Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Harper's Nascar Gambit

The news that the Conservative party is sponsoring a car on the Canadian Nascar circuit is quite interesting. It is consistent with a strategy premised on appealing to the working class Tory. An additional benefit is that the sponsored car belongs to Pierre Bourque, owner of a pro-Conservative news aggregating web site.

However, the comparisons to the U.S. miss a key point. Car racing's popularity has traditionally been rooted among white male southern blue collar workers - who until Reagan came along were all Democrats. It made sense for the Republicans to work hard at wooing these voters who would feel a continuing tug to return to the Democrats. The Republicans in the south even to this day still have a bit of a country club image.

However, the kind of voters that are likely to be influenced by Harper's effort are probably already predominantly Conservative voters. And Harper is paying a price in the form of damage to the strenuous efforts the Conservatives have made over the last six months to appear more environmentally friendly.

As Jack Layton put it:
I know one thing's for sure is they'll now have their name on some of the emissions here in Canada and I'm not sure that was necessarily the wisest decision.

Often Harper does not appear to think things through, or else the party does not engage in enough internal debate about ideas like this. If enough people had been involved surely one would have pointed out the environmental downside. Whatever the benefits might be to the Conservatives they are more than offset by the additional blow to their already dwindling environmental credibility.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Climate change journalism

Credit where credit is due.

In his column today on why Canada lags on reducing greenhouse gases Jeffrey Simpson says something that all reporting on the Chr├ętien-Martin climate change record should note:
Successive Liberal governments failed miserably on the climate-change file, but the record shows that even the Liberals' modest measures were opposed tooth and nail by the Reform Party, the Canadian Alliance and the Conservative Party.
The Conservatives' credibility on this issue isn't great anyway, but their active role in slowing down Canada's response is something about which we need to remind ourselves. Compare Simpson's clarity and insight with his colleague John Ibbitson's pathetic column a couple of weeks ago commented on previously by TC. All references to the weaknesses in the Liberal record ought to highlight the Conservative role in making it what it was.

In the week that the G8 leaders did at least accept the science of climate change even if their response to it remains weak, the possibility of global warming's connection to the increasing intensity of hurricanes was highlighted by the Indian Ocean cyclone Gonu, which struck Oman and Iran. Simon Donner comments here and links to this interesting post here.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Summer Doldrums

The most recent Ipsos poll is headlined "Parties mired in political doldrums: poll". You might think there isn't any good news there for anyone. Indeed the poll's national numbers show the Conservatives at 34% and the Liberals a few points behind at 31% - no majority there for anyone - but a closer look at the regional numbers suggests that it would produce quite good seat numbers for the Liberals.

Here are two tables: the poll's regional numbers followed by the seat distribution it produces using my forecast model:



There is no election in sight and all such polls deserve to be taken with a grain of salt, in particular the Green numbers, but the Conservatives' renewed efforts to attack St├ęphane Dion start to make sense.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Close Ontario Election Coming

It has appeared for some time that the next election in Ontario would be close. A poll out this weekend from SES gives us a tie between the Liberals and Conservatives:

Liberal - 35
PC - 35
NDP - 19
Green - 11

This would give us a minority PC government of 53 seats with the Liberals at 38 and the NDP holding the balance of power with 15 seats. The Greens would win 1 but would have to get all of that 11 percent to do so.

Those are high numbers for the Greens. I suspect they measure more the importance of the environment issue than actual voting intention - the Green vote was quite low in recent provincial elections in Quebec, PEI and Manitoba - but we are living through an unprecedented period of growth in concern about the environment, so I do expect significant Green improvement on their 2.8 percent share in 2003.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Hot air on climate change

At some point you will likely read a variant of this column last week by John Ibbitson:

Greenhouse-gas emissions declined in the United States last year.

This is something that sanctimonious Canadians should bear in mind when accusing Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government of resembling the evildoing Americans on global-warming issues.

Conventional Canadian wisdom is that the United States is a carbon-dioxide-spewing environmental failed state. The reality is entirely different. When it comes to taking action on global warming, the United States leaves Canada in the dust.

A better view of this can be found in this blog posting by Canadian climate change scientist Simon Donner:
The Washington Post reports that US carbon dioxide emissions dropped by 1.3% in 2006.

A good sign? Perhaps. Unfortunately, the Bush Administration is attributing the change to "effectively confronting the important challenge of global climate change through regulations, public-private partnerships, incentives, and strong economic investment."

Oy. Just as we can't look at one warm year and declare global warming has happened, we can't look at a one year drop and claim an emissions policy is working. CO2 emissions vary year-to-year because of the weather (reduced heating required during the warm winter), changes in the economy (higher gas prices, less fuel use), etc. There's no evidence any Bush administration initiatives, it's not even clear what policies or investments that statement could possibly be referring to, are having any measurable effect on emissions.
Of course journalistic hot air long preceded climate change.