By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, May 18, 2013 - 0 Comments
First, CTV says Pamela Wallin was forced out amid concerns about the audit of her expenses. Next, CTV says the Senate’s report on Mike Duffy was edited as part of a deal with Nigel Wright. Via Twitter, the Prime Minister’s director of communications denies CTV’s report that the Prime Minister might prorogue Parliament in early June.
The weekly meeting of the Conservative caucus, which normally occurs on Wednesday, has been rescheduled for Tuesday morning before the Prime Minister departs for Peru. The Star describes this as an emergency caucus meeting at which the Prime Minister is expected to set out a zero tolerance policy on spending transgressions.
Jason Fekete notes that Mr. Duffy, Ms. Wallin and Patrick Brazeau were all nominated for the Senate on the same day—December 22, 2008—along with 15 other Conservative appointees. But that date is particularly interesting for everything that occurred in the month preceding it.
In the 2006 election, the Conservatives promised to not appoint to the Senate anyone who hadn’t won a mandate to do so from voters. And up until December 22, 2008, Stephen Harper had only appointed two senators—Michael Fortier, shortly after the 2006 election, so that Mr. Fortier might serve in cabinet, and Bert Brown in 2007 with Mr. Brown having won a Senate election in Alberta.
Then Stephen Harper almost lost his government.
Four weeks before those 18 appointees were announced, the Conservative government tabled its fall economic update (the last such economic update to be tabled in the House, actually). The measures contained therein, including the elimination of the public subsidy for political parties, had precipitated coalition talks between the Liberals and New Democrats. On December 1, the Liberals, New Democrats and Bloc Quebecois announced their accord. Facing an imminent vote of non-confidence and the possible replacement of his government with a coalition government led by Stephane Dion, Mr. Harper asked the Governor General, Michaelle Jean at the time, to prorogue Parliament. After some consideration, she agreed to do so.
The coalition’s moment might have thus passed, but it was not yet officially dead. The Liberals quickly installed Michael Ignatieff as leader and he maintained that the coalition was an option. Not until Parliament reconvened in late January and a new budget was tabled, did Mr. Ignatieff effectively kill the coalition.
Just as Mr. Ignatieff was taking over the Liberal caucus, the Prime Minister’s Office revealed that Mr. Harper would fill 18 Senate vacancies before Christmas. A debate about the legitimacy of doing so ensued. Mr. Harper claimed to be in a difficult spot that compelled him to do something. And then, on December 22, Mr. Harper named his 18 appointees, asserting that the appointments were important both in the pursuit of Senate reform and in the interests of opposing the coalition.
“Our government will continue to push for a more democratic, accountable and effective Senate,” said the Prime Minister. “If Senate vacancies are to be filled, however, they should be filled by the government that Canadians elected rather than by a coalition that no one voted for.”
The incoming Senators have all pledged to support eight-year term limits and other Senate reform legislation. Each incoming Senator has also declared his or her unwavering commitment to support Canadian unity and oppose the coalition.
This did not go over terribly well with Mr. Harper’s opponents.
“Mr. Harper knows that he does not have the confidence of the House of Commons,” Ignatieff said in a statement. “Appointing senators when he lacks a mandate from Parliament is not acceptable.”
It’s possible that the coalition was less a cause of the appointments than an excuse to make them. And possibly Mr. Harper was going to have to appoint senators at some point anyway (he’d hinted at such a possibility in October 2008). But December 22, 2008 does now seem like the plot point of a bad political thriller.
Four and a half years later, the Harper government’s Senate reform legislation is collecting dust while the Supreme Court prepares to hear a reference on the matter and three of the December 2008 appointees have either been removed or removed themselves from the Conservative caucus.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, May 13, 2013 at 12:14 PM - 0 Comments
The Liberal leader invites your questions.
Michael Ignatieff tried something like this in the fall of 2010—see here and here for examples. I don’t recall whether Mr. Ignatieff actively solicited questions as Mr. Trudeau is doing now, but (as Susan Delacourt notes as well), during its earliest days in the House, the Reform party had phone and fax lines through which constituents could submit questions that would be asked in the House (note the Speaker’s concern about that gambit).
During the last election, the Liberals promised that, if elected, they would create a “People’s Question Period,” during which the Prime Minister and various cabinet ministers would take questions from the public.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, April 22, 2013 at 11:28 AM - 0 Comments
As Paul notes, a new poll has found that 70% of respondents believe the attack ads launched by the Conservatives against Justin Trudeau are unfair. Maybe that means something. Maybe a few years from now we’ll be citing this survey with irony.
Three years ago, Nanos found that attack ads launched against Michael Ignatieff had left 65% of respondents with a more negative view of Stephen Harper. Angus Reid and Ipsos Reid also found negative impacts on the Prime Minister. Two years later, Mr. Harper had a majority mandate and Mr. Ignatieff’s political career was over.
In reviewing the latest science on campaign advertising last year, Sadie Dingfelder suggested the fears about a backlash against attack ads (at least in the United States) were dissipating, but NPR found that the evidence of effectiveness was mixed. That said, attack ads have at least one public proponent: the senior strategist for Barack Obama’s re-election campaign.
David Axelrod, Obama’s senior strategist, felt he had been given a gift. For months, he had worried that the Romney campaign would find a way to present its candidate in a compelling fashion. But as far as Axelrod could tell, the Romney campaign had no such strategy. “I questioned why they didn’t spend more time and energy early defining Romney in a fuller way so people could identify with him,” Axelrod said in a postelection interview. “One of my conclusions is so much of his life was kind of walled off from use. His faith is important to him, but they didn’t want to talk about that. His business was important, but they didn’t want to talk about that much. His governorship was important to him, but his signature achievement [health care] was unhelpful to them in the Republican primary. My feeling is you have to build a candidacy on the foundation of biography. That is what authenticates your message. I was always waiting for that happen.”
Axelrod jumped at the opening. In a major gamble, the Obama campaign moved $65 million in advertising money that had been budgeted for September and October into June, enabling the president to unleash a series of attacks that would define Romney at a time when the Republican would have little money to respond. From Axelrod’s viewpoint, the timing was perfect. Romney had been weakened by assaults from fellow GOP candidates during the primaries. Romney alienated many Hispanics by suggesting that illegal immigrant families should “self-deport,” and he said he had been a “severely conservative” governor, hurting his strategy to move to the middle for the general election.
Mr. Trudeau has stated a general aversion to negativity—which is perhaps a principled position, but also surely at least something of a political calculation—but it will be interesting to see what that means in practice. Will his adverts avoid all criticism of the government side? Will they include criticism, but also happy thoughts and smiley images?
A few years ago, in the midst of an earlier round of attack ads, I compiled some of the scathing reviews those ads received and was (perhaps rightly) mocked for doing so. The general discussion around attack ads risks becoming like the general discussion around civility, in which we all rend our garments over some vague idea—undefinable at best, simplistic at worst—that things should be somehow better. I tend to agree that our politics should not be soul-crushingly awful to watch and participate in. I suppose the most virulent demagoguery should be discouraged and we should hope to never get to a point at which outright lies are accepted as acceptable. But past that, it is all in the eye of the beholder. One man’s destructive attack ad is another’s necessary critique.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 5:44 PM - 0 Comments
Like most everything interesting that Michael Ignatieff ever said, he probably should not have said it.
“I never want to raise your taxes; I pay them (the same way) as you do,” the former Liberal leader told a crowd in Mississauga on a July day in 2010. “But we pay them to express fundamental social solidarity, one with the other. This is the contract that holds us together.”
He had actually gone on at some length about this in a speech to the Economic Club of Canada in the fall of 2009. “Back in July, after the G8 Summit in Italy, Mr. Harper gave an interview to The Globe and Mail, in which he said, and I quote: ‘I don’t believe that any taxes are good taxes.’ Think about that for a moment,” Mr. Ignatieff begged. “It’s an astonishing statement for a prime minister to make. We pay taxes, Mr. Harper, so that premature infants get nursing care when they’re born; so that policemen will be there to keep our streets safe; so that we have teachers to give our kids a good education. We pay taxes, Mr. Harper, because we’re all in this together. It costs us something, but it makes Canada the place it is: a place where we look out for each other. But Stephen Harper doesn’t think that way. Stephen Harper thinks no taxes are good taxes because he believes that the only good government is no government at all.”
In fairness, Mr. Harper does not appear to be an anarchist. And even Ron Paul allows that the government might be of some use. And for all Mr. Ignatieff’s willingness to defend the social contract, he would move to loudly proclaim his opposition to raising the GST after being caught musing about the possibility.
Even if one does not accept Mr. Ignatieff’s larger premise, rare is anyone willing to suggest that taxes might be applied in larger quantities to anyone other than the wealthy or the faceless (corporations). Because even if no one is seriously calling for taxes to be eliminated—even if the debate is basically, if quietly, about the size, shape and execution of our fundamental social solidarity, or at least the precise number of services we would lament if they suddenly disappeared—we have generally come to Mr. Harper’s position. Taxes are bad. Mr. Harper has sworn that, so long as he is prime minister, there will be no new taxes. Thomas Mulcair has said no to increasing taxes (even if he also advocates for a price on carbon). Justin Trudeau has said he would not increase the GST, nor the corporate tax rate and he would not implement a tax on the rich. Taxing the earnings of corporations is a tax on job creators. Taxing pollution is a tax on everything. Tax Freedom Day is something that is proudly celebrated.
Possibly this is all Bev Oda’s fault, she and her $16 glass of orange juice. And at least so long as we are never in need of more general revenue, perhaps we will be fine. But this now drives us to distraction. The abject awfulness of taxes apparently now so deeply felt that one cannot even bring oneself to admit that one is responsible for the imposition of such suffering. Continue…
By Paul Wells - Wednesday, April 17, 2013 at 10:48 PM - 0 Comments
These days I am occupationally obsessed with seeking the history in current events. So it took me only a couple of days to recall this story from May of 2009, two weeks after the Conservatives launched their “Just Visiting” ads against Michael Ignatieff. The story is now almost exactly four years old, and I am curious to see whether anything has changed except the identity of the ads’ target.
The story marks precisely the last time I ever accorded any credulity to the claims of then-Liberal president Alf Apps, who was quite sure the avalanche of advertising against Michael Ignatieff would have precisely one effect: to inflate Liberal coffers as indignant citizens donated to the unjustly slandered Liberal Party. In the breathless prose I affected when I wrote that blog post:
On May 18, five days after the Conservative ads started running, Apps held a special meeting of the Liberals’ National Management Committee….[F]undraising changes will allow “a constructive, comprehensive and focused response to the personal attacks on [the party's] Leader by instead addressing the Harper Conservatives’ failed approach to the economic crisis and refusal to adopt the Liberal EI plan.”
“I believe the advertising campaign undertaken by our opponents last week has created the opportunity to galvanize the entire Party around a reinvigorated fundraising effort now, even before the summer commences,” Apps writes. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Sunday, April 14, 2013 at 8:17 PM - 0 Comments
Within the Palais des congres de Montreal, a complex series of boxes, decorated with brightly coloured glass and perched above the freeway, where Stephane Dion once became Liberal leader and where, if memory serves, Michael Ignatieff blew kisses from an escalator to supporters below, the president of the NDP called the meeting to order. And with that there was a complaint. It was in the opinion of a man referred to as Barry, apparently a fellow from the socialist caucus, that the 30 minutes set aside on Saturday afternoon to hear from an organizer of the Obama campaign be allotted, instead, for policy discussion. Barry seemed rather unimpressed with policies of President Obama’s administration.
“We don’t need Jeremy Bird to lecture NDPers on the virtues of the American bipartisan political system,” he ventured. “Labour and the NDP aren’t here to take instruction from political operatives of the White House. But we do have some good advice for our American sisters and brothers, for our fellow workers in the United States. Follow the example of the NDP, form an independent political party based on your unions, break with the Democratic party.”
Joe Cressy, a Toronto organizer who has worked for Olivia Chow and Paul Dewar, stepped forward to speak against Barry’s proposed amendment. “Friends, we have had a great start to this convention already and let’s keep this positive energy going,” he said. “We must build on our momentum by maintaining a packed agenda that has everything from learning how to organize and fundraise better to hearing from our leader, Tom Mulcair, to, yes, learning from the Obama team on how to mobilize those who…”
His final words were drowned out in applause. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, February 25, 2013 at 10:33 AM - 0 Comments
Marc Garneau challenges Justin Trudeau to a one-on-one debate.
For weeks now I have said Justin Trudeau owes it to Canadians and to members of the Liberal Party to tell us what he stands for and what qualifies him to be leader of the party and the country – now, not after this race is over. If he truly has the qualities to be leader, he should have the courage of his convictions to display them in a one-on-one debate with me…
The current format of Liberal Party leadership debates has so far provided limited opportunity for the nine candidates to offer a full picture of their contrasting views. There have been only fleeting moments for substantive debate and discussion of the issues and qualities of those involved. To date, Justin and I have had only three minutes to debate one-on-one. That is not good enough.
Mr. Trudeau seems willing to stick with the regularly scheduled debates.
Liberals who would dismiss Mr. Garneau’s challenge, might want to remember that the last Liberal leader was quite eager for a one-on-one debate with the presumed frontrunner during the last general election.
By John Geddes - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 1:40 PM - 0 Comments
Martha Hall Findlay has apologized for her jarring outburst about Justin Trudeau’s privileged upbringing in last Saturday’s Liberal leadership debate. But her misstep is worth dwelling on a little longer if we see it less as an aberration than as a reminder of a tension running not far below the surface of Canadian politics.
“You yourself have admitted that you actually don’t belong to the middle-class,” Hall Findlay said to Trudeau from behind a podium in solidly middle-class Mississauga, Ont. “I find it a little challenging to understand how you would understand the real challenges facing Canadians.”
Her words called to my mind the way Stephen Harper framed, back when he was launching his bid for the leadership of the new Conservative party in 2004, how he was different from then-Liberal leader Paul Martin. “I was not born into a family with a seat at the Cabinet table,” Harper said. “I grew up playing on the streets of Toronto, not playing in the corridors of power.”
By Rob Silver - Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 1:34 PM - 0 Comments
They’re entertaining, but not quite as wild and crazy as you remember
This weekend’s Ontario Liberal leader election and the upcoming Quebec Liberal leadership election could be the last of a dying breed—the wild, unpredictable delegated convention. Fantastic drama, questionable democracy: such conventions are crack to political junkies.
Any smart political junkie knows that delegated leadership conventions have some steadfast parameters. A former Ontario cabinet minister who is a really smart guy (really, he is) summarized them recently as follows:
In delegate-based leadership contests, frontrunners are typically doomed to lose — except where there is an heir apparent, such as Chretien succeeding Turner, or Martin succeeding Chretien (and I suppose, Ignatieff succeeding Dion). The same held true for leadership contests in the other major parties — at least until they got rid of the old-school delegate convention format and replaced it with something akin to trolling for Twitter followers.
Front runners are doomed, unless there is an heir apparent. Gotcha.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 1:09 PM - 0 Comments
Former Liberal MP Martha Hall Findlay does, apparently.
An important thing she mentioned was that if she were elected, and the LPC won a majority government (and only a majority), she would raise the GST.
The former and current Liberal leadership candidate seems not to deny this Redditor’s account.
Stephen Gordon has argued that the cut to the GST is responsible for the current federal deficit.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, December 3, 2012 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
Over the weekend, Justin Trudeau used the word “failure” to describe the long gun registry.
The fact that we have a government, or successive governments, that have managed to polarize the conversations around gun ownership to create games in electoral races when you don’t have to have a … There is no concept, no idea, that gun ownership is ever going to be under attack for law-abiding hunters and farmers across this country. But we need to keep our cities safe and I don’t see that that’s an unsolvable solution but I do see that the long-gun registry, as it was, was a failure and I am not going to rescuscitate that. But we will continue to look at ways of keeping our cities safe and making sure that we do address the concerns around domestic violence right across the country in rural as well as urban areas in which, unfortunately, guns do play a role. But there are better ways of keeping us safe than that registry…
Mr. Trudeau voted against C-391, Mr. Bergen’s bill that would have eliminated the registry, in September 2010. And afterwards he apparently had this interaction with protesters on Parliament Hill.
At the time of that vote, it should probably be noted, the Liberals were promising to reform the registry in response to “legitimate criticisms” of it. (Michael Ignatieff whipped the pivotal vote on C-391, but Mr. Trudeau also voted no at second reading.)
So is this a flip-flop? I’m not sure. It sort of depends on what Mr. Trudeau means by “as it was” and “failure.” In other words, it requires a follow-up question. (Like, “what do you mean it was a failure?”)
His campaign attempted to explain on Sunday (though without quite answering that proposed follow-up).
Trudeau’s spokeswoman, Kate Monfette, said Sunday Trudeau and his party fought to maintain the registry “given the absence of any responsible approach to gun violence by this government.” “We were not successful in that fight, the registry and its data are gone, so we now have to develop a new approach.”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 27, 2012 at 1:46 PM - 0 Comments
Conservative Senator Doug Finley, one of the primary architects of the Conservative party’s electoral success, who is now stricken with cancer, reflects on death and politics.
Along with his team, Finley ran one of “the most successful political campaigns certainly in Canada in the last 20 years” against former Liberal leaders Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff, who took the reins of the party in 2006 and 2008, respectively. Not waiting for the writ to be dropped, the attacks even began before the 2008 and 2011 elections. It was called “of the constant campaign” — because in the minority situation, the threat of an election was always on.
“When you offer to go into the back alley to have a fight, you better come armed to win the fight,” says Finley. He and his team came up with a strategy which would utilize the Liberals’ own words and actions against them. For Dion, it was lack of confidence. For Ignatieff, it was foreign professorial ambitions. “There were no lies or ambiguities. I would call them not attack ads, but factual ads,” says Finley. “They were based on a very strong amount of research,” he says. “As the campaigns evolved, both of these gentlemen fed into the picture we painted of them.”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 13, 2012 at 10:43 AM - 0 Comments
A few years ago, the NDP consulted with some of Barack Obama’s campaign organizers. And Michael Ignatieff could claim friends and acquaintances around the Obama administration. But one of Justin Trudeau’s supporters got to take part in a sleepover at David Axelrod’s house.
Marie Bountrogianni, a former Ontario Liberal cabinet minister who is supporting Trudeau, was in Chicago and Iowa to help out in the final days of the U.S. presidential election this month and even stayed overnight at Axelrod’s country home in Michigan, along with a dozen other volunteers.
She said she was “blown away” by the high degree of sophistication in the Obama organization — the technology, the discipline and its ability to execute large shifts in strategy. Bountrogianni was initially assigned to be part of a get-out-the-vote (GOTV) brigade in Wisconsin, but dozens of volunteers were suddenly rerouted to Iowa, where they were greeted with new packages of call orders and scripts to follow. “I couldn’t believe how organized they were,” she said. Liberals are in the midst of a large effort here to raise their own game in gathering databases and building home-grown technical sophistication, with hardware purchased from the Obama Democrats. Bountrogianni says Liberals should pay close attention to how the Obama team has pulled this off, especially among disengaged voters and with the help of masses of micro-donations.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, November 12, 2012 at 10:53 AM - 0 Comments
Globe and Mail, today. Team Trudeau aims to create supporter-recruitment machines in all 308 ridings (just as Obama for America did in all 50 states). They will employ every tool, from old-fashioned door knocking to Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Many of these new supporters will be young, female and/or minorities – the same base that rallied behind Obama for America. The riding campaigns will feed the names of these new supporters to campaign central, which will combine the information in a database that will, if it succeeds, contain hundreds of thousands of entries, each a mini profile of a Justin Trudeau supporter. Assuming Mr. Trudeau wins the leadership, that new base of support will grow and deepen between the leadership vote next April and the general election in October, 2015.
Globe and Mail, May 3, 2011. Michael Ignatieff’s future at the helm of the Liberal Party was unclear early Tuesday morning as he and his team assessed the damage that’s reduced the party to a 34-seat rump … His original team, however, had tried to begin the rebuilding and renewal process. In fact, former chief of staff Ian Davey had looked to the United States and Barack Obama’s 2008 success for some clues, buying list management software to create the “Liberal list.” The list identified everything about individual voters from whether they were Liberals or Conservatives, if they had ever taken a lawn sign or even if they had once said they didn’t like Stephen Harper. “It was one of the multitude of initiatives we undertook to get the party into the 21st Century,” Mr. Davey said. Liberals – including Mr. Ignatieff and his campaign co-chairman Senator David Smith – had banked on this program to help them get out the Liberal vote. But it doesn’t seem to have made any difference.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 6, 2012 at 11:04 AM - 0 Comments
Michael Ignatieff worries.
“I think something really bad has happened to parliamentary democracies all over the world — not just in my country, Canada. What’s happened is increasing power to the prime minister, increasing power to the bureaucracy, and the legislature — parliament — is a kind of empty, pointless debating chamber because it’s all stitched up in advance by party leaders,” Ignatieff said during a weekend panel discussion, aired by the BBC during its annual Free Thinking Festival.
“Honesty requires me to say I was a party leader once,” Ignatieff quickly acknowledged, “and my instincts were always to shut those people [dissenting Liberal MPs] down wherever I could. So I’m completely, flagrantly contradicting what my interests were not two years ago.” Ignatieff, appearing as part of a public panel alongside former Irish President Mary Robinson and Israeli author and journalist Amos Oz, said: “I do think we’ve got to have more free votes in parliament.” He conceded that such a change “will make it much more difficult for prime ministers and party leaders,” but better for citizens if they are “represented by MPs who can think and act on their conscience and on your interest.”
I can’t entirely disagree with Mr. Ignatieff because I basically wrote the same thing two years ago. But the “free vote” is like Westminster democracy’s unicorn: an idealized dream that would apparently make everything better if only we could somehow get it. (Fun fact: The Conservative party’s 2006 platform promised that a Conservative government would “make all votes in Parliament, except the budget and main estimates, ‘free votes’ for ordinary Members of Parliament.”)
If every vote was a free vote, our party system would probably collapse. Maybe that’s what some of us desire, but if we’d still like to maintain the basic parameters of the Westminster system, we need to find a balance between the unicorn that is dreamed about and the beached whale we have now. For the most part, I think, that means shifting some of the power that has congealed around the prime minister back to individual members and the legislature. On various fronts, consider the reforms suggested here by Peter Aucoin, Mark Jarvis and Lori Turnbull. As to the power of the individual MP, I’d start with rewriting the Elections Act to remove the veto that party leaders effectively hold over who runs under a party’s banner. That’s probably a private member’s bill waiting to happen. Or a leadership campaign proposal (if only there was a leadership candidate who was promising to do things differently).
So here are my questions. If Michael Ignatieff had it to do over again, would he propose rewriting the Elections Act to remove one of his greatest powers as party leader? And, if so, why didn’t he propose it at the time?
(The latter question is not meant to suggest he’s a hypocrite. I think there is probably a valuable conversation to be had about the very real pressures on a party leader that make it difficult to enact reform.)
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, October 30, 2012 at 12:00 PM - 0 Comments
Michael Ignatieff tries to draw a line between adversaries and enemies.
In his speech, Mr. Ignatieff bore down on the high price paid when politicians treat each other as enemies rather than adversaries. When you think of your opponent across the aisle as an adversary, “you reject arguments, not persons; question premises, not identities; interrogate interests, not loyalties,” Mr. Ignatieff said.
But when politicians look upon each other as enemies, “legislatures replace relevance with pure partisanship. Party discipline rules supreme, fraternization is frowned upon, negotiation and compromise are rarely practised, and debate within the chamber becomes as venomously personal as it is politically meaningless.”
I always have a hard time wrapping my head around the idea that something has changed in the way politicians treat each other: that they used to treat each other in a slightly more honourable way. When was this?
Meanwhile, Glen Pearson argues the disconnect is between partisans and non-partisans.
The majority of people who I see everyday are growing increasingly hesitant to say which party they support, if in fact they do support one, because of the rabid rhetoric and practice that increasingly characterizes modern political parties. Most Canadians no longer place themselves somewhere along the political spectrum and are increasingly rejecting the dubious aims of modern hyper-partisanship. It has become extreme enough that we can pick up on Andrew’s observation by adding that Canadians are now split by who is inside and who is outside.
There’s something to this, I think. However politics was practiced in the past, for good and bad, there does seem to have been a greater connection felt between the public and the politics. I don’t think it’s as simple as saying the public is turned off by negativity, but I think you could make a case that the gap between the public and the practice of politics is growing.
If I had to pick the primary problem in Ottawa right now, I wouldn’t nominate partisanship or political combat, but the sort of rote, mind-deadening partisanship that is regularly on display. Beyond the practical fixes that need to be made—QP reform, empowering the legislature, improved access to information and open data—the greatest threat to our discourse is the talking point.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, July 5, 2012 at 11:48 AM - 0 Comments
Casual political observers didn’t have much frame of reference to determine whether Dion was “not a leader” or whether Ignatieff was “just visiting” precisely because those talking points were utterly meaningless. And that meant there wasn’t much either could do to shed the initial label imprinted on them by the Cons.
But by putting the focus on Mulcair’s economic theories, the Cons are opening the door for him to talk about why the NDP’s plans make sense – which looks to be well within his comfort zone. And given that the public has been in broad agreement with the NDP in general as well as the very ideas the Cons are trying to paint as extreme, that may mean that even the best-case scenario includes plenty of downside for the Cons.
Greg also notes the risk of declaring yourself the “safe” option.
For the sake of comparison, here are some of the first ads run against Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, July 3, 2012 at 9:30 AM - 0 Comments
For the next little while, I’m going to dig through the Canadian Election Study‘s data from last year’s election and pull out some of the more interesting survey results. You can dig through all the CES data yourself via the Canadian Opinion Research Archive. First up, the party leaders.
As part of its campaign period survey, the CES asked respondents to consider four possible descriptions of Stephen Harper, Michael Ignatieff and Jack Layton.
How well does the term “competent” describe Stephen Harper?
Very well 21.1%
Fairly well 51.5%
Not well at all 23.6%
Don’t know 3.7%
How well does the term “strong leader” describe Stephen Harper?
Very well 22.5%
Fairly well 46.9%
Not well at all 26.1%
Don’t know 4.3%
How well does the term “honest” describe Stephen Harper?
Very well 11.2%
Fairly well 42.9%
Not well at all 40.5%
Don’t know 5.3%
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, June 26, 2012 at 2:14 PM - 0 Comments
Whatever the impact of the attack ads run against him, one historical note on the challenge facing Thomas Mulcair. He will be attempting in 2015 to do something that most leaders of the opposition fail to do: lead their parties to a general election victory on their first try.
By my count, between 1921 and 2011, 15 opposition leaders* who had not previously been prime minister led their parties into elections. Ten of those leaders failed to lead their parties to government on that first try: Michael Ignatieff, Stephane Dion, Stephen Harper, Stockwell Day, Preston Manning, Robert Stanfield, Lester B. Pearson, George Drew, John Bracken and Robert Manion. Only two of those ten went on to become prime minister after losing the first time: Messrs Harper and Pearson.
On the other hand, the five who won were Jean Chretien (1993), Brian Mulroney (1984), Joe Clark (1979), John Diefenbaker (1957) and Mackenzie King (1921) and all of those five defeated governments that had been in power for at least two terms.
When Mr. Chretien become prime minister, the Progressive Conservatives had been in power for nine years. When Mr. Mulroney became prime minister, the Liberals had been in power for 20 of the previous 21 years and won six of the previous seven elections. When Mr. Clark became prime minister, the Liberals had been in power for 16 years covering five elections. When Mr. Diefenbaker became prime minister, the Liberals had been in power for 22 years covering five elections. When Mr. King became prime minister, the Conservatives (on their own and then as a coalition) had been in power for 10 years covering two elections.
When Mr. Mulcair faces the Conservatives in 2015, the Conservatives will be at the end of their third mandate and been in power for nine years.
*Preston Manning was not technically the Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition in 1997. Officially that title belonged to Gilles Duceppe, but the Bloc Quebecois had no chance of forming government and at dissolution the Bloc and Reform Party had the same number of seats.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, May 30, 2012 at 11:47 AM - 0 Comments
Daniel Kitts notes an interesting detail of the Obama campaign’s general election plan.
But the Obama indictment of Romney in the economic sphere will extend beyond Bain and the Bay State: It will go to character. It will drive home the idea that Romney is a skillful but self-serving plutocrat whose résumé is replete with self-enrichment but who has never cared an iota about bettering the lives of ordinary people. One tagline that the campaign is considering using—“He’s never been in it for you”—encompasses Bain, Massachusetts, and every Gordon Gekko–meets–Thurston Howell III gaffe he made during the primary season in one crisp linguistic swoop.
That, Kitts suggests, sounds an awful lot like something the Conservatives liked to say about Michael Ignatieff. There is probably an interesting comparison to be made between the two politicians and not only because they sort of looked like each other in their younger years. Both are privileged sons of accomplished fathers. Both have pasts that complicate their presents (Mr. Ignatieff as a free-speaking academic, Mr. Romney as an elected centrist). Both struggle with the “retail” aspects of modern politics. And now both will be depicted by their opponents as aloof, arrogant strivers who aren’t in touch with the realities of the common man.
Mr. Ignatieff should probably be dispatched to the States post haste to follow the Romney campaign for a couple weeks and write about what he sees.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, May 25, 2012 at 4:04 PM - 0 Comments
This speech is a few months old—it was delivered in March—but it has only recently appeared online in video form (and I’ve been interested to find a recording of it since reading Joe Brean’s report in the Post). Michael Ignatieff begins speaking around the 3:40 mark.
See previously: ‘I didn’t get there’
By Mitchel Raphael - Friday, May 4, 2012 at 11:32 AM - 0 Comments
Of duelling ribbons
Columnist Richard Gwyn… took home the $25,000 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for
Of duelling ribbons
Columnist Richard Gwyn took home the $25,000 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing for his book Nation Maker: Sir John A. Macdonald: His Life, Our Times; Volume Two: 1867—1891. The prize was awarded by the Writers’ Trust of Canada in the ballroom of the Fairmont Château Laurier. At the reception, Laureen Harper predicted Gwyn would win. In 2008 she sat near political scientist Janice Gross Stein and said she would be Stein’s good luck charm. Stein took home the prize that year. Medals were also given to authors and politicians in attendance. Prize nominees had theirs on a silver and red ribbon, politicians had yellow ribbons and other writers wore green. Former Liberal leader and author Michael Ignatieff wore a green ribbon. He quipped, “Writers can drink and do anything we bloody well please. And say anything we please.” Ignatieff recently caused a ruckus over comments about Quebec separatism to the BBC. Ignatieff and his wife, Zsuzsanna Zsohar, were among the last to leave the party.
Top ministers, including Jim Flaherty, John Baird and Peter MacKay, were on hand at the Canadian Museum of Nature honouring Barrick Gold Corp.’s $1-million donation, which will help refurbish a popular travelling exhibit. In return, the museum’s prime reception space was renamed the Barrick Salon. The ceremony included a $1-million gold coin valued at more than five times its face value. The coin is owned by Barrick and will be on loan to the museum for a year. Attendees were told that under no circumstances could they touch the coin. Then Barrick chairman Peter Munk put his hands all over it. He said, “I wanted to see if it would rub off.” The RCMP guards confessed that Munk was an exception and added that if former PM Brian Mulroney, also a guest, wanted to touch it they likely would not have stopped him.
By John Geddes - Friday, May 4, 2012 at 10:59 AM - 0 Comments
Only Justin Trudeau, who has seemed to rule out a run, rivals Rae for generating interest
Mike Crawley, the new president of the Liberal Party of Canada, may be a youthful 43, but he boasts a surprisingly long history of stepping up when the party ﬁnds itself in dire circumstances. A few months after then-leader John Turner led the Liberals to a soul-sapping defeat against Brian Mulroney’s ascendant Conservatives in the 1984 election, Crawley opted to join the losing side. Growing up in an Ottawa family that didn’t care much about politics, he was nonetheless a teenaged true believer. “My ﬁrst event was a hoity-toity fundraising reception that I got a free ticket to,” he remembers. “I showed up, didn’t know anybody—a geeky 15-year-old with all these people in nice suits. Even though I was just 15, I thought I could have some inﬂuence, and that attracted me.”
Since Liberals elected him to head their national board of directors at a convention early this year, Crawley has taken on a behind-the-scenes rebuilding challenge even more daunting than what confronted his elders in the party back in the dark days of the mid-1980s. Turner had at least clung to ofﬁcial Opposition status. But in the May 2, 2011, election, Michael Ignatieff led the Liberals to a third-place humbling, as the NDP vaulted over them to become the government-in-waiting. A party laid so low normally looks to a leader for direction. But the Liberals put off picking Ignatieff’s permanent successor until spring 2013. That left Crawley and his board to map out two or three years of painful recuperation. His diagnosis of the Liberal malaise is blunt enough to come from a disdainful Tory or New Democrat. “The root of the party’s problem,” he told Maclean’s, “is that it’s gradually become more and more closed both to new people and new ideas.”
In fact, critics have long slammed the federal Liberals as a closed club. In the past, however, that club always offered the cachet of power, or close proximity to it. Losing three elections in a row under three leaders—Paul Martin, Stéphane Dion and Ignatieff—wiped out any aura of exclusivity. So now the Liberals are trying to reconnect even with sympathetic Canadians too wary to sign a membership card. As of this week, the party began inviting mere “supporters” to register, just by entering their names and email addresses on the Liberal website. No initiation fee is charged.