CBC vandalizes Wikipedia too

One of the stories raging in the Canadian blogosphere today is the Toronto Star’s Wikipedia edit of Rob Ford’s Wikipedia page linking readers to a parody site of the candidate for mayor of Toronto. BCF has the run-down.

I decided to check up on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to see what sorts of edits their staff have made.

First, the IP address 159.33.10.92 belongs to the CBC.

Someone at the CBC has edited an article on George Soros to make the following changes to the text:

It seems that the CBC employee doubts the “official” story.

Further, what does a CBCer think of CTV’s Ben Mulroney, son of Fifth Estate star (and former PM) Brian Mulroney?

Ouch.

A sample of articles about the history of prorogation in Canada

Page 1 (Drummondville Spokesman – May 27, 1930) has a bit of a parallel to today’s prorogation. The PM wanted to set a new direction with a new budget and new multinational economic unit. The Economic Action Plan of the 1930s?

Page 2 (Glasgow Herald – March 16, 1939) is a two inch column describing a potential prorogation of Parliament by the King himself.

Page 3 (Ottawa Citizen – June 30, 1938) describes a 200,000 strong group (and this before Facebook) to protest the government’s move to jail violators of a media blackout law on reporting election results! The article describes that ministers would not meet with delegates of the group due to a “rush to prorogue Parliament”.

Page 4 (Montreal Gazette – March 15, 1939) – Describes the King coming to Parliament to prorogue the session or give royal assent to bills if session business is not complete

Page 5 (Montreal Gazette – June 11, 1928) – Mackenzie King – “We have concluded all the business of the session, so far as the Government is concerned”. I have not been able to find reference to the Toronto papers called King a tyrant or a despot.

Page 6 (St. John Sun – July 13, 1906) – Description of prorogation and reintroduction of House business when parliament resumes.

Page 7 (Toronto World – May 17, 1916) – Controversy as GG not present for prorogation proceedings. Prorogation to be completed by Chief Justice instead (who was deputy GG)

Page 8 (St. John Sun – April 5, 1902) – Description of prorogation despite 28 bills on order paper in a provincial parliament.

Page 9 (Ottawa Citizen – May 19, 1916) – Prorogation unusually quiet and with lack of ceremony. Did the PM request prorogation via telegraph?

Page 10 (Ottawa Citizen – Mar 13, 1911) – A member of parliament suggests that Parliament prorogue due to Typhoid epidemic sweeping through Ottawa.

Page 11 (Poverty Bay Herald (New Zealand) – June 13, 1914) – Prorogation and Senate politics. A delay in prorogation causes a deadlock in the Senate with Senators refusing to pass a bill increasing the number of Senators in the Upper Chamber.

Page 12 (Montreal Gazette – May 18, 1909) – A rush to prorogation

Page 13 (Montreal Gazette – September 9, 1911) – The government insisted it prorogued because it could not get money bills through while the opposition accused it of blocking an inquiry into a slush fund.

Page 14 (New Zealand Evening Post – January 8, 1903) – Obituary of Canadian journalist who numerous parliaments that had “assembled and prorogued”

Page 15 (Ottawa Citizen – October 28, 1985) – Broadbent dismisses PM Mulroney’s valid option of resetting Parliament due to “disasterous” session to come back with new Throne Speech

Page 16 (Ottawa Citizen – November 26, 1983) – description of business prior to potential prorogation by PM Mulroney.

Page 17 (CBC – November 13, 2003) – Report of prorogation of Parliament by Chretien to allow Martin to assemble new cabinet.

There are numerous other stories regarding prorogation. According to a deep news search going back before the turn of the 20th century, today’s particular instance of Prime Minister-recommended prorogation has produced the most news stories in Canadian history.

For perspective, Google News shows that 1,561 articles have been written by the Canadian media in the last month regarding prorogation (as of the time of this blog post).

Comparatively, 1,351 articles have been written about H1N1 over the same time period by the Canadian media.

If we search for Google News stories concerning “prorogation” OR “prorogue” AND “Facebook” we learn that the Canadian media has written 424 stories, while the Facebook group protesting prorogation has 208,744 members. This amounts to 492 new members to the Facebook group for every MSM article referencing the group over the past few weeks. This number does not include television, magazine and radio coverage of the Facebook group. And to think, it all started with a “fury” of 20,000 when the group was in the budding stages of becoming an MSM darling.

An historical perspective shows that prorogation is quite a common parliamentary procedure in the country and most prorogations have passed without too much ink spilled on the pages of Canada’s historic newspapers.

So why the media fixation on prorogation? Canada’s news organizations are facing hard times and this news is evident to those who regularly buy newspapers — which, it seems, is not a lot of us. Budgets of Ottawa bureaus have been slashed with some offices closing completely. Prorogation may be a threat to those that report the news because of a sparser parliamentary calendar and a move by parent companies to prioritize resources elsewhere. An annual prorogation, as bandied about by the PM earlier, would not serve the Ottawa news business well.

Furthermore, the current vacuum of news content slices two ways; the frustration by many without content to fill columns and airtime and the news vacuum that now exists without anything else going on in Ottawa.

CBC Ombudsman findings on Krista Erickson and those planted questions

Main findings/opinions from Vince Carlin:

“In my reading of policy, both written and unwritten, Ms. Erickson clearly did go “over the line” in allowing the appearance that she was providing “script” for certain sources to use. However, it appears to me that she lacked the experience and sensitivity to realize where the line was. There is absolutely no evidence of any partisan interest on her part—she is an aggressive reporter who will pursue a story no matter whose interests are at stake. But, as I found in a previous conversation with her, she is not fully versed on the CBC’s Journalistic Standards and Practices. She should not have been placed “in harm’s way” without a better understanding of CBC policy and proper background or training in the difficult business of Parliamentary reporting.

In addition, News management, going back to my time in a position of authority, should have taken steps to elaborate a clear policy and apply it to all CBC personnel who cover legislative bodies. I note that the Globe and Mail policy manual has the simple and direct statement, “No reporter or editor should plant questions with members of any federal, provincial or municipal legislature or council for any purpose without the prior approval of a senior editor.”

To sum up: Ms. Erickson was pursuing a legitimate and newsworthy story. In her desire to expand her “source” base, she unwisely sent questions to a Liberal source who appears to have moved them through the Liberal Research Bureau. They formed the background for the questioning of Mr. Mulroney, as they might have had she broadcast those questions in a report. I should note that Pablo Rodriguez appears to have written his own questions based on material supplied to him by his colleagues. Due to the nature and specificity of the subject matter, it is not surprising that the language would be similar to the original questions shared by Ms. Erickson.

There is no explicit prohibition in CBC policy of the conduct in question, although it has been the practice of the CBC Ottawa Bureau for the last 30 years to avoid such conduct.

According to Carlin:

It is clear, however, that there was no bias at play, no matter how perceived by partisan interests.

What is your opinion? Is Mr. Carlin fair and accurate in his opinions and/or findings?

The Death of Oily – the tragic premature demise of an almost Canadian icon

Oily, the talking oil spotIt was the first brillantly sunny pre-summer weekend of June. Joggers in Ottawa hit the river parkway and canal while sun-bathers converged on Parliament Hill. In an air-conditioned office on Queen street, Conservative Party officials were preparing to unleash the first volley of their new advertising campaign.

A few short weeks earlier, hapless and troubled Liberal leader Stephane Dion first mused about a new policy that MP Garth Turner would later – in a turnabout way – described as the sort of idea that drove the former sociology professor into politics years ago.

Former Prime Minister Jean Chretien recruited the then-unelected Mr. Dion into cabinet as intergovernmental affairs minister and following that, Canada’s environmental direction was later guided by Dion’s hand as environment minister. Tethering his ambition on recent popular interest in the topic of Global Warming, Dion and his supporters donned green scarves at the Liberal leadership convention in 2006 and effectively won the contest with this topic as a single issue campaign. For Dion, it was a calculated risk and when he secured the leadership of “Canada’s Natural Governing Party” – despite its recent rejection to opposition status – Mr. Dion probably thought he scored himself quite a coup. Unfortunately for him, a shrewd Conservative Party set to work soon after defining his visibly weak personality as weak leadership and Canadians started to associate the man with the cleverly crafted Conservative catchphrase “not a leader”.

Fast forward to 2008 and the Conservative strategists are facing an alternative line of attack from the opposition. Scandal is the order (rather, strategy) of the day for the Liberal Party. Labeled as untrustworthy after the very public sponsorship scandal, Liberal minds went to work after receiving a bit of a hint from Karlheinz Schreiber and Brian Mulroney. The former Progressive Conservative Prime Minister taught the Liberals that there is no shelf-life on unresolved scandal, but more importantly that the public spotlight on perceived dubious activity could harm Conservatives as it had done the Liberals. If the Liberal brand has a higher floor than that of the new Conservatives, framing all political parties as untrustworthy may just have Liberals coming out ahead (while at the same time setting everyone back). Chuck Cadman, Ian Brodie and NAFTA, and Maxime Bernier became key nodes on the Liberal strategic whiteboard as that party worked on degrading the key strength of the Conservative Prime Minister: trust and accountability.

The Liberals felt a new sense of energy after being demoralized by the constant barrage of attack against their leader. This was especially evident in daily question period when former Liberal leadership candidate Maurizio Bevilacqua rambled off expressive Italian tabloid headlines on the “scandalo” of Maxime Bernier that were dogging the PM on his European trip. A gang of OLO staffers and Liberal researchers showed up in the member’s gallery and held their sides as the Italian-Canadian MP made a great show of his question to the government.

The Liberal leader, however, still had his own problems. Facing a ‘save-the-furniture’ style election by elements within his own caucus – namely MPs loyal to Bob Rae – Dion promoted a new policy plank in his carbon tax. Later told by senior Liberal strategists that calling his plan a tax would turn off Canadians, Dion strode forward on the well-founded assumption that the only thing standing in the way of a Rae-Harper orchestrated defeat of the government, was a party-defining policy that could sustain the embattled leader through the summer. Environment played to one of Mr. Dion’s rare if wrongly perceived strengths and for the Liberal leader it will probably be his last playable hand. Going into a summer forecasted to be a scorcher too hot for even regular joggers along the canal, Mr. Dion may believe that the “green, don’t call it a carbon tax, shift” is his trump card.

In the meantime, Conservative insiders heard that Mr. Dion was set to unveil his carbon tax plan next Wednesday, just prior to the House rising after the spring session. In doing so, the professorial Liberal leader could define his plan outside of Parliament on the – ironic perhaps – propane-fueled BBQ circuit that politicians often take during the summer recess.

In focus groups and telephone-based market research, Conservative planners came to understand that a carbon tax in the abstract is a well-received concept to most Canadians. What they also found, however, that when the details of achieving such a policy objective are understood, a broad majority of Canadians don’t think of it as feasible. Words like “tax-shifting” and “revenue neutral” were panned and uncomfortably rejected by focus groups when polled and the general distrust of politicians regarding new tax became a palatable conclusion for Conservative strategists. Conservative-Liberal switchers, a group that holds victory for either party, was found to have a distrust for any politician with a plan for creative tax manipulation.

As they did before, the Conservatives moved to define the Liberal leader, however this time on his carbon tax, before Dion could do it himself. The party faced two decisions. On one hand, they could engage the Liberals in a debate on their carbon tax proposal, and on the other they could tap into the public’s well-grounded suspicion in creative tax schemes proposed by politicians. The Conservatives chose the latter. Using the specific terms of carbon taxation would be instrumental to the party’s strategy and this would not allow Dion to speak about it in general feel-good terms. Conservatives tasked themselves on warning Canadians of politicians promising new models of taxation. A key weakness for Dion in attracting swing votes that exist between Liberal and Conservative is that the Liberal leader is not viewed as a fiscally frugal Liberal and that he instead occupies the “tax and spend” left camp in the Liberal party. On trust numbers, Harper scores much higher than Dion on the issue of taxation. If Dion’s strength is in the environment, the Conservatives did well to frame this as a tax issue instead. From alluding to the then-promised temporary measure of income taxation to pay for the First World War to the recent McGuinty health premiums, Conservative messaging sought to enhance Canadian skepticism in Dion’s plan yet to be unveiled. Warning tape was streamed at the “willyoubetricked.ca” website the party built to compliment the campaign and scores of volunteers donned yellow shirts – yellow being the colour of warning or caution – to alert Canadians to what Conservatives claim would be Dion’s “tax on everything”. Indeed, the primary message of the campaign was caution underscored by the primary catchphrase “don’t be tricked”.

The party also signed a contract with Fuelcast, the company that runs the video screens at the gas pumps for very focused messaging. While representing less than 5% of their ad buy, the fuelcasting represented a unique angle to land coveted free advertising via earned media; no political party has ever used the gas pump video screens for political advertising and the unique nature of this advertising was a great news hook for the networks. Although the agreement unexpectedly fell through, the campaign earned increased exposure even in the negative attention that certain media outlets gave the ad spots as some reporters speculated that “Oily” (the talking oil spot in the fuelcast spots) was a deliberately engineered failure in order to get earned media.

Oily, as he’s been dubbed by reporters, was never intended to die. Though the Liberal response to the advertising was that such a campaign indicated that the Conservatives were in the pocket of big oil – in that the party purchased advertising on gas pumps, the irony is that the Fuelcast company eventually rejected their advertising citing that they didn’t want to be political. Oily was meant to be an eye catching, sort of in-your-face character to draw the attention of gas pumping consumers and the spot compliment the yellow warning colour of the campaign website. The willyoubetricked.ca website was meant to be a zany, humourous and interactive website that people could pass on to their friends.

Any successful campaign gets a lot of attention and it’s without dispute that this one did. A multi-faceted campaign that included the novelty (or promised novelty) of fuelcasting, an interactive website, a pedestrian literature push in yellow t-shirts and panel after panel of Conservative strategists warning Canadians not to be tricked by politicians promising crazy tax schemes. Surprisingly on Monday, while Conservative prodded Dion on redefining himself (after they had done so) on his carbon tax, Dion accepted the challenge and we bizarrely saw an opposition leader in fact responding rather than challenging. This suggests that the theory that Dion is desperate to cling to a medium-term campaign (rather than a snap election) to save himself as the leader of the Liberal Party.

So this summer, Dion will jump on a jet to visit all parts of Canada, flipping non-organic transited burgers on gas or charcoal grills telling people that he’s in a shifty mood when it comes to their taxes, the summer sun that Canadians will seek to avoid inside their cooled homes may prove to have too much disconnect when it comes to the tax they’ll pay on their gas, their groceries and their respite from the heat. For Conservatives, the party planted a successful seed of well-founded doubt among Canadians concerning Mr. Dion’s plan.

History as viewed through a different sort of lens

On the so-called “Cadscam”, some reporters are re-writing history.

Consider the following from an article by Lawrence Martin, a senior reporter for the Globe and Mail in the Parliamentary Press Gallery:

Mr. Cadman, who had left the Conservatives to sit as an independent, was therefore preparing to vote with the Liberals to keep the government afloat. But Conservative Party officials, Mr. Moore said, were in discussions with Mr. Cadman, trying to work something out. [emphasis mine]

Now, here’s an excerpt from Steve Rennie’s CP story:

Harper said while he wasn’t optimistic about their chances of persuading Cadman – a former Tory MP who had left the party to sit as an Independent MP – to vote with the Conservatives to bring down Martin’s government, he urged two people “legitimately representing the party” to tread cautiously. [emphasis mine]

When Brian Mulroney was testifying before the Ethics committee, opposition MPs did their best to refer to former “Conservative” Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, rather than “former Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney”. In fact, we can see it here in an excerpt from this 2008 article in the Toronto Star:

Lawyers for all three men have also argued Gomery showed signs of bias through various statements to the press — he memorably described Chrétien’s fondness for monogrammed golf balls as “small-town cheap” — and in his decision to hire Bernard Roy, the law partner and longtime friend of former Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney, as the inquiry’s chief counsel.

So, what does this mean? Remember the Liberal alarms that went off post-merger that decried that the new Conservative Party was not the new version of the Progressive Conservative party? Now, we see opposition MPs try to associate Mulroney with the current Conservative party. Now, we see an entirely new invention by associating Chuck Cadman’s history with the Conservatives/Tories when he never sat as an MP for an party called Conservative! Chuck Cadman sat as a Reform MP and then as an Alliance MP. It suits Lawrence Martin’s narrative to throw around the “Conservative” label as his story discusses the dark cloud that has surrounded Conservatives lately (he even seems to extend the adjective “conservative” to the now jailed Conrad Black to imply the political noun “Conservative”). To streamline the scandal narrative, press flacks are revising history to label Cadman (and his alleged inducement back into the fold) as a Conservative-Independent-Conservative progression of events. Newspaper readers don’t need to be helped along; giving news consumers the full and truthful context is superior than bending affiliations to fit a desired storyline.

UPDATE: I was wrong. Cadman sat briefly as a Conservative MP post merger until he lost his nomination and then sat as an independent a few months later. I think that it is still more accurate to describe Cadman as an Alliance/Reform legacy MP rather than Conservative as the context of “Cadscam” relates to his independence from the new Conservative legacy. Still, I argued against what was factual. My apologies to Lawrence Martin.

Mulroney letters to Szabo

Here’s the first letter drafted from former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s lawyer to the Chair of the Ethics Committee of Parliament Paul Szabo.

MBM Letter Szabo – Get more free documents

The letter blames Szabo for allowing questions to be posed which extend outside of the mandate of the committee (which was to investigate the Mulroney Airbus Settlement, not any issues pertaining to the Wireless Spectrum auction and MBM’s involvement (or lack thereof) in that matter). The letter labels the actions of Szabo as “the clearest breach of natural justice possible”. The letter goes on to express injury to Mr. Mulroney by violation of his privacy regarding his personal income tax records as Mr. Szabo had requested them from the Auditor General.

Last night, Mulroney’s lawyer sent another letter to Szabo:

This letter demands that Szabo limit testimony to relevant matters and to within the scope of the Committee’s business as defined by the original mandate. The letter also requests that Mulroney be allowed to refuse any answer to any question outside of the committee’s defined boundaries.

Both Mulroney and Schreiber are expected to reappear before the committee soon and it’ll be interesting to see how the committee and it’s chair will rule (and how Mulroney will react) on wide-reaching testimony expected to be given by Norman Spector, Mulroney’s former Chief of Staff in the PMO.

Krista Erickson reassigned

CBC just sent out this release:

TORONTO, Jan. 21 /CNW/ – CBC News today released the following letter:

Doug Finley,
Director of Political Operations
Conservative Party of Canada

January 21, 2008

Dear Mr. Finley:

This letter is in response to your complaint to the CBC Ombudsman about “collusion” involving one of our reporters during the recent Mulroney/Schreiber hearings in Ottawa, during which questions were asked about lobbying efforts by Mr. Mulroney directed toward the current federal government.

Following an investigation by senior management of CBC News, we have determined that our reporter Krista Erickson did, in fact, provide questions to a Member of Parliament in the lead up to the Ethics Committee meeting in December. Those actions, while in pursuit of a journalistically legitimate story, were inappropriate and inconsistent with CBC News policies and procedures, specifically under our Principles, Sec. 3:

“Credibility is dependent not only on qualities such as accuracy and fairness in reporting and presentation, but also upon avoidance by both the organization and its journalists of associations or contacts which could reasonably give rise to perceptions of partiality. Any situation which could cause reasonable apprehension that a journalist or the organization is biased or under the influence of any pressure group, whether ideological, political, financial, social or cultural, must be avoided.”

Our investigation determined there was no bias in related news coverage.
However, our reporter, acting on her own, used inappropriate tactics as a
result of journalistic zeal, rather than partisan interest. CBC News
management has made the decision to reassign its reporter from the story and
to Toronto, effective Jan. 21.

Given the potential risk to the journalistic credibility of our Ottawa bureau, its reporters and CBC News generally, we have chosen on an exceptional basis to make the detailed outcome of our disciplinary process available to you, our employees and the public at large.

I trust this addresses your concerns.

It is also my responsibility to inform you that if you are not satisfied with this response, you may wish to submit the matter for review by Vince Carlin, CBC Ombudsman. The Office of the Ombudsman, an independent and impartial body reporting directly to the President, is responsible for evaluating program compliance with the CBC’s journalistic policies. The Ombudsman may be reached by mail at the address shown below, or by fax at (416) 205-2825, or by e-mail at ombudsman@cbc.ca

Sincerely,
John Cruickshank
Publisher
CBC News

Box 500, Station “A”,
Toronto, Ontario
M5W 1E6

cc. Vince Carlin, CBC Ombudsman

CBC journo out?

Tonight, I’m hearing from a very well-placed source that Krista Erickson has cleaned out her desk and is going on “stress leave”. Whether this indicates a hushed firing or a quiet reassignment outside of Ottawa politics after a short leave is unclear. (see update)

UPDATE: I’ve heard that she is moving to CBC Sports. (see update)

I should also mention that everyone that I’ve spoken to at the CBC about this has, for the past few weeks, told me that they do not approve of the ways by which Erickson pursued this story. From an outside source I’ve heard that she will issue an apology tomorrow.

I think it would also be important to note that the Liberals should shoulder a lot of the blame for this. Erickson’s pursuance of the story, while over-zealous and inappropriate, would never have made the floor if a Liberal had not raised the issue. It was Pablo Rodriguez, Robert Thibault and Chair Paul Szabo, not Krista Erickson, that tore up the mandate of the ethics committee.

I should also say that I emailed Erickson the weekend after the Mulroney testimony for her comment on the story, but received no reply. Frankly, a frustrating element of this story was the silence coming from the CBC on this. While I don’t blame Erickson for not commenting on the story (in fact, she probably received some sage advice not to talk to anyone), CBC did not respond except to release a tu quoque-ish letter in response to Conservative concerns. CBC management owed it to other reporters (especially in the Ottawa office) to dispel the dark cloud which hung unfairly over their heads. Yet management was quiet. As I’ve said before, there are a number of good professional people that report and produce news for CBC. Management that writes their cheques paid with our money should not use these people as a shield for its own comfort. Management should never shirk accountability.

So, will the Liberals now be called to answer for the damage that they have precipitated? While it was inappropriate for Erickson to hope that they would have contempt for Parliament, it was wholly inappropriate for the Liberals to go through with turning the committee into a free-for-all.

We should always demand better of our public institutions, especially the CBC. The state-funded broadcaster should always seek a balanced product when it reports the news. But it should go without saying that the institution of Parliament should never be abused.

UPDATE 1/9, 5pm: A well-placed source at CBC has amended some of the details given above. Erickson’s reassignment to sports (or anywhere else) has not been confirmed (reassignment has not been acknowledged by CBC management). At this time, I believe that a reassignment to CBC Sports will not happen. Further she’s on vacation (not stress leave) and still has her desk at CBC Ottawa and that she has not yet issued an apology today.

Outside of that, what remains is that Erickson has been the topic of meetings held by senior management for the past couple of weeks and that a disciplinary review has been held. She was the reporter who passed on questions to Liberals regarding the wireless spectrum (well outside of the committee’s mandate on the Airbus settlement). CBC senior management has been very tight lipped about the proceedings of those meetings. What is known is that management must consider the appropriate balance between Canadian Media Guild concerns, political fallout, and details of the employee contract with respect to discipline. I expect a decision to be announced soon.

February/March election? Think again

As we break for the Christmas/New Years holidays, Ottawa has been talking about a real possibility of an election in February and March.

I believe that the current conventional wisdom on the timing of an election is wrong.

First, no party is really in a good position for an election.

Consider the Conservatives; statistically tied with the Liberals in the latest Harris/Decima poll, the Tories aren’t riding their traditional high numbers. Some have attributed this decline to Canada’s bad press at Bali, some blame the attention that Mulroney has received. But a budget will be a bonanza of tax cuts in February, you may think, and this surely will be enough to buoy Conservative numbers. It may, but the Conservatives need the decision of at least one party to survive and three to defeat it.

That brings us to the main opposition party: the Liberals. Stephane Dion has been routinely embarrassed in the House of Commons by being forced to abstain from votes of confidence such as the throne speech and subsequent crime legislation (named a matter confidence by the PM). A staffer in Dion’s office recently told me that this pattern cannot continue at length. He’s right. The Liberals will stand in February to defeat the budget. In fact, they’ve already indicated that they intend to try force an election. This is a necessary move by Dion, as he cannot remain neutered indefinitely lest his caucus revolts. The smart play here is that he’s been first out of the gate in declaring his intentions meaning that he will not have to race Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe to the waiting cameras outside of the House doors (besides Layton and Duceppe are closer to the doors anyway). So Dion is forcing the NDP and Bloc to react to Dion whereas earlier Dion reacted to the declared intentions of those two parties instead. Dion is well ahead on this vote. This will help relieve some of the negative attention received from his chronic abstentions in this latest session in 2007. The move, however, is somewhat disingenuous as Dion knows that at least one other party will save Harper’s government (and Dion) to fight another day.

While the NDP has had better fundraising fortunes than the Liberals, this opposition party still needs to continue its strides in becoming a viable opposition in the minds of Canadians. While they will no doubt vote against the budget (and the Conservative government won’t change its legislation to accommodate them), they are unlikely thrilled about a March election. Further, the NDP standing with the Conservatives on a conservative budget would destroy much of the NDP’s credibility.

That leaves us with the Bloc, who shares a particularly important electoral interest with Stephen Harper: Quebec. The Bloc will vote for the budget because there will undoubtedly be some good items for their province. In fact, we can be quite confident in this prediction as Harper/Flaherty would be unlikely to pen a budget without extended consideration for Quebec. If they did, they would guarantee that their government would fall and that their hard-fought gains in that province would be tenuous at best and their planned gains would evaporate overnight. Expect good things for Quebec in 2008 and expect the Bloc to pass the budget; the Bloc is the only party Harper needs onside to survive.

This scenario generally satisfies all parties to some extent. The Conservatives will continue to govern while entrenching their image as tax fighters in the minds of Canadians. They will also continue to build in Quebec. The Liberals (and especially Dion) will relieve a lot of pressure internally in caucus and externally in their image as the hapless leader breaks his abstention streak. The NDP will still get to stand up to the Conservatives (the NDP gains from this scenario are the least of the four parties). Finally, the Bloc will have voted for a better budget for the people of Quebec, even if it is delivered by Conservatives. The Bloc has been concerned by the Conservative encroachment upon their nationalist strategy as it has been reconfigured by Harper as decentralization and respect for provincial jurisdiction. Duceppe would only be handing Harper voters if he defeats this government as the Prime Minister will be seen to be a better defender of Quebec’s interests.

If the Prime Minister really wants an election in March, the budget will contain a poisoned pill that is inert to Quebeckers but unacceptable for the Bloc.