Saturday, October 31, 2009

Ignatieff hits sour note with Canadians: poll

Less than a week on the job and already Peter Donolo’s supernatural powers are at work.

In response to news that Michael Ignatieff has plummeted to a miserable 15% approval rating among Canadians – 11 points below NDP leader Jack Layton - Donolo’s communications team are scrambling to put together their response.

So far, this may be the best they’ve come up with.

Friday, October 30, 2009


What if you held an Economic Action Plan and nobody noticed?

That's kinda what the Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page has been asking. Seems to him you can't talk about what the stimulus is or isn't achieving, or where it is or isn't going (hear that Gerard Kennedy?) unless you can analyse the raw data.

Realizing that "the secretive Conservative Government" was beginning to appear "the paranoid Conservative Government", Harper finally relented by providing the data Page asked for in the paper format preferred by accountants of 40 years ago.

The New Democrats' finance critic zinged the Cons on their retro-style of transparency in question period today:

Mr. Thomas Mulcair (Outremont, NDP): Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives have the ability to secretly record another party's caucus meeting. They can get HD copies of the Prime Minister's audition tape on every government website. They have even found a way to turn Mike Duffy into spam.

However when it comes to providing the parliamentary budget office with details of stimulus funding they are still in the Diefenbaker era.

Does the minister realize that providing boxes containing thousands of pages of untreated information without so much as a synopsis, much less a spread sheet, is less than useless?

Even with all the brain tonic the Conservative front bench had consumed, they weren't able to provide much in the way of an answer.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hubris or narcissism? You decide.

Especially in light of today’s apocalyptic poll results that show Iggy reaching sub-Dion levels of popularity, no one will deny that Liberals really (like, REALLY) need a pick-me up.

But this is just way too much. He’s just a chief of staff, kids. You’d think Liberals hadn’t just churned through four of them in the past year.

Way to manage expectations, gang.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Welcome to the abattoir, Mr. Donolo

It’s fair to say that Peter Donolo arrives to replace Ian Davey as Ignatieff’s Chief of Staff with expectations on him as high as those that were on … well, Ian Davey.

In recent years the Liberal leader’s office has become something of a political abattoir, as senior staff said to hold great promise one day are disposed of with a shrug the next.

So, in walks Donolo at a time when Liberals, tumbling in the polls, plagued by perpetual integral fights, and directionless on policy are openly asking “what happened to Michael Ignatieff?” In their rush to replace Dion, did they actually make matters worse for themselves?

This part of that Macleans story is telling:

"In March 2005, when Ignatieff, not yet a declared candidate for office, addressed the national Liberal convention, he was all potential. He was touted as another Trudeau—a dashing figure of intellectual vigour. He spoke then of liberalism, social justice, national unity and education. The subjects and themes were not far from what he touts now. Perhaps something has been lost."

It reveals more than Liberals intend that for many of them, the moment they set their sights on Ignatieff as a potential leader was his keynote speech to the 2005 Liberal convention.

Sure, just like then-State Senator Barack Obama, Ignatieff appeared to come out of nowhere with a great speech at a convention. Just like Obama, people began to expect great things of him. And just like with Obama, faced with a devastating election defeat, partisans, through their own despair and nostalgia, hoisted that speech to Churchillian heights to leverage the political future of a relative unknown.

Unfortunately, that’s where the comparisons end and Liberals are forced to face the superficiality of their choice.

While both men gave a fine speech, Ignatieff doesn’t have the benefit of 12 years running for elected office. It’s only been in the last three years that he’s had any experience of being challenged on his positions by ordinary people. Instead Ignatieff has the record of a man who, as a fine intellectual, has taken controversial positions on issues like torture and the invasion of Iraq. A man who has shown every appearance of having no interest in running to be Prime Minister of Canada.

So is it any wonder that within days of challenging Harper to a duel, the party Ignatieff heads disintegrated from its own internal turf battles while Jack Layton walked away as the parliamentary power broker on EI and now pension reform?

Michael Ignatieff’s problem is his lack of experience in politics. Yet he allowed himself to be convinced he was ready to be a party leader – a job he never prepared himself for and is proving inept at.

For its part, the Liberal Party’s problem is cohesiveness. With no consistent policy, and factions within factions posturing for advantage, it is a party that makes no sense unless those factions can be silenced, crushed together and held that way by a force more powerful than its parts.

The un-leader and the party that makes no sense. Welcome to it, Mr. Donolo.

UPDATE: Though with a funnier analogy, Paul Wells reaches the same conclusion.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Liberals and Conservatives: Two parties, same problem

How about that. It was only four years ago this month that the inquiry onto the Sponsorship scandal wrapped up its first report. A report that damned the Liberal Party as an institution for its culture of entitlement. For "clear evidence of political involvement" in the sponsorship program. For kickbacks and illegal contributions. For treating public money like their own.

The punch line is that Stephen Harper pledged to be different. He promised to do away with the old politics. But the second he became PM he jettisoned the very principles of accountability that got him there.

Liberals and Conservatives: two parties, same problem ...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Voters giving Layton a closer look

While Iffy has had to fight back challenges to his leadership, the New Democrat leader has been making parliament work ... and Canadians like what they see from Jack Layton.

All that, as depicted by the Sun's Sue Dewar:

Are you kidding? Are we back to doing THIS again?

The last time we had political parties walking around town passing-off taxpayer money as if it was their own, it ended with a whole bunch of people going to jail and this guy getting involved.

Oh, and as for you, Gerald Keddy, "I would absolutely do it again," sounds awfully Jean Chretien of you don't you think?
Mr Harper? Alphonso Gagliano on line one.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Liberal Party: Making family holidays even more awkward since 2008

Rocco Rossi’s got your back.

That is if you are one of the few Liberal supporters left who would dare to admit as much among family, let alone try to defend Michael Ignatieff’s spectacular flame-out of the past few weeks.

You see, Rocco knows better than most the new damage Ignatieff’s implosion on CBC Radio’s The House this morning was going to inflict on the flagging morale of paid up Liberals. Which explains this blog post in which Rocco writes:

”dinner table discussions are a great opportunity for you to cut through the spin and get to the meat of the matter (so to speak) with family and friends. In other words, don’t let recent headlines put a damper on dinner. Here are three things everyone at the table should know before dessert.”

Like handing a Shamwow to a tsunami survivor, Rocco’s thoughtfully prepared talking points are intended to defend hapless Liberals against even more eye-rolling, finger pointing and high-velocity bun throwing than most holidays, with such winning lines as “polls don’t matter” and “read Michael’s speeches”.

But the saddest part of all isn’t that anyone daft enough to heed Rocco’s advice will be eating their pumpkin pie on the stoop. No, no. It’s that Rocco’s predecessor sent out the exact same advice to party members last Thanksgiving as Liberal leader Stephane Dion was cruising towards the worst election result in Liberal Party history.

Witness ...
Date: 11 October 2008
Subject: Talking Turkey

Dear XXXX,

If you watch TV news programs, you will often see spokespeople advocating on behalf of their political party. Sometimes they will be engaged in one-on-one interviews, other times they are part of a panel discussion, with each party represented.

These spokespeople make use of what we call “talking points” – concise statements on the issues of the day, which they hope will effectively make their case in the debate.

This weekend, millions of Canadians will gather with their families and friends around Thanksgiving dinner tables. If you are one of them, and if your family is anything like mine, the conversation will turn to politics. And like mine, your family probably doesn’t always agree on everything.

So I thought you might like to have your own set of talking points, to help you be a Liberal spokesperson – at your dinner table, at least, if not on a 24-hour news channel. Who knows, though? If you do a good enough job around the dinner table this weekend, you might be ready to sit in on a network news anchor’s roundtable during next Tuesday’s election night coverage.

Have a great weekend. Happy Thanksgiving.

Greg Fergus
National Director, Liberal Party of Canada

Er, Happy Thanksgiving, Liberals.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

You stay classy, Gerald Keddy.

Fear makes people do strange things.

That’s the only plausible explanation for the Red Bull-fueled ramblings that Nova Scotians woke up to in their Chronicle-Herald this morning.

Rounding out four paragraphs of half-baked accusations against Jack Layton and the NDP, Conservative MP Gerald Keddy charges that New Democrat MPs abstained from the vote to give $1 billion in needed EI improvements for the unemployed last month.

Hmmm. That’s curious. Because the record shows every NDP MP was in their place and voted in favour of the $1 billion at second reading.

Keddy, who on occasion has been known to represent Nova Scotia’s South Shore riding, says he was there. You’d think he would have noticed the New Democrats voting in favour of the bill.

But fear makes people do strange things … like flying off the handle with attacks on your political opponents based on make-believe and fairy tales.

So why is Gerald Keddy afraid?

Likely because his South Shore riding, which looked like this in 2008:

Now looks like this following last spring's provincial election, which swept Darrel Dexter’s NDP to a historic majority government.

You stay classy, Gerald Keddy.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Iggy Liberals wrong on human rights

Lately, the Ignatieff Liberals have invested considerable political capital on international affairs. They are banking on Canadians becoming so furious over fellow citizens being left to their own defences abroad, and the country's reputation being tattered and soiled on the world stage that they can transform Ignatieff's "just visiting" into "worldliness" to make him an attractive electoral alternative.

Regardless of what one may think of a advisability of strategy posited on making foreign affairs a vote determining issue, the Liberals have clearly not considered their own vulnerabilities on foreign affairs.

The Star's Linda Diebel points to one such example. In deciding to back the Conservatives controversial free trade deal with Columbia, the Liberals - led by a renowned (albeit badly flawed) human rights scholar - are deliberately glossing over horendous human rights abuses in that country.

Diebel takes issue with Liberal Scott Brison's assertion that "To say that paramilitary forces are murdering union leaders today is false."

Diebel in response:

"don't whitewash the actions of a government led by a president accused by Colombian human rights groups of sanctioning death squad activity when he was governor of Antioquia (where Apartado is located) in order to sell free trade. Rights groups claim workers trying to organize on [Colombian President Alvaro] Uribe's own family ranch were assassinated by the death squads. He is very well-known for his tirades against human rights organizations and the slick operations of his sales team."

Monday, October 5, 2009

Note to “Chainsaw” Kinsella: Keep up the threats - they are really working

Two weeks ago, one-time Liberal strategist Warren Kinsella offered this morale booster for fellow Liberals who dared to offer candid and unflattering details about Iffy’s flagging electoral prospects to the media:

“I intend to find out who you are, little Hill Times source weasel, and I intend to take a chainsaw to your political ambitions, however modest they may be."Warren

But rather than instilling a new sense of pride among the Red Team, “Chainsaw’s” berserk rant appears to have had the opposite effect, as Legions of nameless “weasels” appear to be lining up to air their leader’s soiled laundry:

"The people who thought that the Liberals were an alternative, a substantial number across the country, are saying, 'Well, Jesus, is that what we have for leadership?' [What happened in Outremont] impacts negatively on every Liberal candidate. It's a problem on a much wider scale for the whole party," - The Liberal who did not want to be identified, Hill Times, October 5, 2009

"We're going to hell in a hand basket. This is like the time just before the election of 1988, with [John] Turner," - one Liberal MP who spoke to The Hill Times on condition of anonymity, Hill Times, October 5, 2009

“The MP said Mr. Ignatieff's staff has limited political experience, which is why the dispute with Mr. Coderre was so clumsily handled, and the leader has done a poor job of reaching out to experienced people who know the ridings the party is trying to target.” - one Liberal MP who spoke to The Hill Times, October 5, 2009

Friday, October 2, 2009

New Democrats will match your party’s record on fighting sales taxes any day, Mr. Harper.

As the Globe and Mail reports, this week the federal NDP has taken dead aim at Harper’s plan to hike sales taxes in Ontario and BC.

Yet in response to a question from Jack Layton on the HST, Stephen Harper recounted this heart-warming childhood anecdote “when I was a boy, my father used to say that I should work on things that I am good at. The NDP is not good at fighting taxes.”

Well, that ends all that, doesn’t it? Um, no. Not really. Primarily because it’s not true.

Let's review the facts, shall we?

FACT: It was the Conservative Prime Minister who Harper had worked for in the 1980s who introduced the GST. It was New Democrat MPs who voted against it.

FACT: It was the Conservative Premier of Saskatchewan who signed a deal to harmonize that provinces’ provincial sales tax with the GST. It was the New Democrat Premier Roy Romanow who killed that deal dead.

FACT: It is the New Democrat Premier of Nova Scotia who today fulfilled a promise to take the HST off of home heating for families in that province.

FACT: What Jack Layton's NDP are fighting against today is a Conservative Prime Minister’s plan to pay $6 billion to the Ontario and BC Liberal governments so they will agree to hike the federal sales tax by 8% and 7% respectively. The very same Conservative Prime Minister who way back in December 1996 said:

“We need another way. This harmonization of the GST, this tax collusion between provincial and federal Liberal governments, is not the way to reverse the economic decline of this country.”

Far from being “not good at fighting taxes,” it’s been the New Democrats - and only the New Democrats - who have demonstrated the most consistency and courage fighting regressive sales taxes.

It’s a shame that the PM’s pater hadn’t also imparted the virtues of being correct on his doe-eyed progeny.