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Nova Scotia Election: NDP Majority

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The pollsters got it right. They predicted The NDP would get 45% in today’s election and they did, earning a majority of 31 of the 52 seats in the N.S. legislature. The Liberals got 11 seats and will be Official Opposition. The Tories move from Government to Third Party, a just reward for the hysterically negative campaign they ran.

It appears that NDP Leader Darrell Dexter ran a cautious campaign and managed not to make too many promises that would be difficult to keep. Tonight, he promised to run a fiscally prudent government.

Dexter said he would use this mandate with both caution and enthusiasm. He promised to honour campaign commitments, such as keeping emergency rooms open, taking the HST off electricity costs and fixing rural roads.

“And we will live within our means,” he added.

“Where we stand at this moment is not where we stop,” Dexter said to applause. “It’s where we start.”

Dexter is perhaps fortunate in that his constituents know that there is a global recession going on for which he will not be blamed.

Historically, the Atlantic provinces have been difficult for the NDP, but over the past couple of decades they have built a solid and growing base there. Nova Scotia is of course where the New Dems have had the most success, but there is an small NDP base in both New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador (in PEI, the New Democrats are left wing Liberals). We’ll soon see whether or not Nova Scotia gives its Atlantic neighbors crazy ideas.

In recent months, the Canadian corporate media (which hates the NDP because it is not part of the Liberal/Conservative oligopoly) has waged a vicious jihad against Jack Layton and the federal party. The Liberals are supposed to take all the NDP seats in the next election which will be held ???? This latest success will not change the media dynamic, because the only legitimate parties are the Libs and Tories. Still the Nova Scotia victory helps the federal NDP in a number of ways and Layton has a little bit more wind in his sails than he did yesterday.

Written by slothropia

June 9th, 2009 at 8:21 pm

B.C. Election Shocker: Gordon Campbell in Trouble in His Own Riding????!!!

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A poster on Babble linked to this Harvey Overfed’s Oberfeld’s blog. Harvey says Campbell May lose his own seat.

Even more interesting is the comment Harvey presents from Rafe Mair, who says he is voting for Carole James and the NDP. Read the whole thing.

I am now willing to change my prediction from a narrow Socred/Liberal win to an NDP victory. Maybe even a big one.

I will live blog the results tonight after the polls close. Keep the Brut on ice, lefties, it’s gonna be a long night.

Written by slothropia

May 12th, 2009 at 3:25 pm

Political Heat in Canada: Throne Speech Today, Budget to Follow

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Cross posted at Daily Kos.

Long ago, in December of 2008 (when George Bush was still President – THAT long ago), Canada found itself embroiled in an almost unprecedented parliamentary crisis.

Here’s The Daily show’s crack news team (by which I mean I think they are on crack) doing their best to explicate said crisis for American viewers.

Ha ha. Good times.

To briefly review, the Conservative Government of Canada presented to Parliament legislation that the opposition parties found unacceptable. In response, the opposition parties in Parliament formed a coalition. The left wing (sort of) New Democrats would join a government lead by the centrist Liberals, with the nominally separatist Bloq Quebecois promising support for a year and a half.

Sensing danger, and to avoid losing a vote of confidence in the House of Commons, Prime Minister Stephen Harper persuaded the Governour General to suspend Parliament until today.

This afternoon, Parliament reopened with a Throne Speech or summary of the Government’s agenda, delivered by the Governour General. Tomorrow, the Minister of Finance tables a budget, but in the run up to tomorrow, Government ministers have been leaking like rusty tub, trying to kick start support for the Tories and their budget. They are scared so it looks like the budget will owe more to Obama than to Bush.

Meanwhile, among the opposition parties, there have been a few developments.

When the coalition deal was struck, the Liberal were lead by Stephane Dion. Dion had already resigned as Liberal Leader, though he planned to stay in place until May when his successor was to be named. Instead, all the candidates for the Liberal Leadership withdrew in favor of Michael Ignatieff, who is now in place as Liberal Leader and Leader of the Official Opposition.

Since becoming Liberal Leader, Ignatieff has been sending mixed signals about the future of the coalition. On paper, there is still an agreement between the liberals and NDP to defeat the Tories in a confidence vote and ask the Governour General to allow the Coalition to form a government. However, Ignatieff has refused to say if the Liberals will vote against the budget, while NDP Leader Jack Layton has consistently insisted that Harper cannot be trusted and the Conservative government must go.

Right now, my gut feeling is that the Liberals will support the government, with the Bloq and NDP voting nay.

Again, tomorrow the Conservatives introduce their budget. Tomorrow evening I will post something about its contents of the budget and when the first vote on it will occur. I’ll also speculate more about how the vote will go.

, I’m gonna wash down some poutine with a couple of bottles of Moosehead while I watch a replay of the NHL All Star Game.

Written by slothropia

January 26th, 2009 at 9:26 pm

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.

Almost Everything You Always Wanted to Know About the Canadian Election

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The Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper has asked the Governor General to dissolve Parliament and call for an election to be held on October 14. My intention here is to offer an overview of the Canadian landscape and explore the current state of the five Canadian parties that will compete in the election. Before we begin, here are some online places to go for those who want to follow the Canadian election:

One of the major differences (and there are many) between Canadian and American politics is the fact that Canada’s system produces multiparty parliaments and, whereas the American two party system is so entrenched it might as well be mandated by law. The House of Commons that was just dissolved included Members of Parliament from four parties: The governing Conservatives, the centrist Liberal party, The Quebec sovereignist Bloc Quebecois and the center left New Democratic Party (NDP). The Green Party is also competing in most of the federal ridings but has never elected a Member of Parliament.

Since the last federal election in early 2006, the Conservatives have lead a minority government, meaning that they have not had a majority of the seats in the House of Commons and consequently needed cooperation from one or more opposition parties to pass legislation and thereby retain the confidence of the House.

The Conservatives are a centre right party, formed in 2004 from a merger of the Progressive Conservatives, a true Center right party, and the more right wing Canadian Alliance. Harper comes from the more right wing faction of his party but has not been able to pursue a truly hard right agenda because of his minority position. His goal is in the election is to achieve a majority and begin to enact the Conservative agenda – whatever that is.

Harper became Prime Minister when he and the Conservatives defeated the Liberal Party, lead at the time by Paul martin, in early 2006. The night of his defeat, Martin announced his resignation as Leader of his party, and in December, 2006 the Liberals elected Stephane Dion of Quebec as their new Leader and candidate for Prime minister.

Dion’s leadership of the Liberals has been troubled to say the least. Some of the candidates he defeated are still ambitious and hungry for his job. The Liberal Party’s fundraising has been spectacularly unsuccessful during Dion’s reign, in part because of residual anger generated during their years in government by a series of scandals. To make matters worse, Dion has difficulty communicating in spoken English.

One result of Liberal weakness has been the willingness of the party to vote for Conservative legislation to avoid defeating the Tories and forcing an early election. This has encouraged the center left NDP to be more aggressive during the pre election period and during the still young campaign. The NDP has attacked the Liberals for not standing up to the Conservatives and the Conservatives for, well for being Conservatives.
The Bloc Quebecois has been the most successful federal party in Quebec for the last decade and a half but now seem to be fading along with the sovereignist or independence movement. The Liberals have traditionally been strong in Quebec but have been hurt there in recent years because of their strong anti-independence program. Scandals have also damaged Liberal popularity in Quebec.

Last and almost certainly least among Canadian federal parties, the Greens are still hoping to win their first seat in Parliament, but there don’t seem to be any ridings where they have any realistic hopes. The Leader of the Greens, Elizabeth May, is a former Conservative but has struck a bargain with the Liberals. The Liberals are not running a candidate in the Nova Scotia riding that May is contesting. In return, May has said that she would like to see Dion become Prime Minister.

At this point, the Liberal/Green alliance does not seem to have had the desired effect. May is running a distant third behind Tory cabinet minister Peter Mackay and the NDP candidate. (Mackay, by the way, was once linked by celebrity gossip to Condi Rice).

Those are the main parties contesting the Canadian election, and to assess the prospects of each one, we need to look ate each of the regions.

The Atlantic provinces have traditionally been a Liberal v Conservative battle ground, and both of those parties currently have some strength there and so does the NDP. The New Democrats look to increase their representation in Nova Scotia and could win a seat or two in Newfoundland, thanks largely to a feud that is raging between the Steven Harper and the Conservative Premier of that province. There are 32 seats at stake in the four Atlantic Provinces and a three way split is more than possible. However, the Liberals face organizational and fund raising challenges that could hurt them in the East as well as in other parts of Canada. They need a good campaign to keep up with the NDP and Tories but have not shown they are capable of producing one.

In Quebec for example, the Liberals have had trouble raising money and recruiting top tier candidates and Dion is widely unpopular. Their fortunes in Quebec are fading, as are those of the Bloc Quebecois. The big question in Quebec is who will benefit from the decline of the Bloc (it will not be the Liberals). Right now it appears that the Conservatives will gain outside of Montreal, especially in the Quebec City area, and to a lesser extent, the NDP.

Incidentally, the NDP made history last year by winning a by-election to take what was thought to be a safe Liberal seat in Montreal.

If the Conservatives get the majority they so desperately want, it will be largely because they made significant gains in Quebec. The Liberals will be lucky to keep the seats they have. The NDP may win another Quebec seat or three or five, and they may not. At this point, it looks like they at least will keep the one seat they have now. The Bloc will send a reduced delegation to the House of Commons.
In the West, Alberta will probably elect nothing but Conservatives, though the NDP has hopes in one Edmonton riding. Manitoba and Saskatchewan will send a majority of Conservative MPs to Ottawa, with the Liberals and NDP splitting the rest.

The Northern Territories will elect either one New Democrat and two Liberals or vice versa.
In British Columbia, the Conservatives and NDP will duke it out, while a fading Liberal Party will struggle to keep what it has.

That leaves Ontario, the largest province with about a third of all the seats in parliament. Ontario is where the election will be decided. If the Conservatives can take enough Ontario seats from the Liberals, they will have their majority. The question is how far the Liberals will fall. The NDP has also targeted a number of Liberal (as well as Tory) seats.

So far, the campaign has not really heated up. In the first week there were stories about matters marginal to the election, like the controversy in the media was about the Greens being kept out of and then included in a debate. The Conservatives and NDP were sharply criticized over their initial exclusion of the Greens. There have also been stories about how the Liberal Leader’s difficulties and the future of the Bloc Quebecois.
Eventually the parties will get around to focusing on issues. There will be a debate will be in early October with 5 – count ‘em – 5 party leaders speaking over each other. That’s a lot of podiums.

The issues appear to include environment and climate change, and Afghanistan. Canada is one of the NATO countries with troops there and has lost nearly 100 soldiers.

Whoever wins the election, the Prime Minister of whatever party will try to have a positive relationship with either President Obama or the other one. Harper would no doubt like to see a GOP win, but he will get along fine with the winner. Dion and Layton would like to see Obama win, but would not be rude to McCain if he wins.