Saturday, March 31, 2012

On regional impacts

Back here, I pointed out the prairie numbers from Forum Research's poll about Canada's federal leaders as an indication that the NDP has plenty of opportunity to grow after electing Thomas Mulcair as leader. But Volkov points out the fact that the NDP's chances of making major gains in western Canada look even better based on Forum's party preference data:

That's right: at least one poll reflecting immediate reactions to Mulcair shows a 44-41 lead for the NDP in Manitoba and Saskatchewan which would flip a dozen seats from Con to NDP hands, along with 30%+ support for the NDP in every region of the country (including Alberta which would see three more seats go to the NDP).

Of course, the usual caveats about a single poll apply. But at the very least, there's little evidence that western voters see the NDP's direction under Mulcair as any less a plus than the rest of Canada. And if the Cons are indeed forced to play defence in the West, that should work wonders for the NDP's ability to win over voters in what looks to be the ultimate battleground of Ontario.

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- If there's any lesson we should all be able to draw from the past decade in Canadian politics, it's that anything can happen. But it's still rather amazing to see Gerald Caplan get hopeful about the NDP's prospects of forming a social-democratic government:
Faithful readers will know that I’ve spent my adult life trying to get the NDP to be realistic about its modest status in Canadian life. Until last May I repeatedly pointed out that with a single exception, the party always got less than 20 per cent of the national vote, would not in the foreseeable future form a government, and had to learn to live with moral victories as the conscience of the nation.

This was not a status to be dismissed or minimized. The CCF/NDP played a central role, as opposition, in forcing the governing parties to introduce the welfare state, one of the great contributions to the well-being of Canadians, and now in serious jeopardy. As well, research showed that while most Canadians would not vote NDP, a majority were reassured to have the party around to keep the major players honest.

Then came May 2011, 30 per cent of the vote and Official Opposition. But how could it be sustained. Surely this was a fluke resting on the shoulders of one man, and he, tragically, was gone.
For months we had heard that the party in the House of Commons had disappeared, its interim leader submerged by the ubiquitous Bob Rae. Yet almost a year after their majority government victory, the Harperites had lost a quarter of their support and were now at 30 per cent, the Liberals had stayed put at a derisory 20 per cent, and the NDP was still at 30 per cent. The party was tied with the badly slumping Conservatives for first place!

Even more remarkably, and all but unprecedented, 49 per cent of all Canadians now believe the NDP can be trusted with government. In fact, that can be said more positively: Half of Canadians believe an NDP government would be good for Canada! Another 20 per cent are unsure, making them potential supporters. It seems the very fact of being Official Opposition means a party is taken more seriously as an alternative government. Now you can’t exactly say with a straight face the NDP is rushing headlong towards government with up to 70 per cent of the vote. But still, whoever anticipated such a breakthrough?
And to top it off, post-convention polling continues this groundbreaking trend. As one pollster summed it up this week, “It’s clear that the election of Tom Mulcair as NDP leader has considerably improved the party’s prospects.”
Clearly Stephen Harper’s enforcers believe their coming onslaught can undermine the new NDP leader in the same classy way they demolished St├ęphane Dion and Michael Ignatieff.

Who knows? Maybe they’re right. But the tides of March suggest this new NDP guy won’t be quite the pushover those Liberals were.
- Paul Moist sets out a road map to deal with inequality in Canada:
Corporations rely on our public services -- they drive our economy. So corporations need to pay their fair share to protect them.

Our current tax system is riddled with loopholes and ineffective tax credits -- along with easy access to tax havens -- that benefit the wealthy while robbing funds from public services that all Canadians need and want.

The most destructive loophole is the stock option deduction. It allows Canada's highest paid executives to have their employment income taxed at half the rate of others. Not only that, this loophole only encourages the reckless speculation that led to the global economic crisis.

The capital gains deduction costs Canada over $6 billion a year in revenues. Yet it doesn't lead to concrete, job-creating investments. It just fuels real estate speculation and corporate mergers and acquisitions.

Successive Liberal and Conservative governments have eliminated top tax rates for the wealthiest Canadians -- the only ones who have seen real income growth in the past 20 years. Today, the top rate is 29 per cent -- whether you make $130,000 a year or $130 million.
We need to move to a more progressive tax system. This means closing tax loopholes and cutting off tax havens.

We must also get rid of ineffective tax credits that only benefit the rich. Too many of these credits don't help the poor, and drain revenues from universally accessible services. We need to be directly funding public services that are available to everyone -- like public transit, child care, arts, and sports programs for our families.

And profitable corporations and the wealthiest Canadians need to pay their fair share.
- Meanwhile, Andrew Jackson points out the McGuinty Libs' similar insistence on ensuring that the wealthiest Ontarians don't pay a dime toward the deficits caused by decades of trickle-down tax slashing. And Erin notes that while the Cons have repeatedly imposed back-to-work legislation based on specious arguments that strikes could harm economic growth, it's a series of lockouts (fully embraced by the Harper Cons since they would serve to reduce the influence of workers) which have actually had that effect.

- Nick Fillmore's three-part series on what progressive Canadians can do to counter the Harper Cons' attacks on the idea of social benefits is well worth a read.

- Finally, Atrios points out another regular feature in '90s-era triangulation that desperately needs to be replaced - in Canada as well as in the U.S.:
For the past couple of decades we've all (by "we" I man all the Very Serious People in the chattering classes) bought into the fantasy that all we need to do is pursue Conservative Means to achieve Liberal Ends and everything will be awesome...Right now we have one political party that is very up front about and proud of their desire to mug everyone in the non-millionaire club, steal all their money, and give it to rich people. It's time for the other political party to recognize that the era of dumb compromises is over, and if they'd actually come up with a way to help people, instead of a plan to set up a program to provide the incentives to blahblahblahblahblahblah...

Friday, March 30, 2012

Musical interlude

Moxy Fruvous - River Valley

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Yes, there was huge news in Robocon yesterday, with Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand rightly declaring the Cons' fraudulent vote suppression to be "absolutely outrageous" while sharing the news that reports of wrongdoing have now come in from two-thirds of all of Canada's federal ridings. And Mayrand also noted how the reported numbers relate to the abuses known to have taken place:
Conservative MP Tom Lukiwski suggested to Mayrand that the 800 complaints worked out to only a few in each of Canada's 308 ridings.

But Mayrand said only a small percentage of people complain about receiving calls, noting that the Pierre Poutine calls sent with a disposable cellphone with a Quebec area code, resulted in only 70 complaints on or after election day.

"We know 6,700 calls were placed from the famous 450 number," he said. "We know that many people don't complain, obviously."
Meanwhile, Kady live-blogged the proceedings. And Gregory Beatty pointed out the Harper government's highly suspicious decision to start de-funding Elections Canada just as it's trying to investigate the Cons' own election fraud.

- But it's also well worth discussing the federal budget released yesterday - with a few pieces that haven't received much attention including the declaration that anybody concerned about being lied to by big business can take it up alone against their friendly neighbourhood corporate conglomerate, and the new money being poured into attacking charities in what's otherwise supposed to be an austerity budget (with absolutely no expectation of any return on the investment other than to silence environmental groups). Meanwhile, John Ibbitson discussed the Cons' goal of getting Canadians to expect less public service from government. Pogge aptly described the Cons and their short-sighted resource-sector cronies as "looters in suits and ties". And Dr. Dawg, Erin Weir, Boris, Susan Riley, Andrew Jackson, Paul Wells, Marc Lee, Leftdog, David Macdonald and Mike McNair weighed in as well.

- And a couple of commentators also focused on Thomas Mulcair's role responding to the budget, with Wells nicely framing Mulcair's substantive line of criticism of the Cons while David Climenhaga pointing to Mulcair's fighting spirit.

- Finally, Sharon Kirkey reports on how prescription drug shortages are hurting patients across Canada. And no, handing more free money to the same drug companies both causing and profiting from the shortages doesn't figure to improve matters any.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Setting the agenda

Quick, spot what's different in the NDP's response to the federal budget compared to any other official opposition ever:
NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair today slammed Stephen Harper’s Conservatives for introducing a budget that recklessly cuts the vital services that Canadians rely on—such as Old Age Security and health care.

“Stephen Harper promised jobs and growth, but delivered reckless cuts. There’s nothing on jobs, nothing on inequality and nothing to strengthen our front-line health services.” Mulcair said. “Mr. Harper is once again looking out for his friends, while he ignores growing inequality.”
That's right: Thomas Mulcair has wasted absolutely no time in turning inequality into the NDP's primary economic focus. And there are plenty of ways that choice may shape Canadian politics for years to come.

To start with, it should work wonders in dispelling any remaining concerns about Mulcair's policy direction for the NDP. In the leadership campaign, it was Brian Topp who spoke constantly about working toward greater equality - and it may be that Mulcair figured he didn't want to echo a rival's message. But the theme figures to be the best possible unifying principle both for the NDP's base, and for progressive voters not yet inside the party's tent.

Meanwhile, the quick choice of messages also helps to put Mulcair's honeymoon phase to the best possible use in converting immediate positive perceptions into longer-term policy impact. Where past opposition leaders haven't been particularly focused in using their newfound place in the spotlight to any great impact, Mulcair has wasted no time in choosing a direction to promote.

But wait, there's more - as Mulcair hasn't picked just any policy to push after ascending to the leadership. Instead, of all the possible themes associated with the economy, inequality looks to be the absolute best in drawing positive contrasts no matter what happens between now and 2015.

It's possible that factors largely outside the federal government's control could move job numbers, GDP, deficits or other measures in either direction - meaning that there's substantial risk for any party in trying to point to those factors as the main indicator of the Harper Cons' impact. But with the Cons working as deliberately as they are to place a thumb on the scale in favour of those who already have the most, there's something close to zero likelihood that the NDP won't be able to point to worsening inequality as an indicator of the Cons' actions while in power. And if voters reach the ballot box with inequality as their top-of-mind concern...well, that's almost certainly the ideal end result for the NDP.

Guest Post: On governing authorities

Dan Tan offers another guest post - this one responding to a bit of misplaced advice from Embassy with a helpful reminder as to how policy is formulated within the NDP:
The foreign-affairs publication 'Embassy' recently published the following article: Advocates hope new Opposition leader shifts NDP position on Israel
The election of Thomas Mulcair as leader of the New Democratic Party could signal a coming shift in the party's policy on Israel, some advocates predict...
I am sure many NDP members will treat its content as a sort of "prophecy". But in reality, the article is actually engaging in advocacy, not analysis. The article has no intention of examining NDP policy on Israel/Palestine. Rather, its intention is to send Thomas Mulcair himself a rather crude message.

In an article ostensibly about Mulcair & the NDP's Israel/Palestine's telling that none of those topics are actually explored. Though Mulcair's name comes up, his Israel/Palestine policy statement (released during the leadership campaign) is completely ignored. The NDP's existing policy is reduced to one sentence from the foreign affairs critic. The grass-roots collaborative NDP policy-making process is totally disregarded.

Instead, the article chooses to highlight various winks & nudges from Canadian advocates of the Israeli government. And in case those advocates were too coy, the author (Ingrid Walter) concludes by presenting Mulcair with an absolutely bizarre claim. Walter cites an Ipsos exit poll of Jewish-Canadian voters. In it, the Conservatives scored a majority of 52%. Without wincing, Walter attempts to convince Mulcair that a "pro-Israel" NDP would also score 52%.

It never crosses Walter's mind that many Jewish-Canadian voters were simply responding to economic policies or a fatigue of minority parliament. [Ed. note: Nor that it's possible to test whether "pro-Israel" policies actually tend to move votes and other support.] Instead, the mere sight of Thomas Mulcair echoing the Cons' foreign policy is somehow supposed to move Jewish-Canadian voters en masse toward the NDP.

Many NDP members (like myself) trust that Thomas Mulcair is intelligent enough to recognize the desperation & comedy behind such an inducement. But for those members who still have doubts, the NDP constitution provides clarity as to where the party's policy is developed:
Conventions are the supreme governing body of the Party and shall have final authority in all matters of federal policy, program and constitution.
The NDP Federal Council shall have full authority to issue policy statements and election statements in the name of the Party, consonant with the decisions of the Convention, and to initiate policy statements consonant with the philosophy of the Party in matters not yet considered by Convention.

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading...

- No, we shouldn't read too much into the first wave of polling following Thomas Mulcair's election as NDP leader. But there are a couple of points where the early returns are far enough out of line with expectations to be worth pointing out. First, there's the comparison between a leader just elected and one who's been given the profile normally reserved for the leader of the Official Opposition for the better part of a year:
Mr. Harper had a moderate lead nationally when voters were asked which of the three leaders they thought would make the best prime minister. Thirty three per cent of respondents nationally favoured Mr. Harper as best choice for prime minister, with Mr. Mulcair at 27 per cent and Mr. Rae at 22 per cent. Seventeen per cent of the respondents said they did not know who they preferred.
And even more interestingly, there's this data point on the question of whether Mulcair can be successful in Western Canada:
The survey found Mr. Mulcair more popular than the other two leaders among young voters and middle income voters. His support was also stronger in the Prairie provinces and the Atlantic, but he placed behind Mr. Rae and Mr. Harper in Ontario as preference for best prime minister.
- Saskatchewan's electoral redistribution commission is up and running, and interested in public input until April 15 on its first proposal. And Gregory Beatty reminds us why it's well worth taking the time to participate.

- Susan Delacourt quotes Peter Aucoin on the use of the levers of government to entrench partisan gain and control over the public service - which the Cons look to be using to maximum effect in today's federal budget.

- Meanwhile, Andrea Horwath is nicely carrying on the NDP's tradition of working with other parties toward better budgets than they'd ever consider on their own.

- Finally, CTV points out another example of distinctive Saskatchewan culture that's withering away under the Wall government, as the Western Development Museum is being forced to start cutting hours for lack of funding.

New column day

Here, on the philosophical underpinnings of the Wall government's choice to demolish Saskatchewan's film industry - and the dangers for the province if we accept them.

For further reading...
- Bruce Johnstone and Murray Mandryk have already criticized the attack on the film industry as ill-advised purely as a matter of dollars and cents.
- And Simon Enoch expands on the Saskatchewan Party's selective laissez-faire philosophy, documenting the massive amounts of public money being poured into the resource sector and other businesses.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Fred Wilson weighs in on Thomas Mulcair's mandate as the NDP's new leader:
(M)any progressives with no interest whatsoever in a "Blairist" agenda had found their way to the Mulcair camp. They supported Mulcair for two reasons -- to maintain the party's base in Quebec, and to immediately step up to the role of Opposition Leader in Parliament and Prime Minister-in-Waiting.

Of course, there are also some in the party and labour who see the Mulcair win as an opportunity to realize a long-held goal of a "big tent" centrist party. But this leadership campaign and decision most definitely did not deliver any such mandate.
Tom Mulcair won a mandate instead to do what he obviously was the best prepared to deliver -- an immediate, polished, professional competence as an Opposition Leader and potential Prime Minister. And it's on this basis that Tom Mulcair begins his leadership with the support and goodwill of a much larger majority than his votes at convention.
- And Kathleen O'Hara mentions one intriguing possibility if Harper overplays his hand:
I did detect one area of disagreement between the declarations of the NDP and my employer: the timing of the demise of Stephen Harper. Booting him out in the 2015 election seemed to be the general plan among social democrats. May points out that unpopular leaders, most recently B.C.'s Gordon Campbell, have been pushed out of office well before the end of their mandate. In the name of anti-Conservative unity, I'm sure a compromise can be reached.
- Meanwhile, Bruce Cheadle and Tim Naumetz both report on the unprecedented outside voter suppression aimed at the NDP's members. And Steven Chase and Tamara Baluja report that Elections Canada isn't far from tracking down "Pierre Poutine" - and that higher-ranking Con insiders are on the verge of getting named as well:
Mr. Meier also told Elections Canada that “Pierre” initially telephoned him directly on his unlisted office extension and asked for him by name when setting up his robo-calling account.

Pierre referred to knowing someone in the Conservative Party,” Mr. Mathews said of the call Mr. Meier received at RackNine. “In Meier's view, these facts mean someone must have given Pierre his contact information.”
- Bill Curry reports that one of the unions most affected by the Cons' anticipated federal budget has been barred from the budget lock-up - with its vocal opposition to austerity looking like one of the main reasons.

- Curry, Janet McFarland and Tara Perkins also point out that the same federal government which has used a tiny amount of provincial disagreement as its excuse for not strengthening the Canada Pension Plan is now trying to strong-arm Ontario into going along with its private-sector-first alternative.

- Finally, Danny Dorling comments on why any actual austerity should be aimed squarely at those who have made the most for themselves while most people have just barely scraped by.

On standards of disproof

In keeping with my own admonition, I won't spend too much time amplifying the messages the Cons want to send in attacking NDP leader Thomas Mulcair. But I do think it's worth pointing out how the main theme could prove to be self-defeating.

One of the points which worked well for the Cons in defining the last two permanent leaders of the opposition is that their criticisms were virtually impossible to disprove. Particularly for anybody who wasn't paying close attention to politics, "not a leader" and "only in it for himself" made for neat talking points which couldn't particularly be countered by personal experience - and the few people in a position to speak to the questions could easily be dismissed as partisan supporters.

But the "angry" label being applied to Mulcair is a rather different beast. It won't be the least bit difficult for even a casual observer to test the based on public appearances, particularly during the 2015 election campaign. And with Mulcair having consistently stayed both calm and positive during a lengthy and contentious leadership race, I wouldn't want to be the party betting on his offering much fodder to reinforce the frame.

In fact, the Cons' choice of attacks may ultimately end up helping Mulcair: by offering a falsifiable label, they've not only set a relatively low set of expectations which Mulcair can be expected to exceed, but also laid the groundwork for discussion (among the pundit class and among Canadians at large) about how their own talking points might prove wrong. And that knowledge should make it far easier for Mulcair to ride out the Cons' inevitable attempts to rile him up in a desperate attempt to make the label stick.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

At Jan's request...dapper cats.

Tuesday Evening Links

Assorted content to end your day.

- Carol Goar asked this weekend for a reasonable explanation as to how to allocate the pain in times of austerity. Not surprisingly, the McGuinty Libs came to the wrong answer - and the Harper Cons figure to do even worse. Meanwhile, Trish Hennessy comments on the power of "austerity" as a concept (while Paul Krugman duly mocks the latest attempt to spin it).

- Min discusses the Cons' seemingly bottomless supply of free money for the oil sector even as they slash anything else within reach. And Andrew Nikiforuk highlights the Cons' quasi-religious devotion to the tar sands as the only explanation for many of their decisions.

- Andrew Jackson writes that the Cons' plans to attack OAS won't actually produce any savings - only serve the purpose of making social supports less effective.

- Finally, for those wondering how long it would take for a Lawyers for Fair Taxation group to develop, the answer was...not long at all.

Guest Post: The Progressive Consensus

Last week, I pointed out Greg Lyle's polling showing that the NDP's brand of social democracy enjoys plenty of popular support as a primary value system for a party seeking to form government. But reader Dan Tan looked at the numbers in a bit more detail and with an eye toward consensus rather than mere initial support - and found that taking into account respondents who are neutral on (and thus at worst open to) NDP policies, there's potential to unite a striking number of progressive voters of various party stripes behind the values long promoted by the NDP.

So without any further ado, here's Dan (edited slightly for formatting):
*----------- BACKGROUND -----------*

The Edmonton Journal (among others) recently commissioned a poll on Canadian attitudes from a conservative pollster named Greg Lyle. Based on the findings of Innovative Research Group Inc., the following article was published.

Unfortunately, the article was very misleading & over-editorialized. More importantly, it suffered from a major misunderstanding of a specific answer in the poll. This led the newspaper author (Peter O'Neil) to reach false conclusions (explained further, later).

The poll itself actually contains results which are of great value to NDP members. That's remarkable, given the fact that the sample could easily skew "small c" virtue of who the pollster is. That's why it complements a previous Ekos poll (one that is accused of skewing "small l" by detractors).

The following is an analysis I have carried out myself based on the
raw polling data.

*----------- CONTEXT -----------*

To provide some context, the voting intentions of those polled breaks down in the following manner:
Undecided: 10%
Conservatives: 33%
NDP: 22%
Liberal: 21%
Greens: 6%
Bloc: 6%

Of course, the purpose of this poll is not to predict the election. The actual value comes from specific policy statements posed to voters. Furthermore, the polling firm has provided a breakdown of how specific groups answered each question. The groups most important to the NDP are:
- Truly Uncommitted
- 2nd Choice NDP
- Soft NDP
- Firm NDP

*----------- PURPOSE -----------*

These are the various groups who constitute the "progressive majority". Thomas Mulcair has expressed an intent to reach out to these folks through a "re-branding" of NDP policies & communications. But before that happens, this poll allows us to see how the target-audience *already* feels about these important issues.

We'll only examine the most important questions. Currently, the economy is the over-riding concern of the broader population. These are the selected policy statements we'll focus on:
- The government should discourage the export of raw natural resources and encourage the use of those resources to create jobs here in Canada.
- We need to raise taxes on the rich and big business to ensure they pay their fair share.
- The federal government should encourage the growth of unions in Canada.
- The federal government must take action to close the gap between rich and poor in Canada.

We'll also interpret the answers accurately. These were the various reactions to each policy statement:
- Strongly agree
- Somewhat agree
- Neither agree nor disagree
- Somewhat disagree
- Strongly disagree

*----------- MISUNDERSTANDING -----------*

The problem with the 'Edmonton Journal' article was that it misunderstood what the answer "neither agree nor disagree" actually meant. In this poll, the answer means: "I won't stand in your way, whatever you do on this issue".

In a "sleight of hand", the 'Edmonton Journal' either grouped these folks in the "disagree" camp, or they ignored them altogether. By doing this, they drew false conclusions (ie. "the survey found cool support for unions", "avoid old NDP jargon about 'brothers and sisters'" etc.).

The 'Edmonton Journal' article treated each issue as a technical referendum question. So in a referendum, the issue is decided by voters who firmly "agree" or "disagree". Meanwhile, voters who think "I won't stand in your way, whatever you do on this issue" are not counted at all.

But that is not how elections or our parliament work. In an election, those who say "neither agree nor disagree" still count as voters. And their in-action has a dramatic effect on the composition & stability of a government.

It is vitally important for the NDP to understand this: These folks have specifically chosen not to "disagree" with the following policy statements. That means the policies will not influence their vote....and in effect, the party has tacit approval to implement those policies.

*----------- TACIT APPROVAL OF NDP POLICIES -----------*

*1) "The government should discourage the export of raw natural resources and encourage the use of those resources to create jobs here in Canada."*

Truly Uncommitted - Tacit Approval: 86%
(Strongly agree: 39%, Somewhat agree: 24%, Neither agree nor disagree: 23%)
2nd Choice NDP - Tacit Approval: 95%
(Strongly agree: 43%, Somewhat agree: 38%, Neither agree nor disagree: 14%)
Soft NDP - Tacit Approval: 95%
(Strongly agree: 49%, Somewhat agree: 36%, Neither agree nor disagree: 10%)
Firm NDP - Tacit Approval: 96%
(Strongly agree: 57%, Somewhat agree: 32%, Neither agree nor disagree: 7%)

*2) We need to raise taxes on the rich and big business to ensure they pay their fair share.*

Truly Uncommitted - Tacit Approval: 85%
(Strongly agree: 44%, Somewhat agree: 25%, Neither agree nor disagree: 16%)
2nd Choice NDP - Tacit Approval: 83%
(Strongly agree: 54%, Somewhat agree: 17%, Neither agree nor disagree: 12%)
Soft NDP - Tacit Approval: 95%
(Strongly agree: 52%, Somewhat agree: 32%, Neither agree nor disagree: 11%)
Firm NDP - Tacit Approval: 94%
(Strongly agree: 64%, Somewhat agree: 22%, Neither agree nor disagree: 8%)

*3) The federal government should encourage the growth of unions in Canada.*

Truly Uncommitted - Tacit Approval: 52%
(Strongly agree: 9%, Somewhat agree: 7%, Neither agree nor disagree: 36%)
2nd Choice NDP - Tacit Approval: 58%
(Strongly agree: 15%, Somewhat agree: 19%, Neither agree nor disagree: 24%)
Soft NDP - Tacit Approval: 70%
(Strongly agree: 19%, Somewhat agree: 24%, Neither agree nor disagree: 27%)
Firm NDP - Tacit Approval: 89%
(Strongly agree: 30%, Somewhat agree: 20%, Neither agree nor disagree: 29%)

*4) The federal government must take action to close the gap between rich and poor in Canada.*

Truly Uncommitted - Tacit Approval: 90%
(Strongly agree: 40%, Somewhat agree: 35%, Neither agree nor disagree: 15%)
2nd Choice NDP - Tacit Approval: 87%
(Strongly agree: 59%, Somewhat agree: 22%, Neither agree nor disagree: 6%)
Soft NDP - Tacit Approval: 97%
(Strongly agree: 55%, Somewhat agree: 29%, Neither agree nor disagree: 13%)
Firm NDP - Tacit Approval: 99%
(Strongly agree: 79%, Somewhat agree: 7%, Neither agree nor disagree: 13%)

*----------- CONCLUSION -----------*

As has already been explained, tacit approval indicates the leeway a leader has to implement actual policies.

As the polling data shows, a majority of "the progressive majority" would be content with the implementation of fundamental NDP economic policies.

The open question is WHO should implement those policies. This same poll indicates that progressive voters are evenly divided between the Liberals and NDP.

Thomas Mulcair aims to break the tie by professionalizing the NDP. Along with Peggy Nash, he has called for the national body to adequately fund all riding associations. He also pointed to Craig Scott as an example of the type of high-profile candidate the party wishes to recruit across Canada.

NDP members can easily rally around such an effort by our leader. But should our leader attempt to alter our fundamental economic policies, he will be doing so without any justification.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Stephen Maher and Glen McGregor report that the Council of Canadians is leading the charge in challenging election results which may have been influenced by Robocon. And perhaps the most noteworthy point as to how the move may shine a spotlight on the Cons' black ops is this:
The organization hopes that it can use its lawsuit to discover the volume of deceptive or fraudulent calls in other ridings, by convincing a judge to order phone carriers to turn over records showing how many calls were placed into each riding from numbers associated with suspicious calls.
- Chantal Hebert concludes that Thomas Mulcair is off to a great start as NDP leader.

- And a stream of news about the Cons' utter incompetence isn't hurting matters - as CBC reports Harper and company have known for years that the F-35s they insist on buying don't actually meet the needs of Canada's military, while Pauline Tam notes that they did nothing in the face of four years advance warning of the prescription drug shortages now hitting Canadians directly. All of which should offer all the more reason for suspicion about the Cons' latest plans to gut public protection against ill-advised corporate plans.

- Finally, Paul Krugman writes about the American Legislative Exchange Council and its efforts to take over the normal role of legislators by substituting hard-right boilerplate laws.

On early definition

It's entirely predictable that far too many in the media are starting their coverage of Thomas Mulcair's election as NDP leader with the Cons' instant spin - in some cases even while showing plenty of optimism about Mulcair. (On that front, due credit to the Winnipeg Free Press for criticizing the Cons' immediate attacks without repeating and reinforcing the first set against Mulcair.)

But perhaps the most interesting counterweight is this - as the NDP isn't hesitating to let the media start doing the same to amplify its own message even before any ad campaign is ready:
The NDP has already held auditions for the TV ads it plans to film this week featuring new leader Thomas Mulcair, and a script used for the auditions gives some insight into what themes the party hopes to hammer home.
The ad spot, titled "A Leader" opens with images of Canadians and is intended to have "a very day-in-the-life feeling," according to the audtion script. Various actors would read the following lines: "Canada has a new leader who will fight for my family. [New leader's name]. He'll actually help me make ends meet. Help me save for retirement. A leader who will take on Stephen Harper. And win."

The script includes an appearance by Olivia Chow saying, "Jack's vision is in good hands."
The audition script includes alternate lines on how the new leader will hire more family doctors, crack down on polluters and make them pay, clean up Ottawa and put an end to scandals.
Of course, I'd ultimately prefer to see less media attention given to merely repeating party messages. But as long as the Cons can count on having their every attack repeated ad nauseum, it makes a world of sense for the NDP to use the same mechanism to contrast Mulcair against the Harper Cons. And the more the message war plays out in the media, the less the Cons' deep pockets figure to affect the public's ultimate perceptions.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Monday Afternoon Links

Assorted content to start your week...

- Remember the Cons' talking point that we should assume all of the Robocon calls which purported to come from Lib candidates could safely be said to have come from that source? Because Glen McGregor and Stephen Maher just shot a massive hole in the claim, finding that the same Pierre Poutine responsible for sending voters to fraudulent poll locations also recorded a call impersonating the Lib campaign.

- Bruce Campbell suggests five tests for the federal budget - though the smart money is on the Cons paying lip service to one and actively refusing to show any interest in the rest.

- Leftdog runs down some of the Wall government's sad legacy of wilful ignorance.

- Finally, in news surrounding Thomas Mulcair's election as NDP leader, Dan Lett highlights the opportunities open to the party following Mulcair's election. Joanna Smith looks at some of the new talent joining the NDP as part of Mulcair's team, while there have already been a few noteworthy departures as well. Robin Sears points out the trade-offs NDP members considered in voting for Mulcair. Frances Russell describes Mulcair's victory as reflecting the NDP turning the page on turning the other cheek. And John offers a nuanced analysis of the campaign.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sunday Afternoon Links

Assorted content to end your weekend.

- pogge rounds up last week's news on the Robocon front - while the outside attack on the NDP's leadership vote suggests that the block-the-vote crowd isn't limiting its work to general elections.

- Meanwhile, Dave connects some dots between the Harper Cons, the B.C. Libs and two IT service providers.

- Gerald Caplan points out that it's the most amoral gamblers earning the largest returns from our current version of casino capitalism.

- Finally, in other NDP convention followup notes, Cathie is optimistic that Thomas Mulcair can fight back against the Harper Cons, while David Climenhaga sees him passing the beer test. Tim Harper portrays Mulcair as the safe choice for the NDP, while the Star's editorial board reaffirmed its endorsement after the fact. Mark Kennedy speculates as to a few of the challenges Mulcair will face. And PLG rightly suggests that commentators not overreact to Mulcair's election.

The path ahead

To start off, I'll heartily congratulate Thomas Mulcair on his strong victory in the NDP's leadership campaign. But it's well worth working on what comes next from day one of Mulcair's tenure.

Last night's inaugural interview with Peter Mansbridge already represented a great start on the party unit front - as Mulcair announced that Libby Davies will remain deputy leader, spoke regularly of working the the NDP's caucus in planning ahead and referred positively to the talented group of staff within the party at the moment.

But bringing the NDP together is only a small part of Mulcair's role as the party's new leader. And Mulcair should have two fairly distinct tasks in building the NDP for the years to come - though he seems well aware of both.

The part which may misleadingly seem easy is the need to put down roots in Quebec. Mulcair obviously starts out with the advantage of being a popular household name in his home province, meaning that he won't need to put a great deal of work into defining and proving himself personally.

But in order to make sure the party keeps growing, Mulcair will need to work on building the party beyond positive associations with its leader. And to the extent the NDP hopes to turn Quebec into a long-term base, he may have to go so far as to work on changing the political culture of his home province - trying to encourage the province's citizenry to join, donate and otherwise get personally involved in the NDP in a way it hasn't for any party in a long time.

Fortunately, there doesn't figure to be much standing in Mulcair's way, as a Bloc turning to the right under Daniel Paille may prove particularly ill-suited to try to maintain its support against a popular progressive leader. But Quebec party-building will still be no easy feat.

Meanwhile, the rest of Canada will see the usual battle to define the leader of the opposition.

On that front, Mulcair doesn't yet have a ton of name recognition or personal connection with voters across much of the country. And it'll likely take a combination of an effective personal performance in leading the charge against an austerity budget, a tireless effort to meet as many people personally as he can, and an immediate ad campaign to have any chance of at least keeping Mulcair in at least neutral territory (with room for growth in the years to come) again the inevitable Con barrage of smears and attack ads.

Of course, it's worth noting that the mirror-image problems may have a common solution. If Mulcair can foster increased dialogue and connections between the Quebec progressive political culture which adores him and citizens across Canada who are currently more inclined to vote and donate but aren't yet sold on him personally, that could go a long way toward taking care of both immediate priorities in relatively short order - while also ensuring that "unite the left behind the NDP" becomes a long-term reality.