Spring election?


in Canada, Politics

It won’t be news to the subset of Canadians keeping the newspaper industry afloat, but it seems worth noting that Ottawa’s election sense is tingling. People say that you know when an economic bubble has blown up when you hear hairdressers talking about the stock market. People often care more about where they can earn some money than about which group of disagreeable old people are deciding their country’s political future, and yet there is something similar (yet much milder) that probably happens in politics as well, as significant contests draw near.

And so, with that, I will throw open the door to wild speculation.

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

. February 21, 2011 at 10:22 pm

That leaves Jack Layton and the NDP as Flaherty’s prospective dance partner. Indeed, the dance has already begun. Layton met with Harper late on Friday.

There are several reasons for Layton to avoid an election.

First, the narrative of making Parliament work is very good for Layton. It makes him look like a responsible leader, while Michael Ignatieff recklessly seeks to plunge the country into an unwanted election. Any time the leader of the fourth party in the House has the balance of power in his hands, that’s a good thing for him. Layton has done this before, in the fall of 2009, when he got the government to extend employment insurance benefits by $1 billion.

Second, the Dippers are still trying to figure out why their vote cratered in two by-elections, in Winnipeg North and Ontario’s Vaughan. The first is a historic NDP stronghold. The second turned into a classic two-party race between the Conservatives and Liberals, and the NDP vote disappeared. It is not in the party’s interest to have an election where its seat count would fall from the high 30s to the mid-20s.

Third, there is the issue of Layton’s health. While his prostate cancer is in remission and he’s doing well, there are days when he looks frail and fatigued. He can probably survive 37 days on the road, but it wouldn’t be his doctor’s idea of an ideal path to a full recovery.

R.K. February 22, 2011 at 12:34 pm

The smart money is probably on YAMG – Yet Another Minority Government.

. March 2, 2011 at 6:17 pm
. March 3, 2011 at 12:14 am

Canada’s prime minister
The circumspect and circumscribed Conservative
Stephen Harper has proved remarkably durable by curbing his instincts. Can he now remake his country?

STARTING a conservative revolution in Canada was never going to be easy. It is a socially liberal place, proud of its welfare state and ruled for 79 of the past 115 years by the centre-left Liberal party. The first time Stephen Harper led the Conservative Party in a general election, in 2004, it finished a distant second to the Liberals, who saw themselves as Canada’s “natural governing party”. Two years later, with the Liberals crippled by a kickback scandal, the Conservatives did well enough for Mr Harper to form a minority government. An evangelical Christian and economic libertarian, he vowed to turn a would-be “second-tier socialistic country” into one that “the Liberals wouldn’t even recognise”.

Five years on, Mr Harper has pulled off two surprises. The biggest is that he is still prime minister, despite failing to win a majority in a subsequent election in 2008, making his the longest-serving minority government in Canada’s history. The second follows in part from the first: Canada remains a country that the Liberals can recognise perfectly well, with big government and social liberalism largely intact. “He emerged from the movement. He was going to be our Ronald Reagan,” says Gerry Nicholls, a former colleague of Mr Harper’s. “But he’s become what he’s always opposed. If he destroys the Liberal party by becoming it, what’s the point?”

In this view Mr Harper is at heart an incrementalist, putting power above ideology despite his occasionally strident rhetoric. Some of Mr Harper’s supporters—and his opponents—retort that he has been as conservative as possible, and that he would become a Canadian Reagan if voters would only give him a majority. They may well have another chance this year, with a budget battle looming in March that could send Canadians to the polls again. “We don’t want an election,” says John Baird, the minister responsible for managing government business in the House of Commons. “But if the opposition wants to provoke one, we’re ready.”

. March 5, 2011 at 1:25 am

A botched delivery has laid bare the Harper government’s plans to win over immigrant voters by appealing to their social conservatism before an election that the party believes will be under way by March 29. The unprecedented glimpse into the internal strategy of the famously secretive Conservative election machine reveals plans for saturation television advertising in Toronto and Vancouver that asks immigrant Canadians: “Isn’t it time we all voted our values?”

“We are losing” the battle for the votes of Asian Canadians and other immigrant communities, concedes a letter to Conservative MPs from Kasra Nejatian, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s director of multicultural affairs, though the letter adds: “we are losing less badly now.”

Mr. Kenney has been assiduously courting these communities, which have traditionally favoured the Liberal Party, because they live in the suburban ridings that will determine the outcome of the next campaign. If new Canadians switch sides in sufficient numbers, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives could win a majority government.

. March 5, 2011 at 1:25 am

“But what is even more fascinating than the dustup over the minister’s aide’s misbehaviour is the opportunity for detailed analysis of the Conservative strategy to woo immigrant voters that the misdirected package offers.

The “pre-writ” advertising campaign in local ethnic media will launch on March 15 and last for two weeks, revealing that the Conservatives expect to be defeated on the budget that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty will release on March 22.

In 10 targeted ridings across the country, four of them in Greater Toronto, four on B.C.’s Lower Mainland, and one each in Manitoba and Quebec, four ethnic groups are singled out for analysis: Chinese, South Asians, Ukrainians and Jews.

The Conservative analysis concludes that party support declines as the number of South Asian and Chinese voters in a riding climbs. And that pattern is even more pronounced in Toronto’s suburban 905 area.

That’s potentially disastrous for the Conservatives, who are counting on making gains in such ridings in Toronto and Vancouver, where Asian Canadians make up as much as 50 per cent of all voters.

To improve the party’s standing, the Conservatives plan to direct $318,000 towards a massive advertising buy on ethnic media TV outlets, where they could saturate the airwaves with 30- second spots for as little as $200 each. “

. March 7, 2011 at 8:00 pm

Over the past trimester, no poll has found the Liberals within shouting distance of the Conservatives or the third-place NDP within shouting distance of the Liberals.

Despite an obvious dearth of momentum, calculations that are based on more than a modest amount of unknowns are still driving both opposition parties toward a spring campaign.

The NDP is a little worse off today than the last time it extended the life of the government eighteen months ago. The party has fallen from grace provincially in Manitoba and Nova Scotia. It lacks a vigorous battle horse to ride in a spring campaign.

But things could be worse a year from now.

Over that period, fatigue with the Conservative regime could increase and, with it, the inclination to vote for the Liberals — especially if the NDP spends it propping up the government. New Democrat efforts to play a decisive role in the minority Parliament have done little to shake the widespread popular perception that the Liberals are the alternative to the government.

Given another year, there is always a risk that the Liberals change their leader or that Ignatieff finally finds more of a footing with voters. There is also a risk that the NDP lose its biggest election asset.

For all his stamina, juggling a battle against cancer with a leadership role in a minority Parliament has taken a toll on Layton. And while there are worthy aspirants to his succession, none comes with his coattails.

On the Liberal side, Ignatieff would have to walk over a lot of sticky paint to get out of the election corner he has so deliberately painted his party into. Ultimately though, it is the sense that an election this spring is a low-risk exercise that is keeping the party on its current track.

Many Liberals firmly believe that Ignatieff will at least manage to hold the Conservatives to another minority. Even in their worst-case scenario, a spring campaign would pave the way for a change in leadership and a more auspicious rematch, possibly against an NDP leader less popular than Layton, a less-savvy Bloc leader than Gilles Duceppe and a prime minister less experienced than Harper.

The Liberal caucus is mostly made up of MPs who hold safe seats or who feel that if they survived Stéphane Dion’s 2008 campaign they can survive anything.

. March 8, 2011 at 5:34 pm

Pulling the trigger is not as easy as it sounds.

Moving on from the endless and unresolved speculation over “if” the opposition will defeat the government, Parliament Hill is now abuzz over “how.” A prime minister can go to the Governor-General at any time. But an opposition in a minority Parliament looking for an election must be united on both the timing and the method in order to bring down a sitting government.

That’s why this hardly ever happens.

The most obvious hurdle to the Conservative government’s survival is the string of confidence votes that follow the tabling of the 2011 budget on March 22.

But Liberals are preparing for another option, and it could all happen very quickly.

Any day, House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken will issue rulings in response to two separate claims by Liberal MPs that the Conservatives are acting in contempt of Parliament. One, from Liberal MP John McKay, relates to accusations International Co-operation minister Bev Oda misled Parliament and had a document doctored. The other, from Liberal MP Scott Brison, asks the Speaker to find the government in contempt for refusing to fully disclose the cost of government crime bills.

If either ruling sides with the Liberals, either MP could immediately move a motion of no-confidence in the government. While it is possible this could happen this week, it is more likely to come to a head after next week’s one-week Commons recess.

The possible Liberal tactic is an alternative to defeating the budget and challenging the Tories on one of their strongest files – the economy.

. March 10, 2011 at 12:21 am

Attack ads aren’t aimed at everyone. That supporters of the leader and party being attacked gag at these ads is of no consequence to the attacker. That well-informed people hate them is irrelevant. Attack ads are intended largely for two slices of the electorate.

In the Harper party’s case, the first group is the core of its own supporters. They don’t need attack ads to solidify their Conservative preferences. What attack ads do is stoke their anger and fear, heightening the chance they’ll vote and – of critical importance – reach for their chequebooks each time one of those “sky is falling” letters arrives from the Conservatives’ chief fundraiser, Senator Irving Gerstein.

An even more important group is what we might pejoratively call the ill-informed and uninterested. These are voters who don’t follow politics, don’t track issues, are aware only in the vaguest way of what governments do (except levy taxes) and make up their minds (if they vote at all) largely on the basis of image and impressions of party leaders. These are often “swing” voters in that they don’t have anchors in partisanship or issues. They’re heavily influenced by what they see on TV, since they get almost all of their political information from that medium.

. March 12, 2011 at 12:32 am

Regardless of what opposition day motion the Liberals may choose to bring forward at the next opportunity to do so, if the government goes ahead with its reported plan to hold that opposition day on Monday, March 21, it will automatically trigger a confidence vote that could prevent the finance minister from announcing his budget at all.

According to the Standing Orders, the supplementary estimates must be passed — or, alternately, defeated — on the final allotted day of the supply period that ends on March 26th.
Estimates – like all supply bills – are automatically considered confidence matters, which means that one of the opposition parties would have to vote in favour for the government to survive until the following day, thus permitting the finance minister to at least table the budget, although whether it would make it to a vote is another question, given what else will happening in the House: specifically, the report from Procedure and House Affairs committee on the prima facie breach of privilege emanating from the Brison motion to produce, which is slated to be returned to the House no later than March 21.

. March 12, 2011 at 12:32 am

The number of people here on Parliament Hill who still believe a spring election is not a certainty could fit in the back of a taxi cab. With that in mind, let’s consider once again when such an event might take place.

The Commons procedures and House affairs committee will meet for three days next week to discuss this week’s ruling by Speaker Peter Milliken that, “on its face,” the government withheld information from a parliamentary committee and that International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda may have misled her fellow MPs.

If the committee upholds the finding – a near certainty given that the opposition members of the committee outnumber the Conservatives – there will be a vote in the Commons to decide whether the government and Ms. Oda are in contempt of Parliament. That would most certainly prompt an election.

The committee must report back to the House by March 21, the day before the scheduled release of the federal budget. But 48 hours notice must be given before a vote can be held on any contempt motion. So it could not take place before March, 23, the day after the budget.

. March 14, 2011 at 8:41 am

Stockwell Day leaving politics

OTTAWA—Three longtime Conservatives – including two senior cabinet ministers – are calling it quits, fuelling speculation that a federal election could be just weeks away.

Treasury Board President Stockwell Day – former leader of the Canadian Alliance – along with Transport Minister Chuck Strahl and Conservative MP John Cummins announced Saturday they will not seek re-election.

While the resignations of the MPs is perhaps not a surprise – two of the three were first elected almost 18 years ago – the fact that the announcements came at once on the first Saturday of March Break did raise some eyebrows.

It suggests the Conservative party could be clearing the decks for an election call that could come soon after the Mar. 22 budget – or perhaps even before if Prime Minister Stephen Harper wants to mute brewing controversies over Conservative abuses of parliamentary procedure.

Still, a spokesperson for the prime minister downplayed the timing of the announcements.

“No surprise, more standard practice,” Harper press secretary Andrew MacDougall said, noting previous retirement announcements from cabinet ministers Greg Thompson and Jay Hill.

Harper and his fellow MPs have been insistent that they won’t make the first move to trigger what they call an “opportunistic” election. MacDougall echoed that on Saturday, saying “Canadians don’t want an election.

. March 14, 2011 at 11:40 pm

As a federal election looms, Quebec might be the quietest place in Canada -the province will yield no surprises, and the battles will be relatively tame. While Ontario and British Columbia are the ones to watch, chances are that the final results in Quebec will be close to those of the last election. As usual, the Bloc Quebecois will monopolize the bulk of the votes, especially those in the homogeneous francophone hinterland. The electoral map that gives rural areas an undue advantage over cities – where most Canadians live – is one of the many factors favouring the Bloc.

As usual, the Liberals will hold to their ridings in the Montreal area. Even though they’re ahead of the Conservatives in most polls, the numbers are deceptive since Liberal support is heavily concentrated in a dozen ridings with a large anglophone and immigrant population. The Liberals are in such disarray in Quebec that their “star candidates” are rarely seen or heard.

Even Martin Cauchon, the former justice minister who will try to regain his Outremont riding from NDP Thomas Mulcair, seems to have vanished from the public scene, although he’s a leadership hopeful. The Liberals might again face the humiliation of losing Outremont, a constituency that, until 2007, was one of their more solid strongholds in the country.

. March 15, 2011 at 10:25 pm
. March 16, 2011 at 10:48 pm

The gloves are always off in the PMO

By Dan Gardner, Ottawa Citizen March 16, 2011

On Tuesday, we got another glimpse into the soul of what truly is the Harper government.

At issue was the new citizenship guide. “In Canada, men and women are equal under the law,” the guide says. “Canada’s openness and generosity do not extend to barbaric cultural practices that tolerate spousal abuse, ‘honour killings,’ female genital mutilation, forced marriage or other genderbased violence.” Substance aside -I think the statement is just fine -the words “culture” and “barbaric” are hot-buttons. And this document was written under the direction of Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, a man so thoroughly political he undoubtedly dreams of stump speeches, polls, and calculations. Conclusion: It was bait.

Kenney was fishing for a dumb bass.

And he landed a beauty. Liberal immigration critic Justin Trudeau told a reporter that although he actually agrees that honour killings are barbaric he is “uncomfortable with the tone.” It’s “pejorative.”

. March 18, 2011 at 8:23 pm

Government defeat next week appears inevitable as scandals grow
A government defeat in Parliament next week that would spark a spring election appears inevitable as a mounting storm of scandals and political losses gathers at the worst possible time for Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

By Tim Naumetz

PARLIAMENT HILL—A government defeat in Parliament next week that would spark a spring election appears inevitable as a mounting storm of scandals and political losses gathers at the worst possible time for Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

“I can’t see who’s going to stop this train,” Ekos pollster Frank Graves said after the opposition parties manipulated the early disclosure of a House report that will find the government in contempt of Parliament for a standoff with MPs that earned the rebuke of House Speaker Peter Milliken.

With a series of Commons events scheduled for next week that will give the opposition parties at least three other opportunities to defeat the government over measures that would lead to the dissolution of Parliament, including a vote on the federal budget to be tabled on Tuesday, Mr. Graves, who only a week ago was saying the time was not yet ripe for the opposition parties to force a trip to the polls, told The Hill Times the picture has changed dramatically.

Opposition parties have agreed they will find the Harper government in contempt of Parliament and have begun efforts to put the matter to a vote in the Commons – a move that would set the stage for an election call as early as next week.

The Liberals, NDP and Bloc Québécois confirmed Thursday they have made up their minds and will work via a committee they control to produce a report for the Commons saying the government’s failure to divulge sufficient cost details about its crime bills “constitutes a contempt of Parliament.”

The Conservatives are attempting to slow the effort, however, and Tory MPs stalled opposition attempts Thursday to begin writing a draft report at the Commons procedure and House affairs committee that would recommend the Commons cite the government for contempt.

It’s not clear which day the opposition will be able to deliver the report to Parliament, where they outnumber the Tories, but once they do it clears the path for a vote that officially censures the Harper government. If this happens this will be the first time in Canadian history a government’s been found in contempt of Parliament.

. March 20, 2011 at 11:14 am

Carson affair puts PM’s judgment in question

OTTAWA—The influence peddling allegations involving Bruce Carson, a former top adviser to the Prime Minister, have put him in the crosshairs of the federal police as well as the federal ethics and lobbying watchdogs.

But it is Prime Minister Stephen Harper who is guilty of exhibiting bad judgment, in the eyes of his political foes.

Liberal House Leader David McGuinty said the matter raises questions about “the company the Prime Minister keeps.”

“I think Canadians are going to have to draw their own conclusions. This is a terrible, terrible disgrace for the Prime Minister’s Office,” he said.

Oilpatch distances itself from former Harper aide at centre of influence- peddling probe

OTTAWA – Canada’s oil and gas industry is distancing itself from Bruce Carson, the former top adviser to Prime Minister Stephen Harper who was one of its strongest allies until this week, when he found himself at the centre of influence-peddling allegations.

Carson was a key individual driving a controversial government and industry communications strategy to boost the image of Alberta’s oilsands sector. A recently released briefing note prepared by bureaucrats in the federal government highlighted his presence at a special meeting last year between senior officials from the federal and Alberta governments as well as the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, an industry lobby group, Postmedia News reported last week.

But the industry association said Carson, who has taken leave from his academic and industry positions, was not on its payroll.

“To be clear, we have never hired Bruce,” said Travis Davies, spokesman for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. “We work with several organizations with which he has been involved.”

. March 22, 2011 at 10:25 pm

In response to the story, online posts at The Globe and Mail shot quickly into the thousands, most of them siding with Mr. Ignatieff. It was an indication of how integrity is replacing the economy as the issue uppermost in voters’ minds. If this is true – and an opinion poll published Monday showed as much – it’s happy news for the Liberal Leader. The abuse-of-power issue is his best hope. It’s probably his only hope.

Mr. Ignatieff can’t rely on his own program. The Liberal policy platform, most of which is already out, suffers from a poverty of ambition. There’s little to capture the public imagination. What can capture it, however, is the steaming heap of manure piling up on Stephen Harper’s doorstep, courtesy of ethical chaos, quasi-scandals and an affinity for the moral low ground.

With this in mind, what the Liberals are planning is essentially an all-out assault on the Prime Minister, one that beats him at his own attack game, the one he’s been winning for years. The Grit strategy, in so many words, is to hell with the high road.

. March 23, 2011 at 10:31 pm

With the NDP’s immediate thumbs down on the Harper government’s budget, Canada will face yet another election. The only questions are when the government will fall, and when the election will be held. Whatever happens in the campaign, the government presented a reasonable, moderate budget that contained some sensible spending increases, avoided additional and unnecessary tax reductions, and promised a credible, if somewhat leisurely, march toward a balanced budget. The budget won’t survive the House of Commons, but it will carry the Conservatives through an election they’ll almost certainly win.

Defeated on a budget motion, defeated on a contempt-of-Parliament motion – it doesn’t matter. Voters quickly forget why an election is called and set about making their choice. Moreover, very few voters pay attention to the goings-on under the Peace Tower.

Clearly, the government didn’t meet the NDP’s four budget demands, but no one expected it would. The New Democrats apparently decided, despite the uncertain health of their leader, Jack Layton, not to accept a third of a loaf the Conservatives offered that, however meagre, would still have been better than the crumbs of losing seats in an election, an entirely possible fate for the party.

The NDP, by voting for the budget, also could have saved the Liberals from themselves, since the Liberals have cocooned themselves in the illusion that only an election will improve their prospects. This will be Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff’s first campaign and, if his party loses badly, probably his last. He has to hope, perhaps against hope, that he can so surmount low expectations and a negative public image that, by campaign’s end, he’ll be a credible prime minister.

. April 3, 2011 at 12:18 pm

Parliament is effectively deadlocked, and has been so pretty much continuously since 2004. Three successive minority governments have given the country no direction and no consistency, with the government and opposition engaged in a perpetual bidding war for voters’ favour.

It is a situation that wasn’t supposed to be possible. In his guide to the constitution How Canadians Govern Themselves, senator Eugene Forsey contrasted our confidence-based system of responsible government with the checks-and-balances of the American congressional system. “In the United States,” he wrote, “President and Congress can be locked in fruitless combat for years on end. In Canada, the Government and the House of Commons cannot be at odds for more than a few weeks at a time.”

Forsey’s view was that any sort of extended parliamentary logjam is practically impossible. When the government and opposition “differ on any matter of importance, then, promptly, there is either a new government or a new House of Commons.” And that was supposed to settle the matter. There could be short periods of uncertainty or antagonism, but either Parliament would quickly sort itself out, or the voters would do it for them.

Except that brief period of antagonism has been going on for seven years now.

What is complicating things this time around is the ongoing presence in Ottawa of the Bloc Québécois, which makes a majority government almost impossible. Unlike previous periods of extended minority rule where all the parties at least had an interest in playing some role in national governance, the Bloc has no such ambition. You can find plenty of people who are willing to defend the Bloc on the grounds that many of their supporters are not actually separatists, and that it has become effectively a place for francophone Quebecers to park their votes. But that is precisely the problem: Their entire rationale for being in Ottawa is to advance the interests of Quebec at the expense of the rest of the country.

The Bloc Québécois is now supported by what is essentially an ethnic voting block. Ethnic voting blocks are bad enough in any democracy -when people vote according to their race, language, or tribe, rational public policy becomes extremely difficult. But when that block has also decided to abstain from any role in the national government, the effect is absolutely toxic.

So where do we go from here? Ideally, the Bloc Québécois would simply go away. That was in fact Lucien Bouchard’s original intent: the party was designed to stick around just for a couple of elections in a final push for sovereignty, and then dissolve itself. It was never intended to become a permanent part of the furniture on Parliament Hill. But being a Bloc MP is easy work, and the per-vote public subsidy means the party will be around for as long as it gets enough votes to keep the lights on.

. April 9, 2011 at 8:01 pm

Politicians think you’re stupid
Dan Gardner, Ottawa Citizen

They think you are stupid. They are talking down to you.

Yes, I know. Constant repetition is annoying. In the last two weeks, I’ve heard Conservatives repeat the phrase “risky coalition” more often than I’ve heard my son say “I want to play video games.” The difference is my son is sincere. Adults do not repeat precisely the same phrase again and again unless they have suffered severe brain damage or they are following the advice of an expensive consultant who tested the phrase on focus groups and found it presses the right buttons.

People “vote based on short bursts of political communication that are typically seven to 10 seconds in length and squeezed in between a car chase and the latest panda birth on the local news,” writes Republican pollster Frank Luntz. Find the right phrase. Repeat it until you vomit. That’s how you win elections. Politicians call it “discipline.”

“It’s no accident that contemporary politicians have learned to array American flags in the background of their press conferences or speak in front of themed backdrops, pronouncing the subject and message just in case the speech doesn’t make it abundantly clear,” writes Luntz. “It’s politics for the simple-minded.”

Of course “politics for the simple-minded” is not a Conservative or Republican or right-wing thing. It’s a political thing. All parties used themed backdrops, vapid talking points, and droning repetition. It was Roméo LeBlanc, the Liberal “Codfather,” who observed that “if you can’t read it on a barn door driving 60 miles an hour, then it didn’t happen,” and the Liberals have certainly delivered their share of patronizing rhetoric in the current campaign -notably their policy “family pack” (comes with coleslaw and fries) and the slogan “we choose families, not jets” (although the official policy is to buy jets).

. April 21, 2011 at 9:13 pm

Michael Geist has timely analysis of the Canadian Conservative party’s campaign promise to pass a massive “crime and justice” bill within 100 days, if re-elected. The bill — which has never been debated or had hearings or public consultation — includes massive, extrajudicial bulk surveillance over Canadians’ use of the Internet.

. April 30, 2011 at 10:46 am

Canada under Harper suffering international reputation decline

By Mike Ward, The Citizen April 28, 2011

There was a time, a pre-Conservative time, when the words “I Am Canadian” were a source of pride, an era when Canada’s commitment to peace keeping and international justice, combined with a reputation for fairness and impartiality, had earned Canadians the respect of every nation on earth.

Today that hard-won reputation lies in ruins as we find ourselves a nation mired in war we cannot win, a nation better known for it’s climate obfuscation, mean-spirited foreign aid policy and Middle East prejudices than its Mounties and maple syrup.

Canadians may deceive themselves that contempt for the international community can go unnoticed but recent events prove otherwise; for the first time in history, Canada has been denied a seat on the UN Security Council and our expulsion from the Commonwealth is a matter of discussion.

. April 30, 2011 at 12:14 pm

Worthwhile Canadian Candidate
Michael Ignatieff may want to be prime minister too much for Canadians to give it to him.
By Jeremy Keehn
Posted Friday, April 29, 2011, at 3:15 PM ET

In 2005, Michael Ignatieff returned home to Canada with a gilded résumé. In the 36 years since he’d left Toronto, he had become one of the world’s leading public intellectuals: reporting extensively on human rights issues for the BBC and the New York Times; writing more than a dozen books, one of which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize; and teaching at Harvard, where he’d helped codify the case for humanitarian intervention that President Obama invoked to justify bombing Libya. He seemed eminently qualified for his new chosen field—politics—and his sights were fixed on Canada’s top job.

In 2006, Ignatieff was duly elected to Parliament, and three years later he became leader of the Liberal Party. Now he is finishing up his first election campaign at the helm—and he’s all but certain to get trounced. Canadians’ minds appear to have been made up from the start: The ambitious Mr. Ignatieff needed a comeuppance. In Canada, you can be disqualified from leadership for wanting it too much.

The Liberals are on track to finish third in Monday’s vote, a once-unthinkable result for a centrist party that ruled Canada for much of the 20th century. The opposition forced this election despite solid public support for Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s minority Conservative government, and Harper has mounted a strong front-runner’s campaign, portraying himself as a kind of Prime Minister Dad whose tax cuts and steady hand have brought about Morning in Canada. (Credit belongs more to longstanding financial regulations and Alberta’s oil reserves, but dead bankers and plankton don’t talk.)

. May 1, 2011 at 12:28 am

Anyone but Harper: A dissenting endorsement
MONTREAL— Special to Globe and Mail Update
Published Saturday, Apr. 30, 2011 2:08PM EDT
Last updated Saturday, Apr. 30, 2011 3:23PM EDT

Having contributed to The Globe and Mail since 1997, I have been quite dismayed to read the paper’s editorial endorsements of Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party in the past three elections, their third appearing in Thursday’s edition. (Read it here: The Globe’s election endorsement: Facing up to our challenges)

While it could be argued that the first endorsement was justifiable, given that the Liberal Party was buckling in the wake of the sponsorship scandal, endorsement No. 3 is harder to take.

One of the editorial board’s key reasons for the endorsement is what they refer to as the “successful stewardship of the economy.” On this point, however, it could be persuasively argued that the Liberals’ solid managing of the economy in the 13 years prior to Mr. Harper’s election is what made Canada especially resilient after the severe 2008 recession. The Liberals beat back an excessive deficit and have rightly been praised internationally for having done so.

The Globe editorial correctly points out that Canada’s health-care system – and the burgeoning costs that go with it – is a growing concern. But this is hardly reason to support the Tories. On the contrary, after five years in office and with increasing anxiety among a majority of Canadians about our health care, the Conservatives have not made a single major policy initiative in an effort to mend it.

. May 1, 2011 at 6:45 pm

Canada’s general election
Groundhog day
That Stephen Harper is the least bad option is an indictment of Canadian politics

Apr 28th 2011 | from the print edition

ON MAY 2nd, for the fourth time in seven years, Canadians will go to the polls. On the previous two occasions the outcome has been a Conservative minority government, under Stephen Harper. Both the Conservatives and their main opponents, the Liberals, hoped to break the stalemate this time. Yet if opinion polls prove correct, it will be Groundhog day for Canada, with the Conservatives again the largest party but lacking an overall majority. There is one possible twist: the left-wing New Democrats are enjoying a late surge of support, especially in Quebec, and might secure more seats than the Liberals. Even if they do not, the two parties might conceivably join forces in an anti-Tory coalition. Then again, the NDP surge may yet help the Conservatives by splitting the opposition vote more evenly (see article).

Mr Harper’s record is in some ways impressive. Canada sailed through the recession better than any other large developed economy. True, that was mainly because of Asian demand for Canada’s natural resources, as well as the strong fiscal position and well-regulated banking system Mr Harper inherited from the Liberals. But he deserves credit for having administered a limited and effective fiscal stimulus, and for promoting investment through corporate tax cuts. Employment is higher now than when the Tories took over in 2006.

But there are some serious blots on Mr Harper’s record. He is a dinosaur on climate change. He has batted away all criticisms of the Albertan tar sands, where oil extraction is an especially dirty business, and placed his faith in carbon capture and storage, an unproven and expensive technology. Even some Albertan oil bosses favour greener rules. But the biggest worry about Mr Harper is his contempt for the rules of Canadian democracy. Since the previous election he has twice prorogued parliament for disgracefully lengthy periods, the second time to avoid awkward questions about whether his officials lied to the house about the treatment of detainees in Afghanistan. He has also got rid of watchdogs whom his government found too independent and generally tried to hand over as little information as possible to the public.

. May 1, 2011 at 8:16 pm

While Stephen Harper crossed the county Sunday and Jack Layton barnstormed from Montreal to Toronto, Michael Ignatieff spent the last day of this election campaign circling the wagons around Toronto, attempting to rescue his party from a historic drubbing.

The gravity of the situation was made most clear when the Liberal leader found himself fending off question after question from reporters about whether he plans to stay on as leader of the party after the election.

. May 8, 2011 at 12:42 am

But those who voted for the NDP hoping that Jack Layton would deliver on his promise of practical solutions for working families are sure to be disappointed.

The reason is simple. In a majority parliament, an opposition party — official or not — has no control over the government’s agenda.

Indeed, the irony of the NDP position is that even with 102 Commons seats, it will have less leverage over Stephen Harper’s Conservatives than it did with just 37.

Layton didn’t get much from Harper’s minority governments. But he was able to wrest some things in return for his support — including more employment insurance benefits for the jobless.

That kind of thing won’t happen again.

True, some measures the NDP called for in this campaign — including an increase in payments to the poorest elderly, as well as a tax break for volunteer firefighters — will go ahead.

However, that’s only because the Harper Conservatives made similar or identical promises.

The governing Conservatives may also cherry-pick items from the NDP platform that fit their own agenda — such as making car-jacking a separate criminal offence.


. May 8, 2011 at 12:43 am

There are lessons in stories like Brosseau’s for those who think they know something about the way voters behave and what they will respond to. The short answer -as my colleague Dan Gardner points out in his timely book Future Babble -is that political predictions are a fool’s game.

Brosseau’s case -and the cases of other surprise NDP wins such as the 19-year-old Sherbrooke University student who is now the youngest person ever elected to Parliament, and Mathieu Ravignat, the bright young karate instructor, member of the Medieval Sword Guild and former communist who defeated former foreign affairs minister Lawrence Cannon in the Pontiac -also suggest that democracy is a blunt instrument at best, that emotion and seemingly irrational preferences will often trump logic. And that many people vote with their guts, not their heads. Also that voter surges and votes for change are simply a physical force that takes everything in its path, for good and for bad.


. June 14, 2011 at 11:12 pm

Elizabeth May, for one, seems to have decided to play against typecasting in her initial submissions. Rather than taking the predictable route of quizzing the government on environmental policy, she wants to know more about the appointment process at the Montreal Port Authority — and specifically, the possible involvement of soon-to-be-former PMO communications director Dimitri Soudas:

Q-15 — June 6, 2011 — Ms. May (Saanich–Gulf Islands) — With regard to the Montreal Port Authority: (a) was the Prime Minister’s Spokesperson, Dimitri Soudas, involved in any way in the appointment of the Montreal Port Authority’s Chief Executive Officer; and (b) if the answer to (a) is in the affirmative, (i) what are the details of this involvement, (ii) did the Prime Minister consent to this involvement?

Q-21 — June 8, 2011 — Ms. May (Saanich–Gulf Islands) — With regard to the 2010 G8/G20 Summits in Ontario: (a) what was the chain of command relating to security; (b) what Canadian law enforcement and security forces were involved; (c) what international security experts or agencies were involved; and (d) did such agencies recommend kettling people at intersections?

Q-222 — June 9, 2011 — Mr. Nantel (Longueuil–Pierre-Boucher) — With regard to the Prime Minister’s presence at a National Hockey League finals game in Boston: (a) what was the total cost of the trip; (b) how much did the flight cost; (c) how many staff members, ministers, parliamentary secretaries and public servants accompanied the Prime Minister; (d) which departments paid the travel costs; (e) what were the total hospitality expenses incurred; (f) what organization or person invited the Prime Minister to the game; (g) what are the names of the public servants and staff members from the Prime Minister’s Office that accompanied the Prime Minister on this trip; (h) how much did on-site security cost; and (i) who paid for the tickets?

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