Saturday, April 30, 2011

Are We on the Cusp of de facto Proportional Representation?

Of all the interesting trends this election, the increased ability of politicians and ordinary citizens to effect change in public opinion is surely the most important.

The case of the NDP's sudden unpredicted rise in Quebec and across the country is one example. Another is Elizabeth May's strong showing (and hopefully election) in Saanich. Another, the well organized strategic voting information available for ridings across the country, and peoples' apparent willingness to consider exercising their vote strategically. There have also been vote mobs and the high turnout at the advance polls.

With all of these events combined, there is obviously a new volatility in Canadian democracy. This, despite 95% of the media being subverted by a new style of corporate interference in favour of the Conservative Party.

A perhaps telling, if little-noticed, event this campaign has been the appearance in it of North Vancouver Independent candidate Nick Jones

He puts forth a somewhat convincing case for his candidacy on his website. Including such interesting elements as the following:

When there is an upcoming vote in the House of Commons, I will poll the citizens of North Vancouver using a web-based and/or phoned bases service and will use the feedback that I collect to guide how I vote on behalf of the riding.

About a week or so ago a tweet came through announcing that Jones was endorsing Liberal candidate in the riding, Taleeb Noormohamed.  (At present it looks like North Van would be a prime constituency where Greens and NDPs would be very well-served to cast a strategic ballot in Noormohamed's direction.)

The quick rise of the NDP, the ability of independent candidates to reach out with their message on the internet, and the progress in strategic voting sophistication, are all epic shifts in electoral behaviours. Probably more important to realize is that we are now in the era of change, fast results and instant gratification.

With this in mind, a few things to expect for the next election, be it in one or more years: additional Green Party candidates (bonjour, Georges) with strong chances to win in well targeted ridings, probably a higher profile for the Christian Heritage Party or some other far right group, more independent candidates with more interesting, unique ideas, and continued development in strategic voting concepts, vote mobs, vote trading, etc.

As early as the next federal election, we could be witnessing some form of de facto proportional representation. This will result in election of perhaps 5-10 candidates from the Greens, lesser parties or independents, which would all be good for democracy.  The constitutional wrangling that would be required to ever implement proportional representation would be daunting and probably take decades... but it may still be possible using social media!

Oh and to provide equal opportunity for the NDP to pick up another seat in this election.... a call for votes goes out to Libs and Greens in Kamloops riding. This seat can be taken from the Conservatives. Vote NDP!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Call Sun Media a Bunch of Sleazebags if You Want...

But how many times have you heard the phrase "Global News" in the past month?

The tougher question is,

How do you start an "Ignore Sun Media" campaign, while ignoring Sun Media?

p.s. Don't forget World Press Freedom MIA Day May 3

Artists Redraw the Canadian Political Landscape

The Canadian political landscape is due to be redrawn by artists.

ABC could stand for Art, Books, Culture, but for many people this April, ABC means, "Anyone But Conservative". 

For the past five years, we have been governed by a Conservative Party that won't even bother to spell out its policy on the arts. As a result, Canada's potential for achievements on the world stage has been severely curtailed, something that has been, unfortunately, par for the course over most of the nation's history.

Due largely to the dearth of leadership on this issue, Canada's weak support for the arts extends from the higher echelons of government and business, right through to ordinary people, who often fail to see much value in art of any description. Many thousands, if not millions, of Canadians have been conditioned to agree with Stephen Harper's assessment that the arts are frivolities, pastimes for the elite.

There was a local example a year or two ago. One of the municipal bureaucrats was defending the expense incurred installing modern artificial turf on one of the local soccer/football fields, as opposed to spending on any kind of art or culture. The reasoning is, that these sports fields get very high usage by the public, compared to many public galleries in other communities, which we notice are often sparsely attended.

The comparison is readily accepted by most people and almost appears valid. Until you really think it through. What we should compare the hundreds of kids playing soccer and football on the fields to, are the thousands of kids doing art, music and creative activities on a daily basis until they get pushed in other directions in their teens. To make matters worse, emphasis on arts and music has further decreased in many school districts in the past few years.

This federal election could mark a turning point for the arts in Canada.

The Conservatives are hopefully being sent a very strong message this coming Monday. Perhaps they will even be sent the ultimate message, which they so rightly deserve.

The difference this time, as opposed to the 40 other federal elections in Canadian history, is that, regardless of the exact result, the NDP will come out of this election with a huge new influence.

As satisfactory as the Liberal platform for the arts appears in this campaign, and it appears roughly as sincere and thorough as the NDP's platform, the fact remains that decades of Liberal rule have failed to raise Canada's international profile in the arts to where it could be, where it needs to be.

Make no mistake, the Conservative platform of stifling and breaking youngsters to conform to a particular indentured ideal, only to spend billions on prisons for the ones who go bad, is light years away from anything acceptable. And anything the Liberals do for culture, we hope, will be headed in the right direction.

But now, we have a new possibility - the possibility that a Canadian government could put a high priority on arts and culture. Investments in the arts now will reap many-fold benefits for the country down the road and open up multiple new opportunities for youth and economic diversity. This is unquestionably one area where a strong NDP influence on policy could be an economic boon for the country. Jack Layton is not going to get three or four cracks at muddling through, as Harper has done. Jack needs to go to work effectively for the country right away. If he is as smart as he appears, he will make arts a top priority.

It's as simple as ABC: Artists Build Canada. And it just may be spelled N-D-P! 

Thursday, April 28, 2011


Oh no, turns out he was only 12 at the time.

(Note to fledgling media networks - this information may require "further legwork" to verify.)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

What If There Were a Liberal-NDP Merger, and the Liberals Who Didn't Like it Joined the ...Greens!

The nightmare scenario of a Liberal-NDP merger has once again cast a shadow upon the land.

Some think it is a possible way for "Liberals" to still win some momentary fleeting hold on power. Most Conservatives probably think of it as a dream scenario, setting up a polarized electorate along phony left-right or "free-enterprise vs. socialist" lines. Conservatives are salivating over this as they imagine hoards of Liberals painting their urban and suburban streets blue, rather than orange.

And, yeah, I agree.  Merge with the NDP would be one of the dumbest thing the Liberals could do. If only because of the divided, polarized nation that would result. 

But, if  I were a Conservative, I wouldn't be so quick to count chickens. There are not many Liberals left who are likely to ever support a Harper-style ReformCon party. If the wackos peeled off to start something with three eyes and left basic PCs, it might be a different story. Some Liberals would go to a PC party. Anyway, merging would still be dumb because it definitely sets up the left-right contest which is destructive and no win.

A possible interesting outcome from a merger though, would be if a large enough bloc of Liberals suddenly went green. Those old dogs like Chretien and Broadbent probably haven't even imagined such a thing. But after witnessing the events of the past week, it wouldn't surprise me a bit.

The Lib-Greens would be a little more centrist than the Lib-NDPs, and could possibly thwart the left-right nightmare. And, who knows what could happen with a dynamic leader. Whether it be a Georges Laraque or someone else

Might even result in a 30-30-30 split of voters, with single digits for the Bloc and who knows, maybe a far-right party. Whereas, in any purely 2-way, left-right contest, progressive forces would be rather hard pressed to win. However, if we had Lib-Greens and Lib-NDPs, it is easily conceivable that progressives could hold onto a 60-80% plurality.


Monday, April 25, 2011

Harper Beat-Down Remains a Strong Possibility

Between well-informed, disciplined, strategic voting and polls like this, we could soon be saying "good-bye" to Stephen Harper. Plenty of reason to keep the neg focus on Harpocalypse.

AG's Report Must be Released - "Suppression of Information" Relating to the Public Interest Unjustified By Law or Convention

The Auditor General's Report on the G8 Legacy Infrastructure Fund should be released to the public according to a former clerk of the Public Accounts Committee, writing in The Hill Times.

The law does not specifically say that such a report cannot be released when Parliament is not in session.In fact, there are a few conventions in place which would actually support releasing the report, according to the article.

The article reads:

The first edition of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, at p. 376, states, "During the period when Parliament is dissolved, however, ministers or government departments may authorize the release of any return, report or other paper required to be laid before the House."

To any reasonable person, the necessity of releasing this report prior to the election is obvious.

There is also a resolution adopted in Parliament in 1887, which reads, in part, "That the practice now in force, requiring the withholding of Blue Books and Departmental Reports till the assembling of Parliament, results in the suppression, often for periods of many months, of information relating to public affairs which the public interests require should be promptly made public. That the Blue Books and Departmental Reports for each fiscal or calendar year should in future be made public as soon as practicable after the same are prepared, and that no unnecessary delay should be permitted to interfere with the issuing of the same."

By failing to release this report in a timely fashion, in order that the people of Canada have all available pertinent facts at their disposal before the election, Auditor General Sheila Fraser is doing a disservice to the country and is probably incorrect in judgment, according to the facts as presented in this article.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Royal Wedding Security to Cost $860,000,000 Less than G20 Toronto Security

This should hardly raise an eyebrow, as Stephen Harper has already been proven Canada's most trustworthy and competent political leader  by the Nanos Leadership Index.

Anyway, it's apples and oranges. The Royal Wedding may be the largest security event ever in British history, dwarfing the G20 event held in 09.

It's estimated the event will now cost as much as £20m, which dwarfs the £7.4m price of security at the G20 protests in London in 2009.

Bur clearly, England is a much smaller country, and video cameras are already installed across the country, so obviously costs in Canada would run a good 100 times more - it's only logical.

But, if there were any confusion whatsoever, (and there absolutely is not, as the Conservatives wrote a report that, by pure accident, falsely quoted the auditor general stating that the G20 meeting was very well managed), no need to worry - the Auditor General's final report on the matter will be presented to Parliament after the election.

Furthermore, if there was anything to all this white noise and bickering, surely that crafty newsman, Peter Mansbridge, would have nailed Harper to the wall during his recent interview.

No, there is nothing here at all but old fashioned English thriftiness.  Now go watch hockey!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Nanos Leadership Index Flawed and Biased Towards Harper

For the entire duration of the election campaign to-date, Canadians have been marveling at the superb leadership ratings that Stephen Harper has been scoring on a daily basis on the Nanos Leadership Index. Typical numbers have shown Harper at around 100 or over, Layton at maybe 55, Ignatieff at 50, and Duceppe and May at around 10 or 15 points each. The index supposedly rates the leaders on trust, competence and vision for Canada.

The Nanos polls are at least mentioned on a daily basis on CTV and in the Globe and Mail, and are repeated ad infinitum on a near endless parade of blogs and other media, so may be presumed to have an influence on voter perceptions of the leaders. Nanos calls these ratings a "driver" of voter intentions, a forecast, if you will, of how people may be considering voting.

There's only one problem. The Nanos Leadership Index is inherently flawed and biased towards Stephen Harper.

The Polling Observatory, a website whose mission is "to report on and provide an analysis of the election polls and their media coverage", has issued a report that cites two problems with the index: One, a flaw in measurement methodology and the other a structural characteristic "that seems to overstate, in rhetorical terms, the magnitude of the differences in Canadians' evaluations of the leaders".

The Polling Observatory is funded by the Centre for the Study of Democratic Institutions at the University of British Columbia. You can go ahead and read what the Polling Observatory says on its site. But rather than just take their word for it, look at the methodology yourself. The problems are pretty obvious.

The methodology is: each person is asked

Which of the federal leaders would you best describe as:
* The most trustworthy
* The most competent
* Has the best vision for Canada's future

Every day, Nanos will report on a daily leadership index score. The leadership index score is a summation of the three leadership indicators (trust, competence, vision). For example, on March 15th (M15), Elizabeth May received a Leadership Index Score of 11.6 because 4.3% of Canadians identified Elizabeth May as the most trustworthy leader, 3.4% said she was the most competent and 3.9% said she had the best vision for Canada. 

You know that 30-40% of people would be expected to name Harper in all three categories.So, his score will be the sum of his three percentages, or somewhere around 110 or 120. That leaves as little as 60% of the opinion to be split up between the four other leaders. As stated in the Polling Observatory, the result gives an overstated, exaggerated view, with the difference between each leader roughly tripled.

The overstatement is compounded by the context. The title "Leadership Index", as well as the terms, "trust", "competence" and "vision for Canada", imply some kind of insightful, carefully weighed valuations have been thought through by the respondents. In fact, these numbers represent little more than exaggerated representations of voting intention.

As of today, the Nanos leadership index has shown some life for the first time, as Layton jumped some 17 points and Harper fell by an equal number.

Further evidence of the Nanos Leadership Index's irrelevance, though, can be found in today's Abacus leadership poll, which shows Ignatieff and Harper neck and neck, with Layton jumping ahead, as well as a Harris Decima leadership poll that shows similar results to Abacus.

"Appearing to overstate" (by a huge factor) Harper's appeal to Canadians relative to other leaders, on such issues as trust, competence and vision for Canada, on a daily basis, for the full 40 days of the campaign, across all the media, has to be considered a pretty significant unfair advantage for Stephen Harper. What can be done about it I do not know..

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

What Happens When You Mess with Nature

Remember the Chernobyl chicken? Variously portrayed as the size of a moose, or having four legs, or what have you, this creature was not only the product of overactive imaginations following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

No one would be blamed for wondering what kind of fish will be swimming around in the ocean in a few years after Japan dumping thousands of tons of radioactive water into the sea.

It may not result in giant fish falling from the sky. But then again...


Actually, what this video shows is Asian carp species that have escaped from fish farms in the Mississippi and have invaded river systems all over the basin. This video shows the Wabash River. They are an invasive species that take over the ecosystem. There is concern that these fish will get established (or already have) in the Great Lakes by either escaping through Chicago into Lake Michigan or by crossing some wetland areas during floods and getting into the Lake Erie drainage area.

It definitely gives you pause to consider. Dozens of other invasive species are causing untold damage to our ecosystems and we seem powerless to alleviate it much if at all.

Yet we are barreling into GMOs like there's no tomorrow. We are locking the food supply for a hungry planet into GMOs and there is absolutely no way of ensuring the safety or sustainability of these products.

This issue contributing to rising food costs that are causing misery, hunger and unrest around the world.

Time to put the brakes on that Euro Free Trade deal and take a few deep breaths before going any further.

Stunning: Conservatives Ignore Request to Detail Arts Platform

On April 5, the five major political parties were requested to respond to a series of questions about the arts and culture platforms of their parties.

The responses were given, at length, in this bulletin released yesterday by the Canadian Conference of the Arts.

The glaring omission, obviously, the reply from the Conservative Party of Canada. Apparently they see no role at all for arts in this country. @Jatsimpleposie

Monday, April 18, 2011

There Is a Game-Breaker and It Must Be Used

As of now, the Canadian election is on track to produce a a roughly status quo result.

According to projections, the Conservatives are currently running in the lead, with 149 seats, six ahead of where they were at the dissolution of Parliament but still some distance from the 155 seats required for a majority. The Liberals are at 77, up one from dissolution of Parliament, the Bloc is even at 47 seats and the NDP is down 2 at 34.

Where is the Game-Breaker?
Let's face it, a strengthened Conservative minority is not going to be a satisfactory result for progressive Canadians in this election. Each year that Harper holds the reins of power, he explicitly manages events so as to increase his party's appeal to targeted interest groups, he creates new interest groups and influence centres that are beholden to him, and he makes further inroads on subverting the mainstream media and the social media.

Given this artificial encroachment of Conservative support, the country cannot afford a strengthened Harper minority. The campaign to-date has featured wave after wave of news items negative towards the Conservatives. Also, it must be said that Layton and Ignatieff have both been above expectations in their campaigning. Harper, if anything, has been below expectations, except in the debates, where he was impeccably prepared. You could see, though, in the French debate, that his stone walling and rope-a-dope would probably not endure another go-around with the three amigos.

However, for all of Rick Mercer's hopeful tweets to the contrary, there will be no third debate.

So, what is needed is a game-breaker.

Iggy's call for Canadians to "Rise-up", Jack's groundswell of support in Quebec, the Conservatives' terrible police state tactics have all combined to barely suffice to counteract the pro-Conservative media bias that has given the Harper campaign the only life it has had from Day 1.

Can strategic voting be the game-breaker? If progressive Canadians would buy into this conscientiously, strategic voting could turn the day. Even though many ridings seem to be strategically pre-sorted (i.e. B.C.'s Skeena - Bulkley Valley, where the Liberals are running a parachuted-in youngster, avoiding any amount of vote leakage from the incumbent NDP member) there is a significant number of ridings where a targeted swing of progressive voters will remove a Conservative MP. No question about it.

Strategic Voting Only Option Now
As of now, this is the game-changer people have to run with. Progressive Canadians need to realize that another Conservative term in office will have dire consequences and may effectively block any removal of the Conservatives in the foreseeable future. For that reason, with time now running out, progressives need to engage in strategic campaigning and voting.

Check out sites like Swing33 and Project Democracy to locate the ridings where a shift in votes on the progressive side will make a difference. It is imperative to take advantage of every vote to remove the Conservatives from office.

With no other game-changer on the horizon, strategic voting is the best hope.

That doesn't mean that we don't cast around for other possibilities. For example:

Fair Canadian Pricing
* Liberals promise to enforce fair retail pricing if elected re U.S. vs. Canadian prices for the same item, given the strong Canadian dollar. Very timely, would definitely resonate, easy to say - but tough to pull off (and possibly vulnerable to attack). Maybe someone will pass this concept along to Iggy.
Vote Mobs
* There are Conservatives on campuses, but this has to be a boost for progressives. Social media obviously plays a major role.
Focus on One or Two Conservative Weak Points
* One of the problems with this campaign is that there have been so many scandals and the public just doesn't have the time or engagement to absorb any of it. Perhaps a coordinated effort could bring public wrath to a head on one or more issues.
Drive Home Inept Conservative Fiscal Management
* With input from former PM Paul Martin, this issue can turn a misrepresented supposed Conservative strong point into a Liberal winning point. Flaherty's failure to see the recession while we were already in it is the tee-off and you could easily play 18 holes.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Arts Funding Issue Below the Radar this Campaign

Perhaps due to the deluge of headline-grabbing Conservative scandals this campaign, the issue of arts funding has had little play. Especially compared to 2008, when $45 million of arts funding cuts provoked a gut level reaction from arts and cultural organizations, the arts' approach to this election has been more analytic and measured, according to an article in today's Montreal Gazette

The Conservatives seemed surprised in '08 that arts became an issue, especially in Quebec. They seemingly have no clue as to the economic and emotional value of the arts to the country.

For his part, Michael Ignatieff has promised that a Liberal government would restore the $45 million that was axed, as well as double Canada Council funding over three years.

No one is saying just how much the Conservative may cut.

In case anyone has forgotten how clueless the Conservatives appear to be on this issue, this is evident in the video below from '08.

Begging for Homecare

Not much to add to that.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Brazilian-Owned Multinational Vale Magnanimously Agrees to Preserve Piece of 'Group of Seven' Country

This after an energetic one-person local campaign to save the area, near Ontario's Willisville Mountain received over 1000 signatures on a petition and plenty of response to a Willisville Mountain Facebook page.

The area is historically, culturally and artistically important and Vale is to be congratulated for coming through to preserve the land.

You hate to look for a negative in such a positive outcome. Canadians, however, do need to ask themselves, how can our interests be reliably protected when such a decision is left to the largesse of a foreign-owned, corporate conglomerate? In this case, Vale obviously leaped at a relatively painless way of cultivating good will. No guarantees of any such good fortune anywhere in the country going forward.

The Harper Sellout of Sovereignty from the Political Sphere to the Corporate

Here's a good piece in the Halifax Chronicle Herald by Silver Donald Cameron.

Basically a very similar set of circumstances as we see in the CETA free trade talks with Europe. A very dangerous and uncertain road to go down.

Unfortunately, I'm not even sure there is a huge fundamental difference between the Liberals and the Cons on this. The Cons' eyes may be glazed over with greed and they may be just ripping out their own hearts over the fact that they couldn't sell out Potash to the first comer (as one example).

But what would the Libs do? Although the Liberals would probably take a different approach, more well regulated, humane and presentable to a wider audience, the end result will probably be a similar shift of sovereignty to corporations.

No need to look any further than John Manley's article in yesterday's National Post. Doesn't even leave many dots to connect.

Obviously, no one, other than a select few shareholders, has the power to control who runs corporations - so you can see where democracy is headed. But try to explain this to voters in a sound bite. Or even get people to read it.

If this phenomenon truly is a threat, one thing is certain though. That is that Stephen Harper will be fast-tracking it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Meet the Thought-Controlled Car - and a Motherlode of Potential Political Applications

The thought controlled car, or BrainDriver, by Autonomos Labs in Germany has been in development for four or five years and has already been demoed.

The applications would be many. Among the more obvious, this car could open up driving to untold numbers of people with handicaps. According to one rabbi, such a car may even enable Jews to drive on the Sabbath.

Why stop with cars?

But what about thinking outside the box? Why stop with cars?

For example, a lot of bickering could be efficiently eliminated simply by applying this technology to the Member of Parliament. For example, a thought-controlled Opposition would ensure that Parliament would run smoothly at all times and there would be no need for bothersome debates. In the not-so-distant future, for example, a thought-controlled Question Period, could be used to give the government an opportunity to provide citizens with timely updated instructions on specific activities they should be applying themselves to on a given evening.

But what about meddlesome wrangling and squabbling within a given caucus? No problem! Thought-controlled Government Backbenchers and thought-controlled Cabinet Ministers would fine tune a government to run like a Swiss Watch.

But what about the... er... the you know, Prime Minister, President or what have you? The fact is, and there is no denying it, the one in charge can, on occasion, get a little headstrong. You can get a very flamboyant PM, maybe a President with creative ideas, or you could even get someone in there who wants to make changes that would be incompatible with the greater good. So, why put your faith in luck? In the right hands, the Thought controlled Prime Minister would be a God-send for the country!

Thank about it.

Disdain and Contempt Lose the Day for Harper - Victory of Substance over Smugness

The first impression left by the debate was the "reality show" aspect of it all. In the parameters of the reality show, the characters are allowed to lie and be two-faced and still win. Smugness can win over substance on a TV debate, just as it can easily do in a reality show (or a high school hallway). So that is sort of what we get in a TV political debate.

The debate as a reality show will seem like ancient history by voting day. The information conveyed, if any, will quickly grow in importance, even if it is up against hastily manufactured counter-spin from biased media and pollsters.

But what people will genuinely remember from the debate will be representative lines like the following::

Harper: "Our government has consistently blah blah blah blah......"


Ignatieff: This isn’t bickering, Mr. Harper. This is democracy.

As a matter of fact, even now it's tough to remember anything concrete that Harper said and the only thing that comes to mind was probably his most audacious lie / non-sequitur, something to the effect that "all economists in the country agree that raising corporate taxes is bad for the economy".

This sense of the result was confirmed by a group of 300 U of A debating students live blogging during the debate and tracked by the Edmonton Journal. They came up with a very significant result: Prior to the debate, 38% of them felt Harper would win. After the debate, only 15% thought Harper won. After the debate, a whopping 44% of the student debaters rated Ignatieff the winner, 41% gave the nod to Layton and only 15% picked Harper. This is victory of substance over smugness.  

Oh yeah, actually, Harper's point that the fighter jets are an expense that's coming up only five years down the road and therefore can't be canceled to provide cash for this/next year's budget, if true, was probably his best point.

Another spot where Ignatieff blew Harper away was on building mega-prisons to mimic the already tried-failed-and-bankrupt U.S. right-wing approach to incarceration.

Harper didn't have a word to say on the matter beyond the lamest generalities, which would be the best way to describe most of his answers.

Another take on Harper's losing approach from Dan Gardner in the Ottawa Citizen, where he summarizes Harper's opinion of Parliament as a "squalid irrelevance", in a thorough dismembering of Harper's performance.

To be sure, there weren't any knock-out punches thrown. However, at the end of the day, Harper may have been still sneering, but his right to govern the country was down on the mat.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Rap Troubadour, Baba Brinkman, Says, "Don't Vote for Mean People"

 "Don't Vote for Mean People
Don't let Stephen Harper hold democracy for ransom."

That's the message of a new vid by self styled "rap troubadour", Baba Brinkman, who also happens to be the son of Vancouver Quadra MP Joyce Murray (Liberal).

Aside from being a staunch Liberal, Brinkman is the prototypical B.C.-er, with over a million trees planted, a blank slate approach and a great youtube channel. He has also scored pretty good reviews from the New York Times and elsewhere.

Seen in the Georgia Straight.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Conservatives Jump 10 Points Overnight - in the Prairies(!)

Interpret or interpolate how you will. Today's Nanos shows a lot of interesting details in the regions.

Nothing more telling that the huge jump up to 59.5% for the Conservatives in the Prairies - up from roughly 50% the day before..

The net effect is that, while the overall numbers for Canada see the Conservatives maintaining a 9-point lead or so over the Liberals, that lead is far less meaningful than it has been for the past two weeks.

No doubt, small sample sizes in the regions make any of these numbers unreliable. Nevertheless, the trend of increasing Liberal strength across much of the country is evident.

Friday, April 8, 2011

WAKE UP! - Arcade Fire Urges Canadians to Vote Against Harper... (update) but blog post has now been removed... (update) but restored again!

Canada's Grammy-winning indie music sensation, Arcade Fire, appeals to Canadians to vote the Conservatives out of office.

An entry on Arcade Fire's website reads, in part,

April 6, 2011
Hey Canadians!

It is about to be voting time. Our current leader has championed some pretty destructive initiatives on everyone’s behalf… it’s really important to get out and vote on May 2nd.

Arcade Fire won the Grammy for Album of the Year just a few weeks ago. Some members of Arcade Fire are immigrants to Canada. They live and work in Montreal.

The blog entry finishes up:

Canada is still a pretty good country, and worth fighting for…

Update 19:30 April 8: the post has been removed from Arcade Fire's blog.
Update 00:30 April 9: the original post was back - Yay!

The item was shamelessly glossed over on CTV National News last night - Lisa Laflamme saying only that Arcade Fire was encouraging Canadians to get out and vote.

"Speaking of democracy, let's have some" - Ignatieff is Campaigning Very Well

Ignatieff pulls three times the crowd as Harper

-Hamilton Spectator

at Liuna Station in Hamilton

"Speaking of democracy, let's have some"

But then, after getting a standing ovation from the clearly partisan crowd, he opened the floor to questions and, in a clear reference to Harper's tightly controlled, limited access campaign, said: “and speaking of democracy, let’s have some, let’s show him some. I’m not an entertainer, I’m not a comedian; I’m an accountable politician and I have to be here to answer your questions.”

If the media provides balanced coverage of the election (something like the article quoted here), Ignatieff will win

Thursday, April 7, 2011

No Infectious Disease Identified in Negative AIDS Patients

A press release issued today from the Hong Kong Centre for Health Protection stated that testing conducted on the Mainland and in the U.S. have identified no infectious disease related to the patients who exhibit or claim to exhibit AIDS-like systems but test negative for HIV.

The press release goes on to say that:

"These individuals lived in different parts of the Mainland without clustering. No common characteristics or causative evidence of disease transmission among these individuals or their close contacts were identified.

     Laboratory tests undertaken by China's CDC and an laboratory in the United States yielded negative results for HIV. No causative pathogen has been found so far.

     "According to MOH, there is currently no evidence from clinical presentation, laboratory or epidemiological findings to substantiate that these people are suffering from an infectious disease."

So far, no explanation other than "AIDS-phobia" (i.e. people are afraid they have AIDS) has been offered by Chinese authorities.

A message board called Flutrackers is actively tracking developments on this and has turned up no or minimal information that would tend to confirm that there is a new AIDS-like disease or any infectious disease behind these illnesses.

No Fuel for Swedish Jets on Libya Mission

Swedish Gripen fighters were due to fly missions in Libya today but were grounded because their U.S. run base in Sicily doesn't have the right fuel.

As the Gripens use standard civilian Jet A1 fuel and U.S. and many NATO fighters use a special more volatile JP5 fuel, the two are not interchangeable.

Why wouldn't the most common jet fuel be available? There is plenty of speculation that the U.S. is taking every opportunity to deny the Swedes opportunities to demonstrate the capabilities of these aircraft. They are seen as potential competitors for the U.S.-made F-35 joint strike fighters, currently being strongly considered by Canada, as well as many other countries.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Having a Federal Election During the NHL Playoffs - Who Wins, Who Loses?

A week from tonight, the attention of Canadians will be riveted on something that for millions is far more exciting ~even~ than a federal election.

Habs are in, Nucks are in. Leafs, Sens and Oilers are out. And the Flames are out too or soon will be

This year, the first 2-1/2 weeks of the playoffs will coincide with the final 2-1/2 weeks of the federal election campaign.

It is somewhat of a rarity that these two great Canadian pastimes co-exist. The last two times there was some overlap were the elections of 2004, Paul Martin's minority, and 1997, Jean Chretien's 2nd majority.

However these two occasions were much different than that in which we find ourselves today.

First of all, in both those years the elections were held in June, so the earlier part of the playoffs was finished before the campaigns started to get serious. The result of that was that the Canadian teams, with the notable exception of Calgary in '04, were knocked out before the campaigns really kicked into high gear. It is also worth noting that there has never been anywhere near the media coverage of the NHL playoffs that there is now.

You have a lot of people with all-sports radio on all day long. You have CBC and TSN and I don't even know what other stations scrapping it out to air every single game that is played anywhere - not just the Canadian teams. Not to even mention the internet...

Just the sheer amount of media air that the playoffs are going to occupy during the last 2-3 weeks of this campaign, beginning a week from tonight, on a nightly basis, is going to be something to behold.

So what does it mean? Not that anyone really knows...  But one's gut sense would say that, if anyone is hoping to influence large numbers of people in a substantial way, a way that takes any amount of focus or engagement, they are going to have an even tougher time than might normally be expected.

What about the plum advertising opportunities that all those high viewership playoff games are going to offer? The cost is sure to be high. Does that mean advantage Conservatives?

What about the fact that the two cities that have teams involved are two cities where Liberals need to hold or add seats? Or the fact that at least the Ontario teams are out. Does that really means that Ontario could be a little more volatile?

All things considered, the fact that the attention of millions of Canadians is going to be on our national sport during the last 2-1/2 weeks of April has to be considered an advantage for the status quo.

One other point not to be overlooked: the Quebec City and Winnipeg factors. If any kind of sense was floated out there that voting a particular way would secure a team for either city, then that could be a game changer in a few ridings in those cities.

Monday, April 4, 2011

World Press Freedom Day May 3 - Will Canada Be Celebrating this Year?

It is slightly ironic that World Press Freedom Day falls the day after the federal election in Canada.

Right when freedom of the press in this country seems to be going MIA.

If one more article appears accusing the Liberals of proposing a "tax and spend" plan, without mentioning that the Liberal plan actually includes getting back out of a budget deficit position sooner than the Conservatives' plan does, it can be safely assumed that press freedom is no longer a fact of life in this country, as we once knew it.

Today's freedom of the press MIA exhibit: the Toronto Sun's Michael Den Tandt's column. It is basically just a re-conception of yesterday's Ibbitson piece in the Globe, but Den Tandt has to be credited for a very original and amusing revision of history, to the effect that the Conservative Party is "centre-right" and the Liberals "centre-left".

How about press freedom MIA day? And how about we celebrate by de-conglomerating all these papers, radio stations internet portals and TV networks?

Ignatieff Would Remove Oil Sands Tax Breaks

A Liberal government would immediately cancel the Accelerated Capital Cost Allowance for oil sands investment. This is expected to generate nearly $500 million in additional revenue for the federal government over the next two years.

In the platform released yesterday, the Liberals also announced a comprehensive package of other environmental initiatives, well summarized over at Environmental Defense.

Even Harper had intentions of eliminating the ACCA by 2015, as few people, even in Alberta, are clamouring for more tax breaks for the oil industry.

The Liberal green initiative to get the roughest ride from Conservatives and Albertans will no doubt be the cap and trade system announced yesterday by Ignatieff.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Globe and Mail "Analysis" Misses the Mark By 180 Degrees

In this hatchet job by John Ibbitson.

Judging by the comments, 98% of the readers see through the sham.

CTV somewhat more objective but still very pro-Harper.

Besides dealing with a biased media, the challenge for Ignatieff now becomes to keep the campaign fresh after putting the entire platform out there at this early stage in the game.

AIDS-like HIV-Negative Disease Spreads in China, Baffles Experts

The claims about this disease are startling, even scary. They say it ravages the body, is highly contagious, passing from person to person in any bodily fluid, and does not result in a positive HIV test.

From the news stories out there, it seems that at least hundreds of people have been suffering from this disease for at least 2-3 years. Well if that's the case, then it couldn't be as "highly contagious" as claimed, or else there would be millions sick by now.

Then again, maybe there are many more carriers who do not exhibit symptoms. As of now, it looks like there could be any number of possible explanations. In an article in February, the BBC reports doctor speculation that the disease could be the result of a mental condition.

Or, who knows? Perhaps the disease will eventually be found to have a link to pollution or chemicals in the environment or the food chain.

Of course there may also be the Armageddon wishful thinkers out there. And there are definitely some trying to foment anxiety. One Christian news site published an article headlined that the disease had spread to the U.S. - but the link provided contained no such information.

Aside from the Epoch Times and BBC articles linked, news of this seems to be traveling mostly on the blogs.


Saturday, April 2, 2011

GMOs Force Farmers into Pre-emptive Lawsuit vs Monsanto

Imagine you were a farmer. Then, one fine day in the country, some seeds or pollen blow in on the wind or fall in some bird poop and the genetic material from these seeds or pollen gets into your crops.

How would you like to get nailed with a big fat patent infringement lawsuit from Monsanto because of this?

A group of farmers, concerned that this is an imminent threat, have filed suit against Monsanto to "challenge the chemical giant's patents on genetically modified seed".

The results of this lawsuit will no doubt have implications for the CETA "free trade" negotiations with Europe.

from Grist.

What's Up with Elections Canada Job Opportunities on Conservative Candidates' Websites?

Perhaps this is a common practice. Seems out of line to me.

If I lived in Oshawa I would want to know a little more about my MP than the fact they have lawn signs available and links to Elections Canada on their website. Looks like the candidate in question, CPC MP Colin Carrie is in for a stiff challenge from Liberal candidate, James Morton and the NDP challenger, Chris Buckley, who is President of CAW Local 222. It will be interesting to see which way the vote splits there.

April 4 - the links to Elections Canada employment opportunities have now been removed from the pages where they formerly appeared on Mr. Carrie's site.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Green Party Proposes High Speed Rail Corridors

This news from Mar. 29 took the milk run to get here but better late than never!

Even if lacking in detail, an excellent proposal from the Green Party of Canada. Leader Elizabeth May proposes high-speed rail links in four corridors across the country: Halifax - Sydney, Windsor-Quebec City, Regina-Saskatoon and Calgary-Edmonton.

The often-studied Quebec-Windsor route is obviously the most viable and would seem to be a no-brainer. But, for some reason, the political will to push it through has never existed.

Put it Right Across the Country

Frankly I would like to see them go one step further and put high-speed through right across the country.

Halifax-Sydney doesn't seem to make all that much sense. Halifax-Moncton... now that would make sense, especially if attached to Moncton-Quebec City. Vancouver-Calgary would be the tough part, just as it was for the original railway builders. But, look at it this way: installing high-speed rail from Vancouver to Calgary today has to be easier than laying the original railroad was in the 1800s.

Carbon consumption statistics for the various forms of transport are given in carbon per passenger km. What becomes evident is that, as electrical generation becomes cleaner, electric powered transportation methods will therefore be the cleanest. Presumably, the conversion of automobiles to electric will proceed in the coming years. Aircraft, however, will not be able to be converted to electric in the foreseeable future, therefore high-speed rail will be particularly competitive in green terms vs air travel. The ability to go coast to coast by HSR will be very important.