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January 31, 2007

Alright, Alright

When all my entries disappear I know it's time to get back in the game. Posts in the hopper on climate change and in response to Adam's shoutout. Sorry for the silence.

Posted by David Mader at 11:29 AM | (1) | Back to Main

January 05, 2007

Dion's Ear

Yesterday, Tory blogger Stephen Taylor predicted that Liberal MP Wajid Khan would cross the floor. This morning, PM Stephen Harper announced that Khan would indeed become a Tory. But in between, Liberal leader Stephane Dion did something that was, I think, rather silly.

I'm not talking about Dion's increasingly lampooned declaration that, despite rumors to the contrary, Khan would not cross. I'm talking about Dion's decision to issue a sort of ultimatum:

Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion says he won't allow Mississauga MP Wajid Khan to keep serving as a "special adviser" to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Calling it "bizarre" for a Liberal MP to be advising a Conservative prime minister, Dion said it's time for Khan to choose his political team.

The upshot of this ultimatum was Khan's suggestion that "Dion’s ultimatum left him no choice." Had Dion said nothing, Khan would have been forced to justify his defection on some other ground - but Dion's ultimatum gave Khan some fantastic political cover. "I might not have left the party," he'll say, "but Dion wouldn't let me continue to advise the government."

So why did Dion do it? Presumably someone in his office - or perhaps he himself - thought that by giving an ultimatum (likely after it became clear that Khan was leaving), he could be seen as in control: Khan didn't quit, he was fired. But in doing so he defines his party as one fundamentally opposed to cooperation with the government. That makes sense when the government has a majority. But in a minority government situation, when cooperation is necessary to prevent an (unwanted) election, refusal to cooperate can quickly come to be seen as intransigence - even intransigence mixed with the arrogance of assuming that the opposition will return to power as soon as there's a new election.

Now the assumption might be correct in the abstract - maybe the Harper government is an abberation, a blip in a century of Liberal rule. But it's got to be a mistake to broadcast that assumption to the people. And yet that's just the message sent, I think, by framing Khan's defection as a decision by Dion to kick out of the party anyone who plays ball with the government. Is that really a winning strategy? I don't think so.

(The counter-argument, of course, is the fact that the Dippers, despite playing ball with the Tories on a number of bills, are down in the polls.)

The other possibility is that Dion actually thought he could strong-arm Khan back into the party. But that would indicate a bigger problem for Dion, I think, in that a) it suggests that Dion thought the defection was anything but a done deal, and b) it suggests that Dion wants to rule the Grit caucus with an iron grip. Any which way you slice it, though, Dion's reaction to Khan's defection suggests a tinniness to the leader's ear that would make me quite uneasy if I were a Grit.

Posted by David Mader at 10:19 AM | (4) | Back to Main

January 03, 2007

Prime Minister Simon Harper Shuffles His Cabinet Today

Some crack reporting from the folks at CanWest News:

Some who may find themselves out of cabinet include International Trade Minister David Emerson, a Liberal turncoat who is not expected to seek re-election in Vancouver, and Defence Minister Dennis O'Connor, who may also not seek re-election. . . .

Among the ministers thought to be secure in their jobs are Finance Minister James Flaherty, who is preparing a budget for as early as February, Treasury Board President James Baird and Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day.

Ten bucks says Rusty spends the next month introducing himself as "Baird... James Baird." And Dennis O'Connor is the Ontario Court of Appeals judge who chaired the Arar Inquiry. The gentleman who may no longer be defence minister tomorrow is named Gordon.

[Screen capture of the article available here.]

Posted by David Mader at 11:31 PM | (2) | Back to Main


There'll be lots of buzz about the shuffle tomorrow. But this is the best news I've seen so far:

[Gord] O'Connor, at 67 years of age, is another minister that could choose not to run.

CTV News says there is speculation that Lew Mackenzie, a former major general in the Canadian forces who has moved into O'Connor's Ontario riding of Carleton-Mississippi Mills, might fill the defence post.

The Tories can't get Mackenzie into the House fast enough, as far as I'm concerned. Great news.

As an aside: The CTV story quotes Craig Oliver as saying: "This government has been running behind in the polls almost everywhere in the country except for Alberta, although most people believe they've now bottomed out." Bottomed out indeed: CTV itself is running this story:
Poll suggests Tories, Liberals in dead heat

A new poll suggests the federal Liberals are rebuilding their strength in Quebec and at year-end may have been in a dead heat with the Conservatives in support across the country.

The Decima Research survey conducted December 27-30 and provided exclusively to The Canadian Press, suggests the Conservatives had 34 per cent support nationally, compared with 31 per cent for the Liberals. The difference is within the poll's 3.1-percentage-point margin of error.

The survey also indicated the NDP had 15 per cent support, the Bloc Quebecois 10 per cent and the Green party eight per cent.

In an earlier Decima poll last month, the Conservatives were at 32 per cent, compared with 35 per cent for the Liberals, placing the parties in a virtual tie then as well because of the margin of error.

In the last election, the Tories took 36.3 per cent of the vote across the country. The Liberals had 30.2 per cent, the NDP 17.5, the Bloc 10.5 and the Greens 4.5.

The lede is pretty preposterous, frankly - it seems to me that when the Grits are up by the margin of error in a poll it's a sign of Tory weakness, and when the Grits are down by the margin of error it's a sign of Grit strength - in the eyes of the press. But I don't want to sound too tinfoil-hat here; the point is that the Dion bounce appears to have evaporated.

But a poll is a poll, and a Christmastime poll is hardly that. I'm not really sure what a cabinet shuffle will achieve, but I'm pretty sure that Lew Mackenzie would be a tremendous and valuable addition to the House of Commons - and to the government.

Posted by David Mader at 10:20 PM | (0) | Back to Main