Election Notebook: The real race is Dion vs. Layton?

As every day rolls by on the federal campaign trail, Stephen Harper and his Conservatives look more certain to cross the finish line in first. No matter the topic, no matter the announcement, does anyone actually see the Liberals picking up any speed and momentum to take on the Conservatives? I think the power of Harper’s blue vest has been underestimated. The real race is shaping up for the mantle of the true opposition.

Stephane Dion has spent so much time explaining his Green Shift plan and his almost daily calls for people who should be “fired” from the Conservative camp have not delivered the campaign mustard. He has weapons at his disposal like Michael Ignatieff, Bob Rae and even Ken Dryden he can use to help push the Liberal agenda but they really are no where to be seen. Simply put, Dion does not look convincing, nor sound it. His camp must be looking to the leaders debate, hoping and praying he puts in some dynamite performances.

Jack Layton has been pushing the NDP agenda as the one of “change” and “hope” for Canada. Layton must smell blood in the Liberal waters. If Dion fails, he is done as Liberal leader and that leaves Layton as the last true duelling partner against Harper. Layton has announced he would be open to a coalition with Liberals and what does Dion do?- he shoots down the idea. Layton has been attacking the Conservatives and Liberals and any inroads he can make are most likely at the Liberals expense. Layton is also fighting the Green Party effect. The new kids on the block are stealing some interest from the NDP, since the NDP traditionally are the greenest party but now there is one which is all green.

This race is about Dion and Layton. Short of a major gaffe or ugly skeleton in Harper’s vest closet coming out, a Conservative minority is a lock. The left-centre vote in Canada is being divided too much to knock off the Conservatives this time around. The NDP will never form the official opposition in Ottawa. Once Dion is shelved, only one leader will remain as a true national leader in an opposition role and that is Layton.

Can Dion stretch the gap between his Liberals and NDP? Can Dion solidify his role as an opposition leader the second time around? Should Dion be worried about Layton?

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Election Notebook: Green is in and Harper is a Fruit!

The Canadian campaign trail so far has produced some interesting moments, two highlights so far:

 

1. After the NDP and Conservatives finished playing their game of “I’ll do it if you do it …but you first” over the televised leader’s debate, Green Party leader Elizabeth May is now allowed to join the select filibuster club. At least her hot air will be environmentally friendly compared to the others. Who knew a little public pressure and some bad PR during a campaign could change minds….

 

2. Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he is a fruit! Ok, ok, before anyone starts reserving a spot on his float for next year’s Gay Pride Parade, Harper is not coming out of a closet that he definitely is not in.

 

The prime minister said he would be a fruit when asked what kind of vegetable he would be if he were one. A reporter asked him the question as he was surrounded by good wholesome veggies such as carrots and cucumbers during a campaign stop. Give Harper some credit, how he answered the question was a neat little insight in his sense of humour and non-political side.

 

 

“I really don’t know how to answer that one. I’ve never been asked that question before and I have a feeling that I can’t win by answering that question,” said Harper. “Let me say this, I would choose if I had to instead to be a fruit. It’s just what I am, sweet and colourful.”

  

The PM brought down the house with that response. No reports if he also added to try the veal on Thursdays and to tip your waiter on the way out.

Canada is off to the races…again!

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has pulled the plug on his current minority government in Ottawa and how many Canadians actually care will be interesting to see.

For Canadians, the upcoming federal election on Oct. 14 will be an interesting test of “do you really care”. How many have actually paid attention the last 2.5 years as Harper managed a minority government to last when no one really thought it would? Have Canadians actually galvanized themselves around any issue or leader? Will they even glance at any local coverage with the bright lights of Obama vs. McCain glaring in from across the border?

If you are a political junkie, and a Canuck poli-junkie at that, you will have strong and informed opinions. However, for regular Joe and Jane Public, will they try and get informed about an election called a year before it was actually supposed to happen?

Here are some things to look for in this election:

1. Will the environment, health care, economy or Afghanistan become the number one issue on the minds of Canadian voters?

2. Can Stephane Dion, consistently ranking low in almost every “who is the best leader for Canada” poll gain any traction in the West, let alone his home province of Quebec?

3. Which of British Columbia, Ontario or Quebec can Harper make inroads in to help soldifiy his Conservative base and build towards a stronger minority government if elected again?

4. Will the Liberals register a heartbeat in Quebec where any anti-Conservative’s lone hope for stopping PC growth there is to rely on the Bloc Quebecois? Additional to this, can the Bloc respond and push back against past Conservative progress there?

 5. Can Jack Layton continue his push to be recognized as an opposition force and help score more NDP seats somewhere in Canada?

6. Will the Green Party manage to get one of their candidates elected? Will getting into the televised leader’s debate push them over the top into mainstream Canadian politics?

7. Can Elizabeth May, Green Party leader, actually knock off Defence Minister Peter MacKay in Central Nova Scotia? Considering the Liberals have chosen not to run a candidate in that riding, will it make a difference?

What will be the issue that catches your attention my fellow Canadian voters? Who is the best leader for this country? Which party speaks for you and why? Is there an interesting race in your riding- where is it and why is it so intriguing?

Our election may lack the glitz and glamour of the election south of the border but remember, the one that really hits you in your wallet is the one here on Oct. 14.

Conservative budget a Trojan horse

The Conservative government has planted a Trojan horse in the middle of the House of Commons with its recent budget and hidden in its belly are key changes to Canada’s immigration and refugee policy.

The amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act have been packaged as part of the recent federal budget. Among the amendments are ones designed to allow the immigration ministry to speed up specific applications. Opposition parties have argued the amendments would give the immigration minister unprecedented powers over who can and cannot enter Canada.

 Like them or hate them, the move by the Conservatives to include these proposed changes within the budget is a shrewd tactical move. Opposition members want to debate the changes separately from the budget but cannot. If they want to shoot them down, they have to shoot the budget. They shoot down the budget, it is a non-confidence vote which can trigger an election no one is ready for.

The Conservatives must be Sopranos fans since this Trojan Horse move was stolen from Tony Soprano’s “How to Strongarm 101” playbook.

The government claims the inclusion of the changes within the budget will ensure quicker action and enactment of them. Critics argue that if the changes are so great, they should be able to stand on their own in the House of Commons, under scrutiny of debate and will pass quickly regardless.

Immigration minister Diane Finley has stated in various reports that the changes are necessary in order to tackle the significant number of applicants waiting to get into Canada The backlog of applicants now sits at 900,000.

The amendments also provide the government “greater flexibility in selecting which applications are processed, according to labour market needs”, according to the ministry.

Where any debate on the Commons floor will take the proposed changes will be interesting to see. One thing is for certain, the Conservatives are playing for keeps and daring the opposition, especially the Liberals, to trigger an election in which Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his gang would likely prevail again.