Regarding that push poll…

…received by members of the Ontario PC Party, it specifically targeted candidate Tim Hudak and the Hudak campaign accuses the Klees campaign for conducting it. Here is the content of the push poll (courtesy of PerezHudak.com):

  1. What is the main issue that you will vote on in this leadership race?
  2. Who will be your first choice for party leader?
  3. Who will be your second choice?
  4. Tim Hudak said he was the frontrunner, promising an easy win in the shortest leadership race ever, but his campaign has faltered. Why do you think this happened?
  5. Do you agree or disagree that Tim Hudak’s campaign has faltered because he promised to sell the most memberships, but came in third place?
  6. Do you agree or disagree that Tim Hudak’s campaign faltered because of his adoption of a divisive policy on Human Rights Commissions?
  7. Do you agree or disagree that Tim Hudak’s campaign has faltered because it is relying on the support of Mike Harris, who may be liked by party members but who will hurt our party in the general election?
  8. Keeping in mind the Hudak campaign’s poor performance, are you now more or less likely to change your second ballot support?

The Hudak campaign made the following submission to the rules committee of the PC Party:

And the PC Party responded by saying that the complaint is without merit:

I received the call from “Dominion Research” and remember noting the call came from “416-000-0000″. Whoever was behind the call, they may have broken the rules of the leadership race and by doing so they unfairly smeared Tim Hudak. Yet, if this complaint is without merit as the party stated, the Hudak campaign may have broken their own 11th commandment by unloading this scandal entirely on the Klees campaign so close to the leadership vote. Has the Hudak campaign done their homework or is the party right to dismiss their claims?

UPDATE: Hudak campaign responds

Jim Flaherty at the Fraser Institute

Last night, supporters of the Fraser Institute gathered in the Adam hall of the Chateau Laurier to listen to federal finance minister Jim Flaherty deliver an assessment of the Canadian and global economies. On Thursday, the minister will be delivering a sobering fall economic update in the House of Commons and last night, we got a hint of what might be to come.

Flaherty was introduced by former Ontario PC Premier Mike Harris, the finance minister’s former boss and mentor. Harris disappointed the crowd saying that he was not about to return to politics but that a deep-rooted fixation on Canada’s future prosperity is one that both he and Preston Manning hold. Manning and Harris are the authors of Canada: Strong & Free, a six-volume set of books describing Canada’s ideal path along internationalism, economic freedom, federalism, and education among other topics. Last night’s dinner was held to mark the release of their sixth summary volume called Vision.

In minister Flaherty’s speech, he described Canada’s position in a rapid yet sustained decline of the global economy and while trumpeting Canada’s economic leadership among G7 nations, we are simply the country that is sinking the slowest. Indeed, at a recent meeting of the G20 finance ministers, Mr. Flaherty revealed that not one minister was optimistic about their economies domestic or international. Flaherty will project a surplus through the end of this fiscal year ending April 2009, however, as he conceded the next fiscal year will present “a challenge”. The minister sketched a fiscal portrait in broad strokes declaring that the crisis will not end tomorrow, next week or in the next few months and warned that we have not yet seen the worst of the situation.

Yet despite its faltering position, Canada is an economic leader among its economic peers. Flaherty described the economic measures implemented by the federal government to prepare for such an eventuality saying that they’d never apologize or regret cutting the taxes of Canadians or bringing in more stringent regulatory frameworks to maintain Canada’s economic structure. Indeed, the IMF, as Flaherty noted declared Canada to be the best economic shape going into the global economic downturn.

In the United States, President-elect Barack Obama has conceded that he will delay the rollback of the Bush tax-cuts and in Canada, Flaherty suggests that this Conservative government will maintain Canadian tax-cuts to retain this increased spending power among Canadian consumers.

Perhaps the worst-kept secret in Ottawa is that this government will project a deficit in the near future. Flaherty has declared that he will sing from the same songsheet as other national government and use the federal treasury to stimulate growth, or rather stem the “negative growth”. For this, infrastructure minister John Baird will become a hero of sorts in Ontario as federal dollars are channeled through on road, rail and other contruction projects sustaining jobs. Prime Minister Harper days earlier declared that some deficits provide opportunity and are necessary. Flaherty promised that the stimulus would be underway by March 2009. The pairing of the temporary and artificial sustenance of Canadian jobs via government spending with the consumer spending power of a less-tax-burdened population may help the good ship Canada weather the global economic storm until it subsides. Or at least the theory goes.

Deficit spending will be accomplished in order to sustain the “real” economy. Flaherty promised no ‘structural’ deficit.

For my part I asked the minister during the dinner about conservative opportunity describing this as a time when Conservatives in power could be allowed to make cuts to government spending and suggested that a reduction in the size of government rather than its growth would help balance the books in a real rather than artificial way. The finance minister unfortunately balked at the question suggesting that some areas of growth are necessary such as the rescue of the state of the armed forces. If given a follow-up, I would have suggested that some cuts are necessary too. Even in a recession, the government is a growth industry. The minister described a treasury board review of all programs to measure value for money and promised to extend this review through both core and non-core assets.

As for the public sector, wages will not increase faster than the private sector. This has caused some concern among public sector employees and the minister reached a deal with PSAC, it’s largest union late yesterday. The two parties have settled on a wage increase of 6.8% over the next four years.

On interprovincial trade barriers, the minister promised to break these down and suggested that the current economic climate behooves governments to allow uninhibited trade within Canada. The minister welcomed a cooperative spirit among provincial and territorial ministers on addresses the economic downturn domestically.

The minister declared that the government would not artificially engineer a surplus. Perhaps this is a reflection by the minister on Paul Martin’s method of balancing budgets by slashing transfers to the provinces and “fixing” healthcare for a generation. Ontario has warned Ottawa not to balance its books on the back of the province and what is needed is economic stimulus in the province through reduction of its corporate tax rate. For the part of the Conservative federal government, Flaherty described a $37B debt reduction, a reduction of the tax burden by $200B and a 2012 projected corporate tax rate of 15%.

On securities regulations, the minister promised the creation of a single national securities regulator. The federal government will seek to regulate leverage and large pools of capital. A more transparent market infrastructure is needed according to Mr. Flaherty.

The sum of Flaherty’s speech was to say that this government is acting to sustain economic activity for the foreseeable future as economies around the world reconfigure to recover. Taxes will remain low, spending is temporary and a deficit would be a temporary and an short aberration from Canada’s economic plan.

Example of plagiarism by Stephane Dion?

You be the judge.

From an article written by Charles Mandel for Canwest on March 7th, 2008:

In a major forthcoming report on Canada’s changing climate, scientists warn of everything from increased severe storm activity in Atlantic Canada to hotter summers and poorer air quality in urban Ontario. British Columbia may face retreating glaciers and snow loss on its mountains, causing potential water shortages. The Prairie provinces will continue to struggle with drought, impacting agriculture rurally and potentially causing water rationing in urban areas.

On March 14th, 2008, Stephane Dion gave a speech on climate change which included the following paragraph:

In a new report released quietly last week by the federal Department of Natural Resources, 145 leading Canadian scientists warned that Canada’s changing climate will lead to everything from increased severe storms in Atlantic Canada to drought in the Prairies. British Columbia may face retreating glaciers and snow loss on its mountains, causing potential water shortages. There will be hotter summers and poorer air quality in urban Ontario. And the Prairies will continue to struggle with drought, affecting agriculture and potentially causing water rationing in urban areas.

Is all of this plagiarism stuff just getting silly or is turnabout fair play? Nonetheless, don’t expect to see this on the national news anytime soon. Some point out that both Dion and Canwest cite the same report. But it is fact that Dion uses the same words to describe the report that Canwest used and this suggests that Dion or his speechwriter cribbed from that news agency. The words that Dion uses in his speech are those of Charles Mandel, but we see no mention of the journalist’s name in Dion’s text.

Also, much like common rhetoric between Harper and Harris, there are likely examples of common rhetoric between Dion and Al Gore or David Suzuki (the climate crisis represents the greatest threat to humanity etc.) but this won’t get too much pick up because common mind and collective thoughts are benevolent on left-wing issues and conspiratorial on the right.

Dion to politicize Listeriosis

According to Liberal sources close to Stephane Dion, the Liberal leader plans to visit Walkerton, ON the site of the E.Coli outbreak that killed a number of people during the time Mike Harris was the PC Premier of Ontario.

Dion will try to link the recent Listeriosis deaths to Stephen Harper’s government arguing that the government somehow mishandled the safety of Canadians.

Despite this, I don’t think Maple Leaf Foods will be calling Dion to testify on their behalf as they face a class-action lawsuit from Canadians affected by the food-borne microbial outbreak.

Canadian Networking Conference and Exhibition

Blogging has been light recently as the Manning Centre for Building Democracy (where I am a Fellow) held its annual Canadian Networking Conference and Exhibition in Ottawa this weekend. Here’s how the Hill Times reported on it this morning,

“Meanwhile, a whole slew of Conservative heavy-hitters attended the Manning Centre Conference, including former Alberta premier Ralph Klein and former New Brunswick premier Bernard Lord who spoke about his early days as political leader. Health Minister Tony Clement also delivered a speech on his election experiences, while former Ontario premier Mike Harris participated on a panel discussing the Conservative movement and health care. Conservative blogger Stephen Taylor made a presentation on social networking and Richard Ciano, who runs the Conservative Campaign University, spoke about campaign technologies and techniques. Former Nova Scotia premier John Hamm introduced former Reform Party leader Preston Manning, who gave the closing address.”

The conference kicked off with a reception held on Thursday evening which was attended by the Prime Minister, Preston Manning and a handful of cabinet ministers including Jim Flaherty and Monte Solberg. Preparing for the conference all day, I had not been able to evaluate the gravity of the Cadman-related allegations (I had only been peripherally aware of some Cadman-related story in the news) and greeting the Prime Minister, I cheerfully told him of my optimism related to recent events. In retrospect, I’m thankful that after this potentially disastrous declaration I referenced Dion’s deflation over the budget and the Liberal leader’s general troubles. That night, after getting home very late, I got caught up on the news and knew that it would be unsettling for my Conservative friends in Ottawa for some time.

The conference however soldiered on and the mood was generally upbeat. I got to catch up with a number of Blogging Tories and met a few of them in person for the first time. Dr. Roy, Steve from OfficiallyScrewed.com, Luca Manfredi and Sara Landriault were there among others. Even former BT “alumnus” Monte Solberg hung out for most of Saturday’s speeches. A quick poll that I took during my Saturday talk indicated that Blogging Tories was known to almost all of the attendees of the conference but many were surprised as to the depth and utility of the website; I took the opportunity to launch new features of the website from the stage including aggregated columnists, the aggregated conservative movement and the new version of Blogging Tories television. I’m also planning on launching a new feature on the website today so watch for it.

For all of those that came to the conference, thank you! For those that were unable to attend, we’ll be aiming for an even larger gathering of the conservative movement next year.

Thoughts about the Ontario election

Well that was quite a night. I went out with some friends in downtown Ottawa just to relax and follow results as they came in via Blackberry. I didn’t care to watch much of it on television, because for me (and most) the contest was a forgone conclusion.

Prior to election night, a reporter from Macleans had emailed me to ask for my thoughts on why Tory ran from the record of Mike Harris and Ernie Eves and the Common Sense Revolution. Here was my reply:

Of course, my perspective is that at the time of the Common Sense Revolution, such waves were positive for much needed change. In fact, Harris received a decisive second mandate from the people of Ontario for following through on his promises. The people of Ontario respected and appreciated Harris’ focused vision for government and the province needed new direction. Ontario was left adrift by Bob Rae and the NDP and it needed to get some wind back in its sails.

In this current election, with Dalton McGuinty at the helm, it seemed that the good ship Ontario wasn’t necessarily looking to change course, but rather would have preferred to simply turf the captain overboard. There wasn’t a desperate need to chart course out of rough waters and instead of focusing on the simpler task of dispatching McGuinty, Tory gave the wheel a hard spin into the storm…

Nobody needs a degree in punditry to know that it was the issue of faith-based education and the public funding of religious schools that lost John Tory the election. However, it was surprising that Tory didn’t appreciate this before he decided to drop it on us in the middle of an election campaign. If one takes the time and effort, one can understand what Tory was proposing with respect to public eduction and realize that the Conservative leader’s proposal was inclusive and a move towards public education rather than exclusionary and privatizing as the Liberals had framed it. The issue was too complicated for some passive electors and was easily misinterpreted if not studied for more than a minute. The fact that Tory mused that “evolution is just a theory” when defending his policy didn’t exactly help communicate the issue in defensible terms. Tory couldn’t have given the Liberals a bigger opening.

There is also an important lesson to be learned here for future elections. Kim Campbell famously remarked that “an election is no time to discuss serious issues.” Ironically, John Tory managed Campbell’s ill-fated election campaign. Further, to the people of Ontario who have generally been reluctant towards Conservatives talking about “faith” and issues related to “faith” in the past, Tory should have realized that he was walking into a minefield. For a Conservative, juggling public policy in one hand and religion in the other can be disastrous if not done properly. Earlier, I wondered how faith-based public funding of eduction might have been perceived differently if the Liberals had proposed it instead. Here’s what I wrote on Macleans.ca on October 2nd:

“One wonders if in hypothetical terms if McGuinty had proposed Tory’s policy instead.

“One wonders if it would have been embraced as an “astute measure to recognize and embrace the growing multicultural diversity in the province of Ontario”.

“An Ontario politician wanted to increase the breadth of public education, you say?

“Poor Tory shouldn’t have led with “faith-based” as this can be a red flag to swing voters in Ontario, especially when it comes from a conservative. Tory should have rather communicated with the de facto parlance of our times: “multiculturalism, diversity, fairness, and equality” if he wanted to sell his policy.

“And… he should have made this about other special schools including French immersion schools, technical schools and arts schools. It appears that he tried instead to handle religion as a wedge and it is religion that wedged him out of the running.

“Finally, this election should have never been about John Tory. Canadians tend to de-elect their leaders rather than elect them. McGuinty had a perfect target on his back with respect to his record on the truth. Tory should have kept striking at it until October 10th.

In fact, this brings up an important strategy that I believed Tory missed. Concerning “changing the channel” mid-campaign, the Conservative leader should have called McGuinty a liar in various contexts during the debate in order to grab headlines and push the theme around McGuinty for the rest of the writ period.

“You lied to the people of Ontario…”

“Your promise that you wouldn’t raise our taxes was a lie”

“How can the people of Ontario trust you when you have a record of lying”

This manner may have been uncharacteristic for Tory but it would have done much to change to shift the focus back on the incumbent. News shows would have clipped the debate on every mention and would have created a montage of Tory on the attack, and newspapers would have headlined the summary of the exchanges: “Tory to McGuinty: You Lied!”

Some people commenting on the election blame John Tory’s red-toryism for being his downfall. However, these observers fail to recognize that it was Ontario’s recoil at the mix of the concepts of religiosity and education — hardly familiar territory for a “red tory” — that sunk the Progressive Conservative leader. In fact, if Tory’s red-toryism could be to blame for anything in his electoral demise, given his presumed initial strategy of not wanting to be an agitator, it was for what must have appeared to be a confusing departure at best and an insincerity at worst for taking what was interpreted to be a socially conservative issue and making it central to the platform of this self-declared “progressive” of conservatives.

This election wasn’t supposed to be about making waves, and thus an ideologically conservative and Harris-like track (though it would have been nice) wasn’t required to win Ontario. John Tory would have had a better shot than he did if he had instead shown up, introduced himself and simply stated that he wasn’t going to lie to us.

If there’s any hope that can come from the results of this election for conservatives, it is that PCs in Ontario will rebuild around offering Ontario clear and articulated conservative policies just in time for what may be a strong desire for change after four more years of McGuinty.

Ipperwash contradictions

The final report from the Ipperwash inquiry was released today. The report aims to explain the events surrounding the death of native protester Dudley George by an OPP sniper’s bullet at Ipperwash Provincial Park in 1995.

Perhaps I’m being selective in my reading of the report, but from the “conclusions” section of the report it is written,

The evidence demonstrated that the Premier and his officials wanted the occupation to end quickly, but there is no evidence to suggest that either the Premier or any other official in his government was responsible for Mr. George’s death. — Page 675

So, is it unreasonable to be a bit put off by this CBC headline?
cbc-ipperwash-headline.jpg

“Harris government, OPP errors led to Ipperwash death, inquiry finds.”

This headline implies that the Harris government and OPP are responsible for Mr. George’s death.

This headline from the Toronto Star goes a little bit further:
torstar-ipperwash-headline.jpg

As I read the very important conclusion from the Ipperwash report above (the one about there being “no evidence to suggest that either the Premier or any other official in his government was responsible for Mr. George’s death.”), I’m surprised that the Toronto Star has found otherwise. The Star explicitly states fault (ie. responsibility) for the “Ipperwash death”.

Here’s the headline from the National Post:
post-ipperwash-headline.jpg

This headline is truthful about the findings of the Ipperwash inquiry. The inquiry itself did find fault in the approach of the police, and the province in the handling of the Ipperwash protest (it is easy to conclude that the approach was “wrong” because somebody died… not the ideal conclusion to any event), but the inquiry did not find fault in the provincial government for the death of Mr. George.

It is easy to see why some confusion occurs when reading the conclusions of the report for the report also reads:

The federal government, the provincial government and the OPP must all assume some responsibility for decisions or failures that increased the risk of violence and make a tragic confrontation more likely

The report concludes that the federal and provincial governments along with the OPP did contribute to an atmosphere which may have heightened tensions.

But responsibility for George’s death?

“Mike Harris cleared of responsibility for Ipperwash death”

would have been an honest headline (since it’s actually the conclusion of the Ipperwash report)

The problem with these media summaries and with the Ipperwash report itself is that each tries to invest too much into associating the final event (the death of Mr. George) with distant policies, circumstances and unfortunate, immutable realities instead of between the direct action and final result. The report connects the failed land claims process and the provincial government’s preference (but not direction) for a quick (quick!) resolution to lawbreakers breaking laws to the events that led up to Dudley George’s death. However, neither Mike Harris nor the federal government are culpable for Mr. George’s death and the report indeed states this finding. One surely cannot assign blame for death to something so distant as failed land claims processes!