Sunday, January 30, 2011
Great, another massive waste of tax dollars, from the folks who brought you election gag laws.
First off, why do these bureaucrats even care about the voting habits of Canadians?
Seems to me, the people at Elections Canada should solely concern themselves with the nuts and bolts of doing their job - ie make sure there are enough ballots printed.
Whether or not people decide to vote is a personal matter and none of the government's business.
Besides I can guarantee you that after spending all that money, Elections Canada will decide that it should spend yet even more taxpayer money on some lame-brained media campaign urging young people to vote.
It will likely feature some unknown Canadian rap singer saying something like: "Hey kids, voting is cool!"
And it won't work.
The fact is young people are politically apathetic for a very good reason: they don't like the political choices being offered.
No amount of Elections Canada hectoring is going to change that.
Young people will only vote in greater numbers if politicians inspire them to vote.
Saturday, January 29, 2011
If the Tories fork over tax dollars to the arena it will outrage their base; not only is it using taxpayer dollars to subsidize a private company, but worse it pandering to Quebec nationalists.
For a lot of conservatives that's the worst sort of subsidy.
On the other hand, if the Conservatives fail to dole out the dollars, it will give ammunition to the Bloc Quebecois in the next federal election.
So what to do?
Do you stand up for your base or cater to special interests?
It's a question of principle vs politics.
Well, given this government's general failure to stand up for principle, I strongly suspect the arena will get its money.
After all, even if conservatives howl with rage, where else are they going to go?
That's what happens when a party takes its base for granted.
Friday, January 28, 2011
What is the strategy behind this ad?
Of course, it's meant to ridicule the Liberal leader and I suppose to conjure up images of Howard Dean.
And I am sure hard-core Tory partisans will think that's wonderful.
But the purpose of a "negative" ad is to get non-partisans to turn against your opponent. Often such ads are based on hours and hours of polling research --- finding just that right weakness to expose.
This Tory ad looks like it was dreamed up in about five seconds, by a bunch of drunken frat boys.
It doesn't work on any level.
First off, few Canadians if any will make the Howard Dean connection. Secondly, and more importantly, any fair-minded, non-partisan individual viewing this ad will see it as nothing more than a clumsy hatchet job.
The end result could be to hurt the Tories more than the Liberals. Running attack ads is always risky and ads that clearly go over the line usually backfire. --- See Tory attack ad mocking Jean Chretien's facial features.
If I were the Liberals I would play a little political jiu-jitsu and turn this ad against the Tories.
"See how the Prime Minister is debasing political debate in this country with outrageous and appalling personal attacks? Haven't you had enough!"
Then there is the ethical factor. Michael Ignatieff never said "Yes" to an "unnecessary election." Yet the Tories are implying he did through a cheap editing trick.
Anybody could do that.
Here's how the Liberals could counter the Tory spot:
Announcer: Does Stephen Harper really want to close down orphanages and dump toxic waste into our lakes?
Clip of Stephen Harper: "Yes I do." (Never mind that Harper was actually answering the question, "Do you love kittens?")
In short, somebody needs to put a leash on whoever is writing these ads. Negative ads are like nitro glycerin, they can be powerful but should be handled with care. Score: 0 out of ten.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
If the Tories, as I suspect they will, choose a more genuinely small "c" conservative to lead their party it means the next Alberta election will pit two pro-free market parties against each other.
Just imagine: two parties competing to see who will cut taxes the most, who will make government smaller, who will do the most to protect individual freedoms.
Now that's my kind of election!
And if that does happen it will be because the Wildrose Alliance Party stood up for conservative principles.
In doing so it changed the focus of debate in Alberta.
Congressman Paul Ryan uttered those words last night during his response to the President's State of the Union Address.
His whole speech, with its emphasis on smaller government, individual freedom and free markets reflected the views of a man who actually believed in conservatism.
What a refreshing change from the juvenile partisan hackery that passes for political debate in this country.
Of course, Prime Minister Harper used to sound like Ryan.
I sure wish he would talk like that again.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Recently an NCC operative posted comments about me that can only be described as malicious, personal slurs.
I knew the people operating the NCC were incompetent, but I never imagined they would stoop so low.
They should be ashamed.
Monday, January 24, 2011
First at 7:30 AM ET (!!!!)I am scheduled to be on The Current -- CBC Radio, to discuss Prime Minister Stephen Harper and conservatism. (Cue: slanderous personal slurs)
Second at 5:30 PM ET I will be on CHCH TV's Square Off where I will be debating the question of capital punishment and politics. (Don't worry I will be defending the Tories in this one.)
Sunday, January 23, 2011
To mark Prime Minister Stephen Harper's five years in office, I thought I would reprint a column he wrote 10 years ago in the National Citizens Coalition newsletter. (Italics are mine)
Harper wrote this in 2001. Of course, if he had discussed such shockingly, radical and idealistic conservative ideas in 2011, certain Blogging Tories would be organizing a lynch mob!
Saturday, January 22, 2011
And they were fun!
Here's another we put up after Bob Rae's electoral demise in Ontario.
Friday, January 21, 2011
Oops, sorry, according to Liberal partisans the ads are not "attack" ads, but actually "contrast" ads because they focus on issues. (When I was working in the US we called our negative spots "comparative" ads.)
But euphemisms aside, how do these two new Liberal negative ads rate.
Here's my review:
First off, both ads have poor production values. Perhaps this an indication of the Liberal Party's financial weakness, or maybe it's just a Canadian thing. The Tory ads were no great shakes in that regard either.
On the positive side both Liberal spots have concise, tight and focussed messages. When you only have 30 seconds that's important. The visuals in both spots were not great, but OK.
Of the two ads I like this one better:
Obviously, this ad is playing the populist card, a ploy that will likely resonate with a certain audience. It's what I like to call the "Us vs. Them" tactic. Harper stands for big corporations (Them), the Liberals stand for "Us". It's hokey, but it can work. And the ad has some emotional punch. Score: 7 out of 10.
This ad on the other hand, hits the wrong chord.
Again, tight script and cute visuals but strategically this is the wrong Liberal message. Going after the Tories on the jet fighter issue is playing to Prime Minister Harper's strength: defence and security. If I am Harper I am happy to fight the Liberals over the question of who is better able to defend Canada. For most Canadians the default answer to that question is the Conservatives. That's why the Liberals are better to stick to issues where they have the home field advantage: health care, the environment, social issues. Score: 6 out of 10.
Interestingly, both ads attack Harper from the Left. This suggests the real purpose of the ads is not to win over new voters, but to mobilize the Liberal base. And while the morale of their supporters is important, the Liberals will need more powerful ammunition and better issues if they hope to persuade Canadians that it's time to topple the Conservatives.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
David Frum correctly points out the political achievements of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative party.
But we must not confuse success for the Conservative Party with success for the conservative movement. Conservatism, as a philosophy, preaches smaller government and fiscally responsible leadership. By that standard, Mr. Harper has failed.
Since taking office, he has engaged in reckless, deficit-bloating spending sprees, while increasing the size and scope of big government.
Maybe that doesn’t matter for partisan Conservatives for whom power is more important than principle. But for those of us who were hoping for a true alternative to the Liberals, the Harper regime has been a huge disappointment.
As it says in the Bible, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?”
PM Stephen Harper: Well, first of all, that's not only untrue, but is completely unrepresentative of economic conservatives, Peter. And people who see themselves on the centre-right, particularly on economic issues, are overwhelmingly - in fact, I bet a pollster would tell you they're 95 per cent, 100 per cent supportive of this government. Because they know that we're doing what is necessary in the economic circumstances while maintaining our long-term approach, which is to keep taxes down and make sure that future growth is in the private free enterprise sector. That's what this government is doing.
In fact I think the opposite is arguable. I thin k the realism here Peter is not against some abstract - you know, we're political realists, Conservatives. We don't compare ourselves to some abstract ideology. The real comparison is, what is being done in other countries? I think arguably we are running right now the freest, the most free enterprise government in the developed world. I think that's very arguable. We're one of the few countries reducing our taxes. Even with our deficits and debt we're at some of the lowest levels in the developed world in these areas. So, you know, one has to compare oneself to reality, not to some abstract.
Hmmm. Prime Minister Harper really believes 100 percent of economic conservatives support his fiscal policies?
That must be news to the Fraser Institute and to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and to writers like Andrew Coyne and Terence Corcoran, all of whom have been pretty vocal in their criticisms of his economic policies.
And just speaking of my own personal experience I have met many, many economic conservatives disappointed in the Harper government.
Plus what's all this talk about "abstract ideology"? Is that what conservatism has been reduced to in this government. Just some abstract notion. Hard to imagine Ronald Reagan or Margaret Thatcher ever talking like that.
Heck, it's impossible to imagine the Stephen Harper I used to know talking like that.
Maybe the problem for Harper is that he spends too much time accepting the sycophantic praise of his "Trained Seals" and not enough time listening to his conservative base.
Monday, January 17, 2011
I am talking about Ronald Reagan's "It's Morning in America Again" TV spot.
As you can see the visuals in this ad reinforce the narration. More than that they invoke strong emotional reactions. I mean, you can't watch this TV spot and not feel hopeful and confident about America. That's why it worked. It was great television: emotional and visual.
Contrast that to the latest Tory TV ad, "Rising to the challenge".
This ad has a decent script, but it lacks good visuals or emotion. The visuals it does have are weak. It opens with street riots, then shifts to what looks like a stock market computer screen. What is that supposed to convey? Fear? To me it just confuses the message. Then the rest of the ad shows Prime Minister Harper in his office late at night working on crossword puzzles or something. Again, a flat, uninspiring image. This a great radio spot, but a weak TV commercial.
How do they rate?
Well here's my review.
Not a bad ad. It's designed to appeal to the risk-averse nature of your typical voter with a simple argument: why rock the boat when things are working? And simple arguments are the best. The script is also quite good as it drives home a few key points. On the downside the visuals are weak. Why the shots of Prime Minister Harper working at his desk, signing papers and drinking coffee? If the Prime Minister were wildly popular -- ala Ronald Reagan -- this would make sense. But he isn't. Why not have shots of people happily working in factories, or some sort of visual that reinforces the message? Also this is the sort of ad you run when you are a clear front runner, it will keep the voting base you have, but it won't win new converts. If the Tories are to win a majority they will need to make a stronger case. Score: 6 out of 10.
Not surprisingly the Tories are going to make attacks on Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff the centerpiece of their election messaging strategy. And why not? He's too tempting a target to ignore. Hence this attack ad. And overall it's pretty good. I like the sinister music, the visuals work and most importantly the message manages to link the bland Ignatieff with the scary and radical agendas of the NDP and Bloc Quebecois. Using Ignatieff's own words in the ad also gives it punch. It could use a little better production values and the bit about Ignatieff "Coming back to Canada" is a little too subtle. Score: 8 out of 10.
In this ad the Tories go after the NDP. Now attacking the NDP is a good strategic move for the Conservatives, but this ad is taking the wrong direction. Why? Because the Conservatives need the NDP to get stronger so it can eat away at the Liberal support base. The way to do that is for the Conservatives to attack the NDP on ideological grounds. What I mean is if the Tories blast the NDP for being "left-wing pinkos" it will have the effect of rallying wavering left wing voters to the NDP camp. However, this ad attacks NDP leader Jack Layton for being "ambitious" and for trying to set up a "coalition." That's tactically the wrong message. It just won't do the trick. Score: 4 our of 10.
Here's an ad I hope never airs on TV. I found it offensive when the Liberals played to bigoted anti-American feelings to score political points and I find it just as offensive when the Tories use the same odious ploy. Besides strategically speaking this ad will not do the Tories any good. It will only appeal to NDP types and left-wing Liberals who will never vote Tory. Score: 2 out of 10.
OK this is the worst of the lot. Terrible. Composed entirely of Ingatieff statements clearly taken out of context, its designed to make him appear unpatriotic. This is so crass it's almost an attack ad parody. It's this sort of nonsense that gives negative ads a ... well a negative reputation. Score: 1 out of 10.
Saturday, January 15, 2011
Friday, January 14, 2011
Well it turns out it wasn't a joke.
Left leaning journalist Susan Riley did take offence.
In today's Ottawa Citizen, she writes:
"It isn't only for politicians, but for media commentators, partisan bloggers and the anonymous individuals who spew invective on so many online comment boards.
We might start by rethinking our metaphors. This week, for instance, right-leaning pundit Gerry Nicholls, a former colleague of Prime Minister Harper's at the National Citizens Coalition, warned that while Michael Ignatieff is "playing political chess, (Harper) is waging total war."
He continues: "To be blunt, Mr. Harper's ultimate strategic goal really isn't to win a majority -- it's to eradicate the Liberal party as a viable political force." He describes the prime minister as "a hungry predator circling a weakened prey."
Now I suppose Riley believes my words are dangerous, that they will lead Canadian citizens to wage total war and eradicate all Liberals. And who knows, maybe they will inspire Prime Minister Harper to eat Ignatieff!
Who knew I had such awesome power?
OK, so I suppose the next step will be to set up some sort of government agency that will regulate and control metaphors to ensure they don't pose a threat to society.
Under such a regime, my sentences would be mandated to read: "While Michael Ignatieff is playing political chess, (Harper) is playing Risk. To be blunt, Mr. Harper's strategic goal really isn't to win a majority -- it's to make the Liberals really sad. The Prime Minister is like a hungry person circling a cheeseburger."
Thursday, January 13, 2011
(Warning this column may offend leftists as it contains metaphors, similes and military analogies.)
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
I speculated that perhaps this was evidence the Conservative government was going to use this issue to help trigger their own downfall and thus force a federal election.
Well here's more proof: Today the National Citizens Coalition, otherwise known as "Harper's Trained Seals" announced its going to start pushing for the elimination of the subsidy.
I suspect the orders for this NCC campaign came from the PMO.
Of course, it's an issue the NCC should be pushing; the problem is the people running the organization are simply incompetent when it comes to mounting an effective media campaign.
That's something the PMO should consider.
Update: It seems Prime Minister Harper is now sabre rattling on this issue. More signs of an early election?
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Monday, January 10, 2011
Now that's not to say an election will happen, but just that all things being equal, Prime Minister Stephen Harper would probably prefer to go sooner rather than later.
Sunday, January 09, 2011
In the space of just a few weeks Lorne Gunter, Ezra Levant and Stephen Taylor have all come out with blogs or columns denouncing the practice of using taxpayer dollars to finance politicians.
Why the sudden interest in this issue?
Could it be the Conservatives, who have long opposed public subsidies, are spinning their friends in the media? And if that's the case does it mean the Tories are seeking to win over public opinion because they plan to address this controversial issue in their next budget?
And that leads to further questions. After all, the last time the Conservatives targeted these subsidies it nearly triggered a constitutional crisis, not to mention an unholy alliance between the Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc.
Could it be Prime Minister Stephen Harper is hoping the subsidy issue will force an election this spring?
OK before I go sink too deep into this sort of speculation, let's get back to the issue of political subsidies.
I fully concur with Gunter, Levant and Taylor that such subsidies are wrong, undemocratic and basically amount to welfare for politicians.
They should be scrapped and I hope the Tories will do so.
However, if the subsidies are scrapped, Prime Minister Harper should also scrap campaign finance limits, which make it illegal for individuals to contribute more than $1,000 per year to a political party or candidate.
It's a question of free speech.
Just as it's wrong to force a Canadian to subsidize a political party, it's equally wrong to deny a Canadian the right to use his or her own money to financially support a political party.
And if the subsidies are removed, political parties will need to rely all the more on the voluntary support of Canadians.