Saturday, April 30, 2011

Friday night

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

Have a good late night!

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?

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

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

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!

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.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

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

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.

Monday, April 18, 2011

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.

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.

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:

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Harper's G8 Summit spending: the tale of the numbers

What follows below is what Parliament saw in relation to the $50 million in G8 Summit spending for Tony Clement's riding. As you will see, it tells us that we cannot trust what the Harper Government puts before Parliament. Here is the series of budgetary approvals that masked the funds that ended up in Clement's riding:

Spring 2009, $66.7 million is approved by Parliament for the Border Infrastructure Fund:

Later in December 2009, $83.2 million more is approved for the Border Infrastructure Fund:

In November 2010, the Public Accounts show that for the Border Infrastructure Fund, $149.9 million had been approved, i.e., the combination of the two amounts referenced above. The accounts also showed that of the $149.9 million approved, $121,332,454 was actually spent out of the Border Infrastructure Fund:

No mention, anywhere above, of the G8 Summit. Why would there be? And who would be assuming or even thinking G8 funds would be connected to a Border Infrastructure Fund?

This is the interesting part. Along with the indication in November 2010 of the $121 million that was actually spent out of the Border Infrastructure Fund, you now see a further breakdown of how that $121 million in Border Infrastructure Fund moneys were spent. Now there are suddenly two categories that appear, with one named "Contribution for the G8 Summit." The G8 amount of $40,569,173 million added together with the Border Infrastructure Fund amount of $80,763,281 million add up to exactly the $121,332,454 that the Public Accounts show, above, that was actually spent out of the Border Infrastructure Fund. Except the problem is that the G8 funding was never put before Parliament as such, as part of the Border Infrastructure Fund. And clearly, G8 summit money for Huntsville is not Border related:

Then in 2010, the government sought $10 million more for the Border Infrastructure Fund. It is now expressed as being connected to the G8 Summit but doesn't suggest at all how the moneys are being used:

The February 2011 draft of the Auditor General's report, leaked the other night, read as follows on the above disclosure: "This time, the Supplementary Estimate item was labelled "Funding for Border Infrastructure Fund related to projects in support of the 2010 G8 Summit," which did point out that funding was being sought for projects related to the G8 Summit. In our view, this is still not clear because it suggests that these projects were somehow related to border infrastructure, which was not the case."

Bottom line, a request for funds for the Border Infrastructure Fund was submitted to Parliament. Parliament approved it. There was no indication to Parliament at all that the moneys would go elsewhere, to a G8 fund for Minister Clement's riding. The G8 contribution out of the Border Infrastructure Fund was disclosed after the fact. And Canada finds out after the fact.

Again, from the Auditor General's draft February report (which could be found in the final report as well): 
The funding request presented to Parliament for the G8 Legacy Infrastructure Fund was aggregated within the Supplementary Estimates for Infrastructure Canada under the Border Infrastructure Fund relating to investments in infrastructure to reduce border congestion. In our view, this categorization did not clearly or transparently identify the nature of the approval being sought for G8 infrastructure project expenditures or explain that these expenditures would not have to meet the existing terms and conditions for the Border Infrastructure Fund.
Trusting a Harper government to spend moneys according to what has been approved by Parliament is clearly an issue. 

(Source for numbers.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Get your lawn signs up

Fun article in the Globe on the social aspects of putting up a lawn sign during a federal election, what people's thought processes are, some reactions there.

One of my lines at the door to close the deal, depending on the person and the dynamic, is that "signs are fun" (among other secret lines that shall not be disclosed here). It has surprisingly worked. People do want to be part of things, especially if they see their neighbours all getting them.

Anyway, the election is not all sturm und drang and ho-hum it's so unnecessary and all that. Nice to see that piece on this social aspect of the election today.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Debate week

Some thoughts on the debates and all the madness that is about to start swirling around in the Canadian political ether in the next few days...

While we will no doubt be treated to clip after clip of the Mulroney knock-out line directed at John Turner in 1984 in the next 48 hours, there's a reason for that. There really haven't been any comparable moments since. Blasted Mulroney, he ruined them for everybody! It's just not likely to happen this time around either.

Jeffrey Simpson seemed to suggest in his weekend column that this might be a make or break moment for Ignatieff:
For Mr. Ignatieff, the debates are about showing himself as he has been in the campaign, in contrast to the demonic portrait of him in the Conservatives’ negative ads. He needs a lot of voters with a negative feeling toward him to be impressed with what they see. Otherwise, the Liberals’ chances will be over.
I would agree with the first two sentences there but respectfully disagree with the last if he means to say that the debates are do or die. What's more likely is a performance that will be one more step along the way that lets Ignatieff continue to build on the election narrative he's got going. That he shows on debate night what he's been showing on the campaign trail thus far. It's a marathon not a sprint. And despite the efforts by Conservatives to build him up as teh awesome debater, it is a fact that the others have all been at these debates many times. They're the old hands by now and that will be apparent the moment we look at our screens. Ignatieff is not.

The re-scheduling of the French debate to Wednesday to immediately follow Tuesday night's English one might also minimize their potential impact. There won't be two days within which an impression might settle, the Wednesday night debate will provide an immediate turning of the page from Tuesday's. Of course, there's a chance the new scheduling might intensify the impact, that's the other side of the coin, but we'll have to see based on their events.

The fact that the leaders will be standing is a plus. Last election's free-for-all chat format while seated at a round table was stultifying and diminished the event. Standing is active, not passive. Real debates don't happen sitting down. They don't sit in the House of Commons when speaking. So that's one reason to look forward to the possibilities and the dynamic this time round.

Not surprisingly, some of us out here will be watching Harper most carefully. The lines that will come, the demeanour, it will be something. What, we don't know. But he's been able to do well at these things. In 2008, he succeeded by avoiding any missteps and by surviving against all comers. He's the presumptive winner on that score if he defeats the gang up effect again, it'll be interesting to see if anyone can knock him down a peg or two.

For fun, from the archives:

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Harper's aggressive internet surveillance push

That blog title is fair comment given the 100 day time frame (p. 50) Harper wants to put on passage of the "lawful access" internet legislation that would form part of his omnibus crime bill campaign promise. Due to Harper's prorogation of 2009 and the Conservatives' having done little to move this effort through committee, there's been little to no study on these proposals. Yet the privacy concerns and potential for abuse are immense.

Michael Geist writes:
There are several concerns with the Conservatives lawful access plans. First, it bears noting that these bills have never received extensive debate on the floor of the House of Commons and never been the subject of committee hearings. Police officers may support the legislation, but there has never been an opportunity to question them on the need for such legislation or on their ability to use lawful access powers if the bills become law. Federal and provincial privacy commissioners have expressed deep concerns about these bills, yet they have never had the opportunity to air those concerns before committee. Internet service providers, who face millions in additional costs - presumably passed along to consumers - have never appeared before committee. By making a commitment to passing lawful access within 100 days, the Conservatives are undertaking to pass legislation with enormous implications for the Internet that has never received parliamentary scrutiny and will receive limited attention.

Second, more important than process is the substance of the proposals that have the potential to fundamentally reshape the Internet in Canada. The bills contain a three-pronged approach focused on information disclosure, mandated surveillance technologies, and new police powers.

The first prong mandates the disclosure of Internet provider customer information without court oversight. Under current privacy laws, providers may voluntarily disclose customer information but are not required to do so. The new system would require the disclosure of customer name, address, phone number, email address, Internet protocol address, and a series of device identification numbers.

While some of that information may seem relatively harmless, the ability to link it with other data will often open the door to a detailed profile about an identifiable person. Given its potential sensitivity, the decision to require disclosure without any oversight should raise concerns within the Canadian privacy community.

The second prong requires Internet providers to dramatically re-work their networks to allow for real-time surveillance. The bill sets out detailed capability requirements that will eventually apply to all Canadian Internet providers. These include the power to intercept communications, to isolate the communications to a particular individual, and to engage in multiple simultaneous interceptions.
Having obtained customer information without court oversight and mandated Internet surveillance capabilities, the third prong creates a several new police powers designed to obtain access to the surveillance data. These include new transmission data warrants that would grant real-time access to all the information generated during the creation, transmission or reception of a communication including the type, direction, time, duration, origin, destination or termination of the communication.
Few would argue that it is important to ensure that law enforcement has the necessary tools to address online crime issues. But these proposals come at an enormous financial and privacy cost, with as yet limited evidence that the current legal framework has impeded important police work. In fact, when then Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan tried to justify his lawful access package, he pointed to an emergency situation that I later revealed (via access to information) had nothing to do with the Internet. (emphasis added)
Here's what the Privacy Commissioner previously said when this lawful access proposal from the Conservatives came up, from February 2009:
"The [obtaining] of a warrant for looking into people's private papers, private affairs, now e-mail conversations is a basic tenet of our democratic and constitutional rights in Canada. To erode this is a very serious step toward mass surveillance so I would like to get a copy of any draft legislation and look at how this could be possibly justified. I've said in the past I've seen no compelling argument put forward for its justification."
There are ways to legislate in this country that study and take into account legitimate concerns. That's not present here and the results could be ground shifting. The 100 day jam fest on this one, needless to say, seems to be totally inappropriate.


In it for themselves

Terrible optics during an election campaign in this one, the uncovering of a plan to give Tory political staffers pay raises at a time when Harper is about to wield an $11 billion axe: "Tory staffers to gain financially under changes approved by Harper gov't." It's another one of those surreptitious sleeper changes like the axing of the census. No one knows about it until someone uncovers it or spills the beans. And spill, someone did, to Canadian Press:
...The Canadian Press has obtained a fact sheet distributed on Jan. 27 by Treasury Board — "for the use of ministers and deputy heads" — which helpfully spells out the "key changes."
If Stephen Harper's Conservatives are re-elected on May 2, political aides in ministerial offices could find a nice bonus when they return to work.

The Harper government has quietly approved increases in the maximum salaries political staffers are entitled to receive.

In addition, suddenly out-of-work staffers could find the blow considerably cushioned if the Tories were to lose the election. That's because the government has also approved a 50-per-cent increase in the maximum separation pay political aides can receive — up to six months from four. That's on top of severance pay.

The changes went into effect April 1, just one week before Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced budget cuts to eliminate the federal deficit one year ahead of schedule, in 2014-15. He said that feat would be achieved "by controlling spending and cutting waste."
Big hikes for political staffers don't sound appropriate during an era of controlling spending and cutting waste. That's not what leaders setting the tone for an organization do, pay their own handsomely and wield the axe for others.

Here's a kicker in terms of election results and what might happen:
Adding it all up, Tory aides who have worked in ministerial offices throughout Harper's five years in government would be entitled to as much as 9.5 months of pay should they find themselves without jobs after May 2.
So there you have it. Nice bump if they return, nice parting gift that's been quietly worked in, just in case they get the boot.

Could be more grist for those Ottawa ridings where, it has been pointed out on Twitter this afternoon, the public service seems to be at risk given Mr. Harper's proposed aggressive $11 billion cuts that will come from who knows where.

Slippery, slippery.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Late night tweet

This really was a brilliant tweet that seemed to capture week two:

Don't know who that is occupying the tweet voice of the iconic former PM but he or she really nailed it on the Facebook/rally ejection story.


Thursday, April 07, 2011

Kind of sorry for frogmarching you out of the rallies, Canadians

To the young students evicted from Conservative rallies for your political persuasions and with the improper goonish assistance of the RCMP, yesterday Stephen Harper had this callous answer for you:
“It’s better when you’re turning people away than when you can’t get people to come,” Harper said.
Yesterday, it was a song and dance that was all about attendance numbers. Didn't seem to get it or give a hoot about the message his party is sending to Canada.

Must have been some overnight poll they had in the Conservative camp. Today, it's a little different tune and as we know, they don't do anything until they're forced into a corner:
"If anybody is kept out of any of our events that is there to hear our message, we obviously apologize to them," Harper said on Thursday.
Yeah, they be kept out. They be booted out, in fact.

So are the Conservatives going to be welcoming the public to their rallies now? We await. In the meantime, what say you, little girl?

That looks about right.

Sachs on corporate tax cuts

Here is some more context on the corporate tax cut argument featuring prominently in the federal election campaign. Leading economist Jeffrey Sachs speaks about the "race to the bottom" going on in the G20 with corporate tax cuts and the negative sum game he says is resulting from this "tax arms race":
Mike Johnson: And you have expressed your irritation that all this is happening at the very time when governments in some countries like Britain and Canada are cutting taxes on big corporations in order to try to get some growth and to generate jobs in the future. But surely that is the point, I mean those governments would say that with the economic growth so hard to come by in many places, it is private enterprise that can lead the way, especially when it comes to job creation. And cutting taxes on big business will help that happen.

Jeffrey Sachs: Of course, all of our countries are caught in what you could call a kind of tax arms race or what could be called a race to the bottom in fact, which is that each country is trying to get the tax rate lower than the neighbours or the competitors. The result is that everybody is cutting corporate tax rates around the board.

It is only causing fiscal crisis everywhere and it's a kind of negative sum game, meaning that when both sides do it, neither gains the advantage relative to the other. In fact both lose by adding to the fiscal pressures and the need to then cut the education spending or the social expenditures that are crucial for making sure that the poor half of our societies can also participate and be productive members of our economies in the future.

Mike Johnson: But if you follow the logic of your argument, you would say to a country like Ireland, you got to increase taxes on business in order to help ease the pain on the less well-off, and surely that would lead to a flight of businesses out of Ireland, would it not, which would be the very last thing that Ireland needs right now?

Jeffrey Sachs: I think the first thing is that Ireland did itself no favour getting businesses in on the basis of providing a tax haven. We see the result when you don't build a solid economy.

So you sure can make a little bubble in the short term, but it's not really building the long-term platform for prosperity.

Second, I wouldn't say it to Ireland alone, I would say to the European Union, the United States, Japan, other high income countries, indeed in the G20 as a whole. Let's stop this horrendous process where we are being gamed by global companies that are playing off our governments, one against the other and ending up by depriving ourselves of the productive base of our societies which after all are our skilled and educated work forces.

When we are cutting back on college education, when we are slashing health care for the poor, when nutrition standards are going down, when community programmes are being cut, all of those things are happening in the United States right now. How can one ever presume that we can remain a highly competitive high income country?

We are just giving up on the bottom. It's not just the bottom, it's the bottom half of the population and it's for the sake of the richest one per cent.
Well said. Puts Flaherty's comment yesterday in that Globe analysis about cutting the corporate tax rate as being "a way of branding Canada” in a very different perspective.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Conservative MP meets intelligent voter at the door (video)

Conservative MP Stephen Woodworth of Kitchener Centre runs into trouble at the door. No answers to such obvious questions? Amazing. But then again, what are you going to say? Prorogation twice over in the manner Stephen Harper's done it is tough stuff to explain. Oda as well.

Love those CPAC ride-alongs!

Today's headlines

The fallout from the Conservatives ejecting students from rallies based on social media vetting is getting attention today, another key moment early in this campaign.

Turn the page on Harper and his ‘goons’: Ignatieff.

Stephen Harper défend sa campagne en vase clos.

Election campaign: Is kicking youth out the best way to keep them in?

Harper's bubble campaign.

The uninvited.

Harper tour technique branded ‘un-Canadian’.

Tories on defensive over rally rules.

Conservative tactics keep campaign off Main Street, on script.

Women ejected from Harper rally a Conservative social media stumble, experts say.

See also this blog post building on the last report and underscoring the strange way the Harper team is using social media: Twitter election, Facebook ejection. The kids get that and there are a ton of Canadians on Facebook, not just the kids.


Update: One more: "By the way prime minister, this is not a police state."

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Harper originality

As the Republicans go, so go the Harper Conservatives...

Harper: “We will govern on the platform we are elected on”

"Majority won’t spur change on abortion or same-sex marriage, Harper says." Really.
Stephen Harper is ruling out introducing measures to restrict abortions or eliminate same-sex marriages should he win a majority government.

Asked whether he’d make changes in these areas if he gained control of the Commons, the Conservative Leader said no.

“We will govern on the platform we are elected on,” he told reporters during a campaign stop in the Niagara region.
"On the other matters you mention (abortion and gay marriage), they are not in the Conservative platform. I have no intention of opening up those issues."
Where's the platform then? We saw a major party release theirs on Sunday, where's the Harper party's? To be released in the last week of the campaign like he did in 2008? Or maybe it'll be released in 2015 to accompany his promises?

Let's review...

Axing the long form census was not part of the platform he was elected on in 2008. Yet he did it, quietly, under cover of the G20 weekend, only discovered by a close read of the Canada Gazette. A large swath of stakeholder groups and majority public opinion asked him not to do it. But he didn't listen. It's fair to assume any uprising on other issues would presumably be ignored by Harper too.

Axing the political party financing regime was not part of the platform he was elected on in 2008. Yet he tried to do it within a month of the election of 2008.

And these "trust me" comments came yesterday when he was out vowing that yes sir, he'll scrap the gun registry if he gets that majority. Right wing and reactionary on guns but nope, trust him to restrain the right wing reactionary impulse on other issues.

We've been here before. Platforms are trifles to him. We'll believe our own eyes by reviewing his record. Fool me know the rest.

F-35 hovers over campaign today

There's an event in Ottawa today that is not part of the official campaign trail but might get some attention given the centrality of the F-35 debate to this election. Winston Wheeler, a critic of the F-35 program will be speaking in Ottawa: "A Reality Check on the F-35 Stealth Fighters." (h/t) It's public and admission is free. Here is a preview of what he'll have to say, in Embassy today.

See also a very direct and helpful video of Wheeler's principal critiques below.

Additionally, the Globe is hosting an online Q & A at 2 p.m. with Wheeler and a former Canadian defence official, see necessary background here.

If all that is not enough for you, here's a case made for an alternative to the F-35: "Canada is “Super Hornet Country.”

The F-35 issue has high recognition among voters, it polls poorly for the Conservatives. It's hard not to see it becoming more of a focus and today's events with Wheeler are well-timed.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Harper debunked on latest F-35 spin

It's hard keeping up with all of Harper's stories but the media are debunking him fairly quickly these days. Here's the latest. Unable to win Canadians over on his F-35 proposed deal due to the incredible price tag and his inability to explain the costs, the goal posts have now changed. Now he's talking up the Libyan conflict, predictably, to justify the proposed deal. Except that argument doesn't add up either:
In defending his government’s plan to buy the fighter, already dogged by concerns over escalating costs, Prime Minister Stephen Harper pointed to the role of Canada’s CF-18s in the Libyan war.

“You know, the CF-18s that are flying over Libya right now, they will come to the end of their useful life in the next few years,” he told reporters.

In recent days Conservatives John Baird and Laurie Hawn have also made statements linking the war to the need for the F-35 purchase. Keith Beardsley, a senior adviser to Harper, also noted in a National Post article that the crisis in Libya made the case for Canada’s F-35 deal.

But U.S. defence specialist Winslow Wheeler said, if anything, the Libyan war shows that sophisticated high-tech stealth fighters like the F-35 are not required.

He noted the U.S. did not use its F-22 new generation fighter, a counterpart to the F-35, in the conflict. Instead, the majority of the attacks were carried out by non-stealth aircraft such as the existing F-18s used by Canada, he added.

The Libyan air defences were a joke, said Wheeler, who has worked as a military analyst for Republican and Democratic parties and is now with the Center for Defense Information in Washington.
So there it is on the Libya justification, it simply does not make the case for stealth.

Note too Harper's remark that the CF-18s will come to the end of the useful life "in the next few years." 2020 is the replacement date that's been reported for the CF-18s. We just paid $274 million to ensure they can fly until that date. Harper is clearly stretching, the next few years means the next two or three to most people, not nine. Slippery, slippery. There is time to assess what Canada's military procurement needs are in terms of jet replacement.

Besides, even the U.S. Air Force, as recently reported, has said that they are not counting on operating their F-35s until 2018. This is a risky proposal Harper wants to pursue for that reason as well. Given the lengthy history of delay and cost overruns with the Lockheed Martin F-35 program, 2018 might even be optimistic.

The polls have shown the public is just not onside with Harper's F-35 deal ("...Sixty-eight per cent of Canadians agreed that “now is not a good time” to proceed with the $16-billion purchase of the F-35 fighter aircraft to replace the aging fleet of CF-18 fighters...") It's no wonder he's scrambling for the Libyan mission's cover. Thankfully, it's being quickly debunked.

P.S. Better check your right flank, Harper.

Liberal platform launch

A few thoughts on the Liberal platform release yesterday that did a bit of history making with its live online launch. That's a notable innovation in and of itself that can be taken as an indication of openness, accessibility, use of new technology that would carry on into a Liberal government. I hope Canadians took that message from it, it was likely intended.

Following on that point, the basic execution of yesterday's launch has some political significance too. It was carried off professionally and without a hitch. We haven't always seen that on the Liberal side in recent years so I'm sure there were some nervous Nellies out there watching. Any worries weren't founded and it couldn't have gone better. It's a professional operation and the Conservatives no doubt took note. Why is the execution politically significant then? It speaks to the competence of a government in waiting. Are these people handling themselves professionally? Canadians are watching.

If this carries on over the life of the campaign, it will continue to make for a good contrast with the Harper Conservatives. Who handled themselves more professionally this past week? Who was setting the agenda with the daily policy announcements, winning the daily back and forth? It all adds up and while it's difficult to sustain over the life of a campaign and we want to see movement, that ongoing contrast of a well-run Liberal campaign going toe to toe with a massively well-funded Conservative operation will hopefully start to seep into the Canadian consciousness. Get them thinking about moving in a new direction, making a different choice (43% here say they might change their vote by election day). There are intangibles in the presentation over time that sink in and create an impression. Arguably that was one of the biggest takeaways from yesterday.

In terms of policy, the big announcements from last week, the Learning Passport, day care funding, the pension policy, the family care program, those are the big ones fronting the platform and the ones people will most likely be selling on the doorstep. The "go-tos" that aren't so hard to explain and that connect with people.

There was some interest in the democratic reform aspects of the platform yesterday, online. That's important stuff too and there's definitely an appetite for it in the online community and among opinion leaders. Whether there is a similar appetite out there during this election for in-depth proposals on electoral reform for example, not so easy to say. Not that it can't come in the future (because God knows we need a leviathan of reform in this country in terms of the way we govern ourselves) but what's on offer right now in terms of a People's Question Period, having a Prime Minister's answer session, testing online voting, etc. (see the platform for the rest), those will likely ring some bells. Bigger projects like electoral reform need to ripen in the electorate before you foist a program on people.

The platform launch also made for a nice contrast with the Harper approach yesterday. Again, like their income splitting proposal, we saw an unimaginative tax credit on a gym membership or other fitness program for the year 2015 or 2016 if that budget gets balanced. Just an expansion of an already existing idea and kind of a subdued photo op, really, in contrast to the Liberal presentation. The Conservatives with their future-based promises are banking on Canadians not putting two and two together on the present day Conservative spending priorities like the F-35s. The Conservatives also started prattling on in defence of corporate tax cuts by way of response, exactly as we knew they would. There'll be no shortage of coverage of the aggrieved corporate tax cut community. How the corporate tax cut argument will sell during the campaign, however, we have a few indications already.

Onwards to week two...

Hebert on social media

A short end note in Chantal Hebert's column today is worth a look:
Un mot en terminant sur l'impact des médias sociaux, et en particulier de Twitter, sur la campagne électorale. De l'intérieur, ils accélérèrent la cadence des échanges entre les protagonistes et donnent une allure plus dynamique à la campagne. L'envers de la médaille, par contre, c'est le danger d'une campagne à deux vitesses qui verrait la classe politique, la presse parlementaire et l'électorat le plus engagé à l'égard de la politique s'isoler ensemble dans une bulle virtuelle plus ou moins hermétique au rythme et à la réalité du terrain.
Food for thought...

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Harper's latest claim on party financing fact checked

On Friday, Harper confirmed once again his longstanding plan to axe Canada's public system of political party financing should he obtain a majority government. As he did so, he justified his position by saying that the subsidies are the reason that Canada has had so many elections in recent years, four since 2004.
“It is partly in my view, this per-vote subsidy, this enormous cheque that just keeps piling into political parties every month whether they raise any money or not that means we’re constantly having campaigns,” Harper said.
But that's just not true and there are at least two news outlets that have debunked Harper on it since Friday. There is the Naumetz piece, linked to above, which points out the history of our recent elections and exactly why they've occurred. Second, Keith Boag has done a reality check at the CBC site that debunks Harper's argument as well, along the same lines. The Boag piece is worth watching.

For the record, the reasons for our recent elections are as follows. You can see the reasons have nothing to do with the financing of political parties.

In the summer of 2004 we had an election so that Paul Martin, who had just succeeded Jean Chretien could obtain a mandate to legitimize his accession as Prime Minister. Nothing to do with political party subsidies.

In 2005, Stephen Harper and the other opposition parties brought down the Martin government, largely having to do with the sponsorship matter. Harper was a key initiator. Nothing to do with political party subsidies.

In 2008, Harper crossed the street to the Governor General's house on his own initiative and called an election on the pretense that the Commons had become dysfunctional. Nothing to do with political party subsidies.

Now it's 2011 and we are having an election because yes, the opposition parties defeated the government on a non-confidence motion. This is the first election where arguably his thesis might apply. Except no one in their right mind would view any of the political parties other than the Conservatives as somehow laden with cash supplied by the public financing system that has egged on the election. The contempt finding was the key trigger. And in the background were the Conservative party and government advertising, the government spending and planning that have been evident for months, all of which were intended to set up a tilted landscape during an election. None of it really has anything to do with political party subsidies enabling the current election, particularly on the part of the opposition parties.

There might be other reasons the Conservatives want to offer up to justify their destruction of the public system of party financing. But Harper's latest rationale is just not true if you look at each election on its own and in particular, his role in causing three out of four of these elections. Those pesky facts don't stop him, however, from riling up voters against party financing by feeding cynicism about our having the present election.

These claims by Harper, by the way, are the reason why it is so important that he be questioned during this campaign. The public deserves to see him tested on his many tales.

Friday, April 01, 2011

A Conservative supporter speaks

Tired of hearing Mr. Harper's coalition nonsense.

Hard not to agree with Mr. Craddock: "I don't like the negative aspect to what they're doing with the other parties..."