making body should be the caucus, the National Executive of the party and the Council of the Presidents. That takes care of the representativeness, it takes care of consultation and it provides a wide spectrum of view within the party. So, you have a national televised debate, then all those people would be sent out to their ridings, for a one week period to consult their membership, their constituents. Then, on the following Saturday, there would be a mini-convention involving all those people. There would be speeches, it would be televised, open to the public. At the end of that process, you would have vote and you would have a national leader of the Liberal Party declared, after consulting the grassroots. The entire country would see it unfold, it's manageable and it's done within our timeframe".


Why I like this idea, it encorporates the "show" aspect, it allows the Liberals to present a public presentation that allows Canadians to see a form of democracy in action. Herle's strategic sense serves him well with this concept, a "mini-convention" is a perfect compromise. It's not one member, one vote, but it allows for real consultation, we would all have a chance to argue our views to what amounts to delegates. If individual people decide a vote in the riding is the best way to gauge grassroots want, that is doable, the idea is nimble enough to navigate. The riding representative then returns to express the feedback from the grassroots.

This idea also allows for the debate requirement, it allows for formal speeches on vision, and it gets it done by December 20th, providing plenty of opportunity for a new team to set up shop and establish a sense of competence and direction. Again, it ain't perfect, but it ain't bad either, this idea finds a way to hit on every concern.

Speaking Of Democracy

Lots of howls from the right recently, about just concluded elections, respecting the will of voters, any attempt to "overturn" results amounting to coups and other silly language. Won't it be interesting then, to see if Conservatives show some consistency and respect the will of voters, when it goes against their ideology:
Farmers who support the Canadian Wheat Board’s sales monopoly won four of the five seats up for grabs in district election results announced Sunday, maintaining the status quo.

That means directors who favour the retention of the wheat board’s single desk will continue to control the agency’s 15-member board of directors.

‘‘This is a huge victory for farmers. Farmers have stood up to (Prime Minister Stephen) Harper’s vow to ‘walk over’ any opposition to his plan to demolish the CWB,’’ said Stewart Wells, National Farmers Union president. ‘‘With 80 per cent of the farmer-elected Board members supporting the single-desk marketing advantages and a strong role for the CWB, it is time for the Conservative Party to back away from its attacks on the CWB.’’

An even more impressive validation of the single desk, when you see the joint efforts of the dual market crowd, outlined in the link.

The CWB has always had a democratic component, that respects the wishes of farmers. The Conservative assault on the CWB has always been an attack on a basic tenet of democracy, because if farmers really supported their view, they can simply VOTE for it. The fact western farmers have overwhelmingly endorsed the single desk option should tell the Conservatives to back off, but somehow I doubt it.

Gerard Kennedy Backs Rae

I believe the exact word was "inclined" to support Rae, during an interview on CBC radio. The scenario of MP's quickly moving to one of the two camps, brought Kennedy to essentially endorse Rae.

Obviously, I disagree with Kennedy's reasoning, but for some reason his choice makes me think more of him. On a day when LeBlanc is expected to back Ignatieff, longtime Dion backer Wilfert does the same, a general sense that the powerbase is moving in one direction, Kennedy decides to buck the trend. The easy thing to do, in this situation, is follow the money so to speak. Move to the most likely successor, in selfish terms, one's "career" is best served by gravitating towards the perceived winner. The fact Kennedy decided to support Rae, tells me, that once again he is moving on principle first, political self-interest second.

"Their Best Opening In Quebec In 25 years"

Instead of getting my Liberal shorts in a knot, over the political correctness on how best to rubber stamp an objective FORMALITY, I was intrigued by Hebert's column this morning, which suggests opportunity for the party in Quebec:
In Quebec, Conservatives have burnt their bridge; under Harper, they have nowhere to go but down...

Harper's polarizing approach to politics offers the Liberals their best opening in Quebec in 25 years.

They have a unique opportunity to recast themselves, not by twisting the party into a pretzel in search of a so-called Quebec message but simply by playing up what they already are, i.e. the only readily available progressive governing alternative to Harper.

It is that ace in the Liberal deck that the party stands to squander by pursuing the pipe-dream of an opposition coalition.

Hebert offers a caveat, the coalition as "squander", but that unlikely unknown aside, I agree that Liberals have room for optimism, moreso than any time I can remember in recent history.

From this outsider's perspective, Quebecers have very long memories, and recent events have solidified Harper. We always knew that Harper's courtship of Quebec was entirely political, lacking any genuine concern. What Harper has done in the past week, is reveal a callous calculation, wherein he decided that a real breakthrough in Quebec was unlikely, so throwing Quebecers under the bus for political survival was an easy pivot. Harper is done in Quebec, he will never recover. Couple that fact, with the Liberals ready to finally rid themselves of their Quebec albatross, and we see a new paradigm that is exciting.

What I like about Hebert's analysis, Liberal fortunes aren't necessarily predicated on a wholesale re-think, as it relates to federalism. The issue is largely on the backburner, which means some tinkering or modernization of language, is all that may be required. The real opening, the Liberals policy agenda, with Harper cast aside, they can fill the void with ideas that are far more palatable to mainstream Quebec. The affinity was always there, but with the stink of sponsorship fading, a new leader without baggage and a hobbled competition, it can rise to the fore, the Liberal message completely saleable.

There's a ton of work to be done, by all accounts the party appartus is basically non-existent outside of traditional Liberal strongholds. That said, there is clearly a path available which could translate into real gains in Quebec, the first step in becoming relevant again. All you can ask for is opportunity, then it's a matter of what you do with it.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

On Electability

Very striking findings from Angus Reid, that show a wide gulf in voter preference, depending on which leader the Liberals ultimately choose. I admit some surprise, given the circumstances, that Ignatieff is not only competitive with Harper, but in position to actually win, if you breakdown the regional numbers. The same can't be said of Rae, who lags far behind, results that would translate to a Conservative majority. These findings mirror early leadership hypotheticals, although the AR result is more pronounced.

What I find exciting, an Ignatieff led Liberal Party looks a potent force in Quebec and British Columbia. Nationally, it's 38% for the Cons, 33% for the Libs, 13% for the NDP with Ignatieff at the helm. That's a great result in and of itself, particularly when you see a full 20% for the Cons at this moment, with this pollster. Even more intriguing, Ignatieff is very competitive in Ontario, Atlantic Canada, but it's the Quebec numbers that suggest optimism:
Bloc 38%
Libs 33%
Cons 17%
NDP 8%

By comparison, Rae would receive 19% in Quebec, while the Cons are at 22%, Bloc 41%. I firmly believe that after the last election, there is a real opportunity for the Liberals to re-establish themselves in Quebec. This belief has only solidified in the last week, because Harper has essentially damaged himself beyond repair in Quebec, the right Liberal candidate COULD make huge gains. Ignatieff easily looks the best option in Quebec, a fact which is of chief importance.

I was also encouraged to see how Ignatieff polled in British Columbia, 32% is a great number for any Liberal, and again much better than Rae, who draws 25%.

When you start playing around with the regionals, you can actually make a credible case that Ignatieff has enough broad support to win an election. Another item that stuck out, despite this perception of Rae as "left", Ignatieff as "centrist", the NDP actually do worse if Ignatieff were leader, down to 13% (5% less than what the pollster gives them today), while they score 15% against Rae.

There is one other finding, in this poll, that needs to be considered. Canadians impressions of Harper have worsened considerably, as a result of recent events. While Dion's numbers are even worse, it's largely irrelevant, because Dion is a temporary circumstance. That means, when the dust settles, the Liberals will present a fresh face, a new identity, while the Conservatives will be led by a man who's stature is lessened, who has more baggage than he had in the last election. If Liberals are to maximize any advantage, this poll, like one's prior, show Ignatieff is our best hope.

LeBlanc Out

CTV reports that Dominic LeBlanc will drop out of the Liberal leadership tomorrow. Will he endorse anyone?

UPDATE

Answer

Yes he will:

"LeBlanc is expected to throw his support behind front-runner Michael Ignatieff, the CBC's Susan Bonner reported, citing sources."

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Somewhere Warm, A Cardboard Box, A Pencil, A Members List And A Scrutineer

Any decison towards an interim leader is a lateral move, that completely fails to accurately respond to the situation. Scott Brison:
"I believe it's very important for the party to be election-ready for the end of January or early February," Brison said. "We need a leader in place for that election."
I completely agree, and the above begs the question- if election readiness is our thrust, do we want to fight that election with a caretaker as leader? The answer is obvious, or should be, we need to get this leadership question resolved, once and for all, put our strongest foot forward and present Canadians with a CLEAR alternative.

If the idea of our executive and MP's making a decision leaves you queasy, then any grassroots sensitivity is completely alleviated by the idea floated yesterday. On January 5th, Liberals from across the country gather in every riding and vote for a new party leader. A candidate wins a riding, he gets one vote out of 308, the person with most riding votes wins the leadership. Each leadership candidate has one representative on hand, to scrutineer the results and ensure fairness. Quite simply, a more free expression of democracy than the convention set-up.

Oh wait, this is an Ignatieff supporters ploy? Actually, this setup has the potential to work against Ignatieff, or more correctly it eliminates potential strengths. Does anyone doubt that Ignatieff would not carry a sizeable percentage of the ex-officos and MP's in a convention? This solution disallows that voice, leaving it entirely in the hands of the membership, the rank and file, so to claim an advantage for any candidate, essentially admits grassroots support. This solution is a compromise position for the Ignatieff campaign, it is not the best case scenario, so within that simple fact, it should be more palatable to others. Surely, Mr. Rae agrees that, for the good of the PARTY and the COUNTRY, it is in the best interests to "expediate" the leadership question. Surely, Mr. Rae can see the value in letting the rank and file decide, in a completely democratic process? Any hesitation sends a clear signal, that you can't win, which in and of itself is more proof that it's time to GET ON WITH IT.

The problem, Liberals tend to compromise, rather than step on toes, we like to be politically correct, which sometimes has the affect of self-imposed paralysis. It's time to be bold, and the above gives a new leader the legitimacy in the minds of Canadians, required to be an effective alternative. Drop the half measure of an interim leader, it's a pointless move. Get a LEADER, and find a way to do it soon, because Harper has given us a window to get our house in order, once and for all.

Find somewhere warm, slit a hole in a cardboard box, check off a ridings members list, find a pencil that is capable of producing an X, and ensure that it's fair. Sounds simple enough, it's doable, if self-interest doesn't pollute reason. Let's be pro-active, the times demand it.

An interim leader isn't a solution, it's a timid and temporary response to an extraordinary circumstance.

Friday, December 05, 2008

"Democratically Elected Representatives"

We've heard much talk of our MP's, our elected representatives, which gives them the moral and legal authority to turf the government. If Liberal MP's decided to form a coalition with other parties, despite no grassroots input, that is acceptable, because again, they are our elected representatives. In extraordinary times, we rely on our elected representatives to act in the public interest, and beyond that, for the party they represent.

There is a way out of this Dion disaster, and interestingly enough, it relies on the same arguments people have presented to defend recent events in Ottawa. I'm with Herle's suggestion, it's based on sound reasoning, which needs to be considered. Liberal MP's should hold an immediate vote, and choose a new leader, not interim, but the real deal. Later, the grassroots can rubber stamp that choice, but given the environment, Liberals need to move fast and decisively, the time for political correctness is over. Let our "elected representatives" decide, surely if we have faith in them to cobble together a coalition behind closed doors with no public input, plotting to take down the Prime Minister, that confidence extends to choosing a new leader, in a time of crisis. To argue otherwise, is a logical inconsistency, it fails to extend the "crisis" mentality to the leadership.

There is something horribly wrong, if the Liberals actually elect another leader, that doesn't have the confidence of caucus. As a matter of fact, it's a recipe for disaster, and no matter your personal preference, one can see how caucus resolve is key to a confident opposition, simply a critical ingredient if we are take government. For that reason, given the circumstances, let's just get the hell on with it and let our "elected representatives" choose a captain.

Dion has to go, and must go NOW. An interim leader is not sufficient, because it doesn't project the stability, or credibility, required to influence the GG. I see a scenario, wherein late January comes, the Liberals stuck with Dion or another caretaker, the GG sees the problem, opts for an election and we are completely and utterly screwed. We must be nimble, adapt to the circumstances, think beyond our personal preferences and get the person in place who can lead this party, who has the confidence of caucus, who can turn the page and give the Liberals a fresh start.

People can say, this is just an attempt by an Ignatieff supporter to get help his candidate of choice. That's fine, even if misguided, but I'm not making any decision, I'm leaving in the hands of our "elected representatives", they could pick Rae, whatever, let's just GET ON WITH IT. Serious times call for serious people, to make necessary decisions, that accurately understand the situation. Dump Dion, and get this leadership race over now, Canada requires it.

UPDATE

Olaf offers a fantastic suggestion, which appeals to grassroots input. Dump Dion, and hold 308 emergency riding meetings, wherein party members can vote on a new leader. Let's do it, and do it swiftly. Sounds fair to me, under the circumstances.