Friday, February 27, 2009

This Week in Alberta - You're Fired!

This got buried beneath the billion dollar boondoggle last week, so this week's "This Week in Alberta", is pleased to bring you the tale of Lorne Gibson. Lorne was, up until last week, Alberta's Chief Electoral Officer. Now, given that the last election was a bit of a gong show, it’s understandable that Lorne would get a good grilling from the committee that decides his fate.

Lorne tried to explain away the problems by pointing out that many returning officers were only appointed two weeks prior to the writ being dropped – as supposed to the 13 months they had to prepare in 2004. But, you see, this suggestion implies that Ed Stelmach’s government dropped the ball, violating the first rule any impartial government appointee must live by – “Honour thy government and find no fault in what they do”.

Making matters worse, Lorne had the gall to call “for major reforms to “depoliticize” the province’s voting system”. De-politicize the voting system? Where does this guy think he is? He has also advocated for the bizarre position that election legislation should be “democratized”, and that “vestiges of former years” should be removed from it. Sure Lorne - keep smoking that wacky tabacky.

Faced with this insubordination, the Tories promptly exercised their majority to punt Gibson from his post - over the protests of the opposition parties.

AGRDT offers the complete media run-down of the saga, including some harsh words being directed Stelmach's way by former star candidate Arthur Kent.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

February Poll Dance

I probably should have updated this earlier in the month - these numbers may be a bit stale by now. But, regardless, here's what Canadians have been telling pollsters this February:

Nanos (Jan 30 to Feb 3, n=1000)
CPC 34%
Lib 33%
NDP 16%
BQ 10%
GP 7%

Strategic Counsel (Feb 5 to 8, n=1000)
CPC 32%
Lib 33%
NDP 17%
BQ 5%
GP 13%

Ipsos (Feb 3 to 5, n=1000)
CPC 37%
Lib 31%
NDP 14%
BQ 10%
GP 7%

Decima (Feb 5 to 8, n=1000)
CPC 33%
Lib 31%
NDP 15%
BQ 10%
GP 10%

MEAN (change since January in brackets)
CPC 34% (-2.75%)
Lib 32% (+1.5%)
NDP 15.5% (-1.75%)
BQ 8.75% (nc)
GP 9.25% (+2.75%)


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

This Year in Saskatchewan

I don't post a lot on Saskatchewan politics and, when I do, it seems the posts often fall flat (ho ho ha ha!). But seriously folks, the Sask Liberals held their leadership convention this weekend, and Ryan Bater drew the short straw.

So who is Ryan Bater?

Well, the Sask Libs have released a very impressive video introducing Bater to voters. Doing this sort of thing is essential when you're an unknown leading a third place party. But it's still something every leader should put out after winning a leadership race, be they a provincial or federal leader, in power or on the political fringes. It's a good way to introduce a leader to voters and, at the very least, you'll be able to re-use the footage from it for years.

In addition to officially naming Bater as their leader, the grits voted to formally split the provincial and federal Liberal parties. The party is also promising to privatize liquor stores - although I'm generally not a huge proponent of privatization, at least you can buy beer after 5 on a Sunday in there are definitely benefits to going that route.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

The Envelope Please

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the second somewhat annual Political Oscars – a chance to honour the best and worst in politics.

With these awards there are no commercials, no dresses that cost more than you make in a year, no over-rehearsed demonstrations of spontaneous joy, no pre-game show hosted by Ben Mulroney, and no love-in of actors and actresses heaping mounds praise upon each others. It’s not that I wouldn’t have liked to do these things, they just fell victim to Harper's culture cuts.

Instead, these awards will be present in a short post which should likely take you less than four hours to read.

Best Picture: I asked readers to vote on the five nominees back in December. And, as is always the case at the Oscars, cleavage won the day.

Actor in a Leading Role: Pierre Polievre, for his performance in The Curious Case of Pierre Polievre. Against all odds, this Tory MP seems to grow less and less mature as he ages.

Actress in a Leading Role: Julie Couillard, for her performance in Sex and the City. When Mr. Big leaves his NATO briefing book at her apartment, all hell breaks lose!

Directing: Stephen Harper, for the movie “Canada”. Interestingly, “Canada” bears a striking similarity to the movie “Australia” – in some cases, entire scenes appear copied word for word.

Foreign Language Film: The Incredible Hulk. Mild mannered and geeky Stephane Dion undergoes a transformation, threatening to bring down the Tory government. You wouldn’t want to see Stéphane when he’s angry! Tragically, like most Hulk movies, this one bombed.

Film Editing: Hillary Clinton, for adding sniper fire in post-production on Hillary Visits Bosnia.

Sound Mixing: The Debt-Files - I Want to Believe. Far right Conservatives must cope with Stephen Harper’s budget, wanting to believe he’s still one of them.

Sound Non-Editing: Tom Zytaruk, for Zytaruk/Harper

Visual Effects: The Visitor. An entire country goes absolutely insane for a week, fawning over a dark and handsome visitor who takes a day trip there.

Documentary Short: Definitely, Maybe. Jim Flaherty’s ever-evolving answer on whether or not we’re going into deficit.

Documentary Feature: Doubt. Patrick Muttart and others, contemplate Stephen Harper’s re-election chances.

Actors and Actresses in a Very Very Very Supporting Role: To the Stephen Harper Cabinet for their performances in Yes Man.


Makeup: As always, Stephen Harper’s stylist comes out on top.

Costume Design: To the Tory campaign team, for tracking down a Blue Sweater Vest.

Short Film (Animated): Lavatory-Lovestory. A documentary on the life and times of Larry Craig. [And, yes, this was the actual title of an Oscar nominated film]

Animated Feature Film: RALPH-E. Set in the near future, a robotic being is the last Liberal left on the Prairies…can he find a companion? [spoiler alert: no]

Writing (Adapted Screenplay). Northern Thunder. A producer plans to re-enact the battle of the Plains of Abraham. When a bunch of high-paid prima donna politicians are unexpectedly thrown into the battle, hijinx ensue.

Writing (Original Screenplay): The Changeling. When the small government Reformer Stephen Harper becomes a Keynesian deficit spender overnight, many begin to wonder if this is actually their Prime Minister, or if he has been replaced.

See Also – 2007 Political Oscars

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Answer is Blowing in the Wind

This is something I'm very pleased to see:

TORONTO — Ontario's Liberal government hopes its Green Energy Act to be introduced Monday will create 50,000 new jobs and transform the province's struggling economy, but environmentalists warn the plan relies too heavily on nuclear power.

The bill will make it easier to bring renewable energy projects to life and create a culture of conservation, said Energy Minister George Smitherman.

“These two thrusts combined will support a new green economy for this province and will create sustainable green employment for Ontarians,” said Mr. Smitherman.

“The (bill) will turbo-charge the creation of renewable energy in this province and set the standard for green energy policy across this continent.”

The knock on Dalton has always been that he's been a cautious and risk-averse Premier. Yes, he's given Ontarians five years of good government, but banning light bulbs isn't exactly a legacy project.

So it's encouraging to see his government putting something in the window which, at first glance, appears bold. Doing it at a time when the environment is no longer the trendy issue du jour also takes a bit of guts - especially after watching Gordon Campbell and Stephane Dion go down in flames over the environment.

However, McGuinty and Smitherman do seem to have learned their lesson here - the emphasis looks to be squarely on job creation and the economy, as it should be. And if you're going to spend money on infrastructure to stimulate the economy, a push on green energy isn't a bad way to go, since it's something we'll benefit from in the long run.

With the exception of a few NIMBY groups, it's hard to be against green I suspect NDP and Tory criticism of this will be minor and largely on the process.

So this one could be a winner. And with the days of winning by default winding down, and the economy in taters, McGuinty is going to have to work to earn his re-election. This should help.

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Hockey Night in Edmonton Strathcona

Surely Canada's self-proclaimed hockey historian PM can't refuse, can he?

OTTAWA — National Hockey Day?

That's what the third Friday in February would become in Canada if a member of Parliament from Alberta has her way.

Linda Duncan has already produced one political miracle — winning the riding of Edmonton-Strathcona for the NDP in the federal election last October — and now she's taking aim at another one.

On Monday, Duncan will table a private member's bill in the House of Commons to have the third Friday officially declared National Hockey Day. She plans to announce her intentions today at Vimy Ridge Academy, an Edmonton school with a hockey team that has both boy and girl players.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

This Week in Alberta - Special Deficit Edition

Ed Stelmach(February 23, 2008): “A Progressive Conservative government will never put Alberta back into a deficit position”

Ed Stelmach (today): "Err...on second thought..."

Alberta has joined the deficit club!

Alberta's Finance Minister Iris Evans has let it be known that the province will post a billion dollar deficit for the 2008-09 financial year.

As a concerned (former) citizen, I sent the following note off to Alberta's Solicitor General Fred Lindsay earlier today - I encourage everyone else to follow suit.

Dear Mr. Lindsay,

Hello. I read today that your colleague, Iris Evans, has said Alberta will post a billion dollar deficit this year. As you are no doubt aware, this is a clear violation of Alberta's no-deficit law - a sober law created by Ralph Klein, and repeatedly pointed to as a sign of your government's fiscal responsibility as recently as the last election.

I am therefore asking you to answer the following questions for me:

1. When will you be issuing an arrest warrant for Miss Evans?

2. Will Iris stand trial for this?

3. If she does stand trial, who will pay for her legal fees? It does seem to be the Alberta precedence for the government to always cover a treasurer's legal fees, but I worry this could push the province even further into deficit.

4. What is the maximum sentence for this crime?

5. Could Iris continue to perform her duties as Finance Minister from jail, or would a replacement be named? Given her performance in the portfolio to date and the depth of Ed Stelmach's legislative agenda, I suspect Iris could still carry on without anyone noticing the difference - although she might not win "best dressed MLA" next year.

Finally, being a Stony Plain MLA, I know you must be a respected member of the Cabinet who the premier listens to.
So I would like to plead with you to reconsider the decision to scrap your government’s consultation program to change Alberta’s license plate slogan.

Last election, Ed Stelmach promised voters a bold program of “change that works for Albertans”. Voters elected your government and were rewarded with an aggressive legislative agenda that included changing Alberta’s license plate slogan…and maybe some other stuff I missed.

Even though there is no “changing the license plate law” in Alberta, I urge you to follow through on this bold commitment. If not for the voters who elected you on a platform of change, then for poor Iris Evans who could find herself making license plates very soon, and who would much rather make them with the new slogan.


Dan Arnold

hat tip - tGPOitHotW

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Yesterday's News Now

The year was 2006. Stephen Harper was sworn in as Prime Minister. Ed Stelmach and Stephane Dion pulled off upsets in high profile leadership races. Nelly Furtado was singing Promiscuous Girl. Canada's men's hockey team lost to Switzerland at the Olympics. And Canwest was reporting on Iggy's mini-Iggy.

Is any of this news? Well, given that final story made it onto Bourque today, I can only assume it is.

A very big hat tip to tGPOitHotW for this one

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

We could just replace it with a "night of the long knives" re-enactment

After a fierce battle, they've called off the battle. For those just tuning in now:

QUEBEC — A slugfest of insults between federalists and separatists that threatened to turn to violence led to cancellation of the re-enactment of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham marking the 250th anniversary of the British conquest of New France.

For weeks a war of words erupted in newspapers, on the web and on open line radio shows where extremists on both sides threatened to use violence to either stop next summer's re-enactment from taking place or protect it against disruptions.

The argument being espoused by the separatists is, one gathers, that recreating this battle is an insult and humiliation to the Quebecois nation. I will give creativity marks to those advancing the theory that the "French army's defeat was being staged for no other reason than to promote Canadian national unity". Yes, because I can't think of anything else that would bring Canadians closer together!

Although Duceppe and Marois have charged ahead on this one, most politicians have raised the white flag. And you can't blame them for that since it's likely not smart politics to get involved in a real mess like this. Not to single him out, but I'll point to Ignatieff's comments, just because they show how comically afraid everyone in Ottawa is to get involved:

"What I don't like, frankly, is that sovereigntists are trying to dominate a free debate. As someone who likes Canada and knows a thing or two about its history, I want to have my say," Ignatieff told reporters at a separate event in Quebec City.

He said he isn't for or against a re-enactment of the battle, but stressed any commemoration of this "defeat and tragedy" would need to be dignified, sober and carried out in a respectful manner.

And since I don't have a huge francophone readership to alienate, I want to have my say too.

I think it's absolutely ridiculous to be up in arms over this. This is part of a series of international re-enactments to commemorate the 7 Years War - there's no ulterior motive here. Hell, there had been a battle of Ste-Foi re-enactment - where the French beat the British - planned the day after. These things happen all the time and no one ever complains - you can click here and scroll through five pages of upcoming civil war re-enactments, many of them being staged in southern states. These things happen all the time in Canada too - this isn't the first time they've re-enacted the Plains of Abraham battle and no one ever voiced opposition to it before.

The one positive in all of this is that it shows how the sovereignty movement is left with no real issue to fight over. Their language has been protected and their culture is thriving within Canada. There is no crisis, no grand demand, no burning issue that can capture the hearts of nationalists. In short, the Canadian experiment is actually looking pretty good right about now.

So what do they do? They complain about Shane Doan's captaincy on Team Canada. Or about Paul McCartney's concert on the Plains of Abraham. Or about some people playing dress up and shooting blanks off for an afternoon. They have no issue in 2009 so they need to re-live battles of two hundred and fifty years ago. Yup, stuff that happened a decade before Napoleon was even born. Way to be relevant.

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Welcome to the 21st Century

Some very encouraging news from this week’s Hill Times:

The federal Liberals are looking to Canada's ethno-cultural communities, as well as at state-of-the-art voter targeting software to sell more memberships and revamp their formerly moribund fundraising efforts.

New Liberal Party National Director Rocco Rossi, a longtime confidante of new Leader Michael Ignatieff (Etobicoke-Lakeshore, Ont.) and the former head of the Heart and Stroke Foundation, said the party is hoping to buy software similar to that used by U.S. President Barack Obama's presidential election campaign.

My advice would be to not skimp on costs. Having briefly played around with some Obama database technology last fall, I saw first hand what a huge benefit it was for targeting and contacting voters and volunteers. I can only image how beneficial it would be when it comes to fundraising efforts.

The other thing to keep in mind, is that having the greatest database in the world in Canada among Canadian opposition parties doesn’t mean a lick unless you’re constantly using it and updating it with new information. Obviously, there are confidentiality issues to consider, but it needs to be something ridings, campaigns, and the national party can all take maximum advantage of.

But, without a doubt, this is very encouraging news.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Q & A

For those who missed it, Maclean's has a great one-on-one Q & A with Michael Ignatieff up on their site - Ken Whyte really hit him with some tough questions and, by and large, Iggy seemed to defend himself well.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Because nothing says “I love you” like a scarf with some other dude’s name on it

Dear Dan,

While we look forward to spring, Valentine's Day is almost here to help us fend off winter's chill. If you are still looking for the right gift for your Valentine, I have a cozy red suggestion:

Make a donation of $100 or more by midnight on Saturday, February 14th, and you will receive a limited-edition red fleece scarf, embroidered with the name of my favourite Liberal Valentine [Ed note: Justin Trudeau?], to help keep you or a loved one warm until spring arrives.

Winter may be with us a while yet. Let's weather it together.

Warm regards and hope to see you in Vancouver,

Zsuzsanna Zsohar

Now, don’t get me wrong – I’ve been saying for a while there should be an online Liberal store and that the party should use swag as much as possible to encourage fundraising.

However, as part of this blog’s continuing efforts to help my readers find love, I would caution against opting to give that special someone a Michael Ignatieff scarf as their only Valentine’s Day gift.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Premier Primer

With the economic bad news pilling on, Canadians have become more and more concerned about losing their jobs. And for no industry is that fear more real than in…politics.

I took a quick look at the historical trends before Christmas. Now, let’s gaze ahead to see just how worried the men and women who lead Canadian governments should be. As an added bonus, I’ve included the magic 8 ball answers to the all-important “will they be re-elected” question.

Danny Williams (Newfoundland)

Date with destiny: 2011
What he has going for him: Crushed the opposition, winning 43 of 47 seats last election
Why he should be worried: His anti-Ottawa schtick might grow tiresome
The 8 ball says: You can count on it

Robert Ghiz (PEI)

Date with destiny: 2011
What he has going for him: He’s young and just started his first term
Why he should be worried: Mike Duffy could become de-facto opposition leader
The 8 ball says: Focus and ask again. Like I have any clue about PEI politics…

Rodney MacDonald (Nova Scotia)

Date with destiny: Soon
What he has going for him: Wicked fiddle skills. And Nova Scotians have never elected an NDP government.
Why he should be worried: Deficit + government that has already won 3 elections.
The 8 ball says: Don’t bet on it

Shawn Graham (New Brunswick)

Date with destiny: Fall 2010
What he has going for him: Has been relatively bold as Premier
Why he should be worried: Has been relatively bold as Premier
The 8 ball says: Can’t say now

Jean Charest (Quebec)

Date with destiny: Fall 2012
What he has going for him: Time. Thanks to his majority gambit in the fall, the economy should be on the upswing by the time the next election rolls around.
Why he should be worried: Getting a third term was a rarity for a Quebec premier. Will he press his luck and try for a fourth?
The 8 ball says: Consult me Later. It’s debatable if he’ll even stay around until the next election.

Dalton McGuinty (Ontario)

Date with destiny: October 2011
What he has going for him: John Tory.
Why he should be worried: Ontario has been the hardest hit by the economic downturn.
The 8 ball says: Answer unclear ask later. A lot can happen in two and a half years.

Gary Doer (Manitoba)

Date with destiny: Spring 2011
What he has going for him: Canada's longest serving Premier
Why he should be worried: Canada's longest serving Premier
The 8 ball says: Cannot foretell now. There's a chance he may hang up his skates before the next election.

Brad Wall (Saskatchewan)

Date with destiny: Fall 2011
What he has going for him: It’s his first term in power, and he leads the one province whose economy actually appears to be on the upswing.
Why he should be worried: NDP roots run deep in Saskatchewan.
The 8 ball says: All signs point to yes

Ed Stelmach (Alberta)

Date with destiny: Early 2012
What he has going for him: A soon-to-be forty consecutive years in power.
Why he should be worried: Umm…because he’s not a very…err…good…uhh…politician.
The 8 ball says: No doubt about it.

Gordon Campbell (BC)

Date with destiny: May 12th
What he has going for him: Two scandal-free terms in power – a rarity in BC politics.
Why he should be worried: The carbon tax and BC’s first deficit in years.
The 8 ball says: Chances aren’t good

Stephen Harper (Canada)

Date with destiny: The hell if I know. It’s not like we have fixed election dates.
What he has going for him: A great political machine.
Why he should be worried: Tough times and a new Liberal leader
The 8 ball says: Outlook unclear

Pierre Poilievre - Audio Expert

From QP today:

Mr. Pierre Poilievre (Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, CPC): Mr. Speaker, it is clear, in fact, that the tape was tampered. The matter is now settled and both parties are pleased with that settlement.

From Stephen Harper's audio expert:

A tape recording at the centre of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's $3.5-million defamation suit against the Liberal party was not altered as the prime minister has claimed, a court-ordered analysis of the tape by Harper's own audio expert has found.

The key portion of the recorded interview of Harper by a B.C. journalist contains no splices, edits or alterations, a U.S. forensic audio expert has determined.

It's not that I don't believe Pierre Polievre, but I'd be a lot more inclined to accept team Harper's talking points if the Tory MP making these claims was an expert in the field of tape-doctoring like, say, Gurmant Grewal.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Green Wave Sweeps Across Quebec

The latest Strategic Counsel/CTV/Globe poll raises some interesting questions - the most prominent being "why was this poll released?". Here are the not-at-all-surprising Quebec splits:

Greens 26%
Liberals 24%
Bloc 22%
CPC 17%
NDP 12%

Now, if we take these numbers at face value (ha ha...well, at least play along), there is only one conclusion to be reached: Quebecers, after flirting with Harper, Layton, and Ignatieff, have now fallen head over heels for Elizabeth May.

Therefore, in the interests of helping the Liberal Party out in Quebec, I have taken the liberty of drafting some attack lines, which could easily be turned into LPC commercials. If we act now, we may be able to stave off this Green menace!

Le Parti Vert - sérieusement?

Elizabeth May: Closet Bruins fan

A vote for the Greens is a vote for the tax-on-everything

Elizabeth May: Fraude

I hate anyone who's ever owned a pony. Don't you?

Elizabeth May: Can you really trust someone who rides a tricycle?

Elizabeth May: Can you really trust someone who liked Stephane Dion as much as she did?

Because caring about the environment is, like, so 2007

Hat Tip - FaW

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Asinine Folly of Balanced Budget Laws

VICTORIA — The B.C. Liberals returned to the legislature Monday to rewrite their championed balanced-budget law to clear the path for a deficit budget next week.

Premier Gordon Campbell has been forced to admit the province is bleeding red ink with the rest of the world.

The Liberals will use the next week to amend the legislation outlawing forecasts of budget deficits in British Columbia, which they passed in 2001 after taking the provincial reins from the New Democrats.

Can someone explain to me the purpose of having a balanced budget law if, when you want to go into deficit, you just repeal the law? I assume it's sort of the same principle as a fixed election date law you can break whenever you want an election, or a diet that lets you eat junk food whenever you're hungry - neither of which are overly useful.

But, while BC is prepared to overhaul their law, there is one beacon of light in all of this:

Many provinces have some form of balanced-budget law, and they all come with some form of escape clause. Only Alberta's Balanced Budget and Debt Reduction Law, appears iron clad against deficits, said Bader.

Or not.

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Monday, February 09, 2009

Harper On Probation

Canada Explained


Friday, February 06, 2009

Death by 1,000 paper cuts

Tories on the defensive after jobless rate surges

Conservative ridings get more federal cash: Liberals

Departure of Tory strategist leaves 'massive hole'

AG says that feds hand out big bucks with no control

Auditor-General slams crop inspections

Federal prisons need better budgeting: AG

Independent MP accuses Tories of smear campaign

Lack of action on Khadr riles Muslim community

Accuracy of weather warnings questioned

Top medical journal blasts budget's vision for science


Tories: "Err...on second thought..."

Conservative party drops Cadman defamation suit against Liberals

And for those who forget, here's what it was all about:

In a March 3 letter sent to Dion, Deputy Leader Michael Ignatieff and Liberal House leader Ralph Goodale, lawyers for Harper describe two articles on the Liberal website as "devastatingly defamatory."

The articles relate to allegations that Conservative operatives offered Cadman, an Independent MP, a bribe of a million-dollar life insurance policy to vote against the Liberals in May 2005 and bring down the government. Cadman was battling cancer at the time, and died in July 2005.

"These malicious and reckless defamatory statements impugn the reputation of Prime Minister Stephen Harper," the letter states.


Harper accused the Liberals of engaging in “more and more extreme allegations” and going to the point last week of publishing allegations of criminal misconduct on his part.

"This will become the biggest error in judgment of his career," [Ed Note: Ha!] Harper said, adding the government doesn't direct the activities of police.

So, I guess the question is, did the Tories drop the lawsuit because:

A) They are committed to the new spirit of co-operation!
B) They realized they had no case


Thursday, February 05, 2009

Muttart Out

Top Tory election architect Patrick Muttart – who most people seem to think is a pretty bright guy – is off to the US.

So how big of a deal is this?

Well, it's probably more important than people who don’t follow politics think it is, but less important than people who do follow politics think it is.


Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Hello Newman

Far be it for me to disagree with a respected historian like Peter C. Newman but…I’m going to disagree with Peter C. Newman.

In Saturday’s Globe and Mail, Newman explains his theory of how Liberals choose their leaders:

If history doesn't exactly repeat itself, it sets significant patterns, such as the astonishing fact that the carpetbagging Mr. Ignatieff, after an absence from Canada for 30 years, finds himself after the briefest of apprenticeships in contention for the country's top political post.

Curiously, this has been the rule, not the exception. All of the Liberal leaders who became prime minister during the six decades between the 1920s and 1980s were also carpetbaggers - in the sense that they wrested the leadership from the party's veteran worthies, who were shoved aside for the newcomers.

Newman goes on to explain how Liberal leaders – from King to Martin, have fit into this outsider mould. And, at first glance, he does have a certain point. Like Ignatieff, St. Laurent, Pearson, and Trudeau were all recruited into politics and none of them were what you would call "typical" politicians. And in the case of Trudeau, like King, Newman's characterization of them wrestling the crown away from the “party’s veteran worthies” is certainly apt.

However, St. Laurent and Pearson were about as establishment as you can get. St. Laurent had 7 years in Cabinet before winning the party’s leadership in 1948, while Pearson had a decade as a Cabinet Minister before being anointed a decade later. These were not newcomers on the scene – rather, they’d been groomed as leaders-in-waiting for years.

Where Newman’s theory really hits pot holes though, is in recent times. Although he admits that Dion was a break from the pattern, he takes great pains to portray Turner, Chretien, and Martin as outsiders due to their brief breaks outside of the party (or, in Martin’s case, outside of Cabinet) before taking on the leadership. Yet all three were the embodiment of “veteran worthies” – lifelong Liberals, forever viewed as the party dauphin, who had 50 years in Ottawa between them prior to winning their respective leadership races. A few years at a Toronto law firm or on the party backbenches doesn’t change that in the least.

I also question how distinctly "Liberal" this leadership philosophy is. Stephen Harper and Newman's buddy Brian Mulroney were political outsiders when they inherited the Tory crown, while Kim Campbell and Joe Clark had only been MPs for four years when they took over. Sifting through the dust-bin of Tory leaders, you’ll also find that party’s habit of selecting provincial politicians over established Ottawa veterans.

But let’s put all that aside, and let Newman explain why this strategy has been successful:

All this hocus-pocus has been political sorcery of the highest order because instead of having to defend their predecessors' records, each freshly minted leader could innocently protest, "Who, me? I wasn't even there ..."

Again, portraying Louis St. Laurent as an agent of change after the King years seems like a bit of a stretch. And, hell, when you’re in power for 22 consecutive years and are considered the natural governing party, defending your predecessor’s record isn’t that hard to do. Yes, Paul Martin did try the “I wasn’t even there” line a few times, but that didn’t turn out so hot for him, now did it?

So, what’s the moral of all this? Ignatieff may mark a bit of a return to the party’s habit of recruiting from outside of its own ranks, but there’s no “secret Liberal recipe” to finding a good leader.

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Rossi's Challenge

The 2008 fundraising numbers are out:

CPC: 21,190,928.22 (up 25%)
Lib: 5,900,511.89 (up 30%)
NDP: 5,466,434.84 (up 37%)
Green: 1,631,293.79 (up 66%)
Bloc: 713,415.22 (up 66%)

On the bright side, Liberal numbers were up 23% in Q4 while most other parties only matched their Q3 numbers, but this may have been due to the leadership "race". Either way, the Tories' 6.3 million to 2.3 million Q4 edge shows that Rocco Rossi and friends have a lot of challenges ahead of them.

But just how bad is it? Well, if you add in the public finance numbers, these are the 2008 totals:

CPC: 31.6 million (67% from donations)
Lib: 14.6 million (40% from donations)
NDP: 10.5 million (52% from donations)
Bloc: 3.7 million (19% from donations)
Green: 2.9 million (56% from donations)

So, no matter how you slice it, the Conservatives had a 17 million dollar advantage in 2008, and the Liberals are still hopelessly addicted to public party financing - which, for them, will be dropping by 1.6 million in 2009, due to low vote numbers last election. If donations stay the same in 2009, here's what the different parties can expect to rake in:

CPC: 31.3 million (68% from donations)
Lib: 13.0 million (45% from donations)
NDP: 10.4 million (53% from donations)
Green: 3.5 million (47% from donations)
Bloc: 3.4 million (21% from donations)

It may not be a sexy topic but, when you look at these numbers, it's clear that increasing party fundraising numbers should be priority number 1 for the LPC right now.

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Monday, February 02, 2009

Monday News Items

1. Dr. Tom is the latest to jump on the "death of Conservatism"/"Right wing uprising" train, in this Globe op-ed. While there might be a fundraising backlash, I wouldn't expect any of this to hurt Harper at the polls. According to this poll (page 35), only 1% of Conservative voters are less likely to vote Tory because of the budget.

And having a few right wingers go on rants that Harper "isn't conservative enough" may not be a bad thing for the guy...

2. Speaking of fundraising, the latest numbers are out. While there is some mild encouragement in Q4 for the Liberals, it's abundantly obvious why Harper would love to do away with the public funding of political parties.

3. There's a lot of buzz over this "fawning" profile of Michael Ignatieff in the New York Times.

4. Tom Clark has won the CTV On the Hill "host race". Clark is promising that on Mike Duffy Live On The Hill Power Play "anyone who tries to use spin is going to be in for a rather unpleasant surprise", which is a bold promise to make for a show made up mostly of spin doctor panel segments.

5. Although I didn't get a chance to see the OYL hijinx first hand, I'd just like to offer a hearty congratulations to David Valentin (and Alex Crombie) who ran, and won, as independents - always a challenging thing to accomplish in youth politics.

6. The latest on the Peter MacKay for NATO secretary general rumours.

7. Four Newfoundland Liberals have broken ranks and will vote against Harper's budget. It would be hard for Ignatieff to punish his MPs for voting against a budget he has been less than enamoured with himself - especially if he hopes to hang on to the 6 Newfoundland seats the party holds. I'd say he spin it in public as symbolic support for Newfoundland and a sign he won't be dictactorial...then rap over a few knuckles in private.