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.