By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, April 19, 2011 - 35 Comments
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, March 3, 2011 at 9:18 AM - 51 Comments
Pollsters continue to debate the meaning and prominence of their work.
Gregg said the proliferation of sometimes conflicting polls and the hypeventilating analysis that frequently accompanies them does not strengthen democracy. On the contrary, he said: “Rather than have a public that’s informed, you have a public that’s misinformed.” He said he’s not arguing that polls should be ignored; only that their import needs to be interpreted much more cautiously. Rather than pontificate on weekly fluctuations in individual polls, he said it makes more sense to average the results of various surveys and look at the trends over longer periods of time.
It is probably important to consider, as Eric Grenier did this week, how much and how often polling responses change when an election campaign is conducted. Consider, for instance, that the last three changes in government were not obviously foretold by publicly available polling data released immediately before the election was called. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 9:04 AM - 251 Comments
Eleven years before he declared himself and his side to be “Canadians first and only,” Stephen Harper declared his allegiance to an Alberta quite apart from Canada.
The following op-ed was published by the National Post on December 8, 2000, shortly after that year’s federal election. Sorting out how he got from writing what appears here to saying what he says now probably goes as far as any question towards sorting out Stephen Harper. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, December 1, 2010 at 1:14 PM - 42 Comments
From the Prime Minister’s remarks to the Conservative caucus this morning, a slight adjustment to yesterday’s line.
As you all know, at the best of times, it is rare for governing parties to pick up seats in by-elections…
Indeed. While governments of the last 40 years have retained about 60% of their own seats in by-elections and won about 40% of by-elections overall, I count only a dozen pick-ups for the governing party of the day (four each for the governments of Trudeau, Chretien and Harper).
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 30, 2010 at 12:42 PM - 138 Comments
From the Prime Minister’s statement today on last night’s by-election results.
“Though it is rare for a governing party to win by-elections, we are buoyed by the fact that the Conservative Caucus in the House of Commons has increased.”
As noted previously, and according to Wikipedia’s records, heading into last night 31 seats last held by the incumbent government have been contested in by-elections over the last 30 years, 22 of those—71%—remaining with the government.
Since taking office in 2006, the Harper government has now picked up four seats that were held by opposition parties. The Chretien government won an equal number of opposition seats between
19881993 and 2004. The Mulroney government retained sixtwo of its ninesix seats and picked up two opposition seats.* You have to go back to theThe Trudeau government to find an incumbent administration thatsignificantly struggled in by-elections—between 1968 and 19791984, 2025 Liberal government seats were contested, 1113 of those going to the opposition by my count. OverBut over the same period, the Liberals picked up threefour opposition ridings.
Going back to 1968 then, a total of
5753 seats last held by an incumbent government have been contested, 3432 of those retained by the incumbent. Over that same period, the governing party has picked up a dozen seats held by opposition parties.
*Wells checked my math and it seems I took a slightly wrong turn somewhere in the 80s. Larger trend still holds.
By Aaron Wherry and John Geddes - Friday, November 12, 2010 at 12:00 PM - 11 Comments
Those who think Jim Prentice might come back to politics and romp to power should think again
It was not long after Jim Prentice announced his impending departure from federal politics that speculation about his leadership aspirations began anew. But it’s entirely possible, perhaps even probable, that Ottawa has seen the last of him.
Explaining the decision to accept a senior executive position with CIBC, Prentice said it was merely a matter of time. “When I entered federal politics in 2001 I made a commitment that my time in politics would last eight to 10 years,” he said. “It has now been nine years and it is time for me to pursue new opportunities outside of public life.” A well-regarded cabinet minister who ran for the Progressive Conservative party leadership in 2003 (finishing second to Peter MacKay), he was sometimes thought to be a potential successor to Stephen Harper. That speculation will not end with Prentice’s exit, but if he stays away he would do so in good company.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 at 6:44 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. The Prime Minister is a busy man and so he cannot always attend to the House. His appearance today, for instance, was his first in a week. And this, it seemed, was long overdue—not so much for us, this place and our democracy, but for him. Indeed, judging from his subsequent behavior he arrived quite pent up, needing very much, from a spiritual perspective, to openly air his concerns and grievances.
This is perhaps the best way to understand the man’s outbursts—as a natural and necessary unburdening, a shouty rebalancing of his chakras. So let us think of this as somehow healthy. If only so that we might say these proceedings serve some purpose.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, October 20, 2010 at 1:18 PM - 0 Comments
Michael Ignatieff’s relating yesterday of a question from a young man named Derek harkens somewhat to a program the Reform party attempted upon arriving in Ottawa in 1994.
In ye olden days, during those dreary days before electronic mail, Preston Manning’s side set up phone and fax lines to receive questions from average Canadians that could then be put to the government of the day during QP. Manning’s second question of Prime Minister Jean Chretien, in fact, was asked on behalf of Dr. Dean P. Eyre of Ottawa.
A week later, Reform MP Randy White attempted to relate a question from Raymond Watts of Surrey, but was admonished by the speaker of the day, Gilbert Parent, on procedural grounds. It’s unclear, at least to me, how much longer the program lasted. Its existence was still being boasted about a month later, but by the end of that year, the Reform side had more or less abandoned its larger goal of turning QP into a genteel exchange of relevant information.
By Andrew Coyne - Friday, September 24, 2010 at 5:50 PM - 0 Comments
COYNE: The factors behind the province’s penchant for money politics
No, Quebec is not the only province where political scandal sometimes erupts. Governments and business have been corrupting each other across this country since pre-Confederation days. But in no other province does it feel quite so . . . inevitable. British Columbia has thrown up the odd chiselling premier, Atlantic Canada is famously steeped in patronage, but there is no comparison to the kind of octopussal industry-union-mob-party configuration lurking just below the surface of politics in Quebec. Toronto may have been scandalized by the cronyism of the Mel Lastman era, but only in Montreal would a candidate for mayor publicly confess to being afraid for his life. When a senior adviser to Ontario premier David Peterson was forced to resign after it was revealed he had accepted a refrigerator from a party donor with ties to a developer, puzzled Montrealers phoned their friends in Toronto, asking, ‘What was in the fridge?’ ”
The roots of corruption run deep in the province. Scrounging for funds to carry him through the 1872 election, the eminently corruptible Sir John A. Macdonald didn’t have far to look: Montrealer Sir Hugh Allan, said to be the richest man in Canada, was even then angling for the contract to build the CPR. Fifty years later, with Prohibition in force and Montreal a flourishing centre of the cross-border smuggling business, Mackenzie King saw fit to put Jacques Bureau in charge of the customs department, with comically debauched results: the scandal that ultimately led to the King-Byng affair.
By Michael Petrou - Sunday, September 5, 2010 at 6:03 AM - 0 Comments
Former Canadian prime minister Jean Chrétien is given one paragraph in former British prime minister Tony Blair’s new 700-page autobiography, A Journey. Not to worry, though; Chrétien also features prominently in a photograph. Unfortunately, it would appear no one associated with the book was able or remembered to identify him, so in the photograph’s caption he isn’t named.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, July 19, 2010 at 11:53 AM - 0 Comments
From the official government lines distributed over the weekend.
The Ignatieff Liberals promise to force all Canadians to answer personal and intrusive questions about their private lives under threat of jail, fine, or both.
Though the threat of imprisonment is included in the Statistics Act of 1970, no one has ever apparently been sent to prison for refusing to answer the census. The threat of a fine appears in both the Statistics Act and the Census Act of 1870. Until 1951, the census was conducted every 10 years, afterwards every five years.
The following prime ministers then—assuming the threat of a fine was not momentarily suspended between 1870 and 1970—would seem to have forced Canadians to answer personal and intrusive questions about their private lives under threat of jail or fine: John A. Macdonald (thrice), Wilfrid Laurier (twice), Arthur Meighen, RB Bennett, William Lyon Mackenzie King, Louis St. Laurent (twice), John Diefenbaker, Lester B. Pearson, Pierre Trudeau (thrice), Brian Mulroney (twice), Jean Chretien (twice) and Stephen Harper.
By Paul Wells - Friday, June 11, 2010 at 9:00 AM - 97 Comments
WELLS: A reverse oracle, Ignatieff mastered making things happen by insisting they wouldn’t
Nobody who was there will ever forget the day Jean Chrétien came back to politics. It was a perfect sunny day at the edge of summer in Toronto. An eerie quiet reigned over the G20 media centre. The only action worth mentioning was a technical briefing on agriculture policy by the Japanese deputy chargé d’affaires. Suddenly an ominous burbling sound emanated from the fake lake. Without any more fuss, the 20th prime minister of Canada rose up out of the water, dressed in a navy two-piece as if for lunch at Hy’s.
A watching cameraman opened his mouth in a silent “O” of surprise, only to discover that a golf ball had somehow wedged itself between his teeth. Pierre Trudeau rowed past Chrétien in a canoe, wearing a buckskin jacket, and offered to lend a hand.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 9:01 AM - 29 Comments
So Warren says that Alf told him that someone said something to Ed and Roy. And John says that Alf told him that Jean talked to Ed and Roy and Joe. But Alf says he’s only talked to Warren and John and that he only heard about Jean and Ed because Warren told him. Anyway. Hopefully the guys at the West Beverly Blaze will figure it all out soon.
By Mitchel Raphael - Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 8:20 AM - 0 Comments
‘I recognize that expression’, Dan Aykroyd and the troops, and MP’s suitcase just got lighter
‘I recognize that expression’
Speaker Peter Milliken hosted the hanging of Jean Chrétien’s official prime ministerial portrait. In his speech, Milliken referred to a 1967 CBC interview with Chrétien, who was then still a young MP. “His sense of humour,” Milliken noted, “was already evident. Speaking to a crowd of supporters one day, he said, ‘My initials are J.C., like Jesus Christ . . . my mother’s name is Mary. I live on Boulevard Pius XII. At 30 I was at the beginning of my public life. I hope I will not be crucified at 33.’ ” Milliken went on to note that Chrétien was the 18th of 19 children and “being the baby of the family, or close to it, it’s not easy to make your mark. I think we can agree he found his niche.” The portrait, painted by New Brunswick artist Christan Nicholson, took a year and a half to complete. There were five versions of it before the one with the “Chinese yellow” background was finally selected. The yellow version was championed by the former PM’s daughter, France Chrétien Desmarais. The Chrétien family was inspired by the painting Nicholson did of Robertson Davies holding his glasses, so Chrétien is shown with specs in hand. When former deputy PM John Manley looked at the portrait, he said, “I recognize that expression. That’s the look you got when you came into cabinet five minutes late.” VIPs attending the event included Ed Broadbent and current NDP Leader Jack Layton, who agreed it would be a good idea to have a bust of Broadbent made, like the one he has of NDP icon Tommy Douglas in his office. Chrétien’s portrait was installed at the beginning of the hall of prime ministerial portraits in Centre Block. With some rearranging, there is room for about 11 more portraits, though some may need to be a little smaller. When Chrétien entered the room, there were shouts of “four more years.” Stephen Harper’s spokesman, Dimitri Soudas, joked the chants were for his boss, who entered the room with Chrétien.
Dan Aykroyd and the troops
The Canadian Vintners Association was on the Hill to allow MPs to sample wine from across the country, including Quebec, Ontario, British Columbia, and Nova Scotia. Bloc MP Christiane Gagnon said her favourite wine was the Pinot Gris from Nova Scotia. But was it better than the Quebec wines? “Oui!” Working one of the tables was Liam Doody, who sells the Dan Aykroyd series of wines. He says their best seller is the Cabernet Merlot. Aykroyd has to sample all the wines before they are shipped, which Doody says can delay products for up to five weeks—the busy star has to make it to the vineyards in southern Ontario. Aykroyd, a big supporter of Canadian troops, recently had 56 cases of his wine shipped to Afghanistan for the men and women serving there.
MP’s suitcase just got lighter
Minister of State for Sports Gary Lunn has been limping around with a cast after having surgery on his foot. The downside is that it’s been hard to escape the media in the foyer, like when CTV’s Bob Fife cornered him to ask about MPs’ expenses and the auditor general. “You can’t run,” quipped Fife. The plus side, Lunn says, is a lighter suitcase: “I only need three shoes.” Lunn now travels with one running shoe, one dress shoe and one casual shoe.
He’ll never be a Starbucks MP
Before the mood changed on MPs opening their books to auditor general Sheila Fraser, Toronto Liberal MP Rob Oliphant said in a press release that he was voluntarily going to let the AG see what she needed. Toronto Star columnist Chantal Hébert noted that the fear on the Hill was that the AG’s report would highlight who were the Starbucks MPs versus the Tim Hortons MPs. Oliphant declares himself strictly a Tim Hortons MP: he can’t actually drink Starbucks coffee, he says, because of “acid reflux.”
By Mitchel Raphael - Tuesday, June 1, 2010 at 9:00 AM - 24 Comments
Past and current MPs came out for the hanging of Jean Chrétien’s official portrait…
Past and current MPs came out for the hanging of Jean Chrétien’s official portrait painted by artist Christan Nicholson. Below, Chrétien with the portrait.
Former Liberal MP Martin Cauchon (left) with Liberal MP Denis Coderre.
Aline Chrétien (left) and Laureen Harper.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 4:09 PM - 29 Comments
Glen Pearson notes the laughter that accompanied Jean Chretien’s return to Parliament Hill yesterday.
Outside of Chretien, it’s really hard to think of our last really funny PM. Oh sure, there was Pierre Trudeau, but his wit was so knife-sharp that it often left others with nothing to say. His understudy Chretien, however, told the kind of jokes I used to hear all through the years at the various firehalls I worked in. What was funny about him was that he was “funny” – that’s all. At times his humour was brilliant; at other times it could be slightly cruel; and then there were those occasions when it actually became a pragmatic and useful tool for creating ease and bringing out some kind of consensus.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 1:19 PM - 24 Comments
In his interviews with CTV and the CBC yesterday, former prime minister Jean Chretien decidedly downplayed the significance of any discussions he and Ed Broadbent may have had about any future Liberal-NDP coalition. Mr. Chretien and Mr. Broadbent similarly shrugged to reporters after yesterday’s portrait unveiling. (For the record, their involvement in the events of December 2008 were documented by John Geddes and I at the time.)
When this speculation first surfaced last week, I asked an interested individual who would know what he knew. Though he did not answer the question directly, he did, by way of response, send along the following video clip. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 7:45 PM - 160 Comments
Stephen Harper stood this afternoon before a room of past and present cabinet ministers, current and former members of parliament, power-brokers, diplomats, hangers-on and swells—the size of the crowd woefully overwhelming Parliament’s air conditioning system on a truly sweltering day in the capital—and toasted the career of Jean Chrétien, the man who once seemed to epitomize everything Mr. Harper campaigned to change, everything that was wrong with this place, everything that brought Mr. Harper to office four and a half years ago.
Mr. Harper spoke of a “great Parliamentarian” and a “great leader” and his “long and successful service to Canada.” “For this passion and dedication, Jean Chrétien deserves our admiration and our thanks,” Mr. Harper said. “And he deserves to look back on his record of service to our country with pride and satisfaction.”
And then Mr. Harper said this. “Partisan differences are a healthy and necessary part of our political culture and process. But on an occasion such as this, we remember that they are transcended by a deep, enduring consensus, a shared understanding that our freedom rests also on the limitations imposed on those partisan differences by our constitutional traditions and the rule of law.”
Perhaps it was just the heat, but these words seemed heavy. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 3:38 PM - 28 Comments
With his official portrait about to be hung, Jean Chretien is philosophical.
They work hard, these guys,” the self-described “little guy from Shawinigan” said in an interview shortly before the portrait ceremony. ”And you know, they are an honest crowd and everybody pictures them as a bunch of crooks. It’s very unfair.”
Public cynicism has mounted recently amid outrage over controversies like the Guergis-Jaffer affair and MPs’ refusal to allow the auditor general to scrutinize their expenses. Chretien blamed “gotcha” journalism for the cynicism. ”Trivia is what attract the attention. The debate is very rarely now on policies, it’s always on all sorts of gotcha politics because the media need gotcha politics. They need blood.”
But he conceded politicians share the blame for bringing themselves into disrepute. ”Members too, they’re stupid because they play the game. You know, they attack each other for nothing.”
By Colby Cosh - Wednesday, May 19, 2010 at 10:00 AM - 11 Comments
A key question was lost in the debate over anonymous sources
All journalists talk about getting a “brown envelope” in the mail that contains some exciting, hitherto-unpublished revelation. We call them “brown envelopes” even when they’re not brown, or when there’s no envelope at all. But the one that Andrew McIntosh received at the National Post’s Ottawa bureau on April 5, 2001, was the real deal: an honest-to-God brown envelope, bearing no return address.
That envelope and its contents, which touched off eight years of appellate litigation and debate about the civil rights of journalists, are still out there somewhere. It is almost certain that only McIntosh knows their whereabouts, though he will not comment. Although he declined to surrender them to the police, he also refused to destroy them when asked to do so by the sender. He has always maintained that they are in a “secure location” not on the premises of the Post.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, May 12, 2010 at 11:24 AM - 19 Comments
Over the past few years two more exceptions were added. When you are in trouble another minister gets assigned to take your questions. It could be the House Leader or it could be whoever is filling in for the PM. This is a great defensive tactic but it is just that, a defence mechanism that lets a minister off the hook. In the Chretien years, to use a Liberal example, when a minister was under attack, they took the heat themselves, day after day. Just think of Jane Stewart and what she went through for quite a few weeks.
If the situation got serious in QP, Chretien would rise and defend the minister. That was a big media story. Over the last couple of years that has changed: questions about ministerial expenses, as an example, have been answered by the House Leader. Why? If the minister spent the money, the minister should be able to tell voters why. A minister is supposed to be responsible for the department and it seems logical that this includes ministerial expenses incurred when performing departmental duties.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, April 29, 2010 at 6:10 PM - 82 Comments
The Scene. Liberal Dominic LeBlanc rose to report on the latest stash of documents to be released in regards to the Gaffer Affair and to wonder aloud, with seven departments now said to have been contacted by Rahim Jaffer, how many more ministers and parliamentary secretaries were still to disclose their communications with the husband of the deposed Helena Guergis.
And so John Baird stood to pronounce on the heroism of his government. ”Mr. Speaker, let me very clear,” Mr. Baird clarified, “we would not be having this debate about documents if it were not for the government which made all these documents public.”
Alas, the Liberals did not congratulate the minister so much as laugh derisively.
Mr. LeBlanc stood again and took direct aim at Mr. Baird with the allegation that the Transport Minister had put his parliamentary secretary between he and Mr. Jaffer and that such a move might constitute some violation of the vaunted Accountability Act. And here Mr. Baird did what he had the day before—he invoked the ghosts of Liberal scandals past. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, April 12, 2010 at 5:45 PM - 69 Comments
The Scene. Michael Ignatieff did not seem particularly enthused about the subject matter, but as he clarified for reporters afterwards, this is his job now and this is the place where these matters are meant to be aired.
“Mr. Speaker, on Friday the Prime Minister fired a minister, kicked her out of caucus, called in the RCMP and the Ethics Commissioner, and Canadians still do not know why,” he reviewed, trying to sound as serious as possible. “There are serious allegations surrounding the conduct of this minister, but we still do not know what they are. When will the government tell Canadians the truth?”
The government turned here to John Baird, their all-purpose refuter and obfuscationist. He did not, quite surprisingly, provide a date upon which the opposition could expect the truth to be tabled.
“Mr. Speaker, as the Prime Minister reported to Canadians this past Friday, allegations came forth from a third party,” Mr. Baird said, solemn and sober. “Those allegations were forwarded to officials at the RCMP and with the office of the Ethics Commissioner here in Ottawa. The RCMP and the Ethics Commissioner will come to their own conclusions, as is proper on this issue.”
Unfortunately, it was unclear to which prime minister Mr. Baird was referring. His prime minister, Stephen Harper, made no reference to this third party in his official statement last Friday. Nor does it appear the Prime Minister invoked any such mysterious source in speaking with reporters Friday afternoon. Continue…