Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ad Watch: Ignatieff Gets Personal

A series of new Liberal ads have hit the airwaves.

In the first, Ignatieff talks a bit about his past, and ties it in to the Liberals' just launched pension policy:

Then, Ignatieff responds to the Tory attack ads...just 2 short years after they first aired:

Finally, my favourite of the three, and the one I'll ask you to grade. Of everything we've seen from the Liberal platform so far, Family Care is my favourite plank. It's easy to understand and it connects to voters at the personal level - after all, who doesn't have an aging or sick relative?

And, like the policy, this ad connects at the personal level, with Ignatieff talking about his mother's battle with Alzheimer's. For a guy who has been portrayed as an alien in Tory attack ads, this will do a lot to humanize him. It shows the Liberals value family and it shows Ignatieff values family.

How would you grade this ad?
See Results

And if you didn't get a chance to grade the latest round of NDP commercials, just click here.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011


"We should have a great debate, Rob. We owe it to everyone."
-President Bartlet

Whether or not we get a Harper-Ignatieff debate remains to be seen, but we got to see the trailer for it over Twitter today.

It all started this morning when, out of the blue, Harper issued a challenge:

"We're open to any number of possibilities. We could have a traditional debate of Parliamentary leaders, we could have a debate that includes Miss May in such a format, we could have a debate that includes every party that's on the ballot," Harper said.

"We could also have a debate between Mr. Ignatieff and myself, since, after all, the real choice in this election is a choice between a Conservative government or an Ignatieff-led government that all of these other parties will support," he said during an Ontario campaign stop.

Gauntlet thrown down.

Ignatieff wasted little time accepting:

@pmharper A one-on-one debate? Any time. Any place.

Which in turn, led to this from Harper and his former chief of staff:

@M_Ignatieff curiously, my team proposed 1:1 to TV consortium today; however, your team did not speak up.

Lib negotiator singing a different tune to debate consortium. Looks like Libs not serious about 1:1. Give Eizenga a 1:1 mandate #elxn41

And, of course, Jack Layton would not stand for a conversation not about him:

I remember the '08 debates @pmharper. Don't blame you for not wanting to face me again. #elxn41 #cdnpoli #ndp

So what should we make of this? Well, I personally love the idea of a one-on-one debate. I liked the idea when Tom Axworthy proposed it as part of a report on how to improve debates in Canada and and I still like it today. When all is said and done, there are two leaders who can become Prime Minister after this election, and Canadians deserve to see them go head to head. We can certainly have a round of debates involving the full cast, but there's something to be said for adding a final Thunderdome-esque duel.

Now, perhaps I'm arguing in favour of this with my partisan blinders on because, truth be told, this looks like manna from heaven for the Liberals. The Liberal campaign has been all about contrasting the Liberal vision of Canada with Harper's, and they've made no secret of their goal to squeeze the NDP and Bloc. They've had trouble getting their message out, and this would give them the perfect venue for this.

Moreover, if Ignatieff is still standing after a 12 round boxing match with the PM, he goes from the "Just Visiting guy" to a legitimate candidate for Prime Minister.

All of this begs the question of why Harper would ever make the challenge - the follow up tweets suggest this was not a slip up, but rather something the Tories genuinely want to see. This may very well be the first time a candidate 15 points up in the polls has been looking for more debates.

There are a few possible explanations for Harper's brashness. In a one-on-one debate he doesn't have to worry about an opposition gang-up. He gets an extra 15 minutes to talk about the undemocratic coalition. He might honestly believe he can wipe the floor with Iggy. If he is playing a game of "majority or bust", maybe he doesn't give a damn about squeezing the Bloc and NDP, and sees this as his opportunity to put his destiny in his own hands.

Those are all possibilities, but this strikes me as one of those times Stephen Harper is trying to play chess on a checkers set.

Regardless of Harper's motivation, both him and Ignatieff appear ready to rumble. Let's make it happen. It would make for great TV.

UPDATE: The broadcasters set the debate format, Michael Ignatieff re-iterates his interest in a one-on-one debate, and Harper backs down. Personally, I think they should just rent a legion, get some podiums, and stream the whole thing online.


Wisdom of the Crowds

Sadly, the UBC Election Stock market won't be running this election (though, given the amount of money I lost on it last time, I guess that's actually a good thing). If you'll recall, you could buy Liberal popular vote shares if you thought they were due for a bounce in the polls. Or you could buy Conservative majority shares if you thought we were heading in that direction. Like a real stock market, it moved up and down based on demand - and since real money was on the line, it gave us a good idea of where traders expected the public to be on Election Day...unlike polls and seat projections which only tell you where the public is now.

It's a neat concept and, like most event stock markets, it worked well. It's amazing how accurate the wisdom of the crowds can be sometimes.

With this in mind, I'll be tallying up the crowd consensus from my Election Pool in the coming days.

With 50 entries, it certainly isn't a huge sample. And, obviously enough, the readers of this blog are not representative of the Canadian population. But I suspect those who took the time to answer 20 questions on polling companies, ads, and individual ridings have a good sense of what's going on politically. While some will no doubt claim this sample skews Liberal, I have a hard time buying that after looking at the entries - after all, only 4 of you are predicting a Liberal victory.

So, what do the masses expect to change this election? Not a heck of a lot. Here are the average seat projections:

CPC 140 seats
Lib 85 seats
Bloc 51 seats
NDP 32 seats

So the consensus seems to be the Tories and NDP will drop a few seats, with the Liberals making modest gains. Exciting stuff, eh? There is a bit of a range though - 29% of you expect a Tory majority, and 8% are predicting a Liberal victory.

As for Miss May, the center of attention today, just one-in-five (21%) expect her to defeat Gary Lunn in Saanich-Gulf Islands. Predictions on the number of independent candidates elected ranged from 1 to 3 (Arthur, Guergis, and Ford seem to be the likeliest), with the mean at 0.9.

Regionally, the masses are predicting 1.7 seats of Harper in Newfoundland and are split on whether or not over half the Liberal seats won will come from Ontario (63% think they will).

In Fairness to Harper...

...there are way too many Conservative organizers under investigation right now to keep track of all of them:

Another questionable campaign worker sends Harper scrambling

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper is distancing himself from another tainted political organizer who found a home in a local candidate’s campaign.

Giulio Maturi, who was a top official in the campaign of disgraced former Montreal mayoral candidate Benoit Labonté in 2009, was listed as late as Wednesday afternoon as the campaign manager for a Montreal Conservative candidate.

And now, something for those of you who actually vote

After yesterday's "Learning Passport" announcement, the Liberals roll out their pension policy:

Michael Ignatieff announces Liberal plan to strengthen public pensions and support seniors

VANCOUVER – A Liberal government will help Canadian families save for retirement with new measures to enhance our public pension system, including increased support for seniors and a new, voluntary Secure Retirement Option for Canadians without access to a pension plan, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff announced today.


As part of our plan, a Liberal government will work with the provinces and territories to enhance the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) with:

■ A gradual expansion of the benefits provided by the CPP; and
■ A new Secure Retirement Option that will offer Canadians a simple, voluntary, tax-deductible savings option backed by the trusted, publicly-run CPP.

A Liberal government will also provide a $700-million annual boost to the Guaranteed Income Supplement to reduce poverty among seniors, especially women and seniors with disabilities.

To help workers left out in the cold when their employer goes bankrupt, Mr. Ignatieff also committed to greater protection for those collecting long-term disability benefits, and to create a Stranded Pension Agency to give Canadians a new and safe option to manage their private pensions after corporate bankruptcies.

Retirement security is a HUGE issue right now, so this looks like a winner. The challenge, of course, is communicating a complex pension and income supplement scheme in a 15 second pitch.

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May Day

Sources say Elizabeth May won't be allowed into the debates this time around.

Personally, I feel May did little more than take up air time in 2008 so I don't have a problem with this decision. The flip side is that she's now going to take up a ton of air time between now and then due to the predictable outrage over her exclusion.

The debate we get about the Greens' participation in the debates every election shows why we need a firm set of guidelines on how debates are run in Canada. Right now, the only criteria being used seems to be having a seat in the House, but that strikes me as a rather arbitrary rule. I mean, was Blair Wilson really the Greens' ticket to the debates in 2008? This was a candidate elected as a Liberal, booted from the party in the midst of an Elections Canada investigation, who joined the Greens a few weeks before the election. If Helena Guergis joined the Pirate Party today would the Pirates qualify for the debates?

What I'd like to see would be a more far reaching set of criteria. How about a point system along the lines of:

5 * MPs elected last election + 5 * Current MPS + number of candidates in upcoming election + number of votes in previous campaign / 10,000

Anyone with over 500 points gets a spot in the debate. We can certainly play with the math or we can set benchmarks parties need to reach, but the point is we need to remove the power from backroom negotiations between the broadcasters and parties. Having firm guidelines would spare us from repeating the debate debate every election.

And while we're at it, how about trying out some of the other changes to the way we run debates I suggested back in 2009?


Most Predictable Event of the Election

Stephen Harper plays a Beatles tune on the piano:

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ad Watch: Going After the Tim Hortons Crowd

Actually, that should read "Tim Hortons Crowding":

Personally, I don't really like the ad, but it strikes me as one that could work.

The ad is on an issue voters care about. It's got Jack sounding confident in front of a big flag. Plus, attack ads done in a "cartoon style" like this seem less mean than grainy black and white photos - that's why the Dippers used a "chalk attack" in 2008.

It's not fancy. It certainly won't win any awards. But it gets the message across, which is what it's supposed to do.

How would you grade this ad?
See Results

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Higher Learning

The Liberals have rolled out their first major policy plank of the campaign - the Learning Passport, which will mean $1,000 a year to every student attending post-secondary education.

The biggest knock on Ignatieff has always been that voters don't know what he stands for. With that in mind, the Liberal platform will be especially important this campaign, as it will be the document that defines Ignatieff. So how does this policy look?

When looking at a campaign policy, there are seven key questions that need to be asked:

1. Is it easy to understand? Can this policy be explained in a 10 second pitch or on a 140 character tweet? In this case, you can explain it in 11 words: "one thousand dollars a year to students, to encourage University education".

2. Will it be seen as meaningful by voters? For anyone in University, or with children approaching that age, this will certainly help.

3. Does it address a need or fix a problem? Yup - university tuition rates have skyrocketed in recent years.

4. Does it say something about the party's values? In this case, it shows the Liberals and Ignatieff value education.

5. Does it differ you from your competition? That remains to be seen, but it seems unlikely the Tories will make a similar pledge.

6. Does it speak to your base and your target vote? Liberal voters tend to be university educated, so this is clearly something they value.

7. And, least importantly, is it good policy? There are probably better ways to go about this but, at the absolute worst, it incentivizes post secondary education.

On all counts, this policy performs quite well. To me, it looks like a winner.

Hopefully we see more of this over the course of the campaign.

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Now we know why Harper is building all those jails...

...he needs a war room for his top political staff.

Hat Tip - tGPOitHotW

Monday, March 28, 2011

Job Opening

The above is a now-pulled Craigslist ad, looking for right-wing blog trolls. Among the job qualifications, they want someone able to "make up facts" and deliver "personal insults". Presumably, if you're really good at this, you eventually get promoted to the Tory war room.

The job application calls for a "100 word post" in response to a headline "Ignatieff Promises No Coalition After Election".

So here's what I propose. I invite anyone interested in this job to leave a troll rant on the above topic in the comments section below. Having run a Liberal blog for 7 years, I consider myself a bit of an expert on trolling, so I'll judge the best troll post. The winner gets a reference letter from me, which I'll forward on to Tory HQ.

With that, I leave you with some advice, to help you write your submissions:

1. As mentioned in the application, simply make up facts or quotes if you can't find real ones to support your argument. For example, did you know that Michael Ignatieff once said "the only good thing about Canada are the high taxes"?

2. You sound more convincing if you pass yourself off as a former Liberal who has grown disillusioned with Michael Ignatieff's leadership: "I've voted Liberal my entire life, and have a tatoo of Pierre Trudeau on my left butt cheek. But even I'm worried about this coalition."

3. Remember, AdScam trumps everything! "Sure, Stephen Harper ran over a toddler yesterday, but at least he's not as corrupt as the Lieberals were with the Sponsorship Scandal!"

4. Use hyperbole to make a point: "Ignatieff's so bad, I'm wishing we had Stephane Dion back as leader!"

Start Gaffing

The RevMod gaffe-o-meter is up and rolling again, to keep track of campaign gaffes.

You can read about and enter the contest here, and review past scores and winners here.

Paul Martin's 33 in 2006, like DiMaggio's 56 in 41, is one of those records that may never be broken...

Stephen Harper Family Tax Cut

The first Tory policy announcement of the campaign:
The Conservatives will make the first policy announcement of the campaign Monday morning – a family tax cut that will hope to woo parents with children under 18. Stephen Harper will kick off the day at a family residence in Sidney, B.C. to sell ‘Stephen Harper’s Family Tax Cut,’ a pledge that aims to snag votes from the middle class and from new families.

Mind you, that should probably read "woo parents with children under 13". Because it's going to be at least 5 years until this is actually implemented:
The Tory camp says the tax cut will not be applied until the deficit is eliminated, which is not expected to happen until 2015-2016.

So a tax cut 5 years in the future? For those keeping track, we've had 3 elections in the last 5 years.

Mark Your Ballots

Last chance to enter the Calgary Grit election pool - contest closes at midnight tonight.

Le Quebec a le pouvoir de changer les choses

Michael Ignatieff reminds us that he was the one who plunged us into the very unpleasant "nation" debate:


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Day 2: Return to the Coalition Crisis

We've known it was coming for two years. As expected, Stephen Harper jumped out of the gate trying to make this election all about the coalition.

Initially, the opposition parties played along. Jack Layton made it perfectly clear the NDP was for sale or rent. Gilles Duceppe prattled on about his 2004 deal with Stephen Harper - yes, it makes Harper look like a hypocrite, but it keeps people talking about coalitions, so I don't think Steve minds too much.

For his part, Michael Ignatieff dodged the question, talking about red doors and blue doors. One reporter shouted out "if you don't answer this now, we'll ask you every day this campaign!". Stephen Harper must have been grinning from ear to ear.

Left with no option, Ignatieff issued a statement yesterday categorically ruling a coalition out. So the real question is whether this lances the boil, or if Iggy will have to carry the coalition gorilla on his back for the entire campaign?

Not surprisingly, Harper refuses to take no for an answer, so we're going to keep hearing about the coalition boogeyman in stump speeches and Tory attack ads. I suspect some people will believe what they hear - the coalition is still fresh in the public's mind and, as Tom Flanagan says, it doesn't have to be true, it just has to sound plausible. Still, the media can't very well ask Ignatieff about it every day and, if they do, he has an easy answer. The issues of the first few days rarely become the issues of the campaign when they're dealt with properly. How many times was Harper asked about same sex marriage in the 2005 election after he gave a clear answer on day 1?

Like Harper in 2005, Ignatieff now needs to take control of the narrative - talking about coalitions doesn't do him any good, even if it's about Harper experimenting in a hotel room with the socialists and separatists with it in his youth.

Hopefully, Ignatieff's clear answer to the coalition question will let him move on.


Saturday, March 26, 2011

(60% of) Canada Votes

And we're off. At least I assume we are - I'm away from e-mail today and this was drafted up last night with an 11 am timestamp. I wouldn't put it past Stephen Harper to cancel the election so as to ensure Canada's economic recovery stays on track.

While I'll no doubt be busy this campaign, there's always time for election blogging. I'll be doing a week-in-review every Sunday. I'll try to find something interesting from Alberta to write about every Friday. Like last election, I'll be asking you to rate commercials with "Ad Watch". I'll be running seat projections. There will be debate live blogs full of live snark. I'll try to keep things light and not get too uber-partisan because, as important as elections are, blogging about them should be fun. Let's leave the nastiness for the Tory war room.

If you're just tuning in now, here's what you need to catch up on:

-Election Primer (Read other election primers here, here, here, and here)
-Election Pool (And check out the James Bow election pool too)
-Election Calendar
-Rate pre-election ads here and here
-A look at the Tory platform

So, what should we expect between now and May 2nd?

I know the common consensus is this election won't change anything. After all, Harper is flying high in the polls and none of the dozen scandals plaguing his government have Canadians protesting in the streets.

But despite this, my gut feeling is Michael Ignatieff is going to surprise people this campaign. And I say this as someone who has never been overly optimistic about Liberal chances in recent elections, and was never a big fan of Mr. Ignatieff's during either of his leadership runs.

I'm not saying he'll win, but he does have some things going for him. Those gloomy poll numbers have been built on two years of attack ads - during a campaign, voters will get to see Ignatieff's side of the story. And he's got the makings of a good story. A "family friendly" Liberal platform is going to sound a lot more appealing than corporate tax cuts or new fighter jets. It certainly doesn't hurt that the Tories are besieged by scandal.

But that's just my gut feeling. Anyone who tells you how this election will play out is full of it. Campaigns are unpredictable and campaigns matter.

So stay tuned. It's going to be a fun ride.


Friday, March 25, 2011

Calgary Grit Election Pool - 20 Questions

Anyone can predict seat totals or popular vote. That's just the end result. The real excitement in an election is the journey - the campaign itself. With that in mind, I present the third (almost) annual Calgary Grit Potpourri election pool. Twenty questions to determine just how well you can predict the upcoming campaign.

While there is no prize for the winner, this is your chance to be immortalized forever and ever alongside previous winners Saskatchewan Grit and HoserToHoosier. Simply reply to this post with your predictions or e-mail them in to Or, better yet, print off the questions and start up your own office pool.

1. Will Elizabeth May win her seat?

2. Will the Conservatives sweep Alberta?

3. Will Julian Fantino be re-elected?

4. Thomas Mulcair or Martin Cauchon in Outremont?

5. Which polling company's publicly released final numbers will be closest to the actual results?

6. Over/under on the highest level of support the Conservatives will hit in a national election poll - 42%

7. Will the Liberals ever lead in a national election poll?

8. Which party will run the most vicious attack ad? (as judged by yours truly)

9. Which party will run the "best" ad? (as voted on by Calgary Grit readers)

10. Will the words "abortion", "women's right to choose", or some variant, be used in a TV commercial this campaign?

11. Will any Harper Cabinet Ministers appear in an english-language commercial this campaign?

12. Will Harper's sweater vest make an appearance in a Conservative ad?

13. Conservative vote over/under in Crowfoot - 80% (82% the last 2 elections)

14. Voter turn out over/under - 60% (59% last election)

15. How many seats will the Conservatives win in Newfoundland?

16. Number of independent candidates elected?

17. The Bloc. Will they win more or less seats than last election?

18. Will over half the Liberal seats won come from Ontario? (last election, 38 of their 77 wins came from there)

19. Number of times Stephen Harper uses the word "coalition" in the (first) English language debate?

20. Who will the instant-polls show as having won the first English language debate? (based on an average of all debate polls released in the next 24 hours)

Tie-Breaker: Predict the seat totals for each party

Thursday, March 24, 2011

This post has been approved by the Harper government

A scathing video from EnoughHarper attacking Stephen Harper for his secretive government. Here it is, for all of Canada to enjoy!

Election 2011 Primer

With the government almost certain to fall in the next 48 hours, what should we expect between now and election day?

Last week, I looked at the election calendar - today, a look at the strategies the parties are likely to employ:

The Conservatives

Official Slogan: Here for Canada (unlike that American bastard Michael Ignatieff)

Unofficial Slogan: "Now is not the time for an opportunistic election. October 2008 was the time for an opportunistic election."

Key Policy Plank: In 2008, they weren't big on policy, only releasing a full platform late in the campaign, after some backlash. This time, we know they'll campaign on cancelling the per vote public subsidy for political parties, but their main platform document was Tuesday's budget, which had something for everyone in it.

Election Framing: Harper has made it clear for the past two years he intends to make the election a choice between "a Conservative majority" or "the evil coalition". Beyond that, the expectation is they'll bomb Ignatieff, but remember, they led with the sweater vest ads last election. It wouldn't at all surprise me to see the Tories start with the feel good stuff again to drive the early conversation away from ethics and towards their budget.

Biggest Worry: The scandals stick

The Liberals

Official Slogan: We've seen the "Your Canada or Harper's?" tag in most of the negative ads so far.

Unofficial Slogan: "We've taken the low expectations principle to a whole new level!"

Key Policy Plank: The Liberals released their Family Care plan last fall, and every indication is this will be a centerpiece policy plank. Ignatieff has also promised policies on Child Care, post-secondary education, and pension reform. Much of this will be paid for by reversing the Conservatives' corporate tax cuts.

Election Framing: We know they'll talk about ethics. We've also seen a heavy focus on family on the Liberal website and in the Family Care plan mentioned above. The Liberals want to make this election about choices: "Harper's big business tax cut versus the Liberal family friendly agenda", or "fighter jets versus family care" - that sort of thing. As always, the goal will be to use sharp contrasts like this to squeeze the Bloc and NDP.

The most detailed preview of the Liberal strategy heading into this election can be found in Paul Wells' must read Maclean's article on "the effort to resurrect Michael Ignatieff".

Biggest Worry: The polls don't move


Official Slogan: "This is Canadian leadership"

Unofficial Slogan: "Vote for Jack - get Tom"

Key Policy Plank: The NDP have made recent by election campaigns in BC and Ontario all HST, all the time. I'd also expect a lot of talk about Layton's push to cut the GST on home heating fuels - it's a mind numbingly stupid policy that's bad for the environment and bad for low income earners, but it's good politics.

Election Framing: Expect a retread of recent NDP themes - "results for people", "making parliament work", and all things kitchen table. Layton remains the NDP's biggest asset, so expect him to be front and centre in all (english) ads.

Biggest Worry: Jack's health

The Greens

Official Slogan: Still to be determined, though their website features Elizabeth May saying "It's time. Vote Green."

Unofficial Slogan: "We take the high road, unlike those other corrupt and out of touch a-holes."

Key Policy Plank: I dunno. The environment, I guess.

Election Framing: For the Greens, it's "Saanich or bust" this election - their number one goal is to get Elizabeth May elected. Nationally, their focus appears to be on disengaged voters rather than environmentalists. The challenge, of course, is that disengaged voters tend to not vote due to their being disengaged.

Biggest Worry: The decline of the environment as an issue

The Bloc

Official Slogan: Presumably something along the lines of "Here for Quebec"

Unofficial Slogan: "Gimme Gimme Gimme!"

Key Policy Plank: Duceppe has already rolled out his 5 billion dollar demands.

Election Framing: Presumably, the Bloc will run the usual game plan. Emphasize Duceppe and talk about how they'll be Quebec's guard dog in Ottawa - protecting the province against Stephen Harper.

Biggest Worry: Worry? Why would Gilles Duceppe ever worry?


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

How it ends

There was a lot of procedural wrangling today, but the end results is that it appears the government will fall this Friday, sometime after 1:30 pm Eastern, on the following Liberal motion:

That the House agrees with the finding of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs that the Government is in contempt of Parliament, which is unprecedented in Canadian Parliamentary history, and consequently, the House has lost confidence in the Government.

Given this Parliament started with Harper proroguing to dodge a non-confidence vote, this would make for a fitting end to it.

Tory Budget Priorities

Hat Tip - Enough Harper


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Tory Platform

In 2008, we didn't see the Tory platform until the dying days of the campaign. This time, we got it before the writ even dropped.

With all three opposition parties ready to vote down the government, we're now almost certain to be in a campaign by the weekend. Which means today's budget becomes the de facto election platform for the Conservatives. And while it's a pretty uninspiring budget, it's a very impressive platform.

While I'm a little disappointed there's no blogging tax credit in this budget, Jim Flaherty appears to have given every single other Canadian some kind of token tax credit - something voters are sure to notice as they complete their taxes this April.

Have a sick relative? Well, there's the family caregiver tax credit, stolen from the Liberals' Family Care plan. Have a kid who plays piano? There's a tax credit for that. Are you a low income Senior? Here's an extra $12 a month.

Expecting to be mercilessly attacked on their corporate tax cuts, they've closed a corporate tax loophole. Knowing they'll be attacked on a dirty environmental record, the ecoEnergy program gets extended to much fanfare (even though it has existed for 14 years).

But surely this will anger the Tory base, n'est-ce-pas? Well, there's a tax credit for volunteer firefighters. And programs to get more doctors in rural areas.

The budget lacks direction. Nothing in it will do a lot for the economy. Most voters won't get more than a few dollars from it. But the budget is full of the kind of promises that sound good in stump speeches and look good in commercials.

Today we saw the Tory platform and, truth be told, it's an impressive document.

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Election 2011

The Liberals, Bloc, and NDP all say they'll vote against the budget.

Whether they fall on the Liberal opposition day Friday, the Bloc sub-ammendment Thursday, or by Harper going to the GG before then, the 40th Parliament is about to end.

Budget Day

Back in January, the NDP laid out 5 demands in exchange for their support on the federal budget:

In a new memo prepared by the NDP, the party costs its main requests. The NDP wants the budget to include $700-million to raise the Guaranteed Income Supplement for low-income seniors; a doubling of the Canada Pension Plan benefit through higher premiums; a $700-million proposal to cut the GST on home heating fuels; $200-million to revive the home energy retrofit incentive, and longer-term pledges to improve health care.

Budget leaks have confirmed the final two of those demands will be met. There will likely be something for seniors (there always is), but Jack is unlikely to see his demands for an expanded CPP or a cut to the GST on home heating fuels met. So, all in all, about a 50% grade - depending on the curve, that could either be a pass or a fail.

In effect, Harper's overtures give Layton a way out if he wants one. It may just be table scraps, but it's enough to claim "results for people" and put off an election if Layton wants to put off an election.

It's very similar to what Harper tossed Duceppe on the weekend, when it was leaked there was a "draft deal" between Flaherty and Bachand on the HST. It's not in the budget, so there's no reason for Duceppe to support the budget...but he could probably justify propping up the government to help finalize the deal.

Without making any real concessions, Harper has given two of the opposition parties a way out if they want one. We'll soon find out if they want one.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Week Ahead

The week ahead promises to be an interesting one, even if the end result looks more and more certain by the day.

The Liberal opposition day and the supply vote on spending estimates have been shifted from Monday to Friday, allowing Flaherty to table his budget Tuesday. While the budget itself will never pass, it deserves close attention, since it will basically become the de facto Tory platform.

After that, we'll be treated to a series of procedure tactics and votes, as the parties jockey to ensure the government falls on their terms. At this point, I don't think it really matters how they fall - most voters will jumble the budget, ethical lapses, and a slew of confidence votes together. The exact trigger won't make a huge difference.

Neither will who caused it, though we'll certainly be treated to a round of the blame game. The truth is, all four parties share responsibility, and trying to assign blame is a colossal waste of time. Any of the three opposition parties could have avoided this by supporting the government, and the NDP's demands were so meager, all Harper needed to do was toss them a few scraps to save his skin.

How the government falls and who's responsible don't matter in the least. But get ready to hear a lot about it in the week ahead.

UPDATE: Then again, there could be an undemocratic coalition deal with the socialists and/or the separatists in the works...


Saturday, March 19, 2011

"The Ignatieffs were not typical immigrants"

The above comes from the always classy CPC war room, in response to this online video:

In a dispute of this sorts, perhaps we can see what the "Harper government" has to say about whether George was a true immigrant or not:

George Ignatieff: Peacemonger

George Ignatieff (1913–1989), one of Canada’s most celebrated diplomats and a man devoted to the cause of peace, was among the comparatively small number of Russian newcomers who landed on Canadian shores in the 1920s.

Ignatieff, whose father was a famous Russian aristocrat, was born in St. Petersburg on 16 December 1913. Within a few brief years, the Russian Revolution and civil war had put an end to his sheltered childhood and the wealth and privileges enjoyed by his family. His public–spirited and highly respected father, once an education minister under the Czar, was arrested and jailed in 1918 by the Bolsheviks, but then was miraculously released in time for the family to escape to England.

In England, the neophyte émigrés operated a dairy farm. Young George attended St. Paul’s, a boarding school, until the sale of the farm forced the family to move once again. While his father tried to raise funds in Europe for Russian refugees, Mrs. Ignatieff set out in 1928 with George and his brother, Leonid, for Canada, where two other brothers of George’s, Nick and Jim, had already settled.

Although there was barely enough money for basic necessities, George’s resourceful mother managed to squeeze enough out of the household budget to send her young son to Montreal’s exclusive Lower Canada College. The stock market crash of 1929, however, put an abrupt end to George’s private–school education. With the advent of the Great Depression, Ignatieff and the rest of his family united under one roof in Thornhill on the northern outskirts of Toronto.


Friday, March 18, 2011

The Not So Triumphant Return Of Poll Soup

I haven't provided a poll soup update since 2010, but with a campaign around the corner, it's worth checking in. Before we get to that, I must meet Blogging Council standards and issue the following disclaimer:

Warning - The following post contains graphic information and poll numbers that may not be suitable for some Liberals. Reader discretion is advised.

With that out of the way, let's recap the four March polls:

Ekos (Feb 24 to Mar 8, n = 2488 auto dial)

CPC 35%
Lib 28%
NDP 15%
Bloc 9%
Green 10%
Other 3%

Angus Reid (Mar 8 to Mar 9, n = 1021 online)

CPC 39%
Lib 23%
NDP 17%
Bloc 9%
Green 9%

Leger (Mar 7 to Mar 10, n = 2153 online)

CPC 36%
Lib 23%
NDP 18%
Bloc 10%
Green 10%
Other 3%

Ipsos (Mar 7 to Mar 9, n = 1002 phone)

CPC 40%
Lib 27%
NDP 16%
Bloc 11%
Green 5%

RUNNING AVERAGE (change since December in brackets)

CPC: 37.7% (+1.6%)
Lib: 25.8% (-2.7%)
NDP: 16.4% (+0.8%)
BQ: 9.7% (-0.1%)
Green: 8.1% (-0.4%)

As a programming note, the average above is based on all polls (not just those listed here), taking into account:
-sample size
-pollster accuracy (based on provincial and federal elections over the past 5 years)
-a 14 day half life (so a new poll is weighted twice as heavily as a 2-week old poll)

As the graph shows, we've definitely seen a widening of the Tory lead since January. To pinpoint it, I shrunk the poll halflife to 5 days and retroactively ran week-by-week averages:

As you can see, the gap really widens around early-to-mid February. Your guess is as good as mine as to the cause. The current theory I'm working on places most of the blame on Charlie Sheen.

So what does this all mean? Well, my seat projection formula gives the Tories an 85% chance at a majority, and projects the following seat ranges (at 95% confidence):

CPC: 148 to 178
LPC: 53 to 79
Bloc: 49 to 61
NDP: 17 to 31

Although the national vote numbers are largely in line with the last election result, the Tories get into majority territory because their support is up in Ontario (which means a dozen extra seats) and down in Quebec (which means a few less) and Alberta (which means zero less).

Now before anyone panics, keep in mind this is based on the polls we're seeing right now. Polls of a relatively unengaged electorate. The vote numbers will move during a campaign. The last three times the government changed in Canada, the party taking power trailed at the start of the campaign.


This Week in Alberta: The Liberals Land their Man

Maverick MLA Raj Sherman has found a new home with the Alberta Liberals. Sort of. He will sit as an independent Liberal for now, and run under the party's banner in the next election. And, oh yeah, he also announced his candidacy in the ALP leadership race.

For Sherman, it's a logical fit. He's been involved with the federal Liberals in the past. His best chance of re-election in Edmonton-Meadowlark is as a Liberal. He'd already indicated his desire to run for leadership, and the ALP needs a leader.

For the Liberals, there is a risk. I don't think it's fair to call Sherman a "loose cannon", but only because that implies he's tied loosely to the ship. For all intents and purposes, Sherman is a cannon tied to a rabid rhinoceros. He won't tow the party line, he's highly emotional, and he's prone to embelishment and exageration.

Still, he's tough and he's passionate, and is seen as a straight shooter who will fight for better Health Care. So despite the risk, this must still be considered a good catch by the Alberta grits. The party is desperate for media attention and Sherman will provide just that. After losing Dave Taylor, this gives them momentum - after all, it's the first time in over 70 years an MLA has crossed the floor to the Liberals.

It also gives them added credibility on the Health Care file - if Sherman's allegations pan out (still a big "if"). Albertans may not like a lot of things about the Liberals, but many would consider voting Liberal if they saw it as a symbolic vote for better Health Care. The ALP may finally have their wedge issue, and their ticket to relevancy.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

How to get people interested in an otherwise boring scandal...

Former Harper advisor had deal with escort for First Nations water contracts: document

The problem, of course, is that if we're talking about escorts, no one's talking about Harper or influence peddling...or any of the dozen other scandals engulfing this government at the moment.


Another day, another RCMP investigation

Ho hum.

A brief note on public opinion polls

Three polls to look at today:

Lib 35%, CPC 30%, NDP 20%, BQ 11%
PC 36%, Lib 33%, NDP 8%, Ref 11%, BQ 10%
Lib 48%, PC 39%, NDP 11%

Those are the final pre-election polls for the three most recent times Canadians voted out an incumbent government (Jeff has more on the 2005/06 election here).

In all three instances - 2005/06, 1993, and 1984 - the incumbent party led when the writ was dropped. Twice, they fell by 20 percentage points during the campaign.

In fairness, the incumbent party has also led the past five times they were re-elected. Obviously, it's better to be 10 points up than 10 points down.

But campaigns matter. Let's not forget that.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Liberals On Air

After a round of pre-election ads from the Tories, Dippers, and Greens (which you can rate here), the Liberals have released two new ads of their own.

How would you grade this ad?
See Results

How would you grade this ad?
See Results

I quite like both these ads but, then again, they already have my vote.


Mark Your Calendars

Lysiane Gagnon's Monday article was titled "Don't expect a Quebec surprise". Which is an odd prediction to make since surprises are unexpected by definition.

My advice would be: expect surprises. Every election has surprises. Even the mind numbingly boring 2008 election featured a collapse of the world economy in the middle of it.

But, as Donald Rumsfeld would say, there are "known knowns" and "known unknowns". So let's look at what we do know, heading into a possible May 2nd or May 9th election. Here's your election 2011 calendar:

Week of March 21st: With a slew of confidences votes, the government should fall this week. Unless Jack decides to get results for people.

April 1st - April Fool's: It will mean a chuckle or two and, sadly, the inevitable talking point that "Leader X's policy is like a bad April Fool's joke". Seriously, I may just vote for whatever party resists the urge to use that line.

April 13th - NHL playoffs begins: This likely won't be a big distraction in battleground Ontario, but it's impossible to make it through the playoffs without some form of political controversy.

Third Week of April - Holidays: Holidays are weird creatures during elections. The pace of the campaign slows to a crawl but, at the same time, they're a time when families get together and talk politics...providing the perfect breeding ground for shifts in public opinion. Passover and Easter fall during the third week of April, around the time when vote intentions begin to solidify. If anyone makes a move, that's likely the week it will happen.

April 29th - Royal Wedding: We know Stephen Harper is attending. The common consensus is that this will give him a chance to shine on the world stage but this strikes me as something that's a common consensus only because everyone keeps saying it is (like the "Olympic bounce" or "G20 bounce"). On the bright side, we know it's not a Catholic wedding, so Harper won't have to worry about any embarrassing communion wafer mishaps.

April 30th - Happy Birthday Mr. Prime Minister: Stephen Harper celebrates his 52nd birthday.

April 30th - Tax Filing Deadline: Making this an excellent campaign to propose income tax cuts during.

May 8th - Mother's Day: Having the entire country thinking about their mothers the day before E-Day could be good news for the Liberals and their caring, family-focused agenda.

TBD - Debates: You can fit 2 to 4 debates in somewhere above...though the CBC is going to have a tough time scheduling them, given their wall-to-wall hockey coverage. Last election, there was only one set of debates - if that's the case again, they would likely fall towards the end of April. Debates haven't been game changers in recent years, but they certainly hold the potential to be.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Who does number 2 work for?

If you haven't gotten a chance to rate the latest batch of political commercials, be sure to put on your ad wizard hat and give it a go.

While I didn't include them in that set, the NDP has also released new French print and TV ads (ht Pundits Guide):

You've probably noticed these ads have even more facial hair than usual, even by NDP standards. That's because of the prominent position of Layton's second in command, Thomas Mulcair. It seems highly likely the NDP's Quebec campaign will be placing as much emphasis on Mulcair this election as on Layton.

Although we haven't seen this tactic in recent elections, it's not unheard of. Canadian politics has always been leader-dominated, but the supporting cast can still be used to make a point. After all, past leaders have relied heavily on strong Cabinet Ministers - the Paul Martins, CD Howes, and, err, Paul Martin Seniors of of the world.

If you go back far enough, the Liberals won the 1896 election on the slogan of "Laurier, Mowat, and Victory". And who among us will ever forget the 1872 election commercial that featured John A. MacDonald and George Etienne Cartier strolling through a park together?

So all of this begs the question - will other parties follow the NDP's lead in emphasizing the team?

Stephen Harper doesn't let his MPs go to the bathroom without his permission and it seems highly unlikely the man who insists the government of Canada be called "the Harper government" is going to share the spotlight. And, heck, at the rate we're going, he may not have any Cabinet Ministers left to share it with by the time the election hits.

Gilles Duceppe has fought five elections as BQ leader and is insanely popular. He doesn't need to worry about ever forming a Cabinet so who really cares about the rest of the team? It will be all Gilles all the time on Bloc TV.

As for the Greens? Maybe Georges Laraque will appear. After all, he does have commercial experience. But realistically, getting Canadians to know Elizabeth May is going to be challenge enough on the Green's meager advertising budget...they're a one seat and one woman show.

Which brings us to the Liberals. On the face of it, they seem to be the most likely to try the team approach. They have a less popular leader and a solid front bench. But there are two obvious problems that come from over emphasizing the supporting cast.

The first, more obvious problem, is who to emphasize? Like the Tories, many of their better known MPs come with their share of baggage - Bob Rae, Denis Coderre, and Justin Trudeau are probably more likely to find their way in other parties' commercials than the Liberals'. Sure, you could toss Ken Dryden into a spot because, let's face it, who doesn't love Ken Dryden? But to what end? Having a candidate who once played hockey in a public space that promotes culture doesn't say anything about the kind of leader Ignatieff would be.

Which brings up the second point. Right now, the biggest challenge facing the Liberals is that Canadians don't know much about Ignatieff outside of what they've seen in Just Visiting ads. The Liberals need to sell Ignatieff to voters before they can even think about selling the rest of the team.

Considering this, it's a safe bet that outside of a few regional hits or background cameos, Thomas Mulcair will be the most prominently featured supporting character in the spring election TV season.


The Nation's Eyes Turn to Jack Layton

Jan 26: NDP MP Mulcair says it's 'highly unlikely' NDP will support budget unless tax cuts cancelled

Jan 27: Layton says he has no 'bottom line' budget demands

Feb 18: John Ivison: Spring vote not likely after Harper, Layton make nice

Feb 19: Layton caves on corporate tax cuts

Feb 20: Layton draws strong line on budget, opening door to election

Feb 21: With Harper playing ‘games,’ NDP rattles election sabre

March 8: NDP orders up decals for its campaign plane

Mar 10: NDP getting cold feet on bringing down Harper government right now

Mar 13: No Indication Government Will Meet NDP Budget Demands: Layton


Monday, March 14, 2011

They'll Go Neg

From the mystery man (or woman!) who brought you Demand Better last week, comes a new commercial:

So, for those scoring at home, it's a negative ad about Harper running negative ads, which spoofs a 2006 negative ad by Harper that accused the Liberals of running negative ads.

On Air

Via Susan Delacourt, comes this delightful ad for former Mississauga Erindale MP, and current Liberal candidate, Omar Alghabra.

You won't see any flying unicorns or blind puppies playing cricket in this next ad from Working Families. It goes after Tim Hudak hard, and is set to start airing next week:

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Sunday, March 13, 2011


In addition to Stock, Chuck Strahl and John Cummins have also announced they won't run again. While the opposition will certainly try to paint this as a case of Tories jumping ship, that's a tough spin. Cummins is 69. Strahl's health problems are well document. Day's been in politics for a quarter century. Moreover, it's not like any of the three were in any remote danger of losing their seats.

One bit of spin that might have some truth to it is the claim the Tory front bench is looking weaker and weaker by the day. True or not, the perception out there is that Jim Prentice, Chuck Strahl, and Stockwell Day were three of the strongest Tory ministers. Once you take away Ministers currently or formerly embroiled in scandal, or the lesser known Keith Ashfields of this world, there aren't a lot of stalwarts left. Sure, there's the Harris gang, Peter McKay, and a few reasonably competent Ministers from Quebec. But they all lack the kind of cross-partisan respect Prentice and Strahl were given.

Politically, it won't make a huge difference - by both perception and decree, this is very much the Harper government. But if Harper is re-elected and can't inject some fresh blood into his government, he'll have a thin bench...which might very well lead to more Bev Oda-ish mishaps in the future.

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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Day is Done

Stock follows Jim Prentice and Jay Hill out the door:

Day won't seek re-election

When the next federal election is called, Okanagan Coquihalla MP Stockwell Day will not be listed on the ballot.

On March 11, Day announced he will be stepping down from his role in federal politics at the end of this term.

“Now, after 14 years in provincial government and almost 11 years at the federal level it is time to move on. I hereby announce that I will not be seeking re-election at the end of this mandate,” he said in a news release. “Though there would be exciting and satisfying days ahead in public office, after prayerful consideration, Valorie and I feel at peace with our decision.”

In 2000, Day became a laughingstock (excuse the pun). There was the famous wetsuit press conference. He demonstrated some brain drain of his own when he got the direction Niagara Falls flows wrong. He was snickered at when he brought a "no two tier Health Care" sign to the debates. Warren Kinsella burned him, with a little help from Barney the Dinosaur. Rick Mercer burned him on his "Doris Day" petition, with a little help from 1.2 million Canadians. Day lost the election and, soon afterwards, his leadership.

But here's the thing. After being disgraced, Day stuck it out in politics. Over the past five years, he has become one of the quiet stalwarts of the Harper government. He wasn't an attack dog like John Baird. He wasn't at the centre of controversy like Tony Clement. He wasn't touted as a leadership heir like Jim Prentice.

Day handled major portfolios - Public Safety, International Trade, and Treasury Board. He avoided controversy, and he avoided scandal. He got the job done.

Stock leaves not as a punchline, but as one of the government's strongest ministers. No one would have predicted it a decade ago, but Day will be missed more by the Conservatives than by the political satirists.


Friday, March 11, 2011

This Week in Alberta

2011 is shaping up to be a fun year in Alberta politics, what with the PCs and Liberals both choosing new leaders, and a provincial election looming. That said, I suspect this blog's focus will be shifting to the federal scene for the next six weeks. Call it a hunch.

I will, however, strive to pay attention to the 28 seats up for grabs in Alberta. It's tough to find news when only 1 or 2 seats are in play, but there's always news to be found if you look hard enough. As always, feel free to e-mail me any tips you hear about Alberta campaigns.

With that said, a glance at provincial politics before it gets pushed to the back burner:

1. Raj Sherman is an interesting character. I worked with him back during the 2006 Liberal leadership race, and let's just say I'm not shocked by his actions over the past few months. You'll recall he was punted from the PC caucus back in November after sending his entire address book a typo-laden late night e-mail that was especially critical of Stelmach's performance on Health Care. Since then, Sherman has become a Health Care crusader, raising red flags about problems in the system. His voice was a welcome addition to a debate Alberta sorely needs to have. He'd even mused about running for leadership - he just hadn't decided on which party.

However, it appears the good doctor may have jumped the shark. Last week, Sherman made stunning claims in the legislature about bribery, fraud, and coverups in Alberta's Health Care system. The problem is, he has been unable to offer up proof, and has since backtracked on many of his wilder accusations. With his credibility taking a hit, it will be interesting to watch what Alberta's maverick MLA does next.

2. Partly due to Sherman's allegations, Ed Stelmach has called an inquiry into Health Care wait times. Consider it a parting gift for his successor.

3. One possible successor is Gary Mar, who is getting ready to declare his candidacy for the PC leadership race.

4. And what of the Wildrose in all of this? Kyle Olsen offers up analysis on their latest householder.

5. One of the newest Wildrosers is former PC Cabmin Lyle Oberg. If you want to see what Lyle and some of his more colourful friends have been up to in Vietnam, then mosey on over to Daveberta.

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Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Not If, But When

There was high drama in the House of Commons today, as Peter Milliken dug into the annals parliamentary tradition to rule on a pair of contempt motions put forward by Liberal MPs against the Conservative government. For those curious about what Speaker Lamoureux had to say in 1966 and how it's relevant today, the transcripts are available here. It's actually worth a read, if only because it may prove to be one of Peter Miliken's final rulings as speaker.

That's because the election train is picking up more and more speed by the day. The only thing that can stop it now would be the NDP - we don't know what Layton will decide, but from their tone in the house today, they certainly don't sound like a party looking for a way out.

So unless the NDP backs down or Harper prorogues (ha ha), the question becomes how the 40th parliament will meet its demise. Among the possibilities:

A. Defeat on the budget, slated to be tabled March 22nd, and voted on later that week in a series of confidence motions.

B. Defeat on an opposition motion: Although today's rulings did not trigger an immediate confidence motion, the committee exploring these issues is scheduled to report back to the House of Commons on March 21st and March 25th. Either could lead to a confidence vote, but if the Tories are set on tabling a budget, it's entirely in their power to delay the vote until after Budget Day.

The end result of these two possibilities is essentially the same: Canadians see the budget, and we all go to the polls on May 2nd or May 9th.

There is, however, a third option:

C. Harper goes to the GG and pulls the plug, like he did in 2008.

Now, there are some good reasons for Harper to wait. He can blame the opposition for causing an election nobody wants. He can show Just Visiting ads on every hockey game and cricket match for the next two weeks, without worrying about election spending limits. And he gets to table what most assume will be a voter-friendly budget.

That said, as Globe blogger Rob Silver argues, there are good reasons to pay a visit to Rideau Hall before then:

If I were Stephen Harper, given the pile of scandals that have the potential to become a dominant election issue (and there is no reason at this time to think that any of the scandals Harper is facing is harming him electorally), I think it would be foolhardy to give the opposition two extra weeks to lay tracks.

And heck, he can just turn the budget into his campaign platform anyways. Plus, it lets Harper get that messy election business over with before the Royal Wedding.

Add it all up and I tend to think we're in for two weeks of phony war before the campaign kicks off.

That said, if I were David Johnson, I wouldn't be making any March break travel plans. Just in case.

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Demand Better

Ad Watch

Last election, I stuck up a slew of polls asking readers here to rate commercials released throughout the campaign. For those wanting a nostalgic trip down memory lane, the highest rated commercials can be seen here.

Since we may very well be into a campaign in a mater of weeks days, it's time to play ad wizzard yet again. So I invite everyone here to rate the recent round of pre-election ads. Use whatever criteria you want to judge what makes a "good" ad but, remember, the objective of these commercials is to move votes towards the party running them.

NDP: Backing Down And Loving It

How would you grade this ad?
See Results

Conservatives: The Land is Strong

How would you grade this ad?
See Results

Conservatives: Tax Attack

How would you grade this ad?
See Results

Greens: Meta Attack Ad

How would you grade this ad?
See Results


Monday, March 07, 2011

They're Going Neg

The Green Party rolls out an attack ad...on attack ads.

In my mind, this is a great ad. Likely the best so far of the pre-election cycle.

It's well produced but, as the Tories have shown, production value isn't the most important trait of a political ad. The key is to have a the right message targeted at the right audience.

With the environment fading as an issue since the downturn, the Greens' target audience right now is very much the "disillusioned voter". The people who want to "send a message" or vote "none of the above". This add plays directly to them, and captures the feeling of disgust they have towards the major parties.

There are, however, two possible problems with this campaign.

The first is that I doubt a "politics sucks" message is going to motivate Canadians to go to the polls and take the time to vote. There is a twinge of hope at the end of the commercial, but I wonder if it will be enough.

The other, larger, problem is that the Greens are reportedly spending less than $10,000 on the ad buy. These ads have great potential to go viral - but as a viral campaign, it's primarily going to reach Canadians who are already engaged in the political process. To reach disillusioned voters, you really need to be advertising on mainstream TV shows.

As I said, it's a great ad. But it will only do the Greens any good if their target audience actually sees it.

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(Not) Confidence motion coming this week?

I heard the rumour from three different people over the weekend, and it has exploded today thanks to a Hill Times story - there's a possibility we could be into an election campaign by week's end.

The cause of this is an obscure parliamentary procedure, allowing MPs to move a vote of non-confidence after a point of privilege ruling, so long as the cats behind Parliament Hill see their shadow that same morning. Or something like that.

Really, outside of Peter Miliken and Kady O'Malley, it's unlikely anyone in Canada really understands the procedural somersaults involved. And the procedure isn't important here - the result is. Here's the result:

1. Depending when the speaker rules, we'd be into an election campaign a week or two earlier than previously expected. With Jack Layton still on crutches, this leads me to wonder if the NDP won't support the government on any Liberal motion, at least until the budget. You couldn't really fault them for that.

2. The election trigger would not be the budget. While election triggers are rarely talked about for more than a few days, this would save the opposition from having to vote against a budget which could contain tax cuts or other pre-election treats. Rather, in Bev Oda's honour, they'd be able to craft a "not confidence" motion which focuses on Harper's contempt of Parliament.

The downside to this is that the budget may very well be vulnerable to attack, while the speaker's ruling does indirectly involve Harper's "tough on crime" legislation. So it's not a slam dunk by any means.

At the very least, if the Liberals are considering this, it should be taken as a sign they're ready to go. So, as we've been saying for a month, it all comes down to Jack Layton.