Monday, April 25, 2016

Harper still tops among Conservatives

 #cdnpoli #cpc

An EKOS poll has Conservatives still picking Harper over the others.  Either members haven't moved on or they are setting a bar for the other candidates to live up to.

One would certainly hope that the next leader would be even better than Harper, let alone Prime Minister Trudeau.

In the poll, what bothers me is the other potential candidates that are missing, particularly Michael Chong and Michelle Rempel although over 1/3 of respondents didn't want to pick any of the given names.

28% Stephen Harper
23% Peter MacKay
17% Kevin O’Leary
17% Other
5% Lisa Raitt
5% Don't Know/No Response
4% Maxime Bernier
2% Kellie Leitch

So even if that 17% Other was split among Chong and Rempel, they'd still be above Raitt, Bernier, and Leitch.  With MacKay likely not entering this race, and O'Leary having a political ceiling, whomever this "Other" is, can take it.

In this sense, with one year to go, this EKOS poll is simply telling us that it's anyone's race, few see it's worth entering, it's wide open, and no one really cares right now.

I'll maintain that history dictates that whoever wins, won't be prime minister--which gives meaning to the leadership race following the next election.  That's when you'll see candidates like Peter MacKay and Rona Ambrose entering, knowing they now have a legitimate chance at actually becoming prime minister.  For Rona, she will be able to stand on her well-remembered time as the current interim leader, and she full-well knows she's currently gaining experience, building knowledge, and creating a national campaign network and future war chest to run for Conservative leader in 2021.

The risk, however, is if the leader elected in May 2017 becomes well-liked and runs a smooth campaign in 2019 to not only build on 99 seats, but in the four years following, becomes a palatable official opposition leader in order to be accepted as a credible prime minister, especially in a minority government.  If that leader loses the 2023 election, then you have to jump up to nine years from now for the next opportunity.

But one thing we do know in Canadian politics, to become prime minister, you need to have deep roots politically.

For Ambrose and MacKay, those roots go way back, even from now.

Friday, April 15, 2016

NDP Budget Alberta-style

With oil revenue dropping from $9 billion to just over $1 billion, no government, no ideology, no party, especially one that hasn't even been in power for a year would be able to quell out of the dire deficit situation.

The things I liked in this budget are the small business tax cut from 3% to 2%. Let's admit there's at least that.

Let's also admit that the problem with this budget stems from the colossal expense of health care, which is well over half the budget and will continue to rise as the bulk of the population ages.

With that, there needs to be a fundamental change in the way health care is delivered and funded, otherwise, the big baby boomers now retiring will eat away at the future of their children and grandchildren.  That said, it's already happening.

Over twenty years ago, if you read the book "Boom, Bust, and Echo", you'll know that the baby boomers made up a bulk of the population and during their time of highest income earning, they still paid much less in taxes than their children do now at that same time of earning, but they spent and built up our corporate and government social bureaucracy to a point of non-sustainability into future generations.

The plan under the Lougheed PCs in the 70's was to not depend on natural resource revenue for operations and infrastructure, but to make the Heritage Savings Trust so big, the gov't could use the interest to pay for the very things that recent PC and now NDP governments were trying to save.

We all know that the Klein government of the 90's slashed and burned to get to zero, but left the province with horrible infrastructure and a health system that appeared to be beyond the point of repair.  Coupled with front-line worker wage cuts to teachers and nurses, in the long-run that policy didn't really get us anywhere.  I maintain that paying teachers and nurses more salary isn't going to destroy our society or budget for that matter.

But the PCs under Stelmach and Redford didn't fair any better and continued to spend spend spend, with little real improvement.

Come on, people, look more closely.  The Alberta health system bureaucracy is massive.  They have spent a lot on technology yet still do not run as efficient as they could.  Top bureaucrat wages and benefits are insane.  The number of full time lawyers that work for Health alone eats up millions.

Don't buy into the B.S. that there aren't areas in the government where efficiencies and common sense can't be found.

Why can Germany offer free health care at 10% of the cost per capita?

Yes, terrible oil prices are certainly having an effect on Alberta, but federally as well, with tax revenues down across the board.

And so here we are.  Massive budget deficits, and a carbon tax on fuel that won't do anything to quell carbon output which won't do anything to quell global warming.

The answer isn't to raise taxes on the very middle class that are trying to create jobs and raise families in good communities.  Once you raise taxes on fuel, the costs of everything go up because everything depends on transportation--you know, like FOOD, SHELTER, and CLOTHING.  And a few hundred in subsidies aren't going to equal this out with lower income folks.  They will still pay more over a year, not just in fuel, but on everything.

In the longer term, the government will realize that their carbon tax policy will have an overall net negative effect on the economy.

But in four years, they won't be around to see it anyway.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Canadian political update - NDP Leap, Trudeau pipelines, CPC Race, and more!

There's so much going on it's difficult to clear away the mud.

The NDP party had their convention just down the street from me and there were big splashes made by the members.

1.  Adoption of the Leap Manifesto, which wants to move Canada from carbon-based energy toward alternatives

2.  The sacking of Tom Mulcair as leader

I believe the two go hand-in-hand.  There was an obvious concerted effort to move the NDP back to the left from where Angry Friendly Tom took them toward the bigger centre during the last federal election, although that's not really why they lost.  The Leap Manifesto which is the brain-child of author Naomi Klein, and Stephen Lewis' son, Avi "calls for an overhaul of the capitalist economy to wean the country quickly off fossil fuels. Among other things, it calls for no new pipelines, which Notley told delegates are crucial to revive Alberta’s resource-based economy." (source).

So here we have an NDP party in Alberta that moved to the middle with populist anti-PC policies and won big time and now a premier who is defending the need to build pipelines as they realize resource and corporate tax revenue from this industry "ARE CRUCIAL" to building the economy, providing jobs, and spending on social programs like, you know, free health care.

Of course, we knew this all along.

But by "we", I don't mean the federal NDP members who voted for this manifesto.

So with this huge rift in probably the most major policy direction a party can decide on, Alberta, including the NDP here (or maybe just the premier and finance minister) are isolated from most of the country once again.

Why did Tom lose but Rachel won?

Back on the point why Tom lost and Rachel won.  Despite there being similar disdain for the status quo between the Alberta PCs and Harper's CPC, and despite both Tom and Rachel taking their party campaign promises toward the mushy-middle, there are two points that differ:

1.  In Alberta, the usual middle occupied by the Liberals and also the Alberta Party were no where near to a capable political threat to anyone, allowing the NDP to grab centrist voters.  Where federally, the strong Trudeau Liberal campaign engulfed the increasing vacuum from the left (see next point), and tired blue liberals who'd been voting Harper instead of Ignatieff and Dion previously.

2.  The Notley NDP campaign was flawless, where the Mulcair campaign was flawed and it bled support to Trudeau.

With debate zingers from Notley to Prentice like "math is hard", that feisty Albertan character is well liked by all.

Federally, the NDP war room was non-existent and eventually took a beating from both sides without response.  There were no feisty zingers from Tom, just awkward smiles.  Thomas (as he was formally known) Mulcair became NDP leader because of his Quebec pedigree, his respect as a tactful parliamentarian, and because of his angry moniker.   At his core though, Tom is a Charest Liberal, not a socialist and even Dippers know it.  

Many early soft NDP supporters were hoping Tom would continue to ride the coattails of the lovable, late, great Jack Layton, who, EQUALLY took the party toward the promise-land of the policy centre, but Tom's campaign didn't seem genuine, nor was it effective, unlike Jack's triumph to Official Opposition for first time in party history.

In this sense, Rachel successfully pulled from the Book of Layton and won huge, whereas Tom didn't execute and the NDP were reduced back to where they traditionally were known for--third party socialists.

Because of that, it left the door open for the actual socialists (or anti-capitalists as they like to negatively call themselves sometimes) to retake the party, which they did last weekend in Edmonton of all places.

Weak NDP = Conservatives remain in opposition

For Conservatives, this just sucks.  Having a stronger NDP ensured competition with the Liberals in order for CPC candidates to "shoot up the middle" in a pile of ridings to take the crown.  And because of that, this will further ensure the reestablishment of the long-standing Liberal hegemony as the seemingly most successful political party in the history of democracy.

And further to that, prime minister Justin Trudeau, in true Liberal form, is successfully playing both sides on this great debate.  Sustainable environment populist selfies on one-hand, and back room handshakes on Energy East pipelines on the other.  Politically, it's a novel, diplomatic approach, but time will tell if it plays out successfully, or if it continues to be bashed back and forth like a shuttlecock.

Conservative Leadership Race

Now moving from the centre to the right, the Conservative leadership "race" got an injection of libertarianism with the expected announcement from former cabinet minister and current Quebec MP Maxime Bernier that he's seeking the leadership.

Meanwhile, more popular candidates like former PC leader and CPC justice/defense minister Peter Mackay and Trump-Canada's Kevin O'Leary continue to remain in the mainstream spotlight, while Calgary MP Michelle Rempel continues her social media journey in the wilderness gaining interest with her Calgary-ghost town jobs fair.

All that said, very very few folks I know are talking about the CPC race, likely because their immediate attention and desperation is on Notley and Trudeau to make nice and let Energy East happen...

not on great leap backward rainbow manifestos.