Friday, May 29, 2009
As long as McGuinty was the only Premier vocally calling for EI reform, Harper could at least try and spin it to the Tory base that it was just a Liberal calling for Liberal supported reforms, but now the Gordon Campbell, Brad Wall, and Ed Stelmach, all centre-right (at least fiscally) Premiers, and in the case of Wall and Stelmach, vocal federal Conservative supporters, it becomes significantly harder. The EI reform issue is not an issue that is owned by the left, right, or centre, or is a particularly regional issue, but it is a true national issue, and Harper seems content, as usual, to ignore national issues in favour of setting region against region, and Canadian against Canadian. The Liberals need to keep riding Harper over this, as it re-affirms his divisive mean streak, and gives Ignatieff a economic populist platform to campaign on.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
...If we were going to have some kind of big crash or recession, we probably would have it by now, a year into the crisis
...We are in fact ahead of our budget forecast but there's no risk of deficit. We intend to maintain a surplus in the budget.
-Stephen Harper, September 15, 2008
Finance minister Jim Flaherty says this year's budget deficit will balloon beyond $50-billion, setting a new record for red ink in Canada as the costs of the recession hammer Ottawa's coffers.
Monday, May 25, 2009
I'm probably going to be the 50th Liberal blogger to link this today, but here we go:
The numbers by themselves:
While I don't think I need to spin these numbers much, I will point out one comment that I found particularly interesting from the Macleans comments section:
However, someone wrote last week, I forget who, that Harper appears to be trying traditional way of appealing to Quebecers: having dinners and highlighting all the MPs and Senators who bring all this wonderful pork spending to the prov.Harper will a revolt on his hands from the Con base if he continues to pander to Quebec while having his support cut in half.
I'm of the school of thought that the Conservative "grand coalition" is simply unsustainable over the long-run because of its inherently contradictory nature. In a post-election article in the Globe and Mail (I think it was the Globe), they had a very in-depth look at the reasons why people across different regions, particularly Quebec vs. the ROC (off-topic, I kinda dislike that phrase because it implies a cultural unity of Canada outside Quebec/English Canada that simply does not exist, in my opinion) of the country voted for the same political parties.What they found is that for the Liberals, although some variations do exist across regional lines, by and large a person votes Liberal for pretty much the same reasons regardless of if they live in Vancouver, Red Deer, Barrie, Toronto, Montreal, Halifax, etc. While fractures can sometimes dramatically happen, the same general group of issues and opinions tend to bind Liberals together.For Conservative voters, however, the personal positions are very different, and the Quebec vs. ROC difference is huge.
The Tory "Grand Coalition’s only real true binding point is wanting to defeat the Liberals. Considering the "Grand Coalition", when including all possible members, consists of some very distant elements; Western populists, Ontario social conservatives/business interests/rural inhabitants/suburban soccer moms, Quebec nationalists, and the traditional Maritime conservativism, which tends to run at least slightly Red, it is not difficult to see how the Grand Coalition could be divided by policy issues.While purely ROC divides do sometimes happen (the split with Danny Williams and Bill Casey over the disliked-amongst-Western-populists Atlantic Accord, which for a brief period looked like it might send Atlantic Red Toryism into full revolt), the most bitter and damaging splits in the Tory coalition tend to be between Quebec and the ROC elements.
Historically, this can be seen in such issues as the Execution of Louis Riel, Manitoba Schools Question which helped hand the 1896 election to Laurier, who then proceeded to lay the groundwork for the Liberal Party to be most successful party in the democratic world in the 20th century, the Conscription Crisis of 1917, the deux nations debate which divided the PC party during the 60's, and Meech Lake/Charlottetown, which had the doubly bruising effect of both the Western populists and Quebec nationalists wings of the Grand Coalition forming new parties.
After Harper managed to combine the old PC's, which by that point was little more than a motley crew of Atlantic Red Tories, Mulroney era Quebecois activists, and a handful of Ontarians and Westerners who had remained local to Canada's Grand Old Party, with the Canadian Alliance, which was overwhelmingly dominated by the Western populism of Reform, with a dash of Mike Harris/Tom Long Ontario business neo-conservativism thrown in, one of his main goals was to re-attach the Quebec nationalist wing of the party. After failing to get Quebec back on board in 2004, Harper spent a devoted part of his time wooing Quebec, particularly the forces of the ruling Parti Liberal du Quebec, led by former PC leader and Mulroney era minister Jean Charest. The wooing, combined with a Liberal collapse, led to a Tory breakthrough in Quebec: 10 seats.
The next period of Harper and Quebec was between the 2006 federal election, and the 2007 Quebec provincial election. After the support of Charest machine, Harper and Charest developed the closest relationship between a Prime Minister of Canada and a Premier of Quebec since the last time a Tory Prime Minister and a Liberal Premier ruled the land; Charest and Harper seemed to be Mulroney-Bourassa part 2, minus the constitutional talk, that could wait at least until a Tory majority was secure, built on gains in Quebec. Harper and Charest flattered each other the best they could, and Western populists, who being from the Reform wing of the Conservative Party had largely been drawn into politics as a reaction to what they saw as Mulroney pandering to Quebec nationalists, swallowed the new arrangement fairly easily, after all, after a long walk in the wilderness, the Conservatives were back in power, and to a degree at least, the "West had gotten in", and those damn Liberals were out of power. If a polite bow to Quebec was needed here and there, so be it. All but the unelectable fringe who still thought getting endorsed by the Alliance for the Preservation of English in Canada was a good thing were still on-board, and beaming, as Tory numbers in Quebec continued to stay ahead of the federal Liberals, who were in the middle of a leadership race. The "Quebec as a nation" resolution of the LPC-Quebec wing, and was adopted by the House of Commons with near (Michael Chong, ladies and gentlemen, as well as a handful of Liberals) unanimous consent from the governing Conservatives and the House of Commons. Some speculated that this, the explicit recognition of the deux nations which had divided Conservatives so in decades past, would be a crack in the new Grand Coalition's armour. However, no cracks came.
In retrospect, and I say this as a guy who proudly supported Dion throughout all highs and lows, Dion helped the Tory grand coalition stay together in the aftermath of Quebec as a nation. While even if another candidate had won, I doubt you would have seen much rumblings in the Tory ranks either way, the nature of Dion, a staunchly federalist environmentalist (which is what as a Liberal, originally attracted me to his campaign), was such that Harper could say to both Western populists who saw Dion as a perpetrator of the global warming myth, and Quebec nationalists who saw Dion as a vendu, "Hey, I may not be perfect, but take a look at this guy!" When it came time for the first electoral tests in Quebec that were Harper vs. Dion, Harper received flying colours from the electorate, picking up Roberval-Lac St. Jean and nearly gaining Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot from the BQ, demonstrating the Tories' ability to pick up voters in the regions of Quebec, while Dion lost Outremont to the NDP, which brought many to question Dion's potential for growth in Quebec.
By the time of these by-elections, a new dynamic was in play in Quebec. Several months earlier, the populist-conservative Action démocratique du Québec had jumped from third place into nearly knocking off the Charest Liberals. While Harper had been paying close attention to the relationship with the ruling Liberals, he had never forgotten the ADQ, and in particular, its mercurial leader, Mario Dumont, who had endorsed the Conservatives personally in 2006. Indeed, it would be hard for Harper to forget the ADQ; of the 10 Tory MP's elected from Quebec in 2006, many had strong ties to the ADQ. Four of those newly elected federal Members of Parliament - Maxime Bernier, Steven Blaney, Jacques Gourde and Josée Verner - came from areas that the ADQ represented provincially, and all had various ties to the ADQ, with the exception of Lawrence Cannon, a former provincial Minister in the PLQ, as well as a former federal Liberal, none had particularly strong ties to the PLQ. More importantly from a federal Conservative point of view, Dumont and the ADQ had run on issues and rhetoric that while resonated well with Conservatives from outside Quebec; a smaller state, less immigration, greater provincial authorities, while being opposed to Quebec sovereignty, getting tough on crime, etc. Dumont had success in the same regions of Quebec Harper both had and wished to succeed in the future in. While during the 2007 provincial election Harper favoured Charest, delivering a budget with extra funds for Quebec which Charest turned into a tax cut (at this point, some of the Western populists cried foul, but they were not a loud enough voice yet for anyone to seriously worry about a crack in the coalition), after the election, with Charest looking a spent force, the ADQ on the rise, Mario Dumont looking to be the Premier in waiting, and the old federalist-sovereignties debate looked to be replaced by the ADQ rallying cry of "Autonome!"
For the federal Conservatives, this was nothing but good news. With a powerful ADQ, no longer would intergovernmental issues come between Quebec nationalists and Western populists, a true conservative Prime Minister could talk to a true conservative Premier of Quebec, and just as the Conscription Crisis laid the ground-work for Liberal dominance of the 20th century, reasonable accommodation would set the ground-work for Conservative dominance of the 21th.But something happened. While Harper and Dumont's buddy-buddy act alienated Charest and the PLQ, the ADQ started to flounder, and Charest got his mojo back. The federal Tories still seemed to be ok, and were confident that they could ride the ADQ and the provincial Liberals they had not alienated to a big seat gain and an overall majority. The next Quebec test of Dion vs. Harper, however, leaned far more heavily in Dion's favour than the previous round of by-elections. While the Tories were hyping up the chance for a victory in Guelph, and loudly hinted that local candidate Gloria Kovach would be appointed to cabinet if victorious, they downplayed the votes in Westmount-Ville Marie and St. Lambert.
The federal Liberals would not be caught off guard again, and were running strong campaigns in both ridings. The NDP was challenging in W-VM, with a star candidate, hoping to repeat Outremont, and the Tories were largely disinterested in how arguably one of the least Tory friendly ridings in the country would vote, unless the Liberals happened to be knocked down a peg. St. Lambert was somewhat more promising. A suburban riding, with a strong federalist side despite going Bloc, (and a good chunk of the Bloc vote was seen as more of a personal vote for retiring incumbent Makka Kotto, who made the jump to the Parti Quebecois), and if the Tories could finish ahead of the Liberals, at least, that would show that Dion could not win Quebec, and that the Tories could get out the vote not only in rural areas, but right on the doorstep of the Liberal/BQ fortress (Outremont not withstanding) of Montreal.
As the campaigns wore on, rumours began floating. The Liberals would cruise to victory in Westmount -Ville Marie, Kovach was floundering in Guelph as the Liberal vote held steady and the Green vote was skyrocketing, and the BQ would hold on to St. Lambert, and arguably worst of all, would be able to retain second place against the Tories. All this went against the Conservative narrative. Both the Liberals and the BQ were supposed to be the past of Quebec. The Green Shift and the Liberals were supposed to be going down in flames in mid-sized cities/ridings like Guelph. Dion was not a leader. As voting day neared for the three ridings, increasingly, rumblings were coming out of the PMO that Parliament, and particularly the Liberals, were "obstructing" the governments agenda. It rapidly became clear that Harper intended to break his own election date and call a snap election. The timing of the dissolving of Parliament, a mere day before the by-elections were timed, left little illusion that that the anticipated results had at least something to do with snap general election.
For most of the early weeks of the campaign, the polling had the Tories right on the cusp of a majority, but not quite at the point. Numbers from Quebec were ok, not as strong as expected, but doing decently, guaranteed at least some seat pick ups, and a nice little bounce was all that would be needed.Then the first big crack in Harper's Grand Coalition appeared. Egged on my ADQ staffers who were largely in charge of the Quebec Tory campaign, Harper was advised that throwing a piece of red meat to his populist base in the form of culture funding. Harper's comments about artists, arts funding, and more broadly, the role of the state in promoting culture, was intended to placate the more populist/social conservative element of the Tory base in English Canada, which tend to take a dim view of using tax-payer dollars to support culture. For Quebec nationalists, however, the relationship between the state, the people, and the culture, is extremely close. The nationalist wing of the Tories revolted, and the BQ, in one of the most interesting political maneuvers I've ever seen, switched its tactics almost completely from identifying itself as the soverigntist option, and instead Gilles Duceppe, who I have no doubt could have become Prime Minister were he a federalist, openly campaigned for federalist voters to support the BQ. Duceppe argued on the grounds that they were the best equipped to combat a Harper majority. Duceppe had used this line before the culture comments affair, but they took on a new urgency after, and in an an election which was supposed to be the death knell for the BQ, and the rise of the Tories was instead a story of Bloc defiance, Harper dropping the ball, and a modest Liberal recovery, as ironically, Quebec, the province which Dion's harshest critics said he could not win, provided the only province-wide bright spot for the Liberals come election night, and I saw more than a few Liberals raise a glass that night to Quebec.
The pattern of that election, Harper strengthening his hand in the ROC, while Quebec expansion was dropped, was an ominous foreshadow for the next development in Harper's relationship with Quebec: for all the talk of the Conservative "Grand Coalition", a coalition, without air quotes, and with strong support from Quebec, but unpopular in ROC, was looking to push Harper out after a fall economic update which took the position that in the middle of an economic crisis, the best course of action was to deny a deficit and recession were on the horizon, and attack the public service and the opposition parties. The aftermath was arguably the greatest Canadian political turmoil since the collapse of the Mulroney "Grand Coalition", as Canadians took to the street to protest either in favour or against. The country was sharply divided, and Harper, never one to pass up a wedge issue, hit it will full force.
Any Quebec support Harper had evaporated as Harper attacked the "Separatist Coalition", telling the ROC that the BQ would have a policy veto, and other outright falsehoods. Had Harper asked for an election, and the GG given it to him, Harper would have swept across English Canada, but would have been lucky to return more than the seemingly locally unimpeachable Maxime Bernier from Quebec. The ADQ, fresh off mismanaging Harper's campaign in Quebec, and with the reasonable accommodation issue pushed aside by the economy, started off the Quebec elections which were co-current with the dispute in a distant third, had its support further sapped by Harper's fierce attacks, as Charest, formerly Harper's dancing buddy, condemned the attacks on the Bloc Quebecois and the coalition as crossing the line. Many considered the surprisingly strong showing of the Parti Quebecois, which limited Charest to a narrowly workable majority when pre-election polls predicted a 2003-style Liberal romp, if not more, to a resurgence of nationalist feelings within Quebec voters after Harper's attacks.
We all know the story since then. Dion out, Iggy in, the coalition done, Liberal numbers and finances up, particularly in Quebec, the Tories dropping across the country, but particularly in Quebec, with seemingly no way to ever recover enough to salvage a majority, and with the last few polls showing the Liberals ahead nationally. So, what now, and what to make of this?I think what we are seeing with the Tories collapse in Quebec is a much quieter separation of a part of the Grand Coalition, and somewhat in reverse. With the Mulroney coalition, the West was the first to go, while Quebec is arguably the only province in which Mulroney remains in good standing (the decision of Harper to alienate Mulroney and his PC support network in Quebec can also be seen as a crack). Today, Quebec is rebelling most loudly against the Conservatives, while the Western, Reform Party heartland remains a largely impenetrable fortress of Tory support.
I doubt we will ever see a formal split again in the Conservatives, but Harper's use of wedge politics has driven a wedge into his naturally shakey coalition. The Conservative coalition is, as that G&M article summed up, "Francophones and franco-phobes", and ultimately is unsustainable for Canada. With Harper seemingly moving on from pitting English against French to Canadian vs. Canadian based on how long you have been in the country, and pitting those who are looking for work vs. those who have work, the Harper's inclinations for wedge issues and dividing Canadians is well at work. As Liberals we have to keep working for Canada. I have no doubt that at least part of Ignatieff's numbers, in Quebec and elsewhere, are a halo effect/honeymoon period. But I also have no doubt in my mind that if we work as a party, not just for the party, but for all Canadians, bringing them together in a positive way in a time of economic crisis, we can't drive those Liberal numbers even higher.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
I've blogged quite a bit recently about how the provincial PC leadership race has been dominated by wedge issues, focusing on dividing Ontarians than moving the economy forward. Well, the federal Tories have been playing from the same gamebook, as Ignatieff states I think well on the "I don't care" divisive streak Harper has, particularly his latest games with EI and the attack ads:
He said about two million Canadians live and work outside the country at any given time. Millions more are recent immigrants and new citizens.
“Are they any less Canadian than you are?” he asked.
“He takes one Canadian and sets them against another Canadian,” Ignatieff said.
“He takes the people who are in work, and he plays them against people who are out of work. That is the lowest game in politics, and we should stop it.”
Interestingly, and tellingly, the Tories talking points on the EI issue are pretty non-existent, other than standard rhetoric that was copy and pasted from any criticism of Liberal ideas, and the main line keeps being that Iggy is "just visiting". If the Harper Conservatives continue their tradition of economic mismanagement, a lot more Canadians will neet to "visit" the employment offices.
My Tory attack ad spoof: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WNZ0aIeBczI&feature=channel_page
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Randy Hillier and the Ontario PC's: Only white, rural, anglophones hetrosexual males are allowed to be victims!
I've talked previously about the stance of several PC leadership contenders who are seemingly more interested in dividing Ontario than delivering ideas about how to move the economy forward, and Randy Hillier continues the trend:
The overtness of Hillier's message, coming from a man who has not hesitated to use civil disobedience in the past, and who has been arrested, to criticize First Nations protesters for using similar tactics, is stunning that he is rapidly becoming a power player in a mainstream political party in 2009. Given Hillier's other positions on anyone who isn't a white, rural, heterosexual male anglophone are already well known, it will be very interesting to see what kind of deal the eventual PC winner strikes with Hillier for either his support on the balloting, or to acknowledge his position as a power-broker within the party.
Some other Hillier hits, soon to possibly become Ontario PC policy?
Working towards eliminating French in Ontario.
Infringing on the personal rights of consenting adults.
Amongst others. Randy Hillier and the Ontario PC's are in a race to see which candidate can promise the most regressive and divisive policy.
Friday, May 22, 2009
With the debates in the PC leadership race starting, the policies of each contender are starting to come out, as is the hollowness of the PC's rallying against the Harmonized Sales Tax. http://www.thestar.com/news/ontario/article/638577
The simple fact is the PC's are being hypocritical in attacking the HST. The federal Conservatives supported the measure, and the provincial PC's as well as each of the leadership contenders, supported a HST right up until budget day. I think the pure emptiness and hypocrisy of the PC leadership contenders stance on the issue can be highlighted with some quotes:
While Klees and his three rivals vying for ousted leader John Tory's job said they would fight the tax, none vowed last night at the party's first leadership debate to scrap it...what might happen to the tax if Progressive Conservatives are elected in the 2011 provincial election is "pure speculation" now, said candidate Christine Elliott, MPP for Whitby-Ajax...Klees said it would be "futile" to figure out his proposed PST cut.
The Ontario PC's have no economic plan for this province, and would rather divide Ontario with controversial ideas on Human Rights Tribunals and legalized discrimination than deal with the real issues at hand.
Also check out my spoof of the Tory attack ads: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WNZ0aIeBczI&feature=related
Thursday, May 21, 2009
With the NS Tories running third, I can understand why Conservative Premier Rodney MacDonald would want to try and rally the base, but this move reeks of being an electoral "Hail Mary". For the Tories, however, this bound to be intercepted pass shows true Conservative colours on youth: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/nsvotes2009/story/2009/05/21/novascotiavotes-curfew-tories.html
PC leader Rodney MacDonald said he can't think of any reason why a child would be out on the street at 1 a.m.
Oh, I don't know, how about, not committing crimes? The fact that similar curfews have been struck down across the country doesn't seem to matter, as this is just another example of when it comes to crime/justice issues, the Tories will always put effectiveness and legality behind raw partisan appeal.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
The momentum continues for the Nova Scotia Liberals, after a strong debate performance by Liberal leader Stephen McNeil.
...he was least often the target of his opponents and therefore suffered the fewest body blows.
Meanwhile, McNeil provided mostly concise, detailed responses and was particularly strong on taking Nova Scotia Power to task, on killing gas regulation and on strengthening health care.
The rise of McNeil and the Liberal Party was noted in a second consecutive poll showing the Liberals within striking distance of the NDP, and running ahead of the governing PC's who have been pushed down to third.
All Nova Scotians remember to get out and vote Liberal!
Check out my other video, a spoof of the Tory attack ads: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WNZ0aIeBczI&feature=channel
New developments in the PC leadership race:
The Cliff Notes version, for those too lazy to read all those:
-Hudak, despite having the most establishment support, as well as presumably the most support amongst pre-existing members, has not signed up nearly as many new members as people have expected.
-Christine Elliott has outfundraised Hudak 10-1, and has been successful in signing up new members.
-Frank Klees has signed up many new members (perhaps the most of any candidate) and looks like he will perform far better than many expected. Apparently has been making good in-roads in ethnic communities, a group which Hudak needed to go after, particularly considering his endorsement by Jason Kenney.
-Randy Hillier has a very hard-core group of support, and thus has not done terribly in fundraising, but his membership sales lag far behind, really only making progress in rural Eastern Ontario, which is his home-base anyway.
-The messages coming out of the Elliott and Klees campaigns are that Hudak has lost his front runner status, and the membership and fundraising numbers would seem to suggest Hudak has less of a lock on the race than previously indicated.
-Klees' performance in signing up new members has been the surprise of the campaign, and given rumours that he would back Elliott over Hudak, could be a game-changer when it comes time to cast ballots.
-Strong regionalization in membership sales: Hudak is strongest in Southeastern Ontario, Elliott and Klees in the GTA, and the Hillier in Eastern Ontario.
-Hudak's percieved lack of policy is starting to hurt him.
Also, check out my new Youtube attack ad spoof video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WNZ0aIeBczI&feature=channel
My entry into the YLC Positive Politics contest: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MevlKbbGzdM
A spoof of the Tory attack ads: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WNZ0aIeBczI
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
The newest critic of the Tory attack ads is not a journalist, or a pundit, or a Liberal talking head, it is a Conservative MP. http://www.bclocalnews.com/bc_thompson_nicola/kamloopsthisweek/news/45436642.html
Recent released Tory ads attacking Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff have failed to impress at least one Conservative MP.
Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod said she doesn't like the ads and would prefer to take the political high road.
If the next couple opinion polls show the Tories unable to reverse their decline on the national level (could the dropping of the Nova Scotia PC's to 3rd place be a sign?), I won't be surprised if McLeod isn't the first MP to publicly attack the leadership on this issue. That McLeod doesn't fear publicly undercutting the leadership on these ads I think shows that Harper's grasp on his caucus, already weakened by things like the Mulroney issue, falling poll numbers, and the economy, is further going down.
The second poll in a row, and the same trend, with the NDP having a healthy lead, the governing PC's pushed back into 3rd place, and the Liberals set to jump from 3rd to becoming the officially opposition. The NDP may have failed to take back BC, but it looks increasingly likely that Atlantic Canada will have its first NDP government. The Tories falling from government to third would be a serious body blow, and lets hope the Liberals and Stephen McNeil can take advantage of this collapse.
Both these articles have a common theme: http://www.nationalpost.com/todays-paper/story.html?id=1607280&p=1 and http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/todays-paper/Tory+arts+funding+sparks+criticism+frustration/1608318/story.htm
The Harper government being anti-science and anti-arts shouldn't surprise anyone at this point, but with this two articles comes a re-affirmation that Harper and the Conservatives are out of touch with how these and other aspects of the new, knowledge economy will help get Canada out of the recession. In Harper's World, artists and scientists are lazy elitists and geeks, sucking at the federal teet. In the real world, both the arts and sciences are things which put Canada on the map globally far more than Harper's identikit Bushian foreign policy and economic mismanagement. A Liberal government must and will recognize the importance and need of the knowledge economy as part of an overarching plan to protect the livelihood of our citizens, and get Canada working.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Considering the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, as a job, has a decent chance of being Premier, and the party has been down in the polls and is looking to re-energize itself, you'd figure the party would be tripping over itself to engage the grassroots, and have a high profile leadership race with an open exchange of ideas to generate interest in the party.
Well, I guess not.
That's right folks, for the sheer privilege of watching Randy Hillier and Frank Klees duke it out about who hates abortion and gays more, you are not only not guaranteed a spot, but you have to cough up $10.
We've already seen with such policies being thrown around as attacking Ontarians human rights and legalizing discrimination and dividing Ontario at a time in which we need togetherness, but now, the PC's are openly and proudly showing a closed door to the citizens of Ontario. Elitism and antagonism are the orders of the day from the Ontario PC's right now.
So it looks like EI remains a potential election issue: http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20090517/ei_debate_090517/20090517?hub=TopStories
As a narrative, and an issue for the Liberals to champion, EI I think is a very good option. The proposed changes the Liberals are calling for are a rare breed when it comes to economic related policy; it has both populist appeal, and makes economic sense. While the Tories usually champion policies that have the later, while dispensing the former, talking about EI in a responsible, level-headed fashion is a good way for the Liberal Party to re-affirm it's economic credentials.
Additionally, EI lends itself very well to the idea of a political campaign telling a story. While the Harper Conservatives are callously attacking Michael Ignatieff while infrastructure money sits still, and hundreds of thousands of jobs are lost, the Liberal Party must not be distracted, and must focus on telling the story of those hard-working Canadians. The people who need EI right now are not, as Mr. Harper seemingly thinks, welfare bums and beggars, but hard-working Canadians who are paying the price for Conservative economic mismanagement. We need to respond to the attack ads soon, with a message that, unlike the Conservatives, the Liberal Party is open to all segments of society, and is not in the business of letting decent, working Canadians out to dry. Let's get Canada working.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
While I can only make videos, I figure a Young Liberal (technically he just aged out, but I'll allow it) who is making a very substantive contribution to advancing Liberal values should be highlighted.
Colin Hebb, a former executive member of the Nova Scotia Young Liberals, is running as the Liberal candidate in Dartmouth South-Portland Valley. Colin is running a strong campaign as part of the Nova Scotia Liberal team, which looks to makes some impressive gains this election, which is shaping up to be a tough three way fight. Show your support for Colin by becoming a supporter at: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/pages/Colin-Hebb/87311561075?ref=ts
Let's help elect Colin and other Nova Scotia Liberals and show that liberalism is out in full force, working for Canadians, all across the country.
Tim Hudak is taking a page out of Randy Hillier's book, by declaring he would eliminating Human Rights Tribunals. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20090515.wPOLonttory16/BNStory/politics/home
I'll be frank with one of my personal views first before taking a closer look at the implications of this. I do believe that HRT's have, in recent years, been somewhat overreaching in scope. However, I do believe that they can play an important role in ensuring the rights of all Ontarians, and that reform of the Tribunals is needed, not haphazard elimination of them.
More importantly, I believe that this being Hudak's first real policy declaration establishes an important part of his campaign and his persona as a potential leader. Despite the economy being issue number 1, Hudak joins Frank Klees and Randy Hillier in being more focused in playing identity politics and trying to paint rural white males as victims to try and win votes. I may disagree with Christine Elliot's flat tax, but in fair game to her, she is the only candidate who has attempted to make the economy part of her policy vision and platform. Hudak's only economic principle has been the flip-flop on the harmonized sales tax. He, like most provincial Conservatives, supported a harmonized sales tax, encouraged by Jim Flaherty, right up until the day of the last budget. Hudak is childishly calling it the Dalton Sales Tax, without presenting any real economic policies. The PC party under Tim Hudak would be more interested in dividing Ontarians with controversial social policy that a PC insider says:
“I think they're going to look at this and say, ‘you're pulling another John Tory move. You picked a hot-button issue that's going to blow up in our faces just as the school thing did,'”
Tim Hudak and the PC's right now have increasingly little economic credibility, and are rapidly becoming the party of No: No to the Green Energy Act and a clean, renewable future, No to any plans to help Ontario families get out of the recession, No to rejecting divisive politics in a time of troubles. Ontario needs to say NO to divide and conquer politicking, and YES to real economic recovery.
A great idea by the Young Liberals of Canada, in response to the Harper ad attacks, to hold a contest to see who can design the best positive web ad. My entry is posted above, take a look!
Thursday, May 14, 2009
One, Harper embracing ever increasing deficits with no plan to get the country out of them beyond keeping his fingers crossed that the economy magically recovers some way, some how. While Harper's wheels spinning in the face of his own economic mismanagement has been a recurring theme for the last few months, this quote by Baird is a bit of a head scratcher:
"This government is not satisfied with the layers of bureaucracy and agreements that tied up infrastructure projects," he said.
Now, I may only be a third year undergraduate studying the civil service, but I am pretty sure, at least to a degree of little things like ministerial accountability for the actions of a department, and that, you know, the civil service is part of the government, albeit in theory arms length from the elected officials.
But with Baird's statement here, we seemingly have the government, blaming the government, for the failures of the government. Conservative inaction at work, folks.
And now the above from Christine Elliot's campaign, highlighting a Mississauga South fundraiser...in Oakville?
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
The renewed Iggy Liberal brand is doing pretty good at the moment, and we cannot for a second allow it to be tarished by the Tories. We need to hit back. Our fundraising numbers are higher, so we should be able to afford at least some sort of commerical response. Doing a pro-Iggy or anti-Harper ad buy sends a few messages, all of which I believe would help build a pro-Liberal narrative.
1. If we actually do buy some hard-hitting ads, it shows we have the financial and organizational resources to do so at any time.
2. By responding quickly and firmly, it helps get some mental blue water between the Ignatieff era and the Dion era, by demonstrating that the Liberal Party won't be shoved around. We've had some success with the "on probation" line, we need to keep it going.
3. While it is tempting to respond to Tory attack ads about attack ads in kind, I think we need to go sober, and serious. I'm thinking an ad that just has a close up of Iggy's face, with him talking soberly about the economy, and how the Liberal Party understands the difficulties faced by Canadians, how we are working for them, etc.
Anyway, we need to step back from being partisan Liberals and understand that we cannot underestimate the ability of these attack ads to lower Ignatieff. Rather than quake in fear, however, we need to stand up and defend ourselves, just like a Liberal government will stand up for Canadians.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
The Conservatives combine here two noticeable trends of Harper's reign: A disinterest in anything regarding the environment, and a hilarious dismantling of any claims they made about "open government" and "accountability" when they came into power.
"Without a system to count real emission reductions that result from its measures, the government will not be able to inform Parliament whether the measures are working," Scott Vaughan, commissioner of the environment and sustainable development, said Tuesday in the text of a prepared statement."
A recurring flaw … is the lack of transparency on the part of the government as to how forecast reductions are calculated," the report said. It noted that the potential effect of factors such as energy prices and economic conditions are not included.
Lovely. Given that you can draw a lot of similarities between what Vaughan is saying here, and what Kevin Page has repeatedly said about the Conservatives economic predictions, don't be surprised when the office of the Environment commissioner starts coming under Page-like siege from the Tories.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
I canvassed extensively in Ottawa-Orleans last election, (even spending e-day trying to pull votes) but unfortunately, the riding could not be won. However, with two candidates running, both of whom I believe are well qualified, the Liberal Party can take this riding back.
However, I must confess I have a preference in this nomination battle. While Con. Bloess is to be applauded for this firm standing as a member of the fiscally responsible wing of Ottawa city council, and whose local ties and experience would make him a great candidate should he win, I believe that Judith Cane is ultimately a better candidate. A local businesswoman, Cane would give the Liberal Party a much needed boost on the economy issue, which is shaping up to be the critical issue of the next election. Furthermore, I believe Cane fills a gap in the Liberal Party, of showcasing women who can be high-profile spokespersons on the economy. While I might not be able to vote for her (I live in Ottawa Centre), I encourage all Liberals within the riding of Ottawa-Orleans to support her, and help Michael Ignatieff and the Liberal Party of Canada take back the riding of Ottawa-Orleans.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
It raises some interesting points:
-A large number of MP's have only served in minority Parliaments, which tend to be more tense and partisan. I think this is a valid point, as the high tension between the different parties really is a significant factor in turning voters away.
-What should the proper balance be between "real life" and "political" experience? This dynamic is being played out in the PC leadership race, with Christine Elliot running on a slogan of "Real Life Experience" and Tim Hudak flaunting his cabinet experience and impressive establishment support. This relates back to the first point, as it implies that experienced politicians will result in a better functioning Parliament. Coming from a municipal political circut in which incumbency pretty much means victory, I am particularly unsure about this one. However, the ADQ I think offers a cautionary tale that experience does matter, after surging from a handful of seats to 40 in the 2007 Quebec election, the ADQ caucus was almost entirely made out of MNA's with very very little political experience, and in addition to the decline of overt "reasonable accommodation" politics, the low-performance of the ADQ caucus was cited by many as a reason for the decline of the party.
-Something not adressed in the article, but I think is worth mentioning, is the idea of "star candidates". While some high-profile recruits have a built in background in politics, often either formerly on the federal level, or at the provincial/municipal level (figures such as Bob Rae, Gerard Kennedy, and Ed Broadbent fit this bill), more often, they are lauded for being able to bring some note-worthy "real-life" experience to the table, from outside politics. (From the Liberal side in the last election, Briony Penn, Marc Garneau, and Eric Hoskins are examples)
Star candidates of this nature, despite often having little to no political experience, are often given cabinet positions.
-Does federal political experience matter more than other forms of political experience? While the article talks about "newbie's", particularly MP's elected since 2004, I think this a little unfair. Bob Rae, Gerard Kennedy, and Jim Flaherty may combined only have 8 years of experience as federal MP's, but I don't think you could call a former Premier and two high-profile cabinet ministers of the largest population in Canada politically inexperienced. Considering many federal MP's have served as either provincial or municipal legislators at some point, I think the idea of politically inexperienced MP's is slightly overblown by this article.
-Ultimately, in the Canadian experience, does "real life" experience count for anything? It is not popular to say politicians really do know better, particularly veteran politicos, but if you take a look at the Harper cabinet, political experience does matter. From a Liberal perspective, it is obviously difficult to define what the "good" ministers are, but if we can define it roughly as the Minister being politically benefitical being in the ministry, a clear pattern develops. In large part, the ministers generally considered either objectively not bad at controlling the ministry they are in charge of (Prentice, Aglukkaq) or even just the most high-profile Ministers, are mostly newbies. Indeed, of the Priorities and Planning Committee of the Cabinet, the collection of the most powerful Ministers, (Stephen Harper, Lawrence Cannon, Marjory LeBreton, Chuck Strahl, Peter MacKay, Stockwell Day, Vic Toews, Jim Prentice, John Baird, Tony Clement, Jim Flaherty, Josée Verner, and Christian Paradis), only Harper, Strahl, Day, MacKay, and Toews were elected before 2004. Many of the post-04 figures, however, do have extensive provincial political experience (Cannon, Baird, Clement, Flaherty). Further more, looking at the list of Harper ministers to suffer embarrassing scandals, demotions, etc, with the exception of Gerry Ritz (elected 1997), cabinet lightweights and dropouts such as Gordon O'Connor, Maxime Bernier, Rona Ambrose, Bev Oda, etc, are all from primarily non-political backgrounds.
-The nature of the Canadian political system, particularly on the cabinet level, dilutes the need for so-called "real life" experience. Compared to the US system, with appointed Secretaries who are experienced in the field they represent, and who extremely rarely serve as the head of another department, Ministers in Canada (and Parliamentary systems in general) are far more disposable and flexible, with significant power and experience resting in the hands of the Deputy Minister and the civil service. The best example of real life experience failing to provide political points is Gordon O'Connor. Being a former general, on the surface he would seem to be a natural minister of Defense. However, this reign at defense was marked by scandal, conflicts with other departments, and arguments between O'Connor and the civil service over how to run the department.
Anyway, read the article, what are your thoughts?