Friday, January 30, 2009

This Week in Alberta - Police Raid Tory HQ!

Well, not exactly - but close!

1. It came out a few days ago that the RCMP raided Alberta's Justice Department last July, looking for proof of a forged document that had been entered into evidence at an earlier inquiry. Also:

According to Moore's sworn statement, the Department of Infrastructure freedom of information officer who was handling The Journal's access to information request told police she was directed not to release the politically embarrassing flight log records until after the election. The warrant also alleges a Department of Infrastructure IT staffer, who tried to discover how the e-mail was altered technically, was ordered to stop his investigations by a senior department bureaucrat.

2. Since I missed "this week in Alberta" last week, here's another blogger's week-in-review.

3. The Liberals muse about changing their name. Like the idea or not, I have a hard time seeing this one get the 75% vote it would need at an ALP convention to pass. But hell, at least it beats the annual 2 hour debate on the price of membership!

4. Earlier this month, David Swann shuffled his shadow Cabinet, naming Laurie Blakeman deputy leader and Dave Taylor Finance critic. This prompted the super-awesome suggestion by Daveberta that the ALP name critics who are not currently in caucus.

Think about it. Your critics are already doing the job of 3, due to a small caucus. And naming critics from outside caucus would be a great way to showcase future candidates, and give the party a voice in rural Alberta (where I presume several of the critics would come from).

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Lean, Mean Shadow Cabinet, now with 50% more positions!

This move would appear to address some of the problems surrounding Michael Ignatieff's first shadow cabinet:

OTTAWA - Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff today unveiled new roles for members of the Liberal caucus and announced his nominees for House committee chair positions.

The Honourable Ujjal Dosanjh (Vancouver South), former premier of British Columbia, will assume the role of Chair of a new Intergovernmental Liaison Secretariat and will be consulting with provincial premiers and territorial leaders on the best way forward to secure stability and fairness in our federation.

The Leader himself will serve as Intergovernmental Affairs Critic. Mr. Ignatieff also announced the appointment of the Honourable Irwin Cotler (Mount Royal) as Special Counsel on Human Rights & International Justice.

Various chair and committee positions were also announced - of note, the young Trudeau finds himself as co-chair of the outreach committee, which is fitting given the number of fundraisers he gets invited to speak at every year.

The Dosanjh and Cotler appointments do feel a bit like damage control but, either way, it's a welcome move after the two were surprisingly left out of the first lineup of critics.

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Jack Attack

A jilted Jack has lashed out against his old coalition partners with a pair of new radio ads. There’s nothing overly novel about them – it’s basically a rehash of the same tactic he ran against Dion last campaign.

But, really, it’s still just the NDP. It’s like worrying about a leaky faucet, when there’s a hurricane warning. The main show will be the Conservative attack ads, which have yet to materialize. So when?

I heard from a Tory that their original game plan had been for a blanket ad buy right after the announcement of the winner at the LPC leadership convention, to run their ads then. Now that the Liberals have cleverly diffused that option, the guessing game is on as to when the assault begins. The Tories probably had to hold off until after the budget to do anything, but you can bet that hasn’t stopped them from scripting and focus group testing a few ads by now.

So any guesses as to the launch date? I’ll pick February 10th in the pool.

Oh, and as a fun trivia tid-bit, today marks the 2 year anniversary of the infamous “they didn’t get it done” ads.

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Taking your cousin to the prom, and other coalition analogies

The death of the coalition I can live with. But the death of coalition analogies? That's like, like...well, I can't think of what that's like, but I'm sure these pundits and politicians could:

Don Newman (Monday): "The NDP are like that student who made a prom date in March and now, come May, he's not really sure that they're still going together."

(Monday exchange on Newsworld)
John McCallum: "We're not identical twins."
Suhana Meharchand: "But you could be first cousins, right?"
Thomas Mulcair: "It's a marriage of convenience."

Chantal Hebert (Monday): "But now that it has been let out of the bottle, the coalition genie will not vanish into thin air."

Chantal Hebert (same article): "To make their coalition work in the current House of Commons, the NDP and the Liberals had no choice but to force it into a parliamentary straitjacket whose straps lay in the hands of a third party."

Chantal Hebert (still the same article): "What could be a creative manifestation of the parliamentary system will become a politically forbidden fruit."

Jeffrey Simpson (Tuesday): "Like a bad one-night stand, it was regretted almost immediately."

Jeffrey Simpson (same article): "It was, therefore, a marriage of three..."

Jeffrey Simpsons (still the same article): "Since then, he has brandished the coalition weapon as though it were a wet noodle."

Aaron Wherry (Wednesday): Jack Layton sounds a bit like a 16-year-old who just got dumped by his girlfriend.

Chronicle Herald (Thursday): “Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff blew up the bridge that bound him to the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois and dug a tunnel to the Tories instead.”

Chronicle Herald (same editorial): “It was a cattle prod with which to force Stephen Harper to massively intervene in the economy.”

Chronicle Herald (still same editorial): “The coalition was also a pitchfork with which to ward off Mr. Harper’s partisan scheming.”

Chronicle Herald (yup…same editorial): “It was nothing but a wobbly sawhorse.”


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

And the answer is…

B. Not necessarily coalition

To no one’s surprise (except, judging by his reaction, Jack Layton’s), that horrifying experiment in democracy is now over with. In the end, the coalition threat certainly deserves some of the credit/blame for Harper opening the spending floodgates, so the whole exercise may not have been in vain.

So what is to be made of Ignatieff’s response today? Well, for starters, he looks better backing down than Stéphane Dion ever did. I think the lesson to be learned is that you always need to cling to some kind of moral victory. Of all the Dion cave-ins, he got the most praise for what may have been his worst strategic move – Afghanistan – because he got to talk about “putting politics aside for the greater good”, “compromise”, and all that jazz. In the same vein, Ignatieff can take some credit for pushing Harper in this direction, and by “putting him on a leash” he does it from a position of strength rather than weakness.

That said, the whole concept of Ignatieff putting Harper on probation is kind of silly. I mean, in a minority government, the party in power is always on probation. Beyond the good sound byte, what this does is plant a few election triggers down the road. Just as the Gomery Report was a ticking time bomb on the Paul Martin government, a high publicity negative whateverwe’regoingtocallthis report is a pretty good springboard to an election campaign, if you’re planning to fight that campaign on the economy.

I would have liked to see Ignatieff push the envelope a bit further, in the hope of squeezing out another concession or two, but after two months of brinkmanship in Ottawa, this was probably the proper course of action. For the first time in a while, our politicians are acting like grown-ups.

Well, except for Jack Layton anyways. But we all know that Jack, despite his mustache-accentuated frown, is secretly giddy at the prospect of being the one voice of opposition to the Harper Conservatives. So, in the end, everyone probably walks away from this budget showdown somewhat pleased with how it unfolded.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Budget 2009 Reaction: Do You Think It Is Easy To Make Priorities?

(updated at bottom)

We'll need to wait until Ignatieff speaks tomorrow to answer most of the questions I posed this morning, but the initial reaction seems to be one of reluctant acceptance. The economists on Don Newman's show both gave it a "B-", and all the provincial governments I've seen reaction from like it (more so than they liked Flaherty's 2007 budget, which ended the era of provincial bickering, anyways) . Hell, even Dwight Duncan was saying nice things about Jim Flaherty.

Personally, I'd give it a C. It's satisfactory. There's nothing in here that Liberals should have huge ideological problems with and I have a hard time seeing how a Michael Ignatieff budget would have been significantly different. But, despite that, it feels like a lot of recent Alberta budgets - a missed opportunity.

The electorate gave the political green light for wild deficit spending. This budget could therefore have launched a bold national project, modernized our economy, made our post-secondary institutions and research centres world class, or forged ahead with green initiatives. Instead, Jim Flaherty drove around town throwing twenties out his window to every group or industry that wanted them. As a stimulus budget, that's not an awful strategy, as bold projects often take time, but this budget could have been so much more.

I'm sympathetic to the political realities of the situation. But I can't help but think that the lack of focus stems from this government's refusal to recognize the problems we were facing until a month ago, and their refusal to accept that government can actually be a force of good in shaping the future of a country.

A few other random thoughts:

1. Ottawa will be moving ahead and creating a national securities regulator, which is long overdue.

2. On the flip side, Flaherty standing by his FU plan to scrap pay equity rules was completely unnecessary, and gives anyone who wants to oppose this budget an obvious target. [note: I'm trying to find online confirmation of this somewhere, although I'm seen it mentioned on a few pundit shows]

3. Also stupid, but more far more politically sell-able are 20 billion dollars in permanent tax cuts over 6 years. Tax cuts are great...when you can afford them. And you can't afford them, when you're staring down a 34 billion dollar deficit.

It will take time for the tax cuts to impact consumer behaviour and, when they do, most of it will just go into savings. So it won't do a thing to stimulate the economy. It's even a tough one to figure out politically, since it will receive scant attention amidst billions in spending promises.

4. I do like that the budget is short term in scope. 18B in stimulus spending this year, 15.5B next, then under 5B by 2011-2012. The key is obviously making sure the money gets spent quickly - given many of the projects involve three levels of government, and municipal governments are short on cash, that's going to be a challenge.

The plan is to balance the books by 2012, but knowing this government's track record on predicting surpluses, I wouldn't bet the house on it.

5. I can, however, renovate the house on it. Not a bad stimulus plan, but I would have liked to see it tied to environmentally-friendly renovations.

6. Andrew Coyne has his annual "this budget means the death of conservatism" post up and it's a doozy!

And when they decide to put an end to conservatism in Canada — as a philosophy, as a movement—they go out with a bang.

7. Man, all the hard right fiscal Conservatives are going to need some state-paid heart medication after reading this budget. Joining Andrew in the depths of despair is Gerry Nicholls:

The Conservative Party is conservative in name only. Makes me yearn for the days when we had relatively fiscally conservative leaders, like Jean Chretien.

UPDATE: The Liberals will reportedly move forward amendments to the budget. I really like this approach. It's a bit ballsier than just letting the budget through, and it lets Ignatieff claim victory for an issue like extending EI benefits in that same annoying way Jack Layton always took credit for every penny he shook Paul Martin down for in the 2005 budget.

And it's not like Harper can say no ("sorry we don't have the money for it. ha ha ha!"), without looking completely ridiculous in the process.

UPDATE2: Here are Iggy's demands, as per CTV. Fairly tame stuff.

1. The Tories make amendments that include improvements in employment insurance and infrastructure but without adding more to the deficit.

2. The Tories issue an update three times a year on the types of progress being made in terms of the deficit, infrastructure, creating jobs, and regional fairness.

UPDATE3: The Liberals who have allowed every Conservative confidence vote during the past two years to pass are now putting the Tories on "probation". This time we mean it!

Truth be told, the tactic isn't that bad, if only because it sets up convenient election triggers when these accountability reports come in. Of course, that's assuming this ammendment gets passed, and that's not guaranteed given that the jilted coalition brides will likely vote against it.


Budget Day

Leave comments here, as the fun happens. Updates will follow

Yeah, yeah, most of the juicy details have already been leaked. And, sure, the Liberals will probably let it pass. But, there are still a few things worth tuning in for:

1. Tax cuts? This appears to be the only issue that could cause the Liberals to vote it down - despite the leaks, we still don't know how big the tax cuts will be.

2. The coalition response. Not their response to the Tories - we know what to expect there. But their response to the Liberals if they decide to support the budget. I'm curious as to just how strongly Layton and Duceppe will lash out at Ignatieff if he supports the budget.

3. The coalition dies? Will the coalition parties keep the threat alive, or will they finally just admit that the idea is as dead as the days of balanced budgets.

4. The budget. Not as a political document, but as a policy one. In all the hoopla, it's easy to forget that this is the most important budget in 14 years. Just how effective will it be at stimulating the economy?

5. Ignatieff takes the stage. The question is not so much what he'll do - the question is how he'll do it, and how he'll look and sound in the process. This is his first big test as leader, and it's not easy to look good while rolling over with the whole country watching.

UPDATE: I'll more thorough analysis later but, until then, here are the Globe, CBC, ITQ, CTV, and Canwest recaps.


Monday, January 26, 2009

Days of our Paliamentary Lives Returns

After a six week hiatus, Days of our Parliamentary Lives returns this week, with all new episodes.

With all the twists that went on before the holidays, you may need to refresh yourself on the current plot lines here. Last time we left our hero Steve, he was clinging to his political life due to his steadfast belief that a stimulus package was not needed.

Well it's a very different Steve who returns tonight, ready to spend, spend spend! There has also been a casting change, with Stephane Dion leaving the show, being replaced by Michael Ignatieff. Will the government survive? Will Canada be plunged into a winter election? Will the coalition take power? (spoiler alert: yes. no. no.)

As much fun as the political insanity we saw in December was, I suspect this week will be rather anticlimactic. The central players have all learned their lessons (hopefully), and the Tories will manage to sneak out of this one bruised, but not defeated. That said, after what we saw before Christmas, making predictions of any sort is a recipe for looking foolish.

UPDATE: If you want to read the throne speech, it's a quick read. Full text here.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Shadow Shuffle

Although opposition critic portfolios aren't necessarily the most important thing, today's shadow cabinet shuffle was one of Ignatieff's first visible moves as party leader. So it's probably worth paying a bit of attention to his choices.

1. Ignatieff’s two leadership rivals clearly wound up with the portfolios they wanted - Rae to Foreign Affairs and LeBlanc to Justice. And with no deputy leader named, Rae pretty much becomes the de facto number 1.

2. But benevolence to the vanquished is to be expected. What’s really surprising is how well Rae supporters were treated. Of the 10 confirmed MPs backing Rae’s leadership bid, 5 wound up with posts (Savage, Kennedy, Volpe, Neville, Mendes).

3. I know this is being portrayed as a "lean and focused line-up" but with 34 critics and 4 whips/house leaders, half the MPs still got something. So, with that in mind, seeing who's out is as telling as seeing who's in. And, at first glance, the most obvious exclusions would appear to be Stephane Dion, Irwin Cotler, and Ujjal Dosanjh. Any of the three would have had a critic spot if he'd wanted one, so I take this to mean that the nomination battles have unofficially begun in St. Laurent Cartierville, Mount Royal and Vancouver South. (And, just like that, Martin Cauchon's ears perk up)

4. Ujjal's exclusion is a shame, if only because it leaves Western Canada with little pull. Goodale is back as house leader but Neville, Bagnell, Dhaliwal, and Martin wound up with smaller portfolios. Hedy Fry and Joyce Murray both found themselves on the outside looking in - somewhat surprising given the lack of female and western representation. Still, Iggy deserves some credit for standing up for Alberta au Quebec of all places.

5. Remember Ignatieff's talk of having a "succession plan" in place? Well, it's fairly obvious that, unlike his hero Pearson, Ignatieff does not plan to be followed by a Trudeau. A pair of Quebec rookie MPs found their way into today's announcement - Marc Garneau and Alexandra Mendes (yes, THE Alexandra Mendes) - but the Trudeau name was nowhere to be seen. I'm all for making Justin earn his way up the ranks, but his star power and usefulness in QP do make the exclusion a bit surprising.

6. As mentioned above, Garneau blasts off to Industry a few months into his MP career.

7. Denis Coderre is, not surprisingly, in as Quebec Lieutenant. Say what you will about Denis Coderre and his suitability for revitalizing the Liberal brand in Quebec, but at least he said yes when his leader asked him to take on a post this important for the party's future in Quebec.

8. By my count, 10 of the 38 positions were filled by women. Now, obviously Ignatieff plays with the hand he's dealt, but for what it's worth 11 of the 38 Harper Cabinet Ministers are women. What's more, with the exception of Carolyn Bennett and Martha Hall Findlay, none of these women are taking on what I'd call high profile positions.

9. "Ken Dryden will take on the new role of National Outreach Advisor, Working Families & Poverty, reflecting his long-standing commitments to these issues, and will also act as Special Liaison, National Fundraising." That kind of looks like a title you'd get by randomly tossing together magnets from a political fridge poetry set. Still, it sounds like the kind of thing Ken Dryden would be good at.

10. John McCallum replaces Brison in Finance. Again, not a huge surprise, but noteworthy given the importance of economy as an issue right now.

11. Fun matchups: Holland versus Van Loan, and Easter versus Ritz.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Mid-Week Musings

Can you feel that warm front of hope drifting up from Washington DC? No? Not yet? Well, regardless, here are a few random news stories that caught my eye today:

1) For anyone preparing for their SATs, here's a handy word association to keep in mind: Sheila Fraser is to Paul Martin as Kevin Page is to Stephen Harper.

Today, Page answers the question on everyone's mind - how long will it take Stephen Harper to undo all the economic gains the Liberals made during their time in power? You can read all the gloomy projections here.

2) The League of Below Average Prime Ministers Strikes Back! Fresh from their annual Christmas pilgrimage to the grave of Arthur Meighen, the League of Below Average Prime Ministers has decided to re-iterate their call for green infrastructure spending.

3) The Liberals are drafting their own budget up - it's unclear as to whether this will be made public or if it's a "just in case" document, but I like the optics of it. It shows you're ready to govern and that you have a plan.

4) Not that they'll need to implement it.

5) When I first heard that Iggy was spending his holidays finishing his book, I kind of had a "huh? remind me again why he was in such a hurry to take over?" reaction. But now that we know some details about the book, it's clear it could be a very useful political document. One of the biggest knocks on Ignatieff remains his time outside of the country. And I think it's a fair critique, since you want a leader who truly understands what it means to be Canadian running the show. Well, if Ignatieff can show he understands Canada in this book, it might go a long way towards easing some of the doubts that voters may have of him. At the very least, it will help him win the votes of the dozens of poli-sci students who will be forced to read it.

6) To drift off-topic for a minute, I must say that both BSG and 24 have been top notch since their January returns (although I could do with the constant monologuing about the pros and cons of torture use on 24...if I wanted that, I'd read a Michael Ignatieff essay. I kid, I kid.). Tonight, Lost is back with a vengeance. Woo!

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Mr. President

Monday, January 19, 2009

January Poll Dance

It's debatable how much stock we should be placing in the polls until Ignatieff gets a chance to fully define himself. So rather than going bonkers over every poll that gets released, I think I'll just do a once-a-month round-up to get a rough lay of the land.

So here's what Canadians have been telling pollsters of late:

Angus Reid (Jan 14-15, 1000 online)
CPC 39%
Lib 30%
NDP 17%
BQ 9%
Green 5%

Strategic Counsel (Jan 12-14, 1000 telephone)
CPC 36%
Lib 30%
NDP 18%
BQ 11%
Green 5%

Ipsos Reid (Jan 6-8, 1000 telephone)
CPC 39%
Lib 28%
NDP 15%
BQ 8%
Green 9%

Nanos (Jan 3-7, 1000 telephone)
CPC 33%
Lib 34%
NDP 19%
BQ 7%
Green 7%

CPC 36.75%
Lib 30.5%
NDP 17.25%
BQ 8.75%
Green 6.5%

So, taken as a whole, it appears we're back to the 6-point holding pattern, which has generally been the norm since 2006. Despite this, there is some good news in Liberal land - Harper's "coalition bounce" is gone, the Grits are up in Quebec in every one of these polls, and Ignatieff is doing better on the "best PM" question than Dion ever did.

And all of that, is the context you can be sure the parties will be keeping in mind, as they decide how to approach the upcoming budget.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Renewal by Committee

I didn't have time to add my two cents yesterday to the news of a new Liberal renewal committee, so here goes.

As others have pointed out, the renewal committee is undeniably stacked with Ignatieff supporters - by my count, 7 of the 9 were part of his leadership campaign, while I believe Girard and Crawley were neutral. To ensure a greater debate of ideas, and to avoid the optics of Ignatieff imposing his position top down, it would have been nice to see someone like a Tom Axworthy or Gerard Kennedy involved.

Still, it's not a bad list of Liberals, and Navdeep Bains and Steve MacKinnon are certainly good choices as chairs. Bains is young and has been very vocal about the need for reform - you can read his thoughts on party renewal in this Globe & Mail round table. In it, he argues for a streamlined fundraising process, a weighted one member one vote system, and an empowering of riding association presidents. Steve MacKinnon is also a good choice, as he was key in pushing forward the constitutional changes that were passed at the last convention. He called me up a few years ago out of the blue to talk about the need for a national membership after I'd posted on that topic and, based on our conversation, it was clear he understood that the LPC must modernize itself, if it hopes to be succesful.

Further complicating things is the announcement today of the "change commission", chaired by Carolyn Bennett, party president Doug Ferguson, and Brigitte Garceau. I have also heard rumours that a new committee will be established, tasked with studying ways to reduce the number of redundant commissions in the LPC. Just kidding. Maybe.

Reading over their "job descriptions", it appears that the renewal committee will be focused on structural changes to the party constitution. I've heard a lot of rumours about a desire in some circles to abolish the PTAs in a bid to streamline the party, so I can only assume this committee will be the vehicle to propose those changes. I have some concerns about this, but I'll wait and see what their final recommendations are before passing judgement.

The change commission's mandate to focus on "long term changes to the Party’s engagement, communications, fundraising, policy, and election-readiness strategies" is far more important in my opinion. My advice for this commission would be to listen to Liberals - I've heard a lot of good ideas by Liberals outside of the party's power structure, so it will be important for this commission to take all suggestions to heart. It will also be important for them to look beyond our own party and our own borders, to see what other groups have done to successfully re-invigorate their membership and boost fundraising totals. The obvious case study in this is the Dean-Obama Democrats, but there are plenty of other movements we could learn a thing or two from.

Finally, the most important thing will be for the party to actual listen to them. The Red Ribbon Commission's renewal report was forgotten before it was even drafted and, living in the age of perpetual election readiness, it will be tempting to talk about change rather than actually enacting it.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Renewal Watch

OTTAWA – Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff today announced the establishment of a special committee to ensure the Liberal Party is well equipped during this critical period of reform and rejuvenation.

“Renewal will take many forms,” said Mr. Ignatieff. “It is my hope the Liberal Party of Canada will be guided by the views of each and every one of its members as we think about our policies, our structures and our methods of engaging with Canadians.”

Mr. Ignatieff said the special committee on party renewal will take into consideration the implementation of the 2006 reforms undertaken by the “Red Ribbon” task force and the ensuing constitutional amendments adopted at the Montreal convention.

It will also make key recommendations on common areas of inquiry suggested by grassroots Liberals from across the country. These include:

· the leadership selection process;
· the federated structure of the party;
· the contributions of Commissions to achieving equitable representation in the party and the pursuit of our electoral objectives; and
· the development of a clear process and tools for connecting grassroots policy development to all levels of the party. This, plus a mechanism for the review of these ideas, will facilitate feedback and encourage grassroots involvement.

The committee will be chaired by former national director Steve MacKinnon and will be co-chaired by the Honourable Navdeep Bains. It will be comprised of prominent Liberals Mike Crawley, Kelly Regan, Nancy Girard, and Joan Bourassa, as well as caucus members Bonnie Crombie, Pablo Rodriguez and Senator Grant Mitchell.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Don't let the shoe hit you on the way out

Poll: Bush worse than Nixon

Hat Tip - Dan Cook


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Who Wants to be a CTV Host?

In the wake of the bombshell report about internal dissension at CTV, anonymous TV personalities have confided with Calgary Grit that there are growing concerns at Globemedia over an internal bloodbath over the Clark-Thompson showdown for the host position at Mike Duffy Live.

Further complicating the issue is an exclusive Strategic Counsel Globe/CTV poll which shows both front runners trailling Don Newman badly in key battleground markets on a dozen host attributes including "cutting through spin", "being fair with the time", and "feigned interest with boring guests".

As a result, CTV insiders are quietly talking about other candidates entering the race. I have placed a poll with the rumoured names below, and included brief arguments for and against some of the dark horse candidates.

Who Should be the Next Host of "On The Hill"
AKA - Who is the next Senator in waiting?
Rosemary Thompson
Bob Clark
Graham Richardson
Bob Fife
Jane Taber
David Akin
Charles Adler
Steve Paiken
Kady O'Malley
Ben Mulroney
Jason Cherniak
Jean Lapierre
Joe the Plumber
Monte Solberg
See Results

Kady O'Malley

PROS: Can live-blog her own shows as she interviews guests. "5:23 pm: I am currently rolling my eyes as I listen to Adler and Rutherford blow hot air. Now my producer is yelling at me to stop typing on my blackberry and listen to my guests..."

CONS: Show's extensive coverage of Senate sub-committee hearings may lead to decreased ratings.

Jason Cherniak

PROS: As influential as the mainstream media.

CONS: CTV can obviously live with partisanship. But Liberal partisanship?

Ben Mulroney

PROS: Has star power. Opens up cross-promotional opportunities for CTV - "tune in Tuesday when this week's celebrity guest judge on Canadian Idol is Tim Powers".

CONS: May be difficult for audience to believe anything said by someone named "Mulroney".

Jean Lapierre

PROS: Media personality. Thinks he understands Quebec well. Has been a member of most political parties in Ottawa at one time or another, so he is well connected.

CONS: If bosses make a decision he dislikes, there is always a danger he may quit in a huff and found his own TV network.

Joe the Plumber

PROS: Media personality. Expert on foreign policy.

CONS: Not conservative enough.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Moving Day

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Steve Speaks

MacLean's has an in depth interview with Stephen Harper, which has generated a fair amount of online buzz.

Paul Wells thinks it's newsworthy that Harper will include the abolition of public financing as part of his next campaign platform. Given what we saw last campaign, I think it's newsworthy that this means Harper will have a platform next campaign.

Regardless, one answer from Harper caught my eye. I reproduce it here, with my comments added in:

Q: Do you think it’s fair to say that the big-spending liberals of Canada and North America are taking advantage of the political situation to drive through more of their ideological agenda?

A: Well, look, this is a risk. First of all there’s nothing—I should be clear—there’s nothing unconservative about running deficits during a recession.

Well, duh. Let's look. The conservatives in the States have run up a trillion dollar deficit. The Conservatives in Canada will run a 30-40 billion dollar deficit this year - Canada's biggest deficit since...the last time we had Conservatives in power. In fact, Harper's 2006 balanced budget (a product of 13 years of Liberal government) was the first balanced Conservative budget in Canada in 90 years.

No, on this point, Harper and I are in complete agreement. There is nothing unconservative about running deficits.

There’s actually pretty strong economic theory that would indicate that you don’t start raising taxes and reducing government economic activity during a downturn, but what we’ve got to be sure of as we enter a deficit [is] that those spending measures are short-term and that we’re in a position where, as the economy recovers, we move back into surplus.

Huh? Captain GST-cut, who eschewed the carbon tax is suddenly listening to economists?

And obviously the risk the government faces is that this becomes an excuse for permanent long-term spending that is, in fact, not stimulative, it’s just simply big government that becomes a burden on the economy.

True. It would be a shame to spend for the sake of spending in good economic times. Of course, this ignores the fact that Jim Flaherty is the biggest spending finance minister in the history of Canada.

That is a significant risk, which is why I think it’s important to have a Conservative government managing this kind of program.

Again, can someone explain to me why the Conservatives should be considered better economic managers when every shred of evidence in our country's history points to the exact opposite conclusion?

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Rookie Calgary Buffalo MLA Kent Hehr has put forward a private members bill in an attempt to curb gun violence in Alberta.

What grabbed my attention with this was not so much the obvious politics of an inner city MLA getting tough with gang violence or the merits of the bill. No, what impresses me about this is Hehr's use of new media to build a grass roots campaign to build buzz around his bill. In addition to the obvious facebook group, Hehr has set up a website that collects contact information from interested Albertans and gives you the opportunity to spread the message virally. The e-mail invite directing me to the site was also cc'd to Ed Stelmach automatically, and the site makes it incredibly easy for you to contact your MLA.

So a tip of the hat to Kent Hehr...these sort of the campaigns are certainly the future of politics.

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Monday, January 12, 2009

CTV Leadership Crisis Ready To Explode: Anonymous Source

The Hill Times begins speculating on who the next host of Mike Duffy Live On The Hill will be. And since the media loves baseless speculation about political leadership races, perhaps we should all begin some rampant speculation about this media leadership race, oui?

So, to get the ball rolling, I will confirm that anonymous CTV employees are none too happy about the selection of Graham Richardson as interim host (especially after earlier reports that John McCallum would get the job). Many programing strategists feel that in these turbulent political times, it is essential to have a permanent host in place so as to not appear divided. Senior members of Globemedia are privately concerned that not naming a permanent host by the time Harper's January 27th throne speech is read would create a leadership vacuum that Don Newman could exploit. As a result, many are quietly urging the appointment of Tom Clark as host, even if this means that not all the other candidates will be fully vetted for the job.

However, well-connected media insiders say that Rosemary Thompson would prefer a longer hiring period, as this would allow her grass roots campaign to gather momentum. Sources close to Rosie confirm that many viewers are concerned about Tom Clark's time outside of the country as Washington Bureau chief, and this could become her main campaign wedge issue.

Rest assured, we will all be following this CTV leadership crisis with bated breath.

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Stephane Dion in Bed with Exxon!

Damn that pro-big oil tax on everything!

Hat Tip - agrdt


"The Dilemma Between Antigone and Creon"

As you might imagine, the conversation is a bit weighty, but how can you not be at least curious to listen to an hour of Michael Ignatieff interviewing Pierre Trudeau?

Hat Tip - Red Tory

Friday, January 09, 2009

You May Now Be Seated

John Tory's Awesome Quest for the Golden Seat has gone into overtime, but it may finally be nearing its conclusion.

And the tory making the supreme sacrifice for Tory? It's Laurie Scott, a young woman whose stock in the party had been on the rise. Go figure. Regardless, the Tory side show can be expected to continue for a few more months while he campaigns in the by election. Which means it may not be until next fall before Tory takes his seat on the opposition benches at Queen's Park, effectively giving McGuinty a free ride for the first half of his third term in office.

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Thursday, January 08, 2009

More Stimulating Debate

I spent my breakfast yesterday at the Economic Club's annual chief economist breakfast thingy - the news recap can be found here, with some economic polling data here. Although listening to economists at 7:30 am can be a chore, I was prepared to stay awake since, unlike Stephen Harper, these were real economists.

Before long, the talk turned to Deficit Jim's upcoming budget and what kind of stimulus we can expect (spoiler alert: not this one). I believe it was Don Drummond who made a series of good points, which I paraphrase here:

1. Given the scope of the problem and the fact that it was created outside of Canada, it's unlikely that whatever stimulus we bring in will be particularly effective in turning things around. However, it's a great opportunity to work on infrastructure projects now that costs are cheaper - so as to avoid the mess the PCs got Alberta into by building in a heated economy.

2. The stimulus needs to be used on projects that are immediate and it must be temporary in nature (sorry Dean). Immediate so that we don't need to wait to see the benefits, and temporary so that we can balance the books once things pick up.

3. Temporary tax cuts are about the worst possible thing Flaherty could do. In the US, they only injected about 10 cents on the dollar into the economy and, as we all know, reversing a "temporary" tax cut is a difficult political move to make down the road.

4. As one of the other economists pointed out, it rarely does any good to inject money into dying industries.

So what does it all mean? Well, the best thing the Tories could do would be to use this crisis as a "get out of surplus free" card and do some real long term good for Canada. Improve our infrastructure. Green the country. Create national projects that we'll benefit from for years to come.

Will they do that? Well, given this government's all consuming preference for short-term political pay-offs, I wouldn't hold my breath.


New meaning to the term "stimulus package"

US porn industry seeks multi-billion dollar bailout

Hat tip - Kerplonka



Ottawa , ON – Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and Party President Doug Ferguson today announced Rocco Rossi will serve as National Director of the Liberal Party of Canada beginning January 26, 2009.

Mr. Rossi has served as Chief Executive Officer of The Heart & Stroke Foundation of Ontario for the past four years. With Mr. Rossi at the helm, innovation of the Foundation’s fundraising practices led to revenues rising to record levels.

I don't know much about Mr. Rossi, but if this is part of a plan to make fundraising the LPC's number one priority, then you've got to like this move.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Party Time?

Centre Bloq has posted some intriguing speculation about a movement afoot to create a new centrist political party in Alberta (picked up by the Herald today), composed primarily of Alberta Liberals and disenchanted PCs. C's reports largely mirror what I heard while I was back in Alberta over the holidays, although I get the sense that discussions about this are still very preliminary, and that all the different individuals and groups who see the need for a new alternative to the PCs have yet to really meld together. They're all talking about what needs to be done...but this sort of talk has been going on for a long time and it's debatable how formalized it has become, or if anything will come of it.

So what would this new party look like? Well, one imagines that its backbone would be current Alberta Liberals, although it's hard to say if this would be done via a rebirth or a killing of the ALP. The new party would certainly to sit in the middle of the political spectrum, and it would likely need to be led by someone not directly affiliated with the ALP.

Could it Succeed?

I think it could, so long as it's seen to be something "different" from the ALP - this can't just be a Reform begat Alliance scenario, it needs to look like a real coalition (although, I'd shy away from that word, for obvious reasons); that means prominent PCs would need to be a part of this movement.

But, to steal some prose from the great philosopher MC Hammer, PCs are unlikely "2 quit", unless the party looks "legit". Similarly, Liberals are pragmatic animals by nature, and would only abandon their brand if this new alternative is seen as having some chance of eventually forming government.

So it really comes down to whether or not there's enough momentum for the party to reach a critical mass of support out of the gate. To accomplish this, they'd need three things, many of them closely linked to each other:

1. Official Opposition Status: There are currently 9 Liberal MLAs in the Leg. Now, obviously all 9 Liberals joined by another 9 Tories would be the dream scenario, but even if you had 4 + 3, they'd get official opposition status and all the perks associated with it.

2. Credible Leadership: The movement would need to gather steam before an actual leader is selected but its electoral success would ride largely on the strength of its eventual leader. Dave Bronconnier - should he one day learn how to take a political risk - would be the best candidate out there, but a fresh face to the political scene could be the answer as well. Or, if you want a really wild idea, how about Joe Clark?

3. Media Credibility: This will depend on the success of the above two points, as well as from my initial premise that there need to be prominent Red Tories involved with this movement for it to have any hope of succeeding.

My Take

If nothing else, this should add some spice to the bland world of Alberta politics. While having yet another party splitting the vote on the left doesn't do anyone not named Ed any good, Alberta desperately needs a viable alternative to the PCs.

It's very much up in the air as to whether or not this new party could be that alternative, but there's something to be said for taking risks in a political climate where there is absolutely nothing to lose. It's highly unlikely the ALP will be forming government anytime soon, so this new entity might be the best hope out there of ending Alberta's 40 year run of one party rule.

In the interests of full-disclosure, I'm not at all involved with this group, and have a very low awareness of who or what their plans are. But I will certainly be following any developments with keen interest. Since, you know, there isn't a heck of a lot else to follow in the world of Alberta politics these days.


Who you know in the OLO

Ignatieff's office begins to take shape, with a lot of familiar names, from Aggarwal to Zed...

[Ignatieff] has yet to hire a chief of staff to run his office. But insiders say former New Brunswick MP Paul Zed will effectively take on that role – without the title – until a permanent top aide can be found.

Ian Davey, who was instrumental in wooing Mr. Ignatieff back to Canada from Harvard and who ran his 2006 leadership campaign, has been named principal secretary.

Sachin Aggarwal, operations director during the leadership campaigns, will take on the job of deputy chief of staff.

Jill Fairbrother and Leslie Church, both of whom handled media relations for Mr. Ignatieff's leadership bids, will share communications responsibilities in the Opposition leader's office as well.

Rocco Rossi, CEO of Ontario's Heart and Stroke Foundation, is expected to assume the party's top administrative job, replacing Greg Fergus.

Don Guy, a former chief of staff to Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, is expected to be named campaign director while Warren Kinsella will manage the war room, as he's done in the past for Mr. McGuinty and former prime minister Jean Chrétien.


Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Prop 8: The Musical

I missed this one when it first came out, but it's pretty funny.


Monday, January 05, 2009

This Week in Alberta: On the Ground Edition

I'm back from snowy Alberta, so here's a quick rundown what's new in wild rose country strong and free Alberta:

1. The Edmonton Journal has taken a page from the Hill Times with their annual MLA survey. Given the dearth of political intrigue in Alberta, finding out who the sexiest MLAs are is about as consequential as Alberta politics gets these days. Best hair, rudest, and all the other fun categories can be found here.

MLAs were also asked what superhero Ed Stelmach reminds them of - and Superman got the most votes (dear MLAs: seriously?). I'd be hesitant to pick a single superhero, but comparing Ed to Heroes might not be a bad idea given the convoluted and incomprehensible plot lines we've seen from that show this season.

2. Speaking of superheroes, what do Ralph Klein and the Joker have in common? (answer - and Dark Knight spoiler - at the end)

3. Also offering up an MLA report card is Daveberta.

4. New to the Alberta blog scene is Tiny Perfect. Tiny is a Dipper from Edmonton (as if there were any other kind of Alberta Dipper), and gets a hat tip for my next, non-Alberta, bullet point.

5. I'm sure everyone was expecting a lot of babies to be named "Barack" this year. But, there is one political power couple whose recent success has spawned a baby naming boom, as far away as England!

6. Given how this blog started, how could I not love an anonymous Alberta Liberal blog? Centre Bloq is new to the blogging scene, and is funny, smart, and willing to critique both the provincial and federal parties when they deserve to be criticized. Check it out.

7. Answer: They both blew up the General Hospital.

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Saturday, January 03, 2009

Dean's List

The Nation has a great profile on Howard Dean and the 50 state strategy here. The entire article is good, but here's the section that Liberals should pay close attention to in the coming months as we decide how to structure and rebuild the party:

As he prepares to step down as DNC chair in January, giving way to Obama's handpicked successor, Dean has cemented his legacy as a prophetic, if underappreciated, visionary in the party [see Berman, "The Dean Legacy," March 17]. When pundits saw the country hopelessly divided between red and blue--with the blue part of the map restricted to the West Coast, the Northeast and an increasingly embattled Midwest--Dean argued that the party had to compete everywhere. After the epic meltdown of his presidential campaign, punctuated by the endlessly looped "Dean scream" after the Iowa caucus, Dean took one of the most thankless jobs in Washington and turned it into a laboratory for one of the most exciting experiments in modern Democratic Party history. He radically devolved power away from Washington by cultivating a new generation of state political organizers and lending support (and money) to long-forgotten local parties, bucking the Beltway establishment and enabling grassroots activists. He rehabilitated his party, and his image, in the process. Dean's fifty-state strategy, as it came to be known, "fertilized the landscape" for Obama's fifty-state campaign, Brazile says. If his strategy is extended during the Obama administration, we'll find out what a true fifty-state party looks like.

At the 2004 Democratic convention, Dean, who was running Democracy for America, the grassroots organization he founded after his presidential bid, met with state chairs from around the country and heard all about their woes. "They were all talking to me about how hard it was to win governorships and Congressional seats and state legislative races because nobody would put any money in except in the presidential race," Dean recalls in an early December interview in his Washington office. He'd learned during the primary that year how much the party had atrophied organizationally, "lurching from one election to the next," slicing the electorate into narrower and narrower targets (remember Florida and Ohio?). The meeting with the state chairs confirmed his worst fears. "I realized we weren't a national party anymore," he says.

A few months later the state chairs asked Dean and the other contenders for DNC chair to give $200,000 a year to each state party. Dean enthusiastically embraced and enlarged the plan en route to easily winning the DNC race and gave every state the resources to hire at least three or four organizers and access to a high-tech database of voters, which became the twin cornerstones of the fifty-state strategy. Under Dean, battlegrounds like Ohio still took priority, but every state got something. That might not sound like much, but it was practically a revolution within the Democratic Party, which tended to view the DNC as a PR agency and ATM for Congress and/or the White House. "We had a great building and no debt," Dean says, referring to the work of his predecessor, the high-flying Clintonite Terry McAuliffe. "But there was essentially no technological infrastructure and no political infrastructure of any worth." The states, by and large, had been left to fend for themselves.

Indiana is a good example. When Dan Parker became chair of the state party in November 2004, his first order was to slash his staff in half after Democrats lost the governor's mansion. Indiana, like so many states, had been written off by the national party--the last Democratic presidential contender to carry it was Lyndon Johnson. But Dean gave Parker the money to hire three field organizers and a full-time communications director, the first the state had ever had. (When Dean came in, thirty states had no such important position.) In 2006 that staff worked on three competitive Congressional races long before the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) arrived. The party picked up all three seats that year and elected a record number of Democratic mayors in 2007. By the time the Democratic primary rolled around this past May, Hoosier Dems had been revitalized, and Obama--to the surprise of many--invested heavily in the state, visiting forty-nine times. On November 4 Obama won Indiana--a state John Kerry lost by twenty points--by 26,000 votes. "We're a poster child for the fifty-state strategy," Parker says.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Deja Vu

Something akin to a Quebec wing of the Conservative Party will be created in the new year, to get more organizers on the ground, mostly in ridings currently held by the Bloc.

Since, after all, the LPCQ has been such an unmitigated success story...