Sunday, May 31, 2009

Your May Poll Soup

Even though May's a good month for horse racing, there haven't been a lot of horse race polls out lately (well, outside of Quebec anyways).

Ipsos Reid (May 20-24, n = 1000)
Lib 33%
CPC 35%
NDP 14%
BQ 9%
Green 8%

Strategic Counsel (May 6-10, n = 1500)
Lib 35%
CPC 30%
NDP 16%
BQ 9%
Green 11%

Decima (April 23 to May 3, n = 1000)
Lib 34%
CPC 29%
NDP 15%
BQ 9%
Green 11%

Nanos (April 25 to April 30, n = 1000)
Lib 36%
CPC 33%
NDP 15%
BQ 9%
Green 7%

MEAN (change since April in brackets)
Lib 34.5% (+0.5%)
CPC 31.8% (no change)
NDP 15.0% (-0.2%)
BQ 9.0% (-0.4%)
Green 9.8% (+1.8%)

With only one of these polls coming after the attack ads aired, it's still too early to judge their effectiveness. In Quebec, there appears to have been a marginally negative effect on impressions of Ignatieff, but no real erosion in his support levels. According to Decima, the ads soured opinions of Ignatieff for 30% of Canadians, and made 50% of voters think less of Harper. Which is swell, until you consider that the "not a leader ads", now considered to have destroyed Dion, were judged to be unfair and irrelevant by most Canadians polled on the subject.

So, we'll have to wait for the next few rounds of polling updates, before we can really judge their impact.


Ontario: Ipsos has McGuinty up 46% to 31% on the leader-less PCs, with the NDP (13%) and Greens (10%) failing to make much of a dent. But cheer up opposition, Nanos has Ontarians against the HST by a 67% to 23% margin.

Nova Scotia: CRA has the NDP at 37%, the Liberals at 31%, and the incumbent Tories at 28% - but an "issues" poll does show the Liberals as the most trusted on the economy.

National: Strategic Counsel has an interesting poll out, comparing the Ignatieff and Harper on a host of issues and characteristics.

UPDATE: New numbers from ARS...and Ekos. Obviously should have waited a day for the update.

UPDATE - 2: Interesting results from Angus Reid:

After disclosing their voting intention, respondents to this survey were divided into three groups. The first group observed one of the television ads that the Conservative Party has launched targeting Ignatieff, the second group was shown the same ad and the response that Ignatieff posted on YouTube, and the third group was not exposed to any ads or videos.

The momentum score for Harper among respondents who saw the ad is -40 (10% improved, 50% worsened), and the prime minister posts similar numbers among those who saw the ad and the video (9% improved, 52% worsened) and those who were not exposed directly to either the ad or the video (7% improved, 49% worsened).

The momentum score for Ignatieff among respondents who saw the ad is -18 (24% improved, 42% worsened). However, the opposition leader bridges the gap with those who also saw his YouTube video (29% improved, 31% worsened) and is even among those who did not see the ad or the video (28% improved, 28% worsened).


With a Little Help from his Friends

Gerard Kennedy is always one to take a different approach to the political game, so it should come as no surprise that he's going outside the box to pay down the last of his 2006 leadership debt.

The event is called "opening doors with Kennedy and friends" and there are a lot of friends - Bob Rae, Bonnie Crombie, Mark Holland, Kirsty Duncan, Omar Alghabra, and some guys named McGuinty and Ignatieff.

There will be a series of seminars and dinners about politics (June 9th and 14th in Toronto), so it's certainly an opportunity to get something more than just rubber chicken and 10 seconds of face time for your donation dollars.

Friday, May 29, 2009

This Week in Alberta - Special Bonus Edition

From Corey Hogan comes Alberta Gothic, in tribute of the passing of Bill 44 - which makes education optional in Alberta classrooms.

This Week in Alberta - Just Visiting Calgary Glenmore?

In the wake of Deputy Premier Ron Stevens' resignation, speculation around the upcoming Calgary Glenmore by election is in full gear. Former Ontario NDP MLA George Dadamo has already tossed his hat into the ring is considering a run for the Liberal nomination, while Alderman Diane Colley-Urquhart has expressed interest in the Tory nomination. Should she get it, that would also strike her name off the list of possible Calgary mayoral candidates in what is expected to be a wide-open election next year.

Oh, and on that note, I heard from senior anonymous Liberal strategist insider that Calgary Liberal MLA Dave Taylor has been approached to toss his hat into the ring next year - after losing the ALP leadership to Swann, and given Calgary's bizarre habit of election Liberal mayors, there might be some truth behind this one.

In Other News...

-Daveberta looks at the Edmonton 2010 mayoral race.

-With Danielle Smith considering a run for the Wildrose Alliance leadership, you have to imagine she might also consider running in the Glenmore by election. For what it's worth, I think it would be great for the Alliance to get a credible leader like Smith, who could put some pressure on Stelmach from the right.

-Ray Martin will be running for the NDP yet again in Edmonton East.

-Check out this great quote from Culture Minister Lindsay Blackett:

"How can people say I'm anti-gay?" Blackett asks. "I can't deal with the arts community every day by being anti-gay. They'd pick that up in a minute."

UPDATE: From team Dadamo:

Over the course of the last few weeks, Mr. Dadamo has been engaging Calgarians in conversation about the issues that matter most to them – listening and learning about the challenges we face as a community and the oppurtunities that are before us.

He will continue that conversation for the next couple of weeks, before making a formal decision as to whether or not to seek the Alberta Liberal nomination in Calgary Glenmore. In the meantime he is thankful for the literally hundreds of emails, words of support and prayers he has received in the last four weeks.

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

So That's What Gurmant Is Up To These Days...

Prime Minister Stephen Harper: "I cannot fire the Leader of the Opposition and with all the tapes I have on him, I do not want to."


Sondage Says...

It's been a busy week for political polls...I'll have the May poll dance up by week's end, but with two Quebec-only polls in field at the same time, this is a good chance to take a close look at a province which is all too often overlooked by both pundits and politicians - Quebec.

Leger, CROP, and Ipsos were all in field last week - if we take a weighted average based on their Quebec samples, we get the following:

Liberals 35%
Bloc 35%
CPC 14%
NDP 13%

Pas pire, no matter how you slice it, considering the Liberals have generally been about 15 points back of the Bloc in all three post-Chretien elections (although they did hit 34% in 2004).

I haven't been able to see the regional tables at all, but the CROP poll does detail the collapse of Harper's Quebec City Fortress:

Puis, les troupes de Stephen Harper ont glissé au troisième rang des intentions de vote dans leur bastion de la région de Québec, tout juste derrière le Bloc québécois et à 10 points du Parti libéral. À ce chapitre, le PLC termine au premier rang, avec 33%. C'est du jamais vu depuis janvier 2004, soit quelques semaines avant la publication du rapport dévastateur de la vérificatrice générale sur le scandale des commandites.

The Liberals haven't won a seat in Quebec City since 2000, and finished third in every riding there last election - usually well over 10,000 votes behind. With little organization in the region, they'll clearly have to put some resources into it - all the more evidence why it makes sense to have a 308 riding strategy, where you at least have a base level of organization in every riding that can be mobilized when things like this happen.

So what does this all mean electorally? Well, it's too early to tell, but a real quick and dirty seat projection based on the 2008 results shows the Liberals poised to win between 20-30 seats in Quebec. And that's just the way the Quebec map usually plays out - in the 1997 election for instance, the Bloc edged the Liberals 38% to 37%, but beat them on seats 44 to 26.

So while these gains are nice, they also show the 66-seat gap won't be closed in Quebec alone. Even in the best-case Quebec scenario, the Liberals will need to flip at least 20-25 seats elsewhere, in order to get back to government. (certainly doable, given stories like this)

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

This Time We Mean It?

My gut feeling is that there won't be a spring election. That said, the Liberals are painting themselves into a corner where they really don't have much choice but to vote against the government in any upcoming confidence votes without looking rather Dion-esque.

After all, if you put the government "on probation" and then demand the Finance Minister be fired and say the government failled to meet their targets...well, that's straight Fs, which gets anyone on probation kicked out of school fairly fast.

Michael Ignatieff calls for the resignation of Finance Minister Jim Flaherty

OTTAWA - Today in Question Period, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff asked Prime Minister Stephen Harper to fire Finance Minister Jim Flaherty for his mismanagement of the government's finances and failure to get economic stimulus funding out the door.

"On the most pressing issue facing the nation - this recession - the Minister of Finance has failed. His projections are out the window again, leaving Canadians with the largest deficit in history - and no economic stimulus to show for it," said Mr. Ignatieff.

"Minister Flaherty had it wrong from the start. In September, the government said there wouldn't be a recession. In October, they promised no deficits. In November, they predicted a surplus. In January, they gave us a $34 billion deficit. Now we learn that the deficit has grown to $50 billion and climbing."

"This government can't get its numbers right, can't get stimulus out the door, and can't get the job done for Canadians. Canadians have lost confidence in the Minister of Finance. After four months of failure, will the Prime Minister fire his Minister of Finance?"

Mr. Ignatieff's call comes as the Harper government failed to meet its120-day target to get stimulus flowing - with no job creation, few construction projects underway, and a record $50 billion deficit compounded by Conservative mismanagement before the recession.

Our Head of State's Representative is WAY More Bad-Ass than your Head of State

I probably won't be rushing out to buy a seal heart sub any time soon, but good on Michaelle Jean:

The political indigestion over Jean's meal of seal roiled loudest among animal-rights activists, who used the terms "Neanderthal" and "blood lust" yesterday to describe how the Governor General revelled in helping herself to the heart of the dripping carcass.

"It amazes us that a Canadian official would indulge such blood lust. It sounds like she's trying to give Canadians an even more Neanderthal image around the world than they already have," said Dan Mathews, vice-president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Jean was unapologetic, pronouncing her taste of seal heart to be "absolutely delicious," much to the delight of bloggers unaccustomed to such a high-profile public figure committing herself without so much as a hint of squeamishness.

"These are ancient practices that are part of a way of life," Jean said, framing her gutsy gesture as an act of solidarity with the Inuit. "If you can't understand that, you're completely missing the reality of life here."


That doesn't mean animal-rights activists approve of Inuit seal-hunting traditions. PETA yesterday likened Jean's sampling of seal heart to "taking part in the beating of women in the Middle East because it is part of local practice.


A spokeswoman for EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas declined to react, saying: "No comment; it's too bizarre to acknowledge."

Maybe CTV Would Like To Start Over Too...

The airing of Stephane Dion's false starts from an interview with CTV anchor Steve Murphy last October violated broadcasting codes and ethics, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has ruled.The CBSC released its decision Wednesday.

The Liberal leader did the interview with CTV Atlantic's news anchor during the federal election campaign.

Mr. Murphy’s first question to Stéphane Dion was: “If you were prime minister now, what would you have done about the economy and this crisis that Mr. Harper has not done?”


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Death of Politics

CBC’s Politics to be canceled

This is disappointing, to say the least. Yeah, yeah, the show won't be the same without Don, but it looks like Power Play (if it survives) will now have the time slot all to itself.

As Far and Wide suggests, you can send CBC a complaint here, and ask them to reconsider.


One Last Look at STV

There were a lot of theories floated to explain STV's crushing defeat two weeks ago in BC. Given there is no shortage of PhD students in the ranks of PR advocates, I'm sure we'll be treated to several papers on this topic in the coming months.

In the meantime, I plugged the results from ElectionsBC into a spreadsheet and came up with the following findings.

1. The margin of victory in a riding had little impact on support for STV. One of the main reasons I decided to do this little exercise was to test the hypothesis that voters in ridings that are routinely blow outs would be more eager for electoral reform, to make their vote "count". But that was not the case, with a non-existant -0.003 correlation between the general election margin of victory and support for STV in each riding.

2. Regionally, the big cities were more open to STV. This isn't too surprising, as one of the biggest concerns about STV was always the massive ridings that would be created in some rural areas. Here are the region-by-region support levels for STV:

Greater Victoria 50.2%
Vancouver 46.5%
Vancouver Island 42.0%
North Shore and Sunshine Coast 40.9%
Kootenays 39.9%
Okanagan, Shuswap, Boundary 37.8%
Vancouver Eastern Suburbs 37.4%
Northern BC 35.1%
Richmond and Delta 33.3%
Thompson and Cariboo 31.3%
Surrey 31.3%
Fraser Valley 30.7%

3. Voting behaviours are closely linked to STV support. There is a strong correlation between support for the Green Party in a riding and that riding's overall support for STV (r = 0.602). To a lesser extent, ridings voting NDP tend to be more STV-friendly (r = 0.314), while ridings voting Liberal prefer FPTP (r = -0.472).

Now, this isn't to say that Liberals necessarily voted against STV and Dippers voted for it - just that Liberal ridings tended to be against the change (think of the situation in the US where states with large african american populations often vote Republican). Still, it wouldn't at all surprise me if it was NDP and Green supporters pushing STV, with provincial Liberals more cautious.
And, for those of you asking, even after region is controlled for, vote intent is still a significant predictor of STV support. In the model I set up, regional and vote factors had a similar amount of influence.

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Monday, May 25, 2009

PC Leadership Websites: Let's Sing a Song for Tim

All of a suden, things have gotten very interesting in the Ontario PC leadership race. As detailled on TLS, Tim Hudak appears to have come down with a bad case of front runners syndrome. Weak membership sales, low fundraising numbers, and a growingly hostile press corps have left Hudak on the verge of becoming the next Jim Dinning.

But, on the bright side, he does have a nice website!

Check out reviews of Randy Hillier and Christine Elliott's sites. Also, seems to be the go-to site for PC leadership news.

Tagline: Right for Ontario

Unofficial Tagline: There's no possible way he can lose. Right? Right? RIGHT?!?!!?

Image: Hudak is the only candidate wearing a tie in his banner photo - read into that what you will. The heavenly white light radiating from around his picture may also be a subtle play to evangelical voters...

The Basics: The site has the standard set-up, although I do like the "get involved" box on the right hand side - they've designed the website as a vehicle to get people engaged in the campaign, and it does a good job of encouraging supporters to do that.

Web 2.0: Hudak has at least put some effort into this side of his campaign, with facebook applications, frequent twitter updates, and an online community on his website. They've also been pushing the "text message update" angle of their campaign - I'm not sure how many numbers they'll get, but I do feel it's worth trying these sorts of things.

Meet Tim: I've never met Tim, and I don't have much against him - he ran a bracketed poll on his website a few years back to find Canada's Greatest Nation, yeah, we're kind of kindred spirits in that respect.

This former Walmart employee (future campaign slogan "everyday low taxes"), was elected as an MPP at the age of 27, and served in Mike Harris' Cabinet. Although not using as many anvils as Randy "common sense" Hillier, Hudak has tried to portray himself as the heir apparent to the Harris legacy, and he has even gotten some help from the former Premier.

Policy: Like many frontrunners, Hudak has been annoyingly cautious in this race, not wanting to step on any toes. And he's starting to suffer from it - when newspapers start using air quotes when mentioning your "vision", it's not a good sign.

There is nothing on his website about what Hudak would do as party leader, other than "unite our party behind a winning conservative plan that can get Ontario working". Well, other than his bold stand against the HST (or, DST, as all the cool kids are calling it these days).

He did come out in favour of dismantling Ontario's Human Rights Tribunals (after Hillier), but that has let Christine Elliott attack him as a supporter of faith-based-funding-the-sequel.

Rating: The campaign may be floundering, but this website is the best of the bunch - 8 out of 10.

Can he win? Hudak has gone from a slam-dunk favourite, to the front runner, to someone with a good chance of winning, in just a few weeks. The leaked membership numbers are not encouraging for Hudak, but when votes are weighted by riding, it becomes more difficult to judge relative strength of the candidates.

Perhaps more alarming for Hudak are the early fundraising numbers. Elliott has raised twice as much cash as him (315k to 154k), and has more total donors (although at 154 to 124, neither one has done a very good job of grass roots fundraising). Those who have followed this blog since the days of Bart Ramson will remember I did first ballot projections back during the 2006 Liberal leadership race, and hit fairly close to the mark. Back in the fall, when I thought we'd have an actual Liberal leadership race again, I dug up the old projections in an effort to tweak the formula, and found that the total number of donors was the best indication of first ballot support - ahead of things like total dollars raised, MP endorsements, ex-officio support, or media attention. Obviously the dynamics of this abbreviated PC race are different, but this isn't a good sign for Tim.

Still, no one will take this contest on the first ballot. So Hudak will need to appeal to Hillier and Klees supporters - as a candidate seen to be right of Elliott he may be able to do just that, but it's always difficult for front runners to generate second ballot support.


Saturday, May 23, 2009

Michael Bryant's First Political Retirement

With Terminator in theatres this weekend, I think it's apt to quote the Governator - He'll be back.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Blogs that would have been way more fun a year ago...

Maxime Bernier joins the blogosphere


Thursday, May 21, 2009

It used to be Ignatieff supporters comparing him to Trudeau... it's his opponents:

Car Michael Ignatieff est le leader le plus centralisateur ayant jamais pris les commandes du Parti libéral de toute son histoire, a affirmé hier soir le premier ministre dans un discours à forte saveur électorale devant quelque 2000 militants conservateurs réunis au prestigieux hôtel Le Reine-Elizabeth.Alors que les libéraux ont pris la tête dans les sondages depuis que Michael Ignatieff est à la barre du parti, Stephen Harper a soutenu que les écrits du chef libéral font de lui un élève exemplaire de Pierre Trudeau quand il s'agit des pouvoirs que doit posséder le gouvernement fédéral.

«M. Ignatieff est dans la lignée de Pierre Trudeau. Il dit lui-même que Trudeau est son mentor. Je vous invite à lire ce qu'il a dit et ce qu'il a écrit au cours des dernières décennies. Vous verrez que M. Ignatieff est en fait le chef libéral le plus centralisateur de l'histoire de notre pays», a affirmé M. Harper dans son discours d'une trentaine de minutes.

«Mes amis, souvenez-vous toujours qu'il y a un parti centralisateur, le Parti libéral. Il y a un parti des indépendantistes, le Bloc. Mais il y a un seul parti qui a cru dans le passé et qui croit toujours aujourd'hui en une nation québécoise forte au sein d'un Canada uni et c'est le Parti conservateur», a-t-il ajouté.

Translation: Stephen Harper says that Michael Ignatieff is a big fat centralizer, like Pierre Trudeau. Only worse.

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This is a really good response - tough, yet mostly issue-based and positive. I think this is the right message to get out there, and any earned media the Liberals get from it will be a bonus.

Yeah, yeah, they respond to a bit of a straw man argument, since the attack ads aren't at all talking about some people being "less Canadian" than others, but politics is all about spin, and the Liberals have spun this one well.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Things that would never have happened when Klein was Premier

Alberta Has Highest Beer Prices in Canada


Conservative Dictionary

Tax breaks for transit passes, sports equipment, and having children - good principled conservatism

Charging a 5 cent environmental fee on plastic bags - Social Engineering

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

PC Leadership Websites: The New Adventures of Old Christine

Membership cut-off has come and gone in the Ontario PC leadership race. After checking in with Randy Hiller's web precense last week, today I turn my attention to Christine Elliott.

Tagline: No real tag-line, save perhaps "the path to victory"

Unofficial Tagline: "Take my husband - Please."

Image: A very conservative grey suit

The Basics: The site is solid - they've got the splash page to get contact information, which is something I always like to see in a leadership campaign. The main page is very generic - candidate in the corner, fundraising and "get involved" boxes on the right, "news" photos in the main area, and tabs across the top. The pictures that pop up in the main box aren't overly attention-grabbing, so they might be better served adding a bit more pizzaz to that. Also, it's a bit tricky to navigate back to the main page, from a few of the sub-pages on the site.

Web 2.0: Once again, there's not much there. There are a few youtube messages from Christine which I like (I presume they were e-mailed out to supporters), but there's nothing that really stands out, and it's clear that with 400 facebook supporters, they haven't been pushing the "online" angle too heavily (which is a perfectly valid strategy decision in a race like this with such a short time frame to sign up members - you'd be stupid to put a big emphasis on the air game early on). The Elliott campaign has set up an "action centre" to get people engaged...not a bad idea, although it's a bit confusing as to what all that actually entails.

Visuals: Clearly, its been decided that all PC websites must be blue - what does the fact that this one is light blue mean? Well, I'll let Robert Langdon find the secret meaning...I suspect someone at the office just thought it looked nice.

Meet Christine: It shouldn't be too surprising, but Elliott's dog is given more prominence on her website than her husband, Jim Flaherty - this, despite many references to her being a mother throughout the site. Although she has only been an MPP for three years, Elliott has catapaulted herself to contender status in this race so, one imagines, she must be doing something right.

Policy: Although most of the policies she's proposing are drab (who among us hasn't wanted to blockade traffic in support of making Muskoka part of Northern Ontario?), Elliott has been bold enough to come out in favour of a flat tax. While I could see that helping her in this race, I can't for the life of me imagine that being a very popular policy to put forward in a general election...and, much like John Tory and Stephane Dion have recently learned, it's always dangerous for the opposition to make their policies the focus of the campaign. Especially given the 6.5 billion annual price tag that would come with a flat tax.

The one thing that I am impressed with is Elliott's "Path to Victory". The Ontario PCs have a long history of being in power and supporters of parties with long histories of being in power want nothing more than to get back into power. After a pair of crushing McGuinty majorities, I assume the PCs are anxious for a return to the promised land, and Elliott manages to tap into those feeling by offering a detailed and logical plan.

Alexa Rank: Elliott is holding her own with Hudak.

Rating: It's very generic, so Christine gets a generic 6 out of 10. The website seems to take on the personality of Christine's campaign - it comes across as very professional and the candidate seems likable, but it's not an attention grabber. Quiet and effective, but not really exciting.

Can she win? Sure. She's "not Hudak" and frontrunners have had one hell of a time winning leadership races of late. The format of this race certainly favours Hudak, but it sounds like this won't be decided on the first ballot, which means she has an outside shot of pulling it off.


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Re-Visiting Just Visiting

Attack ads are the junk food of politics. And when you haven't had junk food for a long time, the first bite always tastes good...even if it doesn't digest well. So, upon reflection, I think I'll downgrade the initial ad that was leaked from a B+ to a C+. And for the reasons outlined by Andrew Steele, this ad is a downright disaster - the short message from it is that Iggy's a cool guy who likes Algoma Park. Ooo...scary...

That said, the Tories are in B+ territory on the other two ads they released. They've actually got the visual of Ignatieff refering to himself as an American - that video is a lot more powerful than just saying the guy taught at Harvard.

And while this one is just a retread of old Dion attacks, it does nail him on the economy, making it a bit more relevant.

How effective will these ads be? That's difficult to say, although the chorus of media opinions that these ads will "backfire", are "too mean", and that "Canadians don't like negative ads", is a bit amusing since the same thing was said about the 2007 Dion adds.

I wouldn't expect these to backfire, since I do think "time out of the country" is a legitimate angle to attack Ignatieff on. Unlike "not a leader", "just visiting" isn't an argument that Ignatieff would be a bad Prime Minister - it seems more designed to just bug Canadians and make them uneasy about the guy, so that voters are more receptive to future attacks. And, on that front, I'd expect some limited success.


Friday, May 15, 2009

This Week in Alberta: Aloha Ron

This has been known for some time, but it was made official today:

Edmonton... Deputy Premier Ron Stevens, the Minister for International and Intergovernmental Relations, has informed the Premier he is resigning from Cabinet and as the Member of the Legislature for Calgary-Glenmore to pursue other career options. The resignations are effective immediately.

Stevens, you'll remember, gained some notoriety for a tax-payer funded 3-day Hawaiian "stop over" in 2003, on the way back from a fact finding trip to Australia to "study" their gambling system. But he did find his way into Ed Stelmach's first Cabinet, even though he was from Calgary, so he must have been doing something right.

Looking ahead, Stevens won his riding handily in 2008:

Ron Stevens (PC) 6,436 50.67%
Avalon Roberts (Lib) 4,213 33.17%
Ryan Sadler (WRA) 1,025 8.07%
Arden Bonokoski (Green) 550 4.33%
Holly Heffernan (NDP) 477 3.76%

But the PCs won everything quite handily in 2008, and Calgary-Glenmore has a similar electoral history as Calgary Elbow, which the Liberals picked off post-Klein in 2007. That said, I tend to think the political climate in Alberta is such these days that the PCs can easily hold it in a by election, regardless of who the parties recruit to run (with voter turn-out on par with most Students Union elections).

Perhaps more interesting will be speculating over who gets named new Deputy Premier. I'd imagine the front runners for that position would be Ron Liepert, Alison Redford, and Ted Morton.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Political Games

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."

May 13th: Tories, slipping in polls, launch attack ads

Just Visiting

Thanks to Corey Hogan for the pic!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Decisive Decision

Despite BC's reputation for wild west politics, Tuesday's election stayed on script, with Gordon Campbell easily winning a third straight majority government:

Liberals: 49 seats, 46%
NDP: 36 seats, 42%

So, no change in the popular vote from 2006, and the parties each gained 3 new seats. How thrilling.

So what does it all mean?

1. Gordon Campbell becomes a rare three-time winner and one of the elder statesmen of the provincial premiers. Presumably, there will be a lot of speculation as to whether or not he goes for a fourth term...either way, the unofficial leadership race is on.

2. Campbell also gets to play host for the Olympics next year.

3. While the carbon tax may not have been the issue of the campaign, Campbell showed that carbon pricing is not necessarily electoral suicide. I doubt anyone will be running on a carbon tax anytime soon but, at the very least, a gutsy Premier in the safe confines of a majority could give it a try.

4. And while I might align politically more with the BC NDP than the BC Liberals, I did take some pleasure in watching Carole James go down in a blaze of carbon emitting flames. Not only did James rail against the carbon tax, but she also opposed a series of conservation measures brought in by the Liberals. I'm all for a pragmatic NDP, but the party completely betrayed their principles and deserved to lose.

5. But, like I said, the carbon tax may not have been the issue - it was probably a question of who voters wanted to lead them through a recession. With that in mind, the front runner in Nova Scotia's election, NDP leader Darrell Dexter, must be a tad worried at seeing these results. Tory times may be tough times, but the Dippers would be a disaster in the eyes of many voters.

6. Since the economy went south, Stephen Harper, Jean Charest, and Gordon Campbell have all won re-election. So much for the claim that incumbents can't survive a recession, eh?

And given my rather superficial understanding of BC politics (I saw a few lawn signs when I was there last weekend...that's about it), that's all I'll say on this topic. But any commentators from BC should feel free to add their two cents.

Now, as for STV, it was a crushing defeat. After coming oh so close in 2005, voters decisively rejected the system - only 39% supported the change, and it passed in just 7 ridings. Clearly STV is dead and, on the heels of Ontarians rejecting MMP in 2007, you have to think drastic electoral reform will be shuffled to the back-burner in Canada for at least a decade. Sure, there's some tinkering that can be done with finance reforms, fixed election dates, preferential ballots, and other incremental changes, but whether poli-sci grads like it or not, most Canadians have shown that they're OK with first past the post.

As for what went wrong, Paul Wells offers a good run-down here. [UPDATE] Other possibilities (which I posted in the comments before deciding to add them here):

1. The question was framed as FPTP vs. STV this time, whereas last time it just asked if people wanted to change the system. I'm not sure why that would change things, but support for STV in polls varied wildly depending on how the question was framed.

2. People were certainly a lot more informed this time. Maybe the more they learned about STV, the less they liked about it.

3. The general appetite for change may just have been less now. Given the election results, voters may just have been looking for stability during uncertain economic times.

4. In 2005, the most recent election (2001) had produced a very skewed legislature - 77 seats to 2. This time around, the most recent election (2005) produced a fairly representative and functional legislature. Why fix it, if it's ain't broke?

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

They'll go Neg

After months of anticipation, they've finally arrived. Tory attack ads against Michael Ignatieff!

Will they air? Who knows. It's a tactical shift to leak it out on Stephen Taylor's blog, rather than doing a big press conference in the death star - I'll be very curious to see what kind of earned media these get.

I've always loved the irony of attack ads which attack your opponent for attacking you. I eagerly anticipate the Liberal response:

"Stephen Harper has said nothing about the economy. Instead, he spends his time attacking the Liberals for attacking him rather than talking about the economy. Is this the kind of leader you want?"

As for the rest of it, it's not a bad ad. Solid B+ territory I'd say. Everyone knew "time out of the country" was Iggy's biggest liability, and the "Just Visiting" tag is catchy. They mix in some stuff about the lack of Liberal policy for good measure, mainly so that it can be spun as a "substance ad" rather than just a cheap shot.

So, the real question is what kind of media buy this will have, and whether or not it's the start of a full-blown summer offensive, or just a one-off warning shot, scheduled to deflect attention away from Mulroney.


Full Comment

For anyone interested, the Post's "Full Comment" online blogging portal will now be including occasional posts from this blog - presumably in an effort to subject the largely right-wing commentators there to some good old fashioned pinko Liberal propaganda.

BC Votes

Tonight, British Columbians head to the polls, looking to give Gordon Campbell a third straight majority. No doubt, the province will be in a testy mood following the Canucks' elimination last night, so the real question is who they'll take their anger out on.

Had I been living in BC four years ago, I probably would have voted for the NDP and against STV. This time around, I'd flip both those votes. I'm not familiar on all the local issues, but it does seem clear that a Liberal defeat would scare any government away from carbon pricing for at least a decade. As for STV, I'm not as fanatical about electoral reform as some bloggers out there, but the system preserves the accountability of FPTP, so I don't see any harm in giving it a try.

While looking at the polls in a province with a reputation for wild politics like BC might be fool-hardy, here's what the pollsters are saying:

Lib 47%
NDP 39%

Lib 46%
NDP 37%

Angus Reid
Lib 44%
NDP 42%

Lib 47%
NDP 38%

Average it all out, and you're looking at a very similar map to 2005.


Monday, May 11, 2009

PC Leadership Websites: A Randy Site

Tagline: "A Conservative Leader for a Conservative Party" and "Common Sense Solutions That Help Ordinary Ontarians"

Unofficial Tagline: "A Conservative Leader for those of you who think Mike Harris was too much of a pinko commie"

Image: Randy is rockin' the suspenders.

The Basics: The basics are all there on the front page for everyone to see, with the emphasis being put on policy, and on signing up new members. Hillier's been good about sending out e-mail updates since I joined his list and, because of that, I'd try and feature the e-mail sign-up a bit more prominently if I were them.

Web 2.0: While Hillier does the basics well, there's not much else here. Sure, there's audio, but the site is thin on video, with a rather dull youtube channel. He has the mandatory web 2.0 links, but hasn't been putting much effort into them, with only 185 supporters on facebook.

Visuals: The man is clearly an Eifel 65 fan, and the website suffers because of it. Still, Hillier does make good use of the space above the fold on the main page and the sub-pages on the site are a bit easier on the eyes.

Meet Randy: Randy Hillier doesn’t beat around the bush. He’s a Conservative, so his slogan is “A Conservative Leader For A Conservative Party”, and his site is so blue it will hurt your eyes. He wants the votes of rural Ontarians so he wears suspenders in his picture. He wants to build on the Harris nostalgia, so he’s proposing “common sense solutions”.

Policy: In my mind, Hillier has used policy better than any leadership campaign I have ever seen. Rather than weighing in with a lengthy platform full of platitudes, Hillier has 10 specific “common sense” policies on three themes - Freedom, Justice, and Democracy. The policies are perfectly targeted to his core demographic, they have catchy headlines, and he explains them in simple terms. He’ll let beer be sold at corner stores. He’ll bring in Senate elections. He’ll overturn the pesticide ban. These aren’t promises to increase funding or set up commissions, they’re things people can understand and relate to.

Are you a SoCon? Well, he has policies on gay marriage and the human rights commission for you. Are you a pit bull owner? Enjoy the occasional bear hunt? Well, this guy is your man.

As much as I disagree with almost every policy he proposes, leadership candidates and political parties could learn a thing or two from Randy Hillier.

Alexa Rank: Lower than Hudak and Elliott, but people are spending more time on Hillier's site per visit. He's also managed to drive a bit of traffic to the site through google searches on human rights commission issues, which shows his policy focus may be working.

Rating: It’s a well-designed site, with good content and weak visuals. Add it all up, and I give it a 7 out of 10.

Can he win? No, but from my vantage point (which admittedly is way outside the Ontario PC circle), he won't do worse than a strong third. Which means, for better or worse, Randy Hillier is a real force to be reckoned with in the Ontario PC Party.

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

To Boldly Go...

With the Star Trek franchise on life support, following recent film and TV flops, this is just what the EMH ordered.

JJ Abrams' fingerprints are all over this one, and the end result is a fast-paced, hip, sexy, funny, and action-packed movie. If you're not a Trek fan, this one will make for a good popcorn movie (think Iron Man) - if you're familiar with the voyages of the starship enterprise, it will be a pure delight, offering back story to your favourite characters, and subtle references to all things Trek that will have you smiling from start to finish. As a fan of the original series, it was great to see a new set of actors bring the characters to life - Karl Urban's performance as Bones was especially strong.

And while I'm not in the habit of doing movie reviews on this blog, the opportunity to post the Jack Layton red shirt pic that's been floating around the net was too much to pass up.

Friday, May 08, 2009

It's just like being there...only without the beautiful scenery, great weather, and free alcohol

Danielle Takacs has a very thorough video recap of the LPC Biennial Convention up on her blog.

Also, be sure to check out Jason Lamarche's collection of interviews, including this one with Mark Holland.

As for me, I managed to conduct a few video interviews with MPs in Vancouver, which I promise to have uploaded shortly.


Thursday, May 07, 2009

Stupid Question of the Day

NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo to Labour Minister Peter Fonseca: "The question is: Will you stand up for the Liberal Party or will you stand up for workers in Ontario?" asked Ms. DiNovo. "Will you penalize Ruby Dhalla? Will you put Ruby Dhalla in jail?"

Yes, why bother even having an investigation or a trial? Surely Peter Fonseca is qualified to pass judgement.

Hat tip - Dan Cook

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The Best Things I've Heard About Michael Ignatieff...

...come from Gilles Duceppe. Seriously - had this been the image MI put forward himself in the past, I would have been very tempted to support him in one of the past two leadership races:

The central targets for the Bloc are Mr. Ignatieff's general demeanour, as well as any past opinion that can be used to paint him as a centralizing, anti-nationalist leader in the mould of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau.

“Michael Ignatieff says that Quebeckers can choose to be Quebeckers or Canadians, in any order. You can be what you want, he tells us, but you can be sure that his Liberal policies will be Canadian, period,” Mr. Duceppe said in the letter.

The new Liberal Leader, according to the Bloc, will thwart Quebec's interests by proposing national education standards and a pan-Canadian energy policy, both of which would go against the province's jurisdiction over education and natural resources.

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Goodbye Ruby Tuesday

OTTAWA–Liberal MP Ruby Dhalla is stepping down from her job as critic for youth and multiculturalism, as part of continuing fallout over alleged mistreatment of two nannies she employed – first reported in the Star this week.

"This morning I called the leader to personally tender my resignation as multiculturalism and youth critic in order to focus my attention on clearing my name," Dhalla said in a statement.

"I will work with the appropriate officials to ensure the facts of the matter are clarified and corrected regarding my family's experience with live-in caregivers and will work vigorously to defend my reputation. I am honoured to represent the people of Brampton-Springdale and I will continue to do so. My constituents remain my first priority."

Hopefully there's nothing to this...


Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Barack Obama added "prosecuting torturers" to Interests

In case you missed it, Slate's hilarious facebook feed of Obama's first 100 days.


Nav on Renewal

Tomorrow on the Globe website, Navdeep Bains will be talking about:

How ready are the Liberals to fight the next election? How will they attract a broader range of Canadians than have signed up for their party in recent years? Will changing their leadership system really make them more democratic? What more should they be doing to become a more inclusive, grassroots party?

Could be interesting...

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Goodbye Newman

I missed this while in Vancouver, but Don Newman will be signing off CBC's Politics brooooaaaaaadcast for the last time this June. This is disappointing news, since Newman is one of the best political journalists in Canada - fair to all his guests and respectful of them, but also able to ask the tough question and slice through the BS.

Looking back, I have to identify the moment I started watching Don's show as the crossing of the line from casual political user to full-blown junkie. So, because of that, I'll personally be sad to see him go.

I would go on with my praise, but I need to be fair with time.


Springtime for Socialists?

Federal NDP support may be waning, but the Dippers do have a shot at taking the BC election next Tuesday (albeit a long shot).

They will have a slightly better chance at the Nova Scotia election, now set for June 9th. So over the next month, we'll get a pretty good idea of how willing voters are to toss out the bums and turn left, in the midst of a recession.

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Monday, May 04, 2009

Convention Wrap

Well, that was a fun weekend. Certainly not as exciting as Montreal, but the LPC ran a well-organized convention (the Thursday night disaster aside) and the location and weather were so great it was impossible for delegates not to have a good time.

For those interested in the "inside politics" side of things, Steve Kukucha won the VP-English position, and Joan Bourassa was re-elected Policy Chair. Pierre-Luc Lacoste won the Young Liberals Policy Chair position by 11 votes, with Tom Cervinsky taking VP External. The big drama was, of course, the YLC Presidential race which ended in a dead heat (193-193, with 4 spoiled ballots). The John Lennard scrutineer picked "7", earning the right to call the coin flip, but foolishly went with tails - when the coin came up heads, Sam Lavoie became YLC President. My sources have, as of yet, been unable to confirm what type of coin it was that was flipped.

And, oh yeah, there was the leadership vote. 2023 votes were cast (by my count, that means about 80% of the delegates bothered to vote), with 59 ballots being spoiled. Among those were 4 Bob Rae write-in votes and 3 each for Belinda Stronach and Stephane Dion. Do that math, and that gives Ignatieff a solid 97% in the one-man race.

As for the event itself on Saturay, the party showed it learned its lesson from the way Sheila Copps was treated in 2003, and let Bob Rae and Dominic LeBlanc give nominating speeches. Both speeches were solid, but it was new party president Alf Apps who got the best line off: "We have 3 former Liberal Prime Ministers here which is great. To get 2 Tory Prime Ministers in the same room these days, you'd have to issue a subpoena."

So, this brings us to Michael's speech. To be honest, the introductory video didn't really do it for me - the "our own 2 hands" song has a certain "sing a song for Jim" sound to it, and the 6 pictures in a row with Michael and Obama (followed by Iggy in front of Air Force One) were a little to anvily.

The speech itself was good. My one knock would be that it was a tad generic - Bob Rae or Dominic LeBlanc could have given the exact same speech, the Liberal leader 10 years ago could have given the exact same speech, and the Liberal leader 10 years from now could give the exact same one.

But, at the same time, a long time Liberal told me at the after party that he liked that very thing about it, as it showed Michael was a true grit, and not just a tourist in the party or a conservative with a red scarf. And, thinking it over, he did eloquently manage to explain what the Liberal Party stands for. More importantly, he fired up the crowd - a job whose importance should not be under-estimated, as the individuals in the room will be counted on to give their time and money to the party in the coming years.

So, in the end, the Seinfeld convention served its purpose. Delegates had a good time, and were left with smiles on their faces. But fans will recall that the 9:30 slot after Seinfeld was not usually must-see-TV. The real challenge will be the next few months.

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Saturday, May 02, 2009

The Biggest News we Learned Today

New liberal logo.
Thoughts on Iggy's speech and all the rest to follow tomorrow...

The One Member One Vote Vote

WOMOV is in.

The most hotly anticipated vote of the weekend just wrapped up, with the Liberal Party overwhelmingly rejecting the 25% youth quota amendment and deciding to adopt a weighted one member one vote leadership selection process. As I've argued before, both of these decisions were the right ones to make, and I'm glad delegates voted the way they did.

Now, the play-by-play.

The supporters of the youth amendment had the buttons and pamphlets, but with a low youth turn-out at this convention (10-15% of delegates), the demographics weren't in their favour for the vote. Opponents also played the microphone well, putting up Justin Trudeau and two young Liberals to speak against the amendment, whereas there was not a single senior party member who spoke in favour of it. The amendment was soundly rejected, by about 85% of those in the room, I'd estimate.

On the WOMOV vote itself, Belinda Stronach and Bob Rae spoke in favour of it - Bob really fired up the crowd and it was fairly obvious it would pass. Which it did, with a good 80% of the room in favour.

So conventions just got a bit less fun, but the party just got a bit more democratic. All in all, that's not an awful trade-off to make.


Friday, May 01, 2009

The Convention in Pictures

It's a beautiful day for a convention!


Liberals campaigning hard to pass their policy resolutions. With enough work, their policy might wind up on a binder that the leader could look at any time he wants!

Creative campaigning by the Sam Lavoie YLC campaign...unfortunately the City of Vancouver tried to slap them with an $800 fine (for sidewalk chalk? What's the deal with that?)

Justin and Jean chat...and the CPAC cameras come running

Freudian slip in the delegate package?

Vancouver garbage cans...with no place for garbage!

A letter from protestors to Michael Ignatius

One member one vote one shirt

There's always a debate among delegates over how formal to dress. Well, there's one solution to that!

Blue Liberal signs

Sometimes the buttons are just too obvious to design

John Lennard's YLC campaign button

The Liberal bag...clearly not as much as the 2006 model


More Short Convention Updates - Friday

For complete convention coverage, check out:

10 am: A random Vancouverite on the street heckles me on my way down to the convention centre, complaining that the Liberal Senate is responsible for all the crime in the country. C'mon bud, I'm from Alberta - that's nothing.

10:30 am: I had a good chat with Ralph Goodale about making the party competitive in Western Canada. Interesting tid-bit - both Goodale and Ignatieff were youth organizers for Pierre Trudeau during the 1968 convention.

11 am: I missed Iggy's speech to the Young Liberals, but the word is he spent a good chunk of it pushing them to vote for One-Member-One-Vote. He carefully avoided weighing in on the youth amendment though. My sense is that most of the youth are for the amendment, but the rest of the party is very mixed on the idea. If I had to guess, I'd say the amendment squeaks through, and WOMOV is overwhelming passed.

2 pm: My rough count has the NDP and Liberals tied on lawn signs. However, both are well behind the Canucks.

Now, to save you the trouble of reading it in Jane Taber's column tomorrow, the hospitality suite review:

From a quantity perspective, there were a surprisingly high number of suites last night (considering there's not really anything to vote on this convention). Not much food, but the beverages were plentiful. The Alf Apps suite is supposed to have an open buffet tonight which, in my opinion, makes Alf the greatest LPC President ever. Dalton McGuinty is also throwing a party tonight which will, you can be sure, have a few people talking...

Convention Update

I'll have some pictures and more detailed updates later this afternoon but, for now, a few random convention observations on Day 1:

Thursday 9 am: The (provincial) Liberal signs here are blue...go figure.

Thursday 11:45 am: Michael Ignatieff shows up to register, drawing dozens of excited "Michael! Michael!" chants. I suspect the signs, noise makers, chanting, and "spontaneous" demonstrations we saw in Montreal won't be as common this time around.

Thursday 12:00 pm: I'm in line to register as media for the convention...I spend 5 minutes explaining to local reporter behind me the different between "right wing" and "left wing".

Thursday 12:30 pm: No chants. No tambourines. But there are buttons! And t-shirts!

Thursday 2:00 pm: The common consensus appears to be that the free delegate souvenir bags are not as nice as those given out at the last convention. But there is free Liberal stain remover in them! (insert own joke here)

Thursday 8:00 pm: No Michael Ignatieff t-shirts anywhere but there are dozens of blue "Vote Steve" shirts. Yes, they're in reference to the VP English party position race, but they seem a bit out of place at a Liberal convention.

More to follow later...