Ignatieff leadership gain of LeBlanc and the scuttling of the Liberal-NDP coalition?

News that is late-breaking tonight suggests that Liberal MP Dominic Leblanc will drop out of the Liberal leadership race and endorse Michael Ignatieff. It is rumoured that Leblanc will provide Ignatieff with an additional nine members of the Liberal caucus in what is shaping up to be a backroom leadership election by caucus. Leblanc’s move over to the Ignatieff camp should be smooth for Leblanc supporters as some senior east-coast Liberal organizers who were initially eyeing Frank McKenna for the top job of that party chose Leblanc instead. New Brunswicker Steve McKinnon, who would have backed McKenna has blazed charted the waters for martime Liberals to sail over to Ignatieff.

This late development means that Bob Rae, who is beating a path coast-to-coast promoting the coalition concept, finds himself further behind now that Ignatieff enjoys an even more comfortable lead among caucus colleagues. Somewhat ironic is the fact that the coalition deal was struck out of a sense of urgency (or opportunity) to topple the Harper government and that this sense of urgency is also driving the Liberal party to select a leader via caucus selection. Strategically, Rae should now advocate for a period of Liberal introspection, an abandonment of the push to a coalition with the Bloc and to have a real (yet delegated) full-blown leadership election. As it stands, Rae would fare worse under the urgent scenario than that which allows the Prime Minister to stay in power for now.

And why not? Some time for the Liberal party to heal might do them some good. Joining up with the NDP erodes the brand of both parties and upsets each ideological base. True, those that seek power despite principle would rather see Stephen Harper evicted from 24 Sussex tomorrow. However, for the longterm livelihood of the Liberal party they ought to take some time out to rebuild, to fundraise and to craft an original policy platform – one without the word “shift”.

If Michael Ignatieff does assume the helm of the Liberal Party through caucus selection, the January throne speech/budget combo should pass through Liberal abstention. Poll numbers are showing poor support for a Liberal-NDP coalition and Ignatieff himself has never been warm to the idea of coalition. Besides, don’t you get the sense that Iggy is the sort who plays the long game rather than leaps before he looks? A number of Liberals in caucus have privately expressed concerns over the coalition proposal and most scenarios of how a coalition would play out are unknown and therefore should be somewhat worrisome to most.

For Mr. Dion, the coalition concoction was to be his magical elixir which promised new life. Realistically, his leadership prospects have been long dead. For Mr. Rae to avoid a quick demise, he should insist upon a delegated leadership election as planned meaning that the coalition ought to be on hold for now or done like Dion.

Dion will implement carbon tax even if there’s a recession

After a joint address to the Empire Club and Canadian Club yesterday, Stephane Dion faced reporters. The exchange between Richard Madan from City and Dion was interesting.

MADAN (Voiceover): But Dion has shifted his own tune lately, suggesting that Canada may be headed into recession. And he only mentioned his controversial Green Shift plan just once at the end of his speech.

MADAN (to Dion): You mentioned “recession” in your speech. So if indeed Canada does hit a recession will you delay implementing your carbon tax?

DION: First, it’s not that. It’s the Green Shift.

MADAN: No, I know. But the question is: if things get worse, will you delay implementing a carbon tax, Green Shift, whatever you want to call it? Will you delay it?

DION: It’s not carbon tax, it’s a Green Shift. It’s to put a cost…

MADAN (interupts): Will you delay it?

DION: No, because it’ll be good for the economy.

Did you get that? If Canada falls into recession, Dion believes his “don’t call it a carbon tax” Green Shift will be just want Canada needs to get out of the storm.

Recently, Maclean’s editor Andrew Coyne has stated that he believes that there may be something to it when Harper complains that Canada’s opposition is “cheering for a recession”.

The Opposition parties have gone mad with attacks explaining that Mr. Harper doesn’t care about the economy because he’s not panicking. The opposition will be upset to learn that the World Economic Forum has declared Canada’s banking system the most stable in the world.

There have been cries of dissent from Dion’s own ranks on the Green Shift and it’s timetable for implementation. Liberal candidate Shawn Murphy told the Charlottetown Guardian on September 12th, “This winter, I don’t think you’re going to see the green shift even if the Liberals got elected.” Former Minister of Revenue John McCallum conceded about Dion’s carbon tax, “I cannot say to you that no Canadian will be unharmed by this… it’s not going to be totally painless for every human being”.

Even former NDP Ontario Premier Bob Rae is
sounding more lucid on the economy as he suggested yesterday that the implementation of the carbon tax should be delayed.

There’s an old saying that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. While Mr. Dion’s plan aims to address environmental concerns with his plan, the ballot question will ask who is the best manager of the economy as crises become a daily occurrence in foreign markets. Canada has a sound economic position — indeed, the fundamentals are strong — and while members of his own team have second thoughts about his carbon tax, Mr. Dion is ready to add new untested variables to the economic equation in a time that calls for the kind of stability that comes from an economist Prime Minister rather than untested tax theory from a man who is not.

“Clearly, our leader won the debate”

You’ll hear this line from every party but the first public utterance of it that I saw was from the Liberal camp on twitter:

“Stéphane Dion won decisively! He clearly demonstrated that he is the only leader with a credible plan for Canada’s economy!”

This might be the same “credible plan” that was introduced on the floor of the NAC tonight by Dion that CTV commentators admitted reminded them of Paul Martin’s “Hail Mary” Not Withstanding Clause policy at the 2006 leader’s debate. Nobody heard about this plan until tonight. Having already released their platform, which was or wasn’t about the Green Shift depending on what polls Liberal strategists were reading in a given day, the Liberals seem to have released a second draft of their platform tonight. On the economy, is Stephane Dion making it up as he goes along?

The Liberals are stuck in a difficult place during this election. The Green Shift was a train that had already left the station and for Mr. Dion one that was already serving dinner in the dining car when Canadians suddenly became fixed upon the economy. For a serious political party that is vying for power, it is not simply enough to attack a party on an issue — especially one on which one’s rival is strong — but one must also define the path that a party’s leader would take should he or she become Prime Minister. What is astounding, is that Dion is reacting to the global economic crisis like an investor that gets the market numbers from the local TV news between the weather and sports. On the twenty-third day of the election campaign, Dion derails the train and tries to make it hop the tracks. Instead of being proactive on the economy, Dion is reactive.

For the Conservatives, this is an easy pick-up because it underlines the message they’ve been carrying as one of their main themes since this campaign started: Harper represents stability and Dion represents risk. What a disaster it was to see Mr. Dion drop his bombshell so quietly on the debate floor while the other leaders simply paused and moved on. Mr. Dion appeared but as one of four opposition voices — hardly dominant — against the Prime Minister and for Mr. Harper, representing one pole of a polar argument doesn’t exactly hurt his chances.

The most heated exchanges during the debate occurred between Stephen Harper and Gilles Duceppe, the two front runners of the election in Quebec. On the issues of 14/16 year-olds going to prison for serious crime and repeat offenses, Harper with rare emotion for the evening responded by backing up his plan with third party endorsements of the idea from a police union president and the head of a victim’s rights group. On the Quebec nation and Mr. Duceppe’s two day hesitation and subsequent reversal on the motion that declared Quebec a nation within a united Canada, Mr. Harper demonstrated strength. However, on most other issues such as the environment and the arts, the four-on-one atmosphere that Duceppe led for most of the evening showed the Prime Minister defending his record, the default position for any incumbent.

Will this debate move numbers in Quebec? Likely not. For Mr. Harper, this may mean that he might need a scripting change for that province in order to produce a game-changer that may light a fire under his numbers there. On the other hand, Bloc support may have firmed up on the island of Montreal and the numbers breakdown outside of the city may float Mr. Harper in the more conservative regions of la belle province in order to secure that majority.

Liberals from Alberta jump shift

Yesterday, Stephane Dion abandoned the Green Shift as a central plank of his campaign while the Liberal war-room and other senior Liberal communication officials did their best to shift the story by denying the departure.

Today, as revealed by the Calgary Herald, we see that the Liberals in Alberta are splitting from the rest of the candidates by releasing their own platform called the “made-in-Alberta agenda”. This rogue platform which promises free tuition for first year undergrads and a national pharmacare strategy shows that the Liberal Party’s Alberta candidates aren’t waiting around for Stephane Dion to flip-flop on ideas that are important to them.

In an election, the candidates are the team and the leader is the captain. Now, the Alberta candidates are off playing their own game while captain Dion is madly erasing the team’s chalkboard and fails to come up with any new plays.

Can you imagine a Prime Minister Stephane Dion that can’t implement his own agenda because his Alberta caucus has gone rogue? What does this say about Dion’s leadership when his team is turning their backs on Dion’s plan for winning this election?

Click here to download the “Made-in-Alberta” agenda

Abandon Shift!

In Winnipeg today, Stephane Dion gave his stump speech but Bob Fife from CTV noticed that it was lacking something. Fife noticed that Dion only mentioned “Green Shift” once in his speech and did not mention the carbon tax once. The CTV reporter asked if the Green Shift was still central to the campaign. Dion responded, “You have said it was but never me”

Stephane Dion in the Kingston Whig-Standard July 26th 2008,

“The answer is yes. It [the Green Shift plan] is at the heart of our strategy but it’s not our whole strategy.”

When was the last time a party leader, running to become Prime Minister framed an issue as a referendum as an election period? That would have been Brian Mulroney with free trade. I cannot remember the last time an opposition leader has done so, and for Dion to abandon his central policy plank mid-campaign, Liberals and Canadians will lose confidence in the man during an election which is also defined by leadership.

Kennedy campaign calls for SUVs fulfilling wrong type of carbon challenge

The following is a volunteer newsletter from the Gerard Kennedy campaign. Emphasis is mine, you can skim the rest.

The Gerard Daily Times

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A Kind-of Daily Newsletter from the Gerard Kennedy Campaign for

The Federal Riding of Parkdale High Park

A Day in the Eyes of a Volunteer…
I dropped into the new office at 2920 Dundas West today at 11 o’clock. I’d been out of town for a week and the last time I saw it was when we were looking for a new location for what was to be the Liberal Riding Association campaign office.

Wow … what a change!

From a vast empty space punctuated with furniture lying around willy-nilly, 2920 was transformed into a bustling campaign office. Gerard had just returned from the Terry Fox Run (he thinks he finished in the first ten, but only time will tell if that was just wishful thinking). He was scouting around for a place to take a shower so he could take off again smelling more like an MP than a marathon runner.

Campaign manager Jason Easton had staked out his office space under a giant map of the riding. He, like everyone else, was surrounded by files, facts and figures.

Karin McNair informed me that the week had been really busy. For one thing, she needed folks to look after the phones and reception desk. She’d ended up doing a lot for that herself during the previous few days. While I was there Chandra came in to help out. Karin is still looking for volunteers at reception, especially for the evenings.

Ruth showed me the phone banks we’re hoping to fill with eager telephone volunteers. Gerard had been out canvassing the day before, and had also been at the Ukrainian and Polish festivals. He had a list of people who wanted to put up lawn signs.

Karin was registering them and trying to figure out the best way to get the signs onto their lawns. Her big problem was the people who want big signs. We really need some folks with SUVs or small trucks to deliver the larger size signs.

Veronica Wynne flew in briefly to pick up some signs and literature. She was on her way down to Boor West Village to encourage people to sign up for the Carbon Challenge. Even with the election preparations in full swing, we still have to get the word out about reducing our carbon footprint.

In the meantime, Ruth was posting her “Wish List” on the office door. For what is she hoping? Another small office table at which more people can work, a small couch and possibly some folding chairs. And ever mindful of the wellbeing of volunteers, Ruth is also hoping that sometimes people will stop by with sandwiches or snacks!

There is lots of activity and lots to be done. I need to get up to speed on the urgent need for poll captains, for instance. And a meeting regarding fundraising is scheduled for tonight, as well as a general planning meeting to follow.

Things are buzzing at the campaign office, but they’d buzz a bit louder if you were there. There’s an awful lot to be done!

– Sue Cox
Parkdale-High Park Federal Liberal Riding Association

Oh Danny Boy!

“A majority government for Stephen Harper would be one of the most negative political events in Canadian history” — Danny Williams, Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador

These were Danny Williams words last week as reported by CTV.ca.

Stephane Dion is in BC today trying to sell that province on the benefits of yet another carbon tax. The folks in BC aren’t buying as their own provincial carbon tax has been very unpopular. Dion’s tour lands its carbon belching jet in BC while gas prices are higher than they’ve been in recent memory. While gas prices have risen due in part to Hurricane Ike ravaging the Texan coastline, British Columbians aren’t likely to give Dion a hero’s welcome.

So why is Danny Williams running an ABC (anyone but conservative campaign)? For Newfoundland and Labrador this would only amount to electing more Liberals.

Oil producing economies such as Saskatchewan and Alberta have already slammed Dion’s plan. Why would Danny Williams want to hurt his own province’s economic future? Despite the obvious masochism in Danny’s begging for taxation that will affect jobs in his resource sector, Stephane Dion’s carbon tax will have real-world effects for everyday Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

The “Caribou” ferry uses 41,000 litres of fuel (partially diesel, partially bunker) to travel one way between NS and NL. By working to help the Liberals form government, Danny would be advocating a 7 cent per litre tax be applied directly to Marine Atlantic crossings. How would he reconcile that? This ferry service is a vital link for residents of that province to access the rest of Canada. Stephen Harper’s recent announcement cutting the excise tax on diesel goes directly against Dion’s plan for increased taxation. Since Newfoundlanders and Labradorians import most of their food, Dion’s carbon tax will be felt quickly as most food arrives by diesel-fueled trucks and ferry.

The fishery is also an integral part of the economy in Newfoundland and Labrador. Fishers use diesel fuel and will also face a 7 cent per litre tax increase under Stephane Dion’s plan. How can Danny Williams say he is standing up for fishers when he supports Stephane Dion’s carbon tax?

Danny has received a lot of political mileage when it comes to facing off against the federal government. He did so under previous Liberal administrations. However, while Newfoundlanders and Labradorians may appreciate Danny’s right-or-wrong hard-headed defense of their province, on support for Dion and, by extension, his carbon tax-centred political platform, Danny is wrong.

To the McGuintys is Dion a four letter word in Ottawa South?

Ottawa South is the federal riding of David McGuinty and the provincial riding of his brother, the Premier of Ontario.

On Monday, the Liberal Premier of Ontario Dalton McGuinty refused to endorse the federal Liberal leader Stephane Dion and even passed on endorsing the man’s key policy plank. From the Toronto Star,

McGuinty vowed to remain neutral other than campaigning with his brother, Liberal incumbent David McGuinty (Ottawa South).

While McGuinty said his aides would be allowed to help federal Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion “on their own time,” he took a veiled shot at the federal party’s Green Shift carbon-emission reduction program, which would tax fossil fuel consumption in exchange for income and corporate tax cuts. “I’ve got my own particular approach when it comes to dealing with carbon emissions. We believe in a cap-and-trade system.”

David McGuinty is Stephane Dion’s shadow minister of the environment. However, at the time of this writing, on his campaign website you will david-mcguinty of Dion’s showcase policy, the Green Shift. The younger brother of the Premier also supported Michael Ignatieff during the leadership race and praised him for wanting to put a price on carbon, essentially what Dion is proposing by using the taxation powers of the federal government. So why no mention of the Green Shift by Dion’s Green Lieutenant in Parliament?

Though David has eyed running for leadership of the federal party in the past, it is his brother Dalton who may be positioning himself for a run for the top Liberal job in the country (until recently that used to also almost always include the job of PM itself — it comes with a bonus and a drafty house). Dalton McGuinty is the first Liberal in Ontario to win back-to-back majority governments in 70 years and before the economy slips and as Ontario flirts dangerously with have-not status, Dalton may be looking to upgrade. As a Liberal with governing experience he would provide solid competition but clearer red-orange contrast to the presumed Liberal front-runner post-Dion, the former NDP Premier of Ontario Bob Rae. After years of government at Queen’s Park, McGuinty would also bring a solid camp of support to a future leadership race against the numbers that are grouping behind Rae.

So are the McGuintys looking to run their own campaign to Dump Dion? Though still winnable by Conservatives if they get out the vote with their candidate Elie Salibi (a Lebanese Canadian with solid community support), Ottawa South is considered safe by Liberal strategists. The McGuintys may be looking to give their 1% effort for Stephane Dion while setting up brother Dalton for a shot at the PMO.

On Liberal carbon tax hikes and Conservative excise tax cuts

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities put out this release today:

FCM Campaign Reality Check

Conservative Diesel Tax Cut proposal does nothing for transit riders, systems

A two cent cut in the excise tax on diesel fuel is worth $ 9.2 million per year to Canada’s transit systems – less than one quarter of one percent of their $ 4.8 billion in annual operating costs (Source: Canadian Urban Transit Association, 2007).

The proposed cut will cost the federal treasury $600 million per year. Less than two percent of those dollars, or one dollar in 60, will directly benefit transit systems.

A Strategic Counsel survey released last week showed that 8 in 10 Canadians think the federal government should dedicate more of its fuel tax revenues to repairing and building public transit systems. This announcement does not touch on investment needs.

Six in 10 Canadians say they would be more likely to take public transit if service was improved. The excise tax cut will do nothing to get more buses on the road or improve existing commuter rail service.

One in five Canadians are ready to switch to public transit because of the high price of filling up their cars. But most urban transit systems are at or beyond capacity at peak hours. New federal funding – not marginal tax cuts – are needed to help Canadians make the switch from cars to transit.

The priority for transit systems are for new investments, not cuts to the fuel tax.

For more information, contact: Maurice Gingues, FCM – (613) 907-6395

The mayor of Ottawa sent the following email out to all of the major city mayors across Canada:

The excise tax cut announced today by Stephen Harper was targeted towards farmers and truckers. However, as a side benefit, it helps municipalities which use diesel fuel for their buses and other forms of mass transit. The FCM complains that more could be done for transit costs by the federal government, however, today they were handed an unexpected bonus.