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NDP are Boy Scouts? Liberals grasp and Conservatives motor along

Here they come down the home stretch and what an interesting finish it will be.

Who would have thought the NDP and its leader Jack Layton could sustain their surge over the last couple of weeks since the English language debate. Where there is smoke there is fire and there seems to be something burning here with NDP support nationwide as the federal parties race to the May 2 election deadline.

courtesy of ThreeHundredEight.com

The great site ThreeHundredEight.com, as of April 26, is projecting the NDP to climb to 42 seats and 20.9 per cent of the popular vote. That is a six-seat gain for the NDP and the Liberals would drop to 75 seats from 77 with their popular vote hovering around 26.4 per cent.

“The NDP’s growth comes in both Ontario and Quebec, where the party is up 3.3 points and 7.3 points, respectively. In Quebec, the NDP has taken the lead forcefully, pushing the Bloc down two points to 25.2%. Note that the Conservatives are down to 14.7% while the Liberals are at a very low 13.1%,” finds ThreeHundredEight.com.

Obviously the smoke is serious enough when you look at the recent ads and focus Stephen Harper’s Conservatives and Michael Ignatieff’s Liberals have directed at the NDP.

Ignatieff was recently quoted in a Campaign Notebook on the Globe and Mail as calling the NDP “bunch of Boy Scouts”. As the centrist power playground of the Liberals appears wonky for them to rely on, Iggy is lashing out…is it a leftover stinging from Layton calling out Ignatieff’s attendance record at the House of Commons? During the English language debate Layton noted that Ignatieff had missed 70 per cent of the votes held, a number Parliament Hill insiders have confirmed.

Look into Jack's eyes....courtesy of The Toronto Star

The Bloc are being chastised in some circles for running a shoddy campaign as the NDP appears gain favour in Quebec. The Liberals are desperately grasping for support from the left, support which is galvanizing behind a leader those supporters believe in- the same cannot be said in the fractured Liberal house. On the right, the Conservatives have remained steady and on point, the united right (which has governed closer to centre than some supporters would like) looks to be insurmountable with Canada’s fractured centre-left landscape to counter it.

What to make of it all? You tell me OnDeadline readers. Can the NDP make a serious push to be the official opposition? Can the Liberals in fact fall that far off the Canadian electoral map to end up in third? Will the Conservatives nail down a majority?

One thing seems almost certain, barring a cataclysmic collapse of epic European Black Death proportions; we will have a Conservative minority government again once all the votes are counted. This outcome must leave some of you wondering…was this election ever worth it?

The return of Harper – will he play nice?

He’s back, and not in black, but in a blue sweater vest.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper managed to not nail down a majority government in the recent Canadian federal election but he gets to trot up Parliament Hill with a minority government. How Harper managed to not secure a majority with a weak a Liberal leader and platform to counter, the Green Party siphoning off some NDP mustard and newly found inroads in Quebec inhand must have him thinking…where did it go wrong?

The final seat count was 143 seats for the Consevatives, 76 for the Liberals, 50 for the Bloc Quebecois, 37 for the NDP and 2 indepents. The Tories did manage to increase their total of 127 seats from the last election. However, blood was in the water and the magical 155 seat majority mark was there for the taking and Harper knows it.

Prime Minister Harper gets an earful during the recent English language debate.
Prime Minister Harper gets an earful during the recent English language debate.

The economic crisis and arts cuts comments were what ultimately foiled Monsieur Sweater Vest. His apparent lack of empathy with credit markets and economies imploding really was not the poor play here. The fact he gave stock advice, saying it is a good time “to buy” did hurt him. Also, as Canada’s sitting prime minister, he  did not head back to Ottawa to show he was “on top” of the situation.

Opposition leaders hammered at his inaction and stay-the-course mantra. People could really care less about empathy when it comes to money, they want the top dog in their nation showing he his doing something…anything…make it a photo-op but at least show you are doing something to look after their pocketbooks. It says here, if Harper actually acted it would have knocked any gusto out of an opposition leader’s critique of him.

Harper’s downplaying of $45 million in arts cuts as a “niche issue for some” was a disaster for him in Quebec. The little new found inroads he made in the last election there hit the floor quicker than Puffin poo on Stephane Dion’s shoulder. Quebec artists and residents rallied and either voted Liberal or Bloc, turning their backs on the Tories- the following video says it all.

What now? With a stronger minority in hand, will the Tories rule once again as if they have a majority? If the Prime Minister wishes to be seen as really connecting with all Canadians, a more co-operative effort with the opposing parties is needed.

However, a weakened Liberal party, reduced in its numbers from 98 to 76, could provide a new challenge for Harper. Instead of the Liberals avoiding votes in order to not bring down the government (and be thrust into an election with a weak leader and internal division…hold on a sec…that happened anyway) they may actually show some backbone in Ottawa and act like the official opposition. How will Harper deal with this new wrinkle?

In the current context, with true fear among Canadians in the middle of this financial maelstrom, all party leaders will have to play nice and what an opportunity for Prime Minister Harper to not pack away the fatherly, good-guy, blue sweater vest just yet.

Election Notebook: Sweater-vests and May’s-day

The Canadian federal leader’s debate was more about attacking and speaking up the quickest than it was about substance and exploring issues.

 

Moderator Steve Paikin should receive a special merit badge for trying to control and  manage a debate which was unwieldy at times. Debate organizers tossed aside the traditional podiums for the debate participants and had them sit a tear-drop shaped table.

 

At first, the concept of the table seemed like a good one. It gave the impression you were eavesdropping on a potent after-dinner conversation. However, the informal setting created the following formula: A (Prime Minister Stephen Harper says something) + B (the other four leaders talk all over each other to say something) = C (the moderator arbitrarily sorting out the order of who gets to speak next).

 

The actual mechanics and spirit of a debate never materialized but it did prove to be entertaining thanks to some excellent moments:

 

BEST QUIPS:

 

Layton, during a pointed-attack at Prime Minister Harper over the lack of a defined Conservative platform, takes a swipe at the prime minister’s sweater-vest worn in some campaign ads.

 

“You say you have a plan, where is it? Where’s your platform? Under the sweater?” asked Layton.

 

Duceppe, near the end of the debate, when asked “What would your first act as prime minister be?”, was about as honest as one can be.

 

“I know I won’t be prime minister and three of you won’t be prime minister, neither,” he said, waving his hand at May, Dion and Layton at the table. “Some of you know it, but you won’t say it.”

 

 

WORST QUIPS:

 

“I’ve been between jobs, I understand that,” Harper said to Layton. – (I’m thinking that when you have been between jobs prime minister, it was no where near as hard or tragic as it is for people losing jobs in forestry or in manufacturing)

 

“The economy is not fine,” Layton said to Harper. “Either you don’t care or you are incompetent. Which is it?” – (I’m thinking, if you want to be considered a viable opposition leader, let alone prime ministerial- suggesting people may be “incompetent” is not the way to go).

 

 

WORST TANTRUM:

 

Stephane Dion, though he delivered a solid, yet unspectacular performance. He is sincere and passionate about the environment. However, he almost jumped from the table and stomped his feet, calling Harper a liar as he said to him “why would you say that?” when Harper was talking about Green Shift. The reason he said something you did not like Stephane is because it was a debate and Harper can be a bully in a powder blue sweater-vest.

 

 

THE WINNER:

 

There was not a clear-cut one but I would give the final nod to Elizabeth May, by a nose. She did not sound like a one-trick pony and stood up to Harper the best, reciting facts better than the others. She was seated right near the PM and was not fazed by it.

 

Second place goes to Harper, the man withstood a fury of attacks and achieved the ultimate goal, he kept his composure, smiled his occasional smarmy smirk and delivered concise answers which will likely not come back to bite him in his political backside.

Election Notebook: A daily double of political stupidity

With elections running on either side of the 49th parallel the political machines in both Canada and the United States have served up a daily double of stupidity.

Let’s start with the floundering Liberals in the Canadian federal election. As polls continue to show that the Liberals are in serious trouble and the NDP begins to get more traction, the age old stupid strategy of fear politics by the Liberals has started. Because their leader Stephane Dion is basically going nowhere and not catching the imagination of voters, the party has chosen to use fear tactics.

Listen to any Liberal candidate who gets airtime or ink and their message is twofold: Stephen Harper and his Conservatives will plunge Canada into an economic crisis and secondly, NDP and Green Partry supporters should pledge their support to the Liberals because they really are the only option other than the Conservatives. What a crock. The Liberals are already playing the fear card because they know that Dion is likely going to get crushed in the leaders debate, there is a good chance that in the English language one, he may actually place second last or last in public perception.  Fear and begging, two pillars of the Liberal party it now appears.

The second stupid political play is that of Sarah Palin being chosen as John McCain’s running mate down south. With each uttered word or sheltered appearance, Palin is further proving she is not cut out for the job and McCain’s judgment comes more and more into question. McCain is a war hero to be proud of and his old maverick days were admirable but he blew it big time with this pandering and transparent choice of Palin. If you have any doubts of Palin’s capabilities, check out a piece of her interview with Katie Couric, I cannot remember the last time I cringed this much watching an interview.

I am sure Palin could have been a solid pick four to eight years from now. With more “big show” experience and away from the Hillary Clinton shadow- a female candidate who truly earned her stripes to go for the big chair in Washington, Palin might be a good candidate, but her time is not now. It was stupid to think she could pull in female voters, possibly from the Clinton camp, and satisfy hard core republicans. She is inept and out of her depth, the magic surrounding her choice is gone already.

The one scary thing is this, Republicans brought back President Bush a second time after watching him in action for four years, will they make the mistake of thinking McCain-Palin would be good for their country? Equally scary here on the homefront, the Liberal scare tactics have worked in the past, can they work again?

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?