Saturday, January 14, 2012

Leadership 2012 Roundup

Yes, it's only been a couple of days since my last roundup post. But I'll let the pace of news determine how often I put them up - and the end of this week offered loads of material for discussion.

- Niki Ashton made a statement on LGBT equality in the course of her latest prairie tour, and earned a positive review from Olav Rokne for her earlier Edmonton stop.

- Nathan Cullen pitched his electoral cooperation plan in Saskatoon while serving as a key voice in criticizing the Cons' attempt to force the Northern Gateway pipeline on the residents who'll have to suffer its consequences.

- Paul Dewar unveiled two huge endorsements-plus: Linda Duncan endorsed Dewar and signed on as his Energy and Environment Adviser, while Charlie Angus offered his endorsement and was named as Dewar's deputy leader charged with organizing to win the additional 70 seats to put the NDP in power. But while the endorsements put two well-respected MPs in Dewar's camp, I'm not sure the choice of roles for Angus will be much of a plus for Dewar's leadership prospects: to the extent members are concerned about his ability to connect with francophone Quebec, the declaration that another anglophone Ontario MP will be his second in command will keep him from reserving that role for somebody who can address the perceived weakness.

- Thomas Mulcair was endorsed by Carl Pursey, president of the Prince Edward Island Federation of Labour - which may not swing a lot of votes on its own, but signals that Mulcair may be ahead of the rest of the contenders in moving into the Atlantic territory vacated by Robert Chisholm.

- Peggy Nash released an innovation plan which earned a positive review from Paul Wells, and also unveiled the endorsement of Ontario NDP stalwart Peter Kormos.

- Brian Topp released a policy paper on jobs (focused on small and medium-sized businesses), while picking up another Saskatchewan NDP endorsement from former deputy premier Clay Serby.

- And on the commentary side, plenty of media doomsayers offered their firm prediction that seven out of the eight leadership candidates would have no hope of holding onto the NDP's breakthrough seats in Quebec; sadly, the list of pundits making that claim wasn't cross-referenced against a list of those who once admonished that the NDP's Quebec breakthrough was impossible in the first place. Gloria Galloway rounded up the leadership candidates' plans to win government in 2015. And Cathy Dobson covered a well-attended Sarnia forum featuring Nash and Romeo Saganash.

[Edit: added introduction.]

Saturday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your weekend reading.

- Trish Hennessy points out that Rob Ford's contemptuous attack on the idea of secure employment may offer an ideal contrast between the right-wing view of the economy and the stability citizens actually want for themselves:
Remember when holding down a job for life was considered a sign of personal responsibility and integrity?

Remember when staying committed to a job for life was an example of how you could be relied upon, trusted? How you were viewed as stable and productive?

Remember when having a job for life was a symbol of the model citizen? A good family person? A way to contribute to our collective well-being?

And remember when the pot of gold at the end of that job-for-life rainbow was a company pension that turned retirement into “the golden years”?

A job for life. A frame worth propagating?
- Meanwhile, Karen Foster points out the disturbingly high number of workers stuck with "involuntary" part-time work due to a lack of full-time jobs.

- Rick Salutin discusses how readily-available online communications can serve as a democratizing force:
The models for major change over the past two centuries were Revolution versus Reform. Either overthrow and destroy what was in place — the ancien regime, capitalism etc. — replacing them with something new. Or reform those institutions, nibbling away at them till you’ve gradually reconstructed them. You see the mindset persisting in education: either get rid of schools as they are and replace them with free schools, home schooling and the like — or reform what’s there until it vanishes.

But tweet night did neither. It left all the appalling old structures exactly as they were: the podium, the stodgy agenda (presentation followed by Q and A). Yet it remade them simply by inserting a layer: the Internet. Nothing changed but everything was different due to that insertion. It’s radical, in the sense of transformative, yet conservative, in the sense of preservative. And it worked.
- Jorge Barrera breaks the story that the Cons tried to destroy records documenting their deliberate choice not to talk about John Duncan's callous view of residential schools.

- Finally, Erin points out that the Wall government seems to be curiously silent about BHP Billiton's plans to undermine Canpotex now that there aren't obvious political points to be scored.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Musical interlude

Underworld - Between Stars

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Carol Goar criticizes the tax giveaways that have blown a massive hole in the federal budget:
But there is one area of government activity that will escape (Tony Clement's budget-slashing) scrutiny. Every year Ottawa gives up billions of taxes in deductions, exemptions, deferrals, credits, rebates and concessions. Because no money actually goes out the door, these tax breaks don’t count as spending. But they cost the federal treasury billions.

Opposition MPs would like to know how much revenue the government is forgoing. The auditor general would like to do a cost/benefit analysis. Taxpayers would like to know who’s actually paying the freight in this country.

They’re unlikely to find out. The government refuses to provide a tally. All it offers is an annual compendium of all its “tax expenditures” with a warning not to add them up.
here is the value of all the tax expenditures in the 2011 report, released this week: $152 billion.

To put that in perspective, the government’s total program spending in 2011 amounted to $248 billion.

Since Prime Minister Stephen Harper took power in 2006, tax expenditures have grown by $20 billion. Part of the increase was beyond his control; the child tax benefit is programmed to increase annually and the aging of the population drove up the cost of retirement support. But that’s only half the story. The Tories have created a profusion of new tax expenditures.

Here is a sample: the children’s fitness tax credit, the children’s arts tax credit, the universal child care benefit, the public transit tax credit, the first-time homebuyers’ tax credit, the volunteer firefighters tax credit, the working income tax benefit, the family caregivers tax credit, plus two sheltered-savings vehicles, registered disability savings plans and the tax-free savings accounts.
At a time of austerity, does it make sense to sacrifice badly needed revenue to give parents tax breaks on sports equipment and dance lessons? Given its dismal success rate, is it smart to keep pouring $2.7 billion a year into the scientific research and experimental development investment tax credit? At a time when an affluent minority is acquiring an ever-greater share of the nation’s wealth, do corporations need a tax deduction for meals and entertainment?

These questions are never discussed in Parliament. They are not open for public debate. They are not part of Flaherty’s budgetary consultations. They are not part of Clement’s spending review.
- Alison catches some familiar right-wing dirty tricks at work in trying to contaminate the list of intervenors in the Gateway pipeline with false names. [Update: Though see BCL's clarification that one of the environmentalists involved has confirmed plans to participate in the process.] Andrew Nikiforuk replies to Joe Oliver's embarrassing attack on democracy in shilling for the tar sands. The Globe and Mail points out that the threat of attacks on charitable status may serve as one of the Cons' strategies to silence the environmental movement. And Susan Riley sums up the effects of the Gateway project:
Since we're using strong language, let's call the Conservative government's eagerness to ship tarsands oil to China through the Northern Gateway Pipeline what it is: humiliating, irresponsible and short-sighted.

That may sound "radical," perhaps; unpatriotic to some. But our government, in our name, is ready to accelerate climate change, imperil pristine British Columbia wilderness, risk a catastrophic oil spill on the Pacific coast - and for what? The almighty dollar. Specifically, for highly uncertain, and certainly exaggerated, economic gains.
There will be leaks. The Citizen's Glen McGregor uncovered U.S. figures that list 150 leaks from Enbridge pipelines over the years. The most publicized occurred in 2010, when 20,000 barrels of oil escaped, some into Michigan's waterways. There was a small gas leak from an Enbridge pipeline near Louisiana this week.

The Northern Gateway route crosses mountainous territory in central B.C., some of it prone to landslides, and some 600 streams alive with salmon and other fish. No matter how carefully crossings are built, accidents are inevitable - and potentially ruinous to an $800-million commercial fishery, to tourism, and the fresh water First Nations depend on.

As for the giant oil tankers that will ply the shallow, stormy and often fogbound channels and fiords around Kitimat, loaded with oil bound for Asia, that is another disaster in the making. And it only takes one, as the 1989 Exxon Valdez, and the ruinous spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 prove. Claims that tankers safely manoeuvre the Great Lakes daily are irrelevant; these are different, more difficult, waters.

Every megaproject has its environmental costs, but this one is particularly pernicious because it will triple production from Alberta's oilsands, pumping ever more greenhouse gas into the world's atmosphere. And is this still "ethical" oil, when the primary customer is China?
- Meanwhile, the Cons have left absolutely no doubt what they think of actual evidence in environmental policy by hacking away at 60 more scientific and research positions at Environment Canada.

- Finally, the NDP responds to the Cons' declarations that they couldn't possibly have known about federal interventions against the legitimacy of international gay marriages by highlighting the fact that Randall Garrison raised the exact same issue in question period last fall.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Burning question

In re: the credibility of Stephen Harper in declaring that his government's legal stance that Canadian gay marriage can be retroactively nullified by government fiat shouldn't be taken as an indication of any greater hostility toward the gay community in "further reopening" the issue: when exactly was it that the Cons announced that they planned to attack gay marriage, but only to the extent of this particular legal position?

[Edit: fixed wording.]

New column day

Here, on how the Wall government's idea of health care "innovation" utterly fails the test for reasonable experimentation by prejudging the results.

For further reading...
- The man responsible for the most thorough study of Canadian health care in recent memory reminds us that as a general rule, public service delivery of core services is more efficient than the alternative.
- CUPE points out that the Omni experiment actually resulted in less surgeries being performed in Regina than the previous year, while my earlier post highlights the region-based cuts that opened the door for private CT services.
- Frances Russell writes about some key myths in our current health-care debate.
- And assorted sources point out the problems with privatized delivery models in B.C., Ontario and the UK.

Leadership 2012 Roundup

It's been another busy week in the NDP leadership race, with policies, events and endorsements galore. So let's jump right in...

- Niki Ashton released both a statement on multiculturalism and a health-care plan, with one familiar idea featuring prominently in the media's coverage in Saskatoon - and will be in Regina for a couple of events today.

- Nathan Cullen met with the Winnipeg Free Press in the midst of a prairie tour of his own.

- Paul Dewar unveiled an endorsement from former Ontario NDP leader Mike Cassidy, with the promise of another major announcement to come.

- Thomas Mulcair picked up what may be one of the more crucial endorsements of the campaign, adding a western MP to his list of supporters in Don Davies. And at the same event yesterday, Mulcair also unveiled his retirement security plan - though the idea of a voluntary top-up to the CPP seems more likely to reinforce concerns about Mulcair fitting awkwardly with the values of core NDP members, particularly since his plan sounds eerily like the one the Libs have pushed for the past few years (only with an extra dose of financial-sector involvement).

- Peggy Nash released a plan to move Canada toward women's equality, including a reinstated long-gun registry with legislated protection for its data.

- And Brian Topp released his democratic reform policy paper (featuring Senate positioning similar to what I've mused about recently), wrote an open letter in the wake of Lise St-Denis' defection, and addressed the Economic Club of Canada before a western swing of his own.

- Finally, to the reporting and punditry. Bill Tieleman offered a roundup of his second tier of candidates. Scott Stinson criticized Topp for not accepting the Cons' anti-tax rhetoric as an inviolable centrist consensus. Joanna Smith took a look at how the leadership campaigns are being funded. And Chantal Hebert's theory that the NDP's Quebec breakthrough was based on a desire for a more ecumenical form of politics figures to feature prominently in Cullen's message from here on in.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Thomas Walkom puts the Cons' anti-environmental hysteria in perspective by noting how our cabinet ministers are going out of their way to sound like the most fringy of lunatic Tea Partiers:
America’s Exxon Mobil, Britain’s BP, France’s Total E&P, China’s SinoCanada Petroleum Corp. and Japan Canada Oil Sands Ltd. have all asked for intervenor status at the hearings. So has the South Korean conglomerate Daewoo.

But foreigners who support the pipeline aren’t the outsiders that Prime Minister Stephen Harper claims to be worried about. As Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver explained to CBC television on Monday, these are the good foreign interests.

The bad foreign interests are the ones who help fund environmental critics of the pipeline. Oliver calls these bad elements “billionaire socialists … people like George Soros.”

If this weren’t a cabinet minister talking, it might be amusing. The Internet is filled with conspiracy theorists who view Soros, a self-made Hungarian-American tycoon, as evil incarnate.

The biggest rap against him seems to be that he openly opposed former U.S. president George W. Bush.

In Tea Party circles, this might count as socialism. But when a Canadian cabinet minister uses the term, he sounds — well — nuts.
- Elizabeth Thompson points out that several Lib riding associations are facing deregistration or failing to submit annual returns. But it's worth taking a closer look at which ones are affected: it isn't only longtime dead zones for the Libs that are seeing a complete organizational breakdown, but ridings like the Yukon and Laval—Les Îles which the Libs held until last year's election, or Oakville which they held until 2008. In fact, of the 9 ridings which are deregistered or haven't yet filed a 2010 return, 6 were held by a Liberal MP at least once since the Libs last took power under Jean Chretien in 1993.

- Of course, it's fair to say things have changed since the 1990s. But that also serves as reason to be skeptical of the Libs' preening in Toronto-Danforth: the riding has always been one where the NDP has easily outperformed its general Ontario support levels, and so the fact that Dennis Mills held it when the party support numbers were radically different doesn't look like much of an indicator of future performance when the NDP is holding its own in province-wide numbers.

- Sixth Estate reminds us that if we go out of our way to attack the pension security of our elected officials, that will only increase their tendency to use political power to try to set themselves up to make money elsewhere.

- Finally, Frances Russell points out what may be a more important change than the raw numbers involved in the Cons' health-care diktat to the provinces, as they've also imposed a new per-capita formula designed to make sure that money doesn't flow where it's needed most. And it's worth noting that Brad Wall for one is pushing to make matters worse.

[Edit: fixed numbers in count of ridings.]

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Close cats.

On testing grounds

For the most part, I'll echo Dan's take on Lise St-Denis' party switch:
As for her motives, even after listening to the press conference, that's still a bit of a mystery. St-Denis is 71 so this isn't a case of long term ambition. There's nothing in recent polls to suggest the NDP ship is sinking. There's been no high profile issue split between her and the NDP. The NDP leadership race is still ongoing, so it's not like she's upset with the new leader. And life with the third party in the House isn't any more glamorous than life with the second party in the House.

If I had to guess, I'd assume St-Denis found herself elected as an NDP MP without ever giving a lot of thought to why she was a New Democrat. After learning a bit more about the parties, she changed her mind.

If this all seems odd, it's because people like St-Denis rarely find their way to the House of Commons. She would never have been nominated if the NDP expected to win the riding. The fact that we have 50 accidental MPs siting on the NDP benches means things will happen that defy political convention. This may be the first example, but it certainly won't be the last.
That said, we may be able to tell much more from the aftermath of St-Denis' departure than from her initial move. If there's ever going to be the kind of mass exodus that some commentators have speculated about ever since the NDP's Quebec wave started developing, then St-Denis' move would seem to be as likely a precedent as any for others to follow. But conversely, if St-Denis is alone in her party switch, then there will be little reason to think that others within the NDP's set of new Quebec MPs are looking for an excuse to change their own allegiances.

Spin of convenience

Following up on one rebuttal to the Cons' shilling for the tar sands on the Gateway pipeline, let's point out one other area where the Cons' attacks apply far more strongly to their own side than to the voices they're looking to silence. Here's Joe Oliver's criticism of the First Nations, people who enjoy the outdoors and/or potable drinking water, and other Canadians who have expressed concerns about the Gateway pipeline:
Virtually all our energy exports go to the US. As a country, we must seek new markets for our products and services and the booming Asia-Pacific economies have shown great interest in our oil, gas, metals and minerals. For our government, the choice is clear: we need to diversify our markets in order to create jobs and economic growth for Canadians across this country.
So which party was it that just months earlier was desperately lobbying to further Canada's dependence on the U.S. as a purchaser of its oil by pushing another massive pipeline headed southward? Take a wild guess.

Of course, the common thread is that the Cons have been consistently working to serve tar-sands operators at a time when we're already dangerously reliant on natural resources whose prices can vary wildly based on factors entirely outside our control. And the question of which of Canada's neighbours might be wooed or bashed at any particular moment in that effort is utterly irrelevant to the Cons.

Which means that the more important clash underlying the Cons' latest move isn't between foreign or domestic interests, or U.S. or China as a purchaser of oil. Instead, it's the fact that the oil industry is once again being given precedence over the mere rest of Canada - and with the Cons having picked their side, it'll take a strong response to ensure that any interests other than those of the tar sands are heard over the next four years.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- Stephen Maher and Barbara Yaffe have learned to be duly skeptical of the Cons' motives when it comes to Senate patronage. But John Ibbitson still has a ways to go - as he's apparently still buying Con spin about new provinces holding Senate elections which has long since been overtaken by events.

- Meanwhile, Yaffe notes that the Cons' direct attacks on anybody who doesn't want to make oil industry profits the chief goal of public policy will only call into question the validity of their own public assessment processes. And Dr. Dawg replies to Joe Oliver's shilling for the tar sands by testing who actually makes decisions based on blind faith rather than any willingness to consider reality.

- Paul Krugman points out that the U.S.' inequality crisis is just as obvious when it comes to opportunity as to condition:
Americans are much more likely than citizens of other nations to believe that they live in a meritocracy. But this self-image is a fantasy: as a report in The Times last week pointed out, America actually stands out as the advanced country in which it matters most who your parents were, the country in which those born on one of society’s lower rungs have the least chance of climbing to the top or even to the middle.

And if you ask why America is more class-bound in practice than the rest of the Western world, a large part of the reason is that our government falls down on the job of creating equal opportunity.

The failure starts early: in America, the holes in the social safety net mean that both low-income mothers and their children are all too likely to suffer from poor nutrition and receive inadequate health care. It continues once children reach school age, where they encounter a system in which the affluent send their kids to good, well-financed public schools or, if they choose, to private schools, while less-advantaged children get a far worse education.

Once they reach college age, those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds are far less likely to go to college — and vastly less likely to go to a top-tier school — than those luckier in their parentage. At the most selective, “Tier 1” schools, 74 percent of the entering class comes from the quarter of households that have the highest “socioeconomic status”; only 3 percent comes from the bottom quarter.

And if children from our society’s lower rungs do manage to make it into a good college, the lack of financial support makes them far more likely to drop out than the children of the affluent, even if they have as much or more native ability. One long-term study by the Department of Education found that students with high test scores but low-income parents were less likely to complete college than students with low scores but affluent parents — loosely speaking, that smart poor kids are less likely than dumb rich kids to get a degree.
(S)omeone who really wanted equal opportunity would be very concerned about the inequality of our current system. He would support more nutritional aid for low-income mothers-to-be and young children. He would try to improve the quality of public schools. He would support aid to low-income college students. And he would support what every other advanced country has, a universal health care system, so that nobody need worry about untreated illness or crushing medical bills.
- Finally, congratulations to Craig Scott for earning the NDP's nomination in Toronto-Danforth.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Parliament in Review: November 16, 2011

Wednesday, November 16 saw plenty of direct clash between the Cons and the NDP on an issue that's been in the news again today. And lest there be any doubt, while the Cons have raised their level of inflammatory rhetoric, they've been less than convincing when it comes to anything of substance.

The Big Issue

In the wake of several days of criticism over Keystone XL, the NDP brought plenty of challenges to both the Cons' actions and their selective memory. Brian Masse and Kennedy Stewart responded to the Cons' criticisms of the NDP's work in Washington by pointing out who's actually taken a strong stand against Canada on the international stage. And Eve Peclet noted that refinery jobs are being lost in Canada while tar sands operators work on shipping raw bitumen out of the country for processing.

Say Anything

Meanwhile, the Libs had their own area of contention, as Geoff Regan repeatedly challenged the Cons' assertion that his party had voted against an extension of time for converting RRSPs to RRIFs. But Ted Menzies offered as reasonable an explanation as is ever forthcoming from the Cons:
Mr. Speaker, the Liberals vote against so much that it is hard to keep track of what they vote for and what they vote against.
So if the Cons lie about a competitor's actions, it's the subject's own fault. Just one more way in which the Cons keep themselves to a high standard of honesty and competence. (And no, Menzies' line wasn't an accident, as he repeated it a second time.)

And that was only the second most outrageous point raised by the Libs. Of course, Irwin Cotler's point of order has received plenty of coverage already - despite Peter Van Loan's remarkable admission that Cotler does in fact exist.

In Brief

Andrew Cash highlighted the Occupy protests as part of a proud tradition of activism in the name of greater rights and equality. Rodger Cuzner invoked Stephen Harper's past interventions in departmental issues to ask why he isn't doing anything to ensure that EI is available to Canadians who need it. Nycole Turmel challenged Stephen Harper to listen to the movement's message, while criticizing the Cons' fondness for casino capitalism. Con MP Costas Menegakis declared that he considers home retrofitting funding to be his party's housing program. Mathieu Ravignat challenged the Cons to repay the money they've now admitted they wrongly claimed through Conadscam. Charlie Angus again asked whether the Cons stood behind Dean Del Mastro's attacks on judicial independence and the CBC, and James Moore again confirmed that they do. Kirsty Duncan and Elizabeth May questioned the Cons' decision to exclude all opposition parties from the Durban climate change conference. Brian Storseth made it clear that his private member's bill to eliminate human rights legislation against hate speech has the government's full support. Linda Duncan asked when the Cons will take action based on the revelation that the Fort McKay First Nation's drinking water has been contaminated with trihalomethane 87% of the time, only to be met with John Duncan's self-congratulation for having bothered to measure anything. Masse introduced four private members' bills, including one to restore the long-form census and provide for the independence of the Chief Statistician, one to increase the tax credits available for charitable donations, one to address psychological harassment in the workplace, and finally one to provide for the labelling of products containing cat or dog fur. The Cons' bill on military judges passed with unanimous consent - which of course meant it was time for them to limit debate on their omnibus budget bill. Van Loan confirmed that he's even worse at math than Jim Flaherty. And finally, Charmaine Borg questioned the Cons on pervasive poverty and inequality in the day's adjournment proceedings.

One more front in the permanent campaign

It may get lost in Aaron Wherry's story on perpetual political campaigning. But the NDP's work to get constituents involved in letting the Cons know what they think looks like a rather significant break from the top-down messaging we're accustomed to seeing from most parties:
In addition to those billboards, the NDP has been making automated calls into Conservative-held ridings in the Greater Toronto Area. Listeners—presumably suburban and urban dwellers who are more likely to support the long-gun registry—are told their MP has voted to abolish the registry. They are then invited to press a button if they wish to express their opinion to that MP, at which point they are patched through to the constituency office. The NDP is then able to track how many people were engaged enough by the message to want to speak to the MP.
Of course, the effect of the call is also to let the Cons know about an unhappy constituent while setting up a conversation between a rival party and an interested voter. But the NDP's choice to treat a direct message to the Cons as a plus in terms of influence rather than a minus in terms of keeping one's cards close to the vest looks to offer an important signal that the new Official Opposition is working on changing the game rather than playing by Harper's rules of message control and secrecy.

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your Monday reading.

- Dr. Dawg views the latest attacks on workers by employers in Canada as a new front in all-out class warfare. And the New York Times notes that some of the main policies being pushed by the anti-worker side serve absolutely no purpose other than to damage unions and the workers who stand to benefit from them.

- Yes, the real story in the tar sands lobby's cynical effort to attack the international environmental movement is the fact that far more has been spent pushing for the interests of the oil industry:
West Coast Environmental Law executive director Jessica Clogg said its campaigns are not dictated by the sources of its funding.

She said, instead, they seek funding to support the initiatives they decide on as a British Columbia organization.

"Polls have shown that 75 to 80 per cent of British Columbians are opposed to tanker traffic on our coast," said Clogg.

She also argued their funding is dwarfed by that of oil producers and refiners, which put up $100 million to promote the Northern Gateway project and push it through the regulatory review.

One of those was China state-owned Sinopec Corp. Enbridge also put up another $100 million of its own money.
- But for those who do distinguish between foreign and domestic oil interests, Alison points out that even on that point there's far more reason for concern about foreign intervention on the side of the tar sands than in the opposite direction.

- Roy Romanow worries that the Harper Cons' decision to do absolutely nothing with health care other than cut back on funding expectations may do serious damage to the concept of a universal national health care system:
“To say, ‘Goodbye and good luck’ could be the beginning of the end of a reformed modern-day functioning health-care system,” said Romanow.

“If that argument is advanced, we have a prescription for a patchwork-quilt series of programs by the provincial governments based on their fiscal capacity.

“It will mean more privatization in more provinces, or some combination of private and public. It will be a very much weakened fabric of national unity without Mr. Harper’s direct involvement.”
- Finally, Joan Bryden runs down the endorsements in the NDP's leadership race. Mia Rabson hopes the leadership campaign will lead to a strong push for proportional representation. And Lou Arab offers his analysis of the candidates.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Leadership 2012 Candidate Rankings - January 8, 2012

There isn't anything new in the candidate rankings for this week, as the latest developments have generally left the NDP's leadership contenders in substantially the same position they've occupied for some time. But there may be some major changes in the works over the next little while - so let's look at how those might come to pass.

1. Thomas Mulcair (1)

While Mulcair's western swing this week was by all accounts a productive one, it also featured only a couple of relatively small endorsements for a candidate who looms as a favourite at this stage of the race. And it'll be worth watching whether Mulcair can add more and bigger names to his current support base in a region with a disproportionately high number of NDP members - lest he otherwise fall behind...

2. Peggy Nash (2)

The good news for Nash is that she seems to have earned a place as the leading challenger to Mulcair. The bad news, though, is that she's now facing the extra scrutiny that comes from a front-runner's role - and after holding the #2 position in these rankings from day one, she could soon move in either direction depending on her performance under that increased pressure.

3. Brian Topp (3)

His campaign still looks to be based more on insider support and media savvy than much of a grassroots presence, and his appearance in Saskatoon this week only seems to have reinforced that impression. But Topp more than anybody may be at the mercy of his competitors: a major stumble for Nash may offer his lone path into a top-two position, while a strong showing in French by Dewar in the weeks to come could drop Topp further.

4. Paul Dewar (4)

Dewar has looked strong on the organizational front from day one, and that sense has only been strengthened with an ad release and plenty of other effective connection-building over the last few weeks. But the lack of any debate since early December has prevented Dewar from answering the key question members figure to have about his campaign.

5. Niki Ashton (5)

Ashton stays ahead of Saganash thanks to a well-placed media response to Sylvia Bashevkin's commentary on the NDP's female candidates. But it's still not clear whether she'll have much of a chance to prove herself as capable of offering s substantive alternative to the extent members end up seeing the race mostly through soundbites and press releases.

6. Romeo Saganash (6)

Saganash's increased Twitter activity makes for a potentially significant sign of life in a campaign which has been far quieter than any other than Singh's. But how much of that broadcast messaging can translate into the support Saganash will need to stay on the leadership ballot?

7. Nathan Cullen (7)

From the point when Cullen first introduced his co-operation strategy, I've figured he wouldn't have any choice but to see through the idea. But I have to wonder whether at least a subtle retrenchment - for example, suggesting that he'd allow the NDP to vote as a national party at a future convention before following through with it - might be in order before the next set of debates. Because for now, the sense that a vote for Cullen is also a vote for embracing the Liberals looks to be the crucial limiting factor for a candidate who has plenty going for him.

8. Martin Singh (8)

After going quiet for a month, Singh looks to have made some strong efforts to win over urban support this past week. But he hasn't introduced anything new by way of policy or vision, and it still remains to be seen whether he'll present a message broad enough to win over later-ballot support.

Sunday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to end your weekend.

- Chris Selley rightly points out that for all the damage the Cons can do in a term of majority government, we shouldn't overstate how much of it is irreversible. And more importantly, while it's well worth putting time and effort into defending the institutions under attack to the extent possible, the opposition parties may be able to accomplish far more by planning out what comes next after the Cons' wrecking crew is done.

- Which isn't to say there isn't plenty to be outraged about in the short term - from putting Canada's nuclear safety in the hands of a spin doctor's mother, to a new round of patronage in the Senate, to tens of millions of public dollars spent on pure self-promotion, to ominous economic figures at a time when the Cons are focused on gratuitous austerity (for everybody but a bloated Privy Council Office and spending on prisons and military giveaways) rather than remotely competent management.

- And it's also worth noting that in at least some cases, the Cons are quite deliberately lighting fuses intended to have massive long-term effects.

- But on the bright side, NOW has a rundown of the NDP's nomination contest in Toronto-Danforth - with an exceptional group of candidates seeking the chance to serve the riding.