Saturday, September 17, 2011

On strategic considerations

While most media discussion of the NDP's leadership race so far has focused disproportionately on the effect of a couple of early endorsements, the obvious reality is that any candidate will need to win over tens of thousands of potential supporters in order to win the leadership. But let's offer an open question for those watching the race.

If you were planning a leadership campaign, how many members' votes would you expect to need in order to win?

For reference, Jack Layton won 31,150 out of 58,202 votes in 2003, the first NDP race to be run based on a membership vote rather than a delegated convention. That convention followed an election where the NDP won under 1,100,000 votes across Canada.

In 2011, the NDP won over 4,500,000 votes across Canada. The current membership numbers have been estimated in the range of 86,000, including 30,000 in British Columbia, 22,000 in Ontario, and 10,000 in each of the Prairie provinces making up the vast majority of the total.

In answering, a couple of questions to think about: how should we expect membership to rise compared to the NDP's vote count - particularly in Quebec, but also across the country? How much of the current membership list based on B.C.'s provincial leadership race will sit out the federal campaign? And how many new members signed up during the course of a leadership race will both vote, and exercise multiple options (which may be highly important in a multi-ballot race)?

I'll take a closer look myself in a future post. But for now, I'm curious to see what readers think.

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Gerald Caplan laments the difficulty in trying to comment reasonably on the actions of a government whose attitude toward reason ranges from overt hostility to wilful blindness:
Stephen Harper has just declared that the greatest security threat to Canada is something he called “Islamicism.” I’ve seen no sensible dissection of this remarkable comment because no one can make sense of it. It goes without saying that vigilance against any potential terrorist attack is vital. Has some new peril now been discovered that no one else knows about? Are Canadians in imminent danger? Might we not be fretful about a nice homegrown Christian version of Norway’s notorious Anders Breivik as well as extremist Muslims? Why does our leader choose to feed into the bigotry of those who are determined to smear all Muslims as terrorists?

In terms of what really menaces Canadians, is “Islamicism” really scarier than global warming? What is it about these conservatives that make them care so little about their kids’ future? What about water scarcity, a looming crisis? Or the fragility of the global economic system? Youth unemployment? What about the bottomless need everywhere in Canada for new or repaired or upgraded infrastructure? Who’s going to protect us from exploding road rage on our gridlocked roads? What about glaring, growing inequality and our declining quality of life?
- Meanwhile, Don Martin points out the latest absurdity in the form of Stephen Harper's utter unwillingness to concede that Bob Dechert's close relationship with a Xinhua reporter can even be questioned:
It’s been a full week since news broke about affectionate emails from a Conservative MP to a Chinese state agency reporter.

Shrugged off by the Harper government as a “ridiculous” non-story, the ongoing revelations prove this is a legitimate story given the long legs by this government’s ridiculous non-reaction.
...
A probe would actually do Mr. Dechert a big favour. Until he gets the all-clear from a proper investigation, the mild-mannered Mr. Dechert will stand accused of having taken his oath of loyalty too casually and his foreign affairs job too literally.
- Lest there be any doubt: yes, inequality is bad for business. Austerity is bad for the economy. And still the Cons and their counterparts around the globe continue to fight for both.

- Finally, Bruce Johnstone contrasts the Cons' reluctant acceptance of the results of the Canadian Wheat Board's director elections with their new insistence that the votes and views of CWB members don't matter.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Musical interlude

Tara Maclean - Evidence (Chris Lord-Alge Remix)

Friday Afternoon Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Erin catches a typically-partisan response from the Cons to the prospect that a new U.S. stimulus package might contain Buy American provisions once again:
What strikes me is that corporate Canada and Conservatives are upset about being excluded from some potential procurement contracts if Obama’s jobs plan is enacted with Buy American provisions. But they seem unconcerned about losing all of those potential contracts if Republicans block the jobs plan.
- Dan Gardner points out how the Cons are determined to turn what were supposed to be extraordinary and temporary restrictions on Canadians' civil rights into a normalized part of their security state:
(E)xtraordinary powers created in an extraordinary time will be restored long after the extraordinary time has passed - even though the powers were irrelevant and unnecessary when they were available and irrelevant and unnecessary when not. And there will be no mechanism to ensure they do not outlive the concern that created them, are not abused, and do not become a metastasizing cancer.

And this will be done by a prime minister who claims to so cherish civil liberty that he considered the long-form form census a violation of freedom so outrageous it had to be stamped out no matter what the cost to social science and sound policy.
- Jim Flaherty exhorts Canadian businesses to invest more in research. Because we know how seriously the business community takes Jim Flaherty's public appeals.

- And, for that matter, how seriously the corporate sector takes Canada's laws and standards. Just ask your friendly neighbourhood food importer.

- Finally, after a day of reports that he planned to endorse Brian Topp, Romeo Saganash has instead announced his candidacy in the NDP's leadership race.

Taking shape

With the NDP's leadership rules now set, let's take a look at how the race is shaping up. As best I can tell, the Mark's list of candidates looks to reflect the group most likely to enter the race, featuring Brian Topp, Thomas Mulcair, Niki Ashton, Peter Julian and Robert Chisholm. And if that proves to be the field, the result should be a highly competitive race with plenty of different paths to victory for various candidates.

To start with, I'm far from convinced that Topp's early media blitz has separated him from the pack. As the lone non-MP of the bunch, he likely saw some value in building name recognition before anybody else could get out of the gate, and he's certainly succeeded on that front. But I'm not sure there was ever any prospect that he'd develop an air of inevitability - meaning that there's still every reason for the other strong candidates to push ahead.

Meanwhile, Topp's entry into the race did put a stop to any talk that Thomas Mulcair could instead be the candidate to end the race before it effectively began. But it may actually have helped Mulcair's chances of coming out on top in a multi-candidate race.

After all, with Topp serving as the main focus of outside critics and intra-party concerns alike, the possibility of an "anybody but..." movement materializing around Mulcair looks to have evaporated. And that may have given Mulcair some valuable space to build his support network within Quebec and his profile outside it.

However, the potential candidate who looks to have gained the most from the emerging shape of the race is Niki Ashton. When there was talk of Romeo Saganash throwing his hat into the ring, I pointed out that Ashton had the most to lose if that happened. But the converse is also true - and barring an entry into the race by Nathan Cullen, the field couldn't have been designed to give Ashton a better chance of winning.

After all, in the field discussed above, Ashton would simultaneously be the lone female candidate, the lone rural/Northern candidate, the lone Prairie candidate, and the candidate best positioned to speak to younger and more activist members. And a coalition including all those components could propel Ashton toward the top of the list in a hurry.

Meanwhile, Peter Julian's candidacy already figured to be based in large part on suburban multicultural outreach. But the (unconfirmed) possibility that Rathika Sitabaiesan might assemble an outreach effort in Ontario to match Julian's base in B.C. - combined with his strong reputation as an advocate on equality and trade issues - gives him an obvious path toward the top of the ballot as well.

Finally, Robert Chisholm looks to be somewhat of a longshot in the above field. But he'd offer both an Atlantic option and another strong labour voice - and particularly given his extensive experience and strong reputation, it's not out of the question that he could win over enough members between now and March to find his way into the thick of the race.

All of which is to say that the leadership contest is shaping up largely as I'd hoped: with multiple strong candidates having the potential to reach out to diverse groups of supporters, and enough possible permutations of ballot choices that there's no reason for any candidate's supporters to try to turn the into the type of two-way personality battle that tends to create longer-term divions.

Of course, we don't yet have confirmation from any of the candidates other than Topp as to their intentions. But aside from a couple of niches (a GTA candidate, a second strong female and Quebec candidate), the field as it's shaping up looks like it should mostly cover the NDP's current bases while offering ample opportunity to reach out to new members. And that opportunity for growth during the race may be more important for the NDP's future than which of the strong contenders emerges as the party's leader by the end.

Update: Or maybe the shape of the race isn't quite so clear: after a day of reports that he'd be backing Topp, Saganash is in after all.

Leadership 2012: Rulebook Review

As promised, let's take a quick look through the NDP's official leadership rules. On the whole, the regulations don't look to particularly favour any one candidate - but they do include a few noteworthy twists which may help to shape the outcome.

The Soft Cap

The $500,000 spending cap has received plenty of attention as one of the race's ground rules. But there's one important exception: under section 7(d), the list of expenditures not counted under the cap includes "(a)ny expenses for fund-raising".

So what impact might that have on the race?

For one thing, it means that candidates who expect to spend to the cap will have a relative incentive to invest in fund-raising as compared to any other aspect of their campaign. So while membership recruitment and persuasion figure to take place more as volunteer operations, I'd expect to see the fund-raising side mostly handled professionally.

What's perhaps most interesting, though, is the prospect that a candidate could use extensive fund-raising as a means of carrying out more advertising and paid outreach than might otherwise be allowed.

I've pointed out before that a fund-raising campaign at the party level can have plenty of effects beyond raising money alone. And the incentives set up within the NDP's rules may go even further - encouraging not only fund-raising to the last incremental dollar, but fund-raising campaigns which merely break even. (Indeed, a candidate who already figures to have extra money in the bank might rationally choose to "fund-raise" at a loss in order to be able to spread his or her message through more paid channels.)

As to who stands to benefit from the rule, it's tough to say in advance which candidate will find the best strategy to take advantage of the fund-raising exception. But the big winner figures to be the party itself: not only will it recoup 15% of the funds raised as well as the surplus from any candidate who fund-raises more than he or she can spend during the leadership race, but it surely figures to build whatever creative strategies the candidates can develop into its long-term fund-raising plan.

Forum Selection

The NDP's ground rules specify that at least one leadership forum will be held in each of the five designated regions as part of a cross-Canada tour (section 11(d)), and that official leadership debate will start roughly 90 days before the convention (section 4(e)). But by specifying only that the tour will happen before "voting day", the rules leave open the question of whether the plan is to hold forums in each region before the February 18 membership cutoff - and I'd hope part of the planning will involve ensuring that each region gets to hear from the registered candidates before it's too late to sign up new members.

Mind the Gap

One of the effects of a leadership vote held relatively early in the year is that it raises questions as to how to handle what may be a large number of yearly memberships which expire in the middle of the race. And the regulations issued so far only point out the issue rather than answering it.

Instead, under section 15(a) it falls to the Chief Electoral Officer to determine whether or not members who lapse at the 2011 year-end will be entitled to vote. And while there's some obvious potential for debate among the candidates as to which path to follow depending on their relative reliance on existing and new memberships, I'd think it's especially important to see a final decision on that point in time to allow candidates to plan their member recruitment strategies.

[Edit: fixed link.]

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Thursday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your afternoon reading.

- Andrew Potter comments on Samara's most recent findings about federal politicians in Canada:
Samara’s findings underscore the profound amateurism that permeates our national politics. When the vast majority of members of Parliament, upon leaving office, feel obliged to insist that well, they never really wanted to be a politician in the first place, that only reinforces the broad cynicism that many people feel toward public life. After all, if our members of Parliament don’t take their jobs all that seriously, why should anyone else?

To amplify that point a bit, it raises the question of who is ultimately responsible for the health of Canada’s democracy. Institutions are not buildings, they are sets of norms and procedures designed to achieve certain goals, and being “institutionalized” simply means that you accept those norms and are committed to keeping them healthy. Parliament’s central function is to enable representative self-government, which in our system involves working within and through institutional structures that are centuries old.

But the cult of the outsider that Samara has discovered among departing parliamentarians suggests that a large number of MPs see themselves as just too cool for school. One of the most belaboured themes of Canadian public discourse is that our political system is dysfunctional. If that is true, maybe it is because they people we send to Ottawa didn’t bother thinking about why they were going there in the first place.
Meanwhile, it's also worth noting that much of the breakdown in institutional norms in Ottawa (with the Cons in particular exercising constant central control in pushing the envelope for their own purposes at every opportunity regardless of what custom, logic or human decency might dictate) would figure to be exacerbated by a set of MPs who themselves don't see any particular value in the system that's being unwound.

- Speaking of which, the Cons' legislation which was supposed to reduce partisanship in federal hiring turns out only to have made matters worse.

- Aaron Wherry nicely skewers a few of his fellow journalists for trying to conjure up in-fighting within the NDP. My money's on this becoming the next example.

- Doug Saunders is right to note that Belgium's test case in a country functioning without an effective government should give pause to the. But let's note that while recognizing the flaws in libertarian rhetoric, he seems far too willing to accept their trope that the only purpose of a governing coalition would be to engage in austerity and public benefit cuts.

- Finally, the NDP leadership rules have been unveiled here (PDF). Naturally, I'll have more to discuss about those in a future post.

On public goods

New Brunswick's PC government is the latest to launch an all-out attack on public pensions. And the usual reasons look to apply, with the official press release hinting at a combination of eagerness to foment resentment against the civil service in order to ensure that benefits can be slashed to the lowest common denominator, and a desire to allow the financial sector to take a greater cut of citizens' retirement savings.

But the news also offers a nice opportunity to put forward another theory as to the effect of institutional pension investors - which might serve as another important reason why they're under a constant assault from the corporatist right.

After all, public pension funds - particularly those with a local base of operations - provide a reliable source of capital eager to take up the best opportunities available within their home province. Which means that they serve as a formidable counterweight to any threat of a capital strike: to the extent the corporate sector tries to punish a government for being insufficiently compliant with its demands by pulling out its investment in otherwise viable projects, pension funds can both offer an alternative flow of funds, and reap the rewards from abandoned business investments.

So might part of the goal of undermining public pensions be to make sure that private investors face far less risk in dictating policies to governments under threat of gratuitous punishment?

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Dan Gardner makes the case (with which I wholeheartedly agree) as to the importance of making thoughtful decisions at the best of times:
If there is one lesson we must learn from 9/11 and the decade that followed it is that the future will not unfold as expected, which is why the choices politicians and voters make when times are good are every bit as important as when things go to hell. Perhaps more so.

That's something few of us understood in 2000. I certainly didn't.
...
(T)he campaign of 2000 was about an urgent question: Would Americans use their good fortune to prepare for future downturns, shocks, and disasters?

That's what Gore's plan would have done. His "lockbox" would prepare for the predictable challenge of population aging, while paying down debt would ensure that the United States would always have the fiscal strength to respond to unpredictable emergencies.

But Gore did not become president. And the United States did not use the good times to prepare for the bad.

This lesson isn't needed now, in this era of deficits and stagnation. But, with a little luck, this time will pass. One day we may once again wonder what to do with our surpluses and abundant good fortune.

I hope we remember.
- Meanwhile, Paul Krugman points out that even before the U.S. hit an official recession, a decade of corporatist policies had resulted in declining standards of living for a substantial portion of its population.

- Frances Russell points out the lack of any coherent ethics behind the push for "ethical oil".

- But lest we assume we can't do anything about our current dependence on non-renewable resources, Margaret Munro points out the massive potential to develop geothermal energy in Canada - at least, it if received even a fraction of the funding and attention lavished on the oil industry.

- But it seems it'll take a few more attention-grabbing devices to get us pointed in anything approaching the right direction. And a few more exposes on the dishonesty of the oil lobby couldn't hurt either.

New column day

Here, on what the Keystone XL pipeline debate started by Peter Lougheed means for Saskatchewan in managing its own natural resources.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

On comparative advantages

At least a few Canadian commentators have looked to Australia's process for selecting party leaders - with the party caucus rather than its membership making the choice - as a model which we should emulate. Which makes it noteworthy that it's Bruce Hawker of Australia's Labor Party making a compelling case as to why we already have the better of the possibilities:
(I)n a system where the rank and file selects the parliamentary leader the power of factions is dramatically reduced. Talent is rewarded over blind loyalty and ability cannot be supplanted by decisions of entrenched interests. Most importantly, any move to replace the leader requires rank-and-file approval. That certainly could have made recent Australian political history quite different.

In 2003, when (Jack) Layton won the NDP leadership, he did so in the face of opposition from his parliamentary caucus and the affiliated unions. He won it through rank-and-file support after a protracted engagement with and involvement by the party's rank-and-file membership. In the following years he transformed his party, united his parliamentary team and won the respect of a nation.

All this is real food for thought. The Labor Party has to grow if it is to attract the best talents. However, it will only do so if its membership feels a real sense of ownership and involvement.

Labor's membership has been in decline for years and compares poorly with the NDP, whose members may soon number about 100,000.

Reducing the influence of faction leaders and union secretaries would mean turning the ALP's present modus operandi on its head. However, Labor's popular vote sits at below 30 per cent for the first time in living memory.

Opening Labor's leadership ballots to all its members is surely an idea whose time has come.

Refreshing

No, there's nothing particularly surprising in the NDP strategy reported by Laura Payton. But isn't a pleasant change that the official opposition actually has such a thing?

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- For those with a few months to kill between now and next March, now may be the time to direct a browser tab toward Alice's NDP leadership site and start hitting "refresh".

- The Conference Board of Canada is once again warning about rising inequality, this time pointing out that income disparity is rising even faster in Canada than in the United States. Somewhere, Jim Flaherty is high-fiving Stephen Harper.

- Which is part of the reason why there's a need for a true party of labour - which Duncan Cameron rightly identifies as the NDP's niche.

- Finally, Nova Scotia Finance Minister Graham Steele concisely describes the Fraser Institute's economic analysis. And Jim Stanford and Erin Weir find similar levels of credibility from Ontario's PCs and Libs, respectively.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Cat jesters.




On wedges

Greg offers up an important response to the Cons' initial line of attack on Brian Topp. But let's also note how the latest barrage fits into the Cons' broader strategy in taking on the NDP.

Remember what happened as part of the silly season of summer, when the Cons joined the Libs in trying to slam Nycole Turmel and the NDP for even the slightest perceived connection to the sovereigntist movement. After it became clear that the media wasn't about to give either of the other parties a pass on their own links to the Bloc, the Cons and their apologists came up with another position: that past involvement in the Bloc and PQ were just fine, but that Turmel and the NDP should be uniquely condemned for their links to the left-wing values of Quebec Solidaire. Which should offer a rather compelling signal that the issue was never sovereigntism, but instead an effort to prevent the NDP from daring to associate with the activists who would naturally form crucial parts of its base.

Similarly, the attack on Topp looks to be calculated less at the man than at the principle of trying to drive a wedge between the NDP and the labour base - which is even more essential to the NDP's work to build a national movement. And the right response for Topp and the rest of the leadership candidates alike is to point out the importance of bringing people together, rather than allowing the spin to push the NDP and its core constituencies apart.

On nuclear testing

One of the obvious questions facing Saskatchewan voters in the lead up to this fall's election is that of how much credit (if any) Brad Wall and his government should be able to claim for economic gains based mostly on favourable resource prices. So let's take a look at a couple of ways of testing whether the Sask Party has had anything at all to do with Saskatchewan's success.

For now, let's consider how Wall has done when it comes to the single industry that his government has made its top priority from day one.

In its 2007 platform, the Sask Party singled out uranium development as its most-touted industry. It followed that up by paying $3 million to have the sector develop a wish list as to how the province could hand it money and resources. And after public consultations pointed out plenty of concerns with those plans, it extended a middle finger to the citizens who disagreed with the push for nuclear development.

So has that willingness to ignore public opinion in favour of what business wants translated into economic gains?

Well, uranium exploration and development...is down by half from the level it reached under the NDP (and in the final year before the Sask Party's Uranium Development Partnership started defining the industry's future).

The Sask Party was reluctantly forced to put off nuclear power for now - though I'm sure we can count on a second term seeing some effort to dust off Bruce Power's proposal to contract out another chunk of Saskatchewan's power needs. And its efforts to lobby the Harper Cons for an isotope reactor were soundly rejected.

So after four years under Brad Wall's watch, the industry he singled out for its private-sector growth potential has seen somewhere between zero and negative progress - at least other than a smattering of publicly-funded research projects.

Which should make it glaringly clear that what's going right for Saskatchewan at the moment has precious little to do with anything the Sask Party has done.

Update: See also (via Jaime Garcia).

Tuesday Morning 'Rider Blogging

Yes, there's once again plenty to like about the 'Riders' performance in sweeping the home-and-home series against what had been the CFL's top team. But let's note that there's still some obvious room for improvement in the offence which is winning so many accolades under Darian Durant's play-calling.

After all, Durant's completion percentage has actually been significantly lower in the past two games than in the previous few - falling to just over 50% on Sunday (at 14 for 27). And in keeping with the frequent incompletions, the 'Riders managed only one series over 59 yards (and that thanks to a fake field goal which extended the drive to end the first half).

Fortunately, the 'Riders didn't need to get any further than that through much of the game. And the credit goes to about the best combined performance on defence and special teams that the team could possibly hope for. Tristan Jackson set the offence up for plenty of points early with a couple of huge punt returns, and the defence (thanks in large part to a breakout performance by Craig Butler) went from playing an effective bend-don't-break style in the first half to completely controlling the second half.

That said, it's worth noting that the style that worked so well for the 'Riders on Sunday may not be as effective against some other teams. The strategy of jumping passes that worked so well against the Bombers' off-target passing attack doesn't figure to produce quite the same results against a Calvillo or a Burris, while an offence which relied almost entirely on outbursts of two or three big plays to score points may be vulnerable against a defence that does a better job of limiting what's available downfield.

But it's still a huge plus to be able to talk about what the 'Riders can do to build on their success, rather than wondering whether they'd find a way to beat anybody at all. And if Durant can mix some of the elements of Doug Berry's offence in with the quick-strike attack he deployed against Winnipeg, then the 'Riders' playbook may not be the only parallel to 2007.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The great consumer sellout

Michael Geist raises a good point about the lack of discussion of digital issues in Ontario's provincial election. But it's worth wondering whether Canada's Western provinces are even able to have the debate which Geist rightly sees as vital:
Copyright is also a federal matter, but if the government moves forward with the digital lock rules discussed in the recently uncovered Wikileaks cables, the provincial governments should consider the significant consumer protection issues that are likely to follow.

Most consumers know little if anything about digital locks and the limitations that may be placed on consumer entertainment products such as CDs, DVDs, video games, or ebooks. For many consumers, these digitally locked products are simply not fit for purpose - they may not play on their DVD player or permit usage that most would expect is permissible. Moreover, consumers frequently can’t obtain a refund for their purchases as many retailers won’t accept returns on opened CDs and DVDs and digital download services do not offer refunds to disgruntled downloaders. Other countries have established specific consumer protections on digital lock use and it falls to the Canadian provinces to do the same.
So how might Western Canada be limited in what it can do if that exact issue arises? Let's take a spin in the wayback machine for a reminder as to what B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan have signed onto in the form of the TILMA (if by another name in Saskatchewan's case):
Parties shall not establish new standards or regulations that operate to restrict or impair trade, investment or labour mobility.
With that blanket prohibition in mind, let's look at regulating digital locks as a case study as to the kind of regulatory authority the provinces have signed away.

After all, there can't be much doubt that any provincial legislation which creates consumer protections by limiting the use of digital locks would have a direct effect on trade by limiting the ability of media distributors to sell their product in the same form in different provinces. Which means that any such law passed in any of the Western provinces will be deemed presumptively illegitimate under the TILMA - subject to justification only if a particular law is ruled to do as little as possible to affect the interests of the corporations involved.

In other words, never mind striking a balance between the rights of consumers and the interests of big media. Thanks to the anti-government agreement entered into by the three westernmost provinces, we can count on consumers being protected by either nothing at all, or the bare minimum which big business is prepared to accept.

So if Ontario has reason to be concerned about the lack of discussion about consumer protections now, it can at least take heart in that it hasn't yet committed never to have that debate in the future. And voters there and elsewhere may want to make sure not to elect a government which will want to change that.

[Edit: fixed wording.]

Monday Afternoon Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Simon Enoch rightly criticizes the Cons' fair-weather commitment to democracy in the wake of a fairly resounding vote on the part of Canadian Wheat Board members to preserve the institution and its single-desk status against the Cons' attacks. But let's note another ridiculous side to the Cons' position: they're now rejecting the results of a vote which actually offered a clear and direct choice, after choosing to trumpet the manipulated results of a far more questionable voting process as justifying their determination to destroy the CWB.

- Kai Nagata joins up with the Tyee, and makes a splash with his first warning about Quebecor's dominance of Quebec's media scene.

- Chantal Hebert points out how the Libs' willingness to play along with security-state rhetoric in their later years in government helped to lead to their subsequent electoral downfall:
The see-no-evil/hear-no-evil rules on detainee transfers from the Canadian Forces to the Afghan authorities that opened the door to abuse at the hands of local jailers were ratified by a Liberal government.

The decision to support the jailing of 15-year-old Omar Khadr in Guantanamo and the illegal CSIS interrogations that followed took place on the Liberal watch.

Chr├ętien was in power when Canadian engineer Maher Arar was taken off a plane in the United States and subsequently deported to torture chambers in Syria.

It was successive Liberal governments that initially refused to allow Abousfian Abdelrazik to return home from Sudan in 2003 — an exile forced on a Canadian citizen that was to last six years.

The Liberals were in power only for the first half of the past decade but they very much shaped post 9/11 Canada as we now know it.

In so doing they also (accidentally) set in motion a major realignment of the federal landscape,

The change in the channels triggered by the events of 9/11 provided conservatives of all partisan stripes with fresh common ground — distanced from the disputed terrain of the recent past — on which to focus.

It also brought a harder-edged Conservative leadership within the redefined mainstream of Canadian politics.

More importantly, the post 9/11 symbiosis between the Liberals and the Conservatives allowed the NDP and its contrary voice to become relevant again.
...
Conventional wisdom notwithstanding, the events of 9/11 did not so much pave the way to a more conservative Canada as open the door to a more polarized and less Liberal country.
- Finally, Paul Wells discusses how the Cons' current decision-making core reflects the diversity that is Canada's pool of single white males.

Out of the starting blocks

Needless to say, the endorsements of Ed Broadbent and Francoise Boivin have made Brian Topp's leadership campaign launch a bit more of a splash than might have been expected.

But for those looking to declare the race over before it begins, let's remember that there's a huge difference between winning endorsements and earning the votes of members. And while Topp has nicely carved out a niche as the candidate of the Layton inner circle, Topp will have plenty of work to do in building his own public profile in order to reach the actual and potential members who will ultimately vote for the party's next leader.

Burning question

The Hill Times rightly notes that the Cons' strategy against the NDP has involved taking every opportunity to attack both unions in general, and any form of association between labour and the NDP. But leaving aside the fact that the labour movement can actually respond directly in a way no Lib supporters would against the Cons' past attack strategy, has Harper's braintrust really thought through the question of whether Canadians are likely to buy the message?

Leadership 2012: Group Decisions

This week figures to see the first official entries into the NDP's leadership race. But it's well worth noting some of the work being done behind the scenes - whether by the candidates themselves or not - to test the grassroots support for possible leadership contenders.

In particular, groups or pages have been set up on Facebook for a number of oft-mooted candidates. And for those interested in showing their support, here's where to do so for...
Niki Ashton
Robert Chisholm
Nathan Cullen
Megan Leslie
Pat Martin
Romeo Saganash

(Of course, suggestions as to any I've missed are always appreciated.)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Leadership 2012: The Week In Quotes

A few quotes worth noting from both candidates and non-candidates alike - feel free to suggest more in comments.

Thomas Mulcair on his considerations in deciding whether to run:
There's an old saying that before you take the plunge, you have to make sure there's enough water in the pool, and it's filling up nicely. We've got a lot of support, of course, amongst our Quebec caucus. And now we're working very hard to get that type of support in the rest of Canada before coming to any final decision.
Brian Topp on what the NDP needs to plan for during the leadership race and beyond:
Mr. Topp said the party’s next leader must focus on “bulking up” the party to ensure it wins a majority of seats in the next election and building a plan for its first mandate.

“We must not repeat, for example, the mistakes of Bob Rae, who was elected in the early 1990s and it turned out with a distressingly vague notion of what he was going to do in office,” he said of the interim Liberal leader who served as Ontario’s first NDP premier.

“We have to carefully think through what we would do with our first mandate. We need to be seen to be doing so and once elected, we need to have an excellent first term if we want to continue to be contenders for office.”
Paul Dewar on the means of building the NDP over the next four years:
It's very simple. It's a lot of work but it's simple analysis. Keep what we have in Quebec and grow outside of Quebec. That requires being able to go and connect with people who are looking at us now very seriously. And say, 'Are you in line with the priorities of everyday people?,' and show that you are.
Paul Moist shutting down media speculation about whether a choice not to implement a weighted voting system would be seen as distancing the NDP from organized labour:
Moist then said that media commentators have gone beyond talking about the weighted voting system and framed the question as “whether a modern NDP can afford the relationship with labour” at all, a discussion he dismissed as “playing the ‘union bogeyman’ card”.

“The pundits, the editorial writers and indeed the candidates-in-waiting are all, quite simply put, wrong,” wrote Moist. “There is no issue over this question.”"
And finally, Charlie Angus commenting on his reasons for not running:
The process of choosing a replacement for Jack Layton will come during our first term as official opposition. Canadians are looking to us to continue our work of holding the Stephen Harper government to account. We are facing the most militant and divisive government in Canadian history. They have no intention of giving us time to grieve or rebuild. We will need experienced MPs willing to take the fight to the right wing agenda. This will free up other MPs to participate in the leadership race.

To this end, I have pledged my full support to interim leader Nycole Turmel and her team to play whatever role is needed to support the caucus through this upcoming session of Parliament.
[Edit: fixed typo.]

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your weekend reading.

- As I'd suspected, the Cons are making clear that the kind of behaviour that would get any mere civil servant fired on the spot will be treated as entirely unobjectionable in a parliamentary secretary like Bob Dechert.

- Meanwhile, it shouldn't come as much surprise that the massive cost of losing access to Camp Mirage was obvious long before the story reached the public. Nor that the Cons will keep pretending they never could have foreseen the result no matter how clear the paper trail to the contrary.

- Frances Woolley points out the moral hazards involved in pension funding - while also recognizing that the dangers are lower in publicly-administered plans than in schemes which count on individuals to monitor exactly the advisers they've hired for their greater expertise.

- Finally, as BigCityLib points out, both Karen Kleiss and Geoff Dembicki have started to dig into the Ethical Oil Institute. But I'd think the most interesting part of the astroturfing effort is the belief that it can be turned into something more:
Velshi has since staunchly maintained his independence, telling the Globe and Mail he "won't take money from any foreign corporations, any governments." (Though he did admit in the same interview he wouldn't refuse money from a Canadian company).

At the same time, he's pleaded with ordinary Canadians to donate to his cause.

"We rely on small donors like you to sustain our grassroots advocacy," reads the EthicalOil.org website. "Please consider making a $5, $10, or $15 donation."
That's right: well-connected political insiders are asking for grassroots donations to fund PR for an industry that's already making billions on its own. Which figures to be at most a drop in the bucket for the money that will be spent promoting the tar sands - but figures to be more useful to getting donors to think they've done something socially useful while actually helping the same multinationals who profit from exactly the same human rights abuses presented by the Cons' allies as demanding action.