Friday, February 26, 2010

Calgary Grit Financial Advice

Time to dump your stocks! Parliament, and all the market uncertainty that comes with it, resumes on Monday.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ad Watch: Olympic Edition

With record ratings for Olympic events, Canadians have become the watching of CTV commercials. Here's a run down of my favourite commercials so far:

1. BC Tourism: Celebrities - who live in LA - stand in front of green screen shots of BC, telling us they call it "home" and that "you've got to visit".

2. Chevy: This isn't an Olympic-themed commercial, but it's been airing during CTV broadcasts. It's an attack-ad, where Chevrolet says four studies have shown they get better gas mileage than Toyota. I'm all for attack ads, but it just seems to me that there might be better things to attack Toyota on than poor gas mileage...

3. Presidents Choice: So I'm watching downhill skiing, and the Canadian team has gone through crash after crash. Then comes up a commercial from Presidents Choice, talking about how Canadian skiers eat their Presidents Choice blue menu. Fail.

4. McDonalds: This one only aired earlier in the Olympics - it features one of our athletes talking about how he always eats McDonald's fries. Me thinks "Own the Podium" should hire a dietitian...

5. Coke, McDonald's, and Visa: Giant US multinationals selling Canadian pride. Tim Hortons can do it, but since when are Morgan Freeman and Visa Canadian?

6. It's Our Game: I love this Coke commercial that tells us to "remind everyone whose game it is". The only problem is that they're going to have to pull it if Team Canada bombs out in the quarters, or else it will be a punch to the gut of hockey fans coast to coast every time it airs. That, or they'll have to remix it to remind Canadians to show the world who owns ice dancing!

7. MacDonald's Eggs Jugglers: No offense, but when I go to MacDonald's, I just want my McMuffin quickly - I don't want the cook staff spending twenty minutes juggling eggs before they cook it.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

February Poll Soup: The New Normal

We've had a fair chunk of polling out this month and the results are fairly consistent - a slim Tory lead, similar to what we saw in January, at the height of the prorogation backlash. The notable exception would be Environics, which had the Grits in front earlier this month.

Of course, every pundit has spent the past year talking about Harper's Olympic bounce. I'm not sure I really see the logic behind it - it's not like Alex Bilodeau is a Tory candidate, and we've seen a lot less of Harper over the past week than we usually do. But maybe that's the point. Perhaps with Canadians ignoring politics, the anger over prorogation will fade.

We'll find out over the next few weeks.

Ekos (Feb 10-16, n=3,600 auto-dialled)
CPC 31.2%
Lib 29.0%
NDP 16.5%
BQ 8.8%
Green 11.8%
Other 2.7%

Decima (Feb 4-14, n=4,045 phone)
CPC 32%
Lib 30%
NDP 16%
BQ 10%
Green 10%

Angus Reid (Feb 11-13, n=2,003 online)
CPC 34%
Lib 30%
NDP 18%
BQ 9%
Green 8%

Environics (Feb 4-9, n=958 telephone)
CPC 33%
Lib 37%
NDP 13%
BQ 8%
Green 9%
Other 1%

Nanos (Jan 29-Feb 4, n = 1,002 telephone)
CPC 35.6%
Lib 33.9%
NDP 16.4%
BQ 8.5%
Green 5.6%

AVERAGE (change since January in brackets)

Conservative Party: 33.2% (+1.0%)
Liberal Party: 32.0% (+1.5%)
NDP: 16.0% (-0.7%)
Bloc Quebecois: 8.9% (-0.5%)
Green Party 8.9% (-0.3%)


Friday, February 19, 2010

This Week in Alberta - The BIG Merger

We all had a good chuckle back when the Wildrose Party and Alberta Alliance merged together; "Unite the Irrelevant" would have been an appropriate headline.

But that was then, and just two years later they've already begun carving Danielle Smith's face into the rocky mountains to commemorate her 30 year reign as Premier. So I guess we shouldn't be too dismissive of the merger between Renew Alberta and the Alberta Party - but it's sure hard not to be.

On one side, you have the Alberta Party, which has been around in various fringe separatist forms since the mid-80s, and who collected a whopping 0.46% of the vote last the one riding they ran in. So they've got a base of 51 votes to work off of. But, hey, if they can double that every election, they'll be poised for power in 2068.

And their merger partner? Renew Alberta. Which isn't a party.

So it hardly seems like this is worth talking about, but there are a few reasons to not dismiss this outright:

1. I have a lot of time for the people involved in the Renew movement. They're bright and they're committed.

2. The "Alberta Party" name is a good one to have. Yes, yes, I know it's simplistic, but often politics is simplistic.

3. Alberta politics are all topsy turvy now. There's a mood for change - Danielle Smith has been the benefit of that so far, but that could change.

So I'm intrigued. I'm still on the fence over whether or not I wish them well. On the one hand, I've always felt a new party might be the best way for progressives to gain power in Alberta. After the last election, my dream scenario was an "Alberta Party" fusing together from the ALP, Green Party, disgruntled PCs, and left-wing reformists. Get someone like Dave Bronconnier to lead it, and it could have been them rather than the Wildrosers bearing down on the PCs right now.

But the problem is, the new Alberta Party is going to be fishing from the same pool as the ALP. So even if they do somehow manage to become competitive by 2012 (and that's certainly a long shot), they'd be draining votes from the Liberals - the end result of that would be a PC or Wildrose government.

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The Olympics Brings Canada Together, in a Common Desire for Success...and a Common Recognition that Michael Ignatieff is not a Leader

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Nattering Nabobs of Negativism

Ignatieff angered by critics of Vancouver Games

OTTAWA — Michael Ignatieff says he's angry about the criticism being levelled at organizers of the Vancouver Winter Games.

The Liberal leader dismisses the critics, primarily foreign journalists, as "nattering nabobs of negativism."

Hear, hear. Well said Mr. Ignatieff. I tend to agree that the nagging by those nattering nabobs of negativism has been needless, nonsensical, and naive. Because really, it just shows...what's that? Oh, never mind:

Still, Ignatieff agrees with those who've criticized the lack of French in the opening ceremonies.

When it comes to criticism of the games, I tend to agree with Don Martin - a lot of the flack from the British press can be written off as journalists looking for something to write about due to an absence of compelling stories about British athletes (still looking for their first medal).

It's like during an election campaign - if nothing of consequence is being said, we get bombarded with process stories ("so and so's plane was delayed", "look at the typo in this press release!"). And, as is the case in election campaigns, everyone loves a good easy-to-understand narrative. So after some weather delays and the tragic death on the luge track, a Zamboni malfunction suddenly becomes more noteworthy than it would otherwise be.

And as for complaints that Canada has adopted a "kicking ass, eh" mentality? Well, I for one welcome it. Nothing wrong with showing a little national pride and trying to, you know, win.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Do you think it is easy to make priorities?

Ask and ye shall receive. The Liberal priorities for the upcoming session of parliament:

-Job creation proposals to support manufacturers and young Canadians, and to encourage investment in start-up companies;

-Increase investments in clean energy and energy efficiency;

-Adopt a made-in-Canada climate change plan, including a binding and verifiable cap-and-trade system with hard caps, absolute reductions, and fairness to all industries and regions;

-Reform pensions to help Canadians save more and protect Canadians whose pension income is threatened by employer bankruptcy;

-Strengthen oversight of our independent watchdog agencies;

-Reaffirm the principle of equal pay for work of equal value as a non-negotiable right;

-Call an investigation into the national shame of missing and murdered Aboriginal women;

-Increase supports for Canadian veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder;

-Develop a National Neurological Strategy to address Alzheimer’s and dementia;

-Reaffirm Canada’s traditional support for a woman’s right to access contraception and reproductive health services as part of the maternal health initiative;

-Protect victims of white collar crime with measures like mandatory restitution and tax relief;

-Pursue proven crime-prevention solutions that reduce crime, prevent victimization and enhance community safety;

-Provide the public with transparency over the government’s role in the transfer of Afghan detainees by reconstituting and ending Conservative boycotts of Parliament’s Afghanistan committee, and respect the will of Parliament by handing over unredacted documents in a manner that protects legitimate claims of national security; and

-Free Olympic mittens for all Canadians.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Happy Family Day

Friday, February 12, 2010

Let the games begin

Save for a few "take out the trash" announcements, I really don't expect a lot to be going on politically over the next two weeks. So expect a low volume of political content on this blog for the duration of the Olympics - after all, if Stephen Harper can take 3 months off politics to focus on the games, the rest of us are certainly entitled to a 2 week break.

So, with no election speculation, cabinet shuffle speculation, or Stockwell Day murse speculation to indulge in, what's a pundit to do? Well, how about torch bearer speculation?

Rumours are running rampant over who will light the torch in tonight's opening ceremonies. Let's run down the field:

Wayne Gretzky (3-1): He's the greatest athlete to ever play Canada's game and, short of giving William Shatner the honour, he'd be the most recognizable Canadian to an international audience. Still, his Olympic track record is underwhelming: 4th place in '98, and while he did pick the winning team in 2002, let's face it, picking a gold medal caliber Canadian men's hockey team is kind of like running as a Conservative in Medicine's hard to really mess up. Plus, Gretzky's candidacy has no doubt been hurt by the "Just Visiting" attack ads the Terry Fox foundation has been running against him all week.

Betty Fox (3-1): Having Terry Fox's mother symbolically complete his cross-country run in Vancouver would have everyone reaching for the Kleenex. There's also been some talk of James Cameron creating a Terry Fox hologram to light the torch. But knowing Cameron's level of modesty, don't be surprised if there's a James Cameron avatar standing right beside Terry as he does it.

Aboriginal athlete (6-1): Sydney did it in 2000, and it's certainly the "Canadian" thing to do. Other good Canadian options include having 10 or 20 torch lighters to ensure every possible group is represented, or calling a Royal Commission to make the decision and then just never getting around to lighting it.

Rick Hansen (20-1): Having already lit the Richmond flame, the Man in Motion is probably out of contention. For better or worse, this means no performance of St. Elmo's Fire tonight.

Nancy Greene (35-1): She's got the Olympic CV for the job, but I'm concerned she'll be too busy with her arduous Senate workload to have the time for it.

Joe Sakic or Trevor Linden (50-1): There's been some buzz around these local stars but, really, if it's an NHLer it has to be Wayne. I'm just disappointed no one got a "Rory Fitzpatrick for torch bearer" campaign going.

Stephen Harper (100-1): Long odds, but no one who has watched this government over the past four years would be at all surprised...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Alberta Budget: Drawing the 2012 Battle Lines

In 2009, Alberta underwent a seismic political shift. Because of that, Budget 2010 has been more highly anticipated and speculated about than last week's Lost premiere. And, at first glance, it's just as confusing, with massive spending increases in some departments and deep cuts in others. After a series of cautious budgets, where the PCs basically threw money at anyone and everyone who asked for it, they've been forced into establishing priorities. And, as we all know, it is not easy to make priorities.

The number 1 priority is, without a doubt, Health Care, which sees its already massive operating budget increase by 17%. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the PC narrative for the next election campaign:

"We have to deal with Aunt Martha who needs her hip, we need to deal with thousands of students who want to learn in modern schools," Snelgrove said. "It's all right to suggest that we can cut $5 billion. I would be a lot more comfortable if they would show Albertans where they would like to cut the $5 billion from and see if Albertans support longer waiting lists, no roads and 60 people in a classroom."

That's not to say the PCs will spend like Alberta PCs have spent in recent years. But they've picked Health Care as their wedge issue with the Wildrose Alliance and, from a strategic perspective, that's not be a bad wedge - it's also an issue that could scare Liberal and NDP voters into voting Stelmach to stop Smith.

But as Colby Cosh points out, the PCs are basically toast if they can't post a surplus by 2012. The good news for them is that it's pretty easy to announce a surplus in Alberta - you just need to tinker with your projected price of oil and natural gas. Still, they needed to make room for the Health Care spending bonanza while gaining street cred with disillusioned right wing voters who have shifted to the Alliance.

So we get huge cuts to culture, the environment, and a dozen other departments, plus the elimination of 795 government jobs. Somewhat troublesome is the 6% cut to advanced education and technology which, to me, shows that an incredible short sighted government has grown even more incredibly short sighted now that its fighting for their political life.

So the PCs have picked Health Care as their issue. What does this mean for the Liberals and NDP, who may have just had their number 1 issue taken away from them?

Well, I think this budget creates a new opening for them. The second Red Ted delivered his budget speech, Calgary Mayor Dave Bronconnier was already complaining that Stelmach had reneged on promised funds for the city, which may lead to the cancellation of infrastructure projects. There's a certain deja vu to this. Stelmach's first budget (in 2007) was widely seen as being anti-Calgary, and Bronconnier pounced on it, hammering Stelmach into the dust day after day. A desperate Eddie backed down then, and Bronco rode his Danny Williams shtick to re-election that fall.

And, wouldn't you know it? This just so happens to be municipal election year in Alberta again.

Given that, it's almost a given that Bronconnier will try to turn a city and its media, already sour on Stelmach, even more against the Premier. Toss in a 19% cut to housing and urban affairs, and I suspect a few other mayors looking for re-election will be up in arms as well.

It's doubtful Danielle Smith's alternative budget will have any more money for the cities. So the opportunity is there for the Liberals to take the torch and rise to the defense of Calgary - after all, their leader is a Calgarian and they remain an urban party. If I were David Swann, I would pick this as my battle and hound the PCs on it day and night. Stand beside Bronconnier, raise hell in the legislature, write op-eds in the Calgary papers, go on Dave Rutherford demanding Calgary get what was promised. The road to government is going to run through Calgary and the Liberals need to paint themselves as the city's true defenders.

Stelmach has picked his issue - the Liberals need to find theirs.

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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The Art of Text Message Seduction, by Adam Giambrone

Just in time for Valentine's Day, Calgary Grit is pleased to offer relationship advice from Adam Giambrone - the perfect way to impress those special someones this Sunday!

1. Always text! It is the best way 4 U 2 get ur message across. Whether you're telling your girlfriend about your other girlfriend ("You know I will be announcing I have a partner. It is someone named Sarah who I've been involved with in the past") or telling her why she's important to you ("I still think of you when I need ... um ... stimulation") - a text is perfect for any occasion!

2. Women like being used as campaign props. There is no greater compliment you can give a woman than letting her know you're dating her because "I had to have someone political".

3. Rather than buying your mistress a birthday gift, let her know "a long, long time ago about the (TTC) fare hike". Think of all the money she'll save stockpiling tokens in advance!

4. Show a woman how important she is to you - even after you tell her you can't be seen in public together, all will be forgiven when you text her "I still think of you when I need ... um ... stimulation". Other great compliments include: "I like you because you're smart and interesting. You're also good-looking naked."

5. Make it clear where you stand. Your live in girlfriend will appreciate your honesty when you text your other girlfriend: "I am NOT marrying (Sarah)".

6. Be sure to psych yourself up so that you are "ready" for any big date by doing push-ups and jumping jacks in your suit, and talking to yourself in the mirror. You'll appear that much more confident.

OK, OK. Now that we've had our fun with Giambrone, what does it all mean? Personally, I'm torn. I question the wisdom of anyone who thinks David Miller "is like a god", but I do appreciate Giambrone's use of proper grammar in most of his text messages.

Still, when the main knock on the guy is that he's too immature to be mayor, this is more than a sex scandal. This campaign could be over by the time the snow melts.

UPDATE: Quite a bit before the snow melts, it turns out. Giambrone quits the race, leaving a huge hole on the left.


Sunday, February 07, 2010

Rob Anders: "Democracy is Petty"

Yeah, party members wanting open nominations. How petty of them.

The tumultuous history of the federal Conservative riding association in Calgary West continued this week with the Tory party's national council apparently assuming control of the association board.

Most members of the Conservative riding board support Donna Kennedy-Glans, who wishes to challenge controversial incumbent MP Rob Anders in a nomination race. Riding association members were to be asked by the board this spring whether they wanted to attempt to hold another nomination race.

"When you have some people that are focused on what are fairly minuscule, petty issues to the distraction of that overall effort -- they're doing it to cause disruption to the party as a whole, for the council, for the member of Parliament," Anders said Friday evening.

"You have to put that stuff to rest and move on."


Friday, February 05, 2010

We can't change the British Parliamentary System...

...but the British can!

Britain's "first past the post" voting system could be scrapped if Labour wins the general election, under plans which have been outlined by Gordon Brown.

The prime minister wants a referendum on changing to an "alternative vote" system, where candidates are ranked in order of voters' preference.

Mr Brown also backed proposals by Labour MP Tony Wright to beef up the power of MPs to hold the government to account, with elected select committee chairmen and control of what is debated at Westminster handed to a backbench committee.

He said the government also backed e-petitions, which would allow members of the public to suggest topics for MPs to debate and said voters would get the right to recall MPs guilty of financial impropriety, where the House of Commons had refused to act.

I'm not a huge electoral reform guy, but a transferable vote seems reasonable. It's how we nominate candidates and pick party leaders. It's not overly complicated, and it adds a certain amount of legitimacy to the system, by ensuring MPs have majority support in their constituency.

We've seen Canadian voters reject an overhaul of the political system in referenda, but I think this more modest form of tinkering could have some appeal. After all, what's more Canadian than "modest tinkering"?

But, beyond the actual proposal, I think it's important to look at this in the context of what's actually going on in the UK. Brown's reform package is a direct response to a series of scandals that have caused the British people to lose faith in their politicians. Think of it as Brown's version of Harper's 2006 Accountability Act, which fed an appetite for reform here, following Adscam.

And if you look at the Canadian political scene these days, the picture is fairly bleak. I get the sense that most voters are just fed up with politics - the bickering, the pettiness, the scandal...that may in part explain the reaction to Harper's prorogation vacation.

So I think the appetite is once again there for someone to step in and really change the way we do politics. And hey, as luck would have it, the Liberals have a leader who isn't a career politician - so why not play that up, and put something constructive forward next election? Reform parliament, change our system...try to restore a little faith in democracy.

Maybe voters have become so cynical that they won't believe the promises anymore, but it's worth a shot.


Layton Diagnosed with Prostate Cancer

Just off the wire, Jack Layton will be making an announcement this afternoon about his "personal status and immediate future as NDP leader.''

Stepping down? Mayoral run?

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Layton will be undergoing treatment for prostate cancer. You can read his statement here.

I think we can all join in together wishing Jack a speedy recovery.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

How ever will they escape this cunning trap?

We learn in today's Globe, that Stephen Harper has set a trap for Michael Ignatieff! No, no, he hasn't booby trapped a copy of Machiavelli's writings with electric shocks or anything - this is one of those master strategic genius traps, the kind that show Harper is playing chess while everyone is playing checkers:

Harper sets a trap for the opposition

After weeks of being pilloried for shuttering the Commons, Stephen Harper is trying to win back disaffected Canadians by adding extra House sittings in March and April to recoup some lost time.

The proposal sets a trap for opposition parties, which must consent to the move or undermine their complaints about Mr. Harper's Dec. 30 decision to prorogue Parliament until March 3.

Norman Spector jumps in:

By suggesting that the House sit an additional 12 days in March and April, Mr. Harper has badly outmanoeuvred Jack Layton and Michael Ignatieff. With both gentlemen having been out of the country when the media-stimulated prorogation storm hit Canada, this is an offer that neither can refuse.

Well, yeah - of course this is an offer neither can refuse. That's kind of why this sucks as a trap. Harper has dangled the cheese, but it's not tied to anything. So the opposition will eat the cheese and go on its merry way.

Because, let's face it - this is obviously damage control. Even Norman Spector must realize this - God knows as Mulroney's chief of staff, he did his fair share of damage control.

Maybe it would have been clever if Harper had said they'd give up their summer break to make up for the lost time as soon as he announced the prorogation - but this is obviously nothing more than the grandmaster himself scrambling to dodge a checkmate.

And after listening to Tory MPs spend the past month talking about how Parliament causes market instability, how the real work happens outside of Parliament, why it's important to spend time consulting with Canadians...well, there are certainly some inconsistencies in Harper's rationale.

Don't get me wrong, I think Harper's a fairly smart tactician. But can we get rid of this notion that every move the man makes is a master stroke of genius? After the last month, I would have thought that was self evident.

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Justice Minister Lawrence Harper could not be reached for comment

Here, in its entirety, is an article from yahoo news:

OTTAWA (AFP) – Several dozen Haitian children adopted by Canadian families could arrive in Canada this weekend, Immigration Minister Lawrence Kenney said Friday after receiving Haiti's approval in 154 cases.

"Yesterday, Canadian officials presented a list to the government of Haiti with the names of 154 children who are currently in the adoption process," Kenney said.

"I am very pleased to announce today that the government of Haiti has given its full approval to that list," clearing the way for them to come to Canada, the minister said.

Eighty-six of the adoptions were at an "advanced stage in the process," with at least some level of approval from Haitian authorities, he said, adding that arrangements were being made "to bring these 86 children to Canada in the coming days."

The first flight could arrive in Canada at the weekend, Kenney said.

In the days since the quake, families around the world in the process of adopting Haitian children have pressured their governments to speed up the process.

Several including Belgium, Spain and the United States have moved to fast-track adoption procedures for children in Haiti, with the wretchedly poor Caribbean nation suffering critical shortages of water and food in the aftermath of the 7.0-magnitude quake.

Meanwhile, Canadian Prime Minister Lawrence Cannon said he and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke by telephone Friday about ways to improve coordination of international relief efforts in Haiti.

Their discussion set some groundwork for donor country talks in Montreal scheduled for Monday.

Hat Tip - DD

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Toronto Votes 2010: Adam Giambrone's Star Wars Kid Candidacy

We're still a long way away from e-day, but Toronto's mayoral race is starting to take shape. According to the city's website, there are 24 declared candidates - alas, Ange Maniccia has withdrawn, failling to generate a significant amount of Maniccia-Mania in the first day of his/her candidacy. Relax Ange, we all have moments like that.

From among that list of 24, there are a handful of legitimate candidates - one of Giorgio Mammoliti, Joe Pantalone, or the yet-to-declare Denzil Minnan-Wong could break through as a contender.

But early on, the media focus has been on George Smitherman, Adam Giambrone, and Rocco Rossi. For those unfamiliar with Toronto-politics, here's where you've probably heard of these men before:

-Giambrone's name gets mentioned on Facebook whenever someone is bitching about the TTC
-Smitherman is part of the "Former McGuinty Cabinet Ministers" Facebook group (closing in on the anti-prorogation one as the largest FB group in Canada)
-Rocco Rossi has most likely wished you happy birthday on Facebook.

So what should we make of our three challengers thus far?

Well, with John Tory gone, Smitherman is clearly the front runner. He's branding himself as the pit bull of the race (Q: What's the difference between George Smitherman and a pit bull? A: McGuinty has yet to ban George Smitherman):

In an exclusive interview with The Globe and Mail, Mr. Smitherman opened the door to road tolls, rejected banishing bike lanes from arterial roads and promised to apply bulldog toughness to the city’s finances – unlike the current administration, he said, which is struggling to impose a 5-per-cent budget cut on recalcitrant departments and agencies.

“If my bureaucracy basically shot me the finger,” Mr. Smitherman said, “well, I’ll let my reputation speak for itself … a shrug of the shoulders and the middle finger salute isn’t going to cut it.”

Former LPC National Director Rocco Rossi (who, in passing, deserves a round of applause for the increased Liberal fundraising numbers in 2009), is positioning himself on Smitherman's right flank. It's not too surprising, really. Rossi was John Tory's campaign manager in 2003, so he stands to inherit much of the Tory only makes sense to try and inherit as much of Tory's vote as possible.

Which brings us to young Adam Giambrone, chair of the TTC. Giambrone should be taken seriously in this race - John Laschinger is his campaign manager, and Giambrone will appeal to many of the same people who elected David Miller. Now, when I say that Giambrone should be taken seriously, that's intended more as advice to his own campaign, than as a warning to the opposition. Case in point:

I'm as big a fan of self-deprecating humour as anyone out there, but there comes a point when you cringe. After watching this video, I just can't imagine this guy running the City of Toronto. Don't get me wrong, I love that he has a sense of humour, and he seems like an OK guy - the video would make me consider voting for him as SU President. Well, maybe not, but definitely as VP Events for the chess club.

But Mayor of Toronto? That's a fairly serious job, and nothing Giambrone has done thus far, during this campaign or during his political career, gives me any sort of sense that he's ready for that.

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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The $200 Gap

The 2009 fundraising numbers are out. The good news for the Liberals is that they've closed the fundraising gap. The bad news? It's still an 8 million dollar gap, which grows to about 11 million when you consider the per-vote subsidies.

Via Pundits' Guide, here's a look at the year-over-year numbers, since Harper cut the donation cap:

Pundits Guide also has the dollar breakdown - it's not perfect since this still includes "double dip" donations, but it clearly shows the Tory advantage remains on the small donation front. The Liberals actually out-raised the Conservatives slightly on donations over $200, but the Tories hold a commanding $12 million to $3 million lead when it comes to the small cheques.

So, despite some incredible progress in 2009, there's still a lot of work to be done.

(And, you know, if you're so inclined to help close the gap, just click through here)


Policy Time

And slowly but surely, we begin to learn a bit more about the international man of mystery:

Ignatieff sketches out 'doable' Senate reform ideas

Liberals present job creation proposals

Daycare tops Liberal agenda

Yes, the specifics are still missing, but those will come. With voters wholly unimpressed with Stephen Harper, now is the time for Michael Ignatieff to show Canadians what he stands for - and he appears to be doing just that.

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