Category Archives: politics

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.

In Iowa, fans chant ‘Trump! Trump!’ at racially diverse high school basketball team

Racial slurs at high school students?

From the moment Donald Trump announced his presidential bid in June, he has used antipathy toward illegal immigrants as a mainstay of his campaign. Now his name is being invoked by basketball fans in Iowa who are trying to taunt a racially diverse high school team there.

Perry High is located in a rural part of the state, making its relatively high percentage of minorities unusual. According to a report by Iowa TV station WHO, fans at a game Monday were chanting “Trump! Trump! Trump!” and “U-S-A” at Perry players, who include boys of Latino, Native American and African American heritage.

“It’s honestly disrespectful. That’s how I take it. I hear it during the game, on and off the court. Everywhere I go,” Shammond Ivory, a senior on the team, told WHO.

An official for the school Perry played Monday, Dallas Center-Grimes, confirmed to the TV station that the chants had taken place. He declined to say whether any students had been disciplined.

“We are all aware of racism, it’s alive and well in small portions, but it’s alive and well and it’s just hurtful to see that’s what they resort to,” a Perry student, Kevin Lopez, said.

Disgusting actions by fans and by the school that allowed it to happen.

Ward 2: Running Against Pat Lorje

Here is the next edition of “Running for City Council”.  Darren Hill and Ward 1 were featured here.  Now I wander across 33rd Street into Ward 1 where we look at Pat Lorje, the long time councilor of the riding.

Saskatoon Ward 1 Councilor Pat LorjePat Lorje is currently a city councilor for Ward 2 in Saskatoon,Saskatchewan. She previously held the same position from 1979 to 1991, when she resigned to stand as the New Democratic candidate in Saskatoon Wildwood in the 1991 provincial election.  She was re-elected to the Ward in 2006, 2009, and 2012.

So yeah, she has some name recognition in the Ward and gets a lot of her support from the neighborhoods of Montgomery and Caswell Hill.  It’s not that other neighborhoods don’t like her, it is just that none of the turn out in enough number to determine an election. 

So what would my strategy be if I was running against a well known incumbent councilor?  During the last election, a politician said that it didn’t matter what their opponent did, they just had to worry about getting to a certain number of votes and there was a number of ways to get to that vote total.  The same thing would apply in Ward 2 and the secret is to cobbling together a coalition of voters who are frustrated with city life in Ward 2 and getting them out to vote.  This is how I would do it.

Montgomery

The NDP haven’t faced a serious re-election battle in Riversdale since Jo-Ann Zazelenchuk beat Roy Romanow in 1982.  They generally won handily in the area but that has started to change.  I have written before about the declining margins of victory that Danielle Chartier has won by in Saskatoon Riversdale which has gotten to the point where she is vulnerable to being beaten by the right Saskatchewan Party candidate (Not sure Marv Friesen is that candidate but you never know).  My point is that it looks like parts of that ward are voting right wing more often.  No longer is Montgomery home to veterans, it is home to an eclectic group of people who haven’t been voting for Lorje since before I was born.

Despite Montgomery being her base, it’s been a tough time for the neighborhood.  Despite several passionate speeches to City Council, Lorje wasn’t able to stop the wind turbine (which was a good idea until it came back economically unfeasible) and the construction of hundreds of new units of apartments.  The new City Operations Centre is going south of Montgomery.  The South Circle Drive Bridge and Circle Drive bring 24 hour traffic noise by Montgomery.    For a community that thinks of itself as a first among equals, much has changed a lot and people aren’t happy about it.  In the end, the wind turbine might have been the best of all things that could have happened.

Convincing those voters to either vote for you or stay at home on election day.

The Montgomery Apartments

Even if the older part of Montgomery holds, there are a lot of new voters to the community in those apartments.  They aren’t long term supporters of Lorje and are open to anyone who is going to go after them.  A flyer drop to those apartments reinforcing some of Lorje’s and Montgomery’s residents statements about those apartments could make it really awkward for her. 

Riversdale

The same thing with the Riversdale BID.  Lorje has been a large proponent of the business aspect part of it but against social programs being located there.  In a community that has seen it’s share of gentrification, a campaign reminding voters that Lorje has been against the services that are needed to help them could bring out voters in Riversdale.    Lorje and I have disagreed for years on these kinds of policies but that doesn’t matter.  If the voter is against gentrification, the answer is that it has happened because of the focus on business development on 20th Street with the kind of growth that has locked out local people.  If they are frustrated with the ongoing issues with crime and social issues, it is because there is no room for the social agencies to help them.  The question always is will Riversdale and Pleasant Hill  turn out in enough numbers to vote?  History says no.

Crime

Crime is rising in the city (thank goodness the City of Saskatoon Police were there to save us from the Compassion Club) and it is increasingly violent and more serious in Ward 2 where it is heavily concentrated.  This is one of those issues that is almost impossible to blame on Lorje, the issues are beyond the control of any one councilor but because of the incredible density of it in Ward 2 residents feel it.  To be honest, this isn’t a big issue to attack the incumbent with and it won’t be that hard to beat back but it could be problematic if people are frustrated in Meadow Green, Caswell Hill, Riversdale, and Pleasant Hill and are asked, “Do you feel safer than you were in 2012?”  For most, the answer is no.

Swept Away?

Is Lorje prone to be swept away if a sea of change finally hits City Hall?  Actually no.  That is the advantage of being an outspoken councilor, she has her own brand of politics that is separate from the rest of City Councils.  If a mood to change sweeps across the mighty South Saskatchewan River, Lorje is in a good place to ride it out.

Re-Election Chances 

It all comes down to whether or not someone can figure out the issues to motivate your coalition of voters to turn out on election day.  I think it could happen but it would be a long and drawn out campaign combined with a mayoral campaign that can bring out non typical voters.  If that happens, it could be the race to watch on election night.

Ward 1: Running Against Darren Hill

Saskatoon City Councilor Darren HillA couple of years ago Sean Shaw and I talked about doing a podcast about how to defeat each of the 10 city councilors.  That would only be fun if it was an election year so here we are but Shaw is in Victoria tormenting a new city.  So instead of a podcast, I am doing a series of posts on how I would run a campaign against each other the councilors that are running in the next municipal election.

Darren Hill is the three term incumbent running in Ward 1.  He defeated incumbent Donna Birkmaier (2006), Carol Reynolds (2009) and Robin Bellamey (2012).  So far he is uncontested but with Jeb Bush having some extra time on his hands…  There is still a lot of time between now and and the next municipal election.

What I Would Do If I Was Running Against Him:  To channel my inner Karl Rove, I’d go after his strengths which in part is the role Hill plays in representing Saskatoon on the FCM and SUMA and point out that Hill is more likely to be chatting up Neil Patrick Harris on Twitter than attending to the real and serious issues of Ward 1.  I’d point out that Hill abandoned the western half of Ward 1 when he ran under the Michael Ignatieff led Liberals and he’s priming the pump for another run in the future.  Something along the lines of, “He’s not in it for you.”

Would it work?  Probably not because the perfect time and person to do it was last election when Robin Bellamy ran.  Hill had just been clobbered in the federal race and you could have made a compelling case that said, “City Council is not a plan B”.  Instead Bellamy ran on Cosmo and a quiet support of the Mayor (who isn’t popular in Ward 1) and lost handily to Hill.

This time around Hill’s biggest weakness is how poorly he has spent his communications fund.  No newsletters that I have seen, erratic email communication to the Ward, and a much lower visibility this time around.  While he continues to do excellent constituency work, his biggest vulnerability might be, “we only see you around at election time.”

Is that a winning message.  Probably not.  Those that care about municipal politics are probably the kinds of voters that dialogue with Hill and therefore get a response.  In talking to neighbors, they seem to appreciate the work that Hill has done for them when called upon, even if they haven’t always appreciated all of the city decisions.   That is generally the winning formula for city councilors running for re-election.

Where it does start to become a problem for him is an outside candidate runs for Mayor and channels the frustration with the city quo on a bunch of areas and hill as an incumbent gets caught up on that.  All incumbents are vulnerable on rising crime in Saskatoon, transparency and competence of City Hall, and a desire for change as the economic conditions in the city have changed.  Local campaigns don’t have the money to pound home those issues but riding the coat tails of a mayoral campaign that turns to the theme of change, could make Ward 1 interesting.  Even in an interesting campaign, I can’t see Hill going down in defeat. 

The mistake that people make in municipal elections is that  because they see the world in a left/right spectrum, the rest of the world does.  We don’t.  We care about things like roads being cleaned, potholes being fixed, and safe communities, that is where Hill does a good job. 

Chances of Being Defeated: Low.  Expect to see him as your Ward 1 councilor for the next four years but if you disagree with me, feel free to run or leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Disclosure: I endorsed Hill in the last two elections.  Documents obtained in a FOI of City Councilors named me as a Darren Hill crony and it was suggested that I was a part of a Darren Hill slate.  I am still bitter about that.  More than it suggests that I am any civic politician’s crony and if there was a slate of candidates, it would be the Jordon Cooper slate.

Some thoughts on the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy

Has anyone ever asked if the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy is the right one or do the votes outweigh any kind of dialogue at all? 

For those of you may have forgotten what it is. 

The National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy is a Government of Canada program operated by the Department of Public Works and Government Services. The National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (NSPS) was developed by the Conservative Stephen Harper government in an effort to renew the fleets of the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) and the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG). The strategy was broken into three sections; the combat package, the non-combat package and the smaller vessel package. The smaller vessel package was not able to bid on by those companies who won one of larger ship packages

$30 billion for 21 combatant (warships) vessels to serve in the RCN

  • 5-6 vessels from the Arctic Patrol Ship Project
  • up to 15 vessels from the Single Class Surface Combatant Project: It is known that the Canadian Forces are seeking to build a single new class of frigates or destroyers to replace both the Iroquois-class destroyers and Halifax-class frigates under what the Royal Canadian Navy has called the Single Class Surface Combatant Project (SCSCP).

$8 billion for 8 non-combatant vessels to serve in the CCG and RCN

On 20 January 2015, it was announced that Irving Shipbuilding had been named the prime contractor for the program. The total cost of the program including the single class surface warships is $26 billion CAD. The role of the lead contractor gives Irving Shipbuilding overall control of the project, and the company had already won the right to build the vessels at its yard in Halifax. This led to questions concerning the bidding process and the awarding of the contracts. In the fall of 2015, it was reported that there were high increases in costs, more than doubling to $30 billion from $14 billion for the new warships. The total cost of the naval ship building program rose from $26.2 billion to $42 in this new study. This put in jeopardy the number of ships that could be produced and raised the prospect of ships with reduced capabilities.

Here are some thoughts

  1. The other goal was to rebuild ship building in Canada.  At the time of the competition, Irving Shipbuilding didn’t have a lot in terms of new orders, Davie Shipbuilding is a shell company that bought the assets of a shipbuilding yard in Quebec just so it could get a piece of the action.  When it didn’t win, it was sold to a Monaco based company.  Seaspan Marine, a division of a larger ship servicing company has no large orders on it’s list.  The Canadian ship building industry is more or less non existent.  It’s going to take a lot of money just to bring it up to capacity.
  2. Capacity is a huge thing in ship building.  Recruiting and training the tradespeople to build ships and then keeping them employed (with new orders) is a big thing.  Like all people, they get better at their jobs the more they do them which is why U.S. Naval vessels tend to become cheaper and better quality the more ships that are made.    If you read about the Littoral Combat Ships, the US Navy has this problem as well.
  3. If you aren’t constantly building ships, you lose capacity for shipbuilding and even repair.  This is why we can’t keep our subs underwater very long.  We went decades without building any or even really repairing them.  It’s a mess every time we have to fix one of them because that capacity has retired or left the country.   This will happen unless we commit to building enough ships to keep both the Seaspan and Irvine shipyards busy.
  4. The jobs aspect is the weirdest part of this.  Yes jobs are important and you don’t want to export jobs to other shipyards because the political cost would be insane but if the goal is to get the best ship for your money, then it does make sense to order from a U.S. shipyard that has experience in building warships.  As a matter of fact, why not just order a U.S. warship that is already designed, worked the bugs out, and is proven?  That is the cheapest way.
  5. Of course that will never happen because those jobs matter and supporting Canadian industry is a big part of this.  Having two functioning shipyards is important if God forbid, we do find ourselves in a conflict in Russia or China.  A base on each coast could become vital if one is disabled and it is the exact reason why the U.S. builds it’s warships in multiple shipyards.   That being said, let’s accept that these are long term subsidies for both shipyards and it is going to cost more to build Canadian than elsewhere.  Not only that but we are going to have to keep building here for a long time to keep those jobs and expertise working and so it doesn’t leave at the first extended lull and layoffs in our yards.
  6. We won’t have to nationalize those yards but accept that they will need Government of Canada support in terms of business to keep open.  This isn’t a short term project but a long term process to keep them open.

What I Want My Mayor To Be

Well that was fun.  My column this morning on the Mayor missing the first day of the Big City Mayor’s Conference got a lot of feedback.  When I say feedback, what I am really saying is that most people hope I move out of the city soon.

One friend asked me that if I was Atch’s chief of staff, what would I do to make him a better mayor in 2016.  I really don’t have a problem with Atch personally and I think some things can’t change but here would be my list for what I think any mayor should do.

  1. Represent us on the national stage well.  That means showing up for things like the Big City Mayor’s Caucus when the federal government changes.
  2. Engage the population well.  Nenshi, Tory, Ivison, and a lot of other mayors use Twitter to not only communicate but listen to citizens.   He needs a website.  My preference would be that we did mayor.saskatoon.ca but even mayorofsaskatoon.ca would work as his platform for which to inform the public.  A couple of years ago I visited Michael Bloomberg’s mayoral website.  I was blown away but the design and the content.  I could find essential services information, New York City research, and all of his initiatives.  Really, how much does that cost?  It’s all being prepared anyways, so why not make it available to the citizens.  Using social media, you can not only talk to people but listen and make them feel heard and connection to their mayor.  Some do it better than others but there are people who have ideas, problems, and issues with the city.  Give them a voice and help them be heard.
  3. Be transparent: That debate over Atch posting his schedule online (which he did exactly once) was insane.  All he has to do is post the special interests he meets with.   Nenshi does this on this website.  It lists community groups, consular visitors, business leaders, and the occasional celebrity.  It doesn’t give away secret negotiations (which the Mayor doesn’t often do, city managers do) or even his lunch plans.  It does let Calgarians know what their mayor is up to and what people are shaping his decisions.  Why can’t Saskatoon’s mayor do the same thing?  Why can’t the Mayor of Saskatoon have the same disclosure as councilors do over travel and other expenses? 
  4. Acknowledge all of the data that is out there instead of going, “Saskatoon is different”.  This isn’t just about complete streets, density, homelessness, suburban sprawl, bike lanes, or policing.  It is all of them.  Other cities have fought our battles, been confronted by our problems (and found solutions) and many have researched the results.  Yet that kind of thinking if rarely shown in Saskatoon.  It is the kind of thinking that should come from a Mayor’s chair.  They are the one that is there full time, has a staff, and sets the tone.  Can you imagine a data driven City Hall adopting best practices from across the continent?  No I can’t either.  Is it too late to recruit Michael Bloomberg into Saskatoon?
  5. Be able to articulate where you want the city to go and become.  I am not just saying “1 million people” but do you want it to be a car driven city that is all about freeways or a city based around public transit and alternative forms of transportation?  You can’t be for everything, have a vision and drive it.  Let the people decide what they want, if it isn’t that vision, well that is the cost of leadership.
  6. Be financially responsible but understand the need for good investments that will save the city money down the line.
  7. Hire the best managers in the country.  Get managers who will push council as much as they will be directed by them.  Calgary’s manager calling for investment in the city was great.  Jen Keesmat calling out John Tory’s plan for the Gardiner Expressway is how cities are supposed to work.  Strong leaders bring conflict but they also bring out great ideas because they are all working on making Saskatoon a world class city.  I loved to see Mike Gutek battle with City Council, not because I liked to watch the fireworks but because I honestly felt that we were making progress as a city during those questions and answers.  Hard questions were asked and hard answers were given back.  That is often where progress is made.   On the flip side, the transit debacle showed that competence is hard to come by in our own City Council and administration when they locked out the ATU once illegally and then tried to do it again.   If you are going to lock out the transit drivers and make your own citizens going through hardships, at least do it correctly.  Maybe it is time to look outside the city for top talent.
  8. Speak bluntly about the city’s issues.  I miss Ralph Klein but we all know what Calgary was going through when I lived there.  The same thing with Nenshi today.  We are going to face some challenges ahead and some of them are because of the federal and provincial governments.  Others are going to be from the business and non-profit communities.  Call a spade a spade.  The Mayor doesn’t need to be everyone’s best friend, they need to be the leader of the city with our interests at heart.
  9. Go the galas but attend the community barbecues as well.  There are a lot of people in this city that will never be able to afford a Mayor’s Cultural Gala or Swinging with the Stars but things like a community barbecue mean a lot to them.  Be at the events on both sides of the river and for all economic classes.  There is more to the westside then the Farmer’s Market.

I don’t know if anyone running has those traits but the more they do, the better off the city will be.