Tagged: Jack Layton

A Saturday spike in Google searchs for Jack Layton

Since the debate, we’ve kept an eye on searches for the five party leaders, using the Google Trends tool that famously notices ‘flu outbreaks before the Centres for Disease control. (Previous examples here and here.) Extreme caution is required, but look what happened to Jack Layton yesterday.

Google Trends Saturday

On its face, this means a lot of interest in Jack. I assume that’s mainly a result of the found-in story, but a friend argues otherwise:

[I]ndications from previous elections (check 2008) seem to suggest [it reflects] popularity as well, though I don’t know why. It’s quite a spike, though.

It is quite a spike, and quite a leap to assume it reflects an increase in popularity, given that it occurred in the 24 hours after the campaign took a  salacious incoming missile. Still, it’s intriguing—and noteworthy that Layton searches have consistently outpaced those for Harper, which consistently outpace those for Ignatieff, May, and Duceppe. Searches for Iggy and Harper remained flat yesterday.

The flaw in Alboim’s defense of the press gallery

CBC Sunday Edition guest host Robert Harris chided Elly Alboim this morning for the national press corps’s failure to pick up on the NDP surge until the polls made it obvious.



Alboim responded, reasonably, that reporters couldn’t be expected to pick up on a phenomenon before it existed. (He did credit Chantel Henert for noticing it a week before her colleagues.)

Alboim went on to speculate that the NDP’s dramatic rise in the polls reflected, not a sudden blooming of love for Layton, but widespread anti-Harper sentiment that coalesced around Layton following his good performance in the debates.

If Alboim is right, and I think he is, support for Layton may be new, but dislike of Harper and his autocratic manner is not. To re-phrase Harris’s question then, how did the cream of Canada’s national press corps miss the anti-Harper mood?

On issue after issue, press gallery reporters have, wiuth few exceptions, been quick to accept the Harper squad’s assertions that, “The public doesn’t care about parliamentary technicalities.” “No one wants this unnecessary election,” “Canadians don’t expect us to coddle Afghan terrorists,” “The public has no love for the long form census,” “Talk of contempt is just partisan bickering,” etc. Faced with these airy dismissals, the gallery has too often shut down coverage of important news stories that reflected badly on the Harper government.

Reporters have also accepted unprecedented and humiliating restrictions on their ability to put questions to the Prime Minister, his cabinet, and now the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada in an election campaign.

The gallery collectively underestimated Canada’s appetite for thoughtful coverage of the nuts and bolts of Harper’s burgeoning autocracy. That is the failure unmasked by the last two weeks of the 2011 election.

That orange wave in QC? Blame Charest

A Nova Scotian who spent close to half his life in Quebec writes:

Harper’s undoing is Jean Charest.

Quebecers know they are going to throw out the scandal-plagued Charest as soon as they can, but they can’t do this with a strong BQ in Ottawa because it throws the federalist-nationalist balance out of whack.

jean_charest-150Quebecers like to balance a strong federalist parliament in Ottawa with a nationalist Assembly in QC, and vice versa. They can’t vote Liberal on Monday because, well, Liberals are screwing up in QC. They also know that Harper can’t be seen to kowtow to Quebec, so they’d rather not have him in power or with too much influence in QC. Also, he’s not sympatico. But electing too many BQ’s when the PQ is destined for power at home is crazy because that gives far too much clout to the separatists. Everybody knows that.

It must have been quite a problem. But then Jack Layton won the French-language debate with smarts, charm and a street-savvy yet credible accent that made Duceppe sound like a fop. And so the orange wave began.

Ipso facto duodenum.

I agree with one caveat: According to some polls, the orange wave in Quebec had begun even before the debates.

That Layton surge in Quebec

What to make of the Layton’s remarkable late-campaign surge in Quebec? Contrarian friend Richard Stephenson suggests an explanation:

We have been told repeatedly that the voters are tired of these frequent (and expensive) elections. I suspect many are tired of the stories the Bloq and the Liberals have been telling. Having voted consistently for the Bloq over the past decade, maybe the people of Quebec are tired of the story they’ve been sold, and are now looking for a Federalist party they can trust….

[T]he Liberal Party in Quebec is in disgrace because of the sponsorship scandal and the ongoing scandals in the construction industry. [Quebecers] cannot vote PC (too far right, too Alberta) and they do not want to vote Liberal or Bloq, so they have only the NDP and Layton left. It’s by no means certain that the voter in Quebec would recoil from supporting a small left wing party that has no hope of becoming the government. After all this describes the Bloq, doesn’t it?

Trending federal leaders in Google searches

Google’s Trend feature lets users track and compare the frequency of searches for particular words or phrases in any country, or worldwide. This chart compares searches within Canada for the full names (first and last) of the five leaders contesting the May 2 Federal Election.

Google Trends Elxn41

I used Gilles Duceppe as the standard, so you could say Stephen Harper scored 12.6 duceppes; Jack Layton 7.8 duceppes; Michael Ignatieff 7.2 duceppes; and Elizabeth May 4.0 duseppes. (Sorry about the confusing colour assignments. Google picked ’em.)

A serving of crow, best eaten promptly

After listening to wrongness guru Kathryn Schultz‘s TED talk on the counterintuitive blessings of making mistakes, it seems an opportune moment to get this out of the way. A quiet but astute observer of provincial and national politics writes:

I meant to ask you where you get your drugs from. They are obviously very powerful. I mean, how else can you explain your federal election campaign outcome prediction?

That would be this prediction:

I look forward to their stories a month from now acknowledging April 12 as the turning point when a majority slipped from Harper’s grasp, and a minority Liberal Government became a real possibility.

The post-debate polls are mixed, and mostly flat. They certainly reveal no such turning point. The only real change seems to be a startling rise in soft support for Jack Layton in the unlikely province of Quebec, where he has taken over second place in most polls. Whether this translates into many, or any, seats is an open question, since the NDP vote in the province is inefficient, in the sense of being too evenly spread among many ridings to produce majorities under Canada’s first-past-the-post electoral system.

Another friend, a Nova Scotian by inclination currently suffering asylum in Toronto, summed up the election this way:

Isn’t this campaign awful? Layton, my MP, seems to be winning ever since the debate, heaven help us. I have a feeling anything could happen. Two events stand out.

One was the televised English debate, in which only Layton seemed authentic. The other was the Ignatieff interview with Peter Mansbridge today. For a generation over 40, Mansbridge represents something along the lines of Walter Cronkite — the guy who presides at the campfire, the embodiment of Canadian centrality. He’ll be the last one, of course, since now everyone’s a short-lived broadcaster, but to watch his cold, barely concealed contempt for the actor and nimble intellect before him was to realize that even at the top of his considerable game, Ignatieff isn’t achieving acceptance — which is what the polls seem to show, however faulty they may be: he hasn’t moved the dial much.

The other: I spent some of today rapt, watching Day 1 of SUN-TV. It’s lunatic. Prewar Germany. Sex and death. The Americanization of Canada, in the worst imaginable way. How did the country ever beget this Rosemary’s Baby of television? OK, I may exaggerate, but if it’s a taste of Harper regimes to come, we are in the wrong hands to put it gently.

If you are straining to find a silver lining in these trends, it’s this: In the main, the polls point to a Harper minority and a carbon copy of the current parliamentary seat allocation. If that happens, we could be rid of all four leaders before our next trip to the polls. Wouldn’t that be a blessing?

The clear winner: Ignatieff

Ignatieff-1Contrarian is baffled by the reaction of Ottawa-based press pundits to tonight’s debate. Most said Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff failed to score against Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, who, they averred, held his own. I think this is a major misreading, and the polls will quickly show it to be off base.

Try the old silent test: watch any portion of the debate with the sound turned down. Harper looked miserable, especially when forced to listen to anyone direct criticism at him. I am not comfortable commenting on politicians’ physical traits, but Harper’s expression did not serve him well, and likely reinforced voter concerns that he is cold, autocratic, mean-spirited.

Layton looked ever the happy warrior, as he always does, and many will think he won the debate. I doubt this will translate into votes, however, but if it does, it’s wonderful news for the Harper camp.

The angry looking Gilles Duceppe was occasionally effective, but is, in any case, irrelevant in English Canada.

harper-2Ignatieff looked poised, serious, concerned, and easy to imagine as prime minister—nothing like the caricature painted of him in attack ads or pack news analysis. He was effective against Harper, especially in the first half. This is the first long look most Canadians have had of him, and many will be surprised and impressed. He will benefit from low expectations.

Layton-3The press gallery are so caught up in their own memes of the invincible Harper juggernaut, and Ignatieff as flop, they missed the important event that unfolded before their eyes tonight. Too much guzzling of each others’ bathwater, boys and girls.

I look forward to their stories a month from now acknowledging April 12 as the turning point when a majority slipped from Harper’s grasp, and a minority Liberal Government became a real possibility.

Webfellows make strange politics

The following message greeted Scott Gillard, constituency assistant to Halifax Chebucto NDP MLA Howard Epstein, when he logged onto his Facebook account Tuesday:

[Maybe you should “like”] Michael Ignatieff. Many who like Jack Layton like him.

Well, Scott, for the sake of the country, maybe you should.