The Seinfeldian media

The latest installment of the “will there or won’t there be an election?” drama of As the Hill Turns, the Canadian Press reports that Quebec Liberal candidates at an election readiness workshop had their election “mug shots” done — these are the official photos that Elections Canada and the media will use to report on the election (and while these are Quebec Liberals, I say “mug shots” for lack of a more descriptive term).

Will they or won’t they? — that is the question that has the media scrambling to fill their columns and air-time. Today, I was on Montreal drive-time talk radio and despite mentioning that party leaders themselves ratchet up election timing rhetoric to fundraise and to fill nominations, we still chatted about the prospects of a fall election.  I fear that I didn’t play my role and let the audience down when I explained that all of this election talk is just the empty thrill of a cheap drama.  I explained that prior to the summer break, Michael Ignatieff had just six additional nominations filled beyond his caucus compliment.  Further, despite healthier second quarter fundraising numbers — buoyed largely by Liberal leadership convention fees — the Liberals still have a steep hill to climb when it comes to fundraising.  Party leaders (or their proxies) amp up imminent election talk to create a sense of urgency that compels people to give and to act.

As for those Quebec Liberal candidate photos that were snapped — indicating that we just be going for it soon — it’s pretty standard fare, I’m sorry to say.

Though I fear this will fuel even more election speculation, the Conservative candidates — all of them — had their election mug shots snapped at the Conservative training convention early last month.

A summer of communion wafers, G8 photo-ops and inuktitut spelling gaffes has professional flacks looking for something else, and instead of hopping on an expensive jet to cover news where its happening, most of the bubble-locked Ottawa media are in a standard holding pattern and doing their best as bit players in a show about nothing called When is the next election?

Because perhaps when those glorious days come, they’ll have something more to talk about.

Google Earth demo – 2008 General Election poll maps and results

For the past week or so, when I’ve had a spare moment in the office, I’ve been working on a mapping project involving Elections Canada data and the Google Earth KML standard.  For anyone that’s worked on a political campaign or in a Member’s office, poll maps are always close by and always useful for plotting strategy for the next election.  Elections Canada provides data for drawing these polls maps, but unfortunately this data is not available in a format or projection readable by Google Earth or Google Maps.

I’ve gone ahead and translated and reprojected (after crashing my computer a few dozen times) the geographical coordinates that dileaneate the approximate 60,000 polls that make up the 308 ridings.  I’ve written software that represents these data points as polygons in Google Earth and shades them by poll winner (party) or by party vote share by poll (Conservative, Liberal, NDP, Green or Bloc).  I’ve also included an option in the software to shade the map by voter turnout.  These maps have an obvious political purpose, however, addressing low voter turnout is a non-partisan interest shared by most.

I’ve been working on writing an API to make this sort of data available to developers through a few GET requests.  I’ll keep you updated.  If you’ve got any questions, please send me an email or put a comment in the comment section below.  Here’s the demo, in all the wondrous splendor of Youtube HD.


(click the “full screen” button for the best experience)

Warren Kinsella misfires

Our friend Warren Kinsella of the red team, calls me out as a hypocrite for blogging about Michael Ignatieff’s $0 record of donation to the Liberal Party of Canada in 2008, whereas Warren points out Elections Canada lists me as giving $0 to the CPC in 2008.

There are a couple of quick points I should make about this:
– I actually didn’t do this. I didn’t call out Ignatieff for his lack of donations to the Liberal Party. So I am being called a hypocrite for something I didn’t do!
– I did in fact donate to the Conservative Party in 2008. Warren, you don’t appreciate that cheques for less than $200 are not publicly disclosed by Elections Canada. I suppose that Warren thinks that folks that write cheques for less than $200 aren’t “putting their money where their mouth is”. I suppose Warren might say that only those that cut big cheques are allowed to have a voice!
– Warren also doesn’t appreciate the difference between movement and party. I work full time for the Manning Centre for Building Democracy, a integral organization in the conservative movement.
– I’ve never been paid $1 by the Conservative Party, whereas you are and have been paid by the Liberal Party for communications! Putting my money where my mouth is? The Liberal Party pays for your mouth!
– If we’re going to compare apples to apples here, you ask “What did they donate to the Conservative Party last year?”, I ask “What did you donate to the Liberal Party last year?” Elections Canada has you listed as $0 to the Liberal Party of Canada in 2008. (You gave to the Ignatieff leadership campaign)

You write,

Michael Ignatieff has donated through the Laurier Club in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. Both Michael and his wife, Zsuzsanna Zsohar, have donated the maximum amount to the Michael Ignatieff campaign in 2009. And, in 2007, Zsuzsanna donated $1,000 to Michael’s riding and $1,000 to the Liberal Party.

First of all, the Laurier Club doesn’t mean anything in a legal sense to Elections Canada. To Liberals, it’s the max donor club. To Elections Canada, it could be called the “First Annual Montgomery Burns Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence… Club” and it would have the same legal standing. Anyway, donations to the “Laurier Club” are in fact donations to the Liberal Party. And, according to Elections Canada, Michael Ignatieff has donated $0 in 2008. So, either Michael Ignatieff has given $0, or he’s made his donations off-book (you say he’s given the max amount), or you’re mistaken and he’s given as many normal political donors do, with a $50 cheque here and a $75 cheque there. You really shouldn’t be hard on us regular folk, you with your top hat, monocle and deeds to all four railroads, both utilities and Pennsylvania avenue!