Saturday, August 08, 2009

HST - Photoshops

On further reflection, I'm not sure that this post should be limited to a one-time bit of snark. So expect to see plenty more in this space about the Cons' decision to pay off provinces to transfer wealth from citizens to businesses.

I'll deal with the policy implications of harmonization in a later post, but for now here's a first set of Photoshops designed to build off the familiar GST branding the Cons used to try to paint themselves as pocketbook-friendly. (Sadly the images will be different for the two provinces now planning to harmonize, since BC's 12% harmonized level and Ontario's 13% make for slightly different results - hence the two different versions of each.)






(Edit: fixed typo.)

On competing visions

There hasn't been much news on the candidate front in municipal politics over the past couple of weeks. But that doesn't mean there haven't been a couple of points worth noting which may play a role in Saskatchewan's municipal races this fall and beyond.

First, there's been plenty of talk from Ontario about the role which a party structure can play within municipal politics. And it shouldn't come as any surprise if a similar issue as to the best type of political organization on the municipal level once again comes to the forefront in Saskatchewan.

Of course, the most recent effort to organize a formal municipal party in Regina looks to have gone quiet for this year's election cycle. But while that likely means that a full party structure is out of the picture for this year, there are plenty of hints that there's still significant interest in developing a concerted progressive effort at the municipal level - including recognition from the NDP's new leader and other party contenders that it's in the provincial party's best interests to develop its own strength through elections for municipal councils and school boards. So stay tuned to see how much progress can be made by the time this year's elections roll around...

Meanwhile, another important theme which figures to be a factor is the recognition even among some elected officials that municipalities are ultimately best served if their positions are tested through a vote rather than being won by acclamation. And Maple Creek's mayor Anne Weisgerber deserves particular credit for her comments:
Weisgerber says winning by acclamation is not a good thing, because it means citizens do not get an opportunity to engage in a discussion about local issues.

"When there's no election, there is no involvement. People don't get as involved," Weisgerber told CBC News on Wednesday. "It also gives people who are running, both for mayor and council, some time to say: 'This is what my vision is for the community. This is what I'd like to see happen'. And when there's no election, that doesn't happen."
...
"Yes, I could lose my job," Weisgerber said about her invitation to challengers. "And if the people of the community decide that somebody else is who they want, I guess that's the way it goes."
One would think that Weisgerber's invitation would serve to help break down any perception that a run against an incumbent would be seen as an unwarranted intrusion on the status quo rather than a valuable contribution to one's community. And more importantly, if the message that municipalities ought to have an opportunity to choose between competing visions manages to spread, it could open the door for challengers elsewhere as well - particularly where the incumbents see civic engagement as a threat to be combated rather than a value to be promoted.

Nicely done

ETP skewers the Cons on their campaign dishonesty about the federal deficit. Give it a look.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Musical interlude

Sash! feat. Tina Cousins - Mysterious Times

On new beginnings

While there's still a bit of work yet to be done to close off the last great battle in Saskatchewan politics, the next ones are also coming into view. And Noah Evanchuk's newly-unveiled website and campaign launch should offer up some useful ideas for anybody wondering what comes next.

Here's Noah on his reasons for running:
As a lawyer, I am no stranger to uphill fights. I frequently defend those who have no voice, who society has no time for. Throughout my career, I have seen successive Liberal and Conservative governments import American Republican policies. I have seen our court system swamped by a caseload where poor people, First Nations and M├ętis people, those suffering from mental illness are over-represented. I have seen the presumption of innocence, the cornerstone of our justice system, systematically eroded.

I have had enough.

In a democratic system, it is up to the people to effect change. In Canada today, only the New Democratic Party is fighting for the change we need. Only New Democrats are fighting for real justice.
Of course, there's some work to be done within the NDP as well in the broader political system to try to work on a criminal justice system focused on real outcomes rather than manufactured outrage. But Noah's prominent role in an underdog provincial campaign should leave little room for doubt that he'll be a strong voice both inside and outside of the party - so stop by and get involved in the effort to win him a place in Parliament.

Deep thought

I wonder if Lorne Gunter is insured against his home and property.

On impact assessments

In earlier posts I've discussed a few of the major problems with the Sask Party's isotope reactor proposal and associated posturing. But let's take a closer look at the proposal to see just how bizarre the Sask Party's plan seems to be.

For consistency's sake, the below chart lists the top-end estimated numbers for both estimated costs and economic impacts (GDP and labour income) as presented by the Sask Party's proposal:





















Phase Costs Economic Impact Difference
Development/Construction $750 million $663 million $87 million
Operation (annual) $70 million $65 million $5 million


So what do those numbers tell us? By way of comparison, consider what would happen if Brad Wall's Sask Party government was obsessed with, let's say, dirt rather than uranium.

Presumably the Sask Party's focus on megaprojects would lead it to build the Brad Wall Centre of Excellence in Soil Relocation, consisting of paying $750 million to dig a giant pit and $70 million in annual operating costs to move dirt around. And by the Sask Party's method of counting "economic impact", that would result in a productive activity, as every dollar put into each of those tasks would be measured as GDP or labour income.

Which would seem to be a reasonable baseline result for a pure make-work project: every dollar spent would result in exactly one dollar of economic activity, with no expectation of adding any value to the economy.

Now, nobody figures to advocate for the construction of a giant pit anytime soon. And the actual public policy choices figure to involve areas like social housing, child care, etc. where the up-front economic activity generated by government funding would make for only a small part of the ultimate benefit.

But what's remarkable is that by the Sask Party's own standards, even the giant dirt pit would actually result in a more efficient means of turning government funding into economic impact.

After all, unlike any sane policy proposal, the isotope reactor proposal actually seems to be designed to hemorrhage money. By the numbers in the Sask Party's proposal, $87 million in construction costs and $5 million in annual operating costs are planned to vanish into thin air, being presented as costs in excess of any associated benefit.

But what about the perceived benefits of building an isotope reactor beyond GDP and wages? One would expect the panel responsible for presenting the province's bid to have at least some idea how to assign a value to the factors which are supposed to justify spending millions of dollars of public money. But one would be entirely wrong in that expectation.

Instead, the other "impacts and expected outcomes" are presented solely as theoretical and unquantified concepts. So as far as anybody has bothered to measure or even plausibly estimate the outcomes, the Sask Party is eager to see hundreds of millions of dollars vanish. (And never mind the total cost of the project - even the money which Wall wants to make disappear would exceed the actual cost of the two other Western Canadian proposals to generate isotopes.)

Of course, it's worth granting as noted by Lee Harding that it isn't any better to overestimate the perceived economic impact of a particular action. But when even a project proposal involves government actors paying a tithe of hundreds of millions of dollars to we're not sure who for the privilege of turning their money into economic activity, that should be an obvious signal that the project in question doesn't pass the laugh test.

(Edit: fixed typo.)

Thursday, August 06, 2009

A brief appeal

Following up on my post this morning, word has come out that the reported fund-raising and expense totals from the Saskatchewan NDP leadership candidates are from the end of the campaign period. And in the case of Ryan Meili's campaign, about $5,000 more has been raised since that time to cut the reported debt in half.

But it would still be a major plus for all involved to get the remaining campaign debts squared away so that Ryan and the rest of his team can focus fully on the next steps in building the Saskatchewan NDP. So let's start an informal campaign based on Meili's 45% share of the vote on the second ballot: please take a moment and stop by Meili's donation page with a donation ending in .45.

The price of fraud

Not that I entirely disagree with Margarent Wente's argument that corporate crime needs to be far better prosecuted and punished. But she's far off base in suggesting that it's only in Canada that corporate crooks can buy their way out of serious consequences.

Here's Wente:
(T)hose in business must know Canada is a fine place to fleece the innocent and cook the books. Not for us the crusading prosecutors, the quick indictments, the speedy trials, and the lifetime jail sentences so popular in the United States.

Here, you can be pretty sure the law will take years to catch up to you (if it ever does). In the event you are found guilty, the penalty won't be so bad.
So let's check on the latest prominent white-collar crime story from the U.S. to see just what kind of sentence is being applied for those who "cook the books":
Federal regulators accused Maurice R. Greenberg, the former chief executive of the beleaguered American International Group, on Thursday of overseeing deals that fraudulently overstated A.I.G.’s financial position, claims that came after a four-year investigation.

Mr. Greenberg, 84, will pay $15 million to settle the suit, an agreement that was announced simultaneously as the government described the accusations against him. A former chief financial officer at A.I.G., Howard I. Smith, will pay $1.5 million to settle similar accusations.
...
The S.E.C. said that Mr. Greenberg and Mr. Smith were involved in “numerous improper accounting transactions” that inflated A.I.G.’s earnings from 2000 to 2005. Regulators said Mr. Greenberg publicly boasted about the company’s strength and double-digit growth while concealing its weaknesses through accounting sleights of hand.

“Greenberg and Smith oversaw various improper transactions that presented a false financial picture and allowed A.I.G. to claim success in meeting its performance goals,” Robert S. Khuzami, director of the S.E.C.’s division of enforcement, said in a statement.
Now, I'll readily note that there's a case to be made that both systems are likely painfully underequipped to provide the combination of enforcement and punishment that would be required to properly limit the risk of white-collar crime. But for anybody actually looking to determine where they can pay the lowest price for defrauding the public, the choice between at least receiving a prison sentence and being able to buy one's way out of trouble south of the border would seem to make for a fairly clear conclusion that Canada isn't the most enticing target.

(H/t to John Cole.)

Burning question

When was last time the Leader-Post (or any other media outlet) worried about the right of citizens to go about their lives without being "hassled" by corporate logos or advertisers?

Indeed, I'd think the L-P's editorial makes for a watershed moment. Apparently even the long-standing statement that "the law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread" is a bit too egalitarian for Regina's main media outlet; instead, it's now clear that begging in the streets is acceptable only if it's done by a corporate entity.

Update: Carle Steel goes to town. You read.

On final tallies

James Wood reports on the final financial results from Saskatchewan's NDP leadership race. And if there's any major surprise, it's that the candidate fund-raising totals ended up substantially matching the result of the first ballot: despite a publicly-disclosed total nearly $12,000 behind Deb Higgins just days before the June convention, Yens Pedersen apparently managed to eke ahead of her in the financial department as well.

Now, it's not clear whether part of the new totals reflect some surprisingly effective fund-raising after the vote itself, or whether they mean that Pedersen's small-donor income during the leadership campaign dwarfed his disclosed donations. But either way, the example is one which candidates in future leadership campaigns and other races would do well to follow.

Deep thought

Maybe Bruce Campion-Smith has a point that the NDP should assume it will be referred to by a two-letter acronym. Just think how the many Canadians are already confused into thinking that elections consist of a choice between a wire service and a vinyl record.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

On inducements

The move by Gordon Campbell's B.C. government to harmonize its sales tax with the GST - just weeks after saying it had no intention of doing so during an election campaign - has rightly given rise to a massive public outcry.

But it's worth taking a look at the other side of the picture as well. Much of Campbell's excuse seems to be tied to the knowledge that Deficit Jim Flaherty would be happy to funnel federal dollars B.C.'s way for the conversion - in effect using promised federal funding to patch over the holes Campbell blew in the provincial budget. But at a time when Canada's budget is itself headed for years of red ink, isn't it worth revisiting whether the Cons should be spending federal money to push provincial tax burdens from businesses onto consumers?

On policy discussions

Following up on yesterday's post about Andrew Steele's misplaced attempts to smear the NDP, let's take the opportunity to point out one of the most interesting aspects of the Halifax convention that seems to have slipped below the radar so far. While Steele wrongly criticizes the NDP for not planning to discuss policy, the reality is that the party has in fact put together a policy book (warning: PDF) which will form the basis for the resolutions to be debated at the convention. So rather than merely debating freestanding topics (as the Libs are apparently continuing to do), the NDP will in fact be carrying on a more thorough policy discussion based on fitting specific resolutions into a full set of governing principles.

Of course, we're still waiting on word as to what resolutions will be addressed at the convention, and there will almost certainly be areas where there's some lively dispute as to how the current policy book should be changed. But it's surely a point in its favour that the NDP (unlike Steele's party of choice) is actually willing to make its principles public for discussion and debate. And as a reward, the NDP will come out of the convention with the framework of a full platform to show for it.

On reactions

On their face, the caveats and cost-sharing provisions in Sask Party's nuclear isotope reactor proposal could have been taken to reflect at least some acknowledgment that it wouldn't be a great idea for the province to say "cost and public opinion be damned!" in pushing ahead. But Bill Boyd has set the record straight, declaring that the Sask Party will be happy to funnel more money in and trying to minimize any possibility that public concerns might be worth addressing.

Here's Boyd's stunningly ill-advised comment on the question of cost:
Bill Boyd, Energy and Resources Minister in the Saskatchewan Party government, acknowledged to reporters that the provincial government itself could end up carrying more than the funding share outlined in the proposal submitted to the federal government last week and made public Tuesday.

Under the plan put forward by the U of S and the province, the federal government would pick up 75 per cent of the construction costs, with the province paying for the remainder. Saskatchewan also wants the federal government to pay 60 per cent of the operating costs, with the province covering 25 per cent and the rest coming from isotope sales and industrial science.

I suppose that those are negotiable items that the federal government might want to negotiate. We think they are good starting points,” Boyd said at the legislature.

“They are our proposal going forward. The federal government may have some different ideas with regard to cost-sharing for these types of things.”

Boyd did say the project would be unlikely to go ahead without a significant financial commitment from the federal government.
So in effect, rather than reflecting a serious allocation of costs, the numbers in the proposal don't appear to be much more than a cap on what the federal government might be called on to contribute. And with Boyd publicly stating that the province is willing to put in more money if the federal government would like to spend less (and do we seriously need to ask whether that might be the case?), it's painfully clear that the final result won't be anything like the current proposal.

So what about Boyd's concurrent suggestion that the province would require a "significant financial commitment" from the federal government? On its face, the phrase is vague enough to allow for almost any federal contribution to be spun as being sufficient. But the context is even worse than the lack of content: given that one of the flimsy rationales for building a reactor in Saskatchewan is supposed to be the support of the provincial government, does anybody think the Sask Party would have a reasonable response to a federal suggestion that the proposed provincial share of the cost should be seen as meeting the standard? That would leave the province on the hook for $500 million-plus during construction and $40 million-plus during operation - which presumably serves the Sask Party's purpose of tying the hands of future provincial governments, but can't be seen as a plus for anybody else.

Meanwhile, Boyd's take on the proposal also involves both trying to predetermine the outcome of the UDP consultation process, and declaring that the Sask Party will ignore it if it doesn't like the results:
If the report of Dan Perrins, who chaired the public consultations, puts forward that public opinion is dead-set against a research reactor, it could derail the government’s proposal, said Boyd.

He added that he does not expect that to be the case, given the submissions in public hearings, but said that the public debate over the issue won’t necessarily be ended by Perrins’ report.
In case it wasn't clear enough how disingenuous the latter statement is, remember that the UDP hearings didn't often discuss an isotope reactor in detail precisely because the UDP report itself didn't consider an isotope reactor to be a high priority. In fact, it was only after the public hearings were done with that Wall declared that he wanted to push ahead with an isotope reactor. Which means that Boyd's attempt to paint the fact that large crowds turned up at the public meetings to oppose a reactor for power generation as support for an isotope reactor looks to be at best nonsensical, and at worst the height of dishonesty.

But then, Boyd apparently recognizes that there was some time after an isotope reactor became a topic of public conversation in which participants were able to make their concerns known. Hence his last attempt to hedge his bets by declaring that if the public managed to dodge his government's misdirection to make its concerns clear during the consultation process, the Sask Party still won't take that as ending its efforts to keep foisting nuclear development on the province.

Fortunately, there's still reason to hope that the federal government will actually compare the price tags of the different proposed projects and correctly conclude that the Sask Party's makes absolutely no sense based on the expected return on investment (which I'll deal with further in another post). But the fact that the Sask Party's point man on nuclear development doesn't seem to care about the cost involved and is eager to distort the public input received so far should signal that we still shouldn't expect any reasonable decision-making from within Wall's government.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Baghdad Duff

I was planning to give Mike Duffy a pass for merely being painfully sycophantic toward Stephen Harper and the Cons, if only because it hardly qualifies as news at this point.

But Mike Duffy having the nerve to bash the report on his painful sycophancy for pointing out what it actually was, then taking the opportunity to spew even more of the same? That seems to make for a new low - at least for now.

An inefficient proposal

There's plenty worth dissecting in the Wall government's latest attempt (warning: PDF) to sell anything they can think of with the word "nuclear" in the title. But here are a couple of take-away points from the isotope reactor proposal.

In terms of cost, the proposal looks to be completely out of whack with every other suggested alternative for isotope production. While the accelerator proposals from UBC and Manitoba have put forward costs in the range of $35-$50 million to get to actual isotope production, the Saskatchewan proposal involves spending roughly that much in a "development" phase before construction even begins - and 10 to 15 times as much to actually get a reactor running (without even considering how to get any isotopes processed).

Likewise, the timelines involved suggest that the Saskatchewan proposal is by far the worst available option out of the ones presented in western Canada: a 2016 start time, compared to 2012 or sooner for the other possibilities. Though that may be good news to the extent that it means the province won't be following Brad Wall's previous musings about slapping a nuclear reactor together in two years.

Of course, the proposal tries to get around its frailties compared to other alternatives by suggesting that it would create only a complementary source of isotopes. But there's little apparent reason why the federal government should be looking to pay far more for a far slower option. And the fact that Wall and his government are willing to burn more money as part of a relatively small provincial share under its proposal than it would cost to put the B.C. and Manitoba proposals into effect combined should serve as a fairly clear signal that the Sask Party's nuclear agenda has nothing at all to do with what's best for the province.

On false branding

Pop quiz time. Which is the first Canadian political party that comes to mind based on the following description?
...consumed by internal obsessions and bogged down with endless scandal and mismanagement...
Send your answer to Andrew Steele for his information.

Mind you, Steele's utterly bizarre theory about the NDP's current position goes a bit further than that phrase alone. But it doesn't make his take any more plausible:
The other, bigger issue is the toxic legacy of past NDP governments. Few would choose to return to profligate regimes consumed by internal obsessions and bogged down with endless scandal and mismanagement.

A vigourous debate about how to govern would be in the NDP's best interest. The time has come to move past some of the discredited shibboleths clogging up the NDP's policy cupboard - rent control and nationalized energy spring to mind - and find more effective policies to ennunciate the NDP's values.
Starting with the painfully obvious, the next party which actually has an internal debate about what level of "internal obsession,...scandal and mismanagement" it should seek to pursue while in office would be the first. (Even if I'd have to acknowledge that it would make for a highly entertaining conversation.) So Steele's supposed advice is obviously based more in an attempt to falsely brand the NDP than in any idea about what the party should actually be discussing.

But what about that attempted brand? There, the question is one of evidence rather than statements which fall apart even on their own internal absurdity. But Steele's case doesn't come out any better in his first description of the NDP as "profligate" based on the historical record:
NDP governments have balanced the books 46 per cent of the time. Manitoba’s NDP government has posed surpluses every year it has been in office and Saskatchewan’s NDP government posted 11 consecutive balanced budgets after ending a decade of Conservative mismanagement and corruption.

Despite Paul Martin’s frequent pronouncements on fiscal responsibility, Liberals have the worst fiscal record overall. Liberal federal, provincial and territorial governments have posted year-over-year budget deficits an astonishing 79 per cent of the time.

Conservative governments have only a slightly better record than the Liberals, logging deficits 65 per cent of the years in which they’ve been in power.

The report issued today by the Liberal government’s Department of Finance looks at federal, provincial and territorial accounts over the past 22 years.
In other words, NDP = fiscally responsible. Steele's Liberals = profligate. And dishonest about that fact.

But one might say, what if Steele were referring only to the federal NDP as compared to the provincial governments who have consistently been more responsible than their Lib or Con counterparts? I'd think that's more than ruled out by the feigned concern over the "legacy of past NDP governments", but just for kicks let's see how that assumption works with the rest of Steele's thesis.

So let's have another pop quiz - this a two-parter.

1. Never mind Steele's descriptor "endless", name a single scandal involving the federal NDP.

Go ahead, take your time.

2. If you've come up with anything at all, compare it to Steele's party's sponsorship scandal in scope, breadth, and damage to the party and/or the wider political system.

Now which federal party can possibly be considered as one associated with "endless scandal"? And I won't even get started on a Liberal criticizing another party for "internal obsessions" getting in the way of effective political action.

In sum, Steele seems to be putting up nothing more than a cynical effort to try to tar the NDP with his own party's obvious weaknesses. And while there are some honest points to be made about areas where the NDP can look to improve, it's fairly clear that Steele's are something else entirely.

Could have been avoided

One of the more interesting developments on the federal political scene last week was the first wave of public discussion about the fact that the Cons went out of their way to avoid actually passing their much-promoted home renovation tax credit - presumably (as noted by Paul Wells) as a means of ensuring that the Libs roll over on a fall confidence vote. But it's particularly remarkable in retrospect how thoroughly the strategy was telegraphed.

Here's an exchange between Lib MP Massimo Pacetti and Deficit Jim Flaherty all the way back in February:
Mr. Massimo Pacetti:
...
The home renovation credit doesn't seem to be anywhere in the budget, it doesn't seem to be anywhere in the ways and means. And the third quick question is, has anybody calculated how much money the Government of Canada is guaranteeing via EDC loans, BDC loans, CMHC, swapping bad assets for good assets? Has anybody made a calculation as to how much money the Government of Canada is on the hook for?

Hon. Jim Flaherty:
The home renovation tax credit is not in the bill; it was in the ways and means. It's a tax measure, yes, and it has been approved by the House. I had this discussion recently with your colleague from Markham--Unionville. This is not easy to design. The design is complex. So the home renovation tax credit will be in the usual second budget bill this year.
Let's start by dispensing with the excuse that some complex design was required which would take months upon months for the Cons to work out compared to the rest of the budget. Remember that the bill which the Cons put forward was the same 551-page behemoth which gutted the federal pay equity structure, rewrote rules about competition and foreign investment and created new, accountability-free rules for federally-run "bridge institutions" in the case of a financial meltdown. From that starting point, it shouldn't have been all that difficult to make the case that the Cons should have been able to get their act together to include a single tax credit which supposedly formed the centrepiece of their stimulus package.

But failing that, the Cons would have had a few months in which to pass the home renovation tax credit as a standalone bill before the summer break - which presumably would have made for a reasonable request for cooperation over the balance of the spring session. Instead, the Libs were happy to ignore an obvious trap which seems set to close on them over the next couple of months.

Now, would it have been obvious at the time that the trap wouldn't be sprung until the fall? Let's note that the concept of a "usual" second budget bill is somewhat misleading given that only once have the Cons actually allowed a session of Parliament to last through an entire calendar year beginning with a budget. But for anybody checking their history, it should have been a fairly simple matter to note that their second budget implementation bill in 2006 wasn't even introduced until October of that year.

So from the time of Flaherty's response to Pacetti nearly six months ago, it should have been clear what was afoot. And indeed the Libs' current position is that they saw the problem coming:
Liberal finance critic John McCallum said he asked Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to put the credit in the spring budget implementation bill so consumers would have certainty, but Flaherty apparently declined.

"I still think it will go through at the end of the day because we will certainly honour it, but people might still have a nagging doubt until it is passed and this could have been avoided," said McCallum.
But the reality is that it's the Libs who chose to support Deficit Jim's budget on the Cons' terms. Which means that if and when the Libs get strong-armed into backing the Cons once again based on an inevitable set of threats about the home renovation tax credit, they'll have nobody to blame but themselves.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Deep thought

It doesn't strike me as a good sign when a party's top example of fresh talent supposedly attracted by its new leader is somebody who lost the same riding under the old one.

On separation

The NDP's upcoming convention is starting to get plenty of mainstream coverage. But while most of the reporting about a party name change and election readiness sounds familiar, there does appear to be one new development in the topics up for discussion:
In related resolutions, delegates will be asked whether to separate the NDP's provincial and federal memberships, which total about 70,000.

"As the caucus gets larger, as we build our infrastructure and get our party into more of a breakthrough mode, these issues are taking on a greater significance," says NDP national director Brad Lavigne.
Now, I'll be curious to see what rationale there is for splitting off provincial and federal memberships. But for now, I'd have to be skeptical of the proposal.

After all, a common membership list effectively allows the two levels of NDP organization to complement each other: where one recruits a new member, the other both benefits from the new arrival within the party, and can avoid putting its own resources into pursuing the same individual. In contrast, a membership split would seem to me to require each level of the party to go through its own registration process for each individual member - creating double the workload just to administer the current level of membership even if the numbers stay the same.

So even leaving aside the question of whether a split membership process would make it more difficult to share information or otherwise coordinate between the federal and provincial wings, there would seem to be an obvious cost to the plan.

Meanwhile, the apparent benefit of splitting the two types of membership would be the potential to add new members at one level of government who prefer not to be affiliated at the other. But it's hard to see how the federal party would stand to gain much on that front either.

Of the provinces where there's any arguable gap in political orientation between the NDP's federal and provincial wings, it's uniformly the provincial wing which has expanded its reach somewhat further toward the political centre than the federal wing. Which means that by separating the lists, the federal NDP would seem to be undercutting its own apparent efforts to work with an expanded base of potential support. Yet it's not clear that the provincial wings would seem to benefit much from a split either, as the dual membership requirement may well keep more activists inside the party's tent than would be the case otherwise.

Mind you, there's an important exception to the rule in Quebec, where one can make the case that there might be a wave of potential recruits into the federal NDP who wouldn't want to bind themselves to any provincial party in the process. Indeed, I'm not sure for the moment how the dual membership requirement even applies in a province where the NDP doesn't run candidates provincially.

That said, it would seem to make more sense to establish an exception for provinces where there isn't a substantial NDP presence at the provincial level than to make a change which would radically overhaul the party's membership structure across the country. And hopefully the convention will agree that the last thing that either the federal or provincial wings should want to do is to limit the NDP's cooperation and party unity across jurisdictional divides.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

On repeated patterns

Sure, it might seem like Robert has caught the CP's Joan Bryden and her sources for an article on EI distorting easily-checked facts about the impact of an eight-week eligibility standard. But don't we know by now that truth is no object when it comes to keeping the uppity working folk from benefiting from government action?

Sunday Morning 'Rider Blogging

Needless to say, it's a pleasant surprise to be able to write about an hard-fought victory over the defending Grey Cup champtions rather than looking for bright spots in a third consecutive loss. But what's most impressive about the 'Riders' result yesterday is that they won in a way which hadn't yet worked this season.

Again, the two previous 'Rider victories followed a fairly predictable pattern: the defence and special teams forced a ton of turnovers early on, the offence capitalized with a good number of points on a short field, and then the team clung to a lead the rest of the way despite some rough patches on both sides of the ball. But when a similar start resulted instead in a gut-wrenching defeat last week, it figured to be time for the team to go back to the drawing board.

So rather than counting on stripping the ball from opponents at every available opportunity, the 'Riders played more of a bend-but-don't-break defence - generating enough pressure to keep Henry Burris from getting too comfortable, but not forcing a single turnover until two failed third-down plays in the game's closing minutes.

Granted, Calgary managed to churn up more yardage than would have been ideal, and the 'Riders gave up another 100-yard game on the ground. And indeed the defence seldom seemed in control of the game until the Stamps' final three possessions where they had clearly abandoned one part of their offence (a two-and-out when Joffrey Reynolds was handed the ball in hopes of running out the clock and staying in field-goal range, and two three-and-outs when Burris had little choice but to go to the air.)

But the overall result was to hold the Stamps' point total to a level where the offence had a reasonable chance to win the game. Which they did, despite a few missed opportunities for points earlier in the game. And it may have been one of Darian Durant's perceived weaknesses that actually allowed Saskatchewan to generate the decisive play.

After all, a team facing a quarterback with a reputation for a stronger arm almost certainly would have had some better deep support in the secondary while clinging to a 6-point lead. But the Stamps instead left enough room in their defensive backfield for Chris Getzlaf to both get open, and find a relatively uncontested path to the end zone.

Meanwhile, credit also has to go to Steven Jyles for his second-quarter performance. If there was any point where the defence looked like it was about to snap, it would have been after the Stamps had controlled the ball for most of the quarter, settling for two fairly short field goals with the wind at their back but having plenty of time on the field to wear out Saskatchewan's defence. Rather than letting them get the ball back, Jyles and the offence ran the five-plus minutes left in the half off the clock - never generating any huge plays, but getting into field goal range with a gritty ground game and a few well-placed passes. That kept the 'Riders within striking distance going into the second half, where their first third-quarter points of the season kept the game within reach the rest of the way.

So what should the team be looking to improve going into B.C.? Once again, punt returning looks to be a serious issue, as Gerran Walker may have been the least effective returner yet with his unfortunate habit of running backwards or in circles. The rest of the special teams also had some issues throughout the game, with Luca Congi missing two field goals (one on a tip) and Jamie Boreham's punting also looking subpar in both gross and net results. And while the tackling was somewhat better, there's still ample room for improvement there.

Ultimately, the 'Riders probably can't count on getting a few of the breaks they got against the Stamps in most games. But they found a way to win a game decided on field position and offensive production against the best team on paper in the West. And while the game probably would have been a reasonably successful one in that respect even if Getzlaf's second TD hadn't happened, the fact that the 'Riders managed to put another notch in the win column should relieve plenty of the pressure previously facing the team.

In solidarity

Angelo Persichilli's fact-free rant about unions positively cried out for a thorough debunking. And Dr. Dawg has delivered so the rest of us don't have to.