Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Well that f#$%s up my prediction: Tobin bows out of leadership race

Yep, the rumour has been made official, Brian Tobin announced today that he will not be running for the leadership of the Liberal Party.

In Tobin's words:
I think that I've had my opportunity and I made my contribution. I enjoyed it enormously, but I think it's time for new blood and I think it's time for new players and I think this is an opportunity for the Liberal party to renew itself and, in the process, to heal itself a little bit as well.

I really considered him to be the front runner after McKenna. He has shown a lot of charisma, likeability and charm over the years. Everybody knows who he is, and I think the general opinion of him is fairly positive. Finally, my gut instincts just tell me we haven't seen him at his best, and he would rose to the occasion as the party leader and PM. But in the end, he's the one who has to put his neck on the line. If he doesn't have the heart for it then he shouldn't run.

Now that McKenna and Tobin are out of the running, it's very hard to pick out one favorite at this point. It really depends on who decides to run, and who rises to the occasion come convention time. That said, I'm going to stand by my old predictions of Anne McLellan and Michael Ignatieff as the candidates with the best shot of winning- of course this is presuming they decide to run. But I'll add a couple more names to my most likely candidate list- Scott Brison and Stephane Dion. Honestly, I think any of these 4 have a good chance of pulling it off if they decide to run. Normally, I would discount Brison because he's a recent defector. But he has a lot charisma, he's associated with the fiscally conservative wing of the party (the Libs need a FC to have a chance of winning), and he's a very good speaker (look at the Cons last leadership convention). I think these 4 have the best chance of winning it, and I really couldn't put one ahead of the pack here.

As for some other names that are being batted around:

Belinda Stronach- You have to be kidding me. Sure she has ambition and might just take a stab at the leadership, but she definitely doesn't have the intellectual weight or the standing within the Liberal Party to pull it off. If Belinda even comes close winning the leadership, the Liberals are going to be on the sidelines for a long time.

Bob Rae and Gerard Kennedy- I think both of these candidates have the same flaws. While both are respected for the good work they do, they're both seen as being too far to the left. If they start to pick up support at the leadership convention centrist-right candidates would rally around anybody else more acceptable. Also, neither of these two have very deep roots in the party.

Martin Cauchon and Denis Coderre- Too close to Chretien. I wouldn't completely rule out Coderre though if he decides to run. He's young, charasmatic, and his English is great- he'd have a slim chance if he decides to go for it.

Alan Rock- Well I'm not ruling him out. But he's so tainted by the gun registry fiasco- the Conservatives would have a heyday with it.

But it really is wide open now, I could see plenty of lesser known candidates having a shot at it too. It would be a perfect opportunity for some young upstart to take a shot at being a dark horse candidate. It'll definitely be a very interesting leadership campaign to watch.

America's Compassionate Conservatives

Monday, January 30, 2006

Frank McKenna is out: Who's going to be the next Liberal leader?

Well, Frank McKenna has just officially announced he won't be seeking the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada. Personally, I'm somewhat pleased to hear this. While McKenna appeared to be an acceptable candidate, he isn't exactly bursting with charisma- can't see too many people being excited about making him the next PM.

Now that the front runner is gone, the leadership race is wide open. I think the most likely possibilities at present are Brian Tobin, Anne McLellan, Scott Brison, Stephan Dion, Allan Rock, and Michael Ignatieff. If I had to narrow it down even more I'd go with Brian Tobin, Scott Brison, 'Landslide Annie', and Michael Ignatieff-with Brian Tobin having the lead. Of course nobody has thrown their hats in the ring yet, so this pure speculation.

OK, what the heck, here's my wild predictions. The online pundit Calgary Grit, has offered that Dion and Graham would be good choices for interim leader. I'm guessing that Martin, if he decides to appoint an interim leader will go with Bill Graham- a good choice since he's already announced he's not interested in running. By doing this Martin will keep the race wide open, and won't be accused of trying to bias the leadership process (no Chretien-style end of term hyping of a candidate). Presuming they all run (which is far from certain at this point), I think the leadership race will eventually narrow down to Brian Tobin, Anne McLellan, and Michael Ignatieff. With the attention focused on these candidates, I think Tobin will end up winning the nomination by a large margin.

Why don't I include any Quebec candidates here? Martin and Chretien represented Quebec ridings, and it's time for a different region to have a shot at running the natural governing party. Also, I think most Liberals realize their party isn't going to do well in Quebec for some time to come- why waste the regional candidate factor on a hostile province? Why do I give Tobin the edge? He's likeable and charismatic, a well-known candidate and close to the heart of the party, intelligent yet down to earth, he's associated with national unity (the Quebec referendum rally) and national sovereignty (capturing illegal Portuguese fishing boats), it's been a long long time since an Easterner was prime-minister (Borden- PM during WWI- was the last Eastern PM), and finally he isn't tainted by the sponsorship scandal and at the same time isn't associated with Martin.

Anyone else willing to make a wild prediction on the Liberal leadership race?

Ann Coulter: Threat to the security of the US

We already knew that Ann Coulter was unstable and has dangerous violent tendencies. But this time she may have spit her venom at the wrong target. She actually 'joked' that someone should poison Supreme Court Justice Stevens, because the Supreme Court isn't conservative enough for her liking. If you're a US citizen
you can help bring this harpie menace to justice.

Rumsfeld enters the 36th chamber

Rumsfeld's secret fighting style exposed. Someone please raid the Pentagon and bring the ancient Shoalin manuals back to their rightful owners.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Joe Rogan explains the meaning of life

Listen to Fear Factor host Joe Rogan talk about the joys of Dimethyltryptamine(DMT) and the meaning of life.

Bloviating Frenchman 'learns' about America

The popular French intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy has recently published a book about American society he wrote while travelling througout the US. I haven't read this book yet, so I don't really have anything to say. I plan on reading it at Chapters when I have a chance- not sure if this book will be worth the money. I'll post my thoughts on the Levy's book after I take a look. The NYTimes however has posted a review and it's pretty scathing. For those of you who aren't registered at the NYTimes here's some samples:

Any American with a big urge to write a book explaining France to the French should read this book first, to get a sense of the hazards involved. Bernard-Henri Lévy is a French writer with a spatter-paint prose style and the grandiosity of a college sophomore; he rambled around this country at the behest of The Atlantic Monthly and now has worked up his notes into a sort of book. It is the classic Freaks, Fatties, Fanatics & Faux Culture Excursion beloved of European journalists for the past 50 years...

every 10 pages or so, Lévy walks into a wall. About Old Glory, for example. Someone has told him about the rules for proper handling of the flag, and from these (the flag must not be allowed to touch the ground, must be disposed of by burning) he has invented an American flag fetish, a national obsession, a cult of flag worship...

He worships Woody Allen and Charlie Rose in terms that would make Donald Trump cringe with embarrassment. He admires Warren Beatty, though he sees Beatty at a public event "among these rich and beautiful who, as always in America . . . form a masquerade of the living dead, each one more facelifted and mummified than the next, fierce, a little mutant-looking, inhuman, ultimately disappointing." Lévy is quite comfortable with phrases like "as always in America." Bombast comes naturally to him. Rain falls on the crowd gathered for the dedication of the Clinton library in Little Rock, and to Lévy, it signifies the demise of the Democratic Party. As always with French writers, Lévy is short on the facts, long on conclusions.

And good Lord, the childlike love of paradox - America is magnificent but mad, greedy and modest, drunk with materialism and religiosity, puritan and outrageous, facing toward the future and yet obsessed with its memories. Americans' party loyalty is "very strong and very pliable, extremely tenacious and in the end somewhat empty...

America is changing, he concludes, but America will endure. "I still don't think there's reason to despair of this country. No matter how many derangements, dysfunctions, driftings there may be . . . no matter how fragmented the political and social space may be; despite this nihilist hypertrophy of petty antiquarian memory; despite this hyperobesity - increasingly less metaphorical - of the great social bodies that form the invisible edifice of the country; despite the utter misery of the ghettos . . . I can't manage to convince myself of the collapse, heralded in Europe, of the American model."

Thanks, pal. I don't imagine France collapsing anytime soon either. Thanks for coming. Don't let the door hit you on the way out. For your next book, tell us about those riots in France, the cars burning in the suburbs of Paris. What was that all about? Were fat people involved?

Ouch. A very damning review. Actually I can't remember the last time I read such a hostile review in the NYTimes. Interestingly, when their reviewers trash they're usually more dismissive than full of bile. This review is definitely full of bile. Levy obviously hit a nerve, and I'm pretty sure that's what he wanted to do. Not too sure how much I trust the reviewer. While I can see his point on bombast and hyperbole in the numerous examples he provides; the article just seems too incoherent and petty for his conclusions to be taken at face value. Levy's book should be an interesting read.

P.S. Isn't it interesting that Levy, at least by the standards of the French intelligensia, is considered to be somewhat sympathetic to the USA. With friends like these...

Reality TV meets Canadian Politics

Yes, it's been said many times before, but after reading this story it's hard not to come to the conclusion that the producers of reality TV shows are scraping the bottom of the barrel. They're actually putting together a show called The Next Great Prime Minister, a reality show where 4 promising young Canadians 'perform' in debates and public speaking and are judged by Kim Campbell, Brian Mulroney, John Turner, and Joe Clark. According to a very reliable source- the gossip-mongering blogger known as the Defamer- the producers of the show are pleased with the results:
Producers are touting the foursome’s “unbelievable chemistry,” with Mulroney emerging as the group’s nasty, “tell it like it is” judge (“I’m not lying to you. Worst agricultural subsidies reform plan we’ve heard in Saskatoon.”), Clark the urban slang-spewing technical taskmaster (“Your foreign policy platform’s just a’ight, dawg.”), and Campbell the lovably loopy-headed, narcotized cheerleader.

Absolutely hilarious ;-) I'm slightly embarrassed to admit that I'll probably be glued to this one. Since it will be somewhat entertaining and widely watched, this show will likely receive some praise for bringing Canadian politics to the masses. Wonderful. The presumptuous contrarian in me feels the need to rag on this show already- here's my pre-emptive rant.

I must admit some nihilistic part of my soul delights at the idea of this show, but my more sensible self has some reservations. While the show will probably generate some interest in politics among apathetic youths, the focus will likely be on the personalities involved rather than the policies discussed. Yes, people watching the show will inevitably learn a few things about current issues and the different policy approaches, but the vast majority of people will be watching to see what sort of show the former PMs will put on. No doubt the quotes from the former leaders will receive far more attention than anything the contestants say or do. In the end, the contestants themselves will be judged on superficial aspects of their performance rather than the strength of their ideas.

While entertaining, this sort of program can only contribute to the slide towards style over content in politics. The visceral, fragmentary and corporate/demogogic nature of our contemporary media has already moved politics towards infotainment and propaganda. More likely than not, this show will be another example of the triumph of triviality. Glibness and demagogic pandering to the masses, will inevitably be encouraged by the format of the contest. After all, the ultimatshows of the show's creators is to generate as large an audience as possible. Focusing on the content of an amateur political debate won't bring in that audience, but former PMs hamming-it-up for the cameras certainly will. In my view, there's simply nothing wrong with former and current PMs showing some reserve and distance from the public. Even former PMs have some responsibility to foster respect for the institutions of government, and they should refuse to participate in public displays that aren't appropriate to their role.

Having thoroughly trashed the show without having seen a thing, I have to add the caveat that the worth of this program will depend a great deal on what the former PMs bring to the show. That being said, I obviously don't have high expectation.

final thought: I wonder why Chretien is sitting out of this one? Maybe he didn't want to tarnish his image by participating in this exercise in demagoguery ;-)

Friday, January 27, 2006

Old but still good anti-Bush cartoons

Recently came across the website- idleworm. Although some of the cartoons are dated they're amusing nonetheless. My favs are the Gulf War Two game, and Anthrax Ice Cream.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Stephen Harper and Canada's future foreign policy

Today Harper was hit with his first foreign policy test as the world learned that Hamas has won a majority in the first Palestinian parliament. He gave the standard reaction of leaders across the western world by showing deep reservations, and suggesting it may be impossible to fully recognize a Palestinian government led by Hamas. Harper's quote: "As you know, we've always maintained that we support a secure Israel and a democratic Palestine, but for a nation to be truly democratic, it must renounce any use of terrorism." Beyond that Harper wasn't willing to elaborate on the results- he'll be giving a more formal statement after he has officially assumed the role of PM. This situation should provide a good opportunity for Harper to win some points with the Bush administration. He could parrot the US line word for word without raising much opposition in the Canadian electorate. Not too many Canadians have any sympathy for Hamas, even if they have some for the Palestinian cause.

Harper himself has admitted to not being so knowledgeable about foreign policy- in a way this is convenient because it'll be easy for him to fall in line with whatever the US policy is at the time, or the opinion of the Canadian public (when they have one). Expect to see a close alignment with US foreign policy objectives unless there's clear opposition from a majority of Canadians. There's not going to be much Liberal-style bolstering of the UN, international cooperation, and peace negotiations. The role of mediating middle power is going to be on hold for some time (arguably it's been in deep freeze ever since Bush was elected). If there is any coherent foreign policy vision on the part of the Cons, I'm guessing their instincts are actually the traditional Conservative isolationism. Given the mood of the Canadian public towards US foreign policy at the moment, I would be very surprised if Harper would attempted embroil Canada in any future US adventurism.

If his instincts weren't so cautious and 'conservative', he might try to win over the Bush admin by actively seeking a role for Canadian peacekeepers in the rebuilding/stabilization of Iraq. For example, they could put forward a proposal to send a UN forces to facilitate rebuilding and mediation in specific regions of Iraq. While any UN force would certainly be targeted by the most militant, they would nonetheless be viewed in a more positive light than the US military by the majority of Iraqis. A strong, well organized UN force would probably have more success than the US forces in certain low intensity situations, or regions where the US has lost any sort of legitimacy (e.g. Fallujah, Sadr's Shia fighters). I believe the US military would actually welcome such a force at a time when Pentagon is publicly announcing that the US forces are stretched to the breaking point. A fresh Canadian Conservative admin would be ideal to introduce the idea to the UN, after consulting with Bush in private to see exactly what sort of operation would fit into their agenda. Allies like the British and Australians, are already tainted by association, and therefore wouldn't receive as warm of a reception from the UN and the forces of the 'unwilling'. But, I don't expect cautious Mr. Harper would every seriously consider any foreign policy initiative as bold as that.

How long will the Conservative minority last?

Here's my prediction 1.5-2.5 years.

The Liberals are going to need some time to reorganize after picking a new leader, but they won't want to wait to long to give him/her a test-drive.

The Cons have a pretty weak mandate here and they're going to bump up against every other part in parliament with almost every piece of legislation they try to pass. All the parties will have to play together in the sandbox for some time- the electorate just won't come out of the house to break up the dispute if they start squabbling too much. But that sandbox is small, and the kids playing in it are far too fractious. The situation just can't last very long. And the next time the electorate rushes out to break up the dispute, they'll get sick of it and put one of those kids in charge. OK, I think I've carried that hackneyed analogy far enough ;-)

Anyone else out there have any predictions on the length of the Conservative's minority? Any predictions on who'll be forming the next majority?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Parliamentary Aesthetics: Which party is going to be easiest on the eyes of the Canadian public?

Ok, now for something a little lighter. I apologize in advance for the blatant sexism of this exercise, but hey even geeky political junkies need to have their fun on occassion. I've taken it upon myself to seek out the the hottest female MPs in each federal party (I have no clue about the Bloc so I haven't included them- but I suspect they may have done very well in this little contest). Let see what each party has to offer.


Ok, not sure about Jose Verner, they're may be a more comely Conservative lass out there- there's too many newbies I haven't seen yet. But Ambrose is rock solid. Overall, not a bad showing at all. Not sure if anything should be read into to the fact both have considerable bouffants- perhaps a nod to the comforting fashion-sense of the 50s (the social Cons golden age)??


Again, not a bad showing. Former beauty-queen, Ruby Dhalla could pass for a Bollywood starlet. Yes, Belinda Stronach is a Con refugee, and she's showing her age that pic- but IMHO she definitely falls in the MILF category. Notice the flatter and slightly longer hair- a subtle nod to the more dynamic 60s??

At this point, I'd give the Libs a slight edge.

New Democrats:

Now, I know the NDP is working with a smaller pool here, but they really need to pick up the slack. You know it's time to have a party field trip to the day spa when Olivia Chow is actually the hottest MP in your party. Common NDP, I'm sure you can find some cute granola-girls to run for a seat the party has a chance of picking up. It's time to break the stereotype NDP, I know you can do it.

Alright, did I miss anyone in any of the parties?? I'm sure I did. Send me your suggestions ;-)

Andre Arthur: Toned-Downed Quebecois Version of Howard Stern Elected as Independent

Recently saw Andre Arthur being interviewed on the CBC. Arthur is the only independent elected to Canadian parliament this election. He represents a riding in Quebec city, where he's a very popular and controversial talk-radio host. From what I saw of him today he actually seemed fairly reasonable and articulate. He's actually a federalist, so every party in parliament will have a shot at working with him.

He's gotten a lot of media attention for making comments describing African students as 'sons of cannibals', and claiming that Lucien Bouchard was having an affair with Rene Levesque's widow (at least you have to give the guy credit for being creative with his slander). I wouldn't take that too seriously since nowadays shock is more or less a prerequisite for any successful radio host. I wouldn't be surprised if the Conservatives are able to eventually bring him to their party. After all the Cons seem to be a natural fit for angry loud-mouthed curmudgeon types. Being a radio talk-show ranter, he'll be a natural for appealing to the Conservative Party base, angry white middle-aged men. Sorry couldn't resist.

Given how tarnished the Liberals are in Quebec, the resurgent Le Bleu would seem the most logical choice for this guy if he decided to join a party. The Cons being desperate for any more seats in Quebec would happy to take him- it could serve as nice window dressing too, since it'd show there's room for the unconventional and hip in the party. Also, a colourful character like Arthur, would make for a much needed contrast to their stiff, cold-eyed, policy-wonk of a leader- an uncomfortable Harper can make Al Gore look like James Brown. Who the heck shakes hands with their children when dropping them off at school. Even Ward Cleaver showed more open affection to his brood ;-) Goes to show you the Canadian electorate doesn't quite fall for flash like the rowdy mob south of the border.

However, I'm sure Arthur will enjoy being an independent for some time though. He'll have plenty of opportunity to play the be a kingmaker in a parliament where the Conservatives and NDP are one seat short of a majority. I have the feeling this guy will have the savvy to leverage his independent status for all its worth. The media hasn't given him much attention so far because of his irreverent style, but we'll be hearing plenty about him as soon as the Cons start trying to push through anything remotely right of center. A ranter like Arthur would also likely be a natural ally when it comes to electoral and ethical reform. We'll find out how it plays out soon enough.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Sponsorship Fallout vs. Electoral Incompetence

Of course the Libs have to be asking themselves what went wrong with election. The two most frequently heard responses to this question are: 1. The sponsorship scandal combined with the Goodale scandal made it very difficult to win OR 2. Martin and the Martinis simply ran a bad campaign. While the fallout of the scandals was definitely a major issue, the blame ultimately has to lie in the Martin camp itself. They had a very strong economic record and an untested opposition leader with unpalatable views- yet they still couldn't win.

The first mistake Martin made, and really this applies for the last election as well, is that they never put the sponsorship scandal in any sort of context. Clearly there was completely unacceptable corruption resulting from the sponsorship program. However, it occurred at a time just following a narrowly defeated referendum which would have started the process of dividing the country. In light of this political context, it's hardly surprising that the government would have engaged in propaganda in order to preserve national integrity. The federal government is more or less obligated to do engage in some degree of propaganda when the nation is threatened. So even if the sponsorship program backfired in the end, the motivating impulse behind the sponsorship program was legitimate. They should have emphasized that on occasion rather than doing the work of the opposition and beating the scandal into the minds of the electorate. Also, the magnitude of wasted tax payer money, while large, was not an enormous sum of money from the perspective of the federal government (for example the mismanaged gun registry program ate up far more money). I'm not saying calling the Gomery inquiry and coming down hard on the corrupt Liberals was a mistake. Rather, I believe they could have down that and occasionally put the sponsorship scandal in a context which would have mitigated the fallout somewhat.

Another major mistake on the part of the Martinis was spending too much time courting candidates from other parties, and not making enough effort to mend fences within their own ranks was another mistake. As I've posted before . Stronach is certainly of no use to the Liberals, in my opinion she's more of an embarrassment than an asset. Perhaps Brison and Dosanj will turn out to be better assets, but I'm skeptical. They were attracted to the Lib fold by the musky scent of power emanating from a seemingly strong Liberal leader facing a weak opposition. They have no real roots in the party and they no longer have power, why should they remain committed to Libs??

But the main reason they lost this election was probably due to the disorganized and tone-deaf campaign the Martinis ran. They could have avoided the election by making a few more concessions to the NDP, which I always thought they should have done, but they decided to call the election- the least they could have done was to be prepared for it. Instead, they consistently came across as shrill, arrogant and elitist throughout the entire campaign. From the beer and popcorn comment, to the Chow and Chow Chow blog comparison, to Martin's hysterical debate performance, to the expression of disgust that always popped onto Martin's face when faced with criticism, to the Duffy vs. Duffy squabble, to allegations of buying out candidates, to RCMP investigations of the finance ministry- they really buried themselves during the campaign.

They did do somewhat better than most pollsters expected in the last few days of the campaign. You have to give Martin some credit for that. In the final couple of weeks they were obviously bleeding very badly but they kept on pushing for votes, a lesser leader may have run out of steam in similar circumstances. The Libs, with over a 100 seats and a fresh leader appear to be in a pretty good position for the next election which I'm guessing will be 1.5-2.5 years from now.

Political Obituary: Paul Martin (1988-2006)

Just about every pundit out there is praising Mr. Martin doing the 'graceful' thing and bowing out as leader of the Liberal Party. I couldn't agree more with this. He probably could have hung on for a while. There would have been some rationale for it since the minority mandate Harper has is quite weak, and at the moment there doesn't appear to be an obvious candidate to fill take his place. Of course the downside would have been a tremendous amount of bad blood. Instead, he has done what most acknowledge is best for the party and resigned immediately. Classy, elegant, graceful, are appropriate words here. Even more appropriate would be selfless since he has put his party first before his own political ego, and astute for realizing so quickly what indeed was best for the party. Many surrounded by their acolytes, (and Martin certainly has plenty, people who have spent over a decade committed to the idea of PM P.M.) would have insisted in fighting on in the same circumstances, one has to credit Martin for having enough objectivity to realize the Liberals will be better off with a new leader.

Far more accurate then the pollsters...

The Election Prediction Project, which started as a University of Waterloo Political Science honours thesis, does it again. It managed to give a much more accurate prediction of the election outcome than the mainstream pollsters did. It has a riding-by-riding approach which relies on opinions given by the various political pundits who visit the website.

The following is a general description from their website of the methodology used:

Election Prediction Project attempt to predict the result of elections, through:

Making prediction of the overall result of an election by predicting the result of individual electoral districts.
Making prediction of the result of individual electoral districts through analysis of factual information and punditry specific to the electoral districts.
The project solicits information and opinion submission from the general public prior to an election. You may contribute your insights to a specific electoral district through submission forms for specific elections. (Current Project: Ontario, Quebec) Only submissions addressing a specific electoral district will be posted on the website. Election Prediction Project has only conducted prediction on parliamentary elections, where formations of executive/government are based on gaining control of the legislature. There is currently no plan to conduct predictions on elections that generate separate legislative and executive powers, such as the US congressional/presidential elections, or municipal elections.

Evaluation Process

Submissions are collected, processed, and posted on a regular basis (more "regular" during writ period, and understandably as most of us are university students, less during university exam period). The evaluation panel, consists of individuals from various locations, exchanges their analysis on the submissions and concludes with a prediction.

The evaluation process is entirely subjective. Members of the evaluation panel have very different political background and often disagree. Predictions are undoubtedly influenced by panelists' specific insights, experiences, or biases about particular contests. However, we strive to come up with predictions that are most sensible as we see them.

The panel gives consideration for the following:

Integrity of the source - More weight are given to submissions with more information about the author, and particularly those where real names and email address are posted. (Please kindly report any non-functional email addresses posted so that we may correctly evaluated the postings in question.)
Objectivity of the source (1) - Less weight is given to submissions from a particular participant who demonstrated consistent bias. Submissions from individuals that demonstrated clear political motive or blatant bias are generally ignored.
Objectivity of the source (2) - Obviously, special treatment is given to submissions from individual who are politically related, such as political staffers, party organizers, student/union leaders or government employees. This in no way discourages you to submit and identify yourself as such. We always appreciate insider tips.
Quality of the posting (1) - Weight is given to submissions that are backed by intelligent and thoughtful reasons. Detailed reasons provide others viewing the site with evidence to back up your claim.
Quality of the posting (2) - Malicious, inaccurate, slanderous or misleading information are generally ignored, and will seriously reduce the weight given to other submissions from the source in question. Some members of the project have a particular tendency of appending satirical and sometimes demeaning "Editor Notes" to submissions that are just plain ignorant or obviously out of touch with the reality.
General trends - The panelists are all politically minded individuals who pay close attentions to news and issues. We also share polling information and gossips, which may influence the prediction.

Ipsos-Reid, Ekos, Strategic Council and all those other professional pollsters could learn a heck of a lot from their unconventional approach to providing election predictions. It would be interesting to see if the more traditional polling methods could be combined with an approach like this to provide even more accurate projections.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

When will the Martin campaign learn....

Just saw the Liberal campaign rally in Vancouver. The CBC interrupted their regular programming for it, I'm assuming they'll do the same for the other party rallies. Again, Martin is resorting to the typical hysterics about the evils of Harper and the Cons. I believe to most voters it will just come across as more shrill hyperbole. The disingenuous shrillness of the Martin campaign ends up reinforcing the idea of Liberal arrogance since it suggests that the Libs know best and don't trust the voter to make a decision based on honest facts themselves. Martin has kept repeating that he is certain the Canadian public agrees with his party- he's absolutely convinced that he knows what's the best for Canada. If the guy just qualified his statements a bit, indicating that this is what he believes rather than the irrefutable truth, it would go a long way in dispelling the elitist/privileged odour the Libs reek of at the moment. The Martin people could learn a lot from the Harper campaign- projecting a little democratic humility (acknowledging the mandate ultimately comes from the people) can really go a long way with the voters.

Another gaffe...Martin actually said a vote for the NDP won't make any difference. I can't see a comment like that convincing anyone not to vote for the NDP. The only thing I can see it doing is infuriating people and convincing them of liberal arrogance. Saying something like this when most people are fairly convinced the Libs are going down will most likely do more damage than good.

Another problem...Martin's unrelenting enthusiasm and energy in this rally just doesn't seem appropriate when there is every indication they're going to lose power for the first time in 12 years. Why should people believe all the Libs propaganda about the Cons, when they themselves don't seem all that upset on the eve of electoral defeat. He should at least had a few grave and serious moments focusing on honestly contrasting substantial differences in policy, rather than just spouting the old hyperbole. I'm hoping the calm Martin is showing isn't coming from a belief that he can carry on unperturbed as Liberal leader after screwing up this campaign so badly.

Any other opinions out there on the flaws of Martin's campaign?

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Predictions on specific ridings

A friend asked for my opinions on specific riding results. I've included his comments and my responses below:

-Vancouver Centre.
Liar vs. Thief. Nuff said.

I think the Liar will take it. The sort of politics that Svend represents just doesn't seems all that relevant in this election. Being a not-so-petty thief definitely doesn't help either :) I have to say, this is one riding I wouldn't mind seeing an upset win for the Cons (and I don't mean Svend).

- New Market-Aurora.
The blond factor :-)

As much it pains me to say it, I think that blond twit will pull it off. She's the closest thing to a political rockstar in Canada at the moment, her daddy supports her, and she's planted very firmly in the center. And who knows, even if the Liberals lose she may end up in government anyway ;-)

- Etobico-Lakeshore.
It's not really a contest. I'm sure he'll win, protestations from the Ukrainian community notwithstanding.
What do you think about him in general?

Yeah I expect Ignatief to take it pretty handily. You're probably not going to be too surprised to hear that I'm not a fan of this guy. In my opinion, his support of the Iraq invasion when Bush was so flagrantly thumbing his nose at the international community shows a major lack of judgment (I'd say the same thing about Tony Blair). That said I generally agree with his Liberal-Hawk sentiments when it comes to foreign policy. I think he'll actually be a good asset for the Liberals, esp. in opposition. After all he looks so statesmen-like and has all sorts of academic cred. They could make him foreign affairs critic- it would be hard to accuse him of being anti-American, and he could could have a platform for his Lib-Hawk views (and lots of ammo with a Conservative government in power). I think he would do far less well in government, and my guess would be that he would probably make an unpopular party leader. But I haven't completely made up my mind on this guy, let's see how he does in parliament first.

- Trinity-Spadina.
I want Olivia Chow to lose mainly because I anticipate a lot of media fuss about a 'husband-wife' team if she's elected (it'd be so nauseating).

I agree it will be somewhat nauseating to see these two lovebirds in parliament together all the time. And not to mention it just doesn't seem right, it smacks of nepotism. But I expect Chow to pick up the riding, and I don't think it'll be as close as some people think. She's going to pick up a lot of votes as people flee the sinking Lib ship. Not to mention Ianno is a total Martin lackey, why would people want to have such a lame duck as their local rep.

- somewhere in Montreal.
That spaceman, Mark Garneau, who wanted to send Duceppe to the moon or something :-)

I'm think he's running in some riding outside of Montreal actually. I'm afraid he probably won't be able to bring his galactic perspective to Canadian parliament. Maybe Harper will take pity on him and make him Canada's first ambassador to Mars.

- Edmonton-Strathcona (well, you know why and it's always fun to see how all those who overconfident NDPs who say how 'close' the race is this year, proven wrong yet again.

I have to agree on that one. While the NDP do have a chance of taking the riding, I have to give this one to Rahim Jaffer. A lot of people obviously don't like the guy because he's shown himself to be quite the goof on occasion. But the vast majority of left-wing voters would have to unify behind the NDP for them to take this away from the Cons. I'm guessing this is pretty unlikely. A question for you Ilya: Does the NDP seem to have more of a presence then the Libs this time around?

Does Canada need proportional representation?

I think most people would agree that a proportional system would provide a more democratic result at election time. There would be far fewer barriers for smaller parties to gain representation, and people wouldn't have to worry as much about 'strategic voting'. The most obvious downside of a proportional system is that it usually leads to a more fractious and atomized electoral body, i.e. the government it produces just isn't as stable. The other issue is the lack of local representation at the federal level in a pure proportional system. That's why I believe a mixed proportional/constituent-majoritarian type of system would be the best.

The only two parties that have come out strongly in favour of proportional reform are the NDP and the Greens- obviously they have an interest in implementing it ;-) For a summary of the different party platforms on electoral reform check out Wayne Smith's

If you interested in getting involved in lobbying the government in moving towards proportional representation take a look at this website:

I'd be interested to hear what people have to say about the issue. I welcome your posts.

Death knell for the Martinites?

Few people have doubts about who's going to win the election at this point, and already some of the party insiders are picking up their cudgels and preparing to deal Martin the coup de gras. The former Liberal campaign hit-man Warren Kinsella is one of the politicos that has posted a lot about the atrocious campaign the Maritinites have been running. James Travers a fairly Liberal-friendly Toronto Star columnist came out with a pretty good analysis of the Martin camps errors today as well.

I think after the Liberals get the beat down on the 23rd there will actually be few of the party faithful, other than those that are tied to the Martin's waist (and admittedly there are quite a few given the party purge and stuff his cronies have carried out in his name), that won't be itching to stick a knife in Martin's back...and front for that matter.

While the vast majority of the party faithful did fall into line when the Martin camp seized the reigns, there was of course a strong undercurrent of dissatisfaction. The Martinites who had spent a decade or so complaining about Chretien's heavy-handed approach, used similar tactics to purge the party of Chretienites and many of the unwashed on the left flank of the party. They then went to work handing the plum positions to people on the periphery of the party's right and moderate former PC types. Of course this has a lot of people steamed, and they'll jump at the chance to dispose of the Martinites after they've displayed such electoral incompetence.

The reality is the Martin and his cronies have completely isolated the Liberal base in a attempt to position the Liberals as Canada's only viable centrist party. I'm sure Martin and his whiz kids glowed with warmth as they convinced themselves that their moves would ensure Liberal dominance for years to come, and more importantly steer the ship of state in the direction that's so obviously correct. Fiscally balanced, progressively pro-growth, with a dash of social welfare and environmental concern, and having a place at the table for absolutely everyone in confederation. It's such a balanced package and again so obviously right ;-)

But of course like the laws of physics, you can't really escape the laws of successful campaigning. It's an old political axiom that you have to keep your base happy. While it certainly doesn't hurt to expand your base, it's imperative to keep the foundation of the party strong, i.e. to make sure the roots of the organization aren't withering away. But like a bunch of wild-eyed stock hypers during the internet bubble, the Martinites convinced themselves the old rules don't apply- 'things are different now' 'the dynamics have changed'. Well the same old fundamentals are there, and while the sand castle they've built around themselves maybe large it's still going to crumble to dust when the bombshell hits them on Monday.

Friday, January 20, 2006

On the appeal of Harper: Bland and smooth- but not too smooth

Harper has done a bang-up job of appearing oh so reasonable throughout the campaign. He's managed to pull this off by cautiously presenting a moderate face, while at the same time speaking honestly about various issues in an ultra-calm and reasonable manner. Recently he's got a lot of flack about his comments concerning the Liberal bias of the senate and the courts checking his powers if he wins a majority. Various media pundits have shaken their heads at the apparent 'gaffe', while the Libs and NDP have pounced on this as evidence that Harper himself admits his agenda needs to reigned in. But what the pundits seem to fail to recognize (probably since they spend most of the time chattering with each other rather than the plebs), is that these unvarnished moments have helped to build an impression of honesty in eyes of the public.

Most of his 'raw' and possibly 'controversial' comments have actually come across as quite mild. For example, on his CBC appearance last night he made some comment about not understanding why all the government money going to Native affairs seems to have little impact on their impoverished standard of living. The direct implication is that the welfare approach to these problems doesn't work, but the clear indirect implication is that the Native leaders themselves have mismanaged the funds. Now that comment wasn't necessary. If he was being truly slick he would have just talked about how his government will continue to fund native programs and made some vague promise to tackle Native problems. But he didn't, he gave an honest assessment but in the most thoughtful and mildest of terms. He's done this many other times throughout the campaign, and it's definitely helped to give him the image of being really quite reasonable and therefore palatable to the 'average' Canuck.

Compare this to the endless stream of slogans out the mouths of the Liberals (and the NDP for that matter- Layton always sounds too much like an infomercial to me). Being 'on message' all of the time doesn't really work, the voters want to see any prospective candidate in the raw- at least some of the time. In the end, it's the Libs have consistently come across as slick, but also shrill and disingenous. And now, by pulling out the big anti-Con guns they've boxed themselves into a corner. They're not going to compete with Harper's uber-reasonable blandness, but are rather trying to tear down this image. I think this is a HUGE mistake. Rather they should have created a forum for Martin to make an 'intimate' appeal to the public and share his 'honest' thoughts. After all Martin isn't exactly the mad-hatter or some raving left-winger, he could have gained much support by just presenting his innermost thoughts on occassion. Instead they've continued on with their slick slogans and typical electioneering hyperbole (e.g. 'this is most socially conservative party in Canadian history'!!! Whatever. Just about everyone was probably more socially conservative then current batch of Con candidates a generation or two ago). The goofs that are calling the shots in the Martin campaign are going to make the entire party pay for this on the 23rd.

Conservative Majority??

Can the Conservatives pull it off?? Polling in the last couple of weeks definitely suggests the Conservatives have a good chance of pulling of a majority. The latest polls however seem to show the Big Blue wave is running out of momentum. According to the most recent Strategic Councel poll the Cons are pulling in 37% (down 5%). So the support for the Cons has seemed to hit a ceiling.

The Conservative themselves seem satisfied with a probable minority. They're still running the same cautious campaign that's brought them to this point so far, they're obviously a lot more concerned with squandering the lead that they have then going in for the kill. In order for the Cons to pull off a majority their either going to have to break through in Quebec or Ontario. A real breakthrough in Quebec is pretty unlikely since the federalist vote is divided, and though most Ontario voters seem comfortable with a minority blue government- most still have quite a few reservations about a majority for Harper. Another thing that works somewhat in the Libs favour is the local candidate factor. Answering a poll question is different then casting the ballot. The voter ends up having to place that mark against a candidates name on voting day, and the Libs simply have more experienced and star candidates so that works in their favour. I'm assuming most of the polls simply ask what party your voting for rather than the name of the candidate, and naturally this would bias peoples responses. Since the individual candidates are much more of asset then the party name for the Libs, I think this will make quite a bit of a difference on election day.

So it seems very likely we're going to end up with a Conservative minority. Here's my wild prediction on the final outcome (heavily influenced by the great projection website www.electionprediction.org ;-)):

Quebec: Bloc- 59 seats, Libs-13, Cons- 3 (splitting the federalist vote will help the bloc)
Ontario: Libs- 51, Cons- 43, NDP-12 (the liberal stronghold will hold, Layton's TO ties finally pay off)
Manitoba: Libs- 4, Cons- 7, NDP-3
Saskatchewan: Libs- 1, Cons- 11, NDP- 2
Alberta: Cons- All 28 (woop it up cons)
BC: Libs- 8, Cons- 16, NDP- 12 (big gains for the NDP)
Newfoundland: Libs- 4, Cons- 3
Nova Scotia: Libs- 5, Cons- 3, NDP- 3
New Brunswick: Libs-5, Cons- 4, NDP- 1
PEI: Libs- 3, Cons-1 (the little lib fortress is breached!)
The North: Libs-2, NDP- 1
Totals: Cons- 119, Libs- 96, Bloc- 59, NDP- 34

OK I more or less pulled this out of my ass, but let's see how accurate it is.
Anyone else bold enough to make any predictions on the final outcome??

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Canadian federal election: Some thoughts on the campaign so far.

Well we're finally getting into the last stretch of Canadian federal election and things are looking pretty bleak for the Liberal's. The overwhelming urge to boot out Canada's natural governing party that comes over the population in waves is definitely riding very high in this election. Change for the sake of change is definitely the idea with the most force this campaign. While there are certainly legitimate reasons for being motivated to vote for change (to shake up entrenched bureaucracy, to bring in fresh ideas, etc.), it's hard to deny that detailed evaluation of policy is taking the back seat.

This will probably strike a lot of people as a strange thing to say since Stephen Harper and the Conservatives have been described as running a policy-driven campaign. While it's true Harper has kept the campaign focused on policy, the policy ideas they've unrolled haven't exactly sent chills of anticipation down anyone's spine. There's really nothing they've put forward in their platform that's galvanized support from any side. Instead they've taken the softer approach and slid down the mushy middle- which happens to be the sweet spot for them this election.

It definitely hasn't been a campaign putting forward bold new ideas or one where they've aggressively taken the message of the true believers to the masses . The platform the Conservatives have put forward has kernels of their ideology in it, but it's more an exercise in building a palatable moderate platform then a blueprint for restructuring Canada.

While Harper himself maybe a 'policy-wonk', the campaign experts surrounding him certainly aren't, and they wouldn't have advised him to babble on about their platform if it didn't fit into their campaign strategy. Since making Harper seem acceptable to most voters is what they needed, and the platform they've put forward during the election has been quite moderate, focusing on the moderate platform has won them a great deal of support. It was a good judgment call on the part of Cons since they could have easily slid into full time anti-Lib mode. If they had focused solely on the sponsorship scandal and lib bashing, they still wouldn't have convinced the public that they're a viable alternative. Since the general sentiment against the liberals given the scandals and the feeling of entrenched privilege is already there, and of course the urge for democratic change for its own sake is riding sky high, all they really needed to do was sell themselves as moderate and they've done this very very well.

While the Cons appear to be poised to form the next government, it's clear they don't have a strong mandate for pushing forward any major policy. Rather the Canadian public is giving them an opportunity to show they can govern as a moderate party, and they're giving Canada's natural governing party a breather.