Democratic deficit grows for Liberals in Ottawa

Today I received a tip from a couple of sources that describe discord among Liberal EDA board members in Ottawa West Nepean and their leader as the board is complaining that former Ottawa mayor Bob Chiarelli has asked Liberal leader Stephane Dion to forego the nomination process and appoint him as the candidate in that riding to face-off against Conservative Environment Minister John Baird.  This is obviously undemocratic as former Martin Defense Minister David Pratt is known to want the candidacy.

Pratt would make only the second Liberal to make his intentions officially known.  Ottawa University professor Nour El-Khadri also has made it known that he seeks to contest a nomination, however, Chiarelli is trying to enter in through the backdoor, according to sources.

Pratt and El-Khadri aren’t late comers to the work required to win the nomination either.  El-Khadri is believed to have sold about 500 memberships in the riding as far back as April 2007.  A source on Pratt’s team said “selling memberships and fighting a fair contest will not be a problem for…people like David”

Sources on the OWN Liberal executive say that an emergency meeting has been called for September 2nd.  Each of the three men will have to make a case before a special nominating committee as to why they believe they are the best candidate to take on Baird.  The recommendation will then be made to Stephane Dion who has the power to appoint the candidate directly.  This “beauty contest” approach (as one board member put it) is in direct contravention of the OWN Liberal Party constitution and will cause a great deal of grief with supporters of El-Kadri and Pratt.  As the same board member put it, “the fix is in” for Chiarelli.

John Baird fought his own nomination for the Conservative Party candidacy and one may speculate that expediency is being pushed for given an accelerated timetable for an election call that many expect this week.  However, it is unknown why a former Ottawa mayor without experience in the federal government would be favoured over a former Defence Minister.  Pratt fought under Martin’s banner of “fighting the democratic deficit”.  We’ll see if he’s still up for the job against Stephane Dion and Bob Chiarelli.

Announcing govtweets

govtweets.com and govtweets.ca

I’ve been working on a couple of new website that use twitter.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with twitter, it’s a new web service that simply asks “what are you doing?”.  Think of it as Facebook stripped down to the status update, with integrated direct messaging a channel communication.  The status update has been with us for a while from the days of the ICQ away message, to MSN messenger name changes, to Facebook and now twitter.  You can update your status from the web, from Firefox, via SMS or Blackberry.  Twitter is great for finding out what your friends or those who you follow are up to as it aggregates status updates from those you set up on your account.

govtweets is a website that I created to follow conversations, not just from friends, but from the public “tweets” from individuals discussing the US Presidential race at govtweets.com and Canadian politics at govtweets.ca.  The updates appear live and inline on the websites, so you don’t need to refresh to have the updates streaming in.  Americans are hooked in to twitter and so govtweets.com has a constant stream of the conversations that are occurring regarding McCain, Obama, Biden and Palin, while Canadians have yet to embrace the service in a big way so updates trickle in on Harper, Dion and Layton (I may add May soon since she’s a real contender now /sarcasm).

I’d encourage you to check out both websites.  For political web junkies, interesting URLs for interesting websites and articles are tweeted by users.  I found Barackas.com and the news that Palin’s wikipedia paged was scrubbed just before news of her selection was made official all via govtweets.com

Let me know what you think and if you want to see more action on the govtweets.ca page, start tweeting about Canadian politics.

Oh, and follow me on Twitter!

Stephen Harper channeling US Presidents?

Stephen Harper on the economy today in the Northwest Territories:

“Somebody said a recession is when people start losing their jobs, and when your neighbour loses his job. There are job losses, but overall employment is pretty stable”

That somebody the Prime Minister refers to was former US President Ronald Reagan during the 1980 Presidential campaign:

“A recession is when your neighbor loses his job. A depression is when you lose yours. And recovery is when Jimmy Carter loses his.”

And remember the Conservative line?:

“The Conservative Party supports Canadians that work hard, pay their taxes and play by the rules”

Thank Bill Clinton:

“My tax cut plan will give families a $500 per child tax credit. The congressional plan denies the child credit to up to 4.8 million families who make less than $30,000 a year. But these families work hard, pay their taxes, and play by the rules.”

Guest blog: Feet on solid Canadian ground

My occasional guest-blogging friend returns with a folksy and real assessment of today’s political scene.  I’m glad to provide him this space since his job isn’t so permissive as to allow him to maintain a regular blog.

I’m going to the Republican National Convention

I’ve been enjoying this week’s coverage of the Democratic National Convention on CNN (the only network anchoring coverage from the floor). Whether you agree with Democrats or not, you must admit that they’re putting on a great show and the stars of the party have woven some fantastic speeches together.

Therefore, I’m very excited to be headed to Minneapolis St. Paul on Sunday to attend the full week of the Republican National Convention.

I’m intending to blog the convention top-to-bottom and to bring you guys the behind-the-camera perspective of the greatest political stage show on Earth (a label that could apply to the RNC or DNC though Obama’s address in Mile-High Stadium to about 80,000 might raise the bar well above terra firma (or at least mare supra)for the GOP. Wi-fi has been intermittant to non-existant at the Pepsi Center according to some reports, so hopefully the RNC will have it humming along through the convention.

If any other folks (observers or reporters) are heading down to the RNC from Canada or if you’re a delegate/blogger from the US, I’d love to hear from you. I’ll be available via Blackberry during the convention and even if you aren’t able to make it, I’d be happy to share my thoughts about the goings-on and nomination of John McCain as the Republican nominee for President of the US.

DNC by the numbers

I have a bit of an embarrassing confession to make. I subscribe to an unhealthy amount of polling information via email and RSS. Polling companies in Canada and the US send me daily information on a number of topics, whether it’s the horse-race of McCain-Obama, the demographic breakdowns of perceptions on the US economy, or Canadian attitudes towards arctic development (and those are just from today)

I’ve been watching the Democratic National Convention with some interest over the past couple of days. If you’ve been following my twitter feed, you might have seen some of my live reactions to speeches by Michelle Obama, Mike Schweitzer or Hillary Clinton. The data from day 2 has just hit my inbox and newsreader and the numbers provide a look at the success/failure of the stage-managed political super-rally in Denver, Colorado.

In a comparison of keynotes of Michelle Obama vs. Hillary Clinton (though Clinton’s wasn’t technically a keynote), Nielson polling data shows that the NY Senator beat Mrs. Obama with 26 million viewers vs. 22.3 million. Further, in ratings, African-Americans are watching the DNC in larger proportions than white viewers. Black viewers were 1.4 times as likely to be watching the DNC than the population as a whole. This year at the DNC, African-Americans make up a record of 24% of all delegates. US Census records from 2000 show a 12.9% African-American population in the US. Though the Democrats reserve delegate spots for racial minorities and women, the television ratings suggest unprecedented high political engagement and interest among African-American electors. Higher voter turnouts reflect healthy democracies and it is exciting to watch the American contest unfold this year.

Comparing the second days of the 2004 and 2008 DNC conventions, the 2008 convention had five times the television viewers. This is particularly important for Hillary Clinton as she’ll likely be running for President in 2012 if Obama fails to get enough votes in November.  She still remains quite popular among Democrats with an 80% approval rating.

How might this government fall?

Stephane Dion won’t return Stephen Harper’s phone calls. The Prime Minister wants to get Dion on the line so the perception can be built that the PM is doing everything he can to make the fall session of Parliament work. Mr. Dion is avoiding the PM’s calls in order to appear to be in the position of power regarding this latest showdown, but of course, Dion risks playing in the narrative that he’s not allowing Parliament to work.

It seems that the Prime Minister wants to go to an election this fall. He doesn’t need to worry about the fixed election date legislation if he wants to do so.

A simple confidence motion by the Conservatives would do the trick:

“This House resolves that a carbon tax would destroy this country and that Canadians do not trust politicians when it comes schemes of tax shifting. This House has confidence in this government to [lower the income tax/introduce tax splitting/decrease the GST to 3%/cut corporate tax] (pick one or two) because such conservative measure(s) are the best way forward for Canadians”

NDP and Bloc would vote against. If Dion abstains, his Green Shift loses any authority and months of campaigning is gone. It would be argued further that Dion would want to go to an election on the issue of his carbon tax so abstaining from this vote would be the end of him as leader of the Liberal Party. If Mr. Dion votes against, we go to an election with Dion defending a carbon tax and the Conservatives proposing tax cuts. The election is then defined on tax policy rather than the environment.

Elections Canada needs to reflect neutrality

Their website should reflect it. The by-elections are announced on their website in orange and red. These colours are, of course, the colours of the NDP and Liberal Party respectively.

Some bureaucrats, journalists and Liberals were concerned when the Prime Minister rebranded the government naming it Canada’s New Government and incorporated blue into the websites at gc.ca.

The new name follows criticism over what some considered a partisan remake of the official Government of Canada website, which now has bold splashes of Tory blue and prominently features photographs of Prime Minister Harper.

Of course, Elections Canada is completely separate from any federal ministry and any partisan interference.

Elections Canada used to use yellow to reflect a neutral colour. Why not stick with that model?

McCain’s strategy is the wedge

As the Democrats assemble in Denver this week and kick off their National Convention today, the campaign of the presidential campaign of Republican John McCain is to capitalize on Barack Obama’s decision to tap senior senator Joe Biden as hiss running mate.

Biden’s selection as the bottom half of the Dem ticket this cycle for President is sure to anger some former supporters of former Democrat front-runner Hillary Clinton.

McCain is releasing an ad titled “Debra” which features one such angered supporter, a former delegate for Ms. Clinton. The ad presumes that there is division among Democrats moving into the week-long party in Colorado.

The convention is to feature a speech by Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton titled “securing America’s Future” where the former President will speak about the economic records of his administration versus that of the current Commander in Chief. While it is unexpected that the former President will take an open shot at his wife’s former rival, Republicans will be looking for any hint of dissention to show that Obama is not ready to lead as support isn’t solid even among left-wing partisans.

Therefore, as McCain is expected to name his choice for VP just after the Democratic Convention to change the channel as GOP activists assemble in Minneapolis-St. Paul for their convention, look for McCain to name a conservative Republican such as Romney or Huckabee to emphasize unity in his own party.

Like Obama, McCain not only has a challenge capturing independents but he faces a battle in invigoriting his own base to get out the vote in November. Obama’s choice of Biden and the added foreign policy experience that the Dem ticket sorely needed will reassure independents but will sour part of his base, especially the working class and women that supported Clinton. McCain’s challenge lies in invigorating his base. He is already stronger among independents than Obama (being a centrist Republican vs. liberal Democrat Obama) but in this, he faces a challenge exciting the GOP base, much of which consists of evangelicals which turned out for Bush/Cheney in 2000 and 2004. Look for McCain to make a nod towards the base by selecting a conservative’s Republican such as Romney or Huckabee. McCain is messaging on Democrat division with Obama’s passing on Clinton, therefore the Republican ticket will likely show McCain emphasizing his party’s unity by looking towards the right rather than the centre.

What of the Liberals and abortion?

From the National Post:

OAKVILLE – Stephane Dion has challenged the Prime Minister to clarify his view on abortion, threatening to reignite the debate as Canada careens toward a fall election.
The Liberal leader issued his challenge to Stephen Harper while answering a question at a town hall meeting on Wednesday night in Oakville.

The event was billed as a discussion of Mr. Dion’s carbon tax plan, but a member of the audience instead asked his views on the Unborn Victims of Crime Act. The private member’s bill would make it a criminal offence to harm an unborn child during an attack on its mother.

Mr. Dion said he opposed the proposed legislation because it might infringe on women’s access to abortion.

“We need to protect everyone against crime, but, at the same time, it happens that I believe in the rights of women to choose and I have a lot of respect for the people who have a different view,” he told the crowd.
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Mr. Dion then called upon Mr. Harper to state his own position on abortion.

And the latest in the Parliament Hill window series from Liberal MP Tom Wappel:

Is that a sign in Tom Wappel’s office? It looks familiar to another sign that sparked some controversy.

Is it really?

It is! Hooray for double standards!

Mr. Dion should ask some of his Toronto area MPs about their views. These photographs were taken today.

In 2005, Stephen Harper stated his views on legislation and abortion at the CPC policy convention:

“And, while I’m at it, I will tell you that, as prime minister, I will not bring forth legislation on the issue of abortion.”

FLASHBACK: Liberals are hypocrites on abortion

RELATED: Call the Parliament Hill window police

UPDATE: From Monday’s (8/25) Hill Times we learn that Tom Wappel took the sign from Rob Anders and put it up in his own window.

Re: “Tory MP Anders forced to remove ‘pro-life’ from East Block window” (The Hill Times, July 14, p. 1). Your article really intrigued me, as, in my 20 years as a Member of Parliament, I have never heard of a policy regarding what can or cannot be put in the window of Parliamentarians’ offices.

So I did a little digging. I contacted the Speaker’s office, the Sergeant-at-Arms Office, Canadian Heritage, the House Accommodation Services Office, and the Conservative Whip’s Office. Guess what? There is no policy!

Since there are signs in numerous other windows which were there before Mr. Anders removed his, and which are still there (e.g. “Veterans for Obama ’08 in the Confederation Building), I wanted to know why Mr. Anders’ sign (“Defend Life”) had been singled out for attention and removal. It turns out it was because someone had complained about it. Why? Since other signs remain in windows, it is clear that there have been no complaints about other signs. Thus the complaint has to be not about a sign in a window, but about a sign in a window which was assumed to be a pro-life sign in a window.

Well, I am proud to be pro-life. Being so is not a criminal offence (yet). Expressing my pro-life views is not illegal (yet). What can be more fundamental in the very seat of our democracy than our Charter cherished freedom of expression?

So, I have borrowed Mr. Anders’ innocuous sign and put it in my window in East Block, and there it will stay.

… — Tom Wappel

Why is Wappel free to express his views while Anders was rebuked? The Conservative “hidden agenda” narrative is ready to be resurrected by the media at a moment’s notice. It was a Liberal senate staffer that complained about the sign. What is her opinion of Wappel’s ability to express his opinion on the issue?