10/15/2008

Final Seat Count and Early Morning Thoughts

Conservatives: 143
Liberals: 76
Bloc: 50
NDP: 37
Independent: 2

- Dion is finished as leader of the Liberals. The next leadership race will be interesting.
- May should be finished as leader of the Greens, but only time will tell.
- Harper will have a default majority for at least the next 18 months, if not two years. No party will want to drag voters back to the polls too quickly.
- I am disgusted that Justin Trudeau won his seat in Quebec. He essentially did so on the power of his name, and not on the basis of any personal qualifications.
- Our system needs fixing. It is appalling that the Bloc have more seats than the NDP, when the NDP have more of the popular vote. It is a shame that the Greens have no seats when their popular vote is only a few percentage points behind the Bloc.

10/09/2008

The Globe & Mail grudgingly endorses Harper

How to cheer for someone you hate.
Two anxieties, neither wholly irrational, have attached themselves to Stephen Harper in his years as a contender for and holder of the top political office in the land. The first is that he is a right-wing ideologue, badly out of sync with mainstream Canadian values and sentiments. The second is that he is possessed by a mean-spirited and controlling nature; that his emotional intelligence isn't up to his mental level.

No, you're not irrational, oh leftist Globe & Mail. You just don't want to get caught cheering for a team you know is going to lose.
This insult-ridden endorsement is hilarious to read. Although a moderate, competent governor, Harper is "savage," responsible for a dysfunctional Parliament, not trusting and therefore not trusted, tends toward pettiness and hyper-partisanship, and has a "firewall temperament." Still, the Globe manages to concede that he is smart, adaptable, both shrewd and deft with respect to Quebec, calm, decisive and has an ability to play a bad hand well... something the Globe notes is worth remembering in the face of the current economic crisis.
Dion's carbon tax is justly raked over the coals. Poor Layton is cast aside with barely a thought.
Mr. Harper and his Conservative party are only seriously challenged for government by Stéphane Dion's Liberals. (For all the flourish of his introductory line — "I'm Jack Layton and I'm running for Prime Minister" — history and political culture suggest otherwise.)

So sorry about that Mr. Layton.
The article is worth reading if only for a bit of a laugh. I really do think this has been written because the Liberals have no chance at power now, not with Dion's latest catastrophe and not because they actually support Harper or are happy about his potential win.

Dion on CTV


Watch Dion crash and burn during an interview.
Dion was asked "If you were Prime Minister now, what would you have done that Mr. Harper has not done?"
(h/t Stephen Taylor)
CTV's website has more on the story.

Canadian Banks: We're #1

This just in:
Canada has the world's soundest banking system, closely followed by Sweden, Luxembourg and Australia, a survey by the World Economic Forum has found as financial crisis and bank failures shake world markets...
The United States, where some of Wall Street's biggest financial names have collapsed in recent weeks, rated only 40...

In case anyone needs the implications of this spelled out for them, allow me to quote myself:
As Harper rightly pointed out, Canada is not in the same situation as the States and there are many reasons for this.

In other news, polls are stabilizing.

10/08/2008

Statement by Jim Flaherty, and More on the Economy

From the Conservative website:
"Last night, Mr. Dion was asked why his so-called 30-day plan – the plan he sprung during the French debate – was not in his platform, a document that was released just days earlier. Mr. Dion said: ‘It was difficult for us to write a chapter on a U.S. economic crisis when we were preparing our platform’ (Stéphane Dion, Le téléjournal, October 6, 2008).
This is an extraordinary admission.

No kidding.
Think of it. The issue of the election is the economy. The Liberals have spent the last few days claiming the Harper government is doing nothing, waving their arms about, claiming the economic sky is falling. Meanwhile, they actually have the unmitigated gall to ask the Canadian public to give them thirty days after the election is over to come up with a plan. He wants to get together with a bunch of economists so they can tell him what to do.
Is he serious?
Moreover, how can anyone take this seriously?? Harper has a Masters in economics, and has Jim Flaherty by his side. I understand that many on the left don't like him, but it's impossible to deny that, from a financial perspective, he is a highly competent man.
Quite frankly, the media ought to be all over this, exposing the hypocrisy of the Liberals. So far, I have only seen the National Post throw its support behind the Conservatives, specifically citing Dion's lack of plan and general attitude as their reason.
Continuing on...
The American credit crunch did not start two weeks ago. It started over a year ago and it has been issue number one for every person with any understanding of economics.
Yet, for the past year, Mr. Dion has been totally oblivious to what has been going on. And his carbon tax proves it. At a time of global economic uncertainty, no responsible economic manager would suggest experimenting with risky new tax schemes or massive increases in government spending.
Unlike Mr. Dion, the Harper Government got it. We took action.
We recognized the credit crunch for what it is: a threat to the global economy. In response, the Harper Government implemented a real plan, including keeping the budget balanced, lowering taxes, investing in Canadian jobs and keeping inflation low. We also tightened rules on mortgage lending, and strengthened the Bank of Canada’s powers to deal with a crisis.
We’re not asking Canadians for a mandate to spend 30 days figuring out what to do. We are asking for a mandate to continue with our real plan to protect the Canadian economy and the standard of living for workers and their families."

As I previously mentioned, banks are agreeing with Mr. Harper. We are not in the same economic crisis as the US. Furthermore, as reported at The Star, the Government has already taken action with respect to banking institutions to ensure that the crisis in the US does not greatly impact us. As reported at the Globe, banking institutions are also taking actions of their own.

With respect to Tuesday's vote, people need to stop panicking.
People need to get informed, read up on each party's policies, filter through the media bias and figure it out for themselves. I actually read a poll today that suggested a Liberal minority win was possible.
I can't stress enough how absurd such a win would be.
Imagine for a moment if the Liberals did win. We'd be back to the polls inside of a year!
The truth is that every poll is different, and pollsters report based on their own biases. As mentioned by Reuters:
An Ekos automated telephone poll released on Tuesday night, however, had the Conservative lead growing again to 9 percentage points from the 7 that Ekos had reported a day earlier.
Ekos showed the Conservatives at 34 percent, the Liberals at 25 percent and the NDP at 20 percent, and said voters seemed neither to want to give Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper a majority in Parliament nor to elect Liberal leader Stephane Dion...
"There is limited enthusiasm for a Tory majority, or even a Tory government. But the obvious alternative -- a Dion government -- hardly seems appetizing either for most Canadians."
A Nanos Research poll had the gap up slightly to 4 points from what had been the campaign's smallest margin of 3 points the day before. It had the Conservatives at 33 percent, the Liberals at 29 percent and the NDP at 20.

At the Ottawa Sun, Greg Weston makes a few interesting points on the effects of polls. He comments that:
Overnight polling by Nanos Research reported yesterday that the Conservatives dropped to just three points ahead of the Liberals.
Nanos also tracks how Canadians feel about the four federal leaders, and Harper's score on that front has been sinking like the stock markets in recent days.
All of which must have tempted the Conservatives to roll out the gravy train and buy their way into voters' hearts.
Thankfully, the emotionally challenged PM did not succumb.

I have to agree with Weston.
The easiest thing in the world would be to succumb to opinion polls and try to buy votes with expensive promises that are not intended to be kept. People complain all the time that politicians make promises they don't keep. Now, the Conservatives are actually not making promises, they are releasing a "stingy" platform, making minimal promises. The average voter ought to take this as a good sign. They ought to recognize Harper's honesty in the face of what can best be described as a difficult situation.
I still expect a Conservative minority, although I do agree with the National Post: a majority would offer the country more stability.

Conservative Ad



This ad articulates my feelings on Dion perfectly. I definitely can't afford more taxes!

The Economic Reality

In the face of all the Liberal "chicken-littling," I'd like to direct your attention to what the Royal Bank of Canada has to say.
As reported by the Star:
...the domestic economy "remains firm..."
For 2009, the report released Wednesday sees a modest revival in gross domestic product with a growth rate of 1.5 per cent...
"The continued weakness in the U.S. economy is expected to dampen growth in Canada," said Craig Wright, RBC's chief economist.
"However, this pressure on our growth will be tempered by strong commodity prices which are contributing to robust export revenues and providing support to Canadian domestic spending via a boost to incomes..."

But, their most notable comment of all?
"...any weakening is expected to be more moderate compared to the U.S. experience as Canadian mortgage markets did not see the excesses that afflicted the U.S. housing sector..."

I'd like to draw your attention to the fact that this is exactly what the PM said during the debates last week. The opposition leaders flogged him for it, and are continuing to do so, claiming that he "doesn't care."
Maybe he just has a firmer grasp on reality, and is actually paying close attention the the economic situation. It's a much smarter thing to do than running around, making massive tax-and-spend promises the country can't afford.

10/07/2008

Platform Costs

Conservative Platform. The costs are listed at the end.
Liberal Platform. Costs are listed here.
NDP Platform. Unless I missed it, they don't really have a costing section. They have a set of Explanatory tables instead.
Canada.com and Yahoo! News have similar lists of campaign spending promises.
Kitchener Conservative offers some costing numbers here and here.
By far, the Liberals are promising to spend the most. I actually expected the NDP to do that, but apparently not. The Conservatives are spending the least, but then, that's why we call them Conservatives.

The Conservative Party Platform (cont'd)

The platform can be found here.
There were a few elements of the platform that were not mentioned in most of the news reports, but are interesting nonetheless.
Restricting Unfair Text Messaging Charges
A re-elected Conservative Government led by Stephen Harper will prevent telecommunications companies from charging fees to customers for receiving unsolicited commercial text messages. We will amend the Telecommunications Act to strengthen the power of the Commissioner of Complaints for Telecommunications Services, including the creation of a code of conduct for wireless services. We will also create a compliance and deterrent power that allows the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to block these and similar unfair charges in the future.

Admittedly, I don't have a cell phone. However, most of the people I know do. Nothing is more annoying than companies who send you text messages and then charge you for them, without your permission. As far as I am concerned, it is a type of theft. I will be interested to see what proposed legislation will look like.
Protecting Against Internet Spam
A re-elected Conservative Government led by Stephen Harper will introduce legislation to prohibit the use of spam (unsolicited commercial email) to collect personal information under false pretences and to engage in criminal conduct. The new law will reduce dangerous, destructive and deceptive email and web site practices, and will establish new fines for those who break the law.

I support this initiative. However, in my opinion, governments generally have to be careful when crafting laws with respect to technology. I will have to withhold any further judgment until I actually see their proposed law.
Protecting Creators and Consumers of New Ideas and Products
A re-elected Conservative Government led by Stephen Harper will reintroduce federal copyright legislation that strikes the appropriate balance among the rights of musicians, artists, programmers and other creators and brings Canada's intellectual property protection in line with that of other industrialized countries, but also protects consumers who want to access copyright works for their personal use.
We will also introduce tougher laws on counterfeiting and piracy and give our customs and law enforcement services the resources to enforce them. This will protect consumers from phoney and sometimes dangerous products that are passed off as reliable brand-name goods.

As I said above, governments have to be careful when crafting laws with respect to technology. In my opinion, the Canadian version of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act did not strike the appropriate balance between consumer protection, artist's right and corporate rights. Wiki has a brief description of some of the issues with the bill. This bill could have a potentially negative impact on open source software developers. but, this post is intended to deal with the Conservative Party platform and not the DMCA, so I will leave this thought for now.
Protecting Consumers with Stronger Competition Laws
A re-elected Conservative Government led by Stephen Harper will implement a strong consumer protection plan by modernizing Canada's outdated competition laws. New competition laws will:
- Make it easier to investigate and prosecute bid-rigging and hard-core cartel behaviour such as price fixing.
- Raise maximum penalties for bid-rigging and cartels to a $25-million fine and 14 years in prison.
- Introduce fines of up to $10 million – $15 million for repeat offenders – for companies that abuse their dominant market position.
- Provide for restitution for consumers who fall victim to deceptive marketing practices.

In light of the behaviour of gas and oil companies, such legislation can only be a good thing.
Reforming or Abolishing the Senate
The Conservatives and Stephen Harper believe that the current Senate must be either reformed or abolished. An unelected Senate should not be able to block the will of the elected House in the 21st century.
As a minimum, a re-elected Conservative Government will reintroduce legislation to allow for nominees to the Senate to be selected by voters, to provide for Senators to serve fixed terms of not longer than eight years, and for the Senate to be covered by the same ethics rules as the House of Commons.

This measure was briefly mentioned at the Globe & Mail, but I haven't seen it anywhere else. As I mentioned in a previous post, this issue more than any other, ought to secure the Conservatives a majority. Unfortunately, everyone is panicking about the economy, so it probably won't receive much attention. Still, Senate reform is a major step towards improving democracy in Canada. We simply have too many senators who don't take their jobs seriously enough.
Offering Fair Representation in the House of Commons
A re-elected Conservative Government led by Stephen Harper will introduce legislation to move closer towards representation by population in the House of Commons for Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta, while protecting the seat counts of other provinces.

I am curious to see what this sort of legislation would look like.
Reforming Public Appointments
We will establish a task force to report within one year on unnecessary federally appointed positions that can be eliminated, with a target of reducing federal appointments by 10 per cent overall.

Reducing the number of government appoints is also another important step towards improving democracy in Canada.
Making Government More Accountable for Taxpayers' Money
A re-elected Conservative Government led by Stephen Harper will require all federal departments and agencies to produce detailed quarterly financial statements.

Good. They should be doing this already.
Respecting the Provinces and Territories, Establishing a Charter of Open Federalism
A re-elected Conservative Government led by Stephen Harper will respect the jurisdiction of the provinces and territories in the Constitution Act, 1867, and will enshrine our principles of federalism in a new Charter of Open Federalism.

I am also interested to see what such a Charter would look like. Certainly, a measure like this is intended to woo Quebec, but there would be benefits for the other provinces too. There is a lot to be said for being able to manage your own affairs without the interference of the Federal government. In a similar vein, the Conservatives are also offering:
Limiting the Federal Spending Power
A re-elected Conservative Government led by Stephen Harper will ensure that any new shared-cost program in an area of provincial or territorial responsibility has the consent of the majority of provinces to proceed, and that provinces should be given the right to opt out of the federal program with compensation, so long as the province offers a similar program with similar accountability structures.

By far, the most significant difference between the Conservatives and the other parties is the way crime is dealt with. Unless I missed it, there isn't anything in the Liberal platform about crime and I simply don't think the NDP approach is specific enough, nor do I think it would be effective. The Conservatives offer tougher sentences and protect victims first.
The cost of the Conservative plan is relatively modest and can be found at the end of the platform. Their total plan cost is about $8.6 billion. Their current projected budgetary balance is about $16.7 billion. This leaves them nearly half left over. This ought to be more than a sufficient buffer.

Conservative Party Platform

So, the Conservatives released their party platform at lunch time today. I am looking around the web for a copy. I expect it will be available on their website soon, but for now I will have to be satisfied with perspectives from Canada.com, CTV and the Globe & Mail.
A few points of interest.
As previously noted, the Conservative platform looks like it's a lot of more of the same. As mentioned in the Canada.com article "That is the view that unless a plan is brand new, it's not a plan," Harper said in a prepared text of his speech. "But the truth is the opposite. If you are making it up in response to the latest news, or the latest change in the stock market, then it is obvious you really don't have a plan."
It's interesting that Harper has changed his plan with respect to arts funding. Personally, I agreed more with his original stance. However, it is clear that this stance could well cost the party the majority they are seeking, so I understand why they have opted to back track. This is not to say I agree with the move; only that I am understanding.
In that same vein, I am very interested by the fact they did not back away from their plan to make pregnancy an aggravating factor when sentencing if a woman is assaulted or killed. While this position does fall far short of what is actually needed, I do think it is definitely a step in the right direction. In time I hope people will be able to crawl out of their shells and have a sensible debate on the life of the unborn. To that end though, I must say that I think the responsibility falls more on the general public than it does on the government. If we want to talk about this issue, then we actually do have to start talking, rather than letting extremists speak for us.
I am pleased to see that the Conservatives plan to continue with their tougher sentencing on crime.
I also think that, given the economic crisis, their plan to spend meagerly and cut taxes is wise. People need to be able to use their money. As mentioned at the Globe, the Tories are spending less than half of the possible cash available to them over the next four years. The platform leaves $8-billion of surplus cash on the books. Average Canadians who are preparing to tighten up their own budgets will be pleased to see the government doing the same.
The move to abolish the chamber if the government is frustrated by Senators in their bid to bring in term limits and an election process for the Upper House is fantastic! These guys have had their opportunity to play nice. Tax payers have shelled out far too much for their cushy jobs and have gotten nothing in return. Too many Senators don't show up, don't do their job and waste our money, and average Canadians are sick of it. This sort of electoral reform ought to guarantee a majority for the Conservatives.
I plan to go through the platform as soon as I have a copy.
More to come...

10/03/2008

More Thoughts on the Debates

Undoubtedly, the worst question of the evening was the last one from the frustrated "voter," who admitted she hasn't actually voted in many years. Who do I trust? How do I sift through the rhetoric? Who should I vote for? According to Paikin, the question reflected a common theme among questions sent in.
I am tired of this sort of whining. Far too many Canadians have no idea how greatly blessed we are to live in a democracy, where we can exercise our freedom and choose our government. While it is not realistic to expect perfection from any government, we can certainly hold our politicians accountable through lobbying efforts, direct communication with our MP's, and ultimately by voting at the polls. Refusing to vote, especially when one has not even begun to make an effort, is sheer laziness. Didn't get the government you wanted? Saw a bill passed in the House that you were against? The government did something they said they wouldn't do?
Did you do anything about it? Did you contact your MP to express your outrage, or did you just sit on your couch and whine about it?
Political parties act in accordance with the wishes of their loudest and most influential voters. Want to see a change? Then you really have no choice except to get involved.
In order for a democracy to be effective, effort is required.

A fair amount of time was spent discussing economics, and in particular, the situation in the US. As Harper rightly pointed out, Canada is not in the same situation as the States and there are many reasons for this. I do have to agree with his sentiment that a government cannot guarantee a job to every Canadian, Layton's arm-flailing and cries of "incompetence" notwithstanding. Such a guarantee would be foolish, not to mention vain. There will always be some unemployed people and no government in the history of the world has been able to overcome this. Don't think me cold: I have friends who are affected by the John Deere layoffs. Also, as my father was self-employed, growing up my family went through many financial difficulties. In fact, we moved provinces on account of the Rae-initiated recession (just in case you bought Layton's line that the NDP is historically good for the economy, it isn't). It's true that the manufacturing sector is suffering a severe slow down right now, but jobs are being created in other areas. What would be helpful is to train those affected by the slow down; subsidize courses to help them improve their skills to match with the changing times. The country has to be prepared to change as needed.
Layton's plan to get rid of all corporate tax cuts would profoundly hurt all areas of industry in Canada. How does he propose to keep companies here if he will not offer corporate cuts? Does he not know that John Deere laid off so many employees because they are moving production to Mexico in order to save money? If companies leave because they can make more money elsewhere, this will result in more people out of work. Now, he says that he would reward companies who choose to remain in Canada, but how would he do this without offering a tax cut? He obviously means some sort of monetary incentive, so what is the fundamental difference between the NDP plan and a corporate tax cut offered by the Conservatives?
It is also important to note that in the face of the manufacturing sector slowdown, all parties except the Conservatives are planning on raising taxes. I don't understand how the other parties can't see that if economic difficulties are coming, Canadians will need to keep their money. That brings me to the Conservative idea of a tax free savings account. I love this idea and would like to know more about it. Currently, we pay tax on any earnings we make on our high interest account. Given that the earnings aren't much, I really don't feel taxes ought to be taken out of those earnings.

The sheer number of comparisons to George Bush and the US really bothered me after a while. You could have set your watch to it. Canada is not the US. Comparisons between our two political systems are inadequate. Although we are being affected by the slowdown in the US, this is because they are our greatest trading partner. This is not because we have followed their policies.
With respect to the US, the Iraq war was also brought up. This was a non-issue as far as I am concerned. Harper admitted that to go to Iraq would have been a mistake, but really, he wasn't Prime Minister at the time. Discussing hypotheticals as to what might have happened is irrelevant.

I take back what I said about May last night. I have given it a lot of thought and she wasn't that terrible. The problem is that she lacks experience and polish. In terms of her presentation, she ought to take a page out of Duceppe's book. He knows he will never be Prime Minister, and let's face it, the Green's are a long way off from ever achieving a government. A huge point in her favor is that she does not present herself with that annoying "I am woman, hear me roar" attitude. She also did have quite a few facts that she was able to spout off the top of her head. While I disagree with much of her interpretation of those facts, she really did have her dates and policies down. What she needs to do now is work on her presence. Learn to be dignified.
Dion was not as bad as I feared he might be, but still he was not good. The man lacks presence. Although likeable, he doesn't appear "manly" or very leader-like. It's very difficult to envision him as the leader of our country.
Layton was a disaster!! My opinion of him truly plummeted. Until last night, I could say I respected him or thought he was doing a good job. As leader of the opposition, he would be nothing short of a catastrophe. Instead of appearing as a "strong leader" he came off as arrogant and extremely rude.
Harper and Duceppe were clearly the most dignified of the debaters last night. As I have said before, Duceppe is good. It's just too bad he represents the Bloc. Harper was calm and collected. He knew that he would be up on the chopping block. He just had to make sure the axe didn't fall, and it didn't. With the exception of the comments on health care and exposing Layton's hypocrisy, I wouldn't say he delivered any knock out blows. But, in all truth, I am not sure he needed too. The one upside of all the pummeling Harper took last night was the fact that the Conservative plan received a great deal of exposure and attention. I realize the other parties tried to point out flaws, but given Harper's calm, collected demeanor, they ended up highlighting Conservative strengths. Harper was able to state concisely and clearly the Conservative stance on a wide range of issues and pointed to a litany of actions taken while in Parliament. No other party presented any of their own plans, with the exception of Dion who really could not explain his own carbon tax. He could not defend his new tax well at all or what it will cost the tax payer.

I am not quite sure why people think the Conservatives have no platform. Is it because there is no explicit platform link on their party site? To me, it seems obvious that their platform is "more of the same." Their current plan is working well, there is no real need for change, and they have mentioned what new tax cuts they are offering and what new funding they will provide. I really have no idea what else people are looking for.

In the end, I don't really think the debates will have as much of an impact on the election as I thought they might. The Conservatives will still win; it's still up in the air as to whether it will be a majority or not, and it's not certain as to who the Opposition will be.

10/02/2008

Preliminary Debate Thoughts

A few initial thoughts. Hopefully I'll get time to post more tomorrow.

- I take back what I said about the NDP as the Official Opposition. I was appalled by Layton's performance tonight. Definitely not as good as the debates last election!! He just could not get past corporate tax cuts and raising the spectre of George Bush.
- Speaking of which, I must have counted at least 13 references to George Bush. Including references to US policies, there were probably a lot more, but I don't have an official number. If anyone does, please post.
- All the other parties seemed genuinely afraid of a Conservative majority. It's the only thing I can think of to account for their behaviour. A lot of time was spent firing away at Harper. Still, given that he is the incumbent and likely to win again, I didn't really expect anything else.
- Elizabeth May was terrible. She just had to get the last word in. It became so annoying after a while, and I found it very unprofessional.
- Duceppe did well. He always does. It's too bad the Bloc is irrelevant.
- Good call on health care! It was awesome to hear Harper point out the fact he was the only politician at the table who had never been to a private clinic. I heard May say something about it, but couldn't really catch her comment so if anyone caught it, please post. Calling out Layton on his hypocrisy was fabulous!! Probably the only knock out punch of the evening. I wish more time had been focused on this.
- Only Harper actually understood the question about Afghanistan. Everyone else, Layton in particular, seemed to think the guy asking wanted Canadian troops to pull out. He clearly didn't. He was very obviously afraid of the Taliban undoing all the work achieved to date.
- There was far too much emotional appeal, especially from Layton and Dion. Debates should stick to facts, not feelings. That brings me to May. Single mom and building shed comments do not help her professional image.
- I didn't like how everyone just sat around the table. It was too board-roomish. Stand at a podium. It looks more professional. I realize it is more tiring, but you are earning our votes.
- Dion has no presence. He didn't do as bad as I feared he might, but he definitely was not good.
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