It’s getting nasty in Alberta

Well, that didn’t take long. After Alberta Premier Alison Redford promised a few days ago to run a positive campaign, this tweet from one of her staffers regarding Redford’s chief political opponent Danielle Smith from the Wildrose Party,

Amanda Wilkie is listed as the Executive Assistant to the Executive Director of the Office of the Premier (Southern Alberta Office).

Redford cited former Premier Ed Stelmach’s concern about the current election,

Redford says recently, on what she says “must have been a particularly heavy day,” she thought about the speech Premier Ed delivered when he threw in the towel. At the time, Stelmach warned of a “profound danger” that this very election would focus “on personality and U.S-style negative attack politics.”

“He was very specific about that and he was very right,” says Redford, calling this “a pretty emotional time right now in Alberta.”

This latest campaign gaffe comes after the PCs were accused of push polling — Smith’s own father was even allegedly a target of the tactic.

Alberta politics is getting a bit nasty. And as for Wilkie’s tweet? She later apologized,

UPDATE: Danielle Smith has responded,

March 31, 2012 (Calgary, AB): Today Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith issued the following statement in response to comments made by a Staffer in Premier Redford’s Calgary office regarding the Wildrose Family Pack.

“In the last day the question has been raised about why I don’t have children of my own. When David and I married in 2006 we intended to have children together. After a few years we sought help from the Calgary Regional Fertility Clinic. I appreciated the support and assistance of the caring staff as we went through tests and treatments, but in the end we were not successful.

“I consider myself very fortunate to have a terrific stepson, Jonathan, David’s son from a previous marriage. I am also blessed to have grown up in a large family with four siblings who have given me the opportunity to be the auntie of 5 terrific nieces and nephews: Emily, Sam, Chloe, Seyenna and Logan.

“Family is very important to me and I consider this to be a very personal matter. I will not be commenting on it further.”

UPDATE: Alison Redford has responded,

Edmonton, AB – Premier Alison Redford released the following statement today:

“Alberta is made up of all types of families. Each one has a story. Each one is unique. There is no one type of family that is more authentic than the other.

Last night, a tweet was sent that was entirely inappropriate. It was hurtful and does not reflect my values nor those of my campaign in any way.

Once I became aware of the tweet, I called Danielle Smith immediately. I look forward to speaking with her privately.

The young woman who authored the tweet has resigned from her position. From that action I know she understands the gravity of her actions.”

Alberta’s Wildrose way out ahead

Polling done by market research firm Campaign Research was completed last night in Alberta and the results are no short of stunning.

The details:
– Wildrose is leading the PC Party by 9 points across the province among decided voters
– 18,000 households called, 924 responses
– Wildrose leads PC is 49%-25% among men
– PC leads wildrose 34%-30% among women
– Wildrose leads in Calgary and Rural areas
– In Edmonton: PC 28%, WR 23%, NDP 23%, LPA 18%
– Smith leads Redford for “Best Premier” by 3 points

Campaign Research, usually known for internal party polling with conservatives parties in Canada, is about to publicly release this poll. CR had the polling accurate in the Toronto mayoral race and predicted a majority government for the federal Conservatives early. In the 2011 Ontario election they had the seat projection accurate and were off by only one seat.

UPDATE: Here are the poll details

Early budget details

It’s budget week for the federal government and as we’ve seen with previous budgets, some details are starting to leak out already. Here are some likely details we’re learning:

– House of Commons has offered a 6.9% budget cut in the SOR
– Katimavik’s funding will be ended.

What I’m hearing:
– 10% CBC budget cut
– 8% total spending cut for government spending
– shift in public sector pensions towards a 50-50 plan (won’t get there this year, of course)
– MP travel points and spousal travel points to be cut by a certain degree

Please add reported cuts and rumours of cuts in the comments.

Thomas Mulcair’s NDP

Seven Months, 131,000 members, 69,000 votes, 4 ballots, Thomas Mulcair: 57%. This past weekend in Toronto, the federal New Democrats elected the next leader of their party and Her Majesty’s Leader of the Loyal Opposition. Riding the so-called Orange Wave to an unprecedented 103 seats in the 41st General Election, NDP spirits were buoyed at convention despite the purpose of their task, to replace the much-beloved Jack Layton, who passed away last year.

For all of the hype and hope, the convention was marred by low voter turnout. Out of 131,000+ members, only 69,000 of them voted and many of those votes were aggravated over the course of the day of voting as voting systems jammed. For comparison’s sake, in 2004, 67,000 votes were cast for Stephen Harper’s leadership among Conservatives on the first ballot. As press gallery reporters look to flat-tires on campaign buses as metaphors for electoral viability, the voting issues did not help Canadians see confidence in the NDP.

In the end, NDP members chose Thomas Mulcair, however, today the party is divided. Mulcair’s chief rival, Brian Topp, was the pick of many Layton loyalists, organized labour and the old-guard of the party. Indeed, Ed Broadbent’s characterization of Mulcair during the leadership race has caused division among the ranks.

Thomas Mulcair was seen as a darkhorse candidate from Quebec. His bio describes him as a former provincial Liberal cabinet minister, and reports have linked his interests to Conservative Party candidacy, Mulcair can be described as a political chameleon. Many will doubt his sincerity as a leader of social democrats. Maclean’s magazine recently opined that he is more accurately described as a Liberal that would rather defend the status quo than agitate for social change. His supporters weren’t the dyed-in-the-wool NDP partisans, but more so they were those attracted to the spectacle of politics.

Will Thomas Mulcair lead the NDP to greater electoral fortunes? In 2003, the conservative family was split between two major parties: the Progressive Conservatives under Peter MacKay and the Canadian Alliance under Stephen Harper. Mulcair may see a path to victory by building a formal coalition of sorts between the Liberal Party and the NDP. With mergers and cooperation, Stephen Harper was the ideologue, while the PC party the centrists. If polarization of the electorate is to serve the NDP, the formula may not be correct as Mulcair is leading as a non-ideological centrist perhaps looking to broker an arrangement with a weaker centrist party.

Politically who benefits and loses from a Mulcair victory?

Mulcair’s appeal to a certain part of the NDP’s traditional base may be shaky. Mulcair is seen more of a patrician than a man-of-the-people. Critics have called him cold and arrogant. To connect with blue-collar (Joe and Jane Lunch-bucket) types, the French-cuff-shirted image Mulcair carries may benefit the Conservatives. Mulcair risks losing touch with the type of middle-class clock-punching Sun-reading populists.

Geographically, the Mulcair NDP will be very competitive in Quebec further retrenching the traditional positions of the Liberal Party and the Bloc. The last bastions of strong Liberal support are Montreal and Toronto. Mulcair’s riding is in downtown Montreal. Westerners will perceive an urban elitist Quebecker lecturing their region on energy policy and the oilsands. Mulcair was a former resource minister in Charest’s cabinet who allegedly resigned on environmental principles. Pipeline politics is not only a major factor in the American Presidential election cycle, but here too in Canada. The Northern Gateway pipeline is a major sticking point in BC and Alberta. Mulcair’s leadership will fix the geographic and issue focal point too far East and too far disconnected for Western sentiment. Where the NDP is competitive therefore, is not where the Conservatives are competitive. Under Mulcair’s leadership, the NDP is competitive where they find the Liberals as their chief rival.

The NDP and the Conservatives see common goal in the elimination of the Liberal Party. Mulcair can help achieve this by showing impressive opposition to Stephen Harper’s government in a majority leaving the over-covered Liberal Party with less airtime. He can also start appealing to common left-leaning principles to make them the brand of the NDP. Viable electability for the NDP will not just come through recasting the Conservative scandal-of-the-week to the Ottawa press (a strategy that failed Ignatieff) but voters will be attracted to specific hallmark policies that the NDP now must craft for more than 25% of the electorate (and haphazard Quebec voters). Mulcair must avoid the elitist label and speak on pocketbook issues in order to protect NDP gains.

Winning with only 57% of the vote on the final ballot and with a bellicose Topp holding on to the bitter end just to oppose a Mulcair leadership, the victor has fences to mend in his party. Though a new party leader has the prerogative of filling his office with his own loyalists, he’ll have to handle the inevitable departure of senior figures with as much grace as possible. Mulcair also faces the possibility of losing the labour segment of the NDP base. Though CUPE eventually endorsed the new NDP leader, most of the other unions supported Topp (some were for Nash then Topp). The Liberal strategy moving forward should be to capture disgruntled union stakeholders and bring them into Liberal decision making processes. The CAW famously left Layton for Martin during the 2004 election and a former socialist premier of Ontario might be the one to bring them back into the smaller red tent.

The Conservative strategy on Mulcair will be to encourage those that dislike Harper to fall into Mulcair’s camp at the expense of the Liberals because the Harper Tories still see the Liberals as their chief rivals. As for the votes the Conservatives can get, their main message will be jobs and the economy and tht theirs is the only party that is focusing on the same while the other parties focus on special interests and themselves.

British budget today

The coalition government of Prime Minister David Cameron unveiled their budget today in Westminster. Not billed as an austerity budget as has been done in years past, the Tories are spinning the budget as a “Radical, Reforming Budget” that “supports work”.

Well, that sure is a bit of a departure from the no-drama sounding names of the last few Canadian budgets. Indeed, while Canada’s 2012 will have major spending cuts, the home Conservatives will be spinning the budget using terms such as “job creating”, “responsible leadership”, “economic growth”.

The highlights of the UK budget are:
Reduction of maximum personal income tax rate from 50% to 45%. In Canada, including income tax for Ontario, the maximum rate is about 40%.

Stamp tax of 7% on property sales worth over £2 million. This creates a new maximum tier for property sales, as the previous max was a 5% tax on property over £1 million.

Net debt of 63% GDP. Canada’s is 30.4% and the OECD average is 71.4%

Increase of personal allowance taking 2 million taxpayers off the tax rolls (with other cuts) and increasing the standing of the basic rate taxpayer by £526.

Means testing for the Child Benefit. Canada does not have a means test for the Universal Child Care Tax credit, though it does for the Child tax benefit. Australia has income tested their Family Tax Benefit.

Reduction of corporate tax rate to 24% (22% by 2014). Canada’s corporate tax rate is 15%.

Conservatives release new ads

Pivoting from a deflating robocall narrative in the Mainstream Media, the Conservatives have released a couple of ads today for news reaction and twitter convulsion. The ads themselves were released late last night on YouTube just under the by-election blackout required on party advertising. For today, they’ll play as earned media among reporters who will either be intrigued or outraged by the ads. I’m told that there’s a real media buy behind the ads and they’ll play in markets where the Liberals pose the main competition to the Conservatives.

Why attack an interim leader of a third-place party? First, nobody is foolish enough to dismiss Bob Rae’s real plan to run for permanent leader of the Liberal Party. His office has dropped “interim” in most communications and there are billboards in Toronto with his face trying to coax left-wing votes back into the Liberal camp. I cannot remember any time when the “interim” leader of a party was featured so heavily in party communications and advertising. It seems that both the Conservatives and the Liberals understand that Bob Rae wants to be Canada’s next Prime Minister. As for third party status? Most observers believe that the Liberal Party will rebound somewhat and may even take over as the second place party. If media attention is any gauge, the gathering of flacks at January’s Liberal convention was something to behold.

Further, the NDP doesn’t have a leader yet and running ads against Nycole Turmel would just seem odd, wouldn’t it? Odd in a way that isn’t at all similar to running ads against Rae.

In January, Bob Rae invited a debate on his record. Today, the Conservatives are showing that they’re all to eager to have that debate. Why now? It is never too early to define one’s political opponent. Also, advertising rates on television are much cheaper at this time of year.

UPDATE: Bob Rae reacts,

The Liberals will be asking Canadians to help them fight back against the Conservative attack ads.

“We’ll fight fire with fire,” Liberal interim leader Bob Rae’s spokesman Dan Lauzon told HuffPost. “They want to talk economic record? Stephen Harper took a $13 B surplus and turned it into the biggest deficit in Canadian history ($56 billion), added $125 billion to the national debt and since he became Prime Minister, 270,000 more Canadians are out of work.”

The scale of that response will depend on how generous Canadians will be in our appeal to fight back, Lauzon said.

“Of course, the people of Toronto-Danforth will get the first chance to respond today – and tonight’s conservative results will speak volumes of how these kinds of attacks are perceived by voters,” he added.

Campaigning in the Toronto-Danforth riding, Rae appeared eager to defend his record as Ontario premier and unphazed by the Conservatives attack ads which will officially begin airing Tuesday.

“I started subways, they destroyed them; I build social housing, they destroy it; I build people up. They tear them down… Plus the Blue Jays won the world series twice when I was Premier,” Rae said.

Ok, now he’s taking credit for the Jays winning the World Series?

Competition lives here

CBC Music launched its digital music download service in the last few weeks.

I can’t help but notice the similarity in the branding of the campaign launch to Google Plus’ offering:

Why is CBC competing with private industry in sectors which are clearly emergent and profitable for businesses and corporations? Why is the government investing in taking up market share from innovators and entrepreneurs?

Update: A reader points out that CBC is redirecting music purchasers to BBC and iTunes. So, CBC is staffing a music portal to help the private sector?

Canadian spectrum announcement

The Harper government has just released word that it is making significant policy changes to ownership of the Canadian spectrum with respect to wireless telecom use.

The highlights:
Relaxing foreign ownership rules allows an influx of investment and capital into the Canadian wireless telecommunications industry. Wind mobile required an exemption from cabinet in order to proceed with their entry into the sector. Today’s announcement formalizes the government’s obvious inclinations towards foreign investment in telecom. However, the government does bear one strike against it as it famously nixed foreign takeover of Potash Corp two years ago to save Conservative seats in Saskatchewan. Populist protests such as last year’s Usage Based Billing imbroglio likely helped tip today’s decision. These announcements shows that the government reacts with popular opinion. The NDP will find it difficult to oppose with intellectual honesty as their nationalizing preference to larger industry directly opposed the easiest method by which prices would go down and service could improve; the NDP while backing consumer interests cannot be for telecom protectionism.

Spectrum caps will prevent companies from monopolizing ownership of the limited public good that is the wireless spectrum. What this will do is allow more companies to own parts of the Canadian spectrum, meaning increased competition and diversity of choice in the Canadian marketplace.

Rural spectrum. The government looks like it’ll force spectrum bidders to provide rural services should they wish to bid for more lucrative and profitable urban access. As Air Canada flies non-profitable routes to service major centres, the spectrum bidders will have to service what the government views as necessary infrastructure development as it sells its public good. I’m mixed on this aspect of the announcement because it will hinder deployment and innovation in an industry that has rapid technological turnover.

All-in-all a good announcement and the formalization of policy which will help introduce competition to the cartel of wireless providers that cause Canada to have among the highest wireless rates in the developed world.

Why did the media play naive?

From an earlier post seven days ago,

A lot of ink and broadcast bandwidth has been dedicated to 31,000 “complaints” filed with Elections Canada regarding the so-called Robocall Scandal. The opposition is trying to construct a media narrative of a broad orchestrated conspiracy. Elections Canada instead reports that 31,000 “contacts” have been reported. What’s the difference, you ask?

Well, let’s take a look at leadnow.ca’s petition. The second addressed recipient of the petition is William H. Corbett, Commissioner of Elections Canada. Today, Leadnow’s petition boasts 39,677. No small feat however, this petition was likely emailed out to leadnow’s list which has been built off of previous petitions (and campaigns). A signature petition to demand a public inquiry does not a specific complaint of voter suppression make. Indeed, for those looking for the truth in the matter, flooding Elections Canada’s inbox only makes it more difficult to find the needles of legitimate complaints (if they exist) in the ever-growing spamstack. Troubling has been the media’s tone and volume on these contacts as they are seemingly equating lazily clicking a mouse and joining (re-joining) leadnow’s mailing list with the effective filing of a police report.

And today we learn what we already knew,

Online form letters behind ‘majority’ of 31,000 robo-call complaints

Elections Canada says the bulk of the 31,000 messages it’s received from Canadians concerning fraudulent robo-calls in the 2011 ballot were merely form letters.

“The majority of those contacts were made via automated forms or online form letters,” agency spokesman John Enright said Monday.

Form letters such as those generated by activist website Leadnow.ca – which encourages Canadians to submit them – do not spell out an allegation about specific robo-calls but merely raise concern about the subject.