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October 30, 2007

The AG's Report

Paul Wells suggests that the government's anticipated tax cut is an attempt to "bury" a potentially embarrasing Auditor General's Report. (Full text of the report is available here.)

I'm not nearly as tuned in to these things as Wells, but it seems to me that the AG's report is the sort of thing this government would embrace, rather than attempt to bury. The headline of the AG's report is the continued infirmity of Canada's border and national security. (Star: "Canadian security system still porous, auditor general says"; Globe: "Auditors highlight security, environmental lapses"; CBC: "Lax rules make Canadian border too porous: auditor general")

Wells may be right. But if I were in government, I'd get up in the House tomorrow and say: "This government takes the Auditor General's report very seriously. Nothing is more important than our nation's security. Accordingly, we in government hereby undertake to make all necessary changes, and to spend whatever is necessary, to ensure our collective security. And I am confident that in acting on the Auditor General's report the government enjoys the full support of the House." And then I'd go and do it.

In other words, if you'll forgive my rhetorical flourish above, the AG's report gives the government cover to introduce national security legislation. National security is a bread and butter Tory issue. The only embarrasment in the AG report is that no action has been taken yet. But that criticism is easily addressed - by action. If I were in government, I'd grab the AG's report and run with it.

Which doesn't mean Wells is wrong; this government has done odder things than run away from such an opportunity. But Well's first impression wasn't mine.

Posted by David Mader at 01:54 PM | (3) | Back to Main

October 16, 2007

The Coming General Election

Only Stephane Dion knows whether we'll be in an election campaign ten days from now. But given the contents of tonight's Speech from the Throne, I think any of us can say with fair confidence that we'll be in a campaign by the end of January at the latest.

Let's start from the beginning. At the beginning of the year there was a general sense that the Tory minority might survive 2007, and as the spring progressed many began to speculate that the government might last until the set election date in 2009. At the same time, a distinct feeling of drift gripped the government and those who watched it. The Harper Tories hadn't exactly achieved their five election priorities, but they'd made substantial political progress on at least four, and they increasingly seemed to be at a loss for other things to do. Over the summer a call went out to the cabinet portfolios asking for policy ideas for the coming Parliamentary session and - as is now clear in retrospect - key Tory strategists sat down and began drafting a program to succeed the platform that had brought Harper to office in January 2006.

The proroguing of Parliament confirmed this strategy, but it was September's by-election results that sealed the deal. In one night, in three ridings across Quebec, the nation's political dynamic changed. The Liberals not only lost a stronghold seat in Outremont but essentially failed to show in two other ridings; the Tories won handily in Roberval-Lac Saint Jean, and almost took Saint Hyacinthe-Bagot from the Bloc. And all of a sudden the Tories were ascendant and the Grits were in disarray.

It was a bad night for Stephane Dion. The next morning may have been worse. Despite suffering a massive collapse in support - or perhaps because of it - Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe issued five demands in return for his party's continued support of the Conservative government. In practical effect, Duceppe had declared his intent to oppose the coming Throne Speech. With the NDP already opposed, Dion had to decide between avoiding an election by maintaining Harper in power, or voting against Harper and risking another test at the polls.

For a month Dion dithered. He announced his own set of conditions, but almost immediately indicated that they were not firm demands like the Bloc's list. He talked tough about the government's need to endorse vague ideals. He refused to rule out Liberal support for Conservative positions.

The Tories occupied a position of considerable strength. If they thought the by-election results were more than a fluke, they could trigger an election by presenting a staunchly Conservative throne speech, one for which the Grits could never vote. But their strength came with a risk: the more staunchly Conservative the Speech, the more likely it would backfire by alienating potential voters - and then requiring them to vote.

Their challenge, then, was to present a Throne Speech that was Conservative enough to be untenable to the Grits, but not so Conservative that it would lose them the support of the center. I have to admit that I was worried the Tories wouldn't pull it off - until Harper strolled into the National Press Gallery last week and challenged the Dion Liberals to "fish or cut bait." In that one sentence he outlined the Tory plan: make the Grits choose between forcing an election and making Tory policies the law of the land.

And so came tonight's speech. Having challenged the Liberals to fish or cut bait, the Tories presented a document that will serve them well in either case. If the Liberals sustain the government, as the buzz from Ottawa suggests, the Tories will move forward with a clearly defined legislative plan. They'll claim a mandate based on Liberal support, and will introduce bill after bill implementing their new program - until the Liberals can take no more, and vote to bring the Tories down. And because different Liberals will be able to take different amounts, the party will begin to come apart at the edges.

On the other hand, if the Liberals vote to bring down the government, the Tories will go to the country with a new five-point plan, five themes with - to borrow Michael Ignatieff's phrase - a "laundry list" of corresponding policies. And you can bet that, just as they did last time around, the Tories will announce a policy a day, commanding the news cycle with a highly organized media campaign and forcing the Grits to respond day after day after day.

Only Stephane Dion knows if the campaign will start in the next ten days. But there can be no doubt, now, that the campaign will come. It will come soon. It will come well before 2009. And - unless the Grits are touched by a political miracle - it will come on Tory terms.

Posted by David Mader at 08:38 PM | (1) | Back to Main

Quote of the Evening

The Throne Speech had many good lines, a number of which I'll discuss in a later post. But this is clearly the line of the night:

"It appears the Conservatives don't want an election." - Elizabeth May
Two points:

1) If it really does "appear" that the Tories don't want an election, then they've done their job magnificently.

2) If Elizabeth May can look at this Throne Speech and honestly believe the Tories don't want an election, she may not have quite the political acuity necessary to lead a federal party.

Posted by David Mader at 07:57 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Text of the Throne Speech

... is available here.

Posted by David Mader at 07:03 PM | (0) | Back to Main

A Public Service Announcement (Of Sorts)

As I sit listening to the Speech from the Throne, it seems almost certain to me that Canada will soon see a general election campaign. At the start of the last campaign, in the early winter of 2005, I posted daily reports on the progress of the campaign. Should Parliament be dissolved in the coming week, I will do the same again. Last time I ceased by blogging about halfway through the campaign, much to my regret. This time I will be blogging every day.

I will post at least once a day throughout the campaign, most likely towards the end of the day. The daily post will contain a roundup of the day's campaign-related news, a summary and short analysis of the daily SES Research polling data, and a commentary on the campaign given the day's events.

As you all know, I have not been blogging regularly for some months. I completed my law degree in the spring, studied for and took the bar exam over the summer, and began a job at the end of August. For various reasons, my job has kept me from blogging as often, or on as many topics, as I would like. Nevertheless, I intend to go ahead with a campaign blog.

It's been a long time since I've blogged regularly, and I've missed it. I look forward to starting again soon, and I hope that you'll join me when I do.

- mader

Posted by David Mader at 06:33 PM | (1) | Back to Main

October 10, 2007

Wait a Minute

CTV breathlessly reports on the predicted Liberal victory in Ontario:

Ontario Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty could be on his way to winning a second straight majority government -- a rare accomplishment that hasn't been seen in the province in more than 70 years. . . .

The Conservatives won back-to-back majority governments in 1929 and 1934, and McGuinty could become the first Liberal leader to manage the same feat.

I must be missing something - or perhaps my memory's faulty - but I could have sworn that the Harris Tories won majorities in 1995 and 1999. Which would mean that McGuinty would be the first to win back-to-back majority governments since... his immediate predecessors.

In fact, a little research indicates that the provincial Tories won absolute majorities in each of the eight elections from 1945 through 1971.

The last back to back Liberal majorities were about seventy years ago - in 1934 and 1937 - and I suspect that's what the story is supposed to be about. (Which means, incidentally, that contrary to the story's claim, the Conservatives did not win back-to-back majorities in 1929 and 1934.)

But someone seems not to have received the memo - and that same someone appears to have a very, very short memory.

A screengrab of the CTV story is available here.

Posted by David Mader at 08:30 PM | (1) | Back to Main

October 02, 2007

What Happened to the Other Half?

A question for my Canadian lawyer friends, based on the following headline: Half of fraud victims relied on trusting relationship.

See, in the American common law system, fraud requires detrimental reliance on a material misrepresentation. So wouldn't all fraud victims necessarily rely on a trusting relationship?

Just asking.

(Yes, it's rhetorical.)

Posted by David Mader at 10:23 PM | (0) | Back to Main

Quote Unquote

Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't see how an ostensibly literate man like Warren Kinsella can read this article and conclude that the Canadian Jewish Congress was calling Dalton McGuinty or anybody who works for him "stupid." And, unlike the bookish Mr. Kinsella, I will in fact "quote unquote":

Decrying the "completely inappropriate fear-mongering" and "stupid language" used by opponents of Tory's proposal to extend public funding to 53,000 Ontario students now attending private faith-based schools, Farber said Tory's announcement allows people to take time to understand the issue, knowing they will have a final say through their MPPs.

"People can't make real decisions when they hear words like `segregationist' and `ripping apart social cohesion,'" said Farber, referring to comments by Premier Dalton McGuinty.

You'd almost think that Mr. Kinsella - one of the "people who work for" Mr. McGuinty - having endorsed, if not in fact designed, this campaign of demonization, a campaign that has exposed to the Canadian Jewish community the true extent of the Ontario Liberal investment in Jewish continuity - you'd almost think, I say, that Mr. Kinsella, having realized the extent to which he had betrayed the interests he has done so much to champion in the past - you'd almost think Mr. Kinsella was now seeking to avoid the consequence of his fervent political position by misquoting his critics. You'd almost think he was protesting too much.

Odd, that.

Posted by David Mader at 08:35 PM | (0) | Back to Main