Campaign Trail Miscellany

From today's Post, a suggested revision to the Conservative Party slogan: "Too boring to be evil. Read more on our site."

Open question to the Stephen "Firewall" Harper campaign staff: I know your boy didn't like the populism of the old Reform party, but there's a difference between not being a populist and never actually speaking with, you know, human beings. For some reason, Harper -- who has remained pretty cool and collected throughout the campaign -- has done very little hand-shaking and baby-kissing. It could be worse, though; your handlers could keep you confined in a glass cell, as Paul Martin's apparently do.


Via On The Fence, Paul Martin pledged yesterday that he would a trustworthy PM make, saying that he would resign in two years if he breaks three campaign promises: Improving healthcare, enhancing the quality of life in cities, and maintaining social programs without running a deficit. Not to get embroiled in semantics, but OTF wonders what happens if the promise about resigning for not keeping promises is not kept. Circular logic alert! Robotic voice: Error! Error!


And the electoral outcome is a... (shakes multi-sided dice) Liberal... (shakes dice again) minority! Roy MacGregor describes the prospects of a minority government as appealing to Canadians: Liberal partisans who want to see the party punished for sponsorship transgressions, for instance, but don't want to see them out of office altogether. MacGregor suggests that Canadians' inate "collective wisdom" could allow us to "... deliberately bring about a minority government." So, minority-lovers, make sure to squeeze your eyes tightly closed and get your ESP read on the electoral intent of your fellow-voters when you enter the booth. Random government, here we come!


The Hill Times rightly bemoans that this election has seen only 199 women stand for election. Even my New Democrats, usually a equity-oriented lot, have a sparse list of female candidates, many relegated to unwinnable seats. The Conservatives, though, make everyone look good, with only 11% of their pool of candidates coming from the fairer sex.


The battle of the signs is particularly confusing in my neighbourhood of Snowdon. The publishing headquarters of Optimuscrime-Mtl (a rolling metallic fortress known as the Optodrome) is located near the intersection of four federal ridings. Walking one building away and crossing rue Queen-Mary takes you out of my riding of Westmount-Ville-Marie and into Mont-Royal. From there, walk four blocks east, and you find yourself in the Outremont riding. Signage in the neighbourhood varies depending on the side of the street you find yourself on.

If you cross back over Queen-Mary into my riding, and happen to be among the few, proud and laughably-optimistic Quebec NDP members, you can throw your support behind Eric Steedman, a consultant and former portfolio manager who boasts both an MBA and a set of sideburns that would put Thurman Munson to shame. On the Mont-Royal side of Queen-Mary -- another rock-solid Liberal stronghold -- a twentysomething UdeM politics student has taken on the NDP mantle. S├ębastien Beaudet is depicted on his campaign signs as a head suspended in air, the unfortunate side-effect of a white shirt and white background, and sporting a huge, slightly mischevious ear-to-ear grin.

The Quebec race is fun to watch, as the Bloc, astonished at their rapid change of fortune, cooly picks up riding after riding from the Libs. In Fortress Montreal, where well over half the ridings are usually considered Liberal locks, I suspect the Liberals will not be greeted by a strong protest vote for the Bloc, but more likely, with complete apathy from disenchanted voters. I was at a colloquium today that was attended by Warren Allmand, who represented Notre-Dame-de-Grace-Lachine for several decades. His only electoral prediction? An all-time record for low turnout.


Letters From Suburbia

There's a song by Subb called 'Sitting Out Another Dance' that was brought to mind last night at the wedding of one of the Plus-One's hometown best friends.

Presiding over the decks was a shifty-looking, thinly-moustachioed DJ who rocked a night of forgettable early-nineties radio hits and terrible power ballads.

Just for anyone taking notes, the oeuvre of the following bands/musicians are to under no circumstances be included in the playlist at my wedding:

+ Trooper
+ Leeann Rimes
+ Kid Rock
+ Post-1970s Rod Stewart
+ Neil Diamond
+ Whigfield
+ Bonnie Tyler
+ Shania Twain (Esp., 'Feel Like a Woman')

I discussed my veto list with the lovely plus-one, and she was particularly aghast at the exclusion of Bonnie Tyler. When pressed for comment, the Plus-One defended Ms. Tyler's 'Total Eclipse of the Heart as "lyrical and musical genius," explaining excitedly that "it totally has cannons!"

"Boom!", the Plus-One added by way of demonstration. "Boom!"


Election Trail Miscellany

Tilting at Windmills on the Layton homelessness remark: "This certainly fits Michael Kinsley's definition of a gaffe as being "... when a politician accidentally tells the truth."


Alfonso Gagliano, he of Sponsorship Scandal fame, convinced he made a perfectly swell diplomat, and apparently just stunned by his completely unexpected and obviously baseless dismissal, is suing Paul Martin and the Libs for $4.5 million. Let me get this straight: You frittered away a hundred mil to political cronies, and you think you were wrongfully dismissed? I love this guy. He makes me feel like a model employee in comparison.


Stephen Harper becomes official bilingualism's most unlikely fan. I think it was TS Eliot who wrote that you knew an election was coming when the foxes take a sincere interest in prolonging the lives of the fowl.


From The Unconventional Logic Department: Paul Wells suggests that the scandal will rapidly become useless as a political issue. Only days after the A-G's report, he says, "Liberal voters had either abandoned the Liberals -- or looked elsewhere and returned to the Liberals ... [Conservatives and New Democrats] can't pick up votes by talking about Liberal wickedness. They will talk about Liberal wickedness anyway."


From the Even Less Conventional Logic Department: The Absolutely Absurd Party are no Rhinos, but they're taking a good stab at it. From their policy manual: A drinking/smoking contest with Stephen Harper (with the stakes set at political retirement) privatizing all public services and nationalizing all private enterprise, replacing the Queen with Don Cherry on legal tender, and my own favourite -- "Raffle off all senate seats, four tickets for $10 or one ticket for $3." Sign me up for four, guys.


And the award for Least Plausible Explanation in a Campaign Biography goes to... Vancouver Scrum directs our attention to the official biography of Port Moody-Westwood-Port Coquitlam Lib Kwangyul Peck: "Between academic degrees, Kwangyul worked and traveled in Paris, London and New York. He holds a particular fondness for his time in New York as a vegetable delivery truck driver. The constant wear and tear of lifting heavy boxes full of vegetables resulted in the loss of all of his fingerprints.

Mr. Peck's other teenage jobs as a newspaper delivery boy and fast food cashier left him with a titanium jaw, a missing eye, and the ability to kill silently and disappear without a trace.


Brain to Mouth, Brain to Mouth: Abort! Abort!

Jack Layton, whose fiery rhetoric can on occasion generate uncomfortable squriming from his opponents and supporters alike, is on the hot seat after laying a low blow on Liberal leader Paul Martin. In a speech at Olivia Chow's nomination meeting, Layton said that he holds Martin responsible for deaths due to homelessness.

In the same day, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper accused the Libs of risking the safety of Canadian military personnel by failing to replace aging Sea King helicopters, but stopped just short of a personal attack, calling Layton's earlier comments "over the top."

Blogger Jim Elve wonders if the NDP will be able to shake a loose-cannon image in the fallout from Layton's attack. "Will loose lips," his post asks, "sink 'dips?"

Layton is capable of managing damage with grace; his response to the Svend Robinson shoplifting incident was dignified and reflected well on the NDP. He needs to dip into that reserve of tact again, and offer a prompt and sincere apology to Martin. Canadians, after suffering a decade under Chretien's foot-in-mouth syndrome, want a leader with the capacity for an inner monologue.

Homelessness is a strong area for the NDP, especially given Layton's experience with municipal issues. However, voters are hunting for a leader who can exhibit restraint and poise -- Martin's only saving grace, for instance, is his self-styled image as an 'elder statesman'. Layton can nail the Libs on their housing and homelessness record without resorting to low blows -- and he should realize that in this race, a dividend will be paid at the polls to leaders who keep the campaigning clean.

However, the appetite for scandal and disinterest in substantive issues exhibited by the press is particularly evident in their treatment of this rather minor story. Phillip Todd at Maisonneuve's MediaScout blog wonders aloud "why are our national papers so scared of NDP ideas?" Coverage of the NDP platform announcement was lumped by the Globe into a story about Layton's comments, and the Post ran an opinion piece criticizing the platform on the front page, pages ahead of the reportage on its release. Even the gauchiste Star used some alarmist framing when covering the platform: "NDP tax plan dings the rich," it warned. Coverage of the NDP platform took page A6, while the front page election article covered the leaders' "image sweepstakes."

Well, though Layton's plan does involve (gasp!) some clawbacks to Martin's rounds of tax cuts to business, at least his platform makes realistic projections about growth and forthright accounting of how promises will be paid for -- something Ontarians would certainly have been wise to demand from their provincial Liberals.


No Love For The Fruit 'n' Yogourt Parfait. Sigh.

Tonight, in cooperation with the members of the Sociology Posse (roomie, plus the Soc-Lounge usual suspects), a Casa Del Optimuscrime Outing was made to the Cinema du Parc to catch Supersize Me.

Verdict? The movie's alarmist tone is made up for by its immensely likeable subject, whose insane liver-battering thirty-day Supersize McDiet is chronicled with an easygoing sense of humour and is punctuated by Wesley Willis' McDonalds-tribute synth-anthem. Yes, he eats more during his thirty days than the average McPatron -- or even the morbidly obese eaters. Yes, he was clearly healthier than the average McPatron before starting. Yes, his extreme results are probably not valid scientific proof that McDonald's is particularly harmful. And finally, yes, among his 'medical experts' is the leader of an animal-rights front group.

However, the movie is getting inevitable comparisons to Michael Moore: Staged, shrill and histrionic, but with some (Mc?) nuggets of truth scattered throughout. It quite effectively shows how deeply food industry lobbyists have their hooks into cash-starved school boards. It underscores how scarce fast-food nutritional information is, and reminds us that most of us are ill-equipped to interpret the information on the labels anyhow. And while none of us should be surprised that fast-food is bad for you, it provides a none-too-subtle reminder -- and perhaps a little incentive to skip the burger and hit the gym. And finally, Fruit n' Yogourt Parfaits, just as calorie-laden as a sundae? God-dammit! Who knew?