Monday, March 31, 2008

Liberal Critics Shuffle

-Rae stays in Foreign Affairs, while Findlay and Murray will get eased in with associate and vice chair portfolios.

-In the most interesting move of this shuffle, and one which will probably be overlooked by a lot of people, Gerard Kennedy is the new intergovernmental affairs critic from outside caucus, replacing Dominic LeBlanc (who also holds Justice). Given the recent squabbling between Flaherty and McGuinty, I doubt it’s coincidental that Dion has moved a high profile former McGuinty Cabinet Minister into this portfolio.

-With all that’s been going on in Quebec, it’s interesting to see Coderre shuffled out of Defense to Heritage, and Raymonde Folco dropped. (update: Folco was shuffled out last fall...silly internet is slow updating these things)

UPDATE: Here's the new Liberal seating chart, for people who care about that sort of thing. (hat tip Star)

And can anyone explain this to me?
A Dion spokeswoman said Mr. Coderre will continue dealing with military files in Quebec, in addition to fighting against the Conservative government's Bill C-10 as part of his new portfolio.

(update: Folco was shuffled out last fall...that pesky internet is slow updating these sorts of things)

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Friday, March 28, 2008

Going Postal

It seems some Liberals have been raising a stink about the Tories using the taxpayer funded mail-outs available to all MPs to blanket swing ridings with Conservative propaganda.

Now, yes, if the Conservatives are breaking the law by going over quota, they should be held to account. But if this is just a smart re-allocation of resources, then maybe instead of complaining the Liberals should be, you know, copying this…

Ian Brodie Could Not Be Reached For Comment

Clinton ready to walk away from NAFTA, adviser warns


Fun Fridays

As a new end of the week feature on this blog, I present the first edition of "fun Fridays". A pot pourri of off-topic odds and ends.

1. Signs the human race is too stupid to live, courtesy of James Bow.

2. I've really been digging the freakonomics blog of late. Some interesting posts include a study on a placebo price effect and an interesting spin on helping people quit smoking.

3. The final season of BSG starts April 4th.

4. Must be spring - the Leafs are out.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Fight! Fight! Fight!

It's gotten to the point where it's almost weird when John Tory is the one criticizing McGuinty and explaining how the Tories would run Ontario. I thought John had permanently deferred to Van Loan/Flaherty/Poilievre on that.

Yesterday it was Pierre Poilievre displaying his usual class in response to the following rather benign criticisms the small man of confederation leveled at Harper's immigration plan:

Then he was asked about the sweeping new federal immigration reforms and he replied that his own ancestors were unskilled workers - just like the parents of some Canadian Rhodes scholars.

"I wouldn't want to shut out folks who don't have a skill. I wouldn't be here," McGuinty told a news conference.

"We were part of the exodus from Ireland at the time of famine. We had no skills, we couldn't speak English, and we were dirt-poor.

"But we were looking for opportunity and we brought with us a solid work ethic."

So Poilievre responded showing the usual maturity he has become known for, first saying that immigration was a federal jurisdiction and then attacking provincial immigration policy (anyone else catch the fun contradiction there?):

"All Dalton McGuinty has ever done on immigration is run a sponsorship-style slush fund that cost him his citizenship minister," Mr. Poilievre said in an interview.

Now, assuming the Conservative position is that it's OK for Ottawa to offer economic advice to Ontario, one wonders why it's not alright for Ontario to offer immigration advice to Ottawa. After all, it's not like McGuinty turned the Ontario Liberal website into a giant attack ad on Harper.

The most popular game in Ottawa has become trying to guess Harper's motives which seem to make about as much sense as a typical Lost episode. Here's a few of the theories I've seen floating around - there are probably more:

1. They want to blame McGuinty for the impending economic slump
2. This will help CPC fundraising
3. Trying to hurt the "Liberal" brand in Ontario
4. Trying to damage a future McGuinty run for LPC leader
5. There are enough people who dislike McGuinty that this will get them votes
6. Flaherty wants to replace John Tory
7. This is to remind Ontarians that they like federal/provincial fighting
8. Deflect attention from Cadman/Mulroney
9. A chance to re-emphasize that they're the party of tax cuts without having to actually cut taxes
10. Portray Tories as being best for the economy
11. Beating up Stephane Dion isn't challenging enough anymore
12. Harper just likes picking fights with people

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Blame Ontario! It seems that everything's gone wrong, since Dalton came along!

If there was any doubt about Harper's motives in this spat with Ontario, they've certainly been answered over the last two days. There's nothing wrong with the federal Finance Minister giving advice to his provincial counterparts since you can't deny the Ontario and Canadian economies are interconnected. There's probably even a time and place for making this advice public.

But the day before the budget is released is not the time to do it. And this childish stunt on the Conservative website further shows that this is nothing more than Stephen Harper picking yet another fight.

As for the validity of Flaherty's argument?

But on Monday, Flaherty dismissed suggestions the province could not afford to cut spending arguing since he was finance minister of Ontario in a previous Conservative government, spending has increased 50 per cent.

"When the premier says he can't control spending, or he can't reduce spending I have a little trouble with that quite frankly given the skyrocketing spending over the past six years," Flaherty said.

Well, Paul Wells does a pretty good job breaking it down and showing that things have gotten a lot better in Ontario since Flaherty stopped making the decisions there. I'd also wager that there isn't a lot of nostalgia in Ontario for the good old Harris-Flaherty days, despite Jim's belief that there will be protests in the street in support of corporate tax cuts.

It's also somewhat baffling to me that the biggest spending finance minister in the history of Canada is the one urging Dwight Duncan to cut spending in favour of tax cuts.

In fairness, Flaherty may have a point that it's important to call out a finance minister who was irresponsible enough to let spending increase by 12% over two years and has budgeted for it to keep rising despite an impending economic slowdown. But, as the numbers show, Flaherty won't need to go very far to call that finance minister out. Here are the provincial and federal spending numbers (in Billions), using the last year before Flaherty came to Ottawa as the baseline:

2005-06: 85.3 / 209.0
2006-07: 88.8 / 222.2
2007-08: 96.0 / 234.3
2008-09: 96.2 / 239.6
2009-10: 99.6 / 250.7

So, two years into the Flaherty era, federal spending has increased by 12.1%, a far cry from the "skyrocketing" 12.5% spending increase in Ontario over that time. Adding this year's budget numbers gives Ontario a 12.8% increase compared to a frugal 14.6% increase in Ottawa. Projecting ahead to '09/'10 and Ontario's budget will have grown by 16.8% over the last four years, compared to 20.0% federally.

And, of course, we're taking Flaherty's numbers at face value which, given the creative accounting that went on during the Harris-Eaves years, may be a risky assumption.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Preliminary Thoughts on the Ontario Budget

I'm new to the Ontario political scene so I don't feel I'm qualified to offer up detailed analysis on today's budget. What I will do, is offer the following bit of advice to Dwight Duncan, in light of this:

Ontario Treasurer Dwight Duncan, who sported a new Ontario-made BlackBerry instead of the customary pair of new shoes Tuesday

Dude - you always buy new shoes. That's the budget tradition. It isn't Christmas where you get to buy whatever toy you want. If you wanted to draw attention to the high tech industry, then get your own Maxwell Smart shoe phone, but it has to be a shoe!


"If people knew I was healing the lepers, there would be no incentive to avoid leprosy"

One of Al Franken's best hits, put to video:

Hat Tip - Wingnuterer


Monday, March 24, 2008

Somebody misses his old job

Poilevre gets read to slam McGuinty tomorrow.

Flaherty continues his assault today:

TORONTO — Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty took the extraordinary step yesterday of denouncing Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty's management of the economy just hours before the unveiling of the provincial budget.

Mr. Flaherty did not say anything he hasn't already said in recent weeks about the need for the province to heed his calls to reduce business taxes. But the timing of his latest attack, on the eve of today's budget, raised eyebrows around the provincial legislature. A government source called it unprecedented.

The Finance Minister made a special trip to Toronto, where he made a dire prediction about the prospects for Canada's largest economy under the McGuinty government. Without tax cuts, he warned, Ontario is in jeopardy of becoming a “have-not” province for the first time in history.

Even if you want to give Flaherty the benefit of the doubt and assume he's genuinely concerned about the state of the economy, that doesn't explain him making these demands on Budget Day Eve, when the time for changes has long since passed. There is no way to interpret this as anything but political posturing.

Given that, one would assume there's some sort of master plan behind all of this because...well...people always assume there's a master plan behind everything Stephen Harper does. The only game plan I can see is that Harper thinks the economy is ready to tank and plans to scape-goat McGuinty. But even that doesn't fully explain the intensity of the fight Harperty has picked with Queen's Park.


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Je Me Souviens?

If you want evidence of how quickly the media narrative can turn on you, look no further than Jack Layton. The man was praised far and wide for his historic Quebec breakthrough in Outremont last fall. It was only the second Quebec seat won in NDP history and was a sign that the party was on the road to great things.

But, that's so 2007. Bad showings in two low turnout meaningless Toronto by elections and suddenly the house that Jack built is beginning to crumble.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

For those who thought "yes we can" lacked substance...

I had some fun with the US Presidential race earlier this week. But on a serious note, everyone should take the time to listen to or read this speech by Barack Obama, broken down by Joe Klein here.

I started the youtube video on Tuesday night and ended up watching all forty minutes of it. What's remarkable about this speech isn't so much the delivery or even the impact it will have on the US Presidential race. What's remarkable is that it was an oh so rare moment when a politician took a minefield of an issue and, rather than run the standard damage control, plunged completely into it. For those who believe politics has become all about sound bytes, spin, and the avoidance of controversy at all cost, this will warm your heart. It was a brutally honest and direct speech that attacked a sensitive topic with the complexity it deserved.

Complexity is something that has completely disappeared from politics. Maybe because there are very few politicians who can actually deliver direct and candid analysis that can captivate an audience. And those who have tried have usually been laughed out of town.

Whether this helps him win the nomination, the presidency, or makes him a better president remains to be seen. But, for now, it's simply worth just watching and enjoying it for what it is. And the fact that 1.6 million people have watched this video on youtube already shows that this isn't a typical speech (or a typical candidacy for that mater).

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Greg Weston - She's A Very Good Columnist

Via Macleans:

But it was also a riding where the Liberal candidate, Joan Beatty, was appointed by Dion over the wishes of the local riding association as part of his pledge to put more women in the Commons.

(In fairness, it has to be said that the alternative was David Orchard, a mischievous but masterful organizer last seen making no end of trouble for his former party, the late Progressive Conservatives.)

The last time Dion forced a woman candidate on a riding was in last September's byelections that cost the Liberals the Montreal seat of Outremont, long considered one of the safest Grit bastions in the country.

Call it zero for two for Stephane. Nice work.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

No Wonder Harper's Trying To Sabotage Them...

It appears that Obama has tackled the race issue head on, which means we're back into the "first black President" versus "first female President" debate (or "bitch President", as SNL eloquently put it).

However, the proper debate would be "first non-fictional black President" versus "first non-fictional female President". Because, through the magic of Hollywood, Americans have lived through several black and female presidencies...many more engaging than some recent terms in office. While the common consensus is the United States are ready for a black or female President, a quick look at history should really make Americans reconsider:

President Tom Beck
During his Presidency, much of the Eastern United States was destroyed after a meteor hits the earth. Some historians argue that President Beck wasn’t responsible for the asteroid hitting the United States. Well, I’d like to remind them that the president from Armageddon, who was white, also faced an asteroid threat and defeated it.

President David Palmer
During his Presidency, the United States was a frequent terrorist target, with a nuclear bomb exploding on US soil and dangerous biologically engineered viruses being unleashed against US citizens. How bad was his term in office? Well, upon retirement he was forced to sell insurance! Even Nixon had a more respectable post-Presidency.

President Wayne Palmer
During the 11 hours that Americans experienced of his presidency, suicide bombings rampaged the United States and a nuclear bomb exploded in Los Angeles. Starting to see the pattern here? And how did he respond to this? Well, he didn’t. Instead he slipped into a coma and let Vice President Daniels, a white man, solve the problems he’d created.

I think the pattern is starting to become abundantly clear. If you want death and destruction, then by all means, vote Obama! But for all you Hillary fans out there, your gal’s predecessors don’t have a very strong record either:

President Mackenzie Allen
At least the people at ABC were smart enough to recognize that Americans would never elect a female President – she took office after the death of the President. And how successful was her Presidency? Well, it was cancelled after one year. Even Hoover lasted four.

President Helen Lasker
The President in Carl Sagan’s "Contact" - however in the movie version she was replaced with footage of Bill Clinton. A female President who, once elected, gets replaced by Bill Clinton? Gee, where have I heard that story before?

President Barbara Adams
From the 1986 film "Whoops Apocalypse". According to the best Presidential historian of them all, wikipedia: Succeeds to presidency upon death of the previous president. Her incompetence helps cause World War Three. 'nuff said.

President Leslie McCloud
Also found on wikipedia, the president in 1964’s very progressive "Kisses for My President". She was America’s first female President, who later resigns due to pregnancy. You know who wouldn’t resign due to pregnancy? A male president, that’s who.
(Although, if they let foreign born citizens run...)

President Lisa Simpson
After sinking the economy, what’s her solution? Raise taxes! And, hey, let’s blame the whole failure of her presidency on a man (in this case, her brother). How typical.

Tally it up, and I think it becomes obvious that America cannot afford either the abject failure a female Presidency would turn into, or the horrific disasters that would be to certain plague an African American’s term in the White House. While I’m not sure what the track record of really really old Presidents is, it can’t be nearly this bad. I hope that Americans will consider this, come November.

The One Take Home Message From Last Night

A once proud party lies in shambles. Serious soul searching is needed.

It's always hard to compare byelections to general elections due to low turn-out, different candidates, and altered voting tactics. The exception would be when the same candidate runs in both elections and the reasons to vote for him are identical in both instances. Luckily, in Vancouver Quadra this was (kind of) the case.

1988 Vancouver Quadra
John Turner (Rhinoceros Party): 760 votes, 1.4%

2008 Vancouver Quadra
John Turner (NeoRhino Party): 110 votes, 0.4%

And, to think, 1988 John Turner had to deal with a split "John Turner" vote, due to the presence of (fringe?) candidate the Right Honourable John Napier Turner on the ballot.

Tough times to be a rhino...

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Monday, March 17, 2008

Tories are a Sham, Grits hope to Rock

(that was the best of the comments section...although a strong showing by the Greens will certainly prompt an edit)

8:00 pm: Eight o'clock and the polls are now clos...what's that? Apparently, there is a concern that thousands of Vancouver Quadrans will log onto the net to see if Martha did or did not win, and will alter their vote accordingly. So, we've got - staggered voting!

Which means no results until 10 eastern....grrr....

So, log back on then. For now, based on exit polls and complicated statistical demographic projections, the Calgary Grit decision desk is ready to project that Bob Rae has been elected in Toronto Centre.

10:05 pm: With 3% of the polls reporting in Toronto Centre, Rae is running away with 59%. In second place are...the Greens! I kind of saw this one coming - walking down the streets today after work, there the green supporters were out in could see their colours everywhere. Martha's up comfortably in Willowdale, while the Conservatives are solidly in front in Saskatchewan.

10:22 pm: Tracking against 2006 numbers, there's been about a 7-10% shift from Liberal to Conservative vote in Saskatchewan. Rae is up 6% on Bill Graham's totals, with a huge drop in NDP vote (to the Greens?). Martha has also increased the previous Liberal total and, once again, the NDP are down.

10:30 pm: Quadra is starting to roll in. And John Turner has a vote! Woo-hoo! Also, I think it bears mentioning that the Saskatchewan riding is very big geographically and things could shift if the aboriginal polls are the late ones coming in...but you've got to figure it's a CPC pickup. Oh, and the Greens are still second in Toronto Centre.

10:34 pm: I'm watching Newsnet now. Tim Powers says Martha isn't going to reach the 55% the Liberals got there last time...well, the latest numbers have her at 59%, compared to the 52% Peterson got last time. But, most baffling is the fact that Scott Reid still gets invited out to these panel shows...I mean, seriously?

10:39 pm: John Turner is up to 3 votes now. btw, the neorhino party has a very complex, if somewhat confusing, website.

For those wondering about turn-out, it's hard to tell since the smaller polls report first. But, at first glance, the turn-out is going to be abysmally bad, which is to be expected in a byelection.

10:49 pm: Interesting races:
-Quadra is neck and neck between Liberals and Tories right now for first (Libs up by 20 votes).
-The Greens and NDP are neck and neck everywhere except Saskatchewan.
-The Rhinos are beating Hellyer's Action Party by a 3 to 1 margin (6 votes to 2) in Quadra.
-Martha and Bob are fairly close to each other right now (Martha up by 0.7%), for bragging rights.

11:34 pm: Saskatchewan is looking like a blow-out...Libs might be able to blame it on Orchard but it's still an undeniably bad result. Joyce Murray is starting to pull away in Quadra, but this one will still be a drop in support from the last election.

You hate to take messages out of byelections because they're fairly meaningless when you get down to it, but seeing the Toronto blow-outs coupled with the problems out West, it just shows why the Liberal Party needs to build itself up in Western Canada.

So all in all, assuming they hold Quadra, not a great night for the Liberals (or the NDP for that mater), but far from disastrous and certainly not as damaging as Outremont. They will get three very strong MPs into the House and the end result 3 out of 4 is what most people were predicting.

UPDATE: The Liberals take Quadra by 110 votes. Eek! This from one of the few Western ridings that they held through the 80s. Full results here.

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Be Nice To Me...

...or I might go on strike!

On Friday, it got to be too much for Alegre, a diarist on the flagship liberal blog DailyKos, who frequently writes in support of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“I’ve put up with the abuse and anger because I’ve always believed in what our online community has tried to accomplish in this world,” Alegre
wrote Friday evening. “No more.”

Objecting to the tone of attacks against Mrs. Clinton and her supporters on the blog, the diarist called for a “writers strike.”

“This is a strike - a walkout over unfair writing conditions at DailyKos. It does not mean that if conditions get better I won’t ‘work’’ at DailyKos again,” Alegre wrote, promising to come back only “if we ever get to the point where we’re engaging each other in discussion rather than facing off in shouting matches."

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Byelection Monday

First of all, I'm somewhat disappointed in myself that I couldn't think up a witty St. Patrick's day themed post title related to tomorrow's byelections.

Regardless, after the Outremont disaster in the fall, people will be playing close attention to these four byelections. The common media consensus is that the Liberals will coast to easy wins in the two Toronto seats and in BC - but, at the same time, I've been hearing rumblings that the Liberals might be in trouble in both Quadra and Willowdale. Losing either of those would certainly be a body blow on par with Outremont - maybe even bigger if you consider the previous margins of victory and the strong candidates the Liberals are running. On the flip side, if they can go four for four and get Joan Beatty in, there will be a massive infusion of talent into the Liberal front benches of the House of Commons.

While the focus in the media is sure to be on the Liberals, it will also be interesting to see how the other parties fare. The Conservatives shot themselves in Toronto Centre with the Marc Warner fiasco, but Willowdale will be a good test to see if a potential GTA breakthrough is on the horizon. For the NDP and greens, they aren't in the hunt to win, but by focusing their volunteers on the byelection ridings, they'll be hoping to see a rise in popular vote.

So check back in here tomorrow night for the results.

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For those knocking Alberta's voter turn-out... could be worse.

TAMARAC, Fla. (AP) - Every vote counts. But what happens when there are no votes at all? That's the situation city officials in Tamarac are facing. No voters showed up Wednesday night to cast a ballot in an annexation referendum for an unincorporated Broward County community.

There are 68 registered voters in the 200-person Prospect Bend neighborhood. Tamarac officials have proposed annexing the neighborhood.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Backing Down...and Loving it!

Showing a complete lack of leadership, the official opposition backs down and lets the budget pass. Shameful. Disgraceful.

I guess we can start writing the Mario Dumont obits, eh?

So Sue Me

This is going to turn into a big headache for somebody. Truth be told, I can't figure out if will be bad news for Dion or Harper, though.


UPDATE: According to the National, Harper is asking for "2.5 million plus costs and GST".

Well, all I can say, is thank God for Jim Flaherty! That GST cut the Liberals abstained on might be saving them $25,000.


Paul Wells gives Judge Gomery and Joe Clark an epic smackdown - it's a must read.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Cabinet Shuffle

In most places, the first cabinet after an election is called a "new" Cabinet. In Alberta? It's called a cabinet shuffle. And, even as far as cabinet shuffles go, this one was minor with only two ministers changing portfolios. A few thoughts on the new PC cabinet:

1. By most standards, representing the two cities that make up two thirds of Alberta's population with under 40% of the cabinet spots, would be a slight. After only placing three Calgarians and one Edmontonian in his first Cabinet, this is likely enough to get Ed rave reviews.

2. Likewise, the seven women in this Cabinet is a massive jump from the two who made his first Cabinet. Of note, Iris Evans gets Finance.

3. The Cabinet has ballooned to 24, after Stelmach promised to cut its size during the leadership race. In addition, there are 10 parliamentary assistants (think Parliamentary Secretaries) and 5 cabinet committee chairs. So, in other words, if you're a Tory MLA who didn't get something today, you're in the minority.

4. Guy Boutlier is the only person dumped from Cabinet. Ouch.

5. Stelmach's most effective Minister, Dave Hancock, gets shuffled out of health, and into Education.

6. The "giant-killer killer", Alison Redford, winds up in Justice. Not bad for a rookie and it sure beats being a backbench MP in Ottawa, which she would have been had she beaten Rob Anders for the Calgary West nomination when she ran against him.

So, from the optics perspective, the only real knock Stelmach will get is from increasing the size of the Cabinet. Might be a good place to start the attacks if the ALP want to portray themselves as the fiscally conservative alternative in Alberta.

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Democratic Peer Pressure

The people at freakonomics link to a detailed experiment on voter turn-out rates in the United States. In this case study, it was found that increased amounts of social pressure will increase voting rates. Here were the voter turn-out rates for the different groups:

Control: 29.7%
Civic Duty: 31.5% (sent a pamphlet telling them it was their civic duty to vote)
Hawthorne: 32.2% (got the same pamphlet and were told their turn-out rate was being studied)
Self: 34.5% (pamphlet included a list of who in their own household had voted last election and were told that a list of who voted this time would be sent to them after the election)
Neighbours: 37.8% (pamphlet included a list of who among their neighbours had voted last election and were told that a similar list would be distributed after the election)

So, we can see that the fear of others knowing they weren't voting increased voting turn out by 8.1%.

Now, I'm not sure public humiliation is necessarily the solution to voter apathy but in light of the 41% turn-out rate in Alberta, it certainly is interesting.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Scandals Everywhere!

New York governor Eliot Spitzer is in hot water after spending $15,000 on prostitutes, in what Jon Stewart has dubbed ****gate:

The prostitute, identified only as "Kristen," worked for the Emperors Club. The group charged between $1,000 and $5,500 an hour and operated in New York; Los Angeles, California; Miami, Florida; London, England; and Paris, France, according to court papers.

A thousand dollars an hour? Holy crap! I don't even think Julia Roberts charged that much in Pretty Woman.

Now, I generally find these sort of scandals more interesting when they involve gay Republicans but, as far as sex scandals go, this is a good one. It also, yet again, raises the question of why Canada doesn't really get any sex scandals - since the Munsinger Affair over 40 years ago, our scandals have generally involved things like charging chewing gum to an expense account.

But that's not to say we don't have scandals. The "please call it anything but NAFTAgate scandal" is now being investigated. This one probably won't turn into much of anything - I seriously doubt there was any intent from the PMO to destroy the Obama campaign. Worst case scenario is someone being a little too loose lipped and a scapegoat being fired (now, if that scape goat is Ian Brodie, then it becomes big).

The sleeper pick in March Scandal Madness right now is the Baird-O'Brien scandal (BO scandal?) which I will not comment on, because it seems everyone who comments on Tory scandals winds up getting sued.

And, that brings us to the big one - Cadscam. With shifting stories, and the Tories reluctant to flat out deny an offer was made, this one smells fishy. Greg Weston floats an interesting theory today but, regardless of the Tory explanation, there are two certainties they can't spin away:

1. Harper is on tape saying an offer was made.
2. Cadman's entire family are sticking to the "million dollar life insurance policy" story. And, considering his wife is running for the Tories, there is no logical explanation for her to be making this up.

I doubt anything will ever be proven so this won't knock him out, but those two facts above are going to leave Harper with a black eye on this one.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

The Audacity of Hope

I’ve been meaning to post something on this for some time now but got tied up in the Alberta election and the 20,000 ALLEGED “gates” that have hit the Harper government. I’ve been drifting towards one of the horses in the US Presidential race for a while and I made it “official” a few weeks ago by adding the supporter button on my facebook page. I don’t want to call it an endorsement because:

a) I reserve the right to flip flop faster than John Kerry on this one
b) I’m not voting in the race and not an American
c) I’m neither an expert who has followed this closely nor a vacuous celebrity
d) I’ll leave it to Ian Brodie to try and influence this race

All this is, is me saying who I’d vote for if I lived in the States (or Guam!).

I was a big Gore supporter from the start and, once he decided not to run, I’ve been bouncing around from candidate to candidate – from Edwards to Clinton to Richardson to Obama to Clinton to Obama to Clin...there may have even been a few hours when I was eagerly anticipating the Vilsackian era, although I was probably drunk at the time.

I’ve tried looking at the policies but, after eight years of George Bush, the Democrats are all looking pretty good and, par consequence, pretty similar. I think Hillary’s plan for universal health care would be a huge leap forward in the right direction. Richardson had the best resume. I admired John Edwards trying to make poverty an issue. And I think Obama is the best suited to end the war in Iraq.

But, at the end of the day, I’ll be honest – I’ve pretty much chucked policy to the wind. I’m not sure I particularly care which President would be best for Canada or even who would make the best President. So long as they don’t pronounce it nu-cu-lar, or go Alan Alda (Canadian Bacon Alan Alda that is – I’m down with West Wing Alan Alda as the President) on our ass, I’m cool.

Really, it came down to one thing. Looking at the world wide political stage – especially the Canadian political stage – there are so few politicians who can actually inspire. I mean, seriously, look at what we have right now coast-to-coast – it’s depressing. Even people who I like, from Dion to McGuinty, just aren’t capable of that. Back in Alberta, only 4 in 10 eligible voters bothered to cast their ballots because they were so disenchanted with their options. So the fact that Barack Obama has been able to inspire millions of people and engage them in the political process just says a lot about the man. Maybe he won’t change politics, but the mere fact that he could, to me, means it’s worth taking that chance.


Sequestered Policy

Interesting to see the federal government sit on this one until after the Alberta election, eh?

OTTAWA — Ottawa will unveil new climate-change regulations this week that would force new oil sands projects and coal-fired electricity plants to capture and store the bulk of their greenhouse gases rather than spew them into the air.

I'll be very curious to see the reaction out of Alberta, given Eddie's tough talk this campaign...

Sunday, March 09, 2008

The Odd Couple

For those who missed the Loud Dobbs-Jack Layton love-in last week, here it is. The two have been brought together by their belief that NAFTA has led to manufacturing jobs going to China.

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Friday, March 07, 2008

Praise for Dan McTeague: The first post in a one part series

I’m not sure how this made it through the house; I’d be very curious to hear if there’s a precedence for a money bill of this magnitude originating from an opposition MP’s private members bill becoming law. Either way, it’s off to the Senate now:

OTTAWA — The Harper government vowed Thursday to kill legislation introduced by a Liberal MP and quietly passed by the House of Commons that would allow parents to contribute up to $5,000 a year to their children's education and deduct it
from their income tax.

As a very politically astute friend of mine commented – it’s a sad state of affairs for the Liberals when Dan McTeague is the ideas guy in the party. At the same time, it doesn’t say much for Jim Flaherty that McTeague may have come up with something more attractive than anything found in his budget. Regardless, this isn’t a bad idea, assuming the money is there to pay for it (which is debatable).

It probably would make a bit more political sense to offer this in the context of an election campaign, when you could complement it with some support for students from low income families but, by itself, this is a pretty attractive policy for the middle income families that Harper has been targeting over the past few years. Because of that, it's going to cause a ton of headaches for both the Liberals and Conservatives. The Tories are going to have to oppose a popular policy they probably wish they’d thought up, while the Liberals will be on the hot seat if Harper finds a way to turn it into a confidence motion.

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From the Desk of the Unelected Senator

Michael Fortier explains to Canadians what Stéphane Dion is really thinking and spins it that Dion is “turning into an adviser to [PQ Leader Pauline] Marois”.

That’s a bit of a stretch, mainly because I don’t know why anyone would want strategic political advice from Mr. Dion…

Thursday, March 06, 2008

There's a hole in my logic, dear Liza, dear Liza...

The current government does not deserve to be defeated.

Not only should they not be defeated, but past governments should not be defeated.

It's important to condemn parties for defeating past governments, no matter how unpopular those governments were.

After all, defeating those past governments gave us the current government...

...who does not deserve to be defeated.

I Am Officially Boycotting Posting On This Ian Brodie Scandal...

...until people stop calling it "NAFTA-gate".

Is it just me, or is there anything more annoying in politics than that need to "gate" suffix every scandal out there?

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Where do we go from here?

It's the day after the morning after and the parties must now reflect on the campaign that was and look ahead to 2012. I'd rather look ahead than look back but I would like to just say that, despite the constant "Stelmach defied polls and pundits", the polls were correct (with one exception). The undecideds just didn't vote and, despite a desire for change, people didn't vote for it. And because of that, there's a lot of soul searching going on right now in Alberta:

“They are just happy with the way life is, most of them.”
-Ed Stelmach, on low voter turn-out

Ed likes to go around saying "I'm a very humble guy" and I have no doubt he'll keep saying that. But if he starts buying into all the Emperor Ed and invincible talk, he could be in for a rude awakening. The fact is, Albertans did want change and were unhappy with him - the low turn-out does not mean that 8 in 10 Albertans endorsed him. Stelmach is going to have to treat Calgary and Edmonton better than he has in the past and he's going to need to develop a real plan for Alberta's future. He's got political capital coming out of the wazoo now - hopefully he does something productive with it. There's really not much else I can add because, when you've been in power for 37 years and have won 72 of 83 seats, you obviously know what you're doing and don't need much advice.

Alberta Liberals
"I don't feel like I let the party down."
-Kevin Taft

First of all, there's no use in making excuses. I said my fair share of nasty things about Alberta voters on Monday night but the fact is the voters are always right. When only 1 in 10 people vote for your party, that's a failure. If they couldn't do better against a man who is, let's be honest, the worst communicator to lead a major party in Canada over the last twenty years, then major changes are needed. Name change? Leader change? I'm sure those discussions will happen in time. But a fresh coat of paint isn't going to change anything. The Liberals are fighting a perception that "PC = Alberta = wealth" to the point where every attack on the PC government was portrayed as an attack on Alberta and the impression that the Liberals would bankrupt the province hung over the election:
People finally woke up and said, 'Hey, maybe this isn't such a bad province to live in,' " said veteran Calgary Conservative strategist Alan Hallman.
"Maybe once we look at these guys over here, they scare us." Hallman said, referring to opposition parties such as the Alberta Liberals and the Wildrose Alliance.
"Fear is a great motivator."

I think the only way to break out of this equation is to re brand as a fiscally conservative pro-business party. The ALP's case study in this should be another Albertan, Stephen Harper. Harper recognized that you can't move the mountain to you - you need to move to the mountain. So he moderated his party in an effort to win votes in Ontario and Quebec, while still keeping a few key Reform principles in place. And the Liberals need to do that in reverse now. Either that, or just accept their fate as a glorified version of the NDP. I fully intend to expand on these ideas in the coming weeks but I think Step 1 is just admitting there's a problem.

"It's the party's call. It's not like the Liberals or the Conservatives where people are really ambitious and try to displace leaders. It's often the person who draws the short straw that has to be the leader."
-Bill Mason

In all likelihood, Brian Mason is the happiest of the four opposition leaders just because seeing the Liberals lose 7 seats probably gave him more joy than the pain caused by his party losing 2. But the NDP have lost official party status and were the fifth place party in most Calgary ridings. The bright spot for them may be rising star Rachel Notley who will be taking over as party leader at some time before the next campaign. If she is as good as hyped (and I've never heard her speak so I can't comment on that), they should promote her as much as they can. Policy wise, I think they're on the right track so they probably don't need to do as much soul searching as the Grits or Alliance.

Wildrose Alliance
"The thing people don't understand is, I'm not a politician and I wasn't in love with the job."
-Paul Hinman

And the moral of the story is: don't wait until two weeks before the election to create a new party. The right wing in Alberta is a threat if they ever get their act together. They just can't seem to ever get their act together. The party is still divided and now they don't even have a seat in the ledge (pending recount).

This party is really going to sink or swim on the strength of their next leader (Link?). Despite having a seat, no one knew a thing about Paul Hinman until debate night. The next leader is going to have to get known and they're going to have to accomplish that from outside the legislature. That means being creative and it means stalking reporters to make sure they write about you and treat you with the credibility they give the NDP, rather than the credibility they give the Greens. Equally important is going to be the behind the scenes stuff the public never sees - growing the party, raking in the donations from corporate Calgary, and finding quality candidates to run in the next campaign.

It's a daunting task, but the potential payoff is huge, if done right. I think Alberta would be better off with a viable right wing opposition party so I hope they do it right.

Blog Post Title of the Week

I couldn't help but laugh when I saw this blog post title while scanning Liblogs this morning:

Vindictive God Crushes Huckabee's Hopes

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Without Prejudice

I've been too caught up in the Ed-Files election to pay much attention to the goings-on in Ottawa over the past few days but, boy, have there ever been goings on! Since the Liberals refuse to oppose him, Harper has gone looking for an opponent, first picking a fight with Dalton McGuinty and then turning his sights on...Barack Obama? Who's next? Nelson Mandela? Michael J. Fox? The Pope?

He's also suing Dion, Ignatieff, Goodale, and the entire Liberal Party over accusations they've made about his (ALLEGED) role in Cadscam. Given that he's handing out lawsuits like they were life insurance policies, I've decided to make a few pro-active appologies (note: I am not implying that Harper has ever had anything to do with giving out life insurance policies, merely that everyone is getting a lawsuit, just like everyone has life insurance). So, to Mr. Harper and his lawyers, I say the following:

1. Even thought the word "bribe" is used in this post, this was not in connection with Mr. Harper or any members of the Conservative Party. Clearly, they have done nothing wrong and anyone who suggests otherwise, be they man or audio tape, are wrong.

2. When I said "Stephen Harper" is practicing blatant patronage, I was mistaken. I'm sure he was appointing very qualified individuals who just happened to be Conservatives. And, after all, it's not like he appointed them to a politically sensitive job like, say, returning officer, so there was certainly no harm done.

3. Contrary to what I may have implied, yes, Jim Flaherty did end the long unproductive era of bickering between the federal and provincial governments.

4. Although I called Harper a hypocrite in this post, he clearly is not. His logic was consistent then, as it always is. Things which appear to be inconsistent only appear that way to those whose minds are not as developed as Mr. Harper's.

5. Although I have, over the years, been critical of Mr. Harper's taste in fashion, I must say that he looks absolute dashing in this picture.


Dear Alberta,


Yours Truly,

Calgary Grit

UPDATE: If 2004 was dubbed the Kleinfeld election because nothing happened, this one will have to go down as the X-Files (or Ed-Files, I guess) election because it's almost impossible to explain. Yes, the pundits will try to make sense of it in hindsight but I think they'll only look silly trying to do that because this one just defies any sort of conventional wisdom. Generally when popular leaders resign and are replaced by duds in long serving governments, things go poorly for them - even in Alberta. After the year he's had and the campaign he's run, it's hard to find any sort of rational explain as to why he's nipping on Klein's record highs.

I'd been expecting a strong PC majority but I can't even find any silver linings in this one. Too many good candidates got far worse fates than they deserved. And when only 4 in 10 Albertans bother to vote, it's hard to even give the "at least democracy is alive and well" spin.

Name change? New leader? I don't have the heart to get into those debates right now because this one is probably going to sting for a bit...and I don't even live in the province anymore.


Monday, March 03, 2008

Alberta Votes 2008: The Ed-Files Election

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. OK, it was just the worst of times. Once the dust settled, Ed Stelmach had won a mind-boggling 72 seats, silencing his critics inside and outside the party. Here are the highlights of this blog's election coverage - a campaign which, despite the result, I really had a good time blogging about.

Alberta Votes Preview
Week 1 in Review
Returning Officer Scandal
Week 2 in Review
Debate Live Blogging
Week 3 in Review
Week 4 in Review
AYL ad campaign
My Predictions

Election Night Reaction
Where do we go from here?

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Alberta Votes

It's sure to be a historic night in Alberta tonight, as the PCs gun for an 11th consecutive majority government. I'll be watching the results roll in at what is perhaps Toronto's first ever Alberta Election Night Party so there won't be any live blogging until later tonight or tomorrow morning. But feel free to post updates in the comments section.

If you're looking for something to read between "refreshes" of results sites on your computer tonight, here's a collection of recap posts I've had about the election so far.

Alberta Votes Preview
Week 1 in Review
Returning Officer Scandal
Week 2 in Review
Debate Live Blogging
Week 3 in Review
Week 4 in Review
AYL ad campaign
My Predictions

And, finally, why I truly believe the Alberta Liberals deserve a chance to govern:


Sunday, March 02, 2008

Alberta Election Predictions

Now, I haven't set foot in Alberta once during this campaign and the polls all show a very volatile and difficult to predict electorate. So be prepared to laugh long and hard at these predictions come Tuesday.

I've linked to the polls in my week in review post - two out of three actually show the PCs gaining seats which would defy all forms of logic. Some Conservatives are privately predicting 65 seats - but my hunch is that those people are just Dinning organizers trying to raise expectations to make a leadership review vote more justifiable. Then again, some expert seat projections have the Tories in the 70s, challenging Klein's personal best.

Alberta Tory makes a series of 10 predictions here. One blogger does riding by riding picks here. ES makes no predictions but offers up a very detailed election primer.

Jason Markusoff profiles 10 ridings to watch and offers a free coffee to any readers predicting 9 of 10 correctly. The Sun's Kerry Diotte offers CDs for the closest picks. I offer nothing, but I still encourage readers to make their predictions in the comments section bellow.

And, as for my predictions:

PC 56
Lib 22
Green 0 (despite the hype around Lacombe Ponoka)

In Calgary
I'm going to be optimistic and say the Alberta Liberals pick up 5 in cowtown: Buffalo, McCall, North Hill, Glenmore, and a surprise somewhere. The Alliance vote increases in the city (at least in ridings where they field candidates), but Craig Chandler finishes a disappointing (for him) third in Egmont. All four Liberal incumbents should be re-elected, although I do think Craig Cheffins is vulnerable.

In Edmonton
Given all the three way races and polls showing the PCs flying high in the capital, Edmonton is a bit harder to predict. I've heard rumours that David Eggen is vulnerable but I'm going to keep it in the win column for the NDP in my predictions. I'm going to say the Liberals pick up Manning and Castle Downs but, in both cases, they aren't really pick-ups, since they won Manning under Dan Backs last election and they won Castle Downs before a judicial recount reversed the decision. Despite this, the polls lead me to believe the PCs will be knocking off a few Liberals in Edmonton. So I'm going to say Stelmach picks up two out of Ellerslie, Glenora, and Meadowlark. I also think there's an outside change the parties could flip St. Alberta and Spruce Grove-Sturgeon St. Albert.

And all the Rest
I'll say the Liberals sweep Lethbridge, but I don't see a lot of other "rural" seats changing. The ALP have a shot in Red Deer and Medicine Hat if the Alliance surges, but I just don't see it happening. The big question, of course, is whether Paul Hinman will survive. For the sake of having a viable right wing opposition in the province I hope he does. Mr. Hinman has gotten solid reviews this campaign so I think he'll be back but I doubt he'll be joined by any fellow wild rosers, unless Link Byfield pulls off the upset in Whitecourt (which I wouldn't rule out given the strong Alliance show there last time).

So, there you have. The view from 2000 miles away. I fully expect that the distance will show and that these won't be anywhere near the mark.

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Stelmach's Environment Minister calls for a new NEP

Well, no, but that's how Ed Stelmach spins it whenever anyone else makes this suggestion:

First Iris Evans contradicts her boss on Edmonton region planning and now Stelmach's environment minister agrees with the oil companies and PC MLAs who say there needs to be a slowing of oil sands production. It's no wonder so many PC MLAs have been skipping their riding debates this campaign...

Saturday, March 01, 2008

This Week in Alberta Politics - Week 1903 of Tory Reign

On Monday, Albertans head to the polls. I'll be out at my "Albertans in Toronto" election night party so there won't be any live blogging of the event, but I'll throw up an open thread before I head out for people to comment on the results as they come in. And - best of all - I may break my "never blog drunk" rule and post something Monday night when I get back. And, judging from the polls, there may be a few expletitives in that one so be sure to check in for that. Until then, tomorrow night will be my seat predictions and tonight is the final "week in review" of the campaign.

On The Net

-It's a's a, it's Super Ed!
-The 37 years ad campaign, from the same people who brought you Rotten Tories.
-Enlightened Savage continues his riding profiles.
-Daveberta details a senior Tory cabmin completely contradicting her party's Edmonton region plan.
-Scott Dippel points to examples of a very disturbing pattern which includes a PC candidate threatening a newspaper editor for having the nerve to print a picture of Kevin Taft.

Ads, Ads, Ads!

-The ALP release their first ads of the campaign, with Kevin Taft talking about the need for change.
-The NDP have embarked on the largest ad campaign in their history, attacking Kevin Taft and Ed Stelmach for being in the pocket of big oil. Uh-huh. Not that I'm complaining - I figure a few soft Tories will see the ads and think "if big oil likes Kevin Taft, I'm guessing he's not planning to bring in a new NEP".
-The Alliance ads attack the Tories for being not in the pocket of big oil.
-The Albertans for Change also release their streeters ad.

Kowalski To Lead Public Stonings!

Can you imagine Stephen Harper ever letting one of his MPs send out a campaign pamphlet that says "While human beings can create laws, the laws of God must take precedence"? Well, that's exactly what Tory MP Ken Kowalski has done.

Welcome to Alberta

SoE shows us a Drumheller voter who likes her Liberal candidate and feels it's time for a change but will still vote Tory because she feels her riding would be punished for elecing an opposition MLA. All I'll say to her is that if Drumheller actually elected a Liberal MLA, you'd probably be looking at a 70 seat Liberal majority, so I think her concerns are a little moot.

Also employing a very unique voting strategy is Colby Cosh, who will be reluctantly voting for the PCs because...Ed Stelmach likes Alberta. As supposed to Cosh's ideological match Paul Hinman who, I guess, hates the place...

[And before I get 50 angry comments, yes, I'm aware there are people who vote Liberal in Ontario for the same reasons]

Top of the Class
The Alberta Liberals have been ranked first in pretty much every report card that's come out. They've outgreened the Greens on the environment, and have also gotten top marks from health and education groups.

Next Week, Marc Lalonde Stumps For The Liberals

The NDP bring in Dave Barrett to campaign for them. Because Albertans love being told what to think by politicians from outside the province!

Quote of the Week

"After the election is over we want to make sure that every area has an equal opportunity to cast their ballots"
-Ed Stelmach responding to complaints that polling stations will not be set up on all native reservations in the province.

Catchier Than "It's Time"

Naomi Lakritz pens an ode to the Liberals entitled "Better Red Than Ed"

YouTube, I Tube, We All Tube For YouTube!

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business sits down for YouTube interviews with Stelmach, Taft, Hinman, and Read.


Stelmach has somewhat softened his ridiculous claim he has stuck by for three weeks that the Liberal environmental plan would cost the province 350,000 jobs. But he's still refusing to explain any of his numbers. Probably because it's a ridiculous figure he pulled out of thin air with no basis behind it.

Poll Watch

The polls all show that Albertans want change and aren't big fans of Ed Stelmach. The polls also show the Tories getting anything from a big majority even bigger majority.