Reboot Alberta

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Some Positive Steps by Stelmach on the Social Infrastructure Deficit

Here is a “get tough” law and order approach that makes sense. The Alberta government announcement of taking on “…the serious problem of repeat offender” is something I applaud.

The Stelmach government has already noted that it is adding a swack of new police on the ground and focused on gang issues. Edmonton and Calgary communities are really feeling the pressure around gang violence especially but the problem is spreading to other Alberta communities too. This new repeat offender effort is a good move if the stats given are accurate, namely 15% of criminals commit 60% of the crimes. This is a focused and concentrated leverage of crucial and expensive justice system resources.

That said, not all is well in the wonderful world of law enforcement, at least judging by the Paula Simons column in today’s Edmonton Journal. There are some significant problems in processing accused people sitting in remand as the system gets them ready for trial. Simons notes 56% of all those in custody in Alberta are awaiting trial - and not convicted of any offence. The reasons (also known as the blame) for these remand delays are many and varied and very much depends on which side of the legal system you are in.

According to Paula Simons, The Justice Minister is blaming the defence lawyers who are accused of gaming the system and causing delays The defence bar is not amused saying the delays are due to a shortage of judges, courtrooms and prosecutors. The defence Bar accuse the Alberta Justice Minister of “playing politics to undermine the public confidence.” Harsh!

These "arguments" are notsurprising. The operating culture in our legal system is based on the tried, true (and sometime tired) adversarial model. So it is not a surprise this hissing would happen between the Defence Bar and the Minister.

This approach may help to fix the blame in some people’s minds but it does not fix the problem in anybody’s mind. We need to fix the problem and Premier Stelmach's showing positive signs with these safe communities announcements focusing on gangs, repeat offenders and then adding 20 more addiction treatment beds.

Justice, like so much of the public roles and responsibilities in Alberta these days, is lagging behind the demands of economic and population growth all over the province. We see this lag in spades in the community based not-for-profit agencies in social services sector who are dealing with kids, seniors and the disabled.

The social services crisis has gotten to the point where parents of developmentally disabled Albertans felt compelled to hold a rally on the Legislature steps this week. They were there to draw attention to the tragedies that result from inadequate public policy responses.

Premier Stelmach is on the right track but he needs a fast track. He needs a significant commitment of funds to fix the staffing shortfalls and resource shortcomings that have built up in the social infrastructure deficits all over Alberta. The recent moves to provide 183 new police officers, 110 new probation officers, 62 more Crown Prosecutors and more to come all represent a serious political-will commitment on the safe community and the serious crime front.

We need the most vulnerable of our citizens including kids at risk, seniors in care and the developmentally disabled in our communities to have the political-will commitment of public resources necessary to ensure they are safe, secure, cared for and can lived in dignity. The first step in solving this problem is to ensure social sector workers, who are the caregivers for these Alberta, when they work for a living can make a living. That is not the case now.

Without this effort the comment about making Alberta the best place to live, work, invests and raise a family is just a political slogan not an express of shared values and political will.

Harper's Cabinet Looks Good!

I like the Harper Party Cabinet. It has the trappings of an activitist government with his best people in portfolios that are key policy issues. There will be the usual scorecard calculations of winners and losers but I would rather focus on the good things I see in the new Cabinet.

First is Flaherty remaining in Finance is very important for continuity in these turbulent times. Next best move is Prentice to Environment. This is a critical issue for Harper and he obviously recognizes it with the appointment of his resident “Fixer” into this very contentious portfolio.

Alberta is already suspicious of Harper’s inclination to interfere in natural resources jurisdiction with his bitumen export remarks. Prentice will have to work with the amalgam of the environment and the economy as a whole systems approach. If anyone can do this, Prentice can and with a weak player like Clement in Industry, Prentice will be able to do what is needed without much push-back internally.

Next smart move is James Moore to Heritage. Verner was a dud and this guy has talent and is a quick study. He will not be a strong voice for arts and culture per se but he will be a champion for cultural industries going forward.

Baird is a doer and will have his hands full in Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. Likely to be the busiest guy in Cabinet as the economy turns down and public works project gear up in response. He is a great choice and he leaves some good feelings behind in Environment especially around parks policy.

Lisa Raitt in Natural Resources and Leona Aqlukkaq in Health are bold moves that deserve to be applauded…and not because they are women. Key portfolios to two newbie’s augers well for some chances for more openness and perhaps real participation by Cabinet members in policy beyond Harper as the one-man show. Time will tell.

Other clever moves are in the Minister of State functions like Rob Merrifield in Transportation, Fletcher in Democratic Reform – whatever that is, and Peter Kent in Foreign Affairs concentrating on the Americas.

Disappointments are Ablonczy not getting a promotion and James Rajotte still on the outside. Gerry Ritz is a survivor and Peter Van Loan replacing Stockwell Day in Public Safety is not encouraging…Peter is a pit bull in a china shop.

Big losers are Lunn and Verner, Clement. O’Connor, Guergis – all well deserved demotions.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

5 More Friends

In Canada we are suspicious of "celebrity" but in the States it is a big deal. I don't think one perspective is right or better than the other. But watching this video on voting by well known (and notorious) American celebrities is powerful.

On this blog I have told people to lie to pollsters to save democracy. I have implored readers to get informed, engaged and committed to the political process and to vote their values.

This video warms my heart and gives me hope that maybe a healthy democracy with a supportive citizenry is not a forlorn hope.

No matter who wins the US Presidency on Nov 4th - it will change the world. The world wants Obama to win - does America share that sentiment with the rest of us.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Harper Meets First Ministers Nov 10 - Expect Budget Cuts!

As PM Harper goes into the First Minister's meeting on Nov 10 he has some serious ammunition to back a dramatic cut in government spending in response to the slowing economy. The Ipsos Reid poll out today says 82% of Canadians support government spending cuts as the most appropriate response. Only 43% support running deficits...which is just a tax on the future anyway. As for tax hikes to sustain government services in the slowdown...only 17% are on side.

The provincial breakdowns are based on such a small sample size that they should not be take seriously but they are all pretty much in the same range including Quebec. The attitude about how the provinces need to respond to slowing economic times is also to undertake spending cuts.

Harper as a fundamentalist conservative will want to reduce the size of government and the footprint of government in the lives of Canadians. He will be keen to remove the foot of government on the wallets of citizens too so tax cuts may still be in the offing.

That will mean we can expect more program cuts in what he considers non-essential services. Artists beware! I think he will not cut taxes but will scrap the silly election tinkering for subsidies on things like first-time home buyers. He will still pursue the income splitting for seniors still and may even keep the subsidy for things like piano lessons for kids. Family values stuff and in tough times that may be a very good thing.

We can expect a mini-budget in November, shortly after the November 10th First Ministers meeting. If he look like he is facing a deficit in the current year, I expect some cuts sooner than later. He will want to ensure that he lives up to the no deficit in the current year campaign promise. He can make the cuts easily, especially with what these poll numbers say about how Canadians feel about government deficits.

Alberta has done its current budget based on $78 oil. With oil at about $63 things are serious. The demise of the Loonie down to $.77 has helped adjust the impact of the commodity price decline. My sources tell me everything in Alberta's pending budget work is back on the table except for the $2B dedicated to carbon capture and sequestration. That is going forward come hell or high water.

Hunkering down and batten hatches to weather the growing economic storm seems to be the general consensus and shared sensibility of Canadians going forward. We are just at the beginning of experiencing the serious consequences of this economic meltdown. The worst is yet to come. I just hope that the social infrastructure deficit is not still ignored as it has been for the past decade or so. It is a vital role of government and community together that demands an engaged and empathetic approach.

I am off to a Bob Dylan concert tomorrow night. As he says - The Times They Are A-Changin'

Monday, October 27, 2008

Confessions of a Political Blogger

I have been Blogging for just over 2 years. Roger Gibbins, President of the Canada West Foundation asked me to write a personal perspective about my experiences as a Blogger. My first person piece was recently published in Canada West Foundation's quarterly magazine "Window on the West."

It was not published electronically but we have it on the Cambridge Strategies Inc. website. Here is the link and I hope you enjoy it.

Is Harper Cooling on "Get Tough On Crime"?

There are media reports that the Harper Party has its Law-and-Order Get Tough On Crime policy agenda on shifting sands again. They ran into potential constitutional and procedural issues on some of the more right-wing issues form the 2006 election. Their 2008 “law-and-order” platform policy was not only late in the election campaign; it was pretty skinny compared to past efforts.

The Cons enthusiasm for elimination of prisoner voting rights and the abolishing of the artistic merit defense for child porn have been buried and forgotten. The news reports indicate many other election campaign promises in the get-tough-on crime category are being abandoned by Harper as well.

The list is interesting and long including some I agree with some of the policy efforts. I especially like creating mandatory consecutive sentences and no more concurrent sentences for multiple violent sexual offenders and no more additional credit for pre-trial time in custody. I wonder why he is backing off this promise.

Harper seems to have gone soft on terror with the lack of urgency indicated with still no appointment of a national security advisor. Can the same be said for the still outstanding initiative for a national strategy on organized crime?

Now we need to get Harper to back off on legislating life sentences for 14 year olds and get Omar Khadr back home to Canada.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Anchorage Daily News Backs Obama - Not Palin

It is not encouraging for McCain-Palin ticket when the Anchorage Daily News is even backing Obama. Too hard not to see the face and fictions of George Bush when you think of McCain as the faux-maverick.

Will Canada reject the radical right and return to its classic liberal values in the next election? I'm thinking so. Tough times ahead and we see a legitimate role for government in this country. We in Canada cringe at the thought that a government that redistributes wealth for the common good is somehow acting inappropriately "Socialist." This socialist labelling is the most recent reactive foray by McCain into attacking Obama as not being fit for governing.

Labels and misleading memes seem to be the essence of the Republican and other far-right Conservative political tactics these days. It is getting "old" in America and is seen as dangerous domestically and in foreign policy approaches too. Lets hope Canada returns to it socially progressive and fiscally conservative roots coupled with a political passion for the planet as a renewed common cause.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Nightmare Video About Not Voting

I have been pushing the responsibility to vote in an informed manner for months on this Blog. Here is a video nightmare of me failing to do my civic duty if I were an American.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Save Democracy - Lie to a Pollster

So we already know we can’t trust politicians. But do we dare believe polls now or not? Obviously we can’t rely on them as they become less and less reliable. According to a great piece by Siri Agrell in the Globe and Mail today, the American pollsters are all over the map on tracking opinions on the road to the White House.

Pollsters are showing results from 13 different pollsters we see claims of an Obama lead ranging from 14 points to 1 point. Can they all be right? Can any of them be right? The polling methodologies are the culprits. The old-school techniques are missing major portions of the population because they don’t connect with cell phone users…lots of youth are not in the results.

They use automatic dialing systems and lots of folks will not talk to a machine. More built-in inaccuracies are “normalized.” Some only use Internet pull techniques and then apply variables like multipliers to try and adjust for skewed data.

Many national polls have very small sample sizes for regional reporting but that does not seem to be any deterrence from pollsters still making statements about regional findings. Other efforts to account for wide ranging differences is be averaging all polls, the so-called poll of polls. This is still no way to get better polling accuracy because garbage-in/garbage-out is not resolved by averaging all the garbage.

Canadian pollsters were all caught in the 2006 election predictions because they failed to recognize the impact of last minute shifts and final impulse decisions in undecided voters. This election they did rolling polls over the weekend before Election Day and came up with much closer results.

Mistrust of pundits, politicians and now pollsters by the public is a prudent default position for anyone who wants to know what is really going on in politics today.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Dr. O'Connor Cancer Documentary on Oscar Short List

There is an increasing awareness and concern over the health issues in Fort Chipewyan, which some 200 kms. down stream from the Alberta oil sands. There are also Athabasca River basin water quality issues that are at issue.

I recently attended the Keepers of the Water Conference in Fort Chipewyan and got some first-hand information and insight about what is going on up there around water and health issues.

The issues received international attention when former Fort McMurray physician, John O’Connor commented on the high rates of unusual cancers in the Ft Chip residents. There is a controversy swirling around Dr. O’Connor coming out of professional complaints filed by Canada Health by he has support from the Alberta Medical Association.

Dr. O’Connor ‘s findings were the subject of a recent documentary film entitled “Downstream.” Well the O’Connor profile and the issues in the documentary are about to get a lot more international attention. The film was just short-listed for an Oscar in the “Best Short Documentary” category.

The Academy Awards are scheduled for February 22, 2009. I wonder how this film will fare in February.

Canada's Wireless World Gets Weirder.

The weird world of wireless in Canada continues to make waves. Hat Tip to Blogger who quotes a Canadian Press story that Shaw Communications has just announced it will not enter the wireless market and will not be in the cell phone business.

Shaw just spent $190m buying a chunk of the new wireless spectrum to enable it to carry cell phones and multimedia signals. I wonder what they will do with the new spectrum asset now. Obviously sell it to someone…but whom?

This is not a good first step on the federal government strategy to reduce wireless service pricing in Canada by increasing competition by having more providers.

Quebecor Media, a sub of cable company Videotron, announces in the Globe and Mail today that it is investing $800m to launch a wireless network in the next 18 months. They picked up 178 new spectrum licenses for over $550m in July. Quebecor is planning to put ads on smart phones in Quebec and projecting to hold 30% of the Quebec market by 2015.

Earlier this week Bell was in the news with complaints from independent cell phone franchisees over commission issues and has teamed up with Telus to jointly invest in the next generation wireless network but has withdrawn efforts to put fibre-optic cable into homes in Ontario. How will this add to competitiveness’ in the wireless marketplace in Canada and better price deals for consumers?

The market meltdown and the continuing nationalization of the world’s financial systems add to the uncertainty for everyone. It is tough to plan for everyone in these strange days. It is interesting to see two cable companies betting on diametrically opposite directions on new wireless investment.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Premier Stelmach - Alberta Has a Social Infrastructure Deficit Too!

The plight of children under the care of the Government of Alberta is now front page news. It is part of the continuing saga of the social infrastructure deficit in the province that is impacting children, seniors, and those with developmental disabilities, amongst others.

We created an obvious capital and environmental infrastructure deficit in Alberta that is now being addressed with new capital investments and an emerging awareness about reclamation, wetlands, climate change and biodiversity issues, to name a few.

We caused these deficits by paying off the debt and deficit too fast. We applied every loose nickel to debt and deficit and ignored the growth demands of the booming economy as well as the maintenance issues of the as-built infrastructure facilities. We deferred the need to address the environmental implications of our overheated, expanding and accelerating economy as well.

The social infrastructure deficit was caused by the same rush to repayment but it was hidden because those who are harmed by it are the most vulnerable in our society and their over-extended advocates. It was too easy to ignore and the powers that be did!

The last two years has seen more attention being paid to the damage caused to vulnerable Albertans by this neglect – or at least the lack of timely, appropriate and required attention by the powers that be. Recruitment of staff into the Alberta social services sector has been a major challenge because wages, benefits and working conditions are so bad that people rationally take other jobs.

Full disclosure, I am working with the social service sector in the area of supports for Albertans with developmental disabilities. That is a bias but it also provides me with knowledge and facts about the plight of these people and those who support them. I know what I am talking about.

The social infrastructure deficit has been ignored and deferred for far too long. People are being unnecessarily and irreparably harmed as a result. Premier Stelmach needs to get personally engaged in responding to the social infrastructure deficit and investigate what happened and what is happening and then get it fixed.

The first place to start is to start paying the staff who are working in the not-for-profit community based social services sector the same as the unionized provincial employees are paid for doing the same work. Stabilizing the workforce in the sector then enabling the recruitment ands retention of trained staff is foundational to solving the problems of the social infrastructure deficit.

If the social infrastructure deficit is not fixed than Premier Stelmach better stop telling people that Alberta is a “great place to live, work, invest and raise a family.” It is not true for too many Albertans who are at-risk and vulnerable.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Old Fashioned Telephone Lines and the SuperNet Last Mile Solution

There is an interesting article by Fil Fraser on Alberta’s fibre-optic SuperNet in the October issue of Alberta Venture magazine. It is entitled “Only So Super” and it is well worth a read. Fil makes the point that the high-speed Internet access has not made its way into rural Alberta homes and businesses yet. That ubiquity of service was the promise of SuperNet but it has not happened – yet!

This is because the “last mile” connection from the public institutional users like hospitals, schools and libraries does not extend to the private citizen user. That so-called “last mile” of connectivity out to the rest of us in our homes, community groups and businesses has not yet been effectively resolved.

There are Internet Service Providers (ISPs) out there trying to resolve the last mile in rural Alberta using wireless and satellite services but with varying degrees of success. Wireless is a capital intensive and difficult public policy process to put up towers all over the place, and it has technical challenges too. The latency in signals from satellite does not serve video conferencing requirements effectively and video conferencing is going to be a major rural Alberta application of the power of the SuperNet. Some are proposing fibre to the home but that is very expensive and hardly necessary for most user’s needs.

Fraser notes “In less than a decade, technology has moved communications from dial-up services to coaxial cable to wireless networks to the nearly limitless, speed-of-light, carrying capacity of fibre-optic cable.” With the SuperNet, that “speed-of-light” fibre-optic is so close but yet so far from serving rural Alberta citizens and businesses. But until the last mile is really resolved, it is still out of reach.

There is an interesting, exciting and elegant alternative to resolving the last mile for the vast majority of rural Albertans. That solution is good old-fashioned copper telephone wire. That well known and familiar technology is already in every home and business in Alberta that has a land-line telephone. The technology has developed now so you can use it connect small town Albertans to the SuperNet using the reliable, robust, cheap, and ubiquitous copper wire telephone lines - with no new capital costs. Everything old is new again!

But there is a catch. The SuperNet was built by Bell and they are responsible to resolve the last mile issue. Bell’s position is wireless and satellite are enough to resolve the last mile issue, and they may be legally correct. However, As Fil Fraser noted, the accelerating use of video and video conferencing as the new normal expectation for Internet use, means theses “solutions” are not good enough anymore.

Copper wire is a winning solution to deal with the increasing demands of modern Internet users, especially for the new trends towards video and high-definition video conferencing. Here is the catch. All that copper wire in Alberta is owned by Telus and they claim this elegant and obvious last mile solution for rural Albertans is unworkable.

In Fraser’s article Telus likens the use of copper wire for SuperNet access would be like asking them to “build another company a black-and-white TV network instead of the new HDTV network we are halfway through building.” What? I am no techie but I understand Telus uses its copper wire for its own Hi-Def TV service as well as for their DSL Internet service. What is not workable about that?

Telus is suggesting their efforts to place their fibre-optic cable “across much of the province” would require them “…to actually pull out some of that hardware and go back to copper.” Why? I understand they don’t pullout copper wire. They just lay the fibre right beside it. But I am not techie! It would be illogical to pull out copper wire if it was able to provide high speed reliable and robust Internet service capable of video and high definition video conferencing for rural Albertans.

If Telus is laying optic fibre beside copper wire why are they even trying to duplicate the SuperNet? That fibre-optic system was already paid for by Alberta taxpayers? Why wouldn’t Telus access SuperNet themselves and provide all their new services to customers on that system? Saving the capital costs of installing a parallel fibre-optic service seems like a no-brainer and the funds could be used in other ways to improve shareholder value. Am I missing something here?

There is some good news. While the Internet and wireless is unregulated and priced by so-called competitive market forces, good old fashioned copper telephone wire access is still the CRTC. So the Internet Centre, the very first commercial Internet Service Provider in Alberta, has taken the matter in hand and has applied to the CRTC for a regulatory ruling. They have filed an application with the CRTC for Telus to provide ISPs the access necessary to their copper wire to provide high-speed Internet service to rural Albertans.

If the Internet Centre is successful then the 180 Alberta communities who currently have no Internet service can get it and get SuperNet access to boot. If you have a landline telephone in a community in Alberta, you will be able to get high-speed Internet service that is capable of handling video and high- definition video conferencing at least the same cost as wireless if not less. Don't you just love competition?

I am no techie, but I have talked to knowledgeable telecom consultants about this unloaded copper wire approach and everyone agrees that it is a great solution. I am advised that SaskTel is already using its copper wire for high-speed Internet access in small communities in Saskatchewan. One consultant told me “Just because copper wire is buried, does not mean it is dead.”

The CRTC advises that there is a 90% chance they will have their decision out before Christmas. Cost effective, reliable and robust high-speed high capacity Internet on copper wire they already have in their homes and businesses would make a nice Christmas present for rural Albertans. Keep your fingers crossed rural Alberta.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Is Jaffer on His Way to the Senate?

Congratulations are called for given the “secret” post-campaign marriage of Rahim Jaffer and Helena Guergis. Mr. Jaffer has also recently conceded the election to Dipper Linda Duncan.

Jaffer Severance Pay:
Don’t cry a tear for Mr. Jaffer and his campaign loss. He will collect $77,700.00 severance pay complements of the Canadian taxpayer. He will have to wait about 20 years to collect his $53,000.00 per year pension.

Senator Jaffer?
In the meantime it would not be a surprise if the Harper Party appointed Mr. Jaffer to the Senate. Jaffer would have to move to Ontario permanently because there are no Senate vacancies in Alberta right now, but Ontario has two openings. How hard will that be to relocate to become an Ontario Senator, especially since his wife is from Ontario?

Senator Jaffer will collect a basic entitlement of $134,400 per year for almost 40 years - until he is 75. If he takes on another role in the Senate he will get a significant top-up in the pay envelope. Dirty work but someone has to do it.

Senate Reform - Bert Brown is now Cool to the Idea!
I wonder if part of the Senate appointment will require Jaffer to support Harper’s campaign promise to institute 8 year term limits for the Senate. Bert Brown is the other Alberta Senate Reform champion but he is reported to be cool to Harper’s ideas on Senate reform all of a sudden. Brown was recently and finally appointed to the Senate as an “elected Senator” from Alberta. Newspaper reports indicate Mr. Brown is now cool to the idea of term limits but he still supports provinces electing Senators. Is anyone surprised?

This seems to put Mr. Brown totally off side with the Harper Party on Senate Reform. Brown does not want to see Harper unilaterally impose term limits because it would create a Constitutional crisis – likely lead by Quebec with Ontario and Atlantic Canada support. That would cause a provincial court challenge and further divide the country. But would Harper care if he is not going to stay in politics much longer than the life of his minority government?

Would Harper want to give up the discretion for Senate appointments to a bunch of wild-eyed reactionaries who might get elected from Provinces who would expect Harper to honour that democratic process? I think not.

Senate Reform is going to be a political sideshow given the serious economic, environment and social issues Canada really faces these days. That does not mean Senate reform will be ignored by the Harper Party. It is still a handy bone to throw to the radical right base that Harper still needs…even more than he needs Quebec…for the short term anyway.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

CTV Decides to Defend Themselves on the Dion Interview NOW? SPARE ME!

Here is an example of rationalization after the fact. CTV News is apparently now offering a defence to the airing of the Dion interview where he had to repeatedly ask for a clarification of the question to the effect of what Dion would do differently than Harper "now" if he were Prime Minister.

The question was ambiguous in that "now" could mean if Dion was PM for the same time Harper had been like 2.5 years, or during the current election campaign or afterwards in how he would govern differently if Dion won the election. Dion was seeking a clarification as to which time frame the interview was referencing. The answer would be significantly different in each case.

CTV thought this was so critical to quality journalism that they has a "responsibility" to air it. They had a responsibility all right. Starting with a responsibility to clarify the question would have been a professional place to start, especially in a second language.

Harper spun the event in yet another direction, being the congenitally misleading politician that he is...but that is just the same old mean-spirited politics that seem to be standard in Canada these days.

CTV- this just doesn't cut it. At least CTV you didn't go as far as the RCMP did in the last election and announce a criminal investigation publicly on Income Trusts. The spirit of "being responsible" sure seems to be in the same vein. Later the RCMP found no wrong doing by any politician and only some bureaucrat benefited with insider information. But those facts and that story got little to no play after the "facts."

Re-Engaging Culture Creatives in Public Policy Design

The Alberta Rally for Arts happened in Edmonton near the end of the federal election campaign. It was one of many events across the country to protest the Harper Party arts and culture funding cuts and to mobilize people to get involved in the election. I was asked to help out and here is a clip of part of my comments.

Based on the turnout being the lowest in history one wonders if people are grumpy but not angry enough to get seriousy engaged in effective citizenship.

The culture creatives and progressives in Alberta are a key group that need to re-engage in civics and citizenship if we are to have a cohesive, inclusive and creative society. I am a big believer that the world needs more Canada but Canada has to be more than mere myths of creativity, innnovation and inclusion.

I intend to try to continue to engage progressives and culture creatives in public policy design and development from now on. So you can expect some more "Free Speech" blog posts to those ends going forward.

Canadian Election - The Daily Show

This insight into Canada and our relationship with the USA and our election is so much fun. I love being Canadian just for the reasons Jon Stewart talks about.

Alberta Includes Midwifery Under Health Care Services - Finally

The Stelmach government once again shows its progressive side by including midwifery in the fully funded public health care system. This has been a long time coming and credit is due to the Stelmach government in this positive policy position.

I acted as legal counsel for the Alberta Association of Midwives many years ago and managed to get them legal status as a profession. A breakthrough in the “negotiations” happened when a Red Deer doctor complained to the RCMP about a mother having a home birth that had no complications. Charges were laid and the public saw this as ridiculous and abusive – which it was. It was also seen as by the public as turf protection by some members of the medical profession. To their credit, not all physicians had this attitude.

The mom hired a lawyer to push the matter through courts and I pursued it in the court of public opinion. We won in both courts and midwifery became legal as the political barriers that many backward thinking politicians had put up suddenly disappeared. Midwives became recognized as a profession under Alberta law – but the province refused to include them in the health care system for years.

Midwifery services have always been part of the access to services and wait times solution. With the shortages and aging of family physicians and obstetricians midwifery service is not so much an innovation as a necessity.

Alberta is slow to get up to speed on midwifery services compared to other provinces. We were never able to get them included in the public health care system for pure political reasons. The same backward attitudes slowed down seatbelts, smoking bans and unfunded teacher’s pension liability. Well Ed Stelmach has changed all that and now he adds enlightened policy on midwifery to his accomplishments. Congratulations Premier Stelmach and to all those who involved in this wonderful decision.

The MSM Seems Fixated on the Dion Demise While the World is in Turmoil

So here we go through the mainstream media silliness of the Dion demise and death-watch. Of course Mr. Dion is done as Liberal leader. Nobody with a three-digit IQ will likely misunderstand that reality. But the competitive MSM seems to be panting to be “first with the story.” That race to be rapid rather than right means they sacrifice facts and accuracy for being able to claim they "broke the story."

The classic reporting is of rumours from anonymous sources about when Dion will announce something. This is promulgated in a pack-journalism culture as if it was “news.” It is not even pedantic infotainment. It is pure gossip. Dion is going to consider and consult because he is a team player and that kind of momentous decisoin takes time and attention. This change of leadership has to be done right for the good of the country and not just the benefit of the Liberal party and in consideration of Dion's future role.

We all need help to understand the implications of the Dion demise to the effectiveness of the Liberal Party functioning as the Official Opposition in this minority Parliament. We need to have some analysis on the reality surrounding the timing and process of a leadership change. This is critical for the Liberals and for what it means for our Canadian democracy and the political culture of the country.

Thankfully the Globe and Mail is on the job. The great columns in today’s newspaper by Jeffery Simpson ( “There is Life After Leader) Lawrence Martin (“The Forecast: Dion out by year’s end, Harper before the next vote.”) and the thoughtful comments (that I disagree with in part) on the state of our democracy by Ed Broadbent (“21st Century Canada, Home of 19th-century Democracy”).

Depth perception and dialogue from authoritative and knowledgeable news sources seems to be missing in action these days. We need to move beyond the hardball hyperbole of the recent election. The 24 hour news cycle and the instantaneous and viral nature of the internet all tends to dumb down the news into a culture where quickness trumps quality. Facts get framed to fit into sound bites and analysis is mostly anal and listless. We have never had more communications but with less information.

As I write this the TSX has dropped below 9000, oil is down over $5.00 on the day and is under $70 - and more big banks are getting taxpayer bailouts in Europe and the States. At least hurricane OMAR is moving towards open water and not likely to hit land. Time to get focused and serious about the economy, the environment and our society.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Is Harper Changing Priorities?

And so the positioning begins…and it is a good thing. Prime Minister Harper moved his tone in his victory speech last night using much of Dion’s language to indicate that empathy was not a foreign word in Harper’s vocabulary.

Harper is clever enough to know that with a much weakened Dion and an overly enthusiastic Layton the ploy of making every vote a confidence matter will not work this time. Dion has nothing to lose if he is on his way out anyway, why not call Harper’s bluff and cause another election. Harper is a bully but he is not foolhardy.

Collaboration is going to have to be the governing model. We saw Harper back down when his bluff is called on matters like getting Elizabeth May into the debates and even rushing out a policy platform in the final week of the campaign.

The economy is fragile even with strong fundamentals and everyone knows it. Harper is finally admitting it publicly and moving from “I am in charge and will Do Nothing” to now he is bolstering the banks with a $10B cash injection and a “safety net for money markets mutual funds.”

Canadian Press is reporting a more malleable PM who is saying he is “…ready to meet with opposition leaders to discuss economic issues.” First Ministers will meet without him and he can't have that happne. Last time he insisted opposition leaders meet with him so he could “prove” Parliament was “dysfunctional” so his pretense of an election had “credibility.” Everyone saw through it but he called an election for his personal hubris and naked grab for power anyway. He has never delighted in meeting with his provincial inferiors but maybe times have changed.

The Harper Party is backing off Senate Reform – Duh – in this economic climate we are going to spice it up with the additional fun of Constitutional reform? Sure we are. Harper is backing of his Crime and Punishment legislation so 14 year olds are safe from life sentences – for awhile at least.”A conciliatory tone pervaded his news conference” according to the CP report.

The economy is clearly job 1 – as it should be. Too bad we had to spent $300,000,000.00 and about 5 weeks of wasted time to end up in the same place we started. Pretty expensive way to just target and cripple Stephane Dion don’t you think?

Is anyone really happy with this result? Dion's feeling have to be obvious with the lowest level of support for the Liberal Party - ever! Harper hasn't got it done with three times at bat and has to be wondering how much more he has to give to Quebec to get them on side. Layton has proven he is not Broadbent. Duceppe can't too pleased with being identified as saving English Canada from a Harper majority. May might win one day but no time soon. She can use the time until the next election to raise her support and profile.

Who Would You Choose for President?

If you could vote for the President of the United States - who would you vote for? Well you can - sort of. Here is a link where everyone in the world who is on-line can make their preferences known. The split is interesting but the differences in the various countries who are participating is even more interesting.

Obama and McCain will both likely isolate the States for various reasons and degrees. However based on the results of this site so far, if McCain wins, the world may want to isolate the States too, especially given the mess the Americans have made of the world financial markets.

Harper Get Close but Can't Close the Deal with Canadians.

Congratulations to the Harper Party. The results are not what Harper wanted but he can claim a success if not a win. Harper’s goal in this early and unnecessary election was to get a majority and destroy Dion and bankrupt the Liberal Party. So, I wonder, do Canadians feel we did not waste $300,000,000.00 dollars that could have been spent for better purposes?

The Harper majority was close and yet elusive. Harper lost the majority himself due to his lack of deft about understanding the importance of arts and culture to Quebec. It is so weirdly Canadian that the country was saved from a Harper majority, and the consequences of his proven demagoguery, by a separatist political movement. Harper has been to the election well three times and can't finish the job even with the most opportune of times with the Liberals being so unready and unsteady to run effectively.

Dion was the least experienced leader in his first election and he and the Liberal party was not really ready to run when the Writ came down. He was defeated by his own lack of political experience, his platform and his party, especially in Ontario and B.C. The last figures I saw as about a 9% reduction of Liberal support in Ontario. One wonders if the old guard stayed home and did not engage in Dion’s cause.

Then there was the impact of the economic meltdown factor. The Nanos tracking over the Thanksgiving weekend showed a shift in Ontario on Sunday to the Harper party. Speculation is this shift if likely from anxiety over the economy and the normative default but unproven consciousness that Conservatives are better economic managers.

Layton did well but not up to expectations. His popular vote stays the same and he gained 8 seats. Go figure. He will soon quit bragging about winning a seat in Quebec because Mulcair will be groomed to replace Layton sooner than later. Linda Duncan’s breakthrough in Alberta is a personal victory for her due to a strong campaign and strategic voting - and not anything to do with the NDP.

So we are back to square one with no clarity of a political outcome and no public policy purpose beyond platitudes. We are fragmented regionally and at sea economically as the global financial turmoil washes over us and puts us into recession. We have no comprehensive or comprehensible environmental policy and as for progressive policies on social issues, forget about it.

May's is a story of hope over experience. The strategic impulse of Greens voting for the Liberals did not take off. The popular vote for the Greens doubled and most of that came out of the hide of Stephane Dion.

So now we have a strong right and a strong but crowded left but no progressive middle. Dion identified the progressives in the final days but not with enough time to catch on and coalesce as a consciousness never mind a movement. The social progressive/ fiscal conservative centre is wide open in the Canadian political consciousness.

The Harper Party has to learn how to govern effectively in a world that is extremely complex and in critical shape. Cute tactics like a GST tax cut will not be enough to instill confidence in the Harper Party. Harper will have to change his style and show us some substance. Layton will be caught in the Harper Party everything is Confidence motion trap in this Parliament. Dion has nothing personally to lose now. I expect to see him and his caucus voting against Harper’s trickery and skullduggery more often, especially if he trumps up phony confidence motions on ideologically driven bad legislation.

The future for the Liberals is clear. The Liberals have to return to their roots, put away their egos and get fiercely focused on finances and rebuilding a modern party. That will start with new leadership in the face of new political realities.

We need leadership that can articulate authentically on the real needs and hopes of Canadians.
We need politicians who believe in government and can present a proper role and responsibility for government as a force of good and not the enemy of the people.

I think it is time to reinvent the old federal Progressive Conservative party philosophy even if under the Liberal label. That is where the vote rich and disenchanted progressive middle is in Canada today.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Vote Your Values and Please Take Your Democratic Responsibilities Seriously.

I am on my way to an important meeting and then off to vote. This will be a very short post. I know what some of you are thinking - miracles do happen.

The election outcome is in the hands of Canadians who will show up who have decided to make a difference. It is not in the hands of the democracy drop-outs.

The wisdom of the crowd was shown in the last election when the Chretien/Martin Liberals needed a spanking and voters decided to give the Harper Conservatives a "test drive" with a minority government.

That test drive is over and Harper is obviously not the vehicle to take us forward on the next stage of the journey that is Canada in the ecological age. Dion is ready because he has a character, integrity and a strong team that will support him. May has proven her mettle, breadth and depth and, with Dion, both have found their footing as capable politicians and not just policy wonks. Duceppe has proven to be the true Quebec father figure - not the fraud of "I feel your pain as a nation" Harper who read Quebec so wrong. Layton has done well and deserves praise but not more support because his policy approach is still rooted in the industrial world that is long gone in Canada.

Individual races are still in play all over the country and can make all the difference in the final outcome. So gentle reader today is the the day. The future is in your hands. Vote your values and take democracy seriously again.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Don't Get Diverted by the Spin Doctors - Delve into the Real Issues

You have seen a day's worth of spin and parsing of words and examples of journalistic ethical lapses on the Dion Halifax CTV interview.

Here is an excerpt of the interview that will find it place in journalism schools as a mistake and an example of poor questioning:

Steve Murphy: M. Dion, you’ve said today that Mr. Harper has offered nothing to put Canadians minds at ease during this financial crisis, and you go on to say that he has no vision for the country. You say we have to act now; doing nothing is not an option. So I’d like to begin by asking you: If you were Prime Minister now, what would you have already done in this crisis that Mr. Harper hasn’t done?

Stephane Dion: I can’t, I don’t understand the question. Because are you asking me to explain sir, at which moment, today, or since a week, or 60 weeks or s…

Steve Murphy: No, if you were the Prime Minister during this time already.

Stephane Dion: We need to start again. I’m sorry, I, if I was the Prime Minister starting when? Today? If I was the Prime Minister today?

Dion Aid: If you were the Prime Minister when, since Harper’s been Prime Minister.

Stephane Dion: Ya, two years and a half, ago.

Dion Aid: At any give time.

Soooo this looks to me like a legitimate request for clarification as to the time frame referenced in the question. Dion is asking Murphy if the time frame in is question is what would he do differently from Harper IF Dion had been in power since the last election, or since the election was called in early September, or if Dion should win on Tuesday.

What Dion would do differently would differ in each case. Here is some more transcript that will show you how this is the only reasonable interpretation of Dion's request to have the question clarified.

Dion Aid: What would you have done differently between, between the time that Harper’s been there, to change the country.

Stephane Dion: Ya, but if I had been Prime Minister two years and a half ago, we’d have had an agenda. Let’s start again.

Steve Murphy: OK.

Stephane Dion: We’ll go there.

Technician: I’m rolling. Still recording.

Steve Murphy: M. Dion, thank you for coming.

Stephane Dion: Thank you Steve. Let’s start again, I’m …

Steve Murphy: It’s a good job that tape is cheap.

Stephane Dion: But give me, give me a first date where I am Prime Minister that I can figure out, but, what your question is about.

Soooo...ignore the demeaning spin and take this exchange for wht it is...a failure to communicate by a professional communicator...nothing more nothing less.

We are seeing some Canadian MSM and the Conservative War Room who trying to turn this into Harper's version of the American media silliness that swirled around "Lipstick on a Pig."

There are serious issues like the economic turmoil, Afghanistan and Climate Change and health care that are not being discussed seriously enough in this election. Harper did not even respect the electorate enough to put our his campaign platform until the very last week of a 6 week campaign.

Lets move on and into the comparison of the characters of the tow front runners. Here is Dion's speech to he Canadian Club and Empire Club luncheon the day after Harper released his "platform brochure" to the exact same audience. Dion drew a much larger crowd and got 6 standing ovations. Harper had a very small audience and got a single and cursory standing "o."

Trends, Value Drivers and a Mood for Change is in the Air!

The crunch time for citizens is fast approaching as we reflect on who we will grant our consent to govern us. What are the dominant value drivers we will use to make this decision? Will it be the comprehensiveness of the party platforms, the character of the leaders or a major issue like health care, the environment or the economy? Will it be a feeling of anxiety over jobs and protecting savings or traditional voting habits? Will it be a strategic vote to block a poor option or bad outcome?

Trends indicate momentum and in the final four days those elements become all important as candidates and leaders try to get traction. Traction is needed so voters will take the time and actually show up and show their support at the ballot box.

Strategic Counsel has been tracking 45 tight battle ground seats in Quebec, Ontario and B.C. The sentiment of if Canada is on the right track has been trending down since Harper called his election. In B.C. it closes at 48% positive dropping significantly from a high of 57%. Ontario is now even more uncertain with a positive trend sentiment of 44% of significantly form a high of 57% a month ago. Quebec is the worst with only 46% positive sentiment dropping from 60% at the start of the election.

Other pollsters are saying Harper is coming back into potential majority government territory.

In B.C. the voters are shifting to the Liberals in the final stages and have the same 33% support they had at the 2006 election. The Conservatives and NDP are both 4% lower than last election.

The Greens are up 9% and it will be interesting if they vote strategically for Liberals to stop Harper given there is only a 2 point spread. Green votes for Liberals would make a big difference in B.C. outcomes.

In Ontario the Cons lead but are 10 points off their high and 1 point behind last election results. The Liberals are a full 6 points off the 2006 election results and all that support has gone to the Greens who are up 6. Again one has to wonder if the Ontario Greens will vote for local Liberals for strategic purposes.

Quebec’s story is the Bloc beating down the Conservatives down to the same levels as the unpopular Liberals. NDP and Green voters are the most likely to switch their votes, 28% and 32% respectively.

The mood for a change to a new government has increased significantly in the three battle ground provinces too. Since the election call B.C. voters who want a different government has jumped to 49% from 40%. Ontario is also in the mood for a change in government now at 54% up from 43% from when the election was called. In Quebec, the place where Harper really blew it, the mood for a change in government in Ottawa jumped to 63% from a mere 45% when the election was called.

These levels of people hunkering for a change do not bode well for Harper – unless he can position himself as the candidate of change in the next 4 days. So far his messaging has been just the opposite as he campaigns on he is the stable status quo guy who will Do Nothing to respond to the market meltdown. Layton and May are not in the game and Dion is struggling but the Liberal Team is making a difference.

I am not taking bets this election and don’t know anyone who is.

Pollsters Predict Harper is Back in Majority Territory.

The volatility in the Canadian election continues and there are races in some constituencies that are closer than anyone ever expected and impossible to call.

Strategic voting is the nagging question for soft Green and Dipper voters going into the weekend. Vote swapping is a new but growing phenomenon so citizens can "make their votes count" for the party they prefer.

If Harper is not threatening to win a majority the Green and Dipper vote firms up and stategic voting thought wane. If Harper is threatening to achieve a majority then the soft voters start thinking about strategic voting and vote swapping.

As of today, pollsters are telling us Harper is once again threatening a majority government...even without Quebec's suport he was conting on. The EKOS and Harris Decima rolling polls shows the Harper Conservatives have hit bottom and the trend is got an uptick yesterday.

Today EKOS seat projection says Harper is within MAJORITY territory once again with possibility of 152 seats. 155 seats are a majoirty. EKOS notes that “Seat projection models can be sensitive to small shifts in the regional distribution of support.” The go further and say “In sum, we (EKOS) think if anything this projection may somewhat understate Conservative strength.” Strategic voting therefore becomes a critical concern again going into the final weekend.

Harris Decima has the Conservatives up2 points to 34% and the Liberals and NDs dropping 1 point each leaving an 8 point Conservative lead. Harper and Dion are statistically tied in Ontario and Quebec meaning every vote counts for second place behind the Bloc.

The Liberals are the major second choice for Dippers but the Conservatives have seen a significant resurgence in NDP second soft choices since the debates. Harris Decima says the market turmoil will have significant impact on voter psychology over the weekend before Election Day. They say “The economy and the potential movements of the NDP and Green support are the most important factors to watch heading in the final weekend of campaigning.”

Elizabeth May is endorsing strategic voting to Stop Harper. She is quoted in today's Globe and Mail saying: "I just think Canadians need to take a long hard look at the potential here to get rid of the government of Stephen Harper and all the it represents." She is not saying vote strategically in those races that are not tight. But in those that are close then strategic voting to Stop Harper is well advised.

Like Don Martin, I am going into this weekend with no idea what the final election outcome will be. All scenarios are possible. It is very similar to how I felt going into the final weekend in the March Alberta election. The mood there was for change and the electorate who showed up still gave Ed Stelmach, the incumbent Progressive Conservative, an enormous majority government.

This weekend as Canadians gather around family Thanksgiving dinners they will be thinking twice before they vote once. The market turmoil and economic concerns will dominate. It is a 2 horse race between Harper and Dion's team. May and Layton are also-rans and at least she knows it.

Will they believe in Harper's indifference and Do Nothing approach is the best way to go? Do they think Dion's consultative and deliberative planning approach with the help of Paul Martin be a better way forward?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Harper's Empathy Deficit

Doesn't this Globe and Mail political cartoon by Gable say everything you need to know about Harper's view of regular Canadians in time of crisis?

Environment Site Endorses Liberal Wachowich in Edmonton Centre.

Vote for the Environment is a group encouraging strategic voting. They have endorsed Jim Wachowich in Edmonton Centre. They note the NDP and Greens in Edmonton Centre would have to get behind him to make it happen.

It is the seat represented by Anne McLellan, the former Deputy Prime Minister of Canada. Her supporters have moved with her and are solidly behind Wachowich's bid to send Harper a message and defeat the Conservative candidate.

Strategic voting and vote swapping has begun and may make all the difference in close ridings all across the country. Edmonton Centre is in the centre of strategic voting efforts.

Time for Alberta Strategic Voters to Stop Harper

Have we Albertans gotten our money’s worth from 28 Conservative MPs? If you read the pre-election spending in the 3 months before the election Harper spent $941 per person in Quebec and a mere $15 per person in Alberta. How is that fair to Alberta, where Harper allegedly calls his “home?”

Quebec flirted with voting Conservatives for the first few weeks in this election. Then they saw through Harper and have not just rejected him, they are now shunning him. Ironically it is Quebec that is actually saving Canada as a country by ensuring Harper only gets a minority government at best.

Wake up Alberta. We are being taken for granted and have been ignored ever since Harper came to power. Now he wants to interfere in Alberta’s natural resources by controlling bitumen exports and mess with nuclear power in our province. So much for the old Reform Party Harper who wanted to protect Alberta from interference from Ottawa with "Firewall."

Wake up Alberta. Send Harper a message on October 14th. Vote strategically to elect Wachowich in Edmonton Centre, Duncan in Edmonton Strathcona and Ford in Edmonton Sherwood Park. These are strong candidates with vital voices with proven ability. They will not be a mute minion in a Harper caucus under his command and control one-man kind of leadership.

Stelmach to Harper - Stay Out of Alberta's Business!

I was going to write a blog post on Premier Stelmach’s entry into the federal election and his taking on Prime Minister Harper’s intervention into Alberta’s business. This is very unusual, especially for two fiscal conservatives to be engaging this way but I applaud Premier Stelmach for in engagement. I then read Paula Simons Edmonton Journal column today and she says it so much better than I can as a Progressive Conservative partisan.

I was thinking of the irony of Harper’s isolationist attitude about Alberta’s future as he signed the famous Firewall letter and now he imposes himself into Alberta’s business. I think it may be better for us if he continued to ignore Alberta instead of interfering in our business.
I see Stelmach’s style is so different from Harper. Harper build firewalls and imposes barriers.

Stelmach, on the other hand is in Toronto and Montreal to explain how Alberta is a partner in the national economy and ecology. Harper is oblivious to the devastation the global market meltdown will have on Canadians. Stelmach is calling on his fellow Premiers to have an emergency meeting to deal with the impacts on citizens across the country. You would think the man who wants to stay Prime Minister would be taking this lead.

Stelmach has enough on his plate fighting ENGOS on oil sands issues and now he has to fend off the Prime Minister - a fellow Conservative but no friend of Alberta of her jurisdiction. With friends like these…!

Harper Admits to Being "Upfront" on War Costs.

It has to be a sad day when it is MSM news that our government is noted as being "upfront" about what something is consting us taxpayers.

When that something is the Afghan war where were are getting honesty from our governmetbn it is even more depressing.

Have you have enough of this government yet?

230 Canadian Economists Say Harper is Wrong on Climate Change

When you are a one-man show, believe you are the smartest guy in the room and think politics and power trump good governance you don’t see or choose to ignore wise and sage advice from experts who can help you.

Harper is so isolated in his own intellectualism that he has become blind to sound advice from other smart people, especially those he considers to be outsiders or his intellectual inferiors.

He has chosen to ignore the Open Letter published October 6th from more than 230 of his fellow-economists on a “… economically coherent action on climate change.”

The economists note the fact that there is remarkable agreement amongst them on “…this key point – the best climate change policy is to put a price on carbon.” Harper is still a climate change denier in his heart.

No way can he accept this reality because he would have to admit Dion is right.

Given Harper's approach to rigid command and control governing - what are the chances of that ever happening?

Liberal Ads Top YouTube

CBC’s Ormiston Online notes the Liberal Attack Ads on Harper have taken over YouTube as the Top 5 Videos. This is modern campaigning at its best and an effective counter attack on Harper's political tactics on Dion for more than two years.

Harper spent millions of tax subsidized dollars for expensive television ads attack ads on Dion in an old-school approach to Bush-league politics. He bullied and manipulated the public perception of Dion but in ways that were not authentic. Harper misaligned the messages with the reality that Canadians have come to know about Dion the person. It is backfiring on Harper now in spades.

You can buy a short term change of perception with multi-millions of dollars on attack ads but you can’t change long term values and beliefs with such political tactics.

Harper is only holding on to his core Conservative voting base now because he has offended our core values and dismissed the concerns of Canadians have. Harper has been especially indifferent about the personal impacts of the global financial crisis.

Now he is using more money on even more expensive televised attack ads. This time it is an attempt to frighten Canadians, highlighting women, by telling his typical misleading half truths about Dion.

The country knows now that Dion is going to reduce taxes for Canadians on their hard earned incomes, investments and enterprises. By making polluters pay we are all encouraged to become part of the solution. We can avoid the personal and corporate costs of pollution by changing our behaviours and helping to solve the climate change crisis as well as the economic crisis. Harper ignores all these truths in this desperate last ditch advertising effort to save his campaign from disaster.

Harper is the one who is fear mongering and inducing panic with this kind of inaccurate and cynical attack ad. Harper IS the Risk to our democracy and is offensive to our values as Canadians, particularly when he persists in this kind of Bush/Cheney Republican politics.

Stop Harper! Vote Liberal!

The Election Trends Are Changing in the Home Stretch

Harris Decima and EKOS rolling polling results up to yesterday showed some interesting and shifting trends. The Cons have been humbled and Harper has been accurately framed by his own words and deeds as cold callous and uncaring about the anguish of ordinary Canadians.

That said the Conservatives slide has seemed to stabilize. If that sustains, Harper is likely to form government again unless Harper blows it even more in the next 5 days. Campaigns matter and anything can happen.

The demographic shifts and regional volatility is where the interesting changes are occurring. The sample sizes in the regions and provinces are very small and very unreliable in each poll. If you can believe the polls, which is not a given, the Cons look like they have regained their solid in B.C. and stealing soft NDP support.

In Quebec the Cons have dropped 10 points and flirting for 4th place with the NDP. Here the Cons failure is most dramatic. After promising Quebec per capita spending of about $94o, pandering language about fiscal imbalance and “Quebec nation” has been rejected. Quebec has seen Harper for who he is. His “dissing” of artists and demeaning culture and putting children jail for life has shown Harper does not share the same values as Quebecers. The released costs of the Afghan war twice as high as Harper said it would be will be another big blow to Harper’s support in Quebec.

Ontario and Atlantic Canada is a sprint to what will be a photo-finish because the support is all so

If Harper was in majority territory strategic voting would be important. It will still be a factor in close and key ridings and I will post on that later. The polls note the Liberals will be the largest beneficiaries of strategic vote switchers – if that happens. The Greens are the most likely to switch Liberal for strategic purposes. About 60% of Undecided voters are still up for grabs as strategic voters but only a third of them are saying they would vote mostly to stop a Con majority.

Harris Decima shows the NDP national support is showing slippage but they are still healthy except in Quebec…no surprise! In Ontario they are growing but the Liberals are ahead of the Cons and that is the real story.

The big shift that may make al the difference is the female voter. They are leaving the NDP and moving to the Liberals. The Liberals have more female support than Harper for the first time since the election call. When it comes to urban female support the Liberals have really taking off moving up 10 points in a week taking it away from Harper and Layton.

I’m thinking there will be some serious strategic voting with soft Greens going Liberal and NDP soft female support doing the same thing on a constituency basis, not nationally. Quebec voters are the only ones who had a larger advanced poll than in 2004 and they are going to bury Harper on Tuesday. Ontario and Atlantic Canada may shift to a larger Liberal vote if they realize that Danny Williams and Bill Casey is right and they have been screwed around on the Atlantic Accord by Harper.

Right now Harper’s death-mo decline in popularity has stopped but who knows where it goes. Dion has gotten into the game and the advent of Martin joining his team can only serve him well in gaining the confidence of Canadians in these turbulent times.

May Disses Duffy After the Debates

Thanks to Daveberta the clip where Elizabeth May rips Mike Duffy a new one.

It is high time this happened. The misinformation, false framing and infotainment feeding frenzy that we see in "authoratiative media" these days has to be called.

We need journalism to return to its roots. With the free for all anonymous riddled blogosphere we need authoritative journalism more than ever. Please MSM get back to honouring the basic principles of ethical journalism as a hallmark of news and commentary. Democracy needs it and citiznes should demand it.

Good for Lizzie May. She took a axe and gave Mike Duffy 40 whacks. Good for her. I hope this is not the last time she calls out shoddy professional journalism.

I am voting Liberal and sending the Greens a cheque.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

What's Missing From Harper's Late and Light Election Platform?

So the Harper Campaign Platform, such as it is, has finally been made public. It is very intentional that Harper released his “platform” late so Canadians only a week to review it. He did not want to even release a platform because it would make him accountable for promises. Harper doesn't like to be made to accountable to Canadians.

Those ordinary Canadians who had to vote in advanced polls did not have a chance to read the Conservative platform. Those advanced poll voters must have felt cheated by Harper's indifference and not even trying to inform them of his vision for the country before they had to vote.

Harper has released a very shallow and superficial policy document. It is mostly pictures in the sweater vest mode and very little policy substance. It suffers from a lack of insight and shows a serious insensitivity to the plight of Canadians trying to face of the current economic calamity.

Harper tries to reassure anxious Canadians by preaching about sound fundamentals that comes of as a hollow and misleading. Harper thinks there are no holes in the hull of Canada’s fiscal ship of state. Unfortunately Harper is oblivious to the consequences of the global fiscal tsunami that will swamp us anyway.

Harper persistent Do Nothing "solution" will not reassure Canadians he is up to the job of serving the citizens of the entire nation in the position of Prime Minister. Harper does not seem to have an answer to the crisis and comes of as waffling with a haughty and superior attitude.

He does not seem to care about the impact of the crisis on ordinary Canadians and is in denial that anything of significance is happening. Obama in the debate last night nailed it when he said the world is facing the most devastating economic crisis since the collapse of 1929 that resulted in the Great Depression. Harper is fiddling and tinkering with minutia and marginal efforts to respond.

The Harper campaign platform is deficient in so many other ways. We live in turbulent complex times where governments have to engage on a wide range of concerns. To show just how shallow and superficial the Harper Conservative election platform is, consider that these words WERE NOT IN THE PLATFORM DOCUMENT



Harper is still a one-man-band political team. He is still convinced that he is the only one he needs to consult with on any Conservative policy. He believes that he alone knows what is "best" for Canada. He has shown us he is not a statesman. He is a bully. He is not aligned with Canadian values and has shown nothing but contempt and indifference to our current concerns and our hopes and aspirations as citizens and as a county.

Harper's warm and fuzzy sweater is unravelling and it is showing us that the same old mean spirited , callous and uncaring Conservative candidate is underneath.

Stop Harper. Vote your Canadian values.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Harper's Campaign Platform is Not Just Disappointing - It is Disasterous.

The Harper speech on the Conservative last minute campaign platform made it look like there was only one plank in the thing. He did a litany of old news on old announcements and hoping that would appease voters. Voters are shoing thay are not prepared to vote for a “Do Nothing” politician especially as we face the most disastrous economic calamity since 1929.

Harper’ political lens is just that of an economist. His speech was like a keynote to the Conference Board of Canada, the Fraser Institute of the C.D Howe Institute. All about balanced budgets, lower taxes and controlling inflation. Important stuff but that is not all there to consider in this election.

I thought it was telling that Harper admitted he knows this economic disaster was coming as far back as August 2007 but he did not address it in this election – that HE CALLED – until the very last minute. Is that because he did not have a plan, did not want to share it or did not want to be bound by any campaign promises so he could do what every he liked with the absolute power of a majority government? Can you trust a man to govern who uses any of these tactics?

So let’s look at the platform itself. It has five sections and a costing. Cost of living, jobs for the future, a “strong, united, independent and free Canada, health and environmental well-being and safety and security. Why did he only talk about the stock portfolios and taking a “trip of a lifetime”? Hardly the stuff that is top of mind of ordinary Canadians like keeping their jobs, securing their savings and pensions!

In two weeks $400B has been wiped off the Canadian stock market and $2Trilllion of our largest customer, the Americans. Are they going to be unable to buy from us and where is Harper’s expertise as an economist on this reality?

A detailed look shows it is still a “Do Nothing” strategy. Harper tells us there are no holes in the hull of the Ship of State but he is ignoring the economic tsunami that everyone else sees and knows will swamp the boat unless we respond.

The rhetoric in the Cons Campaign Platform is the same old – same old and it is mostly pictures – pretty and cuddly but not much substance. Communities policy is all about crime – did not see anything new about infrastructure needs beyond what he has already announced, ironically using the Liberal gas tax transfer as the source of funds.

The consumer theme is tinkering on a two cent tax reduction on diesel when the problem is that there may not be enough diesel fuel to meet demand.

Here is a burning issue that goes to the heart of the economic crisis facing Canada. Harper is going to stop phone companies from charging for receiving unsolicited text messages and spam. How naïve is it to think that this is going to appease the folly of the stupid copyright legislation Harper has introduced.

Now that they have created the food inspection crisis, they are making a virtue out of necessity. More inspection and testing of food, toys and consumer products the obvious rampant crime of gas pump tampering.

Family policy focus is on disability sector needs by creating a Disability Savings Plan – like an RRSP scheme and allowing income splitting for stay home care givers. No indication of supporting disabled people themselves. Let’s hope this is as insincere as his Income Trust promise last time.

The marginal tinkering with penny-ante programs is laughable. $5000 tax credit for First-time home buyers means only $750 in real dollars – if you are in the highest tax bracket. Indexing the $100 per month TAXABLE child care benefit is also laughable. If Harper is going to control inflation – who cares? Spare us please!

Some vague language on making housing affordable for “Vulnerable Canadians” will only maintain funding at current levels and will give low income home owners renovation assistance. This is such silliness when low income people can’t stay in their homes with pending job loss…never mind renovate.

There is lots of make- work- but-not- in-anyway- that- is-progressive and the usual vague language on aboriginal challenges and fuzzy comments about working with provinces. Aboriginals are a federal jurisdiction. Harper is down loading the challenges that are his Constitutional responsibility, to the provinces.

The breathtaking policy on “Reforming or Abolishing the Senate” is a sop to the Reform/Alliance base as a time when substantial and reassuring leadership is so critical. We don't need to initiate a Constitutional Amendment policy when the economy is in crisis.

There is more but it is all superficial and shallow stuff that misses the mark in addressing the major angst and anguish of Canadians today. Indifference and callousness abound. Harper does not only not "Get It" He doesn't CARE!

I will do more posts later, today or tomorrow, on the Harper half-hearted so-called campaign platform. He is still committed to do nothing of substance or that shows no capacity for caring and understanding of the plight of regular Canadians.

Stop Harper before he Misleads again. Vote Liberal.

Don't Trust the Polls - Remember How Wrong They Were in 2006

Here is a disturbing poll result. It is a post English debate ayalysis. I am disappointed, not because Dion did not win and Harper did. There is some silver lining in that Harper did lose ground during the debate because 36% of viewers had a worse opinion of him and only 29% improved their opinion of him.

May and Layton were the big winners of the English debates...hands down. Duceppe impressed and Dion held his own and got to show us who he is without the "advantage of Puffins and Harper's personal attack ads on him.

The disappointment is that the poll is apparently based on opinions formed after only watching the first hour of the debate. If this is true the results are suspect and the methodology is to.

That would be like watching the first half of the movie and then doing a review of the whole movie without seeing it all. Not good. Say it ain’t so Ipsos Reid.

Monday, October 06, 2008

HARPER Continues to Fall From Grace on the Economy

Harper said the economic fundamentals in Canada are strong while we see the stock market plunge.

Harper said he would do nothing response in the global market meltdown. THAT IS NOT AN OPTION SIR!

Harper takes a day off campaigning for Canada right in the middle of the stock market meltdown.

Harper is forced to release a campaign platform which will come out after the advanced polls are closed.

Harper says there is no need to ensure the Canadian banking system is stabilized even when the Bank of Canada plunks down $3Billion more to provide liquidity for our banks.

Harper now says he will “CONSIDER secondary plans to stabilize the Canadian financial System.” What exactly does that mean Mr. Harper? Can you be a bit more decisive and clear Mr. Harper, in spite of your desire to Mislead and not Lead!






Do Conservatives Care About the Youth Vote?

I received an interesting news release today with the headline “Do Conservatives Care About Youth Votes in Edmonton?” It was from a group of young Edmontonians who call themselves “interVivos” who are all about inspiring, informing and mentoring young Edmontonians who want to become leaders in the community. They are hosting a youth forum tomorrow on the Federal Election for all parties to connect with engaged and informed youth in Edmonton.

The Conservatives have been serious no-shows this election. They ducked out of the Albertans for the Arts Rally last Wednesday in Edmonton. The Conservatives did not show up at a Human Rights forum recently. Will they care about youth or fail to show up this time too.

The event is tomorrow, October 7th and open to the public at Ching’s Asian Kitchen and Dim Bar, 10154 – 100 Street in Edmonton.

Doors open at 6:00 p.m. and the Candidates spear from 7:00 p.m. to 8:15 p.m.

Harper is Hurting Alberta

I have received some dramatic statistics that Albertans will be very interested in about how Harper has already shifted money out of Alberta into central Canada. According to the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation the Harper Conservatives are not only taking the Alberta voters for granted, they are actively directing federal funds away from Alberta.

Since June 2008 Harper’s election announcements will redistribute money out of Alberta and into the vote rich central Canada. The West Wanted In and Harper’ s win in 2006 accomplished that goal. Has the fact that the Prime Minister comes from Alberta done us any good. NO! In fact it is doing us harm.

Look where Harper’s per capita election spending announcement spending is going:





Now Harper wants to interfere in the free market place and stop exports of Alberta’s oil sands UNLESS Harper personally approves the deals first. So much for a free enterprise open market political party. Harper is on notice from Premier Stelmach that he is in for a fight over Alberta's constitutional rights over natural resources. Who would have thought Harper would become the New Trudeau. Well he has.

Based on how badly Harper treated us on his Income Trusts betrayal and how badly he is treating us NOW on federal program spending, Albertans have to think hard if he even cares about Alberta's future.

Harper Retreats From "Do Nothing" to "Do Very Little Too Late."

I see that Mr. Harper is now saying there needs to be a co-ordinated effort to deal with the economic crisis. Harper is now in full retreat mode.

First he has his mistaken mantra that there is nothing wrong with the Canadian economy, the fundamentals are sound...even as we drop 21% off the TSX in a month...DUH!

Next he says the best approach to the American metldown going global is to do nothing. DUH again. It is not what is he thinking. The real question is: IS he thinking?

Then he says Dion's quick response for a comprehensive coordinated consultations with the best minds involved with all the issues we need to address meet and come up with a plan within 30 days of Dion's election. Harper calls that a panic reaction. Hardly! Is is responsive and responsible governing.

Harper is a one-man show and thinks he is always the smartest guy in the room, if not the country. He need to only talk to himself in order to deal with policy issues. His solution to a global economic crisis is...DO NOTHING!

Well to day the retreat of Stephen Harper is just about complete. Bloomberg is reporting this morning that Harper, the Man Who Wants to be the First President of Canada, is calling for a coordinated planned effort to deal with the economic crisis. The retreat from Harper's economic policy is complete.

I can't wait to read his hurried-up and too late Campaign Platform he is finally releasing tomorrow. You only have a week to read and understand it Canada. Better cram and examine it carefully. Expect even more of Too Little-Too Late from Mr. Harper.

Too little too late Mr. Harper is the fundamental campaign platform of the Harper Conservatives this election and it is costing him. First he lost the trust of Quebecers with his insidious insincerity and cold, callous policy about arts and culture plus the heartless and harrmful incarceration of children for life sentences. And now you have forfeited the benefit of the doubt from Canadians with your distain and indifference for their plight and the coming economic calamity.

Harper is not worth the risk.

Harper Fiddles As the Economy Burns

How many Harper Conservatives does it take to change a light bulb?


They don't like change and would rather stay in the dark and do nothing.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Post-Debate Poll Shows a Glimmer of Hope for Dion

Nanos has the first poll results I have seen post-debate. The debate may have been won by Harper according to an Ipsos Reid poll but remember that poll was taken only after the first hour of the debate not after the entire event was completed. People need to see the how show before they will form any kind of dependable poll based conclusion. Take the Ipsos poll on debate results with a large grains of salt given the questionable methodology used.

Nanos sees Dion doing rather well with a bump in the party standings as well as in perceptions about his leadership skills. The Cons have dropped to 34% from a high of 41%. They are more than 2% points below the January 2006 election results. The Liberals under Dion are exactly where they were in the last election under Martin. The Dipper are up 1.5 points and the Bloc is not changed and the Greens are up 2 points over the 2006 election results.

This is not telling us much more. Remember Harper's votes are very efficiently concentrated in rural ridings and the rest of the players split the towns and cities. Harper could still do well in total seats. And we don't know is this is a one-time shift or a sustainable trend yet.

Stay tuned. This week will set the tone and make or break Stephen Harper's aspirations for a majority government. His last minute release of a campaign platform better be great or it will just remind voters how indifferent he is to telling them his plans - other than do nothing to help in the growing financial fallout from the American financial meltdown.

The last long weekend before the voting will be where Canadians reflect on Harper, his leadership style of bullying and do nothing about the environment and the economy and his one-man command and control governance style. Does he truly reflect the kind of Canada we are and want to become. That is where the trust, openness and honesty issues will come to bear on his political prospects.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Stephen Harper's Canada in 60 seconds

More hard hitting political video commentary from the Blogosphere.

Politics has changed forever with the Internet.

Stephen Harper Is George Bush and John McCain.

This is a great example of how the Blogosphere is getting active and pushing back at the Harper do nothing leadership.

Such independent video efforts were virtually (sic) unheard of in the 2006 campaign. But boy are they everywhere now...and they are not happy with Harper's lying and indifference to social, environmental and economic concerns.

Don't let Harper's wilful blindness about the American financial crisis impact on Canada.

Your savings, your pensions and your investments are at risk but Harper says there is nothing he will do to protect you.

Stop Steve "Do Nothing" Harper.

Harper is Indifferent to the Emerging Economic Crisis Impact on Canadians

Mr. Harper says this plan to respond to the financial crisis, that is spreading around the world, is to do absolutely nothing. He even belittles Dion’s policy proposal to get Canada's best brains available to come together to plan a coordinated and integrated national response to the crisis. Dion is focused and energized and promising an economic response plan within 30 days of being elected. Harper is posturing and posing this as "a panic response."

Hardly a panic but rather a planning approach with a sense of urgency as is required under the circumstances. This is the approach the leaders of the major European Union countries who met in Paris today do exactly what Dion says he is going to do. They all came together and started the planning to prepare an effective and urgent response to the growing crisis.

Mr. Harper’s leadership in the face of economic peril is to do nothing. He seems unable to grasp the fact that Canada is not immune from the impact of the most devastating economic conditions since 9-11. He is oblivious or in denial about the consequences of the integrated relationship of the Canadian economy to the American economic downturn.

His academic economics training shows he is looking at the events only in an academic and not political or policy context. He is fixated on the fact we have a more reserved Canadian banking sector and that is enough for Harper to conclude everything is fine as he stays the Bush/Cheney course.

Harper is failing to see the broader picture. Harper is showing the voter that he is devoid of the necessary insight needed to be an effective leader in uncertain times. He is avoiding the mustering of the empathy he needs to effective and to reassuringly deal with the anxiety of citizens who can see the economic tsunami coming at them.

This coming week will be the most defining time in this election. Harper is acting insouciant and indifferent to citizen’s growing and serious economic concerns. He is just messaging to the political media and pushing the line that he, Stephen Harper, has matters under control so don't worry. But he offers us no evidence to prove this policy position is anything more than pure political posturing.

The times have changed dramatically in the past couple of weeks. Harper's early election call was intended to avoid this economic disaster befalling his leadership in the campaign. Too bad!Harper is proving to be unable to deal with this crisis other than as an academic economist. He is using the standard economist trick of deeming a different reality than what actually is happening. Economic deems "facts" all the time so their view of "reality" is tailored to fit a preconceived but inadequate model that doesn't reflect the real world.

Harper is so close to Bush/Cheney policy patterns that he seems unable to see the importance of the economic changes that have just happened. He is an economist so it is astonishing that he has such a blind spot and that he is retreating into denial. Harper’s personal governing style has proven to be rigid, command and controlling. He is obviously convinced that he is always "the smartest person in the room," and that presumption is proving to be a maladaptive character trait.

Harper even taking this Sunday off from the campaign - just when he should be starting his final "kick" to boost the energy and excitement of the campaign platform as he sprints to the finish line. That "day off" approach indicates just how much he is missing the import of what changed in the world this week given the consequences of the American financial crisis.

The fact that Harper has been so indifferent to informing the voter that he has not deemed it necessary to even release a campaign platform. He got caught on this indifference in the debate so he is rushing out a platform next week. He is leaving Canadians less than a week to study and to try to understand where Harper would take the nation. Astonishing indifference, especially to the advance poll voters who will have to vote before they could even see the Conservative policy platform.

What Canada needs now is a politician who is a thoughtful team leader without any self delusion or denial. We need a Prime Minister with real wisdom and sound judgment who can work with others...not just a one man show. The country needs someone who has empathy and a capacity to lead in ways to protect and empower people through these times of high anxiety.

That sound more like Canada needs Dion and the Liberal team and not so much Mr. Harper alone with his muted and trained seal MPs.

People are anxious and fear is growing. He is about to blow the majority because Quebec voters has seen through his political pandering and they are leaving him in droves. Will his obvious indifference, insensitivity and pure ineptness towards the coming economic crisis scare the voter in the rest of Canada away? We will know the end results on October 14th. Strategic voting will be making a big difference to prevent Harper majority and it is an interesting election all of a sudden.