Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Insider

Then: Grit insider Rocco Rossi running for T.O. mayor


Hat Tip - JT


Friday, May 28, 2010

Jason Kenney's Ever Evolving Position on Staffers Testifying


Jason Kenney's Ever Evolving Position on G20 Spending

AM-G7-Wrong-City, Bgt code:2; Budget; Espy AP, Reut; Tax group says Halifax wrong choice for G-7 Canadian Press Newswire Sun Apr 30 1995, 1:21pm ET
Section: National General News
Byline: By Steve Lambert
Dateline: HALIFAX

HALIFAX (CP) - The federal government was wrong to put next month's G-7 summit in Halifax because the city needs too many government-funded fixups, says a national taxpayers' lobby group.

The heads of the leading industrialized nations meet in the Nova Scotia capital June 15-17 and the federal, provincial and local governments are spending $8.1 million to spruce it up.

The federal government ``should have chosen a location which wouldn't cost that kind of money,'' said Jason Kenney, spokesman for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, a watchdog group promoting cuts in taxes and government spending.

``There are conference facilities available, I'm sure, in that part of the world as well as across Canada that could have hosted an event like this without spending several million dollars to upgrade them.''

Halifax has a modern trade and convention centre, but the G-7 isn't being held there. Organizers have chosen instead two waterfront buildings - the brick Maritime Museum of the Atlantic and a nearby green-tinted office building that some locals call The Green Toad.

The infrastructure money is being used for everything from road repairs and a new outdoor stage to temporary parks that will cover vacant downtown lots. Boards around empty buildings will be painted.

``We're supposed to be a major industrialized country,'' Kenney said from Toronto.

``A major industrialized country surely has conference sites where it can host significant dignitaries without having to spend millions of dollars sprucing up the environment.''

Kenney's remarks are not the first critical pre-summit comments on Halifax or the province.

An article in the February edition of the magazine Stern - widely circulated in Germany, one of the G-7 countries - called Nova Scotia a ``dump'' and its people lazy.

The magazine said ``fish catches are unloaded and inspected in slow motion, and everybody has a minute to chat.''

On top of infrastructure spending, Ottawa will pay millions for security, accommodations and other costs.

But local politicians and some economists say they're confident that economic spinoffs and future tourism will more than make up for the spending.

``My feeling is that the biggest impact will be on the reputation of the city,'' said David Amirault, an analyst with the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council.

The three-day summit is expected to pump $7.3 million into local businesses and the Nova Scotia government, and Amirault said images of Halifax broadcast around the world will boost tourism for years to come.

Kenney disagrees.

``I'm sure it will raise Halifax's name recognition throughout much of the world,'' he said. ``But apart from seeing some photo-ops with politicians, I don't know how this is going to promote tourism to Halifax.''

Now: G8, G20 summit costs climb, surpass $1 billion


Fun with Numbers: Conservative Ridings

Earlier this week I looked at the link between demographics and the Liberal vote share in ridings across Canada. For the long and boring explanation, just click here.

For the short and boring explanation, let me just say that I took the Conservative vote in each riding as the response variable and a slew of demographics as the predictors. In other words, I'm trying to find out what "type" of ridings tend to vote Conservative.

From this, we get a model that explains 80% of the variance in vote - higher than for the Liberal Party, partly because it's not always easy to distinguish between Liberal and NDP ridings. Even when we control for many of the demographics, Atlantic Canadian ridings are less likely to vote Conservative (consider this the Danny Williams dummy variable) and Western ones are more likely to (surprise surprise). There's no direct difference between Quebec and Ontario, but the Tories do well when there's a high percentage of voters with English of their mother tongue, so that kind of serves as the proxy.

Ridings with more seniors are more likely to vote Conservative. Ridings with more aboriginals, visible minorities, single parent families, unemployed, well educated, and divorced residents are less likely to.

When we look at the list of the 10 ridings where the Conservatives have "over performed" in recent years, we can see that it's littered with Quebec and Alberta ridings:

1. Louis St. Laurent (+25%) - Josee Verner's seat
2. Jonquiere Alma (+20%) - JP "Tequilla" Blackburn
3. New Brunswick Southwest (+20%) - This one strikes me as a "true" outlier...I really have a hard time explaining it.
4. Crowfoot (+19%) - They're expected to win big. Just not this big.
5. Calgary Southwest (+18%) - Surprising, given the substandard quality of the Conservative candidate here the last few elections...
6. Beauce (+17%) - No surprise here
7. Macleod (+17%)
8. Beauport-Limoilou (+15%)
9. Wetaskiwin (+14%)
10. Calgary East (+14%)

Seeing all those Alberta ridings isn't a huge surprise because, even after we control for that "western" factor, the province just tends to vote Conservative at a higher level than the demographics would suggest - Edmonton Strathcona and Edmonton Sherwood Park are the only ridings where they've failed to meet expectations over the past 3 elections.

It also shouldn't be a huge surprise that Quebec doesn't fit the mould - target Tory voters there differ from elsewhere and their poor performance in 2004 skews the data a bit. I also think their success in that province has relied heavily on the ground game and strong candidates more so than elsewhere.

And while I'd hate to help them out, here's a list of ridings the Tories don't currently hold, where they're projected to be at 40% or above - these are seats that, long term, they probably want to target: Wascana, Western Arctic, Vancouver Quadra, British Columbia Southern Interior, Edmonton Strathcona, Esquimalt Juan De Fuca, and Nippising-Timiskaming.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Come Together Right Now

There's lots of blogobuzz about coalitions, mergers, and accords this week - Bob Rae celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Peterson-Rae Accord, the Tories fear monger about a coalition for the gazillionth time, Kinsella muses about Liberal-NDP deals (well, a reader does), and Frank Graves talks about mergers:

How to unlock the Tory lead? Do the math, EKOS president Frank Graves says, and that “may shed some light on the issue of possible alliances and coalitions in the future.”

Mr. Graves says an NDP/Liberal model is the most discussed alliance. (Indeed, earlier this week former Liberal prime minister Jean Chrétien, who was on Parliament Hill for the unveiling of his official portrait, told CTV’s Tom Clark the issue of a merger with the NDP was put to him early in his tenure but it never went anywhere.)

Considering today’s poll, Mr. Graves notes the two parties “enjoy 42 per cent of voter support which certainly elevates them from also-rans to clear contenders for power, perhaps even a majority.”

Small problem, however: Mr. Graves says his past research has shown the union is not “perfectly efficient” as some Liberal supporters would move over to the Conservatives.

I'd say "not perfectly efficient" is a gross understatement. When the Alliance and PCs merged, they managed to keep just 78.5% of their 2000 vote (from 37.7% combined in 2000 to 29.6% in 2004)...this, despite being given the gift of Adscam. And remember, that was a reunion - this ain't. By Graves' own numbers, just 37% of Liberal voters list the NDP as their second choice, while 35% of NDP voters list the Liberals as their second choice.

Let's run a quick experiment on the 2008 vote totals. Let's say 80% of the Liberal vote decides to vote for the new Liberal Democrats and their catchy Red and Orange colour scheme, 10% votes Conservative, and 10% stay home and watch American Idol. For NDP voters, I doubt the transfer would be quite as fluid - after all, the new party would be led by a Liberal and if NDP voters really cared about stopping Harper or being in power, they'd just vote Liberal in the first place. So, maybe half of them go along with the deal, a quarter vote green, and a quarter stay home. In terms of popular vote, that would actually work out to a 73% vote transfer to the new party, similar to the PC-Alliance merger rate.

So what would be the end result of this?

CPC 163 seats
LD 93 seats
BQ 50 seats
Other 2 seats

Hell, let's assume 80% of both Liberal and NDP voters join the new party, with the others just staying home - not a single former Liberal casts his or her vote for the Conservatives. The end result is still a narrow 7-seat Harper minority.

So, yeah. In a world where 1 + 1 = 2, talk like this makes sense. And maybe after a decade Canadian politics would recalibrate itself (although I suspect the Greens would just end up playing the role of the "new" New Democrats).

Maybe a coalition or a few non-aggression pacts here or there make some sense. But a "unite the left" merger? It won't happen and it wouldn't work.

Hey Big Spender

David McKie at CBC identifies the most frugal MPs and the big spenders.

Oh, and since I haven't said anything yet on the controversy over MP expenses, I'll keep it short:

Yup, they should be made public.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Chretien Framed

Monday, May 24, 2010

Fun With Numbers: Liberal Vote

Last summer, I spent a good deal of time playing around on my election spreadsheet - if you scroll way down on the sidebar, you can see some of the posts under the "Fun With Numbers" heading.

But the one thing I never got around to looking at was the link between riding demographics and the vote. Let's face it - certain types of ridings certainly seem like they "should" be Liberal, while others feel like they "should" be Conservative.

To explore this, I took the mean vote for the Liberals over the past three elections as the response and looked at 25 Census variables as possible predictors. Everything from single parent families, to resident mobility, to immigrants. I did some transformations where necessary, tossed in some region variables and population density, and threw it all at the regression wall to see what stuck.

The point of this wasn't necessarily to find what types of people vote Liberal. After all, states with a large percentage of African Americans tend to vote Republican (not because black voters flock to the Republicans). The purpose was to find the types of ridings that tend to vote Liberal.

The final model I came up with used 8 variables and some of the results aren't too surprising - the Liberals perform better in well educated ridings with more first generation immigrants, and worse in the west.

What's interesting (well, to me) are some of the variables that don't make the model - namely, the "Atlantic Canada" and "Quebec" dummy variables. In other words, once you control for demographic variables, Liberal support is largely consistent east of Manitoba. Population density also didn't make it into the model, but only because there are better demographics out there to identify the urban/rural split.

All in all, the model accounts for 72% of the variance in the vote- not bad when you consider all the unknowns that impact voting behaviour.

So, technical jargon aside, what use is this to us? Well, for starters, we can see where the Liberals have "overperformed" in recent years:

1. Wascana (+32%) - King Ralph's seat
2. Yukon (+22%) - I don't really expect northern seats to fit nicely into a model like this.
3. Winnipeg South Centre (+21%) - This riding has a strong Liberal history, since Lloyd Axworthy took it in '88.
4. Edmonton Centre (+17%) - We saw what happened when landslide Annie left last election.
5. Sainte Boniface (+17%)
6. Brome Missisquoi (+16%)
7. Cardigan (+15%) - The Liberals do better than expected across all PEI ridings
8. Esquimalt Juan De Fuca (+15%) - Clearly, Keith Martin brought some Conservative voters with him when he crossed the floor.
9. Shefford (+14%)
10. Vancouver Quadra (+14%) - The bad by election isn't included in this sample...

Wascana stands out like a grain elevator on the Saskatchewan skyline. Over the last three elections, the Liberals have over performed their expected vote by 32 percentage points in this riding - this is really a testament to Goodale and speaks to just how difficult it will be to hold the riding when he retires.

A quick scan of the rest of the list shows that ridings with long time and popular Liberal MPs usually do over perform their expected results - the ridings of Scott Brison, Maurizio Bevilacqua, and Dominic LeBlanc, for example, are all in the +7% to +12% range. Now, this doesn't mean the grits are necessarily doing better there because of those MPs...but that's certainly a possibility.

On the other side of things, where can the Liberals grow?

Well, they under perform the most in Central Nova...although that may have something to do with them not running a candidate there last election. After that, it looks like there's the most potential for long term growth in Windsor West, Outremont, Laurier-Sainte-Marie, Jonquière-Alma, Carleton-Mississippi Mills, Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie, St. John's East, Roberval-Lac Saint Jean, Sackville-Eastern Shore, and Hamilton Centre.

And since this blog is still called Calgary Grit, I'd be remiss if I didn't look at Alberta. There, the news isn't great - there isn't a single riding the Liberals are projected to be within 20 points of winning. So it's not just the myth of the NEP that's killing the Liberals in Alberta; once you correct for the Liberals' poor performance across western Canada, the demographics really aren't there for them.

There is, however, a bright spot. The regression models gives the NDP and Greens a lot of votes in some of Alberta's downtown city ridings - as a result, the projected CPC vote in Edmonton Centre, Edmonton East, Edmonton Strathcona, Calgary Centre, and Calgary North Centre hovers in the 40% range. We've seen what a strong NDP campaign in Edmonton Strathcona can do and we've seen what a strong Liberal campaign in Edmonton Centre can do.

A concerted, long-term focus on these ridings, capped with a good candidate and a great campaign, and any of these seats could eventually fall - the votes are there, the voters just need to be given a reason to vote the way they "should".

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Sound of Silence

It may have taken a long weekend to get there, but today marks the first time in nearly two months that there hasn't been a single Jaffuergis story on any of the major news aggregators or big papers.

Friday, May 21, 2010

This Week in Alberta - ALP Convention Round Up

Daveberta recaps the ALP convention with some skepticism, while Calgary Liberal begs to differ with Dave's assessment. Meanwhile Monty Karl has good things to say about Swann's speech, which can be read here.

Also coming out of the convention are reports the Liberals may not field a full slate of candidates next election, in an effort to save resources and avoid vote splitting.

Alberta Liberals may abandon ridings they have little chance of winning

The Alberta Liberals may not run candidates in some long-shot ridings next election to maximize resources, says Grit Leader David Swann, and will look to strike deals with other parties to prevent splitting the progressive vote.

A day after Liberals voted at their convention to cooperate with the NDP and other parties in the next provincial campaign, Swann said that could translate into not fielding candidates in constituencies viewed as difficult to win -- including parts of rural Alberta.

So that leaves, what? 20 or 30 candidates. (I kid because I love...)

Seriously though, I can't see any benefits from raising the white flag across rural Alberta. I'm not saying you run TV adds in Wetaskiwin, but if voters are going to take you seriously as a party, you need to show that you're serious about representing all Albertans.

Non-aggression pacts? Sure, I don't really have a problem with signing them in a few targeted Edmonton ridings. But the NDP don't appear to be at all interested in this proposal, so there's really nothing to be gained in discussing it any further.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Stephen Harper: Flyers Fan?

The explanation for Harper's snap Senate appointment today:

While Harper has often waited until several vacancies accumulated before appointing a batch of new senators, his office said Keon’s vacancy had to be filled immediately.

“It is key to pass important legislation such as the budget bill, reform to the pardon system and ensure (Liberal Leader Michael) Ignatieff doesn’t use the Senate as the back door to block being tougher on drug crimes,” said Soudas.

So, you know, it probably doesn't help that one of his senators has made it abundantly clear that he values his job as a hockey commentator above his job as a senator.

So while the Caps and Pens have been the most obvious victims of the Habs surprise run, perhaps Harper's vaunted crime bills will also wind up as casualties.

The Canadian Senate: Our Bills Are Bigger

The Canadian Senate. Outside of journalists, only a few dozen people watch it live. Maybe a couple hundred follow it on a semi-regular basis.

So I can't think of a better appointment than the owner of the Toronto Argos:

Lions, Argos owner Braley tapped for Senate

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has appointed David Braley, a Hamilton-area businessman who owns two Canadian Football League teams, to the Senate to fill a vacancy from Ontario.

Braley, owner of the B.C. Lions and the Toronto Argonauts, will immediately replace Conservative Senator Wilbert Keon. Keon has reached the mandatory Senate retirement age of 75.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Please Forgive Me

Harper says meeting Bono isn't his 'shtick'

Prime Minister Stephen Harper snubbed U2 singer and activist Bono at the G8 summit, saying he is too busy to discuss the African AIDS crisis with him.

"My priority here this week is to meet with other leaders," Harper told reporters in Heiligendamm, Germany, where the summit is being held.

"Meeting celebrities isn't my shtick," he added. "That was the shtick of the previous guy."

That was then. Now? Screw the hockey book, Harper seems keen on putting a band together.

Bryan Adams jams with Stephen Harper

OTTAWA—Jamming with Bryan Adams, hosting Chad Kroeger at 24 Sussex and getting an authentic Gene Simmons bass guitar shaped like a battle axe.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Signs Michael Ignatieff has Nothing to Worry About

I must admit, I'm a little disappointed in Angelo Persichilli's column today.

Not because he speculates about the Liberals dumping Ignatieff. Not because he muses about who would replace Ignatieff (including...wait for it...Frank McKenna!).

No, the reason I'm disappointed is that he couldn't find a single anonymous source, Liberal strategist, or party insider to grumble about Ignatieff or muse about dumping him. Even the computer journalist would have been able to round up a "senior backroom operative" or two, off the record.

So it likely bodes well for Ignatieff that speculation about his demise has gone from full blown coup attempts to this:

I don’t believe anyone is trying to unseat Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff. However, just in case I’m wrong, this is how it could happen.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Thanks, but no Thanks

I'd say that falls into the category of "Headlines Stephen Harper doesn't want to see" (along with "Rob Anders to go on national speaking tour" and any headline with the words "Helena Guergis" in it).

And the Star's choice of the sub headline "15,000 rally in Ottawa to praise Harper for picking up where George Bush left off" probably won't be making its way into too many Conservative Party pamphlets either.

Of course, that's not really what the rally was about - as the article explains, its main purpose was to urge the government to bring in legislation limiting abortions in Canada. Given Stephen Harper has consistently shown he'll abandon anything he believes in to get re-elected, I wouldn't hold me breath on those demands.

And, yeah, Harper probably doesn't need to sweat a few bad Toronto Star headlines. To steal a line from Will Ferguson, they'd announce Harper discovering the cure for cancer as "Harper to Close Chemotherapy Clinics in Toronto".

But to see this story staying in the news for so long has got to be extremely frustrating for him. Sure, it's good for fundraising and for keeping the base happy, but it's not the sort of thing he wants to see in newspapers or local news shows.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

This Week in Alberta - The Liberal Accountability Act

The Alberta Liberal Party's annual convention will be going on in Edmonton this weekend (featuring Warren Kinsella) - in anticipation of it, Daveberta and Calgary Liberal have offered their take on the state of the ALP.

The ALP also made some news this week, by releasing their "12 Step Clean Government Initiative". Here are the 12 proposals, and my quick gut reaction.

1. Establish an independent commission with binding powers to set MLA pay, benefits and bonuses. Going after MLA salaries and pensions always makes for good politics. I think the better political punch would have been to propose a wage freeze or a pension cut or something with a little more oomph than a commission, but I can't complain.

2. Make all MLA expenses and compensation publicly available online. Given the debate going on federally over this, now's a good time to strike on this issue.

3. Lengthen and strengthen cooling off periods to prevent senior civil servants from flip-flopping between high-level public and private sector jobs. I'd have to be convinced this is a big problem, before doing celebratory backflips.

4. Strengthen the Lobbyist Act. In what shall forever be known as "The Busty Hookers Act".

5. Strengthen the power of Officers of the Legislative Assembly. It's scary how little power the AG and other officers have in Alberta compared to their federal counterparts.

6. Reduce the power of the Premier’s office. There's the usual democratic deficit fluff on empowering backbenchers and free votes, along with a much needed pledge to abolish the Public Affairs Bureau (AKA "The Ministry of Truth"), which spends millions of taxpayer dollars pushing out government propaganda.

7. Protect whistleblowers.

8. Ban all corporate and union political party donations.

9. Lower election donation limits for individuals. Given the federal laws, 8 and 9 make a lot of sense. (Of course, I'm sure Alberta breweries would disagree...)

10. Reform elections. Enumerate voters? Great idea! Redraw electoral boundaries each election? Not so much. Offer a $50 tax credit to everyone who votes? Intriguing...

11. Increase ministerial accountability. This isn't exactly bringing sexy back, but it's good policy.

12. Establish fixed election dates. Elections will be held the last Monday of June, every four years. Unless of course Stephen Harper decides otherwise.

In 12-step programs, the first step is usually admitting you have a problem. Even though these proposals are good policy, they'll only earn the ALP votes if enough Albertans are willing to do just that.

Calgary Grit Live

I was on the Michael Coren Show's blogging panel this Tuesday - also representing the left was Big City Lib, with Fildebrandt representing the right, and Strictly Right providing a voice for those who feel Sarah Palin's a commie.

You can watch the full video here.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Maybe the cocaine fairy left it in his car

You've probably seen it by now, but you can watch last night's Mansbridge interview with Helena Guergis here.

In it, a soft spoken and visibly shaken Guergis presents herself as being completely trusting of her husband and completely in the dark as to what's been going on and how cocaine found it's way into Jaffer's car.

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Conservatives take power through undemocratic coalition

Cameron strikes a deal with the Lib Dems, giving them 5 Cabinet positions and (I assume) a referendum on PR.

The moral of this, if you want one, is that there's nothing inherently evil about coalition governments. In this case, it made a lot of sense. Back when Dion tried it, it really didn't it.

Hopefully we can be mature enough about this issue should we ever find ourselves uttering the C word again.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Michael Ignatieff's Fallback Plan?

Gordon Brown resigns - Labour leadership race to follow

Monday Quick Hits

1. The Hill Times has released their annual MP survey. John Baird and Bob Rae do well in the more meaningful categories, while Rona Ambrose and Pablo Rodriguez continue their dominance in the "best hair" category. Rona is also on top for sexiest woman, with Helena and Ruby falling off the list after a difficult year. For the men, Peter McKay held off a challenge from the "hippest MP", Justin Trudeau, to defend his crown.

2. In other polling news, the latest from Environics shows few changes in Alberta since March:

PC 34% (nc)
WAP 28% (-2%)
ALP 23% (nc)
NDP 12% (+2%)

They do some seat projections that show the PCs with a razor-thin majority but, for the life of me, I'm not sure how you can do a credible seat projection when a party rises from obscurity to second place.

3. In Quebec, the news is less rosy for the incumbent:

PQ 40%
Lib 31%
ADQ 8%
QS 8%
Green 7%

With the PQ up 48% to 22% among francophone voters, they're squarely in majority territory. We're still a ways off from an election but the federal parties should at least start thinking about the implications of having a separatist government in Quebec in a few years.

4. Speaking of which, a regular reader is looking to give away a pair of hardcover Rene Levesque biographies - Memories and My Quebec. If you're in Calgary you can pick them up, otherwise you can send cash for postage. If you're interest, drop me an e-mail and I'll get you in touch.

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Sunday, May 09, 2010

Insert Overhyped Headline Here

Can Computers Replace Journalists?

New software developed by computer science and journalism professors at Northwestern University, and licensed and distributed by Narrative Science of Evanston, Ill., may be bad news for some writers. The software can generate news stories from hard data inputs. ”There’s no human author and no human editing,” says Stuart Frankel, Narrative Science’s CEO. “But the stories sound really good.”

So far, the software has been applied primarily to sports statistics, but Frankel sees applications in medicine, crime and finance as well.

To the above, I would add "political journalism".

I mean, how hard would it be to program the following lines of code into the aforementioned computers? This may be the future of political writing in Canada!


OTTAWA - [RANDOMLY SELECT PARTY LEADER] is facing the strongest challenge to his leadership since being named [PARTY] leader [INSERT TIME] ago.

Anonymous [PARTY] insiders report that several prominent party officials have become increasingly vocal in recent days, as frustration over low poll numbers grows. Recent gaffes on [INSERT RANDOM STORY FROM PAST WEEK INVOLVING LEADER] have also caused many to ask if [LEADER'S] leadership will last until the end of the year.

In Ottawa backrooms, [PARTY] members now openly speculate about who the next leader will be, with [LAST TIME'S RUNNER UP] and Frank McKenna being rumoured as the most likely successors.


OTTAWA - Parliament appears headed for a showdown and a likely election over [INSERT ISSUE], as all parties refuse to back down. With Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe almost certain to vote against the legislation, speculation has run rampant about what Michael Ignatieff will do.

Anonymous Liberal [RANDOMIZE - strategists/insiders/MPs/campaign team officials] have quietly made it known that they think this is a [IF LIBERAL POLLING OVER 33% ->
good, OTHERWISE -> bad] time for an election, and they have urged Ignatieff
to [FORCE/AVOID] an election.

Despite a recent surge in [INSERT PARTY WHO WENT UP AT LEAST 1% IN LAST WEEK'S EKOS POLL] polling numbers, even [INSERT SAME PARTY] strategists concede the most likely outcome of an election would be another minority government, and some [INSERT SAME PARTY] MPs have told [INSERT PARTY LEADER] he would be best served by waiting until the [INSERT NEXT SEASON - Fall/Spring] to force an election.

Fuelling the election fever, are reports that [INSERT RANDOM PARTY NOT ALREADY MENTIONED] has already made plans to acquire a campaign plane [REPLACE "plane" WITH "hybrid van" IF GREEN PARTY], and has placed all ridings on high alert, telling them to nominate candidates immediately.

Just rotate the above two stories on a weekly basis, with different names generated each time, and voila - you've got a computer journalist capable of aimlessly speculating with the best of them.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Cutting her Loose

It's official: Tories drop Guergis as riding candidate

The Conservative Party's National Council has bounced Helena Guergis as the nominated candidate for Simcoe-Grey, CTV News has learned.

She was informed of the decision Wednesday afternoon, as was her riding association, CTV Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife reported.

Sources told CTV News that Guergis was removed as a candidate because Conservatives are concerned an election could be called at any moment, and they need to have nominated candidates in all 308 ridings.

You know, that explanation would be a lot more believable if they weren't still over 100 candidates short of a full 308-riding slate.

I understand why they booted Guergis from Cabinet. And I can see the argument that she be removed from caucus while the RCMP investigates her. But to strip her nomination before seeing what the RCMP probe unearths?

Something just doesn't add up, and I suspect there may be more to this story than we've heard so far (and lord knows we've heard a lot so far).


Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Stephen Harper: Role Model

With the UK election set for tomorrow, in true Canadian style, we've seen a last gasp "stop the Conservatives" strategic voting pitch being tossed out by Labour. Not a bad play on their part since I suspect voters would tend to overestimate their local Labour candidate's chances and underestimate their local LibDems'.

But even if this move works, the most likely outcome remains a Conservative minority government. Yes, a Labour-LibDem coalition is possible, but I think the Canadian experience with this suggests that voters might accept a coalition under some circumstances, but not if the electorate shows a decisive preference for Cameron over Brown (which they most certainly will).

And with all these parallels between Canada and the UK floating around, the last four years of Canadian politics may suddenly become the case study everyone in England looks to, in an effort to understand how a Conservative minority government can work. Believe me, I'm as horrified by this prospect as you are. We can only hope they don't look at our record too closely...

In all seriousness, there probably is a lot that they can learn from us. After all, the Stephen Harper Conservatives have survived for over four years with no real working partner in Parliament - that's nothing to sneeze at when you consider the fate of Joe Clark. While I don't know a lot about the UK political scene, I'll still offer up a few pieces of advice to the mother country that may prove useful:

1. Don't believe the hype - see the movie yourself, eh. After reading this article at 538, I tend to think perceptions of Canadian politics don't always match reality. Cameron's people should definitely open up the lines of communication with Harper's team to really understand what's gone on here. Hell, it's been a revolving door at the PMO of late, so I'm sure they can find someone willing to jet over to England for a cup of tea.

2. Govern from the centre. Yes, yes, I know that hard core Liberals don't even recognize this country any more. And hell, a lot of the things Harper has done piss me off. But the man has governed as a moderate - he's generally steered away from social conservative issues, and his budgets have looked quite Liberal. By doing this, he has buried much of the "hidden agenda" talk and made it exceedingly difficult for the Liberals to find a real wedge issue they can run on.

3. Know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em. I suspect Labour will be into a leadership race shortly, so they probably won't be in tip top fighting shape. This will give Cameron the opportunity to implement most of his campaign promises without any real opposition, but be careful. As Joe Clark learned in December 1979, and Stephen Harper learned 29 years later, even a battered opposition will fight back if you push too hard. Settle for some good old Stephen Harper incrementalism until you get your majority.

4. To Labour - you need more than a quick fix. Again, I'm not coming at this with a deep understanding of British politics, but after (all together now, using your best John Baird impression!) "13 long years in government", and a decade of internal fighting, I suspect there's some soul searching to do. The temptation will be to blame Brown and to look for a quick fix. Trust me, that's not going to work.

5. To the LibDems - be careful. The NDP made huge gains in '88 to see it wiped out. The ADQ rose and fell. Life as a third party sucks. Above all else, show that you belong in the big leagues and show that you're more than a one man party.

6. Be prepared for an unbearable barrage of election speculation. From what we've seen, the best way for the opposition to deal with this is to sing from the Jack Layton song book - "we're here to make parliament work", "the British people don't want an election" - rather, than constantly banging and silencing the election drums at every opportunity. Don't infect people with election fever if you have no intention of actually forcing an election.

Beyond the above, to all the UK leaders I'd say avoid tight leather vests and carbon taxes, and behave yourself while going through airport security. It probably wouldn't hurt to brush up on your piano skills either.


Canada's Team

I've posted my thoughts on the James Moore hockey tweet "controversy" over at PuckProb. The short of it is this - Moore's been a Canucks fan his entire life, so I tend to think he has suffered enough already. No need to pile on here.

And, while I'm cross-promoting, here's a look at the biggest first round upsets of the last 16 years and the players looking like the best playoff pool picks so far.

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Monday, May 03, 2010

April Poll Soup - Guergis Fallout?

According to Frank Graves, the Jaffergis Imbruglio has caused Stephen Harper to "have cold beads of sweat popping out of his brow". Well, the April poll numbers are in and, despite a slight dip Tory support, Harper's lead over the Liberals actually went up. If the guy's breaking into a cold sweat over that, he seriously needs to manage his stress level better.

For the Liberals, it seems unlikely they'll be able to ride a "we won't put Helena Guergis in Cabinet" platform to victory - they're down nearly 5 points since February and have returned to last fall's low-water mark of the Ignatieff era. The good news for them is that now, unlike then, Harper isn't setting the electorate on fire (time for another piano concert perhaps?). It appears a lot of potential Liberal voters are parked with the NDP, Bloc, and Greens for the moment.

Angus Reid (April 29-30, n = 1014 online)
CPC 35%
Lib 28%
NDP 19%
BQ 11%
Green 7%

Leger (April 27-29, n = 1505 online)
CPC 36%
Lib 25%
NDP 20%
BQ 9%
Green 8%

EKOS (April 21-27, n = 2303 robo dialled)
CPC 31.9%
Lib 26.6%
NDP 17.6%
BQ 9.7%
Green 10.9%
Other 3.3%

Ipsos Reid (April 20-22, n = 1000 phone)
CPC 35%
Lib 29%
NDP 16%
BQ 9%
Green 10%

Harris Decima (April 15-25, n=2,014 phone)
CPC 29%
Lib 27%
NDP 20%
BQ 11%
Green 12%

AVERAGE (change since March in brackets)

Conservative Party: 33.3% (-0.7%)
Liberal Party: 27.1% (-2.1%)
NDP: 18.5% (+0.5%)
Bloc Quebecois: 9.9% (+1.2%)
Green Party 9.6% (+0.9%)

For seat projections, check out riding by riding (CPC 130, Lib 85, BQ 53, NDP 40) or three hundred eight (CPC 126, Lib 99, BQ 51, NDP 32).


In Praise of Michael Chong, an Ongoing Series

Michael Chong has proposed a motion to clean up Question Period:

That the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs be instructed to recommend changes to the Standing Orders and other conventions governing Oral Questions, and to consider, among other things,

(i) elevating decorum and fortifying the use of discipline by the Speaker, to strengthen the dignity and authority of the House,
(ii) lengthening the amount of time given for each question and each answer,
(iii) examining the convention that the Minister questioned need not respond,
(iv) allocating half the questions each day for Members, whose names and order of recognition would be randomly selected,
(v) dedicating Wednesday exclusively for questions to the Prime Minister,
(vi) dedicating Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday for questions to Ministers other than the Prime Minister in a way that would require Ministers be present two of the four days to answer questions concerning their portfolio, based on a published schedule that would rotate and that would ensure an equitable distribution of Ministers across the four days;

and that the Committee report its findings to the House, with proposed changes to the Standing Orders and other conventions, within six months of the adoption of this order.

Excellent suggestions by Chong all around, and I think they'd go a long way to improving decorum in the House. Yeah, yeah, I know it will still be an out of control circus at times, but these moves would at least push MPs towards a slightly more issue-based focus in QP.

It's really a shame that Chong's still in the penalty box over the Quebec Nation vote. Sadly, voting your consciences seems to be a greater sin than gross incompetence when it comes to assigning ministerial responsibilities.

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It's that time of the year again...

...quarter 1 fundraising numbers are out! Yay!

The Conservatives have outfundraised all of the opposition parties, combined, in the first quarter of 2010. According to the first quarter returns, just posted on Elections Canada’s website, the Conservatives have raised $4,023,923.14 from 32,466 donors. That’s $2,846,507 more than the other parties, including the Greens.

The Liberals raised $1,589,953.81 in the first quarter from 15,255 people, while the Bloc Québécois raised $123, 069.64 from 1,381 people and the NDP raised $900,198.01 from 12,982. The Green Party raised $233,285.57 from 2,919 donors.

Even though most news stories, including the above, will spin this as good news for the Conservatives, the numbers are probably most disappointing for them.

As the always-useful Pundits Guide shows, the number of Conservative donors is down 18% from Quarter 1 last year, while the number of Liberal donors has stayed relatively consistent. The drop in the amount raised by the Liberals merely reflects an absence of the big ticket fundraisers we saw at the start of last year - presumably the usual suspects will get hit up for their thousand dollars at some point this year.

Of course, context is always key. Remember the "grassroots fury" and the thousands of Canadians up in arms over prorogation? Well, maybe that led to a drop in Tory donations, but it did little to increase the number of people donating money to the opposition parties.


Sunday, May 02, 2010

This Just In: Conservatives Dislike the CBC

Last week, Stephen Taylor posted a fundraising letter where Doug Finley used the Frank Graves CBC controversy to fill the Tory coffers.

I've been able to get my hands on their latest CBC-attack fundraising letter, which I share with you here:

Here we go again.

Yes, I am writing to you about the CBC. Canada’s national public broadcaster. A Crown Corporation that receives over one billion dollars per year from taxpayers. A network with a mandate to serve all Canadians.

Like you, Conservative Party members have been closely watching this year’s NHL playoffs, while drinking their Tim Hortons. And we have come to a shocking realization – Hockey Night in Canada has not shown a single game involving Alberta teams these playoffs.

Rather, they continue to show the games of Vancouver, Montreal, and Ottawa – cities that routinely elect MPs from the Liberal Party and their coalition partners, the separatists and the socialists.

The Ottawa Senators games they broadcast were nothing more than subversive attempts to act as the media arm of the Liberal Party, propagating their support for an unelected and undemocratic senate.

Furthermore, Liberal MP Ken Dryden, who enjoys telling you how you should raise your own children, has been mentioned 6 times these playoffs by CBC commentators. Do you know how many times Tony Clement has been mentioned? Zero. Way to stay “neutral” CBC.

This NEP-style slap in the face demonstrates – once again – that we Conservatives are up against a powerful array of vested interests. Vested interests who want to go back to the days of Jean Chretien and Paul Martin. Back to higher taxes. Back to a weakened military. Back to political correctness. And they’re willing to support a highly divisive “Culture War” to take us back. This episode will make for a sad chapter in Stephen Harper’s hockey history book.

I am asking you to do two things.

First, write to the CBC and tell them it’s unacceptable that they ignore NHL teams from conservative regions for the remainder of the playoffs. You can reach the CBC’s ombudsman by email at, or by phone at 1-416-205-2978.

Second, please make a contribution to the Conservative Party of $200 or $100 right now by following this link. Unlike the Liberals, we can’t count on the vested interests. We rely on donations from proud patriotic Canadians like you.

Doug Finley
Campaign Director

PS – Is it just me, or does George Stroumboulopoulos look like a Dipper? I’m just saying.