Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Liberals sweep most seats in Winnipeg as part of Canada-wide red tide.

The Liberal red wave rolled through Manitoba but was stopped at the perimeter highway that circles the city of Winnipeg. The rest of Manitoba remains Tory blue except for one far north riding retained by the New Democratic Party(NDP).
Of the 14 Manitoba ridings the Liberals won seven or half, but all in the city of Winnipeg. The NDP was able to keep its one seat in the far north and take one Winnipeg seat from the Conservatives. The other five seats, all rural, were easily retained by the Conservatives.
Long-serving NDP MP Pat Martin was defeated in Winnipeg Center by Liberal, Robert-Falcon Ouellete. Liberals defeating sitting NDP members was a trend across Canada. The Tory candidate Allie Szarkiewicz came third. The Green Party ran Don Woodstock. The voters also could vote for Communist Party of Manitoba leader Darrell Rankin or Christian Heritage's Scott Miller. Ouellete, who is aboriginal, said: "The goal of this campaign was never, never, never just to win. The goal of this campaign was to see your values reflected in Ottawa, to see your values reflected in our Parliament. There will be challenges in Winnipeg Centre. We should be putting more people back to work, and we can. We should be lifting people out of poverty, and we can."
In defeat Martin told supporters that it had been an honour and privilege to serve his riding for 18 years. He also said the Liberals needed a good group of New Democrats in parliament to make sure they kept to their liberal principles. Otherwise he said they govern just like Tories. There is a common saying that the Liberals campaign to the left but govern to the right. Martin has often had problems with statements he makes that will certainly get him an R rating for his discourse. On social media he called Conservatives "rat-faced whores" and was seen swearing at an opponent at a candidates' meeting.
In Saint-Boniface-Saint Vital, Liberal Dan Vandal, a Metis, won the riding for the Liberals . He said that he was fortunate to be part of something very extraordinary as he arrived for his victory party. The win was a gain from the hapless Conservatives who are now shut out from the city of Winnipeg. Liberal, Jim Carr, who won over a Conservative in Winnipeg South Centre played on the Conservative theme that Liberal leader Justin Trudeau was just not ready saying: "The people of Winnipeg South Centre say they're ready, and I'm ready to be your member of Parliament,"
NDP incumbent Niki Ashton was able resist a Liberal challenge by Rebecca Chartrand in the northern riding of Churchill-Keewatinook Aski who was over a thousand votes behind. In 2011 Ashton had swept the riding with over half the vote.
Although the NDP lost Pat Martin's seat, they gained a seat from the Conservatives in Winnipeg Elmwood-Transcona. The vote is so close though the Conservative incumbent, Lawrence Toel, may ask for a recount. The margin was just 51 votes. The NDP victor, Daniel Blaikie, is the son of the popular Bill Blaikie, who long held the seat for the NDP even through times when its present, very reduced count of 44 seats would have been seen as a giant leap forward. Blaikie was a Member of Parliament (MP) from 1979 to 2008. Daniel said the NDP would have its work cut out for it to hold the new Liberal government to account.
My own riding of Dauphin-Swan River-Neepawa re-elected Conservative incumbent Robert Sopuck, by thousands of votes even though he was running against a popular former Conservative MP with the improbable name of Inky Mark. No one came close to Sopuck even though Mark probably took a double-digit percentage of the Conservative vote. Mark had always been an independent representative. He joined a demonstration in support of the Wheat Board when his party wanted to end its monopsony, because the majority of his local farmer constituents opposed the Conservative policy. This time around he chose to run as an independent. The Liberal came far behind Sopuck with the NDP third and then Mark. The Green Party also had a candidate. This riding mirrors the situation in most rural Manitoba ridings where Conservatives have historically been dominant. The only exception is the north where aboriginal groups often vote for the NDP or Liberals and the Conservatives do poorly.
The Conservatives will need to extend their popular support beyond their rural base if they want to do better in Manitoba federally. The NDP were fortunate to elect members in even two ridings given that the provincial NDP government is not at all popular and that NDP members were being defeated by Liberals across Canada.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Pre-election polls had correct trends but wrong figures for federal election

The last poll averages from the CBC poll tracker had the trends correct but the magnitude of the increase in support for the Liberals and the decline in support for the NDP was missed.
Few thought the Liberals would end up with a majority government yesterday but that is what happened and with more than a dozen seats to spare. As of now, the Liberals had 184 seats and the Conservatives just 99. The NDP had just 44 seats, a few more than half what had been projected at the last poll tracker. The Liberals went from 34 seats in 2011 to 184 last night a gain of 150 seats. The Conservatives lost 67 and the NDP 59. The Bloc Quebecois gained considerably in Quebec to 10 seats while the Greens retained their one seat.
The final poll tracker averages showed the Liberals at 37.2 percent support, a lead of 6.3 percentage points over the Conservatives at 30.9. The gap had been widening in the last few sets of polls. The NDP had fallen to 21.7 percent support with their trend increasing downward. The trends for both the NDP and the Liberals accelerated in the final poll, just before the election and during voting. The Liberals captured 39.5, of the vote an increase of 2.3 points over the final polls. The NDP fell to 19.7 percent, a further drop of two percentage points. In contrast the polls were close to the Conservative final result that was actually up one point to 31.9.
I thought that some media reports were spinning the Liberal vote to look as if the lead was larger than it was, but as it turns out it was even larger still. I thought some polls might have been underestimating the Conservative vote and also that of the NDP. I was wrong about that too. The NDP was even worse off than the polls suggested and the polls were close to the actual Conservative vote.
What counts is not just the percentage of votes a party received but how that vote is distributed throughout the country. In rural areas of the prairies, the Conservative vote is huge — but that will hardly help them in urban areas. There may have been considerable strategic voting by NDP voters who decided that the best way to ensure Harper was defeated was to vote for the Liberals. In areas such as the Atlantic, this may have helped defeat several popular NDP candidates and elect Liberals.
I had thought that the revelations of the connection of Daniel Gagnier, the former co-chair of the Trudeau campaign with his lobbying for a pipeline company, might have hurt the Trudeau campaign. It obviously did not. I thought as well that the NDP criticism of the TPP near the end of the campaign would help its cause. I was wrong. I thought that Trudeau's rhetoric about change and helping the middle class was rather dull standard rhetoric with echoes of the first Obama campaign. It seems to have worked. Neil MacDonald points out some interesting parallels between Trudeau's and Obama's rhetoric:
Barack Obama: "Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or a politics of hope?"
Justin Trudeau: "Canadians are tired of being cynical."
Obama: "When you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody."
Trudeau: "We're asking those who have done well to do a little more for the people who need it."
Obama: "There is not a liberal America and a conservative America. There is the United States of America."
Trudeau: "Conservatives are not our enemies. They're our neighbours. They want what's best for their country, just like we do."
The TPP deal is probably quite safe under Trudeau. Of course Canadians can feel safe too, since Trudeau supported Harper's draconian anti-liberal anti-terror bill. The Globe and Mail can claim at least half their endorsement was carried out. While the voters did not vote the Conservative Party back into power as they advised, they did manage to force Harper to resign as leader exactly what the Globe endorsed. I wonder if Justin will soon find himself following the politically incorrect tradition of his dad and telling protesters to "fuddle duddle" as shown on the appended video.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Globe and Mail endorses Conservatives but pans Harper

The Globe and Mail published an editorial endorsement of the Conservatives as they have done for several elections now but at the same time they reject Stephen Harper.
One might think that this was a piece in The Onion, but no it is actually in the Globe and Mail. This is the fourth straight federal election in which the Globe has endorsed the Conservatives. The editorial claims the Conservative Party deserves another term primarily because of its economic policies but that Harper should go because he has been bad, bad, bad. The Globe then is in the anyone but Harper camp but at the same time wants to elect the Conservatives. Who said you cannot square the circle?
Harper, the editorial claims, has created a "rotten" governmental culture. His vision is "narrow." He exhibits "meanness of spirit." His campaign has descended into "American-style, culture war over niqabs and 'barbaric cultural practices." The editorial moans: “The spectacle of a prime minister seemingly willing to say anything, or demonize anyone, in an attempt to get re-elected has demeaned our politics." The Globe agrees with those who say it is time for change and Harper must go but insists that the Conservatives should stay: “It is not time for the Conservatives to go. But it is time for Mr. Harper to take his leave.” So when we elect another Conservative government on Monday the Globe and Mail calls on Harper to quickly resign.
This would be a novel move for a leader who wins an election. The Globe does not say what it will do if Harper does not resign. One article points out that the Globe's own editorial board has criticized the party countless times for being "anti-democratic, xenophobic, and opposed to Canadian values." Of course this is quite wrong. It is not the party but Harper whom they are criticizing. As the editorial concludes: The Conservatives have been a big tent party in the past, and they must be once again. Fiscally prudent, economically liberal and socially progressive – the party could be all of those things, and it once was. But it won’t be, as long as Mr. Harper is at its head. His party deserves to be re-elected.Perhaps this was a draft editorial left lying around that was supposed to be published on April 1 and mistakenly published on Friday.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Latest two polls show Liberals with significant lead or virtually tied with Conservatives

The latest two polls listed at Eric Grenier's CBC poll tracker show quite different results. An EKOS poll shows the Liberals and Conservatives in a virtual tie while a Nanos/Globe poll shows the Liberals leading by over six percentage points.
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Grenier manages to spin the results so that he can predict that after the long campaign Justin Trudeau will likely be the next Canadian Prime Minister:After 78 days, it all comes down to tomorrow. And the polls, at least, suggest that the day will go to the Liberals, installing Justin Trudeau as Canada's next prime minister.​Up to and including those published by early Sunday morning, the Liberals have led in 17 consecutive polls, including surveys conducted by eight different polling firms using an array of methodologies.
While strictly speaking Grenier is correct, the most recent two polls give quite divergent pictures of the situation just before the election.
The most recent poll taken from October 15 to 17 by Nanos/Globe does show a signicant Liberal lead. The Liberal party has 37.3 percent of the vote while the Conservatives have just 30.5, a 6.8 percent lead for the Liberals. The NDP is well behind at 22.1. However, a new EKOS polltaken on October 15 and 16 shows a virtual tie for first with the Liberals at 33.7 percent and the Conservatives at 33.3, a difference of a mere 0.4 percent within the margin of error. While it is true that the vast majority of polls give the Liberals a significant lead, surely the EKOS poll should lead one to be a bit more cautious in claiming the polls predict that Trudeau will be the next prime minister. In contrast to Grenier, the EKOS headline says that we do not know the winner and EKOS claims that the outcome will likely be a nail-biter.
The latest poll tracker averages, however, still do show a significant Liberal lead. Up to October 17th, the Conservatives have 31.2 percent of the vote, down a marginal 0.1 from the last average. The NDP are at 22.3 down o.2 percent, and the Liberals at 36.3 also down marginally 0.1 percent. The Bloc Quebecois is up to 4.9, a gain of 0.2 from the last averages and quite significant since they run only in Quebec. Greens are down marginally at 4.4 a decline of 0.1 and other parties have gained to 0.9 up 0.2 points. Some voters must be opting to some of the smaller parties. Seat projections also favour the Liberals with an average of 137, to 122 for the Conservatives, and just 73 now for the NDP. The Bloc Quebecois has increased their seats to 5, while the Green party remains at just one seat. Perhaps, Grenier will add one or two polls later today but right now, the outlook is not quite as clear for a Liberal victory as Grenier makes out, unless one plays down the significance of the EKOS poll.
The NDP outlook does not look that favourable. The polls all put the NDP far behind as Grenier notes: "... every poll has the New Democrats in third, trailing the Conservatives by between seven and 12 points and the Liberals by between 12 and 17 points."However, neither the Liberals or Conservatives appear headed for a majority. The NDP can still play a significant role in determining the policies of any minority government.

Liberals appear to be increasing their lead but scandal may hurt them

In the last couple of days, polls show the Liberals extending their lead marginally over the Conservatives. The NDP decline appears to have halted and it has a marginal increase in support over the same period while Conservative support has dropped.
The averages as reported by Eric Grenier's CBC poll tracker show the Liberals leading with 35.6 percent of the vote, an increase of 0.5 points from the last polls. The NDP had 23.8 percent support, up the same amount, 0.5. The Conservatives lost ground declining by 0.6 percent but still at 30.4 percent, well ahead of the NDP. The Liberals are also gaining in average seat projections with 140. The Conservatives are at 110 and the NDP trail with 86. During the last few days, there are at least two events that may help the NDP.
Mulcair has differentiated himself from both Harper and Trudeau by going on the attack against the giant Trans Pacific Partnership(TPP) trade deal during the later stages of his campaign. He has emphasized that the TPP may hurt the auto industry and dairy farming, the latter quite important in Quebec. He has also insisted the Canadian people should know what is in the text before the election. This is not to be. There is no final text as yet and will not be until after the election. However, the text could have been released with the parts that may change highlighted. International Trade Minister Ed Fast said the Conservatives would release the text before the election: International Trade Minister Ed Fast says the Conservative government will release the full text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement before the election, so Canadians can have all the information they'll need to cast their ballot on Oct. 19.Instead the Privy Council Office agreed to hold a briefing on the TPP but those who attended had to swear to keep the information secret. Mulcair immediately rejected the offer since he could not reveal details as to what was in the deal:
"Every Canadian has the right to know what is in that trade deal before Monday. And I call on Stephen Harper to release the full text of the TPP so Canadians can vote accordingly."Kory Teneycke, spokesperson for the Conservative campaign said that at first the Liberals agreed to attend the briefing to be held on Friday but the NDP turned the offer down. The Liberals deny this and refer to a letter sent by Liberal candidate John McCallum, quite critical of Harper's lack of transparency and of Fast breaking his promise. The NDP's firm stance lately on the TPP coupled with the Conservative's continuing lack of transparency may help the NDP cause.
Another very recent event that could help the NDP is the resignation of Daniel Gagnier, who was co-chair of Trudeau's election campaign until he resigned to try and deflect attention from recent allegations:“The Canadian Press is reporting that Mr. Gagnier e-mailed TransCanada Corporation with privileged information about the size of the presumptive Liberal cabinet, the key people lobbyists should target in order to ensure the timely construction of the Energy East Pipeline.”
While Gagnier is not currently a registered lobbyist, he has been as recently as last year when he lobbied for the Calgary-based Energy Policy Institute(EPIC). The Conservatives are not likely to make too much fuss about Gagnier and his connections to the oil industry. Here is why:One of Liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s top advisors sat on the board of an energy industry-funded think tank while Bruce Carson allegedly illegally lobbied for the same organization, according to a court document filed by the RCMP. Daniel Gagnier, the Liberal party’s 2015 campaign co-chair, is currently president of the Energy Policy Institute of Canada (EPIC) which the RCMP alleges benefited from illegal lobbying by Carson, who was once acting chief of staff in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office. Gagnier was a vice chair of the organization during a portion of time that became the focus of the RCMP’s investigation into Carson’s activities. Emails obtained by the RCMP show that Gagnier even pushed EPIC’s agenda with Jean Charest who was premier of Quebec at the time.There is much more sordid detail here and here.
Both the Liberals and Conservatives like to cozy up to Big Energy. Perhaps in the last few days of the campaign many voters may decide that the NDP' s stand against this and Mulcair's defence of dairy farmers and the auto industry from the TPP is more significant than his support for a woman's right to wear a niqab while taking the citizenship oath. Note in the appended video how Justin Trudeau rails against Harper for his choice of people for key positions and to be around him.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Conservative government revenue agency signed agreement with lobby firm

The incestuous relationship between the Conservative government and business is evident in an agreement between the Canadian Revenue Agency(CRA) and the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada(CPAC)
CPAC represents and lobbies for most accounting firms in Canada. Revenue Canada described the alliance formed in November of last year as a "new era of information and collaboration" between the CRA and the CPAC. The agreement was signed by Andrew Treusch, CEO of CRA, and Kevin Dancey, head of the CPAC. The deal calls for joint committees with senior representatives from each group. This ensures the CRA will consider the accounting groups "input" into any changes to its programs, a government news release claims. Dancey said that the CPAC valued its role as a trusted adviser to the CRA.
The partnership could represent a conflict of interest. At the same time as the CRA, CPAC partnership was being formed, the CPAC was fighting a court battle against the CRA which was attempting to gain access to the files of multimillionaire clients who had stashed millions in tax havens. The CRA was attempting to get the list of wealthy clients of the huge multinational KPMG who were enrolled in an offshore tax scheme on the Isle of Man.
KPMG is one of the biggest four tax auditors in the world but also provides other services such as tax advice. In 2014 it had revenues of $24.8 billion US and 162,000 employees.Although it has headquarters in the Netherlands it has offices around the world including Canada The CRA said in 2015 it believes that Isle of Man scheme was designed to evade taxes:In 2015, KPMG has been accused by the Canadian Revenue Agency of Tax evasion schemes. "The CRA alleges that the KPMG tax structure was in reality a "sham" that intended to deceive the taxman.
Prime Minister Harper met with the both the CPAC and heads of the KPMG plus other accounting firms just three months before the deal. The meeting was recorded in a federal register of lobbying meetings. Ray Novak and two other aides were there as well. The Prime Minister's Office(PMO) claims the meeting was a routine "stakeholder" meeting. While this may be the perception of the PMO office, Dennis Howlett of Canadians for Tax Fairness saw it differently: "This is a serious problem, certainly a perception of conflict of interest. The government shouldn't be cozying up to companies that they've taken to court over very serious allegations. When they get in bed with the very companies that they're supposed to be regulating, it leads to all kinds of dangerous results,"Duff Conacher a teacher of government ethics at the University of Ottawa said the agreement could send mixed signals to the CRA staff : "It sends a very bad message. Essentially it says don't enforce laws fully and properly because the government is now a partner with this organization and you wouldn't want to make the government look bad." Howlett also claims CPAC is nervous that the government may get evidence it needs to show that the the KPMG scheme involves tax evasion, which could threaten the whole system of offshore tax havens: "They're nervous that if the government… gets the evidence they need to pursue another case against KPMG, then this whole house of cards, of sham companies and offshore banking, is going to come tumbling down."
The CRA case against KPMG mysteriously stalled for over two years and only after a whole series of stories about the issue in CBC News and Radio did a KPMG lawyer announce just recently that an out-of-court settlement had failed and that the two sides are asking for a hearing before a judge. KPMG denies that the case has anything to do with tax evasion. One CBC article gives details of how one weatlhy Canadian couple benefited from the scheme.
The CBC obtained court documents showing that in 2000 Peter Cooper and his two adult sons signed up for a KPMG tax product in the Isle of Man designed for "high net worth" Canadian residents. The scheme promised that those joining the plan would pay no tax on their investments. The documents show that between 2002 and 2010 the Coopers paid little or no tax even though they received nearly $6 million from an offshore company. The KPMG lawyers claim any money received by the Coopers were "gifts" and non-taxable. Marshall Cooper claims that when he came to Canada from South Africa in the 1990's he simply went to what he thought were the best people for tax advice. He is hardly to blame. If you were advised by one of the four largest auditing and tax-advice firms in the world to participate in a plan that could save you huge amounts of money on taxes would you say no because it looks unethical? Nor can one place much blame on KPMG, which by the way has numerous awards for good corporate citizenship. The KPMG mission is to get the best tax deals it can for its clients. It is the government that has allowed these tax loopholes to exist and even has a cozy relationship with the very firms that are subject to Canadian tax laws. The tax haven issue is global and not restricted to Canada as the appended video shows.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

TPP degrades democracy results in less competition

- The announcement that an agreement was reached by the 12 nations negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership(TPP) has resulted in considerable discussion and debate on the pact.
The text of the agreement has never been made public and it is not clear when the text will be released. The details released are probably released by parties whose interests are involved. Many critics of the TPP complain about the secrecy and lack of transparency in the process. There is much discussion of the impact of the deal on agriculture sectors such as dairy farmers who have a supply-managed system. While the agreement does open the system somewhat to allow more imported products into Canada, the basic supply management system remains. The negative impact of the changes will be muted through compensation paid to the industry courtesy of the Canadian taxpayer. The auto parts industry will also be hurt with many jobs lost. Again Harper promises billions of taxpayer money to mute the negative impact.
There is less discussion of other significant aspects of the agreement. The TPP, as with other trade agreements such as NAFTA, is less about free trade and more about placing the power of global corporations beyond the reach of democratic governments. Ironically, our government quite consciously bargains away our right to pass laws and regulations as we see fit. If we pass laws or regulations which are considered inconsistent with the TPP, a foreign corporation can sue Canada.
A leaked text of part of the TPP includes an investor-state dispute settlement(ISDS) very much like the already existing mechanism in Chapter 11 of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Wikipedia describes an ISDS as follows: Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) is an instrument of public international law, that grants an investor the right to use dispute settlement proceedings against a foreign government. Provisions for ISDS are contained in a number of bilateral investment treaties, in certain international trade treaties, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (Chapter 11)...If an investor from one country (the "Home State") invests in another country (the "Host State"), both of which have agreed to ISDS, and the Host State violates the rights granted to the investor under public international law, then that investor may bring the matter before an arbitral tribunal.As mentioned, NAFTA contains such a provision.
There have been many cases in which Canada has been sued by foreign corporations. In August 2008 Dow Chemicals submitted a claim for losses caused by a Quebec ban on the sale and certain uses of pesticides containing 2-4 D. In this case, the two sides reached a settlement accepted by the tribunal. States cannot sue corporations under the ISDS nor can they receive any compensation should a corporation lose except for their legal costs in some cases.
Canada has already lost seven cases under the ISDS process and paid out damages of $190 million and who knows how much in legal fees. One case filed against Canada challenges a Quebec ban on oil and gas fracking in the province. An analysis of cases under the NAFTA provisions can be found here:This study documents the 77 known NAFTA investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) claims up to January 1 2015. These include 35 against Canada, 20 against the U.S., and 22 against Mexico. Canada has paid out NAFTA damages totaling over $CAD172 million, while Mexico has paid damages of $US204 million. The U.S. has yet to lose a NAFTA chapter 11 case. All three governments have incurred tens of millions of dollars in legal costs to defend themselves against investor claims.
In Europe, the issue of ISDS mechanisms has been hotly debated The EU parliament has passed a resolution that will require replacing an ISDS system in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnersip(TTIP) ".. by a new public and transparent system of investment protection, in which private interests cannot undermine public policy and which is subject to public law." Brazil refuses to sign any treaty with ISDS clauses. South Africa intends to withdraw from any treaties that have ISDS clauses. In Canada the politicians of the major parties appear to think the issue is not worth bringing into public debate. What is significant are issues that impact specific interests such as the dairy industry or auto industry, where the parties might win or lose votes if they take the wrong position. That the democratic system itself is endangered and more power given to global corporations does not seem important.
If provisions in the TPP allow more penetration of global corporations into new markets such as the Canadian dairy and auto industry then competition will be fostered but in general the exact opposite is the case. In any free trade deal there are always clauses extending copyright and patent lengths, giving corporations monopoly rights over their products. We can expect the costs of drugs to our health care system to increase dramatically as a result of the TPP. It will become more difficult for producers of less expensive generic drugs to be able to replace drugs protected by patents. Protection of copyright terms in the TPP will prevent free or less expensive copied version of items:In the area of copyright, the TPP would require far longer terms of protection than what Canadians agreed to in a parliamentary copyright law review that only wrapped up recently. To smooth the way for the TPP, the federal government has already agreed, in the latest omnibus budget bill, to extend copyright terms for audio recordings from 50 to 70 years. The TPP could also require protection for controversial “digital locks,” which allow copyright holders to encrypt software in computerized devices and criminalize its circumvention.We do not know exactly what will be in the final text. With provisions such as these in the leaked text, it is not surprising that the final text will probably not be released until after the election.

NDP fades far into third place as Tories and Liberals battle for first place

Recent polls show the New Democratic Party is well off the pace of the Liberals and Conservatives about 8 percentage points below them in third place.
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The latest CBC poll tracker averages up to October 6 show the LIberals and Conservatives in a dead heat with the Conservatives at 32.9 per up 0.6 from the last polls and the Liberals at 32.3 per cent down 0.2 per cent. The NDP has faded further at 24.2 percentage points down 0.8 per cent. The Green Party has 4.9 per cent up 0.2 per cent while the Bloc Quebecois a separatist party running only in Quebec had 4.7 per cent. However in Quebec it has 20.4 per cent of the vote.
Within the space of a week, the NDP has lost 2.7 per cent in the polls, while the Liberals have gained 1.7 points. The Conservatives gained 0.5 percentage points. The two most recent polls give conflicting results as to which party is in the lead but leave little doubt that the NDP is dropping further behind. An Abacus poll taken on the October 5 and 6 shows the Conservatives leading at 33 per cent, the Liberals at 32 and the NDP at 24. A Nanos Globe Poll taken from October 4 to 6 shows the Conservatives at 32.1, the Liberals leading at 34.2, and the NDP at 23.
Results seem to be skewed according to the polling method used. Polls that use interactive voice response (IVR) , automated phone calls, tend to favour the Conservatives. Online polls and live-caller telephone surveys show the race quite close between Conservatives and Liberals. Ranges of three recent IVR polls showed a Conservative support range of 33 to 37. The Liberals were at 27 to 29 per cent behind in every poll. The NDP had a range of 24 to 28 per cent. In every poll the Conservatives are winning. In contrast, five recent on line polls put the Conservative range at 29 to 34 per cent but the Liberals 27 to 32, and the NDP at 26 to 29 per cent. The most recent telephone polls show a range for Conservatives of 31 to 33 per cent , Liberals 32 to 36 per cent, and NDP 23 to 27 per cent, favouring the Liberals in all cases in contrast to the IVR polls. The two parties in front can tout their performance simply by cherry-picking the set of polls they reference. It is not clear what causes this variation in results.
The recent seat projections at the Poll Tracker give Conservatives the most seats with an average of 132. The Liberals have an average of 120 and the NDP significantly behind at just 84. The Bloc Quebecois would win one and the Green Party one also.
On a regional basis, the race is close in BC, while the Conservatives lead on the Prairies, though the NDP and Liberals may gain a few seats. Liberals lead in the Atlantic region. The NDP lead in Quebec is shrinking. In Ontario the polls are unclear with some giving the Liberals an edge and others the Conservatives. However in Toronto the Liberals appear to be gaining especially in comparison to the 2011 election. In 2011, the Conservatives and New Democrats won 8 seats each and the Liberals won the 6 remaining seats. This time around the Liberals have between 38 and 40 per cent of the vote, the NDP 27 to 31 and Conservatives 26 to 28. The Liberals are projected to win between 17 to 22 seats, the NDP just 3 to 6, and the Conservatives could win 0 or up to 2. Perhaps within a week or so the polls will show one of the two leading parties clearly in the lead.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

NDP set to gain some seats in Saskatchewan in federal election

When the recent federal election was called, Saskatchewan had 13 Conservative MPs and one Liberal. The NDP did not have a single seat. This time around the NDP looks to be winning several urban seats and one northern riding as well.
Saskatchewan, in the past, has been a stronghold of the NDP and the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation(CCF) before it:In 1944, the CCF formed the first social-democratic government in North America when it was elected to form the provincial government in Saskatchewan.[5] In 1961, the CCF was succeeded by the New Democratic Party (NDP)
Not only did the CCF and NDP form provincial governments but they also sent MPs to Ottawa. The CCF had a very strong base within the rural farming community as well as within cities. Early policies were strongly socialist and the Regina Manifesto called for the replacement of capitalism by the cooperative commonwealth. By the time the party transformed itself into the NDP in 1961 it had become more a reformist party with some of the leaders seeing it as a Canadian version of the UK Labor Party. In the 21st century the party has turned even further right in the hope it can achieve electoral success. In Saskatchewan, the NDP lost out to the right-of- center Saskatchewan Party in the November provincial election of 2007. In the November 2011 provincial election the Saskatchewan Party under Brad Wall won 49 of 58 seats. In the federal election of the same year the NDP did not win a single seat. Yet the NDP is making somewhat of a comeback in Saskatchewan at the federal level. While the Liberals appear not set to make gains, its one seat in Regina seems quite safe with an 80 percent chance of a win.
Predictions are that the NDP could gain up to five seats this election. However, the margin of expect victory is slim in four of the five ridings with only about a two thirds chance of winning. One northern riding seem a more certain win an 80 per cent chance. Most of the Conservative ridings are quite safe except for some with a considerable number of urban voters such as Regina Qu'appelle.
While Saskatchewan has the same number of seats as in the last election a number of boundaries have changed. Many urban ridings that previously had considerable numbers of rural areas and voters included now are entirely urban. Joe Garcea, a political scientist at the University of Saskatchewan, said: "I think that there are many more constituencies up for grabs than ever before, Of the new boundaries Garcea said: ".. you don't get that urban-rural split. Some believe that that may help the NDP because the Conservatives were getting a lot of their support in such ridings in the rural areas."
Saskatchewan still has a number of enterprises left over from periods when it was more socialist-oriented. Cooperatives and credit unions are ubiquitous both in rural and urban settings. There is a provincial bus company, provincial power corporation, telephones, and government monopoly auto insurance, The right-of-center Saskatchewan Party won power by adopting some of the popular NDP social programs. After doing badly in an election in 2003 the Saskatchewan party caucus all voted in favor of the NDP's Crown Corporation Public Ownership Act that provided legislative entrenchment for the ownership of major crown utilities and services. The left borrows from the right to get elected and in Saskatchewan the right returned the favor.
In urban areas of the prairies, in particular, Harper's policies are becoming less and less popular providing an opportunity for opposition parties to gain seats. The NDP may start to regain some of its power in the province that gave birth to its predecessor the CCF. Don't expect a second edition of the Regina Manifesto soon though.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Liberals and NDP may win some urban seats in Alberta

There may have been an orange crush by the New Democratic Party in the last Alberta provincial election, but this will not translate into a gain of many if any seats in the federal election.
recent projection gives the Conservatives led by prime minister Stephen Harper 28 seats. The Liberals with Justin Trudeau the leader are projected to win four seats. Tom Mulcair's NDP is projected to win two seats. Ordinarily, these projections would be taken as convincing evidence that Alberta is almost completely safe for the Tories.
The CBC though talks of change and cracks in the Conservative fortress of Alberta in Calgary and Edmonton. While in most rural areas the Conservatives will continue to have huge majorities even in some of these, majorities are predicted to shrink. It is the urban areas that are definitely showing cracks in the Tory fortress of Alberta with the Liberals doing quite well in Calgary and the NDP in Edmonton. There is even a battle in the smaller city of Lethbridge.
In relative terms, the CBC has a point. In the 2011 election, Harper and the Conservatives won all but one seat in Alberta. The Conservatives took 66.8 percent of the popular vote, with second place NDP taking 16.8 percent. The Liberals took 9.3 percent and the Greens 5.3. The NDP won one seat in Edmonton. They may win another this time around.
Laurie Adkin, a politics professor, says: "Alberta has had this kind of populist conservative orientation for many decades that is now changing because of the net in-migration of people." In the last fifteen years, the population of Alberta has grown from 3 million to 4 million. There has been an influx of new people most of them young. Alberta now has the youngest population in Canada. Many of these new Albertans do not have the same values as the older base of Conservative support. Both Edmonton and Calgary elected mayors considered progressive. Opposition parties have not won more than two seats in Alberta federal elections since 1993 and even then the Liberals took only four seats. The Conservative popular vote a while back was 53.4 percent, with the Liberals less than half that at 22.2 percent and the New Democrats 19.3 percent. However, this shows a huge gain for the Liberals. Much of that vote is concentrated in the city of Calgary. The NDP vote has declined since they were elected. They were in second place with 27 to 29 percent of the vote earlier in the year.
In spite of Liberal gains in the popular vote, Justin Trudeau is the most unpopular leader of the three major party leaders with a 50 percent disapproval rating. The Trudeau name may hurt Justin in Alberta, as his father created a national energy company, PetroCanada, to compete with Alberta's big oil companies. Trudeau is tied with Mulcair of the NDP for approval with a 36 percent rating. Harper has both an approval and disapproval rating in the province of 45 per cent.
The Liberals may gain seats in Calgary Centre, Calgary Confederation, and Calgary Skyview, and possibly Edmonton Centre. The NDP may win one more seat in Edmonton Griesbach, to add to the one they hold in Edmonton. They have a marginal chance in Lethbridge and three other Edmonton seats, while the Liberals also have a marginal chance in two more Calgary ridings. The Conservatives too can gain seats including all of the new eight seats that have been added since the last elections. While the changes in Alberta will do little to alter the dominance of the Conservatives in the province, the seats going to the opposition could be crucial in a close federal race.

Secret document shows Canada spies for US in many countries

Another top secret document from whistleblower Edward Snowden shows Canada set up spying posts around the globe to spy on trading partners at the bidding of the U.S. National Security Agency(NSA).

The leaked Snowden document is being reported on exclusively by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation(CBC). The clandestine spy posts are said to have been set up in "approximately 20 high-priority countries." A redacted version of the document can be accessed here.
Clandestine cooperation between the Communications Security Establishment Canada(CSEC) and the National Security Agency(NSA) of the U.S. is nothing new. Earlier Snowden documents reported on by the CBC, show that CSEC cooperated with NSA when the latter spied on G8and G20 meetings in Canada in 2010. Such revelations could very well result in boycotting Canada for future meetings.
NSA values its relationship with CSEC. Often CSEC is able to access geographical areas that are unavailable to NSA. Both sides would like to see their relationship expanded and strengthened. It already covers "worldwide national and transnational targets." Both groups specialize in signals intelligence or SIGINT:Signals intelligence (SIGINT) is intelligence-gathering by interception of signals, whether communications between people (communications intelligence — abbreviated to COMINT) or from electronic signals not directly used in communication (electronic intelligence — abbreviated to ELINT). Signals intelligence is a subset of intelligence collection management.
The CBC is behind the times. CSEC is now SEC. The "Canada" has been dropped out of the name. After all SEC is no longer so much Canadian but more a junior partner in a global spy operation led by the United States. The UK is also involved through such projects as ECHELONdeveloped by the Five Eyes: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. These countries are bound by the multilateral UKUSA Agreement, a treaty for joint cooperation in signals intelligence.
Canada is particularly useful to NSA in opening up covert sites on its behalf. Canada has a reputation for being benign as far as such undercover operations are concerned. Wesley Wark, a Canadian security and intelligence expert at the University of Ottawa said: "I think we still trade on a degree of an international brand as an innocent partner in the international sphere. There's not that much known about Canadian intelligence.In that sense, Canadian operations might escape at least the same degree of notice and surveillance that the operations of the U.S. or Britain in foreign states would be bound to attract."
Thomas Drake, a former NSA excutive but now a whistleblower said that Canada has been giving in to NSA requests for years. Drake warned that being caught out in these covert operations such as the CBC has uncovered can have huge diplomatic fallout. He also said such operations require very high level approval within the government. Drake says both the CSEC and NSA lack proper oversight and are a danger to democracy. They are also a danger to the taxpayers of Canada and the US:CSEC employs about 2,000 people, has an annual budget of roughly $450 million and will soon move into an architecturally spectacular new Ottawa headquarters costing Canadian taxpayers almost $1.2 billion. By comparison, the NSA employs an estimated 40,000 people plus thousands of private contractors, and spends over $40 billion a year.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Liberals will make gains in Manitoba in federal election

The Liberals and the Conservatives are almost tied in the polls for the upcoming federal election in Manitoba with NDP support shrinking.
A recent Probe Research Poll shows that roughly 39 percent of decided voters would vote for the incumbent Conservatives under Stephen Harper. The same number would vote for the Liberals led by Justin Trudeau. Only 18 percent would vote for the NDP led by Thomas Mulcair. The Liberals are making an amazing comeback after receiving just 18 percent of the vote in the 2011 election. Curtis Brown, vice president of Probe Research said: “The Liberals are now in a tie with the Conservatives in Manitoba... if you think to the last election, the Liberals were really in the ditch.” Brown noted that NDP support was down from the last election.
The ruling provincial NDP had a messy leadership fight in which many cabinet ministers challenged the premier demanding he resign. Although Sellnger retained his leadership, the internal fight with many of his best cabinet ministers weakened the party. Selinger also hiked the provincial sales tax after promising he would not during his campaign. Another Probe Research poll of voter preferences with respect to parties provincially shows the NDP losing even core support. The NDP has the support of only 25 percent of voters down 4 percent since June with the Liberals at 24 percent up 5 percent since June. The Conservatives have a 45 percent share of decided voters a slight decline of one percent since June.
Recent projections by Eric Grenier would see the Conservatives winning seven seats in Manitoba, the Liberals four, and the NDP three. The NDP is expected to win the northern Churchill riding with a 75 percent chance. The other two NDP seats are in Winnipeg, Elmwood Transcona, 71 percent chance and Winnipeg Center a long-time stronghold at 94 percent. The four Liberal seats are all in the city of Winnipeg. South Center is close with the Liberals having only a 63 percent chance over the 2nd place Conservatives. The Liberals are expected to gain Saint-Boniface-Saint Vital and also Winnipeg South. If the Liberal vote in Winnipeg continues to increase they could win even more seats.