Saturday, September 20, 2008

Day 14: Tories break out Quebec wilcard, and I, the smelling salts

Said exactly three weeks ago by some erudite, political wannabee in the comments section of Politics from a New Brunswick Perspective:
Plus, with the latter being said, he would be a huge wildcard in Quebec (as a francophone spokesperson and native son) for the conservatives. Something he proposed to do for Harper back in 2006 when he was premier.

To me, putting Lord in Quebec would be the TSN turning point for the Tories and their much sought out majority (it could even mean challenging a few traditional Liberal ridings on the island of Montreal because of Lord's backing of the statist bilingual policy). Something native Quebecers have always been suspicious of ever since the formation of the reform party (and the comments made in the 1997 election about La Belle province).
Today's headline/subheads [and quotes] in the Telegraph Journal:
"..., Bernard Lord is taking a grassroots approach to convince voters here and in Quebec that Conservative Leader Stephen Harper is the right man for these troubled economic times.


Over the coming three weeks Lord, the only francophone co-chair for the federal Conservative campaign, will use his seven years' experience as premier and his reputation as a moderate to help Stephen Harper win seats in Quebec and in Atlantic Canada."
Wow, some unfrozen Tory strategist deep underground in the Gloucester lair took the advice of this ol' hack: time to break out the homemade Sackville smelling salts!

Friday, September 19, 2008


Sorry to have gone radio silent the past few days (and thanks to NBT for keepin' things rollin'). I've been working on, and hope to post by the end of the weekend, a relatively complex (i.e. complex for me, easy for experts) seat projection model that I will be applying for the duration of the election.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Harper taking on a big risk with Ritz

Adam Radwanski's take regarding the PM's handling of the Gerry Ritz affair:
It's now been well more than 12 hours since the comic stylings of Gerry Ritz came to light. A good case can be made that Stephen Harper should've dumped him from cabinet on the spot. But having stuck with him this far, you'd better hope for Harper's sake that he's sticking with him for the long haul.

To dump him immediately would've led to a day or two of bad press, but killed the story and enhanced Harper's reputation for decisiveness. Sticking with him arguably avoids adding more legitimacy to the comments as a full-blown scandal, and at least proves Harper loyal (if a little stubborn). But if he dumps him after a day or two of bad press, he'll get the worst of all worlds - a legitimate scandal with legs that calls into question the Conservative leader's instincts and proves he won't hold strong in the face of bad press.
Adam's right, by firing Mr. Ritz on the spot, the PM would not only be demonstrating his true decisiveness as a leader, he would be clearly indicating to Canadians that a Prime Minister will not tolerate a member of the cabinet embarrassing him in public in such a manner. Instead, he has decided to stand by his Ag minister. So if Harper buckles on this one now, the opposition party's will not train their guns on Mr. Ritz, but on the head of government, Mr. Harper, who twiddled his thumbs even as Canadians and the families themselves showed their disdain and outrage over Ritz's insensitive remarks regarding the listeriosis victims.

Just so you know, as a conservative, I admire Harper's loyalty on this one, but I deplore his stubbornness even more. I hope when he made this decision that he realized that hangin' in with Ritz could very well put him at a serious political disadvantage in this campaign.

It's a big risk, however, it's his head on the platter [now] if it backfires.

Opposition phrase of the next few days: conservative insensitivity?

In politics, stubbornness can always work for and against a leader depending on the political circumstances. And now that Harper has dug in his heels "big time" with the press on Ritzgate, I see a certain someone is using this as a gateway to rekindle his chances with seasonal workers (and potential switch voters) in outlying regions of Quebec:
"They are showing total insensitivity toward the regions," he said during a stop at this town on the Baie-des-Chaleurs, where the economy is based on tourism and fishing. "It shows that a Conservative majority would be bad for the regions."
Methinks there will be a swift resignation in the next few days if the polls start to move unfavorably in La belle province for Mr. Harper. Never count out that ol' crafty separatist.

Day 12: A few quick hitters this A.M.

: Conservative Agricultural Minister Gerry Ritz for obvious reasons. Not only do his insensitive comments effect his own campaign and future within the party, his bonehead remarks do absoutely nothing for the rest of the hardworking conservative candidates who are in tight battles and are trying to fend off the notion that Harper and his party are cold and calculating. I'm sure I'll get a lot of criticism for saying this, but this is one conservative camper that thinks that he should save his boss the trouble and resign his post. Canadians, and the families of the listeriosis victims, deserve no less.

Local Losers: New Brunswick, PEI and Nova Scotia federal Tories. No, they weren't personally guilty of anything. They just ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time on this day. And for the few who were running decent, clean and positive campaigns, the Ritz comment will only taint all that by bringing that good message off the rails and back to the fact that Harper and his party are uncaring and insensitive about maritimers (and Canadians in general). Let's just say, I now expect the "defeatist" line to be trotted out by many Liberals for the remainder of the campaign.

Policy loser: Green party leader Elizabeth May for not only suggesting a GST hike, but for the fact that she omitted important specifics regarding her carbon tax plan. It's the same policy as last year which also called for a $50-a-tonne reduction on fossil fuels, however, this time she failed to tell Canadians that this reduction would [again] mean a 12 cent increase in gas prices at the pumps. A clever (but dishonest) omission since many Canadians are struggling with high gas prices already. I think many will agree that we don't need a policy that will put us over the top in these trying times.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Day 11: What caught my right wing eye

: The Liberal campaign plane, or as it's known around Bourque circles, "Air Dud." Let's just say that enough has already been made about the so-called grumblings amongst Liberal party insiders regarding the poor strategy of the Dion campaign that they didn't need last nights malfunction [generator gaffe] to add fuel to the fire. The Boeing 737 Air Inuit has now become the symbol of the Liberal campaign as they've both become the butt-of-jokes.

Winners: NDP strategists for running a disciplined campaign thus far and not getting knocked off message. Since the Ryan Sparrow gaffe last week, Mr. Layton has been offering Canadians a steady, incremental dose of left-wing policies. Policies that seem to be playing well in parts of Ontario where the manufacturing sector has been hit hard recently. Not to mention, policies that are propelling them in the polls as they're now only trailing the grits by 4 percentage points nationally according to a recent Ekos Research poll.

Local Loser: Nova Scotia Liberal Scott Brison for appearing aloof and uninterested in his leaders speech on catastrophic drug coverage in Halifax yesterday. And to add insult to injury, Brison's body language seemed to perk up (and become more positive) when fellow Liberal Bob Rae took over the podium. Not a good way to show confidence in your leader.

Loser: Halton Liberal MP Garth Turner, or as Conservative blogger Stephen Taylor calls him, "Progressive-Conservative-turned-broadcaster-turned-Conservative-turned-Independent-
turned-Green tease-turned-Liberal MP", for not being upfront with CPAC broadcasters. With what appeared to most as a random door knocking stop for Turner, turned out to be anything but. Apparently CPAC were under the impression that they had just filmed footage of an independent minded Halton constituent who was happy with Dion's Green Shift plan. Unfortunately, for Turner, he left out a couple of key variables: 1) the gentlemen being filmed at the door was not some random individual, he was a card carrying Liberal and 2) to add insult to injury, he was the son of longtime Turner assistant, Esther Shaye. So much for CPAC measuring the independent pulse of Canadians at the door. Furthermore, when pressed on the issue by the CBC and CPAC, Turner became very combative (unwilling to give them full disclosure) and pleaded the fifth until it was too uncomfortable to do so anymore. Let's just say that b/c of this, you have probably heard the last of Garth in Halton as an MP.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Incremental socialism: Mr. Layton goes back to Ottawa much stronger

Even though NDP leader Jack Layton has been campaigning right across the country on the slogan of "Harper is the wrong kind of strong", you would be surprised at how much the two men have in common. No, not on policy (as they are diametrically opposed on pretty much every issue), but their strategic style. They are both incrementalist. Harper, it would seem, governs that way. And in much the same fashion, Layton has been closing the gap on the trail and is now within striking distance of overtaking his primary opponent, the Liberals.

Let Ekos Research President Frank Graves explain this change:

“This change has been taking place in small increments, day after day since the prospect of an election loomed at the end of August,” said EKOS President Frank Graves. “The Liberals have gradually slipped from the high 20s into the low 20s. The New Democrats, meanwhile, have been edging up.”

The gap between the Liberals and the New Democrats in this latest poll is just four percentage points. Although it is clear that the Liberals retain a small edge, on some days the difference is within the margin of error.

I guess it wasn't bad strategy after all to turn their attention to Layton and the NDP.


Related: Canada's Liberals headed for third-place finish, Liberals could suffer big loss, Canada's Liberal leader wades on as criticism grows, Conservatives in reach of a majority.

Day 10: A few quick hitters this A.M.

: Liberal war room for going neg on Harper. For the second consecutive week, Dion's carbon tax just isn't clicking with Canadians - so what to do? Hey, let's make some stuff up about the PM. Good to see the Liberals learned so much from the 2006 campaign.

Policy loser: Stéphane Dion's carbon tax. For crying out loud, it's Day 10 of the campaign and Dion's still explaining his policy to those that don't seem understand it. Don't believe me? Well, I just got through watching CBC Newsworld this morning and he was telling reporters (and members of the PPG) in Halifax to go to the Liberal website and punch in a few numbers to see how much a family would get back in taxes with his plan. It got so bad that Bob Rae, yes Bob Rae, had to come in and rescue his leader before it got out-of-hand. Could just be me, but I don't see the Green Shift making it over the finish line in this campaign. In other words, if he is still explaining it by the end of this week, the backroom boys of the Liberal party will pressure him to pull the plug on it.

Winner: Whichever Liberal strategist made the decision to drop Dion from their most recent ad. I think the Grits now realize that this is not about him winning anymore, it's about the Liberal partysaving face and having a party left after the 14th of October.

Losers: Five ex-Bloc MPs for criticizing their former boss by saying their party "has lost its raison d'être and relevance in Ottawa and become a mouthpiece for Quebec's powerful union movement." And b/c of this, it has vaulted Duceppe's campaign into serious damage control.

Local Winner: Yes, it's a Liberal!! None other then former NB Premier Frank McKenna for cleverly distancing himself from this whole Dion mess. And hey, what better way to boost your star image boost relief efforts, then to team up with high profile actor Matt Damon.

Monday, September 15, 2008

It's not the message, it's the messenger

I see there are a lot of Liberals who are touting the ad below as a small victory for the Dion team. To tell you the truth, it's not all that bad. Notwithstanding the early negative content, the latter part of this ad does a pretty good job of clearly outlining what Dion has been having trouble with since the inception of this campaign...that being, selling the so-called positive "revenue aspects" of his Green Shift plan in small bullet points so that the 'Average Joe' on the street can understand it. However, as good as this ad is, it won't make a world of difference with Canadians if Mr. Dion can't find a way to relay this message in public and on the hustings in front of large crowds of potential supporters.

Plus, if the ad accomplishes what it set out to do (and starts to resonate with the general public), won't this just make more people demand the same type of clarity from Dion before buying into the Shift? Can't say for certain, but after seeing him in action these past few days, is raising the bar really a good idea at this point? Shouldn't handlers be lowering it?

Well, so much for the advice, eh Dion?

Earlier this morning in a post giving prudent advice (sarcasm obviously all mine) to all five federal leaders, I mentioned that if Stéphane Dion is to ever have any chance of turning this thing around in his favour, "he must find a way to hone his message regarding the Green Shift plan. At the moment, not only does he have conflicting messages being touted internally by members of his own caucus (and party), the tax side seems to be dominating in the press over the revenue side of the policy. If he is unable to change this and explain to Canadians in the next two weeks why this policy would be good for the economy (and the environment for that matter), his campaign will be dead in the water"

Well, so much for that advice as the pancake breakfast had barely digested on the rock and a former Liberal Minister in Paul Martin's government, John Efford, was offering up his own personal opinion (advice) to Newfoundland and Labradorians regarding the Green Shift plan.

Here's Efford's exact words from a Toronto Star report:
Newfoundlanders are "afraid' of Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion's carbon tax, says a former Liberal cabinet minister.

John Efford said people in the province may distrust Prime Minister Stephen Harper, but they're afraid that the proposed carbon tax is going drive up the cost of fuel.

"I can tell you the average person on the street don't understand the carbon tax," Effort, a former natural resources minister, told reporters after listening to Dion speak in St. John's.

"They are afraid of that," he said, noting that gasoline was selling in Newfoundland this morning at $1.49 a litre.

Efford, who served in Paul Martin's Liberal government, said he realizes it is too late for Dion to ditch the policy, but "I think he has got a big sell on his hands."

Let me tell u, if you're Liberal leader Stéphane Dion, you can't be liking the way things are already shaping up. And it's only Monday for cripes sakes.

Update: I see 1 important Lib is in panic mode: "Should they go neg? Will they?...You know what I think, I suspect. This isn't about one man's views, anymore. It's about protecting the Liberal Party from a decade or more in the wilderness." This, coming from a guy who has had a good handle on such things over the yrs (from a winning perspective, that is).

NBers Paint the Political Picture Caption Contest&trade

I've decided that every Monday from here on out I will hold a caption contest. Note to readers: I'm officially outta material today (too much golf I suppose)...and b/c a photo post is just that much easier (Sorry Charles!!) Here's the inaugural pic folks (go to town):

* Winner declared on Sunday

Day 9: A bit of advice for all five leaders as we head into week 2

Dion: He must find a way to hone his message regarding the Green Shift plan. At the moment, not only does he have conflicting messages being touted internally by members of his own caucus, the tax side seems to be dominating in the press over the revenue side of the policy. If he is unable to change this and explain to Canadians in the next two weeks why this policy would be good for the economy (and the environment for that matter), his campaign will be dead in the water as left-wing and centrist voters will start peeling off into the hands of the NDP and Greens. To put it mildly, he has very little time to pull it together.

Jack Layton
: Simple. Keep doing what you've been doing. Hey, something must be working for Jack and the NDP as the Tories have now refocused and set their sights on his party.

Gilles Duceppe: The theme coming out of the Quebec press this morning seems to be that the Bloc have lost their raison d’être (sense of purpose). If Duceppe doesn't want to see his movement reduced to a rump on the 12th, he has to find a way to separate himself (and his party) from the Tories. And asking federalists to support his party and offering to campaign with the Tories on Quebec nationhood just won't get it done. To tell you the truth, it will only speed up the process of more federalists joining lapsed sovereignists in the Tory camp.

Update: And for the record, this wasn't the kind of separation I had in mind: "Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe has taken umbrage because a candidate for the Conservative Party, Nicole Charbonneau Barron, running in the South Shore Montreal riding of St Bruno-St Hubert, is a member of Opus Dei, a personal prelature within the Catholic church. [...] Attempting to whip up fears that the Tories want to take away a woman’s right to choose, Duceppe complained that “those people are against a lot of things that are generally accepted in Quebec." Those people? Wow, I guess in the world of Gilles Duceppe, desperate times require desperate measures. What's that saying? All is fair in love and war campaigns.

Elizabeth May: You got serious momentum after fighting hard to be included in the debates. However, since then, your campaign has been direction less, and quite frankly, open to attack. Time to get back up, dust yourself off, stop explaining and start talking about the issues that matter to Canadians. Most notably climate change and the economy.

Stephen Harper: Get control of your war room. Other then that, make this week about policy just like you did in December of 2005. Roll 'em out one by one and control the agenda.

Previous Quick Hitters: Day 7 & 8, Day 6, Day 5, Day 4, Day 3, Day 2

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Note to Harper: This is not a sign you are winning over women voters

This song, by a girl that goes by the internet handle of Machine girl, seems to be getting a bit of attention the past few days (or as the hip kids say, "it's going viral").

Anyway, I'm as conservative as the next guy (probably even more so as a practicing Libertarian), but let's get a grip here folks, anybody that has a crush on somebody as dry as Harper (and produces a song about it to boot) really needs to get out more. Hey, don't be hatin' young tories, even Harper himself admitted two yrs ago that he needed to lighten up a bit and get with the program (as he said he has the charisma of an accountant).

Not that he really needed anymore reminding of this. lol

So it is with this that I hope Machine Girl finds a new hobby. Other then watching stiff guys in blue suits on CPAC, that is. ;) I'm mean honestly, I really couldn't take another song, especially if it's about someone having a crush on Martin Stringer or Ken Rockburn.

Update: For the record, I didn't mean "lighten up" in a Kady O'Malley, Scott Reid and Andrew Potter type of way.

Sign wars

I had the opportunity this weekend to spend a bit of time in about a dozen ridings in NB and NS driving to a few visits. I was really surprised that there seemed to be very few Conservative signs up while the Liberals seemed to have their signs up in almost every riding.

For having such a disorganized campaign nationally, it was surprising to see the Liberals ahead of the game in terms of having signs printed, distributed and up. Greg Thompson has some of his signs up but they are signs from last time around. The only new Conservative signs I saw were of a candidate whose name I can't recall in Halifax West who, I imagine, hasn't a snowballs chance in hell of winning.

Other than Liberals, I saw a number of Bill Casey independent signs up and a few NDP signs in South Shore--St. Margaret's. I didn't realize Gordon Earle was taking another kick at the can there and that riding may actually be in play. I'll write something more detailed on that later.

What I found really surprising though is the impressive organization of Mary Lou Babineau, the Green candidate in Fredericton. She and Liberal candidate David Innes are the only ones with signs up but she is the only one that has lawn signs deployed to any significant degree. Additionally, she has been canvassing more aggressively than others - I've spoken to people in different corners of the city and it sounds like her volunteers hit nearly every neighbourhood in town with pamphlets. Is Jack MacDougall going to put the Greens in play in Fredericton? With the NDP only nominating a candidate late this week (and one with no name recognition) one would imagine a lot of their 20% of the votes would be up for grabs. Very interesting.

Day 7 & 8: Quick hitters weekend roundup

: Conservative leader Stephen Harper. In campaign stops in Atlantic Canada on Friday and Saturday, the parliamentary press gallery [PPG] were relentless and continually grilled Mr. Harper about all the negatives that went on in the first week (puffins, Danny Williams, Ryan Sparrow, etc.). Despite all this, Mr. Harper was still able to remain focused, relatively poised and positive. I especially liked this response (regarding Williams' ABC tirade) from the conservative leader, "You are -- as the slogan says -- proud, strong, determined, [....] I can't tell you how to vote. No one can tell a Newfoundlander or a Labradorian how to vote. Your vote is not about personality fights. Your vote is about your own best interests."

Loser: Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe. Much has been made this week of Mr. Dion's slow start to the 2008 campaign. However, it pales in comparison to the horrible week Mr. Duceppe has had on the trail thus far. For someone who has been involved in four previous national campaigns, he sure did look uncertain, not to mention, very rookie like. Even some old Quebec supporters don't see him (or his cause in Ottawa) as useful anymore.

Policy losers
: Maritime Liberals. [They] just can't seem to make up their mind on whether or not to unequivocally support their leaders Green Shift plan (as it is currently written). Let me tell you, watering down the carbon tax plan with personal exemption proposals and blatant misrepresentations makes these two federal Liberals appear to the common voter as not only indecisive, but very untrustworthy. I think it's time that Dion cleared the air here.

Losers: Pundits and pollsters who put entirely way too much weight in early (first week) poll numbers. As Paul Wells cleverly put it this week (about the over saturation of polls), "What’s it been, three hours since the last poll? Time for three more polls." Well said Wells.

Anyway, I'm not going to lie, I realize a lot of people (including myself) like to gaze at the numbers so as to find some sort of trend line. So for anybody that's interested in these kinds of things, The Toronto Star has a great poll tracker out. H/T Chantal Hébert.

Previous Quick Hitters: Day 6, Day 5, Day 4, Day 3, Day 2