The Prognosticator Weighs In

After 18 months, the debilitated 38th parliament has come to its long-anticipated and tiresome end. What should voting Canadians expect next as they crowd around politically charged and festive dinner tables?

A few of the usual electoral trimmings: a marked increase in front page pie charts, ugly talking-heads to explain the pie charts, nasty campaign rhetoric, empty promises, bad photo-ops, more ugly talking heads to explain the nasty emptiness. It should be a lot like 2004’s election campaign – same leaders, same issues, same support levels.

Should we expect the same outcome? This is the question on everyone’s mind. No one can answer this question yet. At least, I wouldn’t believe anyone who said they could tell you the election’s outcome. They would be lying and probably campaigning. I’ll tell you what I suspect we can expect this election, without claiming the victor. It’s the best anyone can do right now.

  1. First off, this is Stephen Harper’s election to lose. The Conservatives have presumably learned from the mistakes they made in the last campaign. They are the only party expected to have a significantly re-tooled campaign message for Canadians. They are they only party who can replace the Liberals as a national government. If Harper can project a positive persona, convincingly and with optimism, it is possible that he is the man to beat.

    Expect to see more of Harper’s wife and kids in this campaign. The Tory strategy is going to be about differentiating Harper, without outright attacking Martin. “Harper as a family man, a hard working, honest, Canadian everyman.” There will be plenty of Liberal corruption rhetoric, but the Tories are less likely than the Liberals to wage personal attacks on the leader, and that may resonate well with Canadians at Christmas time.

  2. The Liberal party will not stray far from the successful 2004 election message. Paul “The Deficit Slayer” Martin will be branded as a confident leader, a statesman, the only true Prime Minister. Their Liberal message will be to ask Canadians to reflect on the one poll question that Paul Martin continuously dominates: Which party leader do Canadians trust most to be Prime Minister? It is a simple message that won the 2004 election. With the party brand still in some disrepair, the focus will be on Paul Martin. Liberal campaign signs were re-branded in 2004 with the ‘Team Martin’ logo. Expect to see more of the same.

    Also, similar to 2004, expect a strong fear campaign aimed at Harper and the Conservative ‘hidden agenda.’ American republicanism has not done any favors for Canadian Tories, who (rightly or wrongly) in some minds are a similar political stripe. The Liberals will try to emphasize that Canadians don’t know what to expect from a Harper government. Of course, the flip side to this is that they know exactly what to expect from the Martin government – for better or worse.

  3. The NDP, try as they might, are going to have a hard time being heard in this campaign. It’s not that they are unimportant, but rather that this is not an election they are equipped for. This campaign will occur on television, in living rooms, over dinner, while people are on vacation, while Canadians are generally distracted with other pursuits. It is going to be all about compact messaging, visual appeals, negative attacks, and fast, easy-to-digest dialogues about the kind of Canada Canadians want.

    The NDP do not have any fast or easy-to-digest message, nor do they speak well in visual terms. They don’t have a clear enemy, and they aren’t about to attack anyone’s credibility. Although these statements may endear them to some, the NDP are not going to be able to deliver a compact mass-message that influences voters. This is my hunch. I could be wrong. In 1988, under Ed Broadbent, the NDP polled similarly at 19% popularity before the election – they won 43 seats. Who knows? Vote splitting is going to be a factor, and anything is possible.

  4. Pollsters are going to drive us all crazy. Pollsters view this election as the biggest Christmas gift ever. It is a tight race, people are busy, and the issues require summary. They are going to poll the shit out of this thing. Look at the front of the Globe this morning. However, the wealth of data will only make the numbers less credible. The simple fact about polls is this: there is no story if the Liberals are doing well. Pollsters will find a way to make the story compelling. Expect an early dip in Liberal poll numbers, maybe even a long-term dip. This will rebound in January. I suspect, if Harper manages to keep an even-keel campaign, that the Jan. 22 numbers will be very, very, very close.

Enjoy this holiday election Canada. With voter non-participation rising above 40%, you’ve earned it.

This article was written by alevo


Election 2006


Canadians Breathe Sigh of Irritation, Indifference

Warren Kinsella:

“Thus the Liberal Party of Canada, circa 2005 A.D. Dispirited, disliked and divided in much of the country – and spared the loss of power only by the fact that their principal adversaries are (for now) distrusted by many female voters. Too many Liberals confuse the Conservatives’ continuing inability to win an election with enthusiasm for the alternative. One day – and one day soon, I believe – the Conservative Party will attract the support of enough Canadians, and Liberals will bitterly rue the day they forsook renewal.”

Marijuana Smokers Outraged as Layton Turns His Back on Key Constituency

Bill C-17, which would have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana, died on the order paper when the government was defeated. Across the country, millions of dope smokers who had been holding their breath while they waited for the bill to pass – and to ensure they got a good hit – finally exhaled, disappointed.

SPCA: A Vote for Harper is a Vote for Kitten-Torturers

Along with Bill C-17, an animal cruelty bill also died with yesterday’s overthrow of the Liberals, clearly showing that whatever Harper believes in, being nice to puppies is not one of them. Conservative strategists are reportedly worried about the damage this will do to his quest for a “kinder, gentler” image. Look for Harper to toss a few small furry animals into his baby- and hamburger-juggling repertoire this holiday season.


Confessions of an Innocent Man

Democracy Now has this remarkable interview with William Sampson, the Canadian who was arrested in Saudi Arabia in 2001 and accused of terrorism and spying for the UK. While in prison he was beaten, tortured and raped.

Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade calls relations between Canada and Saudi Arabia “cordial” on it’s website. It goes on to say:

Saudi Arabia is currently Canada’s largest trading partner in the Arabian Peninsula. With a population of 23 million and an estimated Gross Domestic Product of US$211 billion, trade and economic interests continue to be at the forefront of our bilateral relations with Saudi Arabia. Two-way trade with Saudi Arabia reached $1.4 billion in 2003 with the balance of trade in Saudi Arabia’s favour in each of the last five years. Canada’s imports (mainly oil) from Saudi Arabia in 2003 were valued at $919 million and Canadian exports (primarily value-added manufactures) reached $465 million.

With the recent conclusion of several bilateral agreements with, among others, the European Union, China and Canada, Saudi Arabia is progressing towards accession to the World Trade Organization. Its accession would result in changes to tariffs and regulations restricting entry of some Canadian exports.

Mr. Sampson’s compelling account of the brutal treatment he received at the hands of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence service is shocking and outrageous. Why is Canada helping a country that beats, tortures and sodomizes Canadian citizens join the World Trade Organization? Why has there been no high-level government inquiry into the treatment of Mr. Sampson?

Could it be because an inquiry wouldn’t just expose the hypocrisy of maintaining good relations with torturers, it would also expose the ineptitude of the Canadian government in working for Mr. Sampsons release? In the interview, he’s asked what the Canadian government did for him. He replies:

Told me that I was guilty to my face. That’s about all that they did for me. And they also told my father the same thing. That was the full extent of it. And yet, I know that the Canadian government has never been provided with any forensic evidence that would confirm my guilt. They have never been given a sight of the confessions I signed.

As Canada continues to pursue closer relations with countries that have appalling human rights records (China is the most glaring example of many), it’s increasingly obvious we are willing to sacrifice what we call our “values” as long as there’s money to be made. As our Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade admits, “trade and economic interests continue to be at the forefront of our bilateral relations with Saudi Arabia”.

You’d think the fact Saudi Arabia imprisoned a Canadian on absurdly trumped-up charges and then raped, beat and tortured him would at least get an honourary mention.


‘Go to College and Take Something Technical’

Everybody knows that decisions taken at one point in life can have an impact that stretches far into the future. What you rarely know is when you’ve made one of those decisions. It’s often not until much later that you recognize them.

After I passed Grade 3, which would make me around eight or nine years old, my family moved to Dundas. I had grown up in Scarborough, not far from the Scarborough Bluffs. I think my parents were looking for a better place for my siblings and me to grow up. To them, that included sending me to a tiny private Christian school in Copetown.

This began an often strange, certainly life-altering seven years of fundamentalist Protestant education. But none of that, including what I took in school, was my decision. That is, until the summer before Grade 9, the second-last year I would be there, and the first year we got to “choose” our elective courses.

The reason I put choose in quotes is because it wasn’t much of a choice. As the tradition went, boys were interested in woodworking and mechanics, and girls were interested in cooking and an activity I think might have been called “domestic planning”. Naturally, all the girls took the “girl” classes, and all the boys took the “boy” classes.

If that’s sounds like a ridiculous idea to you – keep in mind I’m talking about ten years ago, not 1950 – then you’re in about the same spot I was in back then. The difference is that you’re probably thinking sexism. I was thinking sex.

Well not exactly, since at that point, I was still fantasizing about first base. I had never had a girlfriend, and neither had most of the guys in my class (when I said the school was small, I meant it – they had only one or two classes per grade back then). So my friend Mark and I hatched a plan. We decided we’d go to cooking class to get to the girls.

The plan worked beautifully and we were soon sporting girlfriends, after overcoming various objections to us attending the class. The only thing I remember making in that class is bannock, but looking back, my decision to take it was a beginning.

Through grades nine and ten, which I attended at the private school, and grades eleven and twelve when I went to a public school in Dundas, my parents and high school counselors had a single message for me about my future after graduation: “go to college and take something technical”.

It was understood that science, business and technology courses at university or college were for smart people who wanted to make money. Trades were for people who weren’t as smart and who were okay with just scraping by (today, the wealthiest, most in-demand people I know are employed in trades). The only thing worse than going into trades was pursuing a “useless degree” in a social science or in something like journalism, which I had said I wanted to take.

Because this was accepted wisdom, as a teenager it seems only natural that I ignored it. I renounced my “choice” to take software engineering at Mohawk College, a decision I’d made under considerable pressure, soon after I graduated.

“Fine”, my parents told me. “Go out and get a job then.”

So I did, washing dishes in a Hamilton restaurant. I’d put the cooking class on my resume. After three weeks, I was cooking behind the line with a guy named Avian, the most irrepressible and irresistible ladies man I’ve ever met (his propensity for adultery ended in tragedy). For the next two years I cooked for a living and drank as a hobby.

After two years I’d had enough. I ended up taking software engineering in Mohawk College, the same course I’d rebelled against when I graduated high school. I didn’t know what to do at that point, but I’d had enough of peeling potatoes and the lingering smell of garlic and fryer oil I couldn’t get rid of.

What I learned at Mohawk has done me well over the years, so my parents’ advice wasn’t so bad after all. But when I look at where I am now though and how I got here, what stands out to me isn’t the technical skills I learned in college, it’s the skills of communication and cooking. My least precious skills are now my most valuable.

In hindsight, it all seems so obvious. The biggest perception people have of people in my field, whether programmers, technicians, or the guy who runs the computer help-desk, is that we aren’t friendly and we don’t communicate. In other words, we have no social skills. The few who do have them have a huge advantage over the many that don’t.

The same goes for cooking. Far from simply a way of making things taste good, the skill of cooking is really about nutrition. Food is, after all, more about supporting life than it is about enjoying it, something we in the West have forgotten. From nutrition to health, one of the world’s most lucrative and fastest-growing industries, is a natural progression, and so companies like Empowered Nutrition are born. Along with a lot of very tasty meals.

So let the specialists keep on specializing, but let the generalists generalize. Learn something social and do something technical, or vice versa. Encourage the impractical and maybe something practical, or valuable, or happy will appear.

You never know what might happen. I’m told the cooking class at that little private school has been co-ed ever since.


Live Ade

Yup, it’s a brutal pun, but I couldn’t resist. That’s what I’m calling the latest little widget I’ve added to this blog, a cool little plug-in called Shoutbox. You can see it at the very bottom of the sidebar on the right. Basically it’s a live chat box (go say something). I came across this while researching the AJAX technology I mentioned here a little while ago.

Why the sudden onslaught of geekiness? In the last few months my work has taken a sharp turn into web development territory. I never normally talked about the tech stuff because it was all client-side – that is, it sat on my own personal computer – so I couldn’t ever demonstrate anything I was working on. Now, however, I’m starting to get into stuff that you can see, because it’s web-based. And truthfully, it’s also a lot more exciting.

But don’t worry, I have plans in the works to minimize the pain for those of you who have no interest in these subjects, though for now your best bet is to just ignore anything that gets posted in the “Business and Technical” category.

Life, politics, code and current events from a Canadian perspective.

Adrian Duyzer
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