Sunday, December 04, 2005

a smattering of notes

Been a bit busy lately, so the posts have been sparse. My last couple entries seemed a bit ... erm ... cranky.

- Layton's tariffs -

Layton proposed slapping export tariffs on energy exports to the United States until the US buckles on the softwood lumber dispute. This would cost him seats in Alberta, if he had any there to lose.

Some support in Saskatchewan will likely scurry away as a result of the announcement, but he should be able to pick up more support in critical British Columbia where this message will be better received.

Now there is just that whole tricky issue of whether or not the idea actually has any merit ...

... but promising to apply sanctions to Florida orange juice just doesn't have the same kind of "getting tough" oomph.

- Green debates -

The election funding rules were changed by the governing Liberals on January 1st, 2004. Any political party receiving in excess of 2% of the vote nationally is now receiving public funding. It is worth considering that it may be problematic to consider a party significant enough to fund with taxpayer dollars, but not significant enough that they should be allowed to present their message to those same taxpayers.

Ultimately, however, it is up to the networks. And it seems that they've made their decision, and the Green Party will not be involved this year.

The debate format has also been changed. There will be four debates, two in english and two in french. Each debate will consist of four questions, and each leader given an opportunity to answer.

Thankfully, this time around, the microphones of those candidates not answering a given question will be shut off, forcing each to speak in turn. That alone should make the events more watchable than the 2004 all-at-once bicker-fest.

- conservative campaign -

Outdated turtleneck look aside, overall the Conservative Party is running a much smoother campaign this time around. A single, clear policy announcement each day. Setting the message and story. A bit of a slip-up with the bungling of the "Do you love Canada?" question, perhaps, but otherwise a solid effort (sure you can argue that it was a dumb question or a planted question. Whatever it was, it was a softball with an obvious answer.)

Has Stephen Harper taken to dyeing his hair?

There has been some speculation that the announcements are coming out sooner than the CPC had planned to make them, perhaps to "change the channel" (to use a Solbergism) from the SSM story of the first day. But whether it was the initial strategy, or simply a way of rolling with the punches, it is coming off well.

The question now is whether that momentum is sustainable to the end of the campaign, with the policies being revealed in these early days.

Speaking of the Same Sex Marriage story of the first day, I wrote at the time:
"it seems [Harper]'s gone a step further and is willfully firing those bullets into his own head."
That sentiment was humourously illustrated in this morning's edition of The Ottawa Citizen. A blank looking Harper fires a bullet labeled "Same Sex Issue" clear through his head from his "Election Starter Pistol". I'll link to it once/if it becomes available online.

- hazards of the political beat -

In the confusion of excited supporters, reporters rushing off to file their stories and Conservative staffers scurrying to lend a hand, Kitchener-Waterloo Record reporter Philip Jalsevac, reliably described as a middle-aged and unassuming man, "lunged" -- as one Tory described it -- at Mr. Harper with his tape recorder. Like Kevin Costner in The Bodyguard, a burly officer manhandled Mr. Jalsevac into submission. It took just a few moments for Mr. Harper's communications team to recognize the error, and Mr. Jalsevac was ushered into a private room for his scheduled interview with the campaigning Conservative chief.
Whoops!
National Post story here

- public vs private -

Jack Layton was asked yesterday by a Vancouver radio talk show host whether he and his wife, Olivia Chow, would use a private clinic should Chow, say, require a hip replacement.

Hmm. Keeping in mind that Olivia Chow used exclusively the public system in her battle with cancer, I'm thinking that this one answers itself.

The issue of private clinics is on people's minds in BC, as the first private clinic in the province recently opened. Doctors and specialists will see you for $1,200 up front, and $2,300 yearly thereafter.

- another blog -

Martin speechwriter Scott Feschuk has a pretty funny blog that he is writing while on the campaign trail. You can check it out here.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Surprise over Hargrove comments ... surprising

The pundits and anchors on the television news channels are expressing their absolute surprise over Canadian Auto Workers union president Buzz Hargrove today.

Hargrove introduced Paul Martin at a CAW meeting, speaking with high praise for Martin's record in government. Though an NDP member, and traditionally seen as a strong ally of the NDP, Hargrove suggested that a minority Liberal government should be returned to power (though it is being played up as though Hargrove endorsed the Liberals wholesale).

The mouths of the talking heads fell agape. Much speculation and expressions of amazement ensued on CTV and CBC's election coverage.

But really, it shouldn't be so shocking.

To a certain extent, Hargrove has always been to the NDP what Ralph Klein is to the Conservative Party. He can usually be counted on to make a statement that is embarrassing to or critical of the party, and to do so at precisely the wrong time.

More importantly still, is that Hargrove's primary obligations are to the union members that he represents. With GM closing its Oshawa plant by 2008 and the announced Ford closings, he needs to push forward for legislative protection of the pensions for those workers who will be affected. Presently, such protection does not exist.

For this reason, the particular timing of this election must have him frustrated. He has been grumbling about the fact that he felt an election should not be triggered for some time now, and has been sharply critical towards Jack Layton for co-operating with the other opposition parties to bring the government down for weeks.

On November 7th, there were reports such as this:
One of the NDP'’s biggest backers, automotive union president Buzz Hargrove, cautioned Layton against bringing down the Liberals, saying the House of Commons still has lots of work to do and an election likely would result in another minority government.

"“I don'’t think bringing down the government makes any sense,"” the Canadian Auto Workers Union president told the Globe and Mail. "“We should try to make the government work . . . there'’s just too much to be done to force an election."”
He repeated a similar message as a guest on Don Newman's show Politics around the same time.

A Conservative government or a Liberal majority would make it much more difficult to get the protective legislation he is seeking passed. He has been open about this.

The perplexed commentators can kindly close their open mouths now, thank you.

[update 5:25pm] Hargrove was just on Mike Duffy Live, and made his position clear. Indeed, he suggested that he was concerned about securing pensions, and that he primarily supports the NDP. He wants to see a Liberal minority, and is thus suggesting to CAW members that they vote NDP in those ridings where the NDP candidate has a reasonable chance of winning, but is suggesting that they vote Liberal in those ridings where it is clearly a race between the Liberals and the Conservatives with the NDP as a distant third.
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