Welcome to the second, less frequently-posted decade of RevMod.

Contact me at revmod AT gmail.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The CWB and the Rule of Law

Kady O'Malley laughs off the notion that the Governor-General will have any reason to consider Bob Rae's request that Bill C-18 should be put in a drawer until such time as a court rules the bill consistent with the rule of law.

O'Malley suggests there's no precedent for this, and she may be right. But there are two fair questions that follow:

- Is there any precedent for a government legislating in the face of a court ruling telling the government to stop, pending appeal?

- If Parliament is in violation of the rule of law, who else but the Governor-General or HRH is in a position to defend the rule of law?

Now, the government could have the CWB hold a plebiscite, as the court insists is required to end the monopsony. The government could appeal the ruling, which it is doing. But for the government to ignore a court ruling and legislate anyway is the thin end of a very dangerous wedge. This government spent so many years under the restraints of minority rule, it seems that now that they've won a majority they think anything goes. I don't know if anyone in this government understands that there are still limits to Parliament's authority.

I hope the Governor-General, unlike Kady O'Malley, takes Bob Rae's request very seriously.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Grudging respect

I have, over the past couple of years, found myself increasingly appreciating the writing of Canadian ex-pat and Dubya speechwriter David Frum. Perhaps it's because he comes from a type of conservatism that exists in reality, instead of wherever Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann live.

His article in the current issue of New York magazine is required reading for anyone looking on at US politics this US Thanksgiving and wondering what went wrong.

Rather than workable solutions, my party is offering low taxes for the currently rich and high spending for the currently old, to be followed by who-knows-what and who-the-hell-cares. This isn't conservatism; it's a going-out-of-business sale for the baby-boom generation.
I hope he still has enough influence in that party to at least shift the discussion. But for the very reasons he outlines, I doubt it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

You win

Brothers and sisters of Occupy Wall Street, I was initially saddened to hear of your forced eviction from Zuccotti park overnight. When Mrs. Revmod and I visited you in October, on a day you were scrubbing the park clean to avoid an eviction then, we told a few of you that we thought you had already changed the world. I believe that more even now. Concepts like "the 99 percent" are universally understood. Many now understand that average citizens are paying the price for the greed of investment bankers and the malfeasance of public officials.

You can spend a lot of time and energy fighting your way back to a physical space to occupy. Don't. It's time to step away from physical occupations, and start to flex the political muscle you've been developing. Without the necessity of anonymity, leaders can emerge, so that not every argument looking to return to the gold standard or legalize pot has to be held in the same regard as those who want to see strong financial regulation.

And on that topic, it's important that leaders are allowed to emerge. Leadership is not anti-democratic. If the best and brightest among you (and there are so many of you in that category) don't step up, people who had nothing to do with the movement will get ahead of it, co-opt your principles for their own benefit, and leave you fighting unnecessary battles about what the movement really believes.

The Occupy movement doesn't need physical space to continue, at least for now. It's time to take on the difficult political work to come. It's time to pick some political battles and begin waging them.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Arab Spring becomes the American Autumn

Occupy Wall Street is continuing to grow. The American media seems flummoxed by them, I suppose because they aren't dressed like overweight American revolutionaries. Good thing that everyone else seems to get it.

Monday, September 12, 2011

For the Record

As I predicted, farmers prefer to maintain the monopsony maintained by the Canadian Wheat Board. Coming up: Gerry Ritz doesn't care.

Monday, August 08, 2011

While the markets crash this morning....

I watched a little of the Sunday talkies this weekend, and it seemed like almost no one was willing to talk about what S&P actually said in their report when they downgraded the US debt. I only heard John Kerry describe it as "The Tea Party downgrade", which is rhetorically clever but should have been directly backed up. To most people, it sounded like the downgrade was accompanied with a declaration of "a plague on both your houses."

But here's what it actually said:

Compared with previous projections, our revised base case scenario now
assumes that the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, due to expire by the end of 2012,
remain in place. We have changed our assumption on this because the majority
of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise
revenues, a position we believe Congress reinforced by passing the act. (page 4)
I argued on Thursday, and will argue on forums around the net again today, that the biggest risk the markets see in the US right now is the fact that sixty members of its House of Representatives are willing to put a gun to the head of the entire economy for the sake of ideology. Worse, the rest of the government capitulated to their demands. Worst, they rejected the deal anyway.

The upside? This may have been their moment in the sun. Between primaries which will put Michelle Bachman's simplemindedness on full display, and a wider realization that taxation has to be part of the United States' long term debt solution (as higher-taxed parts of the world flourish comparatively), their fidelity to Grover Norquist's no tax oath, and their general resistance to government as a possible force of good will look much less attractive to voters in 2012.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Kent Brockman: "I've said it before, and I'll say it again: democracy simply doesn't work."

The United States is making the best argument ever for Westminster-style Parliamentary democracy:

Decades of gerrymandering have turned most congressional districts into unassailable fortresses for a single party. The real fight for seats in the House of Representatives comes during the primaries, where extremism serves better than moderation.

Constant primaries feeding into fixed elections of some type or another every two years means a constant election cycle, far more so than even Canada's four elections through minority parliaments.

Money is so important to winning that nearly every representative arrives with a full slate of positions bought and paid for, leaving no room to negotiate or think.

We complain about the smaller voting role of individual members in our Parliament due to whipped votes, but when every member needs a little juice for his or her state or district in order to vote for this or that piece of legislation, or refuses to see the bigger picture when defense cuts are going to close a Boeing plant where some of their constituents work, you can see why governing to the advantage of every individual congressional district becomes prohibitively expensive.

And so here we sit, watching an unbelievably dangerous game of brinkmanship played out over a decision by the United States Congress to raise the debt ceiling - essentially to agree to pay for the stuff they already bought. I'm not sure what sort of democratic reform could possibly fix this clearly broken system, but I sure hope something does before they pull us all down with them.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


I note the Boston Vancouver Pizza ad on the board behind Thomas. Shouldn't Tim Horton's also be sporting a temporary name? I recommend "Roberto Raymond's".

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

More on the CWB

Some farmers are calling on a referendum on the Canadian Wheat Board's monopsony on wheat and barley sales. Responds Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, we already had a vote on the future of the CWB. "It's called a general election," says Ritz.

So, in conclusion, the last chance you had to consult with this Government was May 2. They'll see you again October 2015 for their performance review.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Shorter Benjamin Netanyahu:

Our peace plan proposal involves everyone else surrendering.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Why does Stephen Harper hate farmers?

It's been clear for a long time that Conservatives hate the Canada Wheat Board. They've been trying to break the single-desk marketing board since they first formed government, but up until now, they've only really tried through the board itself, to convince the farmer-members to eliminate the Board, or the board's monopsony. Farmers have consistently elected pro-monopsony members to the board, frustrating the CPC. Of course, they argue that "real" farmers want open marketing options, just as they're sure that all workers feel enslaved by their unions.

If you want to see how the Conservative Party ignores democracy when the people don't produce the results the CPC wants, their behavior toward the Canada Wheat Board is an excellent example. Sure enough, they'll break the single desk from above, if the farmers won't do it themselves. The only question is if Harper will try to wait until the SCC is also leaning in his favour, because that's where this fight will end.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Tory majority is good for the market

The TSX Composite is down 450 points since the close of business on May 2. I wonder if I need to create a gadget to track this for others to put on their websites.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

I don't remember that promise from the campaign

A CPC member backpedals comments about an eventually completely voluntary census. Now that I mention it, I don't remember the destruction of the long-form census being discussed before it happened, either. Does the Secret Agenda begin to rear its head?

Wednesday, May 04, 2011


Thomas Mulcair shows up to Ottawa smelling of truther.

Ruth Brosseau (NDP - Las Vegas) may have sketchy nomination papers.

Can we get all this shit out of the way now? A year of this, and we can invite the Liberals back to Stornaway.
And the winner is...

Dan Arnold, the Calgary Grit himself, has won the 2011 gaffe pool, with an entry of CPC 16 / LPC 8 / NDP 8 / BQ 2. Two remarkable things about this guess - hitting a record high score for the Conservatives on the nose, and forecasting a reasonably low-gaffe election generally. At just eleven points from correct, it appears I'll be making another donation to a Liberal candidate come 2015.

Edited to add the final scores of the parties, because it's time to take the picture from the top of the page.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Dear economists:

If Harper's so fking good for the market, why is the TSX down 180 points in 90 minutes?

Edited to add: 242.14 at close. I'm not saying this is all, or even partly, caused by Conservative majority government. But I guarantee that had there been any other election result, the business media would be talking about the effect of uncertainty (or of socialism) on the market.

Monday, May 02, 2011


I guess I should be relieved that the Prime Minister no longer needs to tear up the constitution to rule like a dictator.

I suppose I should be thrilled about the historic NDP breakthrough.

I know I'm supposed to be happy that the BQ has essentially disappeared from the political map.

I feel I should be happy that Stephen Harper is going to be holding the bag when Vancouver's housing market takes much of Canada's housing market, and eventually consumer spending, down with it. When interest rates expose the problem of unsustainable consumer debt, no one will be able to blame socialism for the problem, and that can't be bad, right?

But I'm not happy, for a single clear reason: Stephen Harper is not going to be less dangerous with more power. The next few years are going to be about watching this man like a hawk.

I suppose I'm supposed to be saying something about "the people have spoken, blahdy-blahdy-blah." But I'm not the leader of a political party, I'm not a representative of a political party, and I'm not a member of the paid media. So I can just say it - what a terrible mistake for Canada.

Sunday, May 01, 2011


It looks increasingly like Sun Media's Layton smear (I couldn't be bothered to link it) has backfired, so that makes for one essential ingredient of a gaffe. The other requires a source from a political party, and I think the chance of that is near zero, because I think this was probably Sun Media on their own. So, congratulations, Ezra Levant, on finally collecting some payback from Stephen Harper for his callous treatment of you in Calgary Southwest way back when. I'd like to believe the entire Western Standard / Sun News Network right-wing media nonsense has been part of your plan for this moment, when you could take something from Stephen Harper that he wanted as badly as you wanted that seat. Revenge is a dish best served with a side of Mohammad cartoons, I hear.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Leader gaffe goes almost unnoticed

I don't know why it's so hard to find Layton's direct quote in his interview with Thomson Rueters, wherein he expressed an opinion about interest rates, leading to criticism from other parties and a mea culpa from Layton on Friday.

It's good that he took the step back. He's right, that interest rates are going to strangle a generation of debt-addicted Canadians, but that's at least partially the fault of the historically-low interest rate we've had in Canada since the recession started. Too many Canadians have purchased houses and increased other personal debt based on the affordability of the carrying cost, without considering what happens when rates reset to normal. But holding the rate low would extend the problem, and start to produce unsustainable inflation. It's the debt itself, not the interest rate, that's the real problem.

On the larger scale, governments can only take hold of so many levers of the economy at one time without breaking the entire machine.

I can be pretty forgiving of Layton for a while yet, because he did back away from involving himself in Bank of Canada decisions so quickly. He's never governed, and no one in the NDP has any institutional memory of governing federally, so there's no one to steer him away from this sort of mistake. If he ends up Prime Minister, he's going to have to put some extra trust in the civil service, particularly in the Department of Finance, until his cabinet gets some experience under their belt. I think he's smart enough to know this.

Nonetheless, it exposes a real weakness about the NDP, and the other parties have used Ralph Goodale and Jim Flaherty to stress the point. It's a gaffe, no matter how ignored the story is. Prom 3, Sig 1 = 3 for the NDP. Sig should be higher, but the media's eyes tend to glaze when there's math. It's kind of pathetic.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thank goodness for alert readers

This one completely escaped my notice, and Google alerts. (I might need to tweak my search.) Cam Stewart, a Liberal candidate in Calgary, complains that his south Asian opponent has his workers intimidating and threatening opponents' volunteers - fair game to call that out - "like Indian Politian's" - whoops!

The press release came out following an altercation between South Asian CPC supporters who gathered to support their candidate at a nearby Pakistan Canada Association meeting, and what appears to be South Asian campaign workers at the Liberal candidate's campaign office. Here's more of the press release, as reported in the story:
Devinder Shory is running his campaign like Indian Politian's do, intimidating and threatening opponent candidate's volunteers and supporters. This behaviour is not acceptable in our civilized democracy.
Would I be wrong in saying that doesn't sound like the sentence construction and word choice, much less the spelling and apostrophe use, of someone who writes in English as a first language? I think it's possible Cam Stewart is covering for a campaign worker's mistake here.

Anyway, he took responsibility, and immediately apologised, and he's not going to be winning the seat anyway. 1x1 = one point for the LPC.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The West Wing election

Once again, the campaign is starting to have eerie parallels to the 2006 Presidential election. You know the one: Santos - Vinick.

Okay, maybe not a lot of parallels. But we did have the chickens. Now it turns out, the best opposition research is done by one's own people. Thanks, Tom Flanagan! Forget everything I said about you. Oh, except that thing where you called for the murder of Julian Assange. I stand by that being entirely dickish. But still! This makes up for it some!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Burying the lead

Pogge has expressed his frustration at the clear disparity between what Michael Ignatieff said to Peter Mansbridge, and how it was reported. Now let me express my concern that Stephen Harper's interview is being likewise misrepresented:

Here's the headline:
Harper vows not to form government without most seats
And here is my transcription of the key part:
Peter Mansbridge: What if the situation was reversed, and Mr. Ignatieff or Mr. Layton was in first place....
Stephen Harper: Right.
Mansbridge: ... with the most seats...
Harper: They will form the government.
Mansbridge: They will form the government.
Harper: Yes.
Mansbridge: And they...
Harper: Now, I shouldn't speculate that, because I'm – we’re in this to win, and I think we're going to win. But that's, that's…
Mansbridge: I appreciate that, but you've raised the issue of the hypothetical situation, so...
Harper: Yeah.
Mansbridge: ... that's one as well. Whoever, whichever of those two parties does not gain the confidence of the House. The Governor-General comes to you, because that's the way it has to happen, and says "Mr. Harper, second-place party, the first place party couldn't achieve the confidence of the House. I’d like you to try"
Harper: Well, look, I think if the other guys win, they get a shot at government, and I don't think you challenge that unless you're prepared to go back to the people. And I think one of the reasons...
Mansbridge: So you would say no to that.
Harper: Yeah, because I think one of the reasons...
Mansbridge: You'd say to the Governor-General "No, I wouldn't do that."
Harper: (over Mansbridge) Yeah, absolutely. No, because I think, no, because I think one of the reasons, people don’t want another election. And that's another thing about this whole discussion...
Mansbridge: No, but that would be a way of preventing another election.
Harper: ... But Peter, these guys throwing up these scenarios, where govern... party may win, but we’re not going to let the government govern, we’ll be into another election before too long. That's why I think we need a majority mandate. I think this has gone on long enough. I think we’ve got a good record, so obviously we're appealing to the people to get behind us, and let's move the country forward. We have some pretty important economic challenges that remain in the world, in this country, and I don't think we can afford to continue to go around in circles like this, with any kind of minority.
Mansbridge: Alright, alright, I just want to be clear, because it is a different position than the one that you suggested in the letter that you wrote with Mr. Layton and Mr. Duceppe in 2004 about the Martin government, when you wrote the Governor-General suggesting there were other options, and one can assume that had to be the option you were talking about.
Harper: One doesn't assume that, because the option I was talking about, Peter, was that we try to influence the government's agenda, and if we want to defeat the government, we have to get our own mandate. I never suggested otherwise.
Mansbridge: Why do the two of them swear up and down that there was no question that what was on your mind was to become Prime Minister.
Harper: Why are they saying this now, instead of saying the opposite, they didn’t say this in '04. The reason, Peter, is because they're considering the option of combining with the Liberals to form a government without an election. That's why. That's why they changed their story.
So, the headline is strictly true, but not the most interesting thing here, I don't think. Let's parse this a little:

- The 2004 letter to the G-G. The reason Peter assumes the letter must be to request a shot at governing following a defeat is because there's no other practical reason to contact the G-G at that moment. Harper et al wrote a letter telling the G-G they are going to try to influence the government's agenda? "Good for you!" replies the G-G, "but what's this got to do with me?" "Oh, nothing," says Harper. Yes, that sounds like an entirely likely scenario.

- He implies earlier in the interview that he intends to introduce the same budget the government introduced before the government was defeated. He then says here that Canadians don't want another election. So, if the budget is immediately rejected by the other parties, representing the views of the pluralities that elected those members, either result - another party tries to gain the confidence of the house, or we go to another election - is antidemocratic. Therefore, the only democratic choice for opposition parties is to go along with what the government says. Neat!

- He thinks he can turn down a request from the Vice-Regal representative of Her Majesty. Stephen Harper is a republican, in the truest sense of the word. But we already knew that, didn't we, when he successfully pressured our last G-G to prorogue Parliament, in the face of the single guiding principle of a Westminster parliamentary system - the supremacy of the individual member. Stephen Harper either doesn't understand that, or doesn't approve of that, and Stephen Harper is a pretty smart guy, so one of those seems more likely than the other. There's your lead.
Don't you people know how to dog whistle?

A Conservative incumbent candidate from Saskatchewan thanks local anti-abortion groups for the signatures that helped defund Planned Parenthood International. Bring on the conversations about the hidden agenda!

My short read of Brad Trost's history seems to suggest he's one of the useful idiots the CPC likes to have around. They don't want to be seen as social conservatives, but they do want social conservatives to be motivated to vote Tory. And so, a fellow like this gets a long leash to complain about his own government's financial support of Toronto's Pride Week, for instance.

Anyway, I suspect he's been told by his party that there's a right time for talk like this, and that the writ period isn't it. A prom of one to a backbencher who will never be anything else, but a sig of two (or three? Discuss) for bringing hidden agenda talk to the fore.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What's going on?

Campaign teams, I count on you to screw up. A lot. Did you learn so much from the pre-debate tomfoolery that you've all straightened up your acts? What happened to our error-prone candidates?

Oh! They're hiding.

(h/t pogge)

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Thank goodness I'm not scoring the Green Party, or we'd have to have some discussion about this jackass:

A Green Party candidate in British Columbia has resigned after concerns were raised about him posting a comment about rape on his Facebook page.

Alan Saldanha, who was running in the riding of Fleetwood—Port Kells, resigned Wednesday afternoon after it was revealed he posted, "If rape is inevitable, lie back and enjoy it!" on his Facebook profile. The comment has since been taken down.
So, here's the thing. This probably isn't meant as literal advice, but as a metaphor - rape standing in for some terrible or at least unpleasant inevitability beyond one's control. The specifics of Saldanha's use here, I can't imagine - the story doesn't make it clear. Maybe Saldanha didn't specify. (Maybe he didn't get it as a metaphor either, which brings up other concerns about the candidate's competence.) But others who have used the same line have traditionally been more specific.

Don't get me wrong - it's a terrible metaphor. But the conversations are nonsense unless we admit that it is a metaphor.  The story describes the line as "... a comment about rape...".  Hey, remember when Ignatieff was attempting to say nothing about coalitions, and the media would talk about the elephant in the room?  Yes, I certainly enjoyed all those news articles about elephants.

I heard Newsworld anchor Carole MacNeil suggest candidates should consider sensitivity training before running, and perhaps that's true. But meanwhile, the media should take some courses in literary devices and comedy, because they seem completely deaf to both.

Edited to add: CBC reporter Kris Reyes did acknowledge the candidate's explanation a few minutes after noon MDT, but dismissively. My favourite part what when she explained that the candidate had been told it was a quote from Confucius "... but I hardly doubt that," she helpfully gaffes. I believe the candidate has confused the real historic figure and the old joke construction suggesting barroom wisdom of some sort, "Confucius say...". In fact, two minutes of Google searching turns this up:

22 July 1971, Winnipeg (Canada) Free Press, pg. 1, col. 6:
Winnipeg Police Chief Norman Stewart countered municipal opposition to one big Greater Winnipeg police force Wednesday with the flat statement that such a force is inevitable.
Quipped the chief:

“To them I say what Confucius said: ‘When rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it.’”
So, in conclusion, I think the CBC should be better funded, so it can afford some fancy Googling contraptions.  Or something.
Set dressing

A Tory operative sends out a letter asking local ethnic organizations to bring members wearing "ethnic costumes" for tonight's event with the Prime Minister in Etobicoke. I might have let this slide, if the Conservatives hadn't already treated brown faces as props, rather than as voters. 1 x 1 = 1.

Edited to add, Friday morning: I underestimated the ire this was raising among ethnic voters. This dominated a news cycle that included post-debate analysis. SIG = 2, though I have no choice but to take the CPC at their word about who was responsible, so PROM remains 1. Going forward, the Tories may have to carry a "very ethnic" penalty for any perceived cultural insensitivity, because that's become a big part of this election narrative.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Twitter is the "no zone defense rule" of the gaffeometer.

Is the basketball reference too obscure? How about "Twitter is the removal of the red line"? Twitter makes scoring more likely, is what I'm saying right here.

Anyway, an attentive reader notes another Tory twitter dimwittery, this one from an Ontario incumbent. Stephen Woodworth insensitively uses the word "crippled" in the punchline of a joke, leading to much faux outrage and a faux apology, and then the deletion of the Twitter account. The joke was not funny, not because of the insensitive language but because it wasn't funny, so overall it seems like a big waste of ink (well, electrons) to me. If you want to see actual insensitivity married to actual comedy, may I suggest Gilbert Gottfried's recent twitter work?

Anyway, another 1 x 1 for the CPC.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Non-gaffe (so far)... edited to add, now a gaffe.

Montreal Conservative candidate Larry Smith says it's normal for government-held ridings to see more government largesse. "Normal" is interesting, but the rest, that it happens thusly, is objectively true, even if you aren't supposed to say it out loud. So we'll see if he backpedals, gaffing it up in the process.

Edited to add, Saturday morning: He hasn't apologised or changed his tune that I've seen, but Harper is contradicting him, thereby saying something objectively false. This one might turn into a score yet.

Edited to add, Monday morning: I rethought this over the weekend, and decided if the leader of your party has to contradict you, it's gaffish enough. 1 x 1 = 1.
Where's the gaffe?

Wednesday: "Look, I think when the other guys are complaining we're turning people away, and they can't get people, I think that tells you how this campaign is going, I want to get our message out to as many people as are interested in hearing it... I think it's better when you’re turning people away than when you can't get people to come out."

Thursday: "If anybody is kept out of any of our events that is there to hear our message, we obviously apologize to them."

Making people who are interested in attending the Tory Leader's tour events register was not a gaffe, it was a plan, so that doesn't score. Keeping out or removing anyone suspected of showing less than full-throated support for the Prime Minister was part of that same plan (the term "bubble boy" has begun to spread in the media), so that doesn't score either. But, in the face of criticism, Wednesday's lame attempt to pivot served only to give the story more oxygen. Prom 3 x Sig 2 = 6.

I leave Thursday's quote here as well, because to my way of thinking, this was no apology at all. There are very few in the media agreeing with me. Perhaps they understand this is as close as we'll ever get to hearing a real apology, so like an exhausted parent, reporters decide to say "close enough" and let it slide. I'm prepared to add more points if the narrative changes, but for now, it seems these words, letting a few unregistered students into last night's event, and releasing the platform this morning has finally ended this story. Total, six for the CPC.
Liberals on the board

John Reilly might be a star candidate in some ways - a prominent judge, published author, and expert in the field of restorative justice. But he's running in Wild Rose, where the Liberal Party hasn't cracked 15% in at least 25 years. Prom = 1

Reilly argued against mandatory minimum sentencing on Dave Rutherford's radio show, arguing that a charge like Sexual Assault covers a wide spectrum of actions, and that mandatory minimums take away a judge's opportunity to differentiate along that spectrum. Agree with this or not, this argument appears to me to be well within reasonable political discourse. Mark your calendars - Tom Flanagan and I agree.

But no - wait! The Conservatives pointed this out to the media, who dutifully went crazy, and both Reilly and Ignatieff apologised unreservedly, so now it's a gaffe. And the timing couldn't have been worse for the Liberals (and gosh, do you think this is why the Tories were scouring the hustings for anything that could be trotted out this way?), producing a story that would run side-by-side with Harper's non-apology for the rally vetting. The timing is what pushes this to a Sig = 2. Total, 2 points.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Scorecard now, explanations in the morning.

Decisions have been made, but I'll spare you the details until coffee is involved. Cons 10, Grit 2, Bloc 3, NDP's shutout continues. They must have with Luongo in goal.

But does he have any promises for the 41st Parliament?

Stephen Harper promises another tax break, this one an extension of TFSAs, to be applied just as soon as the budget is balanced. Of course, even by the government's own budget projections, that won't happen until 2016, by which time even Harper's wished-for majority is going to have to call an election.  I suppose that's unless that government has suspended elections, in order to protect us from the anti-democratic possibility of a coalition.

It's worth remembering also that the Conservatives reduced corporate taxes last year, making it harder to balance the budget. I'm sure they were relieved to find out that they didn't have to wait for a balanced budget to get their cut.

On a gaffe-ier note, the Prime Minister mumbled his way through a not-apology ("If anyone was removed from a meeting who was there to listen, behave, and cheer wildly at each pronouncement, then I'd feel kinda bad about that..." I don't have the precise quote, but it was mealy-mouthed) for the rally ejections, and I'm definitely scoring something for the whole debacle. Tonight I'll attempt some precision.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011


I heard it on the radio this morning, but I can't find a link, and no one seems to have noticed or cared, so my initial instinct to score this was perhaps wrong.

I'm talking about Harper joking about vetting rally attendees, saying it was better to have to turn people away than it is to have to beg people to come. Really? How are people not pointing at this as evidence of the Prime Minister's arrogance?

Comments encouraged.

Edited to add: found a link, anyway.

Dated racist mutterings or memberships, even discovered during the writ period, is not a gaffe in the current campaign.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Dear Bill Mah, Edmonton Journal:

Here's some other stories you could do:

Salespeople at Goldline say it's a fantastic time to invest in precious metals.

A car salesman at a car show says it's an exciting time to be a car buyer.

Here's someone in the business of selling private islands. He gives tips to help you determine if a private island is right for your portfolio. (Spoiler alert - it is!) The story is a bit outdated, but certainly as of October of 2009 there was never a better time to buy a private island. You know, you should give Chris Krolow a call, because I bet he'd confirm there's still no better time to buy a private island.

Look. I'm not saying Real Estate will go up, I'm not saying it will go down. I'm just saying that writing a real estate projections story, using only the predictions of someone who makes his living convincing people to buy real estate, is just short of churnalism.
Mock the vote

The CBC reports on young people who won't cast ballots opening with the following:

University of Toronto linguistics student Filip Tisma voted in the last federal election, but has no intention of casting a ballot this time.

"I'd rather just not vote and send a message that way that I'm unpleased with how the voting system is turning out in this country," said Tisma, 22.
Bad news, Filip - the few people who notice you missing from the polls on May 2 will assume you're just another disengaged twenty-something among legion. Political parties will continue to prefer the issues of concern to older voters, safe in the knowledge that post-secondary funding and addressing youth unemployment are not vote winners. The more Filips out there who are not casting ballots, the more the choice falls to people like me - married white men in our forties and in comfortable financial circumstances. More power to me! Nuts and gum, together at last!

(Filip seems to be complaining about the system - the constituency-based first-past-the-post system. No doubt advocates of proportional representation will use the low turnout and quotes like this as evidence of the need for change. I'll save my own thoughts on that for another post, but in this case I think Filip might be making an excuse.)

Helping to discourage young voter engagement is the Conservative Party of Canada, screening event attendees for radical affiliations, like being a Liberal. I'm certain the Conservative Party will say that they're only trying to avoid hecklers, or people who would make a scene. And why not? That's for CPC MPs themselves to do.

I've been asked if kicking people out of their events is a gaffe by the Conservatives for scoring purposes. I think the only gaffe is that they got caught. It's unbelievably stupid, and I hope it continues to blow up in their faces, but keeping the crowds friendly through screening was premeditated as part of their communications strategy, and therefore not a gaffe.

FWIW, QOTD goes to Michael Ignatieff: "We are in a very bad place when you have got a prime minister who does a background check on his audience at a democratic crowd and doesn't seem to do a background check on the people he hires in his Prime Minister's Office, like Mr. Carson." FTW.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Thanks goodness for readers (Cons 4 BQ 3)

Another alert follower of the Gaffeometer has let me know about BQ incumbent Yvon Levesque's racist nonsense. Actually, he was only saying that his constituents are racist, but let's not split hairs:

Yvon Levesque, the incumbent MP for the riding of Abitibi-Baie James-Nunavik-Eeyou, had to apologize Friday after he said "certain voters won’t choose the NDP anymore because they are fielding a First Nations candidate."
Wow! That's pretty stupid, especially in a riding that contains much of Quebec's north. It's pretty stupid, from a party that represents themselves as left-wing, but appeals to a certain pure laine cohort whose Quebec nationalism doesn't include immigrants or Quebec's first peoples. It's pretty stupid.

Actually, I will split hairs. Levesque is probably right, in that some of his constituents are precisely the sorts of ethnic nationalists Mordecai Richler wrote about nearly twenty years ago. But unless the context of his remarks (which I haven't really found) was "They won't vote for the NDP candidate because he's Cree, and that's a terrible reason to vote against someone," it doesn't get a pass.

I'm uncertain how prominent Leveque is around Quebec, but he seems from here like a bit of an invisible backbencher, so I'm going to tentatively say (Prom)1 x (Sig)2 = 2 more for the BQ.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Leftover gaffes (Cons 4, BQ 1, Liberal and NDP no score)

This is the last time I'm going backward, I sincerely hope.

Commentors point out that I've ignored a couple more minor gaffes. First, right on day one a Conservative incumbent tweeted the name of the Liberal leader as "Igaffi". Then she apologised, again via tweet. Honest to God, if I start reading every candidate's Twitter feed to keep track of boneheadedness, then Dan will be proven wrong here - parties will only be able to dream they can hold a score to 33. 1x1 for Cheryl Gagaffey Gallant.

BQ candidates won't talk to Maclean's, except that they will. I'm not sure I can chalk this up to anything more than one staffperson, albeit one who is consistently identified as a "BQ spokesperson", feeling pissy that afternoon. But she does seem senior enough, and as I keep mentioning, apologies are usually deciders for me, and one was issued here. 1x1 for the BQ, already surpassing their 2008 blank card.

As for a French-language Liberal ad, which included an audience shot of a former NDP candidate and presumably current NDP supporter, they dropped her from the ad as soon as she objected. As far as I'm concerned, she was in the crowd, so the Liberal party can hardly be blamed for having her in crowd shots. As for their use of stock photos, so what? Common practice. No score.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Working backwards

I've been asked to pass judgement on a few more gaffes, some dating back to the opening weekend. Let's get to them:

Stephen Harper has some trouble putting on a pair of gloves. A Google News search for "Stephen Harper work gloves" produces the story I linked, and only that. This, plus a single tweet from one reporter, even repeated by Kinsella, does not a gaffe make. No score.

John McCallum discussed the Liberal plan to roll back the most recent corporate tax cut, acknowledging under direct question that "minor job loss" may occur. He went on to argue that there would be a net job gain as that tax money was redistributed toward the middle class who would create jobs by spending it. One blogging Conservative have tried to make some hay of this through a tightly edited youtube audio post (we can't hear McCallum's follow-up answer? And this is supposed to prove something?), but I refuse to punish candidates for spelling out policy. It was close call, but no points.

Finally, when campaigning in Montreal, Michael Ignatieff messed around with some guy's lute (? I'm going with "lute"), and as he returned it, the lutist (loutist? I'm in pretty deep water here) acknowledged that he'd be voting for Thomas Mulcair, the NDP candidate. That's what you get in a democracy - voters can tell candidates to their faces that they're voting for the other guy. So what? Better that than the sort of super-tight controls a campaign would need to make sure this never happens. No gaffe.

Did I get them all? The score remains unchanged: 3-0-0-0.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

You people (Cons 3, all others zero)

Mrs. Revmod and I were watching the news on Sunday night when we first heard the "you people" from Harper, speaking in front of an audience of South Asians. And when I say "in front of", what I mean is that every brown face in the room seemed to be sitting behind him, playing the role of wallpaper to his speech. When the broadcast took a wider shot of the room, the crowd facing the other way seemed to be entirely white.

Now, the Tories can make legitimate claims at diversity. I'm sure they're falling short in several ways that opponents could itemize, but they're diverse enough to deflect most criticism. Still, they're making specific efforts, some of them questionable, to appeal to recent immigrants. That's why the "you people" was so tone-deaf.

I wanted to find an escape route for Harper. I wanted to find him using "you people" commonly in non-racial contexts. I wanted to prove to myself that I'm just being lefty-sensitive. I failed. I'm tentatively awarding prom3 x sig1 depending on the legs this story has (so far, to my surprise, none). The scoreboard has to wait until the end of my work day.
The early gaffes

I'll save the obvious one for the next post. Let me start with the reader tips.

Shelly Glover, a Winnipeg Conservative incumbent described a neighbouring 68-year-old Liberal incumbent as "past her expiry date." Cue the (false?) outrage from seniors. But here's the thing - it's clear to me from the context of the comment that she wasn't saying Anita Neville was too old for the job, she was saying Ms Nevelle has been doing it for too long.

Speaking of doing it for too long, I have a precedent for scoring this one. In 2006, Peter McKay told Alexa McDonough to "stick to your knitting." There was much (false) hue and cry about sexism. And McKay issued an apology. I scored it then only because of the apology. That precedent stands. Right now, Glover's campaign has issued a clarification, but not an apology. If she sticks to her guns, no score.

The next reader suggestion notes that the Prime Minister stumbled over the word "election" and mentioned "unnecessary erections" instead. Sorry. No score for Mumbly Joeisms.

Finally, Liberals have produced audio of a Tory candidate claiming his office staff has been helping him "process immigration files or anything else." I'm withholding judgement on this one. Until the candidate or the staff clarify what they've actually been doing, I don't think we can judge if the candidate was overselling what they actually do (giving out phone numbers of the appropriate channels, perhaps), or conversely if the campaign office was overstepping its authority with the active participation of the Minister of Immigration (which is what the Liberals seem to be implying).

So, so far, no score, though two of these might turn into a score yet. But I'm skipping the big one for the next post. You people will just have to wait.

Monday, March 28, 2011


I already have a couple of suggestions for early scores to go up on the big board. Because entries don't close for a couple of hours yet, I'll be deferring any scoring until then. Once entries close, the gaffeometer AT gmail address will serve as an excellent contact point to keep me up-to-date about the latest jackassery. The comments sections serve almost as well, but slower.

Start your error-prone candidates!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Gaffeometer deadline

Between the weekend writ-drop and the lack of gaffes over this opening weekend, I'm deferring the prediction deadline to Monday midnight. Tell me at gaffeometer AT gmail the scores each party will generate over the campaign for a chance at a donation made to your favourite local candidate. And, no - just because I've excluded the Greens from the gaffeometer doesn't mean you can't make me send money that way. It will taste like acid, but I'll do it. I'm that committed.

I digress. Monday, midnight.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

May 2

Wow - short campaign. It suggests to me that Harper sees some downside potential over the course of the campaign, and not so much upside. I guess when you've spent millions of dollars and a couple of years defining your opponent, you don't want to give very much time for Ignatieff to break out of that box.

The short campaign might explain why everyone seems to have started throwing swings.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

An ounce of prevention

It's becoming obvious from the action in the House of Commons today that the Conservatives will say "It's us, or it's an antidemocratic coalition of socialists and separatists" every time they get in range of a microphone for the next six weeks.

Do you know when would have been a good time to talk about the great tradition of coalition governments in Westminster-style Parliaments? Constantly, and for the last two-and-a-half years. Unfortunately, the opportunity is past, and the argument won't work as well during the campaign, because the Liberals won't admit until the last possible moment that they might do anything other than win overwhelmingly. Nice work, Liberals.
Before it all gets going:

It's not a gaffe, per se, but the NDP may have found the dumbest doorstep issue of all time to treat as a marquee issue: a promise to exempt home heating from the GST.

Let me get this straight: Canada's left-wing party is proposing a tax break which will give the greatest benefit to the rich owners of huge houses and those who are the most wasteful with hydrocarbons. The energy-efficient and those who live more simply will see less, and renters who have baseboard heating rolled into the price of their accommodations will probably see none of the money, because their landlords will pocket it. Genius! It's like the opposite of a carbon tax, because we all know how unpopular that was last election.

Seriously, am I going to have to vote Liberal this time around?

Edited to add: Calgary Grit was on this months ago.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Previous final scores:


2006 included six points for the Liberals, earned by Scott Reid. (I believe that prompted the only time I tried to explain the scoring to a media outlet.):

and the remarkably low-gaffe election of 2008:
It's that time again

Unless Canada's punditocracy is wildly off-base (and when has that ever happened?), this week should see the beginning of Gaffe-o-meter 2011, and to a lesser extent, an election campaign. Does everyone remember the rules for scoring?

1) The scoring will begin on the day the writ is dropped for the Federal election - entries will be cut off midnight the next day. Entries will include the predicted total score for each party.

2) Two numbers determine the score - the quality of the gaffe ("sig") and the rank of the gaffemaker ("prom"). Both scales will score on a range from one to three. GaffePoints ("GP") for an individual gaffe will be calculated by multiplying "sig" by "prom". Party scores will accumulate by adding the GPs of each gaffe.

3) Contest entries will be scored by measuring the distance (plus or minus) between the prediction and the score for each party - lowest total difference wins.

4) I am the final and only arbiter of the quality of the gaffe ("sig") and the rank of the gaffemaker ("prom"). Debate, however, is encouraged in the attached comments section - Good or entertaining arguments have made me rethink before.

5) Scoring will close at 0800 MST on the day following election day. SPECIAL PARIZEAU RULE: Scoring will double for gaffes made on election day, including acceptance and concession speeches.

6) For the purpose of the contest, "gaffe" is defined as an unplanned error in fact or judgment. It might be a mistake for the NDP to release a platform paper advocating gender segregation of schools, to the derision of the Canadian electorate, but it's not a "gaffe". On the other hand, if Jack Layton explains the policy by making an aside about high-school boys being distracted by the firm and supple bodies of women in the full bloom of their hot, hot youth, that would be a "gaffe".

The prize: the reader who guesses closest to the actual final result will win a $20 donation to the local candidate of their choice next time around, if only you tell me who that candidate is. I've offers to each of my winners, but I haven't had to issue one donation yet. Third time a charm?

Send your predictions for total gaffe scores, by party, to gaffeometer AT gmail. Meanwhile, I have a graphic to produce.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Gary Bettman (pictured here) and Daryl Katz must think we're idiots.  Rexall Place sells out for every Oilers home game, and Phoenix is a more viable team because the hockey rink is so much better, empty though it is every night?

Edmonton taxpayers might be willing to put up some money for a new rink, if we can make sure we get value for the money, but I don't think Edmontonians are going to respond to blackmail.  Gary, you didn't do the case for a new rink any favours on Saturday.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

March 29th?

Prime Minister, I want to quickly remind you, as I did a few years back, that you legislatively stripped yourself of the power to call elections at random times without a defeat of your Government.  It's possible your 2008 election call only violated the spirit of the bill, but not the letter, but it's worth noting that since it was your government's idiot bill in the first place, maybe you should make some effort not to violate it at all.

Having said that, if you're so attached to going to the polls in March, I'm certain you can arrange to have your government attempt to pass something so terrible that you can lose a vote in Parliament, and then complain about the alliance among the socialists and separatists that forced your hand.  The scripts write themselves!  But if you could see your way clear to delay by even a few weeks, I could really use the time to get the next Gaffe-o-Meter up and running.  I know you won't want to deprive the world of that, and you surely don't want to deprive my employer of my full time and attention.

Thanks in advance.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Why do I have to go all the way to New Zealand to get my dose of Gwynne Dyer?

Dyer tends to be pretty on the nose about things.  He says Hosni Mubarak is done, and he'll be leaving Egypt soon. 
So what happens once Mubarak leaves? Nobody knows, because nobody is in charge of this revolution.

One thing that's come clear - Western governments, including our own, who have not dared to risk their favoured relationships with the friendly dictators who run the place now, will not be asked for advice when Egypt forges a new path.  Let's at least be wise enough to give full-throated support to the democratic process, so that even if a government not to our liking emerges, Egyptians will retain the tools to replace them without going to this week's extraordinary measures.

Edited to add, Feb 5: In answer to the title question, I don't.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Steady, Eddie.

I think we're going to miss Ed Stelmach as Premier.  I think we have too few people in politics who sincerely see public service as service, but I think the Premier does.  And I think if Ted Morton is next in line, as some have suggested, followed by Danielle Smith, we're going to be thinking fondly back to the Stelmach era for years to come.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

It's been a while...

... not only since I posted, but particularly since I posted bearish predictions about the real estate market.  However, with Jim Flaherty's announcement yesterday, I think the moment has arrived.  Home Equity Lines of Credit are no longer insurable by the CMHC.  The CMHC won't insure 35 year amortizations.  HELoCs have been reduced to 85% of the total equity in your home.

Last year, Flaherty also made mortgage rule changes, tightening qualification rules, and it pushed demand forward enough that the last half of the year has been very slow for the real estate business (forget the news stories from the last couple of weeks spun out by the real estate and banking industries, because even a cursory examination of year-over-year numbers from the last few months will show the supply of buyers drying up).  The same effect might happen again, once again creating the appearance of a boom, but don't be fooled.  Once these rules take effect, the path down will be clear to anyone who can see it.  The only question is whether the Tories can sneak in an election before the housing market, the consumer debt market, and as a result the retail reno market, dries up and slows the entire economy with it.  This is going to hurt.