Category Archives: politics

Promoting Local

The other day I walked into my favorite restaurant and was immediately swarmed by the owner, the cook, and the waiter who all thanked me for mentioning their restaurant in The StarPhoenix and in an media interview I did.  They mentioned how people have come by because of what I say on Twitter and my blog as well.  I thought the whole thing was kind of cool but as I said, “I’m not the one making the killer lunch specials.”

We all know that social media advertising works but one thing is that I have never understood about how politicians don’t use it more to promote their own ward businesses.  Economic development is an important part of any politicians local goals and I think they ignore the platform that being elected and their social media profiles give them to promote just that to promote business in their ward or constituency.

While I want my elected officials to look at the big picture, promoting the underdogs in the ward can be a good thing and as Calgary’s Naheed Nenshi has shown, it’s something that can be easily done in the evening during quieter hours.  Whether as a mayor or a councilor or MLA, what cooler project would it be to visit and promote your constituents businesses and organizations to a wider audience.  I’m talking Walmart’s but the family owned businesses that make up our smaller commercial districts.

Does it make a difference.  You should check out my email when either Wendy and I blog about a local business.  I write about it, you click on it, some of you stop by and buy from them and people are happy.  More politicians need to do this.  If it makes a difference for local businesses when I do it, imagine what can happen when they do it.

Lifestyle Choices

So the Mayor of Saskatoon wrote a statement condemning the attacks in Orlando.  Personally I don’t get these statements.  He is the Mayor of a city of 250,000 people several thousand miles away.  If it as it seems now that the shooter was a deranged ISIL fanboy, what does the statement do.  Cynically I think the statement arose after a large vigil was held at City Hall last night and after seeing it, Atch realized that not marching in the city’s Pride Parade was a political mistake.

So when he does issue it, he uses the phrase, “lifestyle choices” which denotes that homosexuality is a choice that people make and they are not born that way.  It’s politer than saying, “sinners” I guess but the connotation for many is the same.

Today after it was pointed out by myself and others that “lifestyle choices” is offensive, the Mayor’s communications assistant Richard Brown sent out an apology for the phrase which brings up some other questions.  If the mayor read over the statement, did the phrase “lifestyle choices” not jump out at him as offensive or did he just not read a statement put out in his name.  Either way it is offensive.

Is it too much to expect a mayor of Saskatoon to read the statements that go out in his name and understand that certain phrases are offensive?  Is it too much to want a mayor to be inclusive of a good part of the population in his own city?

A Short Disclaimer

Some of you have asked if I am helping with any political campaigns in the municipal election.  The answer is no.  I did no work on campaigns in the provincial or federal election either.

I will let you know that Wendy and I are friends with a few candidates and councilors like Jeff Jackson and Zach Jeffries.  I have hundreds if not thousands of political discussions over the last five or six years with them, often mocking and criticizing them.  I have called out Zach in columns and in the blog and I think I have been fair when I have done it.  I can tell you that I have never pulled a punch or a criticism of a politician because of a friendship and that has ended some friendship (which sucks by the way).

If Jeff wins, I can’t promise to call him out but if he does anything stupid or against the interests of the city, I most definitely will call him out on it somewhere.  He knows that and I am sure will tell me how wrong I am at a high volume when I do.

Some ask me if that influences what I write about.  Yes and no.  No in the sense that they don’t give me direction on what to write about.  Yes in that some of them are also reading and researching aspects of urban life and they bring up some interesting idea of policy being looked at or implemented somewhere, I read it and research it myself.  It’s just nerds sharing ideas on urbanism and cities. 

Wendy and I are both friends with Councilor Pat Lorje.  Both Mark and Oliver would consider her a friend as well.  Now that I think about it, most of our conversations have to do politics outside of Saskatoon.  American politics and even some Spanish discussions.  She also has given Wendy and I some solid parenting advice which we appreciate.  For those of you who follow my writing, you know that Councilor Lorje and I are on the opposite sides of some issues that both of us feel quite strongly about.  She has gone to great extent to telling me how wrong I was on columns in the past and I assure you she will in the future.

I also have a good working and personal relationship with Councilor Darren Hill.  We have grabbed the occasional drink over the years and mostly discussed issues relating the ward and city.  Most of those were constituent – councilor conversations but like all of politicos we do talk politics.  We also have disagreed on things over the years.  I have endorsed him the last two campaigns.  I may or may not this one but I think it is fair to Darren and anyone who is running against him to wait and see campaign platforms before I endorse.

Wendy and I both get along with socially with some other councilors.  I don’t offer up that much in policy suggestions but if I have read something similar to what they are musing about, I tend to fire them off some things.

Before you accuse me of being too close to council, let’s recall they hired a RCMP investigator to investigate non-existent leaks to me.   I also think as a group they collectively are one of the worst city councils in Canada.  Some of them have personally expressed their contempt and hatred of me in person and in writing.   I try not to take it personally.

Those of you who have seen me having a drink or a coffee with a politician need to know this, they aren’t asking me for advice and if they are good at what they do, they ignore any advice they give them.  I don’t care about the political process which is bad for a politician in an election year.  I am not a strategist, a tactician, or anything else.  I am a friend and a pundit but I tend to stay out of it during campaigns other than listen to funny door-knocking stories. 

If you have any thoughts or concerns about my objectivity, let me know.  I’d love to hear them.

Saskatoon City Council Roundup

  • I updated the Candidate tracking page here. With Jeff Jackson’s candidacy, Evan Drisner and Charlie Clark campaign websites.
  • Jeff is a good friend of mine.  I am just tossing that out there in terms of disclosure.
  • A little shocked to read that Drisner singing the praises of Eric Olauson.  Most would have considered Olauson a terrible councilor that contributed little to the city.   He was unprepared for most meetings I watched, didn’t appear to have read his council packet, and was more interested in his version of partisanship than anything about constituents.  Yes he was elected as a MLA but on the coat tails of the most popular Premier in provincial history.
  • I have heard from several that Atchison’s fundraiser was not a success.  Corporate tables sold out but where full of junior associates and staff and the individual seats were less then half full.  Oddly enough people keep pointing out that Atch didn’t thank people individually or work the room.
  • Atch isn’t marching in the Saskatoon Pride Parade again.  I really wish this wasn’t an issue and that had done it before.  He is invited every year and every year he comes up with a ridiculous excuse (or just is silent) on why he doesn’t do it.  I’m not a politician but I too am missing the Pride Parade.  Wendy, Oliver, Mark and I are hiking to Grey Owl’s cabin that weekend.  We have attended in the past though.
  • For those of you who say, “It’s his personal choice if he wants to attend the event.”   Fair enough but no one forced him to run as mayor either. When you seek public office, there are certain obligations.  As almost every Canadian mayor and politician has shown, marking in a Pride parade is an important part of that.

Some quick thoughts on the Saskatoon Mayoral Race

  1. Charlie Clark is going to announce today
    • How does one run against the status quo, when as a councilor, he has been a part of the status quo for a decade.  That will be a big part of his challenge as an sitting councilor.  Over the last four years I haven’t seen an independent initiative or policy come from Clark (or anyone on council).  That is part of the problem of so much stuff being done behind closed doors, it creates a form of party like discipline on otherwise independent councilors.
    • Yes Clark is outspoken in the public parts of council meeting which are held during the day when all of us are at work. 
    • On one hand he won’t tell media he is announcing for sure yet on the other hand everyone has an email telling supporters they want a big crowd out today.   Those kind of games are ridiculous.  I am assuming openness and transparency aren’t campaign planks. 
    • There is a feeling that Tom Wolfe would be mayor if he had started earlier four years ago, it makes sense for Clark to start now.
    • I saw some polling that showed Clark behind Atch but it’s way to early to read into that.
  2. Atch isn’t running for re-election until fall but has a new website, a big fundraiser, and whose campaign phone number is Earnscliffe Strategies.  So at the same time he is saying “nothing to see here”, he is hiring consultants for the race.  Not the best messaging that I have seen.
    • Also, get a new phone number.  You don’t use the number for Earnscliffe as your campaign number.  C’mon. 
    • While Clark is right to start now, Atch does have a point in that the campaign doesn’t start till fall when people start to pay attention.
    • Atch’s big fundraiser is soon.  That’s a big room. If he doesn’t sell out, is his campaign in trouble?  Does that open the doors another pro-business challenger on the right.
  3. How much does it matter that the NDP were beat badly in the last campaign in the city and won’t have the resources to help Clark.  Does a rightward shift in the city help Atch? 
  4. That being said, hiring Doug Richardson with long time Liberal ties help or hurt Atch in Saskatoon?  I know he was John Turner’s Chief of Staff back in the day and is a big Liberal in a little pond but this is a city that is voting conservative right now.  Interesting choice.
  5. Dayday announces tomorrow
    • How long is in the race for?  I can’t see him seeing this through until election day?
    • Does he take voters away from Atch or Clark?  How big will his 0 tax increase base of voters really be?
    • Can he raise enough money to be competitive?
  6. I think there will be at least one more name in the race and perhaps two more by the time August long weekend roles around.
  7. My feeling is an outsider to City Hall could be the wildcard.  No partisan background but running an effective and policy driven campaign around change could be unstoppable.  Does that candidate exist?  I don’t know.

In the end, it’s not a race that I am that invest in and won’t heat up until fall.  I also expect at least three more names to jump into the race which will change the dynamic again and again and again. 

The Office of Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau

Sophie Grégoire-TrudeauI was going to write a long post on Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau request for more money and the opposition to it but I’ll keep it short.

Some really quick thoughts

  • She has not been elected to anything and this makes it complicated when it comes to public money.
  • I totally disagree with Heather Mallick.  I don’t think the opposition is bullying, I think it is politics which to be honest relies on bullying and coercion so maybe she is right.  So maybe I disagree that it is a personal attack on her rather than a partisan attack.
  • This Neil MacDonald piece is weird as well.  I could be wrong but I don’t think think it’s because she is attractive or effective, it is because it involves public money people are freaking out.
  • No comparison to Mila Mulroney is a good one.  Both Brian and Mila’s excesses were over the top for a Prime Minister and that has been a legacy that has hurt the stature of the Prime Minister since then.

In short my opinion is that the PMO should give her an office with enough staff to handle correspondence and arrangements.  Keep it transparent and accountable to Parliament with how much she is spending and staff and travel.   If the demands subside, cut it back.  If correspondence and demands go up, revisit each budget period like most government departments. [update: a few elected officials let me know they felt that it will keep growing and that’s okay.  Effectiveness often will lead to more demands.]

Years ago I brought in a prominent speaker into Saskatoon.  He booked his flights around clumps of arrangements so he would maximize his time and lower the cost for the orgs bringing him in.  Have someone do this for her.  I somehow figure that there are bureaucrats who have trained their entire lives for this job.

I am not talking about cargo class tickets and red eyes to save a couple of dollars (my brother was once put on a 8 or 9 stopover flight from San Francisco to save like $100 dollars, he actually flew into JFK Airport on his trip before heading back west to Saskatoon.  He looked like a zombie when I picked him up at the airport) but showing some good planning and an eye on keeping costs down.   This isn’t about Gregoire-Trudeau, travel stories about politicians are rampant and often lazily written without context.  Being transparent and cost effective comes with the territory. 

Transparency is key because it won’t be cheap.  She will need RCMP protection and she will fly first class.  That’s totally okay but with Canadian media’s obsession with travel cost stories, it will be a big deal.    Use that transparency to show the value the public gets from her events and bill the Liberal Party for events that are political.  I also have a feeling that an effective communications plan would do a great deal to amplify the work she is doing by helping to promote the work she is doing.

Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau is in demand because of the crowd she can draw and therefore the good work she can do for organizations that are asking for her.  That’s not a bad thing and in the end, the good she will do will far outweigh the cost of a couple of assistants will cost.  She isn’t asking for a salary, she is asking for some help to help with her correspondence and scheduling.   That is worth providing.

What was the PM doing this week

Fundraising for the Conservatives

Fundraising note from the Conservatives…

Here are my feelings on travel pieces like this.  Both sides put them out and if they don’t journalists basically do the same thing.  They used to do these all of the time whenever Stephen Harper went to watch a hockey game and a piece would be written about the costs for the flight, security, and even what he paid for out of his own pocket.  It was like it was un-Canadian for a Prime Minister to watch a hockey game.

Now we see it done with the Liberals and it’s just as ridiculous.  It’s almost as if no Canadian Prime Minister should ever travel again for any purpose and it is the most Canadian mindset ever.  It is almost as if we should be ashamed that our Prime Minister travels and takes in meetings or is asked to events.

The reality of politics

During the federal election, I remember watching long term Parliament Hill reporters in shock at some of the NDP and Conservative MPs who were losing.  They all said the same thing; they were hard working, not hyper partisan, and cared a lot about constituent issues. 

I was reminded of the same when Cam Broten lost tonight.  I have known Cam for five or six years and have seen him work extremely hard as an MLA on a lot of different issues.  Because of Wendy’s job and the neighborhood we live in, she has referred many people to talk to Cam and seek his help.  Most times they have reported to her that Cam’s office was able to help them sort out their problems; even if it wasn’t a provincial issue.  He was a great MLA.   I was always happy to see him and he has been in Wendy’s and my home.

For a bunch of reasons, it didn’t work out for him as the leader of the opposition.  Winning such a tight leadership race which was essentially the centric base of the NDP versus the left wing made it impossible to consolidate the party.  It also probably didn’t help that the “socialist” Bernie Sanders was making inroads in the Democratic primary and the left wing Rachel Notley is Premier of Alberta (even if she won because of a right wing civil war).  There was this feeling amongst many is that Broten was too centrist for the NDP, even if that is the kind of leader that Roy Romanow and Lorne Calvert were.  I don’t think the comments from Ryan Meili were overly helpful.  Neither was him not getting involved to help move the party forward.  It hurt Broten, it hurt the NDP.

Also, Brad Wall is incredibly popular.  How do you attack an incredibly popular Premier without upsetting people.  I keep hearing people he should have gone negative even more but that’s hard when people won’t believe it; remember, you have to believe in it for negative ads to work.  Also without the NDP having any rural strength, how do you actually act like a government in waiting.  This election was going to be bad regardless.  I said the upside was 20, the low was 5.  I predicted 14.  They got 10.

In the last week I could feel the vote collapsing for the NDP.  You could feel voters making the move to the Saskatchewan Party.  I don’t know why it happened but once it happens, it’s almost impossible to stop.   If Cam wasn’t the leader of the opposition, he would have survived with his seat but he was and Saskatchewan loses a hard working public servant.  That’s the reality of politics.

Tonight, the NDP need to do some soul searching.  Their party doesn’t exist outside of the inner city Saskatoon, Regina, and part of Prince Albert and now they have the same problem they came into this election with, a new leader, a caucus that didn’t run under the new leader, and nothing close to a rural breakthrough in sight.    It is a party that is a centre left party in a province that has swung to the right.  So whoever it is that is the new leader, have fun because one thing that we have learned is that being the leader of the Saskatchewan NDP could be the most thankless job in Saskatchewan.

Some thoughts on the Saskatchewan Election

Murray Mandryk hits on the NDP campaign here.  My thoughts on his thoughts are here. 

  1. Brad Wall ran the classic front runner incumbent campaign.  It was the same campaign the federal NDP ran last fall and the BC NDP ran in British Columbia.  The difference was that he was the front runner and the incumbent.
  2. I thought the Saskatchewan Party platform was visionless and not worth a second mandate but the NDP didn’t do anything to discredit it or point out that with the economy struggling, some of it’s major planks were not going to happen.  When your major plank is helping people sell more puffed wheat cake and fixing more highways and that is really it, it’s a visionless campaign.
  3. With both parties running candidates with DWIs, neither campaign had any moral high ground.  It’s the first campaign with what is written on Facebook was considered worse than driving while impaired.  Saskatchewan values?
  4. Plus, we all know the next budget will have the Saskatchewan Party saying a) we don’t have a spending problem, we have a revenue problem and b) massive cuts to education, health, social services.  It’s going to be bad for all of us.  I am not saying that it is the wrong path but they do have a revenue and a spending problem and the spending is going to have to stop.
  5. How poor are the candidates for the NDP that it never occurred to them do delete their Facebook accounts when they decided to run or the nomination.  Also, the lack of simple vetting was ridiculous and speaks poorly about Frank Quennel’s leadership of the NDP.  It was a fixed election date, not a snap election.  That cut the knees out from Cam Broten in the first week of the campaign.  They never recovered. 
  6. I really don’t care what NDP candidates in rural Saskatchewan say to me during the campaign about the leader but it does speak to the lack of discipline they have and the state of the party in rural Saskatchewan.  This goes back to the Romanow years and isn’t getting better.  The NDP are very unpopular in rural ridings and nothing we saw in this campaign will change that.   For years the Saskatchewan Party was looking for an urban break through.  Remember Elwin Hermanson’s last campaign?  He lived in Saskatoon and Regina and didn’t see the promised breakthrough.    My point is that I think the NDP have massive problems in rural Saskatchewan an it is going to take them at least one more election before that changes.
  7. For those of you out there who are going to write off the NDP after this election, may I show you about a hundred articles saying the same thing after Stephane Dion and then Michael Ignatieff lost.  Also the Liberals were in third place going into this last provincial election.  Same thing for Mike Harris and the Progressive Conservatives when he won in Ontario the first time. 
  8. Speaking of the Liberals, I think it was a huge mistake for Darrin Lameroux to avoid Twitter and social media during the entire campaign.  It’s free media and it was the only medium the Liberals could use that would give them a provincial voice.  Instead he decided to meet people face to face.  Huge mistake.  It’s not an either/or, it’s a both/and.
  9. No campaign took advantage of one of the best political blogs out there and that was Tammy Robert’s musings.  I don’t know what Tammy’s stats are like but it was well read by many politicos and journalists in the province.  Howard Dean got huge play out of posting on Larry Lessig’s blog for a week.  Part of me thinks that it would have been advantageous for Darrin Lameroux or Cam Broten to do some guest posts and interact with commenters during the writ for a day.
  10. Personally I don’t think the NDP should turf Cam Broten.  Dalton McGuinty went through this. Rachel Notley went through this.  Stephen Harper went through this.  Tossing the leader won’t ail what is wrong for the NDP.   Plus a lot is going to change in four years.

Murray Mandryk’s thoughts of the 2016 election

Murray Mandryk has a must read column on the 2016 election.  I agree with most almost all of it but I have a few thoughts on it.

  1. Mandryk has brought up the two homeless guys being sent to B.C. before and the NDP’s inability to do anything about it.  Maybe I have just sucked at it but I have been told by people on both sides of the political spectrum that people don’t care about social issues like homelessness unless it directly impacts them.   It’s why for example that most people on the east side of Saskatoon our outside of Circle Drive don’t care about what is happening in the core neighborhoods.
  2. I have talked to people still inside the NDP who have long felt that Wall’s personal popularity made it impossible to attack him and no come out worse.  People really like Brad Wall and personally connect to him.
  3. Governments are elected, they are defeated and voters don’t think the Saskatchewan Party has done enough to deserve being defeated.  Do I agree with the Saskatchewan Party all of the time?  Not even close.  I have some serious issues with a lot of what they have done.  Emma Graney has reported on them remarkably well and Murray Mandryk has done an excellent job of giving some context to the bigger issues but are they big enough to make the switch?  According to polls, they have not.  People are happy with the direction the government is taking and do feel they are better off than eight years ago.
  4. Back to point #1.  Lean and senior’s care may have gotten the NDP media attention but it didn’t resonate with voters.  Now I spend hours each month waiting for scheduled appointments and have seen the utter chaos and carnage that is ambulatory care at St. Paul’s Hospital.  It is brutal in every way shape and form.  Yet it doesn’t impact enough of people to cause them to vote differently.
  5. For years the focus in Saskatchewan was the economy an even as it cratered, the NDP focus was on health care and education.  I have never understood this unless you accept that the NDP didn’t have the talent in which to attack it credibly (which is part of what Mandryk is getting at).
  6. Speaking of a lack of talent, there is no excuse for any part to get hammered on social media like the NDP have been by the Saskatchewan Party and not do a better job of returning fire.  This is why you have a war room.   The amount of Saskatchewan Party statements left unchallenged was significant and that can never happen in even a losing campaign.  This is now three campaigns where the NDP have been significantly out maneuvered during the writ.
  7. I think the NDP made a strategic mistake in not running harder in 2016.  I have always felt and been told that the goal was 2020.  I don’t know if the NDP are going to lose seats (we’ve been through this before, I am horrible at predicting races) but from what I was told the best case scenario was 20 seats.  Personally I think they will get to 14 but I wouldn’t make a bet on that.
  8. Finally, I predicted this would be a status quo election back in my January column.  It has pretty much played out as I thought.  The lack of star candidates showed that the NDP did not believe this was a party in waiting.

Will Broten be back as leader.  I have watched every single NDP leadership campaign (well all parties leadership conventions) since Ed Broadbent stepped down and they always baffle me.  Understanding the partisan NDP mind is a skill I have never developed but it does make for great television.

What happened to character in politics?

I don’t know if I am going to write about this for my column in The StarPhoenix.  Probably because it depresses me so much and partly because Murray Mandryk does a way better job of writing about provincial politics than I do but here is my take on the five Saskatchewan candidates who have driving while impaired convictions.

I was in Grade 11 when my first friend was killed by an impaired driver.  He was impaired and killed himself and one other person while driving home from Prince Albert one long weekend.  It was the same thing, they had too much to drink, thought they could handle it and pulled out to pass when they should not have.  It was all over before they knew what happened.  It’s been over 20 years and I still get a sick feeling in my stomach when I think about it.

The story is similar with a few other friends over the years.  Sometimes they were intoxicated and hurt someone else.  Other times they were coming home from work and were hit hard themselves.  End result was that their lives were over or spent months or years recovering from the accident.  

It’s not a unique story, Saskatchewan leads the nation in people who drive drunk something that I can’t understand.  People say they have no options but there are always options.  Sleeping in your car and locking the keys in the trunk, calling a friend, using a cab, walking home are all options.  I have been woken up more then once by sheepish friends who have said, “I am downtown and had too much to drink…”  Each time I have always gotten out of bed and gone and helped them out without regret because loosing someone to drunk driving is an experience that none of us should have to deal with.   Many of you have done the same thing because we all know the risk to our friends, family and strangers from someone getting into a vehicle and driving intoxicated.

So when Cam Broten and Brad Wall both allowed candidates who had not only one conviction but multiple convictions to be candidates for their party like nothing was out of the ordinary, I was incredibly disappointed.  These candidates decided that it was okay to drink too much, get into a vehicle and endanger innocent lives because they were too cheap to call a taxi, too prideful to make a phone call, or too selfish to stay at home and not go out and get drunk.  The same actions which disqualify many people from the same “high paying jobs” and quite a few menial jobs that both parties love to talk about is appropriate for candidates to become MLAs?

This is the government that spent much of the last four years legislating red light cameras, baby seats, and how fast we drive in highways zones but both parties have no problems with candidates who have repeated driving while impaired convictions.  In a province where this kind of behavior is already too prevalent and given tactful approval in many circles as “part of growing up”, what message to both Broten and Wall send?

I know backbench MLAs serve really no purpose other than to clap and bang on their tables on command but shouldn’t we expect more from our MLAs and potential cabinet other than the ability to knock on doors and pose for photos with their party leader.  Shouldn’t a clean criminal record be part of the job qualifications?

At this point in the campaign, I’d rather spoil my ballot or not vote than cast it.  I have voted in every election and referendum since I have been 18 and I have never considered not voting before.

Tammy Robert is blogging over there…

In case you missed it but Tammy Robert is blogging again here.  If you are reading my blog, you are clearly looking for correct opinions and commentary but if you want the, err, contrarian view to what is correct and right, check out her site.

For the provincial election, Tammy is doing some excellent commentary on the campaigns.  If this election gets you excited, her blog may be the best one out there.

So much for being impartial

The second paragraph reads like something from Stevie Cameron’s On The Take.

Antonin Scalia was the longest-tenured justice on the current Supreme Court and the country’s most prominent constitutionalist. But another quality also set him apart: Among the court’s members, he was the most frequent traveler, to spots around the globe, on trips paid for by private sponsors.

When Justice Scalia died two weeks ago, he was staying, again for free, at a West Texas hunting lodge owned by a businessman whose company had recently had a matter before the Supreme Court.

Though that trip has brought new attention to the justice’s penchant for travel, it was in addition to the 258 subsidized trips that he took from 2004 to 2014. Justice Scalia went on at least 23 privately funded trips in 2014 alone to places like Hawaii, Ireland and Switzerland, giving speeches, participating in moot court events or teaching classes. A few weeks before his death, he was in Singapore and Hong Kong.

Here is some context

In 2011, a liberal advocacy group, Common Cause, questioned whether Justice Scalia and Justice Clarence Thomas should have disqualified themselves from participating in the landmark Citizens United case on campaign finance because they had attended a political retreat in Palm Springs, Calif., sponsored by the conservative financier Charles G. Koch. Mr. Koch funds groups that could benefit from the ruling. The disclosure report filed by Justice Thomas made no mention of the retreat. It said only that he had taken a trip, funded by the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group, to Palm Springs to give a speech.

Over roughly a decade, Justice Scalia took 21 trips sponsored by the Federalist Society, to places like Park City, Utah; Napa, Calif.; and Bozeman, Mont. The Federalist Society also paid for trips by Justice Alito during that period, but not for any liberal justices, the disclosure reports show.

“There are fair questions raised by some of these trips about their commitment to being impartial,” said Stephen Spaulding, the legal director at Common Cause. “They are dancing so close to the line with overtly political events.”

Ward 3: Running Against Ann Iwanchuk

Councillor Ann IwanchukThis election series is dragging on as long as the GOP nomination race.  I had hoped the series would have been done by now but I’ve been sick with the leg again (still).  The medication is taking a lot out of me. 

I’ve tackled Ward 1 (Darren Hill), Ward 2 (Pat Lorje), and now it is off to Ward 3 and a look at one would run against Ann Iwanchuk if you were going to do so.

Well we onto Ward 3, a race that has become far less interesting with it looking like Mike San Miguel won’t be running again.  So there will be no Iwanchuk/San Miguel III, something that political pundits all over the city will miss watching.

Ann Iwanchuk won in a 2011 by-election and won in 2012 against Mike San Miguel.  Some people feel that San Miguel would have won if he hadn’t put out a poorly thought out attack ad on the last week of the campaign.  He may have but the attack ad went out and Iwanchuk won. 

This is how close the election was.  Ann Iwanchuk was driving the #11 car.

Ann Iwanchuk wins the 2012 election and 2016 Daytona 500

(okay, that was actually Denny Hamlin winning the 2016 Daytona 500 but you get the point… it was a close race). 

With Mike San Miguel not running again, Ann Iwanchuk should have a clear path to re-election.  If I was thinking about running against her, I hope I’d have someone to talk me out of it.  Here is why.

  1. Iwanchuk is a one term incumbent.  She has name recognition in the Ward.  That isn’t everything.  Rik Steernberg had it and was killed by Iwanchuk in the by-election that saw her win her seat on council but still, it’s a big advantage.
  2. Her husband, Andy Iwanchuk was also a long term MLA in the area.  That helps a lot with name recognition and also a network for a campaign team.
  3. She was backed heavily by labour in the last election and it’s an area where labour matters.  Again, it’s not just the money that matters, it is unions endorsing her.
  4. Iwanchuk is fairly quiet in council (well compared to some of her colleagues) and hasn’t made any boneheaded statements.  I disagree with some of what she says but that doesn’t mean that what she said wasn’t thought out.  So unlike many long term councilors, there isn’t this collection of memories of head shaking moments that might be embedded in an electorate.
  5. I have long heard she handles constituent problems and issues promptly and thoroughly.
  6. Lastly several councilors have told me that she is incredibly effective in closed door meetings (yeah I know, another in-camera leak)
  7. Her expenses are boring.  The only thing that stands out is that she sponsored a tournament with the Saskatoon Aces (no one else did anything like that which I find interesting as I think hockey parents are a good voting block to target).  I guess this would the ideal time to point out that her website is offline.  Maybe some more money spent on expenses would be helpful.

So if you want to waste a couple of months of your life and $15,000 so you run against her, here is how I would do it:

  1. Ignore the Mike San Miguel vote totals.  Those came in a by-election and then a quick election just months afterwards in which San Miguel worked hard the entire time building profile and voter blocs.  I don’t think it is going to be replicated.
  2. While Iwanchuk is reportedly excellent with dealing with constituents, she is only a first term councilor.  That means that there is a good chance she hasn’t had to deal with so many voters that they have all developed a bond yet.   That is a small opening but if you are looking for hope, keep looking there.
  3. I wrote after the transit lockout how much people living in her ward were hurt by the lockout and how silent all councilors were all over it.   Being a councilor in a Ward where transit is heavily relied on (and offers some horrible service), that could be a significant issue in some parts of the ward.  The problem is that will they vote in significant numbers on one issue?  I doubt it.   I only bring that up because if there is one councilor that would be hurt by it, it would be her because of the demographics of Ward 3. 
  4. The biggest threat to Iwanchuk is if a tide of change sweeps through council.  If the preferred mayoral candidate runs on a platform of change and it catches, it will bring out voters that are looking for something different.  That isn’t limited to Iwanchuk, that is every politician.  That being said, I just don’t see it.  As I will get to in a later post, I think the status quo will be the defining story of this election.

You are basically reduced to door knocking and hoping your well liked incumbent thinks the election is in November of 2017.  Good luck with that.

It’s going to be a boring election in Ward 3 no matter who runs against Ann Iwanchuk.  While I have heard of one person considering a run, by the time the summer comes along, I could see her run for re-election be uncontested.