Thursday, April 30, 2009

"Mildly Amusing"

Ignatieff held a media availability which I attended. One question concerned the recent change in tone coming from the NDP and Bloc camps, how that relates to election timing. Ignatieff's comments were interesting, saying he found it "mildly amusing" to watch the NDP suddenly "playing nice" with the government. This commentary was said with a wry smile, then Ignatieff referenced both parties "cozying up to the Conservatives", adding, as though he knew the answer "I wonder why?" The last quote was an apparent reference to the recent polls. Ignatieff reiterated the long held Liberal position that we would not seek an election, until which time Parliament could no longer function.

Ignatieff was asked "if the party is better off", given the lack of drama heading into this convention. Ignatieff reminded us, that had it not been for the personal sacrifice of Rae and LeBlanc, things might be much different. Ignatieff then thanked Harper the "master strategist" for being so offensive last fall that he effectively united the Liberal Party, allowing it to come to Vancouver "ready to fight" an election. This convention is now about building the party in every region of the country, letting delegates know that we have a 308 strategy, take the message home with optimism.

In a related comment, Ignatieff spoke to the improved fundraising and the retiring of the debt. There was a veiled threat with "the financial picture is signficantly improved and the other parties should take note". I took that as a warning to the Conservatives, that should they go negative, we have the resources to respond in kind. Basically, bring it on with calm confidence.

I was present when Ignatieff entered the convention hall to register and the commotion was compelling. I don't want to overdo it, but suffice it to say it was quite a scene and people here are quite pumped.


Jeff has put up a video of Ignatieff's speech today at the Council Of Presidents Meeting:

At The Convention

People are trickling into this beautiful facility in Vancouver. The party has set up a nice area for the bloggers, as well as giving us access to all media events. I spotted Jane Taber walking the halls, apparently reporting on "nothing" is actually noteworthy, but then that's her niche anyways, so it's a good fit. Meow.

Just a few thoughts on the vibe I'm sensing so far, in speaking with a few notables within the party. Obviously, the word upbeat comes to mind, a very positive attitude is clearly on display.

I did speak with Rocco Rossi for a few minutes and I won't rehash what Jeff has said, but I'll add one observation that was interesting. With the way the party financing rules work, Rocco made the point that every new vote in the Liberal column has a doubling potential. Apart from new voters- people who didn't vote in the last election- every time we are able to move a vote from another party, not only do we benefit but the other parties suffer. I thought this a clever understanding of what is at stake, how every voter is important within this system. This view also speaks to the merits of the 308 strategy, because "winning" a riding isn't the only consideration, bleeding support from traditional sources can undermine our opposition, while improving our bottomline. Anyways, I saw that comment as further proof that Rocco is a smart cat. Tall too :)

Ignatieff is scheduled to speak with the media shortly, then with the Council of Presidents. I'll try to attend both and will post any observations.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


More good news to kick off the convention:

Q1 2009 - $1,831,843

Q1 2008 - $846,000

The "more than doubled" fundraising number is true. Not sure what the other party numbers are, as of yet, but a relatively great number for the Liberals. As an aside, the NDP have now lost one of their continual talking points, that being the Liberals get a higher percentage of total monetary supply from public financing. The math has changed my friends :)

Liblogs are holding a meet and greet suite tonight, which apparently will be well attended (Rossi is supposed to be there). Should be a fun night...

Polls and New Coalitions

A pretty amazing result from CROP for the Liberals, which gives added weight to the new coalition talk. The numbers, particularly the francophone breakdown, are beyond anything a Liberal could have hoped for, at this stage (last poll in brackets):
Libs 37 (plus 7%)
Bloc 31 (minus 4%)
Cons 15 (minus 3%)
NDP 12

Those numbers are almost too good, in the sense that the Bloc will look to avoid an election (more on that dynamic later). Another poll that shows the Conservatives on life support, a real danger now of perceived irrelevance, all current seats in play.

The Liberals are now in a virtual tie for francophone support, which would have been a laughable want just a few months ago:
Bloc 37% (minus 4%)
Libs 34% (plus 7%)
Cons 13% (minus 4%)
NDP 12%

I'll defer to those more intimate with Quebec seat distribution, but it's fair to say this movement with francophones puts many ridings into play for the Liberals.

On the best PM measure, Ignatieff enjoys a massive edge:
Ignatieff 45%
Layton 20%
Harper 17%

Quebec is a wasteland for Harper.

Right on cue, Gilles Duceppe is putting out signals that his party is ready to work with the government, much like the NDP pivot last week. We also hear talk that the Conservatives are going to do everything in their power to avoid a confidence vote prior to the 2010 Olympics. The strategy will also delay release of next year's budget, so that the government rule through the feel good Olympics. As far as that tidbit goes, with the economic situation, a general consensus that no rebound will really take hold until later in 2010, one has to think the Liberals can capitalize on any perceived budget delay for partisan advantage. That dynamic brings me to the new coalition of socialists, seperatists and sell out federalists.

From the Liberal perspective, if the other opposition parties want to make backroom deals with the government, prop up Harper, it puts us in a strong position. There does seem to be some strategic consideration in trying to force a fall election, the reasonings for the Liberals are obvious. However, it is a serious error for anyone to conclude that postponing any election "thwarts" the Liberal ambitions. The biggest danger for the Liberals moving forward, is a sense developing, wherein Canadians start to see the party as Conservative enablers, diminishing their stature, as well as arming the other parties. If the new dynamic gives the Liberals free reign to push an agenda, knowing full well the other parties are afraid of an election, it's hard to see how that hurts us in the polls. The key word here is "afraid", and that's exactly why the Bloc and NDP, as well as the Cons, are starting to play footsie under the table. No amount of spin detracts from a simple concept that denotes weakness. Liberals know the perils of perceived weakness, if others want to do the propping, one can think of a myriad of ways to be aggressive and capitalize on the wide berth.

In addition, time is the Liberals friend here, when you consider building organization, fundraising, candidates, etc. It's not like Liberals are DYING to have a vote, if one of the main concerns within the calculus is eliminated, I think people might be quite comfortable with watching others scurry while we build. I don't see how the Liberals fall considerably in the polls, especially when we will look a strong and aggressive opposition. If other parties are content to hide from the Liberal juggernaut, I am left with the clear impression that things have changed DRASTICALLY. Harper working with the Bloc, too delicious for words. The NDP propping up the government, tasty as well. Factor in the Liberal freedom as a results, works for me.

Heading To Vancouver

I'm off to Vancouver this morning for the Liberal convention. I'll be an accredited blogger during the proceedings, so expect regular posts from the floor starting tomorrow.

Make it so:

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Jim Prentice Does "Preposterous"

I wonder if Prentice realizes that he makes no sense whatsoever? There he was today on television, his main message coming out of climate talks- not only are the tar sands not a point of concern, NOBODY even mentioned them in conversation. The sentiment is expressed in this article, which just happens to detail all his actions to address the concerns that don't exist:
Mr. Prentice said it was "preposterous" for environmental groups to claim his mission in Washington was to seek a special deal for oil from the Alberta oil sands. The oil sands were not mentioned once during the two days of climate meetings among ministers from 17 nations, he said.

Not mentioned, not once, read my lips. Prentice is trying to downplay, fair enough, but how can he actually utter that crap, when he's concurrently tells us what he is doing to stop measures which will harm the tar sands:
Federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice on Tuesday said the Conservative government has "issues" with a draft bill that would make it increasingly difficult for U.S. refineries to sell fuel from the carbon emission-intensive oil sands.

In effect, the rules would force U.S. refiners to measure carbon intensity of a fuel from ‘wells to wheels.' Because the life cycle emissions from oil sands crude is up to 30% higher than in conventional oil, Canadian officials are worried the country's energy industry would be devastated by a national low carbon fuel standard in the U.S.

Canada's concerns about the U.S. climate bill follows "the same logic" as objections Ottawa raised last week in a failed bid to derail the California measures, Mr. Prentice said following two days of meetings in Washington.

In a letter last week to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, federal Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt said the state's low carbon fuel standard "discriminated" against oil sands oil and "could be perceived as an unfair trade barrier" between the two countries.

"I think the practicality of it was raised in some detail in terms of rendering it operational," added Mr. Prentice.

The environment minister was in Washington to attend a climate summit organized by the White House for 17 large carbon-emitting nations. He also met with U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu to discuss the Clean Energy Dialogue established between Ottawa and Washington during President Barack Obama's visit to Canada in February

Prentice has spent two days trying to ensure that any American initiative doesn't punish high carbon imports from Canada, but nobody spoke about the high carbon imports from Canada. I don't know what's more frightening, that he actually isn't aware of the absurd logic proposed, or that he thinks nobody will notice how "preposterous" he sounds.

Fundraising "Gossip"

Joan Bryden gives us some indication of just how much fundraising has improved under Ignatieff:
Financial results to be released later this week are expected to show the Liberal party more than doubled its fundraising take during the first quarter of 2009 over the paltry $850,000 raised during the same period last year. And the party expects to announce during the convention that it's paid off its $2-million debt from last October's election.

Liberal national director Rocco Rossi attributes the improvement to ``the Ignatieff effect.'' ``There's clearly excitement, enthusiasm and you have a leader who's going to every corner of the country, who's reaching out,'' Rossi says.

Final number aside, "more than doubling" our fundraising total in such short order is a serious shot in the arm, beyond reasonable expectation. I expected some significant improvement, but not this trajectory, this soon, before the new team really had a chance to put a its strategy in place. The fact the mega 1 million dollar fundraiser earlier this month counts for the next quarter, not included here, also means we can expect more good news in the future.

It goes without saying, whatever the number, we still lag far behind the Conservatives. However, in a practical sense we're more competitive, and maybe just as important, the narrative of an energized party on the uptick continues.

Ignatieff Interview

Here's the clip of Gregg's in depth interview with Ignatieff:

After the first ten minutes reviewing the book, there are some interesting exchanges on partisanship, differentiating from Harper, fundraising, courting western Canada and a passionate, clearly sincere perspective on aborginal issues at the end.

Riff Raff

Yesterday's proceedings in Parliament had a rather professional, respectful tone as MP's dealt with the swine flu issue. In a testament to the complete lack of respect Pierre Poilievre enjoys, rather than listen to his continually embarrassing performance, Ignatieff just left:
The Liberals groaned, then moaned as the government sent up Pierre Poilievre to answer. At the sight of the Prime Minister’s parliamentary secretary, Ignatieff decided the proceedings moot, packed up his papers and left the House, the Conservatives calling after him to stay.

“Words, Mr. Speaker,” Poilievre began. “As an academic, a journalist and author, the Liberal leader has built his entire career on words. Surely, he cannot tell us that his words mean nothing. If his words mean nothing, then he means nothing.”

Poilievre invited Ignatieff to return and answer whatever it was he was asking, then returned to his seat and shared a laugh with Tom Lukiwski. Watson smiled too. Chuck Strahl laughed uproariously. John Baird applauded.

The people of Nepean Carleton must be proud.

Monday, April 27, 2009

From The "What Were They Thinking" Department

When somebody has an idea like the following below, particularly the US military, you have to wonder why nobody would connect the OBVIOUS DOTS and maybe NIX the concept. It's actually mind blowing that this plan got off the runaway. A large jet, accompanied by fighter aircraft, within eyeshot of the former WTC:

One of President Barack Obama's official planes flanked by an Air Force fighter jet flew low over the Statue of Liberty Monday for a photo opportunity that reminded startled New Yorkers of the Sept. 11 attacks.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg criticized the federal government and his own administration for failing to warn the public, which was shocked by the image of a jumbo jet flanked by an F-16 flying near the World Trade Center site.

"The good news is it was nothing more than an inconsiderate, badly conceived and insensitive photo op with the taxpayers' money," Mr. Bloomberg told reporters.

"They should know how sensitive people would be if they had low-flying planes down around the World Trade Center site," said Mr. Bloomberg, adding that he was "furious."

Employees at the New York Mercantile Exchange, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch and other institutions evacuated their buildings, and hundreds of others called the 911 emergency response line, City Councilman Daniel Garodnick wrote in a letter of complaint to the FAA.


The Optics Of "Nothing"

Much debate about what exactly this Liberal convention is all about, or more correctly, what it's not about. I would submit that a lack of drama is exactly what this party needs at the moment, especially when compared to what the alternative might have been. The result predictable, the mood largely known, the themes entirely ordinary, but apart from giving the media juicy distractions, there isn't much downside to "nothing".

To be fair, there are important policy matters that will play out, but most of this convention lacks that "sexy" quality that people crave. Division is noteworthy, tribes of Liberals needing to "heal" and unite, that's what they all wanted. Instead we come to Vancouver with nary a dissenting voice, for the first time I can remember, the word "camp" not even entertained. Extraordinary circumstance gave way to the coronation, but given the possible alternative scenarios, it's pretty easy to see how advantageous it is to now not to have critical time wasted bringing people together in the convention aftermath. The Liberals are already there, have been for some time, in fact the sense of "unity" is almost unprecedented in my memory. If one of the main themes, although pedestrian, is a party focused on the big prize, I'll take that over rancor and lingering questions.

Another dull theme that will prevalent, that of a a party on the rebound, in terms of organization and fundraising. One of the chief positives thus far during the Ignatieff "interim" reign, is the vigorous focus on getting our act together, and we're starting to see evidence of the payoff. Contrast that messaging with the spectacle of a broke party, candidates mired in debt, leaving Vancouver at ground zero or worse, and this alternative looks entirely positive. Part of the optimism that will be on display is a manifestation of progress on the "nuts and bolts" front. The storyline of a reinvigorated party, retooling for the next election, is much better than the media examination of the huge problems behind the face presentation.

Part of the media lament is nothing more than a testament to the lack of negative bylines. A story needs spice, sizzle, and if there is any opportunity to undercut the supposed "spin", it is seized upon, that's what gets the media engaged. As far as I'm concerned, the yawner quality really denotes a nothing to see here presentation, and for the Liberals that's the preferred scenario. Think about it for a second, no more tantalizing leaks, no more stories about disarray, now no sense of "knives", no hint of downward trends. In fact, everywhere you look, there is a fair argument for optimism, and that reality isn't newsworthy, much more entertaining when we see discord and the resquisite suspense, which really translates to dicey propositions and unknowns.

I don't think this convention is about "nothing", but for the media, it probably is and if that's the case, I say mission accomplished. It is all very predictable, so one has to wonder, apart from intense focus, how it hurts the Liberals to emerge with the theme of a united party, enthusiastic about it's new leader, optimistic about it's ability to compete, armed with a tangible confidence that the Conservatives days are numbered. The Liberals have had enough drama over the years, a sense of stability and focus, common purpose, ain't nothing by my definition. Bored media tend to look elsewhere, never forget it.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Ignatieff With Positive Momentum

More information from the Angus Reid poll, which shows that Ignatieff is the only federal leader currently improving his standing with the electorate:
Preferred Prime Minister and Momentum Score

Conservative leader and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper experienced a drop in support when respondents were asked which of the five federal party leaders would make the best head of government. Harper (24%) is now tied with Ignatieff (24%), with the remaining leaders in single digits. When paired against Stéphane Dion in 2008, Harper always surpassed the 30 per cent mark in this particular question.

For the third time this year, Ignatieff is the only one of the five federal leaders to post a positive momentum score (+11). One-in-four respondents (27%) say their opinion of Ignatieff improved over the course of the past month, while 16 per cent report a decline.

Harper had the worst momentum score of all leaders (-20), with a third of Canadians (33%) saying their opinion of the Prime Minister has worsened.

NDP leader Jack Layton (-18), Green leader Elizabeth May (-11), and Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe (-7 in Quebec) also failed to gain ground in April.

Interesting that Canadians look upon all leaders negatively, with Ignatieff being the only exception. As the pollster points out, Ignatieff has maintained a positive momentum score for the last three polls, which shows that he is wearing well as Canadians get to know him. Harper, losing credibility with each successive finding.

"Working" For Canadians

Nice to see the NDP braintrust have their priorities straight:
The NDP's research team has carefully examined Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff's new book and found the personal pronoun "I" is mentioned 164 times.

Excellent, relevant work. I suppose the point of releasing such riveting information is to convey an air of vanity or ego. I think that's a fair observation, especially with the obvious contrast in humility:

Trending Liberal

A new Angus Reid poll which continues the trend of Liberals moving up, while Conservatives moving down. From this pollster a 9% lead became a 4% lead which now shows a tie. One curious finding in Ontario, which seems an outlier, relative to the clear trend elsewhere.

The national numbers:
Libs 33%
Cons 33%
NDP 15%
Greens 6%

A high water mark in Liberal support from AR. The results are closer than other recent polls, which have given the Liberals a small to reasonable lead. The discrepancy seems to come with the Ontario findings, which don't correspond with what we've seen elsewhere:
Cons 38%
Libs 35%
NDP 17%
Greens 7%

If we look at the last Ontario results, from every pollster (Nanos, Ekos, Harris Decima, Strategic Counsel, Ipsos Reid) we see the Liberals average 43.2%, while the Conservatives average 32.2%. Given the clear trends elsewhere, it's hard to reconcile this number from Angus Reid with other findings. This apparent outlier explains the national tie scenario, looks like a 19 out of 20 result.

Looking at the rest of the regionals, the Quebec numbers are more in line:
Bloc 40%
Libs 35%
Cons 10%
NDP 6%
Greens 5%

The average, using the last set of results from every pollster, including CROP in this case, shows the Liberals at 31.3%, Conservatives 14.3%, Bloc 38.8%, NDP 9.8%. The most recent results for the Conseratives show a 12%, a 10%, and now another 10%, so it's not much of a stretch to talk of a complete shutout in Quebec, at the MOMENT.

AR shows a tight race in British Columbia, large margin of error caveat aside:
Cons 36%
Libs 31%
NDP 23%
Greens 10%

You're hesitant to conclude much, but we are starting to see an uptick for the Liberals, a narrowing in British Columbia, based on the last few polls. It would be nice to have a British Columbia only poll, to see if the trend is real.

On the best PM front, Ignatieff is now tied with Harper at 24% each, which is clearly a worrying sign for a party that revolves around leadership.

Overall, I feel pretty confident in saying that AR's Ontario number is very suspect, while the rest of their findings show reasonable resemblence to what we've seen elsewhere. If we see a tie scenario, further evidence of switched fortunes, without the Ontario "gap", things look quite good for the Liberals.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Conservatives Clarify The Clarification From The Original Clarification: Unsure On Khadr

Man, I'm dizzy:
A short time later things changed again, with spokeswoman Catherine Loubier saying the government is still considering what to do.

More updates as required...

Khadr Appeal Back On

A clarification to the earlier clarification, the government will proceed with an appeal on Khadr. Minister Cannon's spokesman mis-spoke, when contradicting the original statement:
"saying the minister's comments stood"

Conservatives Unsure On Khadr

Disregard my last post, the government is unsure of whether to proceed with an appeal. Minister Cannon's spokesman clarifies:
"no decision had been made"

Conservative Will Appeal Khadr Decision

It appears the government will appeal the federal court decision on Omar Khadr:
Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon told the House of Commons on Friday that their would be an appeal.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Ignatieff Criticizes Napolitano

With calls for her resignation circulating, Ignatieff has "raised concerns" about Napolitano to a senior Obama advisor:
WASHINGTON — Michael Ignatieff is raising concerns about the U.S. homeland security secretary with a top Obama administration official.

Ignatieff says he's told Larry Summers, President Barack Obama's top economic adviser, that Janet Napolitano is misinformed when she suggests Canada's border poses a security risk to the United States.

But Ignatieff says her remarks raised "strong concern" in Canada, and told Summers in a 45-minute conversation today that it seems she harbours "ill-founded" suspicions about Canada.

In fact, Ignatieff says, Canada has an excellent record of security in co-operation with the United States.

Ignatieff says he told Summers that Canada treats American concerns about security with the utmost seriousness, and that Canadian security and immigration systems are top-notch.

Napolitano's recent comments, he says, are "not constructive, not helpful and they're factually untrue."

It's nice to see that Ignatieff doesn't view his Washington trip as a entirely huggy affair, wherein he merely uses the visit to receive flecks of magic Obama dust. Fairly strong language, and rather than being educated during his visit, it would appear Ignatieff is doing the teaching.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

"Turning The Corner"

One of the main reasons I didn't vote Liberal in the 2006 election is because they were such a joke on the environment(same for 2004). In a testament to just what a complete disgrace the Conservatives have been, they've managed the unthinkable, made the Liberals look relatively engaged:

I always wondered what the Conservative meant when they named their plan "Turning The Corner", now we know.

New Poll

The latest Harris Decima poll provides more bad news for the Conservatives. With the very large sample size, the Liberal lead is outside of the margin of error (2.2):
Libs 32%
Cons 29%
NDP 16%
Greens 11%
Bloc 9%

We see a 3% drop for the Conservatives from the last Decima poll, and this is the first time any pollster has put them in the 20's since their election. No regionals yet, except for the broad strokes:
But they trailed the Bloc and Liberals in Quebec, were behind the Liberals in Ontario and were in a second-place tie with the Liberals in British Columbia, where the NDP has top spot.

The pollster refers to the numbers as a "slim lead". The last HD poll was a statistically tie, and this is the first time HD has given the Liberals a lead outside of MOE, a trend we've seen elsewhere. The NDP are up 2% from the last poll, to a more respectable level. I'm quite curious what the BC numbers look like, because with a 2000 sample size, the regionals probably have more weight.

Although there is some slight variation in raw totals, HD confirms the same trends. Liberals lead in Ontario, Conservatives no longer competitive in Quebec and clear signs of erosion elsewher



But in Ontario, which accounts for one-third of the seats in the House of Commons, the Conservatives were nine-points behind the Liberals,with 31 per cent and 40 per cent respectively. The NDP had 15 per cent support and the Greens 14 per cent.

In Quebec, the Tories have fallen to a distant third, with 12 per cent support compared to 40 per cent for the Bloc, 31 per cent for the Liberals, nine per cent for the NDP and five per cent for the Greens.

And in B.C., the Tories have slipped into a second-place tie with the Liberals (26 per cent each), while the NDP has pulled into a slim lead with 29 per cent support. The Greens had 16 per cent.

In Atlantic Canada, the Liberals continued to maintain a strong advantage, with 41 per cent, compared to 27 per cent for the Tories, 25 per cent for the NDP and six per cent for the Greens.

The only bright spot for the Conservatives was in the Prairies, wherethey already hold all but seven seats and, thus, have little to gain. In Alberta, the poll suggests the Tories continued to dominate with 55 per cent support, compared to 19 per cent for the Liberals, 14 percent for the Greens and 10 per cent for the NDP.

In Manitoba-Saskatchewan, the poll pegged Conservative support at 46per cent, to 23 per cent for the Liberals, 16 per cent for the NDP and11 per cent for the Greens.

This is the first poll to put the Conservative support so low in British Columbia. For context, the last HD poll had the Conservatives at 38% in the province. I've floated before, that the recession is just now taking a strong hold in British Columbia, curious if this would move the numbers. We've some evidence elsewhere of a slight shift, this poll would tend to confirm that. A strong showing for the NDP, one has to wonder if the provincial election is affecting the numbers.

These regionals show a disasterous concoction for the Conservatives. Another absymal number in Quebec, which looks more plausible with each replicated result. A virtual shutout is a real possibility, and the Liberals are clearly emerging as the only true federalist option. While the Liberals national number is steady, relative to the last poll, in Ontario a 4% lead is now a impressive 9% edge.

Drilling down into the regionals, this HD poll represents a comfortable minority for the Liberals.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Rubbing Elbows

Harper might want to hire the guy that books Iggy's gigs down south:
Michael Ignatieff will hold private meetings in Washington this week with President Barack Obama's inner circle in a move to showcase the Liberal leader's close bonds to the Democratic administration

A pretty impressive itinerary by any measure, which speaks to stature:
Ignatieff will deliver an off-the-record keynote address on Afghanistan on Thursday to an exlusive group of U.S. policymakers that includes Richard Holbrooke, the president 's special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, Liberal insiders say.

On Wednesday night, Ignatieff will have dinner with Holbrooke, who is spearheading Obama's aggressive new policy to defeat the Taliban and crackdown on insurgents using Pakistan as a safe haven.

Ignatieff will also be the guest of honour at a private dinner Thursday night in Washington hosted by Obama's White House foreign policy adviser Samantha Power and her husband Cass Sunstein, who also works for Obama and is rumoured to be in line for the president's first Supreme Court appointment.

Larry Summer, the president's economic adviser, is also expected to attend the private dinner. Summer, the former president of Harvard University, is a close friend of Ignatieff as is Power. Sumner and Ignatieff have often vacationed together.

The Liberal leader will also meet Barney Frank, the powerful chairman of the House Representatives Financial Services Committee to discuss American efforts to combat the global recession and deal with the banking crisis.

...But he will also argue Canada should be taking a much bigger role in the Holbrooke mission given the country's military and financial commitment to Afghanistan. Ignatieff has criticized the Harper government for failing to appoint a special envoy to region as Britain, France and Italy have done.

Guest of honor, keynote speaker, it's no appearance on Fox mind you, but it sure says something about genuine substance. I don't doubt for a moment that there is a political consideration here, but you can't fake well earned intellectual respect on the international scene.

Anyways, whomever it was in the Ignatieff inner circle that "found" the time in Michael's schedule for this visit, let me say BRAVO. The optics are delicious.

Works For Me

When people mention the Liberals forcing an election, supporters of other parties, and some in the pundit class, like to remind everyone that they can't defeat the government by themselves, they need the assistance of all opposition parties. That fact isn't in dispute, so yes it's entirely true, the Liberals don't have the "hammer" in isolation. With Layton's flip flop, some argue that the NDP will not play along with the Liberals, they will move at a time of their own choosing, in their own self interest, not ours. Fair enough, but really, it's hard to see the downside for the Liberals within this reality.

When Liberals weigh the pros and cons of election timing, at or near the top of the list for the "sooner rather than later" crowd is this notion that there is a risk on the "propping up" front. It's easy to dismiss the negative ramifications to date, because frankly nobody is paying attention, or more rightly the attack isn't resonating, the Liberals have suffered no ill effects by letting the government survive. While that is an objective fact, many Liberals are well aware of past perceptions and recognize that the longer we manoeuver around confidence motions, the more a sense of "weak" opposition could take hold. COULD being the key word, because it's unclear if that sentiment will ever develop, but part of the thinking in pushing a fall or spring vote is that it would nullify any potential unattractive frame on the real opposition front. At a certain point, you begin to "own" some of the government's baggage, if a well established trend of compliance or approval develops.

When people point to the necessity of other party support to bring down the government, they miss a very crucial point, that radically changes the dynamic. If the NDP or Bloc decide that an election isn't in their best interest, and refuse to bring the government down, the Liberals are given a free pass to be aggressive, they can oppose the government with impunity. Any concern about perceived weakness evaporates, and along with it a terrific opportunity to differentiate and contrast our approach with that of the government. Let other parties "prop up" the government, it will have the dual of effect of undercutting any former criticisms directed at the Liberals, as well as giving us the latitude to PUSH hard with our agenda. To give an example, let's say the Liberals do present a EI reform motion this spring, which the government rejects. Fast forward to the fall, the Liberals re-visit the resistance to reform, try and force a non-confidence. This will leave the other opposition parties with two choices, bring them down or cower, which then leaves the Liberals on the EI reform "high ground" so to speak. I fail to see how the appearance of a strong, vibrant opposition, armed with attractive alternatives presented, doesn't help the overall cause. If the NDP wants to avoid an election, so be it, because the optics are favorable for the Liberals.

There is a little fact at play here- time is the Liberals friend. With a fall economic rebound looking less and less realistic with each passing day, there is really nothing on the horizon that can change the government's fortunes. Couple that probability with the disappearance of the potential "enabler" tag, and there is very little risk for the Liberals. More time to fundraise and compete with the Conservatives, more time to rebuild the party where we need to, more time to attract a strong slate of candidates, more time to do the myriad of things the Liberals need to achieve optimal election readiness. If the Liberals are afforded that time, without the pressure of perceived support for the government, it's almost the preferred scenario, because a main impetus for going early is removed. Within the environment of other parties actively trying to avoid an election, the Liberals will look every bit the "real opposition" and in so doing, Canadians will have a better sense of our agenda.

If anyone suggests that the NDP or Bloc will be an obstacle to Liberal desires for an election, I say without hesitation- works for me.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Layton To Harper: "Work With Us"

What an amazing turn, wherein Layton has effectively disavowed the last five months of NDP rhetoric. Apparently, this two week break brought an epiphany, or in more honest language, a sober look at the woeful state which demanded a major rethink, even if it reeks of hypocrisy. There he was, Layton now arguing that the NDP has an agenda, and it's goal in Parliament will be to "work" with the Conservatives to take action on the economy. Never mind that the NDP don't "trust" Harper anymore, yesterday's line, now it's all about making Parliament function properly.

Actually, it gets worse. Remember way back when, during the budget? Do you recall a overwhelming sentiment amongst Canadians to get the budget passed, near UNIVERSAL rejection at the prospect of another election? Of course you do, the thought of another election beyond distasteful. That sentiment was part of the calculus for the Liberals, or more broadly any reasonable person covering the events. What is just fascinating, although somewhat late to the party, Layton has discovered something when he spoke with Canadians:
“I didn't hear anybody saying that they were hankering after an election,”
As opposed to budget time, when Canadians were just ITCHING eh Jack? Staggering. Sounds like a "hole in the head" moment, doesn't it?

And, it still gets more bizarre. In an interview on CTV today, Layton was confronted with his poor decisions in the past months:
Tom Clark:

"You took a huge flyer on the coalition, you took a huge flyer on the budget by saying you were going to vote against it. Did that work for you, because the numbers would seem to suggest it didn't?"

And, what is Layton's response? Layton argues that it's all been a success, because Harper's budget spoke to the issues raised:
Jack Layton:

"Well, first of all, I access- did it work for Canadians? The fact is, we ended up with some action that Harper would never have delivered without that threat"

Follow the logic. The budget "delivered" because of the "threat", it "worked" for Canadians, but we couldn't support it, even though Canadians "want action now" as opposed to an election nobody wants. Okay.

For the final head scratcher, uber NDP support McClelland mentions this tidbit at Big City Lib:
I told you the other day that the NDP were likely going to crush Iggy's pipe dream of an election this year in exchange for something from the Cons. I'm hearing that a referendum on PR may even be on the table.

Oh please, let it be true. Not only is Layton ready to "work" with Harper, he's prepared to make BACKROOM deals with a man he can't "trust", all in the name of avoiding the electorate.

Disclaimer. The only reason I mention any of these outrageous inconsistencies, borne of political expediency, is because NDP supporters tend to think their party operates within a different reality. I know full well that many decisions made by my party of current choice are strategic, principles are often marginalized within the dynamics at play. That is the hard reality for mainstream parties. There are times where the NDP's relative irrelevance allows for a different presentation, a purity that can function because in the end it's mostly theoretical. What galls me is the naive belief that this purity is real, relatively speaking, the high horse chastisement. TODAY, we see something very simple, which should be taken to heart. The NDP are just as opportunistic, calculating and hypocritical as all their imperfect targets. Deal with it :)

Chretien's Greatest Legacy?

Sometimes it takes time to truly appreciate the implications of a particular piece of legislation. It is also true that initial intentions can morph into something entirely different in the final manifestation, a new paradigm established which goes beyond the thinking within the impetus. When Chretien reformed the way in which political parties raised money and were subsequently publicly funded, many old guard politicos reacted with scorn, particularly many Liberal "elites". It was thought- and the first years have borne this out- that Chretien had effectively handicapped his own party with these poorly thought out reforms. Given how the Liberal Party was constructed at the time, Chretien's new rules did hurt his party more than any other, for Liberals this was a self-inflicted wound.

Six years after C-24, the Liberals are still struggling to adapt to the new rules, but we are beginning to see how these measures are reforming the party. The necessity of CASH is a powerful motivator, so one can question the sincerity, but equally you can't doubt the implications. Without the reliance on big money and powerful interests, Chretien has forced the Liberals to re-invent themselves. For a party to prosper within this new environment, it MUST have grassroots support, it MUST connect with average Canadians. Further, with the public financing rules, there is a deep incentive to "reach out" to all regions, the math now moves from a simple seat calculation to one of harvesting votes, because they worth beyond election.

Today, I read another article on the Liberal embrace of a 308 riding strategy, wherein money from the party will be equally distributed to each riding, regardless of viability. A terrific progression, but largely a function of the CASH consideration. These reforms come with other measures, vehicles like the Victory Fund, En Famille, OMOV, etc, all part of an emphasis on engaging rank and file Liberals. The Liberal Party is finally realizing the new calculus- you can't survive or prosper without a strong base of ordinary Canadians. Our success or failure will largely be determined by how the party can connect and motivate, expand and attract, quite a different reality from past reliance on the powerful and the elites. Should the Liberals fail to attract ordinary Canadians, it will fail, it's a simple as that.

We are starting to the seeds of C-24 take root, in a way that speaks to democratization. Rather than relying on traditional bases of support, there is a mechanism which sees the merit in universal appeal, and in so doing the national character will benefit, the party will be more representative, more equal in policy consideration.

A cynic can scoff, but in reality Chretien's legacy here, is one that disallows a detached, top heavy, elitist organization, it punishes the inability to connect, while rewarding empowerment of the ordinary. For the first time, I can project to the future and see a different entity, one that is entirely more attractive and accountable. I'm not sure if Chretien was truly motivated in the most genuine way, nor do I have any illusions on what is the chief motivator for the reforms now(CASH), but I'm pretty sure it's a healthy development for our democracy none the less.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Hanging With The Cool Kid

There he was, Stephen Harper in front of the cameras, taking questions at the Summit of the Americas. One question from Canadian reporters, then a second, followed by a third. In a terrific example of just how DESPERATE Harper is to link his fortunes to the American President, Harper then asks the assembled Canadian media a question- don't they want to ask about his "meeting" in a hotel corridor with Obama? That's right, Harper volunteers the question, so he can then brag about what a terrific and intense relationship the two leader enjoy. Apparently, the presser wasn't going according to script, reporters concerned about other global matters and what not, Harper saw an opportunity lost, so he intervened. What a transparent HOOT.

Apart from the Harper government's overt attempts to continually try and suckle from the Obama teat, this episode highlights something very important about the Prime Minister. The wheels are always turning, everything is strategic and calculating, it's all about HIM being placed in the best possible light. In a ironic twist, what Harper has never grasped, the more he tries to ride the Obama coat tails for domestic advantage, the more Canadians are reminded of just what a cad we have for a leader, relatively speaking.

On Solid Ground

I've only read snippets, along with a few reviews, so I don't claim to have an intimate sense, but the broad strokes of Ignatieff's new book seem pretty self-evident. Cynics will note the timing of release, the subject matter convienient, in that the book just happens to address a looming Conservative attack line. It should be noted, the work began well before Ignatieff's return to Canada, but it's fair to see the finished piece as "timely". Whatever, early feedback suggests a passionate effort that is genuine in spirit.

Leaving aside motivations, the political treatise, Ignatieff's philosophy of what Canada has been and should be, thinking "big", I'm curious how this book plays electorally. I've never thought the Conservatives really had a big card to play on the patriotism front, but it's clear they do and whether overt or subtle they intend to paint Ignatieff in a negative light on this score. Leaving all the counters aside, I think there is no question this book will serve to further undermine that particular attack line. Some of it isn't news, but more a vivid reminder, Ignatieff's roots in this country are expansive and impressive, he takes great pride in his heritage (the book apparently contains a chapter on a 2000 roadtrip across the country retracing some of the family legacy). This family has been part of many key "dramas", as Ignatieff's likes to say, within our collective history, so much so questioning the connection to country is rendered ridiculous.

Most Canadians will never read the latest Ignatieff book, but the vast majority of the media conduit will, and these musings act as a concrete foundation that dismisses any rational accusation of Canadian convenience- unless of course ambition and ego is something new in the political realm. In fact, this book renders the opponent attack line entirely neutered; the claim can be made, distortions presented, but within the Canadian reality, it all seems silly, almost childish in the suggestion. Ignatieff is a fantastic writer, who's ability to articulate serves him well in establishing his credentials, if that's the frame. There are ample stories in his arsenal, that will ultimately brush off the "hockey dad vs detached ex-pat". If anything, Ignatieff seems to have a much better sense of country than the people who will claim high ground.

This book will serve Ignatieff well moving forward, frankly I think the Conservatives had best go back to the drawing board. It was always a weak proposition, particularly because the retorts are strong and genuine, but now it seems obvious- that dog won't hunt. The only caveat, sound strategy seems to have been replaced by desperation (good luck with coalition "letter", oohhh scary), so they will probably try. I think Ignatieff might just relish the debate...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

More Free Votes?

A possible off shoot, with the new database that details individual MP's voting records, is that it could provide impetus for more free votes in Parliament. While the database will largely be the domain of politicos- one can hardly imagine constituents flocking in great numbers to review- it will be used in debates at the riding level. I can already see a political flyer at the doorstep, detailing a sitting MP's voting record, using the bills, and in so doing adding another layer of accountability, not so easily fluffed off as a party decision. This database is essentially a tool an easy tool for opponents.

If a sense develops that MP's are more accountability for their individual voting record, one has to wonder if they will start to bolt more regularly, when forced to tow the party line, despite sentiment in their riding. Is this database a small step towards better, independently minded representation in Parliament?

Friday, April 17, 2009

MacKay In The Dog House?

Defying a direct order from Stevie Stalin? Can MacKay escape Harper's wrath, arguing it was just a chance encounter? Beg for forgiveness and hope it blows over? Peter MacKay spoke to a former Prime Minister, at a hockey game. This doesn't look good:
HALIFAX — Defence Minister Peter MacKay says he has spoken with Brian Mulroney recently, despite a directive from Stephen Harper not to have any contact with the former prime minister.

Mr. MacKay says he saw Mulroney at an all-star hockey game in Montreal in February and chatted with him for a couple of minutes.

He didn't reveal what the two longtime friends discussed, but said that was the last time they communicated.

It's not clear whether such an encounter would violate an edict from the Prime Minister that directed government members not to have any contact with Mr. Mulroney.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Big Red Machine

In the final analysis, this story is probably more relevant to Liberal fortunes than the polls:
In a bid to match successful tactics used in the past two election campaigns by Stephen Harper's Conservatives, the federal Liberals are importing highly sophisticated voter database software used by Barack Obama's political strategists.

To make maximum use of the technology, the party is also taking steps to centralize administration, fundraising and election preparation. This would effectively end the party's status as a loosely federated body of provincial and territorial associations.

Once that happens, the party can move ahead with plans to build a central database using a so-called software “skin” called VAN – for Voter Activation Network – developed by a Massachusetts company and used with great success by the Obama campaign for the U.S. presidency.

The finished system will cost anywhere between $250,000 and $1-million.

Steven MacKinnon, the party's former national director who is co-chair of the committee on party renewal, said yesterday that once the system is in place, the Liberals will be able to close the gap quickly with the Conservatives.

Toronto lawyer Alfred Apps, the party president-designate, concurred. “I can tell you, we're going to be a hell of a lot more competitive [in the next election] than we have been in the last three elections,” he said.

The system will enable the federal party to match the voters list with everyone who in the past has volunteered for the party, put up a lawn sign, canvassed, made a donation or identified themselves to the party in any other way.

Mr. Ignatieff has instructed every member of his caucus to put the system in place.

One of the more perplexing dynamics of this party, watching the slow pace in adapting to the new realities, especially when the Liberals made the rules. For the first time, you really get a genuine sense that something meaningful is afoot. In base terms, it looks like we're finally getting our shit together.

EKOS: Liberals Would Win 130 Seats

The new EKOS poll shows the Liberals with a decided advantage, a full 10% swing in support since the last comprehensive poll done in mid January. What was a 3.5% lead for the Conservatives is now a 6.5% lead for the Liberals:
Liberals 36.7%
Cons 30.2%
NDP 15.5%
Greens 8.1%

Some of the regionals have large MOE's, but it's noteworthy that the Conservatives trail the Liberals in every province except... well you know. I admit I find it hard to believe the Liberals are up 8% in Sask/Man, but EKOS also shows a statistical tie in British Columbia/Terr and the MOE is a respectable 6. Other polls have shown hinted at movement to the Liberals in British Columbia, with the large sample size, this internal might be indicative of something.

EKOS confirms recent trends in Ontario:
Libs 42%
Cons 32%
NDP 15%
Greens 11%

The last EKOS poll had a statistical tie, so again we see further confirmation of a big move to the Liberals in Ontario. This large gap must really depress the Conservatives, because their new strategy in recent months has been to court Ontario, making nice with McGuinty, now that Quebec is lost.

Speaking of Quebec, again the same sort of numbers from EKOS:
Bloc 40%
Libs 33%
NDP 12%
Cons 11%

That is a disasterous number for the Conservatives, and before apologists fluff it off, it's not the first time we've seen that low water mark in recent polls. A very strong number for the Liberals, by comparison the last EKOS poll had us at 21%.

The news is just as bad for the Conservatives when the question turns to party leaders, with Ignatieff scoring an impressive 50% approval (plus 6% from January), Harper 38%(plus 3), Layton 37% (down 7). Factoring in disapproval numbers, Ignatieff is plus 22%, while both Harper and Layton are minus, 16 and 9 respectively. In the last EKOS poll 35% had no opinion of Ignatieff, with this one the number is down to 21%. Ignatieff has a wide gap on this measure, coupled with the party support percentages, it's a powerful concoction. For Layton, more evidence that his image has been tarnished. For Harper, a known quantity, devastating.

EKOS also provides their seat projections, and they translate the numbers to a strong minority for the Liberals:
Libs 130
Cons 98
NDP 29
Bloc 51

What's really interesting, the Bloc maintain their seat total. If the Liberals could cut into Bloc support, well, dare to dream :) That aside, it's hard not be optimistic with those numbers.

Just one poll, the usual disclaimers, but the trend is very clear and with each successive result, the picture looks better and better.

Things We've Learned So Far


-anyone who ever thought that Karlheinz Schreiber could suddenly become a reliable witness, from which one could unravel the "mystery" needs their head examined

-the only people who still care about Mulroney/Shreiber are the media and the PMO

-Karlheinz Schreiber has a bad skin condition

-Kady O'Malley has bionic fingers

-the "bombshell" will come when CBC Newsworld gets the ratings report for the inquiry coverage (I think we've found a cure for insomnia)

-news reports will be filled with feeble attempts to make it appear as though new information has been gleamed, partially because reporters are trying to justify how they got saddled with this lame gig

-some pundit will refer to "tomorrow" as a potentially big day in the proceedings

-we need an inquiry to find out why this inquiry was necessary

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Last Resort

I thought this was a revelant closure, to Ignatieff's tax comments yesterday (h/t Jeff Jedras):
Today's scrum in Niagara Falls:

Ignatieff was asked to clarify his statement about raising taxes.

>> Mr. Michael Ignatieff: I said no such thing. I said no such thing. What I said was that mr. Harper has landed the country in an $80 billion deficit, and sooner or later we'll figure out how we get out of that. There are a couple of ways to go. One is tough expenditure reviews squeezing every bit of waste out of the federal government. The other way to reallocate expenditure from one priority to another. And then the other way, the third way is to get stimulus into the economy, so we get economic activity returning. We get growth up, we get tax revenues increasing, and the deficit is slowly squeezed out of the system. But I was asked a hypothetical question, what if none of that works? And no honest politician faced with an 80 billion deficit will take anything off the table because Canadians do not want, they are allergic long-term structural deficits. But I would do anything i can, any sensible politician would do anything they can to avoid increasing the tax burden on Canadians. Especially now. And hopefully later as well.

I like the "last resort" presentation, especially because it summarizes in detail the policies that would be put in place prior to any consideration. If anything, this type of answer shows a methodical thought process, which still includes a dose of realism. That mature answer is a far cry from the Conservative hysterics, although we all understand that "truth" isn't necessarily part of the political equation.

If this is our standard response, then its success will largely be a function of the leader's ability to articulate. We can debate the wisdom of entertaining the mere mention of taxes- particularly when that far reaching realism isn't necessarily required now- but this debate is a work in progress, any definite conclusion is premature. Ignatieff is clear, no new taxes during an economic downturn. That is a key point, and I have faith Ignatieff and the Liberals can make that case clearly. Leaving the door open, contrasted with Harper's disingenuous sales pitch, might just help Ignatieff's appeal, if there's a straight talk component, as opposed to telling you what you want to hear. Whatever, for better or worse, I have this sneaking suspicion that this issue isn't going away and may be a focus in a future election.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

You've Got To Be Kidding

Leave it to the Conservatives, to turn a crisis into partisan opportunity. This idea is beyond the pale:
Ottawa considers ad boost to help broadcasters

Ottawa has a new option on the table for helping local TV stations make it through the recession: buy more government ads.

The idea, which is under discussion at the cabinet's powerful committee on priorities and planning, is seen as a way to replace private advertising revenue that has fled since the onset of the financial crisis, a source told The Globe and Mail.

“In the short term, the most efficient way to get money out to broadcasters might be through advertising, because that's where the initial loss was,” said the source.

“That's where things have gone.”

What better way to aid an ailing industry, than government propaganda that helps Conservative fortunes? Just imagine, Canadians bombarded with government ads, all under the guise of "getting things done". Obnoxious.

Ignatieff Says the "T" Word

I just did a post on political candor, and I'm going to applaud Ignatieff for stating the obvious here:
Tax hike likely unavoidable, Liberal leader says

Ignatieff’s comments were in response to a question from Cambridge business leader John Bell, who wanted to known when the federal debt will be paid back.

“We will have to raise taxes,” but not at the expense of hurting the recovery from this recession. He added that “an honest politician” cannot exclude a tax hike as an option.

“I am not going to load a deficit onto your children or mine,” Ignatieff said.

His speech centred on the need for the federal government to unite people rather than divide them during these trying economic times.

Oh, can't you just hear the "buzz" at the Conservative war room?

Truth be told, there is an inherent risk in being so forthright. Given the economic uncertainty, I'm sure you could manufacture some argument to suggest future prosperity that would avoid tax hike necessity. In terms of short term political calculus, I suspect it would be easy to avoid any talk of a potential tax hike (look at how all three parties denied a deficit in the last election, even though the math was abysmal), especially when the very mention is considered political quicksand.

"We will have to raise taxes", there's you attack ad soundbite, there's your risk. Funny thing, and I may be completely naive here, but I think Canadians will appreciate some "straight talk". This country has been down the deficit road before, we know how it works, and there's a pretty simple equation to counter. Unless we are all fine in burdening our children with massive debt, undoing all the hard work to get us into relative fiscal health, Canadians might be prepared for some frank discussion.

There is a way to pivot, turn this tax issue as a testament to a new kind of leadership, a new honesty, which is something we surely crave. Does the old paradigm still exist, wherein talk of taxes is to be avoided at all cost, wherein any mention is seized upon to bludgeon the fool who raises them or says he will? The Conservatives surely think so, because the first hit piece on their site revolved around Ignatieff's musing on a possible GST hike. I'm not so sure anymore, I think we're in a very sober period, wherein people might look past the most obvious, base argument.

Of course, we'll have to see what Ignatieff means, and if he can weave the possibility into our argument, without being seen as a drag on the economy, at the worst possible time. Apart from that, even critics must have a tinge of respect, when someone volunteers the "T" word, especially when it might not be good politics, but correct conclusion.

Candor Or Calculation

Aaron Wherry posts a video of Ignatieff's appearance in Kent Bridge Ontario. There's an interesting admission by Ignatieff at the end of the clip, the same type I've heard him make elsewhere (only difference the subset population in question). First, Aaron's comments:
The last 30 seconds or so of this clip might be the most interesting. Is that refreshing candour or dangerous candour? If the latter, why? Because there’s something inherently wrong with what he said or because you’re just not supposed to say that?

Ignatieff breaks the fourth wall, so to speak, every so often—the best bits of his Iraq reassessment did so. My first reaction is almost always something close to the sort of startled confusion that would normally result from hearing a public figure utter a racial epithet in public. But maybe that’s just because I’ve so rarely heard a politician admit that he’s a politician.

I'm curious if people think these overt admissions are refreshing or distasteful.

I admit, the first time I heard Ignatieff categorically reveal the necessity of pandering, I thought it wasn't wise politically. When you say you need a riding, or region, because it's essential to your ambitions, it leaves a politician open to the accusation that the overtures aren't sincere, merely a means to an end to achieve a goal. In this instance- does Ignatieff really care about rural Canadians, their issues and concerns, their sensibilities, or does he feign concern because he's calculated he needs their support to become Prime Minister? Is this from the "soul", or part of the "sell"? We need to craft policy that appeals to rural Canadians, not because it's good policy, but because it will win us votes. That's one interpretation.

Ignatieff has made these type of admissions many times on the road recently. My opinion has evolved somewhat (partially because no one in his team has cautioned him against this recurring them), in that these statements are really nothing more than a statement of the obvious. Every politician since the dawn of time has engaged in these type of calculations, it's actually a essential political dynamic. With that in mind, I find the candor refreshing, because Ignatieff isn't trying to blow smoke up your ass, he's giving you the full disclosure, up front, here it is.

Everyone knows the Liberals have lost rural Canadians, the urban/rural divide more pronounced than ever. Everyone knows that the various parties are constantly jockeying to target their opponent's supposed "base", as they try to improve their own fortunes. Pandering is actually an intrinsic quality within our political system. Is it more palatable for a politician to proceed as though bereft of strategic calculation, merely a authentic presentation, with no consideration? Or, is it a real change to hear somebody offer up the candid, when we all know it's behind the curtain anyways? The more I see, the more I prefer the latter, because really that's the more authentic reality, that's the genuine.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Doing The Heavy Lifting

I sure hope that Canwest doesn't go belly up, because the nation suffers if Janke doesn't have a forum to delve into the BIG questions that matter. The latest contribution tackles the most obscure and irrelevant subject matter one can fathom, but provides such manufactured elevation, it leaves the reader with BURNING questions. I don't have the answers, but let's hope somebody in the media is brave enough to address the elephant in the room:
Is Ignatieff going to have something to say about Turner's recent and upcoming appearances with the Halton Liberals? Is someone going to ask Ignatieff to comment on Turner's book, given that some federal Liberals are using the book as a fundraising tool? Has anyone in the Liberal Party read an advance copy? Is Ignatieff comfortable with the Halton Liberals leaning so heavily on Turner, instead of promoting a new candidate, especially given Turner's well-documented infatuation with former Liberal leader Stephane Dion and the ill-fated Green Shift carbon tax? Is Michael Ignatieff going to say anything to signal that he wants the Halton Liberals to move past Garth Turner?

Or am I going in the wrong direction here?

But it gets better. By way of rumour, I hear that Turner will be emerging from his survivalist bunker to make a return visit to the Ivy Arms in Milton this Wednesday night. That's right. The same day Ignatieff is addressing the Oakville Chamber of Commerce, assuming this rumour is accurate.

Are the Liberals coordinating these appearances in order to launch more than Garth Turner's book? A return of the Garth himself?

Or is this shaping up to be a clash?

This could be a very interesting Wednesday.

Interesting indeed Steve, interesting indeed. Man, that's compelling.

On the job, so the rest of us can sleep easy.

What A Cutie

A PMO press release today, announcing that 24 Sussex has a new addition. Everyone meet BOO:

Stephen Harper:

"Since I was a young lad, I've always wanted a Portuguese Water Dog. Today, before I read the papers, I felt like being spontaneous and original, so we picked up the little fella."

What a cutie.

Who Knew?

Did you know a C grade is now considered "good"? Used to be a C wasn't "good" for anything, unless of course getting rejection letters from every educational institution in the country is a goal. If my employer gave me a C, I'd be watching my back. If my wife gave me a C, I'd keep a lawyer handy. In other words, in my world a C isn't "good", it's actually cause for concern. All this leads us to the new Ipsos Reid poll, which seems to believe that a C is an endorsement:
Harper government doing good job on economy: poll

The majority of Canadians, except in Quebec, give the federal government good marks for its handling of the economy, according to the findings of an Ipsos Reid poll.

Six in 10 give the government at least a ‘C’ grade.

Fifty nine per cent gave the government good marks — nine per cent an ‘A’ or better and 50 per cent a ‘B’ or ‘C’ for “somewhat good.” Thirty-one per cent dished out a ‘D’ for “somewhat bad” and 11 per cent offered an ‘F’ for failure.

42% give the government a very poor score, and it's sort of curious that all the scores are given seperately except for the "B or C" category, which are conveniently lumped together. Weird.

Just for fun, let's us some common sense, in a fair way. We won't put C in either category, although if you want to be like the pollster, you could just as easily manipulate the C to the disapproval column. Within the 50% B and C, let's just divide it in half and say the C is 25%. Okay, that would mean you have a positive rating 34%, a negative rating of 42% and a 25% mediocre score. Wow, that doesn't look so good for the government anymore does it? If I'm spinning the numbers(COUGH), I could argue only 1/3 of Canadians gave the government "good" grades on the economy. The numbers would look strangely similar to last week's HD poll, that considers a C a C, neither good nor bad, but "middling":
Overall, respondents awarded only middling marks for the government's handling of the recession so far.

Four per cent said the government has done an excellent job, while 27 per cent rated its performance as good.

Forty-three per cent said the government has done a fair job, and 24 per cent gave it a poor rating.

In all regions east of Manitoba, the government was awarded a good or excellent rating by no more than 29 per cent.

Conversely, in all regions across the West, more than 40 per cent gave the government a good or excellent rating.

If you want to conduct a real world test, I recommend sending a resume to Ipsos Reid, and within it make sure to tell the prospective employer that you had a "good" C average all the way through high school and post-secondary (wherever that would be). Stay by the phone, because it's bound to ring...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

That Was Then...

The Conservatives really are a predictable bunch. These days, it seems we just follow Washington's lead as Harper desperately trys to walk in lockstep with someone people actually LIKE. When Clinton travelled to China, I predicted that Harper would suddenly change course, visit the country by the end of the year. In recent days, word of a state visit are making the rounds and it looks like it will happen in a few months. It is clear, this government has miraculously "found" China and the new focus offers a striking contrast with past behavior.

Stockwell Day, just beaming in China today:
"We're talking about the whole relationship. We're talking about the fact that China's economy will continue to grow this year and the opportunities for Canadian companies, for Canadian workers, are significant. And we want to make sure that those doors are open "

The international trade minister also dismissed suggestions that Canada has lagged behind other nations in cultivating new trade ties with China.

"Our two-way trade has been increasing every year up to and including 2008," he said, adding, "It's amazing what's happening over here. It's not just that businesses that are growing, they're actually growing cities here. They are building cities by the millions of people. And that means that they have infrastructure needs."

Sounds like a few dollars are there to be made for Canadian companies. Day sounds like his Liberal predecessors, arguing one needs to look at the "whole relationship" when it comes to our China policy.

A far cry from this sentiment, offered by the sanctimonious Prime Minister after Chinese President Hu Jintao "snubbed" him:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper says his government will not abandon "important Canadian values" by toning down criticisms of China's human rights record to improve trade relations with Beijing

"I think Canadians want us to promote our trade relations worldwide, and we do that, but I don't think Canadians want us to sell out important Canadian values," Harper said.

Chinese President Hu Jintao won't meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Hanoi, which is being seen by some as a snub over Canada's criticism of China's human rights record.

"They don't want us to sell that out to the almighty dollar."

I guess the almighty dollar won out, unless I missed some human rights overtures from China.

Since this government took office, it's China policy has been largely criticized. The Chinese relationship was so strained, the state media deliberately published anything about Canada that put us in a bad light, PARTICULARLY the Conservative government. What's changed? A kind of sad, consistent effort, on a host of issues, to mirror the Obama administration approach to everything. If you want to know about Canada's direction, try the Washington Post or follow the White House press releases- it's almost like a window into the future.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Liberals Lead "Second Choice"

When the Liberals were well back in the polls, one glimmer of hope was the "second choice" component. Even though we trailed, there was still possibility, because pollsters concluded we had the most room for "growth", best placed to siphon off opposing party voters. That never materialized, obviously, even worse we couldn't seem to manage to get our own identified voters out to the polls. Now that the Liberals have gained substantial ground, it's interesting to see if that dynamic is still in play. One could assume, that since we've poached a few voters here and there, that our "second choice" preference would have waned, those inclined more in the fold, so the reservoir lessened. However, data from the last NANOS poll, which gave the Liberals 36%, shows that despite the uptick, we still lead on "second choice", and the numbers tell us a centrist approach is the best strategy to grow from here.

The overall numbers for second choice, amongst identified voters:
Liberals 18.3%
NDP 14.8%
Cons 14%
Greens 13.9%

Not a huge advantage, but outside the margin of error. What is even more relevant, just where the various parties draw their second choice support from. The Liberals are the preferred second choice for Conservative, NDP and Green supporters. The highest percentage comes from NDP supporters, a full 40% pick the Liberals. A strong number, considering this poll has already seen a bleed in NDP support to the Liberals. That number would suggest the Liberals are wise to appeal to the left flank, but the percentages only tell half the story. 33% of Conservatives pick the Liberals as there second choice, but because the Conservative support is much more than is NDP support, the raw numbers tell us the voter pool is twice that of the NDP. In this sample size we have 44 NDP supporters picking the Liberals, but 91 Conservatives, so the percentages are misleading, in terms of true harvest.

When you see where Liberal support could go, the Conservatives lead with 28%, the NDP 20%, Greens 18%. This suggests the Liberals are most vulnerable on their right flank, particularly if one doesn't make the erroneous calculation that all Green support is "left".

The first conclusion, the Liberals are still well placed for further growth, relative to the other parties; a fact which is particularly encouraging given this poll already places the Liberals at a high water mark. The more telling analysis, in terms of party strategy, the Liberals best odds come with a centrist approach, that is were the additional votes are, that is where they best shore up their own support. Hardly a surprise, given that the "center" is nothing more than terminology used to describe mainstream society.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

You're Eyes And Ears Didn't Lie

I remember many Liberals openly wondering why it was that Conservative ads seemed to be more prevalent in the last election. It seemed the Conservative ads were everywhere, relative to the Liberal ads. However, it was all chalked up to an illusion, we just hadn't seen or heard the Liberal ads, because we were spending the maximum, tit for tat with the Conservatives.

Old news now, but interesting to find out that our eyes and ears didn't lie:
The Liberal Party's 2008 Election Campaign Return confirms that the party was massively outspent by the Conservatives in last fall's general election campaign, particularly in the categories of Broadcast Advertising, Leader's Tour, and Other expenses, although they did pay more for Polling and Professional Services.

According to the party's campaign return, which has just been posted on the Elections Canada website, Liberals spent just 72.6% of their national spending limit.

If you look at the breakdown in the link, the Conservatives essentially outspent us a staggering 2 to 1 in advertising. I have to question our priorities, because advertising is a chief consideration. The sting more pronounced when we learn we burned more than TWICE the expenditure of the Conservatives on polling, SEVEN times that of the NDP, despite them spending the maximum. Also, despite only spending 73% of the maximum, we still managed to double the national office allocation of the Conservatives, which was DOUBLE what we spent in 2006. I find that a hard swallow, given the lack of funds- why all this money for polls and headquarters wasn't spent more wisely on advertising is real head scratcher. But, what do I know?

Now I know why Rossi says the fundraising gap, as was previously constructed, represented a "threat to democracy", because clearly we were doomed financially.

Who's On The Defensive?

I've read a few comments on this "moral compass" angle, wherein it's posited that Ignatieff has made a gaffe. Some of it comes from the usual cerebral auto-pilot crowd, which frankly doesn't deserve attention, but some of it is from more genuine commentators, an honest point of view. I fail to see the downside here for the Liberals or Ignatieff, for the simple reason that this debate takes place exclusively on Conservative turf, the fight is in their backyard.

I can't see the public becoming very engaged in this whole Mulroney "bags of money" inquiry. As a matter of fact, apart from media fascination, this is such a stale, done to death story, that it really won't resonate in any significant way. Simply put, most people already believe something, somewhat shady or gray occured, whatever "tarnish" is on Mulroney, this inquiry does have much prospect for introducing anything particularly new or riveting. Mulroney is OLD news, ancient in fact; so this argument that Harper has distanced himself admirably, while simultaneously leaving Ignatieff vulnerable because of his "affection" is pretty much rubbish.

There are relevant issues at hand, and this is why I see no downside in Harper sparring with Ignatieff over Mulroney. I wouldn't recommend Ignatieff keep commenting on Mulroney, but his actions to date come with little political risk. Harper was on the defensive yesterday, speaking about his party's internal strife, about his treatment of a hero to many Conservatives. In attacking Ignatieff, all he achieves is a further irritant within his own ranks, nothing more, nothing less. The storyline is a complete loser for Harper, he can't really win and Ignatieff can't really lose. Nobody really cares, apart from Conservative loyalists, Harper speaking is just more fodder.

This is the theme, and the more it's kept in the news, the better it works for the Liberals, against the Conservatives:
Robin Sears, Brian Mulroney's spokesperson, says at least six MPs and cabinet ministers called the former prime minister to express their sympathy and indignation regarding the kerfuffle over his Conservative party membership.

It seems these calls are in direct defiance of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's order. He told his caucus to have no contact with Mulroney.

Back in November 2007, Harper said: "I think it will be incumbent upon myself and also members of my government not to have dealings with Mr. Mulroney until this issue is resolved."

At issue is the business relationship between Mulroney and businessman Karlheinz Schreiber. The Oliphant Inquiry is delving into their dealings and last week, as the inquiry got underway, word came from Harper's office that Mulroney is no longer a member of the Conservative Party.

Mulroney was dumbfounded.

Through Sears, Mulroney said the allegation was completely untrue. " I will be a conservative until I die," Mulroney insisted.

Sears says not only have many Tories called to express their dismay, but Liberals Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae also called Mulroney.

Sears says it's not wise to push Mulroney's patience.

"At some point, he may feel he has to say something publicly. That's something I hope that those who are thinking about launching another attack think carefully about before they do."

Canadians are thinking about the economy, job losses, etc. About the last thing on ANYONE'S mind is whether or not Ignatieff was wise to wish Mulroney a happy birthday. In other words, there is no political price to pay for saying Harper shouldn't be so petty with a former Prime Minister, to consider that possibility is really a tertiary consideration. What is relevant, HOW Conservatives are reacting to the tension, HOW the media is scurring around looking for "anonymous" Conservatives to weigh in on the family squabble.

The above link highlights the meat of the discussion, and Ignatieff, then Harper's reaction to Ignatieff, just keeps the cycle going. Can you find one news item that doesn't rehash the Conservatives internal strife within the "moral compass" accusation? The Conservatives are playing defence here, Ignatieff just gave a mild poke and Harper's taken the bait, incorrectly thinking he can transfer the debate into a verdict on Ignatieff. It doesn't work that way, and I would suggest the tone of the coverage proves it.

This is a Conservative story, a negative internal dynamic that just begs for more media examination. In addition, this angle of internal divisions will be the main focus during this entire inquiry, mostly because it's the only fresh aspect to this saga. Ignatieff should get out of the way now, but I don't see Harper's tirade yesterday as anything more than a measure of damage control.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Familiar Trends

The latest Strategic Counsel poll shows the same trends we've seen elsewhere, for all the principle parties. The Liberals achieve their highest percentage from SC since the last leadership convention, and the Ontario numbers mirror perfectly the 2004 election results. Further confirmation that the NDP are become marginalized, the Conservatives fading in Ontario, nowhere in Quebec.

While the national race is close, it is noteworthy that we now have another pollster giving the Liberals a slight edge, even more pronounced when you factor in the regionals:
Libs 34%
Cons 32%
NDP 15%
Greens 9%

These numbers represent a 6 point swing from the last SC poll. Harper did receive a bit of an Obama bounce in the last SC poll, as expected, and the pollster recognizes this in the analysis. What was also clear, that photo op with the rock star was Harper's last real opportunity to change the channel in any substantive way- it was merely a blip. The Liberals are up considerably since the last election, anyone who expects us to be on the cusp of a majority so soon, given the challenges, is devoid of common sense or sound political calculation, not to mention kind of pathetic. These are objectively strong numbers, an impressive turn of fortune, given the historical thumping that occured a mere six months ago. Optimism is warranted.

The regionals confirm the trendline in Ontario, mirroring other pollsters, in terms of a solid swing to the Liberals, at the Conservatives and NDP expense:
Libs 45%
Cons 32%
NDP 15%
Greens 9%

These numbers represent the highest percentage for the Liberals in Ontario from this pollster. To put these numbers in context, the Liberals won 75 seats (2 less than we enjoy nationally now) when the spread was exactly the same in 2004, and the NDP are now currently weaker than that election result. I'm a bit weary of putting stock in a singular SC poll, primarily because we've seen some goofy numbers in the past. However, these numbers are pretty much in line with everyone else, so one can entertain the possibilities.

In Quebec, no real movement from the last poll, and again somewhat similar to other pollsters:
Bloc 41%
Libs 29%
Cons 15%
NDP 9%
Greens 6%

We've seen tighter numbers from bigger, Quebec specific polls, but the Liberal number is fairly consistent. I think the Liberals are clearly well placed to make gains in Quebec, the degree will be sorted out in the campaign.

The "West" numbers are interesting. The Liberals are up 8% since the last election, although the regionals within aren't presented. I suspect some of this is in British Columbia, and I can't see any reason to think the looming convention will reverse any positive momentum. Still, work to do:
Cons 46%
Libs 24%
NDP 19%
Greens 11%

I'm not sure about the "moral compass", but I know the Conservatives are headed south.

Stephen Harper 2006-2009

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

This Guy Is A Strategist?

I've never quite understood why Tim Powers is considered a "must read" Conservative strategist. Maybe I'm missing something, or he's just too agile for my pedestrian mind to comprehend, but I've always found his musings and commentary nothing more than juvenile, typical tripe, that isn't particularly persuasive. Today, Powers, like many other Conservatives, is fixating on a mostly obscure YouTube presentation known as "GritGirl". It just grates these Conservatives, and it's very amusing to see how easily they can be put off their game. Powers:
The mysterious Grit Girl

Of course, certain Liberals have been running viral attack ads against the government for a while now. Under the pseudonym Grit Girl some clever force has been filling the Internet with anti-government propaganda. This modern day Tokyo Rose is pretty good at flogging but not so good at disclosing. All is fair in love and war, but the Liberals should at least own up to their ads stop hiding behind Grit Girl's skirt.

...It is a strange position to take for someone who is trying to characterize himself as a confident fiscal manager. But then again if Grit Girl is Iggy's model of accountability, who is really surprised?

In articulating such a thin skin, Powers actually draws attention to a "phenomenon" which NOBODY in Canada actually knows about. I would argue, if GritGirl ever does hit mainstreet, she can largely thank the Conservatives, because all this focus is just pure gold, exposure wise.

This comment from the piece, pretty much sums it up:
Stan L from Canada writes: I think you guys should spend a lot of time talking about GritGirl.....keep writing stories and trying to guess the's good for business, after all I would never have known about these spots if some Conservative supporter wasn't crying foul about them.

Thanks Tim, I'm sure there are a few more, formerly in the dark, Canadians now looking for "GritGirl" on YouTube as we speak. The more these Conservatives "attack", the more I'm convinced Kinsella and company are going to eat these people alive. This guy is a strategist?

Did It Every Occur To Anyone?

I've read some criticism of Ignatieff, as it relates to Mulroney. First the birthday phone call, now the defence of Mulroney in his spat with Harper, clear evidence of some affinity, more proof that Ignatieff is a conservative at heart. Did it ever occur to anyone that this is all merely strategic mischief?

I fail to see the downside, in Ignatieff calling Mulroney, or injecting himself into the Conservative "feud". As a matter of fact, I think it's brilliant and I have little doubt it's intentional "stirring the pot". Why not speak to Conservative internal strife, why not volunteer an opinion, why not highlight a negative storyline? All I see, Ignatieff exploiting a chasm, and in so doing looking far more statesmanlike than the leader of said party. It's not an endorsement of the man's policies, or some deeper meaning, it's a political ploy, pure and simple. Mulroney still enjoys support within the Conservative ranks, and a measure of stature in Quebec, so Ignatieff's "praise" highlights an under the surface tension, which Conservatives don't welcome. I note that Bob Rae also called Mulroney, and I would love for someone to extrapolate that phone call as evidence of political similarity. I'm sure it's all genuine on one level, but a strategist would also see the value and a shrewd Ignatieff would relish the opportunity to wade into the Conservatives family feud.

If you're a detractor, it's easy to seize on the Mulroney/Ignatieff dynamic to further some pre-conceived view. IMHO, that narrative is a meaningless distraction from the real impetus here. This is smart politics, and it's refreshing to see Liberals poking the coals, as opposed to the previous years of listening to our opponents fan our own divisions. I haven't seen the tape, but I'm willing to bet a curious grin came to Ignatieff's face, when asked to comment on the Mulroney matter.

The Flaherty Follies

What a surprise:

Monday, April 06, 2009

More On The "Mild Recession"

The Conference Board Of Canada talks down the Canadian economy. Tsk, tsk:
Conference Board issues grim outlook

Canadian economy will shrink more than it previously thought, says the Ottawa-based think tank

CALGARY — The Conference Board of Canada laid out a grim outlook for employment in 2009 and 2010 on Monday, saying the Canadian economy “fell off a cliff” in the first three months of this year.

Pedro Antunes, the board's director of national and provincial forecasts, told a Calgary conference Monday that unemployment will steadily rise this year and peak at 9.5 per cent in the middle of 2010.

The Ottawa-based think tank estimates Canada's economy shrank by 7 per cent in the first quarter, Mr. Antunes told reporters.

When To Go?

Today's Hill Times piece on the looming Conservative attack ads also includes some discussion about election timing. The attack ads are slated to begin this summer, as the Conservatives pour over Ignatieff's past (as an aside, do the Cons really want to rehash old opinions, given the buffet of quotes from Harper, wherein he's pretty much bashed everything about this country, not to mention adding weight to the "hidden agenda" meme?). A surprise to know one, and the timing is really the perfect opportunity for the Conservatives to try and "define" Harper.

I suspect the Liberals will fight back, but given the mood of the country, I'm not sure a pissing match serves anybody's interests, so we must be careful in our response. I would argue, any retort merely highlights the Conservatives pre-occupation with partisan nonsense during a economic meltdown, rather than the typical negative ad counter. In that way, we present a negative frame, focus attention to the misguided priorities, without rolling in the muck. Any response must undercut the Conservatives attacks, while simultaneously maintaining the high ground, a sense that the Liberals have their priorities in order.

The article also debates the merits of a June election call versus the fall. I was a supporter of a an early election, but more and more I appreciate the merits of waiting. When one adds up the pros and cons, each period entertained brings a conflicted ledger. More time allows the Liberals to achieve optimal readiness on a host of fronts, but we don't operate in isolation and these looming attack ads are one example of the counter. Plug in the uncertainty, relating to where the economy is headed, whether Harper can argue the "worst is behind us" come fall, and it's an even more complex decision.

I'm curious where people fall on election timing, whether we should wait or ramp up now for a quick call after the convention. I thought I'd put up a poll and welcome feedback, because I don't think it's an simple calculation: