Cue Mark Holland

This past week, the Conservatives have nodded in the general direction of Elections Canada by refiling their 2005 expenses with the government body which recently clarified its position on convention fees as political donations. This provides some declouded some of my confusion last week when I received a tax receipt to a “donation” that I didn’t make this year. The receipt instead was for 2005.

The status of convention fees was a significant point of contention this year between the Conservative and the Liberals. The Tories via their minority government’s federal accountability act legislation threw a wrench, the Grits argue, into their leadership convention plans. That convention, which wrapped up at the beginning of this month saw approximately 5,000 delegates paying about $1,000 each to participate in the process that elected Chretien-era cabinet minister Stephane Dion as the leader of that party. The Conservatives pointed out that the Liberals, by arguing for donation status for their convention fees, were in fact asking the Canadian taxpayer to subsidize their party’s convention costs as political donations receive a healthy tax refund.

The Liberals, in turn, tried to make hay out of Conservatives being caught afoul of their storied drive for accountability arguing that the Tories had over-donated to their own party and, in a weak attempt of Tu Quoque, tried to paint the Conservatives over-donations as a measure of corruption in line with the embezzlement of millions by Liberal-friendly advertising firms in previous years.

In fact, Elections Canada reveals that even under the new interpretation of convention fees as donations, a mere three delegates at the Tory policy convention had to be refunded for over-donating. Underneath it all, only three people were at or near the maximum donation amount and also attended the convention that year. One of those delegates was Stephen Harper. Harper likely made the maximum possible donation to his party that year and because he also attended the policy convention, he over-donated via his own convention fee. The Conservatives had not considered the fees to be donations in part because of their position that political conventions should not be subsidized by the Canadian taxpayer.

The PMO has expressed that while they do not agree with Elections Canada’s decision, they will comply with it. They also underscore that it has always been their position that whatever the decision rendered by Elections Canada, they would comply with it.

Has the media love affair with Dion already begun?

First, Kate McMillan and Bob Tarantino rout out a suspicious Dion friendly source used by CP.

Next, Lawrence Martin the Globe and Mail scribe, former Chretien biographer (two books…one was written under duress), and a man paid over $6000 by Liberal governments for two speaking jobs gives new Liberal leader Stephane Dion the highest of praises, and apologizes for one of Dion’s recent flip-flops (my comments in bold):

There is a suspicion out there that Stéphane Dion is a man of honour, a politician of dignity with true character. (there’s only one thing I’m suspicious of at this point Mr. Martin, and it’s not Dion)

True character is the reverse of trying to be all things to all people. It means not seeking others’ approval. (Lawrence never wrote any biographies about Paul Martin, you’ll note) When, as a political leader, you stop doing that, and just be the essential you, people want some of what you’ve got, some of that core. You’re the magnetic field. (oh captain, my captain!)

But politics is about selling, reaching out, pandering. (first hints of apology) And so here was Stéphane Dion in his first week as Liberal leader, already in the grip of the ugly claws of the enterprise(the grip!… the ugly claws, poor Stephane!). He was faced with a middling controversy over whether he should maintain his dual French citizenship. It was a sensitive issue for him, one that cut to his heart and, in responding, he got testy. (I’ll make full disclosure for Lawrence Martin here… the Globe and Mail scribe is a dual citizen too)

His answer was sound enough (of course…), but he couldn’t help thinking of the political equation. Well, if maintaining my French citizenship loses me votes, he said, he might have to reconsider. In other words, let’s cast aside the principle involved here and make a decision on the basis of politics.

That wasn’t the man of honour talking. It was hardly the new politics. It was an example of him looking over his shoulder, seeing the dark shadow of pollsters in pursuit, about to smother the light within. (dark forces made Dion do it. Dion is made of pure light, by the way)

Martin then contrasts “honour” with big bad Stephen Harper:

Stephen Harper has an impressive skill set. He had a chance, himself, to bring more honour to governance. But since the opening bell when he elevated a floor-crosser and an unelected senator to his Cabinet, he has shown himself to be a leader whose abiding imperative is political opportunism (wow…). His Senate reform, announced yesterday, which would allow voters at last some say in Senate appointments, is a step forward that he need not have framed in the context of political partisanship. His brazen approach in this regard has cost him, as voters, turned off by this kind of politics, have responded with declining approval ratings. (brazen, turned off, declining!)

Hence the Dion opening is all the greater. The Leader of the Opposition must find a way to resist the temptation to respond in kind to the cheap attacks and slanders. To succeed, to avoid being dragged down into the brothel, the rules of engagement are many: He must be a champion of principle. He must remain stoic, keeping the level of discourse high and noble, holding to his true character (wow…). He must, while letting other caucus members tackle the seamy questions, be seen as frequently as possible with the other tower of integrity in the Liberal thicket, Ken Dryden.

It’s not difficult to figure out how Lawrence Martin votes.

Finally, when Dion named Ignatieff as the deputy of the opposition Liberal Party, it made the front page of the Globe and Mail. When Stephen Harper named Carol Skelton as deputy leader of the opposition Alliance party in 2003, no such fanfare from the Globe. However, it did make page A10 of the National Post!

UPDATE: You may have read in Macleans that Susan Delacourt and Greg Weston were snubbed from the PM’s media Christmas party. I’m also hearing that Delacourt, after her invite was “lost in the mail”, was trying to lobby her fellow PPG members to boycott the PM’s party. UPDATE: The pro-Delacourt camp assures me that this isn’t true!

Cabinet shuffle

UPDATE: I have heard that Prentice is already meeting with significant stakeholders (innovative green technology firms) behind the scenes and that the Conservatives may already be developing a new green strategy (the “Green Phoenix” perhaps?). Regardless, I should mention that the following is still speculative rumour. The proceeding information is based on a few fairly good sources.

Jim Prentice moves into Environment.

Ambrose shifted to Intergovernmental Affairs replacing Van Loan.

Van Loan goes to Indian Affairs.

Prentice is considered by most insiders in official Ottawa to be the Prime Minister’s de facto deputy (even though he is not officially named as such).

Does this indicate that the Conservatives are putting increased focus on buffering themselves on the environmental file should it become a campaign issue?

Even though Dion’s record on greenhouses gases is virtually all hot air, I wonder if the polls are telling the long term strategic planners in the PMO that such a pragmatic cabinet shift is worth the nod of recognition that the Clean Air Act was widely reviewed as a lemon.

This move may have been planned to show movement on the file which may yet become a sleeper issue during the next campaign. I’m still skeptical of the notion that a significant number of voters will make green issues the deciding factors on their ballot, but internal polls may be showing an increasing trend.

Back on January 25th, I predicted that the PM-elect would name Ambrose to Intergovernmental Affairs. Prior to her election to federal office, Ambrose was the Senior Intergovernmental Officer with the International and Intergovernmental Relations department of the Government of Alberta.

Top 10 things Stephane Dion has done for Kyoto

Stephane Dion is the newly elected leader of the Liberal Party. People have been criticizing the work that the former Environment Minister has done for Kyoto while Dion himself boasts of his numerous accomplishments. I’ve looked into how Dion has been the steward of this issue, indeed his number one priority, and I should say that I agree with the bespeckled leader of the opposition. Stephane Dion is indeed the champion of Kyoto.

Top 10 things Stephane Dion has done for Kyoto

10) New leash for Kyoto’s birthday
9) Keeps Kyoto away from that nasty mongrel down the street named Katrina
8) Keeps Kyoto out of the sun for too long. Solar radiation can cause Kyoto confusion.
7) Refuses to stay in hotels that won’t recognize Kyoto
6) Takes Kyoto to the dog park to play with Harper’s dog “Clean Air” and Layton’s dog “Economy”. Sometimes Duceppe’s dog “Nation” shows up to play.
5) Takes Kyoto for the occasional run on the family treadmill dubbed the “Global Conveyor”
4) Will often take Kyoto on long car rides just so doggy can stick his head out the window
3) Keeps Kyoto’s coat short for hot summers
2) Taught Kyoto how to roll over

and the number one thing that Stephane Dion has done for Kyoto…

1) Lets Kyoto bury Liberal fossils in the back yard

UPDATE: Looks like MolarMauler joked around about Kyoto a few days ago too. Check out his post for more Kyoto fun.

Convention leftovers

I’ve a few convention leftovers that I want to share.

Convention buttons were a big hit on the floor among Liberals. (See my previous post for the other buttons)

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Speaking of Justin vs. Belinda in Smackdown 2008, check out Macleans top story about the race to replace Stephane Dion, the Liberals’ interim leader.

I mentioned in one of Greg Staples earlier hotstove podcasts that if Bob Rae had won, the Conservatives would have spun the new Liberal leader as “potentially Canada’s first NDP Prime Minister”. I think that this button captures that spirit.

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Staying on Bob Rae, and mocking him on his record instead of resorting to vicious ad hominem attacks we have this amusing button handed out on the convention floor:

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This button was critical of the lack of french spoken at the Liberal convention in Montreal. I heard that a full 80% of delegates could not speak french (or were unilingual, I forget which).

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Finally, on the last ballot between Iggy and Dion, these buttons made their first appearance on the convention floor. These are obviously funny for a few reasons.

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Moving on from the buttons, this piece came from the Conservative war room to help Liberals feel especially good about themselves at their party.

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And… the best piece from the convention, in my opinion, was produced by the NDP war room who were kind enough to email me the PDF of their “map to the scars”, an Adscam tour of Montreal. Print it out, fold it up and hand it out to your friends (but tell them to vote Conservative!)

Download the Adscam map (PDF)

Shameful anti-Semitic slurs against Rae

CP’s Joan Bryden tells us about the shameful anti-Semitic slurs spoken against Bob Rae’s wife Arlene Perly Rae. Bryden reports that these comments were made by Liberal delegates desperate to smear Rae to prevent him from becoming Liberal leader. CP:

Bob Rae was the target of anti-Semitic attacks during the Liberal leadership contest, motivated at least in part by the fact that his wife is Jewish.

Sources close to Rae say that his wife, Arlene Perly Rae, was approached during last weekend’s convention by a delegate who didn’t realize she was the candidate’s wife. The delegate told her not to vote for Rae “because his wife is Jewish.”

Perly Rae stonily informed the delegate that she was the wife in question. The delegate beat a hasty retreat.

The incident might have been shrugged off if it had been an isolated event. But Rae team insiders contend it was part of a larger pattern of anti-Semitic smears on Rae, who finished third.

Bryden, who provided some of the best behind-the-scenes coverage of the Liberal leadership convention (see this article for just one reason why), also goes on to describe a flyer that was circulated electronically among some delegates slamming Rae and his wife for their defense of Israel.

I received a copy of this shameful flyer:

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Sad.

UPDATE: Stephane Dion responds:

For Immediate release
December 8, 2006

Statement from Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion Regarding
the Anti-Semitic Comments Made Against Bob Rae and Arlene Perly Rae

The hateful comments made against Liberal leadership candidate Bob Rae and his wife Arlene Perly Rae at the Liberal leadership convention in Montreal are reprehensible and will not be tolerated within the Liberal Party of Canada.

Canada is a nation founded on diversity and tolerance for people of all faiths and ethnic backgrounds. The Liberal Party of Canada celebrates and promotes this diversity and tolerance.

There is no room for abhorrent comments such as these within our Party. The individuals who made these despicable and prejudiced comments are condemned by myself and Liberals throughout Canada.

Good for Dion.

I’d like to thank Jane Taber!

Not only was Taber was solid on CTV’s MDL as she put the questions to the new Liberal leader Stephane Dion, she used my blog’s research on two separate stories last night. Here’s a transcript:

Jane: Okay. Now on the environmental issue you have said that is one of your three pillars of course. That’s what you campaigned on during the leadership. Yet you have been voted I think seven times in a row the fossil of the year. What do you say to that? Because people have said your environmental plan is not –

Stephane Dion: Seven times in a row?

Jane: Seven times in a year.

Stephane Dion: The Liberal government maybe or over 13 years. Not me. I have been — I have received once this prize.

Jane: We saw the buttons at the campaign.

Stephane Dion: Yes, because of the record of the record other the years. Not because of my own achievement. To the contrary –

Jane: You were part of that government.

Stephane Dion: To the contrary, remember, we brought the world together at the Montreal conference on climate change. You remember that.

Jane: M-hm.

Stephane Dion: We put 182 nations together last December, December, 2005 at the same Palais des Congres where we had the convention last weekend. And at that time, I have been celebrated as a hero, if you allow me to say so, because we saved Kyoto at that time. And I remember that last February for the anniversary of Kyoto, the European caucus of the green party and the Belgium caucus of the green party invited me to celebrate what I have done. And they thought this I was a great minister. One when they discovered I was a Liberal they were a bit disappoint bud they gave me recognition the anyway.

Jane: Why should Canadians trust you? You were part of that government where we did see the greenhouse gas emissions go up.

Stephane Dion: Because I have been a very successful minister of environment. Madam Elizabeth May give me a prize or recognition for what I have done. The –

Jane: She is, of course, the leader of the green party now.

Stephane Dion: yes and also what I have done for nature to protect the — our seabirds. I received a prize for. That I have been a minister of the environment well accepted by the environmental groups and they are not easy. And by the industry when they are ready to work with us, they said that I was really helpful to push environmental technologies in Canada as we should. But since then, the current government is doing nothing. They always blaming us for what we have done. And they are doing nothing. If they are right, they just have to do more than us and I will do much more because this is the issue of the century.

stephane-dion-button.jpgMakes this whole blogging thing feel worthwhile when I can help shape the debate. (see my fossil of the year post here)

Taber also used my last post on Trudeau running in Outremont on the show.

Thanks Jane!

Justin Trudeau to run in Outremont?

justin-trudeau.jpgI overheard at the convention last weekend that Justin Trudeau is considering a run in the riding of Outremont.

I didn’t put much stock into the rumour, but this makes it more likely to be true (Romeo St. Martin reports that Jean Lapierre may not run again in Outremont). Further, could he sit as an MP under a Dion government given Dion’s hardline with soft Quebec nationalists?

Also, perhaps Trudeau believed that Kennedy (and then Dion) were weak leaders to support so that the eldest son of P.E. Trudeau could run for Liberal leadership in 2008.

Trudeau would be a (future leadership) candidate that would run heavily on personality and the name “Trudeau”. Here’s Blogging Tories Television’s interview with him.

I’m certain that it’s not a question of if but when and when may come sooner than we think if Lapierre’s vacating of Outremont (again, perhaps because of Dion) is true.

A Justin Trudeau run in the riding of Outremont? You heard it here first.

The latest Strategic Counsel poll

So, about the latest Strategic Counsel poll that shows the Liberals at 37% and the Conservatives at 30%.

I’ve checked the methodology of the poll and it seems to be what I call an “honest poll” (ie. that the pollster has the ballot question first without prompting respondents with questions that either outline successes or failures of any party — check this post for more discussion).

So, the methodology is straight-forward. However I cannot square the main result (LPC 37%, CPC 30%) with the results of this question:

Now that Stéphane Dion is the new Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, would you say you are significantly more likely, somewhat more likely, the same, somewhat less likely or significantly less likely to vote Liberal than you were before the Convention?

Total more likely: 20%
The same: 47%
Total less likely: 26%

This question should indicate that Canadian are less likely to vote for the Liberals under Stephane Dion.

However, the ballot question indicates the Liberals over the Conservatives with 37% to 30%, respectively.

The two results are in conflict. The only explanation is that the Liberals had higher support than 37% before the convention.

Ipsos put them at 25-27% to a Conservative 38% just a few days before Dion was elected leader.

The only thing that we know for certain is that we don’t have a clear picture of what is going on yet.

I’ll wait for SES numbers.