Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Liberals Gain More than any Party - Sign of Tory Majority

So says John Ibbitson.

In fairness, this column was probably written before the results came in last night but still - it just underscores why you shouldn't read too much into by elections.

Even after the famed Outremont "disaster", Dion gained seats in Quebec - the only part of the country where that happened. And it's not like Thomas Mulcair led the Orange Revolution across Quebec last election.

There are unique cases when a by election does represent something out of the ordinary - I'd say the Wildrose Alliance win in Calgary last year falls into that category. But, despite the change in vote support, last night was about as ordinary as by elections get. A popular incumbent resigns and their party's share of the vote drops. A star candidate replaces them.


By Election Numbers

By elections have a life of their own. It's an exercise in futility to project them and it's foolhearty to use them as barometers of where public support is shifting. Especially when most people were voting for Julian Fantino or Kevin Lamoureux, rather than for the Conservative or Liberal Parties.

But, since we all know the media will use them to write the all powerful narrative, we should at least get the numbers straight.

So, here are the cummulative numbers from the three by elections.

Change in average share of vote
Lib +10% (from 24% to 34%)
CPC -1% (from 40% to 39%)
Green -4% (from 6% to 1%)
NDP -7% (from 30% to 23%)

Change in total votes
Green -5,475 (from 6,875 to 891)
Lib -6,929 (from 33,976 to 27,047)
CPC -13,474 (from 42,555 to 29,081)
NDP -13,476 (from 24,442 to 10,966)

Monday, November 29, 2010

It's By Election Night in Canada

The polls close at 9:30 in Vaughan and 8:30 in Manitoba. I'll be providing updates, snark, and Julian Fantino sightings throughout the evening but, if you're really keen to follow along, elections.ca will be posting the results here.

9:02 pm - Bonus by election results from the provincial by election in Quebec! With 39 of 159 polls reporting, the Liberals and PQ are neck and neck. The Liberals took this seat by 32 percentage points last election but with Jean Charest in trouble, many are expecting the PQ to steal. Chantal Hebert looks at the possible fallout here.

10:26 pm - Time for some results! In Quebec, the PQ cling to a 157 vote lead with 10 polls to go. Should be as exciting as a Grey Cup finish.

As expected, Vaughan is a close one. Fantino leads by 5% with a quarter of the polls reporting.

The surprise of the night could be Winnipeg North, where Liberal Kevin Lamoureux is within 100 votes with half the polls reporting. A win there would certainly take the sting out of losing Vaughan.

Oh, and the Pirate Party is up on the Greens by 1 vote in Winnipeg. In fairness, Jim Flaherty did warn us they were on the move.

10:54 pm - The PQ wins by 196 votes. A tough night for Jean Charest.

It's getting to the point where we can likely call Vaughan for Fantino. That 5-point lead shows no signs of narrowing, with 2/3 of the polls reporting. (though the Genco HQ has the lead at only 400 votes)

Dauphin, we could call about a month ago.

So that leaves Winnipeg North, where Kevin Lamoureux has taken a 235 vote lead with 33 polls left to report. Which means, as usual, it will be up to Western Canada to bail out the Liberal Party after Toronto abandons them.

11:26 pm - Well, well, well. The Liberal lead in Winnipeg North (1.4%) is now larger than the Tory lead in Vaughan (1.2%).

11:35 pm - Coming up on midnight and two of the by elections are still too close to call. Isn't this more fun than scan tran ballots?

12:08 am - Last update for the night. Fantino up by 500 votes with 24 polls to go. He'll likely hang on, but it's certainly not a sure thing.

In Winnipeg North, I think we can chalk it up for Lamoureux, who now leads 47% to 41%. Which means the Liberal vote share will have increased more than 5-fold since the last election. Which means we should expect a Liberal sweep across Western Canada next election, eh?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Battleground Vaughan

Three ridings will elect new MPs tomorrow, but all eyes are on Vaughan. Yeah, in the scheme of things one seat won't change anything in Ottawa, but this one has been hyped to the point where the outcome will certainly define the media narrative for the remainder of 2010.

As such, the Liberals are running ads on TV - my Italian vocabulary doesn't extend past pasta dishes but, from the planes buzzing around Harper's head and the price tags flashing on screen, it's safe to classify this as an attack ad.

The Liberals have also put out a video with Justin Trudeau (sporting his Movember stach) slagging Fantino over past comments he's made about the Charter.

Of course, this is now and the Tories are alleging the Liberals thought a lot more of Fantino back when they were courting him to run. This really shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone - Fantino is a star candidate, and few can resist the siren's call of a star.

Which is why Fantino's disappearing act is so perplexing. Maybe the Tories are confident they have it in the bag. Maybe they're worried about what he'll say. Maybe he's not as impressive in the flesh as on a pamphlet. But for whatever reason, it's certainly counter intuitive to hide your best asset - after all, if the Tories take this riding they haven't held for 22 years, it won't be because of the Conservative brand, it will be because of the candidate.

But even if Fantino is nowhere to be seen, there are stars to be found. Don Cherry has endorsed Fantino, and high profile MPs have dropped in for all parties - I was out canvassing yesterday and saw both Martha Hall Findlay and Gerard Kennedy in the Genco campaign office.

So tune in tomorrow night - it's gonna be a close one. I won't even try to make a prediction because it could very much go either way.

UPDATE: I still think it's too close to call, but those always reliable "anonynous Liberals strategists" have already admited defeat.

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

He could have ruled for 1,000 years...

Instead, Danny Williams calls it a career.

Few politicians get to leave at the height of their popularity - just ask Gordon Campbell. But Williams exits as one of the most popular politicians in the country and there's no reason to believe he couldn't have won another 2 or 3 (or 12) elections.

Williams' departure will certainly leave a gaping hole on the federal scene - it's not like Robert Ghiz, David Alward, or that guy in Manitoba are household names. Like Ralph Klein or Lucien Bouchard before him, Danny was a character, satirized from coast to coast, and leaving his mark on the federal scene.

I touched on this a bit when Gordon Campbell resigned earlier this month, but Williams' departure leaves Jean Charest and Dalton McGuinty as the the only premiers still standing with at least 2 election wins under their belt. And both of them could be gone within a year.

If they do depart, that means Stephen Harper would have outlasted all ten of the Premiers in power when he first took office. Go figure.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Headlines I Never Thought I'd See

Ignatieff doesn’t mind his junk touched


That Pesky Census Issue

Yeah, yeah, I know it's basically a dead issue at this point but, via Wherry, a comprehensive list of what that long form census data is used for:

More than 50 federal government agencies and departments rely on longform census data on ethnic origins, visible minorities, citizenship and immigration for planning and policies, according to a newly released internal report.

In the documents, Statistics Canada says more than 700 different clients bought reports or data based on the 2006 census, including 297 government bodies from all levels, 232 businesses, 66 non-profit organizations, 54 health and social service agencies and 62 educational institutions.


The Department of Finance reported using long-form data to track Canadian migration patterns during economic changes. Health Canada employs it to assess well-being in first nations communities, while the Public Health Agency relies on this information to target services to clusters of immigrants or particular ethnic groups. The Canada Student Loan Program uses this census data for demographic analysis of post-secondary enrolment, and the Department of Justice uses it to tailor studies on elder abuse to different ethnic populations.

Maybe my vision is clouded because I have a poster of Gauss in my apartment and bell curves on my pyjamas, but I maintain this has been one of the most needlessly destructive decisions of the Harper government during their time in office.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Lessons Learned

One of the spin-offs of running a good campaign (besides winning) is that everyone holds you up as the shinning example of how to win an election for at least a year or two afterwards. At times this can be rather silly - witnesses the pontificating in 2008 and 2009 about which Canadian leader was most "Obama-esque". But in any good campaign, there are lessons to learn, so it's far from a pointless exercise.

Rob Ford's campaign will certainly become the "it" campaign to study over the next year, by virtue of his win being a) surprising and b) in the centre of the media universe. Ian Davey takes a crack at using Rob Ford to advise Michael Ignatieff:

After flirting with the notion of forcing an election last fall, the Liberals decided to make their electoral success largely dependent on the failure of the Harper government. It was the right decision. Since that time, the Official Opposition has moved between focusing on Conservative failure and striving to outline what kind of government they might form. Despite a plodding performance from the Conservatives and a sluggish economy, polls have remained static for more than a year now. Canadians still see little need for change. Why?


So how does the Ford experience apply in the federal context? Most Canadians would agree that the economy is the most important issue they face. Rightly, the Liberals have attacked the Conservatives for being the country’s largest spending government and accumulating the largest deficit in Canadian history. Moreover, the opposition has wisely questioned the Conservative plan to further deepen corporate tax cuts. Despite these attacks, the Liberals have been unable to get real traction with Canadians because they have been mixing their messages. Rather than keeping the focus on Conservative economic incompetence and the need for change, the Liberals muddied their point by promising a national home care plan which would be funded by the cancellation of corporate tax cuts. By not arguing that cancelling corporate tax cuts in the current environment was about fairness and affordability, the well meaning Liberals appear to be more interested in devising a means to generate money for their program spending than holding the government to account.

[...] Competence and trust, then, become the political fulcrum. In a time when Canadians know money is tight and when they are overwhelmingly concerned about jobs, pensions and economic security, the Liberals would be far wiser to be focusing on a message of change rather than on one of choice. Just ask Rob Ford.

The message - that the Liberals should attack Harper rather than offer alternatives - has been a consistent one of Davey's over the past year and there's certainly some truth to the old adage that "governments defeat themselves".

But I think Davey is off in his analysis of the Ford Phenomenon.

Yes, Ford picked a simple message and attacked relentlessly on it. But this only worked because Ford had credibility (by not spending as a city councilor) and offered alternatives (reduce the size of council, reduce expense accounts, cut wasteful spending). Ford promised to cancel the vehicle registration and land transfer taxes well before the starting gun went off - just because the alternative is simple and based on shaky math, it doesn't mean it's not an alternative. In many ways, Smitherman's anti-waste message was not dramatically different from Ford's, but he was never seen as the best man to cut waste.

Now, let's look at Ignatieff. Unlike Ford, who was trusted on the waste issue, few trust Ignatieff on the economy - look no further than an Ipsos Reid poll from earlier this month that had Harper up 45% to 24% as the best leader to manage the economy in tough times. I'm not saying Ignatieff shouldn't attack Harper's economic record - but it's hard to earn credibility by just pointing out that the other guy sucks. That's what separates Prime Ministers in waiting from idiot bloggers like myself.

The example Davey uses to illustrate his point is the Liberal Family Care plan - his argument being the Liberals would be better served by promising to scrap the corporate tax cut than they would be by promising to scrap the corporate tax cut...and use some of the money saved on programs like Family Care.

Davey has a valid point that too many spending promises will make it harder for Ignatieff to gain credibility on the economy, but to me, Ignatieff gains more by promising to put some of the money saved through the tax freeze into Family Care than he does by simply shoveling it all into deficit reduction.

To me, a corporate tax cut is kind of like Two and a Half Men. Yeah, I don't like it, but does its continued existence on the airwaves really affect me one way or the other? No, not really. But cancel my favourite show in favour of it and I'd be up in arms. I think a lot of voters don't give a damn about corporate tax cuts, but if the election is framed as a choice between billions for big business versus helping Canadians care for a sick loved one, suddenly they begin to feel a lot stronger about the issue. It's only by offering a choice that people can truly evaluate what is being offered. (And yes, I am aware that many people do like Charlie Sheen and/or corporate tax cuts)

As Davey argues, it's important for Liberal attacks on Harper to be clear, concise, and consistent. But for Ignatieff to be seen as a credible alternative, he needs to offer an alternative. It's what Ford did and it's what Ignatieff should do.

UPDATE - And, while we're at it, Kinsella, Delacourt, and Martin all offer advice for the Liberals this morning.

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Monday, November 22, 2010

The Machine Against Raj

Raj Sherman sealed his fate with one click of the "send" button. Ever since his bizarre rant against the Stelmach government was made public last week, his days have appeared numbered. It therefore comes as no surprise that Sherman was booted from the PC caucus today (or, as Raj called it in his typo heavy e-mail, "caucas").

Given what Sherman has had to say about Stelmach and the fact that he tendered his resignation as the Health Minister's Parliamentary Assistant three weeks ago, I doubt either party is shedding many tears over this one.

So what does Sherman's departure mean? Well, in and of itself, he's a relative nobody - but it doesn't bode well for Stelmach that two of his MLAs have been quit/fired after accusing his government of breaking Health Care promises. This, when every indication is the PCs intend to use Health Care as a wedge with the Wildrose Alliance next election.

Alberta politics is traditionally dull during elections...and mind numbingly dull between elections. But since the last election, we've had a good old political jamboree. A PC caucus which won 72 seats in 2008 is now down to 67 MLAs after a by election loss, two defections, and 2 MLA ejections.

To that, you can toss in the surprise election of David Swann as ALP leader (which led to the departure of Dave Taylor) and, of course, the meteoric rise of Danielle Smith (fun fact: Danielle Smith doesn't walk on water, she runs on it!).

So, yeah, fun times. Stay tuned.


Friday, November 19, 2010

This Week in Alberta - Raj Against the Machine

Via Daveberta comes one of the most bizarre e-mails from an elected official ever leaked to the public.

PC MLA Raj Sherman fired off the angry e-mail to Ed Stelmach, felow MLAs, and friends on Wednesday. I repost it here verbatim, in its full glory:

From: Raj Sherman
Date: November 17, 2010 7:29:44 AM MST
To: Ed Stelmech, Gene Zwozdesky , jay ramotar , “fred.horne@assembly.ab.ca” , dave hancock , “ron.glen@gov.ab.ca” , Lloyd Snelgrove , “manmeet.bhullar@assembly.ab.ca” , “peter.sandhu@assembly.ab.ca”, Doug Elniski , “dave.quest@assembly.ab.ca” , “verlyn.olson@assembly.ab.ca” , “ken.allred@assembly.ab.ca” ,”doug.horner@gov.ab.ca”
Cc: “seanflanagan@shaw.ca” , “doctorjohn@shaw.ca” , Lau Huynh , David and Elizabeth Ariano , Robert Terry Kruhlak , “gmeikle@ualberta.ca” , “dalob@shaw.ca” , “pjdelaney60@hotmail.com”, “drpat@mac.com” , “amirza@ualberta.ca” , “dattamed@gmail.com” , David Bond , “bacon@telusplanet.net” , Stan Poplawski , “dneilson@dneilson.com” , Brian Holroyd , Paul Parks, Chris Evans , Ross Purser , “terry.sosnowski@capitalhealth.ca” , “terry.sosnowski@albertahealthservices.ca” , PJ White, Dave Coutts , ‘Uwe Welz’ , sandy gillis
Subject: RE: The Overcrowding Crisis

Dear XXX

Please accept my aoplogies.

I have forwarded many old emails to the current minister and deputy minister to place into context again for the fourth minister, the fourth CEO, and the third deputy minister, the underlying causes of the healthcare system woes leading to the emergency crisis that we have on our hands today (and have had for the past 5-6 years).

Many of the emails received by me as section president and as an elected member of the legislature, from our emergency colleagues, were received in confidence and many wished for me to keep their name out of it for fear of what the government or Capital Health and now AHS would do to our privileges. With AHS’ code of conduct, I did not want to put you or anyone at risk. I am sorry that I did not remember our conversation and your willingness to share your name.

I am whole heartedly in agreement with you. Three weeks ago, I offered the current minister my resignation as the parliametary assistant as I can no longer support the halthcare decisions made by AHS as well as some of those made by our government.

The premier made a promise to the ER doctors in writing and has broken his promise not only to the ER doctors, but also to the seniors, the 1.8 million Albertans who present for emergency care and their 2 million family members, and to all frontline healthcare professionals.

I will be meeting the premier today and my progressive conservative caucas colleagues tomorrow to discuss my future in his government as my trust in him and his cabinet is severly tarnished.

I must thank you for your passion and your rebuke of me (usually, I got heck for not hiding the names. Ask Chris Evans) as well as your courage to put your neck on the line. It’s time that I also take one for my the team that I trust, the front line ER doctors. Please stay tuned for my public comments.

Thank you for reminding me why I ran for public service in the first place!

Dear Political colleagues….meet my lifelong physician colleagues.


Raj Sherman
I hope that you don’t mind, I will be passing this letter onto my elected colleagues as well.

If it is any consolation, please feel comforted with the fact that I still work on Sundays and see the disaters happening including those of my father where he waits in the emergency room like anyone else….and he has had 5 near death experience this year alone in the emergency departments. A few months ago, his ambulance was diverted from a few blocks near the UofA hospital and he arrived to your emergency department, on the other end of town and had a wonderful tour of South Edmonton when he arrived ashen grey, sweaty, suffocating, with an oxygen saturation of 70% on 16 L of oxygen….and seconds away from death!!! Thanks to the efforts of Dr. Lau Nguyen and the Grey Nuns staff…he lives today, barely!

…and please do NOT feel comforted that healthcare will be any better with AHS’ inadequate plan to deal with the crisis and disasters that we will be facing in the 4 winter months ahead.

…and now, after this email, I will await my rebuke from my political colleagues….geeeeesh…a brown guy just can’t win…As Russel Peter’s says…”SOMEBODY GONNA GET HURT”….LOL…..a little bit of humor into what is a sad and very tragic situation…

Feel free to forward to whomever you wish


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

And They're Off

And, with that, the starting gun has sounded for the 2011 Ontario Election:

Liberals to cut hydro bills by 10 per cent

The Liberal government will cut Ontarians’ hydro bills by 10 per cent starting on Jan. 1, the Star has learned.

Finance Minister Dwight Duncan, bolstered by a $1 billion reduction in the provincial deficit, is to announce “substantial hydro relief” in Thursday’s fall economic statement.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Meanwhile, in BC

The BC Libs have set the rules to replace Gordon Campbell...kind of.

The plan is to use a riding-by-riding weighted point system, similar to how the federal Tories picked Harper and how the Ontario Tories picked Hudak. It's also the system the federal grits will use the next time they have a leadership race, unless of course they feel like just appointing someone again.

The catch is that they'll need to hold a special AGM in February to change the rules. As you might imagine, changing the rules for a leadership race in the midst of a leadership race isn't the easiest thing to accomplish.

So this leaves a lot of uncertainty, and could mean Gordon Campbell stays on until May.

As for the contenders, Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts (who struck me as the best candidate from what little I know of the candidates) has decided to take a pass. Carole Taylor has also ruled out a return to politics, although from what I've read, the door is still somewhat ajar there.

Among other high profile candidates, some rumours have circled around Harper Cabmin James Moore, though I have a hard time seeing why a 34 year old Cabinet Minister would want to jump into a job that could very likely leave him unemployed in a little over two years. Plus, it's not like being Heritage Minister is a bad gig - you get to go to movie premiers and meet cool wrestlers. Sounds like more fun than selling the HST to me.

The recently retired Keith Martin has also been rumoured, though I feel that speculation is more based on "let's toss out random names of BC politicians" than on any sort of reality.

So that leaves us with possible candidates Rich Coleman, Kevin Falcon, George Abbott, Mike de Jong, Christy Clark and Blair Lekstrom. And, presumably, Frank McKenna.

I don't know nearly enough about these candidates to offer any kind of insight on this race. From what I've seen online so far, BC2013 seems to be the go-to site but if you know of other blogs, feel free to post links in the comments section.

UPDATE: The leadership vote will be February 26th...less than two weeks after the vote to change the leadership selection rules.

One would think this kind of chaos could be avoided by a party in power, with an outgoing leader everyone knew was leaving, and two and a half years out from the next fixed date election. But, I guess not.

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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Seen in Calgary


Friday, November 12, 2010

November Seat Projections

Yesterday, I gave an overview of the polling numbers - today, an updated seat projection.

The long explanation of how I came up with these numbers is here. The short of it is the model simulates an election 10,000 times, taking the following into account:

-Publicly released polling data
-2004, 2006, and 2008 election results
-Riding demographics
-The historical variance in riding results, compared to regional results
-Accuracy of Canadian pollsters in predicting recent provincial and federal elections
-By election results

The benefit of this model over other projections is that this gives you a robust prediction that smooths out some of the blips you get when you only use the last election as your benchmark, it's data driven, and it takes "election day swings" when the polls are all off into account.

It's NOT a prediction of the next election, but reflects what we could expect if the election were held today.

So, with that, here are the updated projections:

If you compare these to the October sim...well, the results aren't that interesting, with no party moving by more than 2 seats on average. I know "Nothing Happened" isn't an eye-catching headline but, more often than not that's the reality of the situation, as excited as well all get over every mini-scandal and ministerial resignation.

Now, as then, we're on a crash course for a Tory minority, with only a 0.1% chance of a Liberal government and a 0.3% chance of a Harper majority.

Still, that would mean gains for the Liberals from 2008, most notably in Ontario (+8.1), but also in BC (+2.8), Quebec (+1.7), and Atlantic Canada (+1.4).


Thursday, November 11, 2010

November Poll Soup: The More Things Change...

With a slew of polls out so far in November, this is a good time to check in on what the pollsters are saying. Not surprisingly, after a ho-hum fall on Parliament Hill, there hasn't been a lot of movement.

Ekos (Nov 3 to Nov 9, n = 1,815 demon dial)
CPC 29.4%
Lib 28.6%
NDP 19.3%
BQ 9.3%
Green 10.7%

Nanos (Nov 1 to Nov 5, n = 1,017 phone)
CPC 37.1%
Lib 31.6%
NDP 15.4%
BQ 10.8%
Green 5.2%

Ipsos Reid (Nov 2 to Nov 4, n = 1,000 phone)
CPC 35%
Lib 29%
NDP 16%
BQ 8%
Green 11%

Abacus (Oct 29 to Nov 1, n = 1,001 online)
CPC 33%
Lib 25%
NDP 21%
BQ 10%
Green 10%
(Given this is a new kid on the bloc, it was an online survey, and the Lib/NDP numbers seem a bit off, I'd be careful when looking at this one)

Decima (Oct 21 to Oct 31, n = 2000 phone)
CPC 33%
Lib 28%
NDP 17%
BQ 9%
Green 10%

RUNNING AVERAGE (change since the end of September in brackets)

CPC: 33.7% (-0.2%)
Lib: 28.7% (-1.0%)
NDP: 16.8% (+2.1%)
BQ: 9.4% (-0.3%)
Green: 9.6% (-0.6%)

Note: the running average is calculated based on pollster accuracy ratings, giving all polls (not just those listed above) a 2 week half life so that "fresher" data is worth more.

The largest change from September has been a jump in support for the NDP but, in reality, this is just a case of the NDP returning to their usual "resting position" after dipping this fall. They're still below the 18% we saw from them back in the spring and would lose seats if an election were held today (updated seat projections to come tomorrow).

Once again, this serves as a great reminder of how little change there has been in the Canadian political landscape since Harper took power in 2006. The Conservatives took that election by 6 points. Since then, Dion proposed a carbon tax, the Liberals got a new leader. Harper played the piano, Harper prorogued Parliament. Each time, the polls moved. The Tories have flirted with majority. The Liberals have pulled ahead by a few points once or twice.

But, slowly and surely, they always seem to drift back to that 6-point Tory lead, with the NDP merrily in the high teens and Quebec firmly in Gilles Duceppe's grip.

In short, we haven't seen a "game changer". Moreover, after seeing Stephen Harper as Prime Minister for 5 years, the electorate hasn't grown any more or less enamoured with the man. Sure, our attitude towards him has changed. Those who dislike Harper now do so more out of frustration than out of fear. But the man is still very much in minority territory.


Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Keith Martin Retires

I'm not sure if it's the weather or what, but it seems like everyone is deciding to pack it up. Another day, another retirement announcement - this time Liberal MP Keith Martin.

I've always had a lot of time for Keith Martin. He entered politics for the right reasons. When he switched parties, it wasn't to grab a Cabinet seat - he sat as an independent, won the Liberal nomination, then ran and won under the Liberal banner in the 2004 election. He's always been an issues-driven MP, trying to make a difference, with Health Care reform the topic most near and dear to his heart. (Click here to see my interview with him on the state of Health Care in Canada)

Martin's loss will definitely be a blow to the Liberals. My seat projector pegged his re-election odds at 61%, but it's foolish to think Esquimalt-Juan De Fuca was anything but a Keith Martin seat. And since Martin only took the riding by 68 votes last time, this one has CPC pick-up written all over it.


Monday, November 08, 2010

Julian Fantino's Greatest Hits

Over on his blog, Stephen Taylor takes a few shots at the grits by election candidate in Vaughan, Tony Genco. Here's a summary of Taylor's damning criticism:

1. Genco doesn't mention Ignatieff in his brochure. "Is Genco relying more on the Liberal brand which is likely polling higher than the Ignatieff brand in Vaughan??" asks Taylor.

2. Genco tagged a twitter post on Ken Dryden with a #MapleLeafs hash tag.

3. Genco tweeted that 1200 people were at his kick-off rally on Thursday, whereas a local paper pegged the number at 250.

Ouch. I tell ya, we're getting into busty hookers and cocaine territory on the scandal-meter. Incorrect Twitter tags! Exaggerated figures from a rally! Next thing you know, we'll find out Genco booked too small a room for an event so that the crowd would look bigger than it was! Scandal!

But...here's the thing. Even Taylor's trivial accusations are plain wrong.

First off, point 1 - Genco isn't mentioning Iggy. Well, take a look at Fantino's brochure. No matter how hard you look, there are two people you won't find in it - Waldo, and Stephen Harper.

Point 2, hashtaggate - Genco hash tagged #MapleLeafs on a tweet about Ken Dryden. As I'm sure Stephen Harper's hockey book will mention, Dryden was Leafs president for 7 years.

Finally, point 3 - that Genco over estimated a crowd at his rally. Well, the Vaughan Citizen reported 1000 people at the rally. And Glenn Beck reported 45,000 were there to cheer on Genco. So, all in all, an estimate of 1200 isn't preposterous.

UPDATE: Taylor responds. Harper does appear on some Tory campaign literature...though he's not really any more prominent than Gilles Duceppe.

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Saturday, November 06, 2010

PC Glee

From the Alberta PC convention this weekend, a musical talent show that's just beging for someone to edit in some Simon Cowell quips. It's absolutely horrifying, but it's still worth at least skipping ahead to the 10:30 mark to see Ted Morton and Dave Hancock's duet of Kumbaya.

After watching that, I'm all the more impressed with the following:

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Friday, November 05, 2010

This Week in Alberta - Behind the Numbers

It turns out the polling presentation made to the PC campaign committee at their AGM last weekend has been left on a public server. Oops.

Mind you, given the numbers are fairly flattering to Stelmach and don't reveal much about PC strategy or messaging, I suspect this may have been a somewhat intentional "accident". Still, it's worth taking a look, if only because we rarely see this level of in-depth polling data about Alberta in the public domain.


The PCs already leaked the vote numbers, and why wouldn't they? They show Alberta's natural governing party leading the Wildrose Alliance 40% to 26%, an improvement from their 36% to 29% lead in June. Still, as the leaked presentation shows, the vote question asked about "local candidates" rather than naming the party leaders. I suspect the gap would be narrower had the vote question been on "the PCs led by Ed Stelmach, the Wildrose Alliance led by Danielle Smith, etc etc".

Regardless, the regional splits are the interesting ones here - given the small sample sizes we're dealing with, I averaged the June and October numbers together:

Calgary: WRA 36%, PC 32%, ALP 23%, NDP 6%
Edmonton: PC 42%, ALP 22%, NDP 18%, WRA 16%
Rural: PC 40%, WRA 30%, ALP 16%, NDP 10%

So long as the PCs continue to hold a firm grip on Edmonton, they'll stay in power, with the only question being "minority or majority". But if we ever see the Liberals and NDP return to their '04 numbers in Redmonton, then watch out - we've actually got a contest.


The take home message here is that Stelmach is still a drag on the PC brand, but not enough to drag them out of power - yet:

Stelmach: 43% favourable, 38% unfavourable (9% unfamiliar)
Smith: 30% favourable, 10% unfavourable (51% unfamiliar)
Mason: 24% favourable, 16% unfavourable (48% unfamiliar)
Swann: 17% favourable, 17% unfavourable (57% unfamiliar)

This is a big jump for Stelmach since June when close to half (47%) the province was unfavourable towards the big guy. Still, he's clearly a negative to the brand - 33% of Albertans say the PCs are the most competent party whereas only 23% say Stelmach is the most competent leader. I suspect we'd see a similar 10-point Ed-drag across most attributes.

Stelmach's biggest asset appears to be the "regular person" label, though I guess it depends if people think he's "a regular guy who is in way over his head when it comes to running a province" or "a regular guy like Ralph".

Half of Albertans still don't have an opinion on Danielle Smith - somewhat surprisingly given the media love-in she's enjoyed. This lack of awareness is clearly hurting her on some of the head-to-head leadership comparisons in the survey. But, man, if she can keep that 3-to-1 ratio of like-to-dislike when Albertans do become familiar with her, she'll be the next Premier. No question about it.

And before people jump on the Liberals, the survey refered to their leader as "Dr. David Swann". To me, that completely biases the respondent and (I would hope) the grits are smart enough not to be slapping the "Dr." on their campaign signs in 2012.


The most interesting part of this survey to me was the relative areas of strength between the PCs and the WRA. I'd assumed one of the biggest selling points of the Wildrose Alliance was the "balancing the books" argument. Yet, when asked which party is the most financially responsible, the PCs beat the WRA by a 3-to-1 ratio (32% to 10%). Even the tax-and-spend Liberals and that dang Dr. Swann are judged better money managers than the Wildrose Alliance.

Rather, where the Alliance seems to be connecting is at a more emotional, personal level. When asked about "values", the PCs only lead 27% to 21% - by far, the closest of the head-to-head attributes measured. And when the leaders are put head-to-head, Stelmach fares worst on the "caring" questions - "cares about the problems in my community", "cares about people like me", and "listens and responds to the views of others".

To me, this means the Danielle Smith Party has not surged because the PCs are "spending like Liberals". Rather, people see the PCs as an out of touch government which does not listen to, or care about, common Albertans.

And if that's true, it's actually good news for all the parties. It's good news for the WRA because they're strong on the "shares my values" question and that's one of the most powerful vote drivers in all of politics. It's good news for the Liberals because it means the WRA haven't surged on ideology (where the ALP can't compete with them) but rather on emotion (where they can). And it's good news for the PCs because, ironically enough, the largest strength of an otherwise dud of a leader is that people see him as the "common man" - the perfect counter to arguments their 40 year old government is out of touch.

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Thursday, November 04, 2010

Maybe he's running for the BC Liberal Leadership...

Prentice and the Tory caucus, in happier times

Sadly, he's not resigning in furor over the potash deal. There isn't a hidden scandal involving Chinese pandas. He's not in any way involved with Julie Couillard.

Rather, Jim Prentice will resign as an MP to take a Vice-President position at CIBC. I'm not up on my conflict-of-interest rules, but I'm sure the Tories will assure us this doesn't breach any ethical guidelines and the Liberals will assure us it most certainly does.

Well, that's the official explanation for his departure. The more truthful one is that being Stephen Harper's environment minister is a miserable job that is quietly killing Prentice's soul and/or leadership ambitions. So, bon voyage Jim - we'll look you up when Stephen Harper or Ed Stelmach announce their resignations.

As for what it all means, we'll have a by election in Calgary - I'll leave it to the good people at Pundits Guide to speculate on timing, though I suspect it will get rolled up with the other two by elections we have coming down the pipe (one for a Bloc seat in Quebec, the other in Jay Hill's BC riding). Being Calgary, (spoiler alert!) the Conservatives will win that by election (though to downplay expectations the PMO will let Jane Taber know it's the Liberals' seat to lose).

I know it won't happen, but if anyone wants to speculate about Dave Bronconnier making a jump to federal politics, this would be a good time to do that. Calgary Centre-North one of the most Liberal-friendly ridings in the city, a popular moderate incumbent is leaving, and a by election entry point would let Bronconnier win on his name rather than on the Liberal brand. Toss in frustration among the Tory base over wild spending, and this is about as good a chance as Bronco's ever going to get. Hell, the city's even in a "let's go wild" kind of mood, having just elected Naheed Nenshi as mayor. Maybe they'd be crazy enough to vote in a Liberal!

But assuming Bronco doesn't run, the more interesting side effect of this is the inevitable Cabinet shuffle speculation we're about to be subjected to. John Baird will act as interim environment minister but assuming "interim" actually means "interim" (and this isn't like "Canada's new government") someone else will eventually inherit the portfolio.

As mentioned above, it's not exactly a prize job. I have no clue who Harper will choose, though I'm guessing it's likely someone whose leadership ambitions Harper is looking to crush.

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Campbell Resigns

One of the most interesting story lines in Canadian politics over the past year has been the fate of the three Liberal Titans - Dalton McGuinty, Jean Charest, and Gordon Campbell. Their political background, beliefs, and styles are very different, but they've dominated the political landscape in Canada for close to a decade. Hell, the federal Liberals have gone through four leaders since this trio took power of the country's three largest provinces at the start of the decade.

Sure, they all had setbacks - Campbell's famous DUI, McGuinty's broken promise, and Charest's near-defeat in 2007. But up until recently, things were going swimmingly for them.

McGuinty trounced John Tory in 2007, leaving the provincial PCs in complete disarray. Charest bounced back in 2008, capturing a majority government. Gordon Campbell took a third straight majority in 2009, in a province where Premiers usually wear out their welcome before the paint dries in their office.

But ever since Campbell's re-election, the trio has fallen on hard times. The HST burned McGuinty first, then Campbell. And Jean Charest has had to fend off daily scandals. In a recent Angus Reid survey, Campbell's approval rating came in at 9%. Charest and McGuinty haven't done much better themselves lately.

So Campbell decided to pack it up, in an attempt to save his party from an electoral wipe-out in 2013. McGuinty is ready to run for a third term and might very well win it. As for Charest - the man is a fighter and comes back to life more often than slasher film villains, but it wouldn't at all surprise me to see him make the same call as Campbell early next year.

Outside of the three Liberal Titans, Danny Williams is the only current Premier who has managed to win re-election. And Danny, being Danny, is an exception in every sense.

Maybe it's part of a larger "time for a change" mood sweeping the nation. Maybe it's just a coincidence in timing. But even if McGuinty is re-elected next year, he's going to be surrounded by a lot of fresh blood on the provincial scene.

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Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Great Potash Debate

Seeing all the news stories out there about potash this week, I feel like most Canadians did during the Great Summer Census Crisis of 2010. You see, I keep going back on forth on whether or not I support the Potash Corp takeover...then it occurs to me I don't even have a clue what potash is.

So after a quick trip to wikipedia, I learned that potash is a potassium compound that has been used "since the dawn of history". It is used to manufacture glass, soap, and soil fertilizer, and Canada produces close to a third of the world's potash. Also, "the Potashes" were a 19th century New York street gang and Dan Potash is a reporter for FSN Pittsburgh.

So why should politically-minded Canadians care?

Well, Australia-owned BHP Billiton Ltd. has put in a bid to buy Potash Corp (hereto after refereed to by its TSE ticker symbol - "POT") and this has, of course, stoked fears among economic nationalists. After all, first we give up control over potash...the next thing you know kangaroo zombies are running free in the streets and we're all drinking Foster's.

Of course, as is so often the case when talking about economic nationalism, the reality is a bit murkier. Even though the perception exists that POT is a Canadian company, POT isn't crown controlled anymore, and Canadian shareholders only own 49% of it. It's not exactly a case of "an American-controlled company being taken over by an Australian-controlled company", as Stephen Harper described it, but it's not like we're selling the Saskatchewan Roughriders here.

Not surprisingly given how sexy an issue potash is, this story has become hugely political. Brad Wall, after seeing Shawn Graham turfed over the New Brunswick Hydro "takeover", has come out swinging against this deal. He has no doubt given Danny Williams a call for advice, and there have been suggestions he may run his own ABC campaign next election should Harper approve the takeover.

The Sask NDP, a slew of Premiers, and the opposition parties in Ottawa have sided with Wall. Oh, and so has the University of Saskatchewan Students Union. Supporting the deal are the Sask Liberals (motto: "we have nothing to lose so why not be principled?") and...that's about it in terms of active politicians, though John Manley, Andrew Coyne, newspaper editorials, and many others who don't have to worry about being elected have argued the POT deal should move forward.

Although Investment Canada has approved the sale, the final decision rests with the federal government - and given the Minister responsible for the file is Tony Clement, there's a good chance the Harper government will find a way to screw this one up. A verdict is expected later this afternoon (presumably it will be announced over Twitter) - what Harper and Clement decide is anybody's guess.

If the decision were based purely on ideology, they'd no doubt approve the deal. But this government long ago gave up the pretense that it bases decisions on ideology. Canadians are blissfully unaware of this issue so, politically, there doesn't appear to be anything but downside in allowing the POT takeover to move ahead.

UPDATE - The Tories squash the deal, for now.