Saturday, January 19, 2013

#skndpldr - Rosetown Debate Notes

As Scott has already noted, the first Saskatchewan NDP leadership forum of 2013 saw plenty of familiar themes - particularly in the prepared speeches and the audience questions. But the candidate questions took a couple of interesting turns.

The first candidate question went to Weir, and he used both of his questioning slots to a similar effect - in each case challenging one of his fellow candidates to make a principled case for a policy position. And the strategy seemed to catch the respondents somewhat off guard: Ryan Meili offered an effective first answer on reproductive rights generally but missed an obvious opportunity on his follow-up to link abortion choice in particular to social health outcomes, while Trent Wotherspoon sidestepped an invitation to make a case either for or against anti-scab legislation.

Now, I still think there's plenty of room for Weir himself to expand on the principled basis for his own proposals. But his challenge to other candidates to better explain the philosophy behind their policy choices looks like a highly valuable addition to the debate - and should help ensure that any eventual leader is better prepared to deal with the level of scrutiny that comes with a leadership role.

Meili followed Weir's initial question with another noteworthy offering, questioning Weir as to which of his platform planks would have to give way if expected revenue increases didn't materialize. Weir avoided the question by noting that his assumptions are modest enough to allow his entire platform to stand even if the economy does turn downward, but the overall message looks to be an important one: any leader or premier will have to prioritize, and voters seeking to evaluate potential leaders will be best served knowing how candidates will carry out that task even among the policies they support.

The most striking development of the Rosetown debate came in Trent Wotherspoon's first round of questioning. I've commented several times before about Wotherspoon's softball questions toward his competitors - and his first open query to Cam Broten about foreign ownership of farmland had a relatively similar feel to it, leading to Broten's characteristic on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand answer.

But this time, Wotherspoon's followup did far more than merely allow for further discussion at the respondent's leisure. Instead, Wotherspoon staked out a strong position on the initial question, pointing out that one of Broten's options might be taken to involve the violation of existing law against foreign ownership. And the result was to force Broten to backtrack from his original response and acknowledge his agreement with Wotherspoon's position.

The exchange was interesting enough as an example of a broader point as to the dangers of equivocation: some questions call for a strong answer, and a candidate can get in serious trouble by developing the habit of refusing to provide them. But it also suggests Wotherspoon is sharpening his skills in challenging his competitors after avoiding confrontation for the first half of the campaign. And while he likely won't catch anybody off guard quite as easily in the debates to come, it's a significant plus to see that change.

Finally, the more interesting question from Broten was his second one. Once again, he zeroed in on one of Meili's policy proposals, this time asking for specifics about a Bank of Saskatchewan. But Broten ran into trouble by equating a provincial structure with the obviously different purpose and structure of the Bank of Canada - leaving Meili all kinds of room to respond by pointing (as he has in the past) to North Dakota's example as to how a public bank can serve useful purposes without either setting broader monetary policy or harming the business of other financial institutions.

Again, the balance of the debate ran largely along the tracks set before the holiday break, subject to some development in Meili's speaking style and Broten's focus on the reform of party structures. But it still offered some hint of differences in strategy and execution as the campaign shifts to the home stretch - and the candidates figure to be put to a better test as leaders if the new developments continue.

Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Raz Godelnik challenges the all-too-conventional wisdom that corporations (and indeed individuals) should see tax avoidance and evasion as virtues:
One of the most common arguments is that the tax-avoidance techniques used by corporations like Starbucks or Google are legal and therefore they’re not to be blamed, but the tax systems that make them possible.

Apparently these techniques are indeed legal, but here are couple of other things that are legal, such as: cutting down trees in rainforests, sourcing blood minerals from Congo, working with suppliers in China that release hazardous materials into rivers or with factories in Bangladesh that put their employees in jeopardy, or not paying for externalities. Yet, we have expectations from companies that call themselves responsible to do more than just comply with the law in these cases – after all, it is widely assumed that CSR begins where the law ends. So why should tax payments be any different?

Bottom line: While tax systems should be revised, legality is no excuse for not doing the right thing, no matter if you’re talking about natural resources, working conditions or tax payments.
- Bill Tieleman discusses the impending corporate ad blitz against the B.C. NDP - with plenty of federal Lib links featuring prominently among a group dedicated to keeping a progressive party out of power at all costs.

- I'm not sure the minimal contribution of the private sector and the Saskatchewan Roughriders to the cost of a new stadium should come as much surprise. But Paul Dechene is duly outraged at the fact that the public is absorbing nearly the full risk and cost of the stadium - while even the remote possibility of a substantial deal for naming rights won't lead to any public benefit.

- Finally, Susan Delacourt observes that a governing party shouldn't gratuitously play politics at every single opportunity - a statement noteworthy mostly for the fact that the Harper Cons have raised the possibility of an opposing viewpoint being applied by our current government. And in a related vein, Aaron Wherry makes the case for independent thought from MPs:
We should, in the first place, probably assume that if an individual has been able to win election he or she possesses some basic reading skills and so there is little need for MPs to publicly prove their literacy by standing in the House to recite their party’s talking points. Indeed, there is little more depressing about our democracy than the rote recitation of sentences crafted by 20-something and 30-something party apparatchiks that many of the grown men and women we elect are asked to perform on a daily basis as seemingly the central purpose of their existence here. A certain uniformity and consistency of views is to be expected—it may even assist in the general coherence and understanding of what the parties stand for and represent—but the MP’s primary purpose should not be to spread the good word and attest to the gloriousness of their leader. They should not merely be party news releases made flesh and blood.

Mr. Rathgeber’s distinguishing characteristic is that he has a blog, on which he periodically expresses thoughts that do not seem to have been screened by his party leadership. This should not seem a revolutionary initiative.

Indeed, this should be our wish: more indications that our MPs exist as something other than tools of their parties. They needn’t start going rogue and spilling secrets and condemning their leaders. At least not right away. (And it is, it should be noted, possible to both stridently support the party line and act like a human being while doing so.) But a little less of the rote recitation and repetition and a little more of the using one’s own voice to articulate an opinion or thought would certainly go a long way toward making it a little bit easier to watch our politics get made this year.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Musical interlude

Wild Strawberries - I Don't Want To Think About It

Friday Morning Links

This and that to end your week.

- Bruce Campbell argues that Alberta should take a lesson from Norway on how to manage natural resources - and plenty of other provinces could stand to take notes as well:
The Norwegian government owns 80 per cent of petroleum production, and retains roughly 85 per cent of the net petroleum revenues mainly through a 78-per-cent company tax and through direct access mechanisms.

In Alberta and Canada, ownership and control have been controversial issues. At present, virtually the entire industry is owned by foreign and domestic private interests, which have taken the lion’s share of the petroleum wealth.

According to one estimate, the Alberta government has averaged just 9 per cent of the economic rent from the oilsands over the last 15 years, and the federal government now takes (after tax breaks) a paltry 7 per cent of oil company revenues through the general corporate income tax.

The Norwegian government has been very effective in distributing the benefits of oil wealth both regionally and throughout its population, thanks to a generous social welfare system, an equitable labour relations system and a progressive tax system. It has maintained one of the lowest levels of income inequality in the world.

Inequitable petrodollar recycling mechanisms explain, in large part, why inequality is substantially higher in Alberta than the Canadian average (which in turn is among the highest in the OECD), and why it has grown dramatically over the last decade.
- But of course, that won't be happening among the premiers more interested in serving as wholly-owned subsidiaries of oil barons than advancing any issue which might actually affect their own province.

- Thomas Walkom sees the latest set of Idle No More protests as a qualified success, while Barbara Yaffe identifies John Duncan and the Cons' handling of First Nation issued as an unmitigated failure. And Emma Teitel introduces some new language to discuss the reflexive anti-activist tendency of some columnists - though I think we may be best off contrasting "idle no more" against "curmudgeonly forever".

- Finally, Chris Sorenson and Charlie Gillis discuss the new underclass of young Canadians - as plenty of citizens who took exactly the path suggested for them (featuring higher education at ballooning prices) are now stuck with few job prospects.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Murray Dobbin writes about the significance of Idle No More as a shift away from the presumption that First Nations' interests are represented solely by elected officials:
There are some fascinating similarities between the Idle No More phenomenon and the Occupy movement. Both reflect a political dualism: they are focused on the lack of democracy, justice and equality for ordinary people and they are implicitly (and with Idle No More explicitly) telling conventional movement organizations that are supposed to speak for them that they have failed. And it should come as no surprise that most members of the leadership of Idle No More are women.

By the late 1980s government funding had established a mutually beneficial relationship between governments and aboriginal leaders. Into this status quo of continued poverty came native women's organizations which were genuinely radical (they had no big salaries to lose) and often critical of the totally male dominated aboriginal groups. They were the voices of aboriginal communities -- but lack of resources and bullying by the government-funded "official" organizations eventually prevailed. That they are back in leadership roles is one of the most important and positive aspects of the movement.

Idle No More is the most exciting development in aboriginal politics in two generations. It has rightfully scared the hell out of the entire First Nations leadership -- from Shawn Atleo down to the hundreds of chiefs, too many of whom do in fact live high on the hog while their band members suffer. And it has got the attention of Stephen Harper, a man who has dedicated his political career to the interests of the oil and other resource industries threatened by Idle No More. Remember that he cancelled the Kelowna Accord soon after he became prime minister. The only reason Harper met with First Nations leaders is because his intelligence gathering told him this could be real trouble. Let's hope it is.
- Meanwhile, Aaron Wherry interviews Romeo Saganash about his own path toward federal politics:
I had a mission in life and that was to help building bridges between my people and the rest of Quebec and Canadian society. My whole purpose was that over the last 30 years. When Jack first approached me in 2006 to run for the NDP, there was still a lot of unfinished business with the Cree at that time, so I preferred to continue to work with the Cree until 2011 when I thought was the timing was great for me. The campaign slogan was travaillons ensemble and that was me over the years.

The intent at that time was for me to run in Quebec City. I had worked from Quebec City for the grand council, my work base was in Quebec City and I had been there for 20 years, so I knew practically everybody in Quebec City. But Jack, and that was probably the only thing that he refused from me, said to me, no, my friend, you’re going back home. And I always loved the way that he explained his refusal to me. He said, look at this way: all of the challenges, the global challenges that we have today, the environment, climate change, relations with aboriginal peoples, the future of aboriginal peoples, resource development, the future of the north, the new geopolitical realities of the Arctic, you name them, they’re all in that riding. And he said, who better than you can represent that riding? And in a sense I’d never thought about it, because it’s so diverse in terms of population. There are Cree in my riding, there are Inuit in my riding, there are Algonquins in my riding, there are forestry workers in my riding, there are mining workers in my riding. More than half the province gets its electricity from that territory. It’s a huge riding, it’s the second largest in the country. And I know the riding very well. It’s a riding where the James Bay-Northern Quebec agreement, first model treaty, applies as well, more than half of the riding is covered by this constitutional arrangement. And I know that treaty very, very well. And I think Jack was right. And I’m certainly glad that he insisted.
- Glen McGregor and Stephen Maher report on the continued investigation against Dean Del Mastro's 2008 campaign for breaking Canadian electoral law. And Jim Bronskill points out Jim Flaherty's misuse of his ministerial title and resources to try to influence CRTC licensing decisions.

- Finally, Michael Geist discusses how the Cons' anti-spam legislation remains in limbo after being passed years ago - and has given way to pro-spam regulations at the behest of businesses who don't want to have to justify loading up Canadians' inboxes with unwanted ads.

New column day

Here, on the general irrationality of the right-wing obsession with chaining public services and tax rates to population growth - and the particularly egregious application of that theory by the Regina Chamber of Commerce when it's put added pressure on city services by insisting on generous tax abatements for some of the businesses and individuals who can most afford to contribute to maintaining them.

For further reading...
- My look at the city's proposed 2013 budget doesn't include a detailed breakdown of tax expenditures and abatements: there's some mention of the cost associated with the city's housing tax incentive, but other well-documented ad hoc tax goodies (and the associated loss of revenue to the city) don't appear to rate a mention.
- The Chamber's response to the proposed budget - including its insistence on "inflation plus growth" at the mill rate level with no concern for its effect on services - can be found in Will Chabun's coverage of the budget.
- And finally, Regina's own City Manager notes that growth for its own sake doesn't necessarily produce enough revenue to cover the added cost of services:
Davies explained that growth into new areas doesn't always generate the tax revenue needed to extend services to those neighbourhoods in the long-term. He says that means the city needs to budget more strategically.

"We need to get sharper with finding ways to save money, to create efficiencies and create some headroom that we can make some further investments," Davies noted. "The expectations (people have) are about services but more importantly these days it's about maintaining infrastructure."

#skndpldr Roundup

The most significant news from the Saskatchewan NDP leadership campaign this week was the release of another month's worth of financial reports. And the December numbers look to reinforce rather than change the existing financial picture, with Ryan Meili posting strong gross and net numbers, Trent Wotherspoon spending enough to cancel out a significant take, and the other two candidates seeing fairly little activity.

But I'd think the most important number may be a low rather than a high. Cam Broten's $4,292.25 December take was the smallest for any candidate in any month of the campaign - and combining that further drop with Broten's already-sluggish fund-raising, I have to wonder for the first time whether he'll have to run the rest of his campaign with a substantially smaller budget than the party's already-modest spending limit.


- Broten supporter Mitchell Anderson earned some free media space to respond to Yens Pedersen's earlier contribution to the Star-Phoenix. But I'm not sure he particularly challenged Pedersen's main point that political parties can pursue change both by winning power and by influencing public discussion about policy issues.

- Jason Warick reported on the Rosetown leadership debate. But more interesting than his skeletal review of the debate itself was this bit of discussion about the NDP's road back toward success in rural Saskatchewan:
For much of the 1980s, the Grant Devine Progressive Conservative (PC) administration was seen as invincible in most parts of rural Saskatchewan. But soaring interest rates, unpopular policies and a widespread financial scandal reduced the PCs to just 10 seats in the 1991 election.

That year in Rosetown, Wiens narrowly defeated former PC cabinet minister and legislative speaker Herbert Swan. Wiens then comfortably won re-election.

Wiens believes there are signs the NDP could find electoral success in rural Saskatchewan.
"There are nicks and cracks showing up in the current government, and we've got a new generation (of candidates)," Wiens said.

"I am encouraged."

Another area farmer and former NDP leadership candidate, Nettie Wiebe, also attended and agreed there is cause for optimism.

"We are always on the edge of possibilities in a democracy," said Wiebe, who teaches at the University of Saskatchewan. "I am very impressed with the depth. I think it's a very strong field."
- While Murray Mandryk's take on the race includes plenty of utterly gratuitous potshots, he does hint at one important theme which I've discussed before. At a time when all of the candidates are talking about a need to reach out beyond the NDP's current level of support, at most one or two have made any visible progress in growing the party's grassroots during the leadership campaign - while much of the leadership campaign strategy seems to have been based on competing for small pieces of the existing party base.

- But lest anybody buy the story that the candidates are refusing to reach out beyond the NDP's core membership, all four have been appearing on John Gormley's radio show over the course of the week. I haven't yet had a chance to listen through in detail, but those interested can find the interviews here [Updated with Broten's at first link].

[Edit: fixed reference to Warick.]

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Bill Curry reports on what looks like a thoroughly warped view of the role of the Minister of Justice and Parliament in assessing the constitutionality of legislation (h/t to bigcitylib):
Ottawa is crafting legislation that risks running afoul of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms without informing Parliament, a federal lawyer charges.

In a highly unusual case, Department of Justice lawyer Edgar Schmidt is challenging his own department in Federal Court and revealing details about the internal guidelines used by federal lawyers. The department accuses Mr. Schmidt of violating his duties as a lawyer and public servant and has suspended him without pay.
Both sides agree that the Minister of Justice has a duty to report to the House of Commons if proposed legislation or regulations are inconsistent with the Charter. Where Mr. Schmidt and his superiors disagree is over how that requirement should be interpreted.

Mr. Schmidt argues that Parliament originally expected the test for this would be whether, on balance, a measure is likely not in compliance. However Mr. Schmidt says that since as far back as 1993, government lawyers have been directed to approve all measures as long as they can imagine an argument in favour of compliance that would have a 5 per cent chance of success. The government does not confirm this, arguing any internal instructions must be kept secret as solicitor client privilege and cabinet confidences. 

- Meanwhile, Jeremy Nuttall reports that the Cons are choosing to serve as puppets for HD Mining in arguing that nobody has any right to question the assertions of an applicant for a temporary foreign worker permit - including the department responsible to evaluate an application.
- Kady O'Malley and Sixth Estate both discuss Julian Fantino's gross misuse of public resources for partisan attacks - with the latter post also raising this rather noteworthy point about Fantino's general competence:
Here’s the first one, written to the NDP. Notice that in the final paragraph Julian Fantino singles out Canada’s aid program in Haiti as a particularly successful one, worthy of attention. A few days ago, Fantino announced that he was not satisfied with the Haiti program and that Canada should eliminate its aid to that country. How you want to square these remarks is up to you.
- Lest anybody think Canada's Senate is the only obvious example of a non-elected actor which can interfere in legislative processes, Robert Booth reports on the stunningly regular exercise of veto power by the Queen over bills passed in the UK.

- And finally, speaking of unaccountable interference by privileged political actors, David Climenhaga discusses the continued links between the Koch brothers and the Fraser Institute - which of course hasn't come under the same scrutiny as analogous charities who aren't such regular cheerleaders for the Cons or right-wing causes.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Helpful cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- George Monbiot reminds us that the mere fact that neoliberal economic theory has failed by any rational measure doesn't mean there won't still be plenty of well-funded efforts to promote it at the expense of social interests:
The policies that made the global monarchs so rich are the policies squeezing everyone else. This is not what the theory predicted. Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman and their disciples – in a thousand business schools, the IMF, the World Bank, the OECD and just about every modern government – have argued that the less governments tax the rich, defend workers and redistribute wealth, the more prosperous everyone will be. Any attempt to reduce inequality would damage the efficiency of the market, impeding the rising tide that lifts all boats. The apostles have conducted a 30-year global experiment, and the results are now in. Total failure.
Throughout the OECD countries taxation has become more regressive: the rich pay less, the poor pay more. The result, the neoliberals claimed, would be that economic efficiency and investment would rise, enriching everyone. The opposite occurred. As taxes on the rich and on business diminished, the spending power of both the state and poorer people fell, and demand contracted. The result was that investment rates declined, in step with companies' expectations of growth.

The neoliberals also insisted that unrestrained inequality in incomes and flexible wages would reduce unemployment. But throughout the rich world both inequality and unemployment have soared. The recent jump in unemployment in most developed countries – worse than in any previous recession of the past three decades – was preceded by the lowest level of wages as a share of GDP since the second world war. Bang goes the theory. It failed for the same obvious reason: low wages suppress demand, which suppresses employment.

As wages stagnated, people supplemented their income with debt. Rising debt fed the deregulated banks, with consequences of which we are all aware. The greater inequality becomes, the UN report finds, the less stable the economy and the lower its rates of growth. The policies with which neoliberal governments seek to reduce their deficits and stimulate their economies are counter-productive.
I have no dog in this race, except a belief that no one, in this sea of riches, should have to be poor. But staring dumbfounded at the lessons unlearned in Britain, Europe and the US, it strikes me that the entire structure of neoliberal thought is a fraud. The demands of the ultra-rich have been dressed up as sophisticated economic theory and applied regardless of the outcome. The complete failure of this world-scale experiment is no impediment to its repetition. This has nothing to do with economics. It has everything to do with power.
- Meanwhile, EKOS finds (PDF) that Canadians see income inequality as the most important issue facing our country - even as the Cons go out of their way to exacerbate it.

- Dr. Dawg writes about the Ontario government's cynical attempt to use the cover of the "Honour of the Crown" as an excuse for running roughshod over First Nations. And Karl Nerenberg offers up a few different partial perspectives on the difficulties in trying to improve the well-being of First Nations - while hinting at the fact that the truth involves some appreciation of multiple barriers to improvement.

- Finally, both Jennifer Graham and Aaron Wherry discuss the NDP's Lethbridge Declaration process. But I'll suggest going directly to the source - as there are plenty of events coming up over the next few weeks.

#skndpldr Candidate Rankings - January 15, 2013

Following up on yesterday's introductory post, here are my first candidate rankings for the Saskatchewan NDP leadership race.

1. Ryan Meili (--)

Lest there be any doubt, there's still plenty of guesswork involved in trying to rank where the candidates stand: the lone poll we've seen during the course of the campaign was released back in October, and it showed undecided voters overwhelmingly outnumbering decided ones.

That being the case, I see Meili having the edge for now on two fronts: he's since built a strong lead over the other candidates in terms of passive engagement, and has also assembled what looks to me like the most active organization. And those factors look to give him the edge both in recruiting new and supportive members to the voter pool, and in winning over persuadable members.

2. Cam Broten (--)

The leadership campaign's second-choice candidate finds himself in a familiar position in the rankings.

Broten still looks to be nicely positioned if the candidates around him falter. But his paths toward down-ballot support can't overcome Meili's apparent advantage in outreach over the first few months of the campaign - though they do bump him ahead of Wotherspoon in what would otherwise be a too-close-to-call first-ballot contest.

3. Trent Wotherspoon (--)

Conversely, Wotherspoon starts out below Broten due primarily to the fact that it's less apparent how he'd make a sequence of ballots work in his favour given a comparable first-ballot showing.

But if the candidates are grouped as closely as it appears, Wotherspoon still figures to have a strong chance to jump ahead of his competitors based on two key factors: the possibility that his early-campaign investments might start to show some returns when it counts most, and the prospect that he could win over members during the course of the leadership debates.

4. Erin Weir (--)

Finally, Weir ends up in fourth place as the candidate with the least obvious organization and public following at this stage of the campaign.

But as I cautioned in my introductory post, that shouldn't be taken to suggest the rankings can't change, particularly as members become more engaged in the campaign. And the bigger unknown for Weir has less to do with his current standing than the question of whether his messages will actually sway undecided members.

Monday, January 14, 2013

#skndpldr Candidate Rankings Introduction

As I did in the NDP's federal leadership campaign in 2012, I'll start shortly with weekly rankings intended to highlight the relative positioning of the Saskatchewan NDP's leadership candidates. But before I get into the rankings themselves, I'll offer both a reminder of what they're intended to accomplish, and a description of how I'll put them together.

To start off, the rankings are intended to be a matter of prediction rather than endorsement. I'll put together a separate endorsement post shortly before the voting window opens - but the candidate rankings for now will reflect my impression as to how likely a candidate is to win, not my preference as to which candidate ultimately will.

And to be more specific, the rankings will be based on a candidate's likelihood of winning the leadership at convention - not necessarily who will perform best on the first ballot, nor who has the most perceived momentum at a particular point in time. And they'll be based on my perception of probabilities rather than any measure of certainty: the #1 ranking doesn't necessarily mean a candidate is more likely to win than not, and a lower position doesn't mean a candidate lacks any path to victory.

All else being equal, I'll presume that down-ballot support is fairly likely to mirror first-ballot support - such that I'll need to see some specific factor to justify ranking the candidates in any order other than what I consider to be their first-ballot positioning. (In effect, this means that I'll be inclined to take any substantial polling of the race at face value - though it's an open question whether anybody carrying out any polling will have both the information required to successfully identify the voter pool, and the neutrality to allow numbers to be taken without a grain of salt.)

However, if there's enough uncertainty as to the relative first-ballot support between two or more candidates or a close enough for additional factors to swing the candidates' positioning, I'll also take those into account where they raise a reasonable inference that down-ballot support might not match first-ballot support.

So based on that process, where do I see the leadership candidates ranking so far? Stay tuned...

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your Monday reading.

- Daniel Wilson takes a look at how far too many in the media went along with the Harper Cons' hatchet job against First Nations:
(C)ompare the generalized outrage last week to the shrug elicited by the non-indigenous mayors around the country who have resigned after corruption allegations, are currently being investigated for fraud or sued for conflict of interest. 

By the standard applied to First Nations, the situations in Montreal, Laval, Mascouche, London, Toronto, Mississauga and Winnipeg are proof that all non-indigenous governments are corrupt and mismanaged and should have their funding cut off.  Such logic would suggest that Canadian citizens don’t deserve clean drinking water or schools for their kids since they are too lazy to insist on proper governance.

The unabashed complicity of the mainstream media in carrying out this hatchet job for the Harper government and unleashing a torrent of racism should be the subject of professional examination and deep personal shame for those involved.
- But then, Tobold Rollo points out that it's far from a first for the corporate press to be on the wrong side of history:
No one can know for sure just how long it takes for a journalist to “go soft”. The conservative commentator William F. Buckley Jr. once stood (sorry, wrote) courageously in opposition to the civil rights movement, reserving some of his most heroic denigrating prose for leaders such as Martin Luther King. Two decades later, Ronald Reagan would oppose the creation of Martin Luther King Day because of its economic impact only to sign it in the face of public pressure. But Buckley, still resilient, boldly pointed out the irony of creating a holiday in King’s name given the man’s laziness: “it rankles that we should be asked to take the day off to remember a man whose career was built on leisure.” Yet Buckley, too, would succumb. Fatigued by decades of demeaning the labours of the subjugated, Buckley finally gave in and pronounced his admiration for Martin Luther King. Truly heartbreaking.

If today’s writers have half the tenacity as our friend Buckley, we should see them exhibiting the first signs of quiet approval for Chief Theresa Spence and the Idle No More movement in about ten years. But for the time being we are a truly privileged audience, living in a time when the artful denigration of Indigenous peoples invites us to reflect on those heroes of the past who mocked the words and deeds of blacks, women, and homosexuals. These are truly amazing times.
 - Meanwhile, the #ottawapiskat hashtag has been offering the public an opportunity to judge the Harper Cons by the standards they've set for First Nations. Here are a few particular favourites.

- And needless to say, the comparison leads nicely to Jessica Bruno's report on how the Cons' use of public dollars can only be explained as a matter of partisan gain rather than reasonable public administration.

- Which looks rather consistent with the Cons' security apparatus - which is placing a higher priority on silencing left-wing voices who might dare to "bring attention to perceived policy failures" than dealing with neo-Nazi or white supremacist threats.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

#skndpldr Roundup

With the holiday break now over, we can likely expect a steady stream of news from Saskatchewan's NDP leadership campaign until the March convention. So let's take a look at a few developments from the past week.

- While it's still not clear how much progress Cam Broten has made in generating excitement among the NDP's grassroots, he's certainly done well for himself when it comes to media reaction - with the latest example being Joe Couture's naming Broten as the top NDP performer in the legislature for 2012.

- Meanwhile, Yens Pedersen offered his own take on the campaign in the Star-Phoenix - drawing a contrast between Broten and Trent Wotherspoon as candidates he sees as pursuing power for its own sake, and Ryan Meili and Erin Weir as candidates more focused on policy outcomes. And while I'd see the issue as involving placement on a continuum rather than contrasting positions on a yes-or-no issue, there doesn't seem to be much doubt that the two sets of candidates better represent the business-as-usual and significant-reform positions respectively.

- Meili unveiled his policy on gender equality, with most of the more specific proposals summed up by this broad statement of principle:
There is no prescription to bring about greater equality; there is only a process. That process begins with changing the conversation about gender, recognizing that everyone benefits when the status of women improves. Rather than gender neutral (which tends to mean gender blind), policy decisions need to be made with an explicit gender lens and a commitment to gender equality in mind, from idea to implementation to evaluation.
- Finally, Gavin Gardiner and Brett Estey both offered partial coverage of yesterday's Rosetown leadership debate. But the more thorough review at the time from Cole Hogan seems to have disappeared.