Friday, June 25, 2010

Polling Trends: Ontario and Quebec

On this muggy Friday morning, how about a quick look at the polling results in Ontario and Quebec over the last 12 months?

We'll start with the province where most is at stake in the eventual election: Ontario.A quick glance at this chart tells you all you need to know. The race is a very close one between the Liberals and the Conservatives, and the NDP is solidly in third.

But a closer look tells us a few interesting things. The race in Ontario has shifted and changed. From July 2009 to early September 2009, the Liberals and Conservatives were neck and neck, but the advantage was with the Liberals, who had an undisputed lead throughout July and August. Then Michael Ignatieff talked about forcing an election, and Liberal fortunes dropped. They dropped so far that the Tories were in front until mid-December and the prorogation.

At that point, the Liberals took a narrow lead and, aside from a few individual polls, held it until April 2010. Since then, the race has been very close, with a slight edge to the Tories.

The NDP looks to have been stable over this period, but a closer inspection shows that they are on a steady, if small, increase. While they were polling between 11% and 18% from July 2009 to December 2009, they've since risen, polling between 14% and 20%. Their gain seems to have come from the Liberals, as every NDP peak corresponds, it seems, with a Liberal valley.

With the up-and-down between the Tories and Liberals, it is impossible to predict exactly where each party would end up on election day. Perhaps that is why they are so close in my projection.

Now, Quebec, where there has been a definite shift of late.With five parties on the chart, it looks a little more confusing. But the order of the parties is clear: Bloc Québécois, Liberals, Conservatives, NDP, and Greens. But things have been, and are starting to become, much more murky.

The Bloc has held the lead throughout the last year, and have been relatively stable. But they are polling consistently better of late, between 35% and 45% since mid-March 2010. Prior to that date they were polling more around 32% to 42%, and in the summer of 2009 they were polling between 30% and 38%. There has been no definitive break in their numbers like we saw for the Liberals in Ontario, but it is clear that over the last two months things are going well for them.

The Liberals, on the other hand, seem to be on a steady decline. From July 2009 to the end of September 2009, the Liberals were running well, within a few point of the Bloc. But at the beginning of October their numbers tanked, and aside from a brief rebound in January and February 2010, they have stayed there. Their numbers have even gotten worse recently, as from mid-March they've had trouble polling over 24% and have even been below 20% on several occasions.

The Conservatives have been struggling for the entirety of the last year. From July to October they were doing badly, but the Liberal drop in October coincided with a Conservative gain. From October to the prorogation the Tories were running neck and neck with the Liberals for second. Prorogation swatted them back down, and they have been stuck at the under-20% level since then. The NDP is even starting to compete with them for third place.

Like in Ontario, the NDP appears to be a on a slow increase in the province. Whereas they seemed to be averaging 10% until about March of this year, they now seem to be more at the 12% level, with a few polls putting them at 15% or higher. This is good news for the party - slow but solid increase is more sustainable.

63 comments:

  1. Éric: With the up-and-down between the Tories and Liberals, it is impossible to predict exactly where each party would end up on election day. Perhaps that is why they are so close in my projection.

    This uncertainty would give Ignatieff serious pause come the fall, except for one thing: he doesn't have to win. He just has to avoid losing badly.

    Nationwide, the Conservatives must gain a majority or something very close to it to hang onto power. By contrast, the Liberals just need a result in which the total of Grit/Dipper/Green seats isn't too far below the Tories. That would be sufficient grounds to form a coalition (without the formal participation of the Bloc) which would be as stable as the current regime. (Yes, there's a gap between the two outcomes described. The upshot could be Interesting Times.)

    The Canadian public is split on whether it wants coalition government and the Tories will pull out all the stops on that point. However, The Canadian Voter is not a monolith and doesn't carefully dial in an election result, political commentators notwithstanding. If individual voting decisions result in the material for a coalition, a coalition will form. After a few months, the electorate may well warm to it.

    The Grits would like to come out of the election with a strong caucus, or even a plurality. (The ones restricting their intake to legal substances are not thinking majority.) However, the Grit/Dipper/Green split will only reflect relative influence within a coalition, not whether one could be put together.

    One corollary is that Grits and Dippers will be somewhat restrained in their attacks on each other. They know they'll have to make up afterwards if things go well. And for things to go well, a seat for either is better for both than a Tory victory. There won't be any merger or non-compete agreements, but the sharpest barbs will cross the current aisle.

    The second corollary is that the Grits will continue furtively shuffling to the right. If tradeoffs must be made, a seat gained from the Tories is significantly more valuable than a seat lost to the Dippers. Look for signals in the much-anticipated Vision Grit coming out this summer.

    Greens will of course continue to concentrate on the "triple deficit": environmental, fiscal and democratic. Given current parties' stances, Green focus may not differ much from the optimal Grit/Dipper strategy. No insider information there, folks; just looking at the cards on the table.

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  2. Though, if the Liberals are trying to shift to the right, opposing the oil tanker docks in Kitimat, despite those being constructed as a direct result of Jean Chrétien's trade missions to China.

    If he's so concerned about the environmental risks associated with oil tankers, why then is eastern Canada permitted to import oil by sea?

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  3. John,

    When you said, "the Grits will continue furtively shuffling to the right"... you were joking, right?

    Also, I could imagine a Grit getting drunk enough to start talking about a majority. Alcohol is still legal.

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  4. I believe Ignatieff's position on the oil tankers in Northern BC is just confirming he supports the moratorium for Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound first established in 1972. It doesn't apply to the rest of the coast.

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  5. AJR79: When you said, "the Grits will continue furtively shuffling to the right"... you were joking, right?

    The key word there is "furtively". Ignatieff has made nice with the tar sands; look for other shifts.

    Also, I could imagine a Grit getting drunk enough to start talking about a majority.

    Nah, by the time they're that bombed the speech centres will have shut down.

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  6. For all you bunch pushing for the tanker port on the West Coast I have only two words for you.


    Exxon Valdez

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  7. Its worth noting that in Quebec, the Green vote is wildly erratic and ranges from 13% when prompted to ZERO PERCENT when unprompted. I've rarely seen a s range like that.

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  8. With the margin of error they could be at -3% in some of those polls.

    I think that means they LOSE votes from previous elections.

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  9. There's already a tanker port on the west coast, but it's at Vancouver, it doesn't serve large tankers, and it isn't as accessible by rail.

    For many years the federal government has been making trade visits to China trying to open up markets so we're less reliant on the Americans to consume our resources. The whole point of the Kitimat tanker docks is to solve that very problem.

    And most of the work has already been done.

    Pulling the rug out from under Alberta now would just be vindictive.

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  10. Éric: With the margin of error [the Quebec Greens] could be at -3% in some of those polls.

    I think that means they LOSE votes from previous elections.


    No, the carry-forward regulations are in effect. If Greens get negative votes this fall, Green members subsequently elected in those ridings will have to hand them back and may lose the seat as a result.

    It's tough, but hey, it's our system. Didn't you know?

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  11. There's already a tanker port on the west coast, but it's at Vancouver, it doesn't serve large tankers, and it isn't as accessible by rail.


    Then fix THAT problem and keep tankers away from Haida Gwai !!

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  12. Fix that problem?

    Have you looked at a map? A port in Kitimat or Prince Rupert has far better access to the open ocean than Vancouver does. The Georgia Straight is an enclosed waterway - a major oil spill there would be far worse environmentally, not to mention more of an international incident as the slick drifts into Puget Sound and kills Seattle.

    Unless we can move Vancouver Island out of the way, there's no way to fix that problem.

    And, I say again, previous Liberal governments supported the northern route. Loads of money has already been spent developing it.

    Pick a position and stick with it. And on this issue, you've already chosen - you don't get to change your mind now just because people are afraid of oil after the Americans screwed up with theirs.

    This is not a principled stand; Ignatieff is trying to score cheap political points.

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  13. Peter you seriously want to ban all oil tankers everywhere ?

    Or do you just have a special hate for the economies of BC/AB ? Why not put Newfoundland out of work too ?

    By the way, the countless miles of pipelines that would be needed in your oil tanker ban scenario would be subject to corrosion and could just as easily leak on shore.

    Unless you're advocating some kind of oil free delusion, in which case your opinion should be scrawled on a chalkboard outside and not on a medium - the internet - which is built upon and relies upon hydocarbons.


    PS - Kingston and the Islands HERE WE COME !

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  14. This is not a principled stand; Ignatieff is trying to score cheap political points.

    Now your real colours are clear. You don't care about pollution if it gets in the way of you kicking Iggy.

    That particular waterway area is very tricky, full of underwater obstacles and you want to send laden oil tankers in there?

    F**king brilliant!! Because Iggy took a principled stand as have the West Coast natives your vision of lost profits is risked. Thus you spew stuff that nobody believes or accepts.

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  15. Peter you seriously want to ban all oil tankers everywhere ?

    Shadow you are an idiot. As Exxon Valdez has proven operating them is difficult situations can cause uncalcuable harm.

    They are still trying to clean up after the Valdez incident 20+ years later. Get your head out of your ass!

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  16. Peter almost all waterways are "difficult situations". That's the nature of tides, storms, winds, and weather.

    Exxon Valdez was certainly a tragedy. But its also a rare occurence when compared to the amount ot tanker traffic that happens safely every day. Hysterically repeating "Exxon Valdez!!" as if it had some kind of meaning beyond itself is pointless.

    As I said, unless you want to shut down western civilization and stop using the internet than your arguement is hypocritical.

    Ignatieff's plans equally so and arbitrary too. Why pick on BC and Alberta in such a fashion ?

    The reaction here has been universally negative. He thought he'd score some points from the green vote and it backfired. He needs to, and probably will, backtrack on this one.

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  17. But its also a rare occurence when compared to the amount ot tanker traffic that happens safely every day.

    Your fatuous arguments only betray your lack of knowledge and appreciation of RISK !!

    Firstly there are significant oil tanker "incidents" ever year. Google them and learn.

    Secondly it only takes ONE !! To reduce an area to uninhabitable or unlivable. Why are you so bent on taking this risk?? Could it be your oil stocks might lose value??

    Sorry on this one I'm, like many others, on the side of the natives of Haida Gwai.

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  18. All,

    For those of us who know precisely "zip" about tankers, can they construct a tripe-hulled tanker?

    And if so, would it add much more protection than double-hulled?

    Thanks.

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  19. Peter please avoid the personal insults, let's keep things civil.

    If you're worried about things becoming unliveable then that's what will happen to large swaths of North America if we abandon the shipping of hydrocarbons.

    Are you unaware of just how much of North America's hydrocarbons are imported from overseas ? Or the share of domestic production that's from off-shore rigs ?

    How many old folks need to overheat and die from rolling blackouts that will (once again) engulf California and the north-east ? Are you going to stop driving ? Stop using the internet ? Stop eating food in winter ?

    Nobody likes oil spills but the alternative is far, far worse. You and Michael Ignatieff need to think through the unintended consequences of your policy proposals!

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  20. Nobody likes oil spills but the alternative is far, far worse.

    Oh here we go. First off you are full of it as usual. Second destroying a place where people live and work so your stock profits look better is NOT an excuse.

    Thirdly I guarantee you never looked at the spill stats I put up. Your mind is so focused on money and your own wealth that you can't see beyond your wallet.

    Come up with a better safer way to ship this oil and we'll talk. Otherwise your whole thrust is so biased as to render your arguments totally irrelevant.

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  21. Peter i'm talking about the collapse of western civilization, not stock prices. That would be the end result of your idea to ban the shipping of hydrocarbons over water.

    If you want to look up stats i'm sure Eric could tell you about life expectancy and disease rates before electrification and refrigeration were widely available.

    Cheap, freely available energy has been one of mankind's greatest achievements.

    Why on earth its trendy for "Green" types to advocate we abandon hydrocarbons for expensive, unworkable, and unproven technologies like wind and solar energy I don't know.

    Lowering our collective standard of living isn't my cup of tea.

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  22. There are many other options than solar and wind that cause far less harm than oil. From natural gas (not ideal) to converting coal to oil (again, not ideal) to geothermal, to basic reduction of use (far easier than most think).

    If 1/2 the effort put into getting at the remote oil was put into alternatives we'd have a stack more options as well. Sadly, the easy path is to keep doing things as is and that leads to situations like the Gulf of Mexico and the 34 oil spills that are larger than the Exxon one.

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  23. John N

    Sadly, the easy path is to keep doing things as is and that leads to situations like the Gulf of Mexico and the 34 oil spills that are larger than the Exxon one.

    Which sadly some on here either ignore or consider "acceptable risk" so they can keep on driving their SUV's and Hummers.

    So they can go on destroying the ecosystem in parts of the country and push back against any attempts to prevent further ecological disasters.

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  24. Let's all stop driving.

    ;)

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  25. John N I used the term hydrocarbons because I had natural gas in mind too, not so much coal because its just so dirty.

    I believe natural gas is often liquified and shipped via tankers too. So as with all things there are risks.

    Geothermal isn't that great in most areas because the drilling depth required for it to work can cause mini-quakes.

    Nuclear is something to consider more of. Waste is becoming a non-issue as scientists develop more and more efficient reactors and learn how to break down the waste into valuable materials like helium.


    In the end abandoning oil in the short to medium term just isn't practical. We'd have to give up a lot more than suvs. A lower standard of living for everybody would result.

    In the long term I have no problem looking for cleaner alternatives.

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  26. Back to polling, it'll be too soon to tell the lasting impact but Thursday's EKOS is going to be very interesting regarding impact of G8/G20 criticism.

    Fake Lake and the summit spending turned out to be a vastly overblown issue for which members of the media like Andrew Coyne and Don Martin have apologized, especially after seeing Kevin Page's report and the obvious need for security.

    But like all these non-scandals the Liberals in particular raise a big fuss and then don't bother apologizing when the truth comes out - they just move on to the next "scandal". So maybe the political damage is already done.

    As for substance foreign policy wonks seem to think the G8 and G20 were a big victory for Harper/Canada since our positions carried the day.

    But the Tim Horton's crowd doesn't care about such things and its probably not enough to justify the cost in their minds.

    Thursday's EKOS = very, very important to watch.

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  27. I'll be curious to see if Conservative support drops sharply in Toronto. I don't think anyone will care about what happened at the G20 as much as the protests.

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  28. Harper can probably win support in Toronto if he responds to the protests by saying that they've shown him that major summits like these shouldn't be held in major cities.

    I think voters like leaders who learn.

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  29. what happened at the G20 as much as the protests.

    And despite the incredible amount of money spent the police proved totally unable to control the situation.

    For all the massive police force was able to do we might as well have left it to Metro Toronto police to handle the situation and saved a bundle of taxpayer money !

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  30. I suspect the G20 will have no impact on the polls. The Canadian positions that 'carried the day' are not quite populist ones. Nor did anyone pony up much cash to match Canada on maternal health.

    It's weird down here right now. I was shopping yesterday and was out of the Eaton's centre only about an hour before the rioting got there. There's were still maybe half as many people shopping as usual. (Unlike Front Street which was a ghost town during the week before)

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  31. Peter most of Canadians would probably disagree with you on that point.

    Comments and viewer reaction on some of the networks i've seen have been praising the calm, measured, and restrained approach the police took.

    Sure there's the occasional people wanting the police to go in and bash some heads.

    But the amazing thing was there was NO LOSS OF LIFE.

    Compare that to past G20 events where people have actually died:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ian_Tomlinson


    Peter how much do you value human life in terms of $$$ ?

    When police are outnumbered and not in control of the situation they are more likely to use violence.

    People complaining about the security price tag need to think through the consequences in terms of human death and injury from doing this on the cheap like the Liberal party of Canada seems to be suggesting.

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  32. There's no way of knowing whether a smaller budget would have resulted in loss of life.

    In any case, as simple a matter as choosing a different location would have reduced the costs (and the risks) considerably.

    Yes, it's amazing there was no loss of life as a result of the colossally stupid idea of holding the G20 in downtown Toronto.

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  33. Eric that's nonsense.

    Much of the black bloc were actually from out of province, out of country even.

    It wouldn't matter what city you held this thing in they converge and there would be massive violence. In fact I would imagine squeezing police and anarchists into the narrow streets of a small to medium size city would be a DANGEROUS scenario.

    Yes, the decision to hold the event in downtown Toronto with its wide streets and open areas clearly resulted in a safer situation.

    As for the budget the costs were overtime for putting additional RCMP officers on the street.

    Less costs = less officers.

    When police are outnumbered they are more likely to be the victims of violence themselves and to use more violent tactics on protestors.

    Nobody can say for sure if it would have resulted in deaths but the odds would increase, without a doubt.

    Also, 20,000 people attended this event.

    Where on earth are you going to find hotel accomadations for that amount of people outside of a large city like Toronto ???

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  34. doing this on the cheap like the Liberal party of Canada seems to be suggesting.

    You have of course a source & link for that comment.

    If you don't it is apparent you just can't avoid the cheap shot and proving you lie.

    Eric that was the whole problem, the venue. Plus we all should read this to realise an awful lot of what we saw was a police setup, to justify their cost.

    http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/06/27-3

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  35. http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/06/27

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  36. Shadow: "Where on earth are you going to find hotel accomadations for that amount of people outside of a large city like Toronto ???"

    To bad the Conservatives didn't think of this before they tried to ram the whole event into Huntsville. You would think Tony Clement would have toured around his own riding enough to have know this. Common Sense like that would have saved tons of cash

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  37. Vic Toews, did admit that the Conservative government mad a political decision not to use the military for security at the G8/20 summit.

    Toews said that the government did not want to be attacked by Liberals, for "soldiers on the street"

    If the army had been used for security the costs would have been dramatically lower. The Canadian taxpayers would have been paying their basic salary, and they would not have been eligible for overtime so the security costs would have been lower.

    With that statement Vic Toews did prove that the government did have no respect for taxpayers. The military was used for part of the security at the Vancouver Olympics.

    Stephen Harper, was advised that holding part of this summit in downtown Toronto would be a colossal error, but he went ahead with it anyway, because he did want that golden photo opportunity.

    That all being said, under the Canadian constitution we are guaranteed freedom of assembly, under section two of the charter of rights and freedoms which forms part of the constitution act of 1982.

    You are free to assemble, and demonstrate peacefully. However the charter does not guarantee you the right to riot, rampage, and destroy property, which is what the anarchists did.

    The anarchists should never have been given the opportunity in the first place, because the summit should never have been held in downtown Toronto. That is Stephen Harper's fault.

    And for Vic Toews to admit they did not want to be attacked for "soldiers on the street" was ridiculous.

    That was all based on a failed Liberal ad that was never supposed to see the light of day in the first place. That ad was concocted in the Liberal war room, and was not supposed to be aired.

    Somehow Mike Duffy got a hold of it and aired it anyway. Much like his sandbagging of Dion.

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  38. Shadow: It wouldn't matter what city you held this thing in they converge and there would be massive violence.

    Glen Pearson has an answer. An excellent answer. A head-slapping, "Why aren't people talking about this?" answer. Future summit hosts, take note.

    Glen is Member of Parliament for London North Centre. He's also a standard by whom other parliamentarians should be measured. Sadly, most would come it at milliPearsons.

    Oh--before anybody dumps on Glen because his figure of 2,400 is far too small, the Oasis of the Seas has topped 6,000. If that's not big enough, take two. Or three.

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  39. 49 Steps: Vic Toews, did admit that the Conservative government mad a political decision not to use the military for security at the G8/20 summit.

    Then I must have hallucinated those four ATVs carrying figures in uniform late Friday night. Yes, this is a nit; the Army was definitely supporting the G8, but in a low-key, back-in-the-bushes way. The place that they excel. Toews was right to have them there.

    Toews also made the right decision keeping the military out of the G20. A military Aid to the Civil Power role (as police unit, not disaster relief) is a sign that things are totally out of control. The optics would have been horrible in all respects. Internationally we would have looked like a tinpot junta. The Forces would have been in a PR can't-win situation: no matter how disciplined they were and how well they performed, they would have been portrayed as thugs on the TV screen. We owe them much better treatment than that.

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  40. John you couldn't fit the G20 into a cruise ship - too many people involved. So basically its a less secure version of holding the G8 at a military base. But the G8 was peaceful so its not really the problem.

    The G20 needs to be held in a major city. It needs to be held downtown so all the hotels are in the security fence.


    MILITARY in the streets ?? That's a ridiculous suggestion. Cops are specifically trained for civilian situations. To use the minimum nessecary force to detain people.

    The military are trained to kill people as quickly as possible.

    In many countries the military are banned from policing. It would be a very, very bizarre thing to use them as the front line officers just to cheat the RCMP out of overtime!

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  41. 49 said: "If the army had been used for security the costs would have been dramatically lower. The Canadian taxpayers would have been paying their basic salary, and they would not have been eligible for overtime so the security costs would have been lower"


    Not to interupt this discussion with facts, but according to the parliamentary budget office, the Canadian armed forced DID provide 3,000 personel to help with security (out of the 20,000 odd people providing security for the summit).

    Now, you might ask, "why didn't they provide all of the security, since they're cheaper than the RCMP?" Fair question, but before you ask it, ask yourself, how big is the Canadian army, because the answer to that sort of answers you question.

    The regular land forces amounts to about 19,000 people (I think, for the purposes of this discussion we can exclude the Navy and the Air Force, although their personel no doubt played a role in security - vis-a-vis Toronto Harbour and the Toronto airspace).

    Of that number, some 13,000 serve in armoured units, artillery units, supply and repair units, engineering units or in HQs somewhere. Without disparaging their valuable work, it doesn't lend itself to crowd control. That leaves somewhat less than 6000 "grunts" serving in one of three infantry regiments. Of course, at present a good number of one of those regiments (1st RCR) is serving in Afghanistan and a good chunk of another regiment is training to replace them. So that kind of cuts down on the available manpower. Basically, even if you were willing to suck in every infantryman in the country (settign aside that the training provided to police officers is neccesarily somewhat different than that provided to soldiers, and therefore that the army might not be the ideal group to use for crown control), you'd still come nowhere close to having enough people to provide security at the G-20.

    This is a point the Parliamentary Budget Officer touched upon in his discussion of G8/G20 security costs. Most other G-8 countries have far larger security establishments than Canada (if only by virtue of their size). So, for those countries bringing in 20,000 police officer or soldiers is relatively easier, since that only accounts for 4-5% of their security establishment (or in the case of the US or Russia, 1% or less), and they tend to be more centrally located to the summit location (as opposed to being spread out accross the world's second largest country). In Canada, by contrast, 20,000 people account for almost 14% of the entire Canadian security establishment.

    Moreover, Canada typically doesn't host these sorts of events and therefore lacks the permanent security infrastructure that exists in other G-8 countries (the US, just by way of contrast, routinely hosts events with similar security obilgations - World Bank Summits, UN meetings, state of the union addresses, inaugurations, superbowls, etc.)

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  42. One can only imagine the look of incredulity on the face of the US secret service if you'd suggested having the G8 or G20 meeting on a cruise ship.

    Think about from the US secret service's perspective. If something had gone wrong at the G-20 this weekend, there was a fire, or a bombing, or an attack of some sort. There would be literally dozens of ways to evacuate the president, you could move him to one of a dozen different buildings. Put him in a car and drive him off in some unknown direction. Toss him in a helicopter and fly him out.

    Now suppose the same thing happens on a cruise ship? Suppose a fire breaks out the galley because a clumsy cook spilled the olive oil. You have basically two options, put him in a lifeboat or put him in a helicopter. Kind of limited. Now what if there's a storm? Anyone want to try picking up POTUS from the deck of a pitching (and possibly burning) cruise ship in the middle of a tropical storm? How'd it look to have the president of the US drown in a tropical storm getting away from a grease fire?

    And then there's the question of vulnerability. Short of dropping a nuclear bomb on a city, it's kinda hard to cause enough damage to a building (like a hotel or a convention center) to be assured of killings its inhabitants (on that note, I would be surprised if the G-20 meetings weren't held at the MTCC because most of its rooms are underground). Modern buildings can service some pretty nasty attacks and stay standing (it's worth recalling, for example, that the World Trade Center survived the first bombing attack in 1993, and even in 2001, it survived long enough for many of its occupants to evacuate. You also need look no further than the buildings which remained standing in places like Sarejevo or Lebanon long after they were bombed out, in the course of those respective wars). On the other hand, a ship is a nice big target on a nice flat ocean, and a single anti-shipping missile (or torpedo, or mine), even if it doesn't sink it, can causes fires which will devastate its passengers and crew. Moreover, anti-shipping missiles are damned hard to defend against (especially some of the newer model ones), and the same could be said of torpedos (as the South Koreans recently learned), mines or even suicide speedboats (which have had some success in the past - i.e., the USS Cole). Moreover, a cruise ship unlike, say, a similar sized aircraft carrier, isn't likely to have the armour or internal compartimentalization neccesary to survive a hit.

    Moreover, who could provide adequate security to such a ship at sea? The US is the only country with a big enough Navy to be able to provide enough ships to adequately guard such a ship at sea, and it has other commitments (it's probably not desirable for it to pull a carrier off station in the mediteranean or the far east for a weeks to provide security for a cruise ship). And if you're just going to leave the ship in port, that you have the same security problems that you'd have at a hotel.

    In that light and after a few minutes of critical thinking, the idea of holding a G-8 (much less a G-20) summit on a cruise ship is a non-starter. True, you avoid more or less harmless protestors, but at the expense of exposing the leaders of the most powerful countries in the world to far more real risks.

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  43. Shadow: John you couldn't fit the G20 into a cruise ship - too many people involved.

    One cruise ship certainly might be tight.

    However, how many people are really required for a G20 summit, and how closely connected must they be? Also, how many of those people are security?

    You could put an "inner circle" of a mere 6,000 people on one ship. You could surround that in convoy with three ships holding 15,000 people between them. Some shuttling back and forth would be required, but not much if the allocation is cleverly planned. Sherpas interact in cliques.

    I'm guessing I've described a flotilla with one ship too many. Two too many if the organizers put their minds to it.

    Needless to say, this is an opportunity for a set of navies to hold a joint convoy screening exercise. On-board security will obviously still be required, but the numbers could be much smaller than for a land-based event.

    The cost would be a fraction of a land-based summit. The effective cost of the naval screen is arguably zero because they'd be doing something equivalent anyway, but the point is moot. Forget who's right and who's wrong in the clashes we've seen in Toronto; the optics are nasty. The cruise ship solution would be a bargain at any price.

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  44. The summit itself needs to be down-sized - apparently some of the leaders came with entourages of 600 people. 600!

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  45. I still think Greg Weston of Sun Media had the best idea.

    Kananaskis(sp) One road in, One road out, surrounded by bears.

    Hell you don't even have to feed that security system !!

    Or Gander or Happy Valley/Goose Bay.

    Away from a big city and it all gets a lot simpler.

    Yes Eric the entourages are just getting out of sight !! I heard the US brought 800 !!!

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  46. Carl: [Various concerns about the safety of a cruise ship.]

    I personally dislike cruise ships on grounds ranging from the environmental to the aesthetic, but safety is not among them.

    Fire on board? The days of the Noronic and Yarmouth Castle are long gone. Fire detection, containment and suppression systems are highly effective. Hostile action? With a joint fleet defence, the most sophisticated navy would have trouble floating a rubber duckie in the way of the vessel--and the usual suspects would have trouble affording a lobster boat. They certainly couldn't acquire a sea-skimming missile, but naval tactical missile defence is a solved problem today.

    If they did, we're also well past the technology of the Titanic and even the Andrea Doria. Metallurgy and compartmentalization have come a long way. Nothing non-nuclear at the waterline will put today's largest cruise ships at risk. A large torpedo set to run at 32m depth (reread that) triggered on the centreline near one end could be worrisome; it might take out enough compartments to make counterflooding problematical. The Black Bloc doesn't have access to that kind of technology. Remember, the countries with the sophisticated military hardware are the ones whose leaders are sitting on the ship.

    You left out a mention of limpet mines but the countermeasures are obvious. And if no countermeasures were taken? A modern ship the size of an aircraft carrier is fundamentally hard to sink, even with free access to the bilges and a full supply of scuttling charges. Remember, hypothetical nasties wouldn't be trying to sink a monolithic ship; they'd be trying to sink a large number of compartments sailing in extremely close convoy.

    Given all that, a discussion of lifeboats and helicopters is superfluous--but these systems work. They work in hurricanes. They work from burning oil rigs.

    There may be reasons not to hold the G8 and G20 in blue water, but safety and security aren't among them. The largest cruise ships today are probably safer than the 20th floor of a major hotel.

    And they're still ugly as hell.

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  47. John,

    You could use it as a training exercise for the world's navies, but that really doesn't address the point that having a meeting on board a ship makes the meeting far more dangerous, or at least a far more vulnerable target, than having it in the middle of a city (or on an army base).

    There is no way any country would let a G-8 or G-20 host expose their leaders to that sort of danger for the sake of optics.

    In any event, it's highly debatable that having a summit at sea avoids the optics issues. As the Japanese have known for years with their whaling fleets, and as the Israelies recently learned, ships manned by activists can be a real pain in the ass since the only way to stop them is either to board their ship, using force if they refuse to stop, or damaging them (either by ramming them, if the ship is small enough, or by firing on them). In light of recent events in the mediteranean, I think we can readily imagine the optics of having a team of commandos storm a boatload of militant activists - i.e., really, really, bad - and I have no trouble imagining the optics of having a destroyer fire on a zodiac which turns out to be filled with save-the-whale protestors (but which might have been filled with Islamists nutjobs and high exposives for all the captain of the destroyer knew).

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  48. John I think you must admit that Carl has a point regarding how protestors would behave if this was held on a ship.

    They would get every small vessel they could get their hands on and try to make it on board the main ship, or spill oil and light it up to smoke out the leaders, or try to fly banners in the middle of everything.

    Who knows. But there is no doubt some people would be out on boats and it would be a nightmare trying to capture and subdue them. 100x more difficult than if they were on land.


    Loss of human life = far more likely during cruise ship scenario.

    For this reason alone the suggestion MUST be rejected, even if the logistics are technically possible.

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  49. Carl: As the Japanese have known for years with their whaling fleets, and as the Israelies recently learned, ships manned by activists can be a real pain in the ass...

    A valid point.

    A blue-water summit can place a lower limit on the size of the protest vessel. There has to at least be a mother ship tending the RIBs. That can be kept well away from the G* flotilla by everything from prop entanglement to--yes--controlled collisions to boarding. The simplest solution, of course, is to stop a protest vessel from sailing in the first place. It would be hard to run a protest vessel operation in complete secrecy. Many lawyers make light work.

    This isn't a Somali pirate situation because there would be a small number of vessels being defended by a large naval contingent for a short time. It isn't even a Gaza embargo situation, not for technical reasons, but because of popular support and the law of the sea.

    The closest analogy is, as suggested, the Sea Shepherd. That vessel has had some effect against Japanese whalers, but I don't believe it's ever faced a vessel from a major navy. In the context of a G* summit, I know where I'd place my money on the outcome of both the naval and the publicity engagements.


    The biggest issue is actually loading: if the passengers board at a port, how to avoid unpleasantness there? One option is boarding at a remote island with an adequate airport. Another is ferrying passengers out from multiple ports in smaller vessels, leaving no focussed target to hit. It's doable and still less painful than what we saw in Toronto.

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  50. Shadow: They would get every small vessel they could get their hands on...

    Think blue water. Not 30 miles offshore, but 500. The Oasis class rated speed is 22.6 knots and the Freedom class speed is 21.6 knots. For comparison, the Sea Shepherd's Steve Irwin is rated at 16.5 knots. That's in line with any conceivable protest mother ship.

    Even finding a convoy is not simple with some simple precautions. Pacing it at naval/cruise ship speed in a mother ship is not in the cards. A RIB will certainly plane at high speed for a while if the seas aren't too rough, but that RIB will have a range measured in tens of miles and an endurance of single-digit hours.

    ...and try to make it on board the main ship...

    RIB, meet wall of steel moving at 20+ knots. Next step? (Note: as discussed earlier, even blowing a hole in the side has rather limited effect, but G* protesters aren't into suicidal attacks.)

    ...or spill oil and light it up to smoke out the leaders, or try to fly banners in the middle of everything.

    Some numeracy on the Wall of Fire would be in order. It might scorch some paint near the waterline, but I doubt it for any sensible volume of fuel. Let's go non-sensible. If a tanker trundled through the naval screen and dumped 8,000 cubic metres of fuel, that could be avoided with a five-degree course change completed as close as a mile out.

    For this reason alone the suggestion MUST be rejected, even if the logistics are technically possible.

    Apologies for the heartless factuality, but it's my natural response to free-floating categorical proclamations. Especially when delivered in upper case. Anyway, we don't get to decide. That's up to future summit hosts. If it happens, remember that it's the Pearson Solution.

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  51. John: [various reasons why cruise ships are safe to hold a summit]

    Fire: Glad to hear that cruise ships of today are fireproof - no doubt just as the oceanliners of yesterday were unsinkable. Of course, fires do break out on cruise ships, just as they do in hotels. The difference is, in the case of the one, you can walk out the front door and settle in accross the street in relative safety. Not so easy to do in the middle of the ocean. And there's a bit of a difference between taking a few dozen workers off a burning oil rig and taking a few thousand people, including a bunch of world leaders and their security staff, off a cruise ship).

    Attacks: The Black Bloc doesn't have access to military grade technology, but who cares about them, they aren't the treat that security forces are really worried about. The snipers hanging around downtown Toronto for the past few days weren't there for a bunch of goofs in black outfits.

    The bigger concern is that some loonatic country, or terrorist organization (or one sponsored by the other), could try to attack such a summit. Maybe the North Koreans (who don't seem to have too many concerns about sinking ships these days). Bet Kim Il-Sung would love to sink his teeth into a G-8 summit before he croaks - I mean really, what could we do to North Korean that North Korea hasn't already done to itself?

    Or tell that to characters like Hamas and Hezbollah who have apparently been supplied with C802 anti-shipping missiles (the Chinese version of the exocet), probably by Iran (the Chinese have sold the missiles to a number of countries, including Iran and Pakistan). They've also been supplied with smaller Kowsar anti-shipping missiles by the Iranians (and used one of them to cripple an Israeli corvette during the Lebanon war in 2006). You think if they can get their hands on that kind of hardware, others couldn't?

    Sure, a hit from a missile like that might not sink a big cruise ship (the HMS Sheffield and the Atlantic Conveyer both survived exocet hits, as did a number of ships during the Iran-Iraq tanker war of the mid-1980s) - though who wants to take that kind of chance?- it might just cause a fire which reduces the ship to a burned out hulk (um, like the HMS Sheffield, the Atlantic Conveyer and numerous ships during the Iran-Iraq tanker war). And not all the ships hit by exocet missiles during the Tanker War survived the experience.

    Of course, since we don't have any recent experiences with cruise ships taking hits from military grade anti-shipping missiles(or mines or torpedos), we don't know how surviveable they really are - which is precisely why no one's going to be holding as summit onboard a cruise ship any time soon.

    What's that you say? Provided with enough of a defense screen nothing could get through? Maybe, although the US Navy used to have a hell of a time with Soviet Subs in their occasional improptu "training exercises". In any event, a mine or a midget sub, or a fishing vessel rigged with the latest and greatest, Chinese technology some 200 nm away could be hard to stop. Heck, even a speed boat loaded to the gunnels with explosives could be difficult to stop in port (again, the USS Cole serves a salutory reminder on that part).

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  52. Actually, I think the biggest issue is even more mundane than that? How would you crew such a ship? Most cruise ships are crewed by decidly non-G* countries (the Filipines is a big one). Quite apart from the optics of hosting a G* aboard a ship with a crew making $5 a day, I'd imagine the security people would go nuts at the prospects of trying to run background checks on all these people.

    Then there's the ackwardness of hosting the G* on a ship flying the flag of some convenient Carribean or Afrian country, run by a company which is conveniently based in some carribean tax haven.

    The optics of that would be TERRIBLE.

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  53. John:

    but it's my natural response to free-floating categorical proclamations. Especially when delivered in upper case.

    Welcome to the strange world of Shadow

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  54. John,

    And I'm not sure there is neccesarily a lower limit on the size of ship that can harrass a G* summit ship. True, once you get out to sea, you couldn't use zodiacs, there's nothing that says you couldn't have a handful of small fishing vessel type boats spread out along a likely path. And how could you stop them if the decided to set sail before the summit from some third world port?

    Moreover, as you noted, how do you load the ship? If you do it in port, well that's a invitation to protestors, and potentially dangerous(a speedboat loaded with explosives is hard to stop). You could, I suppose set sail and start flying-in leaders at sea. But you probably can't fly in 6000 people (at least not in anything like a reasonable time period).


    Then again, that raises other questions. Do cruiseships have the facilities neccesary to run a summit (including communications facilities for the leaders, media, etc. - I mean, we can't have the leaders of the world's 20 most important countries out of touch with what's going on at home for a few days) Do they have sufficient meeting rooms? Is there going to be a diplomatic incident if the US president's stateroom is bigger and more luxurious than that of the Chinese President. Will the French storm out when they find out their president got stuck with the 500+ square foot crown loft stateroom and view of the poop deack, when the Germans got a bigger room with a better view? If someone collapses with an aneurysm, can they get them to a fully functional surgical hospital (with specialized surgeons) in time? (Incidentally, these considerations also mitigate against one of my preferred suggestions, having G-20 summits in Iqaluit).

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  55. While a large cruise ship might have a top speed of 22 knots, query whether it would actually travel at that speed. Typically, cruise ships travel at a much more sedate 11-17 knots - i.e., at which speed would be trouble makers could intercept them. Second, their naval escort might prefer a slower speed, because high speeds erodes sonar performance. Third, while this is far less of a problem with larger ships, all else being equal higher speeds make for a rougher ride. You REALLY don't want the Prime Minister of India barfing on the Chinese President.

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  56. John i'm not arguing that the protesters would actually succeed in their efforts.

    I'm just saying what they would try to do. No matter how far out this thing would be you'd have a bunch of idiots getting vessels, going out to sea, and trying to cause trouble.

    Perhaps they'd all just converge on a location near a major city and display banners for the news choppers flying overhead.

    Regardless the risk to human life seems much greater than simply holding the G20 in a city with lots of police like we did in Toronto.


    Frankly I have yet to hear a single valid objection to how the G8 and G20 were handled.

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  57. Peter, if you'll keep the personal attacks to a minimum, feel free to jump in and offer your own opinion.

    Cruise ship good or bad ?

    I have a feeling your reaction might have been something along the lines of:

    "So Harper gets to go on a fancy cruise on a big ship. He's going on a tax payer funded vacation while people are out of works.

    Regular "Tim Hortons" folks don't do that!!"

    Cruise ships = terrible optics.

    Doubt many G8 or G20 leaders would attend for that reason alone.


    Let's all face it. Glen Pearson's idea was just plain weird/lame.

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  58. Carl: How would you crew such a ship? Most cruise ships are crewed by decidly non-G* countries (the Filipines is a big one).

    Same way you staff a G* hotel.

    I'd imagine the security people would go nuts at the prospects of trying to run background checks on all these people.

    There are different levels of security. A large ship can have multiple zones and reduced (but still present) security is possible in some areas.

    Then there's the ackwardness of hosting the G* on a ship flying the flag of some convenient Carribean or Afrian country, run by a company which is conveniently based in some carribean tax haven.

    The owner of the Really Big Ships is Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. They're a Norwegian/American company based in Miami. Meaning that opportunities to cut corners and pay starvation wages are limited, Bahamas registration notwithstanding.

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  59. John,

    If you look a bit deeper, you'll find that all the big cruise companies own their ships indirectly through carribean subsidiaries. The parent companies may be based in miami, but the companies that actually own the ships aren't (for a number of reasons shipping companies typically prefer to hold individual ships through single purpose holding companies). Similarly, if you look closer, you'll find that all the big cruise ships are flagged under the laws of various carribean countries and therefore are subject to their labour laws (or the lack thereof), and therefore literally pay some of their workers dollars a day. I know for a fact that the US based cruise lines pay their workers, literally, dollars a day (for a number of reasons, I can't go into how I know that, so if you don't believe me, you'll have to take the word of others (http://www.cruisejunkie.com/ot.html). As I said, the optics are bad.

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