Friday, December 23, 2005

Canary in the Coal Mine

Long, log ago, before even cell phones and video games, canaries were used to warn coal miners of deadly gases in coal mines. The canary was place in a cage at the top of the mine tunnel and if the canary showed signs of distress (or died), the mine would be evacuated.

Consider this election a coal mine on Liberal rule in Canada. I have decided to pick a canary. If this canary is convinced to dump the Liberals, then they are surely doomed.

The Canary: My Father

Vital Stats:

My father is 66 years old and a retired english teacher in Oshawa, a medium sized town (about 150,000) about 30 minutes from Toronto and in the 905 area code.


His parents escaped from the war and moved to Canada from Yugoslavia in 1948. Having seen what the Communists did in Yugoslavia (the shooting of enemies of the state, such as the only educated brother of my grandfather, a doctor), you would think my father would eschew the Liberal/NDP communist/socialist crap. Not so. Buying into the whole “won’t someone please think of the children!” propaganda put forward by the left, my father is supportive of these ideas, but is not set in his political ideology. He is an excellent example of a swing voter. He is not a member of any party and he can be convinced to switch his vote. Last election he voted for the Liberals and he thinks he voted for them in the 2000 election as well. Coming from Oshawa (Ed Broadbent's old riding), I would guess that he has votd for the NDP, probably when Ed was leader.

My fater is an enigma, as the rest of my immediate family is solidly on the right side of the spectrum. My mother, brother and sister, all lean towards the conservatives. That said, they are not ideologically set either. My mother votes for the person, while my brother strongly supports the idea that people should work for a living and not live off the state. He is particularly outspoken in his views. When Mike Harris was premier in Ontario, my brother was seen on an episode of Speaker’s Corner, saying he was glad Harris was going to kick out the welfare bums, who would now have to work for a living, just like him. My sister is a nurse and my brother works in the auto industry. I would say the daily influences on my father are sure to mention Liberal corruption often over the course of the election.

While my father’s daily influences are on the right, he balances this by a subscription to the Toronto Star and watching the CBC (although he usually falls asleep watching TV after 8 pm, so the influence of the CBC is somewhat limited). In addition, my one aunt and five uncles are mostly on the left. Three are teachers and one is a school principal. They are more likely to support the NDP, but some probably voted strategically Liberal in the last election. Discussions at family holidays were interesting at grandma’s house. The whole family is loud, mostly due to the fact that you have to yell or you will never get your point across. Debate was particularly vehement during the Harris years, with my aunt and uncles convinced he was the antichrist. This Christmas should be quite interesting at grandma's house.

The Plan

I will ask my father a few questions about the election each week, such as the most important story of the week, how he plans to vote, etc, and see if he can be convinced to vote something other than Liberal. He is representative of one type of typical Ontario voter, so if he goes over, the Liberals are dead.

Hey, it's just as scientific as a poll.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Cock of the walk (Not)

Yesterday was another beautiful day. Sun shining and +5 degrees C. That's right, I said plus five! Now you see why Alberta is for global warming. This is usually Calgary kind of weather.

Unfortunately for me, I speand the best part of the day Christmas shopping. I really only have to buy for the wife, as we exchanged gifts with my family a few days ago when I was home. Also, I kow just what to get her, as she has been very open about what she wants. This year we are exchanging a few small gifts. The house is still fairly empty and we need about a million things just to get the place up and running, so the gift bonanza fro us will start after Christmas, when we will go on a spending spree buying stuff for the house.

I only spent 2 hours a this local shopping park, and I was worn out. It wasn't even really that busy, but the driving, parking watching all these people rush around, all I could think of was "Why?". Probaby just an attack of pre-Christmas anti-consumerism.

The wife is part of this dancing group and they have a tradition with newly married couples. There is this big wooden rooster call the fertility cock, and it is given to the couple that is supposed to get pregnant next. I'm not one for superstitions, butthe thing works. Going back as long as can be remembered, the one with the cock is always the next to get pregnant. Now, you are supposed to keep these things a secret, as you don't want everyone coming up to you and constantly asking "Did it work?", but the wife and I are trying to increase the family by more than just one cat. Let's face it, we are not getting any younger (especially her, tick, tick). Perhaps this thing is supposed to work by magic, as the wife has been wearing her armour to bed. I could understand it if if was cold out, but at plus five, we could basically sleep outside. To add to that, the other cat has been very affectionate (for her) since we have been back. She is either the second or third thing in bed at night. If second, she sleeps on my side and I have to kick her out just to get in. If she is third, she promply placed herself between the two of us (maximum warmth) which, as you can imagine, a bit of a cramp on my style. I would leave the cat outside all night and she would be happy to be left outside, but the neighbours have lost three cats in the past month, they suspect to coyotes. Although I suspect this cat could survive anything, the wife would not want to risk it, and would be quite out of the mood if I were to suggest it.

Right now, we are counting on the power of the fertitlty cock only.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Home at Last/Our Family is Reduced by One

I love Alberta.

Thrity minutes after the plane lands at the Edmonton airport, we are in the car and on our way home. Contrast this with the 2 hours it took just to get our luggage in Toronto.

Today is a beautiful -4 degrees C, and the sun is shining, making me wonder why I ever wanted to leave this place. The wife and I moved some wood into the house for the fireplace and took a tour of some of the property. As everything is so overgrown, it is now possible to see into the forests and better assess the land. I used to say that I could heat the house for 3 years on just the deadfall. It seems to be more like 10 years. I have a lot of hauling and cutting of logs to do this year. Time to buy that chainsaw.

As you can see from this post, Koko our older cat died about 10 days before we got back. He was sick before I left, and got much worse while I was gone. The wife almost took him to the vet for the "long sleep" a few times, but every time she was going to do it she would spend some time with him and he would rally back, enjoying the day, moving around, and going outside. He seemed to sense what might happen, so put on a good show to last a bit longer. The few weeks before he died, he was so sick that the wife said she had to check him after coming home from work to see if he was still alive.

I was hoping he would make it until I returned, but I am glad he lived out his natural life.

After Christmas, we are off to the animal shelter to get our strength back up. Beside, the other cat needs something to keep her busy. I am already getting tired of constantly letting her in and out of the house.

The circle of life continues.

Monday, December 19, 2005

In Memory

Farewell to Koko the Cat

1990(?) to 2005

Declawed on all four paws, taken in because he was too difficult for some, Koko passed away quietly after a long illness sometime during the evening of 8 December, 2005. He will be buried in front of the house, near the porch where he spent his last days, in a short ceremony at 3 pm.

He is survived by his human mother, human step father and feline sister, Bizzy. Those who knew him will agree that he is likely be reincarnated as a brutal dictator, capable of genocide, or a drag queen. Koko spent his time on earth as the residence Walmart greeter, customs agent, and Guard Cat, all of which he took very seriously.

The family asks that a donation to the SPCA be made in lieu of flowers.

He will be missed.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Bias? What Bias?

Via Nealenews:

Running for coverage

...Stephen Harper received the most negative coverage of the four main party leaders, even more negative than the coverage he got in the disastrous final week of the 2004 election.

Initial coverage of Paul Martin was not only less negative, it was more positive than the waning days of the last campaign, when the Prime Minister rebounded to pull out his narrow victory.


The sample sizes are small...and the findings are based on reports and opinion pieces published before any major policy announcements had been made, including Harper's blockbuster pledge to reduce the hated GST.

It will be interesting to see if the Main Stream Canadian Media (MSCM) can keep their boy in power.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Once more up the Peak

Well, I have pretty much reached my minimum goal. I went up the hill enough times to equal twice the height of Mount Everest.

I wanted to get more in, but with my bad knee and all the we were not in Newcastle due to rain, landslides, etc, 52 ascents is good.

The wife replied to email recently saying she was "game". I am not sure if this means she wants to go up the Peak once when she is here or if she is agreeing to do some kinky stuff of a sexual nature that I had suggested.

I will find out in three days.

Hello pot, this is kettle, over

This is the funniest thing I have seen in some time.

Check out this quote:

Belinda Stronach, whose stunning defection from the Tories last spring poleaxed the Conservatives and saved the minority Liberal government from certain defeat, blasted Stephen Harper on Monday as someone willing to put the country at risk for selfish political gain. (emphasis added)
How can she make such a comment with a straight face?

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Liberal Media Bias or Poor Conservative Communications?

Consider this article. It would be hard for the Liberals to get better coverage if they wrote the article themselves. But does this happen? Is it liberal media bias or poor communications on the part of the CPC communications staff?

Let us look at the article in detail.

The first six paragraphs are filled with quotes from Paul Martin which demonize Stephen Harper and the conservatives, all of them in areas which are thought to be ones Canadians are most sensitive to.

"Stephen Harper's policies are different than mine, they're different than yours”

"I'm beginning to understand, however, why you never hear Stephen Harper talking about the issues of our day," Martin said. "It's because he and the Conservatives are on the wrong side of every national issue."

And this one:

He then suggested Harper would move Canada backwards and create a health care system that would require a "credit card" among other things.

So it would be reasonable to assume that the next six paragraphs would be Stephen Harper saying nasty things about the Liberals, or some Conservative representative refuting Paul Martin’s assertions.

Not so. The article then goes on to speak about how the Conservatives believe the Liberals “crossed a line” when the questioned Harper’s patriotism and to detail that event.

Any rebuttal of Martin’s characterizations are not in the piece.

The question is quoted in its entirety

"The Prime Minister outside of Rideau Hall spoke of his values, beliefs, a future for the country, promises. You speak of accountability, taxpayers' change and scandal. I wonder, do you love this country?"

Notice the juxtaposition of values, beliefs and scandal and the blunt, “Do you love this country?

The absurdity of the question is without bounds. Even if a politician hated the country, is there any other answer than yes. No one would spend the long hours and media scrutiny to be a politician if they hated the country. Unless they were evil and had some hidden agenda worthy of a Hollywood movie. For someone such as me, an Albertan, such characterizations are absurd. However, voters all over the country have been told numerous times about the “scary” Stephen Harper and his “hidden agenda”. Although most people in Ontario are not likely to believe these characterizations, they plant small seeds of doubt that slowly grow.

Unfortunately, the response by Stephen Harper quoted in the article is “I said Canada is a great country”. Anyone who has dealt with children knows this is a non-response. It is an indirect response to a direct question and appears to be evasive. Again, the hidden agenda.

The article goes on to talk about the Conservative response to the questioning of Stephen Harper’s patriotism. This takes the form of a demand for an apology as an “unacceptable personal attack”.

Firstly, this appears weak. Strong, tough leaders don’t demand apologies, they take action. And why is this an unacceptable attack? American Republicans are always questioning the patriotism of Democrats, so it’s not like we haven’t heard these types of attacks before. With the suggestion that Stephen Harper is scary and has a hidden agenda to destroy Canada (or at least our way of life), the Liberals would be remiss not to question Harper’s patriotism. The Alberta firewall comments serve to reinforce this perception.

The next quote is Jason Kenney’s response:

Paul Martin may disagree with Stephen Harper on many issues, including the Liberal Party's record of scandal and waste," said Kenney said in a statement. "But he would never question Paul Martin's love for Canada."

First sentence, excellent. It reminds voters of the scandal and waste. However, the second is wrong. The Conservatives should hit back. Based on the stealing of taxpayers’ money, and the damage that Adscam has done to the cause of federalism in Quebec, Conservatives should turn the tables on the Liberals and suggest that perhaps that, due to their actions, they want to break up Canada.

This next statement is also very damaging.

A Conservative source told Politics Watch they were stunned when they heard the Liberal war room was spinning that Harper doesn't love Canada.

No one in a war room should ever be “stunned”. Their job is to anticipate what the other side will do and be prepared to respond. We all know the campaign was going to get dirty. Is the war room not prepared for this? If they are not, they should keep it to themselves. The correct response to this would be: “We knew the Liberals planned to fight dirty, and I am not surprised. They will state any lie to maintain their corrupt hold on power” followed by a strong counterattack. This feeling in Canadian society that we do not like negative campaigns is incorrect. The Liberals did very well last election with their scary Stephen Harper TV adds. There is a line that Canadians feel should not be crossed, and the Conservatives crossed it last campaign by suggesting Paul Martin supports child molesters. If Conservatives are unsure of the line, they should be safe countering any Liberal attack. Canadians know politics is a dirty business and any attempt to suggest you are above that, just makes people think you are better at hiding it.

Bias or not getting the message out?

There is no doubt that the above article is slanted towards the Liberals. The first six paragraphs have Paul Martin questioning the values of the Conservatives with no rebuttal. When the Conservatives side is finally presented, it is not a counter to the Liberal message, but a discussion of another issue.

However, this type of media reporting should not be a surprise. The pro Liberal bias of the press is well known. This means that Conservative Communications has to be at the top of their game at all times. They must make no mistakes.

Knowing the circumstances, success or failure lies in the hands of Conservative communicators.

Sometimes it can be an advantage to play as the underdog.