Friday, April 30, 2010

Back in the UK

The British election is now a week away and the Conservatives seem all but assured of victory - the real question is whether or not they'll be able to get their majority. Sound familiar?

The real twist is the rise of the Liberal Democrats, which has buggered up most seat projections. But hey, that just makes it more fun. Here's the skinny on UK polling numbers and projections:

1) The UK Polling Report has all the latest polls.

2) The gambling line at Betfair sets the Conservatives at 318, Labour at 216, the LibDems at 87, and other parties at 29.

3) You can play around yourself with BBC's swingometer. Just plug in the numbers and, Bob's your uncle, you get projected seat counts!

4) A more advanced projection model can be found here. My only qualm is that I just don't think there are enough data points to customize vote patterns on a riding by riding basis. Regardless, it projects the Conservatives at 291 seats, Labour at 209, the LibDems at 120, with 8 seats going to other parties. It sets the odds of a Tory majority at 8%.

5) Electoral Calculus projects seats using a regional swingometer and the betting markets. They have the Cons at 283 seats, Labour at 238, the LibDems at 97, with 32 seats going to other parties.

6) Finally, this brings us to our good friends at 538. Their model is a bit too subjective for my taste, and I'm not a fan of the geometric swing. The problem is, if you assume Labour will only hold 60% of its vote and you extrapolate that to every riding, you'll be taking the most votes away from their strongholds. For example, if you did this in Canada and had the Liberals down in the polls, their biggest losses would come in Toronto. Which I'm not sure is what would happen in reality.

On the flip side, their model will probably account for the rise of the LibDems better than most. So I guess we'll have to wait and see. Regardless, they project the Conservatives at 299 seats, Labour at 199, and the LibDems at 120.

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Vote Geo

The federal Alberta Liberals will be holding their convention in Lethbridge this weekend, with the big event being the race for President between incumbent George Hodgson, and the challenger, Dean Blake.

Having been away from the scene for two years, I'm a little hesitant to weigh in, but my Victory Fund cheque still goes to an Alberta riding and making the party competitive in the West, especially Alberta, is still what I feel strongest about. For that very reason, I want to take a moment to endorse George Hodgson for LPCA President.

Geo has been involved in the Liberal scene for 25 years, and has fought the good fight through good times and bad times...and very bad times.

I was lucky enough to work closely with him during the 2006 leadership campaign and I can honestly say that I've never seen a harder worker. He'd plow through his call lists night after night, organize events, and spend hours driving to small towns in the middle of nowhere to meet the 2 or 3 locals brave enough to take out a Liberal membership. He's brought that same dedication to every role he's had on election campaigns, in his riding, and on the LPCA - the bottom line is this is a guy who will do the hard work and, in my opinion, doing the hard work is the only way to grow the party in Alberta.

So I haven't been at all surprised to hear about what he's accomplished over the past two years as LPCA President. He's been the anti-Flaherty, inheriting a deficit and turning it into a six figure surplus. He's set up Victory Plus to boost Alberta-focused fundraising efforts; he's fought for Alberta on the national stage; and moving forward, his efforts will be directed to growing the party membership, and assisting riding associations with fundraising and financial management.

But, hey, if you're in Lethbridge this weekend, don't take my word for it - go up to Geo and ask him about his plans for the LPCA. He's always willing to share his ideas, and to listen. A lot of Liberals get hung up on past squabbles and won't forgive and forget what happened at the 1992 riding AGM where they were railroaded for the treasurer position. Even in private and candid conversations, Geo has always shown a willingness to move beyond this and work with anyone willing to help grow the Liberal Party in Alberta.

That's one of the reasons he's been a great President and one of the reasons I hope he will remain the President moving forward.

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Wasylycia-Leis, Wasylycia-Leis, Wasylycia-Leis

The biggest tongue twister of a name is leaving Ottawa:

Winnipeg MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis is giving up her seat in Parliament.

Effective May 1, the longtime NDP politician will resign the Winnipeg North seat she has held since 1997.

Wasylycia-Leis, 58, made the announcement Tuesday in Ottawa.

There has been speculation she intends to run for mayor of Winnipeg in the civic election this fall. However, a decision has yet to be made, she told CBC News earlier Tuesday.

Wasylycia-Leis won her seat in a walk last election, against a rather lackluster opposition:

NDP 62.2% (spent 56k)
CPC 22.4% (spent 6k)
Lib 9.2% (spent 14k)
Green 4.8% (spent 491$)

So, I wouldn't expect this seat to flip anytime soon (Pundits Guide gives the rundown on a possible by election). However, this riding may just be the perfect case study in what ails the Liberals in Western Canada. The seat was painted Liberal red in 1988 and 1993 - but watch how the Grits have fallen since then:

1993: 22,180 votes
1997: 6,755 votes
2000: 7,801 votes
2004: 9,491 votes
2006: 5,752 votes
2008: 2,075 votes

Yes, I know the boundaries have been redrawn and the "flood election" washed away thousands of Liberal votes in Winnipeg. But there's really no excuse for the Liberals to be getting less than a quarter of the support now as they got during the first Adscam election.

I'm not a wild eyed dreamer who expects the party to win in Crowfoot or Prince Albert anytime soon. But if we want to regain power and to ever have a chance at another majority government, this party needs to win seats in places like Winnipeg, Regina, Edmonton, and Vancouver.

Which means they need to at least be competitive in a riding like Winnipeg North.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Speaker Speaks

Afghan records denial breaches privilege: Speaker

The federal government breached parliamentary privilege with its refusal to produce uncensored documents related to the treatment of Afghan detainees and must provide the material to MPs within two weeks, Speaker Peter Milliken has ruled.

During his lengthy ruling Tuesday afternoon in the House, Milliken called on House leaders, ministers and MPs to find a "workable accommodation" to satisfy all parties "without compromising the security and confidentially contained."

Milliken ruled Parliament had a right to order the government to produce uncensored documents to members of a special committee examining torture allegations, and that its order was "clear" and procedurally acceptable.

So now we wait and see how Harper plays this. The only indication so far is this Rob Nicholson quote (and Stephen Taylor tweet): “We welcome the possibility of a compromise while respecting our legal obligations".

Should they continue to balk...well...I won't even begin to speculate on what happens next.

Politically, the challenge for the opposition parties will be framing this as something more than a 39-page rulling that quotes 19th Century parliamentary procedures of the territorial legislature of New South Wales. I'm not saying that stuff is over the head off most voters - I'm saying it's over the head of all voters not named "Peter Milliken".

Prorogation only had an impact because a complicated procedural move was framed as Stephen Harper going on vacation. In much the same way, for this to even have a dent on public opinion, it will need to be framed as something more than a complicated procedural move. Harper's arrogance. He thinks he's above the law. Those might work.

But it's gonna be a tough one to sell. Which is why, as I said earlier today, I doubt this will lead to an election.

Accidentally on Purpose

There's a lot of buzz around Don Martin's column today, titled "Speaker's ruling may trigger election nobody wants". Here's the crux of it:

It's a safe bet Milliken will deliver a balanced response aimed at forcing both sides to seek a middle ground. But there's considerable doubt it will offer a final solution.

Prime Minister Harper is ready to reject outright any Speaker order to surrender more unedited documents to this Parliament. If MPs are granted access to the files by the Speaker, they cannot run away from a fight lest their parliamentary precedent-setting victory ring hollow.

That risks turning the prime minister versus Parliament showdown into a no-win tug-of-war where everybody loses in an election nobody wants.

In minority governments, we hear about "accidental" elections quite often. After all, there needs to be some way to write election speculation columns at times when none of the parties are chomping at the bit to go to the polls.

But personally, I don't buy it. Short of a party whip telling his MPs to vote the wrong way (ha ha, like that would ever happen!), the parties generally know what the consequences of their actions are. Yes, issues can emerge to raise the temperature. But, if no one wants an election, there's always a compromise that can be reached. And when there isn't a compromise, they can simply say the electorate doesn't want an election, and vote accordingly.

Take this stand-off over detainee documents. Say the speaker rules the Tories must hand them over. Well, if Harper doesn't want an election, he can just bloody well hand them over. If he doesn't, well, it will still take a non-confidence vote to bring the government down - any one of the opposition parties can simply abstain on the vote to save the government. It certainly wouldn't be the first time.

I tend to doubt Canadians will be tuning in to Milliken’s ruling this afternoon as if it were a Tiger Woods press conference. So the political hit anyone will take for backing down on this is minimal.

The bottom line is this - if no one wants an election, we won't get one.

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Bag O Links

1. This very cool site tracks polls, projections, and betting lines on the British election. (hat tip Coyne)

2. This nagging case of Jaffergis has become more annoying than a cold you can't shake, but for those interested, the latest is that the Tories don't want her to run again. Gee, you think?

3. Daveberta recaps the spring session of the Alberta legislature now that school is out for the summer.

4. Je suis un peu tard to the party on this one, but I firmly disagree with Ignatieff's decision to support the private members bill requiring Supreme Court Judges to be bilingual in English and French. Since the bill has passed third reading in the House, Rob Silver raises the delicious possibility of Harper calling on the unelected and undemocratic senate to kill it.

5. Over at PuckProb, I've updated the playoff probabilities and have a post up on the odds of coming back from a 3-1 series deficit.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Gun to their Heads

Radio ads target Liberal MPs who broke ranks on gun registry

Stephen Harper’s Conservatives launched a radio ad campaign today, targeting the ridings of the eight Liberals who voted with them to scrap the gun registry.

In the ads, the Tories say the eight MPs have been ordered by “Liberal boss Michael Ignatieff” to vote to keep the registry.

The ads emulate a news story, featuring the anticipatory-breaking news music and the booming voice of a radio news anchor: “We have breaking news out of Ottawa,” it says. “Plans to scrap the wasteful long-gun registry are now in doubt. The reason? Local member of Parliament (the name of one of the eight MPs is inserted here) has been ordered by Liberal boss Michael Ignatieff to vote to keep the registry.”

The voice then urges “local citizens” to call the MP with their concerns. The MPs’ number is provided, with the ads tailored to each individual riding.

I don't have a problem with this in the least - it's mostly issue based, and there's nothing wrong with targeting MPs who get whipped into line on a vote they'd rather oppose.

The real question is how effective this campaign will be.

Here are how the Liberal Eight fared last election:

Scott Andrews (Avalon): Beat CPC 45% to 35%
Larry Bagnell (Yukon): Beat CPC 46% to 33%
Jean-Claude D'Amours (Madawaska--Restigouche): Beat CPC 47% to 33%
Wayne Easter (Malpeque): Beat CPC 44% to 39%
Keith Martin (Esquimalt--JuandeFuca): Beat CPC by under 100 votes
Anthony Rota (Nipissing--Timiskaming): Beat CPC 44% to 32%
Todd Russell (Labrador): Beat NDP 53% to 24%
Scott Simms (Bonavista): Beat everyone else 'till they were black and blue all over

So unless the Danny-effect wears off in Newfoundland, Keith Martin is the only MP in danger of losing his job over this. And given Martin's maverick streak, it certainly wouldn't surprise me in the least to see him break ranks on this one.

Andrews, while safe, has also shown a rebellious side before - he's the only other MP who I could see flipping (I assume Easter is onside, given how public he's been on this issue).

But, as mentioned before, this vote really comes down to the NDP. So the question is: if Jack whips the vote, would a similar advertising blitz scare enough Dippers?

Well, looking at the 20 NDP MPs who voted for Hoeppner’s bill before, 6 of them won by under 10 percentage points last election.

Malcolm Allen (Welland): Beat CPC by 1.6%
Dennis Bevington (Western Arctic): Beat CPC by 3.8%
Bruce Hyer (Thunder Bay Superior North): Beat Liberals and CPC by about 10% each
John Rafferty (Thunder Bay Rainy River): Beat Liberals by 8%
Jim Maloway (Elmwood Transcona): Beat CPC to 5%
Glenn Thibeault (Sudbury): Beat Liberals by 5%, and CPC by 9%

Allen, Bevington and Maloway certainly don't want to see an ad blitz run against them - you can bet they're strongly urging Jack to hold off on whipping the vote, behind the scenes.

So it seems likely that even if Ignatieff and Layton whip the vote, we'll see a few MPs flip. To put the math into context, there are 144 Conservatives and a pair of Tory independents in the house - they'll need 8 MPs to flip in order for the legislation to pass (or 16 to call in sick...).

It's going to take a huge amount of party discipline to shoot this bill down - and I'm skeptical that Ignatieff and Layton have a strong enough hold on their MPs to accomplish that.

Inside the Police Chief Cult

Thanks to the Tory mole who e-mailed this in!

What's Black and Blue all Over?

Give up?

Michael Ignatieff, if MP Garry Breitkreuz gets his way:

OTTAWA - A Conservative MP is apologizing for issuing a news release that compared Canadian police chiefs to a cult and urged Liberals to beat their leader, Michael Ignatieff, "black and blue."


The release angrily denounced Ignatieff's decision to require all Liberal MPs to vote against a private member's bill that would scrap the controversial long-gun registry.


In the release, Breitkreuz, a passionate, longtime gun registry foe, is quoted as saying Ignatieff is "a bully who may well be committing political suicide."

"With tactics like this, I doubt he'll be missed on either side of the House," the release said.

Breitkreuz was quoted calling Ignatieff's attempt to head off elimination of the registry "an act of desperation that insults the intellect of Canadians."

"His true colours are showing and, if his caucus has any integrity, those colours should be black and blue."

The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police also wound up in the news release's cross-hairs as it mocked opposition MPs' claims that the registry helps save lives.

"It's like a cult that is led by organizations of police chiefs who pretend the registry helps them do their jobs. They should be ashamed."

I especially enjoy it when Breitkreuz says that Ignatieff is the one insulting the intellect of Canadians.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Who Wants To Be A Governor General?

In the absence of any leadership races to captivate the minds of journalists and bloggers, speculation has turned to the post of Governor General, with Michaelle Jean's replacement expected to be named this summer.

The Mark had prominent Canadians list their choices and, not surprisingly, there's the usual collection of hockey players, politicians, Canadian icons, and former CBC personalities, And, of course, Shatner, who leads their poll, reminding us why it's probably a good thing the GG isn't an elected position.

Some of the more serious names being bandied about include Clarence Louie, Rick Hansen, John De Chastelain, Mary Simon, Sam Sullivan, and Phil Fontaine.

Putting aside the fun speculation for a second (Don Cherry anyone?), I think we can agree on a few things:

1. After the coalition insanity, it's clear this isn't just a symbolic position. With that in mind, I think the days of naming former politicians to the post might be long gone. Can you imagine what would have happened had Rideau Hall been occupied by someone like Ed Broadbent or Preston Manning in December 2008? Yes, they're respected individuals, but accusations of partisanship would be run rampant.

2. Even though it won't be a partisan individual, that doesn't mean this isn't a political decision. It's no secret Michaelle Jean's appointment was designed to earn good favour with the Haitian community. I find it hard to believe that the micro-targeting machine that is the Conservative Party will pass up an opportunity like this.

3. They must be bilingual. Tempi pour toi, Wayne.

4. Harper will want to put his stamp on this one - he'll want someone who represents Canada, as he sees it. So, in other words, a military man is probably more likely than a former CBC personality.

5. In keeping with the alternance tradition, I expect we'll move outside Quebec for this pick. Following point 4 above, I think it's extremely likely we'll see a Westerner named to the post. Given that BC has never had a GG and there are a lot of swing seats there (see point 2), that seems like the most likely location.

With that in mind, speculate away!


Monday, April 19, 2010

On Target

Via Aaron Wherry, Iggy's gun registry proposals:

First, we’d change the law, so that people who forget to register their gun can be issued a ticket, rather than face a criminal charge. This will give front line officers the tools you need to distinguish an honest mistake from a threat to public safety. Someone who habitually breaks the law and flouts the regulations should be treated far differently from someone who makes a one-time mistake. One kind of behavior is criminal, the other isn’t. And you need the appropriate tools to deal with each situation. That’s a message we heard loud and clear.

Second, we’ll permanently eliminate fees for new licenses, renewals, and upgrades.

And third, we’ll streamline paperwork, to make registration as quick and easy as possible.

Seems like a reasonable compromise to me. And it must also seem like a reasonable compromise to the 8 Liberal MPs who voted for Candice Hoeppner’s private members bill to abolish the gun registry - Ignatieff said MPs who vote for her bill on third reading will be punished and, after the abortion fiasco, I assume he's made sure his ducks are lined up first for this one. (Right?)

So what all of this means is that the fate of the gun registry now rests in the hands of a dozen NDP MPs who voted to scrap the registry last fall. Fairly or unfairly, Layton knows he'll get the blame for killing the registry if he doesn't whip the vote on this one. My guess is that's not what Jack wants, and enough NDP holdouts will have a change of heart, helping to shoot down Hoeppner's bill.

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UK Grits

I don't know nearly enough about British politics to offer up any commentary, but after the country's first televised debate last week, the Liberal Democrats have surged ahead, making it a bonafide 3-party race.

The conservative Cameron remains the favourite. And given the challenges facing third parties, I think it's highly unrealistic to expect Clegg's Liberal Dems to finish ahead of Paul Martin's Labour Party for second place come Election Day (May 6th).

But it certainly seems like Britain might be heading for a minority - and possibly a coalition - government.


Friday, April 16, 2010

This Week in Calgary - Wild Race in Cowtown!

Ever since a down-to-earth reporter stunned everyone 30 years ago, Calgary's incumbent mayors have enjoyed cake walk after cake walk to re-election. They do their 3 or 4 terms, then ride off on horseback into the sunset, setting off a feeding frenzy to replace them.

So welcome to the feeding frenzy.

Dave Bronconnier announced in February that he wouldn't be seeking a fourth term, setting off wildfire speculation. Here's a rundown of some of the names being bandied about to replace him. I'm probably overlooking some, so be sure to add any others in the comments section.

Ric McIver (all but declared): McIver is my former alderman and the horse I'd put money on in this race - he's been organizing and fundraising for a long time, and can always get a good quote in the media. He's the torch bearer for the right wing in this race which, oddly enough, may work against him - despite the city's reputation, Calgary's last two mayors have been openly Liberal.

Kent Hehr (expected to run): Kent won back Calgary Buffalo for the Alberta Liberals last provincial election. Hehr, who has been confined to a wheelchair since being shot as a bystander in 1991, would make a very compelling foil to McIver should he decide to enter the race.

Naheed Nenshi (considering a run): Naheed is the head of the Better Calgary Coalition - should he run, I fully expect Naheed to be the anti-politician of the race, focusing on policy and taking on the NIMBY groups. It's hard to say how successful a campaign like that would be, but his candidacy would certainly bring a lot to the race.

Alnoor Kassam (thinking it over): This was my guy in 2007, when he took on Dave. Alnoor starts the campaign with more name recognition than most thanks to the green stop signs, but the barrage of negative media he was hit with in 2007 means he'll need to rebuild his image if he wants to run again.

Joe Connelly (declared): Connelly pulled off the upset in Ward 6 last election and has declared early, in a bid to generate some Joementum. His website is up, and features a buzzword bonanza, including promises such as "Delivery of services through transparent leadership conducting real consultation, followed by strategically planning and executing with precision."

Jon Lord (declared): This former Tory MLA is most famous for citing his membership in MENSA on a campaign brochure. His website projects his campaign as being a tad amateur and a tad verbose (Did you know Jon developed "the ISO 9000, the world's best efficiency and effectiveness business process re-engineering methodology"? Me neither.). But Lord gets major marks from me for mentioning "The Borg" in his principles section.

John Hughes (declared): Described as "an urban chicken activist". This tells you all you need to know about his candidacy.

Wayne Stewart (gauging support): A retied oil executive and former head of a local homeless foundation could appeal across the political spectrum.

Also Rumoured: Former Alderman Craig Burrows, the ageless Bob Hawkesworth, Diane Colley-Urquhart (who finished third in the Glenmore by election, running for the PCs), former alderman Brian Lee, Dave Taylor (who has denied interest, saying he's too old), Alberta's representative in DC Gary Mar, former solicitor general Harvey Cenaiko, Frank McKenna, Paul Hellyer, The professor and Mary Ann.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Cue the pitchforks and righteous indignation

Don Martin leads the charge against MP pensions:

In 75 days, another 75 MPs will join that most exclusive of retirement clubs by qualifying for the safest pension on the planet.

The surviving MP class of 2004 will have reached six years of elected service on June 24 and thus qualify for a minimum $27,000 parliamentary pension at age 55 that will, in some cases, hit six figures by the time they are unelected.

Here's the thing. It's not really the "safest pension in the planet". Only 70% of the new MPs from the class of '04 will have lasted in Ottawa long enough to get their pensions. Twice during this period they will have had to fight just to keep their jobs.

They'll have worked long hours - for most of them, miles away from their homes and families. A good percentage of them endured ridicule, some had their lives destroyed.

Yeah, our MPs frustrate the hell out of me. But I don't think it's unreasonable to pay them a good salary, and to offer a pension to individuals who are serving their country with little to no job security.

Monday, April 12, 2010

New ALP Slogan Unveiled

The Alberta Liberal Party: Shooting Ourselves in the Foot for Nearly a Century

Grit MLA goes independent

Dave Taylor, the party’s former deputy leader, the Calgary MLA many Liberals wanted as their top gun 16 months ago, will sit as an independent beginning Monday.

He is fed up with the Liberals as the main opposition on paper but nowhere near that in performance.

“We just don’t have a position that’s obvious to anybody on most things. I’m sorry, but we don’t. For two years now, we haven’t really stood for anything, with a few notable exceptions,” says Taylor, who spearheaded the party’s oilpatch-friendly policy on royalties.

“The Liberals are pretty much off the radar. We’re not talking about or standing for things in a way that translates to Albertans. Most Albertans have passed the Liberals by. People aren’t even politely curious.”

“I don’t think I can serve my constituents or other Albertans in the way they deserved to be served within the Liberals. They’re just too unfocused, too lacking in the ability to connect with the people of Alberta.”

“I just don’t see things happening. I feel I’ve tried.”

Given Taylor's reputation for being a tad on the lazy side, it should come as no surprise that he's tired. And the man certainly hasn't gotten over his loss in 2008's David versus David showdown.

But this is a big blow. And with Kent Hehr rumoured to be running for mayor of Calgary, the ALP's caucus size and credibility could be shrinking even further.

This, at a time when vote splitting on the right actually gives ththe party a legitimate shot at power...if it could ever get its act together.


Skating Off Topic

Long time blog readers will know that I enjoy playing around with political stats and numbers.

Well, I also enjoy playing around with hockey stats and numbers, so with the NHL playoffs here (for Leaf fans out there, that's what happens after the regular season ends), I've gotten together with some friends and launched

Using our statistical model, we've simulated the NHL playoffs 10,000 times, allowing us to project out the probabilities of each team winning the cup, the best scorers to pick in your playoff pool, and the odds of Denis Coderre raising a stink about something that happens in the playoffs.

We'll be adding blog posts and commentary in the coming days and in the coming weeks. So check 'er out. And forward the link on to your friends (unless, of course, you want to use the info to beat them in your pool).

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Friday, April 09, 2010

Now going on Lou Dobbs' show, that's completely different

Gilles Duceppe will no doubt say a lot of really dumb things on his "I Hate Canada Cross-Canada Tour". But so far, the dumbest comments have come from those reacting to it. First up, the NDP:

The NDP, meanwhile, is taking issue with Mr. Duceppe’s tour – and his meeting with Mr. Flanagan. “While the Bloc Quebecois markets itself as a progressive
party, Mr. Duceppe will be meeting today with members of the C.D. Howe Institute, a prominent right-wing think-tank and next week with that paragon of progressive Canada: former Harper adviser Tom Flanagan,” the NDP said in a statement.

So their argument is basically that you should never listen to ideas from people you disagree with. That those on the right will never have anything of value to say. Way to be open minded Jack.

Next up, Michael Ignatieff:

"Ask yourselves a question," Ignatieff said in a speech to the Mirabel Chamber of Commerce and Industry: "Does a Bloc MP have an interest in settling issues?
"I think their first interest is to see to it that problems do not get solved so they can say the country does not work. This is a policy that is against citizens rather than for citizens. It is petty, partisan politics being done on your backs."

Ahh, the paradoxical Bloc Quebecois. Democratically elected when you need their support for a budget to pass or a coalition government. But treasonous troublemakers when you disagree with them.

Either these guys are legitimate assholes we hate, or they're illegitimate assholes we hate. Can we just pick one and stick with it?

"I Have Made Mistakes"

Guergis out:

April 9, 2010

This morning, I tendered my resignation as Minister of State for Status of Women to the Prime Minister which he accepted.

The past 9 months have been a very difficult time for me. I have made mistakes for which I have apologised. I want the people of PEI to know that when I spoke emotionally I was speaking about the airport as I would never insult my father's birthplace. I apologise again. I have worked hard for Canadian women and I am proud of my record of my accomplishments on their behalf.

I will continue in my position as MP for Simcoe-Grey and continue to serve my community.


Helena Guergis, MP Simcoe Grey


Thursday, April 08, 2010

Cocaine and Busty Hookers

I don't really have much to say, I just wanted to get the search engine hits from the above title. But if you do want to read all the details of Rahim Jaffer's arrest, the Toronto Star dishes the dirt.

This has set off another round of calls to punt Helena Guergis - personally, I'm not really sure what to think of this whole saga anymore. Should Guergis be held responsible for the sins of her husband? Absolutely not. Is it really such a big deal that, like every other person in Canada, she gets frustrated at airport security? Meh. Who really cares that her staffers wrote some letters to the editor - I'm sure most Ottawa staffers have done the same.

I can't really fault Harper for standing behind his Minister, but the feeding frenzy is on and her credibility has been shot. My guess is Guergis is quietly shuffled aside on a Friday afternoon this August.

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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Take a Seat

The Conservatives have introduced a bill to give us...just what we need...more MPs:

OTTAWA — New government legislation will add 30 new MPs to the House of Commons.

Under the bill introduced Thursday, the Commons would grow to 338 seats, with Ontario getting 18 new MPs, British Columbia getting seven and Alberta getting five.

The representation for the other provinces would not change.

Steven Fletcher - minister of state for democratic reform - said the idea is to give greater representation to the faster-growing regions of the country.

"If passed, this legislation will give fair representation to the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario, while protecting the seat counts of the other provinces," he said.

A similar bill was introduced in 2007, but was withdrawn over complaints that Ontario would remain under-represented.

More seats for the West, which the Tories like, but the faster growing parts of these provinces are urban, which bodes well for the Liberals and NDP. So what will this mean when all is said and done?

Without knowing the 2011 Census numbers or how the new boundaries will look, it's hard to project exactly what this new House of Commons would look like (except that, I suppose, a few MPs will have to sit on each others laps). But we can still give it try.

The tricky part is eyeballing where the new seats will go. To do this, I took the 2006 Census numbers, calculated the new average riding size for each province, then found the "extra" voters in each riding above and beyond this average. The principle of this is that areas with lots of people will get new ridings, but stagnant areas won't.

For example, once Alberta gets 33 seats, the average riding population there will be 99,708. The Red Deer riding has 124,000 people, so around 24,000 Red Deerians become 24% of a new riding on my spreadsheet.

This gives us the voter pool for the 5 new Alberta ridings (i.e. 24% of Red Deer, 8% of Wetaskiwin, 26% of Calgary South East...). So we can estimate the popular vote in the new ridings: 64% Conservative, 12% Liberal, and 12% NDP...surprisingly close to the results of the last election.

But what does this mean in terms of seats? Well, in Alberta, it's pretty easy to do the math (spoiler alert - more Conservative seats), but how do you do it in places where elections actually matter?

The best bet, in my opinion, is to look at who's currently getting elected in the areas which will get new MPs. Since Red Deer will get 24% of a new riding and they have a Conservative MP (quick quiz: Name him), we add 0.24 MPs to the Tory column.

Since the lone Tory hold out (NDP-held Edmonton Strathcona) isn't growing, this gives us 5 new Conservative MPs in Alberta. Of course, that isn't to say new maps won't mix things up. Strathcona's boundaries could be redrawn. The NDP hot bed of Edmonton East and Anne McLellan's old Edmonton Centre riding have both grown considerably and will have their boundaries shifted. Even in Calgary, redrawing the old Joe Clark Calgary Centre could put the Liberals in the game.

So what does it mean in other provinces? Here's the summary (with their popular vote in the "new" ridings in brackets):

5 Alberta Ridings: 5 CPC seats (64%), 0 Liberal seats (12%), 0 NDP seats (12%)
7 BC Ridings: 4.4 CPC seats (44%), 1.4 NDP seats (25%), 1.3 Liberal seats (21%)
18 Ontario Ridings: 9.2 CPC seats (40%), 7.2 Liberal seats (36%), 1.6 NDP seats (16%)

Add it all up, and you get 18.6 new Conservative seats (45%), 8.5 new Liberal seats (28%), and 2.9 new NDP seats (17%). Which, when added to the current House of Commons, would creep the Tories to within 5 seats of a majority (CPC 164, LPC 85, BQ 48, NDP 40, Ind 1).

And yeah, that's somewhat to be expected since the Conservatives are in power now. But if we adjust the 2008 election numbers so that the Liberals and Tories are tied in popular vote, the Conservatives come out 5% up in the "new ridings".

So the moral of the story is that the country is growing, and parties which ignore places like Alberta and BC do so at their own peril. Spotting the Tories another 8 or 9 seat advantage west of Winnipeg just makes it that much harder for the Liberals to make up the ground in Ontario and out East.


Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Tax Season

After a decade of non-stop tax cuts, the pendulum may be starting to swing in the other direction. In today's Nova Scotia budget, Darrell Dexter has proposed a 2 point HST hike. This comes on the heels of Jean Charest's taxapalooza last week, and Michael Ignatieff's promise to cancel corporate tax cuts.

And even though they're not exactly tax hikes, Gordon Campbell survived his carbon tax and has, like McGuinty, gone the harmonization route.

So what gives? Have Canadian politicians, renowned for risk-aversion, grown bolder? Or have ballooning deficits forced their hand? Remember, in the 90s, most Canadian governments cut their way out of recession - so why tax their way out this time?

I don't have the answer, but seeing the reaction to these proposals will put to the test the old theory that raising taxes is electoral suicide.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Post-Budget Poll Soup

With the Tories widening their polling lead over the Liberals in March, it's easy to attribute this to a post-Olympic bounce, or reaction to the federal budget. But the Olympic bounce logic never made much sense to me, and given I can't even remember three details about the budget, I'd imagine it hasn't had a huge impact on most regular Canadians.

Rather, I tend to attribute the change in support from January and February to the prorogation backlash gradually dissipating. The Conservatives certainly aren't back to their end-of-2009 support levels, but a it looks to me like some disgruntled Tories are heading home.

Ekos (March 24-30, n=1855 demon dialled)
CPC 32.2%
Lib 27.0%
NDP 16.0%
BQ 9.0%
Green 12.7%
Other 3.1%

Angus Reid (March 25-26, n=1004 online)
CPC 35%
Lib 29%
NDP 20%
BQ 9%
Green 7%

IpsosReid (March 16-18, n=1001 phone)
CPC 34%
Lib 28%
NDP 18%
BQ 9%
Green 10%

Nanos (March 6-12, n = 1000 telephone)
CPC 34.7%
Lib 34.6%
NDP 17.8%
BQ 7.7%
Green 5.2%

AVERAGE (change since February in brackets)

Conservative Party: 34.0% (+0.8%)
Liberal Party: 29.2% (-2.8%)
NDP: 18.0% (+2.0%)
Bloc Quebecois: 8.7% (-0.2%)
Green Party 8.7% (-0.2%)


For Liberals despondent over limp federal numbers, and lackluster approval numbers for Misters Charest, McGuinty, Campbell, and Graham, rest assured...we've still got PEI! The last bastion of Liberalism remains as red as Anne's hair!


Friday, April 02, 2010

This Week in Alberta - Extra! Extra! Man Joins Alliance!

Today, a Calgary Grit exclusive, sure to be on the front pages of every Alberta daily tomorrow.

My sources have learned that Edward Johnson, a long-time PC member, will be announcing his defection to the Wildrose Alliance this weekend. Johnson was the Bonnyville-Cold Lake riding association policy chair from 1996 to 1998, and was a poll captain during the most recent election (he won the poll, I might add).

His defection is just yet another in long line of high profile PCs who have jumped ship to the Alliance in recent months. The fact that he shares a first name with Ed Stelmach only makes this defection more significant. We can certainly consider Bonnyville-Cold Lake in play now, since Johnson will only need to convince 2,043 of his friends to join him for the Alliance to take the riding.

OK. Deep breath everyone.

The above was satirical, but it’s not far off from what we’ve seen of late as the Danielle Smith love-train continues to ride through Alberta (fun fact: The Vatican is considering waiving their waiting period to speed through her canonization). Don’t get me wrong – the PCs are in trouble and I’ve been saying so for a long time. MLA and large-scale membership defections are a big deal.

But is it really worth writing a whole column on how Ed Stelmach’s brother-in-law is planning to vote? Can we really call Rob Anders “Conservative talent”? Do we really need to go apeshit every time anyone who has ever held any sort of position in the PCs defects?

I mean, last election we had stories of Preston Manning’s old press secretary voting Liberal and Ralph Klein’s dad going Alliance. And, despite this, Steady Eddie didn’t do too shabby.

Despite these defections, the PCs are still miles ahead of the Alliance organizationally. Hell, the Alberta Liberals are miles ahead of the Alliance organizationally. I don’t doubt the Wildrosers are closing this gap, but let’s not let a good media narrative cloud reality.

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Thursday, April 01, 2010

Iggy on the Hour


Feeling Blue

After the flack they got for the O Canada name-change stunt, I'm surprised they'd try this. But, then again, knowing this government's rabid partisanship, nothing should surprise us anymore:

Tories Propose Changes to Flag

OTTAWA — The Conservative Party is set to introduce highly controversial legislation later today that would change the colour of the Canadian flag from red to blue, the Canadian Press has learned. Conservatives say changing the colour of the flag from red to blue would allow the flag to better represent Canada's motto "from sea to sea", but critics are calling it a cynical attempt to fuse Conservative colours into the Canadian identity.

"I think Canadians, when they sit down at their kitchen tables and discuss this, will be horrified" said NDP leader Jack Layton.

Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe was ambivalent about the proposal, raising the possibility that the motion could pass with Bloc support: "Red, blue, purple, pink swastikas - we don't care."

Michael Ignatieff refused comment, saying he would take time to review the design before passing judgement.

The current flag was adopted in 1964 after heated debate in the House of Commons, over the fierce objections of opposition leader John Diefenbaker. Several designs, many of them including blue, were considered before the current design was selected.