Thursday, August 19, 2010

I don't think Stephen Harper cares any more

The recent decisions to replace some high profile dissenters within the government bureaucracy and the word out today that the Harper government may not yet be finished doing so is very curious behaviour for a man who wants to retain power.

After a summer of controversy that has totally derailed your plans to hold a Fall election and caused serious harm to Conservative support, the last thing you would want to do is to create more controversy or to give what was once a friendly media more reason to take you to task. (When you have a columnist from the Conservative Party's in-house newspaper calling you a liar over your statements about the replacement of the Gun Registry head you know you have lost the media.)

Stephen Harper and his government are vulnerable and they know it. It all began with the first prorogation and it has just increased from there. That decision put a majority government permanently out of reach for the Harper government but it was not fatal. However, that event did begin a pattern where this government has been mired in controversy for most of its second term. That culminated in the Census decison and the reaction to it, which I am certain took the Conservatives completely by surprise and which Stephen Harper might believe was the tipping point for his government. I am certain they are further surprised by the quiet competence the Liberals have shown with the Liberal Express. If the Liberals can do the same during a real election campaign against a tired and old government the result is pretty much a foregone conclusion.

I have always believed that the first proroguation of Parliament was the beginning of the end of the Harper government and that they would never win another election. It would appear that Stephen Harper now agrees with me.

He has seen the writing on the wall. He knows he will be a former head of government very soon and that there is very little that he can do about it so he is now doing whatever he can to implement the imfamous "hidden agenda" and/or hamstring the Liberals when they take power.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Polled by EKOS

For the first time in my life I received a telephone call from a polling firm asking me about my political preferences. I have been surveyed many times about my favourite toothpaste or radio station but never have I ever been called for a political poll.

It was an automated poll. The system asked me questions and I pressed buttons on my phone to answer.

It was a short poll, only nine questions, of which, five were the standard demographic questions.

The poll asked one question each on whether I thought the country and Ontario were heading in the right or wrong direction.

Then it asked me who I would support if an election were held in Canada and Ontario.

Interesting that they asked the direction questions first. The answers to those questions could influence how someone answers the subsequent party support questions.

Having designed surveys and polls in the past my choice would have been to put the party support questions first. It would make analysis of the estimates from those questions much simpler and reliable. Done the other way I cannot really determine the level of influence the direction questions would have on the party support questions so any analysis of the party support estimates would be much less reliable.

Not that it matters any more as I have been out of that business for almost a decade but I still have an interest in how these companies design their polls.

It was an interesting 3 minutes.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Piling on the straw, part 2

A few days ago I stated in this space that the Census controversy would probably not hurt the Conservatives too much on its own.

With the release of the e-mail exchanges between Tony Clement and StatsCan that could change. This is written proof that the Conservatives lied and then attempted to use StatsCan to cover-up that lie.

If the media decides to pursue this angle in this latest development the Conservatives could find themselves hurt badly by this controversy. These e-mail exchanges could make this whole controversy about the credibility of this government instead of the merits of why they made the decision.

For the past six weeks we have heard mostly about the reasons why the long-form Census should be retained and it is apparent that the Conservatives have taken a hit. If the next week sees the focus switch from the esoteric statistical issues from the first six weeks to issues of Conservative credibility that hit will be much harder.

My only question is will the media pursue this angle? We will have to wait and see.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Is the other shoe dropping?

The word out on the economic front today is American productivity is dropping, and the Canadian housing market is cooling off, which I can attest to as there are two houses on my street that have been up for sale for weeks without even a hint of a sale. This is just more bad economic news to go along announcements of other bad economic news in the past weeks.

The underlying factors that caused the 2008 recession have not gone away. They were only covered up by the trillions of dollars in stimulus funding governments threw at the world economy back then. It is almost a certainty that the problems that caused the recession will rear their ugly heads again once the stimulus funding runs its course. It is just a question of how serious would be their impacts on the world economy.

There have been increasing signs that the world economy is heading towards another economic slowdown. It still remains to be seen whether it will be a full blown recession or just reduced economic growth.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Piling on the straw

It has been over six weeks since the Harper government made their announcement about the long-form census and the controversy is still rumbling along.

I find that amazing. Really, it is the census. I cannot think of much else the government does that could be less controversial. I certainly cannot think of much else that most Canadians would not give a second thought to, even on Census Day. After all, it is just one of those little things we all have to do once in a while.

So let's give the Conservatives credit. They managed to take something as innocuous as the Census and turn it into a full blown political crisis for them.

So will it hurt the Conservatives?

In and of itself, no. However, this is just one more controversy for this government which seems to have been mired in nothing but controversy since their re-election in 2008. Really, can anybody remember a time since then when they have not been trying to put out some kind of fire? Hell, sometimes they are trying to put out more than one at the same time as we witnessed during the detainee document controversy and the concurrent Guergis controversy.

I can guarantee that these non-stop controversies are having a negative impact on the Conservative fortunes and that when they go a controversy too far that negative impact will be politically fatal.

This government was on borrowed time before the Census long-form fiasco and it has just brought them that much closer to the end of their time in government.