Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Homeless Problem

There's a bit of buzz today about the fractures forming in the Conservative Party, with the splinter "homeless Conservatives" group threatening to rip the party apart.

Scanning their website (brightly decorated with stars and stripes), one quickly notices that this movement is a force to reckoned with. Already, they have recruited dozens of supporters. Admittedly, not all of these supporters are Canadian (the movement focuses on Canada, the US, and the UK). But it does contain such Tory power players as Howard, Holy GoRightly, and Wonder Woman.

The website also has an endorsements section, where they profile "politicians worth promoting". As a sign of just how despondent they are with the Conservative movement, the only Canadian politician they feel is worth promoting is Cheryl Gallant. Ouch.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Full Monte

Yes, he's a Conservative. More distressingly, he's a Bruins fan. But I always kind of liked Monte Solberg.

He had a rather enjoyable blog back before it was "cool" for politicians to facebook and tweet. And he never seemed to take himself too seriously on it.

So I was pleased to find out he has returned to blogging. Actually, his come-back was last November but I guess I didn't get the memo. So if you also missed Monte's return, you can follow his new blog here.


Change you can count on...to not offend anyone...does just that

The LPC National Exec votes down the Renewal Committee's proposals 9-8. However, OMOV does pass, so it will be voted on at the convention.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Vote Out Anders'...Board

Enlightened Savage gives the run-down of yesterday's Calgary West AGM here. My various "sources" who were there say the place was packed (well over 400 in attendance), and the shenanigans were kept to a minimum with everyone fairly well behaved.

In the end, the slate backed by Anders' challenger, Donna Kennedy-Glans, won the day, taking 29 of the 30 board spots (with 2 of them also being on the Anders slate).

But before everyone gets too giddy over the potential demise of Anders, keep this in mind: under new rules, it takes a 2/3 vote of party members to force a nomination meetings. So, even if the anti-Anders (or, "closet Liberal", if you prefer) slate won the day, this may turn out to be a pyrrhic victory.


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Change You Can Count On....To Not Offend Anyone

The Liberal Party's Renewal Committee is presenting their report to the National Executive today, and I managed to get my hands on a copy. Since I know few will read this entire post, I'll give you my synopsis up front.

The committee shied away from many of the more radical suggestions floating around - this ensures their recommendations will pass, but it also makes you wonder just how much they will actually change things. Still, the recommendations are generally sensible and would be a step in the right direction. After reading the document, I'd certainly vote for them, under the assumption that a lot of the real change with respect to fundraising and membership engagement will come out of the change commission (and, judging from the en famille debate, it's clear that Carolyn Bennett is reading the suggestions being proposed, so I'm cautiously optimistic about what they'll say).

Among the recommendations:

1. Moving to a weighted one member one vote
2. Keeping the status quo with respect to the commissions
3. Keeping the PTAs in place, but centralizing administrative and financial responsibilities
4. Adopting a 308 riding strategy

Now, for a bit more detail...


The report is surprisingly frank and certainly shows that the committee members understand the problems facing the party:

In the past twenty-four months, the Conservatives have raised $28 million more than the Liberal Party, or over one million dollars more in gross revenues per month. This magnitude of gap affects the operations of the Party at every level. Among the serious competitive disadvantages we face are the following:

· needed investments in database technologies;
· fundraising list development;
· political field organization;
· pre-writ advertising;
· grassroots policy development;
· outreach to cultural communities, community groups, and issue-based organizations;
· volunteer outreach; and
· training.

There's also a recognition that the party has been far too slow at implementing a national membership and a central database. To remedy this "technology gap", they suggest the following:

1. Streamline the membership process and standardize the way revenue is shared.
2. Priority investment in modern database technology.
3. The Council of Presidents will become the central forum for "Liberal University" and volunteer training.
4. Harmonization of party constitutions (they may want to avoid that word in Ontario...).
5. A reduction in the number of delegates from each riding who can attend conventions from 20 to 14.

All good suggestions (especially the database!), although I'm not sure I see the need to cut back the delegates per riding if the party does go to one-member-one-vote.

The PTAs...Soon to be PTSs

There's some acknowledgement that the PTAs haven't been doing their job but "it is for historical, cultural and practical reasons that we do not believe that provincial and territorial structures should be abandoned". However, the central party will take over many administrative and financial matters, while still giving some spending power to the PTAs themselves. Only they won't be PTAs anymore - the party would no longer be a federation, and the "associations" would become "sections".

I think this is a positive step - my experience with the Liberal Party of Canada in Alberta is that the board was often too fixated on administrative matters to focus on issues like fundraising or membership engagement. You need to give the PTAs the resources to function properly and grow the party, but there are many things that can simply be done better centrally.

Liberal 308

As long time readers know, I'm a big fan of a 308 riding strategy, and it's encouraging to see the party taking real steps to address this. The Renewal Committee recognizes the need to have 308 ridings that at least meet the bare minimum requirements to function properly and they've recommended hiring field workers to achieve this. Fantastic! Hands down, this is the best recommendation to come out of this report!

Commissions (recapped in 35 words)

The youth have started raising money so they're not completely useless anymore. But most of the other commissions are. We'd like to disband them, but it would never pass, so we'll keep the status quo.

Policy and Member Engagement (recapped in 9 words)

Important...but we'll let the Change Commission handle it...

One Member, One Vote

Fortunately, a cost-effective and truly democratic method is readily available. The principle of democratic representation can be extended to its ultimate limit by providing a direct vote to every member of the party using currently available technology.

True...although it is somewhat amusing that many of the members of the Renewal Committee were arguing that this technology wasn't available back when Rae suggested doing something similar to this to pick the next leader...

But enough about that. The recommendation is to go to a weighted OMOV, similar to the Tories, where every riding would get the same number of points. By my reading of the document, it would be a "clean" vote, so no point quotas for women, youth or red haired seniors. Personally, I think there are better ways and cooler acronyms to use when picking a leader than WOMOV, but it would be a fairer (albeit less exciting) system than we currently use. And given we don't always use our current system, I think I can live with this.

Other Ideas (Taken from the US)

The committee is intrigued by the idea of a "Liberals abroad" which would let Liberals living outside of Canada become involved with the party (in ways besides just becoming the leader...). They also like the idea of "registered Liberals", similar to "registered Democrats" in the states, but these two suggestions are just floated as long term ideas to consider.

In Conclusion

I put my conclusions at the top, so I don't have much to add here. I was ready to trash this report if it came back deserving to be trashed. And while it's not the exact report I would have written, it makes some good recommendations that, most importantly, can probably gather the support required to pass.

I hope they move ahead with these changes rather than watering them down, because a lot of these structural changes are desperately needed and long overdue.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

I’d like to tax the world in perfect harmony…

Jim Flaherty may have just become Dalton McGuinty’s new best friend. More on that in second.

McGuinty brought forward his first recession budget today, joining virtually every other jurisdiction in the world by sending the province spiraling into deficit (including Newfoundland!). The bulk of the spending is on infrastructure - 32.5 billion over two years. If you're curious where everything else is going (and I know you're not), you can read the full budget here.

But let’s be honest – there's only one thing in this budget people will be talking about. And the word of the day is “harmonization”, after McGuinty’s pledge to harmonize the GST and PST in Ontario:

Ontario will also undertake major tax reforms, including a move to implement a harmonized sales tax that will combine the 8 per cent provincial sales tax with the 5 per cent federal goods and services tax. The move will save Ontario businesses $500-million in paperwork costs, Mr. Duncan said.

But it will also raise the price of many goods and services, including essentials such as gasoline, home heating oil, newspapers and coffee, said New Democratic Party Leader Andrea Horwath.

Harmonizing the taxes will add to “the burden of average families who need help the most and give that money to those that need help the least,” she said.

To cushion the blow of the tax changes, the federal government is providing the province with $4.3-billion in transitional funding over three years. Ontario will use the money to cut cheques totalling $1,000 to every family in the province that earns less than $160,000. Individuals who earn less than $80,000 will get $300.

This is certainly a risk. The broken promise on health care premiums was a giant target that John Tory failed to hit last election campaign – McGuinty has now drawn a giant target for the next Tory leader shoot at in 2011.

You can be sure that the “tax on everything” attack that buried Stephane Dion will be heard loud and clear across Ontario over the next two and a half years. But before we all pile on McGuinty for doing something which may turn out to be hugely unpopular, it is important to keep in mind the big difference between this and the Green Shift – primarily, that McGuinty is in power. A great policy that is politically toxic is useless to an opposition party because it will never see the light of day. A great policy that is politically toxic at least serves the greater good if it’s brought in by a government in power. After all, being in power is about bringing forward positive change – not just running for re-election.

So this raises two distinct questions:

1. Is this a great policy?
2. Is it politically toxic?

On the first question, most would tend to agree this is the right thing to do from an economic perspective (yeah, yeah, it's the National Post, but still...). And with counterbalancing measures, exemptions, and rebates in place, it likely won’t be too punitive on Ontario’s poor. It’s not the thing legacies are built on, but it’s solid policy.

As for its' toxicity? Well, anytime you mess around with tax shifting, there are risks. But, as the teaser said, McGuinty’s secret weapon in all of this may be his old foe, Jim Flaherty. McGuinty is doing exactly what Flaherty has asked for and, one presumes, the Finance Minister will be quite supportive of this. That certainly puts Flaherty's wife - and PC leadership candidate - Christine Elliott in a bind but, either way, it should provide McGuinty with some cover on this one. He'll still be vulnerable on the left, but with the federal Tories and most business groups onside, his rank flank should hold up.

Don't get me wrong - McGuinty will take a hit on this one. But, I don't think it will be a fatal one.

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Closet Liberals

This may be a hoax, but here's a transcript of a letter allegedly being sent out from Rob Anders and Stephen Harper, urging CPC members to vote for the Anders-friendly slate at this week's AGM. Among the highlights:

Are you aware that there is battle taking place in Calgary West this Saturday? It’s between the true blue conservatives and “closet liberals”. It’s up to you and me to stop them from taking over this conservative riding. We cannot let the riding fall into liberal hands. There is a danger that if you don’t show up, this could happen at the AGM on Saturday.


*Be aware* - this group of “*closet liberals masquerading as conservatives*” have been plotting a take-over of the Calgary West Board of Directors.


*If you want to keep Calgary West a strong blue conservative riding, attend, and vote for the strong blue conservative slate.*

Thank you for supporting the Conservative Party of Canada,

Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Your MP, Rob Anders

Sounds like it will be a fun AGM - so, you know, if you happen to be there and want to send me a recap anonymously...

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Opportunity Knocks

The only knock I've had against Dalton McGuinty in the past is that he's been very risk-averse and has never really seemed to take full advantage of his time in power to bring about real change. He's run the province well, but if Dalton were a font...well, I have no clue what font he'd be, but he wouldn't be bold.

Tomorrow's budget will probably be the best opportunity he ever gets to put his stamp on the province and to leave a legacy. The word of the year is "stimulus", which means governments have been given a green light to spend to their hearts content, without worrying about balanced deficits or balanced budgets. So the money is there to do whatever he wants.

On top of that, with the PCs in leadership mode, there's no opposition leader to take him to task or to critique him. So there's likely to be little political fall-out.

He has the resources and political cover to be bold. I'll be very curious to see what he does with this opportunity.

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"I've always wondered how government works — now maybe I'll find out."

Congratulations to Bill Blaikie for a much deserved win in his Manitoba by election!

Headline of the Week

Winner: US sperm bank offers stimulus deals

Runner Up: Kill those geese, feed them to poor: Tory senator

hat tip - tGPOitHotW

Monday, March 23, 2009

The yet to be named Tory race to replace Tory

The Ontario PCs will select a new leader on June 27th.

There's more sniffing going on in this Tory leadership race than at an Andre Boisclair house party, with everyone and their wife sniffing around to gauge the lay of the land. I'll admit that my understanding of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party is minimal - I know Mike Harris used to be Premier, that Ernie Eves delivered his budget in an auto plant a few years ago, and that John Tory doesn't have a seat...that's about it. So don't expect a lot of insightful coverage of the race from this blog. With that in mind, here's my un-insightful look at the field so far.

Diane Finley: For those of you unfamiliar with her (I'm looking at you, everyone), she's married to Harper strategist Doug Finlay, and wears sunglasses [UPDATE: used to!] in the House of Commons. Finley has been relatively untouched by scandal and charges of incompetence, making her one of Stephen Harper's better ministers.

Peter Van Loan: Based on my limited knowledge of the field, PVL would be my early pick as their "best choice". He'd bring the fire, has experienced, and scores fairly low on the "scary scale". Seeing him go head to head with "the small man of confederation" would be a lot of fun too.

Tim Hudak: Tim is the frontrunner in this race, which means that he pretty much has it in the bag, right? All I really know about the man is that Mike Harris has endorsed him, and he ran the "Great Dominion Dust Up" bracketed poll on his blog to find Canada's most inspiring politician (sound familiar?) a few years back, that Louis Riel won. Go figure. While no one will mistake Hudak for Canada's most inspiring politician, the real question is whether he's the most inspiring of this bunch, or not.

Tony Clement: Hasn't lost a leadership race recently, so you just know he's itching to once again experience the thrill of defeat.

Christine Elliott: Seems like a solid candidate, although controlling Jim "last place to invest" Flaherty could be a tougher challenge than Hillary had of muzzling Bill.

Randy Hillier: Would be an entertaining addition to the race, in the same way Craig Chandler was an entertaining addition to the 2003 PC leadership race.

Julian Fantino: Currently, Ontario's Provincial Police Commissioner so he'd have to find a seat if he won the leadership. But, hey, how hard could that be?

UPDATE: The Globe lets some PC strategists weigh in on "life after Tory". For the record, I agree with Jaime Watt that running the Harris playbook again would be a big mistake for them. The Tories need to position themselves as a centrist party and then just pound McGuinty into the ground on the economy. The federal Conservatives won Ontario last election, so it shouldn't be too hard for them to figure out where to target their resources and who will be a part of their winning coalition.

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Sure to be better than last year's www.rollingover.ca

The Liberals have launched a new website, www.onprobation.ca, to document Harper's mis-management of the economy. The site contains videos from Ignatieff and many of his MPs (at least those MPs who have never been Premier of Ontario during a recession) explaining the Liberal economic philosophy. It also has news stories, timetables, graphs, and that sort of thing.

Some may argue that there isn't a ton of meat on the bones, but the site itself was built exactly how you want to build this sort of thing. It integrates in easily with social media tools, is designed to go viral, and invites user participation. Most importantly, it's surprisingly non-partisan for what is, in effect, an attack website - there are few Liberal logos and it uses very balanced and non-incendiary language, trying to stick to "the facts" (as the Liberals see them) as much as possible.

And, because of that, it comes across as far more mature than anything the Conservatives have put up over the past few years.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

March Poll Dance

Here's what Canadians have been telling pollsters this March:

Nanos (March 13-18, n=1,000)
Lib 36%
CPC 33%
NDP 13%
BQ 10%
Green 8%

Angus Reid (March 10-11, n=1,000 online)
CPC 35%
Lib 31%
NDP 16%
BQ 10%
Green 7%

Strategic Counsel (March 5-8, n=1,000)
CPC 35%
Lib 31%
NDP 16%
Green 10%
BQ 9%

Decima (Feb 26-March 8, n=2,000)
Lib 33%
CPC 32%
NDP 14%
Green 10%
BQ 9%

Ipsos (Feb 24-March 5, n=1,000)
CPC 37%
Lib 33%
NDP 12%
BQ 10%
Green 8%

MEAN (change since February in brackets)
CPC 34.4% (+0.4%)
Lib 32.8% (+0.8%)
NDP 14.2% (-1.3%)
BQ 9.6% (+0.8%)
Green 8.6% (-0.7%)


Friday, March 20, 2009

Because, seriously, why wait two months?

From Doug Findlay's latest CPC fundraising letter, via David Akin:

P.S. Never forget that in 2004 the Liberal Party of Canada launched pre-campaign attack ads against Stephen Harper less than two months after he became leader of the Conservative Party of Canada.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

No Experience Required

H2H makes an interesting point in the comments section, surrounding Goodyear's qualifications as Science Minister:

First, your view of cabinet ministers is essentially wrong. Few cabinet ministers are experts on the areas they govern. They don't need to be, because their departments are staffed with experts. Their role is to make tradeoffs between different values, something they have some understanding of as politicians.

Incidentally, knowledge of the economics of R&D is probably more relevant than whether or not somebody is a scientist.

But are the best ministers specialists in their fields?

Harper's best minister is Jim Prentice. He is currently minister of the environment and was minister of industry, despite not having a background in environmental science or economics.

Chretien's best ministers were Paul Martin and John Manley. Martin was a lawyer by training, and later a businessman, but had no economics background. Despite that we was a good finance minister. John Manley was a lawyer, who also had no real econ background or IR background, yet was widely praised as industry and foreign minister.

Mulroney's best minister was Joe Clark. Joe Clark had no background in foreign policy, yet was a great external affairs minister. Where Clark did much worse was as constitutional affairs minister (although it was closer to his expertise as a lawyer).

Trudeau's best minister was Allan MacEachen. He served in almost every major role, and only had a background in economics, suitable to his finance gig.

At the provincial level, Gerard Kennedy was a popular education minister, even though he never graduated from university.

Expertise is not really a good predictor of who will be a successful cabinet minister. Indeed, often the experts have a lot invested in particular ways of doing things, and so are more dismissive of their staff.

Gordon O'Connor was a Brigadier-General, but a lousy minister of national defence. Gerry Ritz is a farmer, but has been a poor minister of agriculture.

Alfonso Gagliano's skills as an accountant came in handy when he was minister of public works, but for the wrong reasons.

Bottom line: being a government minister has more to do with reading the public and doing your homework than it does with having any sort of expertise on a given file.

Interesting point. So, I'll ask the open question - is it beneficial for Cabinet Ministers to have a background in, or knowledge of, their portfolio before taking it on?

Personally, I don't think it's essential, although I do think having an interest or fascination with the subject should be a requirement. I can't say that Veterans Affairs is really a passion of mine, so I suspect I'd be a pretty lousy minister in that portfolio. If the Minister doesn't enjoy what he or she is doing, and doesn't feel strongly about it, do you really think they'll do a good job?

There also needs to be a basic understanding of some key issues. If your foreign minister doesn't know a thing about Afghanistan or your environment minister doesn't understand the basic principles of global warming...well, that's going to be a problem.

No, I don't think understanding evolution is a prerequisite for being the Minister of Science. My only worry with Goodyear is that he may be skeptical of scientists, and may not fully appreciate the many positive benefits scientific advances can bring about. It's hard to imagine how someone like that could be an effective Cabinet Minister.

But I don't want to put words in his mouth or pre-judge him. The man may be a science camp alumni who sees just how important investments in this field are for Canada's long term success and competitiveness. There's little to indicate otherwise.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Goodyear's Theory of Evolution

So which is worse? A Minister of Science who doesn't believe in evolution, or one who doesn't understand evolution?

“We are evolving every year, every decade. That's a fact, whether it is to the intensity of the sun, whether it is to, as a chiropractor, walking on cement versus anything else, whether it is running shoes or high heels, of course we are evolving to our environment.”

Hat Tip - Koby


The Policy Policy

The Hill Times delved into the world of Liberal Party policy on Monday, reporting:

1. The Liberals won't be revealing their platform anytime soon

2. "The federal Liberals will hold a major policy convention in early May, but they are refusing to discuss policy ideas "

ABCer has already weighed in on this one, with a pretty good run-down. But I figured I'd toss my two cents in as well.

On the first point, I agree it's probably best to hold off on the platform for the time being, although not necessarily for the reasons being argued. It appears many in the party are feeling burned over the Green Shift and are worried the Tories will rip apart any policy they float now. Well, I would argue that any policy that the Tories decimate pre-writ is probably going to meet with the same fate if it's released during a campaign. If it can't withstand attacks from a talking oil splotch then it's probably not worth including in the platform.

But, yeah, holding off on the platform isn't a bad idea, given we have no idea when the next election will be and what sort of shape the economy will be in. It wouldn't hurt for Iggy to give Canadians a better sense of his values, and maybe floating a few minor policies would be a good way to do that, but he can hold off on the big ticket items for the time being.

On the second point, here's my understanding of how the LPC policy process has been structured:

1. Policy debate has been taking place online for the past month on en famille (AKA Liberal Facebook).

2. Members have been allowed to vote on policies online for the past week or so.

3. The Council of Presidents (riding presidents and other people with cool titles) will then vote on the policies they want to see prioritized.

4. The CoP's top policies will be debated and voted on at the convention.

Now, I'm a big en famille fan. There's some good debate going on there about party renewal, and it's a great way to use technology and engage party members. Having an online policy debate is good. Having party members vote online is good. I'm not sure why the national exec felt the need to cut back on the policy debate at the upcoming convention (how much time does an annointment take anyways?) but, sure, if they wanted to move some of it online, I'd be cool with that.

The troubling part of this is that the online debate and vote is going to mean about as much as if I put a poll up on my site and asked people to vote on Liberal policies here. Sure, the riding presidents will take the online vote under advisement but, in the end, no one's forcing them to take the grassroots' advice.

Now, I know what you're all thinking: "But CG - doesn't the party just ignore the policies that are passed at convention anyways? So why does this matter?"

Well, my friends, that only makes the situation worse - you're not even giving members a symbolic voice in a symbolic process. The problem is basically this:

You're not giving party members a vote in selecting the party's leader.

You're not giving party members a say in the policy process.

You're not giving party members in a lot of ridings a say in nominating candidates.

There are valid reasons for making some of the above decisions but, taken together, you have to ask yourself where the value in membership now lies. If you want Liberals to give their time and money to the party you need to give them something in return and engage them.

With that in mind, I'd make the following three suggestions for the party's policy process:

1. Force the LPC to put a certain number of prioritized policies into the party's platform. Yeah, yeah, a lot of the policies passed are dumb or politial suicide. I would know, I've proposed a lot of dumb and suicidal policies. So force the leader to take one of the top three, or two of five, or seven of nine, or whatever number you want. At least then, you give some meaning to the process.

2. Force the party leader to explain why he's chosen to not include the policies he rejects in the platform. I don't think anyone can really complain about their policy being rejected if they find out why.

3. Give the drafters of the prioritized policies a chance to make their sales pitch in person to the critic or Cabinet Minister responsible for the issue. This helps connect caucus to the membership and, who knows, maybe it will encourage them to listen a bit closer to what the grass roots are saying.

Not everyone is interested in policy. And I'm not even convinced that the grass roots should be writing party policy. But some people do join political parties because of policy and, because of that, it's a way to engage a good portion of the membership. And we're not doing a very good job of that now.


Yabba Dabba Doo!

I guess we could shuffle him out, and replace him with Day...

Canada's science minister, the man at the centre of the controversy over federal funding cuts to researchers, won't say if he believes in evolution.

"I'm not going to answer that question. I am a Christian, and I don't think anybody asking a question about my religion is appropriate," Gary Goodyear, the federal Minister of State for Science and Technology, said in an interview with The Globe and Mail.

A funding crunch, exacerbated by cuts in the January budget, has left many senior researchers across the county scrambling to find the money to continue their experiments.

Some have expressed concern that Mr. Goodyear, a chiropractor from Cambridge, Ont., is suspicious of science, perhaps because he is a creationist.

UPDATE: Paul Wells, of course, ignores the Flintstones jokes and looks at this rationally.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Heard on the Hill

According to this week's Hill Times,the Tories will be holding a series of "leadership review" meetings in ridings across the country to decide if CPC incumbents will face open nominations or not. It will take 2/3 of the riding to force a nomination but, here's the kicker, the membership cut-off for this is March 10th. So, unless you've already been selling forms, you're probably out of luck.

Sorry Donna!


Friday, March 13, 2009

"There's a market for cocaine and hookers too!"

The obvious comparison was to Jon Stewart's "stop hurting America" Crossfire appearance, but this one almost had a Frost/Nixon vibe to it. The loud, bombastic Cramer meekly sat there taking punches for the entire episode, with a "hand in the cookie jar" look on his face. This was the evisceration of Jim Cramer and it was a sight to see.

If you haven't seen it yet, head on over to the Comedy Network and watch it, because the Stewart/Cramer interview certainly lived up to the hype.

Red Tory recaps the show here, and includes the clips the Daily Show pulled of Kramer saying:

"What’s important when you are in that hedge-fund mode is to not do anything remotely truthful because the truth is so against your view, that it’s important to create a new truth, to develop a fiction."

You can also check out a sampling of the reaction over at The New York Times or AP.

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Action Inaction

The latest anti-Harper spoof site.

This Week in Alberta - Politicians on Mushrooms!

After spirited debates surrounding Alberta's official grass, official sport, and new license plate design, the MLAs in Edmonton spent some time this week debating what Alberta's official mushroom should be. Ahh, the joys of being in a province where the economy is going so good that legislators can focus on issues like this rather than...what?...oh, never mind.

You know, if the MLAs are going to do this, they should at least try and make some cash off of it. Take a page from the Olympics and vote on Alberta's official soft drink, official gas station, and official credit card. Use the sponsorship money to wipe out the deficit.

A free market solution for what ails a free market province!


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tale of the Tape

The other interesting element from Harper's speech, which has been mostly overlooked by commentators to date, was his declaration of war against red tape. Take a look:

This report will emphasize the extent to which we are expediting approval processes - cutting so-called “red tape” - to ensure that stimulus spending, spending that is temporary and targeted hits our economy in a timely manner.

Let me just emphasize this:

We are cutting enormous amounts of red tape and we are doing it quickly.


That’s why, as I mentioned at the outset, in the 42 days since our action plan was
presented, we have taken extraordinary steps to cut red tape.


We are, as I’ve said, cutting bureaucratic red tape. And we need Parliament to cut its red tape too.

We cannot have the opposition in Parliament replacing bureaucratic red tape with political red tape.

This, in addition to six mentions of "bureaucratie" en francais.

Obviously, this is a bit of posturing on Harper's part around the 3 billion dollar "slush fund" battle with Ignatieff. But, I also suspect that Harper's zeal for cutting red tape has a bit to do with appeasing fiscal Conservatives who are upset at his free spending budget.

With that in mind, I wouldn't at all be surprised to see Harper and Flaherty coming back to this theme on several occasions in the coming months.

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The 5 Day Forecast Always Calls for Sunny Skies

In case you missed it, Stephen Harper gave his "the sun will come out tomorrow" speech yesterday in Brampton, talking about how Canada will be the first country to come out of the recession.

While I'm not really upset by, or surprised at, the man's eternal optimism (he is a Leafs fan, after all), Mr. "great buying opportunities" has long ago lost any shred of credibility at predicting how this recession will play out.

Oh, and since I know Jim Flaherty has trouble hearing economist predictions, he might want to turn his eyes to this:

Economists said they're not forecasting Canada to recover significantly ahead of peers.

“That's the part I am not so sure about. That's certainly not what we forecast,” Toronto Dominion Bank chief economist Don Drummond said. “We see a fairly similar pace of recovery as the United States. In fact, under the great economic principle of what falls the most usually rebounds the fastest, the U.S. would actually have the advantage.”

Added BMO Nesbitt Burns deputy chief economist Douglas Porter: “I don't think we're going to be a quarter or two ahead of the U.S. I think we'll turn at roughly the same time. And I don't think we're going to come flying out of this.”

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

No One, No One, No One...

Whoever this Grit Girl is, keep these videos coming...they're great!

Also, here's a story from well over a year ago titled "recession fears grow in Ontario" where several economists saw it coming.

Oh, and Jim, here's a senator who saw it coming...

Monday, March 09, 2009

The Lord Smiles on Ed Stelmach

EDMONTON - Alberta's bragging rights as Canada's economic engine are fading and Premier Ed Stelmach says people seem to be a little grumpy about it.


The latest Conference Board of Canada outlook projects growth of minus 0.5 per cent, the first negative figure the province has seen in nearly a quarter of a century. That's in stark contrast to a place that led the country in growth for three years starting in 2004.

But Stelmach actually seems a bit relieved that Alberta is no longer No. 1. "Thank God!" he said in reaction to the news that Saskatchewan is now in top spot with projected growth of 1.6 per cent.

Hat Tip - tGPOitHotW


Sunday, March 08, 2009

They're Just Not That Into You

The safest PC seats in Ontario, based on their 2007 margin of victory:

Haldimand—Norfolk +38.7%
Renfrew—Nipissing—Pebroke +37.6%
Leeds-Grenville +27.5%
Simcoe—Grey +24.6%
Niagara West—Glanbrook +21.0%
Parry Sound—Muskoka +20.5%
Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock +20.5%


From Hampton to Horwath

As one Ontario leadership race begins, another ends:

HAMILTON — Andrea Horwath has been elected the new Leader of the Ontario New Democratic Party.

She easily prevailed Saturday night on the third ballot of a leadership convention, taking 60.4 per cent of the vote. Her challenger, Peter Tabuns, won 39.6 per cent.

Michael Prue and Gilles Bisson had earlier been eliminated.

Ms. Horwath is the first woman to lead the Ontario NDP and only the second female leader of a major party in provincial history.


Saturday, March 07, 2009

Tory Times are Tough Times

Friday, March 06, 2009

This Week in Alberta - It's Miller Time!

Judy Wilson is out and Rick Miller is in as David Swann's new Chief of Staff. I don't know Judy well, but I welcome this move.

I got to know Rick when he was my MLA for the two years I spent up in Edmonton, and I could immediately tell he was is a guy who has political sense oozing out of his ears. As a former caucus whip and party president, he understands the party and he understands politics so I expect him to steer Swann in a more pragmatic direction than the new ALP leader might otherwise be inclined to wander.


My good friend Rob Anders will be facing, yet another, nomination battle. There were some wild schenanigans last time around so hopefully this turns into a fair fight - Anders was nearly knocked off by in 2004 when the vote went several ballots, so defeating him isn't impossible.

Calgary lawyer Donna Kennedy-Glans, who has started a campaign to vie for Calgary West MP Rob Anders' Conservative nomination, said today she can take whatever names Anders throws at her.

He calls her a "bona fide Liberal." She says she's been a Conservative longer than Anders.

"I fully expected he would call me something. I'm just glad he hasn't called me a feminist lawyer yet," Kennedy-Glans quipped.

"Feminist lawyer," are words Anders used in December 2003 to describe Alberta's Justice Minister Alison Redford, who was then trying to claim the federal Tory nomination from him.


It's not only Liberals who are considering a name change! The Alberta Greens are also mulling over a name change. In the interests of helping them out, I've taken the liberty of suggesting a few alternatives you can vote on:

What Should the Alberta Greens Call Themselves?
The Gold Party
The Purple Party
The Hot Pink Party
The Mauve Party
The Taupe Party
The Chartreuse Party
See Results

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Thursday, March 05, 2009

It was in Bobcaygeon...

"It was in Bobcaygeon I saw the constellations
reveal themselves one star at a time
Drove back to town this morning with working on my mind
I thought of maybe quitting
thought of leaving it behind."

John Tory's dreams go down in Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock riding (which also contains the aforementioned Bobcaygeon).

Rick Johnson (Lib) 15,482
John Tory (PC) 14,576
Mike Schreiner (Green) 2,452
Lyn Edwards (NDP) 2,117

Expect Tory to resign tomorrow - overshadowing this weekend's NDP leadership convention (in fairness, it doesn't take much to overshadow an Ontario NDP leadership convention...a Leafs win, warm day, or a scandal on The Bachelor would probably do it anyways...). Most importantly, it leaves the official opposition leaderless at a time when McGuinty is extremely vulnerable to criticism, with Ontario's economy sputtering.

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Take a Seat?

Tonight, John Tory's Magical Quest for the Golden Seat reaches it's thrilling climax.

Feel free to discuss the results as they come in. I'll be back here later tonight to spin the results as a win for the Ontario Liberal Party...regardless of what happens!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Times, They Are A Changin'

February 12th: "Canadians are concerned about the economy right now, they don't want to see politicians playing political games at the moment," the Prime Minister's communications director, Kory Teneycke, said, explaining why they haven't done to Mr. Ignatieff what they did to Mr. Dion. "But we're not focused on politics right now. We're not planning to go to a campaign right now."

March 1st: The Conservatives are scouring hundreds of hours of videotape as they prepare to pummel their key rival Michael Ignatieff with attack ads leading up to the next election.


Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Liberal Bits and Bites

I've been out of town for a few days, so here's a quick run-down on some Liberal Party goings-on:

1) The Liberals have appointed Mauril Belanger and Navdeep Bains as platform/policy co-chairs. Nav is also heading out the Renewal Committee...or is it the Change Commission? or the Party Growth Group? or the Rejuvenation Task Force? Regardless, the point is that this bright young MP is being used by Ignatieff, despite it initially looking like he was snubbed by Iggy when the shadow cabinet was named.

2) The LPC nomination rules have been changed so that incumbent MPs will only be appointed if they have 400 members in the riding, and 40 Victory Fund donors. I really like this move - it protects incumbents from takeovers and, truth be told, if you can't sign up a few hundred Liberals and raise 5 grand in a Liberal-held riding, you have no business being handed the party's nomination. In fact, I wouldn't even mind it if they raised the fundraising threshold a bit higher.

3) I received my permanent Liberal membership card in the mail today. And, while I hate to sound like a cheerleader for the third straight point, I've got to give the party some credit on this one. Once integrated in with a solid database, this should let the party track it's members better, and it opens up a lot of possibilities for the LPC to use technology more effectively than they currently do.

4) Both the Liberal and Conservative websites currently have pictures of Barack Obama up on their front page, which you can be sure will piss the heck out of Jack Layton. Quite the change from the past few years when George Bush was the photo-op equivalent of a hairnet.