Saturday, September 03, 2011

Burning question

Sure, it's been fairly obvious that the Harper Cons have spent their time in office asking the world to think less of Canada. But did anybody suspect them to have done so quite this literally?

On inexplicable delays

Yes, the positive media response signals how important the impending debate over the NDP's Bright Futures Fund proposal figures to be in the lead-up to Saskatchewan's November election. But the even more significant bit of fallout looks to be part of Bill Boyd's panicked response which has less to do with the fund than its source of revenue:
A review of resource revenues would “make some sense” after the incentives in place to grow the mining industry wind down in 2014 or 2015, Boyd said.
Keep in mind that to date, the Sask Party's usual position has been that any review of resource royalties to make sure Saskatchewan's citizens receive a fair price for their shared resources would be absolutely intolerable at any time and under any circumstances. Which is at least a logically coherent position, if not likely to be a popular one.

But in his response to the NDP's proposal for a resource revenue fund, Boyd has effectively given the game away on royalty rates as well.

After all, it surely can't escape notice that the royalty rates applied over the next few years - before any new development is actually finished - have nothing at all to do with incentives to promote that development. In fact, any argument actually based on certainty for new investments would work in the opposite direction: better to review royalties now and set up a structure that will last in the longer term, rather than opening up a window for some future review which would affect new projects just as they begin production.

Meanwhile, the obvious beneficiaries in the absence of a royalty review are...resource extractors who have existing operations that don't require further investment. After all, they can take advantage of what are generally acknowledged to be unduly low rates by seeking to extract as much as possible over the next few years and skim off the profits - without any reason to think that the temporary windfall will result in any additional development whatsoever.

So the difference between the NDP and the Sask Party on a royalty review is now merely whether one should be carried out 8 years after the previous one or 11 years afterward - when there's nothing even faintly approaching a reasonable economic argument for the latter.

In effect, Boyd is declaring on behalf of the Wall government that the province needs to put up with three or four more years of handing hundreds of millions of dollars in undeserved free money to his party's corporate benefactors - while simultaneously arguing that the prospect of a review when the Saskatchewan Party deigns to get around to it won't affect investment which will be subject entirely to the new rates. And the combination of abandonment of principle and glaringly flawed logic in the Sask Party's new position should do nothing but help the NDP make the case for an immediate royalty rate review as a matter of fairness to Saskatchewan's residents.

[Edit: fixed wording.]

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Canada's Prime Minister is openly advocating for the use of soldiers over mere books or arguments as a means of persuasion. Which of course means it's time to start making jokes about Thomas Mulcair.

- Speaking of whom, Mulcair's much-discussed comments also include one point which should speak nicely to the NDP's goal of continuing to build across Canada rather than looking for shortcuts:
Mulcair says he appreciates what Martin is saying, but he won't support a merger.

"He's doing a great job of putting an important idea out there, but I'm categorical," he said. "The reason we did so well in Quebec in particular, is the fact that we aren't the Liberals."
- Deep Climate posts a superb expose of the Ethical Oil Institute. [Update: And see also James Laxer on the myth that it's possible to build a sustainable economy primarily on volatile resource industries.]

- Finally, remember back when any comparisons between Jack Layton and Barack Obama were met with haughty dismissals to the effect that Layton could never match Obama's appeal? Just wondering.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Musical interlude

Haley v. Deadmau5 - Falling In Love With Brazil (Kaskade Mashup)

On common strategies

Paul Krugman calls out the U.S.' Republican Party for holding the country hostage until its demands are met. Lucky our own right-wingers are so much more reasonable.

On advance reservations

Romeo Saganash's expression of interest in the NDP's leadership figures to give him some extra time and attention in the leadership race to make up for his late arrival within the party (which again strikes me as his biggest obstacle). But let's note as well that while a few other MPs have expressed some interest in seeking the leadership, Saganash's is the first announcement that figures to have substantial repercussions for other possible contestants.

For one, it's hard to see how the race would have room for two candidates with largely northern rural bases. So if Saganash follows through, that would limit the prospects for Niki Ashton in particular - and to some extent the NDP's northern Ontario MPs as well.

Meanwhile, one of the possibilities for a big name from outside the NDP's current caucus has focused on aboriginal leaders such as Lewis Cardinal. But there too, Saganash's entry figures to limit the amount of support up for grabs.

Of course, Saganash's interest is explicitly subject to the rules developed by the party over the next week. But his may be the first candidacy to start significantly closing off the possibilities - and I'll be curious to see how many more contestants decide to follow suit among other target groups.

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Carol Goar asks whether the Harper Cons learned anything whatsoever from a recession which they first deemed impossible, then minimized before acting only under political duress:
We have less manoeuvring room today than we did three years ago. Our budget is $30 billion in deficit, our employment insurance account has a $10.4 billion shortfall and we have the highest level of household debt in our history.

If Canada falls back into a recession — or if we’re already in one that hasn’t shown up in the statistics — millions of families will have no cushion.

It didn’t have to be this way. Our government had the time, had the money (it poured $39.9 billion into economic stimulus) and had the incentive to tackle these problems. Yet it brushed off calls from business, labour, the opposition parties and the unemployed to fix Canada’s broken economic stabilizers.
But sadly, the answer was already an emphatic "no" - and the EI system is only one of the many ways in which the Cons seem more interested in shredding safety nets than strengthening them.

- Andrew Coyne nicely sums up Jack Layton's last election campaign:
Much of the preposterousness of politics stems from the participants’ lunatic enlargement of the stakes, the “this is war” mentality with which they justify to themselves each appalling act. How childish these games must seem, when you are fighting for your life.

In (Layton's) last campaign, it all seemed to merge: the message of concern for the less fortunate, his personal bravery in the face of his own misfortune, the courtly, happy-warrior tone—in some ways a traditional protest campaign, but without a hint of anger. The whole was combined in the image of that cane: symbol of frailty, brandished in cheerful defiance.

Well, is that so unusual? All over this country there are thousands of people confronting cancer in their own lives, with no less courage or dignity. Layton was an admirable but not extraordinary man in life: is his death any more extraordinary? Only in this respect: that he was required to act it out on the public stage. We watched, like the ancients, and learned what it is to be a man.
- And John Geddes writes about the real Jack:
If he was a born politician, Layton didn’t rely solely on instinct. He prepared. It was Ignatieff who risked many unscripted outings during the last election—and failed miserably. Layton, like Harper, stuck mostly to reading speeches from a teleprompter at well-orchestrated rallies. His signature moments were not improvised. “Bon Jack” didn’t just happen to be in a Montreal sports bar, raising a beer mug to the cameras, for the first game of the Canadiens’ Stanley Cup playoff run—a turning point in the NDP’s Quebec campaign. “Every trick in the book about getting media,” former deputy leader of the Ontario NDP Marilyn Churley once said, “I learned from Jack Layton.”

Layton’s canny, self-conscious side must be reconciled now with the frequently expressed public sentiment that he was the rare, genuine article. The two perspectives aren’t really contradictory. Layton had been smiling and campaigning for one cause or another since boyhood. That was him. He didn’t have to reinvent himself for politics. In that respect, even when he was reading a stump speech for the 20th time, or hitting his marks for a staged photo-op, Canadians were seeing the real man.
- Finally, Frances Woolley considers the difficulties facing economists who start considering actual human behaviour as reason to challenge the assumption of perfectly rational and informed decision-making that underpins standard economic theory.

Friday Morning 'Rider Blogging

There hasn't been much news out of the 'Riders' camp this week. But let's note one point where there's little reason for optimism out of the team's coaching change.

While Greg Marshall's firing seems to have been based more on poor results than any obvious problem in the process leading to the Saskatchewan Roughriders' record, there was one move which smacked of desperation in Marshall's final game. The 'Riders' defence has generally been effective except for its weakness in forcing turnovers - meaning that the team should have every reason to want to emphasize the ball-hawking skills of its interceptions leader and reigning nominee for Outstanding Defensive Player.

But for some obscure reason, Marshall's last game saw James Patrick moved to a linebacker position where he has to spend more time covering receivers one-on-one and tackling running backs, while rookie Craig Butler (known more for hitting than picking off passes) took his place at the position on the field that allows for the most roaming in coverage. And no, the move can't be explained as an import ratio maneuver - since an arrangement swapping the two positions would result in the same ratio while better emphasizing the skills of both players.

Unfortunately, judging from the fact that the 'Riders apparently plan on keeping that arrangement up under Ken Miller, it looks like Marshall may not have been the one to make the call after all. And the 'Riders' tough road to the playoffs only looks to be all the more difficult if they keep minimizing the talents of their key skill players.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

On bright futures

In this morning's column, I pointed out how the Wall government's focus on short-term electioneering and rule-tweaking betrays its insecurity over November's election. And the Sask Party will have all the more reason for concern in the wake of the NDP's official Bright Futures Fund announcement.

Not that it's much surprise that the NDP would announce an idea that's been in the works since its policy convention. But the more voters think and talk about the choice between gratuitously shovelling the province's resources into the hands of foreign investors and saving a fair share for Saskatchewan's long-term well-being, the tougher the Saskatchewan Party's road figures to be.

Leadership 2012: The Playing Field

With the NDP set to discuss the rules for its upcoming leadership campaign, let's take a quick look at a few of the basic issues involved, along with the answers which I'd think would best serve the goal of developing into a sustainable progressive governing party.


At the moment, there seems to be plenty of work being done to divine the intentions in Jack Layton's final public letter suggesting a similar time frame to that used the 2003 race. But I'd think the most important proposal is the one being mooted by Raoul Gebert.

Simply put, the race should be set up to provide as much time as possible for membership sales - both to permit candidates based in growth regions for the party plenty of time to bring in new members, and to ensure as much public attention for the race as possible before the cutoff date. And as long as the race allows for that, it shouldn't make too much difference whether a convention is held in late January (based on the 2003 date) or in the spring (based on the length of the 2003 campaign).


With stories circulating about how several of the Libs' 2006 leadership contenders still have plenty of leadership campaign debt left to repay, the NDP will want to make sure not to saddle itself with the same type of long-term trouble. But fortunately, there would seem to be a couple of relatively simple ways to avoid the problem.

For one, the entry fee should be set at a level which will ensure a manageable number of candidates. Which isn't to say that I'd back Ian Capstick's "extraordinarily high" proposal (though it's not clear whether the proposed million dollars refers to the entry fee or overall fund-raising), but at the very least a candidate should be able to raise a six-figure entry fee as the minimum standard to enter the race.

Once a candidate meets that standard, though, the ground rules should serve to encourage volunteer organization and innovative recruitment methods, rather than allowing fund-raising alone to play an unduly large part in limiting the range of choices. So my inclination would be to see spending limited to something close to the half-million dollar limit applied in 2003. In addition to levelling the playing field, that would have the side benefit of limiting the amount of debt the candidates accumulate, allowing the party to focus on its own fund-raising in the years to come rather than having to funnel donations toward a past leadership race.


There's been plenty of talk of set-asides - either for affiliated groups as in 2003, or for Quebec MPs or members based on their new strength within the party. But as far as I'm concerned, one of the very purposes of the leadership race is to build a base for future growth by determining which groups have the strongest interest in the NDP's future (as measured by their ability to sign up members).

So my initial inclination would be toward a pure OMOV system with no set-asides. And as long as the candidates are onside with the timelines and rules for membership sales, there shouldn't be any excuses for any group which sees itself as lacking representation at the convention.

[Edit: fixed wording.]

New column day

Here, on how the Saskatchewan Party's actions speak far louder than the pundits' words as to whether or not there's a real chance for change in the November election.

For further reading:
- James Wood has nicely covered the Sask Party's anti-whistleblower legislation and its attack on First Nations voters.
- Murray Mandryk noted the political games involved in the Sask Party's North Battleford hospital announcement - particularly to the real funding and non-election timing of the NDP's previous plans which were axed by Wall after he took power.
- And naturally, similar questions have to be asked about the Sask Party's Moose Jaw hospital announcement.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Leadership 2012: Ten More Candidates For The Road

Following up on my earlier post, let's add a few more possible NDP leadership candidates to the mix based on suggestions (here and elsewhere) as well as media reports on the race.

Pat Martin

I'd left him off my earlier list despite his long service as an MP based on the lack of any obvious rationale for his possible candidacy. Now that he's proposing to run as the pro-merger candidate, that problem figures to disappear - but while I do see it as a potential plus to discuss the issue, I'm far from convinced that it's a winner in the leadership race.
Target groups: Rural voters
Issues: Merger with the Liberals, good government

Anne-Marie Day

If Boivin elects not to run, Day's experience as a women's issues advocate may make for a worthy alternative choice among the NDP's new female Quebec caucus. But she'll have lots of work to do in building up a national profile.
Target groups: Quebeckers, labour
Issues: Poverty/inequality, women's issues

David Miller

Like Peggy Nash, a potentially strong GTA candidate on paper, but one who figures to have difficulty gaining traction if Olivia Chow makes a run. And he may also face some resistance within the party after letting his membership lapse. I wouldn't expect Miller to jump into the race quickly, but he might be a candidate to get drafted later if the initial field starts slowly.
Target groups: Professionals
Issues: Good government, poverty/inequality

Anne McGrath

A very similar profile to Brian Topp, and I take the fact that Topp has opened the door to a run as meaning that the other members of Layton's non-parliamentary inner circle won't be pursuing the job. But McGrath has performed ably in public roles over the past few years, and could well slide into the role of successor to Layton if Topp and Chow take a pass.
Target groups: Labour
Issues: Women's issues, good government

Stephen Lewis

Beloved, respected, a powerful public speaker with loads of political experience. But Lewis will turn 78 shortly after the 2015 election, which is why I'd see the next generation as the better option if the NDP is to elect another leader from its best-known dynasty.
Target groups: Young voters, professionals
Issues: Poverty/inequality, human rights

Gregor Robertson

Another high-profile outside candidate with some obvious strengths should he choose to run. But Robertson is demurring at this point, and might not have the national profile to emerge from the pack if he enters the race late.
Target groups: Young voters, ethnic communities
Issues: Economic development, environment

Carol Hughes

As a bilingual rural MP with a labour background, Hughes could serve as a bridge between many of the groups the NDP needs to bring together. It remains to be seen whether she'd be able to inspire party members to rally behind her, but the leadership race may make for an ideal opportunity to find out.
Target groups: Rural voters, labour
Issues: Poverty/inequality, human rights

Alexandre Boulerice

By all accounts one of the stars in the NDP's new set of Quebec MPs based on both his communication skills and progressive background. He'd face plenty of questions about his past support for Quebec independence - but considering that the NDP will face (and indeed is facing) those questions anyway, a strong answer during the course of a leadership run could do wonders for both Boulerice's profile and the party as a whole.
Target groups: Quebeckers, labour
Issues: Poverty/inequality, good government

Guy Caron

The NDP's Quebec caucus chair doesn't seem inclined to run. But he'd bring loads of experience organizing activists based on his work with the Council of Canadians, and would make for another choice to build long-term links between the NDP and Quebec's labour movement.
Target groups: Quebeckers, labour
Issues: Poverty/inequality, health care

Jean Crowder

A veteran and well-respected MP who has held plenty of key critic roles in the past. I'm not sure whether language would be an issue, but if not then Crowder's main obstacle looks to be building up as strong an impression with the NDP's wider membership as she has with those who have worked closely with her.
Target groups: First Nations, labour
Issues: Health care, poverty/inequality

Deep thought

Somehow, I'm sure this proves that the NDP can't hope to hold its public support now that Jack Layton isn't around to lead it into the next election.

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Since I haven't yet mentioned the September 9 federal council meeting which will set the rules for the NDP's 2012 leadership race, let's point it out now. Needless to say, now figures to be the time to discuss the best possible time frame and voting process - while candidates will need to be ready to announce or bow out shortly after the rules are set.

- Meanwhile, the Wikipedia page for the leadership race looks to be a useful resource - even if it contains a bit of superfluous information on candidates who look highly unlikely to run.

- Farron Cousins takes on the corporate right's constant bluster about "job-killing regulations" by pointing out the actual effect of regulatory standards.

- Finally, David MacDonald and Erika Shaker document how soaring tuition fees have made post-secondary education less accessible.

Sad Answers to Rhetorical Questions

Who in the world could possibly be craven enough to fight for the tobacco lobby and against healthier food when public health is at stake?

Stephen Harper's Conservative government, that's who.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Tunnel cats.

Strength in diversity

I'll deal in more detail with the prospect of Pat Martin running for the NDP's leadership as a pro-merger candidate. But before getting into its ultimate significance, let's note how the media's coverage distorts what Martin's trial balloon actually figures to mean.

No, the prospect of different views being represented in a leadership campaign - on the possibility of merger or other issues - isn't a threat to party unity. Instead, it's exactly what any party should want in ensuring that different ideas are fully debated among its membership and disparate points of view are represented in deciding on its future direction. And whether or not Martin or another candidate gains any traction from the idea, the NDP should be stronger for its being one of many subjects of discussion in advance of a leadership convention.

Facts not in evidence

I suppose it shouldn't come as much surprise that some Libs are now suggesting they'd prefer torching every existing progressive political structure in Canada to working with the NDP in its current form. But let's ask whether there's any truth to the premise behind the proposal to start from scratch - i.e. that we'd be better off starting with a new brand rather than building on any of them that currently exist.

Of course, the Libs succeeded for a long time in convincing voters that they shouldn't even consider the NDP as an option. But once that premise evaporated, so too did any indication that the NDP lacked the ability to assemble a true majority coalition.

After all, in the most recent polling that's included a second-choice question, the NDP's total first- plus second-choice support was in the range of 50-55% - signalling that a majority of Canadians are already willing to state their interest in voting for the party.

What's more, the NDP's jump in the May election led plenty of Lib voters to rethink their own choices once it became clear that the NDP was the leading alternative. And public impressions of the NDP have only improved relative to its competitors since then.

So where exactly is there even a shred of evidence that the NDP's current brand is somehow holding it back from challenging the Cons? And is it really worth shredding all the work that's been done to build the NDP into a truly national party just because a few Libs can't bear to support it?

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- James Laxer points out how overreach by the wealthy and powerful inevitably leads to backlash - and how we're just scratching the surface of what's to come:
(R)ight-wing revolts can get out of hand and can create difficulties, even grave difficulties, for the rich and the powerful and the states that do their bidding.

The most overwhelmingly important such case was the French Revolution. The Revolution was preceded by a revolt of the rich and the powerful, known as the Revolte Nobiliare. That revolt, which sought to protect the privileges of the nobility, gravely weakened the French state. It opened the way for a transformative social revolution, a revolution that swept away the actors and institutions that had launched the Revolte Nobiliare, overturning the monarchy and the entrenched rights of the nobility in the process. What is significant for today is that a political upheaval begun by the forces of social and political reaction can end up generating an upheaval that is utterly different from the one the reactionaries had in mind.
The harsh policies being pursued in North America, the U.K., and the Euro Zone countries are pressing the ill effects of austerity down on the large majority of the population, while the wealthiest and most economically powerful see their incomes soar and are assured that the state will bail them out when necessary. This is their state and they know it. The young in the advanced countries are having their futures stolen from them. Opportunities shrink and the price of post-secondary education soars ever higher. Upward mobility, always the safety valve in capitalist society, is being choked off.
Those at the helm on both sides of the Atlantic are playing dangerous games. It is far from certain that they will be able to control the forces they are unleashing. Some may believe that we live in the eternal present of neo-liberalism. History shows us that that is not a good bet.
- Meanwhile, Linda McQuaig highlights how Jack Layton's eulogy has come to be a rallying cry for Canadian progressives. And Michael Valpy notes that Layton's death has caused a broad swath of Canadians to recognize and affirm that they share his values:
It’s been suggested the deep emotional response was to the suddenness of his passing, or to the cruel irony of death striking him down while the applause still rang out for his grand electoral success. If that’s all that was involved, it would be a shallow saga, soon forgotten. Something struck a chord across the country – not all of it mind – but in the big cities where progressive voices have long felt comfortable. It struck, that chord, as a public manifestation of a collective worry about what Mr. Layton’s loss — Jack’s loss — meant for so many Canadians’ values, the not-quite-taken-shape articulation of people who feel threatened, who see themselves governed by politicians holding alien values, beliefs and behaviour.

It’s a chord of frustration about a country increasingly seen as the domain of conservative politics, conservative values and a dominant narrative that decries a mythic ‘downtown elite’ (and even the public cost of marking their death).

It’s a chord of protest against a domain that doesn’t want libraries, social housing or a long form census but only lower taxes and more fighter jets. A chord of resentment sounded by people who have felt themselves unable to self-identify as progressives in the way Jack Layton consistently did, with an unrepentant pride in his beliefs.

For people holding the same convictions, his death has made them want to shout out loud what they shared with him. We think it’s maybe as simple as that.
- And for all the talk surrounding his possible leadership bid, it's hard to disagree with Brian Topp as to the NDP's role:
"No one will replace Jack. But we can continue his work," said Topp.

"That will be about carrying forward his approach to politics. It will be about continuing to focus on getting things done that matter to people. It will be about compellingly representing the people of Quebec.

"And it will be about persuading Canadians in other provinces that the next federal government can be a new, better, progressive and truly national one."
- Finally, Malcolm rightly questions why Saskatchewan's policy is being set by Manitoban reactionaries. But it shouldn't be news that the Wall government long since gave up any pretense that its decisions would be based on grassroots concerns in Saskatchewan.

Monday, August 29, 2011

We regret the error

But "whistleblower protection" and "coverup facilitation" are easily confused, especially when it's the Saskatchewan Party naming the bill involved.

Accountability in action

Good of the Harper Cons to be positively outraged that the massive cuts they've imposed on Environment Canada might result in cuts to Environment Canada. But who wants to bet they'd have been perfectly happy to see Northern water monitoring slashed if they stood any chance of getting away with it - as evidenced by the fact it took public outcry to get the decision reversed?

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous content to start your week.

- Ian Welsh reminds us of the golden rule that should govern politics and everyday interactions alike:
To paraphrase many of the greatest religious and moral leaders, there is only one law: imagine you are in someone else’s shoes, then treat them as you would wish to be treated.

Or, put another way, act towards everyone as if you loved them.

The vast majority of political and economic commentary on this blog is commentary derived from those postulates. Note that they are postulates, they are judgments about how you should live. I can make a very strong argument that the more a society acts like this, the more everyone is happy, including the rich and powerful, but that’s not why you should act that way, as powerful arguments can be made for selfish and destructive self-interest. You should act that way because it’s the right thing to do, and you know it is, deep in your gut.
In this we come back to the maxim “if you aren’t good, just act good”. Character and personality are built up in part by habit. Kindness, generosity, love, are habits as much as anything else. Your mind is great at justifying whatever you do. Do evil and it will justify it, do good and it will justify that, and over time you will become a better person inside your head, inside your soul.
- Meanwhile, Bruce Livesey recognizes that well-placed outrage can serve a positive purpose as well:
There is nothing wrong about being optimistic and hopeful, of course. Yet I contend we are in a time when we need to see people on the left express more anger and less willingness to compromise. For 30 years, unions, social democrats, liberals and other progressives have caved into the right and the corporate sector in the hopes that by giving them something they will leave social programs, labour laws and other progressive institutions alone. And it never works. There is no such thing as enough for the right-wing. They see this willingness to compromise as a sign of weakness and they take advantage of it and demand more takeaways. And bit by bit we have seen our social safety net fray and the power of capital grow to the point it is now pretty much free to do whatever it pleases.
The reality is, we are living in angry times. And we need leaders on the left who reflect and act on that anger. We have to recognize who are enemy is and articulate not the politics of appeasement, but the politics of class struggle and combat. Workers and the middle class and small businesses owners have been at the receiving end of a class war launched by the corporate sector more than 30 years ago – and have been losing that war. It’s time to get angry and demand that the next NDP leader lose his or her shit over all the terrible things capital is doing to wreck our economy, our planet and standard of living.

Messages of hope and optimism are great, but at some point people need to get really pissed off.
- Jeff calls for leaders and members of all parties to recognize and encourage the potential Jack Laytons in their midst:
Given the low esteem we hold politicians in the country, the public outpouring of emotion we've seen this week has been impressive. Much of it has to do with Jack's positive and dynamic force of personality, but I think it's larger than that. I think it's the people embracing the idea that Jack has come to represent, in spirit if not always perfectly in practice: a different, more positive, cooperative type of politics. It's the citizenry sending a message that there is a better way.

I think the way forward is multifold. Politicians of all stripes should heed this message, and reconsider their ways. But I think the bigger challenge is for our citizens, and it's two-fold. First, recognize that there are more Jacks out there, and in every party. Seek them out and support them as they try to work in a system designed to stifle them; too many good people give up on public life, but we need them too much. Help them persevere. Second, be the change you want to see. Get involved, up to and including running yourself, in promoting the ideal of public service you would like to see.

It's easy to lament the state of modern political discourse, but it's also a cop-out. We get the kind of politics we demand; if we don't demand change ... if we don't make it change, we'll never get it.
- Finally, I'm curious as to how much of increase in inmate voting is a direct result of more (and less marginalized) people getting incarcerated due to the Cons' dumb-on-crime policies. But it's well worth hoping that the habit spreads as a counterweight to the Cons' efforts to cut offenders off from society.

Messages ignored

Loving. Hopeful. Optimistic. UR doin it wrong.

constructive feedback  ur doin it wrong

Though from Thomas Mulcair's standpoint, I'm not sure the anonymous back-biting can't be turned into a plus: what better way to dispel questions about whether a candidate can keep his cool and rise above negative politics than by doing exactly that?

Sunday, August 28, 2011


The Lib take on NDP policy a year ago at what was supposed to be their policy renewal conference:
At the time, those were the two big, important, structural differences in policy — the only two, if I recall correctly, although readers are welcome to remind everyone of other differences in the reopened comment board below — between the two largest national left-of-Harper parties. Layton’s big populist play (and sop to the auto unions) was to shy away from a clear, simple tax on carbon by employing a variant on the cap-and-trade shell game. Dion’s attempt to hang onto some corporate street cred, despite his Green Shift, consisted of insisting that corporate tax cuts proceed as Harper had announced.

After this weekend, those big structural policy differences between the Liberals and NDP no longer exist.
The Lib take on NDP policy in this year's election campaign:
The main points in the Family Pack as it was styled by Leader Ignatieff, mirror much of what Jack Layton proposed for the last federal budget. Any doubts about who the Liberals are looking to get on side in this election now can be laid to rest: they are fishing for the centre-left vote, proposing demographic specific measures aimed at seniors, young voters, women, and "middle class" families.
The Libs' hastily revised take on NDP policy now that they're flailing around for a raison d'etre while the NDP has become the Official Opposition:
Without Layton in the picture, some Liberals believe the public's attention will switch to the NDP's policies, and many voters won't see themselves reflected in its positions or tactics.

Alexandra Mendes, a former Liberal MP who was defeated last May and is now running to become the party's president, told The Huffington Post Canada she's convinced at least 95 per cent of the people who "voted for Jack" had no clue what the party really stood for and what it championed in its platform.

Leadership 2012: Preliminary Candidate List

Having posted about the target groups and issues for the NDP's leadership campaign, let's take the next step and put some names to the possibilities. As hinted at in my last post, I'd see the ideal field as involving enough candidates to cover effectively all of the party's actual and potential bases - which will likely involve at least 4-5 strong contenders with complementary areas of strength. But who might be able to take on those roles?

Here's an initial list of 20 possible candidates who might fit into one of the top four or five slots in the race such as to have a plausible path to victory. And if anybody has strong opinions about additional names to add, I'll be happy to include them.

Thomas Mulcair

The obvious front-runner, and one of the few candidates who might be able to plan two radically different paths to victory. If anybody can run away with the leadership race, it's Mulcair with the prospect of selling memberships in Quebec to match the NDP's increase in votes and seats. But even if Mulcair can't manage that, he'll still have a strong chance to win support from the NDP's current membership as a highly-qualified and well-recognized advocate for the party (particularly on economic issues).
Target groups: Quebeckers, professional voters
Signature issues: Economic development, environment

Brian Topp

I'll list him here based on the multiple media declarations that he's the second and last top-tier candidate - though I'm not sure (despite his increasingly frequent forays into the public eye over the past few years) that he actually figures to rank ahead of a number of the candidates discussed below. That said, Topp is well identified with Jack Layton's plans for the NDP and is well known at least within the party - meaning that the main question for his candidacy would be whether his organization acumen could translate into new memberships.
Target groups: Quebeckers, labour
Signature issues: Good government

Olivia Chow

To the best of my knowledge, anybody applying a filter based on fluency in French will need to strike Chow among others off this list. But I'm far from sure that Chow's combination of personal strength and identification with Jack Layton's mission can't overcome that obstacle over the course of a leadership race - particularly given her potential to emerge as the leadership campaign's voice for women, urban members and new Canadians alike.
Target groups: Professionals, ethnic communities
Issues: Immigration, women's issues

Charlie Angus

Likewise, a language filter would drop Angus from the list. But he looks to offer a unique combination of rural and populist appeal alongside traits that will appeal to a range of urban members (particularly his arts/heritage background and his strong work on copyright and technological issues) - making him the rural candidate with the most plausible path to victory if he runs.
Target groups: Rural voters, young voters
Issues: Good government, arts & culture

Megan Leslie

On paper, Leslie's mix of issue work over her few years in Parliament and her previous stint as an activist would probably be the ideal background for an NDP leadership candidate. And while she'd have some work to do in building a national profile, she has a track record of emerging victorious even when another candidate starts out with the title of "heir apparent".
Target groups: Young voters, professionals
Issues: Poverty/inequality, health care, environment

Peter Julian

Rightly recognized by most reports so far as a strong candidate, Julian would combine bilingualism and Quebec organizing experience with a strong populist economic message and a history of success in a strongly multicultural riding. And if the corporate media kicks and screams through every minute of Julian's critique of inequality, then so much the better.
Target groups: Ethnic communities, labour
Issues: Economic development, poverty/inequality

Francoise Boivin

A highly visible and experienced Quebec MP in a field which could use at least a few choices fitting that description. The downside for Boivin is that she'd all too likely be an afterthought as long as Mulcair doesn't generate backlash - but if the front-runner were to falter, Boivin could be nicely positioned to collect his expected supporters.
Target groups: Quebeckers, professionals
Issues: Women's issues, human rights

Paul Dewar

He's often been mentioned as a future leadership contender thanks to his profile developed as the NDP's chief foreign policy spokesperson, but has somehow been a frequent omission from the media's lists over the past week. A safe, polished political veteran who could easily emerge as a compromise choice - but it's an open question as to whether he'll have the activist base needed to stay on the ballot to make that happen.
Target groups: Labour, professional voters
Signature issues: Human rights, good government

Romeo Saganash

Another of the NDP's star Quebec MPs with plenty of experience as a national-scale leader. But while Saganash has impressed plenty of members since his election, he was a very late addition to the NDP's roster of candidates - and so has a long way to go in building connections and support within the party.
Target groups: Rural voters, First Nations
Signature issues: Human rights, poverty/inequality, good government

Peggy Nash

A highly visible and experienced national labour leader with a strong base in the GTA. But there would be plenty of overlap between her constituency and Chow's, meaning that a successful Nash run would likely be predicated on Chow taking a pass.
Target groups: Labour
Signature issues: Economy, women's issues

Niki Ashton

The most plausible candidate from the Prairies thanks to her electoral success in rural Manitoba. But her chances in a leadership campaign may be based largely on what she's done since the May election: having served as a mentor to the NDP's Quebec neophytes as to how to succeed as a young MP, she'd need to incorporate them into her coalition to build a winning campaign on a rural base.
Target groups: Rural voters, young voters
Signature issues: Women's issues

Libby Davies

Davies could count on plenty of name recognition and activist support due to her longtime work on poverty and inequality issues as well as her role as the NDP's deputy leader. But however irrationally, her name has already come to be used as an insult to the NDP by the corporate media - and the work Davies would need to do to counter that existing negative impression would distract from some of the good that can come out of the leadership race.
Target groups: Labour, professionals
Signature issues: Poverty/inequality, human rights

Nathan Cullen

Another candidate with strong rural roots, including a particular reputation for turning the environment into a winning issue among non-traditional voters. But it's not clear that he'll want to run, and any delay in entering the race could see his window for growth close quickly.
Target groups: Rural voters
Signature issues: Environment, economic development

Don Davies

The current critic for citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism, effectively making him the NDP's answer to Jason Kenney in seeking to engage with ethnic communities. But it's an open question whether he's been in the role long enough to translate that work into leadership support.
Target groups: Ethnic communities, professionals
Signature issues: Immigration, human rights

Naomi Klein

For all the talk about MPs past and present, the NDP has never before run a leadership race while in its current Official Opposition role. And its growth into a party recognized as the leading contender for government might be the perfect opening for a prominent name associated with movement-building rather than party politics to make the jump - with Klein and Maude Barlow looming as the two obvious possibilities on that front.
Target groups: Young voters
Signature issues: Economic development, poverty/inequality, human rights

Robert Chisholm

The lone candidate who could bring direct experience as a party leader to the table - and his recent work on international trade would be a bonus. But the combination of his being unilingual and lacking much of a geographical base outside his home province would make for a long road to victory.
Target groups: Labour, professionals
Signature issues: Good government, economic development

Hoang Mai

I'm presuming none of the NDP's very youngest Quebec MPs will throw a hat into the ring. But Mai could make a dent in the leadership race by serving as the face of the movement while offering economic and international credentials which can win support in the wider party.
Target groups: Quebeckers, young voters, ethnic communities
Signature issues: Human rights, economic development

Linda Duncan

Nobody can dispute Duncan's bravery and political effectiveness in winning two consecutive elections in her home province's sea of blue. And she brings more environmental credentials to the table than all but a tiny handful of Canadian politicians. But while it would be a plus to see a candidate focusing primarily on growing the NDP in Alberta, I'm not sure that strategy would provide any realistic prospect of success in the leadership race.
Target groups: Professionals
Signature issues: Environment, women's issues

Joe Comartin

Often mentioned as a possible candidate based on his 2003 leadership run. But Comartin finished a distant fourth even in a far weaker field than we should expect this time out. And while he's served as a highly distinguished MP since then, it's hard to see what support base would have emerged to propel Comartin into contention.
Target groups: Professionals
Signature issues: Justice, human rights

Pierre Ducasse

Meanwhile, if anybody is looking for a 2003 leadership candidate to take another shot, how about the first face of Layton's efforts to build the NDP in Quebec? Ducasse has stayed active politically despite not running in this year's federal election, and his organizational work in multiple regions of Quebec could give him a fighting chance.
Target groups: Quebeckers, rural voters
Signature issues: Poverty/inequality, human rights

Update: For further discussion, Babble unsurprisingly has a thread already started. Update II: Continued. Update III: And again. Update IV: here.