Friday, 18 September 2015

Globe and Mail leaders debate really regurgitated propaganda messages. Where is the election meat?

Still too close to call. We know their stories but how
 does anyone break out?

Globe and Mail economic debate was a disappointment because the moderator allowed the all three leaders to spout their usual campaign stories.

I was hoping that moderator David Walmsley, the Globe’s editor-in-chief would tighten the screws on all the leaders with more acid questioning. That didn’t happen Harper, Mulcair and Trudeau were allowed to stay on their propaganda messages. Walmsley allowed continual regurgitation of their standard messages without checking them for real answers. I expected better of my favourite newspaper.

Walmsley’s misfire was too bad because before the debate started Globe staffers had an excellent 15 minute discussion. They should have been part of the debate and been allowed to engage the leaders to get them off their standard messages. The editor-in-chief was more the managing editor of the paper which was his former job. I think anyone of the Globe’s columnists could have done a better job than the editor-in-chief. My choice would be Geoffrey Stevens as moderator.

Did anyone win any ground? Harper did his steady state message stuff about being a good economic manager. Trudeau managed to get his fairness for the middle class messages out but most of the time he fought with Mulcair instead of getting at Harper. Mulcair revealed a swarmy aspect of his character when he enjoyed his eye rolling zingers too much about his balancing budgets platform. 

There is something about NDP self indulgent rhetoric that has a self-righteous air that is obnoxious especially when it comes from a political chameleon like Mulcair. And when he invokes Tommy Douglas I can only wince that he would dare to compare himself to that important and principled Canadian.

Trudeau’s performance was a bit too hot for television but I suspect that if you heard him on radio or audio alone he would come off well. I watched the debate on CPAC which I get at 420P so Trudeau’s hot argumentative performance was softened by low resolution. Comments by a panel after the debate went from calling him the debate winner to “just not ready” which shows the power of that Conservative destruct commercial. 

I have to say that Harper is steady and a good television performer. He allows the opposition leaders to attack him and he never flinches. He is cool for television even when he is righteously indignant or in a state of denial. In fact he can be effectively dismissive of their attacks and get away with it. However, his steady state story is not really true and is wearing thin. His record is not quite as free from fiscal foibles as he would have us believe. Both opposition leaders made good points about Harper’s economic record.

The bottom line is we got a propaganda debate. It bordered on boring and was very repetitive with each leader’s standard story going without serious challenges. In advertising telling your message over and over is seen as a promotional dictum to register enough times to make a difference. Sadly our political encounters with all three parties is stuck on that level.

Trudeau from a promotional point of view is trying hard to differentiate himself from Mulcair and Harper by running deficits which is a risky strategy. That is risky when two parties create promotional messages that promote balanced budgets. That means Liberal promotion is fighting on two fronts simultaneously. The Liberal plan over the next four to five weeks has to be very special to break through the glut of steady state thinking.

Harper can show a smoke and mirrors surplus. The Liberals will need to show how that surplus is at a cost to programs and hurts people. They need to show that provinces and municipalities and fiscal experts endorse their plans for infrastructure spending. In short we know the plan to run deficits. Now they have to show how Canadians benefit from this plan. That is a lot to do before 19 October. 

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Strategic voting is the only way to release Stephen Harper's right wing grip on Canada.

Only the electorate know this for sure. They will have to vote strategically for it to happen.

The electorate understands Stephen Harper’s divide and conquer approach to Canadian federal elections and they don’t like it. Expect Conservatives tired of Harper to switch their vote. Their natural home when discontent with their own party is the Liberals. That is why the New Democrats are looking more like the Liberal Party.

Conservatives of a more socially aware Tory bent are tiring of supporting the right wing ideology that Stephen Harper has attempted for the last decade to impose on Canadians. He has done this with his base of 38.7 percent of voters that in 2011 election that gave him his current majority. 

Tory Conservatives natural home when they are irritated or at least concerned with their own party and leader is the Liberal Party. If enough disenchanted Conservatives do this then Liberals will elect more members for the new parliament in a tight three way race.

Conservatives of this kind often cannot bring themselves to vote for The New Democrats (NDP) unless the NDP looks more Liberal and shrugs off its socialist veneer. That may have happened in the recent Alberta provincial election. The current stance of the federal NDP is to look more like Liberals which could be their way of trying to siphon off traditional Liberal voters. They have a much harder time getting Conservatives to switch but they try by saying they will balance the budget one of Harper’s current election mantras.

In this tight race something has to happen of this kind for any party to get even a minority government. All parties say they will not form coalitions so it is up to the voters to create the government they want. That means a clear shift for Conservatives to either the NDP or the Liberals. In many ridings where the vote is close it will mean strategically voting against Stephen Harper’s view of Canada.

As an example in my own riding Bay of Quinte where the tight race continues. The battle at the moment is between the Conservatives and Liberals although still close with the NDP behind the Liberals by five points. Polls indicate the chances of the riding going either Conservative or Liberal is now 50-50. NDP supporters have to move to the Liberal  to beat out the Conservative candidate. It is like this in many ridings across the country. Conservatives who find Harper too much to take have to also change from their normal voting patterns to the Liberal candidate who at this time is the one who can beat the Conservative in my riding.

The tightness of the current election race indicates that there are many undecided voters who normally have allegiances to one of the three major parties. I believe we are in for a major switch of these allegiances if the election further polarizes to rid Canada of the Harper Government. In those circumstances party loyalties will become less important than the task to stop Harper.

Then there are the voters who are unaligned and with no party affiliations. Their depth of political understanding of the election and what’s happening to Canada may be superficial. They may respond to party propaganda such as the intense He’s just not ready campaign of the Conservatives against Liberal leader Justin Trudeau. Equally they may be influenced by Liberal and NDP propaganda. These voters could hold the balance of who forms the next government.

The next five weeks of this campaign compounds because of its 78 day length the perilous outcomes that could happen for Canada. Literally anything can happen. The Conservatives have been beaten back as the front runners by the Duffy trial, migrant refugee issues, the economic news and their stance on the war in Syria. Can they rebound? Can Stephen Harper’s steady state message break through again?

The upcoming five debates may change the tone of the campaign. However, the likelihood of any one pulling away from the other parties with majority numbers seems very remote. The steam has gone out of the most expensive Conservative campaign in recent memory and despite their spending seem at the moment to be going nowhere. 

Can the NDP or Liberals pull away? Only when the electorate marking their ballots vote strategically can we expect a change that will not mean a minority government and then another election to settle the direction of Canada issues. This election is about curbing the right wing direction of Harper and restoring a more humane centralist government. Given the tight race that means voting strategically to stop Harper or to content yourself with perhaps another four years of Harperland.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Harper's glacial responses to the refugee crisis in Syria and his commitment to the $500 million air war against ISIS demonstrates the Conservative's priorities.

A mean spirited campaign or is the Harper Government just plain tired and without ideas anymore? The Duffy trial evidence showed plainly that moral judgement was suspended in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO). Now our pitiful response to Syrian refugees is stolid and without direction. Recent polls show change is in the air but also to a hung parliament where  the Liberals and New Democrats will have to work together. Just one bright spot. If Elizabeth May is re-elected the NDP and Liberals need to invite her to be the next Environment Minister. The Spirit of the Harper Election Campaign is Mr. Status Quo and a direction for Canada that is a disturbing  move to the right of centre.