Canadian Politics. It's not so boring.

November 30, 2005

Format changed for election debates

In most past years I had pretty much ignored US elections. They seemed just so... dirty. With the scary choices Bush made in his first term, I paid a lot of attention to the presidential debate last time around. Imagine my surprise to find that US debates were polite; what you would expect Canadian debates to be. Of course the US only has two people debating but what we have in Canada couldn't even be really called a debate, more like a free-for-all. Evidently, the Canadian networks noticed that many Canadians want more something better:
The leaders will respond, one at a time, to each question. As one leader is speaking, the microphones for the other three will be cut off.
As well, there will be an additional debate in each official language:
There will be a pair of debates before Christmas, Dec. 15 in French and Dec. 16 in English, and another pair after Christmas, Jan. 9 in English and Jan. 10 in French. Each debate will last two hours.

November 16, 2005

Are we better off?

This Toronto Star article was enlightening in that it focused on the Archilles' Heel of the Liberal government:
n its most recent report, the Conference Board of Canada warns this country is falling behind major competitors and risks squandering a promising future too many assume is assured. More disturbing still, the think-tank points out that its concerns about innovation, health, education and productivity, first identified in 1996, are now today's fears.
Though the federal Finance Minister argues that we're doing really well in many areas we've fallen behind our competitors in other areas. We're squandering away surpluses that could do so much more than just rewarding voters for giving the Liberals support (in tax cuts and small spending increases):
Part of Martin's problem is too many opportunities. While the conference board wants more spent stimulating economic activity, particularly trade, McCracken and others have another long priority list that includes reversing environmental degradation, putting more than a million back to work and breaking the poverty cycle.

Martin stands firm, no 'grey zone' on election call

You would've had to have been living under a rock lately to not have heard the gerrymandering going on Ottawa.

First, Gomery I is released (the first of two reports). Stephen Harper claims the government no longer has the moral authority to govern but that he won't try to bring down the government unless the NDP is with him.

The NDP and the Liberals try to negotiate what is required for the NDP to continue supporting them. The main point of contention is that the NDP wants the Liberals to admit healthcare privitisation is taking place and to commit to stopping it. The Liberals admit the first vaguely but refuse to do anything other than send "letters expressing concern" to Premiers. Jack Layton says the NDP can no longer support the Liberals because of a lack of will on the part of the Liberals and will vote against the government if a non-confidence vote is called (what Harper wanted).

Harper backs down suggesting that Canadians don't want a Christmas election and suggests they can't be sure they can trust the NDP. The NDP, Conservatives and BQ meet over a weekend to discuss strategy.

Layton comes up with a compromise. He will move with united support of all the opposition parties that the government call an election in January to be held in February. And here we are now.
Speaking with reporters after a meeting of his cabinet, Mr. Martin said — even though he has agreed to call an election within 30 days of the Feb. 1 release of the final report on the sponsorship scandal — that rules of parliament and traditions and common sense all dictate that he cannot accede to the Opposition parties' demands.
OK, a couple of points first. Gemery I was delayed by over a month so it wouldn't be all that surprising if Gomery II is released late as well meaning it'd be released in March or April. Since the PM has 30 days to call an election and 33 days minimum are required for an election campaign, that could put the election off until May or June.

I love the reasoning of the Prime Minister of why he's sensible and the opposition isn't:
But the rules of Parliament and our traditions and common sense, you know, dictate that, in fact, you either have the confidence of the House or you do not have the confidence of the House, and there's no grey zone."
It's certainly not that black and white. There is nothing that prevents the Prime Minister from asceding to the majority of House which would be to have an election after Christmas but sooner that he would've rather had it. I'll quote Bill Blaikie, NDP member for Elmwood-Transcona (from Hansard on Nov.14, 2005):
Mr. Speaker, one of the other principles of Parliament is that the government should respect the will of Parliament, especially in a minority situation.

If the Prime Minister has the right to say when the election should be, Parliament has the right to say when the election should be and we all have the right to say when the election should be by mutual consent.

There is somebody who says that he is against the democratic deficit. Have him stand and say why he would reject the will of Parliament and put the interest of his own party first.
I'm going to be helping my party in this election and I really don't want a Christmas campaign. Slugging through the snow to do canvassing doesn't sound much like fun to me. I'm sure the Liberals don't want one either, seeing as how less than 100 of their candidates have been chosen.

Jack Layton puts forward his motion Thursday.

November 14, 2005

NDP's gain the newest headache for Martin

The struggle for a Liberal majority will be more difficult because of the surprising strength of the NDP, the poll, conducted for the Star by EKOS Research, shows. It's the New Democrats, in fact, who appear to be reaping the most gains since the last election, with 21 per cent support across the country.

That's a good five-plus percentage points above their 2004 election results, with the NDP neck-and-neck with the Liberals for support in B.C., and well above the Liberals in the Prairies. Moreover, 13 per cent of former Liberal voters and 5 per cent of former Tory voters say they've moved to the NDP.
This is interesting because it also shows that the Conservatives have possibly lost some support to the NDP since a previous poll had pegged the Conservatives at 30 percent and now they're at 28 percent. I say "possible" because the gain is within the margin of error. Furthermore, most voters appear to believe that the election (whatever that means) will result in the same thing we have now:
Most Canadians, in fact, think that the next government will also be a Liberal-led minority government. A full 63 per cent said they expected the Liberals to emerge victorious after the next election and even more, 72 per cent of respondents, believed the next government would be a minority. Of those predicting a minority government, 46 per cent said that would be a good thing for the country.
This makes me wonder how effective the Liberals scare-mongering will be that the Conservatives could attain a majority. Even if the Conservatives did remarkably well in campaigning the best they could hope for would be a minority themselves. If Canadians realize this, will the Liberals still be able to steal votes away from the NDP as happened in 2004?

November 07, 2005

Layton opens door to election

NDP Leader Jack Layton Monday called a Liberal health-care plan "unacceptable" and said there was "no basis" for his party to show any confidence in Prime Minister Paul Martin's minority government.
Layton had been earlier unwilling to say what the NDP would do if the Liberals wouldn't agree to stopping privitisation. When I initially saw the headline I figured the election would be on since the Conservatives had earlier said that they would only bring forward a non-confidence motion if they knew the NDP would support it. However, the notoriously fickle Conservatives seem to have backed down on that now:
But, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, responding swiftly to the comments, countered that his party, having already attempted to bring down the Liberals this spring, won't introduce its own confidence motion before Christmas.
What the hell? Is this the same party that claimed the Liberals as a party didn't deserve to govern? It's pretty clear that if he isn't willing to bring them down before Christmas that he's waiting until the Liberals call the election after the Gomery Commissions final report. I'm not sure what they're putting in Harper's coffee! I can only surmise that advisors have scared him out of forcing a Christmas election because many of their supporters, aka the Christian Right, would be really peeved to have their religious traditions interrupted via a negative campaign.

What the article doesn't allude to is that a really big opportunity has opened up. The NDP has a chance to steal the "Liberals are too corrupt to govern" theme away from the Conservatives by initiating the fall of the government itself. And it's pretty clear that the Conservatives will support that motion still:
"If Mr. Layton has a clear confidence motion that speaks to corruption and a general loss of confidence to the government, if there's a consensus of all parties and he's clearly prepared to back that and initiate that, then we'll have a vote," Mr. Harper told reporters in Montreal.
It's a risk, abeit a small one, that voters will retaliate against the NDP for causing a Christmas election. However, the rewards are great. The NDP hasn't been this high in the polls since the last election. And voters frequently reward leaders with guts.

The only wildcard in this play is what effect the Liberals scare-mongering will have this time around on soft NDP voters.

November 05, 2005

Tories grab lead in poll

I had previously thought that an election wouldn't be until the Spring but a recent poll by SES suggests otherwise:
"The temptation to defeat the government will be overwhelming," Strategic Counsel chairman Allan Gregg said.

"They know that when this issue fades, their fortunes fade with it, so sooner is better than later."

Mr. Gregg added that the poll demonstrates gains for all three opposition parties if a vote were held today.

The results suggest the Conservatives are the preferred option of 31 per cent of Canadians, 3 percentage points ahead of the Liberals, who are favoured by 28 per cent. The New Democrats are third with 20 per cent, while the Green Party is the first choice of 7 per cent.
The most important number here is the one for the NDP which is up from the last poll where they were at 15%. Jack Layton is holding the cards here. If the Liberals can't get his support for their minority government, they're sunk.

The NDP and Liberals had been in talks previously to address increasing privitisation of health care and how to stop it. The NDP wanted the Liberals to take some strong legislative measures to prevent money from leaking into the private system with public dollars. The Liberals weren't willing to make changes. Now, I'm not sure anything the Liberals promised would be enough but whatever they offer will have to be an NDP agenda (without looking like one).