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NDP Leadership: A Return to Politics as Somewhat Usual

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A few weeks ago I rolled out of bed on a Monday morning and went to the inter tubes to get the news. The news about Jack Layton was a kick in the gut though looking back we should have known it was closer than we wanted it to be.

Then, after what seemed like mere hours following an amazingly moving and somehow uplifting state funeral, it was back to politics – not politics as usual mind you, but real politics, the kind of politics that is not bean bag. The NDP leadership campaign has begun with the entry into the race of Brian Topp. Topp was joined at his Monday announcement by former NDP Leader Ed Broadbent and Quebec MP Francoise Boivin.

Topp’s candidacy does not puzzle me, but I don’t understand why it has been given as much weight as it has. He may be the world’s best campaign manager but I, like many others apparently, don’t know if he has any of the retail political skills it takes to get elected dog catcher, let alone MP or PM. The present contest will help answer that question, but I don’t know why the party would pick Topp over someone who is already, without question, well positioned to consolidate the gains made in Quebec.

To old school NDP eyes, Mulcair may be tattooed with dozens of question marks, but if the criterion is to AT LEAST keep the gains of May 2, he should be able to fill the bill.

It seems like Peter Julian, Megan Leslie, Romeo Saganash, Niki Ashton and a few others (along with Topp and Mulcair) should make for a substantial and lively debate. Pat Martin should stick to attacking Conservatives. There will be no merger as we understand the term, although some level of coordination might be attempted.

It will also be interesting to see how all the provincial elections interact with the internal contest. Gains are expected in Newfoundland and Labrador and perhaps PEI. Manitoba may re-elect the NDP. Ontario at last seems almost ready to forgive. A Stephen Lewis like outcome (20 to 30 seats) would be a real boost to the Federal Party.

Written by slothropia

September 13th, 2011 at 8:03 pm

Canadian Election Update: 4.29.11

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It is finally safe to make at least one prediction irt the May 2 Canadian federal election. There will not be a majority Conservative government when the new Parliament is sworn in.

I typed the preceding paragraph a few hours ago and then went out to tcb. During my travels I learned via twitter that Ipsos Reid had released a new poll and Ekos had released a new seat projection, both of which, if they are accurate, reopen the question of whether or not the Tories get to 155 seats.

Also, as I began typing again, a “news” story about Jack Layton not being arrested 15 years ago was broken by Sun Media – yes the usual suspect for Rovian sleaze in Canada. I will return to that topic later.

The polls have shown a continuing trend upward for the NDP since the debates in mid April. Much of their new found strength comes from unheard of levels of support in Quebec, and there has now developed a consensus that the Bloc Quebecois is ceding much of their territory to the New Democrats. At the same time the Liberals have been trending precipitously downward and now appear to be in a battle for mere party status in the new Parliament. In the last week or so the Conservatives have also experienced a softening of support. For the sake of comparison, here are some of the more recent polls.

Of course while it may look like the Conservatives got a little uptick with the Ipsos Reid poll of April 28, one should compare it with the same firms previous poll released on April 20, which gave the Tories 43% versus 24% for the NDP and 21% for the Liberals. In any case, if the latest Ipsos Reid is predictive, the Conservatives are close to majority territory. If they get something more like 34or 35 % it is less likely.

I have discussed seat projections previously and noted that in 2008, Ekos’ projections was the most accurate. Ekos released a porjection today (not their final one before the election) and described it this way:

In an interesting development, as the Conservative Party’s overall margin over the NDP has shrunk to a mere five points, the newfound parity of the NDP and Liberal Party in Ontario appears to have produced significant benefits in terms of seat returns. So while the Conservatives have lost ground to the NDP and have remained flat in Ontario, the new tie between Liberals and NDP in Ontario is causing vote splitting that has elevated the Conservative Party’s prospects. While they have remained under 40 points in Ontario, they would now be ticketed to receive the lion’s share of Ontario seats with less than two-fifths of its votes. With 61 of Ontario’s 106 seats, the Conservatives are now projected to win 146 seats. This means that they would basically reproduce their current number of MPs although their caucus would be a dramatically different Ontario-based government. The vote splitting also would reduce the joint total of NDP and Liberal seats (109 and 42, respectively) to 151, which is shy of the 155 needed to have a majority.
At these numbers, the prospects of deposing the CPC would be much lower. In fact, with 146 seats, the Conservatives may well be in the range of a secure minority and even though they are down significantly from their position in the polls last election, they are only 9 seats shy of majority. In one final piece of irony, the Liberal collapse may mean that a diminished Conservative performance may yield their elusive majority. The final weekend, particularly in Ontario, will determine what happens but it is conceivable that the Conservatives could back into a majority with just slightly more than one-third of the overall votes. It is hard to imagine what impact this would have on the Canadian public’s view of its first past the post system.

But, and it’s a big but, the various polls disagree about what is happening in Ontario. Here’s Frank Graves of Ekos Research:

On the one hand: “Mr. Nanos points out that the Tories are still comfortably ahead in Ontario — 41.1% support compared to the NDP at 26.1% — but their support has been slipping.” On the other hand, Harris-Decima finds that: “The key battleground of Ontario remains a rare bright spot for the Liberals. Michael Ignatieff’s party led there, supported by 34 per cent of respondents compared with 33 per cent for the Tories and 25 for the NDP.”

So, as in so many Canadian elections, what happens in Ontario will likely determine which party or parties (in the case of a coalition) form the next government and how strong their mandate is. We can expect however that the NDP will greatly increase their seat count, that the Conservatives will probably win a plurality of seats and the Liberals and Bloc will have some rebuilding to do if they are to continue to exist.

The Toronto Sun and Sun TV had a big scoop tonight. It seems Jack Layton was found in a massage parlor the Toronto police were investigating as a suspected bawdy house (quaint Canadian term for house of prostitution) – in 1996. He was not arrested. The story in the Sun does not actually say if anyone else in the “bawdy house” was arrested or not. The source is apparently a former Toronto vice squad policeman and expresses hostility toward Layton in the article.

Judging from the Twitterverse and comments to the Sun story itself, it seems that Harper supporters are enjoying the spectacle and most everyone else is disgusted with the smear. Otherwise I am in no position to say if there will be any effect on the election at all. I do suspect (because I was born at night but not last night) that Layton’s political enemies waited until this moment to smear him in an attempt to derail a pretty successful campaign. Whether the Liberals or Conservatives or both are behind it, I cannot say.

I will say that it could be an attempt to depress turnout, which would feed into the Conservative strategy. It could, however, backfire and propel the NDP to even dizzier heights. Whether it changes votes or not, most Canadians will resent this n=further attempt to introduce sleazy U.S., Republican tactics into Canadian politics.

Written by slothropia

April 29th, 2011 at 9:21 pm

Canadian Leaders Debate (English Version) Update

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Last night I wrote that I thought Layton did pretty well in the English language Leaders’ debate. Upon reflection, and upon reading some instant polling results, I have decided I was right.

Ipsos Reid
tells us that before the debate:

…a flash poll of 1,861 English-speaking Canadians conducted by Ipsos Reid exclusively for Global National has revealed that one in three (33%) English-speaking Canadians believes that Stephen Harper will win the English-language debate tonight. Fewer believe that Michael Ignatieff (24%), Jack Layton (13%) or Gilles Duceppe (2%) will win. The winner’s circle is still up for grabs, however, with three in ten (28%) Canadians unsure of who will win the debate.

And afterward?

Immediately following the English-language leaders’ debate, a flash poll of debate viewers conducted by Ipsos Reid has found that four in ten (42%) English-speaking viewers say Conservative Leader Stephen Harper won the debate, up from the 34% of Canadians who, prior to the debate, thought he would win.

But:

Following his performance in the English-leader’s debate, which gave a majority (55%) of polled viewers an improved impression of Jack Layton coming out of the debate, Francophones appear to have high expectations for Mr. Layton in tonight’s melee.

So Ipsos says that Harper won but Layton impressed a whole lot of voters.

Which is all very interesting of course, but these polls do not tell us how many voters made up their minds or switched preferences. I think it will be a few days before people have had a chance to reflect and discuss and come to some conclusions about how or if the debate influenced their vote. The media and the parties have chosen their favorite moments but voters are funny and fickle creatures. It can be difficult to predict what they find important enough to vote over.

Layton, in my view, had some very good moments, like when he suggested to Harper that he didn’t know why he (Harper) wanted to build so many prisons since all the crooks were in the Senate (Canadian that is).

Meanwhile, the French debate wrapped up about an hour ago. I’ll have some thoughts about it some time in the next 24 hours.

Canadian Election Update 4.7.11

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We are at day 13 of the Canadian Federal Election Campaign and it seems possible at this point to describe a few trends, though the parties hopes and fortunes remain ever shifting.
To begin at the to p of the food chain, I think I will depart from the conventional wisdom by asserting the Harper and the Conservatives are in a spot of trouble. The Harpists have big problems if they don’t get a majority but they act like they are satisfied with the status quo. They have done nothing to attract support from outside their base and as a result the public horse race polls are showing their support softening just a little. I invite you to check out the latest from Environics and Angus Reid.

I think its a mugs game to try and explain poll results without doing some follow up research, but her I go anyway. If the Cons are slipping a little, it may have something to do with the way they are conducting the campaign. For example kicking people out of Harper rallies (and using RCMP resources to do it) just reminds people of why they haven’t yet given Harper a majority.

At the same time maybe the Karl Rove tactics the Cons are using are causing the Liberals problems. The Conservative campaign has observed that Ignatieff’s wife is not a Canadian citizen. Conservatives have tried with some success to make a big deal out of an Alberta Liberal candidate’s observation that not all sexual assault cases are the same. Clearly this man is objectively pro rape.

The Liberals also got caught with a rural Quebec candidate with a history of racist comments (to go with the unfortunate comments by Romeo Saganashes Incumbent Bloc opponent).

The Angus Reid and Environics polls out today both showed improved numbers for the NDP but with a healthy Con lead over the Liberals. Both polls were also notable for what they found in Quebec, namely the Bloc and Liberals dropping a little and with the NDP in 2nd place. Layton has given credit for much of the NDP’s tentative success in Quebec to Thomas Mulcair, his Quebec lieutenant and MP for the Montreal riding of Outrement. Since his election to the House of Commons, Mulcair has spent much time and effort to building up the Quebec wing of his adopted the party.

In the current campaign it seems like the Bloc and NDP are circling each other warily, afraid to attack because they’re targeting a lot of the same voters, voters who like both leaders and may not respond well to negative campaigning.

To sum up, it looks to me that Layton is winning the campaign. he’s getting around well enough (despite recovering from a broken hip), staying on message, dealing in substance while the Libs and Cons scrap over side issues. The NDP platform delivery has been unfocussed, but in the valley of the blind etc.

Whatever the status of the campaign today, there is a long way to go, and well timed dirty tricks, mistakes and unforeseen events are not only possible but nearly certain to occur. Poll results are interesting, but what is happening on the ground? Also, the debates could be a game changer for somebody. If the Liberals want to do well enough to form a government Ignatieff had better have two good debates, one in each of the two languages. Harper might even show up to discuss rather than evade – one never knows.

Layton could have some real success in the debates. He has more charisma than any of the other three (except maybe Duceppe on home turf). If he can translate his popularity into seats this could be a really interesting election.

Canadian Federal Election Opening Bids Part III: Jack Layton and the Oranges

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Canada’s New Democrats have never formed or been a part of a federal government. They have formed plenty of provincial ones though, in five provinces and one territory, stretching from Yukon to Nova Scotia.

Still, the NDP remains the third party in terms of its share of the popular vote nation wide and the fourth in terms of number of seats in the House of commons. Will that change in this election? Coming first is unlikely, but the NDP seems to think it can make significant gains on May 2. It sees a possibility of (first) passing the Bloc in number of seats, and, if all falls into place, catching and passing the Liberals. If this were to occur, and if the Conservatives fail to gain a majority and further if the Cons lose enough seats, Jack Layton COULD be in a position to head a minority or coalition government. This is what you would call a “long shot”.

I am not suggesting that any particular outcome is probable, but it looks from here as though the NDP has set its political and electoral goals higher than they have for any previous federal election.

The CBCMI (Canadian Branch corporate Media International, which includes the publicly owned CBC) is working hard to convince Canadians that the election is a two way race between the Liberals and Conservatives, and in part of the country that is true. Evidence for this desire can be seen in the media buzz that erupted when Harper suggested he would be willing to debate Liberal Leader Ignatieff one on one. Harper later withdrew the suggestion (the making of which was a mistake on his part), but for a day or so media tongues were wagging, in large part because Ignatieff accepted the “challenge”.

But there are two other parties in the House of Commons, just as there will be when the dust settles on May 3 (I predict no Green candidate will be elected); and while a plurality of ridings will see a Liberal Conservative horse race, a growing number will experience another configuration. In the words of the brilliant :

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper and his Liberal counterpart Michael Ignatieff seem to want a two-way debate, but during the last election there was a two-way battle between their two parties in just 135 of the country’s 308 ridings.

This figure represents just 44% of the seats in the House of Commons, a recent low. The number of two-way fights between the two old-line parties had been as high as 60% of all ridings in the 2000 election (including the Canadian Alliance and/or Progressive Conservative parties), but then dropped to 162 in 2006 and 154 in 2004.

Meanwhile, the number of ridings where the Conservatives and NDP faced off rose to 70 in the last election — at 23% representing the fastest-growing group of races. There had been only 14 such races in 2000.

Liberal-NDP contests in 2008 represented 30 ridings, or 10% of the seats, a number that is down from the recent high of 45 seats in 2004, but up from the 25 in 2000.

In Québec, the number of BQ-Liberal contests stood at 35 in the 2008 election, down from 71 in 2000; while the number of BQ-Conservative contests came in at 27 in 2008, up from 2 in 2000 (both of them Progressive Conservative).

While electoral strategy is often likened to a chess board, in Canada it looks much more like a game of Chinese checkers. Four or five parties, and a number of notable independents, simultaneously wage battles against a subset of their opponents in different parts of the country.

There may be one campaign, in other words, but there are many different battlegrounds within it.

Follow the link for statistical evidence.

The most relevant statistic (to understanding NDP strategy) Pundits’ Guide offers here is the number of Conservative/NDP races in the 2008 election. Part of Layton’s stump speech has been the assertion that in a large chunk of Canada it is the NDP, not the Liberals, who are in a position to defeat Conservatives. And of course one thing Liberal and NDP supporters agree on is that it would be bad for the country to endure another Conservative government, especially if the Cons were somehow able to achieve a majority.

In other words, Layton is arguing for a new kind of strategic voting, at least in BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, The Northern Territories and parts of Ontario (and selected ridings elsewhere). Rather than flock to the Liberals to stop the Cons, Layton is arguing that in the aforementioned regions, voters should first look at the party that is able to more forcefully challenge the Harpists – and that is Layton’s NDP.

The NDP Leaders’ tour in the early days of the campaign reflects this strategy. While Ignatieff feels the need to spend much of his time where the NDP has already defeated the Conservatives, Layton is going after Harper more directly.

BTW, the Liberals released their platform today (Sunday, 4/3) and their poaching on NDP property continues, per Murray Dobbin:

The Liberal party released its comprehensive election platform today and it reminds me and a lot of other people of the Red Book trumpeted by Jean Chretien throughout the 1993 election: full of left of centre policies, reflecting the values of fairness and equality and stealing Liberally from the NDP last election platform. It worked for the Liberals in 1993. And then, of course, they very quickly turned the book of promises into a book of lies.

While I have never seen a detailed analysis comparing the Red Book to other election promises, for sheer shamelessness it should have received an award. Almost none of the “promises” were ever kept and the Liberals under finance minister Paul Martin implemented the largest cuts to social spending in Canadian history and at the end of their time in office implemented the biggest tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations in Canadian history. Perfect book ends for the Red Book – gutted social appending and tax cuts for the privileged.

Meanwhile, the NDP approaches its platform differently from the Grits. At http://www.ndp.ca/platform, their is a platform page with the following statements:

Leadership you can trust
It’s time for a leader who will get things done for you and your family. Jack Layton’s New Democrats will work with others, stop the scandals and get results. Together, we can start fixing Ottawa – right now.
Making life more affordable

New Democrats will reduce the cost of everyday essentials like home heating. And we’ll ensure that every family takes home more of every paycheque.
Rewarding job creators

Under Stephen Harper, your tax dollars went to companies shipping Canadian jobs overseas. New Democrats will target investment to small businesses and companies actually creating jobs right here at home.
Improving front-line health services

New Democrats will take concrete steps to train more family doctors. We’ll improve homecare. And we’ll make your prescription medicines a little more affordable.
Putting families first

New Democrats will strengthen pensions. We’ll make childcare and education more accessible. And we’ll improve EI to make it easier for families to care for ageing loved ones.

If there is a problem with the NDP it is that it is vague while being pragmatic to a fault. There are no dramatic promises here, certainly nothing is going to be nationalized by a socialist NDP government. However, Layton and his party may be able to sell a little sizzle as the campaign goes on by releasing details of programs they would use to implement their promises.

As the campaign began, NDP prospects looked bright, based on several inputs not necessarily including public horse race polls. Candidate recruitment, at least in some regions, has been very fruitful. Consider, for example the star candidate just announced in norther Quebec, Romeo Saganash. Furthermore, it looks like a lot of work has been done before the election was called to put strategic ridings on an election footing.

Perhaps most significantly, the NDP will be able to spend more during this campaign than on any other. Which simply means t hat the NDP will be more competitive with the Liberals and Conservatives than it has ever been before. This does not automatically mean that the NDP will achieve its goals, just that it has put itself in a position to do so.

Written by slothropia

April 3rd, 2011 at 7:24 pm

Maybe it Should be a Layton v Harper Throwdown

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Well according to the pollsters at Ipsos, Canadians would be okay with a coalition government – but only if it is headed by NDP Leader Jack Layton.

More than half of Canadians would prefer a Liberal-NDP coalition to a Harper majority government, results of a poll for Postmedia News and Global National suggest.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper launched his campaign with a clear message to Canadians: coalitions are unstable and will derail the country’s economy. But Canadians don’t appear to be too nervous: Fifty-four per cent of those polled said they would favour a Liberal-NDP blend to a Harper majority.

However, when the Bloc Quebecois is thrown into the coalition mix, support for a coalition drops to 50 per cent. A Harper majority takes the other 50 per cent…

Meanwhile, another poll by the same company, also for Postmedia, suggests if Canadians find themselves being governed by a Liberal-NDP-Bloc Quebecois coalition following the May election, they want to see NDP Jack Layton become prime minister.

Only 27 per cent of the poll’s respondents said they’d want Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff to be prime minister, compared to 14 per cent who support Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe and 59 per cent who said Layton.

So why not Harper and Layton, mano a mano?

Written by slothropia

April 1st, 2011 at 10:39 pm

Harper Afraid of Layton, Wants 1 on 1 with Ignatieff

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Canadian Conservative Leader Stephen Harper has suggested he and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff have a one on one debate excluding both the NDP and Bloc Quebecois Leaders Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe.

Stephen Harper suggested Wednesday that the televised leaders debates could involve a two-man showdown between him and Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff since the Bloc and NDP plan to form a coalition government led by Ignatieff.

When the Liberal leader was told about Harper’s one-on-one proposition, he said: “Any time, any place. . . . I don’t want to exclude anyone. It’s not up to me to choose, but I’m ready to debate directly with Mr. Harper.”

Harper’s comments put a new twist on the issue of whether Green Party leader Elizabeth May should be included in the TV debates, as she was in the 2008 election. The consortium of broadcasters that runs the debate said this week May hadn’t been invited, noting the Greens don’t hold a seat in the House of Commons.

Asked whether May should be included, Harper said that was up to the consortium to decide. But he added another dig at the Bloc Quebecois and NDP, whom he has accused of wanting to form a “reckless” coalition under the Liberals.

“We’re open to any number of possibilities. We can have a traditional debate of parliamentary leaders. We can have a debate that includes . . . May in such a format,” Harper told reporters at a campaign stop in Brampton, Ont. “We can have a debate that includes every party that’s on the ballot. We could also have a debate between Mr. Ignatieff and myself. After all, the real choice in this election is a choice between a Conservative government or an Ignatieff-led government that all of these other parties will support.”

I’m sure Harper would like such a setup to provide a nice contrast between himself and the least popular federal leader. Not gonna happen. But talking about it allows him to sneak in the coalition smear through the backdoor.

The question he should be asked is why is he so afraid of Jack Layton.

P.S. still working on Liberals early’ campaign. Should be ready tonight or tomorrow am.

Written by slothropia

March 30th, 2011 at 12:24 pm

Layton, NDP Question Toronto Police G20 Actions

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Received an email from my pen pal Jack Layton today in response to my message to him and the NDP about a lack of NDP response to police misconduct during the Toronto G20 meeting.

In part, Jack said, and I quote:

Thank you for your previous email outlining your concerns over the recent G8/G20 Summits in Toronto.

New Democrats feel that these meetings failed to deliver concrete action on the most important issues facing the world. Instead, Prime Minister Harper fought to keep subsidies flowing to oil companies and taxes low for the big banks.

The G20 meetings fell short on several fronts, offering no movement to allow African nations to have a formal voice at the table, providing none of the anticipated new commitments on nuclear disarmament, and failing to adopt a strategy to curb abuses in speculative markets to protect our economies from future economic crises. The only real announcement was an agreement by the G20 leaders to reduce their annual deficits by 50 per cent by 2013.

It didn’t have to be this way. Prior to the meetings, we outlined sensible, pragmatic steps that the Canadian government could take to show leadership in helping eradicate poverty, tackling climate change, and reforming the global economy. I invite you to read our proposals at this link: http://www.ndp.ca/New-Democrat-priorities-for-G8/G20.

Now that the summits are over, many questions remain. Not least of which questions about the implementation of security plans including:

– Why did the federal government ignore the concerns and suggestions of the local government in holding the summit in downtown Toronto on a weekend?
– Who requested the temporary suspension of basic civil liberties for the duration of the summits? Moreover, why was this done in secret?
– What role did federal officials play in the Integrated Security Unit in policing the summit?
– Will the government compensate Toronto for the damage that Harper’s summits have caused?

We take these questions very seriously. We want the House of Commons Public Safety Committee to get to the bottom of these lingering questions and develop a post-summit accountability report on both the spending and operations sides of the summits.

First of all, I am very grateful to the party for responding to me I vote New Dem 99.99% of the time when I live in Canada – I could not vote for a candidate like Bev Desjarlais, for example, if I am aware of their positions – but I am not there right now so they don’t have lot to gain by being nice to me.

Of course, Layton did not write to me personally. It was a mass mailing to (among others) people who contacted them with the same complaint I had. I, and many others I am sure had complained that the NDP was not taking a strong stand on a critical human rights issue, namely the right of everyone in Canada to assemble freely and demonstrate peacefully. It appeared at the time that the New Democrats were reacting to and maybe even pandering to the understandable revulsion of the public and right wing media to the violence in Toronto. Much has been written and said about exactly how and why that violence occurred,but I won’t go into that here.

I am glad to see my old party finally addressing (however tepidly) the out of control police behaviour in Toronto that G20 weekend. And again, I think it is clear that the lack of response to the crackdown had become a problem for Layton among NDP members and supporters. But it should not come as a surprise t anyone that if there is one thing that all NDP voters and activists agree on it is that the party needs to at all times stand on guard for human rights. To not do so invites cynicism about the party which is supposed to be more idealistic than the Libs and Tories.

Of course, Layton and the New Democrats are also quite rightly criticizing the Shock Doctrine agenda of the G20 summit, which is what the demonstrations were supposed to be about. Good for them.

Written by slothropia

July 7th, 2010 at 9:04 pm

Lib/Con Coalition in Ottawa

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Cross posted at Daily Kos.

I meant to put up a reaction to the Liberal decision to support the Harper budget a few days ago, but I was abducted by aliens and they just now dropped me off. It’s OK though. My period of captivity gave me a chance to reflect on the situation in Ottawa, for the political dust to settle north of the border and for the Canadian version of the corporate media (incl the CBC) to bloviate itself into a tizzy about how wise is Ignatieff and how silly Jack Layton.

As Monk would say, here’s what happened.

1. The Conservatives won a plurality of seats in the last election. They then won a confidence vote on the Throne speech.

2. In late November, the Harper Finance Minister delivered a financial statement (a mini budget if you will) that included some mean spirited legislation but very little stimulus for an economy which was clearly going to soon be in trouble. There is an old saying; “When the U.S. sneezes, Canada catches a cold.” The U.S. has a bad cold, and Canada can expect a case of economic pneumonia.

3. With Jack Layton as chief instigator, the three opposition parties declare themselves ready to vote against the Tories in a confidence vote and agree to form a Liberal/NDP coalition, with Bloc support (conditional upon the Governor General inviting the Leader of the Opposition to form a government after the Conservatives were defeated in the House).

4. Smelling defeat and the loss of power, Harper persuades the Governor General to prorogue (suspend) Parliament for a month while the Cons write a full budget.

5. The Liberal Caucus replaces outgoing Leader Stephane Dion with Michael Ignatieff. They did this for a number of reasons. In short it was awkward to have a lame duck leader when there was talk of forming a government and/or when there is an ongoing political and economic crisis in the land.

6. The Conservatives deliver their budget on schedule and on schedule the Liberals declare their willingness to support the budget and the Harper government.

7. The other two opposition parties, again with Layton and the NDP in the lead, attack Ignatieff and the Liberals for betraying the coalition and and all Canadians by supporting a budget that did not provide enough economic stimulus and which did not do enough to strengthen Employment Insurance (the Orwellian term for Unemployment Insurance).

8. Meanwhile, the Canadian corporate media mainly praises the budget and Ignatieff’s capitulation.

Here’s an example of the last point from Globe and Mail columnist Jeffrey Simpson.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff did the right thing in supporting the budget rather than trying to force an election or entering that ridiculous arrangement with the NDP and the separatists.

His demand as the price for his party’s support – periodic updates on how the budget is working – seems appropriate. Given the unknown ahead, chances are that six months from now, many of the budget’s assumptions, and at least some of the programs, are going to need serious adjustment.

And here is Toronto Star columnist Chantal Hebert:

Stephen Harper saved his job as prime minister but the Liberals are the net winners of the extraordinary parliamentary showdown that almost cost the Conservatives their minority government.

Less than four months after they were knocked down to a historical low in the popular vote in a general election, the just-concluded crisis has reset federal politics to their advantage.

Polling since the Tory budget shows little change from before. In Quebec the Libs are slightly behind the Bloc, with the NDP and Harpers in a virtual tie for third.

The Liberals may have gained in the short term, but there is time before the next election for them to regret Ignatieff’s choice. Since Ignatieff’s capitulation, the NDP has run a series of radio ads slamming the Liberal Leader for propping up the Tories as Dion had done.

The NDP’s strategy is now focused on courting progressive Liberals who had welcomed the Coalition. If that strategy works, the next election (to be held sometime this year, says the smart money) will see a strengthened Liberal Party and NDP with the Tories and Bloc dropping some seats. I would bet heavily against a Liberal majority, but a result like the one I described could lead to a Liberal/NDP working accord, if not a revived coalition that would not need Bloc support.

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.