Debate on Climate Shifts to Issue of Irreparable Change

Some Experts on Global Warming Foresee 'Tipping Point' When It Is Too Late to Act

According to the Washington Post, now that most scientists agree human activity is causing Earth to warm, the central debate has shifted to whether climate change is progressing so rapidly that, within decades, humans may be helpless to slow or reverse the trend.

This "tipping point" scenario has begun to consume many prominent researchers in the United States and abroad, because the answer could determine how drastically countries need to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in the coming years. While scientists remain uncertain when such a point might occur, many say it is urgent that policymakers cut global carbon dioxide emissions in half over the next 50 years or risk the triggering of changes that would be irreversible.

"There are three specific events that these scientists describe as especially worrisome and potentially imminent, although the time frames are a matter of dispute: widespread coral bleaching that could damage the world's fisheries within three decades; dramatic sea level rise by the end of the century that would take tens of thousands of years to reverse; and, within 200 years, a shutdown of the ocean current that moderates temperatures in northern Europe.

The debate has been intensifying because Earth is warming much faster than some researchers had predicted."

Meanwhile Canada has done little to address this issue notwithstanding Paul Martin's December attacks on the U.S. Stephen Harper has said he will do something different. What? Stephen, we await your clarification.

Election +6

According to Ian Urquhart "the phone lines are starting to burn up as premiers call each other and prime minister-designate Stephen Harper about striking a new deal that could dramatically alter Confederation by strengthening the provinces and reducing Ottawa's role."

At issue is the nation's "fiscal imbalance," which sees Ottawa awash in surpluses while the provinces struggle to make ends meet. Paul Martin, the outgoing prime minister, denied the very existence of a fiscal imbalance; Harper, on the other hand, has promised to fix it.

In his election platform, Harper said he would "work with the provinces in order to achieve a long-term agreement which would address the issue of a fiscal imbalance in a permanent fashion."

Seizing on those words, the premiers have begun talking to each other about what the new deal should contain.

The premiers' first goal "is to get a better understanding of what the Harper government has in mind," said McGuinty in an interview yesterday in his Queen's Park office.

"They (the Harper Conservatives) have not been definitive, and probably deliberately so. ... It's a bit of a black box for all of us right now."

There is, however, a sense of urgency among the premiers as the window of opportunity for an overarching fiscal deal may have a short timeframe. The window has been opened by the election of Harper, but it will be closed if Charest, who is trailing in the polls, loses the next Quebec election — expected in the spring of 2007 — to André Boisclair and the Parti Québécois.

As the other premiers see it, they aren't likely to be able to strike a deal with the separatists, whose objective is to leave Confederation, not fix it.

On the other hand, a new fiscal deal that is seen as beneficial to Quebec (as well as the other provinces) could help Charest remain in power.

"There's an opportunity before us," agreed McGuinty. "We have a willing prime minister and we certainly have willing premiers."

Stephen Harper would be well advised to take his time in reaching a deal with the provinces on this matter. Most Canadians don't want to see Canada end up as a collection of provinces with widely different levels of education, health and social programs. But this is the the way the train is headed to head off sovereignists in Quebec and "We can go it aloners" in Alberta.


Election +5

Jack Layton has been making noises that he might be able to work with the Conservative government on some issues. Despite his initial skepticism, he's sounding more conciliatory and ready to deal on a half-dozen issues where left and right appear to intersect.

"I am going to make a legitimate, determined effort to find things where there can be common action," he said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

"I believe there are ideas in all of our platforms for the parties to get something done." See

It appears that the Liberal coffers didn't sustain as big a hit as had been rumoured.
With voter turnout up from the last election, the Liberals will get an annual Elections Canada subsidy of about $7.8 million, which the party says is "a manageable" $1.3 million or so less than it received before.

"We will have a debt, but it won't be nearly as much as some people have suggested. It will be a few million dollars, I would anticipate," said party president Mike Eizenga, who added that all the spending has not yet been tallied. "We think we will be able to have it pretty much retired by the end of the year."

The Liberals wouldn't comment on their finances during the campaign, which allowed rumours to swirl that the party was about $33 million in debt.

Eizenga dispelled those rumours yesterday. "We were debt-free in the fall," he said.

It appears that Frank McKenna, the current golden boyof the Martin machine, is not only a business Liberal but also spent many years as Premier of New Brunswick fighting the establishment of abortion clinics in his province. Hardly a poster boy for liberalism after all. He seems far more right wing than Stephen Harper.For the gory details, see Angry in the Great White North.

For some insight into the evolution of Stephen Harper into a moderate and pragmatist, see article by Susan Delacourt in the Star.

Jim Traversoffers some good insights into why the Liberals need to search for the soul of the party before they try to pick a saviour.

Robert Fulford in the National Post reminds us of "the great unwritten rule of Canadian politics: We never make premiers into prime ministers. It's not something we do." He details the many failed attempts by provincial premiers to become Prime Minister. some words of caution here for Frank McKenna, Bob Rae and Brian Tobin, all of whom are being touted as potential candidates for the Liberal leadership.


Election +3

Among the potential Liberal leadership candidates being mentioned are the following:

Frank McKenna
Bill Graham
Bob Rae
Scott Brison
Stephane Dion
Maurizio Bevilacqua
Denis Coderre
Michael Ignatieff
John Manley
Belinda Stronach
Martin Cauchon
Brian Tobin

Scratch Manley who has announced today that he he will not run.The Globe and Mail ran an article rating the potential candidates.

Prime Minister-designate Stephen Harper held his first news conference post election today. He indicated that his first priority would be to clean up government through his proposed federal accountability act. Harper said he will immediately put into action those promises he made during the election campaign.

He said he will also work to implement his proposals to lower taxes beginning with the GST, address the fiscal imbalance between Ottawa and the provinces, and establish wait time standards in health care. More details at

Prime minister-designate Harper also took advantage of the press conference to take aim at criticism of the Conservatives' Arctic sovereignty plan by American ambassador David Wilkins on Thursday. The U.S. ambassador to Canada had said his government opposes Harper's proposed plan to deploy military icebreakers in the Arctic to detect interlopers and assert Canadian sovereignty over those waters.

"There's no reason to create a problem that doesn't exist," Wilkins said. "We don't recognize Canada's claims to those waters... Most other countries do not recognize their claim."

"The United States defends its sovereignty and the Canadian government will defend our sovereignty," Harper told reporters in Ottawa. "It is the Canadian people we get our mandate from, not the ambassador of the United States."

During the federal election campaign the Conservatives promised to spend $5.3 billion over five years to defend northern waters against the Americans, Russians and Danes.See CBC.ca

Meanwhile Ottawa is abuzz with speculation on the composition of the Conservative cabinet. For an overview of some likely candidates see CTV.ca


Election +2

Harper has put his transition team in place headed by Derek Burney, former Chief of Staff to Brian Mulroney. The change of government is expected to occur in about two weeks. Speculation about who will get which Cabinet post intensifies daily. The consensus seems to be that Lawrence Cannon, former Bourassa cabinet minister, will become Deputy Prime Minister and Harper's Quebec lieutenant.

It is clear that Harper will have to move cautiously to implement his proposed intiatives. He faces a delicate balancing act.More than half the people who voted Conservative in Monday's election did so mainly because they thought it was time for a change, according to an Environics poll conducted for the CBC the weekend before the vote.

Only 41 per cent of them said they were voting for Stephen Harper's party because they wanted a Conservative government, compared to 54 per cent who said they were casting their ballots for the sake of change.

"They have to be careful about taking a very different direction for the country," Donna Dasko, the senior vice-president of Environics Research Group, said of Harper's incoming minority government.

"The support they gained is not support for radical change."

The apparent items on which there is consensus include:

Getting tougher on sentences for crime, especially crime committed with handguns, which won 88 per cent support.

Reforming the Senate by holding elections for vacancies rather than having the prime minister appoint people, which was supported by 71 per cent of those polled.

However, the poll indicated that Canadians are split almost down the middle on a handful of issues that the Conservatives promised to address:

Lowering the GST, if it means removing income tax cuts previously announced by the Liberals.
Getting rid of the gun registry, which enjoys heavy support in Quebec as well as urban regions of the country.
Taking away the Liberal-promised national day-care system, even if the Conservatives replace it with a plan to give parents $100 a month for every child under six.

According to the poll, 66 per cent of respondents did not want Harper's party to bring the same-sex marriage issue back to Parliament for a free vote, as he has promised. A total of 30 per cent of people polled wanted to see that vote happen.

While Harper is wrestling with how to proceed to effect change, the Liberals face the challenge of a party that has been split asunder by the Martin/Chretien feud for years. Various Liberals are on the record as saying that the new leader should not come from either of those camps. David Herle is the new Warren Kinsella.

Speculation is growing that Frank McKenna, former NB premier, is the early frontrunner in the race to succeed Martin. McKenna today announced that he would be resigning from his post as Canadian Ambassador to the U.S., setting the scene for entry into the leadership race. Meanwhile many other names are circulating as potential leadership contenders.


The Election: Day 56 (Conservative minority)

As predicted by the polls the Conservatives gained enough seats tonight to form a minority government. However,the margin of victory was much less than most polls indicated. Most recent polls indicated a likely spread of 10-12%.

At midnight the results were as follows:

CP 125 Lib 102 NDP 30 BQ 50 Ind 1

The Conservatives will have a plurality of 20+ seats, enough to give them the right to form a government but fewer than Paul Martin had in the last Parliament. The NDP made significant gains.

In looking at the percentage vote by party what is amazing is the accuracy of the most recent CPAC-SES poll posted yesterday on this site. Below is a comparison of the SES poll with the actual results as reported by CBC TV at midnight January 23rd.

CPAC-SES Jan 20-22: CP 36.4% Lib 30.1% NDP 17.4% BQ 10.6% GP 5.6%

Results Jan 23 CP 36.50%LIB 30.10%NDP 17.36%BQ 10.48%GP 5.03%

The SES poll predicted the percentage vote with uncanny accuracy.

Paul Martin conceded defeat and, while doing so, announced that he would not lead the Liberal party into another election.

These results, and Martin's announcement, set the scene for a fiery Parliament and an exciting battle to renew the Liberal party. It is unlikely that any party will wish to precipitate an early election.

The new Prime Minister will face enormous challenges in making this new Parliament work. I would expect it to last two years unless the Conservatives see an opportunity to secure a majority by a return to the polls in the interim.


The Election: Day 55

Latest poll results as of Sunday night:

CPAC-SES Jan 20-22: CP 36.4% Lib 30.1% NDP 17.4% BQ 10.6% GP 5.6%
Ipsos Jan 17-22: CP 38% Lib 27% NDP 19% BQ 12% GP 4%
Strategic Counsel Jan 19-22 CP 37% Lib 27% NDP 19% BQ 11% GP 6%

The Strategic Counsel poll was released late Sunday. Strategic Counsel chairman Allan Gregg said the poll would produce "a solid Conservative minority government with more Bloc and more New Democrats than we have today." He said the numbers also showed a tightening in the race, particularly in B.C. — where the Conservatives, Liberals and NDP are dead even — and NDP support inching ahead in B.C.'s Lower Mainland and the Toronto's city core to the detriment of the Liberals.

On the basis of the poll results, Mr. Gregg predicted the Conservatives would win in the neighbourhood of 140 seats, the Liberals 75, the New Democrats 35 and the Bloc in the high 50s or low 60s.

In the final analysis this election is about democracy. In a democracy you have the option of changing the government. For many years it looked we might not have that opportunity and were instead headed for a one-party state. Fortunately that danger has been averted. The Candian Alliance and the former Progressive Conservatives were brought together into a new Conservative party. Harper clearly deserves some of the credit for that merger. Now it looks like he will be given the chance to demonstrate whether he and his party are capable of governing Canada. It also looks like the NDP will win enough seats to keep the minority Conservative government in check. Tomorrow I will be voting for democracy. I will be voting for change because the tired,corrupt Liberal party and Paul Martin,in particular, do not deserve my vote. Let's hope the Liberals learn from their defeat and learn enough to choose a better and more capable leader to lead them into their next encounter with destiny.

I had intended to write an analysis tonight of how the Liberal campaign came unglued and why the Conservatives will win a minority. But then I realized that what I intended to say was captured exceedingly well in a column yesterday by Jim Travers in the Toronto Star.

Here are some excerpts from Jim Travers' article:

"Everyone knows the moment when it went so wrong for Paul Martin. It's just that every moment is different.

"In their bitter weariness at the end of a cruel campaign, Liberals trace the turning point to the RCMP investigation into suspected leaks of Finance Minister Ralph Goodale's income trusts decision. It freed the spectre of scandal to stalk Liberals who were until then holding their own. Static public opinion became fluid, and a drift toward a suddenly not-so-scary Stephen Harper became a current.

"But there are other moments that come with larger questions marks. Did the Prime Minister destroy his fiscal prudence reputation as well as a campaign trump card with a wild, pre-election spending spree? Were Liberals so overconfident that Conservatives would self-destruct that they opted for a marathon eight-week campaign that gave Harper time to find a more flattering costume? Or was it that seminal "popcorn and beer" crack that convinced voters that Martin's smart-alecky fraternity was exercising enormous power with precious little discipline?

"Each moment has merit and all certainly contributed to what promises to be a sobering election night for a party whose principal purpose is winning. But none quite captures the how and why of the Prime Minister's long fall from the peaks of the Liberal leadership to the lowlands of this extraordinary winter campaign.

"Whatever the final outcome, Martin is irreparably damaged. Even if Liberals snatch victory from defeat a second consecutive time, a party that now understands the importance of renewal won't fight another campaign with this leader.

"No, Martin's prediction that he would lead the country through 10 years of transformational change is foundering after only two. A wreck so catastrophic can't be fully explained by the curious timing of an RCMP investigation, a prime ministerial persona that became too fuzzy to identify or even the failure to replace the team that seized the leadership with one mature enough to manage and hold power.

"What's self-evident now is that the seeds of Martin's failure were sown by success. In dividing Liberals to topple a sitting prime minister, Martin and his clique so weakened the Western world's most successful political party that a Conservative revival became inevitable.

"Looking back, it's easy to see how the decision to distance the new and old regimes locked Martin's infamous "board" into subsequent decisions that would eventually bring prime minister and party to today's threshold of defeat. There's no more instructive example than the sponsorship scandal.

"With an acidic leadership campaign just behind, an election just ahead and with the promise to do politics differently ringing in his ears, Martin's only viable option was to inflate rather than deflate the government response to Auditor General Sheila Fraser's startling report. Instead of following Jean Chrétien's pattern of shoving dirt under the RCMP rug, a "mad as hell" Martin put Justice John Gomery on the case while the backroom whiz kids, disconnected from history and perspective, snapped their suspenders and insisted Adscam was the worst Canadian scandal ever.

"It wasn't then; it might be now. From tawdry Tory contracting practices, the sponsorship scheme grew into a Liberal remake of The Sopranos that drew Quebecers to daytime TV and resuscitated separatism.

"With the election just two days away, a party that tried to make itself synonymous with Canada in Quebec is in danger of becoming a rump in the province that, along with Ontario, was once its base. More remarkable still, the rising voice of federalism now belongs to Stephen Harper.

"And why not? In their desperation to repair self-inflicted damage to the brand, Liberals made serial mistakes that hurt the party, first in Quebec and then across the country. Martin made the reformed separatist and accidental comedian Jean Lapierre his provincial lieutenant, dumped Toronto's Bill Graham, one of a handful of strong ministers, to elevate the accident-prone Pierre Pettigrew into the prestigious foreign affairs portfolio, and then recklessly declared this election a referendum on national unity.

"Of the three mistakes, the third is most revealing. Voters accept that politicians will say almost anything to get elected. But prime ministers are diminished when they make national interests subservient to partisan advantage.

"That's now a recognizable Martin trait. Just as he sacrificed the party to capture its leadership, Martin twice made the country's priorities second to his own at critical times. Immediately after elevating this election to a test of patriotism, the Prime Minister jeopardized Canada's sustaining relationship with the U.S. by tilting crazily at George W. Bush's environmental record.

"Bashing the most unpopular modern U.S. president is good, if easy, domestic politics. But gratuitously attacking the U.S. presidency does lasting damage — particularly when Ottawa's greenhouse gas performance is worse than Washington's — and leads to nasty repercussions.

"In this campaign's brightest flash of dark humour, a U.S. nuclear submarine, complete with camera crew, popped through the polar ice to poke a gaping hole into empty Liberal commitments to Arctic sovereignty. More subtly, the gesture reminded Canadians that Martin the Prime Minister is not Martin the leadership saviour-in-waiting.

"When power was just an abstract concept, the former finance minister was very, very clear. He would strengthen U.S. relations, shift power from the Prime Minister's Office back to Parliament and strengthen the constant triumvirate of economy, health care and education.

"It's not that Martin didn't make progress on an impossibly lengthy priority list, it's that each advance came with an asterisk. After promising to write in public a health-care prescription for a generation, Martin applied another Band-Aid behind closed doors. A national daycare program became a provincial patchwork quilt. And a prime minister now campaigning as a staunch federalist cut serial deals with the provinces as corrosive to strong central government as anything Harper plans.

"Bit by bit, Martin prepared the ground for this election's turning points. A prime minister trying to be all things to all people, a party suffering from excessive-entitlement syndrome, and a government bouncing between policy guardrails, offered broad targets to Conservatives who committed to memory the hard lessons of the 2004 election.

"Politics abhors a vacuum, and in the weeks before the Christmas ceasefire, Conservatives eased smoothly into the space Liberals vacated. Given time and elbow room, Harper redefined himself and a reconstituted party with easily grasped policies that spoke directly to the self-interest of all those ordinary Canadians who no longer understood, liked or trusted Liberals or their leader.

"By the time the RCMP income trust investigation became public, voters who couldn't stomach Harper in 2004 were ready to tumble to Conservatives. In times as good as these, that reversal is extraordinary.

"Canadians are turning away from a party inextricably linked to a strong economy and from a prime minister promoting what should be popular policies on issues that make a difference. On cities, stimulating innovation and international competitiveness, Martin is safely aligned with younger, urban and highly educated voters.

"But is anybody still listening? It's this campaign's phenomenon that a soundproof glass wall now separates Martin from those voters who rescued Liberals in the last election's final hours. In marked contrast to that pivotal last weekend, a prime minister who says so much about so many things isn't being heard when it matters.

"Liberals still hope for a repeat of that 11th-hour recoil from the prospect of a Harper government. Conservatives are confident the preconditions for another last-ditch Liberal rally have vaporized.

"Opinion polls argue the Conservatives' case. In 2004, residual optimism that Martin might yet fulfil those great leadership expectations trumped the unpleasant experience of his first months in office, making it possible to demonize Conservatives as Reformers. This time the winds of change are howling at Harper's back and Liberal warnings about neo-cons storming Parliament Hill sound like what they are: fear-mongering.

"Remember too, Liberals and Conservatives have effectively flipped election roles. Instead of Conservatives exposing their default characteristics with uncensored comments, it's Liberals who are tripping over their tongues. Instead of Liberals setting the pace with a razor-sharp campaign, it's now Conservatives.

"Of the many reasons for that reversal, one stands in sharp relief. Between elections, Conservatives looked unflinchingly at why they lost while smug Liberals convinced themselves they had won because they were smarter, shrewd, more compelling. One party was honest with itself and learned, the other wasn't and didn't.

"A few days before the first campaign shot was fired, a senior Martin cabinet minister confided how Liberals planned to morph a minority into a majority. They would make Stephen Harper the ballot question one more time.

"What the strategists missed is that all those moments, all those turning points, changed the campaign dynamic. This election is not about Harper and an apprehended Conservative threat, but about Martin and the Liberal record. Rather than a referendum on unity in Quebec, the second election in less than two years is a national referendum on this prime minister.

"Harper's small missteps earlier in the week could still make this election close. But unless the polls are wonky and the political scientists deluded, all that remains to be decided is the size of the Conservative win.

"If voters give Harper a majority, that will be this election's final turning point for Paul Martin and the Liberals."



The Election: Day 54 (The Final Gasp)

Last night I posted the results from several polls which show the Conservatives with a clear lead heading into the final two days of the campaign. Today one pollster , Darrell Bricker of Ipsos Reid, said that a strong Conservative minority government is now certain. The Ipsos Reid survey indicates Canadians are ready to elect a strong minority Conservative government Monday with a solid NDP check on its power.
The survey also indicates the Liberals and the Bloc Quebecois are in a neck-and-neck race to become the official Opposition.

The Tories lead the Liberals 38% to 26%. Liberal support is declining while the NDP appears to be gaining in support.

Ipsos Reid projects the Conservatives could win 143 to 147 seats. The Liberals and the Bloc Quebecois could get 59 to 63 seats each, and the NDP 39 to 43 seats, more than double the number in the 2004 election.

The bulk of the NDP's gains, as many as 15 to 20 ridings, are anticipated to be in Ontario, where the party is poised to pick off seats from the Liberals in northern Ontario, as well as the Hamilton and Windsor areas. Paul Martin's call for progressive voters to unite appears to be backfiring in favour of the NDP.

In British Columbia, Conservative support rose five points to 35%, and the NDP climbed four points to 29%. The Liberals dropped one point to 27%, and the Green party fell nine points to seven per cent.

Jack Layton has spent the past couple of days in B.C. attempting to capitalize on the Liberal collapse. Layton called on voters to abandon what he predicted will be the "smoking hulk" of a defeated Liberal party.

"Mr. Martin is trying to perpetrate one more Liberal fraud in this election, hoping you'll reward him one more time with your vote," Layton said in Vancouver. "He says you have to hold your nose and vote Liberal. Again he's saying this. Well Paul, it's not working this time."

Layton is on a cross-country blitz today, with stops in Regina, Thunder Bay, Sudbury, London and Hamilton.

Paul Martin undertook a last-minute sprint across the country categorizing his opponents as extreme right-wingers who bear no resemblance to the Conservative party of old. His warnings of a right-wing agenda have had little or no impact on the Tory lead in the polls. Still Martin keeps ranting about "the ultra-conservative, extreme right-wing agenda of Stephen Harper." In Brampton, Ont., Martin claimed a Conservative government would imperil abortion rights. He delivered the warning - aimed squarely at women voters - surrounded by eight of his Toronto-area female candidates. But the most telling point, illustrating Martin's hypocrisy, was the absence of local Liberal candidates who share the anti-abortion leanings of many Conservatives.

Martin keeps flogging the abortion issue even though Stephen Harper has repeatedly said he would not introduce abortion legislation and would use his influence to keep the issue from ever arriving for a free vote in the House of Commons.

Meanwhile Harper renewed his attack on Liberal corruption, accusing Paul Martin of evading crucial questions:

"He has not provided Canadians a single compelling reason why his government should be re-elected and he has utterly failed to answer three important questions," Harper said. "Mr. Martin, where is the missing money? Mr. Martin, why do the scandals such as income trusts keep happening? Mr. Martin, how after two referendum defeats could you let separation get back onto the national agenda?" Harper asked.

"He's dodged these questions because the answers to these questions all point to the corruption of the Liberal party."

In Quebec the Bloc Québécois launched a last-minute ad campaign urging Quebecers not to vote for the Conservatives, telling them the party is more concerned with looking after interests in Western Canada. The ad shows a cowboy hat and says, in French, "We won't let Calgary decide for Quebec."

So the battle lines are drawn. On Monday we the voters will determine the outcome.


The Election: Day 53 (Conservative minority imminent)

A number of recent polls suggest the Conservatives have maintained a 9-12 point lead over the Liberals despite Paul Martin's desperate last-minute attempts to scare voters into voting for the Liberals. Here are the results available tonight:

CPAC-SES Jan 17-19: CP 35.5% Lib 29% NDP 18.8% BQ 11.1% GP 5.6
Ekos CP 37.4% Lib 27.3% NDP 20.8%, BQ 10.1%, GP 3.9%
Gregg Jan 17-18: CP 37% Lib 28% NDP 16% BQ 12% GP 7
Leger Jan 12-17: CP 38% Lib 29% Ndp 17% BQ 11% GP ?
Ipsos Reid: CP 38% Lib 26% NDP 19% BQ 11% GP 5%

These numbers indicate that the Conservatives will form a solid minority government as a result of the election. It appears they will make a breakthrough in Quebec and elect several members. The effect of the unanticipated Conservative surge in Quebec will be to deny the Bloc Quebecois the opportunity to break through the magical 50% barrier as seemed possible early in the campaign.

Will Jack Layton gain enough seats to be able to exert leverage over the Conservative minority government? Some projections suggest the NDP might get up to 30 seats or so.

In the last days of the campaign Paul Martin is painting Stephen Harper as an extreme social conservative and pleading for NDP supporters to bolt to the Liberals to block Harper. This is a replay of his campaigning in the last days of the previous election. That time it worked for him. This time the Conservative and NDP vote is holding steady.

Harper,after straying off message earlier in the week with his musings about the Senate,courts and public service, has returned to his central campaign theme, "Let's get rid of Liberal corruption. It's time for a change."

Jack Layton is concentrating his efforts in B.C. where the races are tight and he could pick up seats if voters tired of the Liberals but unwilling to embrace a Conservative government pick up his challenge to: "Lend us your votes."


The Election: Day 52

According to a poll conducted by the Strategic Counsel for The Globe and Mail-CTV News two-thirds of Canadians say it's time to change the government. This poll indicates that the Conservatives continue to hold a double-digit polling lead (16 points)despite some tightening and apparent resistance from the Liberal stronghold of the Greater Toronto Area. Nationally the results are:

Conservative 41%
Liberal 25%
NDP 17%
Bloc 12%
Green 5%

The desire for change has grown most in Quebec, where 83 per cent say it's time for a change, up from 59 per cent when the election was called. The desire for change is up across the country. However, the most resistant voters are in Ontario. Ontario continues to be the Liberals' last bastion as voters in the Greater Toronto Area continue to support Paul Martin's party over the Tories.

Turnout at advance polls for the federal election this year jumped by about 25 per cent compared to the 2004 election.

Perhaps the most significant development in this election has been a seismic shift in Quebec. Chantal Hebert describes the changes occurring there during this election:

"For the first time in over a decade, it is once again politically correct to support the Conservatives in Central Canada. After a 13-year absence, the party has returned to the mainstream and, from all indications, it is there to stay.

"But it goes beyond that. Quebec has been the scene of a dramatic shift, a sea change whose implications are still difficult to measure except to know that they are significant.

"Consider the following:

"This was never going to be a good year to run as a federal Liberal in Quebec. But if Quebecers had only wanted to punish Paul Martin for the failings of his party and his government, they would have stuck with the Bloc Québécois.

"Gilles Duceppe remains Quebec's most respected leader. He has run a campaign whose only fault to date has been its predictability. For his pains, he has recorded a double-digit loss in support since the election call. According to a CROP poll published this week, the Bloc could come out of the election with less than 40 per cent of the popular vote on Monday. In the Quebec City area, it has actually fallen behind the Conservatives.

"Harper's surge in Quebec caught the Bloc completely off guard. It seems its counteroffensive was too late in coming to nip it in the bud.

"That a leader from Alberta — whose policies remain controversial in Quebec — is the beneficiary of this turn-around makes it even more remarkable......

"Regardless of Monday's seat count in Quebec, this will have lasting consequences. For better or for worse, the Conservative party has for now become the federalist option of choice in Quebec. For the foreseeable future, it — rather than the Liberals — stands to attract the better candidates....

"The sovereignty movement is the biggest immediate loser of Quebec's flirt with Harper. In the short term at least, the momentum toward another referendum has been reversed. For those who harbour the dream of a winning referendum at the first opportunity, this is a wake-up call that will be difficult to ignore."

Conservatives themselves say they may have difficulty cashing in on their new-found popularity in Quebec because they don't know who many of the voters are and they face problems getting some of them to the polls.

Today Stephen Harper moved to correct an impression left by remarks he made yesterday. In an article entitled: "I'm an ally for public servants" in the Ottawa Citizen, Harper vowed to extend "an open hand to all public servants" if he's elected, saying he would prevent political aides from receiving preferential treatment when applying for public service positions.

"First and foremost, and contrary to fearmongering, we have no plans to cut department program spending. In fact, our plan commits us to moderate spending growth from now through 2011."

Harper called on public servants to "renew the partnership that has built this country for more than a century."

The government has often blamed its mistakes on the public service, he wrote.

"We would end the practice of allowing political staff and party supporters to displace veteran public servants with greater experience or qualification," he wrote. "We would also create a Public Appointments Commission which would set merit-based requirements for appointments to government boards, commissions and agencies, so that competitions for key posts are both widely publicized and fairly conducted."

As the election campaign enters its final days, Paul Martin has been hammering away at Stephen Harper, using his recent comments about the Supreme Court as a battering ram to try and dent his armour.(
CTV News)

Harper, meanwhile, is doing his best to play it safe and maintain momentum in the last few days before Canadians go to the polls, without letting the Tory train slip off the tracks.

Martin stepped up his attempts to try and drive a wedge between Harper and voters
by claiming to stack the courts with hard-core social conservatives. He keeps raising the specter that Harper will reopen the debate on abortion and claw-back same-sex marriage rights.

Harper keeps insisting that he has no plans to reopen the abortion debate, but has said he would allow a free vote in Parliament to decide whether the same sex issue should be revisited.

Meanwhile NDP Leader Jack Layton is coming under fire from his critics in his own party for running a campaign that they say is helping to elect a Stephen Harper government. The charge occurred as Layton continued his strategy of attacking the second-place Liberals while they're down.Campaigning in B.C., Layton for the first timed turned his attention to Harper. He warned B.C. voters that supporting Harper would mean bringing in a right-wing agenda similar to those of Gordon Campbell, Bill Bennett and Bill Vander Zalm.


The Election: Day 51/Conservative minority or majority?

Conflicting polls and headlines today left us wondering whether the Conservatives are headed for a majority or a solid minority.

Two new public-opinion surveys by Decima and SES suggested the recent Conservative wave of momentum may have crested or even receded a bit just days ahead of Monday's election. The Decima Research poll, conducted Jan. 12-15 for The Canadian Press, put the Conservatives at 37 per cent support compared with 27 per cent for the Liberals.
The NDP stood at 18 per cent and the Bloc Quebecois at 11. Previous Decima polls had the Tories leading nationally by up to 13 points.

An SES survey, conducted Jan. 14-16 for CPAC also put the Conservatives at 37 per cent support nationally, but gave the Liberals 30 per cent.

Taken together these two polls suggested that the Conservatives had peaked and were still in minority territory with up to a 10-point lead.

Meanwhile the latest Strategic Counsel poll, conducted for CTV and the Globe and Mail, showed the Conservatives with a mind-boggling 18-point lead. This poll showed the Liberals continuing to plummet in popularity, falling to an all-time election campaign low of 24%, with the Conservatives at 42%. Earlier Strategic Counsel numbers had the Conservatives leading the Liberals 40% to 27%.

Harper and Martin were campaigning today in the Toronto area. Martin was accompanied by ally Buzz Hargrove of the CAW. Hargrove earlier in the campaign had ticked off Jack Layton by urging union members to vote for Liberals to hold the Conservative hordes at bay.Today Hargrove set off a firestorm when he said Stephen Harper is essentially a separatist and Quebecers ought to vote for the Bloc because anything is better than a Tory government. Speaking to reporters after Martin's speech, Hargrove said having a strong Bloc Québécois caucus in opposition would be better for national unity than a Conservative caucus in power.

Harper said Hargrove's comments were "shocking," and suggested Martin distance himself from them. "I don't think any federalist leader should be urging people to vote for the Bloc," Harper said.

Martin went into damage control and said he doesn't agree with the characterization of Harper as a separatist. "I have large differences with Stephen Harper but I have never doubted his patriotism," Martin stated. (Imagine: Martin's great ally called on Quebecers to vote for the Bloc....)

Meanwhile Stephen Harper was into a little damage control of his own. The Ottawa Citizen today carried on the front page Harper's remarks of yesterday that the Senate,public service and courts are stacked with Grits.

Clarifying his remarks today, Harper said that the checks and balances of the courts and the Senate are part of the Canadian system of Parliament that a Conservative overnment would have to work with. "We have no alternative but to accept the checks; they're part of our system."

Judges, even though they are appointed by the government, are "independent, there's no doubt about that," he said. Harper also said he believes much of the civil service would welcome a new government and would be happy with the changes the Tories want to implement.

"I actually think that the vast majority of civil servants would welcome a government that would provide some direction for the civil service and for the country. I think they've been lacking that the past few years," he said.

As for the Senate, Harper said he wants to reform the upper house, but recognizes that wouldn't happen quickly. The Liberals have a huge majority in the Senate, which Harper said could be a worry. "The Liberal Senate in the past was extremely unco-operative when their party wasn't in power," he said.

"I hope that better judgment will prevail and the unelected Senate will play the role that historically it has played, which has been a useful technical role, but will not try to interfere with the democratic will of the elected House." CBC.ca

In British Columbia a battle royal is being waged among the Conservatives, Liberals and the NDP. There are many closely-fought three-way races. B.C. voters will probably get to tell us on Monday night whether we have a Conservative majority government or another couple of years of minority government, albeit this time a Conservative minority


The Election: Day 50

According to a Strategic Council poll conducted for the Globe and Mail, 55% of Canadian voters would welcome a Harper majority.

"Most voters say they think a Conservative Party majority government would be a good thing for Canada, according to a new survey that suggests Liberal efforts to build anxiety about Stephen Harper are falling on deaf ears.

"55 per cent of voters say sending a Conservative majority to the House of Commons on Jan. 23 would be a healthy outcome. And even in Quebec, where the Tories have been essentially moribund for 12 years, 64 per cent of voters say a Conservative majority would be good for the nation.

"The general lack of concern about a Tory majority suggests the party has an opportunity to increase its current lead in the polls, said Strategic Counsel chairman Allan Gregg."

In search of a clear majority, Stephen Harper endeavoured on Tuesday to play down fears about absolute Tory power in Ottawa. Harper said a Tory majority would only be able to exercise limited power in Ottawa because of a Liberal-dominated Senate and bureaucracy appointed by Liberal governments.

"The reality is we will have for some time to come a Liberal senate, Liberal civil service. At least senior levels have been appointed by the Liberals, and courts that have been appointed by the Liberals."

According to CBC News Harper did not directly question the independence of the courts and the civil service but suggested years of Liberal appointments would prevent a real Conservative majority.

"There's certainly no absolute power for a Conservative government and no real true majority. We will have checks on us and limits on our ability to operate that a Liberal government would not face."

Harper also stressed that he would fight against any attempt to introduce legislation regarding abortions.

"The Conservative government won't be initiating or supporting abortion legislation, and I'll use whatever influence I have in Parliament to be sure that such a matter doesn't come to a vote," Harper said.

"I will use whatever influence I have to keep that off of the agenda, and I don't see any likelihood of that in the next Parliament," he said.

Meanwhile today Paul Martin accused Jack Layton of being soft on the Conservatives and called for progressive voters to rally behind the Liberals. This led to one of the most peculiar headlines of the campaign:

"Martin attacks Layton for not attacking Harper"

If you are looking for some insight into a Harper-led government, I suggest you read a web-exclusive story in the Globe and Mail entitled: "
Stephen Harper's Canada?
Just look at John Howard's Australia.

"The resemblance between this federal election and the Australian one of 1996 is uncanny. In both cases, a centre-left government has been in office for 13 years - the Liberals in Canada and the Australian Labour Party (ALP) in Australia. And just as a tired ALP headed by Paul Keating faced a resurgent conservative force led by current Australian Prime Minister John Howard a decade ago, Paul Martin is facing a confident Conservative Party led by Stephen Harper today.

"But more important for Canadians is the fact that Mr. Harper's party is employing the same campaign tactics that Mr. Howard first used in 1996 for his landslide win and that he has used to great effect in three successive elections.

"it's no accident that the Harper campaign feels like it has been ripped straight from the pages of the John Howard campaign manual. Mr. Howard's national campaign director, Brian Loughnane, is advising the Conservatives; last fall, Conservative Party strategists closely watched the tactics used by Mr. Howard to record his fourth election victory....

"Mr. Harper's strategy appears to be a carbon copy of that adopted by the Liberal Party in Australia. Just as Mr. Howard uses the phrase "mainstream Australians," Mr. Harper talks about giving "mainstream Canadians" a tax cut and offering tough anti-crime policies.

"If Canadians are asking themselves what a Harper government would do to their country, they just have to look at John Howard's Australia today."


The Election: Day 49 ( Conservative support solidifies)

The latest Strategic Counsel poll results, reported in today's Globe and Mail,show Conservatives entering the home stretch just shy of a majority. Similar results were revealed in an Ipsos Reid poll released tonight by Global National.

The Tories are gaining ground in the Greater Toronto Area. Support for the Liberals is now at 40 %, but the Conservatives are close at 37 %. The NDP is at 16 %. The Conservatives are dominant in the rest of Ontario, where they outpoll the Liberals 42 % to 28 %. The NDP is at 20 % and the Green Party at 9 %.

The Conservatives are also making gains on the Liberals in Montreal, inching up to within four percentage points of them. And support for the Conservatives is increasing in the rest of Quebec where they are polling at 32 % compared with 41 % for the Bloc Québécois and 12% for the Liberals. It looks increasingly certain that the Conservatives will win seats in Quebec, the only question is how many.

The only province where the Liberals seem to be holding on to their votes is British Columbia. The poll shows Conservative support has gone down from 44 % in the last polling period to 42 % in the latest poll. The Liberals have stayed at 31 %, while the NDP has increased its support to 22 % from 20 %.

British Columbia may well determine whether the Conservatives get a majority.

The national figures were as follows: Conservative 40%;Liberal 27%;NDP 16%;Bloc Quebecois 11%; Green Party 6%.

An Ipsos Reid poll conducted for CanWest/Global also indicates that the Tories have edged closer to a majority win. This poll shows Conservatives continuing to lead nationally with a 12-point lead over the Liberals (38 vs 26%. The Ipsos poll also shows the NDP rising one point to 19 %, and the Green Party holding steady at five %.

The Ipsos seat projection model shows that if a vote were held tomorrow, the Conservatives could secure 149-153 seats; the Liberals 64-68; the NDP 29-33; and the Bloc 57-61.

Meanwhile Jack Layton continued his hunt for disaffected Liberal voters, offering them his third option. "The Liberal party is going into the repair shop for a while to work through its ethical issues and to figure out what it’s about," Layton said. "They’re going to be busy thinking about themselves, not you."

Layton begged disaffected Liberals to “lend” him their votes while their party “regenerates."

“Vote for us just this once, in this election, so there is a strong voice in the next Parliament that is standing up for the priorities progressive people believe in,” he said.

Layton pointed out that the word "progressive" has been axed from the Conservative name for a reason.

Check out the NDP's Paul Martin credibility hunt . You could win a free trip to an exotic locale.


The Election: Day 48

Not only are the Liberals faltering in their national campaign with a whiff of defeat in the air, now the Bloc Quebecois is campaigning vigorously in Paul Martin's riding with a view to robbing the PM of his seat. The Conservatives are drawing federalist votes away from Martin and the BQ has intensified its campaign with Duceppe taking the fight to the Liberal leader's home turf.

Meanwhile Jean Lapierre, former BQ MP and now Martin's Quebec lieutenant, is spinning matters somewhat differently. Lapierre is claiming that the increase in Conservative support in Quebec will help " keep the Bloc down." Lapierre also claims that pollsters are telling the Liberals that there has been a transfer of support from the Bloc to the Tory party.

"And so, we could be right in the middle and gain seats instead of losing some," Lapierre said.

As an indication that the Liberal campaign is in trouble Paul Martin spent the weekend in traditionally strong Liberal ridings in and around Montreal while Stephen Harper campaigned in ridings curently held by Liberals in Ontario. However, one Martin event in Laval was attended mainly by journalists. Another Martin appearance in the riding currently held by Heritage Minister Liza Frulla was attended by barely 40 people.

Meanwhile Harper and Layton held giant rallies in Ontario.

Sheila Copps opined today that the Liberal campaign has been long on tactics and bereft of strategy. Amen to that view!

Kenneth Kidd in the Star has an interesting article entitled "Is the Scary Stephen Harper gone?", speculating on the evolution of Stephen Harper into a moderate progressive Conservative.

But in the most interesting tidbit of the day, LaPresse has a story on the "SUCCESSION ÉVENTUELLE DE MARTIN." LaPresse states:

"Les stratèges libéraux qui ont permis à Paul Martin de prendre la tête du Parti libéral après des années de lutte interne ont déjà choisi leur homme pour lui succéder: Frank McKenna.

"Les fidèles organisateurs de Paul Martin (David Herle, Mike Robinson, Brian Guest, Scott Reid, Terry O'Lerry, Tim Murphy, entre autres) entendent tout faire pour s'assurer que la machine qui a permis à M. Martin de déloger Jean Chrétien après 10 ans de lutte fratricide travaillera à faire de Frank McKenna le prochain chef du PLC.

" Lorsque Paul Martin prendra sa retraite, nous allons appuyer Frank McKenna ", a récemment confié à La Presse un stratège libéral proche de Paul Martin."

In short, the clowns who spent years undermining Chretien to put Martin in his place and who have succeeded in royally screwing up the current Liberal campaign will have the audacity to try turn the machinery of the Liberal party, themselves included, over to Frank McKenna. This should give all good Liberals who were thinking of supporting McKenna as Martin's replacement room to pause and think long and hard. With friends like these, McKenna will be lucky to win the leadership, let alone prevent a Harper majority in the election after this. Now is the time for a thoughful charismatic alternative for the Liberal leadership to begin preparations for the coming leadership battle.


The Election: Day 47

There was lots of speculation today about why the Liberals are losing the election, and some speculation about the implications of a Conservative win.

The Globe and Mail endorsed the Conservatives in an editorial outlining three reasons why it's time for a change.

"... we have concluded that the time has arrived for a change of government in Canada. Three reasons stand out above all.
1. While the past 12 years have been relatively good ones, the law of diminishing returns has been eroding Liberal effectiveness since at least the 2000 election. A change of leadership in 2003 has failed to reverse the process.

"The government of Canada, long of tooth and short of energy, is mired in policy gridlock. Hard choices give way to easy spending, and long-term thinking is overwhelmed by short-term calculation. Lacking firm policy anchors, a heavily politi-cized Prime Minister's Office bobs from issue du jour to issue du jour, neglecting enduring challenges in favour of quick hits that hold out the promise of instant gratification. Thus, from nowhere, comes a proposal to outlaw the notwithstanding clause. Apologize, spend, line up behind the parade; it's hardly inspiring, even if a mean-spirited minority Parliament deserves some of the blame.

"Moreover, Liberal verities hinder rather than assist the finding of answers to such challenges as increasing productivity, fixing an unwieldy and politicized immigration system, steadying relations with the United States and confronting the real ills of the health-care system. Too often, ministers have resorted to the politically correct course: waving a Kyoto agreement rather than tackling greenhouse-gas emissions, or throwing money at aboriginal problems. Fresh thinking is demanded, but the same old elected officials supported by the same old circle of advisers naturally come up with the same old solutions.

"2. Then there is this matter of the culture of entitlement that has taken deep root within the Liberal Party. C. D. Howe may have been arrogant in invoking closure before debate even began on the pipeline bill in 1956, but at least he didn't hold up his chewing gum and announce he was entitled to his entitlements. Nor, to the best of our memory, did he take his driver on overseas business trips and defend the decision on the basis of his need for security advice. The Liberals have simply become too accustomed to power, and the elites in various sectors too accustomed to the Liberals. When even Ralph Goodale thinks it's all right to investigate yourself, you know you're in trouble.

"Mr. Martin, a modest and honourable man personally, has done little to challenge this culture, despite so promising during the leadership race. His parliamentary reforms proved a damp squib. Electoral reform died on the vine. A new group of PMO apparatchiks picked up where the old ones left off, exercising an iron grip over party and government affairs. In conducting business with the government of Canada, the question of ‘who do you know in the PMO?' remains regrettably relevant.

"3. Change is essential in a democracy. A perpetual lease on 24 Sussex Drive fuels the sense of entitlement that blurs the line between private gain and public good. Just as bad, a perpetual lease on Stornoway discourages the discipline and moderation required of an alternative government. Without a vibrant, continuing competition for power, a democracy runs the risk of degenerating into hegemony on the governing side and unreality on the opposition side. Both parties need to believe they can win elections — and lose them........

"Today, Canadians clearly are ready for change. If not now — if not after a painfully incoherent minority Liberal government, if not after a succession of scandals, if not after four full terms of deteriorating government — then when? When is change acceptable if not now?

The argument against change essentially amounts to this: better the devil you know than the new devil. After all, the devil you know has been mediocre, not disastrous, and lies closer to that ephemeral Canadian consensus sometimes called values. Many on the centre-left of the political spectrum remain not unreasonably suspicious of Mr. Harper's election-hour shift to the political centre. They continue to think the erstwhile neoconservative harbours a hidden agenda.

Then again, Mr. Martin himself has shifted all over the map in recent years — on ballistic missile defence, on same-sex marriage, on the Clarity Act. In the run-up to the election in June of 2004, we wrote: “We wish Mr. Martin had afforded himself the opportunity of an 18-month tryout before going to the polls. Now the voters have the opportunity to impose a probationary period themselves.”

Mr. Martin did not pass that 18-month probation. He doesn't deserve the public's opprobrium, or an electoral wipeout, but neither has he earned the right to a fifth Liberal term. A spell out of power would give the Liberals the time they so clearly need to renew themselves."

Columnist James Travers argued in a similar vein in the Toronto Star that a Harper win could rejuvenate Liberals:

"With the federal election still more than a week away, Liberals are already flipping through their Rolodexes looking for a saviour. For the moment, they should look no further than Stephen Harper.

"While Paul Martin is fast running out of time and luck, the Conservative leader has two chances to rescue the ruling party. He can either make the monumental blunder Liberals counted on when they designed their campaign, or he can win this election convincingly enough to send the western world's most successful political machine to the shop for an overdue refit.

"The second of those two scenarios is the prohibitive favourite. Harper and a party that self-destructed in the 2004 campaign have hardly put a foot wrong since November when the government fell. A significant slip now would be surprising.

"So, if Harper is to save Liberals from themselves he will have to do it with a thrashing memorable enough to force thoughtful introspection on a party more comfortable with reflex pragmatism. It's a prospect the party doesn't welcome but must eventually embrace.

"Reform, renewal and rebuilding are chores done best in opposition. Martin's attempt to transplant a fresh face on a tired party without losing power is about to be officially judged a failure, and recovery will require quiet time.

It's been nearly 13 years since Liberals thought much about their character, ethics and purpose. Since then, a lot has happened, and with the notable exception of four consecutive mandates, little of it has been good.....

"If the Conservative leader eases through another fault-free week, Liberals will be on the outside looking in for the first time since 1993, this prime minister will find his place among history's footnotes and renovators will be pounding on the party's front door. Should that be the future, Liberals will have no one to blame but Martin, a hapless campaign and themselves."

Andrew Cohen wrote in the National Post:

"The extraordinary lengths to which he had gone to save his government — refusing to meet with Parliament for weeks on end, carrying on governing even after an earlier defeat in the House, rewriting the budget three times in two weeks, the Belinda Stronach defection, the Grewal affair, on and on — had utterly changed public perceptions of him.

"Before last spring, it was still possible to think of him as poor old Mr. Dithers, well-meaning but ineffectual, the unfortunate recipient of Jean Chrétien’s exploding cigar. No one would say that today. The consensus now is, in the popular phrase, that he will do anything and say anything to stay in power."

Margaret Wente writes in the Globe and Mail:

"...the capper comes when Mr. Martin tries to explain why he wants to get rid of the Constitution's notwithstanding clause. He spins out a what-if scenario that ends with this punchline: A woman's right to choose could suddenly disappear. The female reporters can scarcely believe their ears. "Nobody but a blank slate would swallow that," says one. "I get it now," says another. "Stephen Harper is sending in the army so they can round up pregnant single women and detain them under lock and key while they receive religious instruction......

"Mr. Martin may not have been Canada's greatest PM. But at least he had a reputation as a principled and decent man. Now he just looks desperate. You almost feel sorry for him. All those years of waiting, wishing, planning, scheming. All that work. All those dreams. And now this.

"But you can't feel too sorry... This is not the way a serious country or a serious man should act. What we're watching is a political death without dignity."

I give the final word tonight to John Crosbie, writing in the Ottawa Citizen:

"The Prime Minister’s desperation is evident in the things that he’s tried to do during this week. Mr. Martin admitted that he approved all of these attack ads, including the attack ad that so insulted and infuriated members of the armed forces. The Liberals and Mr. Trudeau were the only ones that I know of in the last 100 years that would put troops into any of our cities with weapons. My assessment of Mr. Martin is that if he sat in the sewer, he would add to it. I was active in politics for 27 years, 10 as a provincial elected member and 17 as a federally elected member, and I’ve been interested and involved in it all my life. This is certainly the worst behaviour I have seen of any party leader."

The Election: Day 46 (Conservatives on cusp of majority)

The Globe and Mail reported today the results of seat projections done by the Strategic Counsel.The Conservative Party will come within a few seats of winning a majority government, if current levels of voter support hold up, according to these projections.

The Liberal Party would form the Official Opposition but would have only about a dozen more MPs than the third-place Bloc Québécois, the projections suggest.The NDP"s earlier hopes of a large breakthrough in British Columbia appear unlikely.

The projections are that the Conservatives will win 152 seats, followed by 74 for the Liberals, 60 for the Bloc and 21 for the NDP. There are 308 seats in the House, so a party needs 155 to form a majority.

Pollster Allan Gregg said seat projections have historically been a good predictor of the direction an election is heading, but the exact numbers should be taken with a grain of salt. Two regions will decide whether the Conservatives get a minority or a majority, should there be little change between now and election day, he said. These are the Greater Toronto Area where the Liberals remain strong and the province of Quebec.

According to the Strategic Counsel projections, the regional seat breakdown would be as follows:

– British Columbia appears on track to elect 26 Tories, six Liberals, three NDP MPs and an Independent.

– All 28 ridings in Alberta would go to the Conservatives.

– Manitoba and Saskatchewan will not change, once again electing a combined 20 Conservatives, four Liberals and four NDP MPs.

– The Greater Toronto Area will elect 35 Liberals, eight Tories and two NDP MPs while the rest of Ontario will elect 49 Tories, four Liberals and eight New Democrats.

– Montreal will have 21 Bloc MPs and seven Liberals, while the rest of Quebec will elect 39 Bloc MPs and eight Conservatives.

– Atlantic Canada will elect 15 Liberals, 13 Conservatives and four NDP MPs.

– All three seats in the territories will go to the Liberals.

Conservative leader Stephen Harper today released the Conservative platform, a Blue Book entitled "Stand Up for Canada." Most of the contents had already been released but there were a few additional initiatives announced today.These include a promise to cut taxes on capital gains for individuals and companies that reinvest the money within six months.

Harper promised to increase Canada's foreign aid spending by $425 million. He also promised fixed election dates, and new legislation to clean up pollution in the air and water, and on land.There is also a commitment to move to some form of elected Senate.

Harper said Canadians can expect a Conservative government to spend $60 billion for new programs over the next five years, which includes $45 billion in tax breaks.
He also projected $22.7 billion of surpluses over the next five years.

The Conservatives also plan to save about $22 billion by putting a cap on the growth of federal spending each year, limited to the rate of inflation and the increase in population, except in the departments of Indian Affairs and Defence. But Harper said they will not be implementing any "draconian measures" to limit growth. "The most we do in any area, frankly, is restrain spending growth. There will still be growth," he said adding that in some area they will reallocate among priorities.

Harper also indicated a willingness to consult Parliament about whether Canada should join the U.S. missile-defence system. If Canada received a formal, written offer from the U.S., Harper said the question would be put to Parliament for a free vote.

While fighting to turn the tide, Paul Martin was broad-sided by an unneeeded distraction in B.C. The Liberal party ended up disowning one of its B.C. candidates,Abbotsford Liberal candidate David Oliver,following allegations he offered his NDP opponent a job to drop out of the race and support the Liberals.

In an affidavit filed with Elections Canada, Jeffrey Hansen-Carlson alleges that Oliver and his campaign manager guaranteed him a win in the next municipal election, and offered him a job in Ottawa – if Oliver went on to win the election.

Following the example set by Stephen Harper the previous day, Martin decided that it was in the best interests of the party that Oliver cease campaigning as a Liberal candidate and that he not sit in the Liberal caucus should he be elected.

Meanwhile, Jack Layton was continuing to dig himself out of the hole created by news that he had used a private clinic for to deal with a hernia problem in the 1990s. Layton had hernia surgery at the Shouldice Hospital, a private facility in Toronto,
while he was serving as a Toronto city councillor. The NDP leader said wasn't aware
the clinic was private when he went for his surgery in the mid-1990s. "It's just part of the system," Layton said in an interview. "The doctor says, 'Go there.' You pay with your (Ontario health) card. It never occurred to me (it was) anything other than medicare, which it is. "I can tell you now if my doctor ever refers me anywhere, I'll ask him that question. It never occurred to me at the time, it wasn't a controversy at the time. It wasn't something on one's mind."

Layton stressed that the Shouldice facility is a not-for-profit facility that has been part of the Ontario medical system for decades. It was originally set up for veterans returning from the Second World War and was grandfathered into the Ontario medical system, he said.

Copying a favourite tactic of the Liberals,Layton made a direct plea Friday to disillusioned Grit voters to switch to his side. With Liberal support dropping in polls, and some analysts suggesting the Conservatives are on the edge of winning a majority government, Layton tried to portray himself as the Tory-blocking alternative. He appealed to Canadians to chose the NDP over the Liberals so the long-time governing party can have a "timeout" to heal and return to the values of Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau.

"Paul Martin has failed the test of leadership," Layton said. "His term of office as prime minister, like his campaign, is about nothing.

"The issues he and his team are talking about in this campaign are improvised, incoherent and frequently embarrassing when they aren't offensive."

As voters ponder whether they wish a Conservative majority government, it remains to be seen whether those thinking of voting NDP or who are still undecided decide to switch back to the Liberals to try to prevent the Conservatives from securing a majority. There are many, myself included, who want to see a Conservative minority with a sufficient number of NDP MPs to ensure that the Conservatives do not make radical changes to Canada's social programs before they have to return to the voters. This would ensure that Martin and his cronies are turfed, the Liberals choose a new leader and some renewal begins before they again head back to the polls. We will watching the polls intently up to election day to help us make that decision when we enter the polling booth.

Earlier today I circulated the Strategic Counsel seat projections to some friens with the brief comment:

"Wow, this is getting a bit too close for comfort."

I leave you with the response I received from my friend Henry who provided the following food for thought:

"Isn't this what we prayed for-- a change, and how can change occur except by the defeat of the current government? The ancient Greeks, who were much wiser than we are, had a saying:

"Whom the gods would punish they first grant the answer to their prayers".

It seems that the Canadian people want change very passionately but are afraid to take the risk that change might entail some discomfort. If Canadians had populated Russia, France or even England, there would have been no Revolution, either Bloody or Glorious.

Vicarious revolutionaries is what we are."


The Election: Day 45 (How far will the Liberals fall?)

The Strategic Counsel poll shows the Conservatives leading the Liberals by 12 points (39 % vs 27%)and probably headed towards a majority government. Meanwhile Paul Martin's personal popularity is plummeting, especially in Quebec. Conservative Leader Stephen Harper has for the first time displaced Martin as the politician Canadians most favour to lead the country. Mr. Harper has the trust of 32 per cent of voters, compared with 25 per cent for Mr. Martin and 17 per cent for NDP Leader Jack Layton.

According to the Strategic Counsel,Martin's disapproval rating in Quebec has hit a historic high. 80 per cent of Quebecers say they now have an unfavourable impression of Mr. Martin, with 46 per cent saying their view is "very unfavourable."

"Those are huge numbers," Pollster Allan Gregg said. "He has come to represent something in that province that the population clearly does not like at a visceral level."

Mr. Gregg, who was a Progressive Conservative pollster in the 1980s, said he has seen nothing like it before, except outside Quebec in the waning months of the Mulroney era, "when spittle would run down their chins" at the mere mention of the prime minister's name.

Meanwhile, Thursday Paul Martin acknowledged that he approved a series of controversial ads targeting Stephen Harper, including one suggesting the Tories would station armed soldiers on the streets of Canadian cities. But he denied that that particular ad, which was pulled from the Liberal website, was intended as an attack on the Armed Forces. Martin told reporters he supports the military and the ad has been misunderstood.

The ad says: "Stephen Harper actually announced he wants to increase military presence in our cities. Canadian cities. Soldiers with guns. In our cities. In Canada." This is accomanied by an ominous drumbeat.

Attempting to deflect the widespread condemnation of this ad, Martin said the ad was intended to criticize the Conservatives' policy because it would spread soldiers too far apart across the country. (I just saw him say this on CBC TV . His nose grew 5 inches as he spoke.)

In another development today Stephen Harper dumped a B.C. candidate who faces charges of attempting to smuggle a car and booze across the Canada-U.S. border. Responding decisively when these charges became known, Stephen Harper said that it's too late to replace Derek Zeisman as a candidate, but that he wouldn't be allowed to join the caucus. "Mr. Zeisman will not be sitting as a Conservative should he be elected," Harper said. "He'll have to get this matter resolved."

Stephen Harper also grabbed the headlines when he stated that a Conservative government would turn its back on the Kyoto accord and set its own targets for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. The accord's targets cannot be met either internationally or within Canada, Harper said, citing the country's woeful record on climate change since the agreement was signed in 1997.

"The Kyoto accord will not succeed at achieving its objectives and this government — the Canadian government — cannot achieve its objectives," Harper said.

Harper did not state explicitly whether a Conservative government would seek to withdraw Canada from the accord. It would be possible for Canada to get out of Kyoto, but not until Feb. 16, 2008, the three-year anniversary of the treaty coming into force.

A new analysis from the C.D. Howe Institute, reported today in the Globe and Mail, shows Stephen Harper's plan to cut the GST would be more beneficial to lower-income Canadians than the Liberal cuts to personal income tax rates. An analysis prepared for the Globe and Mail by Finn Poschmann, C.D. Howe's associate director of research, indicates that people who earn less than $25,000 a year would be better off with a GST reduction, while most other Canadians with incomes up to $125,000 would see roughly equal benefits from either proposal.

"There's no question the GST cut is better for low-income households -- not a lot better, but it's a heck of a lot better than zero," Mr. Poschmann said. "But it's pretty much a wash for everybody else, except for the highest incomes."

Finally I recommend for your reading a thought-provoking column in today's Toronto Star by Jim Travers, the theme of which is that the Liberals messy campaign shows that Martin is a poor leader. Here's an extract:

"What's wrong with a Liberal campaign now free-falling toward a jolting landing is what's wrong with Paul Martin as prime minister.

Contradictory, inconsistent and still searching for a focus, this Liberal tour and Martin's leadership reflect the dangers of power exercised without discipline.

Even the most desperate attack advertising — and new Liberal television spots shout panic — can't hide that this election isn't about Stephen Harper. It's about expectations Martin couldn't meet, a pinball government that ricochets bumper-to-bumper and a ruling party so accustomed to privilege that skimming public money to pay friends is just taking care of business.

Democracy may be a slow-witted beast but it's smart enough to know when the risk of change is less frightening than the risk of doing nothing.

So Liberals who foolishly believed they could fight and win this election the way they fought and won the last must now stop the erosion of core support and find the energy to soldier through 11 difficult days."


The Election; Day 44

According to the latest Strategic Counsel poll :

"The Conservatives are riding a wave of support that puts them on the verge of a majority government,driven by surging fortunes in Quebec, British Columbia and Ontario outside the Greater Toronto Area.

"Stephen Harper's Tories now have a 10-point lead over the Liberals with 38 per cent of the popular vote versus 28 per cent for Paul Martin's Liberals. NDP support has risen slightly, now standing at 16 per cent. (BQ is at 12 per cent and Greens at 6 per cent.)

"The Conservatives are on the threshold of capturing seats in Quebec, a province that has been largely cool to the Tories for 13 years, as the province's support for the Bloc Québécois sags below 50 per cent for the first time in the campaign.

"Nationally, 58 per cent of Canadians say the Tories have momentum, up from 53 per cent in the previous polling period. Only 14 per cent of Canadians say the Liberals have momentum.

"Mr. Gregg said he hasn't seen momentum numbers like this since the 1993 election, which brought the Liberals back to power."This is a runaway train," he said.

"The Conservative tide that appears to be breaking in many regions is still meeting Liberal resistance in the Greater Toronto Area, the region covered by the 416 and 905 telephone area codes. Polling shows the Liberals lead the GTA in popular support over the Conservatives, 47 per cent to 34 per cent.

"But in Ontario outside the Greater Toronto Area, the Conservatives lead the Liberals 41 per cent to 35 per cent.

"Support continues to climb for the Conservatives in British Columbia, with the Tories rising six percentage points to 43 per cent in that province, while the Liberals fell four points to 24 per cent. The NDP rose one percentage point to 27 per cent and the Green Party dipped three percentage points to 6 per cent."

Today the Liberals and the NDP released their full election platforms. Virtually all of the Liberal proposals had been previosly released with the exception of a promise to oppose weaponization in space. Conspicuously missing from the Liberal platform was any reference to Paul Martin's English debate proposal to remove any possiblity of the federal government being able to invoke the Notwithstanding clause in the Charter of Rights and Freedom. The fact that the platform was printed that very day is abundant evidence that it was a fly-by-the-seat-of your-pants proposal dreamed up at the last minute in an unsuccessful attempt to sandbag Harper.

The NDP's Jack Laytonm also unveiled his party's campaign platform Wednesday, including $71.5 billion in spending over five years on social programs and tax breaks for the poor.

The platform's proposals include:

Home care for seniors and creation of long-term care spaces.

Legislation to stop the spread of private, for-profit health care.

Legislation to make politicians more accountable.

Other items included $20.1 billion over five years on tax breaks for low-income earners; $1 billion a year for a prescription drug plan, starting in 2007, and $16 billion over four years for child care and child tax benefits.

The NDP said funding for the proposals would come from cancelling corporate tax cuts promised by the Liberals.

Layton said the NDP emphasis on seniors, children and health care makes his party a true alternative to both the Liberals and Conservatives.

Stephen Harper had originally intended to release the Conservative platform today but deferred it because the Liberal and NDP platforms were being released on the same day. Campaigning in New Brunswick, Harper promised more help for cities.A Conservative government would keep the Liberals' "new deal" for cities and supplement it with $2 billion in funding,Harper said. Harper said he would stick with the proposal to transfer five cents a litre from the federal gasoline tax to municipalities.

The biggest campaign story today was the backlash against the new Liberals ads attacking Stephen Harper.The ads display an unflattering picture of Harper slowly coming into focus, accompanied by a militaristic drumbeat in the background.

They slam him on a number of issues. In one ad, the Liberals suggest Harper may have accepted donations from right-wing Americans for his leadership campaign, but offer no proof.

The Conservatives say the ads are blatantly false, personal attacks on Harper and desperate acts by a desperate party.

"As we predicted, the Liberals have stepped up their campaign of negative and personal attacks on our leader and our party," said Conservative National Campaign Co-Chair John Reynolds. "These latest ads are similar to the ads that we saw in the last campaign – guns pointed into people's faces and dishonest misrepresentations of our policies."

Indeed, not long after the ads were released, one that claimed Harper would would put more Canadian "soldiers with guns" in Canadian cities was yanked. Today this was the focus of major controversy as veterans and current members of the Canadian military spoke out stating that the ad falsely portrayed Canadian soldiers as agents of evil. Paul Martin pretended that the ad was never intended to be aired but CBC TV reported tonight that the ad was part of the package of 12 ads given to media outlets at 3PM yesterday. It was pulled at 7 PM when it became clear that the Liberals had made a major gaffe. Meanwhile the most offensive "soldiers" segment continues to play in French in Quebec where it is part of a blended ad.

Look forward to more desperate measures by the Liberals over the next twelve days as they attempt to slow the runaway train coming their way.

Meanwhile I leave you with a link to an excellent article in today's Toronto Star by Chantal Hebert

Cash for Copywright: Update re Sam Bulte

As an update to my ealier post re Samulta Bulte and copyright, I offer the following from Primeminister.ca

"Bulte Responds, Geist Says 'Cause or Effect' It's Still Cash For Copyright

Last week I sent Ms. Bulte an email:

Ms. Bulte,

I kindly urge you to listen to the needs of the public at large, and stop listening exclusively to the needs of your lobbyist friends. Please challenge yourself to do better for voting Canadians by taking Michael Geist's Copyright Pledge;

"No Member of Parliament who has accepted financial contributions or other benefits from (i) a copyright lobby group, (ii) its corporate members, or (iii) senior executives as well as (iv) a copyright collective shall serve as Minister of Canadian Heritage or as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, nor sit on any legislative committee (parliamentary or standing committees conducting hearings or deliberations on copyright matters."

Furthermore, I truly believe the strongest and most positive message you can send to your constituents is to take responsible action immediately by canceling your January 19th fundraiser.

Thanks in advance for giving this your consideration.
James Cogan.

To Ms. Bulte's credit, I did receive a response in short order. I knew it was a pre-prepared letter because my name was in a different font from the rest of the letter. Here is a copy of Ms. Bulte's response.
Dear Mr. Cogan:

Thank you for your recent correspondence regarding Copyright reform and my support of the Canadian cultural industries. I firmly believe that culture provides for a strong foundation in our lives and that Canadian culture is unique in its capacity to help define who we are as Canadians by sharing experiences with each other.

Copyright law is an essential instrument that protects the intellectual property and creativity of Canadians. Whether you are a new performer or someone with an international reputation, Canadian copyright law ensures that you will be compensated for your creative works. It also means that making unauthorized reproductions and computer hacking of copyrighted materials – like music, for example - is deemed illegal. Canada stands with other developed nations in its support and protection for intellectual creativity. Recent legislation tabled in the House of Commons by the Liberal government, Bill C-60, sought to bring Canada in line with other signatory countries of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Treaty on Copyright reform.

With regard to the fundraising event to be held on January 19, this event is being hosted, but not funded, by individuals who also happen to have professional lives separate from this event. The majority of people who will attend this event and purchase tickets will be from the riding of Parkdale-High Park and elsewhere throughout Toronto.

In 2004, the Liberal government brought in new election financing laws that restricted corporate donations to $1,000 per party. Since that time, funds that have come into my riding association have been made almost exclusively by individuals. In 2004, the last year of reported contributions, which are available at www.elections.ca and which include the election, I received a total of $88,738.75, only $9,200 of which – 10.3% - were made to me by cultural industries or corporations.

In short, as my contributions indicate, they are from individual Canadians for whom I work on a daily basis on their behalf in our Parliament.

In terms of my assistance for Canadian authors, composers, performers or producers, I will never waiver in my support for their hard work and dedication to our cultural fabric, and who help to enrich our lives and our society. Since 1993, the Liberal government has demonstrated its commitment to Canadian artists and will continue to do so in the future.

Yours truly,
Sam Bulte

Not surprisingly, Michael Geist is all over this and has received similar copies of this letter from others. In Geist's response he gets to the heart of the issue and articulates it better than I ever could;
I think the record speaks for itself. Whether this support is a function of cause (the support makes it more likely that Ms. Bulte will support these groups) or effect (the support comes because Ms. Bulte is supporting these groups) is immaterial. What matters is that the copyright policy process has been tainted by the perception of cash for copyright."


The Election: Day 43

Liberals are still toast but they are beginning to stink.

The Toronto Star this morning carried the EKOS poll which EKOS refused to release last night pre-debate. More bad news for the Liberals.Headline read:

Tories head for majority/Poll shows `breakthrough' for party
`Significant growth' in Ontario, Quebec


"Conservatives are charting a course toward a majority on Jan. 23, according to a new national poll completed yesterday.

"The survey, conducted by EKOS Research Associates for the Toronto Star and La Presse, shows Stephen Harper's Conservatives have sailed into majority government territory after a stunning week of rising popularity, largely at the expense of the Liberal party.

"The EKOS survey of 1,240 Canadians through the weekend and yesterday found 39.1 per cent support for the Conservatives. The Liberals had 26.8 per cent support; the NDP 16.2 per cent; the Bloc Québécois 12.6 per cent; and Green party 4.6 per cent.

"This is the breakthrough Harper has been waiting for," EKOS president Frank Graves said.

"In Ontario, the Conservatives have widened the gap to a 10-percentage-point lead over the Liberals. Of the 518 Ontarians surveyed, 43.8 per cent supported the Tories, 33.5 per cent the Liberals, 16.2 per cent the NDP, and 5.4 per cent the Greens.....

"The Conservatives' gains are nationwide, but their most significant growth is in Ontario, where they have surpassed the Liberals in their traditional heartland, and in Quebec, where they are now the leading federalist alternative to the Bloc Québécois," Graves said.

"EKOS's Paul Adams said Harper's popularity is driving the surge. When those surveyed were asked who had the most positive vision for the future, the Conservative leader received 32 per cent support. Prime Minister Paul Martin had 20 per cent, the NDP's Jack Layton 16 per cent, and Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe 10 per cent. "None of the above" registered 10 per cent and 12 per cent said they didn't know."

The Globe and Mail reported that some Liberal staffers are beginning to put out feelers for new jobs amid slumping public opinion polls, while other Liberals have resigned themselves to the fact that they need to lose this election to rebuild the party.

Dismayed and somewhat stunned by their collapse in the polls, Martin's Liberals are now clinging to the hope that Conservative Leader Stephen Harper won't hold up under the intense scrutiny of the last two weeks of the election campaign.

There was amazement in many quarters at Martin's surprise Notwihstanding clause stunt. As Paul Wells put it:

"You don't amend the constitution of Canada because you're nine points back. A prime minister who valued the parchment of the constitution above his own hide would understand that."

" Paul Martin is past retirement age. He has been in public life for 23 years, all of it in the Charter Era of Canadian constitutionalism. He is running for Parliament for the sixth time. He ran for his party's leadership twice. He participated in, what, a dozen leadership debates in two different decades? And the role of the Charter was (thanks to Meech and gay marriage) central to all of them? And he never mentioned this little amendment idea. He amended a Supreme Court reference on gay marriage and forgot to ask the Supremes about his amendment package. He has built two different federal Cabinets with MPs who (hi, Roger Gallaway!) sometimes strenuously support the use of Section 33, and he never told them or us he was thinking of ditching it. He has run three-quarters of the longest campaign in 21 years and he never hinted at a plan to launch a constitutional amendment round.

And we're supposed to see this as a serious policy proposal?"

Meanwhile Macleans reported tonight that Liberal MPs and experts are panning Martin's promise to repeal notwithstanding clause.


"Paul Martin will have to overcome objections from some provinces, constitutional experts and even some Liberal MPs if he's to deliver on his promise to prevent federal use of the notwithstanding clause.

"The prime minister lobbed the constitutional surprise into the televised leaders' debate Monday night, apparently hoping to catch Conservative Leader Stephen Harper off guard. But it came like a bolt from the blue for Liberal MPs too.

"Nobody discussed it with me prior," said Toronto MP Derek Lee, the longest serving member of the Commons justice committee.

"Other Liberal MPs and senators whose support would be necessary to amend the constitutional clause complained that Martin's debate pronouncement "came out of left field," as one MP put it privately.

"They were confused about how such a change could be implemented and a number of MPs made it clear they'd oppose it.

"I would support retention of the notwithstanding clause," said Mississauga South MP Paul Szabo.

"Lee said he's open to debating the idea but, in general, his view on constitutional matters is: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

"Constitutional law expert Peter Russell was even more blunt: "It would be foolish to throw it out, in my view."

Moreover, Russell said Martin's plan might not even be legal.

Tossing the half-baked idea into the debate in a bid to revive the Liberals' faltering campaign is "a strong argument for saying Paul Martin is not really equipped to govern," added Russell.

"And I'm not a Conservative.""

It appears that Martin's little bombshell attempt to throw Harper off stride may be prove to be a fatal gaffe, even if he manages to eke out a tiny minority. Harper's response about the balance in the constitutional package was indeed the correct one.

The Liberals followed up this mark of desperation with an all out attempt to demonize Harper by repeating their tactics of 2004.They unleashed twelve new Liberal attack ads taking direct aim at Harper.The ads are some of the most negative yet, suggesting Harper is anti-Atlantic Canada, hides an agenda similar to former Ontario premier Mike Harris and that his rise to leadership was bankrolled by rich American right-wingers.The ads also:

Attack Harper's comments to an American think-tank in Montreal when he called the U.S. a light and inspiration to Canadians and the world;
Claim Harper will either have to raise taxes or run a deficit to pay for his campaign promises;
Quote Harper on private health care in the provinces, saying "Why should I care? Why should the federal government how they're managed."
Claim Harper and Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe have a close relationship that will not benefit national unity;
Claim that Harper once said Liberal ridings in the west of Canada are either dominated by recent Asian immigrants or recent migrants from eastern Canada;
Report comments Harper made to an American audience, advising them not to feel bad for Canada's unemployed, who receive "generous social assistance and unemployment assistance," and that Canada is content to become a second-tier social country;
Quote a U.S. newspaper editorial that described Harper as the most pro-U.S. leader in the western world. Details at CTV.ca

As for tonight's French debate,I followed it for the first hour on CBC Newsworld but at that point I turned it off because the mismatch between the voices of the interpreters and the leaders was ludicrous. My impression to that point was that Duceppe was making his point about Liberal corruption. He described the new/old Option Canada scandal as a "federal" scandal mentioning prominent Conservative as well as Liberal members of the Council for Canadian Unity. Harper may have bolstered his recent rise in the polls in Quebec.

The big question for the next two weeks is: are Canadians finally comfortable enough with Stephen Harper to give him a mandate to govern? Or will they be sucked in by the Liberal smear campaign that will rage in full force?