Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Bart's Books - The Way it Works

I just finished up Eddie Goldenberg’s behind the scenes look at life in the PMOThe Way it Works. For those not wanting to read the full review, I’d sum it up by saying it’s the kind of book a die hard political hack would enjoy but, unlike something like Paul Wells’ book, it’d be a pretty dull read for anyone with only a passing interest in politics.

Let’s start with what’s not covered in the book. There’s not much on Eddie Goldenberg’s personal life since, unlike Bill Clinton, he hasn’t earned the right to tack on 200 pages about his childhood. There are only three words on the Kyoto Accord, so you won’t get any more insight on Goldenberg’s latest machinations on the subject. There’s next to nothing on election campaigns as the book really does try to limit it’s scope to life in the PMO. And, at that, it is successful at giving a behind the scenes glimpse of the way it works. Goldenberg describes the decision making process for several major (and minor) decisions, giving a recap of the balancing between policy and politics which go into all of them. He’s quite blunt about having to consider the political ramifications about all decisions, just as he’s up front that certain appointments are nothing more than patronage. He also makes several references to the pork barreling desires of MPs with what he calls PIMBY (Please in my backyard).

Because of admissions like this, the book deserves to be taken a bit more seriously than, say, Sheila Copps' book. Goldenberg does admit that Chretien wasn't infallible, calling the GST reversal “a big mistake that would affect his credibility as PM”. At the same time, the understandable bias is still there and the book certainly paints JC in the most favourable light possible. Also receiving heaps of praise is Stephane Dion, which is a little surprising given that the book was released in the midst of a leadership race where Eddie was helping out Bob Rae. Dion is described as being like a son to Chretien and was one of the few ministers invited out to Harrington Lake with Jean.

Receiving quite a bit less praise than Dion was, of course, Paul Martin. Goldenberg doesn’t go out of his way to smear Martin at all, but he does get a few subtle digs in here and there (“very, very important”). He also claims that Martin opposed Meech purely for political reasons and that Tim Murphy once told him that “Paul’s people didn’t think it would be good for [Martin] to be associated publicly with anything in Trudeau’s memory”. Despite these less than flattering anecdotes, Goldenberg goes to great lengths to praise Martin’s work as Finance Minister and the good working relationship Paul had with his boss. And when describing things like the Martin/Tobin broadband battle during the 2002 budget, you really do get the sense that he isn’t taking sides.

As I said in the beginning, there are a few behind the scenes stories which political junkies will appreciate. Goldenberg recaps several meetings with George Bush, and tells of how Lucien Bouchard spent his entire meeting with Bill Clinton asking advice about private schools rather than talking about Quebec separatism. There are also a few surprises here and there in the book, such as the revelation that Ralph Klein was one of the federal government’s biggest allies during the 2000 Health negotiations. And I know I got a kick out of guessing who the cryptically described politicians in Goldenberg’s less than flattering stories are (for example, the “Toronto MP and future Paul Martin Cabinet Minister”).

Probably the most interesting thing about the book is to see what Goldenberg considers to be Chretien’s greatest achievements. And given the amount of ink he spills on different subjects, it’s clear to me that he sees the innovation agenda, the Clarity Act, the economic recovery, and, maybe above all else, the decision to stay out of the Iraq war, as the most significant accomplishments of Chretien’s decade in power.

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News Roundup

1. Titanic director James Cameron has brought a whole new meaning to "King of the World" with his upcoming DaVinci-esque documentary to air on the Discovery Channel (talk about a jackpot for the Discovery Channel). I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that there might be some controversy around this one.

2. The latest poll from Quebec has Charest out in front:

Lib 37
PQ 28
ADQ 24

3. It appears the extension to parts of the anti-terror legislation will be voted down tonight.

4. Ed Stelmach and David Suzuki are going at it over oilsands development.

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Monday, February 26, 2007

Night at the Oscars

While politics are always in play at the Academy Awards, it seems political movies are usually confined to the documentary category. So I thought I'd take a moment to honour some of the best political movies from the past year.

Conspiracy Theory: Do the Liberals disapprove of anti-terror legislation because of a fear civil liberties will be trampled upon? Not according to the maverick protagonist of this suspense thriller who believes Liberals oppose the renewal because the father in law of one of their MPs has been called as a witness to the Air India investigation. What information does this witness have that the Liberals so desperately want to keep hidden? Does he know of a massive government fluoridation scheme which has been used to control the minds of Canadians during the “dark decade”? Is Herb Grey really an alien? Stephen Harper is determined to find out.

Sleepless in Budapest: A dashing candidate lives through many sleepless nights during his Hungarian vacation, leading to an on-again/off-again love affair with the Canadian media. You’ll laugh along during this film which begins as adventure, turns into comedy, and ends in tragedy.

Failure to Launch: The story of Jim Dinning’s leadership bid.

The Comedian: Several politicians try their hand at stand-up comedy, to varying degrees of success. Chuckle as Peter McKay and Ralph Klein toss out their best Belinda Stronach jokes. Cringe as John Kerry accidentally implies soldiers are stupid and Stephane Dion calls Stephen Harper fat. You may not find all these jokes funny but we all know Colin Mayes will.

Four Endorsements and a Funeral: A young and charismatic MP arrives in Ottawa and vows to make an impact. Over the course of four years, he endorses Jim Prentice, the CPC merger, Bob Rae, and Michael Ignatieff. As for the funeral? His political career.

The DaVinci Code: Lester B. Pearson’s Nobel prize is missing. Can the code be cracked to find it? Does the Liberal mole know the secret?

Stranger than Fiction: 18 individuals in the Stephen Harper Cabinet find out that they are not really living their own lives; everything they say or do is being narrated to them by Stephen Harper.

The Grudge 2: Separatists and westerners revisit their hatred of the Trudeau name when Justin announces his candidacy.

Thank You for Smoking: This critically acclaimed movie takes a behind the scenes look at Barack Obama's Presidential bid.

Mission Impossible III: Stephen Harper replaces Paul Martin in the lead role as the Prime Minister searching for an elusive majority government. Floor crossers, flip-flops, Quebec as a nation – nothing is over the line as Harper tries to get to the magical 155 seat total.

The Devil Wears Prada: This film marks the debut of young director Peter MacKay, in a screenplay he wrote about his ex-girlfriend.

Snake on a Plane: In this action adventure, Ralph Klein jets around the province of Alberta on the taxpayer's dime.

An Inconvenient Truth: This glorified Stephen Harper power point presentation demonstrates how there is no way Canada can possibly meet its Kyoto targets.

V for Volpe: Last summer's blockbuster hit was described by the Frog Lady as follows:

Mocked by the media...
Reviled by his party...
Abandoned by his campaign manager...

The only verdict is vengeance. Vengeance against the vomitorium of the vapidly virtuous. Vengeance against the vandals who vex the vacillations of a vagarious and vacant veteran.

The time has come for a vicious vendetta against the vox populi and the vociferating vilifiers of vice.

The time has come for V for Volpe!

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Green Answers - 2

One thing Harper's bizarre accusations against the Liberals this week did do was take the environment out of the headlines. But with Al Gore poised to pick up an Oscar tomorrow, I figured it might be a good time to talk a bit about the environment. Last month, I asked a few questions related to the environment. I already looked at why it's an issue...this post will take a look at just how big an issue it really is.

2. Do Canadians really care, or are they only telling pollsters it's a big issue because they feel they should?

Some Answers:

-Most (90%) of those who say they care do, but willingness to make sacrifices varies.

-I think the complete lack of action on the above options [driving less and making environmental decisions] makes it pretty clear that it's the latter.

-The level of concern over the environment is soft because each day , hundreds of thousands of Canadians would rather drive to work and do an hour of gridlock rather than take the bus. They'd rather wait in a big line up of cars and trucks to buy a double double and a chocolate dip doughnut rather than make the coffee at home, slap it in a travel mug, walk two blocks to the bus stop and take the bus to work each day.

-A bit of both. I think a lot or people feel concerned but they're not ready to change their habits until someone tells/forces them to, while others are already looking for more environmentally friendly ways to do things.

-Canadians don't care. Canadians know that on some level the media is being cynical on the issue so they can't get worked up about it in a positive way.

-I think polls like this demonstrate the public reacting to issues, not leading issues, and this is the flavour of the month. Or, if we analogize with health care, flavour of the next 5 years or so.

-Let me tell you in no uncertain terms, that Canadians care. So long as Canada wins the global lottery and gets a trillion dollars (US) and can afford to fix health care, lower taxes, buy more chocolate, and stop greenhouse gas emissions, Canada will be there, and Canadians will be on board!!!

-I won't question people's sincerity without cause, so I'll accept that people are genuinely concerned. Whether that concern will last, or will be swept aside by the next political issue or scandal, is a different question.

-it's soft support at best and most people don't truly understand the ramifications of meeting our Kyoto targets.

-Something I heard at the time, which I've heard now, is that the enviro is one of those issues that moves towards the top of the list of important items when other issues are not as pressing.

My Take:

I do think people care. Even before the global warming burst onto the scene as the hip issue, people talked about the environment in one form or another - recycling, acid rain, pesticides...it's always been something people were aware of. Captain Planet aired over a decade ago and the environment did score as a major issue in the late 80s. Obviously the poll numbers are echoing increased media hype around it, but I don't doubt that Canadians genuinely care about the environment, simply because they always have.

But Canadians care about a lot of things. They care about starving children in Africa, but there hasn't exactly been a groundswell of support to do something about that. The real question is how much they care. And, here, I suspect most Canadians are a lot more concerned about whether or not their favourite team will make the playoffs than about the long range temperature projections scientists come out with. So this brings us to question 5:

How much are Canadians actually willing to pay?


-Most would probably support a greater cost increase resulting from emissions standards on industries than they would on something more visible such as a gas tax.

-Also, note how soft that support for environmental policy is. Sure, they'll tell pollsters how, theoretically, they'd sacrifice for the environment. But when the question gets to gas prices, a real expense they can calculate, they start to shy away. If any government actually enacted serious, carbon-cutting, economy-slowing policy, how long would people really put up with it?

-It depends on the penalties and the incentives. If there was suddenly a tax imposed on gas gussling vehicles like SUV's people would be using fule efficient cars in no time. At the same time people would be more willing to spend more on an energy efficient appliance if they see themselves getting money back on it through a tax credit.

-I have a question for you, why would I buy a Honda Civic hybrid when a new "normal" Civic costs considerably less, holds more, is cheaper to maintain, has a longer life span and is good on gas?

- They're not. Christ, vinegar and baking soda are two superb cleaning agents that don't contain any chemical by-products, and they're a third of the cost of cleaning products that you should not drink - people keep buying the fancy stuff, though.

-The capitalist in me says that the more political (read: government dependant) this issue becomes, the less willing people will be to take responsibility for their personal actions. I agree with you. People won't be cutting their driving by half anytime soon.

-If our economy tanks in the next year (and I think we are long overdue for an recession, but that's just me) I believe that Canadians might be more interested in finding their next job rather than finding out which political party has the greenest platform.

My Take:

Canadians care...until people start talking about a fifty cent gas tax. The mere fact that 61% of people surveyed said they would cut their driving in half to help the environment illustrates the problem. NOTHING IS STOPPING THEM FROM CUTTING THEIR DRIVING IN HALF! They don't need the government to force them to take public transit - all that question says is that people know they can help, they're aware that they could cut back, they say they'd like to, but they don't.

Now, that's a great argument for why the government needs to do something (since people won't on their own), but it also shows that people will only help so long as their lifestyle isn't dramatically altered. I think most Canadians would support some tax restructuring to encourage green choices and I think most would support regulations on industry. And, despite what I said above, I think most would support policy which would hurt them financially...so long as it's a very minimal cost. I simply don't think we're at a point where changes which drastically hurt the national economy or (more importantly) the personal economy of Canadians would be acceptable.

That's not to say Kyoto targets can't be met without hurting the economy. But it does mean that if Harper says "we can't meet Kyoto without hurting the economy", it's a message Canadians might listen to.


Thursday, February 22, 2007

Nomination Watch

In a shocking move which no one saw coming, it's been announced that Justin Trudeau will run in the next election for the Liberals. He's settled on Pierre Pettigrew's old riding of Papineau, currently held by the BQ.

And with Bill Graham's official announcement that he won't run again, the feeding frenzy for one of the country's safest Liberal seats is in full swing. ABC has the rundown on the rumours, as Bob Rae targets the riding. I got the following e-mail from one of the other aspirants, Meredith Cartwright, which I presume she has sent to virtually every Liberal in the country:

Toronto Centre's Member of Parliament, The Honourable Bill Graham, may retire. Mr. Dion is now under pressure from the party elites to facilitate the nomination of one of their guys into Toronto Centre, including a non-resident male, or conversely to appoint a non-resident female candidate into Toronto Centre.

Meredith Cartwright is working relentlessly to prepare for and win an open nomination in Toronto Centre, where she will be supported by the diverse communities that comprise Toronto Centre.

The nomination process is the point at which most women are shut down and the point at which a leader's support makes a crucial difference.

Please click the below to sign our online petition and urge the liberal leader, now is the time to bring more women and th! is woman to Parliament!

Click here to support Meredith

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Low Blow

So fat jokes are a strict no-no, but something like this is OK? I'm usually fairly tolerant of the sandbox stuff which goes on in the House, but this strikes me as way over the line.

The weirdest thing is that Harper decided to be the hitman. It's a very odd decision to have him bring up the smear in QP himself since he was obviously going to look bad doing it.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

ça commence

Quebecers will go to the polls March 26th, a week after the federal budget.

It's hard to tell how this one turns out, but I'll predict a Charest minority government.


Face Off

One of the good things about blogs, is that you don't always have to be serious and can descend into what I like to call "Jane Taber journalism" every now and then when the mood strikes. Today is one of those days.

I'm sure a lot of you are already aware of the growing popularity of everyone's favourite stalking aid, facebook. A growing trend seems to be for politicians (or, more appropriately, 16 year old interns pretending to be their bosses) creating profiles on facebook. Because of this, people can become "friends" with the politicians, send them notes, etc.

So, purely because I'm bored, I was curious to see which politicians have the most friends. Given that Stephen Harper and Stephane Dion both strike me as the anti-social type, it must be a surprise to both of them to see just how popular they really are:

Stephen Harper: 511 friends
Stephane Dion: 1086 friends

So, while he may not be polling as well, when it comes to virtual friends who have never met him, Stephane is way more popular than Steve. Ohh...and least surprising of all:

Jack Layton: 8 friends

Geez Jack - I know getting results for people takes a lot of time, but save a bit for your friends too.

Other notables:

Kevin Taft: 170 friends
Ed Stelmach: No profiles, but 29 people in the "Ed Stelmach fan club"
Michael Ignatieff: 1583 friends (obviously not enough of them were delegates)
Peter MacKay: No profile, but 7 members in the Peter MacKay fan club.
Dalton McGuinty: 17 members in the "Dalton McGuinty is handsome" club.
Hillary Clinton: No profile but over 500 groups devoted to her, including "Don't let a woman become President...especially Hillary Clinton" and "Don't support Hillary Clinton, support Chris Dodd".

Other fun groups:

"The Paul Wells Appreciation Society" [39 members]
"The Andrew Coyne Fan Club" [119 members]
"I miss making fun of Jean Chretien" [78 members]
Two groups called "Stephen Harper eats babies"
"Stephen Harper needs a stylist" [26 members]
"Stephen Harper is a cylon" [23 members]
"Jack Layton lives on my street" [1 member]


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Odds & Ends

1. I've always found it interesting that the polls which get attention are usually the abnormal ones. Case in found, today's Gregg poll which has Harper up by 5. I think the general trend has the two parties in a dead heat so it's best to assume that's where they are.

2. On the whole "decade of darkness" discussion, thanks to SG for sending this in:

"I do not intend to dispute in any way the need for defence cuts and the need for government spending cuts in general...I do not share a not in by backyard approach to government spending reductions."

- Stephen Harper, Hansard, May 23, 1995.
(Harper has since roundly criticized spending cuts in the mid-1990s.

3. Mad out of budget spending on the eve of an election? I've heard this story before...

4. The Hill Times has the weekly election spec.

5. There's some talk floating around about Elizabeth May taking on Peter MacKay in Central Nova...with the Libs and Dippers not running candidates. Interesting...

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Saturday, February 17, 2007

King Ralph

Reading through Kevin Taft's book last week, I got to thinking about all the great Ralph Klein moments Albertans have had the misfortune of enjoying over the years. And since I was too wrapped up in leadership to honour him when he flew off into the sunset in December, I feel it's time to take a moment and give Ralph his due. So, I am very pleased to announce the first two inductions into the Calgary Grit Hall of Fame. This Hall of Fame will honour individuals who have provided myself, and other bloggers, bushells of material over the years. Joining Ralph will be Jean Lapierre, who I already paid tribute to last month.

So, in honour of Ralph's induction, I am very pleased to list my all-time top 10 favourite Ralph Klein moments:

10. Saying Goodbye: Ralph reflected on his time as Premier this fall: "You get a lot of free dinners, but after that you get sort of tired [of being Premier], especially when you quit drinking and then it's no fun at all. I don't know why they would want to do it other than the power and the glory I guess and the free dinners and the very few perks that go along with it.""

9. With Friends Like These: Ralph Klein muses about private health care in the dying days of the 2004 election, helping Paul Martin crawl to victory.

8. One Final Flight: Notorious for using the government jet for partisan purposes, Klein flew from Calgary to Edmonton and back again, on the government dime, to say 11 words at the PC leadership convention.

7. Just Shut Up! Following the mad cow scare, Klein told farmers that they should just "shoot, shovel, and shut up" if they found other cases of BSE.

6. He Did Wander Aimlessly: There are so many great Ralph Klein quotes to choose from, but I did enjoy it when he compared himself to Jesus Christ. I also particularly enjoyed it when he called MacKenzie King a pervert, said Bob Rae was a dumb politician, predicted Harper's loss in 2006, and blamed dinosaur farts for causing global warming.

5. AISH: When greeted by protesters on AISH disability insurance during the last campaign, Klein yelled back that "severely normal people" don't want to talk about AISH. He later said that the protested "didn't look handicapped".

4. Liar, Liar: The moment a lot of people began to think Ralph had lost it, occurred in a public accounts review when Laurie Blakeman asked Klein to provide receipts from trips he'd written off as government expenses. He proceeded to lash out at her over a dozen times with "You don't believe me? You don't trust me? You're calling me a liar? You're calling me a liar?".

3. Throw the book at them: Then there was the time Ralph Klein threw a book at a 17 year old girl. It's exactly how it sounds, so I don't think I need to elaborate or add commentary to this one.

2. Helping the Homeless: After having a few drinks, Ralph instructed his driver to pull into a homeless shelter in Edmonton where he proceeded to berate the residents, scream at them to get jobs, and throw money at them.

1. Ralph's Essay: This one comes in number one, just because it's so unbelievably weird that if you saw it on a TV show like the West Wing, you'd roll your eyes and say it was too unrealistic, even for TV.

The whole thing started in 2004, when Klein was asked about public car insurance and responded by musing that Pinochet was "forced to mount a coup". He then tabled an essay he'd written as part of a correspondence course he was taking. However, it turns out he'd plagiarized massive parts of the essay. Ooops!


Friday, February 16, 2007

Friday News Roundup

1. Harper now says he'll comply and submit a Kyoto plan which is...interesting. I kind of suspect he'll submit a mischievous plan rather than an actual one he intends to follow but after seeing Gordon Campbell cut his opposition off at the knees, Harper certainly has the opportunity to do the same thing to Dion.

2. Harper wants the Liberals to apologize for being exonerated in the Income Trust scandal. Uh-huh. It seems to me that no one really has anything to apologize for in this. There were improprieties so the opposition was right to call for a probe, but the Liberal Party was innocent of any wrong doing so obviously they're not to blame. The one thing I do agree with is that the Tories should pull their TV ads which implicate Goodale, since he's been cleared of any wrong doing. But, as for everyone demanding everyone else apologize? Puh-lease.

3. I'm glad to see Dion coming out in favour of term limits for Senators. This is consistent with what he's said and written in the past and makes sense since Prime Ministers will be freer to appoint younger Senators.

4. Rick Hillier has referred to the Liberal rule as the "decade of darkness". If the General finds himself job hunting in a year or two, he should definitely consider writ ting sci-fi, because he certainly has a flair for the dramatic.

5. "Bush Snubs Canada" was the front page of my local paper this morning. I'm reading Eddie Goldenberg's book right now and one point he makes is that the so-called "snubs" are usually just oversights and are rarely intentional. So I wouldn't read much into this.

6. Ditch the penny!

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Trust Restored

After a year long investigation it seems the infamous income trust investigation has finally run its course:

A top official at the department of finance has been charged in connection with the income trust scandal that erupted in late 2005.

According to CTV, Serge Nadeau, the director general of analysis at the tax policy branch of the finance department, is
accused of criminal breach of trust.

Because charges have been laid, it clearly wasn't a witch hunt started for political opportunism (OK...maybe it was started for political opportunism, but there actually was a witch, it appears). At the same time, the Liberals get to save face by being cleared of any wrongdoing. So...start your spinning!

The NDP has called for an apology from Goodale and the Liberals for "[insisting] nothing was amiss with income trusts."

"[W]e now know that the RCMP have a different view," NDP MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis said on Thursday.

The RCMP income trust investigation exonerates the Liberal Party of Canada and shows that the Conservative and NDP allegations of a politically-motivated leak were false. The Prime Minister should immediately ask that his party withdraw their French attack ad that smears the reputation of the Honourable Ralph Goodale.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Proper Protocol?

Tonight, the House of Commons will vote in a law binding them to respect Canada's Kyoto commitments. This is quite remarkable since it is being done against the government's will, making it difficult to really predict how it's passage will be interpreted. Given that it will cost a lot of money to meet Kyoto and that the environment has become such a major issue, the government would certainly be in their right to see this as a loss of confidence and call an election over it. If the Conservatives simply call it a "nuisance bill" and ignore it, the opposition parties would certainly be in their right to bring forward a non-confidence motion and defeat the government on it.

I still don't think we'll see an election until 2008, but if anyone is itching for a spring vote, the mechanism to get there is certainly in place.

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Fifty Fifty

I've started adding a few comments here and there at Macleans as part of their "Macleans 50" project where an eclectic group of Canadians comments on various news articles. It's an impressive cross-section consisting of bloggers, journalists, politicians and pundits.

So, check it out.


A new Leger poll has Charest continuing to rise:

Lib 36
PQ 31
ADQ 21
Quebec Solidaire 5
Greens 5

As for who would make the best Premier?

Mario Dumont 28%
Andre Boisclair 26%
Jean Charest 24%

This will be an interesting vote to watch, especially given the implications on the federal scene. A Charest win would be a huge vindication for Harper's Quebec strategy while a PQ victory would let Dion highlight his national unity credentials a bit more.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Le Quebec Prend Des Forces

The new Tory French attack ads have been released and they go the route of props and humour to make their point. At first glance, I think they'll be more effective than the English ones but it's always hard to predict these things. Here's the quick run down:

Domino: Hits Dion on the fiscal imbalance which makes sense with the Harper-Charest gambit being put into place.

Porte: It's kind of cute. Tries to tie Dion to Adscam and features cameos by the Dion convention signs and a Jean Chretien puppet. Given that most Liberals would kill for Chretien's Quebec numbers, I'm not sure who that'll help.

TV Vente: They try to hit Dion on a lot of different issues here, including the environment. I think the gag seems a bit more forced than on the other two.


Monday, February 12, 2007

More SES

I don't want to post on polls 24/7 here, but there's some good debate about the new SES poll on the other thread and many of my favourite bloggers have said these numbers are not at all good for Dion. So I decided to dig a little deeper...

I think the problem stems from people comparing Dion's numbers to Martin's on election night and Harper's to Harper on election night. In reality, the dynamics have completely shifted since then. We're not in a campaign and the Liberals are now the opposition party while the Tories are in power. The sitting PM always does well in these polls because Canadians are more exposed to him than the opposition leader so they're more aware of his vision and naturally more trusting. And, of course, they'll see him as a better leader because he...is...their...leader. Here's an SES poll from 2005, showing that everyone thought of Martin as a better PM than Harper...mainly because he was the PM.

So the real comparison should be between the positions, not the parties. Ideally, from some time like September 2005 when people weren't in "election fever". The oldest poll I could find asking the "leadership questions" was from Nov 30/Dec 1, 2005 (I averaged the two), right at the dawn of the last campaign.

Here's the comparison:

Dion 2007/Harper 2005
Trust: 20/20.5
Competence: 22/18
Vision: 21/19.5

In other words, Dion is viewed exactly the same way as Stephen Harper was before the last election. But before Liberals rejoice, here's the PM comparison:

PM Harper 2007/PM Martin 2005
Trust: 35/21
Competence: 41/31
Vision: 39/28

So while Dion is as strong as Harper was in 2005, Harper isn't the crippled PM that Martin was in November 2006. And that figures, given that this poll was done with the Gomery Report still fresh in the minds of Canadians (Gilles Ducceppe was the most trusted of all leaders!).

So my take home message would be that there's no need for Liberals to panic or for Dion to re brand himself, but that Harper should not be underestimated. With that in mind, rushing into a spring vote would be a foolish move on the part of the Liberal Party in my opinion because, despite some mis-steps, Harper hasn't been crippled enough yet to move in for the kill.


In the News

A few other odds and ends stories...

1. Nomination Watch - Richard Maaaahoney, quickly becoming the Ottawa Centre Bills, is set to go for the hat trick, along with three other Liberal candidates. Penny Collennette, Scott Bradley, and Isabel Metcalf are all vying for the nom according to the Hill Times.

2. Interesting news story on the bought headlines mini-controversy which has swept the internet.

3. If you're getting excited about the next round of provincial elections, here are a pair of articles speculating about the upcoming Ontario and Quebec elections.

4. Harper is promising 1.5 billion to the provinces for the environment. I'm not sure how I feel about fighting climate change on an ad hoc, province by province basis and I really have no clue how this will work. Since every spending announcement should be taken in the context of next month's budget and next month's budget will be all about the "fiscal (im)balance" and launching Jean Charest's campaign, I certainly don't think one would be wrong to view this as part of the "fiscal (im)balance" "solution".

It's Raining Polls

I've been out of town for the past few days so I'll be posting a scatter-shot of catch up news stories today. To get things rolling, here's a look at a recent SES poll:

Most Trustworthy Leader
Harper 35% (+14)
Dion 20% (Martin - 18%)
Duceppe 8% (-3)
Layton 18% (-7)
May 8% (Harris - 3%)

Most Competent Leader
Harper 41% (+17)
Dion 22% (Martin - 28%)
Duceppe 8% (No change)
Layton 13% (-4)
May 4% (Harris - 2%)

Best Vision for Canada
Harper 39% (+14)
Dion 21% (Martin - 25%)
Duceppe 5% (-1)
Layton 16% (-2)
May 7% (Harris - 3%)

The only one that really surprises me is the Harper numbers on "best vision for Canada". Everything else is predictable: Dion's low in most categories because he's new, Steve has the Prime Ministerial advantage, and the NDP scores well on vision and trust but low on competence.

But Canadians liking the Harper vision? Hmm....

Thursday, February 08, 2007

80% of Canadians think they're above average drivers: poll

A few of my fellow Libloggers were rejoicing over this poll yesterday:

The relatively heavy saturation was helped in no small part by the news media. Almost a third of the 388 respondents who said they'd seen the spots recalled them only in the context of news coverage, slightly more than had seen them only as paid TV ads.

About 59 per cent said the ads were unfair in describing Dion. Only 22 per cent felt the ads were fair.

And two thirds of the respondents said the information in the ads was not relevant to their choice in the next federal election, compared with 26 per cent who said it was relevant. Among the subset of respondents familiar with the ads, the margin of error is plus or minus five percentage points, 19 times in 20.

The problem with a poll like this is that Canadians will always say they aren't influenced by negative ads, even when they are. Negative ads are considered ugly and no one wants to admit they're affected by then - hell, no one wants to admit any ads affect their decision.

Ask Canadians what they think about reality TV and I'm sure 59% will say it's trashy...and then Deal or No Deal will come in at number 1 in the most watched shows of the week. Ask them if the media focuses too much on celebrity gossip and 59% will say yes...and then rush out to read the latest on Brangelina.

The relevant number in this poll is that 38% of Canadians saw the ads, a third of them on the news. So the Tories communications strategy for the ads worked beautifully. I tend to think the ads weren't that effective but that's not because they were attack ads - it's because they sucked.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Democracy Derailed

Daveberta has a good review up of Alberta Liberal Party leader Kevin Taft's latest book, Democracy Derailed, which was launched this morning at the Alberta Legislature. Since Dave is going into the eight year of his poli-sci degree, he's got a lot more experience writing book reviews than I do and he does a bang up job of it. Instead of a formal review, I'll just add a few thoughts.

Democracy Derailed is really a cross between the Liberal Party Platform and what I'd call "the Taft manifesto". It's divided into chapters on the different abuses to democracy in Alberta. Each chapter has several anecdotes, followed by action items a Liberal government would bring in to stop them. While there are some famous Ralph Klein stories, it's really an attack on the institutionalized one party "democracy" of Alberta.

First of all, let me say that it was almost depressing to read this book. As someone who has focused more on federal than provincial politics over the years, I wasn't aware of all of the abuses detailed in Democracy Derailed and it's just sad that the Tories get away with it and no one bats an eye. People in Alberta rant about Ottawa on end, but all Kevin Taft is asking for are the same accountability measures we see in the federal government and other provinces brought to Alberta. Taft makes numerous references to the mechanisms which allowed Adscam to be uncovered and is simply asking that the same openness be brought to Alberta - whistle blower protection, a real public accounts committee (the World Bank has said many third world countries have better PACs than Alberta), non-partisan internal auditors, and an auditor general with real teeth. The double standard is apparent in almost every domain. For example, freedom of information rules in Alberta are, to possibly make up a word, oxymoronic. Documents which are sealed for two years federally are sealed 15 years in Alberta. Requests which cost 5$ and are delivered in days federally take $6,000 and nine months to be delivered provincially.

Of course, this just goes to illustrate the problem. If you're reading to this point, you deserve a lot of credit, because most people's eyes glaze over when the intricacies of FOIP laws are discussed. Because of that, this book isn't going to quite sell like The Da Vinci Code and a movie deal likely isn't in the works (how about an all Star Trek cast with Patrick Stewart as Kevin Taft and William Shatner as Ralph Klein?). But it's because of the one state controls that the sexy scandals never come to light and never get legs.

Like I said, it's frustrating to read about a lot of this and Taft's frustration reads through the pages. Although I enjoyed the many quality Ralph Klein stories, the laugh out loud moment of the book was probably Taft's description of the lengthy debate to make "rough fescu" the official grass of Alberta which went on for far longer than most budget debates. Democracy Inaction.

It would be great if every Albertan read this book but that's certainly unlikely to happen. Instead, it should hopefully serve as a valuable weapon to "fire up the troops" and perhaps recruit a few star candidates to the Liberal fold before the next election. If you're looking for a quick read on Alberta politics, pick up a copy. If reading isn't your thing, then there's a handy website to check out as well.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Ken Dryden is not a goalie

Here's what we would have seen if Ken Dryden won the Liberal leadership...

Turner Turns

I've made it clear in the past that I certainly don't have much time for Garth "It's tough to live off a six figure salary" Turner. I think Harper made the right choice to dump him from caucus, and I don't think the Liberals are any better off with him.

However, Garth's extended walk across the isle does raise the question about floor crossing in our parliamentary system. Here's how I feel about it:

Everybody who makes up the government should be elected. They should sit in Parliament as they were elected. If they decide to change parties, they should go and get re-elected. To do otherwise is to place politicians above the people when, actually, it’s the other way around. After stating many a time that Belinda Stronach should have sought a by-election after her defection, how could I not say the same obvious thing now? End of story.

I think the problem is that Parliament is dominated by party machines who, during elections, pound each other to a pulp, telling Canadians they have totally different visions for the country. But once the voting is done, it’s all about power and position.

Feeling cynical? Man, you have cause.


1. Repo Creepo had this story back in January.

2. Garth polled his constituents back in October on what he should do. The results?

(1) Resign your seat - zero
(2) Negotiate back into caucus - 17
(3) Join the Liberals - zero
(4) Go Green - 17
(5) Stay independent - 31

(h/t Stephen Taylor)

3. Either Elizabeth May has the driest wit of any Canadian politician for she's smoking something:

"I think it's a good choice for Garth. As an independent, he's been making some good contributions to parliamentary discourse and debate and conducting himself in a way that I think is admirable," Ms. May told CBC TV.

"He had his time to think over what his constituents wanted him to do. This must be the message he got from his constituents."

But given Mr. Turner's turbulent year, she hasn't ruled him out of Green contention.

"He remains welcome to join the Green Party of Canada should Mr. Dion throw him out of caucus," Ms. May said.

I guess it's refreshing to see honesty from politicians but I'm not sure if Ms. May should go around saying that:

a) Picking the Liberals over the Greens is the right choice
b) They'll take anyone in their party

Scared Straight

Ted Haggart is cured!

DENVER (AP) - One of four ministers who oversaw three weeks of intensive counselling for Rev. Ted Haggard said the disgraced minister emerged convinced that he is "completely heterosexual."

Haggard also said his sexual contact with men was limited to the former male prostitute who came forward with sexual allegations, Rev. Tim Ralph of Larkspur told The Denver Post for a story in Tuesday's edition.

"He is completely heterosexual," Ralph said. "That is something he discovered. It was the acting-out situations where things took place. It wasn't a constant thing."

Monday, February 05, 2007

Green Answers - 1

Last week, I asked for thoughts on a few questions related to the environment as an issue in the next campaign. Since posting some of your answers with my own two cents tossed in guarantees me six post ideas, I think I'll take a page from the Globe and start my own little environmental series.

Question 1. Why did the environment suddenly become such a major issue? Something pushed it over the tipping point, but what?

Some Answers:

-An Inconvenient Truth

-Warm weather in Central Canada, strange weather in B.C.

-Dion winning the Liberal leadership after campaigning as the 'Green' candidate.

-The Cons fumbles on the issue, and subsequent public attempts to change their image on the topic.

-Media references

-The tipping point was Katrina.

-While we've been hearing about it for a long time I don't think that people really started believing in it until they saw the warm weather this winter, and the freak storms in BC. The fact that they're finally seeing proof of global warming makes them that much more concerned about the government doing nothing.

-Big issue because it is the media's new darling. Now, whenever there is a storm anywhere in our quadrant of the globe it's a news story. Global Warming is a godsend to slow news days.

-People love hysterical the-end-is-near stories for some reason. The environment was big some time ago-rain forest depletion,hole in the ozone,Earth Day. We've had national unity crisis/distinct society, Y2K. imminent nuclear holocaust, peak oil etc.The real story is how opinion polls reflect whatever "crisis" bored jounalists focus on.

-The question is not "Why did the environment suddenly become a major issue?" but rather "Why did the media suddenly make the environment such a major issue?" Everyone here knows that if the media decided Quebec separation was the issue to follow nobody would be talking about the environment.

-I think it's all media buzz. Not to say that the issue is unimportant, but a comparable amount of information concerning environmental issues has been in the public domain for decades.

-The tipping point was a Conservative government. Hurricane Katrina, An Inconvenient Truth, and an unseasonably mild winter all happened last year - before and during the 2005/6 election.
The existence of a relatively competent (and not scary) Conservative government meant that for the Liberals, there was more to be gained by galvanizing the left. In the leadership race, they effectively endorsed such a strategy by choosing Dion over Ignatieff.

-Oh and the other effect (a more long-term one) is demographic. There are 3 million new eligible voters under the age of 25 (so born in 1982-1989). They grew up with Captain Planet, and a lot of other consciousness-raising stuff. The youth voting percentage is up too, so that adds to the effect.

-The ball was rolling, but I really believe based on my family and friends that this winter has accelerated the roll.

-If I had to pick one "tipping" factor, it would be strange weather.

My Take:

There are lots of plausible theories above and it's obviously a collection of all of them. I think it would be extremely naive to disregard the impact the media has played in all of this. The reason Canadians are telling pollsters the environment is important for them is because they're reading about the environment in newspapers so it's fresh in their minds when they get asked to name an issue during a phone survey. I suspect that if you gave people a list of issues and had them think it over for an hour before voting, the environment wouldn't score quite as high (but, on the flip side, it would have garnered more than the 4% it used to get in these polls).

However, I don't think it's fair to say the issue has been created by the media. It's not like the media never talked about the environment before - just check out these numbers posted by a commentator (trying to show the issue was media driven):

From a search of the ProQuest database for Canadian media references to "global warming":
2003: 3,437
2004: 4,213
2005: 6,267
2006: 10,857

So even if the environment has become the new darling of the media, they've been talking about it for years. Columnists wouldn't write about it if people didn't care and newspapers wouldn't report on it if there wasn't some news. So the real question is what caused the dramatic rise in media mentions?

I'm not sure it's necessarily the weather, like a lot of people suggest. We've had balmy winters before, and between El Nino, La Nina, Santa Maria, and whatever other bizarre weather trends we've seen over the years, fluky weather isn't anything new. And I can't for the life of me imagine Canadians saying "gosh, I haven't had to shovel as much snow this winter - something MUST be done!!!". Plus, the real jump in public opinion seems to have occurred over the summer; this July poll was when we first saw it as a major issue for Canadians, long before the wacky winter weather.

I do put a lot of stock in the political theories some have suggested. The Tories raised expectations and bungled the file, giving the other parties a chance to make it a wedge issue. The Greens got a real environmentalist as a leader and the Green Sign Guy won the Liberal convention. It's been clear for a while that opposition parties were never going to scare people away from the Tories on social issues, so they needed something new to attack Harper on - why not the environment?

As for the increased public attention? While there are hundreds of factors, if I had to pick one, I think I might have to put my money on An Inconvenient Truth. People listen to Hollywood and I really do think that Gore's powerpoint presentation created a lot of "word of mouth" hype on the issue. It obviously wasn't the only factor, but if I had to pick one, that's where I'd put my vote.

Super Bill

According to the Hill Times (where I go for all my TV news), a 30 second spot during the Super Bowl on Global costs $98,000. I'll admit that, much like the PM, I'm not a huge NFL fan so I was mainly only watching during commercials to Lord of the Rings - anyone have a count of how many Tory attack ads actually aired during the game?

Sunday, February 04, 2007

PQ Stands Behind Boisclair...

...all the better to knife him in the back.

A few interesting excerpts from the story:

[Boisclair] argued that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was non-negotiable and should be the guiding principle in dictating what minorities, religious or otherwise should be allowed to do. "Reasonable accommodations of minorities should not impede on fundamental values such as the equality between men and women," Mr. Boisclair said.

Great to see the PQ embracing Pierre Trudeau's Charter which was "imposed" on Quebec, isn't it?

The article goes on to speculate about a February election call for a March 26th vote...six days after the federal budget comes down. If that's the case, one imagines Harper has given Charest the nudge nudge wink wink that he's going to be very happy with Flaherty's budget. Toss in the speculation about federal elections and that could make for a very interesting week in politics.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Air Ralph

I'm gonna miss this guy...

For those who didn't catch the story, it turns out Ralph Klein billed Alberta taxpayers for his flight to speak at the PC leadership convention.

On Dec. 2, the plane flew without any passengers from Edmonton to Calgary just after 4 p.m., picked up Klein, his wife Colleen, and Klein's top staffer in Calgary, Rich Jones, as well as a government security officer. It then returned to Edmonton.

The Kleins appeared on stage after the leadership vote results were announced and he gave his 11-word thank-you speech: "Thank you all for your support over the years. Thank you."

The four then boarded the same plane in Edmonton at 1:22 a.m., arriving in Calgary at 2:03 a.m. The plane returned to Edmonton, again carrying no passengers.

I'd be very curious what important government business Ralph attended to during his six yours on a Saturday night in Edmonton...

Friday, February 02, 2007

Friday Links

The groundhog didn't see his shadow today which means the Harper government is guaranteed to last at least six more weeks. Here's today's link roundup.

1. Vote Out Anders Part 82: A judicial hearing is investigating claims that The Conservative Party broke the rules in rushing Anders acclamation through.

2. Paying for those Attack Ads: Fundraising numbers from 2006 out and the Tories showed themselves to be a vastly better machine than the Liberal Party at raising dough yet again.

3. Oilsands: A couple people are going apeshit over Mark Holland's comments about oilsands development. What Holland is saying sounds less confrontational than John Baird's comments from two weeks ago and TDH goes into some detail about the practical problems with the system in place.

4. IT1: Adam Radwanski has an interesting post up on the income trust investigation.

5. The Green Paper: The UN has released their climate change report.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Harper's So Fat He Has His Own Zip Code

Like Helena Guergis, I too am quite upset about Dion's alleged "fat joke" directed towards Stephen Harper:

The Liberal leader joked that the exercise room at Stornaway -- the official residence of the leader of the Opposition -- had been refurbished.

And he said the new workout room would benefit his successor.

"Maybe Mr. Harper will have the opportunity to lose his (extra) weight now because we have this exercise room,'' Dion said.

I'm not so much upset that he called Harper fat, but rather that he did so using such a weak joke. Even Colin Mayes wouldn't find this one funny. They really need to hire back Feschuk because the new guy writing Dion's material is just lame. As a suggestion, I humbly submit the following to Dion for future interviews:

"Stephen Harper's so fat, he takes up more seats in the House of Commons than the entire NDP caucus"