Friday, September 11, 2009

On making connections

In a comment on my post a couple of weeks back discussing the Saskatchewan NDP's new (and continuing) focus on linking to blog posts as part of its communication strategy, Garry Aldridge mentioned a few more ideas currently in the works and asked for further suggestions as to how to use the party's website to get more people involved:
We are looking at providing an online 'Your Issues' section where Party Members or Concerned Citizens could identify issues large or small that they would like to see NDP MLAs speak to more forcefully in the future.

We hope this would encourage everything from discussion of province-wide issues like Green Energy expansion to local issues such as problems with a local highway or government program cuts in a particular community.

To me, the problem with this or similar methods of two-way communication is not controlling the content; it is ensuring enough people know about the opportunity to generate a variety of content that will bring others back on a regular basis.

We would welcome your thoughts.
With that in mind, I'll take some time to discuss in some detail what model I'd most like to see from the Saskatchewan NDP's website (and encourage both critiques of my suggestions and additional ideas in comments).

I'll start by noting what the NDP is doing very well at the moment. The caucus website is both well-designed and steadily updated, with new content generated by the party most working days to reward frequent visitors (and passed along through Facebook and Twitter as well as through web updates). Meanwhile, past content is readily available through easily-navigated archives, while the new focus on blogs at least sends viewers to one available forum to discuss the issues being raised by the party.

That said, there are a few key areas where I'd think there's ample room for improvement, with varying degrees of effort required to carry them out.

Content Generation

Again, the provincial caucus already does well in this department. But that can only go so far in building a platform for member involvement (particularly when the provincial caucus' messages end up primarily being disseminated through a website which doesn't allow for comments).

Fortunately, this would seem to be a relatively easy issue to fix. I'd have to figure that riding associations, candidates and members generally are likely interested in ways to get their message out just as the party is interested in developing more widespread involvement. So it would seem to be a natural step to make a concerted effort to have as many Saskatchewan NDP voices making regular appearances on social media such as Facebook and Twitter as possible - maybe ensuring that all AGMs and nomination meetings are announced on Facebook and setting a target of at least one tweet each week from each MLA/candidate/riding association on a common hashtag, and encouraging additional involvement beyond that.

The result would be to create sourcea which doesn't require party oversight where interested readers can get a far better idea what's happening with the party province-wide than would be possible through a centralized medium - and hopefully an increase in discussion about the party to match the increase in messaging from it.

Content Distribution

While increased involvement on existing social media sites may be the low-hanging fruit in building the Saskatchewan NDP's online presence, however, I'd think the real aspiration should be to make the site into something of a social media site of its own.

On the minimalist side, that might involve setting up a regular roundup of NDP-friendly blog posts, media articles and other content from around the province, with a focus on directing traffic toward sources which don't often get picked up by major media sources (or even by bloggers who aren't in the habit of combing through local papers). That could easily build on the current effort to direct traffic to blogs - but would ideally involve both a regular time interval to reward repeat visitors (I'd hope at least daily), and a slightly broader focus than the current blog strategy.

The result would be to set up the NDP's website as an aggregator as well as a delivery point for its own content. And an effort to make the NDP into a leading source of Saskatchewan news generally strikes me as the most promising possible step in securing additional traffic.

After all, the NDP's site as it stands will only tend to attract readers whose purpose is to seek out information which originates with the party. Which inherently limits the number of people who are likely to visit.

But that could change in a hurry if the NDP is seen to offer the best available roundup of news of interest to supporters - or indeed anybody wanting to stay informed about Saskatchewan politics. And I'm not sure the goal would all that difficult to reach given the dearth of current Saskatchewan-based aggregators.

Presumably the province's local papers would be interested in alerting the NDP to their own content in order to increase their own reach. But even if not, I'd have to figure the NDP is already working to monitor its own media coverage - and surely that effort can be harnessed for the additional purpose of allowing the NDP to point website viewers toward articles of interest.

If the party wants to be even more ambitious, the step up from merely providing roundup-style lists of links to both news sources and specific posts/article would be to set up a constant stream of dynamic content through the NDP's site. Which brings us to...


Not surprisingly, the last point of concern is that of allowing for user involvement in the site. I've made the case for allowing for discussion through on-site comments before and won't belabour the point now; however, I would think that users will likely be more interested in having their comments seen and discussed by the public on the site than in simply submitting issues to the party without an obvious indication that there will be any follow-up.

That can be taken a step further by making use of wikis to develop party policies and documents. I'd hope to see that implemented for the upcoming policy review, with members receiving access to draft documents and having the opportunity to make edits to be approved or rejected by other party members on the site, and in turn by the full membership at the ensuing policy convention. (Given the attention which the policy review process is bound to receive, this would seem to be an ideal opportunity to get people signed up and involved in an ongoing discussion.)

But let's take the idea of interactivity further yet, and note the potential to turn the Saskatchewan NDP's site into a web portal and social networking site. For now, I'd suggest examining whether it's feasible to add:
- a list of RSS, Twitter and other feeds related to Saskatchewan politics, with a mechanism to check or uncheck each based on user preferences and display dynamic updates;
- messaging, scheduling and content-posting capability for members/users; and
- regular online interaction between MLAs/candidates and both members/users and the general public.

In effect, the goal would be to go beyond merely establishing the NDP's site as a news source, and instead position it as a start page for members and users by putting more of what's of interest to Saskatchewan NDP members in one place than they can find (or at least find easily) on any other site.

Of course, the downside of going to the effort of putting together a site along those lines is that people might well prefer to use other platforms, resulting in the effort creating capability which ultimately goes unused. But the potential to have the eyes of thousands of Saskatchewan citizens looking to the NDP as a primary source of news, information and online networking would seem to be more than worth the work involved.


Needless to say, I wouldn't see any one of the above options being exclusive of the others. And indeed it's not hard to see how they could reinforce each other: a tweet from a rural riding about an article which might otherwise get missed can serve as the spur to have it included in a roundup, which then gives rise to a lively discussion on the NDP's site and elsewhere. And I'm sure there are plenty of other ways to fit the above in with other ideas to improve the NDP's online presence.

In closing, though, I'll note why it is that I'd see the NDP as being the right entity to go to the trouble of putting together a site which could in theory be assembled by any number of actors.

Simply put, the NDP more than any other group, cause or institution in Saskatchewan possesses both the need and the ability to ensure that the province's citizens are well-informed and engaged in the political scene.

Looking at the other actors who could try to beat the NDP to the punch:
- the corporate media within Saskatchewan is able to see its online presence as merely another format in which to release the content it's producing anyway, and doesn't have any interest in promoting competing media;
- the Saskatchewan Party would have similar capacity, but can rely on corporate funding to try to blast its message out to the people of the province around election time, and indeed is probably best served if there isn't too much attention to what it does in the meantime;
- any individual or group with less than a province-wide base of operations will face comparative difficulties in trying to assemble enough content and reach enough people to make a web portal viable;
- any business looking to justify the development of a site on the basis of cash returns alone will have less relative incentive than a political party which can look at membership numbers, volunteerism and votes as sufficiently positive outcomes to justify operating a site without obvious financial returns (though improved party fund-raising too could well be another result if a site meets its full potential).

As a result, I'd suggest that the NDP should be taking up the opportunity to turn its website into more than just a conduit for immediate party messages (and the supporters' messages which have just started to receive attention). And the benefits of that effort could help to restore the NDP to its place on the cutting edge of citizens' involvement in their party and their province.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Light blogging ahead

This space will be fairly quiet for the next couple of days. But keep an eye out for some bonus liveblogging on Sunday.

The worst-laid plans

Shorter Jim Flaherty:

What follows is my plan to get Canada out of deficit.
(five minutes of dead silence)
Thank you for listening to my plan to get Canada out of deficit. In conclusion, we must stay the course, because my opponents have no plan to get Canada out of deficit.

The big picture

MIchael Ignatieff looks to have taken a bit more of Robert Silver's counterproductive advice than would have been ideal. But due credit for him for not biting on all of Stephen Harper's bait (at least based on a couple of tweets from his press conference this morning):
DanGoodchild @M_Ignatieff: "The BQ are my adversaries, but they're not my enemies."
JeffJedras @m_ignatieff: I don't think there's been a socialist in the NDP for 30 years, so let's all relax here.
The common thread between those two comments is that rather than echoing Harper's message that Canadians should be scared of the NDP or the Bloc, Ignatieff is focusing on a contrast with Harper while showing basic respect for his other competitors. Which looks to make for a necessary first step in avoiding an obvious trap set by the Cons.

If Ignatieff had taken the bait and echoed Harper's rhetoric, the results would operate almost entirely to the Cons' benefit. The most obvious effect would be to take Ignatieff's time and focus away from criticizing the Cons to attack the other parties in Parliament: every time the Cons raised the coalition possibility, he'd effectively have to respond with a reflexive bashing of the other opposition parties, and they'd of course end up having to respond in kind. The result would be to help out the Cons by bolstering their dichotomy of "scary-Bloc/NDP-supported government" and "Con majority government": with the Libs busy doing the Cons' legwork in taking potshots at the other parties, the Cons would be free to work on polishing up their own image just enough to sneak into majority territory.

And as for the Libs' hopes of escaping any prospect of a coalition with a sufficient degree of Bloc- and NDP-bashing? After Dion's ill-advised declaration that he wouldn't seek a coalition in the last campaign, the Libs probably won't and can't be taken seriously in claiming that they'd never consider the possibility. And that leads in turn to the area where Ignatieff still has some room for improvement.

I'll grant that it might not be a bad idea to try to portray Ignatieff's decision to nix the most recent coalition as an example to counteract the Cons' "he wants power at all costs" criticism. But I'd think for the future, Ignatieff is better off portraying himself as open to a coalition under the right circumstances. After all, what better example could there be of the difference between a "big", nationally-interested philosophy and a "small", narrowly-partisan one than a Prime Minister who considers the possibility of cross-party cooperation to be a scare tactic rather than a goal to be pursued?

Update: Greg (twice) and pogge have more based on today's more explicit anti-coalition message from Ignatieff.

(Edit: fixed wording.)

Nine. Freaking. Days. (With no public input.)

Today's news about the Sask Party's plan to allow for virtually no discussion about Saskatchewan's energy future doesn't come as much surprise. But it's worth comparing the Wall government's rush to push toward nuclear power with the amount of time it's taken for virtually everything else it's done - and especially the time frames involved for the Sask Party's preferred option.

This spring, the Sask Party claimed to need at least the summer to figure out how to word a bill on the proceeds of recollections of crime - even though the law could have been cut and pasted from one already passed in Manitoba.

But when it comes to evaluating the full range of energy options which will drive Saskatchewan's economy for the next 60 years, they claim the province should settle for Nine. Freaking. Days. With no public input.

Last fall, the Sask Party gave its Uranium Development Partnership five months to produce a creative writing assignment on Why Saskatchewan's Taxpayers Should Make Me Rich. And in its report, the UDP assumed away the bulk of Saskatchewan's best energy options - yet still had no choice but to admit that even under the most optimistic of cost projections, some power sources would still be more cost-effective than nuclear.

Now, the Wall government wants to gloss over everything the UDP missed, ignored and omitted in Nine. Freaking. Days. With no public input.

The time frame for the construction of a nuclear reactor is approximately 10 years - though of course one wouldn't want to bank on its being completed on time. The time frame for the operation of a nuclear plant is approximately 50 years - a number which too tends to be extended as provinces accept increased risk once a facility is actually built in order to wring a few more years out of its life span. And the time frame for the waste produced by a nuclear plant is in the hundreds of thousands of years.

And the Wall government wants to evaluate and summarily rule out all other options in Nine. Freaking. Days. With no public input.

Even the NDP's proposal for a consultation process lasting through next spring itself seems to fall short of completely making up for the head start which the Sask Party has given to the nuclear industry: for actual fairness, one would want to see other sources of power given the same type of funding which the Sask Party funnelled to the nuclear industry to make its case. That said, the NDP's timeline would at least seem to be a reasonable compromise to make sure that proponents of other types of power have some meaningful chance to make their case to Saskatchewan's public.

But Wall is apparently scared to death that any real conversation on power sources will lead to the conclusion that nuclear isn't the way to go. Which would seem to be the only plausible explanation for his decision to cut off discussion at Nine. Freaking. Days. With no public input.

Deep thought

This could easily have been avoided if the Portrait Gallery of Canada had just gone along with the Cons' plan to make Stephen Harper the focal point of every picture.

Burning questions

A couple of quick questions about Keith Martin's bizarre position on the HST.

Has there ever been any threat by the Cons to pull back their pay-off to provinces who go along with the plan to tax businesses less and individuals more? (Keep in mind that they had allocated $5 billion for HST pay-offs two years ago, long before anybody had taken them up on the offer.)

And even if Martin was right to wonder whether the Cons might get cold feet about harmonization, is it a meaningful critique of a bribe to express concern that it might get taken off the table?

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Just wondering...

...but isn't the most surprising part of Stephen Harper's leaked speech less the fact that he's demanding a majority to eliminate the already-limited checks on his power, and more the fact that the man who has set Canadian records for Senate pork and budget deficits has the gall to seek applause from his less-informed supporters by claiming to be fighting both?

No slant here, nosiree

Following up on this post, Macleans offers up Exhibit A as to how the media is working to ensure public disinterest in an election campaign. (At least, assuming this isn't followed by a "what's the biggest upside to a federal election?" poll - and I'm not holding my breath on that one.)

(Edit: fixed wording.)

The fight against apathy

At least somewhat of a blame game is bound to result when a federal election is caused by the opposition parties voting down a minority government. And all of the parties have done their best to try to deflect that responsibility elsewhere. But it's worth noting that while the opposition parties may each want to avoid being held responsible for an election, they also have a strong collective incentive not to do so in a way which deflates voter interest or validates the idea that Canadians should be fatigued or angry about the prospect of an election.

As the conventional wisdom goes, it tends to be high-turnout elections that result in a change of government - which presumably all of the opposition parties would like to see following the next trip to the polls. And that theory goes doubly where the current governing party has relied on transparently cultivating voter apathy and cynicism to try to eke out a majority government where an engaged population would want nothing of the sort.

Unfortunately, each of the opposition parties (yes, including the NDP) has at times fallen into the trap of suggesting at least implicitly that Canadians should see an election campaign as a source of frustration rather than an opportunity for change. But I'll suggest that while there may not be any agreement as to how the votes from newly-engaged citizens should shake out in the end, it's best for everybody concerned other than the Cons if the opposition parties regularly discuss the importance of taking interest in an election rather than suggesting that there's reason to tune out.

Edit: Or put another way, this is bad.

On rejected opportunities

Despite receiving relatively little public attention, a new initiative called Save Our Saskatchewan Crowns has been piling up supporters over the last little while. And now we've received an obvious reminder of why that effort is needed, as the Sask Party's anti-Crown ideology is resulting in its telling the Saskatchewan Transportation Company not to even look at taking up profitable bus routes which may be abandoned by Greyhound:
With Greyhound Canada planning to cut service in Manitoba and northern Ontario and reviewing operations in Saskatchewan and Alberta, the NDP’s Ron Harper sees a chance for the provincially-owned bus company to cash in.

“The real issue here is an opportunity for STC to expand its services to pick up those routes that are abandoned by Greyhound that are very lucrative,” said Harper, mentioning as examples the Winnipeg-to-Edmonton or Winnipeg-to-Calgary routes and not the unprofitable rural routes that are at the root of Greyhound’s plans.

The revenue from such operations between large centres could be enough to potentially eliminate the government’s annual operating subsidy for STC, which hit $7.8 million this year, said Harper.

But Jim Reiter, appointed in May as the Saskatchewan Party government’s minister responsible for STC, slammed the brakes on the idea.

He said the notion was “hypothetical” and that even if Greyhound goes through with its threat to cut services, other private companies may step in to fill the void.
The NDP said the government is being blinded by ideology and at the least has a responsibility to examine the potential of STC expansion before dismissing it out of hand.
Now, it would seem obvious to me that anybody who wanted STC to be operated as a viable business would be looking to ask questions along the lines of, what routes is Greyhound abandoning? Who else might take them up? Is STC in the best position to do so? Can STC make a profit for itself by doing so?

Of course, one could reasonably argue that it's worth being fairly risk-averse in reaching the answers. But it would seem to reflect nothing short of wilful blindness to refuse to even ask the questions.

Predictably, though, the Sask Party isn't the least bit interested in any cost-benefit analysis as to how STC can run its business better by taking on out-of-province routes - meaning that both travellers who might benefit from STC's offering a choice and Saskatchewan citizens who would stand to benefit from any STC profits will end up missing out on that opportunity. And while that might be a great result for a private operator who might be able to make more money off the routes than it could if STC was allowed to act as a functioning business, it's hard to see how the Sask Party's ideology is doing anything but placing Saskatchewan's interests last behind those of businesses outside the province.

Revenge of the Nervous Nellies

Ever since they decided to start acting like an opposition last week, the Libs have largely managed to suppress any public doubts within their own party as to whether they're more comfortable returning to their traditional role propping up the Harper Cons. But John Ivison column features what looks to be the first major wave of internal backlash:
(M)any members of the caucus have come down with a bad case of cold feet since Mr. Ignatieff announced last week his decision to bring down the government at the first opportunity. Speaking privately to a number of MPs and backroom Liberals yesterday, many professed extreme disquiet at Mr. Ignatieff's strategy.

One MP said the mood at the caucus meeting in Sudbury was "near unanimous" against a fall election. Yet, less than an hour after caucus had debated the issue, the Liberal leader emerged to hand down his decision.

"We might as well have stayed in bed," said the MP.

Another Liberal said Mr. Ignatieff should have explained to Canadians why the Conservatives have to go, and why the Liberals deserve to replace them, before saying he intends to bring down the government.

"I'm waiting for Mr. Ignatieff to make that case. The cart is before the horse," he said. "We need to provide a compelling road map."

The MP said it is not too late to pull back from the edge. "If the membership and the public clamour loudly that this is not what we need at this point, cooler heads may prevail. If not, we risk a significant backlash over spending $300-million on an election at a time when the country can't afford it -- a backlash that could push the Conservatives into majority territory."
Mind you, it'll be another step for Libs to start attaching their names to further attempts to back down. But all indications are that at least some of Ignatieff's troops are trying to push for yet another retreat - and there can't be much doubt that the Libs' ability to go into battle will suffer for that fact.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

On special treatment

Linda McQuaig's column on the federal government's disinterest in collecting taxes hidden from Canadian authorities in offshore bank accounts is definitely worth a read. But it's worth noting that the media generally would seem to play a role in keeping the phenomenon out of sight: for all the ink and air time used on violent crimes, how often do tax evasion and other white-collar crimes even get reported when they doesn't involve either a previous celebrity or a completely gutted financial empire?

HST Shocker!!!

Unless Stockwell Day is flat-out lying to his constituents as to who's been pushing for tax harmonization, the B.C. government has been requesting "resources" to move toward an HST from the moment the Cons first took power, including ghost-writing portions of the Cons' budgets and demanding an HST trust fund!!!

And we know Stockwell would never be anything short of completely forthright and open about his government's actions, don't we?

(h/t to BigCityLib.)

We've been here before

It's perhaps not surprising that much of the Libs' current attempt to rebuild their image is based on trying to recreate the dynamics which swept them to power in 1993. But as Michael Ignatieff tries to connect the current situation to what happened then, it's worth pointing out that plenty of the points of comparison are less than flattering to the Libs.

In 1993, the Libs campaigned against a highly unpopular tax pushed by the federal government. But of course, they did absolutely nothing to change it once they took power.

In 1993, the Libs promised not to cut social transfers to the provinces in their effort to balance the budget. Two years later, the provinces found out just what the Libs' word was worth.

In 1993, the Libs tried to paint themselves as green by promising a 20% cut in greenhouse gas emissions. When they lost power over twelve years and three majority governments later, they still hadn't developed a plan to get that done - or even to meet the less ambitious targets they committed to by signing on to the Kyoto Protocol.

In 1993, the Libs promised a national child care program. When they lost the 2006 election, they managed to convince themselves that they'd have pulled it off if only they'd had two more months to work with, rather than taking any responsibility for breaking their promise during the decade-plus in between.

Of course, even now the Libs have made it clear that they're happy to go years at a time doing something other than what they were elected to do. So the real message to be taken from the Libs' belief that it's 1993 all over again is that their campaign promises don't figure to be worth the paper they're printed on.

Fortunately, there are plenty of other key differences which make it highly unlikely that a repeat of 1993 is in the works (which I'll deal with in a later post). But there shouldn't be any doubt that the Libs' effort to draw parallels between then and the present day ultimately represents reason to be skeptical about what they have to say.

On limited options

Denis Lessard reports on an impending Bloc ad campaign targeting both Stephen Harper and Michael Ignatieff as indistinguishable from each other, and focuses largely on what it may say about Gilles Duceppe's current confidence level. But it's worth wondering what impact that type of ad blitz might have among the federalist parties in Quebec:
Selon ce qu'a appris La Presse, la publicité du Bloc présentera côte à côte les photos de Stephen Harper et Michael Ignatieff. Une moitié de visage seulement, avec des images peu flatteuses. Le message martèlera que les deux hommes portent «le même regard» sur le Québec.

La publicité, qui sera aussi diffusée à la radio, assimilera les positions de MM. Harper et Ignatieff sur l'environnement, la TPS, la foresterie et même la «nation québécoise».
Now, it's not hard to see how the Bloc could see some significant potential in that strategy in weakening both the Cons and the Libs in Quebec.

But the list of issues is one where there's relatively little disagreement between the NDP and the Bloc - which means that to the extent the Bloc succeeds in painting Harper and Ignatieff as adverse to Quebec's interests on each point, it may only help to drive voters toward the federal leader whose popularity already outstrips that of his federalist competitors. And that may be particularly important given that the Bloc would seem to be severely narrowing the type of arrangement it can reasonably reach with Canada's national parties.

In the past, Duceppe has left some obvious potential for cooperation by focusing his party's attention on only one of its national competitors (attacking the Libs up to '06 and the Cons in '08). But the more time the Bloc spends declaring that both are entirely off base, the stronger the argument the NDP can mount to the effect that voters in Quebec and across the country need to put their support behind a governing alternative.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Your Labour Day message...

...from Sid Ryan:
Labour alone didn’t create Medicare, Canada Pension, Employment Insurance, the 40-hour workweek, child labour laws and minimum wages, pay equity and so many other cherished threads of our social fabric. A broad coalition of progressives from all walks of life -- including labour unions -- made a case to the public and our politicians that everyone deserved these reforms.

The issues, the means of communication and the tactics change and evolve with the times, but this model endures in small and big ways, across Ontario and beyond...

Looking forward, we must commit ourselves to joining with others who share that dream, so together we can lobby, cajole and push businesses and governments to act in the public’s interest, rather than their own. Together, we make the dream of secure, stable public pensions for all a reality. We can move forward on Kennedy’s dream of the world encapsulated by an earlier line in that famous speech. Humanity, he said, held in its mortal hands, “the power to abolish all forms of human poverty.”

Together with our friends -- civil society groups like the Council of Canadians, our fellow private and public-sector unions, progressively-minded politicians, political parties and ordinary women and men who aspire to a fairer, better world for everyone -- we have made and will continue to take action towards making that world a reality.

Individually, none of us has all the answers. Collectively, we possess many.

Just wondering...

In the wake of his government's choice to pay off Ontario and B.C. to increase taxes on their citizens, doesn't it seem that Stephen Harper is far less categorical about not raising taxes than he once was about not facing a recession or not going into deficit?

Mind you, I wouldn't object if the Cons were to radically change direction and actually start discussing different options rather than pre-emptively defining even the slightest hint of acknowledgment that rates can be adjusted in two different directions as evidence of a conspiracy to raise taxes to INFINITY PERCENT ON EVERYTHING. But absent any evidence that they plan to do that, it would seem fair to evaluate Harper by his own standards.

Yes we can.

Tyler photoshops. You view. And suggest the next steps - maybe turning the top half NDP orange rather than red to make the NDP connection more obvious?

Update: Ian has the remixed version.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Sunday Afternoon 'Rider Blogging

The Labour Day Classic today may have included plenty of room for improvement for the Saskatchewan Roughriders - and they probably didn't play as well as the final score would suggest. But the game nonetheless reflects both the continuation of one pattern which is serving the 'Riders well, as well as the apparent end of one of the team's consistent problems.

On offence, the story of the game was a superb start with two consecutive touchdown drives against a stiff wind in the first quarter. But after those first two possessions, the team returned to its usual inconsistency. Wes Cates was fairly productive throughout the game both on the ground and through the air - but after the first quarter the 'Riders' passing performance was otherwise littered with drops (particularly from the usually-reliable Weston Dressler), mis-timed routes and near-picks.

Naturally, part of the problem can be laid at the feet of Darien Durant's decision-making. But the more easily solved issue seemed to me to involve the 'Riders' pass protection schemes. Normally one of Durant's greatest strengths is his ability to escape pressure to make plays either on the ground or through the air - but in this game it didn't seem that he ever had an escape route other than straight backwards, which led to a number of throw-aways and forced passes rather than allowing for any positive results.

On defence, meanwhile, the 'Riders kept up their pattern of taking direct aim at the opponents' greatest strength and emerging victorious, this time by holding the league's leading rushing team to 37 yards on the ground (or less than a tenth of its previous performance against B.C.) without sacrificing the 'Riders' usual disruptive pass rush. About the only problem on the defensive side of the ball was an outbreak of weak tackling in the secondary which allowed Adarius Bowman and Terence Edwards to generate scads of yards after catches - which made Michael Bishop's yardage total look respectable even though his actual passing was atrocious through most of the game.

And then there are the special teams. The most obvious reason to be happy with those came in the form of a few respectable to solid returns by Jason Armstead, including a 37-yard kickoff return. But perhaps even more importantly than the ones where Armstead managed to generate significant yardage were his good decisions throughout the game, including conceding a single on the opening kickoff and not forcing plays toward the end when the benefit of trying for a big return would have far outweighed the risks of a turnover.

Not that Armstead's stay so far has been entirely without reason for concern. But if he can keep playing how he did today, the 'Riders would seem to have patched up their most glaring weakness - and particularly if the offence can connect on a few more of its near-misses, that should put them in great shape for the rest of the season.

Ad nauseum

The Libs' set of ads has already received more comment than it probably deserves, so I'll stick to a couple of short observations.

First, I can only assume the Libs' inexplicable giddiness about the ads is based on a plan to spend enough money blasting out the ads to make up for the fact that they don't have much to say on their face.

And second, it's worth noting just how much the party which has finally started publicly acknowledging the Harper Cons' view of politics is taking up the same philosophy for itself. In particular, the English ad looks to be based entirely on the blueprint from Harper's much-mocked blue sweater ads - suggesting that the Libs, like the Cons, are aiming for "inoffensive and vaguely positive" rather than trying to actually inspire anybody. But considering how eagerly the Libs' supporters are grasping at crumbs, it's not hard to see why they'd see that as a viable strategy.

On absolute requirements

Not surprisingly, I'm in agreement with the consensus view that the Cons' toxic trial balloon on greenhouse gas emissions is an utter joke. But while the "reverse NEP" line (reinforced by the explicitly different treatment of different industries in different provinces) may be an effective one, it's worth noting where the real problem lies.

As long as criticism focuses on differential treatment as opposed to the type of target, the Cons have another choice available to them: namely, putting "intensity" targets in place Canada-wide rather than for the tar sands alone. And that could actually result in a more painful adjustment for a lot of industries than the hard-cap alternative.

That's not because intensity targets reflect better environmental policy in general, but because they impose greater relative compliance costs on industries which can't realistically grow their way around the intensity target. And indeed for any business already looking at having to reduce production to weather the economic storm, an obligation to spend substantial money to reduce per-unit emissions at the same time could well be the last straw - making for a particularly unjust result for those industries which have been ahead of the curve in reducing emissions and thus don't have much low-hanging fruit to improve matters now.

Instead, the ultimate message needs to be a reminder that "intensity" targets themselves are a bad joke - a fact which is particularly obvious based on projections for the tar sands themselves, where they're expected to result in actual emissions increasing several times over. And the fact that the Cons insist on treating such illusory standards as a meaningful development in regulating the most emission-intensive industry in Canada rather than setting out absolute targets should be reason enough to laugh down their position.

(Edit: fixed wording.)