Thursday, September 30, 2010

How'd this guy ever get elected as an MP?

Former Cabinet Minister Michael Fortier proposes that Quebec hold a referendum every 15 years:

Au risque de heurter des fédéralistes, nous devrions légiférer la tenue d'un référendum obligatoire à tous les 15 ans. Le nombre important de Québécois souhaitant la souveraineté n'est pas sur le point de s'estomper - voilà 30 ans que je le souhaite et que les fédéralistes l'annoncent et rien n'y fait. Durant une période de 35 jours avant la tenue d'un référendum, le gouvernement opérerait exactement comme il le fait pendant une élection générale. Des membres du gouvernement militeraient dans des camps distincts durant la campagne référendaire, une pratique répandue ailleurs avec la multiplication de gouvernements de coalition dont les parties constituantes se disputent des sièges lors d'élections générales.

The short of Fortier's argument is that this would allow Quebec provincial politics to move beyond the federalist/separatist divide.

It makes for an intriguing idea, but it's far too silly in theory and too dangerous in practice for it to actually happen.

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Democracy In Action

They can't agree on how to fix the economy. Or how to reform our political system. Or even what to do with the frickin' long form Census.

So what's the one thing our elected members of parliament can all agree on?

Nobody messes with Bonhomme Carnival:

OTTAWA – MPs took the unprecedented step Wednesday night of unanimously denouncing articles published by the country’s national news magazine, Maclean’s.

Maclean’s had published a controversial cover story pronouncing Quebec the “most corrupt province in Canada.” The accompanying article traced a series of scandals in that province from the Duplessis era in the 1950s through to the Liberal sponsorship scandal and the present-day Bastarache Commission hearings into allegations that politicians improperly influenced the appointment of judges.

But the suggestion that all of Quebec was the “most corrupt province” was too much, apparently, for MPs from all parties, who unanimously supported the motion from Bloc Quebecois MP Pierre Paquette “that this House, while recognizing the importance of vigorous debate on subjects of public interest, expresses its profound sadness at the prejudice displayed and the stereotypes employed by Maclean’s Magazine to denigrate the Quebec nation, its history and its institutions.”

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A message from

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Sarah Thomson's Martha Moment

In 2006, Martha Hall Findlay was the only woman in an 8 candidate field. She was a political outsider who earned high praise from the media for her performance during the campaign, despite lackluster levels of support. And when she threw her support behind Stephane Dion in Montreal, it gave Dion the momentum he would eventually need to come out of top.

Now, leadership conventions are very different beasts from municipal elections. But Thomson's endorsement of George Smitherman today, coupled with an encouraging poll, and a fiscally conservative message, may be just what the Smitherman campaign needs to turn the tide against the Rob Ford phenomenon.

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Monday, September 27, 2010

A Blue Wave Sweeps Across New Brunswick

The results are in, and it's a rout. Darrell Dexter and the guy in Manitoba are no longer the least recognizable Premiers in the country.

PC 42 (49%)
Lib 13 (34%)
NDP 0 (10%)
Green 0 (5%)

This may not be anything more than backlash to a Hydro deal gone sour, but seeing another government tossed out east will certainly cause many to wonder if an anti-incumbency wave is sweeping across the country. It's certainly something worth pondering, with 5 provinces likely going to the polls next year.

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Poll Soup: The House is Back

The kids are back in school and MPs are back in the House. It's safe to say Canadians still have larger things to worry about than politics, but it's worth checking in with the post-Labour Day polls to see if the earth moved while we were all on vacation.

Ipsos (released Sept 25, n = 1,002 phone)
CPC 35%
Lib 29%
NDP 12%
BQ 11%
Green 12%

Decima (Sept 9-19, n = 2,023 phone)
CPC 33%
Lib 30%
NDP 14%
BQ 10%
Green 11%

Ekos (Sept 8-14, n = 1,770 robo dial)
CPC 32.4%
Lib 28.9%
NDP 16.6%
BQ 8.6%
Green 10.7%

Environics (Sept 2-10, n = 1,918 phone)
CPC 35%
Lib 31%
NDP 16%
BQ 9%
Green 7%
Other 2%

AVERAGE (change since August in brackets)
CPC: 33.9% (+0.9%)
Lib: 29.7% (+1.2%)
NDP: 14.7% (-1.8%)
BQ: 9.7% (-0.1%)
Green: 10.2% (-0.2%)

The tracking numbers above are since August, but the more interesting comparison is likely to June. So what did Harper's terrible, terrible summer of Census, G20, and fighter jet fiascos cost him?

A whole 0.7 points.

The Liberals, meanwhile, did pick up 1.8 points. We can't say for sure that the Iggy Express is responsible but, still, if they actually gained 2 points and this isn't just random statistical noise then...well...good. That's nothing to sneeze at.

For the NDP, they've fallen back from their April peak...15% isn't a freakishly low polling average for them, but it's something to be concerned about if the trend continues.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Pull No Punches

Click here to listen to my radio boxing match with Stephen Taylor and Accidental Deliberations, as we slug it out over fighter jets and the gun registry.

You Know What's Cool? Not Caring About the Census.

A CPC campus recruitment poster talks about "how being cool means not trying desperately to be seen as cool".

Like the Conservatives.

The Wright Choice?

Harper names a new Chief of Staff


Thursday, September 23, 2010

If at first you don't succeed...

The people of the regions of this country are never going to accept being treated like criminals, and we will continue our efforts until this registry is finally abolished.”

The Count

Government doesn't have accurate count of who's inspecting meat

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency cannot say how many inspectors are stationed across the country to make sure animal health rules are followed during the transport of animals destined for dinner plates, according to newly released information.

Harper government ordered stimulus signs count

Civil servants across Canada were ordered by the Harper government to document every single sign posted anywhere promoting the federal economic stimulus plan, The Canadian Press has learned.

They've spent countless hours tracking every one of more than 8,500 signs posted since last summer, when the urgent, weekly exercise was ordered by the Privy Council Office, the bureaucratic support arm of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dodging a Bullet

The happiest man about all this is likely Stephen Harper, since the Tories can keep churning out the fundraising letters on this topic.

Gun registry survives: MPs vote to kill Tory bill to scrap the program (Gun-Registry-Vote)
Source: The Canadian Press
Sep 22, 2010 18:08


OTTAWA: The gun registry has survived a critical vote - but just barely.

MPs voted 153-151 today to kill a Conservative bill to scrap the program.

The result takes the hot-button issue off the legislative table for this session, but it's a long way from dead.

The Tories are warning opposition MPs the issue will be front and centre in the next election campaign.

They plan to target MPs in rural ridings who changed their votes after saying they would support scrapping the registry.

The Liberals have promised to amend the program if they form a government, while the NDP have pledged to introduce a bill calling for changes this fall.

The Tories argue the registry criminalizes hunters and farmers and has no effect on crime.

But a wide coalition of police officers, doctors and anti-violence advocates say the program saves lives.


Jim Flaherty's Rally to Restore Fear

Jim Flaherty kicked off his Canada Club speech on Tuesday with a call to restore sanity to our political process:

Opposition politicians who talk down our economy for political gain at every opportunity.

To them I say: rise above petty politics.

However, 5 minutes later, he wasn't so much rising above petty politics as belly flopping in:

But the opposition coalition – the Michael Ignatieff-NDP-Bloc Québécois coalition – has been consistent in one thing, if only one thing.

From the beginning of the global economic crisis, they have put their own self-interest above Canadians.


Just five short years ago, Canada was led by a weak, dithering, and directionless government.

Support for Quebec sovereignty was on the rise.

And our ability to defend Canada’s sovereignty was on the decline.

Waste, mismanagement, and corruption were rampant on the inside.

And regular Canadians – the people who work hard, pay their taxes, and play by the rules – were left on the outside.


Experts estimate the Michael Ignatieff-NDP-Bloc Québécois tax hikes would kill almost 400,000 jobs.

Coincidentally, that’s virtually the number of jobs Canada lost, but has since regained, during the recession.

Behind those 400,000 jobs are real Canadians, real families.

They deserve better than a Liberal leader who would risk their jobs, their livelihood.

I know he’s been abroad for a long time.


The coalition led by Mr. Ignatieff has its own agenda – power, power, power.

While their leader is untested and unready, their ideas are not.

They have been tested – and they have failed.

Bigger and bigger government.

Endless red tape.

Higher and higher taxes.

Any coalition that would give the NDP access to taxpayers’ wallets should strike fear in regular Canadians.

What’s more, any coalition that would give a veto on national policy to a party dedicated to the breakup of our country is unacceptable.


Monday, September 20, 2010

"At the end of the day, I have to represent my constituents"

Toronto elite Peter Stoffer (Sackville-Eastern Shore) decides he will vote against a bill to kill the gun registry.

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Right Turn

Polls out today show fiscal conservatives ahead in Calgary and Toronto.

Calgary (Leger, n=500 phone)

Ric McIver 43% (profile)
Barb Higgins 28%
Naheed Nenshi 8% (profile)
Kent Hehr 4.1% (profile)
Bob Hawkesworth 3.9%
Craig Burrows 3.6%
Joe Connely 2.9%
Wayne Stewart 1.8%
Alnoor Kassam 1.4%
Oscar Fech 1.2%
Bonnie Devine 0.8%
Paul Hughes 0.8%
John Lord 0.4%

Kassam and Hughes are actually out of the race. Likely a wise move, because if you're tied with Oscar Fech, it's time to go (Oscar's platform usually involves digging up gold buried under City Hall).

The results from this poll are hardly earth shattering. McIver has been the front runner for the past 5 years and Higgins is still finding her feet in this race. However, the news isn't all bad for her - 15 points can be made up in month municipally, and she is clearly positioned as the "anybody but McIver" candidate. Nenshi is still far back, but can at least spin this as a sign he's pulling away from the pack. For the rest of the field, there's little joy in mudville.

Toronto (Nanos, n = 1221 phone)

Ford 45.8%
Smitherman 21.3%
Pantalone 16.8%
Rossi 9.7%
Thompson 6.4%

This poll will come as more of a shock for anyone living outside of Toronto. Yes, those "Liberal elites" John Baird rails against are lining up behind a man who could become Canada's first Tea Party mayor.

For those in Toronto, it's not as big a shock. Ford has become the torch bearer for every suburban voter fed up with waste at City Hall and has forged a Ralph Klein common man connection to voters, to the point where voters will forgive his many deficiencies.

Luckily, as is the case in Calgary, there's still a lot of baseball to be played and many voters are just now tuning in this episode already in progress. Right now, the "Stop Ford" vote is being split - by Election Day it will congeal, presumably around Smitherman.

Still, the early returns are strikingly similar in both Calgary in Toronto - in both cities, voters have clicked their right turn signal, looking to the candidate who talks the loudest about cleaning up waste at City Hall.

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

And thus begins the new era of cooperation, with John Baird as House Leader

John Baird, famous for telling Toronto to "fuck off", now complains about Toronto elites. Suffice to say, none of Toronto's mayoral candidates will be making a lot of calls to secure John Baird's endorsement.

Baird slams 'Toronto elites' over gun registry

Government House Leader John Baird has denounced Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and NDP Leader Jack Layton as "Toronto elites" over their support for the federal long-gun registry.

On the bright side, calling Michael Ignatieff a "Toronto elitist" is a slight improvement from calling him a "Harvard elitist". It's progress towards a more civil political dialogue, and given the state of affairs in Ottawa, we should be grateful for any progress.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Stampede to the Polls: Naheed Nenshi

Previous Profiles:
Ric McIver
Kent Hehr

In the third instalment of my 484 part series profiling Calgary mayoral candidates, I look at a man who has been writing about how Calgary should be run for many years. And he's finally decided to do something about it.

Naheed Nenshi

About Naheed: Naheed is a professor, a Harvard graduate, and a writer. Elitist.

He's best known for his work with the Better Calgary Campaign and his op-eds about how the City of Calgary should be run.

(Appearance: 3/10, Functionality 8/10, Content 8/10, Uniqueness 6/10, Overall 7/10)

Although I wonder how many grimaces had to die to get enough purple for the website, it remains a solid campaign site, rich in content and policy. Of particular interest are the 8 "better Calgary" ideas - each one easily explained in a line then elaborated on in pdf and podcast formats.

While the site has everything you'd expect from a political website, it doesn't have the polished look or feel of most campaign sites. Rather than being greeted by a picture of the candidate and the Calgary skyline, you get a slogan and homemade Youtube video on the welcome page. And, you know what, that's fine by me. Nenshi doesn't look or sound like a polished politician and he's not trying to be one - why should his website?

Social Media

Ahh...if only elections were held on Twitter, Nenshi would soon adding mayoral hashtags to his name.

Twitter: 1,549 followers and over 3,000 tweets.
Facebook: 2,053 fans
Youtube: Around 7,500 views of his home page video
Blog: A campaign blog that includes attacks on the front runners.
He also has an iPhone ap (pictured to the right) for those times when hourly Twitter updates won't provide you with the Naheed fix you need

My Take: Naheed is brilliant and has, hands down, the best ideas of any candidate on how to run Calgary. So, of course, he will not win.

That said, Naheed has done everything an outsider with low name recognition can do to break free of the pack. He's released ideas, he's gone hard at social media, he's gotten his name into as many news articles as possible.

Even though a lot of the candidates for mayor aren't doing much more than taking up space, having a policy wizzard like Naheed out there talking about ideas is good for this mayoral race and it's good for Calgary.

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Friday, September 10, 2010

This will make for an interesting chapter in his hockey book

“Canadians are being forced to subsidize millionaire hockey team owners and that’s a misconduct."
-Stephen Harper, 2000

-Stephen Harper, today

Off the top, let me say that I'm not dead set against the idea of the government playing a role in the return of the Nordiques. I'm a sports fan, and the first website I ever made up was a tacky little "Save the Expos" tripod thing - I get what it's like to lose a team. So if we were talking about a loan or investing a few million dollars to get the Nords back, I think the payoff would be worth it.

But the proposal on the table is for $185 million, and it comes with no guarantees of a team. Gary Bettman has blocked several attempts to move teams north and likely would again.

It simply isn't a good investment and it's no secret the only reason Harper is even considering it is to save his Quebec City MPs. Choosing politics over policy isn't anything new for Harper, but I'm not even sure this is good politics. Consider the ramifications.

Money for Quebec City could rekindle memories of Mulroney's CF-18 deal in Winnipeg. In Alberta, where the Flames and Oilers are looking for new arenas, the editorialists are already describing this move as "almost Liberal in its optics". That's about the worst insult the Calgary Herald can dish out. And if Roughriders fans are willing to drive hundreds of miles, paint themselves green, and wear watermelons on their heads in support of their team, surely they might be willing to change their vote if the Tories choose Quebec over Regina.

Then, what do you do with Hamilton (and the many swing seats in the region), if they get a team? Does Balsillie get the same housewarming gift as Peladeau? And, as the joke goes, if Hamilton gets an NHL team, we can be sure Toronto will want one too.

Given all this, we should not be surprised to see many Conservatives skating gingerly. Maxime Bernier has broken ranks, though that's not a huge surprise - the man breaks ranks with the Conservatives over decisions on what to serve for dinner at their caucus retreat. More concerning for Harper are the "anonymous" western MPs voicing their displeasure.

I can understand the alure of the Quebec City swing seats. But this is a government that has been bodychecked on massive deficits, G20 spending, and an expensive jet contract. If Harper's plan is to run on his credibility as a sound financial manager, then he's skating on thin ice.

And while it's tempting to end this post with the "thin ice" line, I do have to add that it's positively baffling the Liberals haven't given more than a shoulder shrug on this one. They have nothing in Quebec City to lose but their deposits - hell, I'd imagine there are at least a few Quebec City residents who'd rather their tax dollars go to childcare than Karl Peladeau. The Liberals were burned on this issue in 2000 and they've been handed a golden opportunity for payback. As they say - if you've got a clear shot, take it.

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Thursday, September 09, 2010

How I Spent My Summer Vacation: Michael Ignatieff

With the summer coming to a close, a look back at the Liberal Express.


Wednesday, September 08, 2010

"Losers don't get to form coalitions"

Except when they do...


Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Michael Ignatieff Recalibrates

The Liberals released their new critic lineup for the fall. Among the highlights:

-Ralph Goodale becomes Deputy Leader. Some will see this as a slight to Rae who had been the de facto Number 2, but I think it's a welcome move - Goodale is experienced, competent, respected, and it sends the right message to the West.

-Guess who's back, back again...'Cause we need a little controversy, 'Cause it feels so empty without Denis. Yes, Denis Coderre is back after his one year time out. He gets Natural Resources, squaring him up against fellow Quebecer Christian Paradis.

-David McGuinty becomes House Leader. So it's up to David McGuinty and John Baird to make parliament work. Shall I cue up the election speculation or do you want to?

-In the "demotion" file, Carolyn Bennett gets knocked down from Health to Democratic Renewal (which is actually a good fit for her). Rodger Cuzner is out as whip - perhaps in response to this spring's "we look like fools" debacle.

-Scott Brison is back as the Finance Critic, taking over from John McCallum. It seems like the Liberals keep swapping between the two of them for that portfolio. While McCallum certainly has the credentials for the job, Brison's the better salesman and that's what the job is really all about when you're in opposition.

-Ujjal Dosanjh gets health - he's the former Health Minister so this is a good fit.

-Gerard Kennedy moves to the environment. Martha Hall Findlay to International Trade. Marlene Jennings to Justice. Dominic LeBlanc takes over in Defence, a sign the Liberals may try to make hay out of the fighter jet purchase.

-Justin Trudeau replaces Bevilacqua in immigration. Given Justin's riding and leadership ambitions, he'll certainly be pleased.

-Pablo Rodriguez stays in. Ruby Dhalla is still nowhere to be found.

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Stampede to the Polls: Kent Hehr Profile

Previous profile:
Ric McIver

For whatever reason, the city that burns Pierre Trudeau in effogy and hasn't elected a federal Liberal since 1968 has a habit of puting Liberals in charge. Dave Broconnier ran for the federal Liberals before making a run for mayor. His predecessor Al Duerr was openly Liberal. Even Mayor Ralph Klein mused about running for the federal grits, though it's highly probable he was intoxicated at the time.

So no one should count out the Liberal flag bearer in this race:

Kent Hehr

About Kent: Born and raised in Calgary, this former sports star was sent to a wheelchair at the age of 22. Since then, his list of accomplishments is long - one of Calgary's "top 40 under 40", the U of C's "Graduate of the last Decade" in 2005, and, most remarkably, being elected as a Liberal in Calgary.

(Appearance: 8/10, Functionality 8/10, Content 6/10, Uniqueness 4/10, Overall 7/10)

Like every candidate in this race, Kent greets you to his page with a picture of him in front of the Calgary skyline. Unlike other candidates, Kent sits in front of the city in a wheelchair.

Hehr's campaign has put a heavy focus on social media, droping the action buttons lower on the main page in favour of his Twitter updates and Facebook profile. A series of short videos can also be found on the main page, introducing voters to Kent.

Although there's a lot on the website, it avoids looking too clutered.

Social Media

1294 Twitter followers - Kent tweets frequently
714 Facebook fans
A couple hundred YouTube views, but four videos are easy to access on his website's main page.

My Take: It's hard not to like Kent. He has a compelling backstory, works hard, and is an all-around great guy. He'd probably make the best Mayor of anyone in the race so I wish him the best of luck.

As for his chances? He's still very much a longshot. I know Liberals do succeed municipally in Calgary, but I have a hard time seeing Kent significantly expand from his downtown base.

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Friday, September 03, 2010

The Recalibration of Stephen Harper

September 3, 2010: Guy Giorno, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s most senior adviser, is stepping down, as the Conservatives seek to recalibrate after a politically troubled summer.

December 30, 2009: “This is the time to recalibrate, consult and deliver the next stage of our plan that we outlined last year in Budget 2009,” said spokesman Dimitri Soudas.

A Propos of Nothing

August 11, 2010: Michael Ignatieff’s principal secretary and top Quebec aide quit because the Liberal Leader doesn’t know the province “from Minnesota,” Stephen Harper’s strategists say.

The gloating memo, sent to Tory MPs and supporters Monday, was inspired by the departure of Jean-Marc Fournier. A former member of Quebec’s National Assembly, he left Jean Charest’s government in November, 2008, and went to work for Mr. Ignatieff.

Mr. Ignatieff’s office has been a bit of revolving door so it’s not great for him to see such a senior aide, especially one from Quebec, leave.

I'm curious if Guy Giorno had a hand in that memo...

Thursday, September 02, 2010

End of Summer News Bits

1. Bloc MP Carole Lavallée is upset with Stephen Harper:

La députée bloquiste Carole Lavallée juge inacceptable que le premier ministre Stephen Harper ait écrit aux élèves du pays afin de les encourager à visiter les parcs nationaux.

Dans cette lettre expédiée en mai aux élèves de deuxième secondaire au Québec et de huitième année dans le reste du pays, M.Harper rappelle que le gouvernement fédéral offre un laissez-passer valide pour 12 mois permettant de visiter gratuitement les parcs nationaux et les lieux historiques gérés par Parcs Canada.

«Allez explorer nos montagnes, nos forêts, nos champs de bataille, nos forts, nos campings et plus encore», écrit M.Harper.

«En tant que Canadiens, nous avons la chance de vivre dans un pays qui a une riche histoire et une véritable beauté naturelle. Ce laissez-passer vous permet d'en apprendre plus sur l'histoire et la nature que partagent tous les Canadiens. En tant que futurs leaders, vous tenez le Canada entre vos mains. Le meilleur moyen de vous préparer à diriger est d'en savoir le plus possible sur ce grand pays qui est le nôtre. Profitez-en bien?!»

Of all the grievances I have with Stephen Harper, I must confess that encouraging High School students to visit National Parks is fairly low on my list...

2. Jack Layton's decision to hold a free vote on Bill C-391 likely means the death of the long gun registry. Again, there are probably worse things to complain about than a leader letting his MPs vote their conscience, but Layton and his urban MPs will wear this one.

As they should.

Layton has taken delight in mocking the "Liberal-Conservative coalition" and exploiting divisions in the Liberal caucus at every opportunity. On social issues, on foreign policy - how many times have we seen an NDP bill designed to split the Liberal caucus down the middle?

Each time, Layton called it a lack of leadership on the part of the Liberal leader. So if Jack is going to let a program he supports die, a program which was just called "cost effective and efficient" in an RCMP report - well, he deserves to shoulder the blame.

3. We likely won't have a fall election, but a 4 riding mini-election could give the political junkies out there their fix.

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