Sunday, May 31, 2009

Hello In There!

Much speculation, about various scenarios that get something done over EI, avoiding a June election. Janke posits that any deal will cause Liberals to "grind their teeth", and then offers some apparent LSD inspired musing about the "Liberal caucus sharpening their knives". Let's clear the air on WHAT exactly is happening here, and this ain't spin.

The media suffer from duplicity. They chastise political parties for perpetual "election" talk, when it's they in fact that pour over every sentence to raise the temperature, so THEY can talk about a possible election. Sometimes they don't even require an idle quote, in amongst a much more telling paragraph uttered, they just see any area of conflict and RUN with it. If the media is tired of election talk, I assure you we are all more tired of their lazy frames that manufacture real election talk (generalizing of course).

The Liberals are pushing in Parliament, no question. The Liberals have made EI reform a pivotal issue. Let's face it, without the Liberals on board Jack and Gilles could bellow forever and nothing would happen, Harper wouldn't move, because he simply doesn't have to. Throw a determined Ignatieff into the midst, the game has changed, there's enough support that the government must respond. The government must respond, because they don't WANT an election- is this really a newsflash to anybody? More the "sky is blue" realities, the NDP and Bloc don't WANT an election. Even if one of them did, it's still irrelevant because BOTH MUST want to, so let's just say an election isn't in the cards, nope, nada. Liberals can add, unlike some people (hey there Jimmer!).

Does everybody think the Liberals are without strategic sense? A pretty self-evident review of the landscape reveals an opportunity to assert ourselves, without much risk of actually pushing Parliament over the edge. Equating a firm stance on EI as "Liberals clammoring" for an election fails to recognize LEVERAGE. Parliament is brinkmanship, you don't get what you want unless you convey strength, committed and your opponents fear you. For the first time in a long time, that's the dynamic the Liberals enjoy. Ignatieff doesn't have to cower, he can push and be forceful, because he knows full well the other parties aren't keen. It's really no different than the NDP exploiting past Liberal weakness to introduce non-confidence this, non-confidence that.

Do the Liberals want an election? I'm sure a few do, the polls are positive, but I can say with reasonable certainty, the "hawk" camp is in the minority, most are looking to the fall now as the realistic window. To conclude then, that talk that a compromise on EI will leave the Liberals wanting, is just asinine partisan tripe. If we get a deal on EI, no matter what "coalition" of parties agree, it will be because everyone is trying to get to the summer break. From the Liberal perspective, a few more months to ramp up fundraising, organization, attract a strong slate, etc, etc, that's always been the real gameplan, the majority view. If the EI issue is resolved, to some extent, then the Liberals have succeeded in their demands, they got what they wanted and they didn't have to "prop up" anybody. I fail to see any reasonable observer suggesting otherwise, no matter the final configuration of parties that make "backroom" deals.

"Liberals thwarted", more like Liberals get a concession on their key demand coming out of the convention. Concession that only came about because Liberals were strong and prepared, letting others dance around like they did in the past. And, everybody returns to Plan A, without much fuss. That's the bottomline.

Fraud

Pedigree, accomplishment and choice of beverage don't make one an elitist. Inability to relate to, and participate with ordinary Canadians is a far better measure. One of the most laughable frames is this idea that Stephen Harper is more a man of the people, more in touch with average Canadians, more "regular". In fact, Stephen Harper is probably the most guarded, detached, elitist Prime Minister we've seen in some time. Stephen Harper doesn't like Canadians, in fact he does everything in his power to avoid interaction. Outside of a room full of gushing partisans, Stephen Harper is uncomfortable conversing and interacting with Canadians, the last thing in the world you will see is Harper actually visiting a Tim Horton's. Oh, he might make a tightly scripted appearance in a venue that conveys a sense of connectedness, but that presentation evaporates when one entertains the unthinkable- actually MINGLING.

I've met Ignatieff in a very informal setting, speaking, answer questions, mingling with people who weren't necessarily "fans". I watched the sense of ease, very much like this telling post by Aaron Wherry, Ignatieff is quite comfortable with the "masses". That's really no surprise, because Ignatieff has spent considerable time in his life "diving in", not content to pen observations from a hotel room, but from the streets of the world, in place far less "sophisticated" than our latte loving destinations. I've lost count at how many times Ignatieff has done town halls, taking all comers, including hostile partisan plants. The measure of a man in many respects, when speaking of detachment and "air" is their capacity to relate, a genuine sense of comfort. Education doesn't make you an elitist, worldliness and travelling in intellectual circles doesn't make you an elitist, DETACHMENT and lack of respect and recognition make you elitist.

This brings us to the champion of the people, Stephen Harper. There are certain moments that crystalize the nature of a person. During the last election, all party leaders were invited to take part in CBC's "Your Turn", which basically provides ordinary Canadians a chance to interact with their leaders. It's really a pretty pedestrian affair, the questions are screened and generally they deal with the big issues, no real surprises. All the leader's agreed, except one, who DEMANDED that he take NO question from a Canadian or else he wouldn't APPEAR. Think about that for a second, the man of the people was so concerned about actually interacting with average Canadians, he issued an ultimatum and sadly CBC agreed. In the last election, Stephen Harper didn't answer ONE question from a ordinary Canadian; come to think of it he hasn't answered ONE since. What is Harper afraid of? I mean, this is the guy who could waltz into Tim's and feel at home? Truth of the matter, Stephen Harper would be TERRIFIED at the prospect of an unscripted dialogue with the people he claims to represent.

When Barack Obama visited Canada, people will remember his arrival at Parliament Hill. Harper waited indoors, greeted Obama and then began to walk towards the receiving line of elites. Obama stopped Harper, apparently oblivious, and said "do you mind if we go outside", because he understood the crowd waiting outside, he understood that a simple wave, a recognition, is what a true man of the people does instinctually. Harper didn't give the commoners a second thought, because Harper really isn't a "people" person, that sort of display makes him uncomfortable. Harper has no relationship with Canadians, the only time he wades into a crowd, it's a bunch of party hacks bused in, to convey some presentation. Harper doesn't want to speak with the media, he doesn't want to speak with YOU, he doesn't want your input, he doesn't find it necessary to INTERACT. Stephen Harper is a detached, social misfit that conducts himself like an ivory tower elitist. Meanwhile, the cultured international intellectual, grabs his expresso and heads out week after week speaking with Canadians of all stripes, in a way Stephen Harper never COULD or WILL. An interesting contrast, given all the presumptive talk.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Nasty, Divisive Patriot

Strategic Counsel, asks a series of questions, comparing attitudes toward Ignatieff and Harper. Some of the conclusions, Quebecers HATE Harper, Ignatieff has work to do on the patriotism front, people would have a coffee with Harper, even though he's a nasty piece of work. Buried in the numbers, probably the most important stat, the Liberals are now statistically tied on managing the economy, a finding which towers above all other considerations:
Michael Ignatieff is seen as starkly less patriotic than Prime Minister Stephen Harper in a new poll that suggests the Tories accurately put their finger on the Liberal Leader's vulnerabilities with a series of recent attack ads.

But while the survey comparing the two leaders reveals chinks in Mr. Ignatieff's armour, it also shows the public finds fault with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who voters say is more divisive, nasty and partisan in his approach than Mr. Ignatieff.

The Globe and Mail-CTV News survey shows opportunities abound for both sides to take advantage of the other's weaknesses among regions, gender and income groups.

The general mood of all the answers paints Harper as a more down to earth common man, and he does get the edge with the all important middle class. On the ad front, this poll confirms why the Conservatives chose this line of attack, as Ignatieff trails badly on patriotism. Interestingly, and this plays into something I've argued, these ads tend to feed the negative narratives about Harper, he is seen as far more partisan, nasty and political. It's an fascinating dynamic, while the ads could highlight an Ignatieff weakness, these findings show considerable risk for Harper, reinforcing his own achilles heel.

Generally, we've seen the Conservatives hold an edge on the "economic manager" front, although the Liberals have chipped into this advantage the past few months. It's natural for the governing party to hold an edge on this measure, because they are in charge, whereas the other party is simply theoretical. When you start to see the opposition party even with the government, it represents a serious problem:
When it comes to party preference, the two parties are close in who is viewed as best able to manage the economy, with the Tories ahead 26 per cent to 24 per cent, a gap that has narrowed from 11 points last August.

Even more than the Liberal number, the very low score for the Conservatives tells us they are really losing credibility with Canadians, on the most crucial of files. A full 50% didn't pick either party, which speaks to a real uncertainty. Given the pessimistic economic news we have been bombarded with, it's noteworthy that Ignatieff leads when it comes to ability to inspire. When Canadians see a pretty bleak outlook, challenges ahead, Ignatieff edge on this score could be an asset, as he might best be able to convey a better reality for the future.

One part of this poll omitted from this link, was an intriguing finding on where Canadians think Ignatieff sits on the political spectrum:



I would categorize the above as optimal positioning for Ignatieff moving forward.

Friday, May 29, 2009

"Sucking And Blowing"

When the Liberals attack the government's fiscal mess, the common counter is that we are "sucking and blowing". It's a refrain the media is starting to ask as well, because on the surface there is an air of opportunism. How can Liberals stand up day after day demanding more money for stimulus, EI, etc, and then chastise the government for taking us into a massive deficit? If the government cowered to the opposition demands, the deficit would be bigger, so it's a confusing dual criticism.

Right now, everybody is primarily focused on the government, and their lack of competency. However, that temporary fact shouldn't allow a false sense of security, because the Liberals need to stay ahead of the data curve. It's a pretty simple argument, that Canadians will understand- you say we're spending too much, but you want us to spend more, huh? I think it's wise to counter this argument right now, rather than let others frame what it means.

Given the size of this deficit, beyond responsibility and competence, the question will turn to how we get out of this mess, who has the solutions. The Liberals do have an out, when it comes to the "sucking and blowing" counter. When we were demanding more stimulus money, more expenditures, it was with the understanding that the deficit was at a certain level. Now, with the ballooning debt, a prudent party must re access previous demands, because we were mislead on the deficit. In this way, the Liberals are pragmatic, without letting the government off the deficit hook.

Let's keep it real here, playing with GDP percentages aside, this deficit is HUGE and STRUCTURAL. The deficit will haunt government for years, the latest figures will obliterate any nonsense about temporary, any excuses, any general argument that all will be well in the end. The Liberals need to adapt to the new numbers, and I would argue we should abandon any talk of further stimulus, given the new updated figures and the prospects of worse numbers to come. Within that argument, we can abandon the idea of further stimulus, because the initial stimulus is still sitting in the bank waiting to be spent. Highlight the inability to deliver with a sense of fiscal restraint. Liberals will focus on getting this money out the door, not arguing for more, particularly within the new reality.

Liberals can be smug this week, as we watch Flaherty and Harper self implode. This deficit will HAUNT the government, their credibility is a very real issue, that will be a central theme for the Liberals. That said, the Liberals actually lessen the damage, when fair minded observers turn to their arguments and see competing and contradictory themes. In a sense, we let the government off the deficit hook, if we're seen as the party that wants more, if we don't understand the inherent duplicity.

The latest figures have given us a chance to do the "blank slate" routine. Whatever we've argued the past few weeks is largely irrelevant, if we use the new deficit projections as basis for a policy rethink. It's one thing to argue for further stimulus when we're at 34 billion, quite another when it's 50 billion PLUS. Within rapidly changing events, the Liberals need to be nimble and responsible. I've sensed two things this week, one the obvious lack of competence on the government's part and two, the alternative seems equally out to lunch in it's demands. If we really want the government to wear this circumstance, then it's imperative that we present a consistent message as an alternative. Otherwise, the Liberals own mixed messages effectively alleviate some of the real criticisms directed at the government. These new figures don't just provide an opportunity to hammer the government, they also allow the Liberals to drop some baggage and get ahead of the data, which in the end will win them favor.

Gerard Kennedy And Friends

Gerard Kennedy will be hosting a series of seminars on June 9 and June 14, with an impressive list of speakers, including Bob Rae among others. There will also be speeches by Michael Ignatieff and Dalton McGuinty. Kennedy And Friends:
Welcome Friends,

Please join us for a series of enlighting seminars and inticing dinner events in June at two of our favourite Toronto venues.


Outreach Seminars (Seminar Speakers) (Schedule)

On Tuesday, June 9th and Sunday, June 14th, I will be hosting a series of interesting talks by my friends Bob Rae, Bonnie Crombie, Mark Holland, Kirsty Duncan, Omar Alghabra, and the Honourable George Smitherman.

Following these seminars, we will enjoy cocktails and sit down for an exceptional dinner, highlighted by speeches by Liberal leader, Michael Ignatieff and Premier of Ontario, the honourable Dalton McGuinty.


Special Dinners (Guest Speakers) (Schedule)

Guests wishing to attend only the dinner events may do so. I hope that you all can make the time to come out to these very special engagements.


Follow the link for more details, and spread the word :)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sign Of The Times

Below, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff instructs staff at Stornoway to sweep the compound, looking for any suspicious listening devices:



Zsuzsanna Zsohar expresses happiness, when staff inform her that the flowers are "clean":



Ignatieff points to a tiny white wire running from the chandelier:



You can never be to careful, Ignatieff reverts to sign language during a strategy meeting:

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Harper Unplugged

Harper should never freelance, much better when he keeps to his tight scripted persona. See, when Harper does speak freely he tends to reveal too much, he tends to look every bit the mean hyper-partisan, low ball personality, that really isn't Prime Ministerial or worthy of any leadership role in this country. Today, in QP, Harper offered a threat, but in so doing he highlighted EVERYTHING that is wrong with him:
"Mr. Speaker, I can't fire the leader of the opposition. With all of the tapes i've got on him, I don't want to."

What a juvenile response first of all, even worse Harper seemed proud of his "witty" retort.

I though Ignatieff had the perfect response after QP:
Question: Mr. Harper said he has tapes on you.

Ignatieff: That's the other thing. He said in the house that he had tapes on me. That is the most Nixonian of Mr. Harper's many remarks. Every day that goes by he's more like Richard Nixon. We're in the middle of the most serious economic crisis since the second world war, and the prime minister of canada is wasting his time listening to tapes of me? And then, not content with that, he says it in the House of Commons so he'll intimidate me. I will not be intimidated by the prime minister. I've got a job to do which is to hold him to account. The public finances of our country are in freefall, and he's wasting time with tapes of me? It's a joke.


A joke of the highest order. We've just learned Canada is adding an extra 5 billion a month to our deficit, unemployment claims are skyrocketing, and Harper finds it necessary to give Canadians the visual of him sitting in the basement with headphones on, listening to old musings of a political opponent. That Harper VOLUNTARILY tied himself directly to this smear campaign, and essentially promised more, is a real indictment of his priorities.

Hey Kory, you better get a leash on your guy, because he's had a BAD couple of days in Parliament.

UPDATE

Jeff does the heavy lifting with the visual presentation:

Girls and Boys



My only quibble, the video actually shows Flaherty has changed his tune in FIVE WEEKS not four months, which I think emphasizes the incompetence even more. But, who am I to tell Grit Girl ;)

Jeff with a great video today, on the same theme:



Jim Flaherty, showing Canada what Ontario already knows.

CROP Poll

New CROP poll for Quebec, which shows some movement between the Liberals and Bloc, further confirmation that the Conservatives are in big trouble, now third in their supposed "stronghold". The numbers, with last survey in brackets:
Bloc 36% (31%)
Libs 32% (37%)
Cons 15% (15%)
NDP 12% (12%)

The last CROP poll might have been a bit ambitious for the Liberals, a lead outside of the margin of error. The pollster attributes this movement to mere "stabilization", noting that the last poll took place during a very high profile sequence of events for the Liberals and Ignatieff. Moving forward, we can expect to see some vacillation in the numbers, but the dynamic remains the same- Liberals and Bloc relatively close, Conservatives consistently looking irrelevant.

What is particularly worrisome for the Conservatives, CROP now has them running third in the Quebec City region. The Liberals are actually running first at 33%, which hasn't happened since before the sponsorship scandal. If the Conservatives are losing hold of their incumbent region, it's getting very ugly.

Speaking of ugly, no direct attack ad information, but Ignatieff towers above Harper on the PM score:
Ignatieff 39%
Layton 21%
Harper 15%

The pollster notes, the last federal leader to achieve such a low score was Stephane Dion.

The Harper government also achieves the worst satisfaction result since a poll done days prior to Martin's defeat.

From the Liberal perspective, it's important to remember that not ever poll is going to bring new heights, we've been a bit spoiled lately. Expect to see more jockeying around, but the fundamentals are there and that's what matters moving forward. From the Conservative perspective, the battle now seems to be one of merely staying relevant.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

"may be hurting the Tories more than the Liberal leader"

It's raining polls today. Harris Decima with another attack ad specific poll finds the attacks are having an effect. Problem for the Conservatives, the ads seem to be reinforcing negative impressions of themselves more than the target:
The Conservative attack ads against Michael Ignatieff, which began on the Internet and then moved to TV, may be hurting the Tories more than the Liberal leader, a new poll suggests.

The Canadian Press Harris-Decima poll found that about half the respondents said the ads had no impact on their impression of the Liberal leader, with 30 per cent reporting a negative effect on their attitude toward him. However, just over half of the respondents said the ads have a negative effect on their feelings about Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Tories.


"The effect seems to cut both ways,'' said Jeff Walker, senior vice-president of Harris-Decima. ``There is evidence that these ads are having a negative effect on Mr. Ignatieff, but an even greater negative effect on Prime Minister Harper."

May 14-17

Early days to see how this all shakes out. However, with the AR poll in Quebec showing nothing significant, now HD showing a net negative for the Conservatives, it's fair to say the "roll out" phase hasn't exactly been successful. I've argued this before, but given the chief liabilities for the Conservatives, one had to wonder if these ads wouldn't play into the worrisome narrative of a hyper-partisan, nasty operation, who isn't focused on the real issues. You might dirty your opponent, but you also tell Canadians that YES, you really are all those things we don't like about you. This poll would tend to confirm that thesis.

UPDATE

Jeff has more, particularly on the "early in the game" front.

Attack Ad Poll: Quebec

Angus Reid has conducted a Quebec only poll, to gauge the potential impact of these attack ads. The poll was setup as follows:
800 adult Quebecers were asked for whom they would vote if a federal election were held today. Half of the sample (400 respondents) was then randomly selected to watch several advertisements, including a recent Tory attack. The other group was not shown any ads.

Voting intention, with opinion taken before and after half of the respondents shown ads:
Bloc 40% before 39% after
Liberals 33% before 34% after
Conservatives 13% before 13% after
NDP 11% before 10% after

In terms of voting intention, absolutely no impact, if anything the gap between the Bloc and Liberals narrows, the Conservatives receive no benefit.

Beyond voting intention, AR used a series of leadership questions to see if the ads had any impact on Ignatieff's standing. The conclusion was interesting, because while AR noted "slight" impact for Ignatieff, he still towered above the other leaders, the only one with positive momentum:


People will note, that there was no change in the "worsened" number, with slight change in the "improved column" moving to "stayed the same". From the pollster:
Respondents who had seen the Conservative ad were also less likely to say their opinion of Michael Ignatieff had improved (30%, compared to 39% for those who did not see the ad).
Regardless of whether respondents had seen the ad or not, the overall proportion of respondents who say their opinion of Michael Ignatieff has improved in the past four months (35%) is three times higher than any other federal leader (Layton 11%, Duceppe 10%, Harper 4%). The findings suggest that Ignatieff’s positive momentum in Quebec will likely withstand the current ad campaign by the Tories.

In sharp contrast, views on Stephen Harper continue to worsen in Quebec. Most Quebecers (56%) report that their opinion of the Prime Minister has worsened in the past four months, and strong majorities describe Harper as uncaring (60%), out of touch (59%) and arrogant (58%).

The pollster concludes the ads may "slow Liberal momentum, but don't stop it in Quebec".

There are many different questions asked, on various traits. The pollster notes that Ignatieff falls 7% on "openness" before and after. Noteworthy on one hand, but then again Gilles Duceppe also falls 7% on the same question, and last time I checked he wasn't in the Conservative attack ads. That type of quibble aside, the impact of these ads is catergorized as "slight". That small impact is magnified when one considers people were asked their response IMMEDIATELY after viewing the ad. People can argue the scientific worth or bias in that type of structure, but even with that, there isn't anything significant.

AR also polled where the Liberal vote surge is coming from, and they've found the vast majority comes from the Conservative and NDP support, with little inroads from Bloc voters:
The federal Liberal Party’s growth appears to be coming in large part from its ability to consolidate the federalist vote in Quebec. One-in-three respondents (35%) who voted for the Conservatives in the October 2008 federal election say they would vote Liberal this time and a quarter of NDP voters (24%) feels the same way. The Bloc Québécois appears to be doing a better job of retaining its vote share, with 91 per cent of respondents who voted for the Bloc in the last federal election saying they would do so again today.


In conclusion, the fact that Ignatieff enjoys a very positive momentum score, even after the immediate viewing of the ads, means the impact to date is marginal at best.

That's A Shame

It would appear the rumors that "Politics" will likely be cancelled by the CBC are true. It's pretty sad that our public broadcaster would even entertain killing the only show that offers in depth analysis of our political circumstance, both national and provincial. I don't know the monetary considerations, but Newsworld is supposedly devoted to giving viewers coverage beyond the normal soundbite level which now plagues regular broadcasts. Cancelling a show, which delves deeper into the issues, offers detailed discussion with experts, partisans, across the spectrum, represents a pretty significant loss. The public is worse for this decision.

I've already sent an email to CBC to voice my concern, and I would encourage others to do the same under "complaint" at "Newsworld":

Here

Monday, May 25, 2009

New Poll

A new Ipsos poll out, which shows some slight variation in the Conservatives favor. The change is entirely due to Ontario, with the parties now virtually deadlocked. First, the national numbers, with the last Ipsos poll in brackets:
Cons 35% (33%)
Libs 33% (36%)
NDP 14% (13%)

Ipsos shows a swing in Ontario, which speaks to a pretty self evident volatility:
Cons 39% (34%)
Libs 37% (44%)

No NDP total released yet, but one assumes a slight uptick from the last result of 12%.

In Quebec, more of the same:
Libs 36% (32%)
Bloc 36% 34%)
Cons 14% (14%)


British Columbia, not much change from the last poll:
39 per cent support in British Columbia, while the Liberals garnered 27 per cent and the New Democrats 24 per cent.

In a testament to how national numbers can be somewhat misleading, a point I have made often, the pollster still sees a Liberal victory:
The seat distribution in Canada means that although the Conservatives and Liberals appear to be in a close contest, the Liberal vote is "more efficient" and would likely lead to a victory if an election was held today, Bricker said.

The change in this poll is entirely a Ontario consideration. Bricker mentions the economy, possibly stabilizing, which is helping the Conservatives. That is a consideration, as are the attack ads. However, I see the Dhalla controversy as particularly relevant, the story received massive coverage, particular in Ontario, for a weak, the optics were quite poor and it could have trimmed Liberal support. That could part of the equation here, or just natural volatility in the numbers. If one is inclined to believe this is evidence of attack ads working, then you would expect to see movement throughout the country, not just in one province. The fact this is Ontario specific leads me to discard that causal relationship.

Ultimately, it might just be over analyzing for explanation, when really the Ontario numbers are doing what they always do, move around with regularity.

Reality Check

If you read and heard today's story, you'd be inclined to think that Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan was at odd with federal Liberals over the EI debate. Duncan doesn't want an election over EI, that is the way the story is being covered, and then interpreted to strangely put the Liberals on the defensive. CTV did just that to Martha Hall Findlay today, as though the pressure is on the Liberals to climb down, using Duncan as reference point.

Here is what Dwight Duncan ACTUALLY said today. You be the judge, because I don't think it takes much to see where the real PRESSURE lies:
Tom Clark

"You did say very clearly today, that you don't think there should be an election over EI reform. You're calling on your federal brethren not to call an election over EI."

Duncan:

"What I'm calling on is for the WILL of Parliament to be done. And, if the majority in Parliament says the Employment Insurance rules should be changed, I don't believe the federal government should force an election. Our preference is to get those changes, if it's the WILL of Parliament."


The WILL of Parliament, the MAJORITY in Parliament and the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT should not FORCE an election. CTV, although it was the widespread interpretation today, heard these words, but then ignored them later on, only to act as though Duncan was warning his "brethren". Seems to me, Duncan was telling the government to listen to the three opposition parties and quit saber rattling. Maybe the "Reality Check" section on Clark's show should come with a MIRROR.

"deficit will be substantially higher than we thought"

The above quote comes as no surprise to anyone, but it's nice to see Jim "behind the curve" Flaherty catching up to what economists told him right after he delivered his "rosy" budget projections. Apologists will argue that this admission is nothing more than a recognition of the changing landscape. That rationalization aside, it raises a legitimate question- why can the Parliamentary Budget Officer, independent economists, bank forecasts, international agencies, better predict Canada's fiscal situation than Canada's Finance Minister?

If you go back to last year's election, move forward to today, and trace Flaherty's "analysis" of the economy, you will find the most consistent of patterns. This government has a tremendous LAG, relative to reality. When economists warned of recession, Flaherty said there would be none. When economists warned of deepening recession, Flaherty only saw a "technical" one. When economists started using the D word, Flaherty then conceded recession. When economists spoke of deficits, Flaherty said Canada would remain in surplus. When economists argued for stimulus measures, Flaherty argued we didn't need additional expenditures. When economists said the budget forecasts were too "optimistic", Flaherty said his projections were sound. Now today, in the latest example, Flaherty comes in three months later and concedes that the deficit will be every bit as large as previously told.

The inability to display the most rudimentary of foresight, to never see anything coming and to continually be the last one to accept conventional wisdom, one has to wonder, is Jim Flaherty still shovelling his walkway, comforted in the knowledge that spring is just around the corner? Is he telling friends that the Leafs have a mathematical chance to make the playoffs? LAG is not leadership, making it up as they go.

Quebecers Seem To Like "Parisian" French

Pretty remarkable when you think about it, we now have both big Quebec pollsters not only showing a Liberal resurgence, but a lead over the BQ. The last CROP poll, with a large sample, gave the Liberals a 37%-31% lead over the Bloc, and now Leger nearly replicates those results, further cementing the trend. Leger:
Libs 37%
BQ 33%
NDP 14%
Cons 13%
Greens 3%

The last Leger poll in March gave the Bloc a 9% lead over the Liberals, so this new result represents a significant swing. This type of swing also speaks to soft support, but the important thing for the Liberals, people are clearly giving the party another look. What's also encouraging, the Liberals score 32% with francophones, while the Bloc receives 40%.

As for the Conservatives, while Stephen Harper pledged last week to "not give up on Quebec", it would appear that proclamation is irrelevant, because Quebecers have already given up on him. It would appear Quebecers don't have a problem with "Parisian" French, but do with right wing, nasty partisans.

UPDATE


Note to self, read Liblogs prior to posting

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Harper Calls Canadian Bank "Absurd"

These days, Harper and Flaherty can't utter a complete paragraph, particularly on the international stage, without bragging about Canada's banks. Interesting then, that Harper also thinks one of Canada's leading banks is lead by a bunch of "absurd", "irresponsible" economists. More troubling, this government has previously sought the advice of one of these "absurd" economists, which puts into question Harper's credibility on the economy- what kind of government relies on the advice of crazy people, who want to destroy our economy?

When you have a back and forth partisan debate, what should be key within that debate, what gives you a sense of the legitimacy of the competing arguments, independent analysis. On that score, we've had a slew non-"left wing" organizations weigh in, namely CD Howe, Conference Board of Canada, telling us substantive EI reform is essential during an economic downturn. We also have the TD Bank, according to Harper, one of the beacons for the world economy, arguing essentially the same point as Ignatieff the "absurd":

The federal government could accomplish the double aim of improving the equity of the system and increasing coverage rates by reducing the regional discrepancy in eligibility criteria and benefit duration. More specifically, we urge the government to immediately ease the VER (and extend benefit duration accordingly) in regions with unemployment rates of less than 10% from the current 560-700 hours to the lower floor of 560 hours. For all other regions, criteria would be unchanged. This measure would cost approximately $500 million per year.

Alternatively, the government could standardize the criteria for all EI contributors at 420 hours, which is the current minimum, or even reduce the bar for all, to 360
hours.

The federal government could opt to standardize the VER on a
temporary basis.

Pretty much verbatum Liberal proposal, and it speaks to the fact that Ignatieff didn't pull these ideas out of thin air, they're rooted in sound thinking.

What's truly "absurd", the way in which Harper catergorizes well founded reforms in such a dismissive manner. It's for that reason, the Liberals should call Harper's "bluff" (according to the press), because when the dust settles, Harper will find himself isolated, with virtually no non-partisan support for his stubborn refusals.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Ignatieff Op-Ed

Ignatieff has written an op-ed piece, primarily outlining why we need to resolve problems with EI as it currently exists:
That kind of change will have a positive effect on the Canadian economy.

One hundred and fifty thousand more unemployed Canadians on EI mean 150,000 more Canadian families spending on food, rent and transportation. It means money flowing into communities that have been hit the hardest by this recession.

That's the kind of immediate, targeted and effective stimulus we need right now.

I've always seen EI reform as a form of stimulus, so I'm glad to see Ignatieff make this basic point. Rather than making it "lucrative" as Harper describes, what you are really doing is keeping money in the system, offsetting the compounding problem of unemployment feeding off itself. In addition, there is no red tape with this sort of stimulus, the money gets directly into the hands of people who will spend it and stimulate.

On what lies ahead:
In the closing weeks of the spring session of Parliament, the Conservative government has a choice to make. Mr. Harper can continue to resist a good idea simply because someone else thought of it first. Or else he can make a simple but critical change to EI that will provide benefits for thousands of Canadians who have paid into the system and who now need that money to support their families.

We hope the Conservative government will choose wisely.

In response to the Conservative nonsense, that the opposition proposals are open ended, I think the Liberals need to highlight the support for these changes within the economic community. Harper, today in Calgary, is using his usual bombastic language to turn a reasonable solution into a wild exercise:
This is an absurdity. This has nothing to do with the real problems of this recession. This is just a recipe to raise payroll taxes. It is not responsible.


To highlight who is being "absurd" here, a great non-partisan counter would be to provide a list of banks, economic think tanks that support the Liberals idea. When you have such widespread independent support you can make your case, as well as isolate your opponent as "not responsible".

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Fluff

This poll is a great example of elevating relative marginal opinion, so it appears significant:
Four of 10 watching Mulroney inquiry see illegality

The Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey found that 39 per cent of people are following the inquiry either "very closely" or "somewhat closely."

Of those, 44 per cent reported they are of the opinion that the former prime minister "is guilty of illegal activity." About one in three thought he used poor judgment and five per cent felt he used reasonable judgment and did nothing wrong.

Or, looking at it another way, more than 6 in 10 Canadians could care less. Of the minority that does care, less than half of those see "illegality", and even less, a third see "poor judgement".

Instead of fluffing up the numbers, what this poll really says- only 17% of Canadians see a legal problem with all the "revelations", a meaningless 13% see bad judgement. When you conveniently siphon off the majority that could care less at this point, then factor in the clear minority conclusions of the minority that does care, you're left with a ridiculous misleading headline that conveys strong feelings were none exist.

As an added bonus, when one digests the disporportionate coverage this saga has received from the media, it's actually amazing that so many have managed to avoid caring. Kudos to your persistent indifference.

Dr. Strangelove Returns

This headline should serve as proof that Barack Obama operates with relative impunity and the Republicans are nowhere:

Dick Cheney emerges as top Obama critic

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Interesting Contrast

While Harper huddled with strategists at 24 Sussex planning ways to hurt his political opponent for personal gain, Ignatieff huddled with some of the best economic minds in the country at Stornoway, trying to find a way out of this economic mess for Canadians gain.

An interesting CONTRAST on priorities, one the Liberals might want to highlight. "A Tale Of Two Houses".

Neutered

Remember the days when Harper was the tough guy, and Liberals were left to cower behind curtains? Remember when the Liberals would threaten this and that, only to be exposed when push came to shove? Conservatives relished the moment, decisive, strong, always up for a fight. I wonder how if feels now to know that Stephen Harper has become what he and his over confident minions once mocked:
Tories move to avoid non-confidence vote

The Harper government plans to block any chance of a spring election by using the parliamentary calendar to delay a possible non-confidence motion by the Liberals.

The Canadian Press has learned that government informed some of its rivals that it will push back the Liberals' opportunity to table an opposition motion to June 17.

The best part, Harper looks the unthinkable, the most bitter of pills, the dreaded PAUL MARTIN comparison. Say it ain't so:
The government tactic is reminiscent of one used by the Liberals in 2005 when they feared being defeated and pushed opposition days to the end of the calendar.


It's not all bad I suppose:
Conservative organizers have put it out that a cocktail for Stephen Harper at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel tonight will draw 2,500. people

A great turnout in Quebec, by my calculations using a slew of recent polling, this would mean almost all Conservative voters in the province will be together in one room. Impressive, go get em Mr. Mean!

A Perfect Tone



I like that Ignatieff directly confronts his time abroad, and frames it as "proud of what I've achieved". If people really want to disect Ignatieff's time abroad, they will see a pedigree that's impressive by any measure. Canadians are very insecure when it comes to being noticed on the world stage, that one of our own achieved such stature and respect, hardly a negative. There is also a partisan tone, turning the attack around as an affront to all immigrant Canadians, or anyone who has worked abroad.

I also like this theme of a "new kind of politics", as cheesy as it may seem, people actually crave something different. If the Liberals can turn these ads around as examples of old, stale partisanship, while Ignatieff takes the high road and projects something different, it's a winning narrative.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Conservative MP Disses Attack Ads

Someone didn't get her talking points faxed from the PMO:
Recent released Tory ads attacking Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff have failed to impress at least one Conservative MP.

Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod said she doesn't like the ads and would prefer to take the political high road.

She believes political parties use such tactics because they work, but she favours the political discourse to revolve around policy.

"Unfortunately, it seems the tactics have success or otherwise they wouldn't do this — but again do I like it, no," McLeod told KTW.

"I'm responsible for how I conduct myself and I haven't been able to change the world."

McLeod said she hopes these types of ads don't create public cynicism or turn off voters from going to the polls and getting engaged politically.

Expect a phone call Cathy, this freelancing and candor will not stand! If a Conservative MP isn't impressed, I wonder what her constituents think?

How To Respond?

We have evidence of what will be the official response from the Liberal war room.

Contrasting the attack ad focus with the economic circumstance seems a no brainer on many levels. One, you highlight the Conservatives misplaced priorities, during a serious economic downturn. The concurrent theme is that the Liberals have their focus where it should be, in line with Canadians concerns. While the PMO strategizes on how best to smear Ignatieff, the Liberals are worried about jobs and hardship. The economy is THE issue, really the only one at present, so exploiting the folly of partisan attacks within this environment is a smart and obvious counter. The only unknown, just how forceful the Liberals will be in providing the contrast. Will we run counter ads that merely speak to the economic management of the Conservatives, or will that be woven within the disconnect between good government and the distraction of partisan games? Whatever, I think everyone agrees that the really important point, the response must be persistent, prolific and pervasive.

There is one possible danger in merely doing a contrast on focus. While you highlight negative aspects of the Conservatives smear campaign, you don't address the substance of the ads directly. It's a tricky proposition, because if you start "defending", then you are really fighting on ground chosen by your opponent. Some would argue that the battle is half lost if you are operating within that dynamic. The Conservatives have concluded that they would like to have a conversation about Ignatieff's past, his patriotism and all the "questions" around his history. If Liberals present a counter that takes on directly, then you have ceded the thrust of the issue. However, if you ignore the thesis of the attacks, there is risk that eventually the frame takes hold.

I would side on Ignatieff directly addressing the substance of the attacks. I don't think you run counter ads on this score, the economy vs crap presentation is probably more effective. But, having listened to Ignatieff extensively now, he's actually at his best when he speaks about country and his perceptions of where we are, where we need to be, what unites us. When I say at his best, I mean my perception is that of a genuine desire, a intimate understanding, a true passion, which is articulated in such a way that Ignatieff renders the "out of touch" with Canada argument useless. If this presentation was forced, you might want to avoid it, but I honestly think Ignatieff comes across well when he speaks of country. There is a way to use the residency question, because it gives Ignatieff a forum to demonstrate why those attacks are baseless, it plays to a strength he's already demonstrated. If these attacks lead to a discussion about understanding the country and it's best interests, about US not HIM, Ignatieff can actually come across in a positive light, particularly when he's compared with Harper.

As far as mainstream ads and talking points, what Kinsella put out today is probably the best course. But, in terms of what Ignatieff puts forward, maybe a bit of both, the economy vs partisan pre-occupation contrast and a direct/indirect rebuttal of the Conservative attacks.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Now That's Spin

Tim Powers argues that almost absolute criticism amounts to "enjoyable" from the Conservative perspective:
What it is equally enjoyable I am sure for the creators of Ignatieff.me is to see all the earned media generated by the commentary of the campaign.

Wiki defines "earned media" as:
Earned media refers to FAVORABLE publicity gained through promotional efforts other than advertising, as opposed to paid media, which refers to publicity gained through advertising

Yes Tim, I'm sure the Conservative war room is ecstatic at all the paid media. It's so "enjoyable", Conservatives are ranting and raving about all the "digesting".

I suppose, you could say "people are talking" and that fact represents publicity. Trouble is, when you're being called bigots, nitwiks, desperate, bottom feeders and mean spirited hyper-partisans, when normally sympathetic publications are rejecting, the "commentary" isn't exactly a net positive.

I'm sure it's high fives all around Tim. Just what they imagined, probably more...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Old Faithful

You know Conservatives are having a hard time with optics, when they start with the "liberal media" rationalization:

Sounds a bit defensive doesn't he?

When simply noting the GUTTER tactics becomes a conspiracy

The Dion Comparison

You don't want to comfort yourself in optimistic denial, because YES attack ads can and have worked in the past. However, it is equally suspect to just assume the impact, particularly using flawed points of references. Assuming adequate response, a sense of how one MUST deal with attacks, changes the analysis. John Kerry, or more rightly, the Kerry team was destroyed by attack ads, but you have to put them in context. John Kerry did ZIP in response, sat on his hands while his opponents pummeled him relentlessly. When you gauge the effectiveness, just as important as the attack, the way in which the targets actions assisted the narrative. If you were to write an essay on "what not to do" in response to negative campaigning, the John Kerry example would dominate your footnotes.

In Canada, Stephane Dion has now become synonymous with attack ads, and for obvious reasons his name keeps coming up in any discussion of these new negative ads. Again, assuming an adequate response from the Liberals, I'd like to point to a few reasons why the Dion comparison is flawed, in many ways irrelevant to the current situation.

I don't want to throw Mr. Dion under the bus here, but let's keep it real. The simple fact, everything surrounding Dion supported the "weak" premise. Let's not forget, that in the months following the initial attacks, Dion's leadership oozed weakness. The Liberals were hiding behind curtains during crucial votes, in every respect a TOOTHLESS tiger, a dynamic that reinforced itself time and time again. There was a reason the NDP referred to themselves as the "real opposition", further evidence of legitimate attempts to exploit the practical examples of Liberal impotence. This dynamic had nothing to do with the attack ads, but what's important here, the forever embarrassing abstaining routine in Parliament SUPPORTED the frame the Conservatives were selling. At every turn, this sense that Harper was getting the better of Dion, any bluster was squashed and the conclusion highlighted a sense of weakness. The ads found convenient real world example, our behaviour actually supported.

After Dion won the 2006 convention, it didn't take long for "anonymous" Liberals to emerge, and a very real sense that Dion didn't enjoy widespread support within his own party. Rather than rehash the reasons, what's relevant here, the way that particular reality undermined Dion's stature. Dion is "weak", not just a Conservative concept but one that displayed itself daily through the various actions of his own party. You have the Conservatives pushing the idea, but then people are bombarded with evidence that the notion is true, in this case a self-inflicted confirmation.

When Dion took the airwaves, made appearances, there is no question his demeanour and delivery were such that it became problematic. Dion wasn't particularly strong in QP, wasn't resonating, wasn't inspiring, wasn't projecting a sense of STRENGTH. Factor in awkward English, and it's not much of a stretch to see how people could make certain connections. While I think Dion would have made a great leader, there really wasn't much evidence to support real leadership characteristics, that extrapolated beyond partisan wants. Translation, Dion looked WEAK. Dion looked WEAK at the 2006 convention, easily the WORST speech I've ever heard from a politician (and to be honest, not much changed in 2009). All these independent facts had nothing to do with attack ads, our presentation volunteered reaffirmation.

I don't see much use in comparing what happened to Dion with what could happen to Ignatieff. The circumstances are so much different, as well as the lessons learned, that the analogy falls apart at almost every turn. The perception of Harper in 2009 is quite different that it was when he first went after the Liberals. Ignatieff enjoys a united party, better equipped, in a much better position to look a PM in waiting and project a strong presentation. Dion was handicapped on some many scores, none of which are really present now. Attack ads work, but the two classic historical examples both show that the targets after the fact actions and reactions, are almost as important as the opponents message. Each environment is unique, how said attacks are accepted a chief factor, everything put together makes any "template" somewhat meaningless.

Moving forward, apart from the lesson that you must respond, I see little need to reference Dion to highlight effectiveness, because none of the variables overlap. It's for this reason that I hesitate to just assume that attack ads work here, using Dion as evidence, because to be blunt, everything surrounding Ignatieff, all the factors in play, are more opposite than analogous. If, in the next few months, everything Ignatieff does happens to feed what the Conservatives are selling, I'll reaccess, but I just don't see it happening at the moment.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Like A Lead Balloon

Doesn't look like Saturday's edition of Canada's national newspaper will be kind:

OUCH

And, for good MEASURE

UPDATE

I smell a trend:


Tories looking like narrow-minded bigots


"Conservative attack ads on Ignatieff take us all for fools. "


Nitwits of negativity reach new low


"These ads are schoolyard tripe -- insular, provincial, anti-intellectual. Is this the best that Harper and the finest conservative minds in the land can do?

Enough of this, dare we say it, crap. Let's have a clash of ideas, in the House and in the street and in the news. Let's look up, not down."


Tories should can attack ads

"Instead of fixing a negative, disparaging storyline to the new Liberal leader, the Tories may succeed only in reinforcing a damaging narrative about themselves -- as angry, slightly mean-spirited, defensive folks who believe the way to voters' hearts is to call other people names."


Conservatives' attack ads target Ignatieff, and Americans

"the most offensive smear ads I've ever seen."


Harper is hampered by his lack of vision

"But there's no rhetorical lift coming from Harper. And his entourage's idea of smart politics is to try to define Michael Ignatieff with a flight of attack ads. What a pity, to waste such a leadership moment.

It's sad for Harper, a leader in need of a big idea. And it's sad for our country, which is crying out for unifying, not divisive, leadership."


Tory attack ads may backfire

"That's an accusation that resembles childish name-calling more than serious comment...

The best advice the Conservatives could get came from Ignatieff himself. "This is the old style of politics," he said. "We're in the middle of a serious economic crisis. This government needs to grow up and do its job properly."


Backlash.

Switching Gears?

I think we've seen enough reaction to gauge how these attack ads are being received. There's a critical point to make here, Conservatives have relied on this dynamic time and time again, namely not just feeding the public a message, but cementing a narrative with the media conduit, amplifying overall impact. If you can get the media to buy into your negative frame, it's half the battle and the sentiment finds outside validation. If you do a fair analysis of the Dion attack ads, part of the equation in their success, the ads tended to mirror what the conduit thought; "weak" wasn't merely a partisan presentation, it was repeated ad nauseum by every publication for months and months.

That said, I found something QUITE telling tonight and the change in tactic, the talking point, comes straight from Conservative head office. Yesterday, Tim Powers was quite happy to go ON and ON about the personal attacks directed at Ignatieff, that was the message. Today, and this is not by accident, when Powers was confronted with the ever emerging media theme of mean spirited personal attacks, Powers pivoted and tried to reframe the ad campaign as a discussion on policy:
"There's three or four of them, two or three deal with the economy. What the Conservative Party is trying to say, is to tease out of Michael Ignatieff where does he stand on the economy. He's been a public intellectual for 40 years, good for him, nobody has a problem with that. But, in those 40 years he's rarely written about the economy. There are important issues, people need to decipher."

Technically, there is mention of the economy in a couple of the ads, but even here, always within the larger theme of "just visiting". The personal attack is THE message, whether it be the sole focus or in other ads that give a sprinkle of policy. When the ads were released, there is no question what the Conservatives were pushing, the website says it all, as does the choice of which ads to highlight. Interesting, that today's talking point tries to ignore the previous thrust and instead spin the ads as a legitimate debate on serious policy matters.

Putting aside the need to fight back, the Liberal retorts, I think it's becoming clear that these ads aren't finding legitimacy with the all important media. The columns haven't been particularly receptive, if you had to generalize, almost a childish characterization that questions the source as much as the target. The media are simply not running with this theme of Ignatieff the "visitor", any talk of legitimate question is buried within the gutter questions. It's for this reason- because I don't take Powers pivot as coincidence- that the Conservatives are sensing some blowback, or maybe more rightly, less than glowing reviews, that they're already changing the frame of these ads.

I'm not discounting potential effectiveness, we all know the "attack ads work" reasonings, which are being rehashed now. What I'm sensing though, and I've scanned everything I can possible get my eyes on, THIS time the Conservatives don't have a media partner to support their message. That reality will be a factor in the final analysis, and the fact Conservatives are already adjusting their talking points, supports the perceived importance.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Conservatives Help Fill Liberal Coffers

The Liberals sent out a email solitication yesterday, in response to the Conservative attack ads (copy below):
Dear Liberal Friend,

Trust the Conservatives to get attack ads out faster than they can deliver their promised stimulus funding. Unable to provide leadership himself, Stephen Harper has launched new ads attempting to divert attention away from his government's failures to fix the economy and to undermine the credibility of the one leader he knows can take his place - Michael Ignatieff.

Enough is enough. Please make a donation today and help Michael respond with a new kind of politics and hold this government to account.

Canadians deserve a government dedicated to solving problems, not partisan attacks. Our future depends on it. Michael's honesty and leadership have already begun to offer Canadians a sense of hope for a brighter future, with a government that will help Canada prosper and grow. Show your support and let's remind the Conservatives that their games won't work - Canada comes first.

Thank you,

Rocco Rossi
National Director
Liberal Party of Canada

Please forward this message to your friends and colleagues and encourage them to get involved. With each new voice, each donation, each new membership, and each letter to the editor our ability to create a new kind of politics continues to grow.

I have a well placed source has told me this email fundraiser has already produced "the best result of any email solitication we have ever sent out". Further, it would appear the Conservatives have stirred up Liberal supporters, described as "people are outraged". Given that we've already had some successful email outreaches recently, it's quite encouraging to hear that the Liberals are responding to these attack ads in an unprecedented way. It's exactly the type of response that demonstrates the dynamics have changed.

If you haven't donated, follow the link above if so inclined.


Good stuff.

UPDATE

Liberal Arts and Minds has a quote from Liberal MP Marlene Jennings:
The Conservatives may have actually done us Liberals a favour by running their negative ads as it's helped our fundraising! Money is starting to pour in as Canadians are rejecting Harper's old-style politicking.

Exhale


We've heard rumors of Ben Mulroney possibly entering federal politics, even worse under the Liberal banner. I have to admit, big tent or not, if this rumor actually came to pass, it would have constituted a "line in the sand" moment for myself and the Liberal Party. We all have our limits, and this notion was ridiculous on a number of fronts. With that in mind, I'm pleased to know that Ben will not be running:
"No, I'm not interested in going into politics," he said. "I'm flattered by people who think that I would be capable of that. I'm an engaged Canadian citizen, I pay attention to what's going on, and I feel I have a stake in what's going on, but I don't necessarily feel that I'm a person with solutions to offer."

Though he concedes that he has long had problems with the Liberal party, he calls Michael Ignatieff a "gentleman." And Mulroney insists that no party can depend on his vote.

A nation extends a warm thanks.

Desperate Times Call For...

There was a rationale within Conservative circles, that accurately explained why we hadn't seen attack ads to date, despite the obvious temptations. What's changed? Here's the rub within the release of these ads. The balance has tipped in favor of going negative, because a sense of desperation has developed. Supporters can cling to some belief that this will be a Dion redux, that's fine, what else can they do really when you think about it? However, the circumstances aren't analogous, apart from superficial comparisons that largely evaporate once you absorb the preconditions.

The Liberals need to respond, any commentary presmes a sense that lessons have been learned, a measure of adaptability, given previous experience. Apart from that assumption, looking only at the Conservative tactics, it's not a strong presentation. The Conservatives themselves "held back", because even within their partisan brains, they understood the inherent negatives in attack ads, at this time. There was a sense of reinforcing unpleasant narratives, relating to Canadians view of Harper and how he conducted himself. There was the danger of going negative during an economic downturn, which allowed for easy counters as to government priorities. We assume the PMO understood the following retort was a given:
Trust the Conservatives to get attack ads out faster than they can deliver their promised stimulus funding. Unable to provide leadership himself, Stephen Harper has launched new ads attempting to divert attention away from his government's failures to fix the economy and to undermine the credibility of the one leader he knows can take his place

Michael Ignatieff.

Calculating a real opportunity for blow back, the Conservatives held their fire. Those dynamics haven't changed, all that's happened is a tipping point in thought process, borne of "desperate times". If you're scanning the various news items and opinion on this story, almost without exception the ads are discussed within the context of falling Conservative fortunes, a sense that Ignatieff is resonating and the Liberals on the move. That translates to this release coming from a perceived position of weakness, rather than the Big Blue Machine laying waste to their opponent. Nobody frames these ads as an example of the former "strategic brilliance", but more rightly, as a sign that the Conservatives are LOSING. The fact that the previous thinking has been abandoned, these ads released, provides official confirmation that within Conservative circles, they also believe they are LOSING.

I don't find it necessary to rationalize the dangers of these ads for the government from a Liberal perspective, because you find objective truth within Conservative circles, and those previous hesitations underscore simple facts. If, we are in situation wherein that previously sound logic has been replaced because poor circumstances demand it, then it tends to blunt the true impacts. The Conservatives are desperate, and they know it. That's the backdrop here, and that clear fact admits a relatively good position for the Liberals. These ads have a "hail mary" element, which by their nature speaks to real, concerning weakness, so one can modestly grin at the wishful bombast coming from the minions. This is fear, not formidable, which makes the entire proposition a dicey affair.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Incoming

Oh sheesh, they're coming for me:

Tories aim attack ads ‘far and wide'

UPDATE

Besides the six ads, which apparently are already on air, the Conservatives have released a new smear site:

Ignatieff.me

And in French:

Here


I'm curious to see the response...

A Bad Night For Electoral Reform

Last night's overwhelming rejection of STV in British Columbia has effectively killed any momentum towards some manifestation of electoral reform. Relative to the 2005 results, wherein proponents could point to majority support, just barely below the artificial threshold, this result is clear and stark. It was so bad last night, that STV only achieved 50% or higher in a handful of ridings, no matter the measure it's hard to find the future silver lining.

The last results kept the pressure on entrenched interests, almost a moral imperative given the previous support for electoral reform. That impetus has evaporated with last night's setback, any leverage for another "redo" can now be discarded. That isn't to say those committed to proportional representation will just disappear, the debate ends, only that there now exists a certain fatigue and little motivation. I actually agree with this opinion:
Political commentator David Mitchell told CBC News that the defeat of the STV measure would probably kill electoral reform for a generation, not only in British Columbia but also in the rest of Canada. Other provinces have also put forward referendums on proportional representation but none have passed.

At a certain point, the continual defeat of different PR initiatives brings unavoidable consequences. We can rehash the reasons why, some quite valid, but it's really the perception that's important. Those arguing against future referendums are now armed with more status quo ammunition and it becomes harder for proponents to force the "establishment" hand. Had the British Columbia results been closer, or at least a majority expression, then the debate would stay in the fore. I suspect what we'll see now, plenty of talk about keeping up the fight, but little political incentive to address. I think it quite fair to catergorize the British Columbia results as "devastating" to the future prospects for electoral reform, and would expand that to a nationwide sentiment. The beacon has been extinguished for all intent and purposes.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

"the believability advantage shifted to Ms. Dhalla"

One of the few MSM commentators who hasn't been circling the pool on Ruby Dhalla offers another seemly fair perspective.

The Single Digit Response

The Conservatives have "unleashed" the most lame of attack ads against the Liberals. What's worse Ryan Sparrow seems proud, making a public fuss. The ads are in English and in French. The English ad goes after Ignatieff for his residency, and I must say the fact that this is deemed the most worthy of initial attacks, tells me the Conservatives don't have much at the moment. In a strange way, I take these ads as more desperation than anything.

Apparently the Conservatives have nothing to lose in Quebec by going on the attack, because for the second time now a pollster pegs their support in the SINGLE DIGITS. This is the first post-convention poll, which brings some curiousity, given the counter balance of Ruby Dhalla last week. What was supposed to be a good week for the Liberals turned into anything but, so one wondered if any bounce would be blunted. The conclusion from the Strategic Counsel poll, the Liberals are up, Conservatives down, a 2% gap a month ago is now 5%, in line with other recent findings. No real evidence of a bounce, but then again, no real fallout from last week, so a good result for the Liberals:
Libs 35% (34%)
Cons 30% (32%)
NDP 16% (15%)

We are starting to see more and more polls that give the Liberals an edge outside of margin of error. It has now been two months since any pollster has given the Conservatives a lead.

The Quebec numbers provide more confirmation of recent trends. Liberals way up, Conservatives sitting at absolutely abysmal totals:
Bloc 39% (41%)
Libs 37% (29%)
Cons 9% (15%)
NDP 9% (9%)

Whenever you think the Conservatives have hit a new bottom in Quebec, they fall further, to the point now where shutout is a possibility. Averaging the latest result from each pollster, the Conservatives sit at 12%. While the Liberals are drawing some support from the Bloc, primarily they are completely replacing the Conservatives as the only federalist option.

In Ontario, the Liberals maintain a big lead:
Libs 42% (45%)
Cons 32% (32%)

Once again the national numbers tend to understate the problems for the Conservatives, because some quick math of the provincial numbers equates to a healthy minority for the Liberals.

Conclusion, I'm not sure what's better news, the polls or these limp attack ads from the Conservative braintrust. The ads reek of fear, they don't really say anything substantive, just low brow attempts to discredit.

Message to the Liberal fundraising team- don't bother blowing any money responding to the ads, because these duds are laughable, or "lame" as Conservative supporters seem to acknowledge. Next.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Tony Clement To America: Tell Me What To Do

Tony Clement sure is consistent, if nothing else. I suppose you could allow Clement some slack for his constant referrals to the American administration when it comes to GM and Chrysler, given their bilateral existence. However, it sure seems like Clement and the Conservatives are nothing more than an empty vessel, merely waiting for the Americans to tell them what to do. Can SOMEONE please explain the technical restrictions on Canada that preclude our acting on this policy, without waiting for the Americans?:
Industry Minister Tony Clement says Ottawa is considering a scrappage program that would pay consumers to get rid of their old, polluting vehicles.

He says the federal government is closely watching a similar proposal that's winding its way through U.S. Congress.

Clement says Ottawa is also looking at what's happening in other European countries.

Why are we closely watching what the Americans or Europeans are doing? Isn't it a tad ridiculous that Clement is paralyzed, until he finds foreign direction on a purely domestic policy? Why is Canada fixated on this "buy America" provision when it comes to ideas? Maybe CPAC can start carrying proceedings from Washington so Canadians can get a better handle on the progress of our initiatives. I sure hope Congress doesn't kill Canada's scrappage program for old vehicles. Let us know how it all pans out Tony. NUTS.

Oops

The Conservatives have their own "GritGirl", known as "ToryBoy", or more correctly as his latest turd confirms, "Not Terribly Clever Boy". Here's a helpful hint, when you're trying to slag somebody's past residency, maybe just maybe, you shouldn't include a reference to somebody who's lived out of the country for the last 21 YEARS. Kind of diminishes your "point":



There was much speculation about GritGirl's ties to the Liberal war room. Here's hoping that Toyboy is a Conservative war room manifestation, because if this is any indication of the mental firepower on display, I LIKE our chances.

Can't "Deny" The Facts

One of the most maddening characteristics of the Harper government, the disconnect between their rhetoric and actions on the climate change file. The latest propaganda merchant Jim Prentice, mirroring his predecessors, continually tells us how committed we are to cutting GHG's, how Canada is at the international forefront, as the world attempts to cobble together a new agreement. It all sounds wonderful, until there is any gathering, anywhere in the world, which is when we learn TIME after TIME that Canada is actually see as a "laggard", or "resisting", or "blocking", everything and anything that moves the agenda forward. What we hear from the government spinsters is completely nonsensical, but it happens with such frequency they've made absurd look routine.

Today's story in the G and M will get little attention in the grand scheme (and the government knows it), but it's a terrific concrete example of ACTIONS speaking louder that words:
Top Canadian scientists are accusing the Harper government of politicizing science funding and jeopardizing climate research by naming global warming critics to key boards that fund science.

University of Victoria climatologist Andrew Weaver, another lead author of past IPCC reports, said politics should be kept at a distance from these boards. He also said it is "very disturbing" that people who dispute global warming are making strategic decisions on scientific research.

"What would the public think if we appointed outspoken proponents of the fallacy 'smoking doesn't cause cancer' as members of the boards funding medical and, in particular, cancer research?" he said.

It's actually amazing that this government would appoint people to oversee research funding, when said appointments are HOSTILE to the scientists. A truly staggering quote from one appointment:
"To those who doubt the scientific basis of global warming theory, we say: Don't let a cabal of government-funded scientists, environmental activists and journalists convince us they're the mainstream." - April 28, 2006

How can someone who resists "government-funded scientists" be given the power to oversee expenditures? Is there any doubt, that a man with these views will be reticent to support research on global warming.

Or maybe the other appointment will advocate for "sceptic" projects:
"It strikes me that the science is not settled," he said in a 2007 interview posted at BCbusinessonline. "Put caps on global emitters' is not the natural conclusion I would come to."

You don't need much imagination to see the anti-intellectual, anti-mainstream bent that effectively endorses confrontation with accepted science. Sure, government officials can run to the cameras and pledge their firm commitment and resolve, blah, blah, oh just shut up, blah de blah. But, everytime you move past the rhetoric to the practical, you see a consistent pattern of hostility towards the most basic of premises. The sad part, the Conservatives have rightly concluded that a steady diet of unfounded propaganda is enough to cloud simple facts, allowing them to continually "slither" around as though competent and committed.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Obama Does Comedy

Obama's "routine" at the White House correspondents dinner:






Quite funny.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Bad Trend

Another poll on STV in British Columbia, which again suggests support is waning over time:
A third B.C. election poll suggests that the proposed BC-STV electoral system is unlikely to pass Tuesday.

A new Ipsos Reid poll found that only 33 per cent of respondents said they intend to vote for BC-STV. A slight majority – 52 per cent – said they intend to vote for the current First Past the Post system.

A further 15 per cent said they are undecided.

An Ipsos poll conducted for the No STV group in March found support for BC-STV at 43 per cent, compared to 41 per cent for the existing FPTP system.

Among decided voters, FPTP received 61 per cent support in the new Ipsos poll, compared to 39 per cent for BC-STV.

Like the Angus Reid sample, Ipsos finds support for STV weakening, relative to earlier polling. This type of confirmation provides a worrying trendline, and while the usual caveats apply, things are clearly heading in the wrong direction. This poll finds 4/5 voters are unlikely to change their minds on the referendum. A secondary issue, if it does turn out that STV support is less than it was in the last election, it raises the spectre of alternative electoral concepts being put on the political backburner, not just in B.C., but in other jurisdictions as well.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Slipping

I really enjoyed the entire Ignatieff presentation at the convention, the speech and the introduction. However, there was one moment in the preamble video that gave a slight cringe. Not because of anything offensive, only because it willingly referenced a theme that somebody should have nixed in the final edit. Anyways, I waited to see if any of the usual detractors picked up on the visual, but I haven't heard a peep. Consider this my Friday night news dump, and yes that is a picture of "I":


I can think of a million lines...

STV Set To Fail In BC?

A worrying trendline for STV supporters in British Columbia. Two seperate outfits show similar findings, one concludes as people learn more, the less inclined to vote in favor of STV.

First, the very reliable Mustel poll shows a large hurdle to get majority support, never mind the 60% threshold:
Today’s Mustel poll of 852 eligible B.C. voters was conducted between April 29 and May 6th, a period that includes Sunday’s leaders debate.

The poll also found a lack of support for the BC-STV electoral system. Some 43 per cent said they will vote for the existing First Past the Post system; 33 per cent said they intend to vote for BC-STV. Another 24 per cent were undecided.

A large undecided, but even if they were to break en masse in support of STV, the reform would fail.

What might be more concerning for proponents, the Angus Reid poll, which has tracked support for STV. In a poll done last week, AR found support for STV at 53%, while 47% supported the current system. Still, not enough for passage, but strong support. The latest AR result shows a change, with only 45% support for STV, 55% support the current system. The pollster concludes that increased awareness is hurting STV:

Awareness of the referendum on electoral reform has risen in the last week with only nine per cent of people “not aware at all” (-8), while those who are “very aware” have increased to 57 per cent (+12). This rise in awareness seems to have lowered the chances of BC-STV being implemented in the next provincial election.

If I were a betting man...

The Politics Of "Green Shoots"

First off, it goes without saying that any evidence of the economy stablizing supercedes political consideration in terms of want. With that being said, there does appear to be "green shoots" starting to show in the economy, whether that is sustained or real remains to be seen, but it's not absolute carnage everywhere you turn.

When we discuss election timing, I've argued there are three chief considerations for the Liberals. One revolves around the issue of "propping up" the government and the potential fallout. Another digests the impact of the looming Conservative attack barrage against Ignatieff. The third, how the economic circumstance will help/hinder our prospects.

I would argue, that only one consideration remains, in any substantive way. With the new dynamics in Ottawa, any danger of the Liberals appearing weak, as they avoid confrontation with the government, has pretty much evaporated. We've already seen evidence of a more robust Liberal opposition, it is clear that we have more strategic latitude, which should neuter any sense of culpability or weakness.

In terms of the Conservative smear machine, we have clear evidence that there will be no Dion redux. The encouraging fundraising total for the first quarter, paying off party debt, and signs that the second quarter will bring even better numbers, the Liberals at least have the capacity for counter. Couple some semblance of improved fiscal health, with the dynamic of going negative actually reinforcing the unattractive characteristics of the government, and I'm less concerned that unleashing the Conservative gutter machine will be devastating to the Liberals.

The one remaining "concern" revolves around the relative health of the economy. Recent days have shown that the longer the Liberals wait, the more risk involved. Moving forward, if a situation develops, wherein Harper can claim partial turnaround, past "bottom", it allows for a more convincing argument. Today, Harper is already seizing on "green shoots":
“We may not be in a recovery, but I think we might be in a position where it’s not getting worse, where it’s truly plateauing,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in an interview, adding he’d like another “month or two” of data before coming to that conclusion.

It's a strange world, when 500000 job losses for April in the U.S. is considered "good news". However, everything now is viewed through the relative lens, not as horrific, is the new "encouraging". Two years ago, if the U.S. reported those job figures the DOW would have fallen 400 points, today it's up 100. In other words, the new frame doesn't require robust recovery, only a sense that we've seen bottom, which then allows everyone to look for those "green shoots". Within that reality, Harper doesn't need to see a return to real growth, only the sense that it's around the corner, we've weathered the storm. Then, the arguments against the government are somewhat weakened, because they can then point to their policies to support this notion of good managers, ably navigating us to the other side. Why turf the government, when things are looking up?

I've contended since the budget, that Harper is merely trying to ride out the economy. Earlier bluster from the government was mostly laughable, because the true strategy is to make it to the break, see a no threat summer and then reaccess come fall, always hoping that the worst would be behind us. You can't say anything definitive at this point, but come fall, Harper might just have enough patchy ammunition to somewhat counter his chief current liability. Liberals should proceed with this knowledge, entertain the possibilities and don't assume our historic "trump" card will be as effective as it seems today.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Threatened Much?

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."

Wow, things really are looking good for the Liberals in Quebec.

On National Unity

When Ignatieff speaks of national unity, the common refrain from Conservatives- support for seperatism has never been lower in Quebec, a testament to the false premise that Canada is fractured and divided. No dispute on that score, although that argument tends to superficially dismiss latent problems. However, when I hear talk about bringing the country together, I don't necessarily look to the kneejerk "two solitudes" dynamic, in fact I see the "call" as something entirely different and more encompassing.

I've lived in British Columbia on two seperate occasions, a fact I mention often for a reason, which I'll address later. I've lived in Vancouver, and I've lived in Invermere, the latter also afforded me considerable exposure to Albertans, whether it be frequency of their presence in this town, the exposure to Calgary media, or my many sojourns to the province, based on proximity. My wife was born in Calgary, and we've made many visits since I left the interior. We've also spent time in places like Sundre and High River, the Crowsnest pass. I've been to the Yukon, up and down every mountain range in British Columbia. I've spent time in Newfoundland and other eastern jewels. What's your point? The "name" dropping is nothing more than a counter to the Ontario mentality, because I see myself as a Canadian, capable of processing all the diversity at play, not handicapped by regional sentiment.

During the Convention, we were in a pub (shocking I know) and someone in our party mentioned they were from Toronto to a "local". Over the years, I've trained myself to note the response, because it's fairly typical and you see if often- the eyes rolled with a sense of mild disgust. It's here where my resume comes to the fore, because this perception highlights a basic ignorance or intolerance. To be fair, the lack of tolerance is a two way street, because I've seen the Ontario response in reverse.

When Ignatieff speaks about national unity, strengthening the "spine" of the country towards common interest, maybe I hear what I want, but it translates to something more than the usual angst. I love every region of this country, each brings its own character, natural and social, that all congeals to form the Canadian identity. In truth, people who live in Vancouver have more in common with people that live in Toronto, than they do with people who live in Prince George. However, rather than embrace certain affinities, Canadians spend far too much effort denoting their own tribal sentiments and in so doing belittle other circumstances. I find this to be a waste of energy, because in my experience, I've never felt like a "foreigner" or uncomfortable anywhere in this country. As a matter of fact, I'm generally stunned by the uniformity, more a question of rural/urban divide than regional geography.

If there is one hope I have moving forward, the new technologies that make the world smaller, will manifest to the point that Canadians don't sneer at other Canadians, but instead we feel some common bond that denotes mutual respect. I don't see the call for unity as exclusive to the English/French interplay, but something broader that gets us past combative perceptions throughout the country. Naive perhaps, but not necessarily misguided or without merit in the grand scheme.