The Dirty Dozen

An election with the same parties, same leaders, and same issues. Will we see the same outcome? That’s the question we here at Manatee and Gnomes are about to answer.

A rigourous selection process has identified the twelve fourteen most contentious, high-profile ridings of the coming election. Editors and readers of M&G are invited to provide their predictions on the outcomes of these battlegrounds, and post their predictions in a comment on this thread. To be considered, all entries must be submitted by December 9, 2005.

Weigh the factors. Crunch the numbers. Shake the Magic 8-Ball. Just don’t read other people’s submissions first, because that’s cheating.

Without further ado, here are the ridings:

British Columbia – Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca
Since it’s creation in 1988, this riding has voted NDP, Reform twice, Alliance, and Liberal. The last four of those were all for the same candidate, incumbent Keith Martin. With his vote share way down in the 2004 election, this riding could be a trophy victory for the Conservatives, or a steal by the NDP.

British Columbia – Newton-North Delta
In a rematch of the tight 3-way 2004 race, Gurmant Grewal fights to retain his seat against two strong opponents. Will he be recording his own concession telephone call in January, or his opponents’? – UPDATE – Grewal isn’t running again Will a last minute CPC replacement be able to carry the riding?

British Columbia – Vancouver Centre
In what’s sure to be the roughest, knock-down, drag-out, ring-stealing, cross-burning showdown of the election, Svend Robinson makes his return to politics by going after the seat of Hedy Fry. Get comfy, get some popcorn, this one is gonna get ugly.

Alberta- Edmonton Centre
Predictions of Anne McLellan’s political demise have been a staple of federal elections since before M&G began tracking such things last year. Will this riding be an island of red in a sea of blue, or is Landslide Annie finally going under?

Manitoba – Churchill
After losing the NDP nomination, incumbent Bev Desjarlais is set to run as an independent against her former party. Throw into the mix a former North of 60 star as a Liberal candidate, and you’ve got your race on.

Ontario – Trinity-Spadina
Olivia Chow runs once again for the NDP, this time free of her obligations to the Toronto city council. Liberal Tony Ianno won by a mere 23 202 to 22 397 last time.

Ontario – Hamilton East-Stoney Creek
Tony Valeri had the NDP candidate nipping at his heels last time. Will Sheila Copps have reason to smirk come election night?

Ontario – Newmarket-Aurora
Belinda Stronach creaked out a victory here last time. Will she follow in the grand tradition of other recent floor-crossers and win re-election under her new banner? The Conservatives will be out for blood.

Ontario – London-Fanshawe
With incumbent MP Pat O’Brien, formerly of the Liberal party, not running for re-election, this one is up for grabs. Will O’Brien’s alleged socially-conservative constituents vote in a replacement Liberal, go Conservative, or make his whole escapade look foolish when they vote NDP?

Québec – Papineau
Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew, or Wormtail to his school chums, won his seat last time by just over 400 votes. Will he succumb to Gomeryhea, or overcome the scandal to retain his seat and portfolio?

Québec – Jeanne-Le Ber
Winning the prize for Most Symbolic Contest, this Québec riding has Canadian Heritage Minister Liza Frulla against a strong contender from the Bloc. After being decide by only 72 votes last year, both sides will be pulling out all the stops.

Northwest Territories – Western Arctic
The Liberals won this riding in a squeaker over the NDP candidate last time, and with the low vote counts in the territories, anything can happen.

Due to popular demand, the following two ridings have been added to the slate:

Ontario – Etobicoke-Lakeshore
In a replay of a controversy from last election, Michael Ignatieff has been tapped by the powers that be as the Liberal candidate in this riding. Parachuting in is one thing, but parachuting in from another country is going too far, at least according to the constituency association. Can such a controversial candidate hold the Liberal stronghold?

Saskatchewan – Regina-Qu’Appelle
One of the harshest NDP defeats of the last election saw the party’s longest serving MP, Lorne Nystrom, lose his seat. Was it strategic voting gone awry? Will Liberals strategically shift to the NDP to unseat the Conservative incumbent? Nystrom is back, and this time, is personal.

Helpful Links
Election Prediction Project
CBC Canada Votes
List of Canadian federal electoral districts

Who’s the Boss?

It’s been quite a week for Jack Layton. Over the weekend, he had a healthcare proposal from the Martin Liberals to consider. He gave it a pass. Then, he had Stepehen Harper admitting that Layton had him painted into a corner, such that any move he made would play into Layton’s hand. Today, he’s calling the shots for the next federal election, putting forward a proposal that sets an election date following the Christmas season.

Harper’s clumsy attempt to cast Layton in the role of the Grinch who Stole Christmas was partially successful: Layton is the Grinch, but at the end of the book, carving the roast beast. The NDP leader stands poised to be the giantslayer that takes down the Liberals, succeeding where Harper failed spectacularly. Not only that, but he is going to Save Christmas at the same time. And all this with only 18 seats.

Habeas corpus

It’s hard to believe that beef and softwood lumber dominate the disourse on Canada-US relations, while the story of Omar Khadr remains low-priority news.

Khadr, a Canadian citizen born in Toronto, was taken into custody by the US military over three years ago at the age of 15, following a firefight in which a US soldier was killed by a grenade thrown by Khadr. He has been held at Guatanamo Bay, allegedly subjected to inhumane treatment, and provided with very limited access to legal counsel or consular services. He now faces a military tribunal and the possibility of the death penalty.

The Canadian government has been silent on this issue. There is no doubt that the Khadr’s family are closely linked to Al-Qaeda. Why go to bat to defend the human rights of someone so objectionable?

Gnomes defends Harper

I’ve never bought into the supposed liberal bias of the media, but one story from the weekend has made me wonder about the Liberal bias of CTV.

It all started on Friday, when self-styled Prime Minister-elect Stephen Harper introduced his Accountability Act. Public Works Minister Scott Brison was quick to point out Harper’s hypocrisy. Was not the National Citizens Coalition, which Harper led, charged six times for violating the Elections Act? A stunning retort, which would have been terribly effective, had it not been completely untrue.

Brison, along with Keith Martin and Belinda Stronach, holds a special place in my political heart for making the Conservatives look like a party that lacks the ability to have widespread appeal. But when you make an error as egregious as he did, you’ve earned a swift and bloody body blow from the media. So what headline did Brison get from CTV?

Brison calls for civility in Parliament

Its almost like Brison himself wrote the story. Of course, the majority of it is quotes of Brison lauding himself, so I guess he pretty much did. He did the right thing, after all, by apologizing (never mind what for), and if everyone could be more like him, wouldn’t we all be better off?

Both the controversy, which is what the media is supposed to be after, and the content of the story itself are buried inside dull posturing. What’s going on here?

All of this detracts from what the real story should have been, which is focusing not on imagined transgressions of the NCC, but on the actual ideas Harper put forward in his time there, and how they just don’t mesh with what he put forward a few days ago.

Gomery reports, Manatee writes about the NDP!

This morning the first report of the Gomery Commission was released. Though Martin has been exonerated, the Liberal brand becomes increasingly tarnished now that Justice Gomery has declared Chretien responsible for organizing and allowing an easily corruptible system, and now that Canadians can now read in plain language a credible account of the kickback scheme. It is clear, less than four hours after the report was made public, that this story will have enough legs to dominate the political agenda, likely until election day. The major players who have already spoken, the opposition leaders and Chretien’s legal team, will insure this.

This essentially should put the politicians into the next gear of campaigning. I think this allows us at Manatee and Gnomes, and others around the blogosphere to enter campaign mode too as we turn our attention away from the critique of public policy, to the critique of partisan strategies. OK… maybe we don’t have to turn very far. And here we go:

Jack Layton came out swinging, apparently shocked by what he had learned in the Gomery report and what the rest of the country had learned months ago. But when he fielded reporters questions he dropped the bat completely. When asked about his thoughts on bringing down the government it became clear that the Gomery report hasn’t actually changed the NDP strategy… yet. Yes, Layton is still keeping his options open (gain concessions from the damaged Liberals, or force an election), but he didn’t look very comfortable fielding questions about the latter option this morning.

I think the interest of the nation would be served if the NDP could get concessions preventing the increased privatization of health care, or acceptance of Ed Broadbent’s ethics package. (Shouldn’t the Liberals be interested in making motions along the lines of the ethics package?) However, I actually think the NDP has room to gain by being the party that brings down the Government. I never would have suggested this in the spring, because parliament was still young and Canadians clearly didn’t want an election. Now Canadians are going to get an election soon, whether they like it or not. A big challenge for the NDP in election campaigns is getting fair media attention, and the legitimacy that accompanies this . Bringing down parliament, combined with the NDP budget and the likelihood that the next parliament will be a minority should keep the NDP in the papers throughout the campaign. Of course, the ideal time to put this strategy in motion would have been this morning. By not explicitly stating that the NDP is willing to force a Christmas election Layton missed an opportunity, both to gain higher ground to negotiate from with the Liberals, and to position themselves as the having orchestrated the Government’s defeat, rather than merely being compliant with Stephen Harper’s strategy.