Sunday, November 30, 2008

Coalition Coalescing

The NDP and Liberals have reached a deal to topple the minority Conservative government and take power themselves in a coalition, CBC News has learned.

A deal has been negotiated between NDP Leader Jack Layton and Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion that would see them form a coalition government for two and a half years, the CBC's Keith Boag reported, citing sources.

The NDP would be invited into cabinet and get 25 per cent of seats, Boag said, adding that the party wouldn't get the position of the finance chair or the deputy prime minister's post.

No word yet on which portfolios the NDP would get: Minister of Working Families? Minister of Results for People? Minister of Kitchen Table Issues?


How this should play out

The first two days of political insanity are recapped here. Since then, the Tories have shelved the campaign finance changes, Flaherty has said he'll bring in a January 27th budget, and rumours of "secret" NDP/Bloc talks have spread.

So what does it all mean? The hell if I know.

So how will it play out? The hell if I know.

But here's how I think this thing should play out.

The three things I think we should keep in mind in all of this are:

a) Despite being in a minority parliament, the Tories were given a strong mandate to govern in the last election.

b) To govern in a minority parliament, you need to earn and maintain the confidence of the House of Commons.

c) If the party in power loses the confidence of the House of Commons this soon after an election and a stable alternative governing coalition can be found, that alternative should be given a chance to form government .

Clearly, the campaign finance cuts were a poison pill no opposition party could ever swallow. The legislation was nothing more than Harper trying to manipulate the rules of the land for partisan advantage - and he used an economic downturn as an excuse to do it, which is even more underhanded. The opposition parties had no choice but to vote against this legislation. But Harper has backed down, so the issue now turns to the rest of the F.U. and the lack of a stimulus package.

The Conservatives won the election so they certainly have a right to respond to this crisis as they see fit. And there's something to be said about co-ordinating our stimulus package with the American one. But regardless, the Conservatives need to earn the confidence of the House of Commons and the majority of the House (and the world for that matter) agree some form of a stimulus is needed now. So the responsible thing to do, in a responsible government, would be for the Conservatives to bend - remove some of the egregious elements of the update (say, banning the civil service from striking, pay equity changes, and the selling of crown assets), introduce a moderate stimulus now, and promise in concrete terms to do something larger in the January budget.

With those changes, no responsible opposition could bring the Harper government down. If they tried to, it would be seen as nothing more than a power-grab and the end result would probably be a Conservative majority government in a few months.

On the other side, if Harper doesn't bend, then the opposition parties would certainly have the right to form a coalition government, if they can promise a stable one. Harper himself said as much back in 2004. I'm not too excited about the precedence it sets and, if the situation were reversed, I'm not sure Liberals would have welcomed a Tory/Bloc/NDP coalition back in September 2004. But the opposition parties have the right to band together if they deem Harper's inaction on the economy to be so egregious that it warrants this unprecedented course of action.

So that's how I see the situation, from my vantage point. In the end, public opinion about the fiscal update and the coalition will probably dictate what happens next - and maybe that's not such a bad thing in a democracy. But I think the proper solution to all of this would be some real compromise on the part of Harper, and the passing of a revised fiscal update.

Will that happen? As I said above, the hell if I know.


Anyone Else?

Is anyone else getting flashbacks to May 2005, after the past few days in Ottawa? Because, for political junkies, that was the last time we saw anything approaching this.

A minority government scrambling to survive. Opposition parties out for blood. Cancelled confidence motions. A Liberal-NDP budget deal.

And, now, we've got our very own Grewal-esque secret audio recording.

This thing just keeps getting weirder and weirder by the hour...


Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Message from Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada (for now)

My fellow Canadians,

These are tough economic times. We all know people who have recently lost their jobs (my former friend Garth Turner comes to mind). We have all lost money - admitedly these loses have been greater for those of you who may have listened to my advice that there were great "buying opportunities" in the stock market a month ago. Oops. But it is in difficult times such as these that we must come together as a nation (well, two nations).

Although we can all agree that the blame for this economic downturn lies elsewhere (I blame the Liberals), it is not the time to play the blame game. Instead, we must all make sacrifices. And, my friends, the one luxury we cannot afford during these troubled times are opposition parties. By simply eliminating opposition parties, we could save millions of dollars in MP salaries and expenses.

So I invite my cowardly opponents to put aside their partisanship and to support my noble proposal to eliminate public financing of political parties. In tough economic times like these (tough times, caused by 13 years of Liberal economic mismanagement), I can think of no better way to jump start the economy. After all, if I could think of a better way to jump start the economy, there would have been a stimulus package in my F.U.

So let us join together and do away with opposition parties. Together, we can put the interests of Canada first, and weather this difficult economic storm (which I must re-emphasize, I had nothing to do with).


The Right Honourable Stephen Harper

PS - Stephane Dion is not a leader

hat tip to CS for the hilarious facebook status update that inspired this

Friday, November 28, 2008

Memory Lane 2

April 18th 2005
On Monday, Valeri said he would cancel a Conservative opposition day motion because setting opposition days is the responsibility of the government, not the opposition parties.

That provoked outrage from Conservative Leader Stephen Harper who met with reporters Monday evening on Parliament Hill to denounce Valeri and the Liberal government.

"I think they are just signing their own death warrant," Harper said. "This is the kind of behaviour a government does when it is scared to death of the electorate.

"It is not up to the government in our system to decide whether an opposition motion is order or not. It's up to the Clerk and the Speaker. Our motion was in order. We don't have to get the approval of the government to express dissent.

"When a government starts trying to cancel dissent or avoid assent is frankly when it's rapidly losing its moral authority to govern."

About an hour ago:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has delayed for a week a confidence motion vote that could bring down his government.

Memory Lane

September 23, 2008
BURNABY, B.C. — Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion flatly rejected forming a coalition government with the New Democrats today on the heels of hints from NDP Leader Jack Layton that he'd be open to the idea.

Mr. Dion, speaking after an address to a Vancouver-area business crowd today, said he could not work with Mr. Layton in this way because the NDP leader wants to hike taxes on business.

“We cannot have a coalition with a party that has a platform that would be damaging for the economy. Period,” the Liberal leader said.

He made fun of trouble plaguing some NDP candidates in B.C., joking that Mr. Layton
already has a lot of coalitions under way.

“Mr. Layton already has a coalition, I understand. He has a coalition with the nudist party [and] a coalition with the marijuana party,” he said, referring to NDP candidates who'd been outed as having smoked marijuana and one who'd resigned today after it was revealed he'd previously skinny dipped in front of teens.

About an hour ago:
OTTAWA — The Bloc Quebecois and the NDP have tentatively agreed to back Stephane Dion as prime minister, leading a coalition government, a senior Liberal source said late Friday.

If you're just tunning in now...'s what you've missed:

Tories want to destroy the opposition! Bring it on! Another election?Another election! Coalition government! Prime Minister Dion? A Liberal coup? Prime Minister Layton? Prime Minister Goodale? Harper blinks - election averted! Election on? Coalition on? Prime Minister Chretien? And Ed Broadbent? Je ne comprends pas anglais. Liberal non-confidence motion! WHAT THE @#&! IS GOING ON HERE??!!?!?!?

UPDATE: Harper delays the confidence vote until December 8th! What does it all mean? WHO THE HELL KNOWS! Let's just sit back and enjoy the ride!


Harper Blinks...Kinda

The Liberals show some backbone for the first time in a long time and, who woulda thunk it, they force Harper to actually back down.

Conservatives back down on controversial party funding changes (URGENT-Fiscal-Update-Vot)
Source: The Canadian Press - Broadcast wire
Nov 28, 2008 11:17

OTTAWA - The Conservative government says an incendiary plan to strip political parties of their public financing won't be included in a confidence vote on the fall fiscal update.

Government sources say only tax measures will be part of the ways and means motion that parliamentarians will vote upon on Monday.

It’s probably not incredibly surprising that the Tories blinked – these “crises” usually have a way of sorting themselves out. But if Harper really had wanted to go all in on this one, I think another election or an unstable Lib/NDP/Bloc coalition would have worked towards his end game.

I know a lot of people will call this a huge strategic blunder on Harper’s part but, I’m not so sure of that. It distracted people from a very unpopular fiscal update, and it may make it a bit harder for the opposition parties to borrow money for their next campaign, if the collateral of public finance dollars isn’t a certainly (you have to imagine they’re gone if we get a Tory majority). And you have to think the PR hit on an issue this complicated will be negligible.

This should also serve as a huge wake up call for the Liberals, Bloc, and NDP. If they don’t get their act together on fundraising soon, their very existence could be in jeopardy. If people didn’t recognize how important effective grass roots fundraising was before, they sure as hell will now.

"FISCAL UPDATE" UPDATE: Then again, maybe we'll get that election/coalitionofthewilling after all:

But Liberals and New Democrats say that dropping the financing measures will not influence their decision to vote against a fiscal update they say provides no economic stimulus at a time when Canada is entering a recession.

Now, as for the bill being broken off into a separate ways and means motion, to answer the question in the comments section - yes, I consider this backtracking on Harper's part. This is what you do to bills that you want to sit in purgatory for ever and ever. Maybe Harper brings it back to force an election at a later time but, for now, I think we don't need to worry about that bill anytime soon.

So the issue now becomes the Fiscal Update itself. And, as bad a fiscal update as it is, I really have a hard time seeing the opposition voting it down. My guess? The Bloc abstains.

UPDATE: Another ball to juggle:

MONTREAL — The Conservative government is set to announce details Friday of its hotly debated reforms to Canada's immigration system.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

In a slightly ironic twist...

...the Tory push to do away with public financing presents a golden fundraising opportunity to the other parties. Issues like this probably don't resonate much at all with the general public, but to party members? I would imagine that Liberals might be willing to dish out $20, if they think it will help stall Tom Flanagan's plan to destroy the Liberal Party of Canada.

But, lo and behold, it’s the Greens, of all people, who appear to be taking advantage of it, sending out a fundraising e-mail today asking for donations in light of Harper's proposals. Now that's how you run a political party.

As for the LPC? Well, there's nothing from the party yet (surprise surprise), although the BC Young Liberals have started a facebook campaign encouraging people to donate to the LPC to fight this.

For anyone so inclined, the online donation page can be found here.

UPDATE: I'll give credit where credit is due and, second only to the Green Party in terms of speed, is the Michael Ignatieff campaign, who sent out an e-mail tonight asking for donations to Michael's campaign (and the victory fund) to stop Harper's plan "to undermine the democratic underpinnings of Canada's fair and open political system". Well played.

If you want to play chess, let's play!

Everyone has an opinion as to how the opposition parties should respond to Harper's latest machievellian ploy. My favourite idea, plucked from various blog comments sections, would be for the opposition parties to amend the public finance bill, either in committee or in the House (I'm not sure on the exact procedure).

Stick on an amendment that phases in changes over 10 years so that the parties can build up their grass roots fundraising machines. During the 10 year transition, the rule would be that public funds are only available such that public funding + private donations cannot total more than 15 million a year (or, whatever is deemed to be the number that best screws over the
Tories, and only the Tories).

After all, if it's about principle, certainly this seems fair. It's not without precedent - as Stephen Taylor points out, Obama opted out of public funding in the states. And if it's about making sacrifices in light of tough economic times, well, this would be a grand selfless gesture on the part of the Tories.


Your move Steve.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Playing chess while everyone else plays checkers

It's cut-throat, it's conniving, it's Machiavellian, it's underhanded. It's being done for no reason other than crass political gains.

And it's absolutely brilliant politics. Absolutely brilliant.

Symbolic cuts to politicians' perks, temporary relief for pension plans and a political grenade – ending the $30-million public subsidy to parties – are expected highlights of Thursday federal economic statement.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty will ask the five political parties to give up the $1.95-per-vote subsidy that parties need to pay for staff and expenses.

Right after the election. Dressed up in the cloak of self-sacrifice during tough economic times. Bundled with MP pay cuts and a slew of other symbolic, and popular, moves.

How can the opposition vote against it? Then again, given the stakes, how can they not?


Tough Times

It’s becoming more and more likely that we’ll find ourselves in a recession (be it “technical” or otherwise), and a recession is never a good time to be in power. Tory Times Are Tough Times has claimed a slew of Conservative Prime Ministers over the years, and Premiers of all political stripes have also become recession-victims. So what are the re-election odds of the 11 current men and women who lead governments in Canada.

I think the best reference point to look at would be the most recent “real” recession - the one of the early 90s. So let’s take 1990 as the starting point and look at the 11 provincial (and federal!) elections that happened after that point, to see how the incumbents did.

Re-Elected: 5 (PEI, NF, NB, MN, AB)
Defeated: 6 (CAN, NS, PQ, ON, BC, SK)

So a little over half went down in defeat. Of course, Klein's bitter 1993 victory may be a "technical" win but, by Alberta standards, it's really a loss for the incumbents. Of course, there were obviously other factors in play...I have doubts the BC Socreds, federal PCs, or Quebec Grits could have hung on, even in the best of economic situations.

Comparatively, if we take 1995 as our base line, 8 of 11 governments survived, if we look at 2000, 7 of 11 survived, and if we look at 2005, 6 of 10 survived (BC pending...).

So, what’s the moral? I dunno. Politics is a complicated game. And we don’t even know how bad this recession will be. All we can really say is that governing through tough times is a political challenge, but that it’s not necessarily fatal.

Kinda Cool, Albeit Largely Irrelevant Things

Ever wonder where Conservative female MPs from Alberta were sitting in the House of Commons?

Well, now you can find out, with this interactive 3-D look at the House.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Remember When...

...Quebec elections actually mattered? From my vantage point, this one seems about as meaningful as your typical trip to the polls in Alberta.

With that in mind, here are some random thoughts on tonight's debate, transcribed as I (kind of) watch it.

8:08 pm: Pauline Marois takes her first two times speaking to complain about Charest calling a snap election. It's a bad sign when, come the debates, you're still hung up on that and have nothing relevant to talk about.

8:09 pm: Mario Dumont came right out in his opening statement promising mixed public/private health care...and he goes right back to it again now.

8:11 pm: Charest asks Dumont where he'd cut the 2 billion he's promising to cut. Dumont...doesn't answer the question. I vaguely recall an exchange like this hurting Dumont during the last election.

8:24 pm: It's interesting to see so much talk about health care, considering how thoroughly that topic was ignored during the federal election.

8:30 pm: Dumont: "when we all go back to the legislature, our parties will work together". Well, that's assuming there are three parties that actually wind up going back to the legislature...

8:42 pm: Is it just me, or does anyone else wish Jack Layton were here so that we could hear more about the kitchen table issues facing Quebecers?

8:46 pm: Marois: "The only person here who has faced an economic slow down before is me, when I was Finance Minister". Hey! She's cribbing Bob Rae's talking points!

8:52 pm: Marois: "It's your responsibility as head of state...". I'm not sure that's a good way to frame things.

9:06 pm: Marois and Dumont go apeshit over Charest calling the early election again. Do they really want to make this their big issue?

9:13 pm: btw, interesting trivia bit. If and when Charest wins, he'll be the first Premier since Duplesis to win back-to-back-to-back terms.

9:30 pm: Federalism! Woohoo! Now it gets interesting!

Marois says the Quebec nation resolution wasn't enough. Gosh, who could have possibly foreseen that it wouldn't satisfy the separatists?

All three want more powers for Quebec. Maybe we should give it to them because I'm sure then the separatists will be satisfied, right?

Dumont, for reasons only he knows, decides to bring up smoking and drugs. This annoys me, because there's no Andre Boisclair to crack jokes about. Get it? "Crack" jokes?

Charest then delivers a fantastic sound byte where he lists everything he's managed to soak down Ottawa for since he became Premier. It's kind of depressing in one sense, but the man is absolutely winning this round.

In Conclusion

Charest looked like a Premier. Marois looked like an opposition leader. And Dumont looked like some random guy who stumbled into the opposition leader's seat by fluke. It might have played differently to a Quebec audience, but I give this one to Charest, hands down.

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Smart Politics

Listening to Kory Teneycke on Politics, it sounds like Thursday's economic update will feature MP pay cuts.

Non-Inclusive Diseases

SU politics at its finest:

OTTAWA - The Carleton University Students' Association has voted to drop cystic fibrosis as the beneficiary of its annual Shinearama fundraiser, arguing that the illness is not "inclusive" enough.

Cystic fibrosis "has been recently revealed to only affect white people, and primarily men" said the motion read to student councillors, who voted almost unanimously in favour of it.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Time to Vote!

Feeling election withdrawal? Itching to flex those democratic muscles?

Well, voting is now open for the 2009 Canadian Blog Awards. I've been nominated in the following categories but, by all means, feel free to vote for whoever you feel is most deserving*:

Best Blog

Best Politics Blog

Best Progressive Blog

Best Blog Post

Best Blog Post Series

*hint: most deserving is me


Good Policies that will never Happen

You can read an argument in favour of an increased gas tax here.

There’s certainly some validity to the argument. We’re teetering on a deficit, yet gas prices are falling (or will be) and there are concerns about deflation. Sure, no politician would ever dare propose such a sound policy but, then again, are the alternatives any more appealing?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Face Off

Come January, I intend to re-jig my first ballot projection formula I used during the last Liberal leadership race. One of the indicators I'd been thinking about using was facebook support but, as you'll soon see, this leadership race has become a bit of a facebook monster, with groups sprawling out of control. Here's quick summary:

Michael Ignatieff

Not only is Iggy the perceived front runner in the race, he's the front runner in facebook support! Want to show your support for Michael? Well, you could join "I support Michael Ignatieff and I'm telling my friends". Too shy/embarrassed and don't want to tell your friends? Well, then, there's the official "Michael Ignatieff - Liberal Leadership" (958 members), which is linked to from his website, or the rogue "Michael Ignatieff Campaign", "Support Michael Ignatieff" groups, and TWO "Michael Ignatieff for Prime Minister" groups.

Not part of Iggy Nation (which is, of course, a group in and of itself)? Well then, you have "get Michael Ignatieff and God out of my living room" or the much more direct "Michael Ignatieff is the worst person ever" and "Michael Ignatieff sucks". Needless to say, most of the provinces have their own Iggy pages, although I should probably not call them "Iggy pages" or the "Iggy is Iginla, NOT Ignatieff" group will be up and arms.

Dominic LeBlanc

There's the central "Dominic LeBlanc for Liberal leadership" group, with 646 members and provincial groups for Albertans, Manitobans, Saskatchewanians, Ontarians, New Brunswickers, and Nova Scotians. British Columbia appears to be a distinct society, bucking the trend with "Dominic LeBlanc's BC facebook page". Perhaps the "saksatchewanians" should consider that wording...

Bob Rae

In addition to the "I Support Bob Rae and I'm Telling my Friends" (581) and the various "Bob Rae for Liberal Leadership" Groups, the Rae campaign is going riding by riding - they even have snazy logos for each of the individual groups. Given that most of these groups only have 1 or 2 members, I suspect there might be better ways for the Rae supporter(s) to communicate with each other (themselves) at the local riding level.

There are also duelling "Canadians FOR Bob Rae" and "Canadians AGAINST Bob Rae" groups.

William Shatner

Rightfully so, the "William Shatner for Governor General" group, appears to be far more organized than any of the leadership campaigns to date - and with close to 800 members, it clearly has the momentum at this point.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

19 Words to Remember

"The weak fiscal performance to date is largely attributable to previous policy decisions as opposed to weakened economic conditions."
-Parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page

Because it's never too early to start preparing attack ads for the next election campaign...

UPDATE: On QP today, Kevin Page says (after being somewhat directed there by Oliver) that the government should have seen this deficit coming during the election campaign...

Profiles in Courage: Dave Taylor

After taking a gander at Swann and Mo, this week I profile the third candidate in the other Liberal leadership race. But, before I do that, be sure to check out Daveberta for his Mo-file, and a look at the endorsements in the race so far.

Dave Taylor
History: Taylor was the “non-insane Dave” for Calgary talk radio listeners for many years, before defeating proud Mensa member John Lord in the 2004 election. Ever since that time, he’s been the ALP dauphin, thanks in large part for his ability to perform in the legislature and deliver sound bytes upon request.

Federal Equivalent: Think of a Liberal Monte Solberg.

Colour me Confused: Although he has adopted a "proud to be Liberal" philosophy, the Taylor Liberals appear poised to change the party colours to blue and yellow.

Renewal Plan: Taylor has released a very impressive party renewal document.

Website Review: I probably should have done this before membership cut-off, because the criteria for a good website changes at that point. For now, everything you need is there and the donation box is prominent, which is good (although it needs to be easier for a non-paypal donation). I'd prefer a bit more of the web 2.0 stuff, but the visuals and layout look good.

Colbert Moment: Taylor, in an interview with Rick Bell, argues that Albertans employ a “truthiness” voting strategy:

“They don't get it perfect, necessarily, but the voters know in their hearts, know in their guts, what's the right way to go, on most things, most of the time."

Strengths: Taylor is certainly the best communicator of the candidates and, in my books, that counts for a lot.

Strategy: By framing this as a right/left battle between him and Swann, Taylor has played himself up as the most likely to...enjoy electoral success (I just can't bring myself to say "win", after the last election).

Can he win? You betcha. The smart money has Taylor taking this one - but it has been a tough few years for leadership frontrunners so you never know. It's certainly possible that they'll have to count the second choice votes to decide this one.

My Thoughts: I can't judge how it has played out in Alberta but, from afar, I'm been very impressed with the campaign Taylor's young and talented team has put together. Their message has been on the mark and they've done a good job communicating it.

I have major doubts about the whole "proud to be Liberal" strategy, but I do think Taylor's promise to brand the party as a fiscally conservative, pro-business option is the only way you'll get votes from the places you need to get votes from. And his ambitious party renewal document, if implemented properly, would definitely set the party on the right track to one day be competitive.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Bob Rae Launch

First off, full marks to team Rae and the always-brilliant Braeden Caley for organizing Bob Rae’s blogger conference call today. It’s nice to see candidates reaching out to the blogging community and taking the time to talk to bloggers – even those of us who have already chosen to support other candidates. Here’s my quick and dirty recap of the call:

Bob’s Record

I suspect Bob’s going to have to talk about this topic once or twice over the course of the campaign so you really don’t need me to rehash his answer here. I will, however, come to his defence regarding the poll that was leaked today – it was one question taken out of context from the full survey…for all we know the question before it was “who is best to handle an economic crisis?” and Bob finished first. I doubt that, but no one should think much about this poll one way or the other and the 20% who choose him as the worst to deal with the economy is hardly damning.

How can we make the party competitive in Western Canada?

This question, asked by my friend Avnish, is my standard question for leadership contenders, and answers to it have helped me decide the last two candidates I’ve chosen to support for Liberal leadership.

Bob said that the leader and MPs need to be physically present in all ridings, and that they must take the time to listen to local concerns. He was a bit shorter on specifics than I would have liked but I was impressed that he admitted the party needed more than “a fresh coat of paint” and that “a lot of work needs to be done”. Anyone who thinks there’s a quick fix out there, is going to be solely disappointed in a year or two.

Making the Party Competitive in Rural Ridings

Jeff Jedras asked specifically about a part of the $1.90 vote subsidy going directly to the ridings and Bob agreed it was a good idea. Personally, I think it’s a horrible idea, since it would mean a lot of money going to places like York Centre, which do not need it, and very little going to places like Calgary Southeast, which do.

I do however agree with Bob that there are “too many layers” in the Liberal Party and that the “title-itis” epidemic has spread out of control. Then again, I might just be bitter that I was passed over for the position of Ontario blogging liaison on Dominic LeBlanc’s Near Eastern and South Caucasus Affairs foreign policy committee.

Fundraising? What gives?

This was my question – I specifically wanted to know what the leader could do to help. He agreed that the leader needs to take an active “hands-on” interest in this issue, and that there should be issue-based fundraising directly related to the goings-on in the House of Commons.

Grassroots Engagement

Bob talked about using technology to connect with Liberals and lamented that there’s a lot of frustration among the grass roots because policy resolutions often “don’t lead anywhere”. Agreed.

Interestingly, he came out against Ignatieff’s idea to hold a Kingston-style conference – he believes consultation needs to be more broad based and that the Kingston/Port Hope model has become antiquated in the 21st Century information age.

One Member One Vote?

He’s in favour.

RIP Green Shift?

Like the other two candidates, he agrees we can’t go back there. If I could editorialize for a second here, I do hope that everyone who voted Green for environmental reasons realizes that the Liberal implosion last campaign means that no major party is going to touch carbon taxes for the next 20 years. I'm just sayin'...

Surprisingly, no one brought up Bob’s idea for the LPC to offer free memberships - I could have, but I'm genuinely undecided on this one. While I do like the open voter registration system used in the US, I’m really unsure about how this play out in practice in the context of the Canadian system. I’d be curious to hear what others think.

Also offering recaps - Tribe, the other Danielle, Bowie,


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

We Interupt this Liberal Leadership Race... bring you the following news stories - now (mostly) leadership news free!

1. Peter Miliken pulled off a dramatic 5th ballot victory in the Race for Kingmere. Although I thought he might lose this time, can you really blame the children for not electing a teacher on a promise to “get tough” with them when they misbehave?

2. In less exciting parliamentary news, today was throne speech day. Given the lack of specifics, there's rarely much in a throne speech to get too excited or too angry about - I would however like to express some concern over the promise for “a charter of open federalism”.

3. For those worried the end of the US election would make Nate Silver any less awesome, fear not! Check out this interview on 538 with John Ziegler on an Obama "push poll" Zogby ran. Warning - it is not satire, it is the actual interview.

4. And then there were (still) three. Martin Cauchon is out of the race for Liberal leadership - that's a shame, Cauchon would have brought a lot to this race.

5. Jean Charest now leads 44% to 33% in Quebec. For a reference point, in 2003, Charest led the popular vote 46% to 33% to 18%, and the seats broke down 76-45-4. So, for the moment, it looks like the man is in majority government territory.

6. The new seating chart for the HoC is out and...look who wound up as seat-mates! How long before someone declares a thumb war?

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I Called It!

Calgary Grit - one week ago:

What are Alberta PCs to do?

oil prices tumbling and no Liberal government to blame it on?

Ed Stelmach - yesterday: Pierre Trudeau, not the declining world economy, responsible for worsening financial crisis.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

In Support of Dominic LeBlanc

Although I obviously have a soft spot for some of the candidates who didn’t run, I was always expecting this to be a three-man race and so I’ve spent the past month giving all the candidates a close look. I genuinely went into this one open-minded - it’s a very intriguing race because each of the three potential leaders is so unique, with vastly different strengths and vastly different flaws. I’ll be proud to support whichever one of the three wins this thing because they each bring so much to the table.

On one side you have the always-brilliant Michael Ignatieff who has matured as a politician so much over the past three years. I can certainly visualize him being a great Prime Minister.

On the other side you have arguably the most gifted politician in Canada today, Bob Rae. He’s experienced, he’s polished, and his Liberal credentials - doubted by some in 2006 - can no longer be questioned.

But I’ve decided to go another route. I won’t lie - Ignatieff’s position on issues I hold dear and the reaction I've seen to the words "Bob Rae" from average Ontarians played a role in my decision. But I’ve always said the problems faced by the Liberal Party run deeper than leadership so I would have had no problem sitting this race out and directing my energies elsewhere if no one caught my eye. Luckily, Dominic LeBlanc did just that.

As a 40-year-old child of the Liberal Party, Dominic understands the party and will direct his limitless energy to ensuring it’s long term health and prosperity. I know he’ll run to win the next election, as he should, but I have to respect anyone willing to admit it will take a decade to restore the party’s health. It was clear to those at the LPCO debate yesterday and to those watching it on TV, that LeBlanc understands rural Canada better than anyone else in this party and that he’s our best vehicle for making the party competitive in places where we haven’t been competitive for a long time. In addition, a lot of the party renewal suggestions he offered up were just what I’ve been waiting to hear – especially the idea of hiring young field workers to build up the party in regions of the country where we’re not currently successful.

While he’s certainly the best long-term option, I think Dominic brings skills to the table that will ensure short-term success as well. He’s fluently bilingual and an excellent communicator. Again, watching him yesterday, the man was engaging, funny, pointed, and knowledgeable - he will inject some badly needed energy and life into Canadian politics. Politics is about connecting with voters and I strongly believe LeBlanc is a leader voters will be able to relate to.

In addition to this, he also brings close to a decade of federal experience to the table, and is going to be a challenging opponent for the Tories to smear in the ten million dollar ad buy we all know is coming to a TV screen near you this May.

In short, LeBlanc is a politician of great potential, the only knocks being a lack of name recognition and a really bad haircut. But with the Liberal Party entering its third leadership race in five years, I want a leader who can guide us for a decade. With the Liberal Party desperately in need of renewal, I want a leader who understands the problems we face and is committed to finding long-term solutions - not just a quick fix.

So while my leadership endorsement may very well be the kiss of death, I offer it to Mr. LeBlanc. For any undecided Liberals out there, I would ask you to at least give the man a fair look because I suspect Dominic may surprise you.

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Liberal Leadership Debate Recap

Update - Jeff and James also offer recaps

I'm not going to comment on the Ignatieff versus Rae spitting match on debate procedure because the whole argument strikes me as a bit juvenile, and it takes away from what was an amazing opportunity to listen to two of the leadership candidates outline their vision for the party, and the country, on a wide range of topics. If the leadership debates are anything like today's forum, Liberals are in for a treat, because this was far more entertaining than anything we saw during the 2006 race (or the 2006 LPCA kick-off debate which featured Joe Fontana, Paul Zed, and Clifford Blais among others). With the media banned, I became a journalist for the afternoon and brought my notebook with me - I share the highlights with Liberals here:

Dominic - "when my wife and I arrived in Toronto last night, I was very pleased to see the CN Tower still there; I was worried Jim Flaherty would have sold it for scrap parts by now."

Leblanc went on to say that he's in the race to win and that he's running because he believes the party needs to reconnect with rural voters, francophones, new Canadians, and Western Canadians, amongst others.

Ignatieff, meanwhile, said that the number one priority of the party was to win back the 900,000 Liberals who stayed home - "the minute we get them back, we're back". He signalled his support for a 308 riding strategy, a policy seconded by LeBlanc later during the debates.

What will you do to keep in touch with ridings?

LeBlanc argued that we need to "make membership mean something" - he believes that it's important for the leader and MPs to spend more time in the ridings than in the foyer of the House of Commons.

Ignatieff shared similar views (warning: this is a common theme during the debate), and said that ridings want "face time" with the leader, something he'd provide.

How would you help the party, caucus and campaign team work together during campaigns?

LeBlanc - "the French campaign material the party sent to me last election was great, but...I politely told them there was no BQ candidate running in my riding". Dominic went on to say that he'd rather see a more micro-targeting implemented by central campaign in terms of their message.

Ignatieff argued that it was important to start preparing for the next election from day one - "I'll put people in a room together in Ottawa and force them to come up with a strategy."

Would you lower the voting age to 16?

Both candidates agree the idea would have some merit but are against it.

Ignatieff - "I'm trying to think about when I was 16. I wasn't ready."

Leblanc meanwhile, said that he initially liked the idea but many of his Quebec colleagues cautioned that the "Oui" side would have won the 1995 referendum had 16 years olds been allowed to vote, souring him on the idea.

This question also featured one of the funniest moments of the debate, when Ignatieff said "the most important part of leadership is succession planning" (well, the man has been helping Dion with that over the past 3 years...) and added that it's always important for a leader to bring in future heirs to stand behind him. At this point he hap-hazardly gestured to Dominic and drew a big laugh.

Why don't more MPs come to exec meetings like this?

LeBlanc mentioned that Chretien always took attendance at caucus and Cabinet meetings, and that he would be equally rigorous at ensuring MPs attended important events like this. This marked one of about 14 times LeBlanc name dropped "Jean Chretien" during the debate - by my count, both candidates mentioned Dion once, and never did the words "Paul Martin" cross either of their lips.

Ignatieff said that he liked Carolyn Bennett's idea of a "mandate letter" for all critics and Cabinet Ministers that would explicitly define attending these sorts of events as part of their job description.

The Tories will run attack ads on the next leader. They will attack Ignatieff for being out of the country for so many years and LeBlanc over his lack of name recognition. How will you respond to these attacks?

Fun question.

Ignatieff showed real passion here, saying that: "Harper thinks you're a snob if you go to the opera. He says you're not a good Canadian if you haven't lived in Canada. Well, Stephen Harper doesn't get to say who's a good Canadian and who isn't. I'm proud of the achievements I've accomplished abroad."

LeBlanc, meanwhile, said that it's important to "fight fire with fire" - the Tory war room is preparing attack ads right now and the Liberals can't allow for a repeat of January 2007 when "we allowed Mr. Dion to be unfairly defined and we didn't respond". As for the claim that Canadians do not know him, he argued that they would by the end of this campaign.


This topic featured one of the few policy contrasts of the afternoon, with LeBlanc reminding people that he voted against the first mission extension, and Iggy saying that he voted for the initial t extension and that he "was part of the negotiations to secure a parliamentary compromise" on the 2011 extension.

You both promise change - how will you deliver it?

Dominic admitted that "the country wants the party to change the way we do business". He argued that it's time for the LPC to reconnect with, and re-engage Canadians. He pointed to the success of the "50 state strategy" and said it was important to send young field workers out to places where the Liberals weren't necessarily expected to win. In short, he believes less time should be devoted to "Ottawa strategy sessions" and more time should be spent "on the ground".

Ignatieff argued that Liberals need to recognize that "we are not the natural governing party anymore", and that "we should stop hanging on past achievements". Instead, he believes it's important for the party to offer a vision of the future to Canadians on important issues.

Green Shift?

Ignatieff - "The voters have spoken on The Green Shift"

LeBlanc - "The Green Shift was a major hurdle to our candidates in many ridings across the country"


LeBlanc landed an indirect shot here, saying "one of the proudest moments I had as an MP was to stand up and vote against Canadian participation in the Iraq war". He also segued into an idea of his to offer student debt relief to young people who work at NGOs.

Ignatieff agreed "our party should make it easier for Canadians to do public service overseas" and landed a good shot at Ianbrodieleak-gate saying the Harper government "showed a mix of malice and incompetence combined".

Gender Equality? (en francais)

LeBlanc says he liked Dion's policy of having 1/3 female candidates but feels they were too often selected to run in hopelessly unwinable ridings.

Ignatieff also liked this policy and would love to extend it to 40% or 50%. He commented that Harper was very smart to appoint so many female Cabinet Ministers.

Israel, Palestine, and all that fun

Both candidates engaged in a bit of a tango dance to offer a diplomatic answer to this question and both showed themselves to be very knowledgeable on the topic. There were a lot of foreign policy questions (many of which I haven't recaped here) and I must say that Ignatieff sounded very knowledgeable on all of them - the man certainly knows the issues inside out.

How can we become relevant in rural Canada?

Ignatieff was solid on foreign policy but on this topic, LeBlanc hit an absolute home run. He began with a joke - "I have 6 traffic lights in my entire riding...(laughs)...but when I began as an MP we only had 2!". He then went on to rattle off a list of issues relevant to rural Canadians, from tourism, to fisheries, to clean water, to seasonal workers. On every one, he offered a solution and attacked the Harper government's neglect of the issue. He finished by recounting a QP exchange where Harper told him that the Tories had offered subway pass tax credits and LeBlanc replied "the closest subway to my riding is in Boston". My recap probably doesn't do his answer justice, but it brought the house down - and, remember, this was a Toronto audience.

Ignatieff, meanwhile, said that appealing to rural voters was "about more than agricultural policy". He added that: "we've gone on the wrong side of a lot of issues" and then pointed to gun control as an example saying that "I want to be in a party that respects the rights of legitimate gun owners - it's an issue of freedom".

Truth be told, this example might have been a messy one for Iggy to bring up had the cameras been there.

What do you like most about the other candidates in this race?

Paddy Torsney asked this one, bringing back memories of the English debate. And, cribbing notes from Elizabeth May, both candidates on stage offered variations of "his family" when complementing Rae (with Michael adding that "he's the best piano player in the House of Commons").

For each other, both men were glowing in their praise. Ignatieff said he admired Dominic's sense of humour, saying that "I am a notorious humour-free zone"...he then butchered a self-deprecating joke about being forced to tell a joke at gun point...which was kind of funny in a meta way, given the context. He also praised the answer LeBlanc gave to the "rural" question earlier.

LeBlanc said that Michael was one of the best parliamentary performers he'd seen in his 8 years in Ottawa and that he had an amazing "sense of Canada's place in the world, and understanding of global security and human rights".

Now would likely be a good time to comment that the mood was nothing but positive throughout the entire debate - the two were constantly nodding at each other's answers, joking around with each other on stage, and their body language hinted at nothing but positive vibes.

What would you do for apprenticeships?

This excellent question allowed Liberals to meet "Mark the Chef" - Canada's version of "Joe the Plumber". Ignatieff related very well to this question, saying that his son was training to be a dry waller, and arguing that post-secondary education was about much more than university.

LeBlanc suggested that federal dollars must be used so that businesses are given tax breaks for hiring apprentices.


Both candidates promised to be positive, to unite the party, and all that feel-good stuff. Kum Ba ya...

In Conclusion

Everyone I talked to agreed that this was a thoroughly entertaining debate, and I must say that both candidates exceeded my expectations. I really hope we get as many of these debates as possible during the leadership race because all the undecided Liberals in the crowd I talked to afterwards agreed they learned a lot about the candidates from it.

Watching this debate certainly re-enforced the decision I've very recently made about which candidate to support - but, don't fear loyal readers, this strip tease will be a short one...

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When Liberals Attack!

Well, Liblogs has exploded, with fingers being pointed all over surrounding what looks to now be a two-person closed leadership debate today in Mississauga.

Personally, the whole thing seems a bit childish but, either way, this means a blogger monopoly on coverage of the debate - which I'm just about to head out to. So, check back here later today for the full recap.


Saturday, November 15, 2008


It's the pre-budget surplus sale!

Everything must go!

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Fragasso - Right on November 7, Right Today

Among the highlights from the LPCQ's leadership convention recommendations:

Furthermore, we recommend lowering the registration fees and lowering the allocation for transportation. Therefore, by lowering registration fees and by restricting the allocation for transportation, we would be minimizing the possibility of reaching the contributions ceiling to a political party and allow a majority of delegates to participate to the democratic process of electing a leader.

Since I'm sure there were no ulterior motives in this initial suggestion, I hope that the LPCQ's board is still onside with these recommendations 100%, now that the convention is in Vancouver.

h/t tGPOitHotW

Friday, November 14, 2008

And the critics are...

Highlights from the Liberal Shadow Cabinet:

-Bob Rae, Michael Ignatieff, and Dominic LeBlanc are nowhere to be seen. Ruby Dhalla, however, is the Labour critic. I'll let my readers connect the dots on this one.

-Scott Brison replaces John McCallum in the VERY important Finance critic position. After watching Brison beat up on Flaherty at a CBC forum during the election, I really like this choice.

-In another good move, Gerard Kennedy lands in Industry. While he's better associated with social issues, Kennedy made innovation and enterprise a key plank of his last election campaign and has been lecturing at Ryerson on this topic since then.

-Marc Garneau gets Science and Technology. Can you say "typecast"?

-Justin Trudeau and most of the newcomers land associate critic roles.

-Conspicuously absent are Scott Andrews, Jimmy K and Joe Volpe.

Three comments on today's "anonymous Liberal sources" story...

1. Bob Rae's strategy to win the Liberal leadership is to focus on the economy

That's either a really dumb move or a counter-intuitive master stroke of brilliance.

2. “Bob doesn't feel overmatched,” said the strategist, who asked not to be identified.

Jane, could you not find one Liberal willing to make this bold claim on the record? I mean, if we're just going to get campaign talking points, do we really need to cloak them behind the veil of "anonymous sources".

3. In the 2006 leadership, when Mr. Rae placed third behind Mr. Ignatieff and Mr. Dion, Mr. Ignatieff had the support of the majority of Quebec delegates.

39% is not a majority. (except occasionally in FPTP...)


Profiles in Courage: Mo Elsalhy

Before I get to this week's ALP leadership profile, my spies were at the Calgary Egmont leadership forum last week and sent me a recap. The following comes from Liberals who had not met any of the candidates before the forum so, for that reason, I re-post highlights from their comments here, if only to offer a different perspective:

Mo Elsahy - Definitely provided the most detail in his answers and seems very detail oriented. In his talks he always referred to retail examples since he was a pharmacist; This makes it easy to follow. I liked him a lot as a person to speak to but because of his age and the fact he is not a sitting member, he will have a difficult time to be selected.

David Swann - Speaks really well on health issues since he is a doctor and used to run one of the health regions. His problem is that he looks and talks too much like Stephane Dion. He seems to have charm, and had lots of people wearing his buttons in the room. He seems comfortable in a crowd and was at ease with all the questions, although he spoke mostly in generalities.

Dave Taylor - Being a radio personality shows for "presence". He certainly has the image needed for a leader in Alberta. He had a really detailed "renewal" plan that he didn't have time to go over in detail, but he talked well about being inclusive and bringing people in to the party. I can see he would do better with media than the others.

And with that said, we're off to profile number 2 - Mo!

History: Mo moved to Alberta from Egypt in 1990 and made a career for himself in Edmonton as a pharmacist (Mo will cure what ails the ALP!). He gained fame as a "giant killer" by defeating former "giant killer" Mark Norris in the 2004 election. However, as Edmonton McClung adores killing giants, they bounced Mo from office this spring.

Federal Equivalent: As much as I hate to compare him to another visible minority, Navdeep Bains would be the MP that comes to mind when thinking of Mo.

Rejected Slogan: “Mo – everybody’s favourite stooge”

A Headline Writer’s Dream Candidate: “Liberals seize MO-mentum”, “Mo problems for Liberals”, etc…

Renewal Plan: Mo has set targets for making the party debt free and for growing the membership but has released few details on how to get there. He's also talked about the opposition parties only fielding one candidate per riding in the hope of getting a majority in the Legislature that could ram through PR.

Surprise Endorsement: The Canadian Taxpayers Federation gives Mo a "B" grade.

Website Advice: The site is functional but, for good or bad, doesn't have a "campaign feel" to it. The biggest problem is that there is no donation link on the main have to put a lot of effort into finding out how exactly you can give Mo your money.

Strengths: Mo has done a great job at engaging young people through his "Mocha with Mo"get togethers.

Strategy: Sign up a ton of new members and try to run the table in Redmonton.

Can He Win? If Dave Taylor is the Jim Dinning of this campaign and David Swann is the Ted Morton, then Elsalhy will certainly try to repeat the feat of his fellow Edmonton candidate, Ed Stelmach. If he can sign up enough new members, Mo could surprise.

My Thoughts: I'll admit I don't know Mo as well as the other candidates, although I had a good chat with him at an ALP lunch in Calgary a few years ago after he was first elected. He was genuinely excited to be fighting for the issues he felt were important and his energy has yet to diminish since then. As a leader, he'd be new, fresh, and different from anything the Alberta Liberals have offered Albertans before.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

And They're Off...Again

Today’s Michael Ignatieff campaign launch – not to be confused with his initial launch…or his more formal future launch, went off fairly smoothly. The only real newsworthy tid-bit from it was MI's promise to hold a "thinker's conference" within a hundred days of winning the leadership. You can read about it here, or check out his very impressive campaign website here.

The media, no doubt having learned their lesson from 2006 when they declared the race a battle of the roommates, appear to have declared it…a battle of the roommates! But they’re not happy about being forced to declare it a two man race, as the Globe explains in today’s editorial:

Whatever his merits as a potential leader, Mr. Kennedy is one of his party's stronger advocates of a “308” strategy in which the Liberals would aim to compete in every riding – a variation of the “50-state” model successfully adopted by the U.S. Democrats. While many Liberals scoff at the notion of competing in much of rural Canada, let alone Alberta, other candidates would do well to consider this strategy now that Mr. Kennedy is out of the running – and not just because of its fundraising advantages.

Abandoning whole sections of the country where support does not come easily to them will eventually lead even the Liberals' core supporters to question what sort of a party they are voting for.

So what about the third contender? Well, Dominic LeBlanc lays out his reasons for running in La Presse and Macleans:

For the second time in less than three years, the Liberal Party is about to select a new leader on the heels of an electoral defeat. At this very early stage in that process of change, there are two facts that Liberals must confront.

First, the Liberal Party is in very real danger of suffering further erosion in the connection it has so long enjoyed with so many Canadians. We must act urgently to re-energize our party, our perspective and renew the credibility of our claim to lead this country in time to win the next election.

Second, that challenge can best be met with a generational change in our leadership. With the kind of revitalization that comes about when a party springs itself forward with a younger, more energized leader.

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Behind Enemy Lines

The Office isn't the only thing heading to Winnipeg. Danielle Takacs will be there, so her blog will certainly be a must-read over the next few days.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Field Narrows

From the initial field of a few hundred thousand rumoured candidates, it’s looking more and more like this will be a three-man race (c’mon Paul Hellyer – it’s not too late to get a team together!). The latest MPs to offer up the “thanks, but no thanks” are Martha Hall Findlay, Denis Coderre, David McGuinty, and Gerard Kennedy. Given the amount of virtual ink I spilled pushing Kennedy’s candidacy in 2006, I feel I should offer up a comment or two on his decision.

Although it’s not what first drew me to him, I think Gerard is one of the people in the Liberal Party who really “gets it”. He made “immigrant success” a key plank of his last leadership campaign, long before people realized that Jason Kenney was systematically winning over support from this traditional Liberal demographic. He was the only Liberal candidate last time who talked about party renewal and offered ideas to re-engage the base. Having been involved with Liberal politics in Alberta, he’s also one of the few MPs in the party who understands we can’t keep writing off the West…having talked with him about this a few times, I think he gets this better than a lot of western Liberals.

And while I know some will disagree with me, I think Gerard was bang on with his handling of the Afghanistan and Quebec nation grenades that were launched into the campaign last time.

I know he has his detractors inside the party and is far from a perfect politician but, despite that, he was one of only four to win new Liberal seats last election, and he didn’t even need a Danny Williams assist to do it.

Now, with all that said, I think Gerard was smart to take a pass (“know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em” yada yada yada). He’s a good candidate now and I would have supported him again if he ran, but he’ll be a better candidate in the future with some federal experience and a few more French lessons under his belt. I also think he can do a lot of good on the party renewal front from outside the race and I hope he directs his energy in that direction.

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What are Alberta PCs to do?

With oil prices tumbling and no Liberal government to blame it on?


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

For those suffering post-election poll withdrawal symptoms

Au Quebec:

Liberals 41%
PQ 35%
ADQ 14%

It's difficult to know what to make of this without having Nate Silver explain it to me - the real question here is what the ADQ collapse means to the other parties. Last election saw the popular vote translate into seats in a fairly representative fashion, but in the pre-ADQ world the electoral map always heavily favoured the PQ.

The best case of that is 1998, when the Liberals got 44%, the PQ 43%, and the ADQ 12%, but we ended up with a 76-48-1 PQ-Lib-ADQ seat split. Now, I hate bringing this up because the PR folks are going to go bonkers, but if the ADQ vote stays depressed, I think the possibility of a PQ win is very real if they can get themselves to within 3% or so of Charest in the polls. And the prospect of a Charest majority would seem to be slim, unless he can stretch his lead out into double digits.

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Sunday, November 09, 2008

8 Simple Rules for Liberal Leadership Races

And we're off! The rules have been set - Feb 6 membership cut-off, March 6-10 super weekend, and an April 30 to May 3 convention.

As we all know, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. So here are a few lessons I think we can all learn from the last Liberal leadership race:

1. The polls are fairly meaningless, with the possible exception of the ones taken of actual delegates to gauge second choice interest; Liberal organizers and bloggers probably have a better sense of the relative strength of the candidates' than the pundits do. Things like number of donors, ex-officio endorsements, and caucus support aren't bad indicator either.

2. The policy proposals put forward by the candidates probably aren't super relevant - Ignatieff favoured a carbon tax last time and Dion opposed it.

3. Things said during leadership debates might come back to haunt you at a later date.

4. Leaked Tory memos about the leadership race should be ignored completely.

5. Directly comparing your candidate to Pierre Trudeau is a good way to make yourself look silly...subtly doing it might not be an awful idea though. I suspect the "Barack Obama corollary" to this rule will apply this time.

6. Solemn pledges to not go negative have a similar shelf life to yogurt.

7. Playing up expectations about how much support you expect to get is not a good idea. That said, if the media and Liberals don't think you can actually win, you're at a huge disadvantage.

8. Saying you know how it will end, at the start of the race, is a good way to make yourself look dumb come May.

I still don't have a horse in this race yet. I'm looking towards the long term health of the Liberal Party and for a candidate who is truly committed to renewal. If no one fits that bill, well, maybe I won't be as involved in this race as I was in the last.

But regardless of how involved I get, expect a lot of coverage about The Race For Stornoway here. I'll probably revisit my leadership projections come January, once we get some donor data. And given the number of delegates who read blogs, I'd expect a blog interview or two - at the very least, I'll be sure to cover any events I'm at.

And, regardless of whether I'm a delegate or not, I'll be in Vancouver this May. It figures to be a fun weekend.


Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Alberta Stampede

EDMONTON - Bedecked in a black cowboy hat and a bolo tie, Liberal Leader Kevin Taft stood in the legislature rotunda today and announced he would table a motion to make rodeo Alberta's official sport.

"Alberta doesn't even have an official sport. It struck me right away, well, it should be rodeo. What is more Alberta than rodeo?" he said.

I'm torn on this one. If the cowboy boot were on the other foot, I would be savagely mocking Ed Stelmach if he tried something like this (and Taft himself spends a chapter of his book expressing frustration about the great rough fescue debate).

But, the ALP needs to blatantly pander to "real Alberta" so, what the hell, yee-haw!

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See You in Vancouver

OTTAWA – Liberal Party President Doug Ferguson today announced that the National Executive has chosen Vancouver as the site of the next Liberal Leadership Convention. The Convention will be held at the Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Centre from April 30, 2009 to May 3, 2009.

“After careful review of all viable options, I am proud to announce that Liberal delegates will choose the next Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada in beautiful British Columbia ,” said Mr. Ferguson.

Mr. Ferguson also commented on the importance of highlighting the national scope of the Liberal Party of Canada. This decision, it is hoped, will energize our grassroots in a region of the country which has never hosted a Liberal Leadership Convention.

In addition to the date and location of the Convention, the National Executive has set the entry fee for Leadership candidates at $90,000 and the spending limit at $1.5 million. A levy of 10% will also be imposed on directed donations. As an added measure, a rebate option will be available to candidates according to their ability to raise funds for the Victory Fund, a grassroots fundraising initiative of the Liberal Party of Canada.

So far, so good. I personally would have gone with something like a million dollar spending limit, $50,000 entry fee, and 25% tax (I'm a Liberal, I love taxes...), but I can't complain with any of their decisions so far.

Full rules to be announced tomorrow.


Friday, November 07, 2008

Taking a Pass

The great thing about another Liberal leadership race is that I can pretty much recycle my blog content from 2006. So, having updated my "Frank McKenna isn't running" post, it's time to update my "John Manley isn't running" post.

It's sad that Manley decided to take a pass, although it's hard to fault him given the difficulty of tossing together a leadership team in a few weeks. And a lot of Liberals dislike Manley for a lot of irrational reasons - his decision to put country over party for the Afghanistan review annoyed many, even though the Liberal caucus ended up supporting the position he recommended.

John Manley has always struck me as a straight shooter with integrity to spare. He also came across as a really great guy the few times I met him while working on his 2003 leadership campaign. Between that, his experience, and an impressive track record in a wide range of portfolios, I don't doubt John would have made a great Prime Minister.

So, with another heavyweight biting the dust, that leaves the field as follows:

Dominic LeBlanc
Bob Rae

Michael Ignatieff

Definitely, Maybe
Ruby Dhalla
Denis Coderre
Martin Cauchon
David McGuinty
Ujjal Dosanjh
Gerard Kennedy
Martha Hall Findlay

Long Shots
Carolyn Bennett
Ken Dryden
David Orchard
Belinda Stronach
Dave Bronconnier
Garth Turner

Taking a Pass
Scott Brison
Justin Trudeau
Frank McKenna
Dalton McGuinty
Carole Taylor
John Manley
Brian Tobin
Joe Volpe
Ralph Goodale (I assume, given his appointment as House Leader)
Louise Arbour
Elizabeth May

The rules will be announced Sunday at 1 pm Eastern...I'd expect that we'll have a good idea of the field within a week from then.


Profiles in Courage: David Swann

As part of my weekly look at the "other" Liberal leadership race, I'll be profiling the three wise men brave enough to take on one of the hardest jobs in Canada (note: when one of the candidates is named "Mo", it's very difficult to resist the urge to label them the "three stooges"). This week - David Swann:

History: David Swann was fired from his medical officer of health job after expressing support for the Kyoto accord (that’s just the way we roll in Alberta). This prompted him to run for the Liberals in Calgary Mountain View in 2004 – a riding he has now handily won twice.

Federal Equivalent: Think Ken Dryden.

Rejected Motto: “Complete the Swann dive into oblivion!”

Renewal Plan: Swann is the biggest supporter of drastic change, either by setting up a new party or dramatically reshaping/renaming the ALP. While Dave Taylor has come out with a detailed renewal document, Swann prefers the consultation approach, promising to establish a renewal committee following his election as leader.

Website Advice: Right off the bat, I'd ditch the "Dr." and I'd get a more flattering picture on the main page. The site basics are all there, but there's nothing in the way of web 2.0 technology. Also, the blog is messy (don't say posts are by "Dr. David Swann" and then refer to "Dr. David Swann" in the third person), and there is all of one event on the events calendar.

Other Friendly Advice: My Tuesday newsletter from the Swann campaign was entitled "Yes We Can! Renew our Party!". Yesterday's was entitled "the audacity of hope". If anyone on the LPC national executive is reading this, I think you should seriously consider passing a law which forbids any leadership candidates from comparing themselves to Barack Obama.

Strengths: Without a doubt, David Swann is the most genuine person, politician or not, I have ever met in my life.

Strategy: Swann has built up a devoted following among social activists and environmentalists, and these will be the people he’ll need to bring into the Liberal Party to win the leadership. The key for Swann will be to complement this coalition with Greens and Liberals (and even a few NDs and Tories) excited by his talk of starting a new political movement in Alberta.

Can He Win? After the Dave everyone wanted to run took a pass, many are speculating this race could turn into the biggest David vs. David showdown since the American Idol finale. In a one member one vote system, where 2000 votes is likely enough to win it, people would be mistaken to underestimate Swann. It all hinges on how well he'll be able to organize his supporters, who are generally non-political people.

My Thoughts: David Swann is a wonderful human being. But the real question is how he would fare as leader. And that's a big mystery. The other two candidates in this race are politicians and Swann certainly isn't. Add to that the fact that he's proposing very radical reforms to the party and he emerges as a very high-risk candidate. If he was running for federal Liberal leadership, I'd be scared out of my mind about having him as party leader but there's something to be said for rolling the dice when you've been out of power for nearly a century.

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