Sunday, December 23, 2007

'Tis the season redux

As I did last year, I would like to wish you all a Happy Boxing Day.

And, to keep things fresh, here is a bit of holiday humour:

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice (with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others or their choice not to practice such traditions at all).*

Furthermore, I offer my (non-binding) best wishes for the onset of the generally accepted calendar year of 2008, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make Canada great. (Which is not to imply that Canada is any greater than any other country). These wishes are offered without regard to the race, creed, colour, age, physical ability, choice of computer platform or sexual orientation of the wishee.

Happy (if happiness is in your belief system) Holidays (if you recognize them)

* This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It implies no promises by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for his or herself or others, is void where prohibited by law and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher. This wish expires within one year or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first.
Thanks as always for dropping by, I look forward to continuing the dialogue in the New Year.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Could Pennsylvania be the new decisive primary?

As I've written before, the result of the front-loading of the primary calendar could result in a presidential race being drawn out longer rather than concluded early as the conventional wisdom seems to suggest.

The early primaries and caucuses in Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan, Nevada, South Carolina and Florida (as well as Wyoming and Maine for the Republicans) will all be held in less than a month. On the Republican side, it is almost certain that no one candidate will win all of these states and likely that no one candidate will even win a majority of them. On the Democratic side, it is conceivable to see a big split as well which could result from a Clinton loss in Iowa (seeming more likely). Especially in the case of a win by Edwards, and a strong fourth place finish by one of the also-rans, making him a semi-viable candidate in later contests, could get us to a split as big as four ways.

If we have the early contests split, then there will be no clear frontrunner dominating the media coverage heading into Tsunami Tuesday on February 5. On that date 20 states hold their contests for Republicans and 22 hold them for Democrats. Most candidates who have won primaries will be on relatively equal footing due to expanded media coverage and fundraising grown out of their victories. Some - like Clinton (who has a more established national organization), Romney (who has a fairly substantial organization and unlimited personal money to spend) and Giuliani (who has focused on the Feb 5 states since day 1) - will have a built in advantage on the whole, however each candidate that has had some success can focus his or her efforts on states where they have the best chance and still come out a "winner". It seems almost impossible to me for someone to win a January contest and then not win at least one of the Feb 5 states.

When America wakes on on February 6, there will have been presidential contests in 28 states for each party. If things play out as above, there could be 2 to 4 Democrats and 3 to 6 Republicans all on equal footing with the race, in terms of number of delegates, 56% of the Republican contest will be over and 57% of the Democratic race. We then go back into rapid succession with more contests being held in 13 more states on Feb 10, Feb 12, Feb 19, March 4, March 8 and March 11. On the morning of March 12, after candidates will have likely continued to focus on bases and split primaries, there would be no clear winner with over 80% of Republican delegates chosen and almost 85% of Democratic delegates!

Traditionally Iowa and New Hampshire have proved decisive because they have been the great equalizers. Money doesn't matter and the states are small enough on the ground that you can build an organization by simply meeting and pitching your case to everyone that matters on an individual basis. This contest could create a new equalizer. Iowa and New Hampshire never clinch the nomination for anyone, they matter because of perception and momentum. With over 80% of delegates chosen by this point, if things are split up, the only way someone could actually clinch the nomination would be if they had carried about 50% of all of the contests to date and swept the remaining contests.

As of March 11, the longest gap between two contests (that began over two months before on January), would have been the rest between the contests in Hawaii, Washington and Wisconsin on Feb 19 and the left-over Super Tuesday states of Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas and Vermont on March 4. That is to say two weeks without a victory for someone and it could well have been a victory for three people on each side, a two week wait, and another split of victories. In most cases, there will have been a week or less between contests. Thus, there will have been no chance for candidates to do anything but campaign and the campaigning they have done has either just skimmed the surface or ignored a great number of states and focused on a small sub-section where they have won.

However, after March 11 there is no contest until April 22. And that April 22 contest is only in one state. And, after April 22, there is no contest until May 6. Thus, after this non-stop electionfest, candidates will have six weeks to focus exclusively on winning the Pennsylvania primary. Whoever wins it will be the first person to have won the only contest on a single day and have had the ability to ride the free press and momentum of that lone win for more than 7 days. In Iowa and New Hampshire, traditionally, momentum can enable you to sweep the other 48 states, so one could imagine Pennsylvania could give the momentum to carry the remaining 8 or 11 (depending on the party).

After a split primary season, a clear winner in Pennsylvania could clinch the nomination or come very close and generate some much momentum that it would be clinched for the second ballot.

All of these states who anxiously moved their primaries to February 5 may need to be reminded of the old adage: be careful what you wish for. They will have succeeded in taking from two states - Iowa and New Hampshire - the power of choosing the major party nominees but, ironically, in doing so they may have taken the power from two states and given it to one.

Number of delegates at stake after penalties by national parties on those states who have gone earlier than permitted:

- by Feb 5 - 1268
- by Mar 11 - 1817
- total - 2264

- by Feb 5 - 2177
- by Mar 11 - 3260
- total - 3838


Friday, December 21, 2007

Political correctness gone way too far

Those watching the U.S. presidential race over the course of the last week or so have seen a lot of coverage of the "negative personal attack" launched by the Clinton campaign on Barack Obama.

For those that aren't watching, the general reportage has been as follows: Bill Shaheen, then the co-chair of the Clinton campaign in New Hampshire and the husband of former governor and former and current U.S. Senate candidate Jeanne Shaheen, stated that a question that will come up is that, if Barack Obama has admitted to using cocaine, then did he also sell it?

On the face, this does sound a bit nasty. But, as often happens, the comment has been taken totally out of context. There has been a media frenzy about it, Mr. Shaheen has stepped down from his role on the campaign, Hillary Clinton has personally apologized to Obama and Obama and his campaign have been milking it for all its worth.

However, here is the fullness of the quote:

Barack Obama's youthful drug use would be used against him by Republicans, if the Illinois senator captured the Democratic presidential nomination.

"It'll be, 'When was the last time? Did you ever give drugs to anyone? Did you sell them to anyone?" noted Shaheen. "There's so many openings for Republican dirty tricks. It's hard to overcome."
In 2004, Republican groups accused John Kerry, a well decorated war hero, of being "dishonest, unreliable, unfit to lead, and had dishonored his country". Does anyone honestly believe that the Republicans wouldn't do just as Shaheen suggested? Shaheen never suggested, contrary to how the Obama campaign has spun this and the press has bought hook-line-and-sinker, that Obama may have sold drugs. He said that as a "dirty trick" the Republicans would make this claim. No intelligent person could possibly say that some Republican group wouldn't do it. Shaheen stated the obvious.

Political correctness has really gone awry when a man is punished and sidelined for predicting, almost certainly accurately, that someone is eventually going to do something mean and nasty.

What a joke.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Its funny how history can repeat itself

It was late 2003 2007 and after leading in Iowa for months Dick Gephart Hillary Clinton, a moderate with strong labour support, has slipped into second place behind Howard Dean Barack Obama, a left-leaning progressive with little federal political experience who is gaining strong support online and among students. As a result, the tone of the campaign is quickly shifting from positive to negative with both top campaigns attacking each other more directly and aggressively every day.

Behind these frontrunners are a charming southerner named John Edwards John Edwards whose campaign has focussed almost wholly on Iowa and is routed in contrasting the class struggle; and John Kerry Joe Biden, a senator with many years of experience and a strong network of supporters and key endorsements despite being in the single digits of most polls.

Though the negative warfare between the two frontrunners may risk damaging them both it seems unlikely and we've seen before that the others could catch them.

Something to think about...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Predicting New Hampshire

On Thursday, I posted my prediction for the Iowa Caucus. Today, we are four weeks away from New Hampshire so I will try to do the same there, though it is more difficult to do so because the results will depend a lot on Iowa.

On the Republican side, I think it is a bit easier to predict. Back in September, I predicted something that was viewed as very unlikely then and is still considered unlikely: John McCain will win the Republican nomination for president. I still believe that that will be the case. The road map for doing so is a bit different than I mused at the time, however.

In September I said that McCain would finish first or second in Iowa. I presently have predicted that he will finish sixth. My earlier prediction was grounded in my view that Thompson would fizzle (which he did), that Giuliani has a ceiling around 15% (which he seems to have) and that Romney would slip (which he has). Thus, I assumed McCain would be able to pick up ground from all of these areas and become competitive with Romney. I failed to predict the rise of Mike Huckabee, however, which throws any shot for McCain out the window. Notwithstanding that, a loss for Romney, or a hollow victory over a surging Huckabee (which I've predicted) will wound Romney severely and still allow McCain to win New Hampshire.

So my prediction for New Hampshire would be: McCain, Romney, Huckabee, Giuliani, Paul, Thompson. I suspect Hunter, and possibly Tancredo, will withdraw the night of the Iowa Caucus and if they don't their numbers will be in the 1% range anyway. Huckabee and Giuliani will finish very close to each other and I consider them within the margin of error of my prediction so it could go: McCain, Romney, Giuliani, Huckabee, Paul, Thompson. This all depends on how much press momentum Huckabee gets out of his Iowa strength. Ordinarily I would think a lot, but based on the expectation that he will do well there a month out, he will not get as big of a bump. I think the Republican results in New Hampshire, like in Iowa, will mirror the breakdown of the Democrats from 2004. In that instance, Kerry beat Dean, but they were relatively close, and Clark, Edwards and Lieberman were clumped together in, essentially, a tie for third. I see Giuliani, Huckabee and Paul all in the 8-15% range with McCain near 40 and Romney in the 20s.

On the Democratic side, if my Iowa prediction holds, I believe Obama will suffer a complete meltdown. A third place finish in Iowa would be a disaster for him. Unlike Howard Dean, who governed a neighbouring state for over a decade and began his campaign with a focus on New Hampshire while virtually ignoring Iowa, Obama has no New Hampshire roots and has always played both here and in Iowa. Clinton, I think, could sustain a second place finish to Edwards in Iowa and still win New Hampshire. I would presume that a fifth place finish for Richardson would cause him to withdraw, and Dodd has all but said he is betting the farm on Iowa where he will get 1 or 2%, so I suspect he's out too.

So my prediction for the Democrats, relying highly on the results in Iowa going as I've projected, would be: Clinton, Edwards, Obama, Biden, Gravel, Kucinich. Depending on the strength of Obama's meltdown and if Joe Biden's fourth place finish in Iowa is strong, i.e. competitive with Obama, he could surge and place second or more likely third in New Hampshire and, in turn, be very competitive in Nevada where last year's Senate candidate (Jack Carter, son of Jimmy) is backing him, which would, in turn, make him competitive in South Carolina as the most moderate Democrat in the race. That is mostly wishful thinking on my part considering my affection for Biden as a candidate, but worth considering.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Predicting Iowa

Everyone here knows that I can't resist making predictions, today is 28 days - four weeks - from the Iowa caucuses for both U.S. parties.

My predictions are as follows:

Edwards, Clinton, Obama, Biden, Richardson, Kucinich, Dodd, Gravel

I think that the numbers of the top four finishers will closely mirror those of the top four Democrats from 2004. Edwards will lead Clinton relatively comfortably, but there will be a fairly large gap between second and third while Biden will trail Obama by only about as much as Gephardt trailed Dean. The 2004 results are here for a reference. I don't mean to suggest the numbers will be the same as I suspect the bottom finishers will do a bit better than 1 or 2%; an example might be Edwards 34, Clinton 29, Obama 16, Biden 10.

Romney, Huckabee, Thompson, Giuliani, Paul, McCain, Tancredo, Hunter

Romney will enjoy a healthy lead due to his strong organization, I would see Romney in the low-mid 30s and Huckabee in the low 20s.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


I am taking a step back from some of my blogging activity, including my blog at CanadaEast. I am under the impression that they will find someone else to carry the "from the left" mantra over there and hope that whomever succeeds me there will add to the important political debate in our province.

In the meantime, I will maintain this blog but will be posting less frequently and with a different focus. Rather than focussing on New Brunswick politics, I will focus on global politics and world affairs from my perspective as a New Brunswicker.

I want to thank you for reading and commenting over the past year and a bit and hope you will continue to do so.

Best regards,

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Rules and replies

In my post yesterday, I indicated that a report of the Procedure Committee had been tabled and adopted. That report essentially implemented the rule changes first proposed by the Conservatives in 2006 and then passed by the Liberals earlier this year with some minor technical changes.

Also, today was opposition leader Jeannot Volpé's official reply to the Throne Speech. Unfortunately, I missed it. It took less than an hour as I tuned in about that long after it was to begin but it was already over. The legislature will post the text of it in the next few days but, in the interim, if any one saw it, I'll declare this an "open thread" for you to make your comments.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A day in the house

(crossposted to CanadaEast)

A bit of a non-routine day in the legislature today. Usually after the Throne Speech, the next day is just a quick run through of routine business followed by question period and an early adjournment. Today was a bit different.

Following condolences and introduction of guests (which I think they usually do on these days), Deputy Government House Leader Kelly Lamrock tabled a report of the House Procedures Committee to amend the standing rules. It was adopted unanimously. The report has not yet been published online but I will take a look when it is.

The Premier also tabled the Action Plan on Self-Sufficiency that was announced last week and gave some lengthy remarks on it, basically summarizing it and I believe also reinforcing some points that were made in the Throne Speeech.

In response, Opposition Leader Jeannot Volpé said he read it twice because on his first run he "couldn't find anything that would grow the province." He then went on to mock the use of non-definitive verbs such as study, examine, colloborate, etc that were used. He said there was nothing in the document to build the economy except the word "hope". He said the premier broke a promise to let students know about the future of "advanced education" in the Throne Speech. He concluded that there were no benchmarks to measure progress so it would be impossible to tell if there was any success.

Environment Minister Roland Haché also made a statement regarding designation of several wildlife protection areas. Trevor Holder made the opposition response.

Human Resources Minister Wally Stiles announced that an agreement was signed with the Community College Teachers Union. Dale Graham made the opposition response.

As usual, there were about 10 members' statements, all very political for both sides.

Question Period was extended from the ordinary 30 minutes to 45 minutes as is standard on the first day the House returns. The questions were:
  • Volpé - how much New Brunswickers will save based on some federal changes

  • Blaney, Dubé, Harrison, C. LeBlanc, Olscamp, Mockler (I may have missed some) - why don't we have an answer on post-secondary education, why aren't student leaders included on working group
The following bills were introduced:
  • Two insurance bills by Justice Minister T.J. Burke, regarding the agreement with insurers to lower rates, in response to the auditor general's report, and to change the licensing process for insurers and clarifying the appeal process to the insurance board

  • A pay day loan bill, also by Burke

  • An agriculture bill, by Ag&Aq Minister Ron Ouellette, giving the Farm Products Commission more power to enforce rules

  • An income tax bill, by Finance Minister Victor Boudreau, renewing the low income heating rebate program

  • An amendment to the motor carrier act, by Transportation Minister Denis Landry, to clarify the responsibilities of the Transport and Public Safety ministers in terms of road safety

  • The whistleblowers bill by Human Resources Minister Wally Stiles

  • A bill amending the off-road vehicle act, by Public Safety Minister John Foran, giving ATV and Snowmobile clubs equal standing and better access to trails

  • A bill changing enforcement of oil burners, also by Foran

  • A bill giving protection to employees who are reservists leaving work to go into service by Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour Ed Doherty
The opposition introduced a whole whack of tabling motions (which call for the government to present documents to the House).

And then Government House Leader Mike Murphy advised which bills would be up for debate on Friday.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


(crossposted to CanadaEast)

I just noticed the former PC MLA and current Liberal Minister of Human Resources Wally Stiles has hired Terry Keating as his Executive Assistant. Is this the same Terry Keating that was the Liberal that ran against Stiles in last year's election? If so, is he still the mayor of Salisbury while serving as EA to a provinical minister?


The "transformational" Throne Speech

(crossposted to CanadaEast)

As I type this, Lieutenant-Governor Herménégilde Chiasson is reading the Throne Speech to the members of the legislature.

A copy of the Throne speech can be found here while a news release summarizes the highlights is here.

I will post an update shortly with my thoughts.


Here are some interesting points, some that were highlighted and some that were not, which stood out to me:
  • a lobbyist registry

  • regulation of third-party election spending

  • the capital budget will come with a full economic update, it will be on Dec. 11

  • there will be pre-budget consultations this year (something that did not happen last year)

  • beefing up Service New Brunswick by moving all government-to-public services there (an excellent idea), including business services (which should eliminate a lot of "red tape")

  • pharmacists will be allowed to prescribe some drugs

  • midwives will be introduced officially and legally in the province

  • the separation of the role of Attorney General from that of Minister of Justice (begun under Bernard Lord) will be formalized by creating an office and mandate for the Attorney General by legislation

  • property tax relief for those "least equipped to deal with the tax burden"

  • a new academy to teach leadership skills to teachers and principals

  • an implementation plan for post-secondary reform "early next year"

  • improvements to immigratation (by reducing red tape and improving settlement assistance)

  • $250,000 and a renewed focus on Mt. Carleton Park

  • an official policy on tidal power

  • possible allowance of hunting on Sunday


Here is CBC's take and CP's take.


My take

It is a bit vague in key areas, but Throne Speeches tend to be vague. That said, we have now had a full year of studies and stating bold but vague objectives. As Shawn Graham would say, "the time to act is now!"

I hope the government moves quickly in this session to lay out the details of the change. Key to success will be the Population Growth Strategy and the Implementation Plan for Reform of Post-Seconary Education. I hope we get both of these out well before the budget and then put some money behind htem in March to ensure they are implemented quickly and successfully.


I would post the Tory and NDP reactions but they haven't posted a news release to their respective websites since August 7 and June 11 respectively. I've said it before and I'll say it again, is it really that hard to oppose policies? Why can't these parties get their acts together? If the old adage that a government is only as good as the opposition it faces is true, this government is in deep do-do.

I hope Mr. Duguay didn't take my advice to literally

(crossposted to CanadaEast)

Six weeks ago Roger Duguay was elected leader of the New Brunswick NDP. I gave him some counsel that suggested he should pick his battles so that he might come to "own" certain issues and build political capital that way to ensure the NDP remained (or re-became depending on your point of view) a player. Since then, I don't think he has been heard from.

The NDP website was only just updated to reflect he is the leader. He has not sent out a news release according to both the NDP site and his personal site. To my knowledge, he has not sat down with the editorial boards of any of the province's papers to get some substantive coverage.

And here is the icing on the cake. He was not mentioned in any of today's newspaper coverage on the Throne Speech. Ordinarily, one would expect the NDP to complain that the print media is biased against them and one might even be compelled to believe that they were overlooked. But, according to the Daily Gleaner, he was not quoted becuase "NDP Leader Roger Duguay couldn't be reached for comment Monday."

I hope that this was not because of my advice. There are four days a year that a politician in Mr. Duguay's position should be waiting by the phone and actively pursuing the press above all else: the day before and the day of the Throne Speech and the day before and the day of the budget.

If the NDP is ever to become viable again, Mr. Duguay must ensure he never misses these sorts of opportunities again.

Roy Boudreau, new speaker

(crossposted to CanadaEast)

Elected without opposition.

Monday, November 26, 2007

House sitting preview

(crossposted to CanadaEast)

Tomorrow the House will meet to open the second session of the 56th legislature. As a result of Eugene McGinley joining the cabinet, the first order of business will be the election of a new speaker. It is my understanding that Roy Boudreau, currently a deputy speaker, will likely be elected with no opposition from his fellow Liberals, however speakership elections have been unpredictable in New Brunswick since the secret ballot was brought in in 1994 so don't take that to the bank.

The Lieutnenant-Governor will then deliver the Throne Speech outlining the government agenda, there will be some brief debate from the mover and seconder and then the House will adjourn. On Wednesday, the House will meet only for Question Period and then adjourn. On Thursday, the House will meet only for the reply of the official opposition and then adjourn. Routine house business will resume on Friday.

I will keep you updated on the speakership election and the contents of the Throne Speech as they come out.

The 2008 primary season, over really fast or recordly slow

I am truly fascinated by American politics; the slowest day in American politics usually has as much going on as the busiest one in Canadian politics. It is a truly different system, and probably not a better one, but it is an awesome thing to observe if you are a politico like me. And, even if you aren't a political nerd, it is worth paying attention to the U.S. political scene because what happens in Washington can ressonate around the world.

As we move into the actual voting to select the respective party nominees in January (after a year of full out campaigning) the conventional wisdom of the moment seems to be that Mitt Romney is the front runner to win (owing to his strength in the early states of Iowa, New Hampshire and Michigan), but that Rudy Giuliani could win if he is not too badly damaged by Romney's strong early showing. This is certainly a reasonable possibility.

However, the primary calendar this year is much different. In the past, if the results weren't determined after the first 4 to 5 primaries, all but the top 2 or 3 contenders would drop off until "Super Tuesday", when a big batch of big states went in early March. That is not how it will work this year. In fact, over the period of a few weeks, about half of the delegates will be chosen. If there is no clear winner, it will be months before the rest of the delegates are chosen.

Here is the Republican primary calendar and the number of delegates pegged to each state:

Jan 3 - Iowa 40
Jan 5 - WY 27
Jan 8 - NH 12 or 24* (New Hampshire is entitled to 24 delegates but may be penalized half for going early)
Jan 15 - MI 31 or 61* (Michigan is entitled to 61 delegates but may be penalized half for going early)
Jan 19 - NV 32 and SC 46
Jan 29 - FL 57 or 113* (Florida is entitled to 113 delegates but may be penalized half for going early)
Feb 2 - ME 20
Feb 5 - AL 47, AK 28, AZ 52, AR 34, CA 172, CO 46, CT 29, DE 18, GA 71, IL 70, MN 40, MO 58, MT 24, NJ 52, NY 101, ND 26, OK 41, RI 19, TN 54, UT 35, WV 30
Feb 9 - KS 39, LA 46, WA 40
Feb 12 - DC 19, MD 37, VA 63
Feb 19 - WI 40
Mar 2 - HI 19
Mar 4 - MA 43, OH 88, VT 18, TX 138
Mar 11 - MS 35
Apr 22 - PA 74
May 6 - IN 56, NC 69
May 13 - NE 32
May 20 - KY 45, OR 30
May 27 - ID 31
Jun 1 - PR 23
Jun 3 - NM 32, SD 26

Assuming that Romney does not run the table in the first batch of states, let me propose the following to you:

Mike Huckabee, who is running second and has more committed supporters, wins in Iowa. This destabilizes Romney, and Wyoming, where no candidates have campaigned excessively, splits its delegates fairly evenly in several directions. In New Hampshire, John McCain, who won there in 2000, takes the prize. Romney regains some traction by winning in Michigan, a state where he has a strong organization and where his name is not new to the scene - his father was Governor. Going in to South Carolina, Fred Thompson, who is focusing his efforts there and who hasn't slipped in the polls there as he has in many other places, wins.
The same day, Giuliani carries the Nevada caucuses. Giuliani would put himself significantly into play by winning the delegate rich state of Florida.

Not the most likely scenario but possible. It is certainly realistic to see three candidates win in the early contests, and it is not impossible to see all 5 major candidates pull something off.

Now add to the mix the Maine caucus on Feb 2. Let's say that Ron Paul, a Libertarian Republican who has raised nearly $10 million on the internet in the past few weeks, wins in this state which has favoured independents in the past (it has had two independent governors in the past 30 odd years and gave Ross Perot second place in the 1992 presidential election).

Then we head into a massive delegate fest on February 5 - alternately called Tsunami Tuesday or Super Duper Tuesday (a play on the former Super Tuesday in March). One presumes that under these circumstances, the delegates would get split up in many directions. Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney could do best in these states, one imagines, due to name recognition and moderate positions for Giuliani, and lots of money for Romney. McCain, who seems to be rebounding from his slippage this summer, could also do well on name recognition. Thompson and Huckabee could carry southern states and Paul could eke out wins in 3, 4, 5 or even 6 way races.

Let's imagine the Feb 5 states split like this:
Giuliani CA 172, CT 29, DE 18, NJ 52, NY 101, RI 19
Romney AK 28, IL 70, MT 24, ND 26, UT 35
Thompson GA 71, TN 54, OK 41, WV 30
McCain AZ 52, CO 46, MN 40, MO 58
Huckabee AL 47, AR 34

So, assuming that all states are winner-take-all (a number of them are, but for our purposes, this would be easier) and that Wyoming splits three ways between Giuliani, Romney and Huckabee, this would be the delegate standings after Feb 5:

Giuliani 489 (or 555)
Romney 223 (or 253)
Thompson 242
McCain 208 (or 220)
Huckabee 130
Paul 20

This is a rough plausible guess at the turnout. However, I could see any of the top three doing worse, and McCain, Huckabee (and maybe Paul in a small
way) doing better. But even this way, with the delegates not spread as evenly as they might be, Giuliani has barely a third of the delegates elected and less than a fifth of the delegates needed to win the nomination. In this scenario, it is hard to see how any of the candidates could become the presumptive nominee before the convention, so we would then see a convention with lots of horse trading and late nights with a "Canadian style" method for choosing the party leader on multiple ballots.

Some extra variables to consider though are that in the U.S. conventions have no rules forcing the bottom finisher off of the ballot, and if the convention is inconclusive, they can draft a compromise candidate. So, rather than choose any of the above, after a few ballots of going nowhere a Newt Gingrich, Jeb Bush, Condi Rice or even Dick Cheney could present themselves as a candidate to bring the delegates together and walk away with the prize.

Crazy, eh? The Democratic race doesn't have as much potential to go crazy but if John Edwards were to win Iowa and Barack Obama New Hampshire, both possibilities, an equally strange scenario could play out.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Self-Sufficiency "Action"

(crossposted to CanadaEast)

Premier Shawn Graham released today the government "action plan" on making New Brunswick self-sufficient. The report is 35 pages long. There is also a summary of 15 pages, but if you are going to read that much, I'd suggest going for the real thing.

The issues that I think are key to attaining this goal - population growth, education and infrastructure - were well addressed, and while lacking specifics in some areas, I think we have a good plan.

I particularly like this line: "linking job opportunities here with the skills of those who are looking to move home". With very few exceptions, every New Brunswicker I know who lives away wants to come home. Many of them don't however; either because they don't think it is realistic to find work in NB, or because they are a couple, and finding work for two people at the same time is nearly impossible, thus making the move impossible by extension.

If I take that quote to mean what I think it does, then ex-NBers who want to come home will simply have to send in a resume and the province will do the heavy lifting to match them (and, as required, their partner) with jobs in New Brunswick. This is ingenious because I think that there are thousands of New Brunswickers - and probably other Maritimers - who would jump all over opportunities here if they knew they could find them easily.

With regard to education, there is a focus on some kind of pre-kindergarten learning (it is unclear whether or not this would be institutional), flowing into a stronger focus on "the three Rs" leading into grade 5, and a career-minded focus through high school, with the aim of enabling students to identify a career in which they will excel and enjoy by the time they graduate. In terms of post-secondary education, the language is quite vague. It's the same line we've heard since the L'Ecuyer-Miner report came out, so I guess we'll have to wait a while longer to see whether or not it will be implemented.

There is a lot of talk in the plan of "strategic" infrastructure. I was particularly interested in the reference to rail, something that has declined in the past 20 years in our province - and totally disappeared in Western NB. In France, they have had dramatic success in connecting cities and rural areas using high-speed rail lines. I think this is something NB should investigate as it could really make the province a lot more attractive for investments and company relocation.

I also really like the focus on the film industry, to which I think the geographic features of New Brunswick are ideally suited. Nova Scotia has done really well in this area and, I think, New Brunswick should learn from their example considering we have just as much to offer this industry. Saint John in an architectural sense works as well as (or perhaps better than) Halifax as a stand in for Boston or New York, and we have comparable coastal vistas. Add to that more geographic diversity and sheer number of forests, mountains, rivers and cliffs, offering a multitude of potential shooting locations, and I think New Brunswick could easily grow and sustain a booming film industry.

We still have to wait for quite a few specifics, some of which I assume will be in next week's throne speech, but it is great to see that this file is continuing to be pushed.

Monday, November 19, 2007


A bit off topic, though my interest in U.S. politics does end up here from time to time.

Mike Huckabee is one of the Republican contenders for president in next year's election. He is probably best known by Canadians for being one of two governors that were fooled in editions of Rick Mercer's Talking to Americans. Governor Huckabee wished Canadians luck in saving our national igloo which is, of course, a scale replica of the Arkansas Capitol building made of ice and serves as our parliament building.

Other than political junkies, most would not know that this guy has any chance at winning the presidency. In fact, he is running a strong second, in polls in Iowa and history tells us that unknowns can win the presidency thanks to a surprise win in Iowa (just ask Jimmy Carter).

Anyway, that is not why I am writing this post. It is because he is running the best political advertisement in the history of mankind. I can't decide if it will actually be helpful or not, but it is certainly unique and will attract a lot of attention. I thought it a bit silly, though very amusing, but non-political types in rural Iowa may be moved by it. What do you think?

(h/t Jonathan Martin)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Minimum wage hike

(crossposted to CanadaEast)

I wanted to take a moment to applaud the announcement today that the minimum wage will go up another 50¢ to $7.75. This is a significant move and it is the third hike since the Liberals took office. The minimum wage has increased $1.05 since the 2006 election.

This is a fairly substantial demand to make on small business owners. In fact, $1.05 in extra wages costs a small business owner with 5 FTEs $11,000 per year. Certainly not chump change. However, an increase in the minimum wage inevitably drives up other wages via a domino effect. That is good for all New Brunswickers and for New Brunswick, given the aim to retain and return people to our work force.

I remember in 2002 Paul Duffie was running for leader of the Liberals, and proposed the minimum wage be raised to $8 by the end of 2007. There were cries from within the party that this would destroy small businesses, a concern which was echoed by the media and the business sector itself. Regardless, it seems that this lofty goal is about to be met, and that is a great thing for our province. As of June 2006, New Brunswick had the lowest minimum wage in Canada. A year and a half later we've moved from 13th to 10th and are on the cusp of surpassing the 6 provinces that have minimum wages at $7.95 or $8.00.

I hope the government continues to move forward with this aggressive trend and pushes the minimum wage past $8 in the not too distant future.

Finally, on an unrelated matter, when I logged in to post this, I discovered that this will be my 300th post. A bit of a milestone and a good reason for me to thank all of you for reading and commenting and making this such a fun and rewarding exercise.

Friday, November 09, 2007

"Netroots" making an appearance in New Brunswick

(crossposted to CanadaEast)

I've been blogging about New Brunswick politics for 15 months and some odd weeks and have had a relatively stable following for the past while.  Here on my primary blog, I consider a post a success if I get 10 comments, I don't believe I have ever had much beyond 20.

A post I wrote earlier this week about the Fredericton Conservative nomination race did above average at 15 comments.  The post I wrote on the results however has attracted 38 comments (and counting).

Canada has tended to be a few years behind the U.S. in political innovations.  In the U.S. we have seen the rising of the "netroots" - a term that plays on "grassroots" - as a force in politics, this group has been largely untapped and unreported in Canada.

Keith Ashfield was not the netroots candidate in Fredericton and that is abundantly clear.  In response to my first post, one person was annoyed that Ashfield was the only candidate in the race that didn't have a website.  In response to my second post, and to a lesser extent the first, there has been near unanimous criticism of Ashfield from all commenters, yet he won the nomination meeting.

Certainly there is a great potential to harness those interested in politics through the internet.  The fact that at least 10 (it is hard to figure out which anonymous posters are distinct from each other) Tories, most of whom seem to have attended the meeting, have come to a relatively obscure Liberal blog that gets between 100 and 200 page views per day is evidence of that.

Ten people may not sound like a lot, but the margin of victory on Wednesday night was 8 and at the last Tory nomination it was 3.  Wednesday's nomination meeting had just under 1000 delegates and it was considered "huge"; 10 people represents 1% of the attendees of a "huge" meeting, a relatively significant sample.

Canadian political parties have done very little - when compared to their American counterparts - to reach out to the netroots constituency.  As far as I know, New Brunswick parties have done nothing at all.  I think the reaction that has been shown on my blog shows that there is great potential to engage some very enthusiastic and well informed voters and would-be political activists here.

I wonder if any party will take on the challenge and whether or not the netroots will make a difference here like they have south of the border?

FOOTNOTE: I do have to tap myself on the back about my pre-nomination analysis.  I said, Ashfield "can only win if a second ballot is required and Forestall supporters move to him en masse" but that many Forestall supporters would skip the second vote.  The results were as follows: Ballot #1 - Macdonald 428, Ashfield 397, Forrestall 134; Ballot #2 - Ashfield 440 (+43); Macdonald 432 (+4); missing from voting 87.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Ashfield wins

According to commenter "fredericton tory", New Maryland-Sunbury West MLA Keith Ashfield has won the Conservative Party of Canada nomination for the riding of Fredericton.

It was a narrow victory on the second ballot.

Ashfield can retain his provincial seat until a federal election is called, so there won't be a by-election anytime soon. However, the Liberals would be heavily favoured to pick up Ashfield's provincial seat.

Federally this victory moves Fredericton from my "too close to call" column and into the "leans Tory" one. The longer we wait for a federal election, I think the better the chances are for Ashfield who can campaign full time and use his one-on-one charm to win over those parts of the riding he hasn't already represented.

Fredericton Tory update

First ballot completed, Forrestal eliminated. Ashfield and Macdonald face off for round two now.

Richard for leader? A desperate move that could pay off... or not

(crossposted to CanadaEast)

The New Brunswick Tories have been a lackluster opposition and if they don't do something bold and dramatic soon, they could hand the Liberals a blank cheque for the 2010 election. Now they are proposing to do something very bold, which could save them. However, if it fails, they could be giving the Grits a blank cheque tied to an even bigger bank account.

There was a lengthy report in yesterday's Telegraph-Journal that outlines the Tory plan to hand Bernard Richard an ideal run up to the leadership of their party. It would be quite ironic because Richard served as a Liberal MLA from 1991 to 2003 and many would argue was the most effective critic of the Lord government for their first four and a half years in office. He led a six day filibuster against the 2003 Lord budget in December 2002. Electing Bernard Richard would require Tory members to, in effect, repudiate the Bernard Lord record as it would be impossible for Richard to embrace it.

However, if Tories could swallow their pride and if Richard were to run and win the leadership, he would throw the Liberals completely off of their game. He was Shawn Graham's mentor for his first year as leader and the Premier still considers him a close friend, at least on the record. It would be a tremendous embarrassment and rejection of the Liberal government for Richard to choose the Tories and become the leader of the opposition to a Liberal caucus he helped lead only 4 years ago, including 24 of the current caucus members. There would be some obvious problems, as I mentioned above, Richard was one of the most partisan Liberals in the legislature and never had a good thing to say about the Tories, however that would be all cancelled out if he became leader. The fact that he was rejecting his Liberal heritage, and Shawn Graham personally, would be a far greater plus for his new party than it would be a negative.

The potential for a huge blow is even worse, however. The Tories have already become the laughingstock of the chattering classes with their choice of Jeannot Volpé as interim leader, ineffective opposition to easily opposable Liberal policies and waiting two years to choose a leader when the party risks semi-permanent oblivion by not having one.

Now, couple all of that with what happens if Richard declines: the next leader would be the butt of endless Liberal jokes as being the second choice, after a heavily anti-Tory retired Liberal. The party that won the popular vote in 2006 and started out with a caucus full of veterans (the vast majority of which had severed at least two-terms and were returning for a third) and 20 former cabinet ministers, had to not only look outside of its caucus for a leader, but to its greatest critic. And then that critic laughed them off. Can you imagine? Indeed, in today's Telegraph, Richard's successor and former chief aide, now Finance Minister Victor Boudreau, plays these lines.

If Richard is genuinely willing to consider this then the Tories are probably wise to approach him. But to speak to the papers and give them quotes about all of the wonderful red carpets they would be prepared to laid out for Richard makes them look like damn fools if he does anything other than say yes.

BY THE WAY: Spinks and I seem to be operating in reverse order. Yesterday he posted a bit about Bernard Richard while I talked about the federal Tory nomination in Fredericton. Today, we're doing the reverse. You can find Spinks' piece about the Fredericton Tories here.

UPDATE: Less than 48 hours after this was first reported, the play is over. Bernard Richard will not seek the leadership of the Tories and they look even more foolish than ever.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Fredericton Tories to pick banner carrier

(crossposted to CanadaEast)

Federal Conservatives in Fredericton will meet tomorrow night to chose their nominee to stand against Liberal candidate David Innes in the next federal election. The seat has been held since 1993 by Liberal Andy Scott. However, prior to that it was held by the blues, since the 1957 Diefenbaker win, and was considered to be a Conservative stronghold.

Since 1997, Fredericton has been a prime pickup target for the Tories. In that year and in 2000, the Reform and Alliance parties split the vote significantly, taking 22% and 24% respectively. In 2004, with the new Conservative Party on the scene, it was thought to be a sure bet for the Tories. In 1997 the combined PC and Reform vote was 52% to Scott's 34%; in 2000 it was 54% for the right to 39% for the incumbent Grit.

However, in 2004 and 2006, as was the case in the rest of Canada, the merger didn't result in 1 + 1 equaling 2, let alone the 3 that many proponents of the merger hoped. In 2004, Andy Scott was up 5000 votes and the combined forces of the right were down 4000. In 2006, Andy held steady and the Tories picked up 2000. So, with a popular incumbent out of the picture, and an incumbent Conservative government looking a lot better than the lackluster Liberal opposition, this seat should definitely be up for grabs.

So, as I was saying, the Tories choose a candidate tomorrow night. Here are the options:

Keith Ashfield, MLA for New Maryland-Sunbury West. Former Lincoln-area businessman, first elected in 1999 and re-elected in 2003 and 2006. Served during his first term as deputy speaker. He was well regarded by the opposition and observers as being fair and impartial while sitting in the chair, a view not accorded to the speaker or the other deputy speaker during that period. After 2003, he was named to the cabinet as Minister of Natural Resources and got a passing grade from most folks. A likable guy who plays fair and is not too partisan; he is well liked by politicos of all stripes, including yours truly.

Will Forestall, 2006 provincial candidate for Fredericton-Lincoln. A well known artist and activist, this Red Tory would likely fit the mold of Mark Warner, so it is unclear whether or not he would remain the candidate if nominated. He ran between two big names, Greg Byrne, then-former and now-current cabinet minister, and Allison Brewer, then-NDP leader. He placed second, ahead of Brewer, and ran a good campign.

Brian Macdonald, a former military officer and newcomer to politics. I don't know much about this fellow, but have heard from the buzz around both Liberal and Tory organizers that he is putting together an impressive nomination campaign.

Intuitively, one would presume Ashfield would be a shoe-in and Forestall would run second. However, this is the game of nomination meetings and resume, profile, charisma, experience and anything else you would normally draw to mind are irrelevant. All that matters in a nomination contest is warm bodies in a room. The winner will be the candidate who can convince enough existing Tories, and sign up new ones, to support him and show up for a lengthy nomination meeting.

Macdonald is apparently the heavy favourite, which suits the Liberals just fine. This would make the fourth time in a row when the Tories had a far more electable candidate at the ready and chose someone else. In 2006, 2004 and 2000, there were candidates that were widely agreed to be formidable but they were not nominated and Andy Scott was re-elected. History is looking to repeat itself.

Ashfield, as it is told to me, can only win if a second ballot is required and Forestall supporters move to him en masse. In this sort of meeting that is unlikely though because, if Forestall's people know he is going to place third, they will go home rather than wait for the ballots to be counted and the second round of voting to begin.

However, Tories would be well served to vote for Ashfield, who Liberals feel they cannot defeat on a personal level. The Liberal strategy with Macdonald as the nominee will be the same one that has seen them win the last five elections. If Ashfield is the winner, their campaign will focus on an attack on Harper; the resulting contrast between the PM and Dion would likely push the Tories over the top.

Let's see how she goes...

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Pick a lane

(crossposted to CanadaEast)

Whenever I am driving in Montreal or Toronto, I often find myself yelling "pick a lane" at some of my more aggressive and less logical fellow drivers.

My advice to Jeannot Volpé is similar.

Much as he did this spring during the legislative sitting, rather than picking one or two or three major issues and focussing on them and making an effective critique of the government, his reaction to the recent cabinet shuffle was unfocussed and made him look bitter and overly negative when he could have used the opportunity to make some political hay.

The cabinet shuffle had a number of areas that could have been seen as flaws. No one likes to see more politicians at the top, and the cabinet has two extra members. Women are way under represented and that didn't improve with this shuffle. Volpé ignored those points. Volpé criticized one area that makes sense - a floor crosser being included in the cabinet - but then couldn't resist himself and threw his credibility out the window in going way off track.

Rather than make an arguments about democracy, he went on a rant about how Tories were mad, Liberal backbenchers would revolt and how the dirty rat would never be re-elected. How about: "Crossing the floor is an affront to democracy and an insult to voters. Shawn Graham should never have justified this action by admitting these people into his caucus and certainly shouldn't have rewarded it by putting one of them into his cabinet"? That is a reasonable criticism that would resonate with people, but with Volpé, it has to become petty and personal.

Then he makes up some nonsense about how this cabinet shuffle is an insult to Francophone New Brunswickers because Hédard Albert and Carmel Robichaud were "demoted". Huh? All cabinet ministers are equal at the cabinet table and even if they weren't, the argument doesn't make sense.

Albert moves from a department focussed on the machinations of government whose primary role is to negotiate labour agreements with the civil service under the close watch and direction of the premier and finance minister to a ministry which has been touted by the premier as a top priority.

Robichaud moves to an admittedly smaller department in terms of budget but one which requires close relationships with the province's 103 municipalities during a period when the province is talking about substantial change to municipal governance. These don't sound like demotions to me. In Albert's case, it would seem a promotion and in Robichaud's case it is, at least, a lateral move if not actually a promotion as well.

Why the Tories are waiting until next fall to pick a leader I will never figure out. Jeannot Volpé is the best thing that has happened to the Liberal Party of New Brunswick in a generation!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A teeny weeny cabinet shuffle

(crossposted to CanadaEast)

A very small shuffle to the cabinet was announced today, with two new ministers added to the cabinet and three ministers changing jobs.

Surprisingly, none of the additions to the cabinet were women (of which Cheryl Lavoie and Joan MacAlpine-Stiles were options) or from Moncton proper (of which Chris Collins and, again, Joan MacAlpine-Stiles were options). Instead, Wally Stiles, an MLA from Greater Moncton, and sitting speaker Eugene McGinley were added to the cabinet - increasing the representation of Greater Fredericton to 4 (if you count Grand Lake-Gagetown), while Moncton stands at 2 or 3 (depending of if you count Shediac) and Saint John stands at 5 or 6 (depending on if you count Charlotte-The Isles).

This decreases the size of the Liberal backbench to 10 and means there will have to be a new election for Speaker. Deputy Speakers Roy Boudreau and Brian Kenny would be possibilities. Other than Larry Kennedy, who past experience suggests is content to be a backbencher, the only other MLA with substantial legislative experience is Joan MacAlpine-Stiles.

I think Wally Stiles is certainly a good choice for cabinet, in general, as I always thought he was a lot stronger of a performer than a number of people that went into the cabinet over him during the Lord years; however I am not sure how well received it will be by the press, as he is a recent floor crosser, or by other Greater Moncton MLAs like Bernard LeBlanc and Chris Collins.

As I predicted, Mary Schryer has earned a promotion and that promotion has been to Family & Community Services. That was all I got right however; the size of the shuffle and the rest of the players invovled were pretty off base.

The Premier sheds his responsibility for Wellness, Culture & Sport which goes to Hédard Albert.

Albert's Human Resources portfolio goes to new minister Wally Stiles.

Former speaker McGinley picks up Schryer's responsibilities for Housing and Seniors, which makes sense as McGinley was critic for seniors' issues in opposition.

Finally, Carmel Robichaud, takes over the Local Government portfolio which had been held by Finance Minister Victor Boudreau. She also gives her responsibilities for Status of Women to Schryer and gains new responsibilities for the non-profit sector as a result of the Bradshaw Commission.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Tax cuts for everybody!

(crossposted to CanadaEast)

I wonder how many hits this page will be getting over the next 24 hours?

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced some substantial tax cuts today. Unlike what is usually the case with tax cuts, these will actually add up to something meaningful. A guy or gal earning $40,000 will get $225 extra back next year when they file their 2007 taxes. That isn't chump change.

At the same time, the GST will drop to 5% (and presumably the HST will fall to 13%, thought the provincial Liberals may hold it higher as was recently recommended by an economist).

Corporate taxes will also go down and, most importantly to me, a subtantial payment will be made on the federal debt. Overall, I am pleased with this. If I were prime minister, I think I would have not done the GST thing and instead paid down more debt - that was the purpose of the GST afterall - and maybe saved a bit more for contingencies. However, I am not writing this to get into the merits of the announcement; I want to write about the politics of it.

So, what does this mean? I think it reinforces my prediction that there will be an election in December.

How so? The Tories have now blown their goodies that would ordinarily be spent in a pre-election budget. They clearly are aiming for an early vote. The Liberals are unlikely, however, to cooperate by voting non-confidence. Therefore, I suspect any Liberal attempt to tinker with these changes or slow them down in committee will be met with an election call by Harper on the grounds that the Liberals are obstructing the agenda and preventing the implementation of the GST cut by the promised date of January 1.

I hope all you candidates out there saved your toques from the 2006 campaign!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Wally & Joan

I had a good chance to chat with the newest Liberal MLAs. They were treated as heroes and certainly seemed to be enjoying their new party.

We talked about the different "cultures" between the two parties and they felt the same way I had when I was a Tory. A lot of folks in the NB PC Party seem to be bitter and fixated on minor issues, like they've got a chip on their shoulder. They felt that way too.

Also one of the first things they mentioned was how different of a leader Shawn Graham is. Joan said you really feel a part of a team and are listened to and consulted where under Lord it was as though they were pests. And she was even a minister!

Graham's speech

Interesting fact: today is 20 years since the swearing in of the McKenna govt. I understand all of the surviving 58 are having a private reunion in Fredericton tonight.

- early Nov release of Self Sufficiency Action Plan which will transform four pillars:
Work force

- health care changes coming

- relations with other govts, business and non-profits will change as will relations with First Nations

- work force to be transformed by transforming post-secondary education; making courses more credible, tackling student debt, making sure students learn skills that can keep them in NB and so that employers can recruit within and not outside of NB. Time has come "to move from protest to programs" in PSE. Got long applause and standing o for that

- economy: must let world know NB open for business, new ambassador program got 100 members in one week; pride in NB will help transform economy


800 delegates

Fed continued

Last question was about poverty, Andy Scott gave a very good, impassioned, well thought out answer about the federal spending power on social programs.

I smell this as a key theme of any Liberal platform in an upcoming election campaign.

Federal Q&A

Most questions relatively standard with standard answers. Of note though, one guy asked a question about confidence measures and the caucus provided a wishy-washy answer. Here was the follow up:

Q. You kind of side stepped my earlier question, what I want to know is that if the government introduces a bill on, for example, climate change or Afghanistan that is fundamentally opposed to Liberal policy, will you vote against it knowing it would cause an election?

A. (Paul Zed) Yes.

There were great applause.

Constitution and Q&A

Three minor constitutional amendments passed with relative ease though there was a bit of debate around an amendment giving the Women's Commission more representation on the party executive.

The provincial Q&A was pretty low key. Only a few minor questions on post-secondary, with the majority of questions going to TJ Burke on a variety of subjects ranging from auto insurance to pensions.

Liberal convention - first take

Great parties.

Over 600 delegates, supposedly many more registering tomorrow which will be pretty impressive for a Liberal convention in a remote Tory corner of NB.

I missed Dion's speech and have heard really good and really bad reviews. Nothing in the middle. Will try to get an unbiased take. Most "real" so far was something along the lines of: "Great ideas, needs better English and more charisma, but if he could get these ideas to resonate with the people he'd win."

Friday, October 26, 2007


I am not sure if this is a coincidence or not.

Two days after I commented that Real Clear Politics, and through them's Ben Smith, shouldn't be listing Bill Richardson in their presidential polling summary if they didn't include Joe Biden as well because they've basically become tied in the polls.

If you check those two sites today, Richardson has been removed. Seems unlikely that they would notice and react to an obscure Canadian blogger, but I had emailed Ben Smith about it so maybe I'll take the credit ;)

Live blogging the NB Liberal convention

The New Brunswick Liberals are holding their biennial meeting this weekend in Edmundston. I will be attending and will live blog the interesting details here. So, start watching around 6 or 7 p.m. tonight ... that is you don't have something more exciting to do on a Friday night.

UPDATE: I have a preliminary run down of what will happen posted over at CanadaEast.

(the below is a copy of what was posted at CanadaEast)

LIberals to convene in Edmundston

The New Brunswick Liberals - both provincial and federal - will be meeting tonight and tomorrow in Edmundston for their biennial meeting. The party will discuss internal constitutional amendments, elect a new party executive and hold accountability sessions with their elected members. Not surprisingly, or perhaps so to some, the party will also party quite a bit.

I will be "live blogging" the developments over on my other blog as I am not sure how or if I can do that here. Here is a run-down of the rather light agenda:

Friday evening
6 p.m. - Routine proceedings (O Canada, Introductions, etc)
7 p.m. - Speeches, etc from candidates for party executive
7 p.m. - Simultaneously, the Young Liberals elect their executive
7:45 p.m. - Beginning of federal portion of event
8 p.m. - Speech from Stéphane Dion
8:30 p.m. - Federal social event (music, partying, etc)
11 p.m. - Official program ends for the evening

Saturday morning
8 a.m. - Discussion of and voting on constitutional amendments
9 a.m. - Q&A/accountability session with provincial caucus (including premier and cabinet)
10:30 a.m. - Q&A session with federal caucus
11:45 p.m. - Results of executive election announced and new president makes remarks
12 noon - Premier's closing address
1 p.m. Adjournment

As always, I look forward to your comments here and over at the other place. If you would like to reach me during the convention, I will be checking my email at

UPDATE: I read in today's Telegraph-Journal that 1000 protesters are expected to be present to express their concerns about the potential changes for UdeM-Edmundston under the post-secondary commission report. Protesters are pretty standard fair for a convention of a government in power, but I hope that overzealous members of the party don't hijack the accountability session on Saturday with questions just on the subject of the future of UNBSJ and the UdeM satelites.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Biden the darkhorse

As I've mentioned before, Joe Biden is my favourite Democrat in the U.S. presidential race. I've noticed him starting to get some traction in the all important state of Iowa which, as of now, still stands to be the site of the first vote in the U.S. primary season. If New Hampshire moves its primary up to December, as has been mused, it is likely that the Iowa caucuses will go second and all those who have invested major efforts there to get a surge may be very disappointed, we'll assume, though, that that won't happen.

Anyway, back to Biden. He has seen some good news in Iowa in the past few weeks.

1.) He stands a close third in terms of support of local Iowa politicians. He has 11 endorsements of state representatives and senators compared to 16 for Hillary Clinton and 13 for Barack Obama. This compares to 10 for John Edwards who was for a long time considered the frontrunner in Iowa and who placed a close second there to John Kerry in 2004. Also, according to the same source, he has spent more days in Iowa this year than any other candidate and face time is very important in the Iowa caucus where only about 100,000 die hard party members vote.

2.) He has gained the endorsement of Storm Lake Times. This is a small town paper, but it is the first newspaper anywhere in Iowa to endorse anyone so far this election.

3.) He's edging up in the polls becoming the clear favourite of the lower tier both in Iowa and nationally. Bill Richardson used to be considered among the top tier for his lengthy experience and fourth place standing in polls. Now Biden, who has as much or more experience depending on how you look at it, takes turns with Richardson being in fourth and fifth place. In two of the six most recent national polls, Biden is ahead of Richardson; they are tied in a third. The most recent Iowa poll has Richardson at 9 and Biden at 6. This may not sound great, but Richardson has been falling from double digits, while Biden previously registered as 0 or 1. Moreover, a poll at this time in 2003 had John Kerry at 9 and John Edwards at 7.

4.) David Yepsen, considered the god of Iowa pundits, has been talking Biden's chances up a lot. First, he said Biden would do surprising well then he put it into writing explaining that Biden was going up in the polls at Richardson's expense and was getting out good crowds to his events.

Indeed, what prompted me to write this post was seeing Richardson stuck at 3% in the top corner of Ben Smith's blog. I noticed that while Richardson is still included with the "big three" in the Real Clear Politics average, he probably shouldn't be. I did a review of the polls in their average and it shows Biden has climbed to 2.7% compared to Richardson's 3.1.

So, while Dodd, Kucinch and Gravel get 1s and 0s, Biden and Richardson get mid-high single digits. They probably don't have any business being in the "top tier", but certainly Biden now has as much claim to that as Richardson which is a big difference from a few months ago. I think it would be fair to say that they now constitute a "middle tier" and if coverage is going to draw in Richardson, Biden should be there as well.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Great Floor Crossing Debate

Spinks and I are having a "point/counter point" on floor crossing and what should be done about it in the future over at CanadaEast.

You can read Spinks' original post here and my rebuttal here.

(a copy of my rebuttal from CanadaEast follows)

Floor crossing, an emotional subject

This past weekend the New Brunswick Cry Babies' Progressive Conservative Party had their annual meeting and one of the measures discussed was a scheme to penalize future floor crossers by making them pay back any monies spent by Tories to get them elected.

This is a very problematic policy. Primarily because it would be illegal if the amount spent was more than $6000 (because that is the maximum an individual can donate to a party) and that it would be impossible to differentiate between donations made to the riding association because people were good Tories and those made because people were friends with, or fans of, the candidate.

However, the PC executive director says that he isn't even sure if they will enforce this policy - even in opposition they are going to bend their own rules! - so that discussion is moot.

Spinks and I agree that this particular motion is a bit silly on the part of the Tories. It makes them look petty and it became the main focus of their convention. As I have said before, though I think the Graham Government is doing well, it is not perfect and there is a lot to criticize. Rather than say "THEY RAISED YOUR TAXES!" and repeat it over and over and over, the Tories instead focus on mundane, nitpicky things. It is no wonder the Liberals lead the Tories by a margin of 2-to-1 in the polls.

However, where Spinks and I disagree is on the merits of floor crossing. Spinks says:

However I don't think floor crossing should be totally scrapped. If your
political party is doing something that is so totally counter to your conscience
and/or the desires of your consituents, a politican with integrity needs to be
able to bail IF they have done all they can to make things work. If that means
going to another political party then fine.

But there's one thing that politican needs to do first.

They need to ask permission from the people who voted them in.

Some people vote for a local candidate and a lot vote for a political party
so when MacAlpine-Stiles says those with a beef about the crossing are only "a
few people who have an axe to grind," I disagree. I suspect there are a lot of
people in the two ridings who aren't pleased with what happened or more
importantly that they had no say.

Spinks is right that more people vote for the party than the person in their local ridings; a lot of folks vote for a particular party because they want that party to form the government and they could care less who the candidate is. However, after the election that doesn't really make much difference.

We'll use Wally Stiles as the main example here because he is from the more conservative riding and won by a much larger margin. I think it is fair to say that the majority of people in Petitcodiac wanted a PC government and that a good chunk of those who voted for Stiles would have voted for any candidate the Tories put up.

However, the situation here is a matter of the Tories being an opposition of 25 seats (before the Stiles crossed) or 23 seats (after they crossed). The fact that they changed their affiliation is completely irrelevant to the status of the PC Party in the legislature. Whether they crossed the floor or not, their voters - who voted to elect a PC government - were not going to get what they wanted.

If it was a situation where they crossed the floor and changed the balance of power in the legislature, or if it was a case like when Peter Trites crossed from the NDP to the Liberals and cut the size of the NDP in half by doing so, then I think you can make the argument that the people had their way and then it was wrongly taken from them. In this case, the people never got what they wanted in the first place and the floor crossing didn't really change anything.

By-elections are expensive things that result in people being without a representative for at least 6 weeks, which is not something that should happen automatically. When Tanker Malley left the Tory caucus in the winter of 2006, I think you would have found that most of his constituents supported it, at least initially. If he had had to resign and go through a by-election, he wouldn't have returned to the legislature before the budget vote and could not have done for his constituents what they wanted him to do.

So, I think, a policy of forcing floor crossers to go back to the people who elected them is routed in emotion and not logic. An alternative might be possible, such as creating a recall mechanism for floor crossers, but an automatic by-election just doesn't make sense to me.

What do you think?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A polytechnic or not a polytechnic, that is the question

For my thoughts on the reports that the government is guaranteeing Saint John will retain a "university" in any post-secondary education restructuring, please see this post on my CanadaEast site.

(a copy of my post from the CanadaEast site follows)

Give polytechnics a chance

I've got to admit I am pretty disappointed with this news.

I have been an enthusiastic proponent of the Post-Secondary Education Task Force Report. I think turning things upside down as Robichaud did two generations ago can really help put us on the fast track for success. The proposal to create a polytechnic in Saint John was controversial, but, on the face of it, it makes sense for the following reasons: New Brunswick has too many universities; UNBSJ has a poor national reputation as a backwater to a backwater; Polytechnic-like institutions are a growing thing and make a lot of sense in the 21st century economy; and Saint John would have the competitive advantage of having the first English polytechnic east of Toronto.

However, instead of sticking to their guns, the government appears to be backing down to a loud emotional reaction from some individuals in Saint John. That is unfortunate. It remains to be seen exactly what the end result may be, UNBSJ may still become a "technical university" or a "university of applied sciences" or something else which is the same thing that has been recommended by the commission, but doesn't lacking the connotation of the word "university" that opponents of the original plan seem to be obsessed with.

I certainly hope that the end decision isn't to give us essentially the status quo in Saint John but still create two Francophone polytechnics in the North. That would essentially change nothing in our English schools and give Franophone New Brunswickers more options in their schooling than Anglophones, something that I suspect would cause a lot of problems in the long term.

Let's hope we see a more sensible conclusion to this debate and that the government has the nerve to stand up and do something bold and sensible, regardless of its popularity.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

My take on the Throne Speech: an election by December 17

(crossposted to CanadaEast)

It looks to me like Canadians will be going to the polls sometime before Christmas. Today's Throne Speech by Prime Minister Stephen Harper was a stroke of political genius. Though it is not provocative enough to turn Canadians off, it does have some cleverly placed lines that make it very difficult for the Liberals to swallow, and, if they can swallow it in the short term, even more difficult in the long term.

First, the speech says:

It is now widely understood that, because of inaction on greenhouse gases over the last decade, Canada’s emissions cannot be brought to the level required under the Kyoto Protocol within the compliance period

Translation: The Liberals could have set us up to deliver on Kyoto but they failed, including under the tenure of Environment Minister Stéphane Dion.

The Liberals may be able to get past that and other triggers - though not without a lot of teasing and chiding from the Tories and other parties - but here is Harper's silver bullet:

In the last session, our Government introduced important and timely legislation to tackle violent crime. Unfortunately much of this legislation did not pass. That is not good enough to maintain the confidence of Canadians. Our Government will immediately reintroduce these measures with a single, comprehensive Tackling Violent Crime bill to protect Canadians and their communities from violent criminals and predators. (emphasis added)

So the Prime Minister will introduce legislation covering all of their crime proposals (perhaps including ending the long gun registry?) in one bill, which they have already implicitly indicated will be a confidence measure.

It is still unclear how and when an election will be triggered but it seems to me there will be one this year.

If the government falls on the vote on the Bloc sub-amendment vote on Thursday, an election could be held as early as November 26; a date that would be 7 years less a day from the 2000 election and not unusually late. A vote for the Liberal amendment on Monday or against the main motion next Wednesday would make for an election no earlier than December 3. The press was reporting that Dion had decided earlier in the day to go for an election but that his advisors were trying to talk him out of that. His brief remarks this evening indicated that he was pretty unhappy with the Throne Speech and sounded like he would likely be voting against it. However, my understanding is that most of the Liberal machine is well aware they couldn't win an election this fall and they will be aggressively trying to talk him down from that position.

Thus, it is my prediction that the Throne Speech will pass, but that in the coming weeks the government will fall on a bill deemed confidence. That, or the Prime Minister will simply call for an election due to "dishonest obstruction of the government agenda by opposition parties after they allowed the government's agenda that laid out these items to pass just a few weeks ago", leading to a vote on December 10 or 17.

Mike Murphy - new government house leader?

(crossposted to CanadaEast)

I am assuming that this isn't a typo but in a news release announcing that the house will sit beginning November 27, Mike Murphy is named as government house leader.

There has been no cabinet shuffle but it does appear that, without fan fare, Mike Murphy has taken over the house leadership duties from Stuart Jamieson who is battling cancer. However, the government directory still names Jamieson as the occupant of the job.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Roger Duguay, the new leader of the NDP

I have some advice for the new leader of New Brunswick's third party. Check it out at my CanadaEast blog.

(a copy of my post from CanadaEast follows)

Roger Duguay's next steps

I was away this weekend, so I hope you all checked out Spinks for the scoop on the NDP leadership race. The candidate I thought was the best choice for the NDP was the winner, so I hope he proves me right and can recapture some momentum for the NDP.

Spinks and I agree, as do many others I have spoken to on this, that though we may not vote NDP or support their platform, a third voice in the legislature is better for democracy and brings on better and more accountable government so we hope they do modestly well.

So, Mr. Duguay, if you are reading, here is what I suggest you do next.

First, I read somewhere else previously that Mr. Duguay, who works as a supply teacher, was planning to move to Fredericton if he won and would supply teach as possible to support himself and work the leadership the rest of the time. I think that this is a good move, it puts him close the legislature and the press and it lessens the burden on the NDP coffers as they won't have to pay him (or at least not as much as they would otherwise).

Now, that would have been my first piece of advice, but what to do once he is in Fredericton?

It is important to build a relationship with the press. Just showing up will not do it. He should take the time to meet informally and personally - lunch or dinner is what I am saying - with all of the members of the legislative press gallery.

It is also important not to make oneself too available to the press or you will oversaturate them and they will not bite when you speak because they will be so used to hearing you on every issue. The press must report the government and opposition point of view on every issue, the NDP does not enjoy that luxury. Therefore, it is better for the NDP to save their noise for when they have the most effective contrast on key issues than it is to pepper the press with comments that mirror either the Liberals or the Tories day in and day out.

He should also pick a few priority issues and push them hard. Unveil them to the media, write public letters to the MLAs whose constituents are most effected by the issues and encourage them to raise them. Then hammer the two larger parties whenever he has a chance for not advocating these positions and parlay that into a narrative of how the NDP voice in the legislature is one that is important and relevant and must be restored.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Wither the New Brunswick NDP?

(crossposted to CanadaEast)

It is no secret that our NDP is in bad shape. After winning 10% of the vote and seats in 5 of 6 consecutive elections from 1982 through 2003, they were shut out in 2006 and saw their vote fall to an almost all time low of 5.1%.

This weekend the New Democrats meet to pick a leader, but regardless of who wins, it may be too late for our social democratic party. A very scary lesson should be learned for the NDP by looking at the results of the Ontario election last night.

Though it was actually a good night for the NDP; they had their best popular vote showing since 1995 and increased their share of seats from 7 to 10 versus the last election. However, that was the result received by a relatively strong and vibrant NDP. The real story of the night was the growth of the Green Party. The Greens won only 2.8% of the vote in 2003 and surged to over 8%. Moreover, they placed second in one riding, ahead of the Liberals and NDP and most notably, displaced the NDP as third party in 17 more ridings and ahead of the Tories for third in another.

That is to say that, in a province where the NDP formed the government as recently as 12 years ago, where the NDP has an established base of support and organization and was going into the election with 10 seats, the Green Party still managed to triple its vote and beat the NDP in 18 ridings (of 107, that is 17%, almost 1 out of 5). Especially interesting is that both the NDP and the Greens gained support, while the Liberals and Tories faltered. Thus, even if the NDP gets its act together and doesn't bleed support to the Green Party, they risk being overtaken anyway.

Today, there is no Green Party in New Brunswick. However, the organizers of the federal Green campaigns here indicated last fall they would have a party together and field a full slate of candidates in the next election. Whether or not that will be true remains to be seen, but, if it is, it is not hard to imagine the Greens doing as well in New Brunswick in 2010 as they did in Ontario in 2007.

The results for the Green Party in New Brunswick in the 2004 election was 3.4% and in 2006 was 2.4%; an average of 2.9% which is better than the base of 2.8% the Ontario Greens brought out of the 2003 provincial election.

So, back to the primary subject at hand: this weekend, the New Brunswick NDP are choosing a leader. What can they do to prevent disaster?

Ironically, in my view, it is to not vote for the best choice. I am a big fan of Dennis Atchison who is a moderate in the mould of Robert Chisholm who took Alexa McDonough's perpetual third party Nova Scotia NDP and turned it in to a contender for government in one election cycle. Theoretically, that is the best candidate for the NDP to choose. However, this is a bit of a unique circumstance. If this was 2005, then I think the NDP could be on the cusp of a breakthrough if they had someone like Atchison at the helm. But, the NDP chose to forfeit that opportunity, chose an unpalatable leader and crashed and burned. From the ashes, especially with the risk of losing their status as the third option, the NDP must choose the candidate that can prevent that from happening.

Could the Greens beat the NDP in the popular vote in 2010? Most definitely. But the one thing that the Greens are unlikely to do is elect an MLA. Roger Duguay, who has run with good success three times, could, as leader, win his riding. He got 26% of the vote in a three way race in 2006 and that was with the party suffering its worst defeat in 32 years. Should he be the leader and should the NDP run even a marginally better campaign, I think he would be the favourite in his home riding.

Therefore, if the NDP wants to avoid being displaced by the Greens, Duguay must be their choice.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

And now, for something completely different

Well, not really.

I have been invited by CanadaEast (the web arm of Brunswick News, which is in turn the newspaper arm of Irving Corp) to write a blog from a "left-wing" perspective on New Brunswick politics. Though I consider myself more of a moderate or centrist, I guess my Liberal label makes me a left winger by default.

This blog will continue, but I will cross post the relevant pieces of it over there. There may also be some "point, counter point" between myself and whoever my right wing counter balance is, so I'll link you to there for that as appropriate.

I will see some benefits if I manage more than 5000 page views per month (my current average here is 3920) so please stop by my brand new, shiny second home which you will find at

UPDATE: We are now online and ready to go. You'll find my site at the revised URL and my right-wing counterpart at Most readers of this blog will be familiar with my blogging friend Spinks; it is he who will speak from the right. This should be very good fun!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Meet The Press

This just popped into my inbox:

October 3, 2007
Ottawa, Ontario

Public event for Prime Minister Stephen Harper for today, October 3rd are:

3:45 p.m. – Prime Minister Stephen Harper will be available to take questions from the media.

Press Theatre
National Press Building
150 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario
That's right folks, Prime Minister Harper is sitting down for a Q&A with the press, the national press, in the national press theatre, for the first time since he took office. It is very unusual and something very interesting must be a foot. Or, as someone just suggested to me, maybe he is just going to sit back and take a bunch of questions about the Liberals at Dion's expense?

Either way, a quasi-historic moment, at least in the context of the Harper primeminsitership, and worth tuning in for if you're a nerd like me. That would be 4:45 Atlantic and it will be presumably carried on Newsworld, NewsNet and CPAC.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Graham guess

Per a request of a commenter and due to my insatiable desire, I am going to try to predict the Graham cabinet shuffle.

The press has been functioning around these main hypotheses:

1.) Stuart Jamieson, who is battling cancer, will keep his tourism portfolio but possibly lose the house leader job

2.) Victor Boudreau and Premier Shawn Graham who have more than one full department, will shuffle away some of their responsibilities

3.) Junior minister Mary Schryer and a Moncton-area backbencher will be promoted

4.) Some other high performance backbenchers may be promoted

I think some of these have merit and others do not.

The first move that would make a lot of sense to me is to give the Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour portfolio to a non-Saint John minister. I think that this report should be fully implemented but it is unpopular in Saint John, in my view only for cosmetic reasons, so to make it more politically saleable, it should be given to a strong, non-Saint John minister. I think if they move to implement it quickly, by the time the 2010 election roles around it will be popular in Saint John and across New Brunswick.

Second, this government has made a fair bit of noise and some major announcements in terms of support for Aboriginals. I think that the government will elevate the role for Aboriginal relations in government, which is largely a federal area of juridiction, by moving Intergovernmental Affairs and Aboriginal Affairs into the same portfolio with its own minister as was the case under previous Liberal governments.

Third, I believe Finance and Local Government will remain together because the unconditional grant, the key file in provincial-municipal relations, is actually under the finance minister.

Fourth, I believe the Premier will retain the Wellness, Culture and Sport portfolio as he has a keen interest in this area and speaks of it regularly.

Fifth, the premier has a cabinet with 2 women and a caucus with 4. Both are small numbers, but the symbolism of not moving at least one of these women in to cabinet would be bad. Greater Saint John currently has 4-5 ministers, Fredericton has 3, Moncton has 1-2, therefore both Chris Collins and Joan MacAlpine-Stiles will be added to the cabinet.

Therefore, here is how I see the cabinet shaping up (+ dontes added responsibilities, - denotes some responsibilities removed, * denotes new role and/or department, n/c denotes no change):

Shawn Graham (-)
Minister of Wellness, Culture and Sport

Hedard Albert (*)
Minister of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour

Donald Arseneault (n/c)
Minister of Natural Resources

Victor Boudreau (n/c)
Minister of Finance
Minister of Local Government

T. J. Burke (n/c)
Minister of Justice and Consumer Affairs
Attorney General

Greg Byrne (*)
Minister of Self-Sufficiency and Economic Development

Chris Collins (*)
Minister of State for Youth, Retention and Repatriation

Ed Doherty (*)
Minister of Aboriginal and Intergovernmental Affairs

Rick Doucet (*)
Minister of Human Resources

John Foran (n/c)
Minister of Public Safety

Roland Hache (n/c)
Minister of Environment

Stuart Jamieson (-)
Minister of Tourism & Parks

Jack Keir (n/c)
Minister of Energy

Kelly Lamrock (n/c)
Minister of Education

Denis Landry (n/c)
Minister of Transportation

Joan MacAlpine-Stiles (*)
Minister of State for Seniors and Minister of State for Housing

Roly MacIntyre (+/-)
Minister of Supply and Services
Government House Leader

Mike Murphy (n/c)
Minister of Health

Ron Ouellette (n/c)
Minister of Agriculture and Aquaculture

Carmel Robichaud (*)
Minister of Fisheries
Minister responsible for the Status of Women

Mary Schryer (*)
Minister of Family & Community Services

I kind of made up a few new portfolios on the fly here, including creating a new super ministry, the Department of Self-Sufficiency and Economic Development, which would merge Business New Brunswick, the Regional Development Corporation, the Population Growth Secretariat, etc. This seems to have been foreshadowed in last months deputy minister shuffle when the deputy minister for self-sufficiency added Business New Brunswick to his responsibilities. Also we get a Minsiter of State for Youth, Retention and Repatriation who would have responsibility for the Youth Council and delegated authority from the new super ministry to tackle the probelms of youth leaving and getting them home.

My justification for the other changes:

  • Albert has had a light portfolio and capable of taking on more and is a former college instructor and has two degrees from UdeM where the L'Ecuyer-Miner Commission is also unpopular

  • Doherty seems to have had some success in Aboriginal Affairs so it makes sense to keep him there, the combination of Intergovernmental Affairs and taking PSE away from a Saint John minister is explained above

  • Doucet's calm demeanor would be a good fit for Human Resources

  • Giving MacAlpine-Stiles only a junior role seems to be a good middle ground between not wanting to alienate your backbench by rewarding a floor crosser and needing women and Monctonians in cabinet

  • MacIntyre is a veteran legislator and very strong willed, he therefore is a good fit for House Leader who must not only know parliamentary procedure but be willing to stare down his opposition counterpart in negotiations

  • Fisheries is a logical fit for Robichaud, the MLA for Neguac

  • Schryer is due for a promotion and with responsibility for Housing and Seniors she is already well engaged with much of the Department of Family & Community Services