Category Archives: politics

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.

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.