Proroguing Parliament: To be or not to be

The chattering classes are atwitter with the idea that all Harper has to do is ask the GG to prorogue Parliament until January and his bacon will be saved. As an example, Ian MacDonald writes in the National Post:
"All Harper has to do is prorogue the House. In the Westminster tradition, managing the government’s agenda and timetable is the exclusive preserve of the prime minister. No governor-general has ever refused to sign an order-in-council to prorogue the House and bring it back with a new Throne Speech.
And there is a recent precedent for such a short session after an election. In 1988, after the free trade election, Brian Mulroney brought the House back in December with a Throne Speech accompanied by implementing legislation. The Throne Speech and bill were passed in 10 days and the session prorogued.
Harper has already caved on the party financing and public union issues. He has nothing to lose by resetting the clock."

Mr. MacDonald ,a former speechwriter for the Conservatives, has one fundamental factor wrong.In the example he cited, the PM met the House and got a vote of confidence so this is a spurious example of proroguing after a short session.

The essence of the matter is this: The GG appointed Mr. Harper because his party had the largest number of seats in the House. But Mr. Harper clearly does not enjoy the confidence of the House and the GG will be aware of that due to communications to her from the other party leaders. Unless he can win a confidence vote in the House Mr. Harper's credentials as PM are defunct.

To prorogue under these circumstances would be unique in Canadian history.

What MacDonald and others are forgetting is that we do not have a Presidential system. We elect a Parliament, not a Prime Minister. So, unless he can win a confidence vote, Mr. Harper has no prerogative to govern as PM or ask the GG to terminate this session before he has survived a confidence test.

Will the GG have the guts to call Harper on his bluff? Stay tuned.


Historic accord-Harper on the way out

Today we witnessed an historic accord that will see the Harper minority government out of power within weeks. A Liberal-NDP coalition with Bloc support! Who have thought it?

Regardless of how this unfolds, Harper's credibility is now shot. He will never regain the confidence of the other three parties and I am extremely doubtful that, if an election occurs with a new Liberal leader, that Harper would get even another minority. However long it takes, Harper has set in motion the momentum that will see him out of office within months.

There have been wily politicians in the past who might have negotiated their way out of this noose but not Harper. He is far too partisan and inflexible and he has infuriated the other three parties to an extent that would have seemed inconceivable a few weeks ago. They now have a common cause- remove Harper from office. And all the result of an unnecessary provocative manouver by Harper.

Tactics such as delayed votes, even proroguing, will not save him. He is "for the hanging", to quote an old phrase. And watch the bloodletting among the Tories once he is ousted. He will bear full responsibility for this debacle. The man who united the right may even provoke its unravelling in due course.


Conservative election eve pitch

This is the Conservative pitch on election eve. I received it today

October 13, 2008

"Canada's choice: protecting the Canadian economy or experimenting with it
After five weeks of campaigning, the time has come for voters to decide. On October 14th, Canadians will choose a Prime Minister. They will decide who they think is the best choice to manage Canada's economy at a time of considerable global economic uncertainty. That choice is clear: Prime Minister Stephen Harper.Stephen Harper is the only leader who is prepared to tackle a period of global economic uncertainty. He is the only leader who has been talking about the economy not only since this election campaign began, but for the past year. He is the only leader who saw the economic storm clouds coming, and he is the only leader who had a plan. The other guys, literally, didn’t see it coming.Prime Minister Harper and the Conservative Government developed and implemented a plan based on keeping the budget balanced, lowering taxes, protecting Canadian jobs and keeping inflation low. That plan has been in place for two years. That plan has worked. That plan is the reason why Canada is weathering the global economic storm better than any other country.That plan is the best way forward. That plan will keep Canada on the right track.If re-elected, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's top priority will be to protect the Canadian economy and everyone's stake in it. He will continue to provide certainty at a time when Canada needs it most.Stéphane Dion's pre-occupation (because we know he can’t set priorities) will be to run his risky carbon tax experiment - an experiment that will destroy jobs and drive up the price of everything.Canadians face a clear choice: strong leadership that will protect the Canadian economy or risky leadership that will experiment with it.If you want a Prime Minister who will protect the Canadian economy, then give Stephen Harper a mandate.If you want a Prime Minister who will experiment with the Canadian economy, then give Mr. Dion a mandate to impose his carbon tax."

After reading it, I have to agree with Dion's statement that Harper has based his campaign on lie upon lie. Let's hope Canadians give him at best a reduced minority tomorrow.


Bourque continues to hammer Dion

Pierre Bourque continues to shill for the Conservative party. His daily melange of headlines continue to link to attacks on Dion and the Liberals, the most one-sided election coverage imaginable.

Today he plays up a story about Elizabeth May as a future Liberal cabinet minister or Senator. Yes, I'm not making this up. Here's what he has to say in a mini-torial:

Where does Green Party leader Elizabeth May get her marching orders ? With less than 48 hours to go before voters go to the polls across Canada, emotions are running high inside campaigns faltering within sight of the finish line. In recent hours, Bourque has heard from a number of senior political operatives, notably a very senior Liberal organizer who admittedly worked on the leadership bid of one of Stephane Dion's rivals, in other words someone who has much to gain if Dion and his Green Shift are soundly defeated Tuesday. Yet, this still-very-active politico tells Bourque he fears a secret deal has been cooked between Dion and Elizabeth May (both unabashed disciples of
ex-pat Kyoto godfather Maurice Strong) which may explain why she has been meeting with "key Liberal organizers" and is now actively telling Green Party supporters to vote Liberal, of all things. This, according to our Liberal insider, in exchange for a possible Senate seat and a place as Environment Minister in a Dion-led government. To be clear, Ms May's curious strategy of backing Dion is creating ill-will within her own party to the point that "a lot of Green candidates are upset", according to one national news report this morning. Surprisingly, top Green Party representatives are refusing to respond to a query from this organ as to what is the Party's current position on the Senate. Developing."

How low can he go?


Majority hopes dashed, Harper struggles for 2nd minority

Since the US financial crisis mushroomed into a global meltdown, the foundations of Stephen Harper's run for a majority have been shattered. As Harper is increasingly seen as cold and uncaring, e.g. "good time to buy stock bargains", his odds of maintaining a minority government seem to be diminishing day by day.

Harper fared poorly in both the French and English debates. Dion did not stumble as the Conservatives (and many Liberals) had expected. Layton and May both performed well in the English debate.

Harper threw away at least 20 seats in Quebec with his ham-fisted moves on cuts to arts and culture and his sentencing stance on youths. This enabled Duceppe to regain ground lost in the early days of the campaign and to become the rallying point for a "stop Harper from getting a majority" campaign. This leaves Harper looking to Ontario to bolster his sagging fortunes. Dion has been hobbled by the split in the left-of-center vote, with the NDP and the Green Party continuing to poll well. But Dion has found his stride since the debates and is beginning to pull votes from the others.

If Nik Nanos' (the pollster who came closest to predicting exactly the outcome of the 2006 election) lastest polls are accurate then Dion has a chance , albeit slim, of overtaking Haper on election day and winning a minority by the skin of his teeth, thereby snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. If not, then look for a diminished Conservative minority. Depending on how the number of seats turn out, some are beginning to speculate about the possibility of a non-Conservative coalition, after Harper is dispatched with relative ease by a non-confidence vote. Fantasy? Maybe. Maybe not. The talk of deals has already begun.

In any event, the big loser of this election is likely to be Stephen Harper who broke his own fixed election law in an attempt to secure a majority. Even if he gains a second(diminished) minority, he will end up the loser.

Bourque: Biased Election Coverage ???

Why is Pierre Bourque tilting coverage in favour of the Conservatives throughout Election 2008?

If you have been visiting bourque.org during this campaign, you will have noted the consistent daily prominence of headlines dissing Stephane Dion and the Liberals (see today's batch below) and of headlines favouring the Conservatives. Is this unbiased coverage? Hardly. You have to wonder why.....

Harper growing into the job ......... Dion: Green Shift or bust ......... O'Neill/Mayeda/Johnson: Prime Minister Dion ? .........Martin: Prime Minister Dion ? ......... Lib campaign workers arrested ......... Top Green backer: vote ndp, liberal ......... The numbers game ......... The splintering of politics ......... Vote splits create unexpected results ......... Harper plays the mom card ......... Parties support strong action on lung health ......... Ndp fighting to be official opposition ......... Strategic vote will hurt Greens ......... Should the Green just fade away ......... Which party will cut a deal ......... Yukon Premier blasts Libs ......... Panic politics ......... "
Source: www.bourque.org October 9, 2008 10:30 PM


Harper majority slipping away

After the easy ride of Week One, notwithstanding his minor warroom gaffes, Stephen Harper's warm and fuzzy campaign is running into rough water this second week. He is being hit harder by both the NDP and the Liberals in ads and speeches. Dion is finally on the offensive. The economic downturn in the US and to some extent in Canada may become Harper's Achilles' Heel.

As I mentioned yesterday Harper's Conservatives do not have a good fiscal track record so far, taking the country from record surpluses to the verge of a deficit. Like John McCain, Stephen Harper likes to say that the economic fundamentals are strong. He must be getting his advice from Jeff Rubin of the CIBC. Dion hit hard on the economic theme today in Halifax, pointing to the Liberal financial track record during the Chretien/Martin years.

The fact is that a deepening Canadian housing market slump, plus a flood of other worrisome economic reports on both sides of the border, added to fears of a widening U.S. financial market crisis. Canadian home sales tumbled nearly 20 per cent last month from a year earlier and prices were off more than five per cent. Canadians also cut their purchases of new cars in July. And jobs continue to disappear in southern Ontario. This provides potent ground for the Liberals to till in the coming weeks.

Most recent Strategic Counsel polling indicates the Conservatives are losing their lead in swing Ontario ridings, with their lead shrinking to its lowest level so far this campaign in these key battlegrounds. The Cons now have only a five-point lead over the Liberals in 20 Ontario ridings where the race was tightest in the last election or by-election, down from the 19-point lead the Conservatives enjoyed over the Liberals in those battleground ridings Sept. 10-13 (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080916.welectionpoll17/BNStory/politics/home ). Their chances of winning a majority are slipping away.

This campaign is only beginning. Stay tuned.


Election 2008: Day Nine

There was one encouraging sign for the Liberals today. The Harris-Decima daily rolling poll showed a softening of support for the Conservatives, dropping from 41 to 38 %. The Liberals picked up three points. The spread between the two parties is still considerable. As I suggested earlier, the Liberal goal should be to hold Harper to another minority. This would allow them an opportunity to retool and pick a new leader before the next election.

Stephane Dion's Green Shift, while supported by a lot of environmentally minded citizens, is in danger of becoming an albatross around the Liberals' neck. Dion seems unable to explain it clearly and concisely in a way that would successfully deflect Harper's attacks.

After this weekend's meltdown in the US, the economy is likely to loom front and center as an election issue. The Conservatives are trying to sell themselves as prudent fiscal managers. This conflicts with their record since Harper took the reins of power. The slaying of the deficit and the creation of large surpluses occurred during the Chretien/Martin years. Since 2006 Harper has squandered the surplus and left us on the brink of a return to deficit financing. The Liberals should be emphasizing that record of good financial management.

The Libs should also be showcasing their bench strength in contrast to Harper's one-man show. Where are Iggy, Rae, Dryden, Goodale etc?

Today Dion was in Newfoundland attempting to capitalize on Danny Williams' ABC campaign. He announced $420 million for fisheries programs, most of it aimed at offsetting the carbon tax. But even there he was placed on the defensive when former Liberal provincial/federal cabinet minister John Efford was shown on national television stating that everyone he talks to is concerned about the proposed carbon tax. Nonetheless, the Liberals have some hope of picking up a seat or two there, with Loyola Hearn and Norm Doyle having abandoned the Conservative ship in the face of Danny's onslaught. The NDP might have a chance in St. John's East where Jack Harris, former provincial NDP leader, is running.

Meanwhile Jack Layton was busy in Halifax where he made a billion-dollar promise to fix the health care system once and for all. He promised that an NDP government would spend an average of $200-million a year to increase training spaces and help provinces expand their medical schools. The aim would be to boost the number of new nurses and doctors by 50 per cent to address a shortage that has left five million Canadians without a family doctor. Certainly a worthy goal, if he ever had a chance to pursue it.


Election 2008: Day Eight

Harper and Dion took the day off. Layton campaigned in Gatineau and Elizabeth May appeared on Cross-country Check-Up with Rex Murphy.

Pundits were busy assessing the first week of the campaign. Jeff Simpson of the Globe and Mail gave the nod to Harper as the week's winner:

"Distractions aside, the Conservatives know what they are doing, how to do it, whom they are targeting and with what messages. The campaign tour runs with paramilitary precision. Local candidates, as in previous elections, are prevented from speaking to journalists. The whole campaign revolves around Mr. Harper, as does the entire government. Ministers are pygmies in the campaign, as most of them are in the government, and it would appear nothing will change after the election, since the Conservatives have attracted almost no new candidates of great stature. As they paraded out their new candidates across the country, the most common reaction was: Who?
The Conservatives are trying (thus far successfully) to defang Mr. Harper among swing voters. The entire Conservative strategic effort – in which policy, speechmaking and advertising reinforce each other – is to make Canadians, or more precisely middle-class Canadians, feel comfortable with the idea of Mr. Harper and the Conservative Party as middle-of-the-road, pragmatic, non-ideological."


The latest Canadian Press Harris-Decima poll indicates that the Conservatives have solidified a substantial lead among Canadian voters, thanks at least in part to a lack of confidence in Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion. Those polled supported the Conservatives 40%, Liberals 26%, NDP 15%,Green party 9%, and Bloc Québécois 8%. One interesting note is that Jack Layton remained the most popular of the five leaders, with 53 per cent of respondents registering a positive impression and just 33 per cent a negative one. This explains stories today suggesting that the Tories will turn their guns on Layton next week.

Harper's campaign will focus next on Ontario and Quebec where he needs to win seats to obtain the much desired but unstated goal of a majority. The Bloc still has a slight edge over the Cons in Quebec. Today the Conservatives unveiled new ads taking aim at Duceppe. The Liberals unveiled new ads featuring speakers other than Dion, taking aim at the Conservatives' negative campaign.

I have not been attempting to summarize the promises made by the various parties this past week. A handy summary of promises so far can be found at CTV.ca ( http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20080911/election2008_promises_080913/20080913?s_name=election2008&no_ads= ).

For those interested in projected seat outcomes based on the polls so far, I recommend checking the Calgary Grit ( http://calgarygrit.blogspot.com/ ) and Democratic Space ( http://democraticSPACE.com/canada2008 ) websites.

Calgary Grits latest has Tories now projected to win 144.5 seats, the Liberals 92.5, the Bloc 42.3, and the NDP 27.8. Greg Morrow of Democratic Space projects Tories 146, Liberals 91, NDP 30, and the Bloc 39. These are remarkably similar. 155 seats are required to form a majority government. So at this stage in the campaign the Tories are within spitting distance of a majority.


Election 2008: Day Six

At the end of Day Six you have to wonder what is happening in this campaign. For Mr. Control Freak, Stephen Harper, it has been a week of gaffes. First, the pooping penguin. Then the attempt to block Elizabeth May of the Greens from participating in the debates by threatening to pick up his marbles and boycott the debates ( Yes, Jack, you didn't win any points on this one either). A public backlash forced Harper, Layton and the networks to reverse themselves. May will now participate. She got lots of favourable airplay from the big boys' antics.

Then Ryan Sparrow, Director of Communications, for the Conservatives took a swipe at a father who had lost his son in Afghanistan. The father, Jim Davis, criticized Harper for reversal of position on Afghanistan, saying that his son's sacrifice would have been in vain. (Harper, pandering to Quebec voters, had announced that Canada would pull out of Afghanistan in 2011 no matter what the circumstances by that time). Sparrow tried to smear Jim Davis as an Iggy supporter. Harper had to apologize and suspend Sparrow for the duration of the campaign. All in all, on the surface not an auspicious beginning for the Conservatives.

Harper's policy announcements/ the diesel tax cut and the Afghanistan policy reversal/ kind of got lost in the furore generated by the missteps.

Stephane Dion soldiered through the week, coming across as the victim of a mean-spirited Conservative campaign whose ads continue to consist of personal attacks on Dion's leadership abilities. His explanations of the Green Shift became more articulate and catchy as the week progressed. He survived all the pundits wink/wink stuff about the slow start to his campaign and the delay in securing his campaign plane.

Jack Layton continued to assert that he is campaigning to become PM. Overall, his campaign so far has been assertive and effective. The NDP bounced back to pick up additional support in BC. Today Jack took the most aggressive swing at the oil companies for the sudden overnight increase in the price of gasoline by 13 cents a liter, allegedly due to Hurricane Ike. This probably struck some resonant chords with voters who generally found the companies' explanation a bit far-fetched.

BQ leader Gilles Duceppe is being pushed hard by the Conservatives who hope to forge a majority by taking seats from the Bloc in Quebec. He was not helped by a PQ Cabinet Minister who declared that the Bloc had lost its relevance. Duceppe's main theme has been that Quebecers need to support the BQ in order to keep Harper from securing a majority.

Today Harper announced that Canada would welcome even greater foreign investment/ takeovers of Canadian companies by increasing the threshhold to trigger reviews of such takeovers from $250 million to $1 billion. No doubt this will go down well with the Fraser Institute and in his Alberta stronghold but what is its appeal for Joe and Jane Q Canadian?

Overall, it would appear that the Conservative campaign got off to a shaky start. But the latest poll today appears to contradict that impression. A new Canadian Press-Harris-Decima survey put the Tories at 41 per cent support, with the Liberals well back at 26 per cent, suggesting his Conservatives could be headed for a majority government (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080912.welxngaining0912/BNStory/politics/home)
But these early polls could actually turn out to be an albatross around Harper's neck. If voters get the impression that a Conservative majority is imminent, this could well cause them to rethink their voting intentions, given the apparent aversion to giving an autocrat even greater power to reshape Canada.


Election 2008: Day Three

Day Three of the campaign was a bad one for Harper's Conservatives. The day started with a communications disaster as the Conservatives webmasters got a little too cute for their own good. A Conservative website http://notaleader.ca showed an animated puffin flying across the screen and pooping (plopping a white blob) on the shoulder of Liberal leader Stephane Dion. Dion responded forcefully and Harper was forced to apologize. But the incident has helped to characterize the Conservative leader and the Conservative campaign as mean-spirited.

The incident drowned out the Conservatives' first major policy announcement of the campaign, a promise to cut the excise tax on diesel.

Harper's decision to block Elizabeth May's participation in the leaders debates also came back to haunt him today. Talk shows across the country resonated with callers from all parties upset at this decision and the strong-arm tactics by the PM. And blogs buzzed with indignation. In effect this has become the first real issue to capture voters' attention. The response is not encouraging for the Harper campaign. In his media ads Harper is attempting to show a softer, gentler image but his actions suggest otherwise and recall for voters the way he has governed/ one-man, iron-fisted governance.

Election 2008: Day Two

On Day Two Stephen Harper accused the Liberals of favouring a higher GST and promising to scrap the Conservatives' popular $1,200-per-year child-care benefit. He attacked Dion's Green Shift carbon tax plan, saying the Liberals were "asking Canadians to sign up for a permanent new category of taxation."

Dion fought back calling Harper a liar. A Reality Check by CBC TV confirmed that Harper had misrepresented the Liberals' position.

Contrasting with his avuncular TV ads attempting to portray a softer image, Harper strong-armed TV executives into excluding Green Party Leader Elizabeth May from the leaders debates. Network executives announced that Harper had refused to participate if May were allowed in. This could be a big mistake, revealing Harper's "bully" nature again.

Meanwhile the Canadian Taxpayers Foundation revealed that the Conservative government made spending announcements totalling $8.8 billion in the three months before the election was called on Sunday. So much for Harper's denouncement of the Liberals as big spenders!


The 2008 Canadian Election: Day One

It's now official. The writ has been dropped. We will vote on October 14th. And already the parties are staking out their positions. You could be forgiven if you thought the election actually started weeks ago. Stephen Harper has been playing High Noon all summer, first telling Dion to "fish or cut bait", then inviting the opposition to pledge allegiance to his agenda this fall "or else". After the charade of meeting the three leaders individually for a few minutes each, Harper visited the GG this morning to pull the plug on Parliament and start his campaign for a majority government. (Pardon me: he says repeatedly that he expects another "minority"; wouldn't want to rattle those voters still fearful of what Harper might do with a majority).

Too bad he had to break his own election promises and, some argue, a law his government enacted, to precipitate an election now when he considered the stars best aligned for good fortune for the Conservatives. In his 2006 Blue Book Harper promised:

"Elections are to be held every four years, except when a government loses the confidence of the House."

So much for that promise! But wait... this Parliament had become "dysfunctional" the PM claimed. If that's the case why is he promising to campaign on the Conservatives' record of achievements and promises fulfilled. Ironic, non?

Stephane Dion meanwhile seems to have had some difficulty in getting to the launch pad, with a rather leisurely start to the campaign. He will campaign on his environmental agenda, the Green Shift, and attack the Conservatives' record of broken promises.

Jack Layton was quicker off the mark stating that Harper had quit his job and that he (Layton) was applying for it. The NDP appears to be ignoring the Liberals and targeting the Cons in their early ads.

Gilles Duceppe of the BQ was perhaps the most honest of the bunch. He informed us that the Bloc's mission this time is to prevent Harper from getting a majority. And indeed a lot rides on whether the Bloc can prevent further Conservative inroads in Quebec.

Stay tuned!


Tory majority possible

I might have to eat my last post. Other recent polls (The Strategic Counsel, Environics today) indicate a surge in support for the Conservatives recently. So Harper instead of striving to preserve his minority status may have read the entrails of recent regular Conservative polling and sensed a possible opportunity to secure a majority, an opportunity that may have diminished after the House resumed and Conservative dirty linen was again aired daily.

The most recent poll conducted for CBC by Environics Ltd indicates Canadians are most likely to vote for the Conservatives in a federal election, and believe Stephen Harper and Jack Layton would make better prime ministers than Stéphane Dion( http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2008/09/04/poll-results.html ) The poll suggests that 38 per cent of Canadians would vote for the Conservative party if an election were held immediately, 28 per cent for the Liberal party, 19 for the NDP, eight for the Bloc Québécois and seven for the Green party. If correct this would mean that the Conservatives start the election campaign with a 10 point lead and in reach of a majority.

One of the most disturbing results for the Liberals is that 39 per cent said Harper would make the best prime minister, 15 per cent Layton of the NDP while only 13 per cent chose Stephane Dion. Dion appears to be an anchor around the Liberals' neck.

While a poll does not an election make, these results indicate that the Liberals may have little chance of forming a minority. They will have to make up ground to hold Harper to another minority and deny him the majority which would leave them in the wilderness for another four years. Can they rise to the challenge? Time will tell.

One thing is clear. Mr. Harper will have broken another promise, to move to fixed election times. As Rex Murphy put it, he is moved by opportunism, not principles.

The inside info on Sarah Palin

Have you been following the controversy over Sarah Palin's nomination as Republican VP candidate? If so you should check out the post at the following link:



Harper to pull plug:why?

Stephen Harper is getting ready to dissolve Parliament and precipitate an early fall election. Speculation is rampant on why he is choosing a visit to the polls at this time. Harper himself offers the spurious argument that Parliament has become dysfunctional and he has no alternative. He has scheduled meetings with the leaders of the Opposition parties to see whether they will commit not to oppose the Conservative fall agenda, whatever that might be. Does anyone have a clue what that is? If you accept this specious reasoning I suggest a quick visit to the doctor to get your head examined.

The most plausible argument advanced so far is that Harper expects his government to fall this fall, having long passed its Best Before date. That being said, Stephen, who is a well-known control fanatic, has decided that he must be seen to be in control of events and hence trigger the inevitable election himself.

I have another theory. Recent polls show different stories but those I trust the most, e.g. Nanos, suggest that Harper could be in a fight to maintain his minority:

Ipsos: Con 33% Lib 31% Ndp 16% Grn 10%
Nanos: Lib 35% Con 33% Ndp 17% Grn 7% ...

Against this we have an Angus-Reid poll showing the Conservatives widening their lead on the Liberals and in reach of a majority. Frankly I don't believe the latter scenario.

The dead heat/tie scenario is much more likely, notwithstanding Dion's evident shortcomings as Liberal leader and rural voters' failure to embrace the Green Shift's tax implications. Harper's sheen has been tarnished.

Reading these entrails, Harper has decided to go to the polls now rather than later because the Conservative stock is falling and a Liberal minority becomes more possible the longer he waits.

Am I daydreaming or indulging in wishful thinking? We shall see, probably in October.

Update: Monday will be Liberal Leader Stephane Dion's turn to meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper ahead of what is widely expected to be a looming election call. Dion had indicated he was too busy to meet with Harper before Sept. 9. After several attempts to set up a meeting, the prime minister suggested an election call could come with or without a Dion meeting. The two are now slated to meet Monday at 4 p.m. at the prime minister's residence.

A centrepiece of Tory democratic reform initiatives in the last election was a law fixing election dates to be held every four years, with the first scheduled for October 2009. Harper has argued that the law only really applies in a majority-government situation. "The election campaign, in some sense, has already started," Rae said, adding Dion will ask how Harper can go against his own law.


Putin-the new Hitler??

The recent Russian incursion into Georgia on the pretext of coming to aid of Russian citizens in South Ossetia has produced windy rhetoric from the West but no meaningful action. Is Putin exploiting the fact that George Bush is now a lame duck President as we await the November election of his successor?

Russia's actions have precipitated a cacophony of debate around the world. Andrew Coyne and Paul Wells have been duelling in Macleans on the implications of this incident and what the approriate response from Western countries should be. Wells in effect has been arguing that the West should roll over and play possum a la Neville Chamberlain and Hitler, shredding the few grains of credibility he still had. Coyne has dissected the various arguments and boiled the issue down to a simple one. Georgia is a sovereign state being invaded by its more powerful neighbour. If the West condones Russia's actions in this instance then it is inviting further aggressive moves of this nature.

Neville Chamberlain would have found much to agree with in Paul Wells’ article! Shame on you, Paul, for suggesting, in effect, that we should wait for the Ukraine to fall to Russia too before taking any action. Bullies will always run rampant unless someone stands up to them.
Andrew Coyne is bang on in his analysis of this situation.



Big oil gouging the public: obscene profits

According to the TIMESONLINE, BP and Royal Dutch Shell have reported massive increases in profits for the first three months of this year on the back of rocketing oil prices.BP's pre-tax profits rose 48 per cent in the first quarter to $6.6 billion while Shell increased its profits 12 per cent to a record $7.8 billion.

Meanwhile back here in Canada Petro-Canada has exceeded expectations by reporting a more than 80 per cent year-over-year jump in first-quarter profit. Petrocan's revenue soared to $6.58-billion from $4.84-billion in the first quarter of 2007, yielding a profit of $1.07-billion.

Worldwide the gouging of consumers continues driven by the greed of speculators. This is having a catastrophic effect as it ripples through the world economy driving up the cost of essential goods such as food. When will somebody in power speak out against the piling of obscene profits no matter what the cost?


Sport of choice: Ball size

INTERESTING OBSERVATION1. The sport of choice for the urban poor is BASKETBALL. 2 The sport of choice for maintenance level employees is BOWLING 3 The sport of choice for front-line workers is FOOTBALL. 4 The sport of choice for supervisors is BASEBALL. 5 The sport of choice for middle management is TENNIS. and....6 The sport of choice for corporate executives and officers is GOLF. THE AMAZING CONCLUSION: The higher you go in the corporate structure, the smaller your balls become.


Smitherman: Cut staff and beds

Everyone knows that Canada faces a medical crisis. We are besieged daily with expert articles telling us about shortages of doctors, nurses and other skilled medical personnel and the ill waiting months for surgery because there are not enough hospital beds to accommodate them post-surgery. Given this context, I was surprised to pick up the newspaper today and read that Ontario Health Minister George Smitherman is saying that the Ontario government is not about to bail out hospitals that are laying off nurses and closing beds. He suggested that the cuts may be a necessary evil to help the hospitals balance their budgets.

Has the Ontario government lost its marbles? I agree that budgets must be balanced but not on the backs of nurses and hospital beds.



Is Bilingualism A Failed policy?

In an op-ed piece in Saturday's Globe and Mail, KONRAD YAKABUSKI examines the state of bilingualism in Canada and concluded that bilingualism is a failed policy. Recently there has been controversy about the efficacy of early French immersion programs in some provinces, particulary New Brunswick, Canada's only officially bilingual province. Yakabuski oberserved that, despite the billions spent since the adoption of the Official Languages Act in 1969, the already derisory rates of bilingualism are falling in English Canada. And in Quebec there is a continued obsession with making everyone learn French, to heck with English even though that is the world's language of commerce (with Chinese on the rise).

However, contrary to Yakabuski's opinion, you cannot aspire to be an executive in the federal public service unless you are a fluently bilingual anglophone, a francophone or a female. If you are a francophone female with some talent, the world is your oyster. You can be fast-tracked to the most senior levels of the public service in rapid fashion.

Yakabuski states: "Ottawa still works largely as it did before 1969: If there's an anglo in the room, the meeting is in English." That is simply no longer true. If you are an anglophone in B.C. or Newfoundland who somehow made it to the executive level, you will forced to sit through management meetings or teleconferences listening to your francophone colleagues pontificate while you struggle to understand them in your fractured French.

Canada's experiment as a bilingual country is not working for the vast majority of Canadians.



Wheels off Clinton campaign

The wheels are coming off the Clinton campaign train. Tonight Clinton lost her chief campaign strategist Mark Penn who was forced to resign his position after becoming embroiled in controversy after he was discovered lobbying for a free-trade agreement with Columbia that Hillary has opposed. Penn was caught in a conflict of interest because he had kept his $3m a year job as head of the British-owned lobbying firm Burson-Marsteller while guiding Mrs Clinton's campaign. In that capacity he was caught lobbying the Columbian ambassador on behalf of the proposed free trade agreement.

To compound the damage Penn had earlier tried to limit the damage by calling the meeting an "error in judgment". In retaliation the Colombian government announced Saturday it had fired Burson-Marsteller after Penn apologized for meeting with its representatives, saying his statement conveyed a "lack of respect" for the country.

Also the public release of the Clintons tax returns showing an income of $109 million over eight years will hardly enhance her standing with blue-collar workers.


Prison versus Work

You'd rather be working than stuck in prison like Conrad Black, right? Not so quick.... Maybe you should consider the following factors before answering so quickly....


You spend most of your time in a 10X10 cell


You spend most of your time in an6X6 cubicle


You get three meals a day, fully paid for


You get a break for one meal and you have to pay for it


For good behavior, you get time off


For good behavior, you get more work


The guard locks and unlocks all the doors for you


You must carry a security card and open all the doors yourself


You can watch TV and play games


You could get fired for watching TV and playing games


You get your own toilet


You have to share the toilet with people who pee on the seat


They allow your family and friends to visit


You aren't even supposed to speak to your family


All expenses are paid by the taxpayers with no work required


You must pay all your expenses to go to work, and they deduct taxes from your salary to pay for prisoners


You spend most of your life inside bars wanting to get out


You spend most of your time wanting to get out and go inside bars


You must deal with sadistic wardens


They are called 'managers'

Maybe Conrad doesn't have it so bad After all.

Why Hillary will lose

Alan Abramowitz at RealClearPolitics.com presents a detailed and interesting set of projections on the likely outcome of the Democratic nomination battle. He projects that Barack Obama will still have a lead of 153 pledged delegates and 107 total delegates at the end of the primary season. Assuming that there are no switches among the superdelegates who have already endorsed a candidate, this means that in order to make up a deficit of 107 delegates, Hillary Clinton would have to win the support of 66 percent of the 349 uncommitted superdelegates. He points out that this would require a substantial improvement on the 55 percent support level that she currently enjoys among superdelegates who have made an endorsement. An interesting footnote is that that 53 percent of the remaining uncommitted superdelegates are from states that have supported or are expected to support Barack Obama while only 42 percent are from states that have supported or are expected to support Hillary Clinton.

This analysis indicates that Hillary's chances of winning the nomination are slim to non-existent.
For details, go to:


Another Day, Another Poll

If you didn't like the April 1st poll showing the Tories with a 10 per cent lead, here's another one more in line with the majority of recent polls showing the two major parties in a dead heat. The moral of the story is: if you don't like today's polls, wait for tomorrow's.

The latest Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey suggests the Conservatives and Liberals remain in a virtual deadlock in public support.The Tories have 32 per cent support, with the Liberals at 30 per cent, which is within the survey’s margin of error.


Quebec/"The fruit is not ripe"

Apparently Jean-Pierre Blackburn was busy today trying to swallow his words from yesterday. Having indicated that a Conservative majority would open the Pandora's Box of constitutional change and satisfy Quebec's historical demands, he was busy backtracking today. Today he said:

""I think everyone can see the fruit is not ripe at this stage.As Quebecers, we can all hope to see the day when all these measures are part of the Canadian Constitution. However, to do it you need the will of the provinces, you need the right circumstances to head in that direction."

As Macleans so cleverly put it: "He did not say whether the fruit would be ripe if the Conservatives won a majority government."

Another Conservative Quebec MP, Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon attempted to slam the door shut: "There is absolutely no appetite to open the Constitution and to have any amendments to the Constitution."

But the horse is out of the barn. The fruit is rotten. The only question is: can the Liberals ride it smoothly to reverse their sagging fortunes?


Harper's Tories Pandering to Quebec

According to the Globe and Mail, the Harper government is telling Quebecers that if the Conservatives win a majority in the next election, they will look to reopen the Constitution and give more meaning to their recognition of Quebeckers as a nation. Jean-Pierre Blackburn linked satisfying“Quebec's historical demands'' to the possibility of the Conservatives winning 30 to 40 seats in Quebec, up from the current 11. Blackburn indicated that the Conservatives will launch further constitutional talks with the provinces if the Conservatives form a majority. According to a recent poll the Conservatives and the Bloc are neck and neck, at 29 per cent and 30 per cent, respectively in Quebec.

It appears that Harper's Conservatives are prepared to sell their principles (assuming they have some) for the sake of stealing some nationalist seats from the BQ in the next election in the hope of securing a majority. How will this go down in the Conservative/Reform heartland out west? If I were a Liberal stategist, I'd be arranging for someone (not Dion) to give great prominence to Blackburn's comments in Saskatechewan, Alberta and British Columbia. Why let Harper get away with this dumb move without subjecting it to the cold light of day?

Have they forgotten the Kim Campbell debacle after Mulroney's attempts to buy Quebec off through Meech Lake and later Charlottetown? Maybe there's still some hope for the Liberals after all.



Is Dion on the ropes?

According to a new Toronto Star/Angus Reid Poll, Stephane Dion's voter approval rating stands at only 11 per cent, and the Tory party has a 10-point lead. The party standings were:

Conservatives 36%
Liberals 26%
NDP 18%
Green 9%
Bloc Quebecois 9%

Apparently 57 % disapprove of Dion's performance. And Canadians continue to express doubts about Harper as prime minister. Harper's approval rating is only 33 %

Dion seems headed for the abyss. Don't be surprised if Harper concocts some excuse to provoke an election to capitalize Dion's sagging fortunes.

Note: Other recent polls have shown the two parties virtually tied.


Liberals in freefall in Quebec

According to CTV, a new poll paints a devastating picture of a Liberal party completely reduced to a rump in Quebec if an election were held today. The Bloc Quebecois, which has been the province's dominant party, is down to 30 per cent support. The Tories are nipping at the BQ's heels with 29 per cent. The Liberals have only 20 per cent support, and the NDP are at 15 per cent. Among francophones, the breakdown was as follows:
Bloc: 35 per cent
Tories: 30 per cent
Liberals, NDP: Tied at 15 per cent

The pundits were quick to pronounce Dion's leadership dead. For details see:


These results give reason for despair.

The likely outcome of any election now is another, perhaps strenghthened, Conservative minority. I don't think Harper can make any significant inroads in Ontario notwithstanding speculation to that effect by Mulroney's former toadie, Ian MacDonald.

The Liberals have remained tied with the Conservatives in most recent polls despite the Dion millstone. Therefore, they might as well pull the plug and get on with it. The only alternative is to somehow persuade Dion to graciously vacate the leadership but who will bell the cat and make this happen smoothly. Meanwhile two of the leading candidates to succeed him have different timetables. Ignatieff is eager to get on with it; Bob Rae wants to stall to gain time to build his profile and strenghthen his chances against Ignatieff.


Does Dion face ouster as party leader?

Sun Media reported today ( http://www.ottawasun.com/News/National/2008/03/26/pf-5103291.html ) that Stephane Dion is facing a revolt in Quebec which you could lead to his ouster. Apparently former Liberal candidate Pierre-Luc Bellerose, who ran for the party in Joliette, northeast of Montreal, said dissatisfied members will begin the process to revoke Dion's party membership if he doesn't quit as Liberal leader. Bellerose said he is convinced Dion has lost control over the party in Quebec and the organization is no longer following its leader, and claimed to have widespread support for his claims.

The dissidents are threatening to invoke Article 3.7.1 of the Quebec wing of the federal Liberal party's statutes and regulations to force him to resign. The provisions of this article give the Quebec wing the right to strip a party member of his membership.

Have the mighty Liberals fallen to a new low? While there are no doubt many Liberals who would like to see a new leader take the party into an election, it's hard to see them dumping their newly-elected leader before he has had the chance to lead the party into one election. In my view a public battle and ouster of Dion would be political suicide for the party.

The only way out of this situation would be if Dion took a personal decision to resign graciously as leader for greener pastures, without any bloodbath. Otherwise the Liberals had better unite behind him for one turn at the polls or spend a decade in the political wilderness. Where are the kingmakers like Keith Davey when you need them?


Hillary's Mistake

Hillary Clinton has for the past year been touting her vast experience and capability to step into the role of President on Day One. Recently she has cited as an example a trip she made to Bosnia years ago during which she dodged bullets and landed amid a fierce firefight. New video clips have come to light which show Hillary arriving in Bosnia under serene conditions. Clearly she fabricated the earlier version of her visit. Embellishing the truth is too kind a term for what was clearly a bald-faced lie.

See the YouTube video "Hillary Lies about Bosnia" at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IxVsdS887HA

How dumb does Flaherty think we are?

Jim Flaherty has been beating the drums in recent weeks predicting doom and gloom for the Ontario economy and urging the provincial government to cut business taxes. You could almost think he is still Finance Minister in Ontario under Mike Harris. For a chap who promised peace and harmony with the provinces, his recent behaviour is sharply at odds with that pledge.

Is he running to succeed John Tory? Or has Stephen Harper decided to pick a fight with Ontario because "all" Canadians reputedly love to hate Toronto and presumably by extension Ontario? One thing is certain the Flaherty attacks are not doing much to win favour for the federal Conservatives in Ontario in the next election. And, if Harper is attempting to pin the blame for the impending downturn in the Ontario economy on McGuinty and his Liberals and deflect attention from Harper's failure to provide any tangible aid to Ontario, that gambit will fail.

It's hard to see what Harper perceives he will gain from the recent assault on the provincial government. It appears he has written off any prospects of making gains in Ontarion in the next election.


Clinton/Obama ticket-yes or no?

Pundits have begun to speculate about the possibility that the two contenders for the Democratic nomination might join forces and offer a combined ticket for voters in November. In part this has been stimulated by polls which indicate that significant portions of Clinton and Obama supporters would cross over and vote for Republican candidate McCain if their candidate's bid for the Democratic nomination is foiled. Also driving this speculation is the likelihood that the superdelegates might have to decide the nominee and could well override the popular will, thereby splitting the party pre-election and helping McCain to be elected. It is widely conceded that Obama will arrive at the Convention with the most pledged delegates even if the spread is only 100 delegates or so.

David Olive argued in today's Star that a Clinton-Obama ticket would make perfect sense. He contends that Democratic voters have made their decision: They want both of them. He argues: "Apart from a candidate dropping out and taking one for the team, a merger is the Dems' only chance to avoid snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in the general election this fall."

At first blush his reasoning seems to make sense. It would seem that a combined ticket will win the election for the Democrats. The question is who would be the Presidential candidate and who the Vice-Presidential candidate. Earlier I suggested that the only way it would make sense for Obama to agree to a Clinton-led ticket would be if Hillary agreed to serve only one term, thus giving Obama a clear run at the Presidency in 4 years with the Clintons support.

However, upon reflection it has become clear that the Clintons are now fervently pushing this option. The reason is that Hillary will arrive at the Convention as the second-ranked candidate. If the superdelegates then pick her over Obama, she will lose a significant portion of the Obama supporters who would be infuriated by such an outcome. This would virtually guarantee McCain's election.

As one blogger put it, Vice-President Obama would end up taking out the Clintons' garbage in the White House. Given his current lead in the popular vote, most states won and most delegates, Obama would be foolish to make such a deal at this time.

This is a ploy by the Clintons to undercut Obama while he's still leading and the logical Presidential nominee. He can't trust the Clintons. They are masters at manipulation and cutthroat politics. Obama should continue the race to the end and see where it ends. He's young and will have another chance if the superdelegates blow it and pick Clinton. This is particularly relevant when you consider that McCain has pledged to serve only one term.

Now if Hillary is willing to make a deal to be the Vice-Presidential candidate then that might be an option worth considering. This would virtually guarantee the Democrats the White House. The downside is that President Obama would have to constantly watch his back.

The Clintons are already being put on the spot to explain why they have said that Obama is not qualified to be President but is now qualified to be Vice-President. Given that the Vice-President is only a heartbeat away from the Presidency, this is hard to rationalize. So their new spin is that's he's qualified but not as qualified as Hillary. Go figure!


Conservatives plan to use Senate to scuttle RESP bill

This is hilarious! The guys who want to abolish the Senate now want it to overrule the House of Commons! They've finally lost their marbles. Monty Python time.


"The Conservative government wants the Senate to help it defeat a private member's bill that would make contributions to registered education savings plans tax deductible.'

Details here:


Harper boxed in by RESP bill

Liberal MP Dan McTeague has pulled a fast one on the Harper Conservatives. His private member's bill that would allow parents to set aside up to $5,000 taxfree each year in a RESP made it through the Commons with the support of the three Opposition parties. It now goes to the Senate where it will undoubtedly be approved by the Liberal-dominated body. That will give it the force of law once the formalities are dealt with.

This will put the Harper government in an interesting conundrum. Today's story in the Globe and Mail lead with the following:

"OTTAWA — The Harper government vowed Thursday to kill legislation introduced by a Liberal MP and quietly passed by the House of Commons that would allow parents to contribute up to $5,000 a year to their children's education and deduct it from their income tax."

Not exactly an opportune position to be in for a government that favours tax cuts. Having squandered the surpluses left by the Liberals and given away a major source of revenue by reducing the GST by 2%, they are already in a precarious position for the coming year faced with a declining economy. (Incidentally I haven't heard anyone singing their praises for the GST reduction, have you?) So they say they will oppose a law passed by the Commons and (probably) the Senate, claiming poverty.

To do this they will have to play tricks by introducing a technical amendment to the budget (killing the RESP proposal) and proclaim it a confidence measure in order to force the Liberals to let it pass, thereby killing McTeague' initiative. But the Conservatives will end up with egg splattered all over their faces by killing what would be a popular measure.

The Liberals could do worse than defeat the Conservatives' attempt to kill this bill and take their chances on an election. With Harper still stinging from the Cadman affair and NAFTA-gate, the bloom might well be off the Harper rose.


NAFTA-gate,Cadman "bribe" entangle Harper government

Stephen Harper has been busy this week digging himself a deeper and deeper hole. First, the Cadman affair burst his budget bubble. The revelation that Dona Cadman, the widow of late MP Chuck Cadman, had stated, in a book awaiting release, that Chuck Cadman had told her that the Conservatives had offered him a million- dollar insurance policy to vote against the Martin government in May 2005 shocked the foundations of a government which came to office promising integrity and ethicical reform. This was subsequently confirmed by Cadman's daughter and son-in-law. The Opposition lost no time in pouncing, accusing Harper of countenancing a bribery attempt. (Cadman had turned the offer down.) Harper had been interviewed by the book's author and is reported to have acknowleged that two senior Conservatives met with Cadman and offered "financial considerations" in return for his vote.

Harper has vigorously denied the bribery accusations. But then he made a big mistake. His lawyers filed a notice of a Libel suit unless the Liberals apologized in Parliament and removed the alleged defamatory remarks from the party website. This was quickly interpreted as intimidation aimed at hiding the truth.

Then another bombshell exploded in Harper's face. This concerned a leak of a private conversation between an Obama adviser and someone in the Canadian Consulate in Chicago. Obama and Clinton were involved in closely contested primaries in Ohio and Texas. In Ohio the economy and lost jobs were a big issue. Both candidates talked tough about NAFTA and renegotiating NAFTA if necessary to secure better safeguards for American workers. On Feb 8th an Obama adviser met with a Consulate official who later wrote a memo to embassy officials in which he stated that the Obama adviser had implied that Obama was indulging in political posturing and would not tamper with NAFTA. This report made its way to Ottawa.

Shortly thereafter CTV News reported the essence of the Consulate's report. The Canadian embassy denied it but CTV's reporter stated that a Canadian official had again confirmed the story. All hell broke loose both in the US and Canada. Media and the Clinton campaign seized on the leak to call into question Obama's integrity. Clinton claimed that Obama was saying one thing to the voters of Ohio and another to a foreign government. This was reinforced by the leak to the media of the memo in question. This cast doubts upon Obama's credibility. Clinton won Ohio by a comfortable margin, no doubt aided by these developments.

Back in Ottawa, the Opposition again pounced. Harper was forced to admit that this was a significant error and someone had acted improperly and possibly illegally and that he would launch an internal investigation. Today the Globe and Mail reported that the intial leak had come from the PM's Chief of Staff, Ian Brodie, at a pre-budget lockup. Others confirmed this. It is still not clear who later leaked the memo. Harper admitted that what had happened was a serious error that may have damaged the candidacy of Senator Obama. He promised to widen the investigation to include the PMO. Meanwhile the Opposition parties and many pundits were calling on the PM to fire his Chief of Staff. This time the government looks guilty of meddling in the US election campaign and the scandal appears to reach to the heart of the PM's nerve center at PMO.


Showdown on Tuesday March 4th

Obama and Clinton go head to head on Tuesday in Texas and Ohio, plus Rhode Island and Vermont. They are expected to split the two smaller states but the outcome in Texas and Ohio is uncertain and critical to the outcome of the Democratic nomination race. Polls show them tied in Texas and virtually tied in Ohio where Clinton has a slight lead.

Only weeks ago Clinton had large leads in both states but these have disappeared after Obama swept the Super Tuesday primaries and then piled up 11 wins in a row. Whether Hillary continues her candidacy hinges on the outcome of the vote in Texas and Ohio. If she loses either state she will have little choice but to fold her campaign and hail Obama as the Democratic nominee. No less an authority than Bill Clinton has stated that Hillary must win both states to stay in the race.

Even if Clinton gets most votes in Texas Obama could end up with more delegates because delegates in Texas will be determined both by the primary vote and by caucuses. Should Hillary secure the most delegates in both Texas and Ohio, she would still trail Obama in delegates and face an almost insurmountable challenge to win the nomination. And there could be a bitter and divisive battle en route to that outcome. This would put the Democrats on the defensive and allow McCain to build a lead before the Democratic candidate could take him on.


Dion blew his chances

Flaherty today presented a ho-hum "thin gruel" budget, a clear sign that Harper is in no hurry to go to the polls, notwithstanding the fevered rhetoric of recent weeks. Harper's appetite for an election diminished when he realized that the parties were tied in terms of voter support and the best the Cons could hope for was another minority.

Harper gambled on Afhanistan by talking tough but then compromised on the Liberal amendment. When Dion allowed the Ignatieff and Rae forces to persuade him that he should not go to the electorate on the Afghanistan issue, he lost a major wedge issue on which public opinion favoured the previous Liberal position.

With respect to the budget it clearly was not designed to support a Conservative election campaign. There is no poison bill to force the Liberals to vote to bring down the government. And according to Dion's post-budget statement the Liberals have decided not to provoke an election at this time.

So Dion is left dangling in the wind. The public perception of him as weak and vacillating can only be enhanced by his recent decisions. He may well have blown his only chance to secure a minority government and helped ensure that Harper secures another minority when he finally goes to the polls. Should that occur, Dion will be swept aside and Ignatieff and Rae will tussle for the leadership.

I assume that the Ignatieff and Rae forces have been pivotal in these recent decisions. Certainly it's in Bob Rae's interest to get into the House via the impending by-election, where he can better position himself for a leadership campaign. And Ignatieff, given his stance on foreign policy issues, would not have wanted to campaign on a platform which involved pulling the troops out of Afghanistan in 2009, a platform which might well have led to a Liberal minority and strengthened Dion's position.

But, given the deteriorating state of the Ontario manufacturing industry and the lack of adequate provisions in the budget to address this, many Ontario Liberal MPs will have to hold their noses if the collective decision is to vote for the budget. If, on the other hand, the Liberals abstain (once again), how will they face Ontario voters come election time?


Dion should pull the plug on Harper

It's not going to get any better for Dion. Three out of four national polls this past week put the Liberals and the Conservatives in a virtual tie. Harper's gamble on a tightly managed government focused on the PM has failed. After two years in power Harper is no closer to a majority than on election night in 2006. Meanwhile Stephane Dion has to show some leadership by voting non-confidence in the budget if he is to ever have any hope of becoming PM.

If Dion listens to the Bob Rae faction who want Rae in the House to show his stuff before an election, he is only relinquishing his opportunity to secure a minority government.

The Nanos/SUN media poll released today is evidence enough for me. This shows the Liberals and Conservatives tied at 34%, as did another poll earlier in the week. The Strategic Counsel poll which showed the Conservatives with a 12-point lead and sent shivers through Liberal spines is the clear outlier in the four polls released over the past few days. The other three showed the two main parties in a dead heat. And Nanos called the last the last two federal elections to within a decimal point.

There's everything to lose and nothing to gain for Dion by dithering. The Liberals lost the last election because Martin dithered and dithered and....... The Liberals have a chance at a minority; the best the Conservatives can do is secure another minority. If Dion abstains on or supports the Conservative budget, this will confirm in the minds of most voters that he is afraid of an election.

So it's time to take the plunge. Vote NO, Stephane, and give us a chance to tell Harper what we think of his policies and style of governance. Bring on the election!


Minority government can be good government

Andrew Coyne at Macleans has an excellent column on how minority governments can exemplify parliamentary democracy at its best. He makes a compelling case.


General Hillier should be fired

General Rick Hillier has crossed the line. In the midst of a debate in the Canadian Parliament over Canada's continued role in Afghanistan, Hillier told an association of defence contractors today that prolonged debate is putting the lives of Canadian soldiers at risk. He implied that the suicide bombings in Kandahar this week occurred because the Taliban perceived a political vulnerability and chose to exploit it.

The Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have been collaborating to forge a motion that would see Parliament vote to extend the mission with a clear deadline for exit and conditions for staying beyond the original exit date of February 2008.

Hillier's remarks go beyond the pale and represent a crass attempt by the leader of the Canadian military to terminate the Parliamentary debate. Has Hillier forgotten that we live in a democracy and that Parliament, not the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, determines the extent and nature of the commitment of Canadian forces to a foreign conflict.

It's time for the PM to fire Hillier and show the country who's in charge. If not, what's next? A coup d'etat in Ottawa?

Update: Three days, three polls

Today's Toronto Star reported the results of the latest Angus Reid poll, following on the heels of two other polls over the previous two days. According to Reid, voters are still not sold on Tories and appear unwilling to hand Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives a majority government. The poll showed the Conservatives with 34 per cent of the decided vote, the Liberals with 31 per cent, the New Democrats with 17, the Bloc Québécois with 9, and the Green party with 8. This is similar to the earlier poll which indicated the Liberals and Conservatives in a virtual tie. Both of these contrasted with the third which gave the Cons a 12-point lead and close to majority territory.

Reid said: "Two years later the report card is in – Stephen Harper you fail."



Reading the Political Entrails

Two recent polls of Canadians voting intentions, if an election were held today, offered widely conflicting views of the outcome. The headlines read:

Election would be Tory-Liberal dogfight, new poll suggests

Tories flirt with majority support, poll finds

The first showed the Liberals and the Conservatives in a virtual tie. The second showed the Conservatives with 39% support, 12 points ahead of the Liberals. The polls were done over the same days. Clearly both are not correct. The gamble for Stephane Dion is which is closest to the truth. If the Liberals are tied with the Conservatives, then Dion might well vote nonconfidence in the budget next week and take his chances on winning a minority. If the Conservatives have a 12-point lead, then it would be political suicide for Dion to go to the polls right now.

Presumably the parties are doing their own polling and have a clearer sense of voter intentions. Will the budget vote be showdown at the OK Corral or will Dion duck and run once again? Stay tuned!

If the Liberals abstain then Dion might as well resign and pass the reins to another leader.


Obama sweeps Clinton in Potomac primaries

Obama continues his roll to the White House. Today he beat Clinton easily in the Potomac primaries. The people have spoken again. Obama's the man they want in the White House.

Obama handily beat Clinton to win the Democratic primaries in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia. He won almost 75 per cent of the vote in D.C. and almost two thirds in Virginia, a state with a large population of military personnel and government workers that was once considered fertile political ground for Clinton.

Hillary has been boxed into a corner. She must win three upcoming primaries in Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania in order to regain momentum and remain competitive. Given that Obama has won seven states in a row, I'm betting that she cannot derail his momentum.

Obama has now piled up victories in 21 states and DC, while Clinton has won in just 12 states.
He has also won more overall votes than Clinton and more "pledged delegates" awarded through the primary process. Hillary is fast on the path to becoming an "also-ran".


Obama on the path to victory

Obama continues to pile up impressive victories in the Democratic primaries and caucuses. Following his impressive showing on Super Tuesday, Obama swept past Clinton in Louisiana, Nebraska, Washington and Maine on the weekend. Hillary is scrambling to block the Obama momentum, having replaced her campaign manager today. It seems likely now that Obama will arrive at the Convention with the most pledged delegates and Hillary's only hope will rest with the so-called superdelegates. If Obama has the most pledged delegates and the superdelegates put Hillary over the top, look out for a grassroots revolt.

I'm betting that it going's to be a tough fight but Obama is going to win the Democratic nomination and after that the Presidency.

Harper on the brink

Election talk is rampant again in Ottawa this week. PM Harper is perceived to be setting traps for Liberal Leader Stephane Dion with the motion to extend the Afghan combat mission to 2011 and a motion calling on the Senate to pass crime legislation by a House of Commons-set deadline. In addition there will be a vote on the budget.

Is Harper really hoping that Dion will vote nonconfidence and precipitate an election or is he hoping that Dion will bob and weave and evade an election? Speculation on Harper's motivations ranges widely. Some perceive that Harper would rather go to a vote now rather than later because his fortunes are on the ebb with an impending economic decline plus a potential shift to the left in the US. Others perceive that Harper is hoping to call Dion's bluff and that Dion will fold again rather than face the electorate. In the background are polls which show that, far from gaining, Harper is having difficulty staying even with the Liberals in the polls despite the widespread perception that Dion is a weak leader.

Time will tell whether Mr. Harper has read the tea leaves correctly.

The other view, and the one I favour, is that Harper has decided he has nothing to gain by waiting and perhaps something to gain by forcing an election now. This assumes that Harper has calculated that he can out-campaign Dion and make up lost ground on the election trail particularly if Dion stumbles as many pundits assume. The pitfall in this gamble is that, if Dion can run a steady even if not a brilliant campaign, Harper may well find himself out of office and facing a Liberal minority in a few months.


Why Hillary Won New Hampshire


This link is to the exit poll results at CNN broken down by sex, gender, age etc. The obvious conclusion from examining these results is that older women turned out in larger numbers to put Hillary over the top. They want the first female President.

It will be interesting to see what happens among black Democrats in the southern states.

Note that, despite this heavy tilt among older females who had a large turnout, Hillary won by only 2% over Obama according to this morning's numbers. Remember also that Hillary was heavily favoured to win New Hampshire prior to the Iowa results. The surge in the polls post-Iowa may have actually cost Obama victory in New Hampshire because it no doubt contributed to the heavy turnout of older female voters.


Bush Admits Economy Faces Challenges

I nearly split my sides laughing when I read this headline in the New York Times today. Here's a guy who took the US from a surplus when he took office to a situation where it is now hundreds of trillions in debt, numbers we can't even comprehend. And he "admits" that the economy "faces challenges". What Fantasy Land is he living in?