Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Harper's Conservatives hire Lynton Crosby top Aussie campaign strategist

Ottawa - Stephen Harper's Conservatives have hired well-known Aussie political strategist, Lynton Crosby, to be a campaign adviser. Crosby has had several successful ventures into foreign politics.
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Crosby is credited with helping David Cameron win a majority government in the UK earlier this year. Some Conservatives are questioning the performance of campaign director Jenni Byrne. However, no party has managed to really pull ahead in a close three-way race. The Conservatives may hope Crosby's expertise will help them pull into the lead.
Crosby also helped plan the successful campaign in 2008 that elected Boris Johnson mayor of London, and he repeated this success in 2012. He helped Australian Prime Minister John Howard in 1998 and 2001. He also aided in the 2010 and 2013 federal campaigns as a strategist for Tony Abbott. Often Crosby works in conjunction with the Crosby-Textor group a consulting firm founded by Crosby and Australian pollster Mark Textor in 2002. The firm has run over 250 campaigns in 57 different countries. It requires experts to steer the populace in the right direction. So successful has Crosby been that he is often called the "Wizard of Oz" or "master of the dark political arts." Whatever his methods, he seems adept at applying them successfully. However he does not always win out. In March 2009 he directed the Europe-wide Libertas campaign for the EU parliamentary elections. Libertas ran 600 candidates and elected just one person to the European Parliament.
Crosby focuses on simple messages that polling suggests will have the desired results, often targeting specific groups only marginally involved in politics. In closely contested constituencies these tactics may produce enough votes to win for the party he is working for. He uses lots of polls to determine what ads are likely to be most effective. He often runs focus groups to find which groups to target with what questions using Textor's skills. In close constituencies he will search out local issues and ensure the campaign is properly tailored to the specific situation rather than concentrating on general policies.
Crosby is famous or infamous for using a wedge strategy, where a party exploits divisive social issues such as crime, race, or immigration to attract some members of other parties to favour the party he is working for. A famous example is John Howard's 2001 campaign in Australia. Howard had turned away the refugee-vessel MV Tampa with 440 people on board. Large ads appeared in newspapers boasting:"We decide who comes into this country." The entry on Cosby in Wikepdia notes:" During the 2001 Australian federal elections, Howard government ministers falsely claimed that seafaring asylum seekers had thrown children overboard in a presumed ploy to secure rescue and passage to Australia." Allegedly, this was part of Crosby's strategy.
Some critics have complained that the Conservatives are violating Canadian electoral laws by using Crosby: The Canada Elections Act specifies that it is illegal for anyone who is not a Canadian citizen or permanent resident to “in any way induce electors” to vote or refrain from voting for a particular candidate.
A spokesperson for the commissioner of elections says that providing advice to a campaign or working for a campaign is not considered inducement. Crosby is not doing the inducing just those whom he is advising. If you work for a campaign by going door to door or even distributing pamphlets this would surely be inducing people to vote for a particular candidate. I expect that it is not uncommon for parties to recruit campaigners of this sort from other countries when it is possible. The NDP and the Liberals have both sought advice from Obama strategists.
We can already see some movement in the direction of introducing a wedge issue in Harper's insistence that refugees admitted to Canada must be properly vetted to ensure that no terrorists are allowed in. While this requirement in itself is reasonable enough it could easily be turned into an excuse for not letting in many refugees and also be developed as part of the politics of fear that Harper often uses to promote his policies. Trudeau appears to worry about this and hence ends up supporting Harper's anti-terror legislation even while he claims he disagrees with it.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Latest polls conflict but race is close with no one party forging ahead

Two recent polls show Liberals now leading the NDP but the margin is so slim that it is virtually a tie. Another recent poll shows the Liberals and Conservatives tied for the lead with the NDP third. Another recent poll shows the NDP clearly in the lead.
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These polls provide a golden opportunity for each party to choose a poll which favors them enabling them to claim that their campaign is progressing well. The most recent CBC poll tracker averages a number of recent polls up to September 9 but there have been two new polls since then and another is expected today. Two of three recent polls in the poll tracker averages put the Liberals ahead but the averages bring the results to a statistical tie with the NDP.
Averages as of Sept 9 are: Conservatives, 28 percent a gain of a whole percentage point from the last averages; NDP 31.6, a decline of 0.7 percent; the Liberals 31.5 percent, a gain of 0.2 percent. For the first time seat predictions favor the Liberals at 119, versus 113 for the NDP, and 105 for the Conservatives. Obviously the race for seats is also tightening up.
A new Nanos poll with results from Septmber 10 show the Liberals and Conservatives tied at 31 percent with the NDP at 30 percent. Given the margin of error this is no doubt a statistical tie among all three major parties. This poll was not included in the CBC poll-tracker averages. Another poll not included in the average comes from Forum research. This poll headlines the NDP as having a clear lead unlike other recent polls. The NDP garners 36 percent of the vote with the Liberals at 29 percent and Conservatives at 28. The poll was taken September 9 and 10.
Eric Grenier of summed up the situation as he saw it on Friday: A trend away from the Conservatives and towards the Liberals is definitely taking place in this campaign. But it seems that the narrative of the NDP-Liberal switchers does not particularly hold. Since Week 2, the New Democrats have been steady. The gains the Liberals have made seem to have come from the Conservatives.Grenier updates the averages for CBC poll-tracker. Since I started this article there has been an update that incorporates the two recent polls I mentioned.
Updated poll-tracker results are: Conservatives at 29.7 per cent up 1.7 percent from last polls; Liberals at 29.8 percent, down 1.7 per cent from last polls; and NDP back in the lead at 32 percent with a gain of 0.4 percent. The averages do not support Grenier's remarks about the Liberals gaining votes at the expense of the Conservatives rather than the NDP. The polls show that the Conservatives in the latest polls are gaining votes at the expense of the Liberals showing a reversal in the trend Grenier detected. In seat projections, the NDP are first again at 115; and the Conservatives second with 113, with the Liberals at 109. However, the three are all so close anyone could win. There is no sign yet of anyone pulling out from the pack or even approaching the 170 seats needed for a majority government.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Liberals gaining ground as NDP lead shrinks in latest polls

New CBC poll-tracker averages show the NDP lead is shrinking, the Liberals are gaining ground, and the Conservatives have sunk to third place.
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The CBC poll-tracker of averages now has three polls in September to add to its averages. The results up to September 2 are: Conservatives, 27.7 percent of the vote down 1.7 percent from last average; Liberals 29.5 percent, up 1.8 percent; the NDP 32.1 percent up 0.9 percent.
Seat projections based upon the above averages are: Conservatives 101; NDP 122; Liberals 114 and Green party one. The NDP are nowhere near the 170 seats needed for a majority. The Conservatives have now dropped to third place in seats as well as popular vote percentage. On social media the Conservatives at first appear to be doing well as shown by graphs here. The Liberals appear to outperform the NDP. However, the data may be misleading as a lot of traffic on Conservative social media is created by critics who lose no opportunity to try to counter Conservative claims. Some of the Conservative media campaign is tried and true. A photo op shows Harper holding a baby.
The NDP appears to be losing considerable support in BC while the Liberals are gaining considerably more support in Ontario. Compared to the last election the Liberals are projected to win 47 more seats.
The most recent poll by Leger in the Globe and Mail this Friday shows: NDP,31 percent; Liberals, 30 percent and Conservatives at 28 percent. On Saturday a Forum poll in the Toronto Star showed: NDP, 36 percent; Liberals, 32 percent and Conservatives at a dismal 24 percent. TheEKOS poll published Friday found: NDP, 30.2 percent; Conservatives, 29.4, and Liberals with 27.7. The NDP appears unable to pull away from the pack while the Liberals are gaining. However, all three main parties are quite close in the polls.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Wild Rose party scores convincing upset in Calgary against Conservatives

The victory for the Wild Rose party in the Calgary-Foothills constituency shows that small-c conservatives still have a good grip on parts of the city. However, the Progressive Conservatives came a dismal third in a riding they held since 1971,
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The Wild Rose party is an offshoot from the Progressive Conservatives (PC) formed when many conservatives became fed up with the performance of the Progressive Conservatives. Polls showed that Wild Rose would win the 2012 April provincial election. The polls were wrong and the Progressive Conservatives won handily. To add insult to injury, in December of last year, the leader of the party, Danielle Smith, and eight other members of the party crossed the floor and joined the Progressive Conservative caucus. Only five members were left in the Wild Rose party in the legislature. This did not result in the demise of the party as many had predicted.
While the NDP led by Rachel Notley in a May election swept to a convincing victory over both conservative parties winning 53 seats, the Wild Rose rose to 21 seats from five, eclipsing the Progressive Conservatives who managed to hold only 10. The new leader of the PCs, Jim Prentice, managed to hold on to his seat in the Calgary-Foothills riding, but he resigned because of the dismal showing of the party under his leadership. This resulted in the present by-election.
The NDP had a high-profile candidate, Bob Hawkesworth, in the riding and the party sent in experienced campaigners from Edmonton to help out. The premier, Rachel Notley even spent some time campaigning door-to-door with Hawkesworth. However, the party managed only a second place finish at 26 percent of the vote. This was quite a bit better than the 3.75 percent it drew in a by-election in October of 2014 but far from the 32 percent it achieved in the May election against then-premier Jim Prentice, coming close to unseating him. However, the NDP faces a grim economic situation with the NDP Finance Minister Joe Ceci announcing the province is headed for a whopping $5.9 billion deficit due to the low prices of oil and reduced royalty revenues among other problems. The economic malaise may reflect negatively on the new NDP government.
The Wild Rose candidate, Prasad Panda, has been a loyal Wild Rose member. He ran for the party twice in the past and lost. Three times and he won. Panda won with about 38 percent of the vote. Panda won by a comfortable margin of more than 1,600 votes. Turnout was low at approximately 39 percent of eligible voters though good for a by-election. Panda is a senior manager at Suncor. He won the nomination against two other candidates back on August 11 with a whopping 770 party members voting.
The new leader of the Wildrose Party, Brian Jean, now can boast that the Wild Rose party could very well be the preferred choice of conservative voters over the Progressive Conservatives. He can also boast an urban seat for a party that is predominantly rural. Jean noted: "I don't think they've ever placed under 40 per cent in this riding. It's the strongest riding they have in Alberta and they've lost it. I think it clearly indicates where Albertans are going and they're going towards a Wildrose future." The PCs did garner under 40 percent of the vote before, but only once in 1989 when the premier lost his own riding even though the Progressive Conservatives won a majority. In this by-election the PCs came third with only 21 percent of the vote less than half of what they usually get and well behind the second place NDP.
No doubt there will be attempts to have the two conservative parties unite again to defeat the NDP next election. However, Wild Rose members may not be anxious to join up with the Conservatives any time soon after their recent experiences. They may believe and perhaps correctly that they can win on their own and that Conservative voters will vote for them during the next elections. The provincial PC brand is badly damaged. I append a right-wing "Rebel" video on the election results.

Civil servant, Tony Turner, being investigated for protest song Harperman

Ottawa - Apparently, working for the Harper government means that you must not write protest songs that are not politically correct according to the Public Service Ethics Code.
Of course the Harper government is notorious for silencing its scientists in other ways as well. A 2014 study of media policies from 16 federal departments concluded that compared to the US, current Canadian policies place far more restrictions on Canadian scientists when it comes to talking to the media. In one instance last year, the Canadian Press sought to speak to federal government scientist Max Bothwell about his work on algae. After an exchange of 110 pages of emails to 16 different federal communications offices an article was published without the interview.
Tony Turner, was not speaking to the media without permission, he was performing with a group of mostly elderly singers, a protest song "Harperman". The song certainly suggests Harper should go and is highly critical of the prime minister as one would expect in a protest song. Most of the issues brought up are well known and established criticisms. For offensiveness it can hardly compete with Pussy Riot!
The Professional Institute for the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) is representing Turner. PIPSC president Debi Daviau said: We will stand up for its members who face the prospect of being disciplined for exercising their democratic rights as citizens. The Supreme Court of Canada has confirmed that public service workers, like all Canadian citizens, benefit from freedom of expression.Daviau said the the position of PIPSC was that Turner had done nothing wrong:“It (the song) had no relation whatever to his duties as a public servant,” Daviau said. Our position is that we believe that Tony Turner hasn’t done anything wrong.He is simply expressing himself through a folk song like any other artist might do.”Turner, a public servant for 19 years is nearing retirement. He was recently assigned to co-ordinate a project that would map priority areas for migratory birds.
Turner has also been active in the folk music scene since 1994. He has several CDs, and his Circle of Song is to be included in a new anthology of Canadian folk songs. The Otttawa folk musicians see the situation as a fight for freedom of speech versus the duty of a public servant of loyalty to the government. Diane McIntyre who sang one of the verses in the video said:“Can’t we make jokes or say anything? Are we all muzzled? This is the politics of fear. I am an activist and singer but mostly I am a citizen and I care about democracy and freedom of speech."
Turner won a songwriting contest with Haperman and this led to a performance at the annual Gil's Hootenanny. Chris White, the artistic director of the Ottawa Folk Festival recorded the song. There is a national singalong on Sept. 17th that will feature the song and it will go ahead whether Turner performs or not. The song was posted on You Tube in June.
Donald Savoie, a political scientist at the University of Moncton claimed that the song "crosses the line of behaviour expected of public servants". He does not say why. He also questioned Turner's judgment in publicly performing it which brought even more attention to the video. Presumably, he wants to bring more attention to the song and video. That is what protests songs are intended to do. Savoie thought that the government's judgment in investigating the song brought more attention to it. This he said risks giving the video more visibility. So what? Apparently we are to understand that the video deserves a certain amount of visibility which is less than it now has. I gather that Savoie thinks the Harper government should try to minimize the effects of protest songs. Perhaps he should apply for a job with the Harper government. Harper needs good tactical political advice right now.

Nova Scotia woman forced to connect to power grid to get occupancy permit

Cheryl Smith was building a small house close to Clark's Harbour, Nova Scotia, Canada a year ago. The house remains unfinished as she has been denied an occupancy permit since her plans do not include hooking up to the electrical grid.
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Near the door of the unfinished small house are two signs, one saying "Freedom of Rights Denied" and the other saying "Work Stopped". Smith said to CTV Atlantic:"I just don't want to leave a big footprint on the earth. If what we're trying to do is move the world into a greener place and make it more environmentally friendly so there's something still left for our children, then why am I being forced to rely on electricity or fossil fuels?"
Clark's Harbour Mayor, Leigh Stoddart, said that while he admires and empathizes with Smith's decision to go green he claimed that the regulations requiring electricity apply Canada-wide and the city could not make an exception. If the regulations are Canada-wide, it is clear they are not enforced. Lasqueti island is one of the larger of several Gulf Islands off the BC coast who have no connection to the power grid. Lasqueti has a population of 3 to 4 hundred people about 350 staying year round. Solar, wind, and fossil-fuelled generators provide power to the island residents.
Apparently, power is required in Nova Scotia because smoke detectors and a proper ventilation is required for every house. However, these could be powered by batteries or electricity generated off the grid. If this is the reason connection to the grid is required then it would seem that power companies are breaking the law when they cut off your power. Several commentators on the article noted that Smith could simply wire the house connect and then not use it. However, that seems an unreasonable expense in the first place.
In neighbouring New Brunswick province, Wendy Keats, cut ties with the grid when she moved into her home just outside of Salisbury ten years ago. Neither New Brunswick power nor local authorities have complained but that may be because the house did have power originally.Keats a dedicated environmentalist said:"I figured, 'Oh, I should practise what I preach,' so I went off the grid.'It's an investment that quickly pays for itself and then you don't have a power bill, and there's nothing any better than that.I couldn't imagine going back on the grid — you'd have to take me kicking and screaming.".NB power said that it sees an increasing number of customers generating their own electricity to offset their consumption from the company. It claims it has 47 such customers at present with an increase of about a dozen each year. Most of these customers remain connected to the grid in case they need power their systems cannot provide.
In some jurisdictions especially some US states, residents with their own solar generating systems sell excess power to power companies. In Arizona a very sunny state some new housing developments have solar panel systems built in during construction. This makes the systems cheaper. Some large power companies are fighting against these developments as they make their money selling power not buying it.

Friday, September 4, 2015

August 24 poll averages show NDP in slim lead

A recent poll by Nanos, Globe and Mail, CTV shows the three main parties in a virtual tie although other recent polls still show the NDP ahead by several points. Nevertheless the NDP vote percentage has gone down since the last CBC poll-tracker averages.
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The Nanos poll shows the Conservatives at 30.1 percent of the vote, the NDP is at 29.1 percent and the Liberals at 29.9. The Nanos poll is in contrast to two other recent polls that still have the NDP leading by several points. Nanos polls for some reason in several cases give lower values for the NDP than other polls as can be seen by the list of polls at the CBC poll-tracker.
Nevertheless the poll averages also show a decline for the NDP and the three parties closer in the polls. The most recent poll-tracker results averaged on August 24 are: Conservatives 29.4 percentage of vote, a slight gain of 0.2 from the last polls; the NDP at 32.3, a significant drop of 1.5 from last time; and the Liberals at 28.3 the largest gain of 0.8. Seat projections show the NDP still ahead with 126 seats, followed by the Conservatives with 118 and the Liberals trailing with only 93. The Green Party would win one seat and the Parti Quebecois none.
In the previous elections in 2008 and 2011, Harper was able to successfully claim that his Conservative government was best suited to guide the economy. This time around with the Canadian economy in the doldrums if not recession and the stock markets tanking, this advantage appears to be declining. The economy is still a crucial election issue. A recent Ipsos Reid poll showed that 76 per cent of Canadians considered the economy "absolutely critical" to determining their vote. Three quarters also said the same for creating jobs. An Abacus Data polls shows that only 43 percent of Canadians think the economy is good or very good. Two years ago 67 per cent thought this. The numbers of those who think the country is on the wrong track have increased while those thinking it is on the right track, still 36 per cent, has declined. While one third think the economy is still growing, 64 percent think it is shrinking. There are more detailed results at the Abacus site with quite helpful figures.
On the issue of leadership on the 15 issues tested, on all 15 a majority of respondents thought Mulcair or Trudeau would make more acceptable decisions than Harper. However, on the economy, respondents in three of four recent polls gave Harper an edge of one or two points over Mulcair and the NDP. An IPSOS poll showed a wider lead of 36 to 28 percent for Harper. If the vote were on the economy alone Harper might win at most a small minority victory and perhaps not even that as he no longer has a huge advantage on the issue. With Canada facing economic troubles and the energy sector in particular badly hit, the opposition is sure to blame Harper for this situation even though much is beyond his control. Likely, emphasis will continue on the issue of ethics in opposition attacks on Harper. Polls so far do not show any negative results for the Conservatives in response to the revelations at the Duffy trial.

Why Liberals should vote for the NDP this election

In the past when the New Democratic Party had no chance of forming the government, the Liberals have often called for NDP supporters to vote Liberal in order defeat the Conservatives.
During those periods, the NDP languished in third place with dismal polling numbers. However, now the NDP leads in the polls and the Liberals are in third place behind the Conservatives. The NDP should be calling upon Liberals to return the favor and now vote strategically to ensure that Harper is defeated. There are other reasons as well that Liberals should consider voting for the NDP.
The NDP leader Thomas Mulcair was himself for many years a Liberal and cabinet minister in the Quebec provincial government. Mulcair served as Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment, and Parks in the Quebec Liberal government of Jean Charest. During his tenure he promoted and passed in November 2004 a Sustainable Development Plan that included an amendment to the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms to include a right to live in a healthy environment that respects biodiversity. In 2006, after Mulcair opposed a government development plan in a national park he was removed from his cabinet position. Those within the Liberal party who supported former leader Stephan Dionne in his move to attempt a Green Shift within the Liberal Party might do well to support the perhaps more saleable environmental policies of Mulcair. Dionne led the Liberals from 2006 to 2008:The Liberals lost support on 14 October federal election, being reduced to 77 seats, down from 103 won in the 2006 election. They captured only 26.2 per cent of the popular voteThe Liberals have had a continuing leadership problem. While Dionne was the choice of those at the leadership convention and not favoured by some Liberal king makers the next leader was favoured by the establishment.
Michael Ignatieff was a top academic who left a position at Harvard where he taught to enter the contest for the Liberal leadership. He sometimes forgot whether he was an American or a Canadian. He supported the US-led invasion of Iraq and also had a rosy view of the US Empire:As a journalist, Ignatieff observed that the United States had established "an empire lite, a global hegemony whose grace notes are free markets, human rights and democracy, enforced by the most awesome military power the world has ever known."Ignatieff turned out to be far more disastrous as a leader than Dionne. In the 2011 federal election, Ignatieff lost his own seat. The Liberal party had its worst showing in history winning only 34 seats. It placed third far behind the Conservatives enabling the NDP to become the official opposition for the first time ever. Now it is time for the Liberals to vote strategically for the NDP.
The Liberals showed their affinity to the right wing of the NDP when they chose Bob Rae the former NDP premier of Ontario as their interim leader. With the election of Justin Trudeau Liberals no doubt thought that they were on their way to power again. At first, polls encouraged this view. Just days after Trudeau won the leadership a poll showed that 43 percent of respondents favoured the Liberals with just 30 percent for the Conservatives and only 19 percent for the NDP, the official opposition. In July 2014 the Liberals still had a ten point lead over the Conservatives with the NDP coming third. Just over a year later under Trudeau's leadership the NDP is now in first place several points ahead of the Conservatives with the Liberals still trailing the Conservatives and in third place. Liberals should realize for the third election in a row their party is going nowhere and their prime duty is to turf out Harper.
The Conservatives have had a field day criticizing Trudeau because of the constant gaffes he makes. He jokes about Russia and the Ukraine He admired China's ability to control the economy. He famously said that the budget will balance itself. The Conservatives take this out of context as Trudeau was claiming that given good economic growth the budget would balance itself. This is still questionable. However, the Conservatives can use Trudeau's many gaffes as part of a clever ad campaign as shown in the appended video. They hammer home the theme of "just not ready" as applying to Trudeau.
Trudeau has supported Harper's regressive anti-terror bill even without amendments. Mulcair and probably many Liberals reject the bill. Another reason to vote for Mulcair. Trudeau says he will not use the politics of fear as Harper does. Yet in supporting the anti-terror bill Trudeau is doing exactly that. While Trudeau would legalize marijuana, Mulcair would act faster decriminalizing it a day after being elected. Come on all you Liberals! Get out there and vote NDP.