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Archive for the ‘2008 Canadian Federal Election’ Category

Canadian Update: Preview of the New Parliament

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Cross posted at Daily Kos.

Next Tuesday, Remembrance Day in Canada, will be one week from the Obama election and four weeks, 28 days or 1 lunar cycle since the Conservatives won their increased minority position in the Canadian federal election. It has been a quiet month in the Great White North. Yes, Steven Harper did name a new cabinet, who will be just as obedient to the PM as the previous one was.

But not much has happened politically, even though Canada faces many of the same economic problems as the United States. This is about to change as the House of Commons will be in session the day after Remembrance Day.

The first important event in the life of the new Parliament will be the Speech from the Throne, followed by a vote of confidence (or no confidence) in the Government. For non Canadians, the Speech from the Throne is a summary of the Government’s agenda, an outline of what the Government wants to achieve during the life of the Parliament. In Britain the Speech from the Throne is read by the Queen, but in Canada (and I presume other Commonwealth countries) it is read by the Governour General, the Queen’s viceroy.

The upcoming throne speech will carry more weight than most because it looks like hard times are just over the next hill.

At the start of the Great Depression, the Prime Minister of Canada was R.B. Bennett, like Stephen Harper a Conservative from Alberta. Bennett refused to act to stimulate the economy and provide relief to the Depressions victims until it was politically too latre for both him and his party. Harper is not stupid and he knows how to read. He will not repeat bennett’s blunders (though he ay devise some of his own).

Harper is also lucky. He did not choose his Liberal opponents, but the stupidity of both Paul Martin and Stephane Dion has been his secret weapon. Harper is also lucky in that Martin, as Finance Minister, robbed Employment Insurance and other social programs to pay down the debt left by Brian Mulroney. As a result, Harper has fiscal room to pay for some sort of economic stimulus, despite Conservative dogma about balanced budgets. Contrast the Canadian fiscal position with the monstrous debt and deficit President Obama will inherit from W, and give Harper credit for having even more good luck.

As with Obama, Harper’s first priority, which he shares with all parties in the House, is to stabilize the Canadian economy and limit the recession’s damage. It appears that Obama will try to build a consensus for whatever measures he proposes, and Harper might have to pursue a similar goal. No doubt there will be sufficient support from all corners of the house for spending on infrastructure. For over zealous fiscal restraint, not so much.

The Liberals in particular cannot afford to be seen as propping up the Tories, a perception which cost them dearly in the election. The NDP and the Bloc are much more able to support the Government when it behaves well and offer principled opposition when necessary. The Grits, on the other hand are broke and in the beginning stages of a leadership contest. An election in the near term would be very destructive for the Liberals, so they will not want to see an election forced by a vote of no confidence in the House.

Regarding External Affairs, Canada’s biggest foreign policy issue is perennially and always and forever the relationship with the United States. I would single out two policy areas to watch for both the near and mid terms.

Many Americans may not know this but one of the NATO countries with a military presence in Afghanistan is Canada. Despite the Conservatives’ win in October, they are against Canadian public opinion. Harper has responded by promising to end Canadian involvement in Afghanistan by the end of 2011.

Meanwhile, President-elect Obama has talked about increasing the military effort in that country. This is one of the reasons he offers for withdrawing from Iraq. Will there be a debate on Afghanistan within the Obama administration and among the American public? I hope the new administration at least tries to find out if there are any military options in Afghanistan before making an enhanced commitment there. IOW, leaving aside the question of whether or not the United States has goals worth pursuing in Afghanistan, someone should ask whther or not such goals can be achieved through military means.

If the decision is ultimately made to escalate in Afghanistan, will the U.S. pressure Canada and other NATO allies to join in that effort? Is there a potential repeat of the Johnson v Pearson fight over Vietnam?

The other area to watch is trade. Canada and the U.S. remain each others largest trading partners, but the relationship has a few areas of conflict, such as softwood lumber. During the Democratic primaries, there was talk from both Clinton and Obama abut renegotiating NAFTA and other trade agreements. The left in Canada fought free trade with the U.S. and would also like to open up NAFTA. Globalization and so called free trade have hurt the manufacturing base of both countries. Will Obama and Harper cooperate in this portfolio in an effort to mitigate such damage, or will they promote the status quo.

I was encouraged in one of the debates by Obama’s response to a question about international trade, when he questioned the value of a trade deal with Colombia while labor leaders are routinely assassinated there (which got an eye roll from McCain, of course). We will see what policies proceed from President Obama’s approach to trade issues and how Prime Minister plays whatever hand he is holding at the time.

Coming soon: a look at the options now facing Canada’s federal parties.

2008 U.S. Election Predictions

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And now, the prognostications absolutely no one has been waiting for. Here are my predictions for tomorrow’s exercise in democracy (or as Republics would say, democrac).

For President, Obama gets 53% of the popular vote and 386 electoral votes. McCain gets 152. Nader and Barr (and McKinney and even Ron Paul on the Constitution ticket somewhere in the Rockies) get nuttin, honey.

In the Senate, the Democrats pick up 9 seats. This includes Georgia, Minnesota and Kentucky because the incumbents are all under 50% in those states and I think the Obama ground game will be worth a couple of percentage points in each one. I predict a runoff in Georgia, thanks to the Bob Barr influence. I wish I could give myself some wiggle room about Franken, because I think that will be the toughest one for the Dems to win, but no I’ll stick with Franken because doggone it, people like him.

In the House, I predict 23 Democratic pickups. I would like to predict that Illinois 18, in which I dwell, would be one of those pickups for Colleen Callahan. Especially so since I find the GOP candidate, Aaron Shock, to be such a slimy little opportunist. But it is a strong enough Republican district to make an upset extremely unlikely. But not impossible.

Sheldon Schafer, the Green candidate has run a respectable race too. Might be worth 5% or so. I’m just guessing here.

In general, in most states I expect Democrats at every level to do well. I don’t know where specifically, but I think there will be more Democratic governors and state legislators after tomorrow. Some prediction huh? Talk about betting the favorite to show.

I will be attending the Democratic election night party at the Gateway building in Peoria. I might pop into the Rhythm Kitchen to say hi to the Greens as well.

In other news, I have been working on something about the state of Canadian politics post election. Should have it ready to post by the end of the week.

Speaking of Canada, here’s one of my favorite Band songs:

And here is the Paul Simon song currently being used in a really effective Obama ad:

Written by slothropia

November 3rd, 2008 at 9:01 pm

Canadian Wrap Plus McCain/Obama III

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Cross posted at Daily Kos.

First the fresh meat.

Just finished watching the last presidential debate. I was surprised at how effective Schieffer was as moderator, at least in contrast with his three predecessors. He go the two principals to engage each other, and explore issues more substantively than we’ve seen in the other debates.

Like the last time, Obama won by not losing. McCain lost by trying too hard. He finally attempted to pin Obama with the Ayers matter, but it did him no good, I am guessing. More broadly, McCain’s strategy of attacking constantly was probably a loser. Nothing wrong or unethical about critiquing your opponent, but an infinite string of attacks is not what voters want right now.

The MSNBC crew is saying that McCain made a big blunder when he ridiculed the health of the mother exception in relation to late term abortion legislation. I agree. I couldn’t believe how tone deaf McCain was at that moment.

In summary then, McCain performed well, and did his best to put Obama on the defensive. He just didn’t succeed. This was more like a real debate than the previous performances were, so give it to McCain on points, despite a string of goofy utterances and mannerisms. Acorn? Honky, please!

And yes, he is still losing. We’ll see shortly how the viewing audience scored the match.

And here is one now. An early release of the CBS poll calls it Obama 53%, McCain 22% and 24% called it a draw.

In regard to the Canadian election, while it is clear who the winners and losers were, it is a little more difficult to say why each party won or lost – and what that means for the future.

Like almost all other observers, I expected the Conservatives to win in the sense of getting the most seats. I did not expect them to get as many seats as they did, although the final Nanos poll caught a last minute uptick for Team Harper. Clearly the Tories had a steadier base than the other parties, and perhaps the stock market wild fires helped them. Maybe for a critical number of Canadians, Harper and the Conservatives are the devil they know. Harper is safe for now (PMs usually are) but he should think three times before going to the people early.

They don’t know Dion and now will never have that pleasure. Liberals expected to lose, but they will no doubt punish Dion for the magnitude of the loss. They can live with the size of the new caucus, but seem to be having a hard time believing how few votes they got. They probably believe that all they need is a new leader, someone who can speak both French and English fluently, who can continue the comeback in Quebec while making Western gains. Someone, in other words, who can turn wine into water and raise a Lazarus like party from the dead. Pick Ignatieff, and lose progressives. Pick Rae and lose the business wing and most of Ontario. Maybe a compromise candidate can be found…wait that’s how they got into this mess. Also they are broke.

The Bloc did well, but where do they go from here. Duceppe is done. Is there another leader waiting? Will they continue to claim their mission as serving the interests of Quebec, rather than promoting sovereignty? Can they work with other parties, like the NDP, to promote progressive legislation? Is the sovereignty movement dead or sleeping (I say sleeping, but for how long I don’t know).

Despite not getting the votes the pollsters all said they would, the New Democrats made some important gains and expanded their base into significant new territory. As Angus Ricker said in comments “There is a chance to make these seats NDP heartland.” The NDP has representation in all provinces except PEI and Saskatchewan (!!)and the Saskatchewan comeback is just a matter of time and redistribution.

Almost 20 years ago, I wrote something for the current NDP leader (probably shredded immediately) about how green politics were on the way, and how the Canadian left would have to deal with that in some way. I recommended keeping the environmentalists and labour in the same tent, especially in B.C. and in cities. I know, easier said than done. How does one do that, exactly. And things have gotten more complicated since then of course.

But at some point, disappointed Greens may go party shopping, and the NDP might be a friendly place for them.

Written by slothropia

October 15th, 2008 at 9:45 pm

Live Blogging Canadian Election III

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Harper’s turn to gloat.

Results are pretty well done now. Looks like 142, 79, 37, 48 and 2 (independents, not Green).

Minor correction: Liberals win Nunavut, which is not unexpected. I don’t know why Layton went up there with just a week to go. Faked me out and me me think the NDP had a shot there.

Only a few painful losses for the NDP. Peggy Nash in Parkdale-High Park and Surrey North. Some pretty impressive victories in new territory, like St. Johns East, Welland and Edmonton Strathcona.

Tomorrow evening I will post some analytical thoughts and examine the implications for all five parties.

Then I can start looking at the American election and other stuff while keeping a close eye on Canadian life and politics.

Now I must sleep cuz I hafta work in the morning.

Thanks for dropping by.

Written by slothropia

October 14th, 2008 at 11:02 pm

Live Blogging Canadian Election II

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Duceppe and Layton have spoken. Layton seemed pleased but there have been some disappointments to go with the successes.

Nettie Wiebe has fallen behind in Saskatoon Rosetown Biggar and she’s running out of polls to win. But Linda Duncan has taken a 400 vote lead in Edmonton Strathcona with only 7 polls to report. Talk about your reversal of fortune.

Burnaby Douglas is still close, with Siksay hanging on.

Mulcair can exhale.

Looking like a Conservative win in Esquimault Juan de Fuca.

Looks like a good party building election for the NDP. Layton won’t be PM for awhile yet.

Gotta walk the dog. More when I return.

Written by slothropia

October 14th, 2008 at 10:21 pm

Canadian Election Results Live Blogging

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A Conservative minority government is elected. They made significant gains. Apparently the voters weren’t ready to give the Liberals power or to give the NDP much more influence than they had in the last parliament.

Right now 10:22 CDT) it is Conservatives 144, Liberals 74, NDP 38, Bloc 50.

The Conservatives did better in the Atlantic than I and I think most observers expected. They actually stole a seat from the Libs in PEI.

Mulcair ahead right now in Outremont after trailing early. TCTC.

Nettie Wiebe ahead for NDP in Saskatoon Rosetown Biggar.

Holy cow! The Tories won Nunavut.

Conservatives also did well in Ontario.

I don’t think I will be predicting anything for quite some time. I was way off.

The Conservatives have done much better than I expected and the NDP worse.

No NDP seats in Alberta.

More later when there are more B.C. results.

Written by slothropia

October 14th, 2008 at 9:39 pm

2008 Canadian Election Predictions

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Cross posted at Daily Kos.

Here are my final predictions for the Canadian Election on October 14, broken down by region and party. Caveat Lector: These numbers are freshly drawn from my proctological orifice and I tend to be too optimistic about NDP victories.

The Conservatives will win at least 101 seats, perhaps as many as 142 and probably 121, broken down like this:
Atlantic 6
Quebec 6
Ontario 42
MB/SK 19
Alberta 27
B.C. 21
North 0

The Liberals range is between 64 and 104, with a probable result of 84.
Atlantic 18
Quebec 12
Ontario 46
Alberta 0
B.C. 3
North 2

The NDP should win at least 35 seats and could take as many as 63. The likely NDP number is 46.
Atlantic 7
Quebec 1
Ontario 18
Alberta 1
B.C. 12
North 1
The Bloc Quebecois should have no trouble winning at least 50 seats in Quebec, and if all goes well for them, up to 65. I predict their final total will be 55.

There will be 2 independent MPs, one in Atlantic and one in Quebec.

The real fun begins on Wednesday morning, when the parties begin to figure out how the new parliament will work and who should form the government. In a minority situation, it does not always follow that the party with the largest number of seats names the Prime Minister. The picture is made cloudier by the leadership questions that may face both the Conservatives and Liberals (and the NDP too, if the don’t make any gains at all).

Needless to say I will be watching and banging on my keyboard as needed.

Updated 10/13/08 at 5:15 p.m CST. I forgot to assign one of the Northern territorial seats. I have given it to the Liberals and corrected the Conservatives total, which makes my prediction as follows:

Conservatives 121
Liberals 84
NDP 46
BQ 55
Greens Oblivion

Written by slothropia

October 12th, 2008 at 9:33 pm

Canadian Election Update: Endgame

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Cross posted at Daily Kos.

It is E Minus 3 in Canada. Three days, that is before Election Day.

The public tracking polls continue to be conducted and published but everybody’s trading in a narrow range. The Conservatives are somewhere in the mid 30’s, the Liberals in the mid to high 20’s, the NDP at 22% (says Nanos), 19% (last night’s Ekos) or 18% (Harris/Decima). The consensus is that the Bloc is somewhere around 40% in Quebec and the Greens are averaging around 10% (Nanos has them at 8%).

There is, as I said a narrow range in which support for each party drifts, but that is in the national polls. The real differences between pollsters are in the regional breakdowns. They various polls differ so much in this regard as to be nearly completely useless.

Campaign ads continue but will be shut down by law on Monday, I think. Voter intentions have for the most part hardened and changes from now to the end will be marginal. The parties more or less know how many seats each will end up, but that is closely held information. Conventional wisdom says follow the Leaders to know where they hope to make gains or where they need to defend against possible losses. Most of them are in Ontario and/or Quebec for the duration. May will be in the riding where she is nominated trying hard to get out of third place there.

More importantly, the parties are all preparing their E Day or GOTV operations, even as they try desperately to find that last milligram of support. This is the end game, and the final results will be determined by what is done on the ground for the next three days.

I still can’t figure out what will happen in the Atlantic region. In Quebec, it looks like a near sweep for the Bloc, with the Tories severely reduced, the Liberals recalled from death (for now) and the NDP hoping for a breakthrough beyond Outremont.

Ontario could give either the Liberals or Conservatives a slight edge, with a hungry NDP happily coming up the middle and taking seats from the Liberals in the South and the Conservatives in the North.

Conservatives will make hay on the Prairies, but with the NDP seeming to come to life in Saskatchewan. Alberta distorts the national support figures for the Conservatives and will elect at least 26 Tories on Tuesday.

B.C. will give most of its seats to the Conservatives, with the NDP increasing its share and the Liberals holding what they have.

The above will all be shown to be true, unless I have been misled by the pollsters, the media and my sources on the ground.

Tomorrow night I will predict the number of seats each party will win in each province and territory.

Written by slothropia

October 11th, 2008 at 8:48 pm


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Next Tuesday, October 14, is election day in Canada. I will be live blogging the results after I get home from Peoria Drinking Liberally.

I will post an Canadian election update tomorrow (Saturday, October 11). Sunday night, I will post my final predictions for the Canadian election, and cross post at Daily Kos.

That is all. Please carry on with your regularly scheduled surfing.

Written by slothropia

October 10th, 2008 at 8:46 pm

Canadian Election Update: Strange Days

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One of the differences between U.S. and Canadian politics is that American voters seem to identify much more closely with a political party than do Canadians (this is not my original observation; I read it in an academic paper many years ago. No I don’t recall either the author or title, but Mr. Google might be able to assist).

Consider the way Americans are almost equally divided between Republicans and Democrats, with a third of the electorate calling themselves independents. Even many of those independents lean toward one or the other of the major parties.

In Canada, there has traditionally been much more fluidity in the way political support is allocated. This was the case back in the “good old days”, when there were only three major parties: the Liberals, Conservatives and New Democrats. Since then we have seen the new parties like Reform and the Bloc Quebecois, and now the Greens, achieving measurable levels of support.

For the past few days, American pundits have been stating that the polls are “hardening”, becoming less likely to change. This means, of course, that Obama’s lead is becoming more difficult for McCain to overcome.

In the current Canadian election, four and one quarter parties are competing seriously (I count the Bloc as 1/4 of a party for obvious reasons). In contrast with the U.S. situation, we also see what appears to me to be an astonishing fluidity in the polls.

A week ago I thought that the Conservatives would win with either a majority or a strengthened minority. This conviction was strengthened by the polls following the English debate that said that a plurality thought Harper had won. “Not so fast.” say the voters now. In a number of polls over the last few days, support for the Harper Conservatives have been drifting downward (see the Toronto Star Poll Tracker for confirmation).

The Liberals have seen a modest rise in the polls since the debates, possibly extending their lead over the NDP, depending on which pollster one consults. This embryonic comeback for the Liberal seems to be result from increased support in Ontario and Quebec, which of course is where a majority of the seats are. In Quebec, the Libs are in second, according to the most recent Ekos daily tracking poll while the Conservatives have fallen to third, just two points above the still gaining NPD (Nouveau Parti Democratique. The Bloc still leads, but some of their support was strategic. Many Quebec voters have been planning to vote for the BQ to block a Conservative majority. With that seeming to be off the table, will some Bloc support drift to the Liberals or NDP?

In Ontario, the race between the Liberals and Conservatives for first place has tightened considerably, with the NDP well placed to come up the middle in a number of ridings.

In British Columbia, the Conservatives still lead, or are tied with the NDP, depending on which poll you believe. The Libs are third, barely ahead of the Greens.

In the Atlantic provinces, the polls differ and change from day to day. The Liberals should be ahead, but if they are it is not by much. The Conservatives have pockets of Atlantic strength, but will be shut out of Newfoundland. The NDP is doing well but we don’t know if their support is concentrated enough to result in more than a handful of seats.

The latest polls still show the Conservatives well in front in the prairies, although both the Liberals and NDP will win seats in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The NDP especially is coming on just a little stronger as the campaign winds down.

Alberta remains the Tory fortress, but it looks very likely that the NDP will win at least one seat in Edmonton.

Grit Leader Stephane Dion should not celebrate just yet, however, since his party is still below their traditional floor of support. In fact, the Liberal Leaders tour is apparent focusing on protecting seats they now hold, rather than seeking to conquer new territory.

On the the other hand, the NDP is still above their usual ceiling of support, and apparently still rising, albeit slowly. In recent days NDP Leader Jack Layton has been visiting ridings held by Liberals and Conservatives in an effort to add to his caucus. Indeed, the NDP already can expect victory in some surprising places, such as St. Johns East in Newfoundland.

One of the NDP’s greates assets is Lyton’s popularity and favorables. In most polls, Layton is the second choicce, behind Harper as best choice for Prime Minister. Dion’s personal popularity has improved since the debates.

I have never seen a Canadian election campaign like this one. So far, there is no winner, and no party is moving very quickly toward winner territory. It looks like the new House of Commons will be more equally divided between the four parties that now have seats there. There still does not seem to be any district where the Greens have concentrated enough support to win a seat. Still, everybody likes their Leader, Elizabeth May. And what Canadian does not care about the environment, with the ice caps melting and the Northwest passage becoming open water?

Green support will probably drift to other parties on election day, but which party will benefit the most? The answer to that question may determine the winner of this election.