Thursday, October 30, 2008

Canada's Federal Cabinet

Nation, this isn't our first foray into Federal Cabinet analysis, so we'll revisit how this is going to work.

Each cabinet posting is going to be analysed on 2 distinct points. Firstly, pragmatically - can this person do the job they've been assigned? Secondly, politics - will having this person in this position help the Tories win when Jack Layton goads the next Liberal leader into pulling the plug?

And a-waaaaaaaaaaay we go...

Stephen Harper, Prime Minister - big shock there. I was SURE it was going to be MacKay. :) PRAGMATIC: He's shown himself to be an able enough manager so far, however he's steering through uncharted economic waters right now. Much depends on the team he has surrounded himself with - no man, economist or not, can run this entire government while we're at war and on the precipice of a recession. POLITICAL: Canadians are never going to LIKE Harper, and I think the Tories understand that. They're now just asking us to TRUST him... the economy, honouring the Afghanistan withdrawal date, and how he deals with democratic reform (centralizing all power in the PMO isn't the kind of reform Preston Manning was talking about) will be key issues that will make or break Harper's place in history.

Rob Nicholson, Justice - Nicholson retains the Justice portfolio. PRAGMATIC: He can clearly run this department, as he's been doing it for over a year now. POLITICAL: The public perception, right or wrong, is that judges are hamstrung by federal sentencing guidelines. Getting those guidelines changed in a minority parliament full of MP's dead-set against your justice platform, though, is Nicholson's big challenge. Something to consider, though: Most Canadians who bothered to vote (aka "the ones who matter") voted for a party that opposed the Tories vociferously on their justice platform. Nicholson has to tread carefully.

J.P. Blackburn, Revenue - Blackburn moves here from Labour. It's a lateral transfer, with slightly less responsibility. PRAGMATIC: The Minister of Revenue has very little to do with the actual running of their own department, so Blackburn isn't likely able to mess this up too badly. POLITICAL: Blackburn might not have distinguished himself as Minister of Labour, but Harper needs members from Quebec in the cabinet room if he wants to convince Quebecers he's not holding a grudge.

Greg Thompson, Veterans Affairs - Thompson stays put. PRAGMATIC: He's been at this post since Harper's first cabinet. He clearly knows what he's doing. POLITICAL: Thompson is a capable minister from the Maritimes. There's no way he could NOT be in this cabinet.

Marjory LeBreton, Seniors - LeBreton keeps the portfolio that no-one wants. PRAGMATIC: She's been doing the job for over a year, and has the added credibility of actually being a senior herself. No worries here. POLITICAL: The Ontario senator deals with the pressures of this portfolio well, which is really the most that a Prime Minister can hope for from his Seniors minister. LeBreton will also be a "point-person" on Harper's war against the Senate in this term.

Chuck Strahl, Indian Affairs & Northern Development - Seriously, it's 2008, and we still call this ministry "Indian Affairs"? Strahl keeps this posting. PRAGMATIC: Chuck's been at this job for a little over a year, now. He was instrumental in the Residential Schools reckoning. POLITICAL: Strahl was expected by many to take a less active role, due to his health issues. That said, he's a bedrock Reformer and very popular within caucus - not counting Stockwell Day's office. Strahl puts a serious face on the government's policies towards aboriginal peoples - the Tories are not, however, in a position politically to demand accountability from band councils. Cleaning up the reservations, especially relative to crime and water issues, will be Strahl's ongoing challenge.

Peter MacKay, National Defence - MacKay retains his post. PRAGMATIC: He's been the minister of this mercurial portfolio since August of 2007. Ironically, his mother is a peace activist - which isn't to say that MacKay enjoys war (although, rugby isn't exactly all hugs and giggles, either). POLITICAL: MacKay is a steady hand and a familiar face, which is what we need from a war-time Minister of Defence. He'll stay the course, and be a fervent supporter of the 2012 withdrawal date - his political future depends on meeting that deadline, and he knows it.

Stockwell Day, International Trade - This is a move for Day from the Public Safety portfolio, to a less visible but MUCH more important role, with the economic melt-down affecting most of the developed world. PRAGMATIC: Day has never really been tested in this sort of role before. If he uses the same approach he did as Alberta's Treasurer, he'll be fine. If not - well, Stock doesn't make friends very easily. POLITICAL: Day is a middle-aged, white male representing the interior of British Columbia. Keeping him in cabinet appeals to the SoCon base, which is useful if Harper steers the party further towards the centre in an effort to finish off the Liberals. The only way his appointment earns the Tories votes outside of the SoCon bloc is if he does a tremendous job, and the economy doesn't tank.

Vic Toews, President of the Treasury Board - Toews stays put. PRAGMATIC: Toews has done an able job in this position since early 2007, and the fact that he's a dead ringer for Jack Layton seems not to scare the hell out of the government accountants (I know it'd scare the hell out of ME). To the best of my knowledge, both men have been in the same room simultaneously. POLITICAL: Toews provides a Manitoban perspective around the cabinet table, and offers stability in this important position during the economic turmoil. His work on the Wheat Board seems like it's dragging on forever...

Rona Ambrose, Labour - Let "Rona's Rehabilitation" begin. She moves here from Intergovernmental Affairs. PRAGMATIC: This is Ambrose's "sink or swim" moment. She has long been considered a rising star in the party, however her performance as Minister of the Environment was underwhelming. Whether this was due to her, or due to poor policies, is still not universally agreed upon (I tend to believe the latter). If she performs well as Minister of Labour, her stock shoots up. If she doesn't, any hope of a major role in the future is all but dashed. POLITICAL: As a woman under 40, Ambrose gets check-marks for Harper under the "young" and "female" demographics. If she performs well and her stock rises, she'll be crucial in the attempt to win back Edmonton Strathcona (I still giggle every time I think of this - thanks, Dave).

Diane Finley, Human Resources - Finley returns to this portfolio, which she held before moving to Immigration in 2007. PRAGMATIC: She's done the job before, and did a passable job - no reason to doubt she can do it again. POLITICAL: Finley is an Ontario MP and a woman, which will keep some people happy. Perhaps most importantly, this keeps her husband - Harper's right hand, Doug Finley - happy. Like many of the economics-related portfolios, Finley's success (or lack thereof) at this job will go a long way to determining the future prospects not just for her but for Harper and the party as a whole.

Bev Oda, International Co-Operation - Oda holds onto her portfolio. PRAGMATIC: She's been doing the job since August of 2007. The hardest part of the job now might be getting along with Stock Day. POLITICAL: Ontario, senior, woman, visible minority. Jackpot. So long as she does a good job, Oda is a walking, talking rebuttal to 4 of the biggest accusations levelled at Harper in your average water-cooler chat.

Jim Prentice, Environment - Harper's "go-to guy", and arguably his most capable minister, gets the challenge of his political career, moving from Industry in a surprise move. PRAGMATIC: If ANYONE can put enough lipstick on the pig that is the Tory environmental policies, it is Jim Prentice. He's more useful, though, if his role includes MAKING policy, and not just selling the policies he was handed today. POLITICAL: Prentice is a smart man, but he's not exactly "warm and fuzzy", which seems to be what Canadians want in someone talking to them about the environment. The assertion has been that Harper doesn't "care" about the environment - Prentice's challenge, then, is to play to his strengths, and come out with policies, targets, and programs that convince the public otherwise. If Jim can't convince us he and Stephen care, he can still win by showing us he's capable of making meaningful progress on sustainability.

John Baird, Transport and Infrastructure - Baird moves from Environment. PRAGMATIC: Baird wasn't a particularly BAD minister, he was just in a ministry that he couldn't do anything with. In his new role, he'll be cutting cheques for new roads - which the provinces will love - and turning down requests for other funding, which the provinces will hate. I believe he's probably capable. POLITICAL: Baird is still under 40, although serving in Environment is enough to age anyone at least 20 years. He's a young Ontario MP, and Harper has much to thank Ontario for. If Baird drops the ball on this portfolio, though, it's curtains for him. If the economy DOES tank, this ministry will become more important, as public building projects become a way to try to try and perform economic CPR on the country.

Lawrence Cannon, Foreign Affairs - Cannon moves here from Transport and Infrastructure. PRAGMATIC: Cannon is one of the top "Red Tories" in Harper's caucus, and as such he is well suited to be dealing with representatives of foreign nations who don't share the ideological bent of the Conservative Party. He's a royal among Canada's elite, and knows how to talk and act around the "beautiful people". POLITICAL: Cannon is being held to account for the party's poor showing in Quebec. Even so, he's a Quebec minister in a caucus without many Quebec MP's to choose from. He has a chance to put himself back in Harper's good graces with a solid performance, here. If the Tories hope to win in Quebec, they need to put a face other than Harper's on the party in la belle province. It should be Cannon's.

Tony Clement, Industry - Clement comes to Industry from Health. PRAGMATIC: Clement is an able administrator and leader. The biggest question about his new role is, can he work with Jim Flaherty, a bitter rival from the Ontario PC days? Harper clearly thinks so. POLITICAL: Clement was put here because Harper knows he needs someone smart and focused, and Clement is both. He remains a strong voice for Harper in Ontario, and the recent Tory breakthroughs there ensured Tony's continued presence around the cabinet table.

Jim Flaherty, Finance - Flaherty doesn't need to change the letterhead. PRAGMATIC: Flaherty has held this post since early 2006, and we're not running at an annual deficit - YET. POLITICAL: Flaherty is inextricably linked to Clement, as result of their bitter Ontario PC leadership contest. In order to keep Jim in cabinet, you have to keep Tony in cabinet, and vice versa. Changing the minister here would have been a mistake, but Flaherty can't assume that he's been doing a bang-up job, or that nothing is wrong. There's a lot of heavy lifting to come for Jim Flaherty, and the future of Harper's government rests squarely on Flaherty's performance in the months to come.

Josee Verner, Intergovernmental Affairs - Verner moves here from Heritage. PRAGMATIC: The federal minister's job boils down to 2 essential tasks: Listen to the provinces whine, and know when to tell them (respectfully) to shut up. Verner raised 3 kids - she'll do fine. POLITICAL: Verner is rumoured to be Harper's new Quebec lieutenant, as result of the poor showing of the Tories in Quebec. If she performs well in this ministry, and the Tories improve their lot in Quebec, she'll be due for another promotion. As it is, the fact that she's a woman and a Quebecer already serving in cabinet pretty much guaranteed she'd be kept on in some capacity. Her performance in cabinet thus far has warranted the promotion.

Jay Hill, House Leader - Hill moves from Government Whip. PRAGMATIC: Hill takes on an extremely important role in this minority parliament. If and when this government falls, Hill will know about it before anyone else. His role as Whip prepared him for the task. POLITICAL: A rock-ribbed Reformer and strong BC MP, Hill's presence in cabinet will continue to help the Tories in rural British Columbia.

Peter Van Loan, Public Safety - Van Loan moves from House Leader. PRAGMATIC: PVL oversaw and shepherded a minority government for longer than anyone thought possible. If he shows the same ability as Minister of Public Safety, I feel safer already. POLITICAL: An Ontario MP and just 45 years young, Van Loan is upwardly mobile within the party - impressive, considering he was already one of "Harper's 12". He has tended to be more interested in the backrooms of politics than the front rooms, but Van Loan is whispered to be a contender to replace Harper someday. For now, though, he'll continue to be one of Harper's most trusted Ontario lieutenants.

Gerry Ritz, Agriculture - Ritz stays put. PRAGMATIC: Ritz made one of the most bone-headed statements ever, while joking about the Listeria crisis. While he had served as a capable if not outstanding minister up until that point, he lost a lot of public respect with the comments in question. He's going to have to earn that respect back. POLITICAL: Ritz represents a Saskatchewan riding, and will be the party's face in that province. If his poorly-timed joke was a one-off, he'll be fine. If it's just one of a pattern of attempts to be topically funny and instead come off as a complete knucklehead, though, his time in Cabinet won't last as long as he'd like. He's not important enough to Harper to be beyond reproach.

Jason Kenney, Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism - Kenney gets promoted from Sec. State Multiculturalism. PRAGMATIC: Kenney was by most accounts a resounding success in his previous role, and it translated at the ballot box with New Canadians eschewing the traditional voting patterns, and choosing the Tories. This promotion looks good on him, and is in an area he's already familiar with. POLITICAL: Kenney is one of Harper's top attack dogs, and cuts the opposition apart with a lot of panache. While Harper doesn't need Kenney in order to win in suburban Calgary, having the fluently bilingual Kenney make the rounds in Eastern Canada certainly can't hurt. In speaking to a well-placed source within Kenney's riding, it turns out that a large bloc of voters actually supports Kenney because they find him "dreamy". That's right... Jason Kenney, dreamboat. Soak it in.

Christian Paradis, Public Works - Paradis is promoted from Sec. State Agriculture. PRAGMATIC: This is a mighty big portfolio, in a period of economic turmoil, for a junior minister. Whether Paradis is up to the task remains to be seen. POLITICAL: Paradis in a young Quebecer, which makes him completely inexpendable to Harper and the Tories. To win Quebec, they need Paradis to succeed in this position, and take a leading voice among the party's Quebec wing.

Jim Moore, Heritage - Moore moves up from Sec. State Languages. PRAGMATIC: Moore distinguished himself as Harper's point-man on the Cadman affair. Whether a young, white Anglo from British Columbia can be SOLD as a good Heritage Minister is in doubt, but he should do at least a passable job. POLITICAL: Moore is a rising star in the party, and this posting could be a gateway to bigger things for him. He needs to be careful, though, as his performance will very much affect the party's fortunes in Quebec.

Leona Aglukkaq, Health - Newly-elected Aglukkaq enters the House for the first time as a front-bench minister. PRAGMATIC: She has been the health minister for Nunavut. I imagine, though, the job might be a little bit more involved on a federal level. She may be fine - then again, she may be a nightmare. Jury's out. POLITICAL: This young woman is the first Cabinet member of Inuit descent in Canada's history. She's got all kinds of upside, and her election was a direct result of the attention that the Harper Tories paid to Nunavut in their first term. That said, the most that her elevation is likely to achieve is to maybe, MAYBE help them with the other 2 seats in the North. It is as a young person and as a woman, rather than as an Inuit or Northerner, that Aglukkaq can make the furthest in-roads for the party.

Lisa Raitt, Natural Resources - Lisa the Garth Turner Slayer enters cabinet fresh off her electoral victory. PRAGMATIC: Raitt has a background in environmental science, and a reputation as an able administrator. This is a big portfolio, but she SHOULD be able to handle it. POLITICAL: Raitt knocked off Turner, but her own political life is not without controversy. She'll need to make sure she walks the straight-and-narrow. She's a valuable "in" for the Tories with the suburban "soccer-mom" set.

Gail Shea, Fisheries and Oceans - Shea goes straight from "provincial politician" to "federal minister". PRAGMATIC: Shea served 5 years as PEI's minister of transportation and public works, and by all accounts did a good job. The challenging part of this job isn't the "fisheries" file, it's the "oceans" responsibility - the long-standing international dispute about mineral and maritime rights and borders isn't something that can wait forever. POLITICAL: The first Tory to be sent to Ottawa from PEI in 24 years, Shea was a shoo-in for the cabinet. Her performance here can help the Tories immeasurably on the East Coast.

Ministers of State tomorrow... ouch, my fingers...

New Cabinet Named

Right here.

First reaction? Stephen Fletcher is the Minister of State for "Democratic Reform". Hmmmmm... interesting...

Got A Hammer? I've Got To Build A Cabinet...

Nation, the glorious afterbirth of the Federal election is nearly upon us, when the victorious (sorta) Prime Minister chooses the 30-or-so people who will effectively run (or pretend to run, to the chagrin of senior civil servants) the business of the nation (Canada, not the E.S. Nation).

Much is being made, predictably, of gender and racial balance in this upcoming cabinet. Women's groups especially have come out swinging, suggesting that any less than 50% of the cabinet being populated by women will be proof that Stephen Harper doesn't like or respect women.

I've spoken on the issue of cabinet-making before, but I'm just going to touch on this very quickly, and then I'll be back later today with an analysis of the cabinet choices themselves.

If Stephen Harper names 15 women to this cabinet, just so he can say "See? I like and respect women!", then he's an idiot.

Do women make up 50% of Canada's population? Yes. Or near enough to not be worth wasting time arguing about it.

SHOULD women make up 50% of our elected MP's, and 50% of the Federal Cabinet? Yes. Absolutely.

But Harper's caucus, like ALL of the caucuses and all of the party slates, is overwhelming dominated by males. To try to paper over that fact by naming unqualified people to the cabinet just because they happen to lack the "y" chromosome is absolutely stupid - and Harper is many things, but stupid isn't one of them.

Nobody appoints a judge to the bench based on ethnicity. "We need an Asian judge, to balance out the demographics of our local jurists. Go find me a random Asian." The reason nobody does that is because you want judges who, presumably, know the law. Their ability is infinitely more important than their ethnicity. You want to hire them based on qualification, rather than demographic.

Likewise the Federal Cabinet - I don't want underqualified ministers who are serving for no other reason than demographics. You're not putting together a bubblegum pop act you're trying to market to the greatest number of "Tween-agers" possible: You're choosing the people who will make the decisions that affect our day-to-day lives. Choose people who can DO THE JOB.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


The Edmonton Oilers, greatest hockey franchise to ever grace the Earth, have to be bad at something.

Just my luck it'd be dealing with bloggers.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

T.C.C. Thoughts

Nation, I just got back from the Telus Convention Centre, the site of the Conservative Party's (sorta)-celebration. Having also been in attendance in January of 2006, a few contrasts caught my eye immediately:

Firstly, the crowd this time was a LOT YOUNGER - in 2006, I was in my late 20's and would have bet on being one of the 15 youngest people in the room. This time around, there were a LOT of people in their early 20's, and even a healthy smattering of children. Everyone wants to be associated with a winner, I guess.

Secondly, the security was vastly more complex this time. Security personnel, both uniformed and "non-uniformed" (wearing bad, non-matching suits with ear-pieces and death-stares, so as not to stand out - mission accomplished) were virtually everywhere.

Now, on to a few meandering observations of the event itself...

I saw FOES (Friend Of the Enlightened Savage) Naheed Nenshi on-stage (and, I presume on camera) with what appeared to be a cadre of CBC folks - good on ya, sir. There was, however, a gentleman off to the right at the table who looked like the blogger archetype: young, cute haircut, earnest, laptop spitting smoke and sparks... Are you cheating on me with another blogger, Naheed? ;)

I thought I sensed a disturbance in the Force... and I was right. The former independent candidate for Calgary Egmont was in attendance. As if to remove any doubt from my mind, I walked right past a low-slung domestic poor-man's sports car with the website stencilled on the trunk. CLASSY.

I don't think I'll ever get used to seeing staffers holding up tape recorders to MP's who are mid-conversation on their cell-phones. Best explanation I can come up with? They want their words on tape, so no one can come back and say they said something else.

It was disheartening to see the conservative voters of Calgary West send Rob Anders back to Parliament when they had a legitimate choice. That said, barely a third of eligible voters in Calgary West voted for Anders, so that's something. Also, HUGE props to independent Kirk Schmidt for obtaining 1,790 votes, for 3% of the popular vote. Every other candidate in the riding had a built-in base that was ready to vote for them the second they won the nomination - Schmidt built his support from scratch, and without access to party financing. Congratulations on a battle well-fought, sir. You are an asset to the democratic process.

Liz May gambled by running in Central Nova, and she lost. Her party increased its popular support by 50%, but it's still perceived as a single-issue party, whose leader was more focused on her quixotic quest to "hurt Stephen Harper" by running against Peter MacKay than on actually running in a seat she could win. 6.8% is good enough to argue the Greens should be in the debates again, but May herself has to do some soul-searching, and decide whether she wants to lead a political party, whose job is to get elected, or instead be an activist, rubbing the politicians' noses in it. You can't be both, and be good at either. The Greens, if they hope to get elected, have to take this "political" stuff seriously, starting tomorrow - when they should start accepting resumes for candidates for 2010 (thanks, Jack).

Harper has to be overjoyed (if he's capable of the emotion) at his results in Ontario, but utterly mystified by the result in Quebec. It's clear they're never going to accept the social policies of the former Reformers in Quebec, so Harper and the party higher-ups need to sit down and figure out exactly what, if anything, they can do to counter the Quebecois distaste for the CPC. Without a breakthrough in Quebec, the Tories will almost certainly never get the majority they so covet.

Not to beat this to death, but... this was NOT a good night for Stephane Dion. He looked like he had just gotten a call from his vet about Kyoto when he took the stage to give his speech. He snapped at a CTV reporter. His party LOST the popular vote in Ontario, which is the bedrock upon which Liberal governments have to be built. He's up for review in May, and I expect him to be gone, baby gone... replaced with Ignatieff or (dark horse) Dalton McGuinty (hey, if you want to rebuild from Ontario outwards, Dalton's not a bad choice...)

Final numbers are understandably still under review, but it look like we're sitting thusly:
CPC: 143 seats (up 19 from 2006)
Lib: 77 seats (down 26)
BQ: 49 seats (down 2)
NDP: 37 seats (up 8)
Ind. 2 seats

Just for the fans of MMP, here's how things would look by proportional representation (not sure how independents figure in, so not 100% accurate):
CPC: 116 seats
Lib: 81 seats
BQ: 31 seats
NDP: 56 seats
Grn: 21 seats
(leaves 3 seats to be determined by best 2-out-of-3-falls, in a steel cage)

Did Duncan Do It?

Nation, as of 11:42 Mountain Time, Linda Duncan (NDP) is ahead in Edmonton Strathcona by 459 votes, with 1 poll to be counted. A victory for Duncan would deny the Tories a clean sweep of Alberta - a fact that will no doubt stick in the craw of the vast majority of people who were in the room with me about an hour ago at the Telus Convention Centre in downtown Calgary.

Strategic voting? Vote-swapping? Complimentary coverage by daveberta and the Enlightened Savage (voted Best Looking Albertan Blogger Not Named Ken, Duncan, Dave, DJ, or Allie)? Who can say for certain... but if this result holds up to the inevitable re-count, then a lot of incumbent Tories will have to very closely examine their local campaigns in 18 months, when Layton forces us all to the polls again.


My apologies for the recent silence, all - and for my failure to cover the ridings I had intended. Computer issues, and real life, popup at the worst possible times. Rest assured, when Jack Layton forces us all to the polls again in 18 months to get the drop on the new Liberal leader before he can raise funds, I'll make up for it.

Tonight's results will be available from several sources, in as close to real-time as you can get without sitting in the Returning Office. Check out:

What I want to know, in the Comments section, is this:

Seat prediction:

Voter turn-out:

Here's mine.

Seat prediction:
CPC 129 (Harper's leadership comes into question within the party)
Lib 88 (Goodbye Stephane, hello Iggy)
NDP 38 (Jack tries to be the Unofficial Official Opposition)
Grn 0 (May stays on, but green message overtaken by activism for electoral MMP reform)
BQ 52 (Gilles stays on for another go 'round)
Ind. 1

Voter turn-out: 62%

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Quick Hits on Day E-5

I'm behind in those profiles, but I'm not going down without a fight, Nation. We will fight them on the beaches, and in the streets...

Here's some Enlightenment to chew on in the meantime.

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics
(aka "Fun with the Hill & Knowlton Projector")

Of the 3 polls released on October 8th, 2 of them (Nanos and CP/Harris Decima) show the Conservatives with a weaker majority than before the writ was dropped. The other (Ekos) shows the Tories picking up 12 more seats, and the Liberals dropping 31. The over-night numbers indicated a stop in the Tory free-fall, but with the release of the monetary cost of the Afghan mission today, expect those numbers to take a further hit.

Also of note is that the CP/Harris Decima poll released on the 8th, when run through the Hill & Knowlton projector, shows a GREEN being elected in Vancouver Quadra, the home of UBC (where Liz May should have run to begin with). Daniel Grice, the Green candidate in Quadra, blew away expectations in the March by-election by capturing 14 percent of the popular vote, and winning several polls. CP/Harris' numbers suggest Grice is positioned very well here, while DemocraticSPACE disagrees (h/t to daveberta for a fully addictive site). The H&K isn't perfect, of course, but Greens in the Vancouver area (I'd suspect there are quite a few) should be flocking to Quadra to try and get their guy over the top. The same poll suggests Linda Duncan is still very much in the race for Edmonton Strathcona.

Tories Release Platform

Stephen Harper finally deigned to bestow upon us great, unwashed masses his party's platform - only a week after his campaign e-mailed me, asking me to vote for them in an advance poll, without having seen the platform. I'm reminded of Sledge Hammer's "Trust me, I know what I'm doing" mentality.

I've read the platform, and there's not a lot of sexy promises in there. Bonus drinking game: Take a drink every time you read the phrase "A re-elected Conservative government led by Stephen Harper". Looking at pages 28 and 32, I suspect you'll want to book your ambulance in advance.

The Tories seem to have realized that it's a lot harder to come out with a bold platform proposing sweeping changes when you're the government of the day. Any great ideas you put in the platform to help average Canadians will be met with a chorus of "Great. That'll really help. Now, since you've been the government for the past 2 years, explain to me why you didn't think it was important to help us on this issue say, a year ago...". That said, the late release of the platform reeks of a political stunt, designed to hijack the last week of the campaign. It will be interesting to see if it works.

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch...

The Premier of Alberta, Ed Stelmach, has chimed in on the federal election, saying that Canada can benefit from the stability of a majority government. Whether or not it's true (I suggest it is), it seems like poor timing for the leader of the Alberta PC's to be giving advice to the country when just last week-end his own party membership, the safest and most entrenched political party in the Western Hemisphere, voted against Fixed Election Dates at their AGM in Jasper. I'm willing to listen to the argument of why fixed election dates are bad for the people of Alberta, but if this decision was made for the sake of the party, I've got to ask "Why? Do the PC's think they have something to be worried about?"

I mean, Ed already announced the next election would be "around March of 2012" - what does it hurt to enshrine that in law? At least then Elections Alberta can have their website up and running properly, hire staff without political connections, and maybe - god forbid - enumerate properly, so campaigns aren't wasting precious time calling deceased people to ask for their vote.
At the same time, though, Ed sent a message to the federal Tories that the bitumen they're talking about in their platform doesn't belong to them or to Canada as a whole, but rather it belongs to the people of Alberta. Cue the Gilles Duceppe "greedy Albertans" ad here. Good on Stelmach, though, for being able to stand up for his province (through Deputy Premier and Minister of Intergovernmental Relations Ron Stevens) without sending black roses, registering as a third-party political entity, and screaming at the top of his lungs about the evil, soul-sucking monster that is the federal Conservative Party (not mentioning any names, Danny).

Yukoners Hit The (North) Polls!

The advance polls were open for 3 days (most of the parties had released, you know, platforms by then), and the voters of the Yukon turned out in DROVES. democraticSPACE indicates it's a 2 horse race between the NDP and the incumbent Liberal according to their polling. Nobody's quite sure why Yukoners came out in such high numbers for the advance polls, but suffice it to say that the lack of a platform probably didn't help the Tory candidate.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Where's The Platform, Stephen?

We're going to hear a lot about this from the opposition parties in the next few days, we heard it brought up in tonight's debate, so let's get this out in the open right now:

The advance polls open tomorrow morning. The Conservatives will, presumably, want people to go to the polls and vote for their candidates. It would be helpful if, to assist Canadians in making this choice, the Tories would... you know... RELEASE A POLICY PLATFORM.

We're what, 4 weeks into the election? The advance polls open TOMORROW. WHERE is the Conservative platform? We all know there's got to BE one - they were the only party that knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that an election was coming, and exactly when. I understand withholding it until the debates are over, so you're only getting attacked on your record, and not on your ideas. I don't agree with it, but I understand it. But the debates are over, and the polls are opening in a few hours. So, where's the platform the Tories want us to support with a majority?

Asking us to cast these early ballots before showing us a platform is asking Canadians to sign a blank cheque. "We don't need to know your policies, we trust you". Nice thought - but it's not how responsible democracies pursue governance.

It already looks bad, Tories. Don't let it get worse. Platform, please.

Live-Blogging the English Debate

Once again, all times Mountain.

I can't believe I'm going to miss to Biden/Palin blood-letting for this. It had better be good tonight... what do you think the over/under is on Liz May attacking Dion's policies?

Yeah, I wouldn't take that bet, either.

Scott Reid is concerned about the economy... running out of beer and popcorn money?

Good to see that CBC went to the trouble of actually inviting a Green to spin tonight, instead of asking the NDP to analyse Liz's performance like they did last night.

MY big question tonight, is do Harper and Jack take advantage of Dion's poor English to attack him, or do they ignore him completely and focus on each other?

The table is back... May to Harper's left. Fitting.

I hope tonight's question isn't to say something nice about the person on your right... what has Liz got left to say about Stephen?

Jack just tried to seduce me when he was introduced... I swear - I *know* that stare...

What steps would you take as PM to protect our economy?

May: The US is in a recession. First thing I would do is put a freeze on foreign ownership of our companies. Devalue the Canadian dollar.

Dion: For the first 30 days of a Liberal gov't, we'll hold a lot of meetings.

Harper: Last night, Dion, you panicked - you announced a whole new economic plan in the middle of a debate. Your plan is going to put us in a deficit, cost us jobs, and cause a crisis. We need to stay the course.

Layton: Another big tax cut like Harper wants, and another tax like Dion wants, are both wrong. We need to increase regulation, and ivest in the fundamentals of the economy. WORKING FAMILIES...

Duceppe: Harper/Bush share the same ideology. Laissez Faire. Invisible hand. Rich oil companies. Just read my comments from yesterday.

Dion: Steve, doing nothing is not an option. Canadians care, and all you're doing is distorting my plan.

Harper: We have not been following the same policies as the United States. We've made very different choices. Our budget is in surplus, we're paying off debt, creating jobs, our mortgage and housing sector is regulated. We're not bailing out big companies, we're investing.

May: Steve, you're offering nothing on the economy. Where's your platform? Every other party has released one (good point). Other people, who aren't me, think we should reduce income tax and tax carbon instead.

Layton: Steve, you're wrong, you ARE following the U.S. Either you don't care, or you're incompetent. Which is it? (good line)

Harper doesn't rise to the bait. We cut $200 Million is taxes overall, and three quarters went to typical taxpayers.

Duceppe: Rich oil companies suck. Manufacturers are in trouble. We have to help the manufacturing sector. Improve EI.

Dion: Steve, you're pissing away a good situation you inherited from a Liberal government.

Harper: We didn't keep a large amount in Ottawa, we put it back into the economy. I know there have been job losses, but there has been more job creation to make up for it. Putting taxes on companies penalizes jobs and hurts those invested in these companies.

May: Harper, you're out of touch if you don't know people are fundamentally worried. You're favouring one region over others (gee, which ones, I wonder?). Is this the same Liz May who accused Harper of inventing a crisis last night?

Layton: I don't know if you don't go to these factories, but I do. You want to give tax breaks to these companies? Take some responsibility, here.

Harper: We don't have a mortgage meltdown or banking crisis, here.

Layton's definitely on the attack tonight. He's coming across as a bit too much so for my apolitical company tonight.

Dion: to have a strong economy, you need a strong manufacturing sector. We'll make that happen.

Duceppe: Sustainable development. Heard of it, Stephen?

Harper: We're helping manufacturers buy equipment, we're investing in forestry, automotive, aerospace... we're doing a lot.

May: You said to Americans that the Canadian unemployed are doing just fine because of our EI programs (in 1997). People who aren't me think you're wrong.

Layton: May is right, I don't know who you're getting your advice from.

At this point, the "peanut gallery" (I think Duceppe?) says "Mr. Howard". Come ON, THIS is what I'm missing Palin/Biden for? A schoolyard mauling?

Duceppe: Manufacturing companies don't benefit from tax cuts - they're not making any money, so they're not paying any tax anyway.

Duceppe needs to stop interrupting people when they try to deal with his questions. He did this last night, too, and he's coming across as a badgering jerk.

Layton: Stephane, you support Harper's tax cut plan, and kept him in power for over a year. He wants to cut corporate taxes, and hope that fixes everything. We need to invest.

Dion: Economists like our plan. Jack, go to your room.

Are the manufacturing jobs gone for good?

Harper: Yes, the economy is evolving and we need to evolve along with it.

Duceppe: Who cares? Harper's ignoring me, and my feelings are hurt.

May: We need to bring them back. It's not good enough for people in Nova Scotia to know they can stay employed if dad goes to work in Fort Mac. TARSANDS REFERENCE.

Layton: I can't think of anything other countries can make with wood that we can't (read: mercantilism). You're giving tax breaks to banks and oil companies. If we invest and have a strategy, we can get those jobs back.

Dion: I care about your jobs. Look at me, I ooze caring. We've had a Prime Minister for 2 years who doesn't care.

Harper: It the U.S., they're bailing out the banking system. We're not. We're investing in individual sectors. This is hardly Laissez Faire. We're already doing what you're saying we should. I would say overall we're being successful, keeping the economy going, we have a slowdown but not a recession. I think there are some areas we can do better, but we're not in the same position as the U.S.

Duceppe: I think everyone should buy Canadian.

Layton: I agree. We just lost a plant in Ontario no one ever heard of, and it's your fault, Stephen. We proposed a Jobs Commissioner, and it worked in BC under an NDP government that the voters kicked the crap out of...

May: We're seeing a structural imblanaced shift under Harper's leadership. MAy's body language comes across as alternatively arrogant and dismissive.

Dion: We want to invest in R&D and infrastructure.

Harper: We have a Buy In Canada policy for military. Jack, you mentioned people lost jobs. That's terrible, I've lost a job, I understand. We're going to create jobs. You're all sincere, but you have bad ideas.

They're all talking over each other, but May is easiest to hear - it doesn't reflect well.

Layton: Where's your platform, under the sweater? (ZING!)

Dion: A Liberal government cleaned up Mulroney's mess, we'll clean up Harper's.

Layton: The Liberals off-loaded the federal deficit onto the provinces.

Duceppe: We were the ones who proposed the no deficit law.

How do you reconcile the environment and the economy?

Dion: Key question of the century. The countries that have energy efficieny will be the more competitive of the world. We want to decrease taxes on what creates the wealth, and shift it to pollution. We want the country cleaner, more energy efficient.

Harper: The Liberal plan has carbon tax increases double any of the cuts. We have to have a balanced approach.

Layton: A reduction from Harper's plan is a figment of his imagination. We should be making big polluters pay, and use every penny of those revenues to stimulate the new energy economy.

Duceppe: Kyoto. Kyoto kyoto kyoto. Each province should apply its own plan. Alberta and Saskatchewan are evil pooluters (DRINK!)

May: Bill Clinton is my friend. We need to get over this idea of the environment being a threat to the economy. We should be like Sweden of Germany.

Harper: The Liberal package is a tax increase. $26 Billion in tax cuts, $40 Billion in carbon tax.

Dion: You're lying. Countries that shift outperform countries that don't. Harper is a bad, bad man. Don't believe him.

May: We have a plan that would bring in $35 Billion. Dion's plan brings in $15 - I'm not criticizing, I'm just saying...

Duceppe: I know the NDP and Liberals support the territorial approach, don't know about the Greens... of course, the air follows provincial borders... the West is evil and pollutes... Steve, do you support that for Quebec?

Harper: We don't plan to impose taxes on people, we are going to have companies pay into an ingenuity fund if they don't meet targets.

Duceppe badgers him for an answer - AGAIN. Gilles keeps seeming like a schoolyard bully.

Layton: You, Exxon, and George Bush. (DRINK!). Tarsands. Canadians aren't happy, you're throwing away the opportunity to make these polluters pay.

Dion: I want Canada to succeed in the 21st century. If we avoid the issue, I'm very concerned for my country (presumably he means Canada, and not France)

Harper: The people who pollute the most, pay the most. They have to meet our targets and reduce emissions by 70%. We're limiting the exporting of bitumen (Ed Stelmach on line 2 from Jasper, Mr. Prime Minister...)

May: George Bush and you both don't like Kyoto, Steve. You're a bad man.

Layton: Steve, you're not telling the truth. Why did you approve one week after a court said you shouldn't, a huge development without any of these kinds of conditions?

Dion: Nobody likes Steve's plan, lots of smart people like ours. Richer, Greener, Fairer.

Harper: We've signed an agreement with the nature conservancy of Canada, we've expanded the parks system, created the largest marine park in the world, dealing with air quality.

May: You're lying about everything but parks.

Do you have any plans to alleviate the doctor shortage in Canada?

Layton: We've put forward a plan to increase by 50% the number of doctors we train in Canada, and nurses by 6,000. We'll forgive student debt if you agree to work for 10 years. Harper is off-loading the issue to the provinces.

Duceppe: Ottawa can't do jack. This isn't a federal issue. Just give Quebec their money, and shut up.

May: We lost 21% of our hospital beds (SAY it, Liz... who was the government, then?) from 1993 to 1996. She is going out of her way to avoid mentioning the Liberals as having done something wrong. The fix is in.

Dion: Our doctors and nurses are old. Our population is aging. Provinces are asking us to be part of the solution. We'll work with provices.

Harper: Liz is right. The Liberals cut all kinds of health dollars. We've been working with the provinces. Our approach has been not to attack them, but to work with them.

Layton: You're criticising the Liberals for cutting? Who was encouraging them to cut more? You ran a group whose main objective was privatization.

Harper: I use the public system, my family uses the public system. Other leaders use private clinics.

May: I don't.

Jack's pretty quiet just now.

Moderator mentions Layton's use of a private clinic. Jack is pouting about a "cheap shot". Being told your crap stinks is a cheap shot?

Harper: You just accused me of trying to kill the public health care system, but you used a private clinic, Jack.

May: The IMF told us we had to cut our hospital beds to maintain our credit rating in the 90's. The US is coming to ruin our healthcare system. SHE SAID 'LIBERAL CUTS'! Harper's job is the 90's was to destroy our heathcare system. How's that look on a resume? Would make for an interesting business card... She won't answer a question about nationalizing private clinics.

Duceppe: THIS. IS. NOT. A. FEDERAL. ISSUE. Give us our money.

Dion: We'll be involved, without infringing on provincial jurisdiction. We'll bring in catastrophic drug coverage.

Harper: Anybody who provides services must offer them to everyone, under the Act. We created a lot of health commissions...

Duceppe: That Quebec was against.

Layton: The Liberals promised the same sort of thing in 1997, and we never saw it.

What do the arts mean to you?

Duceppe: My father was a comedian (apple fell pretty far from the tree). Harper is a bad man for cutting the soul of the nation.

May: Arts and culture are neccessary. Gov't censorship is bad. There is such a thing as a creative class, which leads to community health. We need to protect our identity as Canadians.

Dion: Arts are fun. It's a way to be stimulated. It's a mistake to think of it as a luxury.

Harper: I enjoy the arts immensely. I play a bit of piano, my family on my dad's side was musical, my wife's family paints and draws, my daughter dances, my son is learning guitar. We've increased the arts and culture budget. We're creating a $500 tax credit for arts lessons for children.

Layton: My wife is a sculptor. I'm not talented, but I enjoy them. The average artist makes $10-12000 per year, and can't afford piano lessons for their kids, with or without a tax credit.


Dion: I think Harper considers artists as enemies.

Duceppe: Jim Flaherty answered this, when he said you make ideological decisions about the arts. When Harper says the budget was raised by 8%, the culture department took an 8% cut.

Harper: We increased funding to the CBC. We cut programs that were no longer effective, and moved the funding tot hings that were effective. That's the responsibility of government.

May: He killed 16 programs. I don't think they're barbarians, he has appropriated all the levers of government to increasing his own personal power - Steve is Machiavelli.

Layton: They talk about freedom as a value, but you're trying to censor expression of those who oppose you. Look at the programs that got cut. Foreign promotion of small and independent films.

Dion: Your government cut things on an ideological basis. We'll spend more on the arts, and have more fun.

Harper: We've increased a lot - there's no ideaological agenda, we're getting a bad rap. Duceppe is muttering about not being answered - zip it, Gilles.

Layton: Arts programs aren't sacrosanct, and should be up for review. Other countries are investing in the arts - we should be doing the same.

What are you going to do about the rate of violent crime?

May: It's not going up, the coverage is. We'll draw a line in the sand, we'll give judges more power, ban handguns, ban semi-automatics, rural Canadians need a less burdeonsome system of control for their guns.

Dion: Behind each crime there's a human tragedy. Government needs to choose a good approach to fight the root causes, such as poverty, addiction, mental illness.

Harper: There are some increases. Gangs, guns and drugs. We're bringing in tougher sentencing for young offenders, we'll put additional funding into drawing youth away from gang criminal activity, there's a disturbing increase in property crime. Our methods are targeted to specific areas.

Layton: People are killing my constituents. There's no reason for a handgun on the streets of a city. We need strong laws, but need to invest in young people. Harper didn't deliver on his previous $50 Million pledge, why would he now?

Duceppe: Quebec is doing it right, you all can go screw yourselves. Instead of punishing young offenders, we need to do something better. Let's punish the real, hardened criminals.

May: Literacy is an essential element in keeping kids out of crime. Harper killed $17 Million in literacy programs.

Harper: We didn't cut literacy. We cut a program that didn't teach people to read - that's why it was cut. When it comes to serious and repeat crime, there need to be serious penalties. Young offender sinvolved in murder, rape, and repeat occurences need to face real sentences.

Layton: We helped you pass these bills, Steve, and they died on the order paper because you prorogued parliament. Nobody knows what that means, Jack.

Dion: I trust judges, and you (Steve) don't. That's the difference between us. You want to put 14 year-olds away for life. This won't help our country to be safer. You want to take away house arrest for someone who takes mail from your mailbox?

Harper: You're wrong, Stephane, on both counts. 40% of those under house arrest in some areas violate the terms of their sentences. In this particular case, we're giving judges more discretion, so obviously we trust them.

Duceppe: Everyobdy in Quebec says our system works pretty well. We don't need an american philosophy in our system. There's less violence in Quebec than elsewhere in North America (yep, no gang crime in Montreal - good call, Gilles).

Layton: Stop putting Metis, First Nations, and Inuit in jail. Their lives are hard. It's a national disgrace.

Is that all his fault, asks the moderator.

Layton says the blame also goes to the Liberals.

Harper: The reality is the police and victims groups see terrible crimes and inadequate sentences. We all know it. They know it in Quebec, too. They're supporter our proposed changes.

Dion: This failed in the U.S., and will fail here. We need Liberals. The Kelowna Accord will sove the problem, but Jack killed the Accord with Harper.

Layton goes OFF on Dion for keeping Harper in power. "If you can't do your job as Leader of the Opposition, I don't know why you're running for Prime Minister."

Talk on Afghanistan 2011 date.

Harper: We'll have been there for almost 10 years. Parliament authorized it until then, and I think that's wise. If we're to truly pacify the country, we need to train the Afghan police. We won't achieve such a target unless we set a deadline and meet it.

Layton: Our party was the only party to say there should not be an extension of the mission. We believe we're on the wrong path. Canada's voice should be a voice for peace. We should go to the UN and propose a plan for peace.

Duceppe: Au contraire, mon frere. If Layton voted with us way back when, we'd be out 4 months from now. We need to invest more in forgein aid, less in military.

May: Bush and Harper are the same. (DRINK!) This is caused by a humanitarian failure. We need to turn the poppy crops into medicinal crops.

Dion: I admire soldiers. If I thought we were invading, I'd want us out right away. We'll do our best to provide security until 2011 in coalition with our NATO partners, and then we'll pull out.

Harper: 60 partners are there, it's a UN sanctioned mission. Afghanistan will need to take care of its own issues. May is muttering - she'll probably call him a liar again.

Layton: I don't trust you OR the Liberals. You're like George Bush, and Dion committed to 2009, then changed his mind to 2011.

Dion: Shut up, Jack. Harper, you said we'd stay until the job was done. First thing I'll do as Prime Minister is announce to our Allies that we're serious about leaving in 2011.

Duceppe: Afghanistan sucks because George Bush invaded Iraq. You copied a speech from Australia.

Harper: I made it clear - we're not going to Iraq.

Duceppe, AGAIN, is badgering for an answer. He's so unlikable in this role, it boggles the mind.

Harper: Afghanistan isn't a Bush mission, Obama has committed to increase U.S. involvement in Afghanistan.

Duceppe: If you were Prime Minister in 2003, we would have been in Iraq.

May: I know what's in your heart, Stephen. You're a liar. We need a U.N. mission with more countries. We're turning our back on Africa.

Dion: Harper is imprudent. He's like George Bush, he copied John Howard's speech. (We get it, guys.)

Layton: Staying until 2011 will screw other countries out of our assistance.

Harper: I appreciate the Liberal support, Dion's position changed 3 times, but at least he's right NOW.

Dion: YOU changed your mind - I always supported a pull-out date.

What's the first thing you're going to do when you get into office as PM?

Layton: We'll replace the $50 Billion tax cut with infrastructure, income security, job creation, and environmental investments. NDP Government (DRINK!)

Duceppe: I won't be Prime Minister, and I know it. 3 of you won't either, but you won't admit it. I'll ask the Prime Minister to do stuff for Quebec.

May: I'll help you build your shed. I'm a woman and single mom - vote for me, I have ovaries. I'll bring in proportional representation. Then we'll move forward with a plan to address carbon emissions. 80% of Canadians agree that it's a big deal.

Dion: I'll secure the economy, hold meetings, and prepare an economic update. Then appoint the best cabinet Canada ever had.

Harper: We'll keep the country in surplus, won't raise taxes, might reduce some, bring in a tax credit for first time homebuyers, reduce the tax on diesel, reduce small business taxes...

Layton: You haven't said you're going to protect the homes, savings and jobs of Canadians, Steve. You're giving Exxon and the banks a big tax break. Stephane, you said you'll be meetign with the premiers, but will you be LISTENING?

Dion: Shut up, Jack. I don't have to work with the provinces, a mandate federally trumps the provinces.

May: I'll defend the Green Shift, because it was our idea. It's exactly what we need to do. Now I'll spend 40 seconds reiterating Dion's plan. High five, Stephane... Cabinet post, please? Why don't we do income splitting, Steve-o?

Harper: We eliminated the marriage penalty. We brought in income splitting for the seniors of this country. We can't afford $5 Billion to do it for everyone in the country. I will not raise taxes. Moderator: EVER? Harper: I will not raise taxes (behind a glass of water).

Dion: Harper lied about income trusts - remember that when he talks about the Liberal plan. I care about this country.

Harper: We had a case where the entire corporate sector was converting, we gave 4 year's grace, no income trust has been taxed yet.

Basically: Why should Canadians trust what you say?

Duceppe: I think you need to watch what people say before the election, and what they do after. Now, let's talk about Stephen Harper. Don't trust him - he breaks his promises.

May: I used to be a lawyer, now I'm a politician. Nobody likes me. Vote with your heart and demand better between elections - you deserve better.

Dion: Your premise is all of the parties are the same. Wrong. Harper would have us in Iraq, Mr. Chretien didn't. Harper would have killed medicare. Liberals will start something great.

Harper: Voting is our fundamental democratic right. Take a look at our platform ("Where is it?", tosses in Liz) - look at all the good stuff we did over the past 2 years.

Layton: The sweater is nice, Canadians want to know what your promises are, even if you're going to break them. Canadians have an opportunity to put the issues of the kitchen table front-and-centre.

Shouldn't politicians change their minds when the information changes?

Dion: Yes, but you shouldn't break your commitments. Harper did. The Liberals have the plan we need. Trust us.

Layton: I remember the red book - you've got a heck of a record of broken promises, you Liberals. Harper is giving tax breaks to Exxon.

Harper: The government of Nova Scotia says we kept our word on the Atlantic Accord - gov't of NFL doesn't like us, but they didn't like the last federal government, either. We've limited donations to political parties.

May: You may have a minority premier in Nova scotia agreeing with you, but what does he know? She's talking to Harper like he's a 12 year-old. Arrogance and belittlement (word?) doesn't look good on her.

Duceppe: Quebec doesn't have a seat at UNESCO. Contradict me, so I can interrupt you.

Harper: Okay.

Dion: Jack, we had a child care plan in 2006, but the NDP and Tories screwed it up. I'm polite and don't interrupt anyone (DRINK!). Harper, you attack everyone who disagrees with you.

Harper: The farmers of Western Canada voted to have dual grain marketing, and western farmers vote for us.

The moderator tries to lighten things in the wrap-up with a comment that this is definitely better than Biden/Palin. May proves she can't take a joke, by insisting "it's our democracy, this is more important". Sigh...

English Debate - Drinking Game

Well, I got burned by some of the drinking triggers in last night's French debate, although I undersand there's a national shortage of Peppermint Schnapps.

With that in mind, here is tonight's list:

Jack Layton uses the term "An NDP Government"
... do a shot of bourbon

Stephane Dion attacks Harper with a fervor bordering on histrionics
... do a shot of Butterscotch schnapps

Stephen Harper smiles and sits eerily still while being attacked
... do a shot of Captain Morgan's

Elizabeth May accuses Harper of not understanding the issue of the environment
... take a swig of Irish whisky

Gilles Duceppe accuses Harper of being a puppet to Western Big Oil
... down a snifter of brandy

Every time a leader who 5 minutes ago was trying to talk over the moderator throws up their hands and claims they're trying to be polite and not interrupt an opponent...
... have a Kokanee (or Keith's - your choice).

Ready...? AND...

The Battle for Prince Edward Island

Prince Edward Island

A Liberal bastion, Prince Edward Island is home to 4 seats and proudly trumpets itself as "the Birthplace of Confederation". Currently home to about 136,000 people, P.E.I.'s economy is all about 3 things: Agriculture (think potatoes), tourism (the leaves are just starting to turn), and fishery (which I can't do worth a darn - so much for my political aspirations in P.E.I.). The Island had a "red tory" PC government from 1996 to 2007, when the Liberals of Robert Ghiz took power in dominant fashion (23 seats to the Tories' 4). Federally, P.E.I. hasn't elected a non-Liberal M.P. since 1984 - it's considered more of a lock than Alberta, and that's saying something. Barring a miracle, expect 4 Liberal MP's when they finish counting the votes in the wee morning hours of October 15th.

Riding to Watch: Charlottetown. It elected a Tory as recently as 1984, and was the closest race on the Island in 2006 - both the Liberal incumbent and the Tory challenger are back for another go 'round. IF (big, big IF) there's a change, it'll be here.

The Voters Get It Right - Except When They Get It Wrong

Nation, I was scrolling through my morning election news - doesn't everyone? - when this gem caught my eye.

Of particular note was THIS little nugget, from a Liberal Party member and area lawyer:

"Does that mean that the voters who don't really know her but have voted for a Liberal, in effect, lose their vote?"

No... it means they should have paid attention in social studies class.

Nation, we've gone over this before, but it's election time and our visitor numbers have skyrocketed, so I can forgive if the entire country hasn't read my thoughts on the subject yet - at least, for a little while longer.

The reality is, NOBODY gets to vote for a party in our system. NO ONE. You can go to the polls thinking "I'm going to vote Conservative". You can walk into the booth with every intention of electing Stephen Harper as Prime Minister. But when you open your ballot to mark your "x", there's no box that says "mark HERE to vote Conservative". There's no ballot with the heading "Prime Minister of Canada - Mark an 'X' beside one candidate only". There's a list of 4 to 7 names or so, with party affiliations listed after the name of the candidate. You want to vote Conservative. You want to vote for Harper. But your ballot doesn't give you either choice, so you vote for the candidate on the ballot with "CPC" after their name.

Guess what? Stephen Harper didn't just get your vote. Neither did the Conservatives. That CANDIDATE (oh, say, Rob Merrifield) just got your vote. You just gave him permission to exercise your franchise as he sees fit. And if he crosses the aisle to join the Rhinos or the Marxist-Leninist Party or the Marijuana Party, he takes your consent WITH him - because, in the booth back on October 14th, you voted for Rob Merrifield, and no one else.

(Note: People who intend to vote for Merrifield, I'm pretty sure you don't have to worry about Rob crossing the floor. You're probably pretty likely to get exactly what you expect from Merrifield.)

It's a function of our system that political parties don't get votes - candidates do. What those candidates do afterwards, they do with the full implied consent of everyone who cast a ballot for them - so make sure you know for whom you're voting. And if you DON'T, don't claim you were mislead... the reality is, you failed to educate yourself, you cast an uninformed ballot, and the only person who robbed you of your franchise was YOU, when you gave it away thoughtlessly.

Those candidates, when elected, speak and vote formally on behalf of every voter who cast their vote for the candidate. Every elector in Calgary West who thought they were voting for Stockwell Day or for the Canadian Alliance in 2000, rejected Nelson Mandela being granted honourary Canadian Citizenship.

Now, as I understand it, one of the big proposals being put forward in the area of electoral reform is to allow people a chance to vote directly for the party of their choice (MMP - Mixed-Member Proportional representation). The idea, as proposed, would allow people to vote directly for a local candidate, but also to vote, on a separate ballot, for the party of their choosing. If the Liberals receive 30% popular support (as a PARTY, not as result of all of their candidates' votes combined) nation-wide, but only elect 25% of the MP's, then members-at-large, representing no particular constituency, would be "added" to their totals off of a party-supplied list of candidates, to reflect the will of the national electorate.

The drawback to this, of course, is that there's still nothing to stop one of the "traditionally" elected MP's, who just flat-out got the most votes as a candidate in their riding, from crossing the floor and screwing up the proportions again. What if Canada went to MPP (ensuring minority Parliaments in perpetuity), and the Tories got 38% of the House, but convinced 6 MP's elected from other parties to cross the floor? Would we need to add more seats to the House and proportionally give them to the opposition parties, to maintain our percentages? Would the Tories need to "fire" 6 MP's, to make room for the new recruits? What about the ridings represented by the fired 6 MP's - those voters democratically CHOSE those Members of Parliament, and they should be allowed to sit - but as independents who vote with the Tory caucus on everything?

There are a lot of things about MPP to like, but there are also a lot of unanswered questions and unfortunate side effects (slavish devotion to the Party Line from candidates, to get moved up the "priority line" for the proportional "bonus seats", as an example). That's the system we may eventually end up with. But right now, we're in a first-past-the-post, winner-take-all system. That's the system we're in right now, today. The one we've had for over a hundred years. The one we all learned about in school (in Alberta, it's Grade 6 social studies).

The thing is, when we really stop to think about it, we KNOW we don't get to vote for a party. Think about... oh, Preston Manning's old seat, in Calgary Southwest. He won that seat, in the election of 2000, by 26,000 votes. At the end of January 2002, he announced he was stepping down as the MP for Calgary Southwest. Did the party get to keep the seat, and put a new Member in his place? No, of course not. A by-election had to be called, because the Canadian Alliance didn't get a single vote in 2000 - Preston Manning got 34,500 of them, and he was stepping down. Some guy named Stephen Harper won the by-election.

You don't vote for a party. You don't vote for Prime Minister. You vote for the candidate in your riding, and the chips fall where they may. In 1984, the Progressive Conservatives of Brian Mulroney won 211 of 282 ridings in the country. Mulroney was the Prime Minister, with a massive majority. You know how many people in that election actually voted for Brian Mulroney, out of 12.5 Million votes cast? 28,208. Twenty-eight thousand, two hundred and eight voters in Manicouagan cast ballots for Brian Mulroney, who went on the serve as Prime Minister. 6,250,000 other votes went to Progressive Conservative candidates... but none of them were for Brian Mulroney, or for the PC's. They went to the candidates. Nobody in Alberta or Ontario cast a ballot for Mulroney - our system doesn't allow it. Nobody in Manicouagan voted for the PC's, for that matter. They voted for Brian Mulroney, and if he had crossed the floor, he'd have taken their votes with him.

In 2004, almost 22,000 voters in Newmarket-Aurora voted for Belinda Stronach, who would go on to serve in Paul Martin's Liberal government. Those voters may have THOUGHT they were voting for the Conservatives, or for Stephen Harper, or against Paul Martin and the Liberals... but they were wrong.

They were wrong, and they should have paid more attention in social studies.

Class dismissed.

Great Debate Wrap-Up

Nation, I'd write up my post-mortem thoughts of last night's debate - but Calgary Grit beat me to it. He pretty much said exactly what I was going to - so cut the poor guy some slack, and go visit his blog. Make sure to come back here, though - righteous indignation is coming up next!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Live-blogging the French Leaders' Debate

All times Mountain. Here we go!

Interesting set-up for the set tonight and (presumably) tomorrow - rather than the tried-and-true podiums, we're going with a round table, for an intimate discussion. Should be... well, no, it still won't be exciting. Should be borderline watchable, though.

Come on, let's get this party started! On with Pander-fest 2008!

Interesting point... 85% of French-speakers in this country live in Quebec. However, there are large Francophone populations in Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba, and New Brunswick. Too bad those Francophones aren't going to have anything said directly to THEM tonight, as each leader will no doubt talk "directly to Quebecers".

Moderator got right to the economy. I understand we're going to be hearing a lot about that tonight.

No closing statements? How is Liz supposed to tell everyone to vote for their local Liberal?

"Canada is not the United States." DEEP. Think we'll hear the other leaders sieze on that idea over tonight and tomorrow's debate? Gilles is taking notes.

Stephane says he can start to fix the economy in 30 days.

Liz launches her first attack on Harper, and it's on the ECONOMY. Interesting.

There's our first Harper/Bush mention, courtesy of Gilles. DRINK!

Jack is telling Mr. Bourassa what he wants, needs, and thinks. Interesting tactic.

About your RRSP's, gang... have anything left to retire on?

Stephen hasn't checked his. But we're not as screwed as the U.S.

Jack thinks he's in a classroom, and Stephen's in love with the sound of his own voice. Layton scores some points, and there's our second Bush/Harper reference. DRINK!

So far, this format is a godawful mess. Especially with the translators, I have no earthly idea who's saying what.

Dion keeps shaking his head - there'd better be a good rebuttal to Harper's point when Dion speaks again.

Duceppe attacks Harper for favouring Alberta oil companies over Ontario and Quebec companies.

Liz is a woman and single mother. If you have ovaries, you have to vote for her. She's quoting from reports that suggest Harper's policies are putting the economy of Canada at risk. There's our first "TARsands" blast. Did she just suggest it was BAD that we lost jobs in the forestry sector? She wants MORE people cutting down trees?

Oil's going for how much a barrel, and Duceppe is saying that Harper is keeping them afloat?

Dion looks serious and/or pissed off. He's repeating his '30 days' pledge to fix the economy.

Layton looks like he's talking to a 6 year-old when talking to Dion, and like he's talking to a criminal when talking to Harper. Tells you who he takes seriously... At least he's talking about real policy ideas.

May is handling herself all right in the rapid-fire French - she's not in on everything, but she doesn't seem to be all THAT hesitant, which was the worry going in for her.

You can almost hear "Don't worry, be happy" playing in the background when Harper talks about the state of the Canadian economy.

"Would you consider running a deficit?"
"That's what we're headed for with Mr. Harper".


There's our first Iraq mention! Award it to Dion!

Layton's going to freeze the taxes of companies. That mean no RAISING them, Jack?

Duceppe is still really going after the oil companies thing - seems to be trying to paint Harper as being in the pocket of Big Oil.

"We're in a surplus, we've cut taxes, shut up and give me my majority."

Could we nationalize the oil industry, to get a break at the pumps? It's OUR gas, after all... so says the questioner.

Dion says we should use less gas. Not sure if that answers the question.

May answers it quickly. "The Green Party is not in favour of nationalization". Give her points for answering the question.

Duceppe thinks the oil companies are bad, but doesn't want to nationalize them, because then Ottawa might come after Hydro Quebec. Tax credits for taxi drivers, farmers, fishermen. AGAIN with tax cuts for oil companies.

Jack goes right after Harper - "we suggested this, and this, and this, you did nothing. you have no plan."

Harper: We cut the GST, laid charges for price fixing, but it's the international market that sets prices. Translation: When hell freezes over, we'll nationalize.

Dion makes a good point, but I'm not sure what it is... prices are going to keep going up, so we need to tax carbon...

Duceppe thinks Kyoto will reduce our dependence on oil... not sure how that works.

AGAIN with attacking Alberta from Duceppe.

Liz says that cutting the GST didn't stimulate the economy, then backhands Harper with "that's another idea he's stolen from Mr. Howard in Australia..." NICE shot.

It's on the record: "The NDP does not support an increase to the GST". Layton is doing extremely well here attacking Harper's position.

Harper: "We've spent $7 Billion on alternative energy research... I don't agree on new taxes for consumers to punish people".

May just suggested Harper was stupid. Careful, Liz... moderator warning to stay on-topic, as well.

"Every country that has used a Green Shift is richer than the ones that haven't". So, they're all G8 Countries, then? Not many countries are richer than Canada, which HASN'T green-shifted.

Listeriosis. Oh, boy. Who gets the shot in first?

Interesting allegation from Duceppe about inspection frequency. Fact check, anyone? BRUTAL, if true.

"Inspectors were cut by the previous (Martin) government". First buck-passing of the night from Harper - a lot later than I expected.

Dion coming across as a hot-head, beaking off at the moderator.

This is all coming apart.

Liz runs to Stephane's aid.

"Are you ready to make a commitment to start an independent organization to make recommendations on the environment?" - so says the questioner.

May - No. We don't need another beaurocracy, we need a caring government. We don't have tim to create another agency - is an asteroid coming?

"All we need is Kyoto" - Duceppe. STILL attacking Alberta, and now throwing Saskatchewan under the bus as well.

Layton says they tried to bring in scientific-based targets, but the Cons ignored them.

Harper talking about the environment his children will have to grow up in. "We created a plan - a plan is different that just setting targets".

Dion's loving the question. "We were the heroes of climate change". Seems comfortable now that we're on the environment.

The only thing Duceppe is loving more than attacking the West is using the term "Laissez Faire" in connection to Harper.

Harper looks trapped on the environment issue.

May said Harper was lying. Lying, and stupid. REAL parliamentary language, Liz.

Harper says "we can't change the greenhouse gas emissions of the past". Was anyone unclear on that?

Layton scores another Harper/Bush connection. DRINK!

May keeps harping on Harper. "Don't understand the issue".

Dion says, for the second time tonight, they'll reduce taxes on things that generate revenue. Like, say, drilling for oil?

Harper's completely outnumbered on this one. He's taking fire from all sides, and looks like it. He's sitting back, and letting the other parties fight to score the most enviro-points against him - he knows the environmental votes aren't going to him, anyway.

"We gave Quebec $350 Million to support their environmental plan." - Harper

May again goes with the "This isn't my opinion, this is the opinion of someone better qualified than me" defence again. Stephen Harper is going to destroy the planet if we don't stop him - NOW. She says he doesn't understand, or that he's not paying attention.

Harper: We HAVE a plan, people worked hard on this, these targets are the same as the targets other countries have set.

Dion says Harper doesn't believe in climate change.

On governance: Could you tell us one good word about the opponent to your left?

Duceppe: "Ms. May attacked Stephen Harper".

Layton: "Dion is a professor, like me. He's honest, he's intelligent."

Harper: "I can say good things about Jack, despite our differences. We've worked together on issues where we have agreed. Quebec nation, Residential schools apology, accountability act - despite our differences, you're honest."

Dion: "I think Mr. Duceppe does his best to help Quebecers".

May on Harper (THIS should be interesting): "I found that Mr. Harper was very strong when dealing with issues where we share concerns. I think you're a good father, your kids are lovely, and I think that your efforts for Canada are based on your principles." She looks like she's breaking up with Steve...

Duceppe: On behalf of Quebecers, I have to represent all of the consensuses... even the ones from the National Assembly, when it's run by Liberals?

Jack tells a story about his Grandfather, who was in Quebec's national assembly, so Quebecers should vote for him... First Ed Broadbent reference of the evening.

May segues Broadbent reference to a statement on public SERVICE...

Dion: "You have to listen to people and reach a consensus..."

Harper: "I agree..." WHAAAA-? "When you're the government, you have to reach decisions." Ah, THERE'S our Stephen...

Dion on the offensive over Harper labelling people as political opponents. Mentions the Sparrow incident as part of a pattern.

Harper: "You said, Mr. Dion, that the medical association said something, and that's not true."

Dion: "Okay, let's talk about something else..."

Duceppe accuses Harper of showing disdain for democracy, because he doesn't respect the democratic outcome of a vote. "Ethnics and women", anyone?

Coalition Government issue comes up.

Layton: We can do a coalition. Harper can't. Scores big points again against Harper's record.

Harper: You're full of it, Jack. I'm not saying I'm perfect, but I've led a weak minority government for 2 years - obviously, from time to time, we worked together.

Crime: "Why hasn't parliament done anything to ban semi-automatic weapons like the ones used (at Dawson College). Will you do anything about this?"

Layton: Ban them, and give the provinces the power to ban handguns in the streets, help yonug people find more peaceful paths to take.

Harper: We've invested for better checks on gun owners. The weapons classifications that were in place we the previous (Martin) government's. Most crimes are with illegal weapons, and that's another issue. WEAK answer.

Dion: We'll prohibit this weapon - it's a military weapon, it's only meant to be used to kill people. We'll also implement the firearm registry.

May: It really is possible to work together to ban handguns and semi-automatic weapons. There's no reason for anyone to have a handgun or semi-automatic weapon.

Duceppe: Another Harper-Bush connection. DRINK. He's putting 14 to 16 year-olds in jail with adults...

Harper: We're talking about repeat offenders, not scuffles in the school. Extremely violent cases. We need to have as much compassion for victims as for criminals.

Duceppe is hammering this idea of Harper wanting to "train young criminals" - is he arguing mercy for youth killers?

May says judges can already levy heavy sentences, and accuses Harper of creating an imaginary crisis and fearmongering (THAT'S a laugh).

Dion says crime is dropping every year. Tell that to Calgary.

Harper: We have a platform (stricter penalties/investment in prevention), and it's our intention to govern according to our mandate.

Layton: We'll defeat the government, and force another election, if Harper tried to push through their crime agenda.

Dion: The provinces will have to invest $2 Billion in building new prisons if the Cons get their way.

May: I find it ironic that Mr. Harper is talking about obeying laws...

Dion: The entire country should follow the lead of Regina, Saskatchewan when it comes to fighting crime. Yeah, that ought to take care of that little gang problem in Quebec...

Cultural Identity: "Quebecers form a nation within a united Canada. In concrete terms, what does this mean for me? Will there be any real power for Quebec?"

Harper: I want to mention my aprpeciation that Quebecers were very understanding and compassionate with my learning of French over the past years. We've given Quebec a place at UNESCO, we've given the CRTC more powers to protect Quebec and Francophones...

Dion: We were also recognized as part of a Canadian nation - this is a problem for Mr. Duceppe, not for me.

May: I think that Quebec is unique in the world. It's part of what makes Canada so rich. We need to talk about the other nations in Canada. What about Aboriginal rights?

Duceppe: There SHOULD be legal consequences - we want control over our own affairs. Quebec doesn't have a SEAT at UNESCO, it can only speak if the Canadian delegation gives it a green light.

Layton: It's the right of Quebecers to use French. If we cut culture and the arts, we make things worse in Quebec and harm the Quebec nation. Mr. Harper attacked artists.

Harper: We increased funding by 8%. I support the arts and culture. What we're talking about here is recognizing the Quebec nation, and only the Bloc fought it - Gilles, you denounced me, and opposed the idea for 2 days - Quebecers forced you to change your position.

Duceppe: You apologized to me right before the election blah blah blah you hurt my feelings I'm going to keep talking about something nobody in the world except for me cares about.

Dion mentions the revelation that, in fact, there are French Canadians outside of Quebec.

May: 16 arts programs died last spring - funding to the department went up, but they're not going to the artists.

Harper: Artists work hard, but we have to recognize it's hard to see a gala, government subsidized, yet hear them cry poor.

Layton: Most of the artists in Canada live in poverty. Only the NDP has made suggestions to increase their income.

Harper: We've announced a tax credit for arts lessons.

Dion: We should be stimulated by our artists.

Duceppe says the arts budget went down by $17 Million, and that a Tory cabinet minister said it was due to ideaology - not a very likely quote.

Layton: We want to increase cultural funding for Quebec.

May: Only France and Quebec want to talk about climate change.

Stephane Dion doesn't have a watch.

Healthcare: What are you going to do to help healthcare?

Dion: The average Canadian doctor is 50. We need more, younger doctors. We need a federal fund, consistent with provincial jurisdiction, to help the provinces add doctors.

May: Health means physical, mental and social well-being. We have to protect Canada's public system. We have to protect and implement a better system - increase funding in mental health areas - and ban dangerous chemicals.

Duceppe: We need to stop federal intrusions, and Quebec should be able to opt out with full funding. If the feds would provide affordable housing and inspect food and give seniors what the deserve...

Layton: We've had a shortage for decades - now it's a crisis. 5 million Canadians don't have a family doctor. We've suggested trianing more than 20,000 more doctors and 6,000 more nurses each year.

Harper: We have to work with the provinces. We fixed the fiscal imbalance. (Answered what WOULD you with what we've ALREADY done - DRINK!)

Wasn't this supposed to be over at 7:30?

Layton: You chose tax cuts for banks rather than training for doctors.

Harper: I lowered taxes by $200 Million. To ensure stability. We're creating jobs, still have a surplus, our banks are still in business...

Duceppe: Quebec needs more money. There's still a fiscal imbalance. Quebec is still at the mercy of Ottawa.

Dion: Health is important. We'll help the provinces get more nurses and more doctors, but you also have to help the regions - if we refund $10,000 of student debt when new doctors agree to work in the regions...

Harper: We can't dictate results, this is provincial jurisdiction.

May: But you promised lower wait times during the last election (Oh, SNAP!). Mr. Harper led the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, whose job was to destroy the public health system (huh?)

Layton: We propose to eliminate the debt for each physician who commits to working as a family physician for 10 years...

Dion: What about provincial drug plans?

Duceppe: SHUT UP. We're talking about something that isn't our business - this is a provincial issue. Gilles is taking a hard stand - not surprising, but still effective.

One theme left... Canada on the world stage. Cue the Harper/Bush comparisons...

May: Harper is withdrawing from Afghanistan in 2011 - and this is a bad idea. It's not working, the Americans are screwing it up, we need to be out now.

Duceppe: We'd be in Iraq right now if Harper had his way. We could have pulled out in 2009 if not for Layton.

Layton: Our position was to pull out yesterday. As you well know, Gilles. We're proposing that we want to take our rightful place - we've lost our role in the world. Only 20 Canadian soldiers are on UN peace-keeping missions right now.

Harper: I'm the first Prime Minister to have votes in the House BEFORE sending troops somewhere - the Liberals sent troops into Afghanistan without asking the House. We're committed to staying until 2011, we're training Afghan forces, and we'll leave in 2011.

Dion: If I thought we were invading, we'd want to be out now. We're proud of our troops. We have a role to play with NATO - we'll do what we can to help the Afghan people.

Dion: Harper stole a speech from the Australian Prime Minister. That has something to do with Karzai wanting to negotiate with the Taliban.

Harper: This isn't new. President Karzai is looking for political reconciliation rather than debating with weapons.

Layton: When we suggested negotiating, you attacked us with George Bush's words (DRINK!!)

May: The Afghan government has many problems, and President Karzai has problems because the NATO mission caused civilian deaths - so we have to work towards peace, and you cannot achieve peace without dialogue. It's potentially a very positive development.

Duceppe: This is up to the Afghan government. It's not up to us to tell them how to do it. Bush/Harper want war (DRINK!)

Layton: If I become Prime Minister, we'll withdraw troops immediately and use that money to increase our foreign aid.

Harper: Our mission in Afghanistan isn't purely military, it's humanitarian - it's a UN mission, in conjunction with most of the western world.

Dion: Mr. Layton will never be Prime Minister. We made a commitment - our allies and the Afghans are counting on us. By the way, Steve-o, how much did the mission cost?

Layton: The difference between you and I, Stephane, is that when I see we're on the wrong path, I'm willing to change direction.

Dion: I have a sense of responsibility.

Harper: During Dion's leadership, Canada's GHG emissions increased by 35%.

I think Liz is going to cry over the attack on Dion.

Duceppe: You criticized them back then for doing too MUCH.

May: you're a FRAUD, Harper.

Harper: It's the government that gives the soldiers the equipment they need. When you send them into Kandahar, they need to have the right equipment, and the Liberals said they'd cut those.

Debate over. May ran away from Harper like he had smallpox - at least Dion and Layton spoke with each other.

The Battle For the Northwest Territories

Western Arctic

The North (all 3 ridings of it) has gotten a lot of attention over the past 2+ years. The Harper government has spent a lot of time, money and attention to make sure the people of the Territories understand that we "South of 60" actually have an interest in what goes on up there - especially as things continue to warm-up, and the North grows in its importance as a potential area for commerce and growth. This approach has uniquely positioned the Tories to actually gain ground in the riding of Western Arctic, but how much is uncertain - with only 28,000 electors, there isn't a lot of ground that CAN be made up. Encompassing the entirety of the Northwest Territories, this riding elected the NDP's Dennis Bevington narrowly in 2006, at the expense of 18-year incumbent Ethel Blondin-Andrew of the Liberals. Like the other Territories, the N.W.T. is highly dependent on the federal government for funding and legislative affairs - so federal elections are somewhat more important here than in the provinces. That said, voter turn-out tends to hover at near 50% - another drawback to the massive distances between voters and their polling stations.

Dennis Bevington (NDP) - Dennis Bevington is a rare bird in Canadian politics. He ran for the NDP here in 2000, and was defeated. He came back, and ran again in 2004 - and was defeated yet again (albeit by the narrowest of margins - 53 votes. Unafraid of being labelled a "3 time loser", Bevington ran AGAIN, in 2006 - and won, by over a thousand votes. He keeps getting better at this "election" thing - and that doesn't bode well for his opponents. Bevington was the Mayor of Fort Smith, N.W.T. for 9 years - Fort Smith, by the way, has a population of 2,500 - so in total, Bevington has as much executive experience as Sarah Palin did before becoming Governor of Alaska. It would take an extremely effective campaign from one of his opponents to unseat Bevington, however he has worked too hard to get to this seat to take anything for granted, so expect him to fight tooth-and-nail to keep it.

Brendan Bell (CPC) - Brendan Bell plays defence for the Ottawa Senators - oops, sorry, wrong Brendan Bell. I *think*. THIS Brendan Bell is a small business owner who was first elected to the Legislative Assembly of the N.W.T. in 1999, and has since served in Cabinet as Minister of Resources, Wildlife and Economic Development; Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment; and as Minister of Justice and Attorney General for the Northwest Territories. All this before age 37. The father of 2 is running federally for the first time, and is hoping that name recognition and his party's focus on the North in the past few years will help make up some of the 3,600 votes that the Tories lost by here in 2006.

Gabrielle Mackenzie-Scott (Lib) - Gabrielle Mackenzie-Scott is a long-time activist and volunteer in her community. Formerly the head of the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board, Mackenzie-Scott was also heavily involved in the formation of the Tlicho semi-government in the N.W.T. Gabrielle's website seems to be touch-and-go, however she has at least a decent shot of becoming the Member of Parliament for this riding - the Liberal organization here is strong, and still stinging from their defeat after 18 years of incumbency in 2006. They're motivated, and pointing right at the NDP incumbent - but will that allow the Tories to sneak up the middle?

Sam Gamble (Grn) - Sam Gamble certainly could have chosen something less challenging to do with his time than run as a Green here - like, say, climbing Mt. Everest. The Greens were absolutely destroyed in this riding in 2006, getting less than 2% of the popular vote. Their candidate, Alex Beaudin, was tapped to run again this time around, but backed out and Gamble stepped up to the plate. Sam runs a blog, and comes across as a really thoughtful guy. You would think the Greens would find fertile soil for their message of sustainability in the North, but it seems like they keep trying to plant in permafrost. Gamble's got a handle on his party's 2 biggest drawbacks in the North, however (absolute ban on whale-hunting and nuclear energy), so he could make up some ground on the Big Three.

Noeline Villebrun (FPP) - Noeline Villebrun is the former Chief of the Dene Nation, and is hoping that her status in that community helps her win the first-ever seat for the First Peoples National Party of Canada. The party has never run in this riding before, and is admittedly not well-known, even within the First Nations communities. However, 36% of the population of N.W.T. is First Nations, and the communities are growing at 6 times the national average, so if Villebrun can help boost her fledgling party into the public consciousness, that's a victory in itself.

Take a look at: Brendan Bell. He's an upwardly-mobile politician with an impressive resume, and he's running for the party that has paid more attention to the North in the past 2 years than all the governments of the past 30 years put together. Could be the "perfect storm" the Tories are hoping for.