Election’s a go

Today, Prime Minister Stephen Harper asked the Governor General for the dissolution of Canada’s 39th Parliament and Her Excellency will ask for the return of writs in 37 days. All five major party leaders made television appearences to either give speeches, take question or both. Here are my initial impressions.

Stephane Dion started by saying that in this election there will be “two stark differences”, that between the Liberal Party and the Conservatives. Stephane Dion is picking up right where Paul Martin left-off. No, I’m not talking about a firesale where all seats must go, but rather by trying to define the election as one of two choices. Unfortunately for Mr. Dion, this election is crowded on the left and will see attention given to NDP, Bloc and even the Liberal-proxy Greens which may end up being more trouble than benefit for the Liberals. In modern elections, Liberals have always had to strike out against their main Conservative opponents while taking time to suppress NDP gains on the left. By defining “two stark differences”, the right may be well-defined but there is a low signal-to-noise ratio on the left. Dion also made a point of saying that he “loves Canada” and took a minor tangent and regaled people on his love for our country. You’ll remember that Stephen Harper wasn’t so explicit when asked by a reporter/plant during the last campaign on this topic. It took the then-opposition leader by surprise and his answer wasn’t prepared. This may be significant because of the similar backdrops of the House of Commons; Dion gave his launch speech in exactly the same location that Harper did in December 2005. The Liberals may be trying set the scene quite literally for a contrast video piece on “loving Canada”.

A reporter asked Dion if he accepts the premise that this election is defined by leadership. Dion stumbles by accepting this directly and says that he leads on the environment, poverty and a whole list of Liberal policies. The Conservatives would like nothing better than the national media to accept leadership as the ballot box question and define the rest of the race through this lens through which the Conservatives have already focused their message for almost two years since Dion won the leadership race in late 2006. I also think that it was a disastrous mistake for the Liberals to lead with what is their de facto main policy plank months before this election. Questions have arisen even among Dion’s own MPs about the implementation, the regional differences and even the concept of the Green Shift itself. Canadians are aware of the Green Shift, so how does Dion plan to re-launch it? A reporter asked about the “carbon tax” and whether its a good policy for Canadians. Dion responds without redefining the question about the “Green Shift” and answers it instead in the context of a tax. These were two significant mistakes by Dion; to accept this election as a referendum on leadership and taxation.

Jack Layton addressed supporters from Gatineau along the banks of the Ottawa River overlooking Parliament. The speech was somewhat annoying because his crowd of supporter either wasn’t big enough, or didn’t translate on the microphone well enough to sound big. The camera shot also featured a somewhat disheveled looking lady and a guy in a bucket-hat. While his supporters applauded every speech point (which were many and frequent), Layton defined this election for himself; Jack Layton is running for the job of Prime Minister. Layton is taking a bolder and different track this time around and doing (what he may argue) Dion cannot. By echoing the same message of a choice between two visions, Layton is trying to drop the Liberals from the game. How can NDP voters go Liberal to stop Harper when Liberals gave the Prime Minister the green light during the last session? The Conservatives and NDP will attack the Green Shift on two fronts. On the right, increased taxation will be Conservatives warning to Canadians while on the left the NDP will make try their point that only the NDP has credibility on the environment (Bill C-377).

Gilles Duceppe with each passing election is becoming an anachronism in Canadian politics. The Bloc Quebecois leader’s speech had a number of hidden agenda references from George Bush to abortion to gender equality. Isn’t this 2008? We’ve heard this song before et désolé, ici ce n’est pas le Bloc. Also of note, Canada may be unique in modern western democracies in that it is a viable election strategy to inflate your opponents chances indicating that they may win a majority government.

Finally, Elizabeth May gave an impassioned speech about voter participation which should be well received by anyone watching. However, May’s passion moved into a speech about climate change that gave me the feeling that an advocacy group has not yet fully matured into a political party. If the Greens are going to debate, they need to broaden their platform and present themselves as alternative on the left rather than a pseudo-Liberal coalition. Watching CPAC coverage, I could not believe my ears that former Sierra Club senior policy adviser and now-Green Party spokesman John Bennett said that because of climate change “Stephen Harper doesn’t give a damn about his children’s future”. The Green Party is not ready for prime time. However, the fact that CPAC is putting them on panels, featuring May in the rotation may indicate that the most balanced political news outlet considers them part of the mainstream and this will have an effect on their coverage (and political gains). Will the Greens’ coverage actually harm the Liberals? Does the emergence of a fifth voice (and fourth on the left) amplify trouble for the Liberal brand especially under the weak leadership of Dion?



  • bob

    Can you confirm Stephen, that despite the outcry, that arts funding and women’s group has actually increased?

  • Gabby in QC

    Re: Elizabeth May’s speech. You call it “impassioned.” I call it demagogic.

    Ms. May practically broke into tears during her speech this am, tugging at listeners’ heartstrings, playing on people’s emotions and fears about the future of “the planet.” She mentioned there’s no other “planet” we can go to, as if this one is about to explode.

    She also played up the cynicism angle, saying that electors no longer believe traditional politicians actually do what they say they’re going to do.

    That brings up a few questions:
    • Why did Elizabeth May, prior to her vying for the leadership of the Greens, award the title of “Greenest PM” on CONSERVATIVE Brian Mulroney? Was it simply a manipulative maneuver to get her name/face in the media as a stepping stone to her leadership bid?
    I’m sure she must have consulted with members of the Sierra Club and Climate Change, then headed by now Green strategist John Benett. Did they disagree with May at the time of the award?

    • Isn’t the fact of Ms. May making deals with other parties – like not running a Liberal in Ms. May’s riding – reinforcing electors’ cynicism?
    OK, it can be argued in that instance that Dion is recognizing her as a party leader, thus she will not face opposition from the Liberals.
    But what about her recently announced deal with former Lib. Blair Wilson?
    What about the reports she will not be fielding a candidate to oppose now Independent Bill Casey in NS?

    • What about her threat to seek an injunction against holding the debates unless she’s allowed to participate? She sounds more dictatorial than …. you fill in the blanks.

    So, for Ms. May to use the populist approach, literally yelling that it’s the people who have the power, while at the same time trying to subvert a system that has served us well so far, is disingenuous in the extreme

  • AnalRetentiveGuy

    Hate to be a stickler for technicalities, but the return of the writs is not in 37 days, that’s polling day. The CRO then has up to 3 weeks to validate the results, and 7 days following the completion of the validation, provided no request for a judicial recount has been received, the writ of election is returned — or as much as 28 days AFTER polling day.

  • Gabby in QC

    “Dion gave his launch speech in exactly the same location that Harper did in December 2005.”

    And I wonder how many in the MSM will comment on that backdrop as “American-like” as they did when Stephen Harper used it.

    Opening his speech with “My fellow Canadians” – let’s see, my memory is dim, but didn’t a lot of American Presidents open their speeches in a similar way i.e. “My fellow Americans”?

    I also noticed that the leaders mentioned Stephen Harper’s name quite often, whereas the PM referred to the parties, primarily the Liberals.
    That shows that the opposition is going ‘personal’ despite their claims to the contrary, casting Mr. Harper as the enemy to be defeated at all costs. Never mind policies or platforms – it’s go after the PM, as far as the opposition is concerned.

    However, in a perverse way, that approach speaks to leadership, a key question in this election. Whose approach is the most balanced to solve the challenges facing us? The opposition is showing, with their personal & ‘historical’ attacks (Duceppe) that they fear Mr. Harper’s strength.

  • femaleCONvoter

    In rural southwestern Ontario, I will be voting Conservative again. Canada deserves a leader that can be counted on to make the right decisions for this country. Harper has proven to Canadian voters that his government was the right choice last time and will be this time.

  • http://www.stephentaylor.ca stephentaylor

    Her Excellency will *ask* for the return of writs in 37 days

  • Liz J

    What we as Conservative bloggers have to work hard to offset is the bias in the media which has already begun.

    We have to deal with not only the strategies of the Opposition Parties but the strategies of the media across the board.
    They have a hate on for all things Conservative and Harper in particular.and have a determination to put up a wall against factual reporting. They will do as usual and skew the facts to manipulate opinion. On Harper it will be at least 65% negative, maybe more.

  • MaryT

    Nobody can say, My fellow Canadians, like the old Chief.

  • MaryT

    So Layton is applying for PMSH's job, would that be as leader of the conservative party.
    How many seats would he have to win to even get the minority PMSH has. Where would he get them,
    none in AB. He should have said he was applying for Dions job as leader of the opposition, that is more likely to happen. First thing he should do is quit trying to be Obama, and using his speeches.
    I hope some reporter ask Jack where he plans to get over 100 seats. Anyone got the answer.

  • Observant

    Dion is just not 'prime ministerial' … so Layton is stepping into the leadership vacuum by proclaiming he is running to be the next prime minister. After all the past NDP leaders were always criticized for not presenting themselves as potential prime ministers.

    The NDP campaign strategy is a two-step process. First they try to establish Layton as a potential prime minister and thus capitalize on his superior leadership numbers over Dion. As Dion starts to crash, Layton will then appeal to unhappy Liberal supporters to unite the Left behind the NDP.

    There is no prospect of Dion being considered a replacement for Harper, and once that sinks in, Layton will harvest the Liberal vote … even if it means a Harper majority government. Layton's only objective is to raise the NDP to Official Opposition Party status and let the Conservatives have their 4 years of government.

    If Harper only has a minority government that will be even more favourable for Layton, because as Leader of the Opposition, he will be able to consistently vote non-confidence while the leaderless, recovering Liberals abstain for another year. Both of these scenarios are acceptable to Harper because it decimates the Liberal party. Layton knows that as long as the Liberals are a viable alternative to the Conservatives, the NDP will always suck the hind tit in fourth place and hoping to have the balance of power..

  • http://www.stephentaylor.ca stephentaylor

    Sent from my BlackBerry device on the Rogers Wireless Network

  • slgam

    Canadian Press enters the election clearly opposing the Conservatives


    Excerpts of this “report” below

    Far be it for Bruce Cheadle and Canadian Press (and watch for lock-step anti-Conservative activist “reporters” from CBC, CTV, Globe & Mail, Toronto Star, etc., etc.) to simply report facts. They just can’t resist interpretation, excuses for their side, highlighting negatives for the Conservatives, and overlooking failures and weaknesses for their side (ie. Liberals). As reported this morning on Bourque, “CBC's Mansbridge inexplicably breaks away from hostile Dion press conference to go to the marginalized Bloq/Duceppe press'er”

    The Conservative Party won’t just be fighting the Liberals, NDP and Bloc in this election. They will also be fighting the combined resources of the CBC, CTV, Globe and Mail, Toronto Star and Canadian Press among many others, who will do everything in their power to swing the vote to prevent a Conservative win, or at the very least, a Conservative majority.

    In Canada, as in the U.S., election “reporting” by the mainstream media has become little more than a thinly-disguised advocacy for the agents of big government, doctrinaire multilateralism and wealth redistribution.

    By Bruce Cheadle, The Canadian Press

    “… Prime Minister Stephen Harper, weary of waiting for the opposition to bring down his minority government, dashed his promise of a fixed election date and pulled the plug himself …”

    Straight reporting – Stephen Harper went to the Governor General and asked that parliament be dissolved to call an election. Period.

    “… Harper said this election will be a choice between certainty and risk at a time when the world economy has entered a period of instability – a statement aimed at scaring voters away from Liberal Leader Stephane Dion's proposed overhaul of Canada's tax system. …”

    Straight reporting – the second part of this paragraph departs from Harper’s quote to give a negative interpretation, and misrepresenting a 1% income tax cut to the lower and middle class in return for massive tax increases on just about anything involving energy as a positive “overhaul of Canada’s tax system”.

    “… Harper's managerial acumen in a slowing economy will be pitted against Dion's “Green Shift” plan – designed to shift taxation off income and on to greenhouse gas-emissions. …”

    Straight reporting – in fact the tax increases that come with the “Green Shift” are massively in excess of the tiny 1% income tax cut only to the lower and middle classes – in fact a massive tax grab to finance Liberal pet projects, and likely at the cost of huge increases in costs of goods and services to Canadians who will thus be negatively affected by Liberal carbon taxes. The last part of this paragraph was added as an editorial pitch for the Liberal plan.

    “… Dion accused Harper of abandoning the poor, squandering the $12-billion surplus left by the Liberals, …”

    Straight reporting – by definition a surplus means the government over-taxed the taxpayers in excess of their promises and budgeted needs. So Canadian Press’s “squandered surplus” is a responsible accountant’s definition of over-taxation. The smaller the “surplus”, as long as it isn’t a deficit, the better the management. Big surpluses to be blown are only positive to big-taxing, big-spending advocates.

    “… Public opinion polling over the past year suggests another minority is in the offing – common wisdom that's been openly embraced by Harper, who doesn't want to scare off voters wary of what a Tory majority might do. …”

    Straight reporting – the last part of this paragraph is blatant campaigning against the Conservatives by a reporter who wants to resurrect the spectre of the scary “hidden agenda” of Stephen Harper. Disgusting, irresponsible – and, in my opinion, unprofessional.

    “… The autumn of their first year in power, the Conservatives galvanized one angry constituency with $2 billion in spending cuts that targeted such things as the court challenges program, adult literacy and women's programs – while posting a $13 billion surplus for 2005-06. …”

    Straight reporting – a review of all of the negative reports of the Conservative’s mandate to reinforce the Liberal’s “scary” campaign is mandatory for the anti-Conservative media. Typical.

    “… They infuriated another constituency by breaking an election promise and restricting income trusts. … “

    Straight reporting – more reviewing and highlighting of early-mandate negatives – don’t want the voters to forget them do we!

    “… And their first attempt at environmental legislation was greeted with such widespread disdain that it was all but scrapped and the minister was shuffled. … “

    Straight reporting – yet more negatives from only one point of view – “widespread disdain” is only from the Liberal side of the spectrum.

    “… Harper also shocked the Commons by announcing he would recognize “the Quebecois” as a nation within a united Canada. …”

    Straight reporting – can you imagine Canadian Press, or any other leftist outlet, highlighting this as a negative if it had come from Dion, Chretien, or Martin?! This is designed to remind western Conservatives and weaken Harper’s base.

    Completely missing from this “report” – any mention at all of Stephane Dion’s failure to connect with English Canada, his weak leadership, his unpopular “Green Shift” plan at a time of record energy prices, the questions over the revenue-neutrality of his plan, the disharmony within the Liberal Party, Dion’s inability to communicate with 75% of Canadians, disorganization and lack of funds within the Liberal Party, loss of support for the Liberals in Quebec and falling support in Ontario, – and on and on.

    This will be the type of “reporting” the Harper Conservatives will have to deal with for the next 5 weeks as the mainstream leftist media in Canada does its very best to thwart his plans for a win, and especially a majority government. The usual suspects who have already made up their minds to vote Liberal – NDP – Green will not be swayed, nor will hard-core conservatives.

    But those who haven’t yet decided how they will vote should read all media reports with a very critical eye, and most important of all, consider the source. Editorial interpretation and media spin should not be confused with hard facts.

    There is indeed a “hidden agenda” in this election, but it isn’t from the Harper Conservatives. It is from the ranks of the committed social activists who have taken over the mainstream media in this country, and for whom the spectre of a second Harper mandate is anathema, and for whom a Harper majority would represent a repudiation of all they represent.

    The rampant anti-McCaine/Palin agenda of the mainstream media in the U.S. has been exposed for what it is, and derision and well-deserved abuse is being heaped on them as a result. They are now becoming the brunt of late night talk show host jokes and monologues. With any luck at all the same hard scrutiny will be applied to our own activist media, and they will be exposed for the unapologetic advocates they really are. Any resemblance of objective reporting will be accidental, or the bare minimum needed to retain a modicum of even-handedness. I’m not holding my breath.

    The above interpretation of today’s election call is but the first shot from a very hostile media corps.

  • batb

    “Elizabeth May launch speech almost sci-fi: 'There is no other planet we can move to' … 'We stand at a critical place in Earth…'” yada, yada, yada…

    Just remember: Elizabeth May is studying to become an Anglican priest, so her messianic message isn't so surprising.

    What I don't quite understand is how she's going to be an Anglican priest AND a member of parliament if she's elected to the HOC. Either she thinks that priestly duties are negligible (boy, she's got a lot to learn) or she thinks being an MP is a cake walk and something she can juggle with priesthood.

    Either way, she's living in La-La-Land and, frankly, I don't see why she should be a participant in the party debates. She hasn't even been elected to Parliament, so what makes her think she's entitled to be heard with the ELECTED leaders of the other parties?

    Ms May thinks far too highly of herself and seems to feel that the rest of us should hold her in as high esteem as she holds herself. Science fiction? Well it's certainly some kind of fiction–maybe fantasy?

  • Gabby in QC

    Slgam, this is a masterful fisking of that “report” – more accurately an op-ed piece. Congratulations.

    Perhaps a Conservative-friendly blog should have a daily post quoting the opposition leaders' accusations with the fact side by side with their fiction.

  • R Walker

    I'm hearing that rumours the Green's might just back the Liberals by election time. Something your post seems to point to. Guess I was too into the American race this summer but that sucks if it is true. As an Ontario Green Party member and someone who worked for them in the last election… if the Green Party is not going to be a real party but tell their supporters to vote Liberal at election time then they have lost my support entirely.

  • Liz J

    Well done Slgam .

    This is what we must do, op-eds are absolutely our only hope of getting the truth out there but that may be difficult given the makeup of the Press. Failing that, it's up to Conservative bloggers to call the various media hacks on all their attempts to skew the facts to manipulate opinion.

  • AnalRetentiveGuy

    Actually, no. She *asked* for the return of writs yesterday. She issued a proclamation that issues the writs, sets the polling date, and the date that the writs are to be returned.

  • Liz J

    Well done Slgam .

    This is what we must do, op-eds are absolutely our only hope of getting the truth out there but that may be difficult given the makeup of the Press. Failing that, it's up to Conservative bloggers to call the various media hacks on all their attempts to skew the facts to manipulate opinion.

  • AnalRetentiveGuy

    Actually, no. She *asked* for the return of writs yesterday. She issued a proclamation that issues the writs, sets the polling date, and the date that the writs are to be returned.