Thursday, October 28, 2010

Storm Clouds

A fascinating EKOS poll this week, primarily because while the national numbers remain stagnant, the underlying trends deliver some potentially serious storm clouds brewing for the government. The two week poll shows a narrow 3% lead in the first week, which rose slightly, back to the 6% we saw for the last EKOS release. It's the same old story, blah, blah, blah.

BUT, an entirely striking result is found on the direction of country, direct of government front:

Dramatic shifts on both graphs. What is particularly noteworthy, the LOWEST tallies on direction of country and direction of government, dating back to the height of the recession. This latest finding is a clear departure from the past meandering trend.

Why, what caused such a big shift? If you put aside the "one off" consideration, interesting that Graves also asks questions relating to our foreign policy. These abysmal numbers for the Conservatives tend to support the weakening confidence in the direction of the country and this government's ability to lead it. A lowly 22% of Canadians believe the Conservatives have helped Canada's international reputation, while 45% believe their policies have hurt. When voters are asked if the app/dis of the government's foreign policy, again only 21% approve, while 37% disapprove. Breaking down the regionals, the numbers are even more concerning for the Conservatives electorally. The Conservatives can't even generate base level support on these questions, a very concerning dynamic.

Last week I argued that a new front has been opened, foreign policy now on the table, due to the recent embarrassing events. This poll demonstrates an achilles heel, the only question will foreign policy be important enough to move votes in an election. I would suggest foreign policy will not dominate, but it will be a point of distinction, an irritant that potentially could hurt re-election chances. In addition, it is plausible to see the sharp decline on the direction front as partially attributable to recent foreign policy news.

The numbers haven't moved yet, but we see new underlying weakness, historical lows on broad markers. If I'm the government, this result makes me uneasy, to say the least.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pollsters As Source

There is nothing more frustrating than watching trained journalists abandon the idea of "reliable" sources. Seems to me, when you're cobbling together a thesis, the evidence you rely on should withstand scrutiny, should have an inherent quality that can justify its use as foundation.

When it comes to polls, it seems everyone merely reports on the findings, extrapolates storylines from said poll, without any critical thought attached. All polls are not created equal, all findings don't deserve the same stature. This notion is clouded because certain organizations pay certain pollsters, so there is an inherent investment that must be considered. However, we see time and again, a certain poll move from the "house" organization to the wider media, used by everyone in universal fashion.

There is much at stake with polls, they feed narratives, coverage is coloured, right or wrong, they shape the mood in Ottawa. We've seen time and again how a couple percentage points can make the difference between stable to crisis, momentum to stalled. With the "high stakes" in mind, it is imperative that journalists do their due dilligence, which means TRACK RECORD is king, predictive past a marker, not every poll deserves the same attention.

The results are in for the Toronto mayor race. The pollsters largely missed the huge Ford win, with one exception, that being EKOS. A feather in the cap for EKOS, but also further evidence that some others have a very poor predictive record. All I would ask, when we hear all these opinions, based on a certain poll, there is some acknowledgement of RELIABILITY. A mere mention, like "in the past, this poll has an excellent record", or "one caveat, this pollster has a poor track record", something, anything, that shows a hint of source inspection instead of just lapping up every result and extrapolating based on sketchy source data.

You can't just take one result, but you can investigate a body of work and make informed decisions. Public polls are hugely important, moreso than they should be, but that's another discussion. I believe no poll should be put into the public domain unless the pollster releases all internal data, the phrasing of the questions, full transparent disclosure to protect the integrity of the findings. If a poll will be released into the public domain, then it should be open to scrutiny. Wording of questions are important, nuance can shift findngs in a massive way. Why we just eat up everything as it comes and run with it escapes me, it seems to betray a core tenet of journalism.

Next time we get a poll release, the first question isn't what it means, it's how trustworthy is the data. If we start with that predisposition, then Canadians will get a clearly picture of the true reality, rather than murky conclusions based on dicey data.

Two cents.

Ford Digestion

Plenty of digestion, as people weigh the implications of Ford's victory in Toronto. What does it say, what does it mean, what are the lessons? I think it's pretty simple really.

Toronto didn't move to the right, I see no real evidence of a philosophical shift. The issue of taxes, I would argue nobody wants to pay them, we all see ourselves as gouged, no matter your political persuasion. Across the board, left/right, people think they pay to much for what they get, period. The broad issue of taxes doesn't quite fit into the neat partisan box many like to assume. Every year, when people get their property tax increase in the mail, the swearing cuts across all party lines.

There is nothing unique in the Ford victory. The "anti-establishment" campaign is as old as politics itself. Ford ran as the regular guy, offered smart and concise messaging, which congealed into a "he's one of us" sort of presentation. You have this politically incorrect, overweight, semi rude, warts and all guy- a package which relates to ordinary folk.

If there is a lesson here, that federal politics should note, it's that provocative isn't necessarily a negative, SAFE a recipe for a bored electorate. Look at the turnout, that's the important point. Whatever your view, Ford was able to energize the electorate, people had strong views, good or bad. Ford stepped on toes, but that disposition provoked debate, got the juices flowing, made people take notice. Contrast that with the cookie cutter opponent campaigns, which generated ZERO excitement, and you have a recipe for resonation.

Ford's victory wasn't a philosophical shift, I'm sure many voters were uncomfortable with many of his right wing views. However, the overriding, simplistic, populist theme found a motivated audience. The real lesson, forget the political template that campaign after campaign after campaign adopts with robotic zeal. People crave something that is perceived as different, the status quo a roadmap to low turnout. On the federal scene, the voter malaise so obvious and pronounced, all the more reason to take a keen look at Ford and why they showed up in droves. Right wing, left wing, it misses the point entirely in my view. Bold and fresh, a sense that this person will be different, that's what we're looking for in the broadest sense....

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

"It's Essentially Like Yogurt"

Gotta love these CAPP ads:

Except yogurt doesn't KILL everything that comes near it:
Investigation underway after ducks land on Syncrude tailings pond

The province is investigating after a number of ducks reportedly landed on a Syncrude tailings pond north of Fort McMurray.

Syncrude Canada reported that the ducks landed on their Mildred Lake Settling Basin Monday evening. It's the company's largest pond, holding 220 million cubic metres of tailings liquid.

The exact number and status of the birds has not been released, but some are described as being "heavily oiled."

More CRAP from CAPP...

Friday, October 22, 2010

Ignatieff's Outremont

Normally, I resist the superficial analogies, each situation unique that lazy overlap rarely informative. However, when I consider the stakes, it might be fair to categorize the upcoming Vaughan by-election as Ignatieff's Outremont. We now know who will take on Julian Fantino, the Liberals have chosen Tony Genco. Genco is a local businessman, that looks to have strong local ties, the battle is now joined.

Fantino is a complete wild card, nobody really knows how effective he will be at campaigning, articulating the issues, he could well prove to be a gaffe prone, divisive disaster. That said, Fantino also brings incredible name recognition and it is reasonable to assume he has a fighting chance in this supposed Liberal bastion.

I found the following informative:
At their closed-door caucus meeting Wednesday, the Liberal Leader told MPs and Senators that the expected and soon-to-be announced by-election in Vaughan is “ours to win.” A caucus source also said Mr. Ignatieff warned caucus not to let the Conservative star candidate “walk on water.”

Everyone’s support is needed for this, he said, according to the source. It seems that Mr. Ignatieff is rather anxious about this by-election – and he has good reason to be. Mr. Fantino, the former Toronto police chief and recently retired Ontario Provincial Police commissioner, is well-known in the riding and instantly recognizable; he also plays well to the Conservatives’ law-and-order agenda.

First off, I like that Ignatieff is "anxious" because it conveys he appreciates the potential significance of this one by-election. A Liberal loss on the perimeter of their fortress, one can imagine the headlines and the long term damage. The possibility of a Rob Ford win in Toronto would only add to the new narrative, conservatives on the march in the Liberals backyard. The fallout would be every bit as disastrous as Outremont was to Dion, you could argue he never recovered, perception wise, from that defeat.

The Liberals were VERY slow off the mark in Outremont, costing dearly in the final analysis. I assume lesson learned, which may explain Ignatieff's sense of urgency. The Conservatives will bring volunteers from across the province, the entire machine will focus on taking this riding, because they also understand the potential impact. This riding has seen Liberal support eroding, plug in a "star" candidate, plus the quirky dynamic of a by-election, and it's ripe for the taking.

This by-election will be dogfight, and I'm glad Ignatieff is taking a "all hands on deck" approach. Should the Liberals lose this seat, all the apparent unity on the leadership front will immediately evaporate; Ignatieff will be questioned and undermined, of that I have no doubt. Seems rather silly in one sense, but no matter, a loss in Vaughan translates to a heap of trouble that won't quickly disappear. To suggest otherwise, more wishful thinking rather than a reading of historical precedent.

Liberals should be worried, and this worry will serve to motivate. We should proceed as though the underdog...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Come Now

I understand that the pollster doesn't write the headline. It's also true that a pollster will look for a narrative from every single finding. Another objective truth, this headline and subsequent analysis is pure BUNK:
Voters split UN blame between Harper and Ignatieff in poll

31% of Canadians, less than 1/3, just below the Conservative support score in the same poll, blame Ignatieff. On the other hand 50% blame the government, or put another way 66% more than blame Ignatieff. How that becomes a "close second" is frankly absurd. You know, you just want the numbers, nothing partisan. However, these tortured arguments just make a mockery of the finding, the numbers suggest no such thing, there is no split. If anything the finding is closer to a overwhelming 2 to 1 rejection of the government and the analysis should go from there:

Fifty per cent of those polled blamed “the government's recent record on international diplomacy” for the loss, but Mr. Ignatieff came in a close second.

In the Tory stronghold of Alberta, the blame was split evenly, 39 per cent to 39 per cent, between the government and Mr. Ignatieff.

“I'd say it's a significant number. Certainly more people put the blame at the feet of the government, but that 31 per cent cite Mr. Ignatieff's comments does show there's a sense that the comments were probably ill advised,” pollster William Murray said.

I'd say it really isn't a significant number, particularly when you factor in the regional distortions. As a matter of fact, from the Liberal perspective, anytime we can halve a result in Alberta, it represents big trouble for the government arguments.

Bottomline, and this speaks volumes about this whole issue. If there really was any significance for the Liberals here, why did the Conservative drop the Ignatieff argument after day one? Why did the Conservatives shelve the Ignatieff ads they had in the CAN, if their talking point was getting any traction whatsoever? I'm sorry, but the storyline is a failed excuse, and if anything this poll SUPPORTS that argument.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Blast From the Past

Finally, an update on the Afghan detainee document front. Well, not an update per se, unless of course nothingness is considered noteworthy. It was almost a year ago this "fight" for Parliamentary supremacy began, now FIVE months since the gigantic victory, the day when the government supposedly caved. I took some flack for my negativity, my view that the government was merely trying to run out the clock, delay further, this "victory" not so easily discerned. In fact, I thought the Conservatives had managed to wiggle off the hook, the process served their interests well- get this issue off the table.

A few blast from the past postings:

From my post "Nothings Settled" May 2010:

"I see stalling tactics, no true resolution for months and months. In fact, this process doesn't even begin until this Parliamentary session is almost over, then we have summer break, leaving the real debate until the fall. If you believe an election is probable by the next budget, it's entirely reasonable to suggest the government has effectively buried this issue until after the next vote. It's for this reason, that I find it hard to get terribly excited about this agreement- and it also helps to explain why the government agreed."

From my post "Detainee Deal A Dud" June 2010:

"Speaking of time, if you believe my thesis, wherein the government wants to take this issue off the table prior to the next election (I see no realistic scenario where this Parliament survives another budget), you are left with a troubling clause. This agreement is only binding on this Parliament, meaning the government must resign said understanding after any election. Let's just fast forward for a second. We have an election, and the opposition demands a restart, more signatures. The government simply refuses, and what recourse does the opposition have? Threaten another election, re-introduce motions, start from scratch AGAIN? Plus, say we do get a few tidbit releases of documents, all the more reason for the government to argue it's a new mandate, time to move on from this discussion. ZERO political appetite for immediate conflict, the issue likely fades to black (no pun intended). What a terrific clause for the government, just drag this all out until an election, and you very well could be home free. This clause will look more relevant as time passes, and people digest the gamesmanship that unfolds."

Now read this revelation in today's update on the "progress":
Wilfert declined to guess when the first documents might finally be tabled in Parliament for public consumption. But he said committee members are seized with a sense of urgency, well aware that the process could be disrupted by a possible spring election.

Amazing. We are being played for fools, the government is running out the clock, it's been months with NADA, NOTHING, NOT ONE DOCUMENT has seen the light of day- not even the most benign to placate.

Make no mistake, the Conservatives won, the NDP had it right. Nobody cares about this issue anymore, this is the first time anyone has bothered to ask since Parliament returned. The issue is stale, their is zero urgency, when we get to the contentious stuff, nobody will have any appetite to put the detainee question back on the front burner. That Wilfret even entertains a spring election "disruption" is frankly stunning, given this deal is DEAD with that reality. Played, and played bad, sorry to say...

Christmas break here we come.

Liberals Don't Need to Win

In response to the Liberals deficit cutting pledge, Flaherty responded:
“Imitation is the sincerest form of Flaherty,” the Finance Minister joked with reporters, pointing out that the Liberal and Conservative deficit-reduction plans were essentially identical.

The above is an unintended compliment to the Liberals. There is one remaining trump card for the Conservatives, that of good fiscal managers. The Liberals, to date, have been nowhere on the economic file, the Conservatives enjoy a healthy lead on any question relating to this issue. That Flaherty posits the Liberals have a plan "essentially identical" to the government, represents a net positive.

If the Liberals can successfully neutralize the deficit "slayer" issue, position themselves on relatively equal terms as the Conservatives, then the last government firewall has been breached. Liberals don't need to "win" this issue, they merely need to look a credible alternative. If the two plans are virtually inseparable, in terms of numbers, then voters are left with a blurred picture and we move into the details of each plans. You can see how this type of development should worry the Conservatives. Armed with expensive examples, whatever is thrown at the Liberals on the "reckless" front can be returned in concrete terms. The Liberal commitments overlap the Conservative expenditures, providing fiscal cover.

Flaherty claims "imitation", which represents decidedly poor optics. The Liberals will never own the issue, Conservatives have an inherent credibility (which has no real historical backing, but...) on the fiscal front. However, anywhere near a draw on this file is a massive win from the Liberal perspective, because we then move to other facets which are far more favorable, far more attractive, on our natural terrain. This government can't offer Canadians anything, because they are handicapped by corporate tax cuts, planes, prisons- they've blown the wad, anything more and they look "reckless". The Liberals have certain latitude, should they put out a reasonable fiscal plan that compares favourably to the government, Conservatives should be concerned. "Imitation" essentially eliminates a perceived vulnerability, as well as nullifying the opponent's supposed trump card. Things are finally getting interesting...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

"I'm Not A Career Politician"

Bravo to the OLO on this one:


Noticing a fair amount of hand wringing, in the wake of the new NANOS and EKOS polls out today. Why aren't the Conservatives paying, HOW can they still be in the lead, despite all these negative story lines, new Liberal initiatives, etc?

First off, yes we still see a Conservative lead, but it's hardly intimidating. I've sort to come to peace with these polls, we seem to vacillate between dead heats and a decent Conservative lead, back and forth, the same dynamic pretty much post-Iggy honeymoon. I actually thought last week that polls might start to swing back slightly again. My new working thesis- when we have a hot button issue we get "dead heat", but as soon as "normalcy" returns, voters drift back to the government. It is this dynamic that frustrates Liberals, because we believe each fresh gaffe or offence will be the one that finally move things in our favour, in a more permanent sense. Every time we see a widening, the more depressing it can become. However, I'm more an intangible observer these days, primarily because people simply aren't engaged in any meaningful capacity, a reality that will not change until a campaign. It is also for that reason that Liberals would be wise to not wait for the perfect poll storm; it's unlikely to materalize, barring some massive implosion or Ignatieff running into a burning house to save a toddler.

Ontario is beyond volatile, and will change on a dime. These swings are mostly an Ontario consideration, but I remain confident that Liberals have upwards of 42-45% potential support, should we run a good campaign. I also see potential to expand in Quebec, we have the inside track on the possible real alternative to the Bloc. My point, it's more the groundwork that's important now, developing contrasts and cementing the negative narratives surrounding this government.

In case anyone thinks this is just partisan spin, I would welcome a review of the multiple times I've taken "the sky is falling" position. I actually believed Liberals were wise to adopt a two election strategy, because the prospects so remote in the near term. I've altered that view now, and firmly believe we have a decent shot of taking Harper out. Ignatieff looks like he can pull off a campaign, the team looks focused, the strategies are starting to bear incremental fruit. I also think Harper is very close to the tipping point, likening it to a drip drip drip into a bucket that eventually overflows. My gut tells me the baggage is accumulating to the point that represents incumbent danger. In fact, I already believe some damage is evident, but the divided opposition, the inability to gel around a singular alternative breathes oxygen.

Here's the poll I am focusing on. These type of findings are opportunity, they tell me if the Liberals run a good campaign, offer an attractive alternative, provide a fresh brand, they can rally the support to turf these Conservatives. Of that, I have no doubt.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Foreign Affairs Now On Table

I note some dismissal, but given the track record, nobody should buy into this "won't resonate" scepticism attached to the UN Security Council seat issue. As a matter of fact, I submit yesterday amounts to a new crease on the "distinction" front, one that the Liberals will use come the next campaign.

Foreign affairs are generally a side issue, in the sense that not many Canadians vote based on issues outside of our borders- obvious exceptions factored in. However, it is also true that Canadians have largely taken for granted our international "reputation", primarily because it has always been in tact and accepted. There is a certain quiet pride surrounding how we think others perceive us. What yesterday did is challenge our assumptions, somewhat of a wake up call, demonstrating just how far we've fallen. The seat is symbolic, and a shrewd opposition can weave a coherent narrative to show real DAMAGE, caused by this group of amateurish ideologues, who clearly can't play well with others. That this "style" can directly overlap to domestic relationships, only serves to validate the argument.

The Liberal now have an opening, THEY can return Canada to our previous stature, they can undo the damage to our reputation. There is no question, yesterday represents a colossal embarrassment for Harper and this government. Practicalities aside, the imagery is clear and this rebuke stands out in striking fashion. Again, I don't think this issue will dominate our national conversation, but it will provide another useful avenue for the Liberals to draw real distinctions. The issue will also lend itself to the "we need a change" narrative, Harper as an obstacle, a complete and utter failure on the world stage.

For those sceptics, I would simply point to the government's reaction and tactics here, if one actually believes there is "nothing to worry about" from their perspective. There is a certain objective vulnerability here and it will be exploited in the next election.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Sad But True

I just watched a Global News piece, wherein the Conservatives apparently have ads (watched about 10 seconds) in the can, ready to blame Ignatieff and the Liberals, should we fail to secure a United Nations Security Council seat Tuesday. In a normal world, one would be surprised, with this bunch of take no responsbility weasel-like entities, par for the course.

The fact the Conservatives have slick ads at the ready, tells me they are worried about the reaction of Canadians. I'm sure the vast majority of Canadians have no idea about the United Nations seat, not something that normally resonates. However, the optics of Canada rebuked by the world, a huge departure from how we traditionally see ourselves, brings with it risk for the Conservatives.

I see these ads- or more rightly the thought process- as PROOF POSITIVE that the Conservatives realize their foreign policy, their needless hostility towards places like the UN, is starting to come back and bite them right in their self righteous, amateur hour ASS. Attacking the Liberals is confirmation, it says they are worried and need to blame someone else. A certain irony, that Harper's big speech at the UN, which no one say, drew heavily on the legacy of the very party he hates so much. The "proud history" is something which Harper has managed to erode, showing no leadership on a host of files, more irritant than participant.

These Conservatives have no time for the United Nations. Fair viewpoint, but a bit rich to hold that view, conduct yourself with full disdain, then beg at the last minute, because you're worried how it will look. Stand by your principles Conservatives, hate the UN and be proud to be left out of the do nothing, debating society- what do you care? No, instead it's somehow Ignatieff's fault for playing "partisan" politics, undermining our bid for a seat. Yes, yes, it's Ignatieff's fault for stating the obvious, that our actions have put us in this precarious case, earlier "locks" are now scrambles to save face. There reason for the predicament is THIS government, their alienations, their polices, their inability to understand the most basic tenets of foreign policy, their ignorance and lack of sophistication.

It appears that Canada may just scrape by, and secure a seat. If that's the case, we get our seat, maybe we never see these attack ads. However, the fact they actually exist is simply pathetic. Their existence is also a testament to just how worried this government is, how much they fear Canadians will wake from their slumber and realize the DAMAGE these two dimensional ideologues have done to our reputation in the world.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Conservatives Losing F35 Issue

I'm not sure the "attack the witness" strategy works for the Conservatives on the F35 file. Never mind the jet purchase, the forever recurring dynamic of Harper vs apolitical bureaucrats only serves to reinforce other negative frames for this government. Yesterday, the Prime Minister was decidedly angry, a clear sign that this F35 debate is rife with risk for his side.

The Liberals have to tread carefully, because there is some rationale for new planes, which could turn this into a "support the troops" debate. That said, so long as the Liberals play this smartly, there is plenty of third party, sober, detached perspective to shield them from this attack line. Fact is, we now have people intimate with the process who support the Liberal position, who counter this "political" angle that Harper is now using to distract.

Williams told the Defence Committee yesterday that the Conservatives could have saved a whopping 3.2 billion on the planes, had they opened the plane purchase up to a competitive bidding process. An incredibly important number, when one considers Finlay calls the relatively small 1 billion Liberal health care commitment "reckless". What then, do we make of 3.2 billion which is essentially wasted, we get NOTHING for it? You can see why this F35 purchase is a potential albatross for the Conservatives, that threatens to undermine ANY attack they make towards the Liberals on the fiscal front.

The Conservative trump card is their perceived management of the economy. It is on this score that Harper towers over Ignatieff, and it explains why Conservatives like to talk up their economic record at every turn. However, this perception has the potential to unravel, the "planes, prisons and photo-ops" line threatens to undermine the "competent manager". If it does, Harper is essentially left for the taking, the main line breached, it could all unravel from there. What complicates it further for the government, their own expenditures have now given Ignatieff a certain amount of "free reign", in that he can offer attractive social polices, and still be shielded from the big spender tag, because the compare and contrast is obvious and stark. Attack the employment leave plan, well you've wasted 3.2 times that with your "reckless" plane purchase. The Conservative hysteria rings hollow, the Liberals can retort with strength, on every front. The debate reduced to a dueling expenditures, which in the END still works for the Liberals. A draw on fiscal "management", equals an overwhelming victory in the grand scheme.

Harper attacking the messenger, becoming bombastic, is proof positive that the PMO is very worried about how this F35 debate is shaping up. It creates problems for the Conservatives cornerstone reputation, but it also gives the Liberals the freedom to spend elsewhere, on more attractive electoral options, and lose NO ground on the deficit front. So long as the Liberals stay measured on this F35 file, these planes will become another powerful equalizer on terrain which the Conservatives can't afford to have compromised.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Gun Registry Poll

The latest gun registry poll represents a fascinating change in public sentiment, but not necessarily that bad a result from the Conservative perspective.

I've watched these registry polls for some time. Up until the debate reached crescendo, little movement, but once we had vested interests picking side, the pro registry side numbers moved noticeably. This Ipsos Reid poll only confirms the end game opinion.

When you drill down into the numbers, while it's true that we Liberals could benefit, it's also true that the Conservatives don't really suffer, possibly gain. Just as the national polls have shown, the NDP are the ones with the chief problem moving forward. Whether the gun registry remains a key issue during the next campaign remains to be seen, but I would expect the Conservatives to push it- that fact in and of itself supports the notion that the numbers still can work for their side.

If you look at who supports the registry, you find a healthy majority in this poll. However, when you look at who will vote, and who is most passionate, it becomes a bit less cut and dry. Young people don't vote, relative to the other subsets, so when we look at the real key demographics, the Conservatives find some comfort. 47% of people over 55 don't support the registry, a finding that is heightened by expected election turnout. You can't simply look at the overall numbers, because the Conservatives once again benefit from the 3 against 1 scenario, the anti registry vote is theirs, and theirs alone. This simple fact almost makes majority, no majority talk irrelevant, because per usual the Conservative benefit from divided opposition.

A key finding:

Of New Democrats, 14% said it makes them want to vote for a party that advocates killing the registry, while nine% indicate they still want to support a party that supports it.

The Conservative base is largely not in play, but we see that a full 1/3 of NDP support is against the registry. The above highlights why this issue could be problematic. The question then becomes who stands to benefit from this divide. It is fair to say, most of this dissent is rural, and the Conservatives are the main competition. It is for this reason, that when you take these overwhelming support numbers on balance, it isn't necessarily the bad news finding that first blush suggests.

However, it is also true that this poll provides plenty of upside for the Liberals. The Liberals have a large pool of voters who do support their position on the registry. The fact the Liberals took the lead role in advocating for the registry, while the NDP comes off with a confusing stance, could help in a campaign. There are a few Liberal seats that could be affected by this issue, but that is balanced by the overall distribution of support.

This poll strikes me as one that we shouldn't see an "either/or" in terms of advantage. In fact, while I think the numbers are probably best for the Liberals, one can just as easily see some upside for the Conservatives. All that said, there is little question, that these numbers, like recent horserace ones, leave the NDP wanting and vulnerable to some degree.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Liberal Policy Provides Great Frame

When the Liberals first announced they would cancel further corporate tax cuts, I saw it as a terrific move, that would give them fiscal latitude moving forward. In addition, the prospect of offering Canadians concrete pledges, contrasted with tax cuts for fat cats offered attractive "class" considerations. The frame is delicious- we're for the little guy, they're for the rich.

I note today that Tom Flanagan say potential problems for the Conservatives, in light of today's announcement by the Liberals. I also note the decidedly negative reaction from the NDP, which I attribute to a perceived threat. In one bold move, the Liberals have put something in the window, which they can draw on during a campaign- an initiative which encompasses a much broader contrast.

I've confronted the issues surrounding today's Liberal pledge. I'm sure many other people have as well, quite a common and sad reality really. Easing the emotional burden, by providing financial assistance, is something we can all relate to, it's something that gives Liberals an outline for voters. The cost isn't excessive, put beside the other big ticket government expenditures, it looks the innocent amount, backed by a perceived moral necessity. I mean, seriously, who doesn't agree with a policy that helps people during extremely difficult times? This policy is the basis of a "compassionate society", a winner in every conceivable way from the Liberals perspective.

The key to this corporate tax debate is to highlight our already, objectively verified, competitive climate. The Liberals need to address the obvious Conservative attack about "job killing", and I think they can with relative ease, particularly now when they can provide clear choices. The Conservatives will find no electoral comfort in being drawn into a debate about tax cuts for banks and big oil vs things like providing financial assistance to ALL Canadians who need it.

A further point, if the Conservatives want to say these type of initiatives are "reckless", they effectively undercut their own record. If any new expenditures are dangerous, how does one justify the billions the Conservatives are contemplating, on a host of files. Where is this money coming from, and isn't even that more pronounced, when you add on a 6 billion dollar shortfall for your big business tax cuts?

The election hasn't started, but the battle lines are clearly being drawn. The Liberals are now starting to draw the distinctions that everyone has been demanding. That they've chosen this particular terrain to highlight the divergence in policies, I think will prove to be a brilliant move. I really do.