Questions for Garth Turner

Sunday night, I broke the story that Garth Turner, Liberal MP for Halton was collecting funds from donors into a trust. As specified by Elections Canada, trusts are generally forbidden as one cannot pay out of a trust the many donations that went into a trust. Check the full story here.

Garth’s response was both predictable and unpredictable. Predictably, he alluded to some well-organized conspiracy that was out to get him and immediately claimed victim status. Unpredictably though, he acknowledged his mistake and has taken steps to significantly reconfigure how he will be collecting money in the future. However, there are significant questions that remain.

  • Since this comes on the heels of Liberal questions in the House about election spending, they have much to do to get their own campaign finances in order. This week, we’ve seen apparent campaign finance discrepancies by Bonnie Crombie (more on that soon), Blair Wilson and now Garth Turner. How can they criticize the Conservatives before they sort out their own affairs?
  • Since many cheques to Garth Turner were made out to “Garth Turner Campaign, in trust”, does this mean that he’ll have to return all of that money? All cheques should have been made out to the “Halton Federal Liberal Association”.
  • In April of this year, Garth held a fundraising event with former Liberal leadership candidate Ken Dryden. Garth wrote:

    “Tonight was also an important milestone in my local election campaign. We exceeded our fundraising goal and, in the past three weeks, have raised five times more funds than the local Conservatives did in an entire year. All those bag signs, arterials, stakes, wire frames, ties and pounders in my garage are now paid for in full. We have cash in the bank � enough to get seriously and immediately ballistic the moment the writ is dropped.”

    Ballistic or busted? Were these fundraising efforts for naught? If that campaign materials was purchased by a private account and not the one held by the Federal Liberal Riding Association, Garth cannot use these campaign materials.

  • This represents a huge oversight by Dion’s new czar of fundraising. Does this represent poor judgment on behalf of the Stephane Dion? Will Garth resign this position? What can be said of the fundraising health of the Liberal party if Garth has been directing it?
  • Garth claims that he transferred money from a business account to the Liberal Electoral Association. Last time I checked, this is not allowed. Ironically, Garth criticizes the Conservatives for transferring money between EDAs and the federal party (which is allowed). “In and Out” is it called? Or is this “Out to In”? I’ve lost track.
  • If the Liberal Electoral Association accepted money from this business account (as Garth claims) they would also seem to be in violation. Could this association become de-registered by Elections Canada?
  • Garth is right in that being an independent can be tough. Independents do not have riding associations (EDAs). They can raise money, but they cannot issue tax receipts. Garth writes:

    “When Mr. Harper threw me out of caucus, I sat as an indie for a number of months, during which people sent me money because they took pity on my soul”

    I hope these people don’t expect to get tax receipts. But really, now that Garth is a Liberal, what is the status of this money? He can’t transfer money from this “business account” (in trust) to the Liberal EDA.

  • What are the consequences of this oversight? If this gets investigated, will Garth step aside? Will Dion ask him to step aside?
  • In a past life, wasn’t Garth a finance guru? Wasn’t he Minister of National Revenue? Is this mistake oversight or a sophisticated financial operator pushing the envelope?

What is Garth Turner doing?

As Halton MP Garth Turner stands in the House of Commons and acts offended by the so-called “In and Out” scandal with which the Liberals are trying to tar the Conservatives, he may want to check his own behaviour as his own financing may be in question.

On Garth’s website, where you can donate, the following information appears:

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There are two questionable items in this information, particularly:

  • Cheques are to be made out to “Garth Turner campaign, in trust
  • Garth is promising tax receipts for donations made in this way

From Elections Canada, we learn that:

…as of June 12, 2007, as a result of changes made by s. 44(2) of the Federal Accountability Act to s. 404.2 of the Canada Elections Act, transfers of trust funds to candidates from registered parties and registered associations will be prohibited.

It seems that when an election is called, the federal accountability act prohibits the transfer of money from an electoral district association’s or party’s trust fund to a candidate. If this is so, who holds this money in trust? Is it “Garth Turner campaign” (whatever that entity is) or “Garth Turner”? If the account is to be used to elect Garth Turner, it would be useless for the EDA to hold it because of the new changes governed by the FAA. But yet, outside of an election, all funds must be donated to the EDA.

furthermore (from Elections Canada),

A contribution made from a trust fund is treated as a contribution from the trustee.

When a registered party, registered association, candidate, leadership contestant or nomination contestant receives a contribution paid out of funds held in trust, the trustee is reported as the contributor and the contribution counts towards his or her contribution limit.

Therefore, only a trustee who is an individual may make a contribution from a trust fund.

So, Garth is encouraging people to write cheques to “Garth Turner campaign, in trust”. What does this mean? As is the general understanding, and confirmed by Elections Canada, funds held in trust become the property of the trustee. Contributions from trust funds are treated as contributions from the trustee. So, if a candidate were to able to transfer money out of a trust fund to fund their campaign, the maximum they could withdraw would be the maximum contribution amount allowable by an individual (ie. the trustee) per year, which is $1,100. If Garth collects $50,000 into a trust fund from donors, it becomes the property of that trust’s trustee and subsequently, that trustee can only give $1,100. But, can money even be transferred out of a trust (with many contributors) for the purpose of an election campaign?

Trusts are dubious because of the exchanging of money through an intermediary (the trust/trustee). For example, if I wanted to give a political party $100, I couldn’t give it to my friend to donate that money for me. My friend would have to do that in his name because he is the one handing over the money. Again, the nature of trusts is that the money held in trust becomes the property of the trustee and therefore contributing from that trust becomes a donation from the trustee and not the variety of individuals who gave money to put into that trust.

But, as we read on, this becomes clearer. Elections Canada states that indirect contributions are prohibited,

An individual may not collect funds from others in a trust for the purpose of making contributions to registered parties, their associations, candidates, leadership contestants or nomination contestants. (s. 405.3 Canada Elections Act)

This is because individuals cannot make contributions from funds given to them by others for the purpose of making contributions. This rule cannot be avoided by the individual collecting funds in a trust from which to make contributions.

The Liberals have been going on and on about money transfers from parties to candidates and from candidates to parties. Money transfers of this sort happen all of the time. However, according to section 404.2(2.2) of the Elections Act, this may not occur with respect to trusts.

A transfer of funds, other than trust funds, is permitted and is not a contribution for the purposes of this Act if it is

(a) from a registered party to a candidate endorsed by the party; or

(b) from a registered association to a candidate endorsed by the party with which the association is affiliated.

and according to Elections Canada,

A registered party, registered association, candidate, leadership contestant or nomination contestant may not avoid Canada Elections Act controls by collecting contributions directly in a trust fund.

Any such contributions remain contributions. They must be accepted by the relevant agent, put into the campaign account (*** ie. during a campaign, for a candidate as recognized by a returning officer during a writ period — Stephen ***) (if received by a candidate, leadership or nomination contestant) and reported as contributions.

Outside of a campaign, donations for the purpose of eventually electing somebody must be made to the Electoral District Association.

Why is Garth collecting money from his supporters into a trust?

Who owns (and therefore controls) the money in that trust since an EDA cannot transfer money from a trust to a candidate during a campaign?

How would a candidate expect to get more than $1,100 a year out of such a trust?

If a trust is made up of pooled money from a number of people, how can money be transferred to a campaign since indirect contributions are prohibited?

If during a writ period, only a campaign can issue tax receipts and if outside of a campaign, only an EDA can issue tax receipts, how can “Garth Turner campaign” hope to give tax receipts to donors as his website claims?

How much money has Garth Turner collected in trust?

UPDATE 10/29, 11am: Garth has changed his website. It now asks cheques to be made out to “Halton Liberal Association – Garth Turner Campaign”.

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Will Garth have to return all of the cheques made out to the trust fund?

How will any donor to the trust receive a tax receipt?

What if he has already cashed the cheques and the money has already accrued interest?

Why was a trust fund set up in the first place?

In and Out, Conservatives respond

A copy of a letter sent to the President of the Liberal Party Senator Marie Poulin and Executive Director Greg Fergus landed in my inbox tonight. It concerns Conservative Party assertions that statements made in a recent Liberal Party backgrounder on what they’ve named the “In and Out” scandal concerning the “Conservatives’ apparent scheme to violate election spending limits” are in fact defamatory. The Conservatives stress that “Chief Electoral Officer Marc Maynard…has not accused any of the candidates or agents of breaking the law”.

The letter concerns the defense of Michael Donison, Neil Drabkin, Andrew House, Aaron Hynes, Andrea Paine and Ian West. The letter states that “it is defamatory to suggest or imply that these individuals have engaged in illegal conduct”.

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In this document, found on the Liberal Party website, the Liberals seem to imply that rewards in the form of government jobs were received by candidates who participated in the scheme that the Liberals allege.

Liberal MP Dominic Leblanc stated,

“To date, we have learned that eleven of the former Conservative candidates and official agents implicated in this scandal were named to federal appointments or were hired in high profile government jobs. One has to wonder if there is a connection between their willingness to participate and employment by this Conservative government”

The Conservatives allege that such statements are libelous as the letter addressed to the Liberals reads, “In particular, it is defamatory to suggest or imply that the positions that these individuals have or have had on Ministers’ staffs are “rewards” for having engaged in illegal conduct.”

The Conservatives seem to assert that the Liberals must prove that their accusations are true or else the Grits have libeled the aforementioned individuals.

Please read Steve Janke’s groundbreaking posts concerning this story, here, here and here.

CBC, politics and Facebook

The other day, I discovered a tool on Facebook for advertisers that allows a prospective ad buyer to narrow down a potential target group for the purposes of showing an advertisement to a particular demographic. For example, one could select the United Kingdom, the city of London, females, aged 18-35, who like “Painting”, and have selected their relationship status as “engaged”. You’ll find that out of a pool of 1,612,980 people in London (or of 6,407,580 on Facebook in the UK), you’ll be targeting your ad to 140 people specifically based on the breakdown above.

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So, I thought another breakdown might be interesting.

Facebook boasts 7,361,720 accounts in Canada. Of these accounts, 1,340 are at “CBC / Radio Canada”. If one then checks off “Liberal” as a delimiting factor, we’re left with 180 accounts. If we uncheck “Liberal” and check “Moderate” we get 40 accounts. Now, if we uncheck “moderate” and select “Conservative” we get “fewer than 20” (Facebook seems to measure accounts for this application in blocks of 20. I assume that less than 20 could mean anywhere from 0-19 accounts).

So, to summarize, there are 1,340 Facebookers at CBC. Of this group, 180 have self-declared as Liberal, 40 as Moderates, and 0-19 as Conservatives.

Of course, this isn’t a scientific breakdown of political inclinations at CBC. After all, it could be possible that Conservatives are much more shy about posting their “Political Views” on Facebook. Further, one cannot confidently say that Facebook is representative of the population at large. This is simply data presented “as is”, for your consideration.

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UPDATE: For those that have asked about the Canadian breakdown on Facebook, out of 7,361,720 Canadian accounts on Facebook, 618,240 are self-declared Liberal, and 281,840 Conservative. This is a 2.2:1 Liberal:Conservative ratio. In contrast, CBC has at least a 9:1 Liberal:Conservative ratio among its self-declared political people with Facebook accounts.

Ignatieff laughs behind Dion’s back

I was sitting up in the gallery on the day after the Speech from the Throne to catch the show after question period. Stephane Dion would be making a decision regarding what path his party would take in response to the government’s proposed mandate for the next parliamentary session.

Observing the Commons first hand can be quite different from watching it on TV. Particularly, the television coverage, wired in and directly controlled by House of Commons staffers often omits peripheral detail when it focuses in on the parliamentarian who happens to be speaking. Thus, catcalls and taunts between government and opposition benches are often barely heard on the television feed. However, this noise can be highly distracting when one has a front row seat.

What the television coverage captured, and which I missed because of my vantage point, was Michael Ignatieff chuckling along with Conservatives when they tossed barbs in the direction of the hapless Stephane Dion when the Liberal leader was delivering his response to the Throne Speech. I had even heard from an observer afterwards that Ignatieff had placed his hand over his mouth to stifle laughter while Dion was speaking.

So, I went back to check the videotape.


The first clip shows Ignatieff smirking and even rolling his eyes at one point . The second clip shows the deputy Liberal leader smiling, grimacing hard and then finally burying his face in his hand. It appears to be a man trying, but without much effort, to contain composure.

Here’s an excerpt what Sheila Copps (former Liberal leadership candidate and now Sun columnist) had to say about the incident:

While Dion has been fighting for his political life, Ignatieff underlings are doing everything possible to finish him off. With friends like those, Dion doesn’t need Conservative enemies.

While Ignatieff has recently taken to the airwaves in support of Dion, his face during the throne speech told a different story.

One eye cocked, and a smirk bubbling below the surface, at one point he even joined Tory guffaws at Dion’s awkward delivery. With Ignatieff’s poorly disguised glee, don’t expect the hemorrhaging in the Liberal Party to end any time soon.

and from Aaron Wherry of Macleans.ca:

The catcalls, meanwhile, grew louder — the government wits even winning a laugh from Ignatieff. As those who remained in the press gallery took turns groaning, the Conservative caucus descended into fits of giggles.

It has also been reported that Ignatieff remained seated for a number of standing ovations that the Liberals gave Dion during his speech. Here’s what Don Martin wrote:

One Liberal’s reaction was particularly telling. When all other MPs rose to celebrate a rare good jab in Mr. Dion’s address, deputy leader Michael Ignatieff seemed to stay in his seat most of the time. I’m not sure whether this was a sudden attack of leg cramps or the opening shot of a leadership challenge, but the optic was hard to miss.

Here’s a video summary of the standing ovations given to Dion during his speech. Also, look for Dion’s quick check of Ignatieff who isn’t applauding like the rest of caucus at 1min 18s (-1:41)


Facebook statistics

Everybody and their brother knows about Facebook these days. Whether finding old high school classmates, building one’s professional network, or sharing photos among friends, Facebook has many uses to millions of users. There’s a new feature on the website for advertisers that allows the ad buyer the ability of progressively narrowing down a target audience by selecting and excluding demographic data. The side benefit of this is that we can parse Facebook’s user data and get a better understanding of its audience and reach.

Here are the top countries represented on Facebook (users):
1. United States 19,951,900
2. Canada 7,361,720
3. United Kingdom 6,407,580
4. Australia 1,498,320
5. South Africa 605,820
6. France 429,540
7. Norway 891,480
8. Sweden 827,940
9. Mexico 393,940
10. Egypt 376,480
11. Columbia 359,220
12. Turkey 327,760
13. India 287,500
14. Germany 259,760
15. New Zealand 208,000
16. United Arab Emirates 188,600
17. Singapore 180,660
18. Spain 178,900
19. Lebanon 163,720
20. Ireland 131,660
21. Italy 121,000
22. Saudi Arabia 115,980
23. Pakistan 115,240
24. Netherlands 109,840
25. Switzerland 99,600
26. Malaysia 98,060
27. Japan 95,340
28. Israel 94,180
29. China 83,640
30. South Korea 51,080
31. Dominican Republic 33,060

In Canada, the male/female breakdown is:
2,507,620 male
3,431,280 female

The top cities in Canada are:
1,326,280 Toronto
549,600 Montreal
346,020 Vancouver
317,700 Halifax
275,820 Ottawa
186,620 Winnipeg
432,060 Calgary
365,120 Edmonton

In Canada, the political breakdown is:
618,240 Liberal
236,540 Moderate
281,840 Conservative

The male/female breakdown of these figures are (m/f)
282,220/291,300 Liberal
126,360/94,480 Moderate
158,020/104,460 Conservative

As one goes through college/university in Canada, does one become more or less Liberal or Conservative?
Conservative:
Freshmen 3,420
Sophomores 4,300
Juniors 4,440
Seniors 4,760

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Liberal:
9,740 Fresmen
13,160 Sophomores
14,500 Juniors
16,840 Seniors

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Note the slopes on both graphs. The Conservative graph has a slope of y=416x meaning that as each year goes by, with all else being equal, we can infer that the university experience produces 416 more Conservatives each year of school. Likewise, the slope of the Liberal graph is y=2264x meaning that if our assumptions are the same, we can infer that the university experience produces 2264 more Liberals per year of the undergraduate experience. It would be beneficial to measure the data over four years, but we can hypothesize from this data that universities are having the effect of producing Liberals over Conservatives at 4:1 per year.

(Note that these figures are taken for individuals at the current time, a changing trend is only inferred. All we know for sure is there are more partisans/idelogues in both camps in later years of undergraduate.)

Let’s take a look at how politics breaks down at each Canadian university
University Liberal/Moderate/Conservative
Acadia 360/80/60

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Bishop’s 180/40/60

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Brock 1,040/320/420

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Carleton 2,340/740/800

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Concordia 1,060/240/120

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Dalhousie 1,280/260/280

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Lakehead 360/120/120

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Laurentian 440/100/100

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McGill 3,360/720/300

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McMaster 2,000/660/760

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Mount Allison 440/60/60

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Nipissing 220/80/80

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Queen’s University 2,220/500/600

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Royal Military College 60/60/180

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Ryerson 2,020/560/360

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St. Francis Xavier 480/100/180

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Simon Fraser University 1,400/440/340

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Trent 800/160/180

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University of Alberta 2,340/900/1,340

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University of British Columbia 3,120/920/620

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University of Calgary 1,220/540/840

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University of Guelph 2,060/460/500

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University of Lethbridge 480/200/440

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University of New Brunswick 800/180/220

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University of Ottawa 2,440/640/620

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U Regina 220/40/80

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University of Saskatchewan 620/200/380

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University of Sherbrooke 80/100/20* (* fewer than 20)

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University of Toronto 5,560/1,740/1,140

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University of Victoria 1,300/400/280

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University of Waterloo 2,380/840/680

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University of Western Ontario 2,820/760/980

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University of Windsor 1,140/280/340

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Wilfrid Laurier University 1,540/420/480

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York University 3,520/980/700

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As for the ratio of Liberal students:Conservative students?
Here are the top five (the most Liberal schools in the country by this measure):
McGill 11.2:1
Concordia 8.8:1
Mount Allison 7.3:1
Acadia 6:1
Ryerson 5.6:1

And the bottom five (the most Conservative schools in the country by this measure):
Royal Military College 0.33:1
University of Lethbridge 1.1:1
University of Calgary 1.5:1
University of Saskatchewan 1.6:1
University of Alberta 1.7:1

A bit more about the methodology:
This data was taken from this Facebook page on October 17th, 2007. All data is self-declared by individuals with Facebook profiles.

UPDATE: It appears that Facebook has disabled the feature.

Liberal outrage!

While they won’t offer a binding opinion (ie. a vote) on the government’s mandate, the Liberal Party of Canada is offering their anger on behalf of all francophones for what they perceived to be a snub against Canada’s bilingual nature.

New Conservative Site Snubs Francophones

Francophones across Canada have every right to feel a little snubbed by the Conservative Party of Canada, Liberal Party President Marie-P. Poulin said today.

That’s because their language doesn’t show up on the front page of the party’s new site.

“The party that has trying [sic] to reach out to French-speaking Canada has a strange way of showing they care,” Ms. Poulin said. “You’d think something as prominent as your new election web-site would have at least one French word on its front page.”

The Conservative Party’s new web site, launched this morning, has a background of Conservative blue featuring a photo of the Prime Minister, his name, and six bold white words – none of which is in the French Language.

“The Liberal Party of Canada cares about Francophones across Canada and has ensured that every word on our web site is printed in both official languages. Clearly, the Conservative Party cannot say the same,” said Ms. Poulin.

-30-

For more information, please contact:

Liberal Party of Canada Press Office

Elizabeth Whiting
(613) 783-8405
ewhiting@liberal.ca

Liberals are always finding outrage where there is none. Indeed, the Conservative website was recently redesigned and it is true that there aren’t any French words at Conservative.ca. However, if you go to Conservateur.ca (that’s the French word for “conservative” by the way), you’ll find a lot more French words!

You’d think this was a rookie mistake, but consider that this release quotes the Liberal Party President (a francophone at that!)

If one considers that “Liberal” is both a French and English word and that “Conservative” as a word must be translated into “Conservateur” in French, one can presume how they could have made the mistake especially in this time of desperation when they need to shift attention from their party to the Conservatives.

The new “opposition”

If Joe Clark’s mistake was that he arrogantly governed with his minority government as if he had a majority, will Stephane Dion’s mistake be that he is timidly opposing Stephen Harper’s minority government as if the Prime Minister had a majority?

But it’s even worse than that. Stephane Dion as Opposition leader is not opposing or even supporting the government’s mandate. In effect, by abstaining from judging the government’s sought mandate, Dion isn’t showing up for work.

The NDP has parsed the opposition benches into the absent opposition (Liberals) and the effective opposition (NDP).

The Prime Minister should play along this theme.

Since Dion is effectively silent on the Prime Minister’s mandate by abstaining from voting on the Throne Speech, Harper should simply rebuke Dion’s future questions and remind him of the opportunity he had to support or oppose the government’s outlined agenda. Harper should then proceed to only debate the points of the NDP and the Bloc as the effective opposition since these parties are the ones fulfilling their parliamentary roles.

If elections are held for parties to seek a mandate from the people to govern, the Throne Speech is ratification and confirmation of that mandate by Parliament. If Stephane Dion wants Parliament to work as he so clearly states, it can do so by approving the government’s mandate or by opposing it sending the parties back to the hustings to determine the true support/opposition to the government’s plan. In effect, by abstaining Dion has made Parliament less functional and by not wanting an election it seems that the Liberal leader would rather leave Parliament, with its checks and balances, in limbo for the sake of our convenience rather than allow us to fulfill our duty as the electorate since he cannot exercise his as Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition.

If Dion cannot enunciate his party’s position in opposition when the government seeks its mandate, how can he expect us to trust his abilities to do so if he should ever form government?

UPDATE: I found this post on Ignatieff’s website concerning what the Liberals should do for the Throne Speech.

“I’m driving down the highway with Suzanna and Scott Brison is at the wheel. It is a white knuckle experience. I’ve just given a talk to 300 students at Dalhousie Law School and tonight well be in Cheverie at a fundraiser for Scott. There is media at every spot asking what the party should do on the throne speech. We need to read it first and then decide what party interest and national interest require. One thing is sure : we — and not the PM — will do the deciding. Let’s keep and hold the initiative. More later. MI”

Unfortunately for Ignatieff (or fortunately?), the Liberals didn’t take initiative and the Liberals instead decided on being indecisive.

Tonight’s Throne Speech

Prime Minister Harper has penned the mandate he seeks from Parliament for its next session and Governor General Michaelle Jean will deliver the Speech from the Throne tonight in the Red Chamber in about 2.5 hours time.

Most observers expect that the Prime Minister will be asking a lot of Parliament as Stephane Dion, the Liberal and Opposition leader is weakened by fratricide within his own party. The recent recruitment of former Liberal leadership hopeful John Manley will also allow the Prime Minister to pen a few more ideological lines into the speech and dare Dion to vote against.

There are a few factors which will determine the outcome of any brinkmanship that’s anticipated by some, however. For example, does the Prime Minister want to seek a defensible mandate and extend his term without triggering an election. In some cases, this is an advantageous move for Harper; the more time that he governs, the more of a record he has to run when he finally faces the electorate.

However, Dion is in a wounded state and could eventually recover through his own strategy (more unlikely) or via unforeseen “events” (less unlikely). Depending on the crises and issues faced by the Prime Minister over the next year, public opinion may turn. For example, the economy is healthy right now. What will we see in one year’s time? Should Harper go for an election now?

We can be certain that the NDP and the Bloc will be sure to come out immediately and oppose the Throne Speech claiming that they are they only principled opposition in Parliament to Stephen Harper and that Dion and the Liberals are weak. This will allow Jack Layton to represent the Canadian left and Gilles Duceppe to claim to represent both that constituency and Quebec’s interests. This has the benefit for both leaders of being the anti-Harper choice and of taking away Liberal votes as the Grits try and sort out what they stand for. Almost immediately after the Throne Speech, I can picture Layton claiming that the throne speech favours the rich (if personal tax cuts are a theme), the boardrooms (if corporate tax cuts are mentioned) and that this comes at the expense of “working families”. Duceppe will state that Harper cannot appeal to Quebec’s interests. Layton and Duceppe would also be wise to point out that Dion will not stand up to Harper and that the Liberal leader is ineffective and inconsequential.

Dion is of course between a rock and a hard place. He has few options and none seem to portray him in a good light. Dion does not want to trigger an election for a few reasons. In the best of interpretations it’ll be seen as suicidal and in the worst interpretation it’ll seem absolutely foolish. Further, for this weakened leader, what he doesn’t need is to draw the scorn of a Canadian electorate for precipitating an election that his own deputy declared somewhat prophetically that Canadians “don’t want”.

If Dion votes for the Throne Speech (after demands that Harper won’t meet fully, if at all), he will be seen to be an ineffective opposition leader. In fact, this voting outcome is a very possible scenario; we haven’t heard much pushback from Dion on Harper’s stated goals.

In one scenario we could see Dion voting against the speech with the strategy of showing up with a only a handful of Liberal MPs in order to prevent the fall of government. The Conservatives have 126 MPs, and the Opposition (minus Liberals) has 79 (let’s leave out the 3 independents for the sake of an easier model). This leaves a 47 vote difference that Dion has to make up in order to tie the Conservatives (with the Speaker breaking the tie). Therefore, Dion must have at most 47 MPs show up to vote against the speech, unless he wants to trigger an election (which he most certainly does not want to do). Here’s where Harper could have some fun. The Prime Minister could order 46 of his MPs to be absent from the vote leaving 80 to vote “yay”. With the 79 non-Liberals opposition members with 79 voting “nay”, this leaves Dion to show up and vote alone. Those close to Harper say the man likes to play strategy with the issues rather than with the musical chairs in Parliament. Therefore this final scenario, while amusing, is unlikely.

I do, however, think of it more likely that Dion will eventually vote against the speech. The embattled Liberal leader has to save face and any further wishy-washy behaviour by him will only encourage his enemies within his party.

It is pretty much assured that the NDP and Bloc will seat every member for the Throne Speech vote.

However, if we see Dion vote against, I wonder if we will see if his “honourable friends” in caucus line up behind him, triggering the election that he doesn’t want.

UPDATE AFTER THE SPEECH: Jack Layton won’t support the speech.

Gilles Duceppe won’t support the speech.

Elizabeth May would support the speech, but she hasn’t any members.

Stephane Dion says… ‘uh… we’ll sleep on it’. However, it’s likely that he will support the throne speech after overtures such as “well we knew it wasn’t going to be a Liberal throne speech” and “we’ll let you know tomorrow at 3:15pm” and “no government’s ever been defeated on the Throne Speech”. Although there’s news that members of his caucus are encouraging him to go (election-wise and therefore also into retirement).

If Dion supports the throne speech, the NDP will jump all over them and emphasize that the Liberals are an ineffective opposition. The Conservatives will also continue along the “Stephane Dion is not a leader” line and this is evident in the titling and branding of the Throne Speech, “Strong Leadership. A Better Canada.”