Saturday, April 30, 2005

Who would have thought...

Hands up all those who thought they would live to see the day that an ex-President of the National Citizens' Coalition would lecture Mike Harris and Preston Manning on the merits of Canadian medicare, in a speech at the Fraser Institute, while denouncing the pair's health care privatization proposals as 'naive and misguided'.

Says something about the continuing support by the Canadian public for our health care system.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Lack of Perspective

One the things that has bothered me about media coverage of the sponsorship scandal has been the lack of perspective. For example, Globe columnist John Ibbitson called it as bad as Watergate (subscription required). To take just one tiny example from that notorious scandal, the plumbers unit set up by the White House broke into the office of the psychiatrist of Daniel Ellsberg, the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times, to find information that would be used to discredit him in the administration's ongoing efforts to undermine the antiwar movement. The break-in at the Watergate itself was an effort by the White House to spy illegally on their political opponents. Um, comparing a patronage/tollgating scandal to a series of abuses of power? You see the problem.

However, the main point being missed is that the amount of money involved was actually quite small. Today's column in the Globe and Mail by Jim Stanford (subscription required) provides a needed corrective. He calculates that the scandal has cost him personally the equivalent of a coffee at Tim Horton's (and a donut every second year). Here are the key quotes:

Okay, enough already with the huffing and the puffing, people. Enough with the televised speeches. Most of all, enough with the pompous moral outrage. You're all overacting. So $100-million was paid to ad agencies between 1997 and 2003, some portion of which is unaccounted for. Some portion of that was stolen. And some portion of that, it seems, ended up in Liberal coffers.

These grants consumed less than 0.01 per cent of federal revenues during those six years. I paid a grand total of $107,000 in income tax to Ottawa over the same period. Therefore, the sponsorship program wasted $10.70 of my money over six years. That's $1.78 per year -- enough for a double-double at Tim's, and a doughnut every second year....

Is the sponsorship issue the most scandalous thing in Canada right now? Not even close. Why don't we get banner headlines about the unsolved murders of dozens, perhaps hundreds, of Canadian prostitutes? Why don't we bring down the government over Canadian complicity in the torture of Maher Arar? Why don't we have televised hearings on the thousands of Canadians who die prematurely because of smog?

Has the sponsorship scandal destroyed Canada's reputation, demolished the "moral authority" of government? Get real.

Does it even hold a candle to the self-dealing, tax-evasion, insider-trading and tax-deductible partying that occurs in Canada's private sector every business day of the year? Hardly.

Most damning of all, does the sponsorship scandal remotely affect my life, or those of 99.9 per cent of my fellow Canadians? Uh-uh.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

BC Election

The campaign is underway. The first poll - by Strategic Counsel for the Globe and Mail - echoed a number of earlier surveys in giving the Liberals a 46-38 lead over the NDP with the Greens at 13%. The seat estimate this produces is 52 Liberals and 27 NDP with nothing for the Greens. The only prospect for a Green seat appears to be leader Adriane Carr’s Powell River-Sunshine Coast constituency.

With a prosperous economy and a balanced budget one might think the contest will be an uninteresting march to the result just cited.

However, the poll has some numbers that do suggest some uncertainty. Most important are Premier Campbell’s negatives – with 42% rating his performance poor or very poor, compared to just 25% calling it excellent to good. In addition 64% thought strongly or somewhat that Mr. Campbell did not understand the concerns of ordinary British Columbians. Anyone with that baggage is vulnerable to the appropriate constellation of personalities, issues and events.

This brings us to the second great unknown that emerges from this poll: NDP Leader Carole James. She is not well known, with just 52% able to identify her. How the public reacts as they get to know her from media coverage of the campaign cannot be known in advance. If it is highly favourable, it could matter given that Campbell is less than beloved.

My intuition continues to be that the BC Liberals will win with the NDP staging a major recovery. The strong performance of the Greens in the last election in 2001 was aided by voters fleeing a discredited NDP. In that sense this election is a critical test for the Greens, one they appear likely to fail. Their support is spread to thinly to win any seats in our first-past-the-post system. Their efforts are likely to be futile at least this time out.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

New Ipsos Reid Poll

There is yet another poll out. I thought last night's spin on Global that this represented much worse news for the Liberals was wrong. Paul Wells had a post out this morning that gets it about right.

Friday, April 22, 2005

The Case for Tony Blair

I, like many others have been more than put off by Blair’s support of the war in Iraq, but there is a strong domestic case for his re-election in the UK election coming on May 5th. This case is put very well here, with additional evidence of Blair’s positive domestic record here.

The Prime Minister’s Television Appearance

The PM’s TV appearance last night was not about making a live television pitch to the nation nor was it about putting off the election until the dead of next winter.

As a live television appearance it likely did not garner much of a direct audience. We live in a 70 channel (or more) television universe, not to mention such distractions as video games, the internet and the Ipod. What it did accomplish was generating frenzy on the part of the media – bold headlines this morning, the lead on all electronic newscasts, etc. This was the idea, and it succeeded. The Liberals were able effectively to deliver their message.

As for the message itself, the chances of the Liberals’ avoiding an election are slim to none. However, by firmly committing to an election post-Gomery the Prime Minister put himself unequivocally on the side of the majority in all the polls – for example, question 7 here, and here, and here – who don’t want an election now. It is a line he can replay during the inevitable spring election campaign.

And, in the end, an election will not likely be influenced by such considerations. So the gambit was a success, but of limited consequence.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

June Election

A June (or July) election now seems inevitable. Psychologically, with Liberals seemingly on the ropes, the opposition Tories and Bloc can't resist the temptation.

There have been numerous polls since the release of the Brault testimony at the Gomery inquiry. What to make of them?

Most have had sample sizes in the 1000/1200 range meaning the regional sub-samples are subject to large errors. I have aggregated and averaged them, and then done a seat calculation. I have noticed wide variance within the polls, especially regionally, and the averaging is about the only way of making sense of it.

Once averaged, the poll numbers are: Liberal - 28, Conservative - 34, NDP - 19, Bloc 13, Green 4 and Other 2. The produces the following seat distribution:

Liberal 79
Conservative 122
NDP 40
Bloc 66
Other 1

At the moment we seem headed for a weak Conservative minority. However, if these numbers held, the Conservatives would only have to cut a deal with one other party to achieve a majority on any matter before the House.

With the Liberal parliamantary moves to postpone a confidence vote, no doubt there will more numbers to crunch in the days to come.