Saturday, January 28, 2006

On admitting one's losses

Whether or not one believes Rumsfeld's "you go to war with the army you have" rhetoric, it surely has to be a bad sign for Bushco that the administration is now having to accept reductions in the size of its army due to the lack of new recruits:
U.S. President George Bush will use his new budget to propose cutting the size of the Army Reserve to its lowest level in three decades and stripping up to $4 billion from two fighter aircraft programs...

Under the plan, the authorized troop strength of the Army Reserve would drop from 205,000 — the current number of slots it is allowed — to 188,000, the actual number of soldiers it had at the end of 2005. Because of recruiting and other problems, the Army Reserve has been unable to fill its ranks to its authorized level.

Army leaders have said they are taking a similar approach to shrinking the National Guard. They are proposing to cut that force from its authorized level of 350,000 soldiers to 333,000, the actual number now on the rolls.
I have to wonder whether (in keeping with the Orwellian overtones of Bushco generally) the new strategy will be to claim that the actual numbers were always lower, and that the change is really an increase. (This may be the next great test of the strength of the Republican noise machine.) But there can be little doubt that the obvious decline in the sustainable size of the U.S. military reflects rather poorly on a president who's supposed to be strong on defence.

Partisanship and accountability

A Zogby poll suggests that a plurality of Pennsylvanians want to vote for candidates who back impeachment. But take a look at the notable exception:
A new poll conducted in Pennsylvania (a battleground "purple" state) by Zogby International and commissioned by found that 84.9 percent of Democrats said they would be likely to vote for a congressional candidate who "supports having impeachment proceedings against President Bush."...

The results were even stronger when people were asked "How likely would you be to vote for a candidate who supports a recommendation of impeachment against President Bush if he is found guilty of violating the law?" Among Democrats, 90.8 percent responded either "very likely" or "somewhat likely" (85.2 percent very likely).

Among Republicans, 90.4 percent said they were not likely to vote for a pro-impeachment candidate, and 80.5 percent said they were not likely to back even a supporter of impeaching a convicted violator of the law.
In other words, 4 out of 5 Republicans would rather see a lawbreaker go unpunished than see proceedings brought against one of their own. Not that anybody should be surprised...but it's sad to think that even if the 2006 U.S. elections are fought on the battleground of law against lawlessness, the vast majority of registered Republicans won't give the slightest consideration to voting for the former.

On issues that won't be ignored

Harper's plan to deal with equalization and federal/provincial relations later rather than sooner isn't much of a hit with Canada's premiers, who have good reason to want to get a deal done in the next year-plus:
There is...a sense of urgency among the premiers as the window of opportunity for an overarching fiscal deal may have a short timeframe. The window has been opened by the election of Harper, but it will be closed if Charest, who is trailing in the polls, loses the next Quebec election — expected in the spring of 2007 — to André Boisclair and the Parti Québécois.

As the other premiers see it, they aren't likely to be able to strike a deal with the separatists, whose objective is to leave Confederation, not fix it.

On the other hand, a new fiscal deal that is seen as beneficial to Quebec (as well as the other provinces) could help Charest remain in power.
Now, there's obviously some danger in trying to work out a deal too quickly. But that's only reason to make sure that as much concentrated effort as possible is applied to the issue now.

Given that there's a foreseeable endpoint on when a deal can get done, the only responsible course of action now is to make the fiscal imbalance an immediate priority - rather than something to be revisited at some point in the future when Quebec is unwilling to listen. And if Harper pushes forward on his personal priorities while trying to sweep the provinces' most important issue under the rug until it's too late, then some of the premiers who explicitly or implicitly endorsed him this time out may not be so friendly next time he goes to the polls.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Request granted

Maurice Vellacott has gone public asking for "a modest role" in the Conservative government:
In the two-page letter, Vellacott says he'd prefer to be appointed either a vice-chair or chair of the Human Resources, Aboriginal Affairs, Foreign Affairs or Health committees.

He also says he's concerned that if he were appointed to a senior cabinet role he would be prevented from speaking his mind on certain issues, such as "ethnic outreach, marriage, family and life."
Presumably Vellacott wants to leave a bit more of a paper trail so he can't again be accused of doing nothing as an MP. But given those views that Vellacott wants to be able to speak his mind about, I'm sure Harper will be glad to find him the most modest role possible - preferably one which won't result in any publicly-recorded proceedings to be used against the Cons in the next election campaign.


More Saskatchewan political news, as David Karwacki's fight to stay relevant has led to tripartisan agreement to deal with the issue of push-polling, which was apparently due to become a problem in the province any decade now. But while Karwacki's effort has confirmed a lack of intention to use a tactic that apparently wasn't in use anyway, the move may just be conceding the strategy to the other party which is looking to back into the Legislature:
All three of Saskatchewan party leaders have now pledged they won't use "push polling" in the next provincial election...

The issue came up recently when Liberal leader David Karwacki wrote to Premier Lorne Calvert and Saskatchewan Party leader Brad Wall suggesting several ways the parties could keep the next campaign more positive...

Calvert said the NDP doesn't do push polling and he promised it wouldn't.

"I personally find it offensive," he said. "To my knowledge, we have never used it and so long as I'm leader of this party we will not use it."

Karwacki and Wall pledged they won't engage in push polling either.
I'll note that while CBC uses a fairly restrictive definition of "push polling", it doesn't necessarily need to be negative if it has the effect of presenting a biased picture to a respondent. And with the three main parties all agreed to take the push-polling weapon out of their arsenal, I have to wonder whether a soft push poll might be just the break the Sask Cons need to make a comeback:

"Question 1: Do you consider yourself a Christian?

Question 1A (if answer to (1) is "yes"): Do you believe that Jesus Christ came back from the dead?

Question 1B: Do you believe that a political party can do the same?

Question 1C: Do you believe in Jesus' message of forgiveness?

Question 1D: Would you consider voting for the Saskatchewan Conservative Party in the next provincial election?

Question 2 (if answer to (1) is "no"): Do you believe that that people can be rehabilitated?

Question 2A (if answer to (2) is "yes"): Do you believe that a rehabilitated person should be given responsibility in order to prove he or she has changed?

Question 2B: Do you believe that a political party should have the same chance?

Question 2C: Do you think it's time to give Saskatchewan's provincial Conservative Party another chance at government?"

Not that it's actually likely to work, even if the bulk of the province's voters would presumably be caught by one of the two pushes. But the multilateral disarmament by the other parties is more of an opening than Saskatchewan's Cons have had for awhile - and it's not as if the party's rumoured financial reserves are being put to any better use.


The CP reports that Peter Prebble and Joanne Crofford won't seek re-election next time Saskatchewan goes to the polls:
Corrections Minister Peter Prebble and Community Resources Minister Joanne Crofford said Friday they will continue to represent their ridings until an election is called.

Voters aren't expected to go the polls again until 2007.

Premier Lorne Calvert is expected to shuffle his cabinet, possibly within two weeks.
The upcoming shuffle will become all the more interesting now that two longtime stalwarts have indicated that they won't be sticking around. While the experience and knowledge will undoubtedly be missed, it's also a plus for there to be some room for renewal both in the cabinet and the caucus.

That said, the electoral implications remain to be seen. There hopefully won't be too much doubt whether the NDP can hold Prebble's and Crofford's ridings: the party won them by 17% and 41%, respectively, in 2003. But the question of whether the NDP can attract positive attention - both for any new cabinet appointments, and for the replacement candidates - will likely play a large role in whether the Dippers can hold onto government past the current term.

Update: While the NDP's departing members will leave the caucus on good terms, the same doesn't appear to be true of the Sask Party's Brenda Bakken-Lackey:
In a cryptic statement distributed by the party, she says the political system did not always allow her to do what she believed was in the best interest of her constituents and she found that frustrating.

Bakken-Lackey also alludes to how she will not compromise her commitments to accountability and transparency, but she does not elaborate.
Considering that the Sask Party has another chance at forming government within a year, one would have to figure that the problem isn't so much frustration with the opposition benches as concerns with the party itself. And when sitting MLAs are leaving on principle, that could be a prelude to voters doing the same.

Winners and losers

Apparently at least some people have reason to be happy about the U.S.' current economic situation, as increased corporate profits have helped to boost the stock market:
U.S. stocks rallied on Friday, with the Dow and the Nasdaq each up 1 percent, as higher corporate profits, including those of bellwether Microsoft Corp. (MSFT.O: Quote, Profile, Research), overshadowed a government report showing slower-than-expected economic growth...
Which is good news for those with substantial share investments. But what about, well, everybody else?
Official figures from the Commerce Department this afternoon showed US economic growth slowed to its weakest annual rate in three years.

Growth for the quarter was estimated at just 1.1 pct, well below the 4.1 pct recorded in the third quarter and expectations of a much more modest slowdown to 2.7 pct...

The Federal Reserve will nevertheless be concerned by evidence of core inflation heating up. The core personal consumption expenditure price index -- which excludes food and energy prices -- rose at an annual rate of 2.2 pct, above the Fed's 1-2 pct target range.
To sum up: Americans generally are paying more that expected to produce less...but as long as the end result is higher corporate profits, nobody's apparently complaining. Or at the very least, nobody with reason to complain seems to be able to find a major media platform to do so.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Ralph unleashed

While he made a couple of embarrassing appearances during the election campaign, Ralph Klein was generally subdued in an effort to avoid torpedoing Harper's chance at government. But now, Klein won't keep silent any longer:
Premier Ralph Klein said his Tory caucus agreed unanimously on Thursday to move ahead with revised laws that would, among other things, allow people to buy private insurance for some procedures. Another of his government's so-called "third way" reforms would allow doctors to practise in both the public and private-health systems...

The provincial government has seven other, unspecified changes it plans to make. Klein admitted that some might violate the Canada Health Act...

To ease concerns during the federal election campaign about his party's agenda, Harper pledged to be a strong defender of the public health-care system.

The jury is still out on how receptive Harper will be to opening the door to more privatization, given his Conservative party's minority status.
It may not have been realistic to think Klein would let the issue stay dormant until the federal Cons were able to pull out a future majority. But the fact that Klein couldn't even wait a week after the election before claiming Harper as an ally in his crusade to tear down single-payer health care does nothing but to give tons of ammunition to the federal opposition parties, and to force into the limelight an issue that Harper would rather see ignored.

Imposing the message

There's been plenty of talk today about Frank McKenna's past anti-choice actions as Premier of New Brunswick. But while there's plenty of speculation about McKenna following the same strategy that PMPM used on same-sex marriage, some Liberals may be looking to tie McKenna's hands instead:
There is a consensus building within the (Liberal) party to have some sort of policy exercise before the leadership convention to replace Martin. But whether it will be a full-blown national convention or smaller ones held across the country is yet to be decided.

The best indication so far, is that the vote to replace Martin probably won't happen any earlier than November.
It strikes me as odd that the Libs would be looking at policy first rather than leadership. Surely if there's anybody in the party who's seen as having a vision worth implementing, the party would prefer to go through a leadership race first, rather than dictating what the next leader will have to say once chosen.

Which isn't to say there's no upside to such a move...assuming that the Libs are resigned to having a leader with serious policy baggage. The effort to come up with a policy platform first could help to inoculate the Libs against the obvious flaws of each of their leaders. From McKenna's anti-abortionism to Ignatieff's warmongering and validation of torture, there's plenty about the Libs' potential leaders that the party will want to suppress - and putting words in the mouth of whoever takes over next could be one way for the party to claim that any public concerns are outdated.

But then, the talk seems to speak more of the Libs' lack of trust in their potential leaders than of anything positive about the party. And if the Lib party apparatus has that little trust that their next leader will be in tune with Canadian values, it's hard to see why voters should believe the next Liberal leader any more than the last one.

Arctic chill

Ambassador David Wilkins makes it clear that anybody expecting the Cons' platform to improve Canada/U.S. relations is headed for disappointment - and Harper will get to decide between pleasing Bushco or defending Canadian territory:
The United States opposes a plan by prime minister-designate Stephen Harper to deploy military icebreakers in the Arctic in order to assert Canadian sovereignty, says the U.S. ambassador to Canada.

"There's no reason to create a problem that doesn't exist," David Wilkins said Wednesday as he took part in a forum at the University of Western Ontario in London.

"We don't recognize Canada's claims to those waters... Most other countries do not recognize their claim."

During the election campaign, which culminated with Harper's win this week, the Conservatives promised to spend $5.3 billion over five years to defend northern waters against the Americans, Russians and Danes.
Now, the promise to defend the Arctic isn't apparently a priority issue for the Cons, which offers a ready excuse to avoid doing anything. But I'd fully expect the opposition parties in Parliament to be all over any delay in action - and to be willing to work with Harper to make sure that Canada is doing its utmost to supervise its own territory.

With Wilkins ensuring the issue into the public eye, we should expect a quick response from Harper as to which parts of his platform he really meant, and which ones will be forgotten on instructions from Washington. The question of Arctic defence will offer the first real test as to whether Harper really plans to "stand up for Canada", or whether he'll accept the U.S.' word that Canadian sovereignty is a non-issue.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Making progress

Good news for Regina residents, as the auto theft prevention strategy put in place a few years ago is producing huge results:
Auto thefts are down by 44 per cent in Regina, a city that earlier in the decade had the dubious distinction of being Canada's car theft capital.

While there were around 3,800 motor vehicles stolen in 2001, in 2005 the number had dropped to about 2,100.

Police attribute that to the Regina Auto Theft Strategy, a policy the Saskatchewan government, the City of Regina and the Regina police department introduced four years ago. The program takes the approach that although thousands of cars were being stolen every year, the majority of the crimes are being committed by a relatively small group of repeat offenders.

The plan includes curfew checks and electronic monitoring for those repeat offenders. It also prepares offenders for work once they're released from custody.
The program helps to demonstrate that while added punishment may not have any effect, a combination of stronger monitoring and positive options for offenders can work wonders in reducing crime. There's still a long ways to go yet, but at the moment Regina is setting the standard in how to deal with car theft. And the lesson is one that shouldn't be ignored when it comes to dealing with other crimes as well.

Contempt of public

Ethics Commissioner Bernard Shapiro's report on the Grewal taping scandal gives rise to some shocking circumstances - but the shock has nothing to do with the facts found by Shapiro, which are basically as expected. From Shapiro's press release about the report:
The report was, in fact, ready for release last Friday, January 20, 2006, pursuant to our normal practice of releasing inquiry reports as soon as they are available. In this case, however, I decided that the report should be released shortly after the federal election had been held, so that my Office would:
- avoid any perception that, on the last day of a volatile electoral campaign, the Office of the Ethics Commissioner deliberately released an inquiry report that contained comments on individuals who were involved in the electoral process; and
- ensure that the report would be considered on its own merit, rather than being used as an electoral spin, and possibly be labeled as a tool for unjustified interference in an ongoing democratic process in which Canadians were engaged.
Let's translate this into plain English. As of last Friday, Shapiro had completed his neutral, non-partisan report into the facts surrounding the Grewal affair. Rather than letting that report be made public according to the normal procedure, he unilaterally decided that the facts shouldn't intrude on the ongoing election campaign, and that instead Canadians should go to the polls with a less than complete picture of the actions of members of two of the parties running for office.

In light of some of the rhetoric surrounding the income trust investigation, I won't be surprised if Lib supporters use Wilson's decision as a model for what the RCMP should have done - suppress the issue until after the campaign is over with, at which time the public can be allowed to know what's going on with its elected officials. But to me, that's the wrong position. Instead, the RCMP handled its side of the bargain properly by ensuring that the public was informed of the facts.

In contrast, an officer appointed by Parliament went out of his way to hide the truth behind the actions of two members of that Parliament, for fear that the public couldn't be trusted with the truth in an election campaign. And in my view, that precedent does nothing but to "(weaken) the public's trust and confidence" in an office which is supposed to keep Parliamentarians honest.

Continued inertia

CBC reports that at least one U.S. environmental group, the Natural Resources Defence Council, doesn't figure the Cons will do any worse in power than the Libs would have. Given that the Cons didn't even care enough during the campaign to bother answering Greenpeace's election survey, that has to speak volumes about the Libs' habit of putting talk over action.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

One step back

The CP notes that Marilyn Churley's run in the federal election campaign may result in the Ontario NDP losing official party status:
The NDP lost its eighth member, Marilyn Churley, when she resigned last fall to run in the federal election...

Premier Dalton McGuinty says if the NDP doesn't win one of those ridings the party will lose its party status because — with only seven members — they'll be one short of the requirement.
It helps to have three chances at winning a seat in order to keep the official party designation. But even so, the potential to fall below official status in Ontario, along with the fact that Churley and some other high-profile candidates were't able to turn their recognition into seats in Parliament, indicates that the NDP has plenty of building left to do on all levels. One battle may have ended with some noteworthy gains last night, but the war for long-term influence in Canadian politics isn't getting easier.

On difficult choices

The Cons have their work cut out for them in trying to be seen as anything other than the Bloc's fondest wish - and Gilles Duceppe is only making the job harder:
Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe said the burden of proof is on Conservative leader Stephen Harper to make good on his promises.

Speaking in Montreal Tuesday, Duceppe said he expects Harper to give Quebec a bigger role on the international stage and to solve the so-called fiscal imbalance between the provinces and the federal government -- a major issue for Quebec.

The Bloc leader also said he wanted to remind Harper that the Bloc holds the balance of power.
The Cons are currently doing everything in their power to kick any discussion of equalization well into the future. But it's clear that Duceppe isn't going to take that for an answer...and that the Cons will face a choice between alienating a good chunk of its newfound support in Quebec, or being seen to give into the wishes of the Bloc when it comes to federalism (not to mention having to deal with a thorny issue generally). Best of luck to PMSH, as it looks like he's going to need it.

Promise and pitfalls

Even with the party falling just short of the balance of power, there's still plenty of opportunity for the NDP depending how the next Parliament shakes out. While both other major national parties will have to deal with significant internal divisions, the NDP alone looks like it'll have an easy time staying united...leaving only the perennial question of how to gain some attention for what the NDP accomplishes.

For the Cons, the major challenge will of course be to govern moderately without offending the party's base. The minority may provide an acceptable excuse for caution to some, but surely there are plenty of people within the party who will demand quick action to radically reshape the political scene while the opportunity is there. And while there's also a clear opportunity to win over voters in the longer term by governing moderately, a desire for rapid change could leave Harper fighting just as much opposition within his own caucus as outside it.

For the Libs, the upcoming leadership race should be extremely interesting with nobody now looking like a particularly good bet to walk away the winner. It'll be an opportunity to win back some of the Chretienite supporters who bled away to the Cons - but also a chance for the contenders to create new rivalries and grudges. The Libs could either unite quickly or fragment in a hurry, and a lot of egos will have to be held in check to avoid the latter outcome.

As for the NDP, there really isn't any comparable potential for internal difficulties. But there's also little more to prove in the party's current state: it should already be obvious that the NDP can get plenty done with a relatively small allotment of seats, so nothing the party does now is likely to be perceived as exceeding expectations. Most of the upside looks to come from the potential for the Cons and Libs to run into internal divisions - and while that offers some hope for the Dippers, it's frustrating to once again see so much of the NDP's future out of its own hands.

Monday, January 23, 2006

So close yet again?

The numbers have been bouncing back and forth all night, but right now it's looking like the NDP is once again just short of the balance of power, pending some BC results. And on a personal level, it's particularly sad to see so many strong Saskatchewan candidates (Nystrom, Dusel, Wiebe, Mason, Kossick and Kovatch among others) running strong second places even as the party is apparently shut out again in the province.

There's still time for a few seats to turn around - and there's little doubt that the party has made plenty of progress since 2004. But unless there is a change in the BC numbers, it looks like it'll be all too easy for Harper to repeat Martin's "two seats short of being able to demand anything" line in the next Parliament.

On curing what ails one

It's been a bad day for Buzz Hargrove so far. But apparently a bit more media attention will make it all better.

On losing one's troops

I'm not quite sure how this went largely unreported until today. But suffice it to say that Gilles Savard's campaign manager was just the tip of the iceberg:
Dozens, possibly hundreds, of supporters of former Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien have been quietly working in this election against the party they backed for years, fuelling the Conservatives' campaign in many parts of Quebec.

While a few have been willing to come forward and talk about why they switched allegiance - at least for this election - many others prefer to work in the shadows, bringing the knowledge and talents they honed for years as Liberal organizers to bear for Stephen Harper's Tories...

"If I base it on what is happening here, I would say there are hundreds of people." (a former Liberal MNA) said he recognized dozens of former Liberal organizers at a recent rally for Harper in Montreal. "Liberal organizers, we know each other and we talk," he said. "They were there to take the pulse and offer their services."

Lorraine Dery, a veteran Liberal organizer in the Quebec City-area riding of Louis-Saint-Laurent and a former member of its riding executive, estimates at least half the Liberal organizers in the riding, or about 50 people, have moved to the Tories.
While PMPM's message during the campaign never changed from "stop Harper at all costs", surely it's worth a mention that Martin's leadership of the Libs has handed Harper an election machine in Quebec - and in all probability the keys to 24 Sussex as a result.

If this is Martin's idea of "fighting the Conservatives", then Canada has had about all the Conservative-fighting it can take. Fortunately, voters have a chance today to decide who they most want fighting the battle - and it looks like a good number will choose the general who hasn't handed half his army to the opponents.

Nothing but blue skies

The Globe and Mail notes that today's weather should be unusually calm and warm for winter, which should in turn make it far easier than expected for parties to get out the vote:
"There's an expression used in the weather office where we say, 'There is no weather today,' " David Phillips, senior climatologist with Environment Canada, said in a telephone interview yesterday.

"Essentially, election day will be as close as you could have to a no-weather day across the country."

Environment Canada will likely have no weather warnings out on voting day, which is highly unusual for the dead of winter in a country as large as Canada, he said...

As Mr. Phillips put it: "People clearly will not be able to use weather as an excuse [not to vote]."
With the climate not apparently playing a role in influencing who can and can't get to the polls, it's all down to the parties' effectiveness at getting out the vote. We'll find out soon who's best able to get that job done.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Still the positive choice

For all the talk of strategy and polls (and there's certainly been plenty from this corner since the campaign began), the ultimate question still has to be that of which party best reflects one's values. So let's take a look at how the NDP has addressed some of the concerns of Canadian voters.

Worried that the need for better care for seniors has been neglected so far in the campaign? Look no further than the NDP's platform, which features an expanded caregivers program as well as investments in home care and long-term care.

Concerned that womens' issues have received short shrift? In addition to having more female candidates than any other party, the NDP has a sound set of policies to help move toward gender equality.

Wondering if anybody is standing up for Canadian culture? The NDP has that covered as well, with better support for artists as well as measures to make sure that Canada keeps ownership of its own culture industries.

I'd continue, but I'm sure you get the idea.

Of course, the tone of campaign coverage has characteristically been based largely on the personal actions and foibles of the politicians involved. And the NDP has done nothing but improve its standing with the public in that arena as well.

But for Canadians wondering whether the federal parties care about the same priorities as they do, the odds are that they'll find a positive answer in the NDP. And if any significant fraction of the voters who want to see these issues addressed vote accordingly, the NDP will be able to ensure that those voices are heard and those views are reflected in the next Parliament.

And getting closer

SES has the results from the last daily poll of the campaign - and there's lots to like. The NDP is at 22.2% of all voters and climbing, and has even better numbers (23.3%) among "very likely voters". Meanwhile, Layton is within 11 points of both Harper and Martin in the PM index, and has taken a strong first place among the leaders on trust.

Never mind the NDP needing any more momentum - even at those numbers we're likely looking at the party's best result ever. And now that it's clear that voters aren't abandoning the NDP late in the game, the strategic voting admonitions will ring all the more hollow.

So close

There seems to be little doubt that the NDP is picking up momentum going into election day. But the Star's Kenneth Kidd points out that it won't take much more movement for the NDP to achieve unprecedented results tomorrow:
It wouldn't take a lot of votes to give the party its long-cherished breakthrough on the road to replacing the Liberals as an alternative to the Conservatives. Unlike the other parties, the NDP doesn't need a huge jump in the popular vote before it starts raining MPs.

That's because NDP support tends to be concentrated in parts of Ontario, a swath of British Columbia, and chunks of Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Or, as (Jamey) Heath puts it: "If you want to vote NDP, chances are really good that your neighbours do, too."...

(In the NDP's best-case scenario), the Conservatives, though still out front, slip in the polls to something like 34 per cent on election day, and the Liberals fail to gain, sticking at 26 per cent. And the NDP? Well, if Layton's strategy works, the New Democrats clock in between 19 and 22 per cent...

The Conservatives would end up with a minority government of 134 or so seats, followed by the Bloc with around 67. And the NDP and Liberals? In a dead heat, each with 50-something seats. That would put the New Democrats tantalizingly close to doing what the Labour party did in Britain in the 1930s: supplant the Liberals as the natural alternative to the Conservatives.
Obviously those numbers would require most of the NDP's serious challenges to go Layton's way. But unlike PMPM's apparent best-case of finding some way to cling to power by shifting the polls by 10 points in a day, they're at least a reasonable possibility given the current trends. And these numbers would leave the Bloc with nowhere to go but down, Harper with no chance of pushing a neocon agenda through a minority Parliament, and the NDP with an extremely strong position both to set the agenda in the next Parliament, and to make a run at government an election down the road.

We're not far from what could be the NDP's best-ever outcome in terms of both seats and long-term policy implications. All the NDP needs now is for its natural voters to remember their justified concern about PMPM's trustworthiness, and to cast their votes for the party which can be believed when it talks about progressive values.


On Question Period, John Duffy tried to defend the Libs' chances of winning government by mentioning the infamous "Dewey Defeats Truman" headline as evidence of the media's tendency to be overly confident in its perception of election results. In response, Craig Oliver noted that last time he heard that message, it was from Walter Mondale in 1984. And that can't be a precedent the Libs want to see followed this time out.

Meanwhile, one of the underlying themes of the show was discussion about the NDP's gains in the last week as both the Lib and Con votes have stagnated. The message about NDP momentum is out there - we'll now just need to see if it can carry over to election day.

Fighting on

While Liberals are giving up before Canadians' ballots are even cast...
Liberal volunteers, organizers and even MPs are admitting certain defeat tomorrow night at the hands of Stephen Harper's Conservatives barring an 11th hour change of heart by Canadian voters...

"I wish we were going to win, but we are going to lose," said a long-time Liberal organizer working in Toronto who has booked a vacation to a sunny spot next week to lift his spirits. "I wish we could pick up just enough seats to pull it off."...

An MP of 18 years said there's little hope the tide will swing in his party's favour by tomorrow, but he's convinced he'll win his GTA seat...

A Liberal minister's senior aide predicted voters will hand the Tories a slim five- to 10-seat advantage in the Commons, and if southwest Ontario goes blue, then other ridings are sure to follow.

The aide said there's a silver lining to defeat, pointing out a small minority would make Harper vulnerable to defeat on his first budget vote and see a likely Grit comeback.
...the NDP soldiers on as the one party not willing to concede an inch to Harper and company:
Appearing Sunday morning in Hamilton, where the NDP holds one seat, Layton positioned the party as one that would defend the environment, health care and foreign policy in Parliament from Conservative policies...

The Conservatives expect tax cuts will fix Canada's problems, but that's not right. The tax cuts will give dimes to people but dollars to banks and oil companies, Layton asserted.

"Working families are tired of being at the back of the line when they deserve to be at the front of the line," he said.
There shouldn't be much doubt left as to which party is doing its utmost to show Canadians how Harper's values differ from their own - and which one is giving up the fight in hope that the next election will be different.