Sunday, February 28, 2010


Okay, just one more time:

I await the cheesy CBC movie in 20 years.

"I Believe In The Power Of" Ego

I'm sorry, but this is simply to perfect to let pass. You're glued to the television, the magical moment arrives, Canada wins! Caught up in the genuine organic outflow of emotion, what's your first instinct? Sheesh, get out of the way woman, Jack needs face time:

Jack Layton Wants To Make Sure You See Him Celebrating That Goal! from Torontoist on Vimeo.

Sometimes one moment perfectly embodies so much about a person. Forever "on", the life of Jack Layton.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

"Glitch Games" A Fabrication

Considering all the supposed negative press sweeping the globe, it would appear the international citzenry quite like the Vancouver Olympics. Angus Reid polled Canadians, Americans and Brits, on the question of whether these games have been rule well or not. Somewhat surprising, virtually no sentiment that reflects the glitch games controversy:
82% of Canadians, 64% of Britons and 62% of Americans say the Vancouver Winter Olympics have been run “well” or “very well”

As for the percentage that think the games have been run poorly, only 12% of Americans concur, 8% of Britons and 15% of Canadians. Not surprisingly, the "don't know" contingent was higher for the British and American sample, whereas Canadians expressed a view one way or another.

This sort of finding shows the distorted view presented, when media outlets scour the globe looking for any dissent, then spend a disporportionate amount of time highlight said negativity. What else is new?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Bernier On Thin Permafrost

Much debate about what Bernier is up to with his denier commentary. Some are suggesting these statements are a "trial balloon", as the denier camp is emboldened by recent controversy. Others think Bernier is positioning himself within the Conservative camp. We've seen the Conservative base rise up in support of Bernier, but beyond the mostly ignorant winger camp, are his comments productive?

According to EKOS, if Conservatives think this denier line will resonate, they are sorely mistaken. In fact, there is considerable risk that this open debate amongst Conservatives will harm the party. Some interesting numbers:
Catergorizing the perceived threat of global warming:

20% seriously exaggerated
44% consistent with the level of risk
31% seriously underestimated
4% dont know

What we see is a very limited audience, Bernier's view is clearly a fringe position. If you breakdown the numbers further, you'll see that outside of Alberta (which Graves mentioned on P and P), Bernier's view is even more marginal. The Conservatives enjoy base support of 30%, those that share Bernier's view don't even come close to that total, which means a large percentage of Conservative voters aren't on board with the denier arguments. The numbers are even worse, when one considers the numbers the Conservatives actually received in the last two elections.

Far more people actually think we are underestimating the effects of global warming, combined with the "consistent" camp, it's an overwhelming MAINSTREAM opinion. If Bernier is a trial balloon, I would suggest it will be met with disapproval, more capacity for harm than good.

Those of us on the side of global warming should take comfort in Bernier, and the emerging support from many Conservatives. An open debate amongst Conservatives will demonstrate once again that the party doesn't represent Canadians on this issue, particularly where it matters electorally. The opposition would be wise to highlight Bernier and cultivate more discussion, because this stance is a clear LOSER politically. You win no converts and simultaneously alienate moderate Conservatives.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Harper's Numbers Going South/Horserace Numbers Odd

EKOS released some leadership numbers today, that show a decided erosion for Harper. I'd also like to address a statistical curiousity I found with the poll horserace numbers.

First the leadership tallies:
Approval rating – Harper:
¤ 33% approve
¤ 52% disapprove
¤ 15% do not know/no response

• Approval rating – Ignatieff:
¤ 22% approve
¤ 48% disapprove
¤ 30% do not know/no response

These numbers are better for Ignatieff than first blush would suggest. First off, since the last time EKOS asked this question Ignatieff has rose 3% on approval, fell 2% on disapproval, for a 5% narrowing. What is particularly encouraging, this finding clearly demonstrates that Canadians don't hold firm views on Ignatieff, he is very much still a work in progress, which in an of itself denotes opportunity- the large "don't know" contingent speaks to this dynamic. Ignatieff clearly has work to do, but perceptions aren't cemented.

When you look at Harper's numbers, you see a large swing from the last finding. Disapproval up 10%, approval down 7%, which translates to a 17% widening. By any measure, that's a decidedly horrible trend. The numbers are even worse, when one considers the rabid approval Harper gets from Conservative partisans. On the other hand, one could argue Harper enjoys a more loyal base following, relative to Ignatieff. Still, Harper is a relatively known quantity, which makes these numbers that much more informative, cemented.


I was reading the pdf for the horserace numbers, that show a Liberal Olympic bounce ;). EKOS is kind enough to release the day to day findings:

I note that February 19 shows a one off Conservative tally, which really helps their overall score. I'm not quibbling about that, but it is a "which of these things doesn't look like the other" proposition. That aside, take a look at the Liberal numbers for each day, because this is where I started doing some math. The Liberal overall total of 30.3% seems a tad low when you review the day to day totals. Okay, here's what I did, and maybe someone could point out my error. I took each individual day total of votes (for example 569 for Feb 17) and divided the party percentages into that number, to get a voter tally. For instance on Feb 17, the Cons received 32.2% which gives them 183 of the 569 people sampled that day. I did this for both parties, for each day, then divided the grand total by the grand total of voters sampled. In this way, the margin of error for each day is fully incorporated and weighted. What I found confirmed my initial questioning, it shows the Conservatives at 33.2%(33.4% reported) and the Liberals at 30.9%(30.3% reported).

Why this is important, is because you see this "Olympic bounce" argument evaporates (not that it was valid in the first place). The Conservatives still rise 2% poll to poll, but the Liberals rise 1.9%- in other words a complete and utter wash, nothing to see here, the dynamic unchanged. You tell me, because I can't see how a party averages their lowest daily score, when they had days well above??

A Beaver On A Unicycle

A clever prorogue video:

Gossip Girl

I admit, some reservation when I first heard Jane Taber would start offering a daily "Ottawa Notebook" for Canada's flagship publication. The reasoning was simply, already prone to chasing gossip, expanding the frequency would just lead to more trivial pursuits, in an effort to fill space. I think it fair to say, my initial hesitation has been vindicated, as I've read a slew of the most superficial of postings, amounting to an embarrassing display of tabloid journalism on a paper that supposedly has "standards".

Jeff posts today on a column from yesterday that was entirely offensive. With a touch of irony, readers are left "stupefied" with each successive offering that really offers nothing at all, except fabricated storylines. Jeff highlights the sequence of events, wherein this entire discussion about who Ignatieff would cheer for last night, was entirely a one person show, feeding on itself.

The whole "issue" of Ignatieff's background- the underlying premise that his nationality was in question- was a manufactured presentation. First, you posit the absurd, then you have the audacity to actually ask Ignatieff who he's cheering for, then you follow up on your initial absurdity with ANOTHER column. Ignatieff on the defensive, all because some bored pseudo-journalist, decided it was to juicy to pass up. As Jeff points out, not ONE, but TWO entries devoted to a topic that is so AMATEURISH it hurts. That this tripe appears in the G and M, a LITERALLY sad commentary on the state of journalism in this country.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Great Rivalry

Top 10 Canada/Russia moments:

Thank-You Maxime

Rather than shake your head at Maxime Bernier's comments on global warming, we should really applaud his honesty. Bernier has done nothing more than confirm a view we all know resonates behind the official government rhetoric. Bernier essentially admits that the government is dragging their heels on the issue, because they remain fundamentally sceptical about global warming:
"My position is that we should be cautious instead of ambitious when tackling this issue. That’s why I totally support my government, which has shown caution even if it brought us criticism and condemnations from environmental activists."

So, rather than listening to Prentice attempt to argue an ambitious agenda, or Harper's "preponderance of evidence" arguments, Bernier lays it out in the open- the Conservatives have done nothing because they believe it may all be much ado about nothing. Bernier also admits that one must appear to do something for "political reasons", which entirely explains all the go no where promises and obstructionist posture on the international stage. Bernier demonstrates that the Conservative agenda on climate change is nothing more than a manufactured fraud to APPEASE.

Bernier's viewpoint isn't particularly surprising to anyone who's been paying attention. In fact Bernier's opinion is entirely consistent with the evidence at hand. With the most basic of common sense, one merely has to extrapolate Bernier's position onto the entire file and tenure of the government, and you see a perfect match.

Emboldened by side issues that the deniers don't fully comprehend, expect to see more sceptics coming forward in the Conservative ranks. At the very least, it will help foster an honest debate, rather than this cynical shell game we've had to endure the past four years. This openness will also signal to our international partners, that their criticisms of Canada are well founded.

It was always "so call global warming" Mr. Harper, and any repositioning on your part, nothing more than an attempt to pacify and maintain electoral prospects. Bernier is really just stating the obvious, unless of course you're entirely brain dead.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tell Rob Nicholson To Pound Salt

The sheer gall of the man is remarkable. The Conservatives prorogue Parliament, for reasons NOBODY can adequately explain, and yet Rob Nicholson has the temerity to make demands of the opposition. Rob Nicholson can go pound salt. Try to hold down your lunch as you read the following:
Justice Minister Rob Nicholson is “hopeful” the opposition parties will agree to reinstate 14 crime bills that died with Parliament's prorogation late last year.

“What would their motives be not to agree? If a piece of legislation is good for Canadians ... why wouldn’t they give us their complete support?” Nicholson said Tuesday.

The 14 government-sponsored justice bills that died include imposing mandatory minimum sentencing for marijuana grow-ops of between five and 200 plants, increasing sentences for “white collar” fraud, tougher sentencing for auto thefts, and eliminating the “faint hope” parole clause for convicts serving life sentences, among others.

“To say, oh, they don’t like prorogation so they’re going to start opposing bills that better protect Canadian victims and law-abiding Canadians ...

That’s a bad reason,” Nicholson said. “I’ve got questions for them if they are just going to hold this up because they’re in a snit about something.” Nicholson made his appeal Tuesday while celebrating Bill C-25, which came into effect Tuesday and eliminates the courts’ practice of awarding prisoners a two-for-one - sometimes even three-for-one - credit for time served in pre-trial custody.

There is a hilarity to the Nicholson argument. The MORE Nicholson pushes the urgency, the more he says we require quick passage in the name of protecting our citizens, the more he highlights how irresponsible his own government. We arrive at this position, not because of Liberal Senators, soft on crime lefties, but because this government voluntarily ABANDONED their crime agenda. To now come to the table and start demanding this and that, the height of illogical arrogance. In a strange twist of fate, it is now up to the opposition to get tough on crime, because the Conservatives went soft, in the name of political expediency.

The opposition should hit back hard. Let Nicholson rant and rave with his increasingly tired arguments. The facts will never absolve the bombastic demands, this is the government's chosen path, they bear FULL RESPONSIBILITY. The Conservatives "held up" the business of the nation, tossed aside months of work and effort, and the opposition CAN'T reward this behavior, no matter the dueling optics. The simple fact of the matter, for all the rhetoric, any attack on the opposition as obstructing the crime agenda, can be met with the most easy of retort. If Nicholson wants to keep the prorogue issue on the frontburner, so be it, it highlights YOUR failings, not a indictment of ANYBODY BUT THE GOVERNMENT. Let the Conservatives make "tough on crime" the centerpiece of the throne speech and spring agenda, they've lost the moral imperative, they've been exposed as callous players, self interest before citizenry, and no amount of table pounding changes reality.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Pass The Imodium

I've actually quite enjoyed the Olympics. I admit, the "own the podium" slogan, as well as the pre-games proclamations, didn't quite feel right. Anyways, apparently the slogan is now officially dead, and Canadians are left to needlessly wring our hands, trying to decipher just "went wrong".

Perhaps a poll for a new slogan:

Demand The Bland

The jaded media love to lament the lack of independent thinking coming from our elected representatives. Constant criticisms of the bland, scripted flavor, delivered with robotic precision and partisan zeal. And YET, the truth of the matter, our political discourse, or lack thereof, is entirely a reaction to the media lens. In other words, independent thought and honesty are suppressed, as a result of LEARNED response. The media lament is really an internal creation, a strange criticism of themselves, when taken to a BASE level.

I like Adam Radwanski, so this isn't necessarily directed towards him, just so happens he writes an example of my thesis today:
With friends like Kennedy, McGuinty needs no enemies

It was only a matter of time.

Even when he's in your caucus, it's hard to keep Gerard Kennedy on message. Michael Ignatieff, who recently watched the Member of Parliament for Parkdale-High Park call for a debate on raising the GST, could attest to that much.

So it was all but inevitable that Mr. Kennedy would eventually run afoul of his former colleagues in Dalton McGuinty's provincial government, where he served for three years as education minister. And he's now done so in fairly spectacular fashion - stepping all over the Liberals' signature transportation policy.

The title ridiculous, the "loose cannon" characterization in reference to past HONESTY, indicative of a failed perspective. Not the first time we've heard this theme, in regards to Kennedy and really the implication demonstrates why REAL politicians are an endangered species. How dare Kennedy represent his constituents and fail to artificially support a policy, in the name of past party loyalty? What kind of a fool muses openly about the GST, much better to simply PARROT what you're told and sing in key. Anything less, be prepared for these type of stories, to the determent of your party and their chances.

Kennedy is a guy who went to Bob Rae, during the leadership question, when there was no realistic hope, there was no political upside. This decision was made on principle, part of a now defined pattern. Rather than being applauded for putting self interest aside and effectively backing an obvious loser, Kennedy is characterized as reckless and politically stupid. Give me 307 similarly "naive" and dangerous MP's and we'd have the best Parliament this country has ever known. Period.

You want to sarcastically comment on the stale state of affairs, that's people's prerogatives. You want to create said climate through your own sensationist approach, desperate to find "controversy", that makes you fundamentally hypocritical. Next time a MP takes to the airwaves and says nothing, just remember his/her saying so little says so much about the flawed model you demand.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

What A Script

I really don't think it premature to say we've already witnessed the best moment of these Olympic games. Watching Jon Montgomery walk through the streets of Whistler, with a pitcher of bad draft in hand, was the stuff of Hollywood script. What an absolutely wonderful, spontaneous affair.

I admit a slight man crush.

Quebec Poll

Bouchard is still the most popular "leader" in Quebec, Quebecers overwhelming think separation is a distant dream, people should focus on other issues:

Angus Reid.

Strategic Electoral Agreements

The title uses the word "coalition", but really the argument speaks to more of a "non aggression" pact between the Liberals and NDP. No secret to anyone, the Conservatives benefit greatly from a divided center-left vote, as the professors argue in the piece. The idea of the Liberals and NDP agreeing not to run candidates where one or the other could win, minus division, has obvious merit. Whether any talk is practical, given entrenched self interest, remains to be seen, but it's an intriguing proposition.

I did some digging on my own, using the 2008 riding results, which does present a huge potential, if people looked beyond their narrow partisan perspective. Quantifying all ridings where a Liberal or NDP finished second to either a Conservative or Bloc MP, you see the absence of the other could have tremendous impact.

The Liberals finished second in 107 ridings, the NDP 53. What I found surprising, just how many of those ridings were close enough, that the elimination of one party would probably flip the seat. Many of these second place considerations are mute, given the landslide percentages for the incumbent MP, but a large percentage are not. A healthy percentage of NDP second place numbers include very distant totals, wherein any agreement would have little effect. A general thesis, the NDP clearly hurt the Liberals, more than the Liberals hurt the NDP, which in and of itself probably isn't attractive. That said, any agreement would increase NDP seat totals, relative to no arrangement, so there is a self interest consideration for both parties.

In the last election, there were 35 seats where the Liberals were within 10% of the Conservatives. Everyone of them would flip, if the NDP candidate wasn't present, and one assumes were that vote would largely move. That is just the starting point, because a quick review shows many more seats in play, if the Liberals and NDP weren't competing, to the advantage of the Conservatives. If the two parties simply agreed to not run candidates where they have no chance of victory, Stephen Harper would be gone, it's as simple as that.

Back to reality for a second, the major obstacle to this proposal, beyond partisan interests- our public funding system virtually negates this possibility. Parties receive money based on votes, which means not running a candidate is counter productive. Hard to believe the NDP would agree to a disproportionate "stand down", because even though they would win more seats, their vote percentage would fall and the coffers would suffer. For the Liberals, a deal is less offensive on this score, because they are an almost non factor in the majority of NDP second place ridings. Any loss in support would probably be made up by cultivating NDP votes in those ridings where they didn't run. Almost a wash for the Liberals, a decided disadvantage for the NDP overall.

Philosophically, an agreement has a "no brainer" quality, if people are truly interested in seeing a center-left dominated Parliament. The NDP would hold the balance of power, the Liberals would be in government and Stephen Harper would be gone. However, while I find that scenario attractive, you can see how any such talk would be quickly derailed, primarily because the idea necessitates a "greater good" mentality, and that is more wishful thinking than practical probability.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Rapid Response

It's easy to criticize from the cheap seats, but then again you might just have a better view of the entire arena. One of my ongoing beefs with the Liberal Party appartus is the lack of "rapid response", a tendency which leads to deferred positioning, and consequently allowing the moment to pass and/or providing opportunity for more fleet footed parties to seize ground. I must say, in recent weeks I've noted a decided improvement, whether real or imagined, more assertive and timely, more aggressive and nimble.

On the heels of Lucien Bouchard's stunning statements on the prospects for seperation, Ignatieff has quickly come out with his own comments, aimed at filling any political void which may well come. It's just a letter, and somewhat vague at that, but it puts the Liberal foot in the door, within a discussion that is sure to rage on in Quebec:
Like manna from heaven for the Liberal Leader, Mr. Ignatieff has seized on Mr. Bouchard’s remarks to lay out the Liberal vision for Quebec in Canada, where Quebeckers participate in every aspect of the country’s culture and decision-making.

“Mr. Bouchard had the courage to say what many have been thinking deep down,” Mr. Ignatieff wrote in a letter distributed by his office this afternoon. “Instead of passively waiting for a so-called ‘historic night’ [a yes vote in a referendum], it is crucial that Quebeckers actively participate in the changes happening within Canada.”

Mr. Ignatieff writes that Mr. Bouchard, who is not known for “mincing his words,” has made comments that “are far more important for advancing the debate on the nature of our country and the role Quebec should play in it.”

Indeed, the debate provoked by Mr. Bouchard’s comments, Mr. Ignatieff argues, will resonate more than the debate over the lack of French at the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games opening ceremony.

“His statements will surely prompt further discussion on whether sovereignty is attainable or not,” Mr. Ignatieff writes.

In the meantime, however, the Liberal Leader says that the “new dream Quebeckers should be part of is a dream shared with their fellow citizens in other parts of Canada.”

Part of the Liberal problem in Quebec, apart from obvious past scandal, is that they have yet to re-position themselves outside of the old federalist/seperatist debate. With the immediate threat waning, the Liberals have failed to find a rallying cry to bring people into the fold. Ignatieff is being pro-active here, because Bouchard's comments will ultimately challenge the intellectual necessity of the Bloc and ask a simple question- is their presence protecting Quebec's interest or serving as an ideological obstacle to progress within Canada? Very premature to say where the discussion will lead, but with a Conservative Party under Harper having a past it's "best before date" feel in Quebec and a very unproven NDP, the Liberals do have the best opportunity to capitalize.

The Liberals would be wise to push this debate, and Ignatieff's quick letter suggests the OLO senses an opportunity. Curious to see how the Liberals follow up, hopefully not a one off, because we must make a major push in Quebec if we have any realistic hopes for the future.

Others have a more intimate understanding, but I would describe Bouchard's statements as seismic. Those advocating near term separation are now on the defensive, and will have to rationalize their existence and energy designation. The Bloc wall looks a little less formidable, what is required is an alternative that can respect the "nation", without getting drawn into outdated debates. I have a feeling, Ignatieff's letter is a first salvo, which hopefully is followed by a sustained campaign to reposition the Liberals as chief beneficary should the Bloc's hold on Quebec federal politics fade.

Great move, and perfectly timed.

Ontario Up For Grabs

The latest EKOS poll provides further evidence of the "new norm", a statistically close battle between the two main parties. Whatever momentum the Liberals had has clearly stalled, even some slight pullback. The Conservatives have hit their floor and are pretty much staying there:
Conservatives: 31.2 (+0.2)
Liberals: 29.0 (-)
NDP: 16.5 (+1.0)
Bloc Quebecois: 8.8 (-1.5) (In Quebec: 35.9 (-5.8))
Green: 11.8 (+0.5)
Other: 2.7 (-0.1)

Nothing particularly noteworthy week to week, with one exception, and it speaks to a wider dynamic:
Ontario (MoE 2.84)
Liberals: 35.0 (-1.2)
Conservatives: 34.6 (+3.6)
NDP: 15.4 (-1.3)
Green: 12.0 (-1.6)
Other: 3.0 (+0.6)

Other pollsters have shown a tightening in the past couple weeks, after the Liberals surged in the prorogation aftermath. No real surprise here, my main thesis remains- Ontario is entirely volatile, great swaths of support move at the slightest breeze. If you pullback and look at Ontario over the last couple of years, you see this is the real "mover" in terms of vote intention. Obviously, the amount of seats in play amplifies the effect, but the core swing vote is unique.

When Ignatieff threatened an election, it was largely soft Ontario support that dumped the Liberals. Ditto for the coalition debate, and we've seen the same in reverse on this proroguing question. Both parties have shown mid 40's potential, and 30 odd bottom. That translates to a full 15% of the electorate that vacillates back and forth, either party can win their support on any given day. Factor in the relatively large and growing Green vote, which one can fairly argue is soft in nature, and you have a unpredictable brew.

I see little, between now and the next election, wherein any party can enter a campaign with confidence. In fact, no matter what the polls tell us heading into an election, it remains a very risky assumption, because a flub here, a great move there, will see a complete turnaround. Each party has their base number, but the rest have no emotional investment to either, and it is those voters who will most likely decide the next government. Canada's fate will largely be decided by an indifferent subset, of mostly disengaged fence sitters. Isn't democracy great?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Apt Description

Responding to Harper's embarrassing habit of not recognizing inappropriate venues to launch partisan attacks, Ignatieff offered an apt description of the Prime Minister. Harper is so devoid of TACT, he found it necessary to use a humanitarian crisis for potential political gain:
Michael Ignatieff is complaining that every time Stephen Harper gets near a tank, helicopter or a destroyer, he can’t resist firing at the Liberals. This time, in using earthquake-ravaged Haiti as the backdrop, the Prime Minister took partisanship too far, he says.

On a two-day trip to Haiti to survey relief efforts, Mr. Harper took a shot at the Liberals, insisting they never understood how Canada needs “hard power” military equipment like the huge C-17 cargo planes that allowed the Forces to land major relief shipments two days after the January earthquake.

“Every time Mr. Harper gets within a mile of Canadian military equipment, he takes a swipe at the Liberal Party. It’s like Pavlov’s dog,” Mr. Ignatieff told reporters in Ottawa today. “A prime minister should be the prime minister of all Canadians. It’s inappropriate to use Haiti, to use a Canadian military base, to make an attack on a political party.”

Canadians and all political parties came together to support efforts to help Haiti, so it’s the wrong stage for the Prime Minister to use the disaster for partisan attacks, he said. “But that’s the way he is,” the Liberal Leader added.

Dogs everywhere are offended.

One minor quibble with the piece, this line:
Mr. Ignatieff and the Liberals have been trying hard to portray Mr. Harper as “hyper-partisan,”

Really, trying hard? That's the equivalent of saying people are trying hard to portray Tiger Woods as an adulterer. The behavior speaks for itself, NO EFFORT is required, other than to simple listen.

Only a petty little man introduces domestic nonsense to a horrific human tragedy. The man has NO shame.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"I Believe", With Poll

Polls Stabilizing

Two more polls today, both with similar results, both suggesting numbers have stabilized. Per usual, Harris Decima releases the most basic of findings, while Angus Reid provides full results.

Angus Reid shows no change poll to poll, the Conservatives maintain a thin 4% lead over the Liberals:
Cons 34% (+1)
Libs 30% (+1)
NDP 18% (-1)
Greens 8% (+1)

Angus Reid puts the Libs and Cons in a statistical tie for Ontario, NDP at 17%, Greens 11%. A strong showing for the Libs in Quebec, well ahead in Atlantic Canada. A pretty static result, much like other pollsters, the new norm seems to be a tight race between the two principles.

Angus Reid also does the leadership numbers. Much like Nanos, Layton fairs best, relatively speaking. One has to wonder if Layton is enjoying a certain amount of sympathy given his recent announcement. Common sense suggests yes, but that's just speculation. As for Ignatieff, his numbers are stable, much like Nanos, with the caveat being it's hard to fall below bottom. For Harper, his numbers continue to wane, despite party support firming up. Harper's trendline is the worst of any national leader, a distinction he's held for several polls.

Harris Decima continues to hold their poll internals as though the child of our maker. This annoying habit aside, HD provides more evidence of stabilization:
The Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey gives the Tories a slight edge at 32 per cent to the Liberals' 30 per cent. The NDP were at 16 per cent and the Greens at 10 per cent while the Bloc Quebecois was dominant in Quebec with 41 per cent.

The results suggest Tory support has stabilized while the Liberals have dipped two points since the end of January.

The telephone survey of just over 4,000 Canadians was conducted Feb. 4-14 as is considered accurate within 1.5 percentage points, 19 times in 20.

That's the entire release. EKOS also showed a slight Liberal dip poll to poll, but not enough to unequivocally suggest a trend. Statistical noise?

All the polls are in close agreement, a few points here and there. The new norm gives no real advantage to any party, which should provide for an interesting session of Parliament this spring.


Maybe they read my blog ;) Harris Decima releases a same day pdf.

Monday, February 15, 2010

On "Bold" Policy

The Liberals are asking for bold ideas, in the lead up to the Montreal Thinkers Conference. A few months ago, I submitted a rethink on our euthanasia laws, within the context of "bold". I argued that the public mood was such, that the Liberals could address this potential landmine issue, without the amount of risk one would first assume.

Today, Angus Reid has released a new finding on the euthanasia question, and the results are nothing short of compelling:

An overwhelming 67% of Canadians support the general idea of legalizing euthanasia. What these numbers demonstrate, addressing this issue isn't the political powder keg many queasy politicos fear. In fact, if one looks electorally, the numbers are even more soothing, downright advantageous, if the Liberals were to adopt a reasonable reform. 75% of British Columbians, 77% of Quebecers, 67% of Ontarios, even two to one support in Alberta, numbers which show that Canadians are receptive to a "bold" rethink.

When the question turns to assisted suicide, not surprisingly the numbers change somewhat. Only 25% favor prosecution, 41% do not, but a large 33% remain unsure, which denotes some referral to situation. It is within this part of the debate that arguments become more problematic, and I would submit any reform should avoid this aspect.

However, on the broader question of whether an individual should have the right to determine his/her own fate, there is a receptive audience, waiting for a progressive idea. Just as the "state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation", as Trudeau eloquently argued, it also has no say in how free individuals determine their own destiny. Strict rules, which address terminal illness and the mental capacity to make an informed choice, are entirely doable, both morally and politically. While the issue is "heated", the above finding demonstrates fertile ground for a party "bold" enough to ponder. In reality, this policy isn't really bold at all, one could say its promotion could be an electoral asset. A targeted, succinct, narrow definition can and could fly. On this issue, the public is light years ahead of the current policy, one can be daring, without really being bold at all.


On second thought, NEVER MIND :)

Mixed Bag

I waiting for the NANOS leadership numbers to see if there has been any movement on this front. Angus Reid has shown very slight change for Ignatieff, Harper's numbers plummeting. Nanos tends to support the same thesis, which is a mixed bag from the Liberal perspective.

Ignatieff has basically flat lined on the best PM score, and the more informative cumulative leadership index. There is little evidence of Ignatieff gaining traction with voters, still mired in Dion terrority. Layton actually bests the Liberal leader, which we've also seen before. The key caveat here for the Liberals, this is the same polling sample which gave them a 4% rise on vote intention. It suggests people are moving to the Liberals, but their support is blunted by leadership "drag". These numbers also offer encouragement, in that we have a statistical tie, despite a large gap between leaders. The "nowhere but up" perspective has plenty of merit.

Harper takes a big hit in this poll, his leadership index is now at it's lowest level. A clear erosion in perceptions of Harper, more concerning when you look a the regionals. Harper falls a full 9% in Ontario, on the best PM question. Harper's numbers are fairly stable in the rest of the country, but it's a seismic drop in all important Ontario.

Kind of a mixed bag. Harper is hurting, but Ignatieff still has a wide credibility gap. I think Ignatieff has had a strong start to the year, but apparently that has yet to translate in any meaningful way.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Harper Will Interrupt Relief Efforts To Bolster Political Fortunes

Time to call a spade a spade, and stop with niceties surrounding benefit of the doubt. There is NO need for Stephen "sudden humanitarian" Harper to travel to Haiti tomorrow. With resources scare, time of the essence, it's hard to justify the misdirection of focus just so Harper can get his picture taken with rubble as a backdrop, the look of concern beamed back to Canadians:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who has made relief and reconstruction for Haiti a major cause for his government, will travel to the earthquake-ravaged nation on Monday to see the recovery efforts firsthand.

His visit comes as international efforts to aid Haiti, still struggling to provide basics like food and shelter and sweep rubble from roads, increasingly look ahead to the task of rebuilding the poorest nation in the Americas almost from scratch.

The KEY line:
Mr. Harper will not be the first foreign leader to visit Haiti since the earthquake

Why will Harper be the first? Probably because this human tragedy doesn't lend itself to taking PEOPLE from the field to CO-ORDINATE and PROTECT a foreign delegation of this scale. I'm curious how many soldiers have spent the last few days wasting time preparing for Harper's visit? I'd like to know the cost of said visit, and WONDER ALOUD if this money isn't better allocated? I'm watching with interest to see how many ground commanders and personnel are removed from their important work so Harper can express his concern and TOUR the devastation?

This is the kind of trip that nobody in the media dares question, we are supposed to just assume the best and the coverage will be mild to overtly positive. That sentiment doesn't detract from the inherent truth surrounding this trip- it's a political calculation, that sees opportunity in the face of tragedy.

The rest of the world's politicos aren't rushing to Haiti, everybody appreciates the challenge, there is no need for "first hand" viewing. Nobody needs to see Harper lavishing praise on the "brave men and women", speaking to a few token refugees, basically being his awkward, socially challenged self, trying to look the concerned world citizen. I'm sure he'll be humbled, sobered, somber, patriotic and resolute. I'm also sure that the true reason for his visit will have nothing to do with anything presented while there. That's a fact jack.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


If this example doesn't sum up government duplicity, I'm not sure what does:
The federal government has refused to release to the public briefing books prepared for the minister tasked with making the government more accountable...

In February, the Winnipeg Free Press made a request for the briefing books prepared to help Fletcher learn his new portfolio. After a six-month delay, the newspaper was told it wouldn't be given even a single page.

"It has been determined that the information you requested may not be disclosed," came the letter from the Privy Council Office, dated Aug. 20.

A complaint to the federal information commissioner was made in September. This week, the Free Press learned that, because the Privy Council Office denied the information as advice to cabinet, even the information commissioner cannot request to see the documents in order to determine if the refusal was appropriate...

Duff Connacher, founder and co-ordinator of Democracy Watch, was astounded by the denial.

"It's deeply ironic and hypocritical to keep the briefing book for the minister of democratic reform a secret," said Connacher. "It just shows the cult and culture of excessive secrecy of this government."

Friday, February 12, 2010

This Is Canada?

The Conservatives are literally trampling over many of the democratic and free society tenets that define Canada. It's astounding, the way this government operates, wherein you can posit the term totalitarianism and actually cobble together a credible argument. Systematic efforts to suppress any counter opinions, or malign anyone who dares challenge their singular perspective. This is Canada?:
Canadian aid groups told to keep quiet on policy issues

Aid groups say the federal government is casting a chill over advocacy work that takes positions on policy or political issues – and one claims a senior Conservative aide warned them against such activities.

An official with a mainstream non-governmental aid group said that Keith Fountain, policy director for International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda, gave a verbal warning that the organization's policy positions were under scrutiny: “Be careful about your advocacy.”

The official did not want to be identified out of concern that it might jeopardize funding for the group's aid projects from the Canadian International Development Agency, or CIDA.

That's a concern voiced by some other NGO leaders, who said they have received hints the government dislikes their policy advocacy or criticisms of the government policies, but did not want to be identified.

I'm not sure what's worse, that the Conservatives actively threaten and "chill", or that the practice has now become commonplace. Independent thought that deviates from the preferred ideology is suppressed, you see the pattern weaving through so many different files and issues, it is truly alarming. Ignoring the will of the courts, declawing independent oversight, using monetary levers to garner compliance, impugning the integrity of any official or private citizen that challenges any government assumption:
Last week at a conference in Florida, TD Bank CEO Ed Clark said Prime Minister Stephen Harper isn't listening to the overwhelming view of Canadian CEOs that tax increases are the best way to reduce a record deficit.

He told the conference that almost every person at a recent meeting of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives said “raise my taxes” to erase it.

The Conservatives then fired off an internal e-mail titled “Millionaire Ignatieff Economic Czar Calls for Higher Taxes.”

It suggested that because Mr. Clark was among senior economic thinkers who met with Mr. Ignatieff last May, the Opposition Leader must secretly share the banker's view.

“We can be pretty sure that in the coming months he will use the statements from his well-heeled economic advisers to justify his plans for massive new tax hikes on working- and middle-class Canadians,” stated the e-mail, adding that Mr. Clark earned $11-million in 2009. “He can afford higher taxes. Can you?”

“ I was shocked to read that Prime Minister Harper has again attacked a private citizen for expressing views on public policy that are perceived to be at odds with his government's agenda. ”
— Michael Ignatieff, Liberal Leader

A prestigious banker offers an informed opinion, and the response of the government is to label him a Liberal stooge, and further extrapolate that viewpoint into an attack on a political opponent. Just WTF is going on in this country, that this behavior is standard practice? For those paying attention, this is completely akin to the worst tactics of the American neocons.

It is really reprehensible that the Conservatives operate with a Stalinesque flair, using fear and intimidation to stifle fair debate. The Conservatives act like an ideological CULT that sees the rest of the world as enemies that must be destroyed or muted. It is actually scary, and I truly don't think that I'm guilty of hyperbole in conveying a grave concern.

We need to TURF these THUGS at the earliest possible date.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Liberals "Set Trap" For Conservatives

Just thought I'd pickup on the asinine characterizations, relating to last week's move by the government to cancel summer break. Much applause from this quarter, as expected the Liberals are not only agreeing to work, but are making a few demands of their own:
No detainee committee, no deal on break weeks, Liberals say

The immediate recall of the all-party committee investigating the Afghan detainee scandal is the price the Liberals are exacting from the Tories for their support to sit through two break weeks this spring.

There are other demands, too.

The Liberals want a guarantee that all ministers will be “fully available” whenever requested. They want all other Commons committees to be reconstituted within the first three sitting days so they can deal with government estimates. (It usually takes a week to 10 days for committees to get up to speed after a prorogation.) And they want four designated opposition days during March.

Liberal Whip Rodger Cuzner laid out these demands in a letter to his Tory counterpart, Gordon O’Connor. It says these criteria must be met in order for the Tories to “repair some of the damage” caused by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s decision to shut down Parliament until after the Olympic Games.

Mr. Cuzner noted that Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff quickly said his caucus would agree to sitting the two weeks requested by the Tories. Clearly, Mr. Ignatieff’s agreement does not come without a price.

Given all the propaganda coming from the PMO, pretty hard for them to refuse these demands. Many Conservative MP's and officials on record saying the Afghan Committee will be allowed to continue, so these demands must be accepted. If the government refuses to make Minister's available, it fuels unaccountability.

By asking that all Committee's are reconstituted immediately, the Liberals seize the initiative on getting Parliament to work. The government must agree, or their flimsy prorogation arguments are further exposed.

These are reasonable demands, that the government must adhere to or willingly project counterproductive optics. Good luck with that.


The new EKOS poll offers a curious result- Liberals down noticeably, but the Conservatives remain stagnant. Hard to draw anything definitive trend wise, this could be a one off setback for the Liberals, but you could attribute it to the uneven press from last week.

Conservatives: 31.0 (-)
Liberals: 29.0 (-2.9)
NDP: 15.5 (+0.1)
Bloc Quebecois: 10.3 (+1.9)
Green: 11.3 (+0.4)
Other: 2.8 (+0.4)

A significant change for an EKOS poll, the Liberals down a full 3%. Neither the Conservatives or NDP capitalize, which is interesting. On the face of it, not a great result for the Liberals, but equally bad for the Conservatives. We see a negative trend on the "direction of the government" score for the Conservatives, and we see no rebound in their numbers, despite the Liberals down tick.

The Liberals are down in Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and Atlantic Canada. Ontario is interesting:
Ontario (MoE 3.08)
Liberals: 36.2 (-4.4)
Conservatives: 31.0 (-1.4)
NDP: 16.7 (+2.7)
Green: 13.6 (+3.1)
Other: 2.4 (-)

Rarely do you see both the principle parties down at the same time. Despite the Liberals dropping noticeably, the Conservative vote maintains the same downward trend. A very sizable Green vote from EKOS, which seems high, relative to other pollsters. Pegging Green support seems to show the widest divergence between pollsters, EKOS tends to give them high scores, while others point to relative irrelevance.

You don't want to infer to much from one poll, but you can speculate. I'm not sure it's a coincidence that the Liberal momentum suddenly stalled and reversed itself, just after the child care commitment. The press reaction wasn't kind, a mixture of cynicism and downright mocking, one has to wonder if these pie in the sky assertions don't feed a previous "say anything" narrative that plagues the Liberal brand. I would argue that the Liberals have performed exceptionally well in the past few weeks, with the exception of this policy. It is fair to wonder if the child care issue has had some effect. I'd hesitate, but wouldn't exclude.

For the Conservatives, down in Ontario, down in Quebec, static in British Columbia, no region where they show any signs of turning it around. Couple that with the perception of the country's direction, and there is nothing here for Conservatives to crow about. If anything, isolating their support, it seems the Conservatives numbers are stabilizing at a low point.

I remain convinced that a crucial portion of the electorate is decidedly soft, anything can sway them back and forth. These are the people who will ultimately decide the next election, so no party can take any comfort, they will remain up for volatile until voting day.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Well Played

Ooh, the DonOLO brings a touch of sardonic wit to the proceedings:

For Immediate Release
February 10, 2010

Message from Michael Ignatieff to Members of the BC Legislature

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff sent the following message today to all Members of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia.

I am writing to you as fellow Parliamentarians... to ask you a favour.

Prime Minister Harper will be addressing your legislature tomorrow. We think that having the Prime Minister of Canada address the BC Legislature is a commendable way to mark the Winter Olympics coming to British Columbia. So I want to congratulate you on this important event.

Here in Ottawa, we haven’t been quite so lucky. Not only can we not get Mr. Harper inside our legislature these days, but he’s actually gone to the extreme of shutting down Parliament altogether.

While he has put forward a series of excuses to justify his actions, we in the opposition actually think Mr. Harper shut down Parliament to avoid some uncomfortable questions about his government’s performance.

And that’s where the favour comes in. Since we in the House of Commons can’t ask Mr. Harper any questions, and since you’ll have him in the BC Legislature, maybe you could try and get some answers from him. Here are some of the questions we’d like you to ask Mr. Harper on our behalf and on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who have spoken out and rallied against prorogation:

1. Millions of hard working Canadians can’t “prorogue” themselves a break from their jobs or their obligations. They want and expect the issues they care about to be discussed in a democratic way in the Parliament of Canada. So, will Mr. Harper apologize to Canadians for shutting down Parliament?

2. Mr. Harper’s government has gained a reputation for bullying and strong-arming independent watchdogs that serve the public interest, like the Nuclear Safety Commission, the RCMP Complaints Commission and Military Police Complaints Commission. All of these abuses of power are dangerous in a democracy. When will he show the respect for these watchdogs by strengthening them instead of attacking and undermining them?

3. This past month, my party has put forward cost-effective proposals to create new, well-paying jobs for Canadians of all ages and backgrounds.

These proposals would:

- provide hard-hit Canadian manufacturers with a cash advance for new equipment;
- give incentives to businesses to hire young Canadians who have been burdened by mounting job losses; and
- encourage Canadian investors, through either tax credits or incentives, to give to Canadian entrepreneurs and start-ups

Will Mr. Harper include these concrete proposals in his March budget and immediately stimulate job creation and help Canadian workers and businesses alike?

4. On the environment, Mr. Harper has refused to show leadership, insisting instead of hiding behind the excuse that he is waiting for the American government to act so he can follow. Canadians don’t want their government to follow orders from Washington on this or any issue. Will Mr. Harper give us a made-in-Canada environmental policy – not one that’s made in Washington?

I know this is a long shot. Mr. Harper absolutely refuses to answer questions that make him uncomfortable, especially when they come from the media or from his fellow elected officials. But given the unprecedented situation, I’m sure you will agree that it is worth the try.

Many thanks for your help on this.


Michael Ignatieff
Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada

Well played.

As an aside, Harper was greeted by protesters today in Vancouver, and tomorrow he will have company at the B.C legislature

Funny and True

Tipping Point

I find it quite telling, that the Conservatives have managed to alienate their most "friendly" media outlets. In the past, no matter the issue, the Conservatives could count on some cover from certain sources, which tended to blur reality. With that in mind, it must be quite concerning for the PMO, when they see editorials in the National Post, basically arguing that the Conservatives are WORSE than the dirty Liberals:
It's easy to argue that this government clutches information even tighter to its chest than its predecessors. This is an ongoing disappointment. But this week, the non-disclosure instinct produced farce.

Yesterday, Sun Media's Greg Weston ripped into the Conservatives for being controlling, secretive, the ANTITHESIS of accountability and openness. Today, we get a rare critical editorial from the National Post. Basically, we have reached unanimity on this score, the idea that this government shuts down dissent, fires or belittles those that dare challenge its assertions, willingly avoids disclosure, rules with a Stalinesque manner. It's an extremely dangerous gelling of opinion, and one that could ultimately send the Conservatives into opposition.

This latest debacle over access to information is something of a tipping point, from which the government's reputation isn't easily recouped. You often hear the "death by a thousand cut" analogy, and in this instance, it is probably true. The Conservatives have done so many things during their tenure, that one can present an almost irrefutable thesis, to argue otherwise bordering on the absurd. The fact that apologist sources are now jumping on this thesis, speaks to the overwhelming presentation.

In the past, many of us have wondered when people would "clue in" to how this government operates, a frustration that they acted with impunity, preying on apathy, that allowed free reign. All the controlling measures, the lack of access, the "one day story" moves, it all seemed to go unnoticed, emboldening the Conservatives. Finally, now, it looks that the consistent pattern is starting to catch up with the government, and they are framing themselves in the worst possible light.

When you've lost the public trust, when people see you as sneaky, secretive, controlling and actively suppressing dissent, it is representative of final days for any regime. The fact that the media conduit is now in rare agreement speaks to the gravity, it shows how pervasive the erosion in moral authority has become. History offers no repreive for the Conservatives, if past examples hold true, these are ultimately fatal wounds.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Who's "Politicizing"?

Start with a self evident truth- Stephen Harper, as champion of maternal health and protecting young children in the developing world is a CRASS FRAUD. Don't believe this assertion? I challenge anyone to find any text, from anywhere in Harper's career, where he has mused about these issues, as he did in Davos. Good luck.

I'm slightly baffled at the attacks directed towards Ignatieff for introducing the "wedge" issue of abortion, interjecting this discussion into the debate, "derailing" a solid initiative, "politicizing" and "playing games". Bullocks. I believe it was Stephen Harper who used the word "pregnancy" during this out of the blue speech in Davos.

Does anyone truly see this initiative by Harper as sincere? Do any of the Ignatieff critics not have the slightest doubt or cynicism about Harper's motives. In other words, are the outraged devoid of all reason and fair minded observation. I would submit, only a fool or a useless hack doesn't at least question the SUDDEN "champion". It only takes entry level common sense to see Harper's epiphany as at least partially POLITICALLY generated.

Why should the Liberals simply give Harper a pass on these initiatives? Why should Liberals avoid addressing an issue which is real, which does affect the people Harper wants to save with his Mother Teresa routine? So, Harper is allowed to use developing world moms and kids as political pawns, but the Liberals are morally bereft if they SMOKE OUT THE CHARLATAN? Please spare me the indignity, because the "politicizing" sits squarely with a PMO desperate to change the channel and improve Harper's image. Again, if you dare to disagree, please point me to the lineage, any hints or musings that lead to this sudden positioning?

The Liberals aren't politicizing anything, apart from ensuring that Harper doesn't get to just transform himself into anything he chooses WITHOUT scrutiny. The abortion "marker" must be viewed within the context of a transparent manipulation of the less fortunate to improve domestic political fortunes. What's truly sad, those criticizing the Liberals are apparently prepared to simply lap up the utter nonsense presented in Davos, as though sincere and anything resembling a deep-seeded moral imperative.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Nanos: Conservatives "Now Neck and Neck With Liberals"

The new Nanos poll confirms the recent trend, a large Conservative lead has "evaporated". The national numbers (last Nanos poll in brackets):
Cons 35.6% (39.5%)
Libs 33.9% (30.2%)
NDP 16.4% (18.7%)
Greens 5.6% (7.7%)

MOE of 3.1, this poll translates to another statistical tie. PDF hasn't been released yet, so regionals are scarce, but you can make some inferences. In Quebec:
In Quebec, the Bloc Quebecois would reap 33.2% of the vote against 29.3% for the Liberals and the Conservatives at 22.2%. The NDP Jack Layton would receive 10.5%

Interestingly, these numbers are virtually unchanged from the last NANOS poll. It's safe to assume, that although the Ontario numbers aren't yet available, we've seen a significant shift in that province, akin to other pollsters.

A bit of a quirky result, in that the Liberals are the only party to have increased support poll to poll, everyone else down, and quite noticeably. Nanos is also the first pollster to peg Liberal support as high as 34%, which speaks to gaining a certain level of traction.

I'll post the rest of the regionals when the pdf is released. The thesis is clear though, Conservatives well down, Liberals reaping the benefits.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Heard Of Mitts Jimmer?

Below, Ursa Horribilis emerges from his winter den. When he entered his den to hibernate late last fall he weighed a plump 160 seats, but emerges reduced to 110 at best:

H/T Impolitical

Friday, February 05, 2010

Best Of Luck Jack!

Just wanted to say with all sincerity that I wish Jack Layton all the best and a speedy recovery. If there is one thing about Jack Layton, he's a tenacious fighter, who possesses an incredible spirit. Those attributes should serve him well in the weeks ahead. You can beat it Jack!

Hypocritical AND Lazy

Two more findings out, both of which point to a public relations nightmare for the government.

We've seen dueling partisan narratives, the opposition hammering the Conservatives on the prorogue issue, the Conservatives doing everything in their power to project a hard working government. According to Harris Decima, pretty much nobody is buying the Conservative projection:
The Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey indicates 39 per cent of respondents believed the government had been not at all active or hardworking since Harper prorogued Parliament, which is not due back until March 3.

That's more than triple the 12 per cent who said the government has been very active and hardworking.

A ridiculously low 12% believe the government has been active and hardworking. Poll wise, that figure translates to a disasterous perception amongst Canadians.

As for the rest, hardly encouraging that many do acknowledge a pulse:
Another 37 per cent said the government has been somewhat active.

You can scratch out the Conservative argument that they can get more work done on budget preparation during this prorogation period. Apparently, you can also erase the "railing against the Senate" argument, using prorogation to get advantage in the upper chamber. Characterizations, such as "hypocritical" do the government no favors:
Two-thirds of Canadians believe Prime Minister Stephen Harper is a hypocrite for appointing five new senators, a new Angus Reid poll says.

Despite Harper's longtime promise not to appoint senators, but rather to focus on Senate reform, there are now 33 Harper appointees in the upper chamber. Last month's appointments give the Conservatives control of the Senate.

The survey released Thursday found 65 per cent of respondents see the appointments as hypocritical.

Two polls, that denote a somewhat lazy, hypocritical Conservative Party. Not good for Dear Leader.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Liberals Agree To Attack Government For Two More Weeks

After a sleepless night of hand wringing, the Liberals have reacted to the Conservatives latest "trap":
Judging from this statement from Liberal House Leader Ralph Goodale, his party's response to the government's modest proposal to cancel the March and April break weeks would seem to be a slightly less cheerleader-chick-flick-reminiscent variation of Bring It On:

"This is truly a sad and pathetic scramble by the Conservatives to save face after the backlash against them for shutting down Parliament. Their demand for more time in the House now directly contradicts their argument for prorogation. Liberals are here in Ottawa, today - just as we have been every day since January 25th - doing what Canadians elected us to do. It's the Conservatives who have been taking an extended holiday. Liberals will always be ready to work, including in March and April. The flip flop by the Conservatives will not camouflage their illegitimate padlocking of parliament since December."

Try to get some rest OLO staffers. Phew.

Stephen Harper as Bob Geldof Not Yet Resonating: EKOS

The new EKOS poll doesn't show much change week to week, although it provides another slight uptick for the Liberals, particularly in Ontario. National numbers, with last week in brackets:
Libs 31.9% (31.6)
Cons 31% (31.1)
NDP 15.4% (14.6)
Greens 10.9% (11)

The Liberals continue to inch up. In Ontario, we see a sizeable lead:
Libs 40.6%
Cons 32.4%
NDP 14%
Greens 10.5%

First time EKOS has put the Liberals above 40% in quite some time. The Conservatives are close to core support numbers. Continued strong Green numbers in Ontario. There has been a big move in the Ontario numbers over recent weeks, the one caution, this support is very soft.

EKOS has the Liberals out front in Atlantic Canada, a strong second in British Columbia, a decent second place in Quebec. The whole picture congeals into a narrow Liberal minority, which is amazing when you think back to just a few months ago.

The bad news for the Conservatives, this new norm of "statistical tie" seems to be holding, across most of the polling firms. The Conservative lead- which actually maintained for the longest period since 2006- shows no signs of returning, they're back to square one. I would argue the government is actually worse than square one, because they must tackle further evidence of all the negatives that have haunted Harper throughout his tenure. Easy to say the Conservatives can turn it around AGAIN, but at some point lasting damage is incurred.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

"Direct Challenge"? Try Capitulation

Oh, I just love the characterization of the Conservatives SAVE FACE move in the Globe and Mail piece. First the teaser says:
Government sets trap for opposition, who must approve request to cancel two break weeks once House resumes sitting

Then Jane Taber calls it a "direct challenge to the opposition". Oh jeez, I'm sure the opposition parties are scurrying around Ottawa, wondering how they can possibly deal with this gauntlet laid down by those clever Conservatives:
Facing an outpouring of anger and criticism over prorogation, the Conservatives are cancelling March break on Parliament Hill and one other off week scheduled for mid-April.

First off, this is a complete no brainer for the opposition. I can think of a million soundbite responses that say YES, we will be in Ottawa working, just like we were when you guys weren't- a veritable smorgasbord of material available. The opposition comes on side in a heartbeat, end of story.

What I find particularly fascinating, this maneouvre amounts to capitulation by the Conservatives. Now, suddenly, we need more time to deal with government business. It's an admission of their failed public relations strategy, it's DAMAGE CONTROL and it's actually DUMB when you think about it.

These two weeks, spaced separately, will be known as the prorogue replacement weeks, acting as reminders of what the Conservatives did. I don't mean to overstate, but instead of naturally moving on, as was bound to happen when Parliament returned, the Conservatives have purposely interjected the issue into the spring session. How that helps their cause escapes me, and it allows for mild poking from the opposition.

In addition, the more Parliament sits, the more it tends to work against the government. Isn't that why Harper prorogued in the FIRST place? Okay, okay, if you want to give us two more weeks of grilling you, UNCLE then.

There is no upside for the government, that I can tell. This view assumes a certainty, the opposition will show up for work on the weeks requested. A shrewd retort comes out tomorrow morning with formal acceptance, completely negating any potential public relations play by the Conservatives. Then, the issue is dead, all that is left is a sense of a desperate Conservative strategy to regain some credibility. Let that waft around, it dies down, then we have spectre of actual "votes" in Parliament to extend, once again bringing Ottawa back to the prorogue issue, a LOSER everytime for the government.

Thanks for the "challenge" and the "trap" you Kasparov-like PMO. A bigger softball has never been pitched.

Truth As Casualty

I get that politics is a game, and frankly sometimes I endorse nonsensical rhetoric in the name of political expediency. To clarify, I don't endorse it, but accept that in the political realm, words must be tailored, messaging is important, don't make yourself an easy target, yada yada, blah de blah blah. With this realization in mind, my criticism here isn't borne out of some idealist attachment that doesn't understand the machinations.

Still waiting for an adult to enter the room. An adult did enter the room last year, but he quickly backtracked into pre-puberty because of perceived opponent advantage. His name was Michael Ignatieff, and he's never uttered the word tax, since his initial musings. Another adult entered the room last week, and by all accounts Gerard Kennedy is now somewhere on Baffin Island developing policy for the Northwest Passage. Stay warm Gerard!

Is this the Liberal plan, to simply hid within the government's draft on deficit denial? Are we prepared to voluntarily share in the mutual delusions? Fine, call it a draw then, neither party will have credibility. Oh wait, the Liberals aren't fine with simply looking equally devoid of reason, we actually want to let the Conservatives look relatively "adult" by offering big initiatives that nobody believes we can afford. Sounds like a real winner from here, or better yet, sounds like we want to hand the Conservatives a undeserved gift.

Another high profile expert joins the growing chorus, further rendering the national parties avoidance all the more problematic:
The Harper government is misleading Canadians by claiming Ottawa’s budget deficit can be eliminated without the pain of higher taxes or slashed social programs, says Scott Clark, a former top finance department official.

Clark, who as deputy minister of finance in the 1990s helped then-finance minister Paul Martin put Canada’s financial house in order, is co-author of a study on Ottawa’s fiscal options. It shows that most of the $208 billion annual federal budget cannot be slashed because it goes to pay for transfers to the provinces or individuals or untouchable programs such as Atlantic offshore revenue payments, running the Employment Insurance system, air security and similar federal commitments.

Because the Conservatives are not laying out the real choices for Canadians, “they will not deliver a credible budget in 2010,” Clark said during a panel debate entitled: “Budget 2010: Time to Cut or Continue Pump Priming?”

I note, the Liberals are voluntarily confining themselves into an ever narrowing box on this issue. The Liberals are being pressed on the deficit issue, and our response is now relegated to passing the buck to the government, telling everyone it's up to them to craft a plan. One, that's a nice dodge, but it's hardly effective when you're trying to position yourself as the alternative. Two, how are you going to criticize any Conservative plan, when YOU YOURSELF aren't prepared to address the elephant in the room. The simple fact of the matter, the Conservatives can get away with any rhetoric they choose, should we CHOOSE to skate around this issue, in the same manner. The Liberals will be reduced to limp counters, that nobody takes seriously, the whole debate will congeal into a mish mash of half truths and posturing. Any time this occurs, advantage government of the day.

I would advise the Liberals put this child-care issue way, way on the backburner, even have Ignatieff clarify that we will get the fiscal house in order first, prior to any big ticket spending. At the very least, this will allow the Liberals to tuck their heads back to simple denial, rather than actually allowing the Conservatives a powerful common sense counter. If not, prepare to see the Conservatives deliver a pie in the sky budget, and weather any and all negative feedback, because the Liberals are even more out to lunch. Consider this constructive criticism.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Good Policy, Bad Timing

I suppose I want to believe, but simple logic prevents me. The Liberals are once again promising national child-care. Ignatieff's emphatic promise sounds convincing, but realities suggest otherwise. On top of the logistics, there is also the optics, which has led to another round of snickering from critics who've heard this tune before.

To put this issue into context, Ignatieff's pledge comes at the exact time many Quebecers are reviewing their own child-care program, in the face of a relatively smaller deficit. The simple fact of the matter, the federal deficit precludes any big ticket spending initiatives. If Liberals are truly serious about offering new and expensive initiatives, then they must address TAXES. You can't scold Gerard Kennedy, runaway from him as though leper, while simultaneously offering more spending. I'd argue that the notion of balanced budgets without taxes is increasingly unlikely, reaching the level of absurdity when you factor in another 5-6billion for child-care. Yes, yes, I know you can argue the money is augmented by economic benefit, but that's a tough sell from here.

Liberals need to make a choice. We can present ourselves as the party that will deal with the deficit, in a compassionate and prioritized way, or we can try to be everything to everybody(see Paul Martin). Arguing we are in a structural deficit, while arguing we will focus on jobs instead of dealing with it, while arguing that we will greatly increase spending, amounts to GOO- nobody will buy it, it makes no sense on the most basic level, it is ripe for ridicule.

The same kids we want to put in child-care are the ones that will be saddled with this debt, it will be their burden. If you look at the situation in this way, which is simple reality, it nullifies any moral justification. Why not just set up loans for kids so they can go to child-care, because it is essentially what you are doing anyways, when you spend money you don't have.

Having just put two kids through child-care, I can say the Conservative's "check" program amounts to basic nothingness, of so little help to be insulting. Ideally, I would love to have a better program, one that recognizes the needs of modern parents. However, even with my intimate understanding, given the current dire economic situation, I can't justify the need, RIGHT NOW, for a national program- it isn't feasible until we get our house in order.

Politically, the Liberals gain nothing from another child-care commitment, past experience means it won't move votes. If anything, going down this road AGAIN only invokes cyncism and a sense of pandering. Additionally, this proposal presented as our signature "social justice" policy, provokes all kinds of other questions, which we apparently don't want to answer or have no answer. We can pound the table all day long, our emotions might be sincere, but they will always be betrayed by the facts at hand.

Until we are prepared to deal with the TAX side of this equation, there is no room for big promises. It's that simple and my personal want doesn't preclude me from seeing the pure folly. Sorry. Dust off Gerard or stop talking.

Monday, February 01, 2010

New Poll

A new Harris Decima poll, which includes very encouraging regionals for the Liberals. Also encouraging, the Liberals are up another 1% from the poll released last week. Given that this poll is a two week number, which includes last week's polling, it translates to a very good strong last week for the Liberals. Nationally:
Libs 32%
Cons 31%
NDP 15%
Greens 9%

The poll last week gave the Cons 32%, Libs 31%, NDP 15%, Greens 10%. Again, this poll includes those tallies, so you can assume the Libs were in the 33% range for last week to get a 32% average. I actually thought last week was one of the strongest for the Liberals in recent memory, the stage to themselves and plenty of substantive releases.

Unlike last week, HD provides regional results, and they show the Liberals capitalizing in the key battlegrounds. Gregg speaks to a Liberal rebound in the all important 905, with women, basically the Conservative inroads have been "erased".

In Ontario:
In Ontario, the Liberals have moved in front of the Conservatives for the first time in months. Here the Liberals are at 40%, the Conservatives 35%, the NDP 14% and the Greens 10%.

I haven't seen a Liberal score at 40% since early last summer. This represents a great result for the Liberals, although to grow further they need to tackle a strong Green vote. The Conservative vote still isn't at "base" level, so there is some potential. The relatively poor NDP tally should be of some concern.

In Quebec:
In Quebec, the BQ remains in front, but the Liberals are distancing themselves from the Conservatives. The BQ stands at 38%, the Liberals 28%, the Conservatives 13%, the NDP 11%, and the Greens 8%.

The Liberal vote is slowly recovering to pre-Denis "I'm a complete and utter idiot" Coderre numbers. A poor score for the Conservatives, encouragement for the Liberals. Gregg says the Liberals are emerging as the federalist option.

In British Columbia:
In BC, the Conservatives and Liberals are neck and neck. Here, the Conservatives stand at 32%, followed by the Liberals with 30%, the NDP 24%, and the Greens 12%.

There is some evidence that the Liberals are getting traction in British Columbia(numbers more in line with Ignatieff's "honeymoon" period). You hesitate, because of margin of error, but most of the polls do seem to show an uptick, so a small trend argument has weight.

HD also gives the Liberals the lead in Atlantic Canada.

I'm not really surprised to see the Liberals now finally "growing". As a matter of fact, given the professional, government in waiting vibe of last week, you would expect more comfort with the brand. Even if the Liberals haven't moved great swaths, much of this is under the surface "footings".

I guess Harper the humanitarian needs more time to gel :)


Just to pick up on a point knb has made, many of the pundits might have it wrong, once again. I agree that this proroguing issue will fade, other matters, namely the budget and our economic direction, will takeover the political debate. However, this fact doesn't appreciate the cumulative damage that Harper has now cemented.

Harper's chief liabilities prior to this prorogue issue revolved around the sense of a controlling, divisive and entirely hyper-partisan politician. It is this lingering sense that has handicapped the Conservative brand, even when the polls were favorable, support was "soft" beyond the standard base. Harper had made progress on this front, appearing more "bi-partisan", projecting a softer image that was starting to pay dividends. This sense was enhanced by a weak alternative, people were wrong to see Harper's "rebound" as completely anchored, it always was a flimsy presentation. Perceived support didn't necessarily equate to genuine affection, part default, part passive acceptance. In other words, Harper was always on "thinner ice" than people assumed, and it was this dynamic which explains rapidly changing fortunes, triggered by the slightest transgression.

The issue of prorogue may fade, but the damage has lasting impact. I note that Bob Fife made the point, you can only tarnish yourself so many times before it starts to stick. This prorogue decision completely reinforced all the negative narratives that have hobbled Harper since he took office. There is the "death by a thousand cuts" analogy, and if you prescribe to this characterization, prorogue represents a deep slice. That fact doesn't necessarily equate to permanence, but it does make it increasingly hard to break out and have another "piano man" moment.

It remains to be seen, but this prorogue decision might just be the tipping point, wherein enough Canadians desire a change, Harper unable to shake off his baggage. There is a consistent, comprehensive pattern, developed over time, which is entirely understandable- a simple concept that people can grasp. I would submit, the PMO's recent gymanstics denote a certain desperation, which in and of itself supports their own concerns about "damaged goods".

The opposition are apparently working on reforms to prorogation. This initiative will keep the issue around for the spring session, but I agree that it will lose the primary focus it enjoys now. However, that was never the point, the sentiment revolving around prorogation is something that will linger. All the work the Conservatives have done to transform Harper's image has evaporated. What's worse, you aren't back to square one, the setback is accompanied by the worst reinforcement- namely playing up your biggest achilles heel.

Eventually things STICK, and a politician suffers permanent damage. To assume that Harper can keep making high profile errors, without EVENTUAL lasting impact, defies any sense of history or political precedent. Is this the moment? Maybe, maybe not, but everytime you garner a "tsk tsk" from Canadians, it's that much harder to don the sweater and play a different role effectively. Our eyes are that much more jaundiced, so whether or not the word "prorogue" is part of the discourse in two months, misses the real point entirely.