Canadian politics

A question for the crowd…

Today’s announcement that Peter MacKay is not going to run for his seat in Parliament this fall has me thinking that maybe this is a sign that Stephen Harper is losing control of his party finally. Some months ago when John Baird announced that he was stepping down to spend more time with his corporations, in discussion with friends we hypothesized that maybe that there would be a “leave now or you’re in for the long run” date stamped on the caucus.

Five months before the anticipated election date has got to be later than Harper would have wanted a high-profile minister to depart?

Is this a “screw you” from MacKay to the guy that defeated him for the party leadership these many years ago? Is it MacKay realizing now that his re-election in the fall would be far from a sure thing with the Liberals polling super strongly in the Atlantic provinces and high-profile screw-ups involving helicopters and ACOA appointments still in the public eye? Has he seen John Baird cashing in and figures that he’s got a “best before” date stamped on his ass?

Canadian politics

The miracle of birth…

It’s so thrilling to see a foundling cracking the shell for its first few pecks at freedom. (And never has a better beak been built to crack one, too!) And now, with today’s announcement, Peter MacKay marks his transition from pupa form (Canadian politician) to what I can only assume to be a fully-fledged adult lobbyist. (Sorry, he meant respectable member of a handful of corporate boards, of course – editor)

Fly, my little one, fly!

Bye, bye, Peter. Don’t forget to thank your father for the tremendous career opportunity he gave you. It’s good being born, right, isn’t it?

Canadian politics

It is on… apparently

With the new round of polls in the hopper and the NDP surge from their surprising provincial victory in Alberta quantified, if it didn’t before, it looks like the national election campaigns are firmly up and running for the three major political parties. The campaign ads are beginning to appear and the editorials are getting written. The Cons, awash with ca$h, have traditionally thrown the early punches, hitting often and hard against Ignatieff and Dion, after early swipes at Trudeau seemed heavy-handed and churlish, have decided a different approach, softer and, if anything, more condescending.

In these opening rounds, it looks like the Conservatives have been caught a bit by the upsurge of the NDP in national polls and they are still targeting Trudeau’s Liberals. Ad making takes time, and I’m sure that if the NDP lead is maintained for any length of time, even a week or three would be enough, the attack machine will roll out against Mulcair and his party.

Things are gonna get interesting.

I should tack onto the end of this little post the Globe and Mail piece on Mulcair’s success in Quebec and ponders whether the NDP can hold onto the “Orange Crush” seats won in 2011. If they can, and if they are the real regional opposition to the Conservatives in the West, October might well be a two-horse race.

Though maybe not the two horses most people would have predicted a year or so ago.

Canadian politics

“It’s real – get over it”

So says ipolitics (pay wall), referring to the NDP surge that was confirmed this week by polls released by EKOS and by other groups. They go on to demonstrate that, while NDP numbers jumped dramatically with the recent Alberta provincial election results, the upsurge really began as early as February. What this graph (shown below) also shows is the NDP vote appears to be coming at the expense of both the Liberals and the Conservatives, indicating that they are benefiting both from disapproval of the performance of the government and uncertainty (or outright distrust) of the Liberal Party.

Screen-Shot-2015-05-22-at-10.22.29-AMThere are probably a hundred reasons for this, and I’d love to hear what others think. I will highlight two. First, the NDP have been aggressively announcing their platform in very frank and clear terms – $15/day daycare, home mail delivery, changes to income splitting, amendments to the first-past-the-post electoral system, and others. The Liberal strategy, conversely, has been to keep relatively quiet about their platform for now. Their only campaign-style announcement was their plan for daycare, but even with that came questions as to whether they had botched their own accounting of the costs. If the Liberal strategy is to keep their powder dry until the campaign is in full swing, they had better get their timing right or they might find themselves out of the discussion.

The second thing I can quickly put my finger on (and again, there are I’m sure many others) is the partys’ stands on Bill C-51. The Conservatives are trying to run the standard boogeyman strategy – keep the population scared and hope that they decide to cast their ballots on security issues. They peaked in popularity with the attack on Parliament Hill last year and see this as a strong issue for them. C-51 keeps security in the discussion, which is a good campaign strategy, however they may have misplayed their hand by making it too strong, and opening up the civil liberties argument. This is a place where the Liberals and NDP have starkly different stands – the Liberals voted in favour of the bill, saying that they will amend the more odious bits of it later should they win the election, while the NDP rejected it outright and said that should they come to power in October they will scrap it root and branch. Forum polling on the bill shows that Canadians are beginning to have reservations about it and are concerned about the civil liberties issues it represents and it may be that the NDP are being seen as their champions in this case.

I will leave this post with another graph from the ipolitics article, this one showing the vote distribution as it breaks down on income level (see below). It would usually be expected that right-leaning parties would do well in the higher income brackets and the left-leaning in the lower and so the basic shape of the distribution is unsurprising – the Conservatives dominate among the most wealthy and the left-leaning NDP among the poor.

This time around, the Conservatives have to be concerned with the results, as the groups they do well in are shrinking in size as a result of the well-documented wealth gap. Add to this the fact that they will have an uphill job fighting against the perception that they are the party of the rich, as the opposition parties and the media have done a good job showing how their taxation policies have preferentially benefited the wealthy and employment results keep showing troubling trends towards instability and lower wages. Also, their one real hope appeared to be to look like the responsible economic party, carrying a balanced budget proudly into the campaign. This has gone badly. Delaying the budget because of the economic situation seemed desperate at its face, and the “balance” was immediately questioned as it was created by fuzzy economic growth models and raiding the EI fund.

The results have to be a concern to the Liberals as well, as the NDP lead in the “lower class” demographic is massive and it represents a sadly large potential voting block. If the electorate is really going to make a choice this election on “left” versus “right” issues, the traditional Liberal place in the middle, which has made them the natural governing party for many years, might be a dangerous place indeed. They may find themselves forced to one side or the other during the campaign, and that will leave them with the job of convincing the electorate of sincerity of their intentions.

If this is a high-turnout election, which it often is when the public is unhappy with the performance of the incumbent governing party, and the NDP can mobilize their base, this election might not even be close.

It’s early days yet, but these are interesting signs.Screen-Shot-2015-05-22-at-10.23.51-AM

Canadian politics, Conservatives

Pride, vanity, and puerile BS

Anyone wanna guess how much noise would be made by the Whinging Right if the Libs or NDP ever did something like this?

Are the Conservatives trying to remind the electorate of Tony Clement’s gold unilingual business cards of a few years back? Are they trying to create easy-to-use election campaign ads for their opposition?

Canadian politics, Civil Rights

Omar Khadr is a rescued child soldier and should be treated as such

The release of Omar Khadr, on strict conditions, has reignited the debate over his capture and imprisonment in Guantanamo Bay. The Conservative Party, ever in campaign mode, is always looking for a political issue to use to charge up their base, and his release, which they opposed and continue to appeal, is their cause du jour. Judging from the posts in the right-wing blogosphere and the bloviations  from that neckbeard Ezra Levant, the base is indeed well and truly charged. (Warning to the reader, clicking on that last link will in fact produce 17+ minute Ezra Levant diatribe. Click at your own risk. I watch these things so that you don’t have to.)

There is much to discuss on this topic. First, one thing that has gotten lost in the mainstream media is the fact that Omar Khadr was a child soldier at the time of his arrest and should be treated as one, not as a criminal. If he came from the Rwandan genocide in the 90’s would we treat him the same way? Say what you may about what he did, he was fifteen years old when arrested, and United Nations defines  a child soldier as being under the age of 18 years.

In addition to this, it is valid to question what he was arrested for. He was arrested and charged with war crimes for killing a soldier with whom he was at war with, something that is in reality not a crime in our traditional definition of the words “crime” and “war”. This bizarre charge is a hint at the confusion surround not only his arrest, but also the arrests of many of the others who were declared “illegal combatants” and housed with or without charge at Guantanamo Bay.

The decision to charge as illegal (or “unlawful”) combatant is beyond my ability to argue, but it appears to have been made to deny those arrested the rights of due process as either a prisoner of war, which would have given them certain protections under the Geneva Convention, or as a domestic criminal, which would have given them American due process rights. It appears that Khadr and others were treated in this way specifically to deny them access to any protections and rights, in effect to make them disappear.

Omar Khadr is quite simply a victim of the Manichean reaction of the Cheney presidency to Sept. 11. He is no hero, but he deserves his freedom and he deserves it now.

Welcome home, Omar. I hope that you are treated with civility and that you feel at home.

Canadian politics

Alberta, oh Alberta, what on earth have you done?


Last night’s NDP victory in Alberta changes the discussion a little to the place at which there is a real discussion of NDP in positions of leadership. Not that many years ago, the NDP was either ignored federally or viewed as promoting ideas that were maybe good, but in the end not tenable for one reason or another. The Liberals and the Conservatives were the grownups at the table, and the NDP were just a phase you grow out of after you got your first real job. Or something. Jack Layton took a big step to changing that by making the NDP the official opposition and Tom Mulcair has by many accounts, and certainly in my opinion, performed very well as opposition leader. I think last night’s victory in the safest place in the country for Conservatives moves the discussion a step further. If Albertans can view the NDP as a governing party, then why can’t it happen federally?

Seriously, why not?

Mulcair has proven to be a fierce opponent of the Conservatives and has presented himself and the party as a whole as a real alternative. Justin Trudeau and the Liberals have still not really gotten their feet under them and in my (biased) opinion still look like they don’t really believe in anything. I wouldn’t be so bold at this stage to predict a national orange wave, but it is now within the range of the possible.

I would not have said that before last night, but I do now.

My thoughts are that the federal Liberals might well turn out to be the real losers in the long run after last night. Well, along with Jim Prentice and his merry, bumbling band, of course.