Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Well, that's it for me

Believe it or not but I do not really like partisan politics.  Our politicians' obsessive focus on each other instead of on the issues that are really important to the lives and livelihoods of Canadians is infuriating.

However, I am addicted to partisan politics.  I have known that for sometime but I had a WTF moment last Tuesday that really got me thinking.  I won't bore you with the details but I will say I have spent the last week thinking and reflecting on it and I have decided to walk away from partisan politics.

The upshot for this blog is that I will be doing a lot less blogging than I did in the past, which was not much to begin with really.  As well, going back to the beginning of this blog I stated in my first post that I wanted to engage in intelligent debate about issues.  It certainly did not take long for that idea to be swamped by partisanship.  So, I am actually going to do what I intended to do with this blog.  I will talk about issues instead of the personalities and the organizations that so pollute our political culture.

The last week has also allowed me to put the current election into a non-partisan perspective and I have concluded that it will be what it will be.  I will do my bit to effect the outcome on Monday but after that it is out of my hands.  Otherwise, the final result will have very little impact on me or society at large with only political partisans from all parties being the most effected.

So long, I wish you all good fortune.

Go Habs! Go Canucks!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


I usually do not comment on polls.  They are all polling the same population but they always seem to come up with radically different estimates so I generally do not give them much thought or credibility.

For example, if you are following Nanos the Conservatives seem to have been on the verge of a majority government for weeks.  However, if you look at EKOS and Harris Decima the Conservatives are firmly planted in minority territory with the Liberals not as far behind as the Conservatives would like.

In short, the polls are giving us very conflicting information on where the parties stand in the eyes of Canadians, which to my mind make them largely useless.

However, something all of the polls seem to be indicating is there has not been much change in the opinions of Canadians for about a week.  The last time we saw any real movement was a week ago today, after the leaked AG draft report caused a tightening of the race.  Since then we have had the debates but the estimates have really not changed. 

Yes, yes, yes, some in the media have been touting an NDP surge but if you look at said surge most polls are showing the differences between the national horse race estimates today being within the MOE compared to where they were this time last week.  In other words, the difference is statistically insignificant, statistical noise.  This is true for all of the parties.

What about the regionals you might ask.  The same is true there as well.  The MOEs are much greater for these regional breakdowns so if you look at the estimates for each of them you will note any changes in the estimates for the regional breakdowns today are within the MOE compared to this time last week.  Certainly there appears to have been large fluctuations but that always happens with polls with large MOEs.  There is no way you can discern statistical noise from actual changes in public opinion.

It is as if the electorate is holding its breath.  So the question is why.

Has the electorate made up its mind and we are just playing out the string?

Or is conventional wisdom wrong, and Canadians are still not paying as much attention to the election as expected at this point in the campaign?

Who knows.  However, I do know that a significant portion of the electorate makes up their mind during the final weekend of any election campaign, with a significant portion of them waiting until they pick up the pencil behind the voting screen.  So, I am leaning towards the second choice.

This election is not over yet.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

What are the trolls trying to accomplish?

As can be expected with the election the blogsphere has been humming.  More people have been posting their ideas in their blogs and more people have been commenting on them.

One thing I have noticed with these comments is the number of Conservative trolls who have invaded Liblogs.  Sometimes their comments make sense and are even insightful but most of the time it is just drivel I can only conclude is designed to agitate and often their comments are out and out lies.

What are these people trying to accomplish?  Do they believe that their comments will be seen by anybody else besides partisans from other political parties?  Do they seriously believe that they can sway those partisans to change their support for their parties?

I visit the blogs of supporters from other parties to see what they are saying but I rarely feel the need to comment on them because I know that none of my comments will sway that person's opinion.  I really do have better things to do with my time.

So why do Conservative supporters insist on commenting on Liberal blogs?  Are you really getting paid for it?  If so, what a colossal waste of money that is.  Do you really have that much time on your hands?  If so, get a job, unless commenting on Liberal blogs is your job, in which case carry on I guess.

But if you are not getting paid to do it might I suggest that you could be something much more useful with your time.

Rise Up Video

I have been watching the reaction to the Rise Up video.

As expected that reaction depends on your political bent.  Conservatives pan it and Liberals love it.  As for the media pundits I really could not say.  I concluded they were idiots a long time ago and stopped reading or listening to them. 

What everybody seems to forget is that you cannot always predict what Canadians will care about.  As well, you cannot always predict how they will react at any given point to any given situation or statement.

Will this video and the sentiment it hightlights resonate with Canadians?  Who knows.  The Conservatives hope not, the Liberals hope so and the media pundits will try to tell Canadians what they should think but it will be ordinary Canadians who will have the final say.

Use Humour in advertizing

Today is was revealed that the $30 billion dollar cost for the new F-35 jets may not include the engines for them.  I hope that the folks doing the ads for the Liberals are on top of this and that they use humour because really this whole situation is side splittingly funny.

Here is an idea.

Take the photo Stephen Harper is his silly leather Calgary Stampede getup.  Animate it like South Park.  You know those characters where the top of the heads bounce up and down while speaking.

Give this animated Stephen Harper the classic used car salesman voice and then have it "sell" the F-35 to Canadians using all of the information that has come out showing that these are the wrong planes for Canada. 

At the end of the sales job have the animated Stephen Harper make the statement:  "And you can have all of this for the low, low price of $30 billion, (pause) engines not included."

This whole F-35 situation is absurd and one of the best ways to show absurdity is to use humour to mock it.  The Liberals should use that to their advantage.

Oh yes, the Liberals need to make certain that they run it as much as possible in the last few days of the election as well as on Youtube.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Week Three in the books: Now the real election begins

The debate week of the election is now over and the real election campaign is underway.  How do we assess the week gone by?

For the Liberals they had both positives and negatives.   The debates did not help them as much as they would have liked but at the same time they did not hurt them either.  They can take some solace from the fact that 10 million Canadians tuned into watch the debates and that was probably their first look at Mr. Ignatieff without the media or Conservative filter.  Although he did not blow the doors off I would imagine that he did make a reasonably positive impression, one that he can build on for the next two weeks.

The Liberals are showing signs that they are focusing their message with the new healthcare ads.  That is a good start.  Now I would like to see four other ads before the end of the election.  One to tie all of the undemocratic actions of the Conservatives together, including the attempted disenfranchizement of those students in Guelph.  The other three each focusing on jets, jails and corporate tax cuts and contrasting them with the Liberal family plan.  One ad for each of those Conservative priorities.  Then blanket the airwaves with them from now until E-day.

Mr. Ignatieff is still packing them in at rallies and the enthusiasm of Liberals has not waned since the beginning of the election.  That bodes well for the GOTV efforts on May 2 and it could mean those 800,000 or so Liberals who stayed home in 2008 will come out this time.  If they do that will have a profound effect on alot of ridings in this country.

Finally, if you believe the public polls the Liberals have cut the initial Conservative advantage, at the beginning of this campaign, in half.  Not bad when you consider that voters were not really paying attention during the first weeks.  Now that they probably are the Liberals have a great opportunity to keep moving up if they can continue to run a good campaign.

The Conservatives began their week with a controversy and ended it with two more.  In between the debates did not help them or hurt them.  It seems they just cannot run their campaign without stepping in it.  Their position has been on a steady and slow decline even though voters were not paying attention.  If they continue to suffer from more controversies in the next two weeks their fortunes would probably continue to wane, possibly beyond the point of no return.

Of the two controversies today watch the effects of the Guergis controversery.  Her experience could reinforce the notion amongst professional women in this country as to why they do not like nor trust Stephen Harper.  They contributed to costing him majorities on two other occasions and they could do the same thing this time, or worse. 

The NDP had a good week.  The polls tell me so, if you can believe the public polls.  However, one good week out of three is not nearly good enough and it is doubtful that they can sustain it over the next two weeks.  It would not surprise me one bit to see them fade in the coming days and weeks.

The Bloc also had a good week.  However, they are still not doing nearly as well as they did in 2008.  It is an open question as to whether they will be able to sustain their post-debate bounce for the next two weeks.

For the Green Party the debates gave them another opportunity to get noticed by complaining that they were not in the debates.  However, while that might get them some sympathy I doubt that it will get them any votes.

At the third week mark of the campaign it is still a toss-up as to who will win it.  Certainly, the Conservatives have the advantage in the public polls but their campaign is still being beset by scandal and controversy while the campaign of their chief opponent is being run smoothly.  The campaign is still the Conservatives' to lose but they are alot closer to doing so now at the beginning of the real election campaign than they were three weeks ago.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

No knockout

As much as we would all like to see Mr. Ignatieff reducing Mr. Harper to a pile of goo during these debates it is not going to happen.  Neither will it happen in reverse.  There will be no knockout blow during either debate.  There are two reasons.  One, each of the participants will be too well briefed and prepared.  Two, the debate format is not conducive to knockout blows.

So, with this in mind the mindset of Mr. Ignatieff going is should be to focus on what he can control, namely delivering his message with passion and resolve.  Being a former TV journalist he should have no problems in front of the cameras.  If he just falls back on that experience he should be fine.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Week Two in the Books: Liberals with momentum and Conservatives in trouble

So week number two is pretty well over and if we are to assess the results from it we can say that the Liberals seem to have a little bit of momentum heading into debate week and the Conservatives have some real troubles in the present and probable future.

The sense of momentum for the Liberals can be felt in the polls with most of them seeming to indicate that the Liberals and Mr. Ignatieff have made up alot of ground on the Conservatives in week two.  As well, they seem to be taking support from the NDP, which is a necessary step in gaining power.  Reducing vote splitting and convincing soft Conservative supporters to switch sides has always been the key to victory for the Liberals.

However, the real momentum can be seen in the campaign itself.  Mr. Ignatieff is playing to packed houses.  As I stated in a previous post in most cases these people are Liberal partisans.  So, if Mr. Ignatieff can attract 1200 Liberal partisans in Hamilton that probably means that the candidates in Hamilton and surrounding areas are attracting alot of volunteers.  That bodes well for the GOTV effort on election day.  As well, all reports seem to indicate that fundraising is going very well which would seem to indicate that Liberals are engaged in this election.  Remember folks that the Conservatives lost votes during the 2008 election but still won because almost 1 million Liberals decided to sit out that election.  If they decide to come back things will be very good for the Liberals.

The Conservatives are having real difficulties.  Week two of their campaign was just a brutal, if not more so, than week one.  They stomped on their own message with three days of reports of their tactics for keeping undesirable young people out of their rallies, the illegal use of the RCMP in doing so and the ongoing Carson saga.  It is starting to rattle Stephen Harper.  That is the only reason why he would release the Conservative platform in the setting he did today.  The bubble boy campaign claims are beginning to hit home and he desperately wants to appear to be reversing it without actually doing so of course.  Then there is the content of the platform.  Only a party that is feeling the heat would stomp on their own budget 17 days after tabling it in the House.

The Carson Affair is the real danger for the Conservatives.  I know that Conservative supporters and their apologists in the media have been trying to downplay the whole thing and they have had some success so far.  However, this affair just does not seem to end and with every new revelation more Canadians are wondering just what is going on there.    

Further the elements of the affair can be very easily stitched together into a nasty narrative for the Conservatives.

"Stephen Harper appointed, as one of his senior advisors, a man who was convicted of a felony five times and who seems to have had links with a money launderer, a man who is now under RCMP investigation for allegations that he illegally lobbied the government for government contracts that could have kicked back 10s of millions of dollars to him and his fiancee, who happens to be a former high prices prostitute."

Do you think such a narrative could be nicely explained in a 30 second spot?  One that is run, alot, from the end of the debates to the end of the election.  As the Adscam ads the Conservatives used during the 2006 election demonstrate, they do not need to be totally true.  They just need to tell a plausible story. 

Mr. Carson could very well bring down the Conservative Party on May 2.

The Liberals are exactly where they want to be going into debate week.  They have the momentum and they are facing a chief opponent that is showing signs that they may not be able to turn things around before election day.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

The genius of Stephen Harper

I now believe I know Stephen Harper's plan for winning this election.  It is to run a campaign filled with so many gaffes, mistakes and errors that the war rooms of the other parties will not be able to keep up.

Afterall, just in the last two days the Conservative campaign has had revelations that it is using Facebook to screen out undesirables from their rallies.  This is still ungoing as more people who have been victimized by this are coming forward.  Then there is the ungoing Bruce Carson saga and the questions of if Stephen Harper knew he was a five time convicted felon when Mr. Harper tagged him as a senior advisor.  These two events are on top of the other stuff we saw during week one.

This is very clever of the Conservatives.  In fact it is genius.  Keep your opponents off balance by running a lousy campaign.  It is so crazy it might just work.  As well, it gives the Conservatives the added benefit of hiding the fact that they do not have anything they can campaign on, at least not for this campaign.  The 2015 campaign, they have it covered, but this campaign the cupboard is bare. 

Genius I tell you. 

Note:  In case anybody does not realize it my tongue is firmly planted in my cheek for this post.  So, on a more serious note has anybody noticed that the media are no longer talking about "coalitions" and they are no longer using the phrase "Conservative majority government"?  The two key messages of the Conservatives have beem stomped on by their own ineptitude.  Can the Conservative advantage in the polls be maintained if this continues?

Tuesday, April 05, 2011


The title of this post is not referring to a poll.  It is referring to the moral of the members of the Privy Council Office (PCO) after they found out that Stephen Harper threw their whole department under a bus in yet another attempt to distance himself from the smell wafting up from the Carson Affair.  You could only imagine their chagrin at being accused of not doing their job and being unable to respond to defend themselves.

I have disagreed with many conservative politicians over the years but I never had a personal dislike for any of them.  The same cannot be said of Stephen Harper.  I think the man is despicable.  The PCO's function is to serve the Prime Minister.  They are his very own department.  These people bust their butt each day to serve him, which in many cases means watching his political back.  You would think that he would appreciate that enough to do the same, after all that is what leaders do.

Canada is blessed with one of the most professional public services on the planet so Mr. Harper can rest assured that the PCO will not respond to his outrageous claims of their incompetence.  Indeed, Mr. Harper probably took that fact into account when he came up with his latest defence. 

However, there would be some justice if some damaging leaks began appearing in the media about some of the more controversial decisions this government has made over the last five years, which I will bet a large amount of money will not happen.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Politicians do not call elections unless they think they can win

An obvious statement I know but one that needs to made because of all of the BS we saw leading up to this election.

Many in the chattering classes were on Mr. Ignatieff because of his desire to have an election.  They pointed to the public polls and stating he had no chance so why force one now?

The obvious answer is he believes he can win and he is proving that by his performance this past week.  He knows that the Conservatives are vulnerable in a number of fronts and that their expressed desire to not have an election was genuine.  In politics it is generally a good idea to force your opponent to do something they do not want to do.

As the last week has demonstrated all of the reports in the media on how Mr. Harper wanted this election and how he maneuvered the opposition into bringing him down to force one was unadulterated bunk.  Mr. Harper is not performing like someone who wanted to be campaigning.  Quite the opposite is true.  Many have noted that he does not seem to be campaigning to win.  That is not true, of course he is campaigning to win.  The problem is he did not want this election and he was not ready for it.

Of course, these men did not come to their decisions at random, they did seek out data and one source of that data in internal polling.  Political parties poll to assist in their decision making and as a result they ask many questions the media do not think of or just refuse to ask.  The "desire for change" question happens to be one that we used to see all of the time but has now disappeared from the media polls.

Armed with this data, the knowledge of the progress of their election planning processes and some political instinct the two party leaders determined whether they could win an election.  Mr. Ignatieff believed he could and Mr. Harper could very well believe the same thing.  We saw the result in Week one.

Are they correct in their beliefs.  That question will be answered on May 2.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

This election will be decided on the ground

I went to my local Liberal candidate's campaign office this morning to give her a big fat monetary political contribution.  I no longer have the time in my busy life to actually volunteer so I now just give them money.  I will be doing the same for the national campaign.

I arrived at the office just before the candidate was heading out to do some canvassing.  She had a good team to accompany her, she also had other teams that were going canvassing without her and the telephone canvassing stations were all occupied.  Since I was there, and not being a stranger to campaign offices, I took a quick look around and noticed that she already has over two dozen volunteers for e-day.  Just a week in and already that many have decided to take part in the GOTV effort on May 2.  Impressive.

This is just one local campaign but we may be seeing signs of it being more widespread by the size of the crowds coming out to see Mr. Ignatieff at his campaign stops.  Make no mistake, these people are not ordinary Canadians.  They are Liberal partisans, probably working for a local campaign in the area.  So, if Mr. Ignatieff can draw almost a 1000 people in say, Winnipeg, that probably means that the local campaigns in that city and the surrounding area are seeing a good turnout of volunteers.

The national campaign is important but as 2008 demonstrates without a good ground game to pull the vote you will not see success.

The first week of the national campaign was encouraging.  Seeing the crowds that Mr. Ignatieff has been speaking to and the buzz I saw today at my local candidate's office is also encouraging that the ground game for the Liberals will be much better than the last two elections.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Week One in the Books: Something for Everybody

The election is one week old and it has been an interesting week.  If you are sitting at home assessing how things went it can probably be concluded that every one of the campaigns can take away some positives from the week.

The Liberals can take the most positives.  Michael Ignatieff is proving, so far, to be a good campaigner.  He has been focused and that is rubbing off on the campaign.  The ads they have released are good.  He is doing a good job of comparing the Liberal and Conservative positions and priorites.  The chattering classes are beginning to see that the caricature that the Conservative Party created of him does not match reality.  The only real hiccup was the gentleman from Vaughn (sorry I am lousy with names) deciding to back the Conservatives.  Other than that it has all been good news and if they can keep it up the Liberals could win, maybe even win big.

The Conservatives have had a terrible first week.  Stephen Harper did not want to have this election and it shows.  From his first news conference at Rideau Hall to the present he has not looked comfortable campaigning.  His head is not in the game as demonstrated by the coalition gambit and the debate challenge.  By most accounts it was his idea to pursue the coalition angle and how he believed that his own words about the issue, from 2004 and 1997, would not enter into the conversation is astounding.  Then there is the debate challenge.  Making the challenge undid everything the Conservatives have been trying to do since Michael Ignatieff became leader of the Liberal Party.  It made him an equal.  Backing out of the debate just 24 hours after issuing the challenge makes him look weak.  This and other gaffes have made Mr. Harper go further into the bubble that he started the campaign in, freezing out the media, much to their chagrin, which could have some negative impacts on the campaign in the medium to long-term.  His campaign has been Seinfeldian in nature.  He only made two real promises this week.  One that will not take effect until Jim Kirk starts his 5 year mission and the one today, which everybody could see coming, and which he announced on a Friday afternoon.  Again, people are noticing, including the media, and some serious questions regarding the Conservative campaign are being posed.

All that being said, the Conservatives can take some solace from two polls today.  Despite all of their troubles they have not seemed to have suffered for it, yet. 

However, Conservatives had better take those estimates with a grain of salt.  Conservatives just need to look to Prime Minister Martin's campaign of 2006 to see what happens to party leaders who focus mainly on fear during an election campaign and who leads a campaign beset with problems like the Conservative campaign has been of late.  If it continues it will catch up to them.

Some state that the Conservatives could turn things around and that is certainly true.  However, the kind of campaign the Conservatives are having can feed on themselves and no matter what the party or leader does they just cannot right the ship.

The NDP is having its typical election campaign.  It is trying to be heard and trying to appear relevant.  So far, its policy proposals have been underwhelming.  It too can take solace from the latest EKOS poll as they were the only party that saw their estimates move outside of the MOE.  The other parties were all pretty static.

The Bloc is the Bloc.  Gilles Duceppe is a seasoned campaigner and he has the advantage of only having to campaign in Quebec.  So far, his party seems to be holding its own.  If Quebecers collectively decide, again, to be disengaged from the governance of Canada they should do well.  If that begins to change, watch their fortunes change for the worst, quickly.

The decision of the media consortium to not include the Greens is a gift for them.  It allowed them to be heard at least for a short time this week.  Any other decision and the Greens would not have received any attention at all.