The Sausage Factory

with Dan Lett

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  • Oh, and another thing about debates....

    The cutaways are the killers.Cutaways are the shots of politicians in televised debates when they are listening, not debating. These shots have been known to completely scuttle an otherwise successful debate.1999 Manitoba election. CBC Television hosts a debate between Premier Gary Filmon, NDP Leader Gary Doer and Liberal Leader Jon Gerrard. The lingering memory for me is the horrible expression on Filmon's face as he listened to Doer. It was a mix of nausea and homicidal rage.For those of you lucky enough to catch the first presidential debate between Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama,did you notice the striking difference in strategy for the cutaways?Obama was cool and calm and whenever McCain was talking the trash, he was looking down, scribbling on his pad, waiting his chance to respond. When he looked up, he had a quiet, confident expression.McCain, on the other hand, looked at Obama with a quirky grin on his face. Then he shook his head, and looked at the moderator with a combination of plaintiff anxiety and fear. Overall, when he wasn't talking, he looked like a nine-year-old on a Ritalin withdrawal. Eyes darting all over the place, twitching as Obama beat him with the velvet hammer.If you're lucky enough to take in Thursday's English-language debate, watch for the cutaways and who is left looking like a nerd, and who looks like a warrior. With the "Knights of the Round Table" format instituted by the networks, this debate should generate a much greater cutaway factor.-30-
  • I just flew into Calgary and boy my arms are tired...

    Here's a travel tip for all those of you who occasionally have to take business trips. Don't book flights that leave before 7:30 AM. Just do the math.If you leave at, say, 5:30 AM (which I did this morning flying from Regina to Calgary) then you have to be at the airport at 4:30 AM and that means getting up at 3:30 AM (shower, shave, dress, put gas in the rental car, drop off the rental car, scarf a roast beef sandwhich instead of real breakfast). So, why go to bed? That's the question I have been asking myself.Anyway, I'm in Calgary. I thought it would be delightfully contrarian of me to go to Alberta when none of the national media spends anytime in Alberta. That is because it isn't much of a race in Alberta. Too bad, cause it's very interesting here. (But more on that in later days when I file my full dispatch).On to the debates. Didn't catch the French language debate, but early reports indicate that it was a real piling on affair, with Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the bottom of the pile. Harper held his own, or so the reports indicate, but his decision to allow an extra bit of time to debate the economy could be a bad one.He is an articulate economist, of that there is no doubt. But driving around in Calgary today I heard about a mild wave of bank foreclosures of overpriced Calgary real estate. The report, on CBC radio, noted that banks are quite busy foreclosing on those properties where people have had trouble making payments, rather than renegotiating, because of the creeping fear of the US credit crisis.I don't know about you, but Harper should be careful about singing the "Don't Worry, Be Happy" song too many times on the campaign trail. People are going to start noticing that we're not all that happy.-30-
  • Day 18 - Is the artsy, fartsy chicken coming home to roost?

    A while back, the erstwhile Hacks and Wonks and yours truly duked it out over the Harper government's cuts to art funding. To summarize, I suggested the cuts were bad strategy for the Tories, a policy that would re-affirm all the negative stereotypes about the Alberta-based Tory rednecks. The Hack eloquently suggested I was out to lunch, and that cutting arts funding only affected a small group of fringe voters who do not support the Tories anyway. I think many blog readers agreed with the Hack, but I think that was because he wrote WAY MORE than I did. Quantity does tend to sway public opinion, IMHO. Seriously though, it was a vigorous debate with both of us trying to forecast what, if any, impact this policy would have on the electorate.It's way too early for anyone to say "I told you so" but there is some evidence that the arts cuts are hurting the Tories. Maybe not across the board, but in at least one key battleground - Quebec. The Globe's Adam Radwanski makes this observation today, and references a steady slide in support for the Tories in Quebec, as reported by polling's It-Firm, Nanos Research. The arts cuts are big news in Quebec, as witnessed by the rising up of a group of Canada's most famous screen, stage and television actors. Will this translate into problems on e-day? That is the question the aforementioned Hack and I are hashing out.First, if all it took was an endorsement from a bunch of overpaid actors to win an election, the Democrats would have a lock on the White House. But the issue being debated here is whether this convinces voters who have traditionally rejected the Reform/Alliance/Conservative brand, and thus kept them from the promised land of a majority government. Many pundits smarter than me (and by that I mean they write more than me, too) believe a majority is only possible with a breakthrough in Quebec. Certainly, it was thus for Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.If the Conservative campaign remains stalled with the support of about 38 per cent of decided voters, which is just short of what is needed to form a majority, the question should be asked about what it could have done (or not done) to get over that magic hump. By election day, we'll know for sure whether a combination of policies including the arts funding cuts doomed the Tories in Quebec. And then we'll know for sure whether it was decisive or not.UPDATE: The Globe's strategist panel weighs in on the arts funding issue. I added to this post because, frankly, they all agree with me. I am mostly ignoring opinions that conflict with my own. That is, after all, the beauty of a blog, no?. :)-30-
  • Day 17 - I know you are, but what am I?

    Although I may not share the outrage that some have about politicians who call other politicians "Hitler," let me say that I'm tired of it.Several candidates have used Nazi imagery to describe their outrage at Conservative government policies. YouTube is full of home-made videos likening Harper and his government to Hitler and his team of thugs and terrorists. I guess the theory is that if you want to really express concern about a right-wing politician, the term Hitler is the best way to make your point. In that sense, the argument is that Hitler has become like Kleenex, Cher or Orwell, it's an iconic, single-word reference that over the years has worked its way into the fabric of our culture. The problem is, only one of those iconic names refers to a mass murderer, and I guess that's why people have no sense of humour about it.I do know some people in politics who believe it is the worst possible thing anyone could call them. In fact, Premier Gary Doer was incensed a few years ago when a Free Press editorial cartoon about the smokiing ban portrayed him as a goose-stepping Nazi. I heard quite a bit from the NDP about that one, and despite the fact I will always defend the right of editorial cartoonists to speak/draw their minds, I agree that it was not an appropriate image.In this campaign, we've heard quite a few politicians sling the H-bomb at their opponents, in particular at Prime Minister Stephen Harper. I don't find these slurs to be offensive, per se. I think they are a bit extreme. Most of all, I find it a sign of political immaturity. It's the kind of mud slinging that most often comes from someone with absolutely no chance of getting elected.Smart politicians know the difference between dictator (okay) and Hitler (not okay). And I doubt that anyone is ever going to get elected by tossing the H-bomb around. For those who actually believe participating in electoral democracy is a good thing (small group, getting smaller at the time) it might be good to figure out another way of expressing your outrage.-30-
  • Day 15 - more naked people trundle out to the front lawns.

    For those of you who are counting, we have our fourth and fifth naked candidates running around buck naked on the front lawn.Chris Reid, an openly gay engineer, was supposed to challenge Liberal MP Bob Rae in Toronto Centre. Then a Liberal-minded blogger revealed some of Reid's more inflammatory posts from his own blog. These comments translated into some hard questions from the Tory war room, and resulted in Reid deciding to withdraw from the race.It's not clear why the Tory Death Star was concerned about Reid's posts. Was it because he was gay, because he advocated that women and gays carry concealed handguns for safety, because he accused community leaders from Toronto's Gay Ghetto (which is in in his riding) of tolerating promiscuity and prostitution, or because he ranted and raved about the failure of passengers to stop the Tim McLean beheading on a Greyhound bus?Either way, he was naked, on the front lawn and performing his rendition of River Dance.Reid was not the only political naturist to get exposed on the weekend. It was reported that NDP candidate Julian West (Saanich-Gulf Islands), who went skinny dipping in front of a bunch of teeanagers more than a decade ago. West apologized for the incident but so far, the NDP hasn't asked for, nor has he offered, a resignation.West's naked on the front lawn and apparently doesn't care who sees him. How refreshing.-30-
  • Day 12 - The Two Kinds of Stupid

    NOTE: but for a technical glitch, this would have been posted on Day 12. Now you get two posts on Day 13.Friends and colleagues are aware that I am fond of a joke about the two kinds of stupid.One is running around naked in your living room.The second is running around naked on the front lawn.As a journalist, I don't care about the first one. The second one is a front-page story.I was overheard to tell this joke on a couple of occasions yesterday as everyone discussed a particularly healthy dose of stupidity. First there was Conservative Ag Minister Gerry Ritz, who during a conference call with reporters cracked a couple of tasteless jokes about the listeriosis crisis. He suggested the food crisis was the "death of a thousand cold cuts." When told there was another death in Atlantic Canada, Ritz asked jokingly if it was Wayne Easter, the federal Liberal ag critic who has dogged Ritz on the listeriosis crisis.Gerry Ritz - buck naked on the front lawn.Then of course there was Dana Larsen, a NDP candidate from British Columbia who previously had been co-owner of a store that sold, among other things, coco seeds. Seeds that theoretically you could use to make cocaine. Turns out he was also a former marijuana party candidate, and someone had produced video of him dropping acid and driving under the influence of drugs. Since this information became known, the party has asked him to step down as a candidate.Ladies and gentlemen, Dana Larsen and the candidate selection staff at the NDP, all buck naked on the front lawn.From now till the end of the election, I'll try to pay tribute to other political naturists.-30-
  • Day 11 - I'm having trouble believing that you believe what you're saying

    I've used this line before - it was overheard at a news conference in Ottawa years ago when a bunch of race car drivers covered in Players logos tried to tell reporters they weren't promoting tobacco use. Many of us could not believe they actually believed what they were saying.

  • Campaign Day 10 - after a breather, lots to talk about

    If mental images count for everything, here are two that are dogging me:I see Prime Minister Stephen Harper flying a large plane, the nose of which is pointed up in a steady climb through choppy air. However, just as he's about to break above the turbulence, an alarm goes off in the cockpit, and Harper begins to fight the controls. The plane isn't falling, but it's hit some imaginary barrier that won't allow him to climb. So he starts to manouver to port, to starboard and back again, desperately looking for that seam in the sky....Meanwhile, Stephane Dion is climbing a mountain. It's a steep, intimidating facade, but Dion is full of vinegar and bravado as he begins his ascent. Not far up the face, but far enough up that he would certainly be killed if he fell, he falls. As he plummets, he grabs onto a ledge with one hand and hangs there, swaying back and forth. (I'm tempted to tell the one about the mountain climber who asks 'is there anybody up there who can save me?' and God says 'If you trust me let go of the ledge,' and the cllimber says, 'Is there anybody else up there?' I guess I just told it.) Anway, he's hanging by the fingers of one hand and after a while, he starts to marvel at how well he's doing just hanging on. He begins to try and live a normal life as he hangs off the cliff. He reads the paper (with one hand of course), enjoys a cup of coffee and before bed each night, brushes his teeth. And each mornign, he is energized by the realization he's still hanging in there....I get the sense this is a watershed week. Missteps and comic relief aside, the first week solved nothing in this election. The Tories began to show another burst of momentum in national polls, but by the beginning of the current week, there were signs the momentum had gone. Quietly, some Tories I know are wondering whether they've peaked too soon. Fortunately for the Tories, the Liberals are running a low-key, almost invisible campaign that is doing little else but keeping Dion on that ledge, inches away from certain death but still hanging in the race.Will Harper find a way of breaking through the glass ceiling? Can Dion hang on, or will he crash to his political death? Stay tuned for these and other instances of metaphor abuse....-30-
  • Day 5 - the lull before the lull?

    With a government that is promising not to make expensive promises, and an official opposition who only just got its plane in the air, when does the campaign get interesting?It is interesting, actually, but not because of the announcements. Here are five reasons the election has been interesting this week:1/Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he was a fruit. I can say with complete surety that you wish you were doing my job that day.2/NDP Leader Jack Layton grudgingly accepted Green Party Leader Elizabeth May into the debates, but only after he suggested that debating who gets to debate is a silly waste of time. So, first you offend the voters' sense of fair play, and then you call them silly when they force you to change your mind. That'll play well in middle Canada.3/Liberal Leader Stephane Dion continues to get into trouble for not clarifying whether he would put his Green Shift carbon tax on top of provincial carbon taxes. Just like the carbon tax, the issue of harmonization is simple, Stephane. I'll give you another six words - Don't tax stuff that's already taxed.4/Both the Tories and Liberals had to let some people go this week. Tory flack Ryan Sparrow was dispatched for suggesting the father of a slain Canadian soldier was a Liberal in sheeps clothing; and Quebec Liberal candidate Simon Bedard, former open line radio host, for 18-year-old comments suggesting the way to settle native protests was to send in the army to kill them all. The Sausage Factory would like to see Sparrow and Bedard banished to a remote island in the arctic with nothing but a pack of matches and a fillet knife, and instructions that the last one standing gets a plane ride back to civilization.5/And May, well, this campaign has already exceeded her wildest expectations. Jeez, I hope she does well in the live debates or this could be the first and only Green appearance at a debate. Here are three words for you, Liz: practice, practice, practice.On to day 6....-30-
  • Day 4 - less than a week in and integrity appears to be the first casualty of the campaign

    As the sun (that's right, sunny again) rises on beautiful Vancouver, I'll pause for a moment of silence to mark the swift, painful death of integrity in this campaign.Pooping puffins were probably the biggest story of Day Three. The animated coastal bird that defecated on Liberal Leader Stephane Dion in a Tory web attack forced Prime Minister Stephen Harper to disown the webmaster responsible and apologize to his Liberal opponent. Harper did not, however, tone down the smear campaign the Tories have been running on their primary attack site,, a long-running website that basically does everything it can to portray Dion as a misguided nerd.There is no doubt that Dion's personal style suggests he isn't the kind of guy who dated the captain of the cheerleading squad in high school, but the unbridled character assassination contained in notaleader is way over the top. Among the facts that the Tories want voters to know about Dion - he continues to eat his hotdogs with a knife and fork in plain view of "regular people and the media." What's next - drinking tea with a spoon? Clearly, anyone incapable of stuffing a tube steak directly into their mouths without utensils is unqualified to be prime minister.On the same day, Dion told reporters he has a hereditary hearing defect that explains in part why his grasp of English is so poor. On-line Tory chat boards screamed foul, accusing the Grit leader of manufacturing a handicap to defuse their effusive attacks on his character.The Liberals are hardly innocent. The frat boys and girls in the Liberal war room have come up with Scandalpedia, a saucy site that consolidates all kinds of information about a raft of controversies that have dogged the Tories since winning a minority government in 2006. The dark webmasters in the Grit bunker no doubt laughed so hard they pissed their pants when they came up with this one. Although Scandalpedia lacks some of the unfettered hostility of notaleader, it's all part of the same web motif. That is to say, it's primarily sophomoric humour that has little resonance with non-partisans.Campaign E-ttacks are probably the clearest example that some key staff in most of the mainstream party campaigns lack character. The party websites themselves are pretty sober affairs, but the spin off sites are starting to look less like genuine campaign literatures and more like the student newspaper from the faculty of engineering. And in the best traditions of blogging trolls and flamethrowers, the authors of the material operate anonymously and below grade, known only to the leaders and their strategists.What I'm having trouble figuring out is what the Tories and Liberals hope to accomplish with these E-ttacks. Clearly, the only thing that's going to save Dion now is a groundswell of sympathy. Isn't it a fairly safe bet that a goodly number of uncommitted voters would look at and gag a bit at the sheer nastiness it represents? How is that going to affect voting decisions on e-day?There is no evidence that the internet and content such as this is effective. Politicians have for nearly a decade been trying to harness the enormous potential of the internet as a tool for political organization and electioneering. Although more and more people are getting their news from on-line sources, and traffic is no doubt off the charts at the E-ttack sites (loading notaleader is a 50-50 proposition these days), it seems foolish to be experimenting with volatile personal attacks on line until someone comes up with a theory about how it affects the electorate.The technology that allows people to instantly communicate and comment and connect is quite often dominated by character assassins that use the immediacy and anonymity of the internet to grind axes, push unaccountable special interests and polish the chips on their shoulders. What these subterranean bullies don't realize is that even if it turns off as many people as it turns on, it will be a losing strategy. E-ttacks will surely backfire on the Tories and Liberals as it only serves to debase, lowering expectations and faith in politicians and politics.NOTE: Read more on the painfully low standards of this campaign in my column in tomorrow’s dead-tree FP.*****The decision to exclude Green Party leader Elizabeth May from the televised debates is just dumb, dumb, dumb. Forget the debate over democracy, fairness and transparency. A leader who clearly would have been struggling to keep up had she been allowed to participate is now a martyr. What possible benefit is there in that for the Tories, Liberals and NDP?UPDATE (1:45 PM PT/3:45 CT): What's the one thing worse for the Libs, Tories and NDP than making May a martyr? Making her a martyr, then backing down and letting her participate, and in so doing making that martyr a champion of professional women everywhere.First Jack Layton, and now Stephen Harper, clarify their positions to say that they are willing to appear with May at the debates. As I write this, the TV consortium has yet to confirm they are going to offer an invitation, although it seems unthinakable they won't.The Greens must be wondering which God has bestowed upon them such providence.For interesting background on the complicity of the TV networks in this mess, read Tony Burman's column in the Globe and Mail. It raises an important question about the whole debate flap:Why didn't the TV networks TELL the parties who was participating in the debates, and then let them decide whether they wanted to participate? There seems to be a sense that Harper, as Burman puts it, had a veto. Really, would Harper have run the risk of skipping the debates? I think his cave on this shows that if the networks called his bluff, he would have folded this hand quite a bit earlier.I'm just saying.-30-
  • Day Two - what the hell is that green stuff on the ground?

    Strolling into the back of a Richmond home for an event with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, I'm forced to stop and stare at the carpet of blazing green. What could it be? It's soft and wet and so green, it looks like someone detonated a multimodal container of ripe avacados.And then it hits me -it's grass. West coast grass, but grass nonetheless. Grass that only grows in a climate without mind-numbing cold and with abundant rain fall. And chemicals. Lots and lots of chemicals. But seriously - where's that sun-baked brown hue we love in Manitoba. And where is the Creeping Charlie. You call that grass....?We're in Richmond for a photo opportunity and an opportunity for Harper to remind us of what the Conservative government has done to lower taxes and boost tax credits since coming to power. It's a strong indication of the "We're Better Off With Harper" campaign theme the Tories are going to hammer into our skulls over the next 35 days.I'll write more about the political theatre produced today by the Tories in tomorrow's dead tree paper. It should (I hope) make good reading on a day when Harper is expected to do another similar appearance. Perhaps in St. Boniface or River Heights. But that's just a wild guess on my part.-30-
  • Campaign Day One - two planes, two hotels and an election

    I'll admit it. I waited one day too long to book my election plane ticket to Vancouver and I had to do a connecting flight to keep the price down for the WFP. I'm here to take in the first few days of the campaign in a province destined to help decide this election. On my long and winding road to Lotus Land, a coupla things jumped out at me...I'll give the Canadian Taxpayers Federation credit - they don't play favorites.The CTF released a scathing attack on the Conservative government for a $8.8-billion pre-election spending spree. Previously, I thought it was just the Liberal and NDP governments that suffered the sting of the CTF's ham-handed accounting. Thankfully, the CTF knows no fear or favor when it comes to manipulating the numbers.The pre-election spending spree is, really, a misnomer. Governments that call elections often time spending announcements to give them a lift. But the gross majority of that money - most times, all of the money - is already accounted for in the budget they delivered in the spring. So, while the timing is affected, the money is still the same. So it's not like the Conservatives decided to spend $9 billion more than they budgeted for in the lead up to an election.There may some exceptions to that general rule. The several hundred million dollars lavished on General Motors to save assembly plants in Ontario had to come from somewhere. And given the Conservative government didn't like the idea of corporate welfare for GM just a few months ago, it's not likely in the budget per se. So, I'll wait until I find out exactly where that money came from (some involved forgiving federal government loans made in 2005) before passing final judgement.Those of you who read the link will note that the CTF found program spending was up in the first quarter of this fiscal year by more than eight per cent. Evidence of a pre-election spending spree? Remember that any government that actually wanted to get re-elected would probably massage spending announcements to get as much of the good stuff out as possible before a writ is dropped. (Governments cannot make announcements during election periods, so if you've got money to spend, you have to make the announcement prior.)I'll stick by my guns that the CTF is unfair in criticizing the Tories for pre-election spending, just as they were unfair to do it to the Liberals, or the Manitoba NDP. On the other hand, I applaud their sense of fairness. Pain and suffering for all politicians - that's the ticket.I'd love to talk more about cool election stuff like this, but I have decided my hotel smells like the back of a restaurant - a bit putrified actually. So I'm scouting out new digs for tomorrow night and getting ready to see the PM in action.Release the hounds.-30-
  • very interesting.....

    Interesting poll from Harris Decima asking Canadians who they would vote for if they could vote in the US election. I found it surpeising that 66 per cent of respondents would vote for Democratic hopeful Barack Obama. My question is whether this has any bearing on our election, or whether this is just a bunch of Canadians jumping on a bandwagon without regard to ideology. Must think more about this.-30-
  • How leadership will shake down in this election

    As I was jamming a peanut butter sandwhich down the old cake hole this morning, saw the second wave of Conservative election ads. It's still the warm and fuzzy Prime Minister Stephen Harper motif, all cardigans and vaseline all over the lens. The tag line for the ad was the thing that really caught my attention:"We're better off with Harper."I understand the need to play the leadership card, especially when your party has the leader that more people want to lead. But I found the ads, and the tag line, clumsy and obvious. In fact, it's hard to get away from a feeling that the motto is telling me, "things are pretty bad and while you may not trust me, you're better off voting for me than the other guy." Somehow, it just doesn't sound like a call to arms.How about "Harper: strong leadership when we need it the most." Or, "Harper: Vision, Strength, Courage." Tell us why we should vote for Harper, not that he's the best of a bad lot.Effective advertising not only drives home its point, but does it in a way that doesn't make the customer feel as if they are being buried in rhetoric. There is a lot of hokey symbolism in these ads and it seems a bit of a stretch that people who fear Harper for his inflexibility and social conservative views will be numbed by the warm and fuzzy.It wasn't so long ago that Harper was the leader who was playing catch up to his competitors on the leadership issue. However, since overcoming that hurdle, the Tories have been masterful in forging an image of Harper as the iron-fisted, iron-willed commander and chief. And based on poll results, the Tories have created an image that appeals to more Canadians than any other leader. National polls are showing Liberal Leader Stephane Dion running third in some areas of the country.However, I think it's pretty obvious that Harper is not as popular a leader nationally as, say, Premier Gary Doer is in Manitoba. Doer's personal popularity does carry his team. I'm not convinced yet that Harper's personal appeal is enough to drag the Tories to a majority. More people have warmed to Harper's image, but he remains a politician that polarizes the electorate.What is clear, however, is that the Conservative Party is going to hop on Harper's coat tails for this one. It will be fascinating to see if he can carry them over the finish line.This is going to be a great election.-30-
  • This about that....

    As per usual, the Hack makes some good points. Without going over old ground, he does raise the issue of the Bloc Quebecois participating in the national debates. I have never understood why the Bloc did not demand Quebec debates - held in Quebec primarily to debate Quebec issues. En Francais, of course. Quebec is such an important battleground, if the Bloc issued the challenge, the other parties would have to agree. And then we could be free of the absurdity of listenign to Gilles Duceppe debating national at the English debates. Just a thought, but perhaps one that the Hack and I would agree upon?-30-
  • Call me cynical....

    But aren't you all a bit curious about the spontaneous protest by truckers at last night's town hall meeting on Corydon Avenue featuring Liberal Leader Stephane Dion??Apparently, the truckers (most of whom appeared to be independent O/Os) were so upset about Dion's Green Shift carbon tax plan, they had to disrupt the townhall by parking their semis out front of the Crescentwood CC. As any journalist can tell you, a couple of idling semis makes quite an impression.However, I'm just a little suspicious about the motivation for the protest. I haven't seen truckers parked outside the constituency offices of Tory MPs here in Winnipeg to protest the fact that the Conservative government hasn't done anything to significantly cut gasoline taxes. Fuel prices are at a record high, which is bad news for truckers. Wouldn't they also have some anger for the government of the day?Nope. But they're hopping mad about the Green Shift. Ahuh.Perhaps this was a clever stunt organized by Tory candidate Trevor Kennerd, the man who seeks to unseet Grit MP Anita Neville in Winnipeg South Centre (where the event took place). Perhaps? Either way, it was great political theatre, and one hopes a sign of melodram to come.I love elections.-30-
  • For the record, I liked the first headline

    The venerable Hack is not supportive of a plan to let the Green Party participate in televised debates. Not surprising. Having said that, his argument is quite succinct and more than just a little convincing. In fact, I have been gripped by concerns that Green support is not entirely genuine. Even supporters of fair political play might suspect the Greens merely "purchased" their level of support with the sudden wealth bestowed upon the party by overly generous federal electoral rebate rules that sets the eligibility hurdle profoundly low.On a major philosophical point, however, the Hack and the SF disagree. Also not surprising.The Hack indicates that only those parties with a real shot at winning should participate in debates. I would humbly suggest that is not the issue here. When the Greens are threatening double-digit support in opinion polls, I think the overriding principle is democracy, not winning potential. One of the things that makes democracy such a rocking good philosophy is the idea that it is open to everyone from the average joe to the captain of industry. We all know the inherent fallacy in that statement; politics remains a hobby of the rich and powerful. However, we shouldn't be tailoring our elections to be even more of a exclusive process. It must remain as inclusive as possible. And that means giving Green Leader Elizabeth May a shot at the other three parties in debates.We should face facts here. The Liberals and Conservatives don't want the Greens involved because everytime you involve another player in a debate, there is another chance someone is going to land the body blow that ends your campaign, and perhaps your political career. Knockout punches are rare in electoral debates, but campaign strategists and handlers continue to treat them like nuclear warheads that could blow up their candidates at any time. If the Greens are anything, they are earnest and well-informed. Perhaps we should ask the political establishment why they fear a showdown with a passionate, intelligent foe? Hum?And as the headline of my piece suggests, I liked the Hack's first headline much better. But then, I'm a huge Jon Stewart fan.-30-
  • Let them participate

    The Greens are a legitimate party, with a legitimate role to play in the federal election. And guess what, they want to be a full participant this time around. Leader Elizabeth May should be allowed to participate in televised debates. The continued refusal to allow them to participate is only making Canada's established political parties look old and foolish.Get it done.-30-
  • An even more fascinating poll

    Hot on the heels of several polls last week that reinforced the stalemate in Canada's political economy, we have the Globe and Mail/CTV News poll by the Strategic Counsel showing the Conservative Party within striking distance of a majority government. The poll gives the Tories the support of 37 per cent of respondents, with the Liberals trailing at 29 per cent and the NDP (17) and Greens (9) bringing up the rear.This poll came as a bit of a surprise really as surveys performed late last week reinforced the statistical tie that has reigned over the Liberals and Tories. Certainly, more than a few election junkies I talked to yesterday considered the possibility this was a rogue survey. It's happened before.It certainly could be that Strategic Counsel has captured the beginning of a new trend line. I am interested, however, that the survey was done August 25-31, which took it directly into the prelude and teeth of the long weekend. I wonder who was at home to answer the phone?Still, it is always safe to consider that the party that calls an election knows something the rest of us don't know about the public opinion numbers. And it's not unusual for a quick and decisive shift in parking lot support early in a campaign, even prior to a campaign being called.This latest poll must be doing quite a bit to put lead in the Tories' pencils, if you know what I mean. At 37 per cent support, the Tories are agonizingly close to the magic 40 per cent threshold - the accepted standard for parties to consider forming a majority government. In the low 40s usually translates into an easy majority; high 40s can translate into a landslide.Keep tuned for more polling excitement.-30-
  • Fascintating polls

    Two polls in the past two days are generating even more intrigue about PM Stephen Harper's lust for an election.The first, published Thursday from Canadian Press/Harris-Decima painted a picture of an electorate that does not fear an election, does not dislike where the Tories have taken the country, but one where at least one in two voters would vote for change. In terms of party standings, the Liberals (33) and Tories (32) remain in a statistical dead heat.Sheesh.The second poll, available today from Nanos (formerly SES Research), shows the Liberals at 35 per cent and the Tories at 33 per cent. Interestingly, the Liberals are gaining ground in Atlantic Canada and Ontario, and holding firm in Quebec, where the only movement is with the NDP which appears to be picking up support that is leaking from the Bloc Quebecois.What does it all mean? If Harper follows through with his promise to call an election, this could be the biggest electoral gamble in Canadian political history. Although I will rely on readers to point out other equally risky, or more risky, election calls.UPDATE: Another close poll. The intrigue builds.-30-

About Dan Lett

Dan Lett came to Winnipeg in 1986, less than a year out of journalism school.

Despite the fact that he’s originally from Toronto and has a fatal attraction to the Maple Leafs, Winnipeggers let him stay.

In the following years, he has worked at bureaus covering every level of government – from city hall to the national bureau in Ottawa.

He has had bricks thrown at him in riots following the 1995 Quebec referendum, wrote stories that helped in part to free three wrongly convicted men, met Fidel Castro, interviewed three Philippine presidents, crossed several borders in Africa illegally, chased Somali pirates in a Canadian warship and had several guns pointed at him.

In other words, he’s had every experience a journalist could even hope for. He has also been fortunate enough to be a two-time nominee for a National Newspaper Award, winning in 2003 for investigations.

Other awards include the B’Nai Brith National Human Rights Media Award and nominee for the Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism.

Now firmly rooted in Winnipeg, Dan visits Toronto often but no longer pines to live there.


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