Friday, December 21, 2012

Reviewing the Pointless Politics of 2012

When it comes to politics 2012 was pretty much like any other year, in that lots of  pointless stuff happened.

Yet it's my job as a pundit to take that pointless stuff and forge it into a plausible sounding narrative.

With that in mind, here's my chronological look back at the major political happenings of the past year:

January 9 –To determine ownership of strategic Arctic islands, Prime Minister Stephen Harper competes head-on with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in a rock-paper-scissors competition

January 16 – The Liberal Party holds convention in Ottawa, during which delegates announce bold new election strategy: “Fervently hope the Conservatives and NDP somehow screw up.”

January 26 - While attending an international summit in Davos, Switzerland, Prime Minister Harper explains radical Canadian initiative: Tim Horton's new coffee cup sizes.

February 5 – Prime Minister Harper travels to China where he send sends the following diplomatic message to American President Barack Obama: “I am in a country with billion freaking people. And guess what? Not one of them is a tree hugging, Hollywood celebrity. And they want our oil. So suck on that!”

February 13 - Surprising poll shows no NDP leadership candidate can name any other NDP leadership candidate!

February 14 – Conservatives calm fears about their proposed internet surveillance law saying it will simply make all Canadians the government’s "special" Facebook friend.

February 18 – Good news of for the Conservatives:  “Vikileaks” scandal diverts national attention from “robo-call” scandal.

February 27 –The CBC is found to be broadcasting “porn”, including such programs as “The Too Friendly Giant" and "Mr. Undressup".

March 2 – “Robo-call” scandal goes international when Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad tells UN he remembers getting phone call giving him wrong location of Israel.

March 18 – Due to mounting attacks from the left wing is his own party, NDP leadership frontrunner Thomas Mulcair vehemently denies charges he is trying to make his party more electable.

March 23 -- NDP delegates gather in Toronto to perform the important democratic task of picking the next target for Tory attack ads.

March 26 - At news conference, newly elected NDP leader Thomas Mulcair reacts to charges he has a temper by beating two reporters to death.

March 28 – Conservative Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says he plan to combat economic slowdown by immediately erecting hundreds of new Economic Action Plan billboards.

April 2 – The military tests F-35 fighter jets by strafing the Auditor-General’s Office.

April 6 – New study shows polar bear population in Northern Canada larger than expected; David Suzuki reacts to this news by denouncing polar bears for not dying more.

April 24 –Albertans exercise the most cherished and important act of any democracy, i.e. embarrass pollsters and pundits.

May 18 - NDP unveils new slogan -- "Alberta's the Disease; Mulcair's the Cure".

May 19 – Muclair’s “Dutch disease” strategy working as new poll shows the NDP leader gaining strong support among Dutch doctors.

June 13-  Bob Rae says he decided not to run for his party’s leadership after he received an annoying robo-call message from Justin Trudeau.

June 14 - Opposition MPs oppose government forcing a monstrous omnibus bill through the House mainly because it's not them forcing a monstrous omnibus bill through the House.

June 20 - As part of its official War of 1812 commemorations the federal government burns down Toronto.

July 3- Cabinet Minister Bev Oda resigns; in unrelated news, orange juice stock prices tumble.

July 6 -- Thomas Mulcair blames Canada's economic problems on the Calgary Stampede.

July 10 –  To bolster national unity, Calgary stampede officials require cows to emit bilingual "moos".

July 11 – Conservative cabinet Minister Tony Clement announces government will put up a memorial to communist sympathizer Norman Bethune; in a related development North Korea puts up a memorial to Tony Clement.

July 25 -  The UN sends peacekeeping troops to emerging global hot spot: The British Columbia - Alberta border.

July 26 - Canada says it will take Omar Khadr back from US, but only if he is shipped through Keystone pipeline.

July 28 -- BC Premier Christy Clark demands "Fair Share" from Chinook winds passing through her province

August 3 - Heritage Minister James Moore slams idea of putting pipeline through BC, says oil should be pumped through CBC cable.

August 4 – Due to poor officiating by Norwegian referee, Canada loses Olympic soccer match to the US. Prime Minister Harper avenges loss by saturating Norway with robo-calls.

August 6 -- NASA's rover on Mars shocks scientific community when the first image its beams back to earth is an “Economic Action Plan” billboard.

August 7  – Canadians beam with pride when our Olympic contingent ends up leading the world medal count in the "Sports Nobody has ever Heard of" category.

August 14 – During Quebec provincial election PQ Leader Pauline Marois pledges to ban the English Muffin and the English Horn.

August 16 – The United Church votes to boycott Israeli products; later that day, God announces He is boycotting the United Church.

August 20 – PQ leader Pauline Marois threatens to hold a referendum on whether or not to hold a referendum on whether or not to hold a referendum.

August 29 - Disagreement breaks out at Iran Summit meeting; Delegates can't agree on whether Israel is a "Cancer" or an "Imperialistic parasite".

September 2 - Study suggests new riding redistribution scheme for House of Commons will result in 30 more annoying politicians.

September 4 - PQ wins minority government in Quebec, giving Premier Pauline Marois has just enough of power to irritate English Canada.

September 8 - Canada closes down embassy in Iran. In response Iranians issue following statement: "What's Canada?" 

September 11 - Prime Minister Harper named ‘World Statesman of the Year'. Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad demands a recount!

September 17 - In compromise move, Quebec Premier Pauline Marois removes Canadian flag from National Assembly, but replaces it with Justin Bieber poster.

September 18 – Conservatives accuse the NDP of wanting to impose a “carbon” tax. The NDP calls this a massive lie, saying it actually wants a "carton" tax.

September 24 – Canada and Britain agree to share some diplomatic duties, meaning the embassy cafeterias for both countries will serve steak and kidney pie covered in maple syrup.

September 29 - Canadian UN delegates walked out of Iranian President Ahmadinejad's speech after the dictator praises Gary Bettman's management style.

October 2nd – While announcing his bid for the Liberal leadership, Justin Trudeau denies he is the party’s “savior”, he then proceeds to feed vast media throng with two fish and five loaves of bread.

October 12 -- European Union wins Nobel Peace Prize, narrowly edging out the Holy Roman Empire.

October 18 – Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty offered roles in sci-fi flick entitled "The Prorogue-erator

October 23 -- President Barack Obama  prorogues Congress ... until somebody reminds him he isn't in Canada.

November 11 - American Alliterative Association promotes Pupatello for provincial premier.

November 20 – Conservative governments spends $1.4 million on TV ad which explains how the War of 1812 was won thanks to the Economic Action Plan.

November 21 – Polls show Justin Trudeau is a strong favorite to win the Grey Cup

November 23 –Justin Trudeau announces that “some of his best friends are Albertans.”

November 24 -- Liberal leader Bob Rae tries to trade Mayor Joe Fontana and MP David McGuinty to the Miami Marlins. 

November 26 -- In a stunning ruling, a Toronto judge finds Toronto Mayor Rob Ford guilty of conflict of interest. The resulting penalty is applied on the ensuing kick off.

November 26 – After Liberals lose Calgary Centre by-election, polls reveal Justin Trudeau to be 13% less adorable. 

November 28 – In order to gain support in Western Canada, Liberal leadership candidate and former astronaut, Marc Garneau says he prefers Alberta to that "Awful planet of the apes."

December 3 – Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announces Canada faces a "Fiscal Toboggan Hill".

December 7 -- Harper government agrees to sell Nexen to the Chinese, but only if they also take Peter MacKay.  

December 8 – During a UFC fight, a House of Commons Debate breaks out.

December 12 -- Defence Minister Peter MacKay becomes bidder on TV show "Storage Wars" in hopes of finding locker containing abandoned fighter jets.

December 20 – After issuing a series of profane tweets, NDP MP Pat Martin quits Twitter, fulfilling ancient Mayan prophecy.

At any rate, Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and Happy Pointless New Year!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Conservatives’ legal ploy against Council of Canadians wrong-headed

Yesterday, in the  robo-call court battle, the Conservative government's lawyers went after the Council of Canadians for "champerty".  Here's a column I wrote seven months ago for the Ottawa Hill Times, explaining why I don't think that's a good idea.


The Conservative Party of Canada recently accused the Council of Canadians, an advocacy group, of “champerty and maintenance”
Now when I first read about this startling accusation, I naturally assumed the council was guilty of illegally maintaining some champerties.
But upon further investigation, I realized my error.
It turns out “champerty and maintenance” is legal jargon to describe a party which improperly involves itself in another party’s lawsuit in order to share in the proceeds.
So what does this have to do with the Council of Canadians?
Well, according to the Conservatives, the Council of Canadians is guilty of improperly involving itself in seven lawsuits which aim to overturn the election of Tory MPs.
It’s a clear case of “champerty and maintenance” the Tories told a court, in hopes of getting the lawsuits dismissed.
Now, I am no legal expert, but in my view this Conservative legal ploy is wrong-headed.
To see why, let’s examine the council’s actions.
It all started earlier this year when the so-called “robocall” scandal was making national news.  Recall how allegations were flying all over the place about the Conservatives using telephone calls to illegally “suppress” voter turnout.
At any rate, the Council of Canadians—which by the way is a pretty far out there left-wing group based on previous causes it has supported—decided to jump on the robocall bandwagon.
In March, the council announced it was financially supporting citizens who are going to court to annul the election results of seven ridings that were narrowly won by Conservatives, based on “evidence of irregularities, fraud and other activities which affected the outcome of the elections.”
Naturally, to help defray its legal costs the council is aggressively fundraising.
For their part, the Tories see these court challenges as more about politics than justice.
In their motion to dismiss the challenges, the Conservatives argue the council’s “involvement is for the improper motive of attacking only Conservatives, consistent with their very vocal opposition of and malice towards the Conservative Party of Canada.”
The Tory motion also claims the council is using publicity from the cases to raise money.
Of course, it’s hard to argue that the charges are true.
I don’t know what motivates the Council of Canadians but as an advocacy group opposed to many of the Conservative Party’s policies, it makes sense that its reasons for these court challenges would include: (1) to embarrass the Conservative Party; (2) to raise its profile in the media and; (3) to squeeze dollars out of its donor base.
If it happens to actually win any of these legal challenges, well that’s just a nice bonus.
But just because the council’s motives may be self-serving and political, it doesn’t mean the court challenges it’s backing should be dismissed.
After all, don’t the citizens, who are actually launching these challenges with the help of the council, deserve to have their day in court?
Besides, let’s face it, the Council of Canadians isn’t the first advocacy group in history that’s used court challenges to self-promote or to promote an agenda or to raise money.
That’s just a part of the way the advocacy game is played.
In fact, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s old group, the National Citizens Coalition, often used court challenges both to undermine left-wing politicians and to fundraise.
And there’s nothing sinister about that.
Indeed, advocacy groups are supposed to advocate; and if advocacy means getting involved in a costly court proceeding they need to fundraise to pay for it; and the more publicity they get the easier it is to raise money.

The end result is good for democracy: important legal challenges get a hearing.
That’s why the Tories should leave the champerties alone.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Curious Case of those Infamous Robo-Calls

One of the things I learned from watching the old Perry Mason TV show is that to win a court case you often need what jurisprudence experts usually refer to as “evidence.”

And it’s this legal technicality which could prevent the free-trade-hating, Stephen Harper detesting, left-wing fringe club, otherwise known as the Council of Canadians, from winning its highly publicized “robo-call” court challenge which starts this week.

If you haven’t heard of this case, here’s the low down: The Council is backing the legal challenge of six citizens who allege “fraudulent robo-calls” discouraged non-Conservative voters in their ridings from casting ballots in the last federal election.

Accordingly, they want the courts to overturn the election of six Conservative MPs and order new by-elections.

(Originally there were seven challengers but one complainant dropped out after it was discovered she actually didn’t live in the riding she claimed to live in. Way to go, Council of Canadians crack research team! Although in fairness to the Council perhaps this woman was misled by a robo-call.)

Anyway, to win its challenge the Council will need to prove in court that robo-calls misled citizens, who were all set to vote Liberal or NDP or Green or Other, into spending Election Day sitting on the couch eating potato chips.

That’s a pretty high threshold of proof. How can you prove that people changed their voting patterns because of a robot phone call that took place more than a year ago?

Answer: It isn’t easy.

Mind you, some people have tried using fancy, shmancy statistical models to gauge the impact of robo-calls.

For instance, back in March, Professor Anke Kessler of Simon Fraser University published a statistical analysis which seemed to show that robo-calls suppressed non-Conservative supporters in the last election.

More specifically, Kessler did a poll-by-poll comparison between the 2008 election and the 2011 election, and found "a statistically significant effect of the alleged demobilization efforts" in the 27 ridings where robo-call complaints emerged compared to all other ridings.

Mind you, Kessler also cautioned that her "analysis and the corresponding results are not suited to bring the outcome in a particular riding into question" and that her “findings in no way can 'prove' whether misconduct or an illegal act has occurred."

Naturally, the media took these caveats into consideration when reporting on this story.

Ha! Just kidding!

What actually happened, of course, was the media reported this study with sensationalistic headlines like: “Study supports vote suppression allegations” and “ELECTION FRAUD! Robo-Calling May Have Significantly Impacted Voting, Says SFU Study” and “Did Robo-calls affect the last election? Apparently so, says new study.”

Me, I registered my skepticism about this study on Twitter, calling it “Statistical nonsense”. I would have offered a deeper analysis, but the word “gobbledygook” took up too many characters.

And for this I was immediately assailed by academics and economists who accused me of being “anti-science.”

Me, anti-science!!?

Full disclosure: It's true, at one time science and I didn’t really get along all that well (I barely passed grade 11 physics) But these days, now that I am no longer required to actually write exams, I am very much pro-science.

Besides, Kessler’s study wasn’t really science, but more like social science hokum dressed up as true science.

For one thing, her econometric regression analysis model didn’t and couldn’t factor in the myriad of different variables that can and do impact on voting behaviour. Or to put it another way, some things in politics just can’t be quantified or fed into a mathematical equation. For example, how do you compute the fact that former Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff had the charisma of a moldy kumquat?

To my mind, such a critical failing made Kessler’s study more useless than two tickets to the NHL Winter Classic.

Fortunately, a bright young man named Michael R. Smith, who witnessed my Twitter battle on this issue, agreed with me and what’s more, he helped prove my point in a brilliantly funny way.

Acting in a completely scientific manner, Smith managed to show how Kessler’s formula could also be used to provide statistically significant evidence to suggest  a secret, Conservative mind control device may also have demobilized the anti-Conservative vote.

Yes, Smith’s “study” was just for fun, but I am half-expecting the Council of Canadians to use it as the basis for a new court challenge.

Or maybe it won’t, since the Council is not using Kessler’s model in its court challenge.

But it is using for evidence something we all know is absolutely 100 percent infallible: polls.

In fact, last spring, the Council commissioned Ekos Research to do a survey on the impact of robo-calls in the last election.

(Ekos, by the way, is the same polling firm that confidently predicted that the last election would result in an NDP-Liberal Coalition government replacing the Conservatives.)

At any rate, the resulting Ekos survey showed Liberal, NDP and Green party supporters in the ridings involved in the legal challenge were much more likely to report receiving a misleading telephone call in the final days of the election than Conservative supporters in the same ridings.

In other words, if the survey is to be believed fraudulent robo-calls were “widespread” and targeted in the last election.

Sounds damaging for the Conservatives and good for the Council’s case, right?

Well, before passing judgment on this poll, a few key points must be considered.

First, to conduct its poll Ekos used (ironically) robo-calls. Yup that’s right. Rather than talking to a real live person, respondents to the Ekos poll answered questions posed by a soulless machine (And no I don’t mean Stephen Harper!).

Such a survey might go a little something like this:

Ring, Ring, Ring

Human: Hello

Robot Pollster: Hello sir and or madam. We would like to ask you a simple survey question.

Human: Well, I don’t live actually here, I’m from Alabama; I’m just visiting my brother-in-law so …..

Robot Pollster: If you received a fraudulent robo-call in the final days of the last election press “one” on your phone; if you didn’t receive a fraudulent robo-call press “two”; if you are not sure if you received a robo-call press “three”, if you’re sitting on the couch eating potato chips press “four”.

Human: What’s a robo-call?

Robot Pollster: If you need me to repeat your choices, please press “seven”.

Human: OK … Oops I hit one by mistake.

Robot Pollster: Thank you for completing our survey.

Human: But I didn’t….


The polling industry is divided as to whether or not this sort of polling method can achieve reliable results. Darrell Bricker of Ipsos Reid, for instance, has slammed this sort of polling as “tremendously biased in terms of sample coverage” he also noted that  in the last federal election such polls were “MASSIVELY (capitalized emphasis his)off on the final vote.”

Second and more importantly, the Ekos poll assumes people can accurately remember details of a phone call that took place several months in the past.

That’s an awfully huge assumption since humans, generally speaking, have extremely unreliable memories.

I can’t even remember why I’m writing this!

And it’s not just me.

Just consider a recent story that ran in Post Media newspapers concerning donations to the Conservative Party.

According to the story, reporters had uncovered the names of several people who said they did not donate to the Conservative Party even though party financial filings indicated they did.

In fact, eleven people contacted by Post Media claimed they definitely, positively, absolutely did not make any donations to the Conservatives and they wanted to know how their names ended up on the list.

As one of them put it, “I have nothing to do with the Conservatives. I want to find out who the guy was doing the fundraising because I have a few words to say to him.”

Seems like another sure-fire scandal, not to mention another possible Council of Canadians’ lawsuit.

Yet, a few days after this story appeared, we learned it was all just an innocent misunderstanding -- it turns out the people cited simply forgot they had made donations to the Conservatives.


So my point is, if people can forget about writing checks (that were for hundreds of dollars) isn’t it reasonable to assume they can also forget the details of a phone call that might have taken place nearly a year ago?

Plus all the publicity about robo-calls has probably tainted any survey results. People might genuinely misremember getting a robo-call just because they kept hearing about them on the news.

(For a more technical shredding of the Ekos poll, check this out and this and this.)

Certainly the Ekos poll would have been much more persuasive had it been conducted a few days after the election, instead of several months later.

I realize, of course, this analysis will disappoint those people who desperately want to believe the only reason the Conservatives prevailed in the last election was because they cheated.

But like it or not, there is no real scientific evidence to support the thesis that misleading robo-calls swayed any election results.

And if a judge is going to take the drastic step of overturning an election result and in effect disenfranchise thousands of Canadian voters, he or she will need some solid evidence of wrong-doing.

In my view the only true, scientific way to settle this would be to re-run the entire federal election under the exact same conditions as in 2011, except the robo-call variable would be eliminated.[1]

And since that’s unlikely to happen, it’s hard for me to see how the Council of Canadians will ultimately win its robo-call challenge.

But what do I know? Maybe legal rules have changed since Perry Mason went off the air.

Now if you will excuse me, a robo-call recently instructed me to sit on the couch and eat potato chips.

[1] This would make a great plot for the next Matrix movie!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

By-election winners and losers

In the late hours of Monday evening, when the results from yesterday’s by-elections were trickling in, the immediate judgment from certain pundits and journalists on Twitter was that “nobody won” or that it was a “wake up call” for the major parties.

I don’t buy it.

In fact, in the cold light of day, it seems clear  the Conservative Party of Canada was the clear winner and that the real loser was media expectations for Trudeaumania.

Why are the Conservatives winners? It’s obvious: they won two out of three by-elections, one in Durham, one in Calgary-Centre.

Yes, Calgary-Centre victory was relatively tight, but the Tories still won by more than 1,000 votes and that aint bad.

More interesting is the failure of Trudeaumania.

Recall, how the media keeps telling us that Liberal leadership candidate Justin Trudeau is a new breed of politician, whose idealism, charisma and charm will energize vast throngs of apathetic Canadians into obedient Liberal-voting legions.

He’s being sold, in other words, as the messiah who will smite the evil Harperites.

Yet we didn’t see much evidence of Trudeau’s divine magic on by-election night.

In fact, in two ridings, Durham and Victoria, the Liberals got crushed.

But what about Calgary Centre, you ask? The Liberals finished with 33 percent of the vote. Isn’t that the best result they’ve had in a long time?

Yes, it is.

But remember, Calgary-Centre was a riding the Liberals could win. By Alberta standards it’s centre-left/Red Toryish, the Conservatives were hampered by infighting between the Wildrose tribe and the Progressive Conservatives and, of course, Trudeau was making personal appearances in the riding.

And by-elections are wild-cards where anything can happen.

Yet the Liberals still lost. And voter turnout was low – less than 30 percent of eligible voters in the riding cast ballots.

And so the highly vaunted Trudeaumania didn't excite voters enough to get them to vote Liberal in sufficient quantities nor did it even get them off the couch!

Indeed, if anything, Trudeau The Great might have cost the Liberals a win in Calgary, thanks to his highly publicized anti-Alberta comments.

The bottom line is that while Trudeaumania may have smitten the media, voters  in general are not yet truly engaged in federal politics.

Remember that the next time you see a poll showing Trudeau will win a majority government.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Trudeau's Weaknesses Revealed

Could it possibly be that the impossibly handsome Justin Trudeau, he of the adorable smile and famous last name, isn’t perfect?

OK I realize that to the Canadian media, AKA “The Justin Trudeau Fan Club”, that question is close to heretical.

After all, they keep telling us about how it’s our national destiny to see Trudeau the Magnificent proclaimed God-Emperor  … oops I mean Prime Minister.

In fact, they seem irked we have to endure three whole years of non-Trudeau rule.

Yet we need, I think, to consider those controversial comments he made a few years ago that recently surfaced in a Sun News story.

It seems to me they might conceivably, possibly, perhaps, be considered somewhat of a mistake.

You probably know which comments I’m talking about.

While being interviewed for a French-language news show, Trudeau proclaimed “Canada isn’t doing well right now because it’s Albertans who control our community and socio-democratic agenda. It doesn’t work.”

Get that?

He doesn’t say Canada isn’t doing well because Conservatives are running the country or because Harper is running the country, but because “Albertans” control our socio-democratic agenda, whatever that means.

To me, that sounds an awful lot like anti-Albertan bigotry. I mean, if you take Trudeau at his word, he would actually support a Conservative Quebecer for prime minister over a Liberal Albertan.

Take that Harvey Locke!

He then goes on to say the only good prime ministers come from Quebec and indeed that Canada “belongs to Quebec.”

Needless to say, these are not the sort of comments that will win votes outside of Montreal. It also undermines the media narrative that Trudeau is an idealist whose only goal in life is to unite all Canadians in a big group hug.   

Mind you, I doubt this will get him into too much trouble, at least in the short term. For one thing the media won’t play it up. Check out, for instance, this Canadian Press story on his comments which manages to put Trudeau in a positive light and attack the Conservatives all the while burying the lede so deep you will need a steam shovel to find it.

Now that’s journalism.

Also, we must remember Trudeau’s comments were made in 2010, before the media realized he was the true Messiah who would rid the country of the evil Harperites. Recall, at that time they assumed Michael Ignatieff was the true Messiah who would rid the country of the evil Harperites.

So given all that, maybe technically-speaking we shouldn’t consider his two-year old comments a mistake.

But still, whether the media will admit it or not, this episode reveals two glaring weaknesses in Trudeau’s candidacy.

First, it shows how the guy lacks political savvy and message discipline. In other words, he has a tendency to say stupid things. This means the problem for the Liberals isn’t what dopey things Trudeau has said in the past, it’s what dopey things he might say in the future.

And you better believe once he steps in the jungle of leadership politics, his battle-hardened and tough opponents will do everything they can to get under his skin, hoping to trigger an ill-considered outburst.

Secondly, and more importantly, Trudeau’s comments on Alberta and Quebec reveal that his mindset is  more suited to the 1970s.

Back in those days Liberals assumed Canada’s governing classes had to come from Central Canada, so as to ensure the country was run for the benefit of Central Canada.

Anything west of Ontario was there simply to provide a location for Liberal Party socialist experiments like the National Energy Program.

This, by the way, is also apparently the attitude of Trudeau’s comrade, Liberal MP David McGuinty.

What McGuinty and Trudeau don’t seem to get is that Canada is now much different place than it was 40 years ago.

Economic and political power is shifting west and if Trudeau doesn’t come to grips with that fact, he will need more than a god-like persona to lead his party out of the wilderness.


After a consulting with his spin doctors and pollsters, Justin Trudeau now admits his comments about Alberta were a mistake!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Attack advice for the Green Party

I witnessed an interesting debate on Twitter today as to whether or not this pamphlet constituted a political attack.

In the pamphlet, Chris Turner, Green Party candidate in the upcoming Calgary-Centre federal by-election, suggests Liberal candidate Harvey Locke "doesn't understand Calgary now. He hasn't  lived here for well over a decade."

Some say this is an attack, some say it isn't.

The correct answer is, it definitely is an attack, but an incredibly lame and ineffective one.

Here's what a more effective attack would look like:

Harvey Locke: Bad for Calgary!

Harvey Locke wants to be an MP for Calgary-Centre – but here’s the shocking secret he doesn’t want you to know.

He lives outside the city!

It’s appalling, but true! Locke is not from here. He is not one of us!

How can a man who doesn’t live amongst us, possibly understand our unique Calgary-Centre concerns, our Calgary-Centre issues and our Calgary-Centre problems?

Answer: He can’t!

Yet this outsider, with his strange non-Calgary-Centre ways, wants you to trust him with your precious vote.

It’s frightening!

Don’t be fooled. On Election Day, let Harvey Locke know you don’t want a stranger to represent you in the House of Commons.

Vote for your neighbour, vote for Chris Turner, a proud Calgary-Centarian.

He's one of us.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Little War that Could

As you probably know, two hundred years ago a major historic event took place which helped shape the destiny our great nation.

But this posting is not about the discovery of maple syrup.

Instead, I want to discuss another equally important historical event which took place two hundred years ago, a little something we like to call, The War of 1812.

Now some might say this conflict is the Marc Garneau of wars, in that it’s celebrated, but dull.

Certainly it lacks the panache of other famous conflicts such as World War I, World War II or The Clone Wars.

That’s not to say, of course, the War of 1812 doesn’t get any attention. In fact, a respected group of military scholars recently voted it “The War with the most Boring Name Ever.”

But clearly it needs some better PR.

Thankfully the Conservative government is on the case. It’s spending millions of tax dollars on War of 1812 TV commercials,  War of 1812 stamps,  War of 1812 coins, and War of 1812 lunch boxes, posters and T-shirts.

Word has it, if this campaign is a hit, the government will soon produce a sequel commemoration called “The Revenge of The War of 1812.”

Meanwhile, as a result of all this spending and commemorating, Canadians, who once knew next to nothing about the War of 1812, now realize it was a conflict where, for some reason, guys in red coats shot at guys in blue coats.

Yet, despite all this government-sponsored propaganda … oops … I mean public-spirited education, more needs to be done to inform Canadians about this key clash in our nation’s history.

With that in mind, I have decided to fill in some of the “historical gaps”, mainly with information I just made up.

The first thing you need to know is that technically speaking the War of 1812 actually started in 1813; it got its name due to a careless typo, which is historically significant when you consider the typewriter wasn’t even invented yet. (Nobody has the heart to point out this error to the Conservative government.)

Also interesting is the War of 1812 is known by different names in different countries. For instance, in Britain it’s generally known as “The War of What?”

Anyway, at one point during the War of 1812, invading American soldiers burned down our Parliamentary buildings. This action shocked and angered Canadians who decried it as an “outrage”; the Americans, on the other hand, called it a “parliamentary prorogation,” thus setting an important precedent in Canadian politics.

By the way, rumours are flying that US President Barack Obama may soon come to Canada and apologize for this act of arson. He will reportedly blame it on the Bush Administration.

Of course, later in the war we got back at the Americans when British troops burned down the White House. This is considered to be the worst thing to ever happen in America’s capital, other than the Washington Nationals shutting down the season of pitching ace Steven Strasburg.

So you see the War of 1812 is actually an extremely important part of Canada’s legacy, even more important in some ways than Justin Trudeau’s hair.

After all, because we managed to fend off an American invasion, Canada was able to maintain its cherished status as a backwater colony of the British Empire.

Ultimately, this paved the way for Canada to become a fully sovereign nation, a sovereignty we celebrate today by removing the Canadian flag from the Quebec National Assembly.

And it’s all thanks to the War of 1812. (Really the War of 1813.) 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

NCC President Owes the CTF an Apology

After Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced he was going to (finally) reform the gold-plated MP pension plan, National Citizens Coalition president Peter Coleman quickly claimed it as a victory for his group.

Nothing surprising about that.

I certainly expected Coleman would try and claim credit, but what I didn’t expect was that in doing so he would also launch a classless and pathetic attack against another conservative organization.

Yet, unbelievably that’s what he did.

In a recent note posted on the NCC blog (which was also emailed to the group’s supporters ) Coleman interrupted his boasting about the  NCC’s supposed triumph, to express his annoyance that other groups had the audacity to believe they also had a part to play in making MP pensions an issue.

As he put it, “there have been many groups coming out of the woodwork trying to claim credit for pressing for these reforms.”

While Coleman doesn’t have the courage to name the other groups, “coming out of the woodwork” it seems obvious he is referring to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, which is also taking credit for MP pension reform.

Coleman then tries to “set the record straight” by linking to some NCC anti-MP pension ads from the late 1970s and adds, “It was the NCC that first started researching and exposing outrageous MP pensions nearly 35 years ago, and it is the NCC that has put this issue in the spotlight once again.”

Interestingly, however, Coleman doesn’t link to any ads of more recent vintage, say within the past five years.


It’s simple, while the NCC was indeed a leading voice on MP pension reform in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, it became virtually silent on the issue after Harper became Prime Minister.

For some reason reforming MP pensions was no longer a top priority for the NCC.

This is why it’s so absurd for Coleman to now be demanding all the attention, like some spoiled child.

The truth is the issue of MP pensions might have fallen off the public radar completely had it not been for another conservative organization that worked hard to keep the flame of reform alive.

I am talking, of course, about the CTF.

For the past seven years, it was the CTF, with its relentless, informative and creative ad campaigns, which almost single-handedly ensured that the issue of MP pensions stayed on the national agenda.

In other words, during the Harper era, it was the CTF and not the NCC which put a “spotlight” on MP pensions.

That’s why the CTF has every right to take a bow for its victory.

Ironically, if anyone is crawling out of the woodwork on the MP pension issue, it’s the NCC president.

So why did Coleman launch such a graceless attack on the CTF? I don’t know, maybe he’s jealous of its success. Maybe his own supporters were wondering why the NCC didn’t challenge Harper on the MP pension issue. Who knows?

All I do know for sure is that Coleman owes the CTF and its supporters an apology.

Setting the NCC Record Straight

Last week, in his Toronto Sun column, Warren Kinsella  took a negative swipe at my old group, The National Citizens Coalition. Alas, I was certain the people currently running the NCC would fail to respond to this attack; so I decided to send the following letter to the editor. It was published today:

Dear Sir/Madam:

Re “Justin Trudeau’s resume compares favourably to Stephen Harper’s” (Oct. 14): Warren Kinsella took a cheap shot at Prime Minister Stephen Harper, by taking an even cheaper shot at the National Citizens Coalition. 
Mind you, Kinsella doesn’t actually mention the NCC by name; he just says some nasty things about the “group” Prime Minister Harper used to head up. As a former employee of the NCC, I’d like to set the record straight. 
Yes, Prime Minister Harper was indeed NCC president, back in the late 1990s. But he was not, as Kinsella asserts, a “lobbyist.” 
As NCC president, Harper’s job was to use advertising campaigns, constitutional court challenges and media appearances to raise public awareness about the importance of free markets, smaller government and individual freedom. 
To my mind, that’s an important job. And yes, any job where you have to argue policy, articulate a clear and consistent message to the public and deal with the media, prepares you for a life in politics. At least it seemed to work for Harper.
Gerry Nicholls
Former vice president
National Citizens Coalition

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Just in Case You Don't Have Enough Trudeau News

Hey, somebody in the Liberal Party accidentally emailed me a copy of Justin Trudeau's itinerary for the next few months.

Thought I'd share it:

Justin Trudeau campaign itinerary:
Oct. 8 – Thanksgiving Day – Visit farm near Montreal -- raise turkey from the dead.

Oct. 14 --- Toronto rally: Brief talk to supporters, followed by turning water into wine.

Oct. 22 --- Niagara Falls –Part the Niagara River just for the heck of it.

October 29 – New York - Attend labour negotiations between NHL and Player’s Union, so that idealism and youthful energy can end hockey lock out.

November 2 -- Ottawa -- Talk to CBC producers about casting for planned bio pic, tentatively titled: “Justin Trudeau: The Most Impossibly Handsome Canadian” 

November 5 -- Organize the hordes of once apathetic but now inspired and energized youthful Canadians into obedient legions.

November 8  – Winnipeg – Raise funds for leadership campaign by turning base metal into gold.

November 11  – Regina -- Take day off to re-charge charisma.

November 13 -- Edmonton -- Bask in media adulation. 

November 19 -- Calgary – Announce detailed policy platform. (Ha, ha just kidding.)

November 25  ---  Red Deer -- Wear Stetson and smile adorably. 

December 2 – Vancouver – enter city via chariot drawn by four snow white stallions.

December 15 – Victoria – visit local restaurant – order sizzle without the steak.

December 25 – Montreal  -- Join the world in celebrating my birthday.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Is Justin Trudeau the long awaited Anti-Harper?

Justin Trudeau and Justin Bieber have more in common than just a first name.

Both guys are also adored by legions of love struck fans.

Except in the case of Bieber the fans are teenage girls, whereas for Trudeau they are the Canadian media.

I mean come on, ever since Trudeau started musing about running for the Liberal leadership, the media has gone completely ga ga over the guy. Coverage has ranged from fawning to ridiculously fawning.

Why is this the case? Why is the media so smitten with a Liberal MP who, let’s face it, has not really accomplished all that much in his short career as a politician.

Well the obvious reason is that Trudeau’s last name carries with it a certain mystique. Media types remember with a nostalgic fondness the reign of his father, PierreCanada’s last Philosopher King.

But the media’s adoration of Justin is about more than just his father’s legacy.

It also has to do with the media’s disdain for Prime Minister Stephen Harper. And yes, believe it or not,  many media-types just don’t like Harper. Partly it's because they view him as a conservative, but they also don’t like his tough-guy, antagonistic leadership style. Plus, truth be told, Harper has not exactly done much to endear himself with the press.Quite the opposite, in fact.

At any rate, for a long time the media has been desperately seeking an “Anti-Harper”, and Trudeau  fits the bill perfectly. He is the Ying, to Harper’s Yang; the zig to Harper’s zag; the Abbott to Harper’s Costello.

Just think about it.

Harper is a somber, dull, middle-aged, policy wonk – Trudeau is youthful,  full of fun and does zany things like beat up Senators in a boxing ring.

Harper is seen as a ruthless, cynic – Trudeau is seen as an emotional idealist.

Harper is from the Alberta outlands --- Trudeau is from cosmopolitan Montreal.

Harper has a piercing, glaring stare --- Trudeau has a charming smile and a great mane of hair.

Harper is coldly calculating --- Trudeau is spontaneous and passionate.

Harper is boring --- Trudeau emits radiant beams of charisma.

In other words, for the Canadian media Trudeau is simply too dreamy to resist.

Mind you, if “Trudeau the Adorable” fails to overcome the Harperian Ogre, the media will quickly turn on him just like they turned on their former darlings, Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff.

In the meantime, however, I just wish the media and Trudeau would get a room.