Saturday, September 10, 2011

On royal bias

The Wall government's position on reviewing an eight-year-old royalty regime when the expected result would be substantially more revenue for the province: firmly against.

The Wall government's position on reviewing an eight-year-old royalty regime when the expected result would be substantially less revenue for the province: unequivocally for.

Just in case there was any doubt whether the Sask Party is on the side of the province, or the corporations looking to siphon off as much wealth as they can.

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- David Olive points out the growing consensus that those who have benefited most from free-market economics and bailouts alike should be expected to contribute more to the price of civilization - and the unsustainability of the system that's led to growing inequality:
“My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress,” wrote Buffett, whose tax rate last year was just 17 per cent, compared with an average of 36 per cent for his colleagues at his Berkshire Hathaway Inc. head office in Omaha. “It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.”

Buffett no doubt braced for a backlash from the affluent. And Conrad Black, for one, has fretted that Buffett is exhorting lawmakers into a “tokenistic fiscal persecution of the most affluent” – a demographic to which the disgraced former press baron remains loyal, though his membership has lapsed.

But the real story here is the scarcity of objections to Buffett’s call for a level playing field, in which all income groups are able to participate fully in society.
...
The salient backdrop for the current distemper is a 30-year stagnation in middle class incomes, while prices for fuel, shelter, tuition and even food have been soaring.

The gap between rich and poor has widened markedly in Canada, where the top 1 per cent of income earners accounts for almost 40 per cent of total national income. That same top 1 per cent collected one-third of growth in national income between 1998 and 2007. In the 1950s and 1960s, that figure was a mere 8 per cent.
...
The Conference Board usefully calls for a discussion on the efficacy of the 189 tax loopholes in current legislation, and the attractive alternative of a higher basic exemption. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives would add an examination of the deleterious effects of EI and welfare programs grown miserly in the past decade, and the impact on income inequality caused by our own tax-policy changes favouring the affluent.

We can have that discussion peaceably in school auditoriums across the country. Or we can have it in the streets. But there will be a reckoning, because the status quo is untenable.
- But then, Gerald Caplan notes that there are still plenty of forces working toward even more glaring inequality - even if they're becoming more reluctant to make the case directly and publicly:
Ten years after the trauma of 9/11, the richest 1 per cent of American households earn as much as the bottom 60 per cent and have as much wealth as the bottom 90 per cent. But you ain’t seen nothing yet. Combine low taxes with tax credits, tax havens and tax loopholes, and you’ll come upon a capitalist nirvana where many of the largest corporations pay no taxes at all and where, according to estimates by the Tax Justice Network, trillions of corporate dollars are hidden away, costing perhaps a quarter of a trillion dollars in foregone taxes. No prizes for guessing where it goes instead of to the public good.

There are more filthy rich folks now than at any other moment in history and they’re leveraging their astounding wealth to make sure they get filthier at the expense of the rest of us, still of course the vast majority. What is true of America is equally true of Britain and increasingly true of Canada. While the middle class shrinks, the working class slips backwards and social mobility erodes, the rich buy themselves politicians, lobbyists, legal beagles, slick accountants, “trained economists,” television networks, “think” tanks and whatever other apparatus is needed to make them even richer. Their success surpasses even the most piggish of expectations.

Osama bin Laden inflicted a terrible crime on the American people. America’s elites and their allies have done the rest.
- Bruce Johnstone raises an important point in making the case as to why a vote on the Canadian Wheat Board should matter. But I'd argue his examples of other areas where votes matter serve more as the next frontier of attacks on the collective good rather than entirely safe examples of institutions immune from similar individual-choice language (for the identical purpose of turning them into corporate cash cows):
The reality is that no right is absolute. We infringe on people's right to choose when we have single-payer public auto insurance or health-care systems. But we accept this infringement of our rights as reasonable, given the advantages of the single-payer system (universal coverage, low cost, greater efficiency, etc.).

The CWB's single desk is not unlike our health-care and public auto insurance systems. Would you want those systems taken away without at least a vote on the matter? Shouldn't farmers have the same rights as the rest of us?
- Finally, I have every suspicion that one of the Cons' goals early in their majority is to make sure that there's no scandal so avoidable or important that their base won't eagerly fall in line to minimize it. And Bob Dechert looks to have taken an important step in that effort.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Musical interlude

Big Sugar - Nicotina (She's All That)

On clear preferences

At least a few pundits have theorized that the NDP might get pushed into a merger due to the desire of Quebec voters to see greater cooperation among parties opposing the Cons, as evidenced by their support for past coalitions and other short-term cooperative efforts (which looks to have worked in the NDP's favour). But lest anybody think that logic might extend to a merger, let's put any doubt to rest:
The poll of just over 1,000 respondents — conducted over the Labour Day weekend — found that 63 per cent opposed a merger and just 24 per cent supported the idea, a trend that covered income, age and gender groups across Canada's regions.
...
And in Quebec — the new home to 59 of the NDP's 102 MPs in the House of Commons — 65 per cent of the poll respondents opposed a merger with just 23 per cent in favour.
In other words, Quebec voters - including the ones who handed the NDP its landslide victory in that province - are no more likely than Canadians anywhere else to think that a merger is worth discussing. And that reality should eliminate any argument that the NDP has the slightest reason to pursue a flawed strategy for the sake of holding onto its recent gains.

On your marks...

The basic rules for the NDP leadership campaign are making their way around Twitter, and look to reflect much of what I'd hoped for: a membership deadline relatively close to the convention on March 24 in Toronto; a modest spending limit coupled with somewhat of an increase in the entry fee (though I do wonder whether that should have been made somewhat higher); and a pure one-member, one-vote system which will ensure that nobody has an undue advantage or disadvantage in turning new memberships into leadership votes.

In general, it's hard to see how any of the NDP's mooted leadership candidates would see any reason not to run based on the rules set today. Which leaves only the question of who's ready to announce a campaign quickly - and who may be left behind as the race takes shape.

Friday Morning Links

This and that to end your week...

- Have no fear, members of the far right: of course the Harper Cons don't mean it when they sign an environmental protection agreement. Or pretend to disagree with foreign dictators. Or claim they didn't pressure the civil service to rebrand the country with their leader's name.

- And with that Con track record of dishonesty, no wonder Canada's non-profit sector is running far, far away from any association with Harper and company.

- Meanwhile, how can anybody doubt that it's perfectly normal for government ministers to conduct official business under an alias to avoid detection? Just ask that titan of modern governance, Hugh Jass.

- Finally, Carol Goar highlights the plague of prisons the Cons are so eager to inflict on the country:
What makes Drucker’s book compelling is not the statistics he presents; most of them are well known. It is the way he traces the explosion of America’s prison population back to one politician’s gut-driven policies and the way he uses his skills as a clinical psychologist to track the consequences on the streets of Harlem and the South Bronx.

Drucker wrote his analysis as a wake-up call to his fellow Americans, not as a warning to Canada. But it offers readers on this side of the border a foretaste of what lies ahead if Harper ignores the advice of everyone from health-care professionals to toppled media magnate Conrad Black, who has seen the American justice system from the inside.

Assuming the Prime Minister goes ahead, here is what Canadians can expect:
• An exponential growth in prisons. The Conservatives have refused to provide taxpayers with a credible estimate of how much they plan to spend on penitentiaries. It won’t be as costly as the American crackdown, which threatens to bankrupt several states, but the bills will keep mounting long after Harper’s departure.
• A deterioration of the social structures that communities need to prevent crime.
• A disproportionate increase in the number of poor, non-white people behind bars.
• A belated recognition that there was never any evidence tougher sentences improve public safety.
• And over time, a made-in-Ottawa “plague of prisons.”

Is this the legacy we want for our children? Is it the future we want for Canada?

Thursday, September 08, 2011

The obvious response

We'll learn soon whether the NDP's federal council will choose a pure one-member, one vote leadership process. But it's not hard to see the news that major Quebec unions aren't interested in participating as formal affiliates as a major step in that direction.

After all, any union set-aside would now figure to be seen as resulting in undue disadvantage to Quebec - providing an added impetus to avoid one to the extent the party might otherwise have tended in that direction out of tradition. But at the same time, a set of rules that's seen as responsive to the concerns of key Quebec unions would also figure to reduce the case for any other structural tweaks to the voting process (such as a Quebec MP or member set-aside).

Of course, it's ultimately up to the federal council to set the terms of the race. But in keeping with the NDP's desire to build links into Quebec's labour movement, it's entirely possible that the unions' choice will offer the NDP the last push it needed to move in what already looked to be the right direction.

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Aaron Wherry takes a look at how the NDP caucus has responded to Jack Layton's death and the resulting outpouring of public sympathy:
After Jack Layton had departed Parliament Hill for the final time last week, his flag-draped casket loaded into a waiting hearse and driven away as a large crowd applauded, those NDP MPs who had gathered to see him off fanned out to greet and thank the well-wishers and mourners. “What I kept on saying to people over and over again,” says Libby Davies, one of Layton’s two deputy leaders, “without even thinking, it was just instinct, was, ‘Don’t worry, we’re going to keep working.’ ”

While they mourned their leader, New Democrats could hardly ignore the many questions left in his absence: about their viability, direction and meaning as a party without the man who seemed to define them. But if, in the wake of Layton’s passing, there was a certain fear for the future of the NDP—raised by any number of pundits who now deem the party doomed—New Democrats themselves claim only resolve.
...
A sense of solidarity was already said to have taken hold amid the June filibuster that delayed passage of back-to-work legislation for Canada Post employees. The loss of their leader and inspiration is now said to have united the caucus all the more. “When you go through a tragedy like this—it’s that old saying, ‘What doesn’t kill you is going to make you stronger,’ ” says Comartin. And in this case, there is, strengthening that resolve, a clear sense of responsibility. “Every single caucus member that I’ve spoken to, there’s the same absolute, resolute feeling that we are united, that we’re together, that we have to carry on Jack’s work,” says Davies.

When it came time for McGrath to sign one of the books of condolences for her departed boss—a man she had spoken to nearly every day for the last three years—she chose to put her commitment in writing. “I love you, I miss you, I know what you want from us,” she wrote, “and we’re going to do it, you can count on us.”
- And Linda McQuaig notes that Stephen Lewis' eulogy has resonated well beyond the NDP's caucus and membership:
Allowing Layton a state funeral was probably Stephen Harper's most generous prime ministerial act. But it led to a nationally televised scene that will likely haunt him and surely inspire progressives for years to come: Stephen Lewis, the iconic elder statesman of Canada's social democratic movement, standing in front of Canada's most right-wing prime minister ever, speaking truth to power.

Determined that the event be more than just a tribute to the goodness of one man, Lewis used the heft of the occasion, as Layton would have wanted, to drive home Layton's social democratic vision for the country.

With the Conservatives' new hammerlock on power — accomplished with a mere 40 per cent of the national vote — here at least was one joyous moment in which we could watch the country's most powerful orator confront a prime minister who had no choice but to stand every time the rest of the room rose in rapturous pleasure at Lewis's inspiring call for a more equal and generous Canada.
- Meanwhile, Erika Shaker theorizes as to the source of the Cons' constant rage:
I think the rage comes from a place of fear. I think the Conservative bunker mentality requires their constant vigilance to squash anything that vaguely resembles a differing point of view, or even a reminder that although the election is over, the opposition is not going away. Because when that opposition is coherent, passionate, and persuasive, and is accompanied by action…that’s when things get scary. Particularly when those unpredictable youth are involved.

And when political awareness and action is an ongoing process rather than the equivalent of something that resembles a cross between Groundhog Day and Leap Year (you know, when Canadians crawl out of their houses once every four years, haul themselves down to the polls to do their civic duty, then return home to shake their collective heads about how the old boss looks an awful lot like the new boss…but hey, whatareyagonnado?); when those whose sense of order relies on low voter turnout and an uninformed electorate realize that, for a lot of people, democracy is a way of life and not just a spectator sport….then it’s time to panic.
...
(Layton's) vision as he articulated it was powerful; it resonated because it felt authentic, and because it was expressed authentically. His closing sentence has already become a mantra because it speaks to a vision of Canada, a way of life, and a set of priorities that people see in their best selves. Within hours, love, hope and optimism blew the “Conservative Values are Canadian Values” ad campaign out of the political and social water.
...
Words to strike fear into the hearts of those who like their politics predictable, their youth apathetic, and their worldview uncomplicated by all this “making a difference” or “democracy is a way of life” nonsense. And I think being confronted with a different set of political and social principles that resonates deeply and authentically among a variety of communities only feeds the fear that drives the fury.
- Finally, Nik Nanos points out both why any talk of an NDP/Lib merger misses both the impossibility of completely combining the two parties, and the lack of any particular need to do so.

New column day

Here, on how Saskatchewan's election campaign is shaping up as a choice between personality and policy.

And for the latest noteworthy policy proposal from the NDP, see yesterday's community hospital announcement.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Wednesday Afternoon Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Libby Davies weighs in on what comes next for the NDP:
(Jack Layton) had a vision for Canada that was about inclusivity and fairness, and he was willing to work with others to make this happen.

However, talking mergers (as they do in the corporate world) is not a way to realize this vision -- and is not something I'm in favour of. What I believe can bring this vision to fruition is doing the hard work of reaching out and engaging Canadians in a more participatory democratic political process. Let's stand down the elites and move up the grassroots. Let's acknowledge that we do live in a classed, racialized, and gendered society, and that our political work should open up and embrace bold change that transforms power towards a society that is more equalized, sharing, and compassionate.

This means understanding the structural changes that are required -- such as electoral reform and fairer taxation. It also means emboldening our principles and actions: to defend public services, to stand for a principled position against war and oppression, and uphold basic human dignity and social and environmental justice. It means realizing that those at the top don't have a monopoly on deciding what needs to be done. Let's look to real life experience, the energy of youth, and the collective wisdom manifested in strong local communities, where many amazing changes are taking place that must be supported and sustained.
- The first rule of reporting on Stephen Harper is that you do not report on Stephen Harper.

- Your entirely credible Saskatchewan Party government at work trying to explain its efforts to deny the vote to First Nations citizens:
Justice Minister Don Morgan said the government had not adopted the attestation of residence for First Nations because there had been situations in the recent federal election where a band officer or chief had issued forms for all First Nation members en masse without knowing whether the individuals actually lived on the reserve.

Diane Benson, a spokesperson for Elections Canada, said Friday the organization had found no problems with attestation of residence in the spring election nor were any complaints raised about its use as an identification.
- And finally, Don Gunderson nicely pegs the Sask Party's excuse for economic management:
A "fair share" for our resources is the highest price the market will bear, in the same way that a "fair share" for a person's home is the highest price they can sell it for. It's based on the principle that the people of the province own the resources, not the developers or the government. It's based on a cost/benefit analysis using market realities, not ideology or political self-interest.

What evidence is there that we are receiving a fair share? Lots of investment? That's like a shyster realtor putting your $500,000 house up for sale for $100,000 and then bragging "what a good realtor I am. Look at all the buyer interest I generated."

Deep thought

I know I appreciate when partisan hacks who declared the NDP could never become the Official Opposition then fought to keep it from happening offer their entirely sincere instructions as to how to how to build from here.

Beyond our wildest fears

I've frequently pointed out that a couple of the Cons' tax credit programs (implemented while they feigned interest in addressing climate change) made for the least efficient environmental programs on the face of the planet. But did anybody expect that evaluation could have been based on a highly optimistic estimate as to what Canadians actually paid for tiny environmental effects?
(T)he numbers in the report — Complete Analysis of Notable Climate Change Incentives in Canada, dated March 2 — estimates that several programs are costing hundreds of dollars for each tonne of pollution reduced. Two programs designed to encourage consumers to scrap old vehicles or buy fuel efficient cars are particularly costly, with cost estimates of about $92,000 per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions reduced from the scrap program, and $18,990 per tonne for the ecoAUTO rebate — an incentive program that was subsequently cancelled.
Again, those prices are compared to reasonable market values in the range of $15-50 per tonne of emissions reduced. Which raises the question of how the Cons' willingness to pay thousands of times what emissions are normally supposed to be worth could possibly be seen as anything but evidence of gross incompetence and/or bad faith in government.

On deep impacts

The news that Larissa Shasko has stepped down as leader of Saskatchewan's Greens to work on Yens Pedersen's campaign has already received plenty of attention. But it's worth noting that based on the ridings involved, Shasko's move may have more impact than would appear to be the case at first glance - having the potential to tilt two swing ridings toward the NDP if the provincial race turns out to be similar to the one we saw in 2007.

Most obviously, Regina South was a close swing seat in 2007, and one which figured to be a top NDP target even if overall public support had shifted somewhat toward the Sask Party. This time out, Yens Pedersen has had well over a year to campaign as a high-profile candidate (after winning the 2007 nomination only at the start of that year's campaign), and his run for the NDP's leadership gives him a much stronger profile both inside and outside the NDP.

From that starting point, Shasko's support will offer Pedersen an experienced organizer on campus, and send the message that young and environmentally-conscious voters can be entirely comfortable with Pedersen. And in a riding where even a shift of a few dozen voters could make all the difference, that looks to be a huge bonus for Pedersen.

Meanwhile, Shasko's move may also have repercussions in Moose Jaw. Having previously run in three federal campaigns, two provincial ones and the most recent City Council race, Shasko was sure to be far more familiar to voters than any possible replacement.

Which isn't to say that her departure figures to have too much direct impact in Shasko's riding of Moose Jaw Wakamow, where the NDP's Deb Higgins looks to be in the driver's seat once again. But Moose Jaw North was the closest riding in the province in 2007, with the Saskatchewan Party's Warren Michelson winning by a mere 33 votes. And while the NDP faces a somewhat tougher race without Glenn Hagel carrying its banner, it's still well within the realm of possibility that a few dozen spillover votes based on Shasko's profile in the city could be crucial.

Of course, the more important aftershock of Shasko's decision would come if she sets a precedent for Green supporters to work with Pedersen and other NDP candidates. But even if nobody else follows suit, Shasko may wind up having a profound impact on November's election.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Feline face-offs.



Conservative democracy at work

Shorter Gerry Ritz:

The only fair vote is one where I get to revise the results after the fact to reflect my preferred outcome.

Mostly competent government

Since the examples are piling up and pogge is nowhere to be found, let's quickly list off the latest examples of the kind of management Canada's corporate press so strongly endorsed.

Promises made with no funding or follow-through solely for the purpose of eliminating consumer rights as an election issue? Check.

And needless and wasteful duplication of polling which either reflects a complete lack of coordination between departments, or a deliberate attempt to split up the costs? Check.

But in fairness, let's note that the Cons have shown at least some capacity for learning: for example, taking from the Brian Mulroney experience that...they should listen less to the public. Which surely figures to end well.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Chantal Hebert highlights how the Harper Cons are making a show of ignoring the needs of Quebec - and indeed making matters worse by the day:
Persichilli’s recruitment also compounds what amounts to the party’s greatest election failure in the shape of its abysmal absence in Quebec.

At a time when the province is opening up to the federalist parties for the first time in decades, the first post-election addition to the senior ranks of the PMO cannot speak French and has a track record of lamenting Quebec’s influence on national affairs.

Harper is hardly the first prime minister to ask a non-French speaker to oversee his political communications. In his day, Paul Martin relied on an English-only communications director. But Harper is the first to deal with a Quebec vacuum within his government by making it worse.
...
Queried by The Globe and Mail about this and other unflattering Quebec-related comments, Persichilli responded that in his new role he planned to treat Quebecers with the “utmost respect.”

But he is already off to a double standard for when Montreal’s La Presse came calling with the same questions, he declined to answer them.
- Edward Greenspan and Anthony Doob point out that the conditional sentences being eliminated by the Harper Cons make for both a less expensive and more effective means of dealing with offenders:
The government has promised to further restrict the use of conditional sentences, claiming that its goal is to “protect the safety and security of our communities.” Yet it ignores substantial evidence demonstrating the opposite. The government indicated it would eliminate the use of the sanction for “serious and violent offenders,” but its bill also would have eliminated it for an offender whose offence involved breaking into a shed and stealing a bicycle.

Further restrictions will mean that offenders who otherwise would have received house arrest will go to a provincial, not federal, prison, thus ensuring that provincial/territorial costs will increase. Rather than benefiting the larger community through the use of punitive but simultaneously rehabilitative conditional sentences, the bill guarantees an increase in costs to the community. The government’s view that imprisonment pays for itself in crime reduction is a big lie.
...
It’s ironic that, while the Harper government wants to seriously increase the use of imprisonment on the false justification that it’s the most effective way to increase public safety, other countries are trying to seriously decrease its use. The United States, for instance, is considering moves toward sanctions such as house arrest. Canada and the U.S. are like ships passing in the night, but Canadians are the unfortunate passengers on the ship of fools.
- Hassan Arif argues against an NDP/Lib merger:
(A) merger would reduce our political choices, taking Canada from a multi-party system to a U.S.-style system of two monolithic parties - something even more limiting in the Canadian context, given the tradition of tight party discipline.

The benefits of a multi-party system can be seen, for example, in Ontario. In that province, while the Liberal government has provided progressive policies in areas such as environmental conservation, many northern Ontarians have felt neglected by the McGuinty government and by previous Tory governments. The NDP has been able to step into this void and provide a strong voice for northern Ontario, a particular legacy of Howard Hampton's tenure as Ontario NDP leader.

Coalition and cooperation (including, if acceptable to party members, non-compete agreements like the one St├ęphane Dion's Liberals had with Elizabeth May in 2008) are desirable options in dealing with a united right. Merger, though, is far more drastic. It would reduce our political choices and may not be beneficial to either party. It should be approached with a large degree of scepticism.
- But as Ed Broadbent notes, there's no reason why anybody looking for the strongest possible progressive voice should see any problem with the existing party options:
Mr. Broadbent said that after the NDP breakthrough in Quebec on May 2, which propelled the party into Official Opposition for the first time in its 50-year history, the NDP now occupies the driver's seat at the federal level.

"The Liberals are in historic decline, election after election. People forget often, because of our wonderful breakthrough in Quebec, that we now have more seats in Toronto than the Liberals have," he said.

"Now is the time for progressive Liberals, as indeed progressive people from other parties, to come and join the NDP, and they don't have to agree with everything, just as all New Democrats don't agree with everything in the party, right? They could get in and help shape what the party becomes."
- Finally, Anne Kingston writes about the political coupling of Jack Layton and Olivia Chow:
It is a uniquely Canadian, multicultural, inclusive love story. Layton and Chow weren’t the first married couple to sit in the House of Commons (that was Nina and Gurmant Grewal), but they blazed a unique trail exemplifying social equality, says Segato, who still sometimes slips into the present tense when she’s referring to them: “What you see is a couple engaged in each other’s best good. The level of respect is so profound. They didn’t agree on every issue, but they had the discussion. They were the embodiment of the equal, feminist relationship. It’s not some political ideal. They’re living it.”
...
They did check in with one another by phone multiple times a day, a pattern that continued in Ottawa, “much to my annoyance,” Gallagher jokes, because it slowed down the schedule: “Working with Olivia, any number of times we’d be interrupted by Jack calling. Then when I moved to Ottawa I can’t tell you how many times Olivia would be brought in on speakerphone to be part of the decision. And it wasn’t just rubber-stamping, it was truly input.”

Another insider notes Chow’s patience rubbed off on Layton politically. “Olivia would say, ‘That’s a good idea but it’s not the right time,’ which isn’t a common discipline in political life. By the time Layton was federal leader [in 2003], he was a transformed political figure who thought strategically.”
...
Chow rejected the traditional ceremonial “wife” role, says Gallagher: “Olivia wanted no part of that; but both were there for the other publicly when required.” In public, they expressed unabashed affection, reflected in Layton’s 2005 proclamation: “Olivia is fundamental to my life. She is woven into every minute, every second, of my existence.”

On arbitrary standards

I'm sure we can look forward to Mitch Wexler's numbers on the total count of left-wing versus right-wing elected representatives in Canada being trotted out plenty during the course of this fall's provincial elections - especially if it helps to sell the Cons' narrative about Canada shifting to the right.

But if right-wingers plan to pretend that the number has any real significance, shouldn't they face plenty of tough questions as to why they've ignored the will of what by their own standards has been a left-wing majority up to this point?

Monday, September 05, 2011

Monday Morning 'Rider Blogging

Needless to say, yesterday's result was a much-needed change from what the Saskatchewan Roughriders have produced through most of the 2011 season. But it's worth noting that the differences between the 'Riders' Labour Day Classic win over Winnipeg and its last few losses came down to a couple of fairly subtle points which combined to tip the balance in Saskatchewan's favour.

First, there's the addition of one more effective receiver, with Dallas Baker thoroughly impressing in his first game as a 'Rider. Thanks to the combination of Baker's addition, Efrem Hill's emergence and Chris Getzlaf's better play, the 'Riders now have enough effective pass-catchers to ensure that Darian Durant can keep defences on their heels throughout any given game - rather than forcing the ball to Weston Dressler or hoping for the best from somebody more prone to drops. And the potential additions of Andy Fantuz and Cary Koch to the unit could well turn the 'Riders into one of the more dangerous teams in the CFL going into the second half of the season.

Meanwhile, the other key change was the 'Riders' rare success in gaining the upper hand early. The previous several games, Saskatchewan had staked opponents to large leads, then played fairly well in the second half to leave a modicum of hope until the last couple of minutes of each game. But the 'Riders have spent most of the season playing from behind - forcing its offence to press for points while ensuring that opponents could play conservatively.

Yesterday, that dynamic was turned around. And indeed, the 'Riders won the turnover battle because of their success on the scoreboard rather than the other way around: having taken a lead despite a couple of costly giveaways, Saskatchewan was then able to rack up two turnovers on downs and a late interception.

Aside from those factors, the 'Riders' success yesterday was mostly a combination of incremental improvement and good timing. All three units have had their moments in recent weeks, but the defence and return teams in particular went from effective to dominant against Winnipeg. And the few mistakes the 'Riders did make (most notably the two first-half turnovers) didn't lead to much damage on the scoreboard.

Of course, there's some danger in reading too much into one game in either direction. And indeed, I'll stick to the argument that the most important development for the 'Riders in September will be less what happens on the field than what the team can do to bring in the best of the crop of NFL cuts.

But the 'Riders nonetheless deserve credit for their first truly strong win of the 2011 season. And whether the change is more the result of Ken Miller's return as coach, upgrades in player talent or simply more breaks going the 'Riders' way, there's far more reason for hope for the rest of this season than 'Rider fans could enjoy this time yesterday.

On domino effects

Olivia Chow's announcement that she doesn't intend to run for the NDP's leadership looks to bring the race into much sharper focus.

With Chow deciding not to run, there's a wide open space for a candidate from the greater Toronto area. And while Peggy Nash looks like the most obvious prospect, there are all kinds of possibilities awaiting from inside and outside the NDP's current caucus - including some going beyond my current candidate lists if Nash too takes a pass.

Or alternatively, a gap in Toronto-area candidates would allow a contender from elsewhere a better chance to serve as the voice of urban voters - which might offer a particularly important opening for a candidate like Megan Leslie to expand beyond her current geographic base.

Finally, Chow was also the prospective candidate with the most obvious chance to both harness and influence Jack Layton's legacy in the course of the leadership race. And her choice to stay out of the fray means that a number of different candidates will instead have better chances to highlight different parts of Layton's leadership within their own campaign - while ensuring that Layton's personal reputation won't get tied as tightly to what happens in the leadership race and beyond.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

On ancient history

Remember back when the Harper Cons were able to run roughshod over a weak official opposition party which couldn't muster any allies to fight back against the Cons' smears?

Just wondering - because thankfully, that sad era is over.

Leadership 2012 Reference Page

A one-stop source for general links on the 2012 NDP leadership campaign, to be updated as the race progresses. Please feel free to add additional suggestions in comments.

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Leadership 2012: Notable By Omission

After two posts outlining possible candidates for the NDP's impending leadership race, I've thus far avoided mentioning the prospective candidate who's been on the receiving end of both media adulation and a blogger's plea to stay far, far away. So I'll take a moment to explain why Gary Doer doesn't currently rank among my possible contenders for the position.

While I don't entirely agree with Matt's take on Doer, I would see the concerns mentioned in his post resonating a fair bit among much of the party's progressive base - while Doer's apparently minimal French skills would leave him little prospect of winning much support in the province which offers the NDP's most obvious source of potential new members. And that combination excludes an awful lot of potential leadership voters from his list of possible targets.

Meanwhile, I don't see a lot of plausible areas of strength for Doer in the context of either the NDP's current membership, or the reasonable prospects for growth by next year. Yes, he has some union connections and could serve as a labour candidate, but he doesn't have much of an advantage on that front over plenty of other contenders. And while a Manitoba support base isn't a bad place to start in building a national coalition, I have serious doubts that Doer's name carries quite the same recognition and reputation that media insiders may think.

Granted, it is worth mentioning the "stalking horse" theory as the one possibility which might vault Doer to the leadership. If the talk of Brian Topp, Anne McGrath, Karl Belanger and others in Jack Layton's inner circle is indeed a cover for somebody who doesn't want to declare any intentions just yet but wants to keep some space open to declare a run later, then Doer is as plausible a beneficiary of that treatment as anybody. And the combination of Layton's machine with Doer's other sources of support might be enough to put the leadership within reach.

But even that scenario seems to me to fall far short of assuring Doer that he'd be more than one of several contenders for the title of NDP leader. Which means that he doesn't seem to have much reason to walk away from his current position - and that anybody looking for an outside knight in shining armor is probably best served looking elsewhere.

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- The Cons are once again getting noticed in the world - this time thanks to Serge Schemann pointing out their callous treatment of asbestos widow Michaela Keyserlingk in the New York Times:
This summer, to Mrs. Keyserlingk’s surprise and in a rather peculiar way, her continuing campaign was thrust into the limelight. The Conservative Party, which is currently governing Canada and has steadfastly supported asbestos mining, sent her a sharp notice demanding that she cease using the party’s logo on the modest Web site for her campaign. It threatened “further action” if she did not comply.

Mrs. Keyserlingk had put the Conservative logo on her site and on ads for it, with a red “Danger” sign and the legend, “Canada is the only Western country that exports deadly asbestos!”

The Conservative salvo at a 72-year-old widow of a man she called a “true-blue” Conservative quickly spread through blogs, newspapers and television. People from across Canada, including physicians and politicians, began sending letters of support — and checks, all of which she returned.

“They couldn’t have done anything better,” Mrs. Keyserlingk said of the Tories. To the party, her reply was: “I am delighted that someone in the Conservative Party of Canada is finally reacting after years of work by chrysotile asbestos victims.”

The logo remains. Conservative officials have ceased replying to queries about asbestos.

All of which made me wonder when, exactly, the Conservatives are going to get the message.
- Trish Hennessy's latest Index documents how recent Canadian economic trends are demanding far more of workers while offering less security:
2.3
Percentage increase in part-time jobs from 2008 to 2009, countering the 2.5 per cent loss in full-time jobs.

37.1
Percentage of Canadians aged 25-44 who said working part-time in 2009 wasn’t their choice – there was no full-time work available. Compared to 27.7 per cent of workers over 45.

2.7 million
Number of self-employed workers in Canada in 2009, up dramatically from 1.3 million in 1979

2.3 million
Number of full-time workers in Canada who had rotating shifts or irregular schedules in 2005.

29
Percentage of shift workers who expressed somewhat more dissatisfaction with their work-life balance in 2005.
- Dennis Gruending offers his take on Jack Layton's legacy.

- Michel takes on the media's recent efforts to pile onto Thomas Mulcair.

- And finally, Rabble's efforts to place Karl Nerenberg as a progressive voice in the Parliamentary Press Gallery are well worth some support.