Klees campaign responds to Hudak

I just got off the phone with a senior member of Frank Klees’ campaign regarding the letter from Tim Hudak’s co-chair Blair McCreadie. To say the least, Klees’ people are furious.

It was explained to me that two weeks ago, the Klees campaign conducted a voter ID poll and they argue that this was completely legal. All questions asked, they argue, were in the public domain. Questions were asked regarding the “faltering” Hudak campaign and second ballot support. It was argued that because the characterization of the campaign had been reported in mainstream media and on the blogs that this was a public perception poll and that questions were asked legitimately.

The main complaint from the Klees campaign is that the Hudak campaign strategically held their complaint until the day of the TVO debate, a forum where candidates could truly interact and go back and forth. Steve Paikin was the host of the debate. Klees’ campaign complains that the Hudak campaign made their complaint on this day in an attempt to de-legitimize their campaign. They suggest that the post-debate scrum of Klees regarding the “push poll” was evidence to this.

The Klees campaign characterizes the McCreadie letter as “arrogant”, “pious” a “smear” and “not true”. The Klees campaign argued that while McCreadie and the Hudak campaign initiated the complaint, McCreadie himself was 45 minutes late to the three hour meeting to decide the complaint, which he ultimately lost. Further, the Klees campaign accuses the Hudak campaign of salting the earth, “what is this, winning at all costs?” Further, it was explained that all candidates want party unity and that it is “arrogant” for the Hudak campaign to think that only they hold that card.

Ouch.

I imagine that this is not the final barrage; we’ll be here all day, folks. But let’s try to work on this “unity” thing sooner rather than later, k?

Is Harper’s campaign in decline?

Recent polls would indicate that the Conservative campaign has experienced a steady softening in support since both federal leader’s debates. When polls go well partisans treat them like gospel and when they go poorly, the methodology is questioned. Supporters will point to a good poll, frame it, put it in the window well past the time it fades with age and relevance. And for bad polls, well, polls simply for dogs aren’t they?

With respect to one’s worldview, in recent weeks that of many Canadians — not to speak others around the world — has been shaken by the global economic crisis. Up is down and then up again before it goes back down and while Canadians are captivated by their investment portfolios, they find as much uncertainty with the future of politics as they do the economy and thus politics captivates us all as well.

In a time of global economic uncertainty, are we seeing a natural inclination of Canadians to be uncertain of politics as well? As the stock markets take dips and dives affected by factors outside of our borders it is understandable that Canadians are in a state of uncertainty on how they would shape the future political landscape of this country.

In the next week, Canadians will be forced to make a choice early, before all of the dust has settled worldwide and Canadians will look to what they know but they will be largely affected by what they will come to understand over the next week. These 6 days before the election are critical for the leaders to make their case and for them to shape perceptions of their ability to lead, to show stability and convince Canadians that their vision represents stability to allow the Canadian ship to weather the global economic storm.

I write this as I watch Stephane Dion address a joint meeting of the Empire Club and the Canadian Club of Toronto. The Prime Minister addressed the same organizations the day before at the Royal York and such speeches at this junction of the campaign can shape perceptions, firm up expectations and bring stability to uncertain political times.

Yet such hallmark opportunities to address Canadian business and economic leaders can be an early political indicator for the final close on election day. Declining campaigns show declining momentum; in the last days of the 2006 federal election, as John Tory’s bid for Ontario Premier came to a close last year, as Ernie Eves ushered in last dying battle cry of the common sense revolution, reports indicated dwindling numbers at rallies, diminished interest in speeches and rooms left half-full as leaders could do little to hide realities of a halted momentum in their campaigns. As an indicator of campaign viability, the Prime Minister’s campaign has positive momentum during these final days of the campaign. As suggested by Steve Paikin’s tweet just one hour ago from the Royal York, the same cannot be said for Stephane Dion, “the royal york is starting to fill up. dion is en route. harper had 1000 yesterday. only 300 for dion today.”

So, what of these polls that suggest a tightening between the Harper and Dion campaigns? Unlike financial markets that show volatility in real-time where investors can gain or lose their fiscal security in one single day, Canadians are fortunately not faced with the same demands as they make political decisions. As the economic world spikes and plunges before them, Canadians are taking stock of the political landscape and are doing their research before they lock in their investment on election day. The question is, when they vote, will they be bullish and choose high risk with uncertain yield or will they go with a safe investment which has shown a stable modest return?

English debate, the next morning

Five federal party leaders squared off last night around the oblong table at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. Coming off of a sort of dress-rehearsal last night for the English speaking viewers, leaders were coached all day yesterday on earlier missteps and new opportunities as senior scripters checked debate playbooks, wiped the blackboard clean and chalked out some final plays.

And though politics can be a contact sport, referee Steve Paikin kept the unnecessary roughness to a minimum and even straightened out a few players when needed. The format of the debate has been criticized by some Conservatives as too amenable to unbalanced debating particularly when four candidates (including one late-comer and one spoiler) focus their attention squarely upon the incumbent. However, if one contrasts this with the American Vice-Presidential debate last night, the table format led to more exchanges and discussion rather than moderator-induced conversation without direct confrontation between candidates. Indeed, the Palin-Biden debate was instead two separate interviews, occurring simultaneously in the same room. The Canadian debate format for this election cycle proved more interesting for viewers and provided an unvarnished look at the candidates as they were challenged directly by the other candidates.

Despite this, the current Prime Minister seemed at ease though at times I’m certain he wanted to leap across the table and give Jack Layton a better-balanced bludgeoning. Viewers of the French language debate joked that the Prime Minister seemed to have been sedated while partisans both friendly and not yearned for more emotion; the unfriendlies hoped for anger while Conservatives hoped for more passion from their champion to describe their common agenda. In the English language debate, the Prime Minister seemed to exude what is more appropriately described as confidence than calm as he took the barrage that came as the polarized players flailed their collective left-wing and labeled the Prime Minister everything from out-of-touch with the middle class — quite brazen coming from Elizabeth May — to a George Bush clone (the left will miss him when he’s gone).

Despite the constant attacks, Stephen Harper performed strongly by donning his figurative blue sweater vest appearing the most rational and collected candidate of the group. As one twitterer likely not voting for Harper put it, “It concerns me that Harper sounds the least crazy.” Jack Layton, the other strong debate performer appealed to the dramatic by twice making cynical references to the very same sweater the PM wears in the Conservative ads. Jack Layton and Stephen Harper needed each other to boost their debate performances and by focusing their heat on each other, they were able to wedge out Dion. Though the Liberals have never had a leader like Paul Martin that was richer, the critics couldn’t be fairer; the Liberals have never had a greener candidate than Stephane Dion and despite Martin’s failings, he was more animated than Dion was last night. Though Martin entered the election in the lead, Dion is coming from behind and failed to capture anyone’s attention last night.

Elizabeth May surprised last night as she was the most sober of the opposition leaders. In comparison with other leaders, May brought a calm, number- and fact-referencing persona to the debate and politely corrected leaders as to the “facts” (though many as she saw them). For many Canadians who look at the political landscape and see the same old players locked in a seemingly eternal stalemate, May brought a fresh face to the stage for Canadians to consider. The Green Party leader needed to show Canadians that she deserved to debate on the same stage as the party leaders. Despite real and valid arguments against her inclusion and a childish repeat of her fraud accusation leveled against Harper, last night she didn’t appear out of place. In that, May scored an impressive victory for her cause.

As the leader of a french-first-and-last separatist party from Quebec, Gilles Duceppe did not have much to gain or lose during the English language debate and the Bloc leader appeared to be the candidate most genuinely at ease during the two hours last night. Duceppe also appeared as a shadow moderator; when he was not advancing his ideology, bringing he brought realism against rhetoric particularly when he gestured towards Layton and Dion suggesting they knew they’d never become Prime Minister and then proceeded to address the sitting Prime Minister — indeed, seated directly across from him — speaking about Quebec’s issues as the Bloc leader saw them. Most observers note that this will likely be Duceppe’s last performance in this forum as the dean of the debate is expected to retire from federal politics before the next federal election.

The debate was interesting to watch and was more interesting than debates in previous years. It certainly brought a fresh perspective to the players that we see in Question Period when parliament is sitting. If more and more newcomers show up to claim their stake on the democratic frontier as May did last night, we might see this format degenerate into a collective browbeating of an incumbent. If democratic reform proceeds along the path which May advocates, do more voices create more noise or do the enrich the process? In the American primary process we’ve seen about ten voices crowd one stage at a particular time with the TV networks biased towards perceived front-runners. Democracy is by definition a dynamic process and the evolution of the Canadian leader’s debate will follow its own path. The method by which our leaders appeal to Canadians for their votes will be, for the most part, fixed directly to the format by which Canadians would choose to hear them. That is democracy.

Tonight’s debate: the drinking game

Tonight, Canada’s four national mainstream party leaders (and one wildcard) will gather at Ottawa’s National Arts Centre for the English language debate. To occupy yourself while you twitter, and yell at the screen here’s the debate drinking game.

First, pick your poison.

If you support Stephane Dion, make sure you have some Château Pétrus on hand. Sip it slowly and savour it. If Stephen Harper is your guy, go to the corner store and get yourself some Coke Zero. Same great taste, zero calories. For those of you supporting Jack Layton, grab a can of Steelworkers Oatmeal Stout. Gilles Duceppe will be in the debate and without much of a clear purpose, if he’s your choice, just pour yourself something bitter. Finally, if you choose Elizabeth May finish your organic pomegranate with vodka and then go and mooch off of Dion. That Pétrus is some good stuff, and though and it won’t give you a hangover unlike the one that came after that thirteen year bender when the Liberals were drunk with power.

And now the rules:

If Jack Layton references the initiatives of one of his MPs, take a drink.

If Elizabeth May calls an idea/policy/person “stupid”/”ridiculous”/”outrageous” take a drink.

If Stephen Harper talks about the fundamentals of the Canadian economy take a drink.

If a leader says “George Bush” take a drink.

If Stephen Harper says “George Bush” finish the bottle and keep drinking til it stops hurting.

If a leader says in reference to Dion “you didn’t get it done”, “Mr. Dion doesn’t think it’s easy to make priorities” take a drink.

If Dion says “this is unfair”, finish the bottle.

Every time Duceppe puts the emphAsis on the wrong SyllAble take a drink.

Every time Dion seeks clarification take a drink.

If Jack Layton says “corporate tax cuts”, “boardroom/kitchen table”, “Ed Broadbent”, “Tommy Douglas”, “hope/change”, “working families”, “big oil/gas/pharma/banks” take a drink.

If Jack Layton says “big labour”, “big ass” or “Barack Obama” finish the bottle.

If Elizabeth May/Jack Layton/Stephane Dion cite Al Gore or David Suzuki take a drink.

If Stephen Harper cites Al Gore or David Suzuki finish the bottle.

Every time Harper/Layton tag-team Dion take a drink. Every time Dion/May tag-team Harper take a drink.

Anytime anyone tag-teams anyone with Duceppe, finish the bottle.

Every time Steve Paikin brings out his pleasant non-offensive wit, take a drink.

If Steve Paikin makes an off-colour joke, finish the bottle.

Add your own in the comments, and… please drink responsibly.

“Clearly, our leader won the debate”

You’ll hear this line from every party but the first public utterance of it that I saw was from the Liberal camp on twitter:

“Stéphane Dion won decisively! He clearly demonstrated that he is the only leader with a credible plan for Canada’s economy!”

This might be the same “credible plan” that was introduced on the floor of the NAC tonight by Dion that CTV commentators admitted reminded them of Paul Martin’s “Hail Mary” Not Withstanding Clause policy at the 2006 leader’s debate. Nobody heard about this plan until tonight. Having already released their platform, which was or wasn’t about the Green Shift depending on what polls Liberal strategists were reading in a given day, the Liberals seem to have released a second draft of their platform tonight. On the economy, is Stephane Dion making it up as he goes along?

The Liberals are stuck in a difficult place during this election. The Green Shift was a train that had already left the station and for Mr. Dion one that was already serving dinner in the dining car when Canadians suddenly became fixed upon the economy. For a serious political party that is vying for power, it is not simply enough to attack a party on an issue — especially one on which one’s rival is strong — but one must also define the path that a party’s leader would take should he or she become Prime Minister. What is astounding, is that Dion is reacting to the global economic crisis like an investor that gets the market numbers from the local TV news between the weather and sports. On the twenty-third day of the election campaign, Dion derails the train and tries to make it hop the tracks. Instead of being proactive on the economy, Dion is reactive.

For the Conservatives, this is an easy pick-up because it underlines the message they’ve been carrying as one of their main themes since this campaign started: Harper represents stability and Dion represents risk. What a disaster it was to see Mr. Dion drop his bombshell so quietly on the debate floor while the other leaders simply paused and moved on. Mr. Dion appeared but as one of four opposition voices — hardly dominant — against the Prime Minister and for Mr. Harper, representing one pole of a polar argument doesn’t exactly hurt his chances.

The most heated exchanges during the debate occurred between Stephen Harper and Gilles Duceppe, the two front runners of the election in Quebec. On the issues of 14/16 year-olds going to prison for serious crime and repeat offenses, Harper with rare emotion for the evening responded by backing up his plan with third party endorsements of the idea from a police union president and the head of a victim’s rights group. On the Quebec nation and Mr. Duceppe’s two day hesitation and subsequent reversal on the motion that declared Quebec a nation within a united Canada, Mr. Harper demonstrated strength. However, on most other issues such as the environment and the arts, the four-on-one atmosphere that Duceppe led for most of the evening showed the Prime Minister defending his record, the default position for any incumbent.

Will this debate move numbers in Quebec? Likely not. For Mr. Harper, this may mean that he might need a scripting change for that province in order to produce a game-changer that may light a fire under his numbers there. On the other hand, Bloc support may have firmed up on the island of Montreal and the numbers breakdown outside of the city may float Mr. Harper in the more conservative regions of la belle province in order to secure that majority.

TVO disagrees with Elizabeth May

Elizabeth May writes a statement on the Green Party website hoping to put the “Canadians are stupid” issue to rest.

Unfortunately, in her statement she writes,

“I reviewed all this on TVO with Steve Paikan [sic] more recently and he confirmed that no one in the room thought I had said Canadians are stupid.”

TVO wants to set thing right and expresses disagreement as their director of corporate communications explains,

For the record, I would like to clarify that at no point during his September 12th interview with Elizabeth May did Steve Paikin express such a personal opinion.

We feel this use of Mr. Paikin’s name – and by extension, that of TVO’s – is inappropriate. We ask that the above mentioned blog posting be corrected, along with any other Green Party of Canada postings or communications of a similar nature.

Here’s my post and YouTube video that started this controversy.

Here’s a good summary of May’s gaffe and explanation to TVO and CTV:

Does Elizabeth May fundamentally agree or disagree?

One thing that we can all agree upon is that Elizabeth May talks too fast and this has got her into some trouble in the past surrounding her February 2007 comments on TVO’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin where she says “All the other politicians are scared to death to mention the word ‘tax’. And they think Canadians are stupid — and cannot — and I fundamentally agree with that assessment.”

As I mentioned in my interview on CBC, I was never of the mind that she had said “I” rather than “they” in the sentence where she says “they think Canadians are stupid”. What stunned me was the part where she said “and I fundamentally agree with that assessment”. I didn’t realize there was ambiguity over the pronoun until it was raised by other who saw my video and made comment over at Buckdog.

Now, as it has been confirmed, the audio was “they” but now May reveals that the real difference in interpretation was that she either meant “agree” or “disagree with that assessment”. In Steve Paikin’s Friday interview of May, the Green Party leader explains that she said “disagree”.

However, on Sunday’s CTV Question Period May has a different story that contradicts her explanation to Paikin. May said that she said “fundamentally agree with that assessment” in reference to another panelist who had made an observation that wasn’t recorded.

Most people that run for political office do it out of a love of service for their fellow Canadians. I do not doubt that May’s heart is in the right place. However, her reported off-hand comments after the panel discussion might reinforce for us another element of her thinking. She said “No I want [Hummer drivers] shot actually, jail is not good enough for them!” Of course, any reasonable person would understand that May was joking. However, some might interpret this as a streak of elitism in Ms. May. Some Canadians may get the impression that while she wishes to serve Canada, she likely thinks she knows what’s best for us.

Leave Leftdog alone!

he may be a dog online, but he’s… a human.

There’s a lot of brouhaha in the blogosphere and in the Green politicosphere about this video:

A left-wing blogger named Leftdog re-posted it on his blog called Buckdog and got a legal threat from John Bennett, the director of communications to Elizabeth May.

I’d like to say leave Leftdog alone because I produced that video. You can check it out on my YouTube account here.

According to thetyee.ca, John Bennett told them “It’s an attempt by the Conservatives through a front website to attack the credibility of Elizabeth May… They took what she said, cut it up, then put it back together.”

Unfortunately for Bennett, truth is a defense and the May quote unedited and unspliced. I even provided further context to what she said in my original blog posting.

You can listen to the original show (which was TVO’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin) here:
The Debate: The Long Goodbye to GDP

The quote is at 38:32 – 39:01.

You can read some original leftwing disgust to May’s comments at this rabble thread. The comments were posted just after the taping.

Macleans 50

Macleans newsmagazine has put together a new initiative called the Macleans 50 which is described as “A diverse field of Canada’s most well known and respected personalities from journalists to politicians offering their comments on the issues of the day, everyday.”.

To my astonishment, Macleans editor Adam Radwanski named me to the 50 and invited me to participate and to comment at the website along with other “50s” such as Tom Flanagan, John Manley, Steve Paikin, Paul Wells, Irshad Manji, Barry Cooper, Christy Clark, and L. Ian MacDonald (among others). The “Mac 50″ will comment on a variety of news from politics to health to education.

The official launch was on Monday and we’ve already seen many animated discussions.

I’m also happy to see Dan Arnold of CalgaryGrit on the list.