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Debat des Chefs du Canada 13 Avril, 2011

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That’s enough French for now. I hope someone will tell me if I made any errors in the title.

So last night the four leaders met again on the same game show set and hammered each other in Canada’s other official language. Polls and opinions differ but there seems to be a consensus that Duceppe won, with Layton second. I watched and listened to the English translation so I can’t really comment on many of the nuances expressed in the debate.

Both Duceppe and Layton achieved their goals, although Layton “wins” by being taken seriously in a debate aimed primarily at Quebec. Many of Duceppe’s voters are unavailable to Layton, but many of them are. It’s those potential Bloc/NPD switchers that Layton was addressing.

Duceppe, was playing a home game with house money, if I may mix and mangle two metaphors at once. His problem is that the Bloc has been around for two decades, serving Quebec’s interests well but without achieving its supposed reason for being, Quebec sovereignty. Some Quebeckers are apparently looking for an alternative to the Bloc and neither the Liberals nor (certainly!) the Conservatives qualify.

Fortunately for the NDP/NPD, Layton is a good debater in both French and English and mostly gave as good as he got versus Duceppe. Translating his limited success in the French debate into seats on May 2 will be more difficult, but he and his party are earning a lot of admiration for their strong effort to do so.

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April 14th, 2011 at 9:54 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 II: Michael Ignatieff and the People in Red

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The CBC has a feature on its website called Vote Compass where people can answer a bunch of policy questions to find out which party they are closest to (btw I’ve heard and read a number of complaints about the accuracy and fairness of this little gimmick but anyway). Somewhere somebody blogged or tweeted that they answered every question with most disengaged possible answer, like “No Opinion” or whatever the equivalent is of “Don’t Care”, and found out that they were a Liberal.

This chameleonic, mercurial, kaleidoscopic quality has always been both the genius and the curse of the Liberal Party. St. Paul told early Christians to be all things to all people, and the Liberals have adapted this commandment to Canadian politics. To put it another way, the Liberals have been known to run from the left (frustrating the NDP) and govern from the right (infuriating the old PC Party).

It served them well for a long time. Then came 1984 and the Progressive Conservatives led by Brian Mulroney forged a coalition with soft Quebec nationalists and center right voters in the West, Ontario and Atlantic Canada. What really hurt the Libs at the time was the loss of most of its base in Quebec. Things have gotten worse for them in the QC since then with the rise of the Bloc and the lingering smell of the Chretien and Martin era scandals.

Ignatieff and his party face all kinds of challenges going into this election. They are blocked bu the Bloc in Quebec and will be lucky to keep what they have there. Even worse, the Liberals are bleeding support to the NDP in several regions, including Quebec.

In Ontario, the Liberals have maintained significant support up to now, but having a provincial Liberal government benefits the Conservatives. Meanwhile the NDP has turned Northern Ontario into a two way battleground between themselves and the Cons (the NDP also seems to be growing stronger in Southwest Ontario, but it is unclear whether that pays off much in this election).

In the West, the Liberals have been in decline since the days of Trudeau, leaving the Atlantic provinces as a region that still gives a lot of love to the Libs.

So what tactics and policy planks are the Liberals using to meet these challenges?

Once upon a time in the heat of an all candidates I mockingly said “You can always tell when the Liberals are in trouble. They start stealing NDP ideas.” Which seems to be part of what Team Red is up to at this moment.

For example, Ignatieff has been talking this week about a plan to strengthen Canada Pension Plan and GIS benefits for seniors. Which by some strange coincidence is what Layton tried to get the Conservatives to put in the budget that was tabled before the Government fell. The Globe and Mail also tells me that on Thursday (3/31) Ignatieff will unveil a national day care plan – again. Earlier this week, Iggy announced a “learning passport” plan to help students pay for post secondary education.

All of these platform planks are clearly designed to appeal to NDP/Liberal vote switchers. Furthermore, Ignatieff has spent a good part of the first week of the campaign in NDP held ridings, like Ottawa Centre and Trinity Spadina.

The Liberals have had a few harsh words for the Harpists (about expensive fighter jets for example) and there will be more as the campaign rolls on. But the first order of business for the Team Red/Rouge is to get some of that centre left mojo back from the New Democrats.

Now I will get to work on a post about the NDP, followed by a combined Bloq and Green piece (neither of then deserve a whole post to themselves since neither are running full campaigns).

Written by slothropia

March 31st, 2011 at 10:31 am

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.

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March 30th, 2011 at 12:24 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 Budget: Its Deficit Time in Ottawa

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Cross Posted at Daily Kos

Here are the highlight of today’s Canadian Federal budget (thanks CTV) :

* $85 billion deficit over the nest five years
* Personal taxes down $20 billion over six years
* Business taxes cut by $2 billion over six years
* $12 billion for infrastructure spending towards roads, sewers and universities, $1 billion for “green” infrastructure, and $1 billion for clean-energy research.
* $1.5 billion for job training programs
* $7.8 billion for social housing and home renovation, including a one-year only Home Renovation Tax Credit of up to $1,350 per household.
* $2.7 billion in short-term loans to the auto industry.
* More than $1.4 billion for aboriginal schools, health, water, housing, community services and training.
* About $325 million for arts and culture.

This is the Canadian version of a stimulus package and resembles in some way the legislation now working its way through the U.S. Congress.

Prime Minister Harper insisted during last fall’s election campaign that there was no need for the Canadian government to run a deficit because the Canadian economy was stronger than the American one. Was he mistaken or did he lie? That’s right, he made stuff up, Conservatives can’t help themselves I guess.

The NDP and the Bloc have made it clear that they will vote against the budget, so all eyes turn to Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff. He will announce his decision Wednesday morning.

I have two toonies and a loonie that says the Libs will back the Tories, just as they regularly did in the last parliament. Any takers?

I’ll be back tomorrow with more on the budget debate and upcoming confidence votes.

Written by slothropia

January 27th, 2009 at 10:09 pm