Saturday, April 30, 2011

Friday night

Did I make it? Just under the wire...

Have a good late night!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Gerard Kennedy clips from the campaign

A few videos from one of the all-candidates debates. The third one in particular should give you a sense of the campaign that Gerard's main opponent has run against him here.

Have a good one...more canvassing on the agenda today!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Peter Russell on contempt and the election

A video worth watching and sharing. Professor Peter Russell, noted constitutional expert, offers some thoughts on the election and implications for parliamentary democracy.

Chretien/Ignatieff rally in T.O. last night

Videos from the event, worth watching.

I also recommend reading this today. One person's criteria, one person's wrestling. Representative of the process a lot of people will be going through in the next few days.

It ain't over, folks.

Off to work for my candidate for the night. Cheers!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Youth Debate 2011

For those in Ottawa or online, it is being livestreamed. Seems like a worthwhile event. Idealistic youth from the major parties debating civilly, it could catch on!

Memories of recent third party surges: U.K. election 2010

A third party surges, bumping a longstanding rival party into third place for the first time in a country's recent memory. The third party surge is driven by a popular leader who performed well in televised debates. The headlines were dramatic. Sound familiar? That was the story of the Liberal Democrats in the U.K. election of 2010. When election day rolled around, however, the surge did not hold up:
The final results in Great Britain are CON 37%, LAB 30%, LDEM 24%, Others 10%. Seats are Conservatives 306, Labour 258, Liberal Democrats 57, Others 28. The MORI/NOP exit poll, despite initial scepticism when it showed the almost total disappearence of the Lib Dem surge, turned out to be pretty much spot on. However, this means the final polls tended to call the Lib Dems wrongly.
Ben Page and Martin Boon have both already commented to Research Live – Ben says “On our final poll for the Evening Standard on Wednesday, we had 40% of Lib Dems saying they might change their mind. We’ll all want to look and see what we can do about soft support for the Lib Dems, we’ll have to find a rational and reasonable way of dealing with it rather than just saying Lib Dems tend to overstate. We will all be looking at certainty of vote, voting history – the surge was partly younger people – and late switching, things like that. The Lib Dems were most likely to say they would vote tactically. So the support was there but it didn’t actually manifest itself in votes on the day – Lib Dem support was slowly deflating after initial Clegstacy and on the day fell further.”
The final poll numbers just before the election reproduced above don't capture the heights of the Lib Dem surge, who were even in first at one point.

From a later analysis in July 2010 by a pollster and a professor, they point to something called "Shy Tory syndrome" that has been known to pollsters in the U.K. but which may have been manifested in the 2010 election by a "Shy Labour syndrome" instead:
"...differential failure to declare their voting intention by those who in the event vote for one party rather than another, perhaps because they feel that their choice of party is currently unfashionable. [...] This time it seems to have been voting Labour that was regarded as unfashionable. In 2010 no fewer than one in five of those who actually voted failed to declare their voting intention when interviewed by ICM for its final poll – and they were nearly twice as likely to vote Labour as Liberal Democrat. Although ICM’s final poll prediction (unlike many others) included an adjustment that took into account evidence that Labour voters were apparently particularly reluctant to declare their intentions, that adjustment may not have been sufficient to take full account of what actually happened."
And UK polling report again:
So, taking all those into account, there is no clear reason for the Lib Dem overestimate in the pre-election polls. My guess is that a little bit was down to late swing, with other bits down to disproportionate response from Lib Dem supporters during the enthusiasm of Cleggmania, and pollsters having samples that are rather too well educated and interested in politics. As I’ve said above though, actually proving this is an entirely different matter!
Offered as something to think about as we head into the final days of this campaign. The U.K. election also turned into a bit of a wild card race and ended up in this surprising result that was missed by the pollsters. The comparisons aren't entirely neat of course. And, I'm sure this can't happen here...right?

Like two peas in a pod

Wendy Mesley's excellent report from the National last night on Jason Kenney and his pal and Brampton-Springdale Conservative candidate Parm Gill, private citizen but somehow visa handler extraordinaire. Kenney comes off just mahvelously.

The election through a TV critic's eyes

Food for thought from John Doyle:
And what truly struck me was finally seeing the infamous footage of Michael Ignatieff doing his “rise up” thing at an election event somewhere. He lists all the peculiarities of recent events engineered by the minority government and notes that “Canadians kinda shrugged,” or that people say “so what?” or “who cares?” in response to everything. He’s right. This is a shrug-it-off, show-me-the-hockey, let’s-watch the-royal-wedding, let’s-watch-that-Amazing Race country. The Amazing Race, not the election race, is what truly interests and engages us. The genius of the Conservative campaign is understanding the smug indifference that Iggy decried.

Now that the election is in its final days – though it will barely exist during the royal wedding fuss on Friday – the last TV commercials are being unleashed and add to my impressions of who and what we are. The defining one is NDP Leader Jack Layton’s “Imagine a Leader” ad. The idea, I think, is to posit Layton as prime ministerial. This is, of course, delusional. Also I’m struck by the blandness of the ad – those well-scrubbed, obviously well-off people in very nice, intensely clean homes or offices musing about “a leader.” What’s truly striking is the lack of energy and zest, and the complete absence of ideas.

This is part of that distinct set of Canadian values – indifference to new ideas, shrugging off chicanery, fetishizing hockey, watching Survivor. The idea that the future belongs to us is immensely attractive, especially as we do actually have the oil and the water. But are we ready and do we have the drive to take anything from the opportunity, apart from a handful of people making big money?

A week after returning home, I still say “nope.” That Canadian well of the energy of ideas, openness to change and embracing vigour has run dry. But never mind, American Idol (Fox, CTV, 8 p.m.) is on tonight.
I'm not that cynical but there are germs of truth here. Interesting themes to be explored another day.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tone at the top

Conservative Dean Del Mastro's interaction with Peterborough residents gets some attention:

"Canadian Conservatives Ignore, Censor, Bully and Threaten Critics."
"Call for Election Canada guidelines for Social Media."

Why would a Conservative candidate think that a Facebook page in his name can entertain interaction with citizens in this manner? Amazing stuff. While people may think it's small ball, and that seems to be the way Del Mastro is reacting to it, it's a part of the political climate that's been created in this country over the last few years. Kudos to the citizens of Peterborough who are saying enough is enough.

Tuesday: Election notes

Sticking with this format today since the blog is suffering from a lack of time, apologies.

1. Why is that? It's get out the vote time and I'm trying to put in a bunch of time this week with my local campaign. If you haven't done so, Liberals out there who are reading this, it's more than past time to jump in! There is still a ton of work to do and I can pretty much guarantee that the volunteer coordinators out there would love to hear from you. There are tasks for every skill set, age group, personality. And you get to meet great, impressive people working hard for the same things you care about.

Work hard to win, Liberals, this is a big week and it is far from over, despite the latest narratives, despite the polls. If there is anything we've learned in this campaign, it sure as heck won't be over until indeed it is.

See for example: "...there’s still everything to play for in this last week."

And this item on an Ottawa seat covered by John Ivison today that could go from blue to red.

2. Speaking of polls, there are plenty to comment on. But, not going to at this point. Ekos had a 130 seat projection for the Conservatives yesterday. Ipsos, on the other far away hand, had a 201 seat projection on Thursday for the Conservatives. Nanos is showing a likelihood of a Conservative majority as well. As one of my regular blog pals commented to me, "somebody is delusional." Not necessarily meaning that a given pollster is delusional, I took that to be a general comment on the madness of our polling obsession right now and how they are changing rapidly. As a reminder about how much stock we should put into polls, there were some words of wisdom offered recently, here on this video. Toward the end, comments to the effect: "Be careful particularly in the last few days...remember that polls are looking in the rear view mirror...think about your own seat...the party dynamics might be different in some other region in the country..." I'm not minimizing that there are some trends but there are also swings going on at the moment and the result is anything but certain.

3. This story as it has developed is looking like rank incompetence. $3.5 billion in spending planned in year one of a cap and trade program that doesn't exist. Said spending hinging on the cap and trade program. When questioned, an oh so quiet walk back on the web site occurs, followed by a public shrug and an aw shucks, ok, we won't do that. We'll just do what any "family" would do with their family budget and "calibrate" the numbers. Uh huh. Tell me a family that would plan key expenditures based on wing and a prayer revenues. Not responsible ones, that's for sure. Economic credibility took a big hit on that one.

Looks like there's more in the way of legitimate questions being raised today. Will Jack just walk it back and shrug his shoulders again?

A P.S. on this one, "calibrate" (at Star link above) has been ruined, Jack. Not a good word for Canadian politicians anymore. Waaay too Harperesque.

4. One of the big stories of the past 24 hours, Harper in his own words, ad infinitum. Get to know him. All over again. It never gets any better. I think there are some people on Twitter tweeting their way through the entire thing.

5. Lawrence Martin today, always worth a read.

6. Great letter in the Star on the vandalism occurring in Toronto and across the country during this election campaign:
It’s perhaps no coincidence that tire-slashing and other electoral vandalism is escalating. And while Stephen Harper may condemn it, one can argue that there is a link between these acts and some of his actions.

Take the attack ads Conservatives ran for months before the election call. While other parties have contributed their small share, Harper has carpet-bombed the country with attacks aimed at persons, not policies. There is a difference. And in opting for personal attacks, Harper sets a tone.
That's the gist of the argument, it goes on from there and is powerfully written.

7. Finally...last town hall of the campaign, still packing 'em in:

Monday, April 25, 2011

Monday election notes

A few quick items worth noting today...

1. "Ignatieff gives solid performance on Quebec talk show, but is it enough?" Yes, he did well last night in the big Quebec television performance with a notable endorsement by famed Quebec performer Dominique Michel.

2. Still too early to see if there's any uptick in Quebec from that appearance but the Nanos numbers are out. Big story does seem to be the upswing for the Conservatives in Ontario especially. Someone mentioned to me that the weekend numbers always seem to show that Tories just don't go out on the weekends, skewing the numbers:) But seriously, for what they're worth, and since everyone will be discussing this point, it may well be that the argument about stopping a Harper majority will be principally in Ontario.

3. If you missed it on the weekend, Conservative backbencher Brent Rathgeber was musing at an all-candidates' meeting on axing the CBC's funding. Dean Del Mastro, former parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Heritage similarly mused about that in November, 2010.

4. The NDP platform is getting more attention. Likely to see a lot more of that this week.

5. Another poll to read along with Nanos, this one citing widespread disgruntlement in the electorate and lots of uncertainty remaining.

6. And following from that poll, Glen Pearson wonders about who will show up on election day:
This is not a blog posting about Stephen Harper. Rather it’s about a good many Conservatives who are now without a home. I got to thinking about this proud man as I walked further down his crescent and a thought struck me that has been little mentioned in this campaign, if ever. What if the Conservatives don’t show up at the polls? It’s not beyond the realm of possibility. Something has changed in these last two-and-a-half years since the last election. During the 2008 campaign there were complaints galore at the doors about Liberals but largely silence on the PM. Spending the last four weeks canvassing has introduced me to a new form of negativism on the PM – his meanness, reckless spending of things like prisons and G8/G20 summits, his bloating of government. I’m not making this up – it’s just a reality at the doors. And a good amount of that is coming from Conservatives. They are no longer as sure as they were about the natural alliance between their own convictions and Harper’s direction.

A big deal has been made over and over in this campaign as to whether the Liberal vote will show up this time, as opposed to 2008. Good question. I can’t quite get a good read if it will materialize, although there seems to be energy at the grassroots level. But what if it’s the Conservatives that don’t show? Or worse yet, if hardly anyone shows? It has the potential of altering the outcome of the campaign, though few seem to be paying much attention to it.

Statement by the Conservative Campaign on Malik controversy: *annotated*

Yeah, this needs some help:
The Conservative Party’s zero tolerance approach to the promotion of terrorism extends to supporters of Khalistani extremism. As Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said, the Air India terrorist attack was “an act of grotesque violence and malevolence… This was evil, perpetrated by cowards, despicable, senseless and vicious.”
*Said zero tolerance approach manifests itself only when an April 6th endorsement of Conservative candidate Wai Young by Ripudaman Singh Malik becomes public on April 21st. It does not include walking out of the room upon learning who is at the meeting. It does not include immediate rejection of the endorsement. It does seem to include letting anyone present at the meeting, or beyond the meeting, maintain the impression that said Conservative candidate had the endorsement of Ripudaman Singh Malik for at least a two week period.
Ripudaman Singh Malik is not involved in the Conservative candidate in Vancouver South’s campaign, nor that of any other Conservative Party candidate.
*Is not involved, present tense.
The Conservative Party candidate in Vancouver-South was unaware of Ripudaman Singh Malik’s background or relationship with the Khalsa School.
*The Conservative Party of Canada would also like to sell you a bridge.
The invitation to speak at the Khalsa School was extended to her by its Principal, not by Ripudaman Singh Malik.
*And therefore, this makes attendance at said meeting apparently acceptable.
The Conservative Party of Canada as well as the Conservative candidate in Vancouver South reject any endorsement from individuals such as Ripudaman Singh Malik.
*Except for a two week period, and only after public disclosure of said endorsement, see above.
We also reiterate our clear and unequivocal repudiation of those who would bring their violent, extreme, or hateful prejudices to Canada.
*Clear and unequivocal having an alternative, less clear and less unequivocal meaning in the Conservative universe.

One other item here...Conservative candidate Young missed an all-candidates meeting yesterday: "There are reports she didn't attend the event because she was ill." Well, that just sounds like a case of Harperitis. An affliction that is common among Conservative types, particularly those facing political controversy. The doctor's prescription calls for avoiding tough questions, the unscreened voting public and one's political opponents. She'll probably be over it in about a week.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Ignatieff Town Hall

By-passing the media filter...pass it around.

Liked that moment at the 9 minute mark where the audience member asks a pointed question. Gives a sense of what's gone on in these town halls.

At the 20 minute mark...Ignatieff speaking about an anti-poverty strategy and affordable housing.

Also what is the big takeaway...the re-emphasis on the platform, the main planks. The Learning Passport and the education priority in particular with its great potential to make a real difference for Canadians. Stand up and push it from here on in.

They say it had an estimated audience of 500,000. Combined with tonight's 8 p.m. audience of 1.7 million for Tout le monde en parle, looking forward to seeing what movement there will be in this final week.

Get out that vote, Liberals!

"What would you do for a few votes?"

Above is the video from yesterday's Conservative event in Mississauga where Harper's supporters drowned out CBC reporter Terry Milewski who asked Harper a multi-part question on the Ripudaman Singh Malik endorsement of his Vancouver South candidate Wai Young. Milewski attempted to ask a follow-up. As you can see, it's a fine example of the media strategy Harper has had in effect for the election: "Unlike the other party leaders, Harper holds all his media availabilities in rooms filled with partisan supporters — a built-in cheering section for his press conferences." That's the first problem, stacking the deck in this way, disrespecting media who are there on Canadians' behalf to question him. Limiting them and disrespecting us in the process.

More importantly, it's a fine moment where Harper's instincts as a political leader were on display. He failed. What Harper should have done at that moment, where his supporters were egged on by his handlers to drown out the reporter, was put a stop to it. Stop his handlers, hush the crowd. That's the democratic thing to do. That's what a good leader who knows he sets an example does. That's what a politician who accepts the hurly burly of the political process does.

It was a serious question that was pressing Harper on whether it was possible to believe his candidate couldn't have known who Malik was. The follow-up question would help get beyond the spun answer, the tough on crime/law and order/terrorism shtick. It deserved an answer. But just watch him let the crowd roar and do nothing.

Have you ever been to a rally or political event when someone asks a hard question and the politician tells the crowd to hush and proceeds to deal with it? It happens all the time. Not in a Harper led Conservative crowd though.

The story's not over. Note that "...the complaint by Dosanjh alleges that Young attended the meeting and that both she and Malik "urged attendees to support her candidacy." Laconic Steve's response and Young's statement portraying her as naive and well-intended just don't wash. 

So the questions will continue. Harper is going to B.C. on Sunday where he has probably ensured the issue will get more attention. There is substance here in terms of Harper's hypocrisy. And there are democratic process questions too which have clearly grabbed people's imaginations given the video and reporting. Over two thousand comments on the Globe piece on a lazy Easter weekend, my.

Here's a report from Richmond talk radio yesterday (insightful audio at link). Candidate Young has learned well from Harper and his cone of silence routine:
Leaving an all-candidates debate in Richmond Saturday afternoon Young dodged reporters questions by referring them to her website.

"I issued a statement that is very clear" she says, "The statement says that I have no knowledge of this information and had I had knowledge of it I wouldn't have attended."

Young was then whisked away in a waiting car.

Meanwhile Dosanjh stuck around to bask in his handi-work.

"She has people from the Indo-Canadian community working on her campaign. Nobody is that dumb."

He says it calls into question Young's character.

"What would you do for a few votes?"
Great question in so many ways.

(see also)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Former CEO of Port of Montreal corroborates political interference by Soudas

The former CEO of the Port of Montreal, Dominic Taddeo, confirms the reports of Dimitri Soudas' Port of Montreal political interference. So we have another voice contradicting the PM and Soudas. 

Also new of a second meeting on the question of the new CEO of the Port that Soudas attended, at the Beaver Club restaurant.

Why were the Harper types so eager to get the developer friendly Abdallah in there when the feds have no role or business interfering in that appointment?

More interesting reading.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Friday night

Have listened to that a lot in the past few weeks. Upbeat, big, complex, loud progressive house, yes. That remix has been out for a few months now.

Something different, Kaskade on tour, kind of fun:

All is well in the progressive blogosphere this evening:) [Updated...more and more.]

Have a good night.

Duceppe's Easter weekend bomb

Interesting audiotapes someone has there, released by Gilles Duceppe on Thursday. That 2:45 mark especially.

Le Devoir has background today on the story and further, why the Abdallah appointment would have been favoured by developers. It was their top story.

From the Canadian Press report yesterday:
The calls, posted anonymously on YouTube and quoted by Bloc Quebecois Gilles Duceppe, seem to suggest an attempt was made by Accurso and fellow construction executive Bernard Poulin to influence a federal appointment. The postings of the unverified recordings include written notes alleging who the speakers are, and the people they are talking about.

Harper's director of communications Dimitri Soudas and friend Leo Housakos, now a senator, are discussed by the figures in the recordings as being able to secure the appointment of Robert Abdallah as president of the Port of Montreal in 2007.

"I'll start talking to (Housakos), if you want, if he's ready to put his buddy Soudas in the business. His buddy Soudas, he can twist arms harder than anyone else," Poulin says in the recording to someone cited as Accurso.

Poulin adds later: "Maybe he could come up with some compensation if he succeeds in delivering something," referring to Soudas as the "real boss of Quebec."
Note this on Poulin's reaction:
Poulin, president of Groupe S.M. International, acknowledged in a statement Thursday one of the recordings was an interception of a private telephone conversation without his permission. He is suing La Presse newspaper for posting the audio on its website.
Both Harper and Soudas have acknowledged that the Prime Minister's Office did indicate its preference for Abdallah as port president at one point, but he was ultimately not chosen. Abdallah, Housakos and Soudas all once worked at the City of Montreal.
Soudas and Harper have both denied the allegations.

The timing of Duceppe's release of this information was notable. The morning after the two polls showing his support declining in Quebec. Makes him look like the guy leading on the "standing up for Quebec" front against Harper, firming up his vote in those seats where he faces the biggest threat from Conservatives.

Something for Quebecers and Canadians to ponder this holiday weekend. To what end, we'll see but it certainly has to compound trouble for Conservatives there and maybe elsewhere too.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Trouble for Conservatives on the hidden agenda front

"Pro-life backers shaped Tory funding decision for Planned Parenthood."
Pro-life supporters successfully influenced a government plan to deny funding to Planned Parenthood, says a Conservative seeking re-election.

Brad Trost, incumbent for Saskatoon-Humboldt, addressed the Saskatchewan Pro-Life Association’s annual convention on Saturday and thanked its members for their help in killing federal funding for the group.
Soudas, whose word means nothing, said this last night:
A spokesman for Conservative Party Leader Stephen Harper said the government had not made such a decision about funding Planned Parenthood and that it had no desire to decide who to fund based on abortion issues.

“We have been crystal clear on this issue – we are not re-opening this debate,” said Dimitri Soudas.

Asked what Mr. Trost was talking about, Mr. Soudas responded: “That’s a good question. Brad Trost is a backbench MP.”
So is Candace Hoeppner.

Doubt? Raised.

See also this item that hasn't garnered much attention this week: religious groups creeping into the federal government's approved roster of international aid agencies under Harper to an extent unseen in Canada to date. Now constituting more than half, 15 of 28, and there are questions about the religious content versus professional aid delivery content of their work.

(see also DJ)

Developments in Quebec

Two polls out last night show the NDP in front in Quebec, CROP (online, 1000 respondents, 13 to 20 April) and Ekos (telephone, 1084 respondents, 18 to 21 April). Some thoughts...

First of all, as a Liberal, while I would prefer it if that movement in Quebec to the NDP was coming this way, I have to say as a political junkie that there is a refreshing aspect to this that can appeal to all partisans. It shows the power of the voters that the pundits, the polls, nobody has been able to predict or capture. That is the great thing about politics, the element of unpredictability and it's a great reminder to anyone trying to analyze Canadian politics.

That we are seeing these Quebec polls now, rather than say a week from now, also means it's game on and there is time for all parties to adapt there. The polls may change yet again and it's not certain these two are determinative, I'll leave that to professional analysts of these things.

What else is going on in Quebec? Last weekend Gilles Duceppe gave that strong address to the PQ convention, talking up sovereignty. He may have misread the mood of the Quebec electorate and it's possible that the polls showing his party going down in support are a reaction to that pitch. Or, it could also be fatigue with the Bloc which is more generalized, as articulated by Vincent Marissal on the Bloc's campaign:
Quant à Gilles Duceppe, il mène sa pire campagne depuis 1997. Pas de gaffe majeure comme en 1997 (il est trop expérimenté pour ça), mais il est tellement prévisible. Peu inspiré, blasé même par moments, et souvent hargneux. À force de rebondir sur les mêmes sujets, sur les mêmes vieux réflexes, le Bloc a usé ses ressorts.
Whatever the reason, if indeed Bloc support is on the wane, it's good news for federalists and we'll see if it holds. The Bloc waning, by the way, may also spell problems for the NDP if they view this Quebec uptick as transferable. It may be solely tied to the Bloc phenomenon.

What else happened this week? Harper fanned the flames of that Duceppe speech and now sees these poll results showing a decline in Bloc fortunes and his own party's in Quebec. That undercuts his Bloc bogeyman/majority argument should these numbers hold up. People in Quebec may have rebelled against that dynamic and started looking elsewhere. Whether Harper cares about his own party's numbers in Quebec, it's possible that he just doesn't or they've made the calculations that they can skate out of Quebec with their Quebec City seats, or enough of them, intact. Fanning the flames, as Harper has, it's shameful conduct that's not in the national interest. As an incumbent Prime Minister too.

It also has to be acknowledged that the NDP's campaign in Quebec seems to be paying off. I say "seems to be" since as stated above, we'll see if this holds. For now, disgruntled voters looking for a change seem to be going NDP. And for that reason, their policies may now get much more attention.

How this shifts seats in Quebec is a whole other question. For what it's worth, Hélène Buzzetti of Le Devoir has a bit of an analysis today on how increased support for the NDP might affect the seat fallout in the province. Not sure it was written to account for the polls late last night though, since it still refers to the NDP as being in second. In that analysis with the help of Jean-Marc Leger it says the NDP could elect a few but the main effect could be to help elect Conservatives and Liberals by the NDP eating away at the Bloc vote in ridings where in 2008 the Bloc was in tight against one of those parties. There seem to be more ridings where a loss of Bloc votes might tip a riding to Liberals than ones that could be tipped to Conservatives. But, if Liberals are losing votes in Quebec too, then such predictions might be less useful.

For Liberals, Ignatieff is in Outremont this morning, a bit of remarkable timing there. Also, Ignatieff is on "Tout le monde en parle" on Sunday, with a 1.7 million viewing audience and a big opportunity to reach out to Quebecers. As noted yesterday, his favourability numbers have been increasing during the campaign, indicating a possibility that the race may tighten in these final weeks. That appearance is a big one for him.

It's getting interesting again, game on, people!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Harper on allegations of political interference: "normal"

That's the upshot of Harper's response on the Dimitri Soudas issue today: "Soudas did nothing wrong in reaching out to Port of Montreal, Harper says." Those board members would say otherwise, those who felt inappropriately pressured. So would two of his own cabinet ministers who objected to the efforts at the time.

Soudas has a problem, it's becoming quite clear:
In February 2008, Liberal MP Raymonde Folco asked Soudas during a committee hearing in Ottawa whether he'd intervened.

"Did you meet with them (board members) to discuss this appointment?" Folco asked.

"No," Soudas replied.

In a follow-up email on Wednesday, Soudas said the issue of the next CEO "was discussed very briefly" during a meeting with the board on its priorities.
That email is a little different from a "no," isn't it? Why then did he tell a parliamentary committee, while under oath, a point blank "no?" This is a Prime Minister's spokesman. His word matters. That his boss thinks it doesn't, that matters too. What a web they weave.

What might the voters think? Where might this impact Conservatives?
Nik Nanos, the Globe and Mail/CTV pollster, picked up some concern about the Tories in Quebec during his polling Tuesday night – part of that disquiet, he believes, could be a result of the Soudas story.
Montreal political interference allegations, ethics letters on Bruce Carson...great news day for the Conservatives.


Carson story still raising questions about Harper's judgment

Update (10:30 p.m.) below.

Strange breaking news tonight on the Bruce Carson story, Harper's senior adviser with the many fraud convictions in his past and present day illegal lobbying allegations: "Harper aide sent letters to ethics chief on Carson." Greg Weston is reporting that Guy Giorno, Harper's former chief of staff, wrote two letters to the Ethics Commissioner about Carson in 2008.

One is reported to have occurred upon Carson's travelling with Harper during the 2008 election campaign. Carson had just left government to head up that Canada School of Energy and Environment, an entity funded by Canadian taxpayer dollars and presumably carrying with it a burden of independence.

The second letter by Giorno is reported to have occurred when Carson returned to the PMO during the 2008 constitutional crisis.

Further, news that the deputy minister of the Environment, Ian Shugart, also wrote to the Ethics Commissioner. That may have been in connection with Carson having been "officially retained as an unpaid adviser to the federal environment ministry" while simultaneously serving as director of the Canada School of Energy and Environment. Recall too that Carson worked for an oil patch industry lobby group, the Energy Policy Institute of Canada.

What the feckless Ethics Commissioner did here remains unknown given the rules of how her office operates, that's one thing. Given how the Carson story has blown up, it's worth wondering about.

The larger point, the questions here always return to why Carson was anywhere near a Prime Minister given his background and the ongoing conflict of interest questions.

The latest today on Giorno's letters also strains credibility that Harper knew nothing about ongoing questions about Carson, as he stated to the nation recently:
Stephen Harper says he wouldn’t have installed former adviser Bruce Carson in his Prime Minister’s Office if he had been aware of his past.

The Conservative Leader says he was never told of Mr. Carson’s full criminal record.

“Had I known these things, obviously I wouldn’t have hired him,” the Conservative Leader said after a campaign stop in Ontario’s Niagara region.

“I am [just] learning these things as well.”
Well did he ever talk to Giorno, his chief of staff, as Giorno was apparently writing up a storm to the Ethics Commissioner?

Slippery, slippery.

Update (10:30 p.m.): The PMO  has released the two Giorno letters referenced above. They deal with addressing conflict of interest issues in connection with Carson's continued intermittent employment with the PMO while holding that position at the Canada School. No information on the deputy minister's letter to the Ethics Commissioner there. No further light shed on the conflict referred to above, Carson's other role in that oil patch lobby group and his role as an unpaid adviser for the federal environment ministry, his attendance in Washington for high level bilateral meetings or for that matter, his attendance at an international climate change meeting in a similar capacity either.

Update II: See this Star report on one of Giorno's letters:
Giorno wrote Dawson on Jan. 23, 2009 after concerns that Carson may have been lobbying for the school for a $25 million project while on unpaid leave from the school and working in the Prime Minister’s Office.
Giorno was flagging an email sent from Carson’s account at the school to a senior bureaucrat at the department of natural resources flagging the school’s intention to make an application under Ottawa’s Centres of Excellence program.
Carson was hoping to win a five-year research project for Carbon Management Canada, a program led, in part, by the school.
“We . . . hope that you will be willing to work with us to ensure that CMC is best positioned to move to full proposal,” Carson wrote on Jan. 6, 2009.
But the day the email was sent, Carson was working for Harper in Ottawa.
According to Giorno’s letter, Carson said the email was drafted while he was still at the school and sent in error after he took his unpaid leave. (emphasis added)
Again, the questions remain, how much Harper knew about his adviser's acivities, such as this incident here, that was being defended by Harper's own chief of staff.

"What does he think he is? The king, here?"

This how does our Parliament work stuff has played out fairly well today. Voters saw two very different approaches on display:
Harper was asked today whether he would be willing to work with the other parties and table a budget they could support — as Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff has said he would do.

"I don't accept the question," Harper replied in Riviere-du-Loup, Que.

"The only way to avoid it (a coalition) is to follow through our popular budget. We want a mandate of the Canadian population to put this budget in action and that's what I'm pursuing in this campaign."

Ignatieff said Harper's response shows that he loathes compromise and consensus.

"What does he think he is? The king, here?" Ignatieff said in Saint John, N.B..

"It's 'My way or the highway,' the whole time ... He has an obligation to present a budget that has the confidence of the House of Commons... The ruthless, relentless disrespect for Parliament is why we're having an election here."
"I don't accept the question." Amazing, a Prime Minister who has presided over successive minority governments still doesn't get it and reminds Canadians of some of his worst characteristics. It's an effective contrast once again. Intransigent, king-like arrogant guy. Or someone who is speaking the simple truth about our parliamentary system.

This was also interesting:
However as his daily question-and-answer session with reporters was winding down, Mr. Ignatieff suddenly became animated when asked about Mr. Harper’s comments earlier in the day.

“He must show a spirit of compromise,” Mr. Ignatieff said. “That’s parliamentary democracy. It’s completely arrogant to say the opposite. ... There’s a clear division between our positions. I’m ready to work in Parliament in an atmosphere of respect, and he’s saying: ‘my way or the highway.’”
As we've seen as this campaign has progressed, Ignatieff is comfortable when speaking about the democratic questions and encouraging people to think hard about the pattern of abuses with the Harper government. You see that again, above, the reporter noting his animation here.

It's not as clear that Harper is as comfortable speaking about these questions or that it's his strength, really, at the moment.

(h/t BCL, OB)

Update (5:35 p.m.): Video here. Like it.

Harper has some explaining to do

More for the Harper government contempt files today. An issue of political interference by the Prime Minister's Office in the Port of Montreal's dealings is in the news. Specifically, the appointment of a new head of that body. It's not something the federal government has any role in. Yet Dimitri Soudas, spokesman for the Prime Minister, admitted yesterday that they did get involved, contrary to testimony he gave at a parliamentary committee looking into political interference by the PMO in the matter (video here) . As you can see on the video, he was asked point blank by MP Raymonde Folco if he had met with the board regarding the appointment of a new candidate, something the federal government has no right to be involved in. He said no. But it was a different story from Soudas to reporters yesterday and as set out below, the candidate the PMO backed is of interest:
Mr. Soudas insisted Tuesday he did nothing wrong, and that the federal government merely indicated its preference for Mr. Abdallah. The board ultimately chose a different candidate, Patrice Pelletier, who was president of L-3 Communications SPAR Aerospace Ltd..

“There was no interference whatsoever,” he said. “We expressed a preference and made it crystal clear that the decision was ultimately for the Board of Directors of the Port of Montreal to take.”

However, in sworn testimony before the Commons Operations Committee in 2008, Mr. Soudas said that he “did not remember” contacting board members on the matter of Mr. Abdallah’s candidacy, and denied even meeting board members on the issue.
That testimony by Soudas is in question now. It's in the reporting that he did meet with board members over this appointment. 

That spin that they "expressed a preference?" That sounds mild and contrary to the reporting:
“There certainly was interference as they met us on the specific issue of the nomination of the new president. They tried to interfere, for sure,” said Mr. Bruneau, a Conservative fundraiser in the Mulroney and Charest eras.
Bruneau says his tenure on the board was threatened through Conservative channels if he didn't go along. The board went along with interviews that included Abdallah, who hadn't made the short list, because of that pressure.

Then there's this information which garners the story even more attention:
Mr. Soudas was not the only one who wanted Mr. Abdallah, a one-time Director General of the City of Montreal, appointed president of the port. Controversial construction industry boss Antonio Accurso was also supportive of Mr. Abdallah’s candidacy. Mr. Accurso’s construction firms recently pleaded guilty to tax evasion, and he has generated headlines for his close ties to a number of union and political officials in Quebec, several of whom vacationed on his luxury yacht.

Among these was Montreal councillor Frank Zampino, who also pushed for Mr. Abdallah to head the port. Mr. Zampino was criticized for going on Mr. Accurso’s yacht amid a controversy surrounding the city’s ballooning water-metering contract – a contract that was ultimately awarded to a group including Mr. Accurso.

In an interview, Mr. Accurso denied any involvement in the lobbying effort at the port. After his failed bid for the president’s job, Mr. Abdallah went on to work for Gastier Inc., a company that is part of Mr. Accurso’s business empire.
Former Tory cabinet minister Michael Fortier also confirmed to Radio-Canada that board members were approached by those claiming “Harper preferred Mr. Abdallah.”
That is an interesting coincidence of preferences for Mr. Abdallah being reported. Why Mr. Abdallah, Mr. Harper?

What the heck is going on in that PMO that Harper's own ministers - Fortier and Cannon - have to back him and his staffers off such interference? And why the political interference in something his office has no business interfering with?

F-35 documentary airing this week

Airing on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this week on CPAC. Times of the shows at the link. Sounds as if they have lined up some key pro and con voices on the F-35 proposal, so this might be useful election television viewing.

Pugliese has also pointed out in a blog entry following up his F-35 "no engines" story that DND's response wasn't a satisfactory response to the documents he has uncovered. Those documents indicating that the engines are indeed "government furnished equipment," meaning the Canadian government gets the engines separately and not from Lockheed Martin. Pratt & Whitney is the engine manufacturer. There is no cost figure that has been disclosed by DND for the engines and he notes that there have been concerns about cost escalations with the engines too. In other words, with this engine sub-plot, the F-35 cost questions continue. Because in the larger scheme of things, as we know, there is no contract that has been signed. So where the government gets their assurances on costs for the plane, and now the engines, continues to be a mystery.

Late night Harper on health care

It's always a good time to be reminded of Harper's views on Canadian health care that have been expressed throughout his mature adult political life. That first quote is especially enjoyable, reminding people of Harper's former occupation, as President of the National Citizens' Coalition. Yes, he's not the average Tim Horton's going guy, he's a right wing lobby group guy. And a lobby group that has agitated against public health care, one of the most unifying national symbols we have.

But then, all the quotes are good and it's been a useful focus in the past 24 hours.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Ignatieff's National interview & Harper's future

On my way out to canvass for the night so just two things...

Michael Ignatieff is on the National tonight and CBC's site has a blazing headline: "Ignatieff would 'try' to form government if Harper loses confidence vote." Oh my. Except, hello, that's nothing other than a statement of the way the Westminster system of parliamentary democracy works. In response to questions put to him. So, if Harper gets another minority, which is quite possible, that's where we might end up. If there's some kind of sensationalistic effort stemming from that interview, we need to give our heads a shake.

I'm sure it'll be played up by Conservatives as yet another example of why Harper needs a majority. Because every step along the way in the campaign provides justification for that foot stamping request. But really, the essential problem is that Harper is preternaturally unable to work with others, so if he is going to provoke more confrontation in Parliament and continue on with the my way or the highway routine, then our system is designed to accommodate such a governing party unwilling to work with others. Canadians are rightly hesitant of Harper, have been for years, and polls are showing that continues and that we're heading for another minority. He's not deserving of a majority, for democratic, economic, social policy reasons, the works. A needed focus in coming days.

This, by the way, is interesting: "Harper not talking about his fate if denied majority." Good question, journalistic people! Will he pick up his marbles and exit stage far right if he doesn't get his majority? Quel extra incentive for closing days! To the streets, progressives! Work hard!

A U.S. reckoning is a wake-up call for Canada

A former tax cutting supporter reverses himself in the face of U.S. debt woes. Greenspan says enough already:
Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan is stepping up his call for Congress to let the Bush-era tax cuts lapse.

In an appearance Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Mr. Greenspan used his strongest words yet to urge lawmakers to let them expire. The risk of a U.S. debt crisis, he said, is just too big. Mr. Greenspan, who retired from the Federal Reserve in 2006, had endorsed the cuts back in 2001 championed by then-President George W. Bush.

“This crisis is so imminent and so difficult that I think we have to allow the so-called Bush tax cuts all to expire. That is a very big number,” he said, referring to how much the U.S. government could save from letting income taxes go back up to levels last seen under former President Bill Clinton.

Mr. Greenspan was talking about re-imposing the taxes for all Americans. The Treasury has estimated that a permanent extension of all the Bush tax cuts would cost $3.6 trillion over the next decade. Allowing taxes to increase on those in the top income brackets would take the cost to the government down to $2.9 trillion, according to White House estimates.

Ahead of meetings this weekend of world financial leaders, which included Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and current Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, the IMF expressed concerns that a delay in slashing the U.S. budget deficit might cause the bond market to lose faith in the country’s ability to do so, which would push interest rates higher and possibly destabilize the global economy.
Stil, when it came to the tax cuts, he sounded more alarmed than he was in August, when he said in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” that he disagreed with conservatives who said tax cuts essentially pay for themselves by causing more economic activity.

“They do not,” Mr. Greenspan said at the time, adding that the U.S. has been funding spending programs and tax cuts with borrowed money. “And at the end of the day that proves disastrous. My view is I don’t think we can play subtle policy here.”
The latter two paragraphs on tax cuts not paying for themselves run contrary to what Flaherty and Baird and Harper et al. will tell you here. But the fact that we face a structural deficit at the federal level courtesy of the Harper Conservatives is more determinative of reality than what they say to us.

On the larger tax cut point from Greenspan, no such revisionism going on with our Conservatives, it's full speed ahead on the corporate tax cutting agenda, despite Canada's deficit situation and the expensive spending projects they have lined up (jets, prisons, etc.). And despite more reporting today that corporate tax cuts are just one of many factors businesses take into account when making various decisions on expansion, location, buying equipment, hiring, etc.

Tory times are tough times, it's a slogan for a reason. The reckoning for the policies that conservative types pursue is being witnessed in the U.S. right now. And we've got $11 billion in cuts coming our way from targets unknown.

Wakey, wakey, Canada.

Monday, April 18, 2011

You gotta be tougher than that, Mr. H!

My, the fuss that occurs when a quote is misattributed to Stephen Harper. The party of attack politics who for years have been defaming Liberal leaders in particular, is all aflutter today:
The Conservatives demanded a retraction early Monday, saying the quotation taken from the Globe and Mail and Macleans magazine was incorrect.

“I’ve had five years of malicious selected misquotation of my work but that is no excuse, if there is misquotation in any campaign, then that is not acceptable,” Ignatieff told reporters. “The fact that they did it to me doesn’t make it acceptable if we find something is inaccurate in our ad . . . they went down that road and I don’t want to go down there with them.”

Shortly after, the Globe and Mail issued a correction, but not Macleans.

“Given the Globe and Mail’s retraction, we’ll replace the quote with one of the many other comments Stephen Harper has made attacking public health care in Canada,” a spokesperson for the Liberal campaign stated.

“The Conservatives may not like Canadians having this debate about the future of health, but they have a right to know where Stephen Harper stands and how he explains his controversial views on the Canada Health Act. Does he stand by the view that it should be ‘replaced’ or ‘overhauled?’ ” he said.
So now we see a contest to choose from among the many other quotes from Stephen Harper that add up to the same thing, a history of expressing an intent to undermine public health care. Continuing to draw attention to the health care ad and its new iteration, to be released on Tuesday.

Just as right wing allies of Harper release studies raising further doubt about what the Conservative direction on public health care would be.

And just as Harper himself mused in last week's debate that "Governments across this country have experimented with alternative service delivery….We're not going to wave the finger at provinces because they experiment with different delivery."

And just as there has been some attention to his government directing public funds to a private group, not for hospital funding, but for "health-related industries."

We also see a political reaction today which does the right thing. A quote wrongly attributed by media will be pulled. Not something we'd be likely to see from the Harper party.

Stephen Harper's national unity record

So we saw over the weekend that Harper is adding national unity to his electoral arsenal in support of his argument that a "strong, stable" Conservative majority is needed to fight a resurgent separatist threat.

Well, polls in Quebec and some influential sentiment over the past few years wouldn't support that characterization of the separatist forces these days. He may be putting too much stock in that 93% level of support Pauline Marois received on the weekend along with Gilles Duceppe's speech. But in any event, let's stipulate, just for the sake of argument, that there is some kind of resurgence and down the road threat in the form of a future PQ government whose probable election could pose a challenge for the next Prime Minister.

So, what is Stephen Harper's national unity record?

From 2000, there is this famous op-ed he wrote: "Separation, Alberta-style: It is time to seek a new relationship with Canada." Not so long ago, there was Harper agitating for Alberta to seek a new relationship with Canada, modelled on Quebec's ongoing battles.

From 2001, there is the famous "firewalls" around Alberta letter. Calling for Alberta to withdraw from the CPP along with this notable shift he advocated on health care:
"Resume provincial responsibility for health-care policy. If Ottawa objects to provincial policy, fight in the courts. If we lose, we can afford the financial penalties that Ottawa may try to impose under the Canada Health Act. Albertans deserve better than the long waiting periods and technological backwardness that are rapidly coming to characterize Canadian medicine. Alberta should also argue that each province should raise its own revenue for health care – i.e., replace Canada Health and Social Transfer cash with tax points as Quebec has argued for many years. Poorer provinces would continue to rely on Equalization to ensure they have adequate revenues."
Every province for itself was his view on health care. And then there was the infamous line: "It is imperative to take the initiative, to build firewalls around Alberta, to limit the extent to which an aggressive and hostile federal government can encroach upon legitimate provincial jurisdiction." That is just not a national unity builder signing on to a letter like that. It wasn't so long ago.

From more recent times as Prime Minister, let's look at his interactions with the provinces...

There was the battle with Danny Williams that saw a provincial Premier lead an unprecedented - and successful - campaign to shut out Harper's Conservatives in the 2008 election. Premised on the Harper government's reneging on the Atlantic Accord. A prime example of how Harper can let a federal-provincial battle descend into unmanageable conflict.

He has let his ministers rail away at Ontario while he has been Prime Minister. From Van Loan's "small man of confederation" crack at McGuinty, to John Baird's verbally flipping the bird to Toronto, to Flaherty's criticisms of Ontario's tax policies. It bred bad blood with the nation's most populous province.

He has acted controversially on the federal spending power:
In the 2006 federal election, in an effort to gain more Quebec seats, Stephen Harper campaigned in that province with the promise to “limit the spending power that the Liberals have so badly abused.” Once elected, Prime Minister Harper did not immediately follow up on this promise. However, the first major attack was an attempt to both curry favour with Quebec and start the emptying of the federal coffers. In the 2007 budget, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty gave Quebec an additional $2.3 billion, which included a $700 million equalization payment with no strings attached. Premier Charest immediately used it for a tax cut to fund his re-election.
Also from that same piece, there is plenty of familiar evidence to show that Harper is systematically weakening the federal government by limiting its spending capacity. On the $30 billion in sole-sourced F-35s, the $10 to 13 billion on questionable mega-prison expansions, the GST cut to 5% which "will reduce the federal purse by more than $76 billion in lost revenues between 2008 and 2013," and the corporate tax cuts which will "result in a loss of cumulative $60 billion in federal revenues." His economic, military and crime policies are weakening the federal government by draining its resources. All of which could lead to a weakening of our national health care, a significant unifying Canadian defining characteristic.

And let's not forget, on the pure, traditional national unity stuff, yes, there was the Quebec is a nation within Canada motion. But there was also unprecedented Prime Ministerial railing away at Quebec during the 2008 constitutional crisis when he was at risk of losing power. He manufactured that the Bloc was part of the 2008 coalition agreement and inflamed the rest of Canada against the coalition on that basis, at the risk of stoking an upsurge in separatism in Quebec. All for his own political gain. He continues to do it to the present day, doing it in this election too with his incessant coalition talk. From Ned Franks, on the 2008 crisis:
Normally Canadian prime ministers work toward encouraging national unity and a common sense of purpose among Canada's French and English populations. Not so Mr. Harper in this political dogfight. His rhetoric was the most anti-Quebec, and by inference anti-French, of any major party, let alone a government, of at least the post-Second World War period. Perhaps, having failed to increase his support there in the election, he felt it expedient to abandon Quebec and appeal to the latent hostility toward bilingualism and Quebec in his political heartland of the west. Perhaps his party's polling had indicated that this line of attack was a winner outside Quebec.

Regardless, there was no doubt that Mr. Harper's inflammatory and tendentious rhetoric was stunningly effective in mobilizing public opinion against the proposed coalition.
"Normally Canadian prime ministers work toward encouraging national unity..." All you need to know, really.

Trust him with the national unity file? He is the last person we should trust with it.

Polls and the hard truths of Quebec’s electoral map

That was the title of a Globe piece on Saturday. An excerpt:
Unlike the other parties, the NDP has no bastion of support in Quebec. The party’s vote is a mile wide and an inch deep. Even if popular support grows substantially, it’s spread so thinly the party still can’t win significant numbers of seats without a very drastic change in the political landscape.

The inefficiency of NDP support contrasts with its two federalist competitors and, especially, the Bloc Québécois. The Bloc still has many ridings with plenty of room to allow for the party’s steadily shrinking vote.
Along the same lines, Chantal Hebert with an item in Le Devoir today:
Mais au Québec et en Ontario — les provinces qui comptent pour les deux tiers des sièges fédéraux — Jack Layton aura fort à faire pour faire durer l'effet débat jusque dans l'isoloir.

Toutes régions confondues, c'est au Québec que le NPD a connu la plus nette progression depuis 2008, mais c'est également en territoire québécois que le défi de transformer le succès d'estime des débats en sièges est le plus grand.

Sur papier, le terrain le plus favorable au NPD est celui de circonscriptions à profil libéral et fédéraliste, comme Outremont ou encore Hull-Aylmer et Gatineau. En région, par contre, les néo-démocrates sont généralement mieux placés pour brouiller les cartes que pour faire des gains.

Cela dit, la montée de l'ADQ au scrutin québécois de 2007 et l'arrivée surprise du Parti conservateur fédéral dans le paysage au scrutin fédéral de 2006 ont démontré que le Québec est capable de mouvements d'opinion qui ont l'allure de grands coups de vent électoraux.

Pour la suite des choses pour le NPD, l'Ontario encore davantage que le Québec est le terrain de tous les dangers. À plusieurs reprises dans le passé, la perception d'une grande menace conservatrice a incité une frange importante du contingent néo-démocrate de cette province à se replier sur le PLC.

La performance de Jack Layton aux débats a eu pour effet d'enrayer ce mouvement. Mais personne ne peut jurer qu'une série de sondages qui placeraient Stephen Harper en territoire majoritaire n'aurait pas un impact dévastateur pour le NPD sur la psychologie électorale ontarienne.

Ceci expliquant cela, au lendemain des débats, conservateurs et néo-démocrates ont tourné ensemble leurs canons vers le PLC. Pour remporter la majorité qu'il ambitionne, Stephen Harper a besoin de s'accaparer l'aile droite du PLC. Pour le NPD, la meilleure façon de prévenir une saignée de fin de campagne vers les libéraux consiste à les rendre repoussants. (translation) (emphasis added)
That latter point, that Harper is aiming to peel off Liberal voters may explain the national unity framing from Harper as of yesterday, prompted by Gilles Duceppe's weekend PQ convention speech.

All of the above is offered as people peruse the Angus Reid poll reported today with the NDP's apparent strength coming from Quebec numbers. It's not likely to translate into seats there but the NDP spinners will be pumping the poll with hopes for favourable media coverage. Yet there are no Ontario numbers reported for that Angus poll and Ontario numbers would seem to be a little more crucial for electoral outcomes to be shaken up. And see Hebert, above, re Ontario and the Angus poll itself that puts NDP voters as more likely to switch their votes, much moreso than the other parties.

Elsewhere, the latest from other pollsters, Nanos and Ekos don't have the narrowing in the Liberal/NDP vote that Angus does. The Leger poll reported last night also showed a boost for the NDP but they don't provide detailed breakdowns and again, it seems to be on the strength of Quebec numbers.

Sure there will be lots of bloggers offering views on this today, that's just some early context that might be helpful.

On the campaign trail in Victoria

From the Liberal event in Victoria on Sunday. Woman At Mile 0 has some pictures too that give more sense of the crowd, she attended yesterday. Some coverage here, the environment seems to have figured prominently according to that report.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Batteries not included

Oh the damage control team is in hyper-drive, trying to tamp down the reporting that the F-35 boondoggle of a proposed deal to the tune of somewhere between $16 and $29 billion, depending on who you believe, doesn't include engines! Now they're assuring us that yes, engines are included in the cost: "Engines included in F-35 deal, officials insist."
Documents obtained from the defence department saying the F-35 engines “are provided as gov’t-furnished equipment” prompted questions whether the cost of the engines was included in the $9 billion price tag to buy 65 of the stealth fighters.

But the Conservatives and defence officials moved quickly to quell the questions Sunday, insisting that the purchase price made public all along includes everything needed to operate the aircraft — even the engines.

“The $9 billion overall acquisition cost includes 65 aircraft with engines installed,” the defence department said in a statement.
So there you go. A statement from DND. Aren't you loving the interchangeability between Conservatives and "defence officials" these days? Uh uh. Shouldn't be happening.

The problem from the start with this F-35 proposal, however, is the take our word for it stance when cost overruns and delays and critics have poked holes in the Harper government's claims. Again today, nothing to back up the position. It's another he said, he said. So the issue rolls on as a controversy for the Harper government and voters will be left again with questions.

The F-35 figures prominently in that latest Liberal ad, by the way, not likely an accident.

More for the "not to be trusted" file

John "say anything that pops into his head" Baird was caught in a significant contradiction the other day by the editorial board of the Ottawa Citizen. Following on news this week of the hidden $50 million in G8 legacy funds for Tony Clement's riding that wasn't disclosed to Parliament, this was another example that raises questions of Conservative trustworthiness. Baird's caught out moment from this piece in the Citizen on Friday:
Yesterday, the editiorial board met with the candidates from Ottawa West-Nepean, including the Conservative incumbent, John Baird, former environment minister. We asked all the candidates about their parties' positions on a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions.

Baird said, categorically, that his government did not support cap-and-trade. (The video is here: watch for yourself. He starts talking about this topic at about the 49-minute mark.)

Baird: "Barack Obama has said the United States is not going to a cap and trade system, even when he had overwhelming majorities in the senate and the house they would not adopt any legislation on the cap and trade, not even for fossil fuel, electricity generation, etc. I think our approach is mirrored with what President Obama's doing. It's to use regulation, so we're not supporting a cap and trade system."

I asked him: "Just to make sure -- I think my memory might be faulty, but didn't your party use to support cap and trade?"

Baird: "No."

Me: "No?"

Baird: "We didn't support a hard cap. It was large final emitters, when I was, in the last election it was large final emitters but there was no hard cap. The strength of regulations would see absolute reductions but there was no hard cap."

Well, in the 2008 speech from the throne, the government said this: "We will work with the provincial governments and our partners to develop and implement a North America-wide cap and trade system for greenhouse gases and an effective international protocol for the post-2012 period."

And in a 2009 speech, environment minister Jim Prentice said, "Those who desire deeper and faster greenhouse gas emission reductions, at any and all cost, criticized our target and our decision to commence our regulatory regime with an intensity-based performance standard, rather than a so-called hard cap and trade regime. I emphasize commence because it has been our stated intent, from the outset, to eventually move to a hard cap and trade regime as we gained more experience, and in light of international developments. And so it has always been our intention to evolve from intensity-based targets to a cap and trade system and this is stated in the 2007 policy itself. "

Prentice went on to say, "Now whichever way forward is selected, it is our view that a key objective should be a common cap and trade system that would allay competitiveness concerns in both countries." And "This is where we think a bilateral agreement should begin, with shared targets and shared timetables, a common carbon market and a price and standards and mandates that are based on science and upon common sense."
No small matter. Just our national environmental policy being casually stickhandled by Baird there. Did you ever support cap and trade? Baird: "No." Then you check the record and uh, yeah, they did.

Now would you trust them even if they told us what their plan is now, in their platform? They don't, for what it's worth. They're still mouthing about tagging along with the U.S. but they don't say anything about a plan for Canada, how they'll move to reduce GHGs for Canada.

Slippery, slippery. No trust. And if you can't trust what they say, when they're so easily exposed like this...

(Also: Dr Dawg)

Saturday in Harper: defending his political staffers at the trough

$11 billion in cuts coming according to Conservative plans but yesterday Harper affirmed who won't be feeling the axe: "Harper defends pay raises for political staff at time of budget belt-tightening." Here was the Harper bafflegab yesterday where he admitted that yes, political staffers are in line for raises: 
Harper was asked Saturday about new rules which could result in a financial win-win for Tory aides in ministerial offices regardless of whether the Conservatives win or lose the May 2nd election.
The guidelines quietly went into effect on April 1, boosting the maximum salary political staffers can be paid. They also hike by 50 per cent the maximum separation pay they can receive should they find themselves suddenly out of work.
Those changes come into effect as Harper's Conservatives are vowing to cut $4 billion a year from the federal budget.
Harper suggested the pay boost is strictly due to the fact that political staffers' salaries are tied to those in the civil service, which are in line for an increase. He didn't mention that it was the rule changes earlier this month that tied the two together.
"The pay raises we're talking about are pay raises across the board," Harper said.
"They're not for political staffers. These are government employee pay raises and our political staffers are simply tied to those."
Harper was asked about the bonuses ministerial staffers have been given in the past, which, in one case, drove up an employee's annual salary by $35,000 to $190,000.
Maybe there's a job for Harper on the speaking circuit when his time is done. Selling the art of confusing bafflegab that will cause eyes to glaze over in audiences everywhere.

Bottom line here is that yes, political staffers are in line for raises (and hefty severance pay should they be exiting) despite his efforts to confuse. At a time of belt tightening. And remember, Harper's own office saw an increase of $1.74 million from 2009 to 2010.

Shorter Harper: Austerity is for thee, not for me. Or my political hacks.

Austerity's going to be felt somewhere though...

Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday night

Not about the video here...just a full-length version of one of Deadmau5's newest and best with good sound quality.

Have a good night!

Interesting seat projections from Ekos

If this were to unfold, Ekos' seat projections as of today, life could be interesting in the next parliament.

Conservatives 131
Liberals 93
NDP 38
Bloc 45

That shows a narrowing between the Conservatives and Liberals from last Parliament's standings. Certainly not the impression we're getting from some pollsters whose numbers are dominating the national news.

Also, if you get out your calculators out there, you will note how 93 plus 38 equals 131. Given that the 113 combined total of 77 Liberal and 36 NDP seats at the end of the last Parliament were well short of the 143 Conservative seat total, this would mark a significant shift.

Oh, I know, seat projections are an inexact science. But there it is, make of that what you will.


"Back down to normal"

This is fascinating, how it all seems to work out for Mr. Harper on these leadership numbers that Nanos is tracking on a daily basis. According to this analysis in the Globe this afternoon, Harper's numbers have fallen about 20 points yet that's termed a "normalization." He surges when they go up, yet it's a normalization when they go back down.
The spike in ratings for Stephen Harper’s leadership after Tuesday’s English-language debate has melted away as quickly as it came, but the Conservative chief still has a hefty edge.

Nanos Research recorded a surge for Mr. Harper on its leadership index after that first televised debate, when he jumped to 122.8 from 94.4. But when the next survey was conducted Thursday, he had slipped back to 103.3.

Pollster Nik Nanos called that a “normalization” for Mr. Harper, which does not appear to have be driven by any specific event or by Quebec respondents after Wednesday’s French-language debate.The one-day blip in leadership scores didn’t seem to translate into a significant bump in support Mr. Harper’s Conservatives.

“The English leaders’ debate is no longer news [so] he’s back down to normal again,” he said.
I'm sure the Harper campaign is quite content with that analysis. I see Harper's also down almost 11 points on this "most competent leader" measure. All normal, I suppose.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Harper's Quebec damage control today

So why was Harper all "people of the regions" today in Quebec? See "Harper woos Quebeckers with pledge to move key federal agency," and "Harper pledges boost to rural economic development," for example. Big stuff. Shuffle a few federal offices off to Quebec "regions" unknown. Seems well planned...not.

Why the haphazard announcement today? Well, it is part of his people of the regions shtick, yes. But it's also because he flubbed on the Quebec stage last night. There was a representative of the "regions" on television at the French language debate, Muguette Paillé, a 53 year old woman from Mauricie who asked the leaders about job creation in the regions. Harper left her cold:
Selon Muguette Paillé, c’est Jack Layton et Michael Ignatieff qui ont le mieux répondu à sa question.

«Certainement pas M. Harper. Il n’a montré aucune empathie. Je ne l’ai pas aimé du tout. Mais j'ai bien aimé M. Layton et aussi M. Ignatieff qui ont bien répondu», a-t-elle dit sans mentionner le chef du Bloc québécois, Gilles Duceppe.

Elle n’a pas été agacée par le fait que Michael Ignatieff utilise l’exemple de ses parents, notamment pour parler des aidants naturels.

«M. Ignatieff a été très réaliste dans sa réponse. Il parlait de ma réalité. Quand il a parlé de mes parents, je me suis demandé s'il avait fait une enquête sur moi. Mes parents sont en santé, ils ont 84 et 86 ans. C'est vrai que je me préoccupe d'eux», fait-elle remarquer.
She got a lot of play last night. This is likely why Harper made his announcement today. Damage control.

And that's not even getting into the spectacle of a Prime Minister playing regions against cities so overtly like this...

Debate ratings up in election no one supposedly wants

This could be the biggest story of the past two days, election-wise: "English debate’s viewership gets hefty boost over 2008." See also: "Leaders debate attracts record number of viewers."
Ratings monitor BBM Canada said that 3.85 million viewers watched the debate Tuesday night, an increase of 26 per cent compared with 2008’s showdown. The number jumped to 10.6 million viewers once those who only watched a portion of the debate were included.
That is a substantial increase. Seems people do care despite what a certain political party likes to say. And it may bode well for those who want to increase turnout as opposed to those trying to suppress other party's voters. We'll see but it definitely seems to be a positive development.

Other notes on le débat hier soir...along the same lines as the point above, the most discussed figure of the evening was actually not one of the debaters, its was this woman, Muguette Paillé, who became a bit of a folk hero last night on Twitter and who was interviewed afterwards for her views on the debate given the interest in her.

What does it say about the debate that this woman became the story? That she resonated, her concerns are real and what people want to focus on, likely. At least, that seemed to be the reaction online.

In terms of hard debate news, the exchange between Duceppe and Ignatieff over Quebec's constitutional status is getting some attention. Whether that issue is truly top of mind for Quebec voters or Duceppe rallying his base, I'd go with the latter and just add a reminder of Lucien Bouchard's remarks in February 2010 and Ignatieff's subsequent letter to the Quebec people to round out the picture. His statement was not so controversial, in other words. More coverage on that angle and the rest of the debate's highlights here. It really was an engaging debate, hopefully we will see higher ratings for it as well.

Analysts...Chantal, oh why must the glass always be half empty?

And to close off, here is one of Ignatieff's better moments, replete with the Harper death stare: