Friday, October 30, 2009

October Poll Soup: Turning 40

The common opinion when looking at opinion polls seems to be that 40 is a magical number where majorities become possible and leads become "commanding". Is this true? Well, it depends on the map, but it certainly does leave a psychological impact.

And the Tories are basically there, which means they're polling higher now than the numbers they got on Election Day one year ago.

I only hope Yo Yo Ma recognizes the damage he's doing to Canada...

Ekos (Oct 21-27, n = 3220 autodial)

CPC 38.4%
Lib 26.8%
NDP 16.7%
BQ 8.2%
GP 9.9%

Angus Reid (Oct 23-24, n = 1000 online)

CPC 40%
Lib 26%
NDP 17%
BQ 9%
GP 7%

Ipsos Reid (Oct 20-22, n = 1000 phone)

CPC 40%
Lib 25%
NDP 13%
BQ 11%
GP 11%

Environics (October 15-21, n = 2000 phone)

CPC 38%
Lib 26%
NDP 16%
BQ 8%
GP 10%

Nanos (Oct 10-18, n = 1000 phone)

CPC 39.8%
Lib 30.0%
NDP 16.5%
BQ 8.9%
GP 4.6%

Strategic Counsel (Oct 2-4, n = 1000)

CPC 41%
Lib 28%
NDP 14%
BQ 9%
GP 9%

(so, yeah, at least Peter Donolo knows what he's getting into...)

OVERALL (change since September in brackets)

CPC 39.5% (+3.0%)
Lib 27.0% (-2.2%)
NDP 15.5% (nc...for the third straight update)
BQ 9.0% (-0.5%)
GP 8.6% (+0.2%)

So Michael Ignatieff now finds himself in Dion territory (in Quebec too). Now I know I'm going to sound like a crazy person when I say this but maybe, just maybe, Stephane Dion wasn't responsible for all the problems facing the Liberal Party.

This situation is certainly reversible but it seems clear that the electorate has yet to find a reason to give up on Stephen Harper.


Despite all that's gone on in Canadian politics in recent years, there's been one constant: the 3 Liberal Premiers in the 3 biggest provinces. McGuinty, Charest, and Campbell have all taken their lumps over the past 6 years, but they've always come out on top.

So it's difficult to judge how deep their current wounds are.

In Quebec, Charest's approval rating has plummeted and he now finds himself in a statistical dead heat with Marois which, given the demise of the ADQ and the Quebec electoral map, would mean a PQ victory.

In Ontario, McGuinty's lead over Tim Hudak is down to 3 points, and a quarter of Liberal voters blame him for the eHealth fiasco. I haven't seen any new BC polls this month, but at last glance, the BC NDP has ridden the HST backlash to first place in the polls. Not that it makes a huge difference since most people expect Campbell to bask in the Olympic glow then drive off into the sunset (just, please Gordon, don't have a drink before hitting the road).

So while the recession seems to have strengthened Harper's fragile hold on power, previously unbreakable provincial Premiers are on the ropes. Hell, even the Alberta PC Party and Newfoundland Danny Williams Party both got dealt recent by election losses. And with Gary Doer gone, Manitoba is back in play.

So the next round of provincial elections could prove to be very interesting.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Meet the New Boss

The new OLO Chief of Staff, from two weeks ago:

In addition to his Vancouver speech, Mr. Ignatieff this week will go campaigning in the riding of New Westminster-Coquitlam, where there will be a by-election on Nov. 9, before heading off to Regina to meet high-school students and then to Thunder Bay.

"They're all essential things that an opposition leader must do, but they are not sufficient," said Mr. Donolo of the Strategic Counsel.

In addition to putting the government on the hot seat in Parliament, Mr. Donolo said, the Liberals need to create a buzz around their policy positions, in particular in Mr. Ignatieff's speeches.

"He needs to find issues that have sharp edges to them and that serve as really sharp wedges between him and the government. And he needs riskier events to do that."

Sounds good to me.

On the whole, I like this move. I can't say I know enough about Peter Donolo to know how effective a chief of staff he'll be, but what I do know is:

1. He saw the Chretien PMO in action, so he knows how a well run office operates.

2. He was also in Chretien's office during the opposition days, when things were not all peachy in Liberal land. Given that, I tend to think he won't be overwhelmed by the current situation, and might have a few ideas on how to turn things around.

3. While working at Strategic Counsel and acting as a pundit in the media, Donolo has been able to look at politics from a distance. I think it will do a lot of good to get someone in charge who has some objectivity towards Ignatieff, and can disect his strengths and weaknesses. One of the biggest problems you often see in leaders offices is an inability to see fault in the person they're serving - I don't see Donolo having that problem.

4. Donolo's background is in communications, an area of obvious weakness for the LPC in recent years.

If nothing else, this gives Ignatieff a "reset", which is what's desperately needed. It also should temporarily silence some of the criticism about Ignatieff's office, and gives him the opportunity to begin turning the narrative around.

I don't expect Peter Donolo to work miracles, and it's foolish to think the problems facing the LPC right now are all the making of Ian Davey. But Donolo strikes me as the right kind of person to have running the show at this time.


Government to increase H1N1 awareness campaign

Under growing criticism for spending more money on self congratulatory and overtly partisan stimulus advertising than on informing Canadians about the H1N1 virus, the Harper Conservatives announced a new 40 million dollar H1N1 awareness advertising campaign today (no link yet, just got the government press release in my inbox moments ago).

The campaign will feature a series of newspaper, TV, and radio ads, sharing the following six health tips with Canadians:

Eat healthy foods and stay physically active to keep your immune system strong: Showing much foresight, shortly after the 2006 federal election, Canada’s New Government introduced a child fitness tax credit to help encourage children to stay fit.

Be Careful When You Travel: Whether you’re Just Visiting Canada after being away for 34 years, or are representing Canada on the world stage by meeting with leaders such as Barack Obama, we all like to travel. Just remember to check for travel notices and advisories.

Keep common surface areas clean and disinfected: For example, after playing the piano with Yo Yo Ma to critical acclaim, Prime Minister Harper was sure to disinfect the keys.

Get immunized: There are a lot of things to worry about in life – like the safety of your children now that unelected Liberal senators have stalled Prime Minister’s Harper’s ambitious get-tough-on-crime legislation. But the H1N1 vaccine is not one of these things. The odds of a side-effect are minimal, so get vaccinated.

Keep doing what you normally do, but if you get sick, stay home: Take a page from NDP and Liberal MPs who have made of a habit of skipping confidence votes if they’re feeling under the weather!

Avoid crowded places: Instead of going to an event where there will be lots of people, like a Conservative Party rally or nomination meeting, attend an event where the crowds will be sparse, like a Michael Ignatieff speech.

[For the proper list of health tips, visit here]

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Who you know in the OLO

According to Bourque, CBC, and a few other twitterers, Ian Davey (and maybe a few others) are gone from the OLO, with Peter Donolo taking over as the new Chief of Staff.

Donolo, you'll recall, was Chretien's communications director, and is currently a partner with Strategic Counsel.

Labels: ,

Monday, October 26, 2009

The new CBC

So, today was the big relaunch for CBC news. Presumably this was done to try and get some of those Canadians who only watch American news to tune in.

So CBC Newsworld became the CBC News Network (not to be confused with CTV Newsnet). And, come 5 o'clock, the old Politics hour became "Power & Politics" (not to be confused with Power Play). Oh, and we get to see Mansbridge's legs.

Online, the CBC web portal has Kady O'Malley...and some other stuff...but the main point is it has Kady O'Malley, thereby making it bookmark-worthy for that alone.


Access to Information

From today's news clippings:

PMO releases hundreds of PM's official photos: PMO's Dimitri Soudas says the Prime Minister wants to ensure media across the country receive as much information as possible.

The Canwest analysis of Knowledge Infrastructure Program grants, like analyses published last week by the Ottawa Citizen, Halifax Chronicle-Herald and Globe and Mail, is based on an incomplete data set. Despite promises by Harper to publish details of every infrastructure dollar spent, no such list is available.

Peter MacKay Celebrating Last Night's Yankees Win

Friday, October 23, 2009

This Week in Alberta - What Have You Done For Me Lately?

The media focus has shifted away from Danielle Smith's Wildrose leadership victory, onto Ed Stelmach's November 7th leadership review. The latest? Alan Hallman has come forward suggesting Stelmach has been a failure and should be replaced. And, as Jim Dinning's 2006 leadership campaign manager, Hallman is certainly an expert on the topic of political failure.

Yes, I know what you're thinking. Stelmach picked up 10 new seats, winning 72 of 83 seats the last election, his first. And his party wants him out? Because they're worried about a party that has never held more than 1 seat in legislature? I know, I know...Alberta politics is difficult to understand.

With few connections in the PCs, any predictions I could make about Stelmach's fate would be a shot in the dark - so I'll take that shot and say Ed gets about 70% and stays on.


Danielle Smith (little known fact: Danielle was runner-up to Obama for this year's Nobel Peace Prize) appears to be targeting Calgary North Hill as the riding she wants to run in next election (sorry Kyle!).

2008 Northhill Results
Kyle Fawcett 4,292 (PC) 37.94%
Pat Murray 3,589 (ALP) 31.72%
John Chan 1,490 (NDP) 13.17%
Jane Morgan 977 (WRA) 8.64%
Kevin Maloney 736 (GP) 6.51%
Jim Wright 229 (SC) 2.02%

The riding would appear to be a bit more left-leaning than Glenmore, with a slim majority of the riding voting for the Liberals, NDP, or Greens last election. That means that even if Smith converts half the PC vote and maintains the WRA/SC base, she might still fall short of the Liberals (especially if some of the Green vote drifts to Swann now that the Alberta Greens have been deregistered).

Still, voter turn-out was so embarrassingly low last election that it's risky to do math like that, especially when Smith herself could be a game changer. The bottom line is that this is a riding that can be won with 35% of the vote, and if Smith can't clear that hurdle in her home riding, then we're all wasting a lot of time talking about her.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Lest we forget about the official opposition

With all the buzz about Danielle Smith (little known fact: her tears cure leprosy), it's easy to overlook the Alberta Liberal Party. But the ALP have released a commercial:

It's interesting to see Smith in the ad since a strong Wildrose Party is the best thing to happen to the ALP in a long time. But just by mentioning her it guarantees that the media, starved for all things Danielle, will report on the ad (which is the main point of an Internet-only ad). And, even though she's the "target" of the ad, it's clearly an attack on Stelmach.

Or, at least it should be. My only concern with this is that it comes across as an attack on conservatives in general, rather than on Stelmach and the PCs. I know I've been out of Alberta for a while, but last time I checked, Conservatives were fairly popular there. As is that Harper chap who gets lumped in with Stelmach, Reagan et al.

Regardless, Stelmach's weak on financial management, and the ALP took a shot at him. Good on them for that.

Labels: ,

All ridings are equal. Some ridings are more equal than others.

Ahh...the winter of 2005/2006. The Eskimos beat the Als in overtime to take the Grey Cup, Crash edged out Brokeback Mountain for Best Picture, and everyone was singing about their lovely lady humps. In Canada, a young reformer swept into power on a platform of transparency and accountability, promising to clean up government:

Addressing a gathering of party faithful in Ottawa Friday morning, Harper said his plan is aimed at a complete government makeover.

"This is about more than the specific sordid details of this specific scandal," he said to cheers. "It's about accountability."

In a speech outlining what amounts to his party's election campaign platform, Harper made clear his vision for the Prime Minister's Office.

"When I become prime minister I will undertake an unprecedented overhaul of the federal government," he said. "That is my commitment to you."

"Cleaning up government begins at the top," he added, accusing Prime Minister Paul Martin of deflecting blame whenever the taint of scandal touches him.

"Under Paul Martin's watch the waste and mismanagement and corruption has continued."

But Harper said things would change under his leadership, beginning with the introduction of a "Federal Accountability Act," as soon as the Conservatives form a government.

"We must clean up corruption and lift up the veils of secrecy that have allowed it to flourish," Harper said, promising to "replace the culture of entitlement with a culture of accountability."

So, how did that "culture of accountability" thing turn out?

Well, despite early evidence that the new boss looked a lot like the old boss, the hard cores were always able to find excuse.

Appointed Senators and floor crossers in Cabinet? Fine, fine, they said, he needs representation from Montreal and Vancouver. The in-and-out scandal? An Elections Canada witch hunt. A broken fixed elections date law? Well, it doesn't apply to minority governments, obviously. A flurry of Tory hacks sent to the Senate last December? The coalition made them do it. A second round of patronage this summer? Harper did it to bring about Senate reform - he's clever that way.

You can now add "partisan advertising with taxpayers dollars", "pork barrel politics, in the form of money to government-held ridings", and "a lack of transparency" to the list. And the Tories have stopped trying to find excuses - they now readily admit that Harper has converted to the religion he used to preach against. From Wherry:

“Here is what the Prime Minister said,” the Minister continued. “‘Listen. We are the government. I don’t see why we can’t try to get credit for what we do. I hope we do so. There is nothing to be ashamed in that.’ Do members know who said that? It was Prime Minister Jean Chrétien.”

The Conservatives behind Mr. Baird did not boo. They howled delightedly. Indeed, several stood to applaud.

So it was spoken and now so it is written in the record of Parliament, forever cast in proverbial stone. Nearly four years ago, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives came to power on one promise: that he and they were nothing like Jean Chrétien and his Liberals, that he and they were different, better. And here, nearly four years later, was John Baird, one of Mr. Harper’s most trusted ministers, wrapping himself in ideals of a man who represented everything the Prime Minister once despised, making Mr. Chrétien’s words his own.

So much for all that then.

Indeed. Given all the talk about pork-barrel politics, it's hard not to think of the final line of George Orwell's Animal Farm, about the reolutionaries who become the very thing they rose up against:

The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which."

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Huggable Mr. Ignatieff

Well, given the way it's going they may be old enough to vote by the time the next election rolls around...

Monday, October 19, 2009

Because Government Transparency is SO 2006

Stephen Maher sounds a bit frustrated:

Last month in Oakville, when asked about the allegation — made by a Tory candidate — that one project was killed because the riding was Liberal, the prime minister said don’t worry: "We can give you a list of announcements made across the country."

Three weeks later, after repeated requests for that list, his office told me this week to stop bothering them. Turns out the prime minister was joking, or lying. They are not going to cough up a list. Instead, they directed me to the useless site, and suggested I click on 6,000 individual links and draw up my own list.


These people are either cynically withholding information that would allow voters to see where their tax dollars are beings spent, or they are idiots, or maybe both.

They think they are smart to hide this information — perhaps because it could be politically damaging if they are shown to be shovelling pork into Tory ridings nationwide — but they are not smart.

I'm willing to cut Harper a certain amount of slack on this - after all, not all ridings are the same so not all ridings will get the exact same amount of stimulus money. And governments who don't try to hype themselves for partisan gain don't exist outside of idealized fantasy lands.

But there's a lot of smoke and the Tory response to quantitative evidence that significantly more money is going to Conservative ridings has amounted to the political equivalent of "nu-uh". Harper points to one or two Liberal ridings that got cash, says the studies are bogus, but won't provide any alternative numbers when asked for them.

This, from a government, who came to power on a platform of more transparency and accountability.

Before they were stars

A picture of Peter MacKay from the Dalhousie yearbook, sent in anonymously:


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Chequing Back In

Well, the big news of the past week appears to be the stimulus cheques with Tory logos plastered all over them. Given what we know of Harper and the way the stimulus funds have been spent, this shouldn't come as a huge surprise to anyone.

Back in Alberta...

Danielle Smith took the Wildrose Alliance leadership race 6,295 to 1,905. With the spoiled ballots, that means there were about 8,300 votes cast, more than the 4,500 who voted in the ALP leadership race last year, but a far cry from the close to 100,000 who voted in the 2006 PC leadership race. Mind you, PC leadership races are the only time Albertans actually get to vote for a Premier, so the interest in that race is understandable.

As I wrote last month, the challenge for Smith becomes one of building up credibility. Smith's credibility won't be a problem - despite not having a day of elected political experience, she's already a more credible Premier than Ed Stelmach. The real challenge will be making the Wildrose Alliance credible. Sure, defections of PC MLAs will help, but it's really all about finding credible candidates and quieting the crazies.

For all intents in purposes, Alberta has its own version of Mario Dumont and the ADQ...and we all know how that ended.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fun with Numbers: 2008 Liberal Breakthroughs

After taking a look at incumbency effects over the summer, I can now dig a bit deeper when looking back at the 2008 election.

Specifically, by looking at subregional shifts in support between 2006 and 2008, and the incumbency effect, it's possible to "predict" how the parties should have done in every riding last election. While predicting something that's already happened has somewhat limited value, it does allow us to see where the different parties "over performed" and "under performed" last election.

I'm throwing the air quotes around because I want to get a few caveats out of the way before I post my list of the 10 biggest Liberal surprises of 2008:

1. This is only relative between 2006 and 2008. So the fact that the Liberal vote in Wascana was only 1% above predicted doesn't mean Ralph Goodale isn't lifting up the Liberal vote there - since he ran in both elections, we wouldn't expect a big shift.

2. A lot of this depends on other campaigns. So, for example, the Liberals' "worst" performance relative to their expected vote was in St. John's East. This isn't a knock on the Liberal campaign in St. John's East - there were a lot of Tory votes up for grabs in Newfoundland and the NDP candidate simply did a better job of getting grabbing them.

With that said, here's a look at where the Liberals had their most pleasant "surprises" last election:

1. Haute-Gaspésie-yada yada yada (+18%): Nancy Charest and her team deserve some real props - all three other parties underperformed in this riding, suggesting this total is due more to her campaign's strength, rather than a weak opponent. Unlike, say...

2. Saanich-Gulf Islands (+17%): ...where the Liberals stripped most of these votes away from the NDP (pun fully intended) - Gary Lunn and the CPC finished exactly where they were predicted too, even with the NDP candidate resigning mid-campaign. Moving forward, the question is whether those floating New Democrats return home, stay with the Liberals, or go Green.

3. Labrador (+15%): I don't think it was a surprise that this riding went Danny Williams Liberal. But Todd Russell tacked on 20 points to the 2006 total, which was more than most Newfoundland grits.

4. Madawaska-Restigouche (+14%): After a nail-biter in 2006, Jean-Claude D'Amours ran up the score in 2008.

5. Bonavista-Gander-Grand Falls-Windsor (+13%): See number 3.

5. Parkdale High Park (+12%): Having represented the riding as an MPP for a decade, Kennedy had a lot more going for him last election than most challengers do. And I can report first hand that his local campaign team did an amazing job last election.

6. Abbotsford (+12%): I'm sure local Liberals weren't ecstatic about their 20,000+ vote loss. But here's the good news - the Liberal vote collapsed across BC and your riding actually saw the party's vote share increase. The less good news is that this riding had a big negative residual in other words, the "bump" this time around was mostly a correction after a weak showing the previous time.

7. Winnipeg South Centre (+11%): Anita Neville is one of the few incumbents on this list, as she managed to increase her share of the vote, even as the LPC took a hit across Winnipeg.

8. Humber-St. Barbe-BaieVerte (+10%): Another one of those wild Newfoundland swings. I think the moral of the story is that, when things swing, they swing in unpredictable ways.

9. Laurentides-Labelle (+9%): Pierre Gfeller nearly doubled the Liberal vote here, from 2006.

10. Newton North Delta (+9%): Even though BC was quite inhospitable for the Liberals in the last campaign, this riding remained a warm comfy mat with lots of fur, for Sukh Dhaliwal.

11 to 20: Peterborough, Cypress Hills-Grasslands, Nipissing-Timiskaming, Random--Burin--St.George's, St.John's South-Mount Pearl, Westmount-Ville-Marie, Yukon, Guelph, Ottawa South, Portneuf-Jacques Cartier

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Great Debate

Tom Axworthy is a guy who likes to toss ideas out there - he's sort of the Preston Manning of the left.

Anyways, Axworthy recently drafted a report on how to improve debates in Canada. I'd originally scribbed down some notes when his report was first released, but never got around to posting them. Then I scribbled down some other notes after listening to the Macleans democracy forum. So, since anything beats talking about the Liberal Party right now, here are some thoughts on how to improve election debates in this country. Feel free to debate away in the comments section.

First, a sampling of Axworthy's suggested improvements:

1. Ban the Bloc from English debates: Terrible idea, for the reasons listed by Chucker Canuck, an anglo Quebecois. We need to get away from the idea that "Quebec = French" and "ROC = English".

If you want to set some criteria where you need to run in half the seats coast-to-coast to participate, I'm fine with that - but that means they'd be out of both the English and French debates.

2. Mandatory participation: No one ever skips the debates anymore, but the threat is always there, so I'm on board with this one. Axworthy says a party leader who skips the debates should lose their public subsidy - at the very least, it should be enshrined in law that a man in a giant chicken suit gets to stand behind the podium of any debate truants.

3. Create a Debates Commission to take the power away from the networks: Agreed. Tom and I are both Liberals and, as a result, we both feel there is no problem too big or too small that a commission can't solve.

4. Run-off debate: This would be held the last week of the campaign, among the two leaders doing the best in the polls. I've suggested this in the past, and think it's a great idea.

Dippers won't like it but, realistically, only 2 people can become PM, and such a debate could lend itself to a real clash of ideas and great television. And, hey, if the NDP ever run a good campaign, to the point where they rise to second in the polls, it would cement their leader as a legitimate contender for the title of PM.

So I like 3 of the 4 recommendations the Globe highlights - it's a 120 page report, and I'll confess to not having read the entire thing (or even being able to find it online). So I assume there are a few more ideas sprinkled in there. But, either way, here are some other changes I'd like to see:

1. Scrap the English/French debate divide: Andrew Coyne's been a proponent of this for a while, and it's grown on me. Instead, make all the debates bilingual. For many of the same reasons listed in point 1 above.

2. More debates: Why only 2 debates? This is the one chance to have an honest exchange of ideas and for voters to see the leaders interact, and all we give them is one debate in their own language, usually scheduled up against Survivor? That's stupid. I would have at least 3 debates plus the final week run-off. Just mix up the formats to keep it fresh - do a town hall, a YouTube debate, podiums, chairs, whatever.

3. Have clear criteria: Do we really have to wait until during the campaign to debate who gets into the debate? There should be clear rules, defined in advance. Say, for example, you must meet 2 of these 4 criteria:

-5% of the vote last election
-10% average support in opinion polls over past year
-155 nominated candidates
-2 seats in the House of Commons

I'm not necessarily suggesting that be the criteria...but there should be something. If for no other reason, than to save us from having to read dozens of process stories on who gets included in the debates every election.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Off to Hike the Appalachian Trail

I'm on vacation for the next week.

I have two pre-drafted posts on time delay to go up during the week, but don't expect any commentary on news events even if something cataclysmic happens, like the government falling or Michael Ignatieff playing the harmonica.

For now, I'll re-post the piece I did up for the National Post online edition a few weeks ago, offering my humble advice for the Liberal Party. In light of what's been a rather difficult fortnight, it's probably worth a second look.

In my somewhat biased opinion, the good ship Liberal appears to be back on course. We're raising money, are running commercials that introduce our captain to Canadians in a positive light, and have shifted the role of "Harper's lap dog" to Jack Layton, much to the delight of Liberals and fans of irony everywhere.

But, there's always room for improvement when you're a Liberal in opposition. So here's some friendly advice:

1) In the words of Leo McGarry, "Let Ignatieff be Ignatieff". Michael Ignatieff is a brilliant man who has made a career out of offering well-reasoned opinions on a wide range of issues. So let's hear them.

To further quote the West Wing, we've seen far too much of Uncle Fluffy - a brilliant politician afraid to plunge into controversial issues or to offend. The most recent example of this is the harmonized sales tax, where the Liberals have been all over the map - one day it's the "Harper Sales Tax", the next McGuinty announces Iggy is cool with the Harper Sales Tax, to which the Liberals replied "we're in opposition, don't ask us what we think!" That won't win them any new votes and it certainly won't motivate provincial Liberals in Ontario and BC to volunteer next campaign.

It almost seems like Ignatieff has been caged; I would love to see him set lose. His biggest asset is a brilliant mind, so he shouldn't be afraid to use it. Show Canadians what he stands for. Presumably the man returned home because there are issues here that are near and dear to his heart. So tell us about them.

2) After the last election, through to the Vancouver convention, there was a lot of talk about the need to fix the Big Red Machine. Everyone was abuzz over a 308-riding strategy, the renewal committee, the change commission, engaging the grassroots, and building up the party from the ground. But it seems like little has been done since then. I know, I know, the election hokey pokey we're in makes it difficult to focus on that. But it's still important.

I talked about some specifics after the last election, and I'd really like to see a concerted long-term plan to build the party up from the ground. The end result should be a party that is organized in 308 ridings and seriously competitive in at least 175.

There are a lot of ways to get there, but the best idea I've heard is to have a between-writ door knocking program, where every riding association canvasses at least once or twice a month (preferably with the candidate nominated - that means early nominations). That will pay off in the next campaign, because they'll have more ID'd voters and sign locations, and in the long run it will mean new members and donations. To compete with the Tories, we need a database of voters, members, and donors as big as theirs (yes, I admit it, I have database envy), and this is the best way to go about doing that.

3) You don't need to oppose everything for the sake of opposing it. The Harper government isn't wrong 100% of the time. Try to rise above the pedantic pettiness of Parliament every now and then.

Similarly, there's no need to turn every misstep into a "gate". When you call for a minister to resign every week, it loses its effect after a while. Sure, if there's blood in the water and you can bring someone down, go for it. If a Tory MP from a swing riding is vulnerable then, yes, go for the kill. If you can tie it to Harper, then great. But really, is anyone going to change their vote because Lisa Raitt's assistant is forgetful? I'm doubtful.

Sometimes, it looks good to rise above the fray.

4) Get an economic plan. Because, right now, Ignatieff and Flaherty are singing from the same hymn book - deficit magically gone within 5 or 6 years, no new taxes, and no cuts to transfer payments.

Here's a recent press release the Liberals sent out on ways they're different from the Tories - outside of a bold and controversial promise to "think of workers rather than votes", there's nothing in there on the economy.

No one blames Stephen Harper for causing a worldwide recession, so if you want to score points on the issue, you need to have a plan that's different from the Conservatives for how you'll dig us out of the hole. Given the rather shaky record of Mr. Great-Buying-Opportunities, and Jim Flaherty's ever-evolving deficit projections, I think voters are more inclined to trust the Liberal plan over the Tory one. But only if there is a Liberal plan that's different from the Tory one.

5) Always remember to look outside the Ottawa bubble. People who live politics, watch Tom Clark, or know what a Liblog is are not your target audience. So avoid the "inside baseball" stuff and make sure every message and every policy can be explained in 10 seconds or less. Preferably less.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Agreeing with Kory Teneycke: The First Post in a One Part Series

Harper's former communications director on anonymous sources:

But it appears not enough was done to check if this [floor crossing story] was true until after the story was published. The reality is this was simply a lead sparked by uninformed, partisan gossip that should have been dropped upon further investigation. The reporter in question, and the Toronto Star, should feel justifiably angry if they were misled by a source, and any source who intentionally misleads a reporter face natural consequences for their actions. However, none of that changes the fact that this story should never have gone to print in the first place.

This is one case, but there are so many others. Think back to the dozens of "anonymous sources" that used to dish dirt on each other during the Chretien-Martin civil war. And who doesn't remember the phony "wafer-gate story" about the Prime Minister allegedly pocketing a communion wafer. That story's origin was traced back to a single anonymous partisan source, and resulted in the suspension of the paper's publisher and firing of the editor. This goes on all the time, and in the name of good journalism, it should be addressed.

That is why there are tough standards in place in many media outlets around the world when it comes to the use of anonymous sources. The New York Times policy states that anonymous sources should only be used as "a last resort when the story is of compelling public interest and the information in not available any other way."

These sort of tough guidelines are there for the protection of the media, as well as the protection of those affected by stories that turn out to be less than true.

From lobbyist registries, to clear rules for government contracting, the Canadian public has long spoken out in favour of increased accountability and transparency in its public institutions. Perhaps it is time for a greater debate on these issues when it comes to our most important public institution - the media.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

This Week in Alberta - Poll Results More Difficult to Interpret than an Ed Stelmach Speech

No, not those polls. There's not much I can say about those that hasn't already been said. Suffice to say it's likely a good thing we're not in an election campaign right now.

No, today's polling update comes from Alberta:

Progressive Conservative: 38.4%
Wildrose Alliance: 21.5%
Alberta Liberal: 20.5%
NDP: 10.7%
Other: 8.5%

There's certainly some Wildrose momentum there. But until they actually pick a leader and let people know a bit about their party, it's a fairly futile task to ask voters who they'd vote for. For all intents and purposes, that 21.5% is just a "Stelmach sucks" vote at this point, and nothing more.

Basically, Alberta is in Buffalo Springfield territory now: There's something happening here, What it is ain't exactly clear. Come back to me in January after Albertans meet the new Wildrose leader, after Stelmach's leadership review, after all this floor crossing gossip either materializes or fizzles. That's the poll I'll be very curious to look at.

Labels: , ,

Warning: The following subject matter may not be suitable for all voters.

OTTAWA — Michael Ignatieff insisted Wednesday he has no plan to raise taxes, denying a report that he's about to embark on a politically risky "adult conversation" with Canadians about the painful measures necessary to eliminate the country's ballooning deficit.

While I tend to agree that a promise of raising taxes might not be the wisest strategy, what does it say about the state of our political system when party leaders have to deny reports that they're going to treat the voters like adults?

Tuesday, October 06, 2009


Via Wells, Harper today:

“The difficulty with the opposition, everyone knows, is they can complain about the deficit all they want, but everyone knows they’d run it a lot higher and they’d make it permanent.”

“We don’t want to get into a situation like the Liberals had us in in the ’90s, where they were raising taxes and cutting health care and education.”

So, to recap, our economist Prime Minister believes that the Liberals would:

a) Increase taxes
b) Cut spending
c) Increase the deficit

Now, I've taken a few ECON classes at Harper's alma mater, and this kind of goes against what they taught us. Of course, I may have skipped that class - in which case, I'm sure that was also the same day they covered "if we were going to have a recession, it would have happened by now".


Avoiding the obvious Titanic reference...

With Coderre's resignation as defense critic, Ignatieff has taken the opportunity to shuffle around Liberal critic portfolios.

Back in January, I had a few critical comments on Ignatieff's initial lineup of critics - among them:

1. Dosanjh, Dion, and Cotler left out
2. Weak western representation
3. Trudeau and young stars left out
4. Coderre as Quebec lieutenant
5. Not enough women

Well, today's shuffle addresses most of these concerns. Dosanjh replaces Coderre at defence and, along with Joyce Murray, shores up the western front. Trudeau and Bains get junior roles. Half the new appointments are women.

So, all in all, not bad.

Ignatieff has yet to name a new Quebec lieutenant, but has said he will. Personally, I don't think he needs one. If you accept the view that Ignatieff has turned a deaf ear to Quebec (which I don't, but who am I to contradict the all powerful media narrative?), then letting one of his MPs run the province won't improve the situation. It would just leave him more detached from the goings-on in the province.

Plus, I think the events of the past fortnight illustrate some problems with the lieutenant system so obvious I don't need to recap them here.

In the same issue, they named Transformers 2 as their movie of the year...

Magazine names Flaherty top finance chief

And no, the magazine in question is not the Onion.

Defeated MPs Garth Turner and Wajid Khan could not be reached for comment

Liberal MPs looking to defect, Tories say

To summarize, Tories are spreading rumours that make the Liberals look bad. And this is news. Good grief.

Even better, the Star story focuses on speculation about Ruby Dhalla crossing the floor even though:

a) Ruby Dhalla has said she's not considering crossing the floor
b) The anonymous Tories in the article are quoted as saying Dhalla isn't among the MPs thinking about crossing the floor

I don't think it's any secret Ruby Dhalla would like to one day lead the Liberal Party. Presumably, crossing over to the Tories would hurt her chances of becoming Liberal leader. So I'm not really sure how this sort of aimless speculation actually passes for news.

Harper calls fall vote... four ridings. And after a pair of intriguing provincial by elections last month, it's hard to get too excited over these ones. Pundits Guide has the full run-down, but here are the basics:

When: November 9th
Where: Cumberland Colchester, New Westminster-Coquitlam, Hochelaga, and Montmagny-yada-yada-yada

Somewhat counter-intuitively, the good news for the Liberals is that they aren't even remotely in the game in any of these ridings. An extra seat here or there won't change the parliamentary math, so by elections are all about momentum. And since it's a fairly risk-free proposition for them, Ignatieff won't fall victim to the same media pile-on that befell Dion after a string of bad by election performances in 2007 and 2008.

The Bloc are on the other side, trying to defend a pair of safe seats. They'll need to be careful in Montmagny, since the party has under-performed in by elections over the past few years, but they're probably looking at two holds.

Out east, Bill Cassey's old riding is up for grabs. Given its history, it's hard to see this one not going Conservative, but it will bear watching if Cassey endorses anyone or actively campaigns against his old party. Still, let's mark that one in the Tory win column.

Which brings us to the most interesting of the quartet - New Westminster-Coquitlam. Dawn Black (NDP) is the outgoing MP, but the last 3 elections have all been close NDP-CPC races, so this one could definitely go either way. The NDP appear poised to make this a referendum on the HST - that didn't really work for Tim Hudak, but the general consensus seems to be it's a bigger issue in BC than Ontario these days. Consider this riding a trial run - if the anti-HST message works here, you can bet Layton will try and play it up as much as humanly possible during the next federal campaign.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

I need somebody to love

"I think when ordinary working people come home, turn on the TV and see a gala of a bunch of people, you know, at a rich gala all subsidized by taxpayers, claiming their subsidies aren't high enough when they know those subsidies have actually gone up, I'm not sure that's something that resonates with ordinary people."
-Stephen Harper, September 24 2008

It wasn't without risks, but this one looks like a political home run. Full marks to whoever came up with the idea.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Poll Soup Update

There are four new polls out this week, showing a surprising amount of consistency between them - so it's probably worth updating the rolling average:

Angus Reid (September 29-30, n = 1000 online)
CPC 37%
Lib 27%
NDP 17%
BQ 11%
Green 6%

Ekos (September 23-29, n = 3216 auto dialed)

CPC 36.0%
Lib 29.7%
NDP 13.9%
BQ 9.8%
Green 10.5%

Ipsos Reid (September 22-24, n = 1001 phone)

CPC 37%
Lib 30%
NDP 14%
BQ 9%
Green 9%

Leger (September 22-25, n = 3602 phone)

CPC 36%
Lib 30%
NDP 17%
BQ 8%
Green 8%

OVERALL (change since early September in brackets)

CPC 36.5% (+1.8%)
Lib 29.2% (-2.2%)
NDP 15.5% (nc)
BQ 9.5% (-0.2%)
Green 8.4% (+0.3%)

Even though the overall vote numbers represent an increase in Liberal support from the last election, this has prompted a new round of majority speculation. Andrew Coyne rightly points out that the Tories are positioned for gains in Ontario - something that could propel them to their elusive majority.

But I don't think they're there yet.

Coyne references the 4-poll average Tory lead of 42% to 33% in Ontario. A quick seat projection has the Tories grabbing an extra 5 seats with that spread...and maybe another 4 or 5 if things break really nicely for them. Nice, but not enough.

Now, if you just use Angus' 14-point Ontario gap, the Tories hit 64 seats, a 13 seat gain. That's only a majority if they hold their seats elsewhere...definitely not a sure thing in Quebec. To get into the magical 70 seat range needed for the majority, they'd need the NDP vote to collapse in Northern Ontario too. Because so long as the NDP wins 15 seats across the province, there are enough Liberal safe seats in Toronto to prevent the Tories from running up the score too much.

This is all fun speculation and who knows - maybe in 5 months we'll be speculation about the road to a Liberal majority. The somewhat obvious messages from all this are that Ontario is important, the road to a majority is a long one, and the Liberals aren't in great shape in Ontario these days. And yes, I'm aware that most of those observations fall under the category of "painfully obvious".


There's a new Harris Decima out today that shows Canadians would rather not have an election until 2013. This begs an interesting question - what percentage of Canadians would rather hold off until 2015? Or 2020? Hell, how many would say "screw it, let's forget this unpleasant election business altogether"?

The poll also finds support for Jack Layton's position on supporting the government until EI legislation passes. Which makes a certain amount of sense. Even though he'll get pilloried for what's an obviously hypocritical stand by the media, bloggers, and anyone who follows politics closely, Jack's message doesn't sound all that unreasonable to a general public fed up with the brinkmanship and squabbling in Ottawa.


Those Tories...

First they set up a lobster sex-talk line, now...this:

Edmonton-based blogger Dave Cournoyer pointed out on his blog Thursday night that the website is actually a link to a portal for adult personals, replete with images of women clad in black lingerie and stiletto heels. According to, the site is registered to someone based in Shanghai, China.

Perhaps more politically embarrassing, the site is dedicated to lampooning the Conservative Prime Minister, prompting readers to add their own captions to headshots of Mr. Harper. Existing captions include “J'dois aller au petit coin” and “That's what she said.”

Some will say this was just a mess-up and they failed to renew the PM's domain name (that's what happens when your net people spend all their time creating pooping forget the basics). Personally, I tend to think Patrick Muttart has finally figured out that the pervert vote is all that's keeping Harper away from a majority.

(On a serious note, the site has been quickly changed, so this looks like a good old fashioned case of cyber squatting)

End Game

We've heard a lot of about Denis Coderre's "leadership ambitions" this week. And, at least among Liberals I know outside of Quebec, this topic has usually drawn snickers.

Coderre certainly didn't help his already Volpeskian chances by going out in a self-destructive blaze of glory Monday, blaming the party's problems on a Toronto-heavy brain trust. Maybe it was a clever ploy to position himself as an outsider against Toronto in a future leadership race - but given what we know about Coderre, I have some doubts about that.

Then again, perhaps the LPC isn't the Liberal Party Coderre hopes to one day lead. Given his organizational muscle in the province, he'd certainly be a legitimate contender provincially once Jean Charest eventually calls it a day. And distancing himself from the federal Liberals and playing the "Toronto card" probably won't hurt him among the Quebec militants.

I don't have any anonymous senior Liberal strategists to go on for this - just the musings of a fairly bright Liberal who floated the idea to me yesterday. But it's a theory that makes a bit of sense once you think about it.


Thursday, October 01, 2009

I've also heard international athletes will be forced to wear "Just Visiting" t-shirts

The new olympic gear looks familiar, eh?

Abstinence Only Voting

"Nothing makes people more cynical about politics than when parties don't do what they say, don't stand up for what they believe."
-Jack Layton, 2007


The House of Commons voted 144-117 today against a Liberal motion to bring down the minority Conservatives.

The Liberals and Bloc Quebecois supported the motion while the Tories opposed it and the NDP abstained.