Monday, October 30, 2006

US midterms

I have been watching the US midterm elections with a great deal of interest. After the massive comeback in the Senate in 2004 for the Republicans and the ludicrouslly gerrymandered nature of House seats, I figured there was no hope in heck for the Democrats to even come close to taking either chamber.

However, this is the election that has gone right for Democrats beyond their wildest dreams. It is now essentially a foregone conclusion that the Democrats will win the House of Representatives and have a relatively good shot at the Senate.

I haven't written much on this because U.S. politics is complicated and, I would expect, to most of my readers the intracies of House and Senate races aren't that interesting. Moreover, the US blogosphere is massive and has way more written about this than anyone could ever want to read so I don't really need to get into it.

The reason I am writing this post is because my arch-right wing nemesis Scott over at The Sorry Centrist has put together a cool pool on predictions for these races.

It is part of a massive pool of people all over the place, and Scott has a "sub-pool" that has a number of recognizable NB bloggers in it. It is neat to prognasticate and Scott is going to give out a prize to the best guesser in the pool. Check it out.

How it works is it will walk you through each of the "competitive" House and Senate races. Unless you are an ultra-nerd, at least some of the House races will be complete guess work. If you want to make a more educated guess, a good site is It has a summary of all of the competitive races and, if you are interested in the nitty gritty details, you can sign up to get all kinds of information. I have done so and found it very interesting.

Just for the record my predictions worked out to be:

Senate - R 50, D 50 (this gives the Republicans a majority because the "speaker" of the Senate is the Vice President, i.e. Republican Dick Cheney)

House - D 234, R 201

Sunday, October 22, 2006

My thoughts on the final (?) Liberal numbers

Barring an appeal in BC, and allowing for campaigns to appoint people to fill vacancies, we now have the final delegate totals for the Liberal leadership:

Michael Ignatieff 1309 (30.2%)
Bob Rae 881 (20.3%)
Gerard Kennedy 751 (17.3%)
Stéphane Dion 694 (16.0%)
Joe Volpe 211 (4.9%)
Ken Dryden 187 (4.3%)
Scott Brison 153 (3.5%)
Martha Hall Findlay 38 (0.9%)
Undeclared 109 (2.5%)

In my earlier post on this, I already pointed out how factoring out Kennedy's poor showing in Quebec shows that he dominates in a very strong second in the rest of Canada. I won't rehash that here.

There some good news in this for Ignatieff and Rae - in that they both broke through the psychological barriers of 30 and 20 percent respectively and for Kennedy who in widening his lead of Dion makes it more likely he'll survive the second ballot making him the come-from-behind contender and Dion the king maker.

Also in my earlier post, I pointed out how in the U.S. - where their primary/caucus system bares a resemblence to the Liberal proportional delegate system - the media and momentum does not depend on number of delegates but instead on states won. I was thinking through why this is and I believe it is due to electability. In the U.S. system it doesn't matter how many votes you win in the general election, it matters how many states you carry to raise your electoral vote total.

Similarly, in Canada it doesn't matter how many votes you win, but how many seats. As we saw just a few weeks ago in New Brunswick, you can win less votes and more seats. So while delegates will decide the next leader, the main reason why I like the delegate system as opposd to a one-member-one-vote system is because it gives the leadership candidates a trial run at an election campaign. They have to do well in many ridings across the country to get enough delegates to win.

So, as a result, I thought like the U.S. counts states won to measure success not delegates, I would count ridings won to measure success as everyone else is covering counting delegates.

In 27 ridings there were ties (mostly two way, but there were three three-way ties and a four-way tie). In these cases I have allotted 0.5, 0.33 or 0.25 ridings to a candidate as appropriate.

The results

Ignatieff won 100 ridings
Kennedy won 54 ridings
Rae won 49 ridings
Dion won 43 ridings
Volpe won 11 ridings
Dryden won 9 ridings
Brison won 8 ridings
Hall Findlay won 1 riding
And the "undeclareds" carried 5 ridings

When I factor in the ties and round them off, we end up was a 309 seat Liberal House of Commons if this were an election and we had the Ignatieff Party, Kennedy Party, etc.

Ignatieff 100 + 5.92 ~= 106 seats
Kennedy 54 + 7.92 ~= 62 seats
Rae 49 + 5.25 ~= 54 seats
Dion 43 + 4.08 ~= 47 seats
Volpe 11 + 3 = 14 seats
Dryden 9 + 0.83 ~= 10 seats
Brison 8 + 0.5 ~= 9 seats
Hall Findlay 1 + 0.5 ~= 2 seats
Undeclared = 5 seats

Here is what the Liberal House of Commons would look like. As the winner I gave Ignatieff Liberal red and as the longest running Liberal in the field I gave Kennedy the Wikipedia Liberal colour. I couldn't resist giving Rae NDP orange and Brison Tory blue. Dion got the Bloc's colour as the only Quebec candidate. Finally I rounded it off by giving Dryden purple, Volpe green and Hall Findlay yellow. The undeclareds get independent grey.

So although the Ignatieff Party is the clear winner, his minority is far smaller than Harper's and barely bigger than the current Liberal opposition. He is far ahead of his nearest competitor but the Kennedy Party or Rae Party could both form coalitions with smaller parties to make a larger minority, while the Kennedy Party could form a majority in coalition with smaller parties. A Kennedy-led coalition of all parties in opposition would form a massive majority of 202 seats. A Kennedy Party led coalition without the Dion Party would control a bare majority of 155 seats, while a Kennedy-led coalition without the Rae Party would form a large minority of 148 seats. An Ignatieff-Kennedy or Ignatieff-Rae coalition would form a majority, while any other majority coalition combination for the Ignatieff Party would require 3 or more parties.

Obviously there is not going to be a scenario where all other parties fold and the Liberals split into 8 factions behind each of the leadership candidates. However, considering that, at the end of the day, the main purpose of parties and leaders are to win elections under our first past the post electoral system to implement the policies we believe in, the above analysis gives us the best measure to see which leadership candidate (or coalition of candidates) have the best shot of doing so. Moroever, the Americans who have been using a system like this for far longer than us use the "winning in a real election" method to handicap the race so there is no reason why we shouldn't.

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Tories doth protest too much

Every time I see a comment from the Tory Opposition, which I don't think is at all comfortable in their new skin, it is full of disdain and irrational logic.

There are three constants in any and all comments from the Opposition.

1. "We won the popular vote, the Liberals have no mandate." There may or may not be merits to this argument but Bernard Lord himself pointed out that his hero Richard Hatfield won both the 1970 and 1974 elections while losing the popular vote and then lost seats when finally winning it in 1978 so he had no grounds on which to complain. Clearly he has forgotten that statement.

2. "The Liberals aren't prepared to govern." With all due respect, nearly a majority of New Brunswickers (over 44% in 2003 and over 47% in 2006) disagree for two elections in a row. This is democracy. The voters get to make that decision, not some bitter former ministers. Common sense requires that Tories should at least give the Liberals a chance before criticizing, lest they look like angry raving lunatics. Moreover, criticism of this announcement is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. The concept of every minister knowing every file in the government will make for a more proactive cabinet and innovative program thinking. It is a great idea. We have 19 ministers, 16 of whom have never been in the cabinet room before, obviously they need to brush up on their files. In a government backbench caucus or in opposition you may learn some things on files but you aren't allowed to get into the nitty gritty. This is not symptomatic of lack of preparedness, it is a sign of the humility to say "we are taking on a tremendous task, we don't have all of the answers but we are willing to learn and do our best". It is very refreshing. We have had perhaps the most arrogant government in history for the past 7 years and now we seem to have the most humble. Ministers working nights and weekends to make sure they know their files, and the Premier in the papers today saying he is letting Frank McKenna open doors to bring business to New Brunswick and he doesn't care who gets the credit so long as New Brunswick gets the jobs. Very refreshing. (Sorry for the rant)

3. The biggest issue with me is the constant comments from Jeannot Volpe, and now from Bernard Lord, about how the Liberals are going to have to go in the red to deliver on their promises. This is wholly untrue and, if the Liberals do end up in the red, it will be because the Tories have fudged the budget and misled as as to how the finances in New Brunswick truly are. This will be the primary subject of this post..

The Liberal promises are costed out at $200M in year one and $75M in every subsequent year.

This year's budget had a surplus of $22.2 million so at first glance you might say the Liberals are running head first into a $180m deficit. However, that is not true.

In March, Jeannot Volpé's budget forecasted $2.1 billion in transfer payments. However, the federal Finance Department numbers of August show we'll actually get $2.4 billion. So, presuming the rest of the books are sound. New Brunswick has a ~ $320 million surplus for 2006-2007. Add in the Liberal spending and we still have a $120 million surplus - enough left over to pay for year 2 and part of year 3's Liberal commitments.

So, now I put you on notice, if the Liberals run a deficit it will be because the Tories fudged the books. We'll have some indication of whether or not this has happened in December when the Liberals release the independent audit of the books.

However, the Tories do have a rich history of screwing the books. We have examples of the Auditor General catching them breaking their own rules and blatently lying about the budget being balanced when it was infact in the red by over $100m in an election year. Then last year, after cutting the winter road budget to balance the books, they blamed a bad winter (it was one of the warmest on record) for having been way over budget in that area.

The Liberal promises leave lots of room in the budget, unless the Tories didn't present accurate figures.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Sigh. Disappointment #2

I was a bit surprised to see this appointment today. Not because I think it is a bad idea, in fact I think it is a very good idea. New Brunswick having a presence in Ottawa is key when you consider that other provinces, with whom we are often competing, have them as well.

However, it disappoints me when two years ago the Liberals were saying that such a position was a waste of money.

News roundup

I haven't done one of these in a while but there were a couple of interesting piecs in the papers today I wanted to comment on.

HST heating rebate

All of the dailies are reporting that Finance Minister Victor Boudreau is saying that the HST rebate program is under review and may or may not proceed. He says his intention is to proceed but they are not sure they will need to see the results of the audit. Boudreau is quoted as saying "the previous government had not done what needed to be done to be able to meet (the) deadline". I am very curious about this and am hoping that more details will come out over the next few days.

Some may recall that back when this program was announced there were no details and, two months after it was announced, then Finance Minister Jeannot Volpe told people to keep their heating bills because they might need them. The whole program seems to have been dreamed up when the Tories wanted a popular budget to run on should their government have fallen in April.

The very same Jeannot Volpe and his master Bernard Lord were harping on the Liberals for potentially scrapping the program.

Volpe: They seem to be very good at spending the money. Now I'm waiting for them to say where they will get that money. Will they cut the HST rebate? Will they increase taxes? If they are ready to start spending money, they have to be ready to make some decisions.

Lord: First of all, they got less votes. More people voted to keep the HST rebate and I think if they would have been clear with the public of New Brunswick that they were considering canceling the HST rebate then we would have had even more votes. The real issue for the Liberals is not doing audits about the past, it's trying to figure out how they're going to pay for their expensive promises and obviously they don't know.
The Liberals have not said they are scrapping the program, they are figuring out if it is even possible to make it work, something the Tories should have done when they were in power. I fully expect that the Liberals will make this program work and continue forward with it, as they promised. If they don't, they'll catch hell from yours truly.

As for Lord's remarks, evidentally the defeat didn't give him and humility. I guess we are never going to hear the end of the popular vote thing. Ever. But his comment about audits is very interesting considering that he conducted an external audit in 1999 and so did his hero Richard Hatfield in 1970. If it is good for the goose, it is good for the gander.

Lord to Paris?

I am not too sure about this rumour but it got a lot of print today because the incumbent Ambassador to France was in Moncton yesterday and got scrumed about it.

I don't really see Harper appointing Lord as Ambassador to France and, if he offered it, I don't see Lord accepting. It isn't a good move for either of them.

From Harper's perspective, if he thinks Lord is an asset, he'll want him in his cabinet and encourage him to run in the next election. If Harper thinks Lord is a threat, he'll strategically realize that there really isn't a federal seat Lord could win and encourage him to run and fall on his sword.

From Lord's perspective, if he wants to move into federal politics this may give him some foreign affairs experience to round out his resume but it also takes him out of the country for at least a few years and doesn't, unlike McKenna's gig in Washington, give him a lot of profile. Moreover, Lord has said his wife and family are happy in Fredericton and despite anything negative you may have to say about Lord, he is a family man and I suspect that he'd prefer to keep them comfortable in Fredericton, something he could do either running federally or even by doing some Canadian corporate gigs basing himself out of Fredericton and doing some travel.

Shawn Graham on equalization

Graham is following Lord's principled policy on equalization. In that all resource revenues should be included. It drives me crazy to hear that talk about the "clawback" on revenues in Newfoundland. It is not a clawback!

This is how it works (very over simplified version, but the gist is there). If the national average revenue for a province of your size is X dollars, and your province makes Y dollars and Y is less than X then you get the difference between X and Y.

So lets say X is $5 billion and the revenues of Newfoundland are $4 billion. Newfoundland would receive $1 billion in equalization. Now, if Newfoundland has a really good oil year, and their revenue is $4.5 billion, then they are only going to get $500,000. They are arguing that oil revenue should not be included so they would still get a total of $5.5 billion while other provinces still get only $5 billion. In what universe is this fair?

Graham names deputy speakers

Graham named widely-expected-to-be-Speaker Gene McGinley and Campbellton MLA Roy Boudreau as Deputy Speakers. This is something that would not usually happen until the legislature comes into session.

I am assuming that Malley has resigned now with a handsome severence package, which the paper says was agreed to though they cannot confirm or deny whether or not the resignation has actually taken place, and that this will allow McGinley to act as Speaker until he is elected? Not sure but this seems to make sense as McGinley has indicated he is running for Speaker in today's papers and it would make no sense to appoint someone as Deputy Speaker who is going to run for Speaker and then never actually serve as Deputy Speaker requiring you to appoint a replacement Deputy Speaker.

The problem however is whether or not this is even possible?

According to the Standing Rules of the Legislature: "12. Within the first five days of the first session of each House, or whenever a vacancy occurs, the House shall elect two Deputy Speakers from among its members." And the Legislative Assembly Act does not provide any provision for the appointment of Deputy Speakers when the House is not in session.

Seems fishy.

Charles LeBlanc breaks news ages before CBC

I tip my hat to the blogging Charles LeBlanc who broke the news last Friday that the NB legislature would be getting metal detectors. Four days later, the CBC caught up to him.

Well done Charles!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Who is behind

If you are, like me, a frequent vistor to Bourque you'll have noticed he is blasting a link to

I at first assumed that this was a swipe at the dead people signed up by the Volpe and, allegedly, other campaigns. However it turns out that it is in response to an article earlier this month in the Ottawa Citizen that two Liberal staffers had jumped the queue and gotten civil service jobs after the January election without waiting in line as is normally the case.

In typical Conservative style, the site alleges that if there were 2, there were probably many, many more and suggest that this was another example of political interference in the bureaucracy, similar to the sponsorship scandal.

I find that hard to imagine because, if it was a big move, then the Public Service would have obviously noticed. A 1 or 2 million out of the $200,000 million annual federal budget going missing is easy to miss. Dozens of political staffers, whose names would be known through the civil services, appearing as civil servants is not so easy to miss.

Anyway, who is behind this smear? Hard to say. The owner's cleverly chose ".com" - which requires no proof of identity - over ".ca" - which would have required that they register a Canadian address and contact number.

However, it is registered by a Houston, Texas organization called NFSN. NFSN - is an incorporated entity that offers domain registration services.

Perhaps I will join whoever is behind this in the fun game of non sensical extrapolation and suggest that this is a Texas-based (read Republican) American entity interfering in Canadian politics on behalf of the Conservative Party. Shame.

NOTE: This post was meant as a joke. First, I doubt the veracity of the story of these two phantom Liberals, it is a big story yet was only picked up in one paper and never followed up upon, thus I doubt there were any hard facts that it happened. Second, the website makes insane claims that this was a wide spread practice when, per above, it could not have been. Third, the person(s) behind the website are too chicken to tie their names to their claims. I may run an anonymous blog, but I would never make unsubstantiated charges against a person or group without putting my name behind it. Fourth, when trying to see who was behind the site, I thought that it was amusing that the site was registered with a company not only in the US but in Texas when one considers the attempts by many Liberal, NDP and BQ folk of painting the Harper Conservatives as an extension of the Bush Republicans who are rooted in Texas.

Thus, I thought that I would be able to be cute and make a tongue-in-cheek counter claim that this site was run by Republican operatives. I do not think that. I was trying to be funny. I guess I am not as amusing as I'd like to think based on the preliminary comments anyway ;)

Sunday, October 15, 2006

"There, there dear."

I am watching the Liberal leadership debate. Rae, Ignatieff and Hall Findlay were doing a debate on Foreign Policy.

Rae and Ignatieff got into a big dust up. Ignatieff said Rae's position on Afghanistan was unclear, Rae said that was rich coming from a man who had changed his position 3 times on the Middle East. Hall Findlay cut them off with a stern "GENTLEMEN!!" to applause from the crowd.

In response, Ignatieff walked out from his podium to go over and put his arm around Hall Findlay's shoulder.

I have never seen something so patronizing in my life. If he had said "there, there dear" to her it would have shown more respect.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

NDP takes a kick in the teeth

It had occured to me before, but I hadn't thought to much about, how the loss of popular vote for the NDP in this election is going to seriously reduce their subsidy from the province to operate their party.

This is how bad it is folks. The NDP will, which does not accept corporate or union contributions, will have to operate on $31,315 per year (down from $60,292) + whatever they can raise from NDP supporters.

Those poor souls who support the NDP may want to think about putting spam filters on the email, changing their phone numbers and maybe even moving. They are about to get hounded. Allison Brewer is coming cap-in-hand. Her comment: "we are going to be asking people to dig a little deeper and try to help the party make up for the shortfall".

So the shortfall is $30,000. The NDP managed to attract 200 people to its last leadership - the first race they had had in 17 years and one with three candidates. One presumes that is the core of diehard NDP supporters. So these folks, who already likely contribute to the NDP are going to have to cough up an additional $150 in order to get the status quo? $150 a year isn't a lot of money - most people could scrounge together $12.50 per month if they really wanted to - but the question is, do they?

Brewer is not suggesting some innovative policy or change of approach in order to attract new members and new fundraising capacity. She is just going to ask the NDP for more money.

I am not a New Democrat, but I presume these folks think in relatively the same way as an average person. And here is what I would imagine the though process is. After 7 straight elections of getting approximately 10% of the vote, and electing a member in 6 of those elections, we just got 5.1% of the vote and no members. In order to get the party's finances back to where they were before the eleciton - and therefore likely get the status quo, 5% and no MLAs, I need to shell out $150 MORE per year - an extra $600 to the next election + probably some additional cash during the election year. To get nothing but another dismal showing, no NDP presence in the legislature and another four years of "digging a little deeper"? Come on.

Allison Brewer should change her name to Queen Cleopatra.

First on election night she declares her distant last place finish in Fredericton-Lincoln and the lowest popular vote for the NDP in 22 (sorry it is actually 32) years "a victory" (see video) and today in the paper, here is her quote on what this means for the party: "Five per cent is not great but 10 per cent was not great either."

Well said Cleopatra, you really are living in da nile.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

First staff for Graham Government beginning to appear

The Government website is now showing two Liberal staffers.

Bruno Roy, who lost in his bid to defeat Tory Cy LeBlanc in Dieppe Centre-Lewisville by 58 votes, will be the Chief of Staff in the Office of Government Members.

Denise Camerson Scott, wife of MP Andy Scott and a former Liberal staffer both in government and opposition, will be Deputy Chief of Staff in the Office of Government Members.

For those not as nerdy as I, the office of Government Members provides support for backbenchers in the government and staffs the legislature when it is in session and so forth.


The government just put out a press release indicating five senior appointments and the government directory now shows some staff in the Premier's Office.

Several deputy minister and equivalent appointments: Dana Clenndenning, a Liberal activist, replaces Barbara Windsor, a Tory activist as president of NB Liquor. A former NB deputy minister returns to be DM at Energy while a long time lawyer becomes deputy minister of Justice.

I am more interested in the political appointments announced:

Bernard Thériault will be the Premier's chief of staff. Thériault was an MLA from 1987-2000 before resigning to unsuccessfully run against Yvon Godin in the 2000 federal election. A Francophone is a logical choice for this job.

Chris Baker will be Secretary (deputy minister) to the Policy and Priorities Committee of Cabinet. Baker was the Liberal pollster in the 2003 election and moved to New Brunswick from Ontario in 2004 to become Graham's chief of staff a role he served for the balance of the Liberal leader's role in opposition.

Other appointments showing up on the government website:

Joan Kingston is the Principle Secretary to the Premier. This is a role we haven't had before in New Brunswick or at least not recently. Traditionally when a first minister has a chief of staff and a principle secretary the first is more concerned with politics and administration and the second with policy and planning. Kingston was an MLA from 1995 to 1999 and served as Minister of the Environment and Minsiter of Labour. She joined Graham's office as chief of staff when he became leader in 2002 and in 2004 became "Senior Advisor" charged with recruitment of women and platform development.

Linda Haché is Director of Operations. She served as EA to Camille Thériault as minister and premier and was with the opposition office from 1999. First as EA to Thériault and after his resignation as office manager.

Heather Allaby is Director of Writing and Research. She has been with the opposition office since shortly after the 1999 election and was a Researcher, then Director of Research and Planning and then Senior Policy Analyst.

Sheri Shannon is Executive Assistant to the Premier. She had the same role for sometime as EA to the Leader of the Opposition prior to the eleciton.

Also, at the bottom of the news release, Nicole Picot is listed as Director of Communications though this is not reflected on the staff list. She formerly worked with Frank McKenna and has been in Finance Department after the Tories came to power, in fact, she is still listed there.


A browse through the government directory finds that a number of ministers have EAs listed as well:

Gaitain Michaud, EA to Minister Ron Ouellette
Wade Flowers, EA to Minister Greg Byrne
Daniel Guitard, EA to Minister Roland Haché
Lorraine O'Brien, EA to Minister Rick Doucet
Alaina Nicholson, EA to Minister T. J. Burke
Lisa Arseneault, EA to Minister Donald Arseneault
Scott Masters, EA to Minister Ed Doherty
Penne Buckley, EA to Minister John Foran

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

What Micheal Ignatieff really said on Iraq

A big hat tip goes out to "Le Vert" at Politque Vert who unearthed a video from March 15, 2003 in which Michael Ignatieff and three other thinkers spoke for and against the War in Iraq.

Ignatieff makes a strong case for the war, I myself think in hindsight if I had heard it before the invasion I might have been moved, though unlikely convinced, towards the merits of the war.

However, his argument has absolutely nothing to do with the welfare of the Kurds despite Ignatieff's claims that that was his justification found here, here, here and so on.

He only mentions the Kurds once and, when he does, he actually says in that "we have managed to prevent Saddam from committing genocide against the Kurdish people".

So, Michael Ignatieff's sole justification for supporting the war in Iraq in 2006, was, according to him, already "Mission Accomplished", before the war began in 2003.

His actually justification for the war at that time, which in fairness had merit, was the following:

It seems to me the only way we can see this as acceptable ethically is if the Palestinian people get a state. My sense is that the chances of that happening are increased by an Iraqi Operation for two reasons.

One, the Americans can turn to the Israelis and say: "listen, we have removed your chief strategic threat its time for you to do business." We can then turn to the Palestinians and say, "your chief champion is out of here, it is time to settle this conflict."
Now while I think that that was a logical justification then. It has proved in retrospect that that did not work out at all. Terrorism is surging in Iraq and the risk to Iraq's neighobours, including Israel, has probably gone up not down or, at the very least, is the same as it was before. In the meantime, in part because of the anger caused by the invasion, Hamas has come to power in the Palestinian territories making peace all but impossible.

I do not blame Michael Ignatieff for being mistaken, no one can predict the future and his argument had merit in 2003. I do fault him, however, having seen his justification for the war not come to pass, for making up a wholly new reason in the hopes of making himself palatable to Liberals and the Canadian electorate.

In the interests of the research of others and because Ignatieff supporters often argue that quotations from his comments require the full context of his remarks, the following is a full transcript of his statement. Also, in case you don't trust my transcription, I have made an MP3 of his remarks available here.

-Begin Transcript-


I should now like to introduce Michael Ignatieff who is the Director of the Carr Centre for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University's JFK, Kennedy, School of Government. He is also the author numerous books, recently The Warrior's Honour, Blood and Belonging and a biography of the late Isaiah Berlin. Michael Ignatieff.


I can't see you but I wanted to address those of you are undecided, that is those of you who are anguished by the choices that you have to make as citizens. The choices put to us are: is this justified and is this wised. What is justified may not be wise. And so, I want to talk to those who are still in a mode to make up your mind.

I wanted to ask first of all: Are there alternatives to war? There certainly are alternatives to war. There's no... war should never be regarded as inevitable.

Let's look at the alternatives. One alternative is to strengthen the inspections. But, the problem with strengthening inspections is that they are only credible if backed by force. And France, Russia, China have made it clear that they would veto in almost any circumstances.

That is to say the French proposition that we can avoid war by continuous inspections depends for its credibility on the very exercise of force that they are prepared to veto. And this seems to me to be... this seems to me to be just a problem with strengthened inspections.

We could then decide that we should simply deter Saddam. And I think he could be deterred from using weapons of mass destruction. But as Mark Danner has conceded, he does have some chemical and biological weapons. And what I think is much more difficult to deter is the possible transfer of these technologies to Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. I think the possibility of this happening is small, but any possibility more than zero does pose a national security threat to the United States.

We could also then consider containment. Which would be maintaining the no fly zones, maintaining sanctions, trying to lock the regime down so that he can't use oil revenue to develop weapons of mass destruction.

But as Chris has pointed out sanctions have exerted a very high cost on the Iraqi people. The no fly zones involve combat operations. In a sense we have managed to prevent Saddam from committing genocide against the Kurdish people. But the costs of containment are high and those costs are already being paid by the Iraqi people.

And all of these options: strengthen inspections, deterrence and containment; do leave 25 million people in jail with a dictator. That is a consequence, a cost, of peace. It is as evident to me as it is to you that there are serious costs to war. I am only asking you to think seriously and hard about the consequences of peace. The consequences of peace will be paid by the Iraqi people.

Now, peace leaves Saddam -- possibly without a nuclear program, I concede that point, Mark has made a good point there -- but it leaves the strategic intentions entirely unchanged. It seems to me nobody in this audience would claim that this man does not have the strategic intention to possess weapons of mass destruction. There is an empirical question as to what he possesses but there can't be any doubt as to what his intentions are.

And we leave him in possession of a country and we leave him in possession of strategic intentions which seem to me to pose a threat.

The fact that the world does not support us is deeply problematic. Mark Danner has made a good point there. But propositions don't become wrong simply because other people don't agree with you. Propositions don't become right - let's do this symmetrically - propositions don't become right because everyone agrees with you. This is the burden we all have as citizens. We have to decide what propositions convince us.

The fact that these propositions don't convince the French doesn't frankly mean very much to me. And I -

Let me make a cautious case for war, having looked at some of the alternatives. The case for war is, as Chris suggested, that it frees the Iraqi people - 25 million people - from a dictatorship. It allows them to create a federal, democratic Iraq free of Weapons of Mass Destruction.

It gives those people the first chance in their - in two generations - to take the money from oil and use it to build roads and schools and hospitals as opposed to chemical and biological weapons.

It does eliminate the threat, or reduces, sharply reduces, the threat to the State of Israel. It reduces the leadership of Arab rejectionism; the part of the Arab World that says that they will never come to terms and live in peace with the State of Israel. Ever. It subjects those forces to serious historical defeat.

And finally, it eliminates the possibility, a low possibility, but still a possibility, weapons of mass destruction transfer to Al Qaeda.

What is the case against war? The case against war is a case and its not a weak case, I think it's a strong case. Here I might even disagree with Chris.

The case against war is that people will die. Quite a lot of people may die. I am not one who thinks that this is a 72 hour wonder. We have absolutely no way of being certain what the human cost will be. The cost may be high in American lives. It may be high in Iraqi lives.

There is no point of an honest debate unless I concede to you that I cannot tell you that the cost will be zero. I cannot tell you that the cost will be low. And it's morally dishonest to pretend that we're not talking about the death of human beings here.

The second cost, is the possibility that this operation will simply increase hatred for the United States and, instead of reducing risk to the United States - to you as citizens - increase risk to citizens of the United States. To which I can only say: it's a fair point. To which I can only say, this country is deeply hated already and its not clear to me that this is going to make it so much worse.

But let me make (pause) but let me make another point that seems to be crucial here. You can't, I think, conceive an Iraq Operation which produces freedom for the Iraqi people, even under difficult circumstances, apart from what seems to be integrally linked to it: the absolute strategic necessity of the Palestinian people getting a state of their own.

I say strategic, I say strategic necessity, because the only long-term guarantee of the security of the State of Israel is a legitimate, democratic and stable state in Palestine for the Palestinian people.

One of the policy ironies that needs to be firmly understood is that there are no people in the Middle East that hate the Americans more than the Palestinians. There are no people in the Middle East who need the Americans more, who need the Americans more than the Palestinians. Because, frankly, the only power capable of insisting as a consequence to this operation that there are two states in the Middle East is the American government.

This is an irony that needs to be firmly understood. I would find it difficult to support this operation just on national security grounds unless there is a linkage between the two operations.
Because, it does seem to me to increase the risk to the United States if you have Tommy Franks in Baghdad and helicopter gunships in units. It seems to me the only way we can see this as acceptable ethically is if the Palestinian people get a state. My sense is that the chances of that happening are increased by an Iraqi Operation for two reasons.

One, the Americans can turn to the Israelis and say: "listen, we have removed your chief strategic threat its time for you to do business." We can then turn to the Palestinians and say, "your chief champion is out of here, it is time to settle this conflict."

In conclusion, I support the President on this issue. I don't support him on almost anything else.

Secondly and finally, because my red light is on, supporting the president on this does not mean you think America is the last, best hope of mankind. It doesn't commit you to any set of ideological propositions about this country. This country has done some great things, Mark Danner has shown you some moments where it has done some terrible things.

My proposition to you is that this might be a case, if it's done right, in which American power is allied with freedom for 25 million people. Thank you.

-End Transcript-

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Time to paint NB green?

My friend Spinks has an interesting post today on the report that Greens in NB plan to form a party and run candidates in every riding in the next election.

Spinks says that this is bad news for the NDP and I agree. I think it is really, really, really bad news. I cannot think of a word to describe how bad it is. Why?

First, I was surprised to learn that NB is the only province left in Canada without a Green Party. Logic suggests that the national party organization would be keen to lend a hand and some money to the effort to enable them to say they have a party in every province.

Let's look next door to Nova Scotia. Their Green Party was not founded until April 6, 2006 and managed a full slate of candidates for the June 13 election. They elected a 24 year old student with no political experience as their leader. They exist in a province where the NDP is a contender for power and is not bleeding any votes. In two months they ran 52 candidates in 52 ridings and got 2.3% of the vote.

In New Brunswick, we are four years from an election and the Green Party is starting to get organized. One presumes they should be able to at the very least match Nova Scotia's success even with all things being equal.

Things are not equal however. The NDP got a near record low (0 seats, 5% of the vote) (their third worst showing and worst since 1974) in the last provincial election in NB. The NDP got a record high in number of votes and number of seats (20 seats, 34.6% of the vote) in NS in the last provinical election.

The Green Party in NB got 2.4% of the vote in the last federal election.

So, at the very least, if the NB Green Party takes off they should get at least half of the votes of the NDP in the next election.

The news gets way worse for the NDP however. The NDP has not had a seat in the legislature since 2005 - that will be for 5 years by the time of the next election barring a shocking floor crossing or by-election victory. They will have received only 5.1% of the vote in the last election and will likely be at around that level in the polls unless there is a change in leadership. The Green Party will have, by then, three straight federal elections of full slates in the province and, likely a full slate for the provincial election at hand. The NDP will have missed a full slate in the last provincial election and may or may not have a full slate for the election at hand. What am I getting at? The 2010 leader's debate will include either two or four leaders, but certainly not three. The stage is set for the Green Party to be on par with the NDP in terms of credibility by the mainstream media and, therefore, have just as much shot as being in a leaders debate.

This is a long way to be making a prediction. But, I would say, the odds are that in 2010, the Green Party will poll more votes than the NDP.

Friday, October 06, 2006

The first disappointment

It is reported in the papers today that due to a loophole in the Legislative Assembly Act, despite losing his seat in the legislature and despite there being little work for a Speaker when a new house is not in session, Tanker Malley will remain Speaker and collect a salary until the Legislature meets to elect a replacement. The Liberals have announced the House will not sit until February 6, 2007 (slightly sooner than normal for a new government).

This is obviously something unfortunate and something one would want to avoid. However, the problem has cropped up before.

In 1999, Speaker John McKay lost his seat and rather than let him collect a salary, Bernard Lord called the House into session less than a month after election day to elect a new Speaker.

Today, faced with the same situation, rather than call the House back into session, the Liberals are going to allow for Malley to be paid to do nothing.

All MLAs were in Fredericton on Tuesday for their swearing in. It would have been very simple to have a brief session to elect a speaker and then adjourn to the prefered date at which time there would be a Throne Speech.

Why the Liberals chose not to do this, I do not know. The stated explanation is that they might change the structure of committees. Whoopty do. There is no need to appoint any committee except for the Legislative Administration Committee the first day the House sits, particularly if it is just sitting to elect a speaker.

Jody Carr goes on a rather lengthy rant saying the Liberals are breaking their promise to hold regular fall and spring sittings of the Legislature. I don't buy that, the Liberals did not choose the election date and it is not feasible to expect a new government to face the house less than a month or two after a vote. However this business of allowing Malley to be paid for no work is ridiculous.

It would be bad enough if Malley was collecting pay and still presiding over the operations of the legislature but it is worse than that. The Liberals wanted him out so that he couldn't tamper with anything, and that is fair, but they have arranged for the Clerk of the Legislature to negotiate a severance with Malley, which the paper reports is the same as his salary would be.

So, the Liberals had three options in order of preference:
  • elect a new speaker

  • allow a lame duck speaker to stay in office

  • get the lame duck speaker to step down but continue to pay him
They chose the worst option. I am disappointed.

However, in the grand scheme of things, it will cost the province $12,000 - only about 1.6 cents / New Brunswicker - so it is not a really big deal and I am sure that the improved governance of the province will more than make up for it BUT it remains disappointing.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Brison to Kennedy?

My good friend Harrap is wondering about the possibility of Brison going to Kennedy in the Liberal leadership race.

I think that this would be a natural fit for a number of reasons.

Brison and Kennedy agree on a lot of issues

Contrary to popular believe, as you can see from their joint appearence on CTV's Question Period, they are on the same page on Afghanistan...

CTV: Mr. Brison, you voted with the Conservatives to extend the (Afghanistan) mission. Do you not share any of Mr. Kennedy's concerns or in your mind has he just joined the "cut and run" gang?

Brison: No I actually I agree with Gerard. In fact, I believe that if our government was in power, a Liberal government, we would be leading the way internationally in building support for a greater humanitarian committment to the people of Afghanistan. In institution building. In investing in both social and economic infrastructure. Gerard is absolutely right.
They both have a strong focus on the economy.

From Kennedy's website:We must foster Canadian enterprise. While individuals and companies take risks and make businesses grow and thrive, government must be a catalyst to starting and growing businesses, not a hindrance. We must be vigilant that Canada's taxes and business climate make Canada the destination of choice for foreign direct investment. We are competing against the rest of the world for capital and talent. We have to do better if we want to win.

From Brison's website:A COMPETITIVE ECONOMY - Scott Brison wants to build on the extraordinary Liberal record of fiscal responsibility, balanced budgets and debt repayment. He is in favour of tax reform that would result in a more prosperous and productive Canada.
On an the economy and an "international country":

From Kennedy's website:Canada needs to position its immigration vision in terms of enhancing international relationships so. While immigration can make vital connections between our economy and that of other countries, it can also be linked more effectively to our international goals in peace-making, peace-keeping, the provision of humanitarian aid, research and education, and arts and culture.

From Brison's website: He wants to tap into our great multicultural communities to use as natural bridges to emerging markets, especially China and India and help connect to opportunities for world trade.
While Kennedy has a reputation as something of a left Liberal, he is really a moderate. He describes himself as a "pragmatic progressive". His record as Minister of Education showed a high regard for fiscal responsibility. Brison is a self described "social progressive, fiscal conservative."

Brison could not go to Rae as he is certainly a right-of-centre guy while Rae is not. I would argue the same is true for Dion. In the meantime, Kennedy is a centrist with a leftist rep who could use the credibility that a fiscal conservative would bring to Kennedy, much as was argued Bevilacqua helped give Rae.

As for Ignatieff, Brison has only directed harsh criticism during this campaign on one person, Ignatieff. He has obviously known, at least since membership cut off if not much longer, that he cannot win this race and therefore was likely playing with going somewhere someday in mind. If we was planning to go to Ignatieff, I doubt he would have said "(Ignatieff) has poor political judgment and insufficient experience to lead a national party" or "(Ignatieff's gaffes would) be terminal to a national general election campaign" or that Ignatieff might be smarter than Stockwell Day but would face a steeper learning curve in leading a federal party. [hat tip BCer in T dot]

Therefore, it leaves Kennedy as the most logical and perhaps only choice for Brison to support.

In my view this would be a HUGE boost to Kennedy. You may be shaking your heads because Brison only stands at 4% (though some say that will raise when the Aboriginal votes are counted) but his 4% is very significant because his vote is probably more deliverable than that of any other candidate, especially in going to Kennedy. Why? Half of his delegation comes from Nova Scotia and I suspect they will continue to follow their "favoutire son". Brison also has substantial youth support which is a natural flow to Kennedy. Brison has a lot of Aboriginal support, Kennedy is supported by prominent Aboriginal senators Lovelace Nicholas, Gill and Watt. And so on.

In real terms Kennedy would be either in second or tied for second if Brison endorsed him. I hope he does and it seems to make sense for him to. Let's hope.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The new cabinet

It looks like I missed the mark a bit in my prediction. Here is the cabinet as it was sworn-in over the past hour:

  • Shawn Michael Graham, Premier, President of the Executive Council, Minister of Wellness, Culture and Sport, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Minister responsible for the Premier's Council on the Status of Disabled Persons

  • Thomas J. Burke, Attorney-General of New Brunswick and Minister of Justice and Consumer Affairs

  • John Winstan Foran, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor-General of New Brunswick

  • Victor Boudreau, Minister of Finance, Minister of Local Government and Minister responsible for Red Tape Reduction

  • Roly MacIntyre, Minster of Supply and Services and Minister responsible for the Regional Development Coporation

  • Denis Landry, Minister of Transportation

  • Donald Arseneault, Minister of Natural Resources

  • Jack Keir, Minister of Energy and Minister responsible for the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Agency

  • Ronald Ouellette, Minister of Agriculture and Aquaculture

  • Rick Doucet, Minister of Fisheries

  • Mike Murphy, Minister of Health

  • Carmel Robichaud, Minister of Family and Community Services and Minister responsible for the Status of Women

  • Hédard Albert, Minister of Human Resources and Minister responsible for La Francophonie

  • Dr. Edward Joseph Doherty, Minster of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour and Minister responsible for Aboriginal Affairs

  • Kelly Arthur Lamrock, Minister of Education, Minister responsible for Youth and Minister responsible for the Provincial Capital Commission

  • Roland Haché, Minister of Environment and Minister responsible for the Northern New Brunswick Initiative

  • Greg Byrne, Q.C., Minister of Business New Brunswick, Minister repsonsible for Service New Brunswick and Minister responsible for the Immigration and Repatriation Secretariat

  • Stuart Jamieson, Minister of Tourism and Parks and Government House Leader

  • Mary Louise Schryer, Minister of State for Seniors and Minister of State for Housing
I am going to give myself a grading on my predictions based on the following formula: 1 point for each person I guess correctly would be in the cabinet, minus one point for putting someone in who was not there and for leaving someone out who was, and 1 point for each correct portfolio. This means the maximum points would have been 38.

I got the following ministers correct: Graham, Burke, Foran, Boudreau, MacIntyre, Arseneault, Ouellette, Doucet, Murphy, Robichaud, Albert, Doherty, Lamrock, Haché, Byrne, Schryer (+16)

I missed the following ministers: Landry, Keir, Jamieson (-3)

I included the following who were not ministers: Lavoie, LeBlanc (-2)

I got the following portfolios right: Public Safety (Foran), Natural Resources (Arseneault) (+2)

So my score is 13/38 or 34%. OUCH! I really should stop making predictions...

I've updated the comparison table so you can see how I did and how the Times & Transcript did.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Preliminary look at the Liberal leadership results

I'll post more substantively when the result of ballots are counted, right now we are talking about only 409/469 and who wins Ontario and who finishes third overall is still in the air.

The proportional selection of delegates to the leadership convention is an interesting system and this is the firs time it has really been used for the Liberal Party federally (it was used in 2003 when Martin romped with 90+% of the vote and its effects couldn't really be seen).

This system bares a lot of similarities to the U.S. presidential primary system in some ways. Though technically they are not similar at all (the U.S. system varies radically from state-to-state, in primaries all voters are welcome to vote, in caucuses it is a bit more similar to our system), it is similar enough that I suspect to the media and Canadians-at-large it is perceived as the same.

So, I've made us a neat little map to show the results. In the U.S. it doesn't matter who close you finish in a state. It is all about winning primaries. Howard Dean's campaign took serious blows in Iowa and New Hampshire, but what was really fatal was by the time he got his last stand in Wisconsin he had "failed to win a single state". The media considered John Edwards and Wesley Clark to be ahead of Dean because they had each won a state but, in reality, Dean had the second most elected delegates.

Here, we seem to be hearing similar talk from the media. It is about ability to win nationally and therefore in an election (not a fair comparison which I'll get to) so there seems to be a fair bit of talk about who won which provinces.

So here it is by province:

Ignatieff (5): New Brunswick, Northwest Territories, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Yukon
Rae (2): Newfoundland & Labrador, Prince Edward Island
Kennedy (1): Alberta
Brison (1): Nova Scotia

The big prizes of BC and Ontario still have a lot of mail-in ballots to come and are close enough that they could go one way or the other. The same rings true for Manitoba and Nunavut.

So, by the logic of some, only the above four can win a province so therefore Dion is not a contender and Brison is. Obviously this is illogical, but this is what you can extract.

A lot of people are arguing that Kennedy did poorly in Quebec (he currently stands in fifth place with 1.7% of delegates) so therefore he cannot be leader. I think this is non sense.

Here is my rationale:

Quebec is not the "Liberal stronghold" - Notwithstanding the comments of many a pundit and Liberal politician, we do not need Quebec to win. In fact, we have not won Quebec in 26 years - since the 1980 election.

Here are the results in Quebec from 1984 onward:

1984 - 17 seats (22.7%)
1988 - 12 seats (16.0%)
1993 - 19 seats (25.3%)
1997 - 26 seats (34.7%)
2000 - 36 seats (48.0%)
2004 - 21 seats (28.0%)
2006 - 13 seats (17.3%)

So, some important factors to note: 1) only once in the past 7 general elections have we even come close to winning a majority of seats in Quebec; 2) having a Quebec leader in 1993, 2004 and 2006 did not help us to make a breakthrough, in fact these are among our worst results.

The Liberal Party is not an accurate measure of the whole population - In Quebec we are probably talking about, at most, the votes of 5000 Liberals. This is insignificant when compared to the population of Quebec which is 7,651,531.

Just because a candidate who got into the race last, too late to secure major organizers in Quebec, and had little or no profile in Quebec leading up to delegate selection does not mean he will not, with the platform of the leadership of a federal party and an election campaign, inspire their hearts and minds.

The race was one of organization, not ideas - If Quebeckers were voting with their hearts, I highly doubt we would have found Joe Volpe placing fourth and Canadiens hero Ken Dryden placing seventh. Kennedy was out organized in Quebec and I salute the Ignatieff, Dion and Rae campaigns for their good work. However, the showing for Dryden proves that this was not a matter of Kennedy being unpopular but simply that of being unorganized.


Now, moving on to other matters, without the final 60 clubs (mail-in folks) counted, here are the results:

Ignatieff 29.83%
Rae 19.82%
Kennedy 16.82%
Dion 16.63%
Dryden 4.62%
Volpe 4.60%
Brison 3.88%
Hall Findlay0.98%
Undecided 2.81%

We admit that Kennedy had no real chance to build an organization in Quebec, had no recognition there before the race and had little chance to compete in the air war not so much due to lack of French as it was due to lack of interest from the French media who were interested in self-annointed frontrunners Ignatieff and Rae and hometown candidate Dion.

Let's look at how he did in the other 9 provinces and 3 territories:

Ignatieff 27.18%
Kennedy 22.02%
Rae 18.60%
Dion 12.29%
Dryden 5.76%
Volpe 5.15%
Brison 4.67%
Hall Findlay1.28%
Undecided 3.04%

That is quite impressive. Kennedy is 3.5% ahead of Rae and only 5% back of Ignatieff in all of Canada save for Quebec where he faced immense challenges.

When we talk about growth, it seems Kennedy is the number two candidate in most of the country. I think that that will prove well when these people are looking around. Moreover, I think Kennedy's policy platform will appeal to the 1073 Quebeckers that actually get a vote at the convention, a group he will have a chance to have air with and talk to.

Those who suggest Kennedy is out of this race are not thinking this thing through.

Tomorrow is a bright day for New Brunswick

On Tuesday, October 3, 2006, New Brunswick will have a new government.

Shawn Graham and his cabinet will be sworn-in at 10 a.m. The 55 MLAs will be sworn-in at 2 p.m. Both of these events will be televised on the legislature channel on Rogers and webcast here.

I am very much looking forward to how things unfold. A lot of people have their doubts about Shawn Graham, but I believe he is a sincere man whose heart is in the right place.

Bernard Lord's reign over New Brunswick has taken a province that spent the 90s exceeding expectations and turned it into a stagnant backwater. I was sad to see my province reach the peak of such tremendous promise only to unravel from 1999 to 2006.

I hope the Shawn Graham Liberal govenrment can restore confidence and direction to New Brunswick. I hope they don't let me down. I wish them the best of luck.

Delegates in NB

The last of the ridings & clubs here in NB are reported in and here are the results:

1. Ignatieff (54)
2. Rae (23)
2. Dion (23)
4. Kennedy (15)
4. Brison (15)
4. Dryden (15)
7. Undecided (12)
8. Hall Findlay (1)
9. Volpe (0)

I am disappointed to see Kennedy bunched up with the "lower tier" but honourable contenders Dryden and Brison.

This is particularly disappointing if you look at democraticSPACE's projection for NB which had Kennedy with a commanding projected lead of 64 delegates to Ignatieff's 24.

More to come on "super weekend" when the final results come in. Ignatieff has first locked up and barring a disaster in the few results left coming in Rae is locked into second (doing much better than I had imagined). Dion and Kennedy keep displacing each other for third. With Kennedy-rich ridings left in BC, Alberta and Ontario just slightly outnumbering ridings in Quebec which are by and far advantageous to Dion, I would say it will remain very close for third place.

It appears all other than the "big four" will be in at less than 5%. I wouldn't be surprised if these disappointing results see Brison and Dryden drop in the coming weeks.