Your Fall 2009 Election preview


Happy days are here again. Before a feisty session of QP this afternoon, the Conservatives used three of their members’ statements to impugn the leader of the opposition on notably personal terms. The attack ads can’t be far off.

Full statements from Dean del Mastro, Kevin Sorenson and Rodney Weston after the jump. Read them now and feel free to ignore the next year of political discourse.

Mr. Dean Del Mastro (Peterborough, CPC): Mr. Speaker, today we see the same bad decision-making from the current Liberal leader as we did from his predecessor. In 2007 the now-rejected Liberal leader broke his promise by accepting back into the party Marc-Yvan Côté, who had been banned for life for his involvement in the sponsorship scandal. Fast forward to today, new leader, same flip-flops.

Beryl Wajsman was one of 10 Liberals banned for life for his involvement in the sponsorship scandal, yet he is now reinstated as an advisor to the Liberal leader. Apparently four years is a lifetime for Liberals. While the Liberals have forgiven the transgressions of their cronies, I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, Canadians have not.

Let me quote the Guardian newspaper from the U.K., a description of the Liberal leader: A chameleon, a shifty academic difficult to pin down, but perhaps more accurately he ought to be called an egotist who is sure of his own superiority and who seems to lack any real passion for the country he intends to lead. When will the Liberal Party learn that Canadians do not want to go back to the days of scandals, flip-flops and hypocrisy? Why does the Liberal leader love to flip-flop? When will they find real leadership?

Mr. Kevin Sorenson (Crowfoot, CPC): Mr. Speaker, this government has a plan, a plan for its country, a plan for its people, a plan that is working. It is a plan that puts ordinary Canadians first, a plan with tax cuts for low and middle income Canadians, extended EI benefits for the unemployed, a plan of investments in real projects that will create real jobs.

The Leader of the Opposition can muse and pontificate all he wants about the economy, but everyone knows that he has no plan. The only substantive economic idea he has ever proposed was a carbon tax, a carbon tax far deeper and far more sweeping than the carbon tax proposed by his former leader, the member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville. Oh, and one other thing he wants to form, another parliamentary committee to study it.

I have spent a lot of time talking to ordinary people and business leaders and the only two people in this country who remain wedded to a job-killing, recession worsening, carbon tax are the Leader of the Opposition and his former leader.

Mr. Rodney Weston (Saint John, CPC): Mr. Speaker, whereas this government has a plan for the country, the Leader of the Opposition only has a plan for himself. He has the audacity to come back to Canada after 36 lost years for the sole purpose of becoming prime minister. The more he tours, the more he speaks, the more profiles that are written, Canadians are increasingly realizing that he is in it for himself and not for them.

The Guardian writer summed it best, when he said that the Leader of the Opposition is “so sure of his own superiority and who seems to lack any real passion for the country he intends to lead”. For the Leader of the Opposition: Canadians deserve better.


Your Fall 2009 Election preview

  1. I’ve seen feisty Question Periods, but that isn’t the word I’d use to describe today’s … which was one of the most depressing despair-inducing sessions I remember.

    I’d love to believe personal attacks would rebound on the folks launching them, but realize all too well that’s usually not the case. They do drive down turnout, which seems to be the intended strategic objective.

    The Liberals, having passed the Conservatives’ budget for all intents and purposes unamended (save Report Stage and Third Reading), are just now getting a taste of the thanks they’ll get over the coming months.

    It’s going to be an ugly few years in Parliament.

  2. I think it’s fair game to question someone’s motives for wanting to be Canadian PM after they have spent most of their adult life living outside the country. However, I don’t think the Cons will be able to make a pithy 30 second attack ad based on Iggy’s time abroad unless they have footage of him talking about how he wishes he was a Brit or referring to himself and Americans as ‘we’ or something like that. There is a fine line between making a substantial point in an attack ad and needlessly picking on someone’s patriotism.

    • I guess it would have been ok to run adds of Harper as a provincial hick, since he never left the country before becoming PM?

      • “since he never left the country before becoming PM?”

        Is that even true or just something you want to believe?

        Of course it would be fine for Libs to produce commercial that questions Harper’s world view but they would probably alienate a lot of people because there are plenty of Canadians who have not left the country. Not many of us, though, have spent 30+ years living abroad and then come back telling us how great Canada is and I plan to be PM.

        The Dion ad was effective because of the footage of Dion shrugging his shoulders and whinging about how hard it was to make priorities. The ad wrote itself. Making a commercial questioning Harper or Iggy would be more difficult because there are no visuals, as far as I know, that would encapsulate the message of provincial hick or doesn’t love his country.

        • As far as i know it’s true.

        • The only time Harper has been out of the country, it was as an official member of the Canadian government. Ignatieff has studied AND taught at some of the finest universities in the world.

          Harper left Toronto and adopted Calgary as his new home because he couldn’t find enough right-wingers in The Big Smoke – should we be attacking him every time he comes to Toronto and tells us he wants a majority?

          • Harper is playing a dangerous game attacking Ignatieff’s “Canadianism”. Here’s a sampling of Harper’s very Canadian thoughts and feelings:

            Harper said the East has a “culture of defeat”.

            Harper suggested “firewalls” be built around Alberta.

            Harper called American conservatism a “light and inspiration”.

            Harper said the Canada has a “rise in defeatest sentiment”.

            Harper said that Liberal voters West of Winnipeg are “…either recent asian immigrants or recent migrants from eastern Canada…who live in ghettos [etc]”

            Harper called Canada a “second tier socialistic country” with “second rate status”.

            At a speech in Montreal in 1997, Harper said that Canadians are ignorant about Canada, and that Americans were more knowledgeable about their own country than we are.

            ….not to mention that he advocated scrapping the Canada Health Act, called pay equity a “rip off” said he didn’t “feel particularly bad” for the unemployed, said that putting universal health care and “feminist rights” in the constitution is horrifying, wanted to join the Iraq war (and plagiarized a speech to argue for it)….etc.

            No wonder people feel he has a hidden agenda. If Conservatives want to push the claim that a leopard cannot change its spots, let’s compare the leopards.

          • Michael

            Harper makes shocking comments about his country, at least to left/lib/progressive ears, but stays in the country to try and better it and Iggy claims to love Canada but spends 30+ years living abroad.

            What’s more admirable: actions or words? Voters will have to decide, I guess.

  3. I don’ think we will see he good old ‘ not a leader ‘ ads you notice I don’t call them attack ads as they aren’t – they are a statement of fact now and not an attack or even negative come to think of it. Bring back the Puffin though that would be brilliant as it was Iggys idea to have the puffin as a national bird.

    • Interesting time shift there Wayne. They are’nt attack adds because NOW we know Dion isn’t a leader Did ya learn that from the leader?
      The Puffin add was childish, but pretty much in keeping with yr party’s public image.

  4. wow, wonder why we don’t get people lined up to run for office?….

    whatever Dion’s political skills or whether you agreed or disagreed with his perspectives what makes him so impugnable that he deserves to still be browbeaten regularly?

  5. What is wrong with Del Mastro; everytime I have to look at his face he’s being downright mean and disrespectful. What a shame he is, as they would themselves say…

  6. The CPC charm offensive is in full swing, I see.

  7. If not for for the Guardian and Mr Dion what on earth would the cons have to talk about, there being a world wide economic crisis an all!

  8. I sense the stench of desperation. Guess Dal Maestro sat on the remote again…

    • Iggy is an elitist and overly sure of his own superiority. No one doubts that . What is the problem?

  9. That one was too easy; when you can’t attack the man’s cause, attack the man.
    Ignatieff has considerably more strength of character than Harper and eventually will run roughshod over Harper. Harper betrays himself as a sneaky, shallow person and that has never been better demonstrated than when he was Obama’s presence. Whenever Obama looked him in the eye Harper would look away or down, at his own shoes.
    Incidentally, the “quotes’, form the Guardian are from a BLOG, written by a Canadian.
    All in all, I’d say those attack ad pre-tests we off the mark but otherwise solidify the impression one has of the Harpergang; one guy with a bunch of trailing tin cans tied to his ankle.

  10. After more than two years a signficant number of Conservatives have yet to realize they are no longer in Opposition and that this is their time to do something, not just squawk? Do they have any ideas? At all? Ever?

  11. I thought yesterday’s QP officially marked the end of any pretence by the conservatives to civility.

    Now that Iggy has let Harper dust himself off and get back in the game after his pre-Christmas drubbing, I’m thinking it will get downright rough for Iggy from here on in.

    I predict that by the end of this session, Harper will be back up in the polls, and Iggy’s decision to support Harper’s budget will be decried far and wide in the media — and the party — for what it is: as a monumental strategic error.

    – JV

  12. Those were the questions, what were the answers? This prorogue and budget thing has them all confused. They think they’re in the opposition and that Ignatieff is Prime Minister. And that’s only one vote away if they keep this up.

    Mr. Sorenson should get out more. Businesses by and large prefer a carbon tax rather than cap-and-trade, because it gives them more certainty, it’s more efficient and there is less bureaucracy. Voters are the ones who are unsure.

  13. Well…maybe the CPC has something to fear:

    Science 27 February 2009:
    Vol. 323. no. 5918, p. 1183
    DOI: 10.1126/science.1167748
    Prev | Table of Contents | Next
    Predicting Elections: Child’s Play!
    John Antonakis* and Olaf Dalgas

    In two experiments, children and adults rated pairs of faces from election races. Naïve adults judged a pair on competence; after playing a game, children chose who they would prefer to be captain of their boat. Children’s (as well as adults’) preferences accurately predicted actual election outcomes.

    Faculty of Business and Economics, University of Lausanne, 1015 Lausanne, Switzerland.

    * To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: john.antonakis@unil.ch

    In The Republic, Plato states, “Imagine… a ship in which there is a captain who is taller and stronger than any of the crew, but he is a little deaf and has a similar infirmity in sight, and his knowledge of navigation is not much better” (1). Plato argues that the crew (i.e., voters) cannot select a competent captain (i.e., ruler) because the crew is beguiled, in part, by appearances. Plato uses this allegory to suggest that voters lack the rational faculties and knowledge to elect competent rulers.

    Ideally, democracies should elect politicians on their competence. Intellectual (or learning) ability predicts effective performance in complex domains (2) and in the U.S. presidency (3). Presidents, though, are not elected on ability (4). Among other factors, voters are biased by facial appearances; naïve raters can predict elections after simply rating the competence (i.e., intelligence, leadership, and competence per se) of political candidates from their photographs (5). On a general level, individuals automatically infer characteristics of social targets based on facial appearances (6). Voters acting rationally, however, should change these initial classifications as they receive information about the target individual’s values, performance, political affiliation and the like. Unfortunately, voters are anchored in first impressions and do not appropriately correct initial inferences; additional information on the candidates does not change choices by much (5). Perhaps voters are acting knowledgeably if, after experience, they have learned that facial appearance correlates with competence or performance. However, intelligence of adults cannot be predicted from facial appearance (7), and there is great variation in the competence of politicians (3).

    Why do naïve ratings and actual votes correlate? Are voters using the same rudimentary decision heuristics that children use? Facial stereotypes and other classification schemes are well developed even in infancy (8), probably stemming from an innate template and rapid early learning (9). We hypothesized that voters might still be using the same cues that children do to categorize individuals on competency, which explains why voters may largely ignore additional information on candidates. We tested our claim by examining whether naïve voters predict actual voter preferences in the same way that children do.

    We recruited adults and children in Switzerland to rate pairs of faces (the winner and runner-up) from the run-off stages of the 2002 French parliamentary election (10). In experiment 1 (N = 684 adults), results of a logistic regression showed that the probability of predicting an election result correctly on the basis of ratings of competence was 0.72. Ratings of competence also predicted margin of victory (standardized beta = 0.32, P < 0.001).

    Using the same materials in experiment 2, 841 individuals—of whom 681 were children aged 5 to 13 years (mean age = 10.31, SD = 1.81)—participated in a game involving a computer-simulated trip from Troy to Ithaca. Thereafter, participants chose from two faces the captain of their boat (Fig. 1A). For the children, results from a logistic regression showed that probability of predicting an election result correctly on the basis of choice of captain was 0.71. The results did not differ when including the other participants (N = 160, mean age = 30.49, SD = 16.32); prediction accuracy did not depend on age (fig. S1).

    Fig. 1. An example of a pair of faces we used from the Meurthe-et-Moselle electoral district (number 1). Jean-Jacques Denis (left) lost to Laurent Hénart (right). Of the participants who rated this pair, 77% of children and 67% of adults in experiment 1 chose Hénart. Over the 57 pairs of faces and across all raters, the adults in experiment 1 chose correctly 60% of the time, likelihood ratio 2(1) = 28.86, = 0.20, P < 0.001; for experiment 2, both children and adults chose correctly 64% of the time, likelihood ratio 2(1) = 68.10, = 0.28, P < 0.001. These effects become stronger when controlling for covariates and fixed effects for pairs of faces (10). [View Larger Version of this Image (29K GIF file)]

    Next, we compared the adults in experiment 1 to the children. We used the mean (i.e., at the pair-level) predicted probabilities for each pair of faces for both children and adults in a random-effects regression model. The variable indicating adults was unrelated to the predicted probabilities; again, child-adult response patterns were indistinguishable. Furthermore, children ratings strongly predicted the adult ratings (standardized regression beta = 0.61, P < 0.001). Face effects appear to be age-invariant, suggesting that adults and children use similar cues in judging competence from facial appearance.

    Evidently, young children, who are less experienced than are adults in observing performance in complex domains, playing an innocuous game can predict election results retrospectively (11). These findings suggest that voters are not appropriately weighting performance-based information on political candidates when undertaking one of democracy’s most important civic duties.

    References and Notes
    1. Plato, The Republic, B. Jowett, Transl. (Collier, New York, 1901).
    2. F. L. Schmidt, J. E. Hunter, Psychol. Bull. 124, 262 (1998). [CrossRef] [ISI][UBC’s eLink]
    3. D. K. Simonton, in Advances in Psychological Research, S. P. Shohov, Ed. (Nova Science, Hauppauge, NY, 2002), vol. 14, pp. 143–153. Note, in Simonton’s analysis, the standardized partial beta for relation between intelligence and presidential greatness is 0.29 (the zero-order correlation was 0.55); removing an endogenous predictor (i.e., the number of years in office) increases the beta of intelligence to 0.41.[UBC’s eLink]
    4. If politicians were selected on ability, the correlation between ability and performance would be zero or very weak (given the range restriction in ability).
    5. A. Todorov, A. N. Mandisodza, A. Goren, C. C. Hall, Science 308, 1623 (2005).[Abstract/Free Full Text]
    6. R. Hassin, Y. Trope, J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 78, 837 (2000). [CrossRef] [ISI] [Medline][UBC’s eLink]
    7. L. A. Zebrowitz, J. A. Hall, N. A. Murphy, G. Rhodes, Pers. Soc. Psychol. Bull. 28, 238 (2002).[Abstract/Free Full Text]
    8. J. L. Ramsey, J. H. Langlois, R. A. Hoss, A. J. Rubenstein, A. M. Griffin, Dev. Sci. 7, 201 (2004). [CrossRef] [ISI] [Medline][UBC’s eLink]
    9. A. Slater, P. C. Quinn, Infant Child Dev. 10, 21 (2001). [Medline][UBC’s eLink]
    10. Materials, methods, and extended results are available as supporting material on Science Online.
    11. In experiment 2, we also presented children with two pairs of faces (one from the recent Democratic party primary and the other from the U.S. election). The children correctly predicted the Obama-Clinton [likelihood-ratio 2(1) = 3.94, = 0.54, P < 0.05] and the Obama-McCain [likelihood-ratio 2(1) = 8.45, = 0.81, P < 0.01] election results.
    12. We thank our university rectorate for support and J. P. Bonardi, M. Brulhart, F. Butera, S. Faulk, U. Hoffrage, P. Jacquart, F. Krings, R. Lalive, G. Palazzo, B. Sattler, C. Zehnder, and the OB group for helpful comments.

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