True North Politics panel

Enjoyed the discussion today on CTV's True North Politics Panel


Time to Sit Down

This past week we have seen Prime Minister Harper keep with tradition and stand during Question Period to defend two of his embattled ministers. One has to wonder why?

The foul ups and bad optics that Veteran Affairs minister Fantino created for himself, should not require the Prime Minister to defend him. It is his department and the buck stops with Fantino. Ministers have to know their files. This includes knowing whether funding announcements are accurate and being prepared to answer all questions on their implications. Ministers require a lot of political sense too. How can one not understand the backlash that would come from shutting local Veteran Affairs offices or the political damage that would result in a pre-election year?

Ministers also have to understand that cameras and mics should always be treated as on. That is pretty basic stuff really. Fantino's highly publicized meetings and missteps with veterans and a veteran’s widow leave you shaking your head. The optics were horrible and the backlash predictable.

Speaking of poor optics, Leona Aglukkaq sitting in the House reading a newspaper while ignoring serious questions on the northern food program (which directly impacts her riding) is one of the worst examples I have seen in decades on the Hill. The arrogance and lack of concern it displayed was stunning for its stupidity. All by herself she created her own Marie Antoinette moment and it will haunt her for years to come. Over the last few years the only one that beats that is probably Pierre Trudeau giving people the “Salmon Arm salute”. Arrogance is costly and never wins votes for you or your party. Aglukkaq should be run into the House ASAP and stand and apologize, it is the least she can do.

Over the years the Conservatives have made it a habit of designating other ministers to take questions when someone is in trouble. However, it is much better to let the offender take the heat for their actions. Like his Liberal predecessors, it is unlikely that Harper will fire either one of them when they are under attack. That is a victory he will not give to the opposition parties. The ministers will be dealt with later.

For now the Prime Minister has done what is required, IE stood up once and defended them. Now it’s time for him to sit down and let the ministers swing on their own.


Truth Squads

Watching the latest antics from Conservative Party operatives and I am thinking that we need to bring back “Truth Squads”. For those that don’t remember them, they were a Liberal Party invention back in the John Diefenbaker days. Liberal truth squads would shadow Dief in the hope of catching him in a lie or exaggeration.

Today of course the Conservatives are the ones out trying to catch Liberal candidates disagreeing with party policy or saying something they shouldn't. And this is before they are even nominated. I don’t quite see the point of all this skulking around with hidden tape recorders- pretty amateurish stuff.

I don’t recall ever meeting an MP from any party who blindly accepts 100% of a party’s platform. There are always disagreements, often minor, but never 100% acceptance and that includes on major issues. Why would a voter want to elect a bobble head doll that nods its head on all policy issues? You want someone to stand up for you and your riding.

Usually if you sandbag someone, the resulting controversy gets the victim a lot of sympathy from folks which at the very least, balances things out with those that might be upset with them.

In this case using a poor quality tape compounds the problem. Who assigned this staffer to carry out this activity? Who authorized it?

Who vets this stuff before deciding to use it? Why on earth would a minister and MPs take this at face value and go on the attack without vetting things themselves?

It looks like the short pants brigade have a serious need for some adult supervision and hopefully that will be in place before the next election.



It was interesting to hear Tom Mulcair try to dodge the issue of how poorly the NDP did in the last two bye-elections, as well as the previous one where they lost Olivia Chow’s former seat. If you are the leader of a party your worse fear is that your vote will collapse and drift elsewhere.

Mulcair is no fool he has lots of provincial cabinet experience, he knows what fate can await a leader if that type of trend continues. Party members and MPs tend to want winners leading them into an election and right now it is Trudeau not Mulcair who has the momentum.

Every election there has been talk about strategic voting in order to stop the Harper Conservatives and we haven’t seen much evidence of that happening or at least it being successful.  Usually when we heard the other two parties fighting over strategic voting it was a sign to us that both of them were weak. In our case we wanted both of them about equal so that they would split the vote and thereby give us some wins in closely contested ridings.

In the 2004 and 2005-6 elections my war room attack staff was under strict orders not to go after the NDP during the campaign as we didn’t want to weaken them too much. We even had to get permission to intervene on a riding by riding basis if one of our candidates came to us for assistance against their NDP opponents.

What are the repercussions of a potential collapse of the NDP vote?

1. Mulcair’s tenure and policies will face increased internal scrutiny.

2. The Liberals will probably mount a pre-election push to attract soft NDP votes to themselves in an ABC (Anyone But Conservatives) campaign and this time they will have a chance of that being successful. They may also want to go after the former PC Party vote, using former MP Bill Casey as an example.

3. The Conservatives are left with a few difficult choices. Do they try to find a way to prop up Mulcair in the hope that they will stop the NDP vote from drifting to Trudeau or

4. Do they look at an earlier election date to head off a potential NDP collapse outside of Quebec? An earlier vote would also allow the Conservatives to get ahead of any economic slowdown caused by falling oil prices which could put their economic record in jeopardy. With foreign policy issues dominating the news right now they could also capitalize on Trudeau’s weakness on that front.

All in all it makes for an interesting few months as all of the above gets sorts out.


Losing is Winning?

Canadians woke up today to the realization that there were two bye-elections yesterday. You have to wonder how many outside of the Ottawa bubble even gave it a second thought. I will hazard a guess and say that more Canadians were probably talking about the weather than the results this morning.

The only thing interesting about the two bye-elections was that the Liberal leader’s office ended up believing their own rhetoric and talk points. How else do you explain sending your leader to Whitby for election night- to do what- smile and say with a lot of bafflegab that we lost.

Was it inexperience, over confidence, youthful enthusiasm or just plain recklessness on the part of the Liberal brain trust? It’s not good idea and doesn’t make much political sense to show your boss losing. It would be interesting to know who in his office came up with that bright idea. At least Mulcair had the sense to get out of town. Trudeau could just as easily have commented from Ottawa or issued a statement if they really had to have him spin that somehow losing was winning.

The Liberal-Tory votes pretty much echoed the 2006 results. All the ballyhoo about the Liberals over coming Flaherty’s lead in 2011 was nothing more than great spin on their part. Spin the media ate up if for no other reason than it made the contest appear to be interesting and a horse race.

No one should have expected the Conservative candidate to do as well as Flaherty. He was an incredible force in Canadian politics and as Finance minister often dominated the headlines. No new comer was going to match his results.

In the end no matter what the spin from the Liberal camp, they placed second in two contests. In our present system you either win or lose. The Liberals lost this time, twice in one night, so please spare us the spin, go back and do your homework and run your leader out when he has something important to say- perhaps a policy announcement that says what he actually stands for.