Category Archives: politics

What I think I know about the campaign so far

  • After Nigel Wright and then Ben Perrin’s testimony at the Mike Duffy trial, I am pretty confident that Stephen Harper was lying about not knowing about the payment.  The plausible deniability seems less plausible every day.  Or as Andrew Coyne sarcastically suggests, maybe Stephen Harper is a victim in all of this.
  • Far more Liberal lawn signs visible in Saskatoon since 1993 when Jean Chretien swept to power.  In many ways the shift to the Liberals has to be really good for the Conservatives as I think this comes from historic NDP vote.  That being said, I still think Saskatoon West goes to the NDP. 
  • The interesting race may be Saskatoon Grasswoods and Saskatoon University.  Kevin Waugh has been really quiet so far while everyone is asking where Brad Trost is.   Trost doesn’t even have a website (although he has a web domain that goes nowhere).  It’s early but the Conservatives could go 0-3 in the city.
  • I also found it weird that Jason Kenney was in town last night for a fundraiser for Donauer and Block only and not for the east side candidates.
  • I watched Antarctic Edge: Beyond the Ice last night which is on the rapid global warming that is happening in Antarctica right now.  Winter sea ice has declined by three months and temperatures have increased by 11 degrees Fahrenheit, six times greater than the global average.  Yet the NDP and the Liberals seem nervous about talking about it.  Maybe it is an acknowledgement that Canada is indeed what most of the world is calling us, a petro-state (or to throw it back to the 80s; PetroCanada).  Our entire country has become tied to oil and gas revenue.  To tackle climate change in a serious way, it would cause a serious disruption to the Canadian economy and throw hundreds of thousands out of work.  In a day and age where the “middle class” is king politically, no one wants to take a stand that would hurt them, even if it hurts the globe.
  • Interesting interview on The Current with John Ibbitson.  It’s worth the 20 minutes to listen to it.  You may even want to listen to it again.
  • In some way I feel sorry for the political staffers who have to create election material and use stock photos.  They have no budget and are under time constraints and it never turns out wellNever ever turns out well
  • This won’t come up in the election but I tend to give Stephen Harper a pass for messed up military procurement, especially when the Americans who do it better than we do, also have their struggles.
  • Whoever wins, is going to have a tougher go with the Canadian economy.  Oil prices are to stay depressed for another two years.
  • The NDP minimum wage hike makes claims that it can’t back up.  Hey, a NDP populist economic policy that makes no sense, what a surprise.
  • Of course neither leader has the courage to wade into Saskatchewan’s most pressing issue, what’s wrong with the Roughriders?

The Donald Trump Phenomenon isn’t New; It’s Always Been Around

Some of you have asked me if I was going to write about Donald Trump in The StarPhoenix.  The answer is no and I’ll get to the reason in a minute.

People are outraged that Donald Trump can get away with what he is saying unchallenged and that people still like him.  They want to know why this is happening.  My answer is that it has always been happening, we just expect more from a Presidential candidate.

Look closer to home.  Of course there was Rob Ford but in Saskatoon we had Jim Pankiw who gained a lot of support when he ran for Mayor and had late in the race, a realistic chance of winning and beating Donald Atchison.

After being elected in 1997,  Pankiw wrote a letter in 2000 to the president of the University of Saskatchewan, Peter MacKinnon, condemning the university’s affirmative action policies and comparing its supporters to those of the Ku Klux Klan.  After attacking the most respected institution in Saskatchewan and it’s President, he was re-elected by largely rural voters in the next election.

Jim Pankiw was kicked out of Reform Party caucus by Stockwell Day in 2011 and then when Stephen Harper won the leadership of the Canadian Alliance, was the only member of the caucus revolt that Harper didn’t allow back in as he was alleged to have assaulted a local aboriginal lawyer.   

His federal political career dashed, he decided to run for Mayor of Saskatoon, despite not living in Saskatoon and was going to sit as a MP and be mayor.  That too was against the rules.  The rules for being Mayor of Saskatoon are clear.  You have to live in Saskatoon.  He did not and there was the epic cover of the The StarPhoenix that showed him getting his paper outside of the city limits one morning.  The electoral officer said he didn’t meet the qualifications to be mayor and of course it is against the law to be a MP and part of another elected body at the same time.  Pankiw thought it would be a swell idea.

His main issue was a stance against aboriginal rights and that attracted a lot of supporters.  In the end he finished in third place,behind the incumbent Jim Maddin.

In 2010, he decided to run again.  Here is how CBC covered it.

Pankiw is known for his controversial comments about aboriginal people, some which have resulted in human rights complaints.

He didn’t back away from those comments Thursday, saying he would be campaigning against "race-based" government spending policies. He also called Saskatchewan First Nations chiefs "racists."

"I don’t think Indians should have special race-based privileges," Pankiw said. "I think we should all be equal. Do Italians have special race-based privileges? Chinese people? Ukrainians? Germans? Not that I know of, but Indians do."

After all of that and almost no campaign, he finished with over 7,000 votes.

So explain that too me.  For years people summed it up as some people in Saskatoon are stupid but we saw it again in Toronto with Rob Ford getting elected and even after all of the scandals, Doug Ford doing reasonably well in the election.  So what gives?

One word.  Resentment.

Jim Pankiw, Rob Ford, Donald Trump and to a degree Sarah Palin and other Tea Party candidates represent those that are resentful and frustrated where they are in life and their desire to blame someone.  They supporters are almost all white, lower middle class, and struggling.  They are thrilled that someone is speaking their language and frustrations at being left behind.  More importantly they are giving them someone else to blame.

In Saskatoon, it is aboriginals.  With Rob Ford, it was City Hall and bureaucrats, and with Donald Trump, it is “illegal immigrants” and now women.

Why does it work?  It unlocks this deep down racism and biases in many voters, especially when times are tough.  I heard it all through the Pankiw mayoral campaign about all of the advantages that aboriginals have.  Free housing on the reserves, lots of money from the federal government, free education, free dental.  It’s almost as if Caucasian males are the ones that are disadvantaged. 

This is why it works when times are tough and things like unemployment is high or there is income disparity in a region or country.  People see someone of a different race and immediately blame race for why they have that job they want.  It ignores the fact that the person is probably better qualified than they are.

I used to think it was education based but I have even heard University of Regina social work graduates complain that all of the jobs in their field “are reserved for aboriginals”.  Breaking it down, that isn’t true and often the situation is that we have too many graduates for the amount of jobs in Saskatoon and they are frustrated and angry but the racism comes out.

So instead of owning up reality, people act like treaty rights or hiring practices like affirmative action are are unfair advantages.  For those that are never going to look past that what Pankiw or Trump is spewing, sounds great.  It isn’t their fault that things are tough, it is aboriginals or illegal immigrants that are making it bad.    By cracking down on them, then the problems of a bad economy, lack of training, or an unwillingness to adapt will go away. 

Of course the fact in Pankiw’s case, none of the aboriginal issues were municipal jurisdiction and he couldn’t do anything about it if he was elected or in Trump’s case, cracking down on illegal immigrants and villanizing Mexican workers would hurt the U.S. economy is irrelevant.  What matters to so many voters is that it isn’t their fault and someone else can be blamed.

It came out that Fox News backed down because they thought that the feud with Trump was hurting the network.  Almost overwhelmingly people who wrote and tweeted were supportive of Trump’s remarks rather than Megyn Kelly.  I am no Kelly fan but those were incredibly crude remarks to say or even think about a women and yet Trump doubled down on them.

Why doesn’t this hurt Trump?  Well because the people that support him, believe that stuff.

Wendy reminded me of people we know that brag that he kept track of menstrual cycles of women employees because he thought they were unstable.  Sexism and misogyny is alive and well in parts of this country as well.  Look at the response to the Bill Cosby or Jian Ghomeshi allegations where the women were initially blamed, the FHITP clips online and live television, and just some of the vile comments that women experience on their weblogs.   Last week I saw a guy with a FHITP hat on while in the mall.  What kind of lack of self awareness does that?

There are many men out there who are afraid of strong women leadership.  It may not show up on polling because someone doesn’t always want to come across as sexist on the phone but it does come out in the polling booths and it will hurt Hilary Clinton on election day.

So what do you do about it?  I have been thinking of Atchison’s comments a couple months ago to the report of racism in Winnipeg.  His answer to CBC was Atchison like but he mentioned the economy is dealing with racism.  Atch wasn’t right but he wasn’t wrong either.  When does racism or things like anti-Semitism get worse?  Periods of recession and depression when people are losing their job or their place in life.  As long as insecure people feel threatened, crazy politicians will try to exploit it with some success.

The other thing about this phenomenon is during those times, the media is ignored.  The StarPhoenix kept reporting on Pankiw and even Fox News is critical of Trump but when someone has biases towards a race or for a candidate they think is speaking the truth, it doesn’t matter what the paper or a television network says.  That is where guys like Pankiw or Trump find their appeal, the voice the thoughts that racist people with common sense know not to say and then Trump, Ford or Pankiw go and make it sound legitimate.  That is why it is so disheartening to not hear the rest of the GOP stand of up to Trump.  His campaign will hurt a lot of minorities for a lot of years because they are giving credibility to racists and misogynists everywhere.


I don’t think Donald Trump is that serious about running for President.  He has a skeleton staff, isn’t running any TV ads, and isn’t even trying to get his name on the ballot in some areas.  It seems like he is using the GOP bully pulpit to make a name for himself and make his own brand worth more more than trying to become President of the United States.  In the last debate when he said that he wouldn’t rule out running as an independent which means that Hillary (or as I hope for, Larry Lessig) would become President.

This seems much more about the massive Trump ego than public service.  As long as the fans keep showing up, he’ll keep running.

After one week of the campaign, here is what I think I know.

As I am at most times early in a campaign, I am struggling with who to vote for.  Here are my thoughts so far after watching the Maclean’s Leader’s Debate and the first week of the campaign.

Conservative Party

  • Stephen HarperStephen Harper lies a lot.  An incredible amount.  I actually can’t think of a Prime Minister that lies has much as he does about his record.  My only comparison might be Tony Blair (who lied over crazy things).  Is what they mean by “absolute power corrupts absolutely”?
  • C-51 really bothers me.  I don’t believe it makes Canadians even safer and it takes away important oversight over our CSIS and the RCMP.  It also creates silos which is the kind of organizational mess that allowed the attacks of 9-11 to begin.  What is even worse, is that this isn’t just my thoughts on security but have been written about extensively but top US intelligence leaders.  Harper could have learned from others but chose not to.
  • The shenanigans over the campaign stops.  I need to be invited to a campaign event to attend?  It’s weird.  I like to take the kids out to see leaders as they pass through town but now I have to be a committed Conservative supporter to see the Prime Minister in an election campaign?  And I can’t post photos on social media?  What kind of thinking leads to that.
  • Stephen Harper’s big promise today?  A travel ban on travelling to tourist areas!  So what happens if I want to do humanitarian work there (I had friends working in Afghanistan long before 9/11 and they were doing good work with local farmers).  What happens if I have friends and family there that are not terrorists?  Since when has any Canadian government told it’s citizens where they can travel.  How does that make Canada safer?  Also since when does where I travel decide if I am innocent or guilty.  This is going down a dark path.
  • Whoever gave Harper the advice that he could just not appoint senators is an idiot.  Again, is he being serious or is he going after uneducated voters that this appeals to.  I just don’t know.
  • Okay, I’ll just call this now, Stephen Harper is a deeply paranoid Prime Minister.
  • Of course his promise to never have a Netflix tax.  Also, anyone else find it a little weird that a law and order Prime Minister likes Breaking Bad.  Anyone think that he actually watches or knows what Breaking Bad is?  I thought so. 

New Democratic Party

  • Thomas MulcairThe Sherbrook Declaration which says that the country can be broken up with a vote of 50% plus one goes against my core beliefs and the Supreme Court of Canada.
  • The NDP plan to abolish the senate sounds great (well actually it sounds stupid) when said on a campaign trail but why are we making, “re-opening the constitution” a campaign platform.  Did we have so much fun at Meech Lake, Charlottetown and the subsequent Quebec referendum that we want to do this again?
  • I am not impressed with the $15 an hour national wage.  I think it is poorly thought out policy.  Actually it was the kind of poorly thought out but populist policies that the NDP were known for and I had hoped they had left behind.
  • Tom Mulcair talking about climate change is a little like hearing Stephen Harper talk about the economy.  A lot of bravado but not much of a plan.
  • I have always been disgusted that the NDP opened those satellite offices across the country in clear violation of the rules and won’t pay back the money.  Apparently the Liberal Party and the Conservatives aren’t the only one that feel entitled to imaginary entitlements.
  • Linda McQuaig’s comments on the oilsands.  Really the NDP are going to shut down the oilsands and plunge Alberta and probably Saskatchewan into a depression for years?  This is why it is hard to take the NDP seriously most elections.  I don’t trust them to manage the economy.  Of course it’s hard to beat Harper’s economic record but the NDP seem to be trying.
  • I hate the NDP stance of deferring to the United Nations on military actions.  In theory that sounds great but in practice it gives Russia a veto on whether or not you act.  In case the NDP haven’t noticed, there is a madman in charge of Russia and that seat on the UN Security Council.

Liberal Park

  • Justin TrudeauHate that Trudeau voted for C-51.  Just hate it.  Either Liberal Party advisors are playing politics with an important issue or are idiots.  Or both.
  • I know I am the outlier on this but I thought Trudeau was poor in the debates.  I thought it was weird he didn’t tell me what he believed, only what the Liberal Party believed.  It’s not a big thing but I thought it was strange.  According to the polls, I was wrong about this anyways, most thought he won.
  • Trudeau’s faith in the ability of the senate to be restored is noble.  For all of the NDP and the Conservatives rhetoric that it can not, in truth, no one has ever tried.   At least Trudeau is going to try.
  • Trudeau’s foreign policy isn’t so much a thought out foreign policy but just plain naïve.  While Harper’s doesn’t make sense, doing the opposite of craziness doesn’t make it sane.  It is just stupid in another direction.  His views on Syria and ISIS are naïve and goes against any form of common sense.  Of course the US and Harper’s plan aren’t that effective right now either. 

This is separate from all three parties but in the U.S. in both the GOP and the Democratic party, they have adults who spend their lives on making careful and well thought out policy decisions.  In Canada, we seem to leave those decisions to political hacks which is why we get these half baked policy ideas that make no sense to anyone other than pollsters.  When talking about foreign policy, defense, or the economy, those wise voices creating policy, tend to be important and we really lack that here.

I don’t know how  I am going to vote but none of the three campaigns get me that excited and to be honest, seem to be doing what Allan Gregg said after the 1988 campaign.  The Tories went after the really stupid voters.  Sadly that worked and it seems like all three parties are targeting that demographic right now.

Election 2015: Saskatoon

Hey, I am pretty much sitting out this campaign.  I’ll wait to see how the campaign platforms come together to decide if I will write a local endorsement but until then, it won’t be that political around here.  I have friends who are candidates for different parties and I respect them for making the effort of going to Ottawa to do what the PMO tells them what to do and when to do it.

I did great a quick election guide for all candidates in Saskatoon.  You can find it here.  It lists all of the campaign contact information for all of the campaigns, except for Kevin Waugh (and I can’t find his yet).  So if you want to check out a campaign in Saskatoon, it’s all there for you.

Olivia Chow’s Political Comeback

Okay, this is about Olivia Chow but it can be about any politician.

So Chow abandoned the federal NDP to run for the Mayor of Toronto.  After peaking early, she ran a horrible campaign and was easily defeated by John Tory.

Now she wants to be an MP again, a position she resigned, caused a massive expense as a by-election, and now wants her seat back since her Toronto adventure didn’t work out.

That stuff drives me crazy.  I know other politicians do it but if you lose interest in a job once, why go back to it?  Why should voters who were not compelling enough to serve the first time welcome you back?

We all know how this will turn out.  Chow will beat Adam Vaughn and probably end up in cabinet.  It will still bug me then.

Less than zero

So some states are double counting their water supplies which you now, leads to problems like they are having now.

Yet California and Arizona — the two states water experts say are facing the most severe water crises — continue to count and regulate groundwater and surface water as if they were entirely separate.

“States have their own take on this. Or they choose to not address it at all,” said Stanley Leake, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey and a leading expert on properly accounting for the connection between ground and surface waters in the West. “In some cases they pretend that there is no connection.”

Leaders in California and Arizona acknowledge that their states have done this, at least in part to avoid the grim reckoning that emanates from doing the math accurately. There is even less water available than residents have been led to believe.

If these states stopped effectively double-counting their resources, they would have to change laws, upend traditional water rights and likely force farmers and cities to accept even more dramatic cuts than they already face — a political third rail.

“The politics of water are more challenging than any other issue the state faces,” said Fran Pavley, a California state senator who helped draft a much-praised package of state laws passed last year regulating groundwater withdrawals for the first time.

Tucked into Pavley’s package was a little-noticed provision that explicitly prohibits California state regulators from addressing the interconnection between groundwater and surface water in local water plans until 2025, a compromise meant to give local water agencies a leisurely runway to adjust to a new way of counting.

Pavley said the prospect of more immediately acknowledging the overlap between ground and surface waters threatened to derail the legislation entirely, triggering fierce opposition from the Agricultural Council of California, the California Chamber of Commerce and other industry groups.

So politics is getting in the way of science.  Basically by draining rivers, you drain aquifers.  By draining aquifers, you cause rivers to dry up.

The West has consumed these resources ravenously, as if they were bottomless. By 1965, scientists measured that parts of the aquifer beneath Las Vegas had dropped by more than 75 feet. Arizona officials estimated the state’s aquifers had dropped by as much as 500 feet by 1980. By 2004, USGS scientists estimated — based on modeling — that the region south of Denver had drawn down water levels by more than 900 vertical feet.

In some places, so much water has been drained from underground, the effects can be seen with the naked eye. A USGS scientist’s 1977 photograph near the town of Mendota in central California uses a telephone pole to show how the ground had effectively collapsed, sinking some 30 feet.

Anyone who recognized these telltale signs would worry that the West’s groundwater was approaching a state of crisis. But even as the drought began and then worsened, with surface water vanishing, the West dug in and doubled down — replacing dwindling reservoirs with new water pumped from underground.

Today, the Colorado River states consume more than 21 billion gallons of groundwater each day — adding up to 1 1/2 times the flow of the Colorado River itself each year.

In 2009, Jay Famiglietti, now a scientist researching underground water in partnership with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, set out to quantify just how much groundwater had been lost over time.

NASA had a pair of satellites that gathered data on subtle changes in the Earth’s mass by measuring almost indiscernible shifts in gravitational forces during orbit. Famiglietti and his team of doctoral students at the University of California Irvine, where he also teaches, thought they could tease out which parts of those gravitational shifts were due to a changing volume of water inside the Earth’s crust.

The team determined that aquifers were shrinking at an astonishing rate in Asia, North Africa and across the globe. The western United States stood out.

“It was among the worst in the world,” Famiglietti said. “The rate of decline is much steeper than the rate of decline of the reservoirs. While everyone is looking at the surface water, no one is looking at the groundwater, and it’s disappearing at a rapid clip.”

Famiglietti and his team determined that some 13 trillion gallons of water had been lost from underground reservoirs in the Colorado River basin since the NASA satellites began collecting data in late 2004. To put that figure in perspective, it’s nearly 1 1/2 times the total capacity of Lake Mead — the nation’s largest reservoir and the West’s most important — and as much water as the state of Arizona uses in six years.

The research suggested the seven-state Colorado River basin region was actually using about one-third more water each year than its river budget alone allowed. In separate research Famiglietti looked at California’s aquifers — which lay outside the Colorado River basin — and found that they had also been severely diminished, having dropped by about 7 trillion gallons since just 2011.

The U.S. is screwed.  Of course those aquifers also come into western Canada so it’s going to have an impact on all of us.

Contextless Saskatoon City Council Thoughts

1.  I have been asked many times lately if I am running for public office.  The answer is never.  Seriously, I am never running for office so stop asking.  I don’t take politicians seriously and I find myself laughing at many of their first world politician problems.  I could never do it.  Well I could but it would in the same way The Onion covers the world news.  Then again can you do a Ralph Klein and not drink?  I don’t think you can and I don’t drink.

2.  There will be a interesting races for Saskatoon City Council.  If Randy Donauer and Eric Olauson win, that will create vacancies in Ward 5 and 8.  If Charlie Clark runs for Mayor, that opens up Ward 6.  At one time I thought because of the transit lockout that Ann Iwanchuk might be vulnerable but that has come and gone and no one cared so her seat is safe.  Yes I hear rumours that this person is running or that person is running but during the last election I heard that I was a part of slate of candidates that Darren Hill was running.  If there was a slate, I wasn’t on it.

2a.  As for by-elections for Donauer’s seat (if he wins) whoever wins that would be kind of vulnerable because of a lack of time they would have to establish themselves.  I think as Mairin Loewen and Ann Iwanchuk showed, it also means that your campaign machine is still ready to go.  It could even be an advantage.  Although I doubt anyone who has to run back to back campaigns would think of it as an advantage.

3.  I was really uncomfortable seeing both Eric Olauson, Randy Donauer and Troy Davies bill the City of Saskatoon $700 each for the Mayor’s Cultural Gala. (the report is here)  Not only did they charge their tickets but also for their dates.  I know it’s not against the rules but since that is the case, something is wrong with the rules.  That is taxpayers money for what is largely an evening out.  It was also the eve of locking out the transit workers and causing a lot of hardship for a lot of people.  The optics of it are horrible and in Olauson and Donauer’s case, it really damages thei credibility as a fiscal hawk when he is lined up at the taxpayers trough.  Do as I say, not as I do.

3a.  I was also uncomfortable glancing at the 2013 expenses and seeing Troy Davies submit a bill for a Synergy 8 event, a charity he helped found.    It’s only $75 but it is an event his organization put together.  I am not saying it is against the rules (apparently it isn’t), I am just shocked we allow that kind of thing.  It is like council voted themselves a social fund and all them are using it.

4.  Speaking of fundraisers, apparently your city councillor doesn’t really want to support your cause as they billed a lot of fundraisers big and small to the city.  If they don’t want to go, why go and why charge the taxpayers for it?  How can this not be against the rules?  It looks like we are paying them to go to social events to be seen.  This is called campaigning.  Why is this allowed? Look at who wrote them.

5.  I am also a bit disgusted with taxpayers paying for councillor domain names and hosting.  I have long said that a system like or would work for councillor sites at a cost of nothing to the city.  Not only do we pay (a lot) for domain hosting and registration but then those same domains are used as election tools which are essentially promoted by taxpayer money during their time in office.   Again, not allowed in other many other cities but here we are, allowing it here.  Of course some the expenses are high because I think that some are being taken advantage of.  When I mean, some, that is us again.

6.  Take a look at Darren Hill’s travel expenses for 2014.  I love that he included a trip that did not cost taxpayers money.  Next year I want him to submit a line in there for a Slurpee that someone bought for him.  It actually makes some sense.  He travels for SUMA and to avoid the perception he is flying on our money, he reminds us that he flew on someone else’s money.  Still, I want to see a comped Slurpee in there.

7.  Even weirder in the expenses is that all councillors have to submit a line by line expense report while the mayor submits a lump sum?  Someone explain that to me.  Yes the majority of his expenses go to pay Richard Brown.  That is fine and I have no problems with that but why not be transparent with the rest of your expenses.  If you don’t have anything to hide, then why not make it available.  If you do have something to hide, why submit the expense.  It’s really weird that we have one standard for councillors and one for the mayor.    At executive committee, he was asked to provide a breakdown on his expenses, he said he would “consider it”.  Transparency in action folks.

7a. It reminds me of the issue around the Mayor publishing his schedule.  Other Mayors do it and it is both really interesting and really boring but it is done to show who is lobbying the mayor.  After saying he would not do this because his day-timer was bought with his own money (and totally missing the point), he did it once leading up to the last election and hasn’t done it since.

7b.  When I bring up transparency and accountability with councillors, they generally tell me that other councils are worse in some area.  I agree.  Look at Winnipeg.  It may be worse in all areas.  Yet what happened to aspiring to be the best at something or the most transparent?   Seriously why wouldn’t the Mayor want his expenses broken down or his schedule published?   Other politicians do it and somehow democracy survives.

8.  So on one extreme is Toronto where mayoral campaigns debate every hour or so (I kept expecting Chow, Ford, and Tory to show up at the Rook and Raven one night to debate) to the Saskatoon example of one debate.  I would love to see a middle ground (slanted heavily towards the Saskatoon model) of 3 to 5 debates on different issues.  I’d watch a debate on the future of downtown, poverty issues on the westside, urban planning, and transportation/transit.  I wonder if we can make that happen for this election.  I’d also love to see a debate over a beverage and wings.  Something casual where tough policy questions are asked and candidates are given time to answer.  I may be the only one who is there.  Well me and the city councillors because they can expense their meal, their parking, and their mileage….

9.  If Randy Donauer loses his federal election, I can’t see it hurting a re-election bid in Ward 5.  Darren Hill was destroyed when he ran federally and was re-elected handily in Ward 1.  I am told by all candidates that a local campaign is worth about 3% in terms of winning votes.  If you blow a close campaign, you blame yourself but at least you got close, you get blown out, chances are it’s the party leader or platform (or a really unpopular federal/provincial govt).

10.  Everyone asks me about if Pat Lorje can win again in Ward 2 which is odd since I live in Ward 1 (no one is voting for her in my ward I know that!)  Professor Dave McGrane called the leak thing “inside baseball” which means that it is really important to politicos and the media but not that important to voters.  My take is that it will enrage those that won’t vote for her.  I think the bigger danger for any long term incumbent is the population growth and change in the ward.  If enough new people come in, then for all intents and purposes, you lose the advantages of incumbency.

11.  Personally I think Lorje is vulnerable to a Karl Rove strategy of running against a candidates strengths which is a strong base in Montgomery and Caswell  A campaign that was about the noise from South Circle Drive, failure to stop the wind turbine, the new apartments that Montgomery hated, the new location of the city yards, lack noise walls along tracks, 33rd Street widening, and crime in Caswell.  Instead of trying to get voters to come out in King George, you try to keep her voters from voting.  You saw it in Alberta.  A lot of Progressive Conservative voters stayed home and that hurt them in close races.  It’s a lot easier said that done but I’d expect a couple of candidates to run, especially one from the businesses on 20th Street.

12. I love the debate going on between Toronto Chief City Planner Jen Keesmat and Mayor John Tory.  Two different visions of the Gardiner Expressway (Keesmat is right) but they are able to co-exist.  This is what you get when you have a strong independent city planner.  Saskatoon’s has always been part of the City Hall administration which as the city grows, it may be beneficial for more independence rather then the “one voice” strategy that now exists in City Hall.

13. I don’t get the lawsuit for the South Circle Drive delays against Stantec construction.  It says that Stantec didn’t supervise the project closely enough and therefore it was delayed.  Umm, then who from the city was supervising Stantec and are they responsible?  Why wasn’t Stantec replaced (or penalized) when things started to go bad?  Of course there are some other lawsuits that are happening with other developers.  Do we not have the capacity in the city to even tender out and supervise the projects we need?  I’d love to hear the other sides from this.

13a.  When you don’t hire FTEs like councillors Olauson and Donauer hate, you have to hire outside companies like Stantec which not only cost much more money but also lack accountability.  You aren’t saving money by cutting FTEs you are costing the city more.

14. The city has a problem with 15% vacancy rate downtown (that doesn’t include the old police station).  Where is City Council on this.  A strong downtown is important to all us but I haven’t heard anything from City Admin, Council, or even SREDA.  Is there a plan being executed to help with it?  Do they disagree that it is a problem?  Is there even a plan to fix it?

15. I can’t get excited about the glut of hotels.  A couple of years ago Tourism Saskatoon was saying that the lack of hotels was a major problem for the city.  Now we have a glut which happens when you have a boom, developers from all over scramble to build, especially in areas like the airport business area.  Then there is a glut and that will remain until our population grows again and there is a shortage.  The good news?  Our hotel rates will finally be closer to Calgary’s rather than Manhattans.

Okay, those are just some random thoughts I have been thinking.  Let me know if you agree or disagree with them below.

Defense Secretary Carter: Iraq’s forces showed ‘no will to fight’ Islamic State

From the Washington Post

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Iraqi forces "showed no will to fight" as the Islamic State militant group captured the city of Ramadi, and he rejected calls by Republican lawmakers to commit ground troops to the conflict.

"What apparently happened was that the Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight," Carter said in a CNN interview that aired Sunday. "They were not outnumbered. In fact, they vastly outnumbered the opposing force, and yet they failed to fight. They withdrew from the site, and that says to me, and I think to most of us, that we have an issue with the will of the Iraqis to fight ISIL and defend themselves." The Islamic State is also known as ISIS or ISIL.

How much did the US spend training Iraqi troops?

Why Iraq is America’s new Vietnam

From the Star

“If you break it, you own it,” warned U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell to President George W. Bush just before the 2003 American invasion of Iraq.

Powell knew that the president had no clue what unpredictable forces he was about to unleash. Bush now knows. We all do.

As we witness the inexorable, slow-motion collapse of Iraq in the face of viciousIslamic State extremists, let’s remember Powell’s private caution to Bush: “You are going to be the proud owner of 25 million people. You will own all their hopes, aspirations and problems. You’ll own it all.”

This has been an awful week in the troubled history of Iraq. The stunning seizure last Sunday night of the pivotal provincial capital of Ramadi by Islamic State fighters took everyone by surprise.

Until last weekend, the United States and Iraqi view was that ISIS rebels were on the defensive and that Iraq’s questionable military had learned to hold its ground. But at Ramadi, even though they outnumbered the rebels, Iraqi soldiers abandoned the city in the face of the ferocious attack. Many of the ISIS fighters were equipped with American weapons captured earlier from fleeing Iraqi soldiers.

Once again, the debacle has called into question the country’s future as a unitary state. Not only is the Iraqi military’s will to win in doubt, but the Iraqi government is also showing itself to be divided and inept. As for the Americans, whose military intervention has been limited to largely ineffective air strikes, their strategy to “defeat” ISIS is floundering.

However, it is not as if these Islamic State jihadists, who are now roaming freely in Iraq and Syria, were invented out of thin air. They have a history.

They are largely the remnants of the Al Qaeda movement operating for years in Iraq, as well as veterans from Saddam Hussein’s Baath party. Shortly after the Americans deposed Hussein, the U.S. foolishly disbanded Iraq’s Baath army. It was a move that put more than 200,000 angry young men out of work. Is it a surprise that many of them are now are working for ISIS?

Paul Krugman says the invasion of Iraq was criminal.

Why did they want a war? That’s a harder question to answer. Some of the warmongers believed that deploying shock and awe in Iraq would enhance American power and influence around the world. Some saw Iraq as a sort of pilot project, preparation for a series of regime changes. And it’s hard to avoid the suspicion that there was a strong element of wagging the dog, of using military triumph to strengthen the Republican brand at home.

Whatever the precise motives, the result was a very dark chapter in American history. Once again: We were lied into war.

Now, you can understand why many political and media figures would prefer not to talk about any of this. Some of them, I suppose, may have been duped: may have fallen for the obvious lies, which doesn’t say much about their judgment. More, I suspect, were complicit: they realized that the official case for war was a pretext, but had their own reasons for wanting a war, or, alternatively, allowed themselves to be intimidated into going along. For there was a definite climate of fear among politicians and pundits in 2002 and 2003, one in which criticizing the push for war looked very much like a career killer.

On top of these personal motives, our news media in general have a hard time coping with policy dishonesty. Reporters are reluctant to call politicians on their lies, even when these involve mundane issues like budget numbers, for fear of seeming partisan. In fact, the bigger the lie, the clearer it is that major political figures are engaged in outright fraud, the more hesitant the reporting. And it doesn’t get much bigger — indeed, more or less criminal — than lying America into war.

But truth matters, and not just because those who refuse to learn from history are doomed in some general sense to repeat it. The campaign of lies that took us into Iraq was recent enough that it’s still important to hold the guilty individuals accountable. Never mind Jeb Bush’s verbal stumbles. Think, instead, about his foreign-policy team, led by people who were directly involved in concocting a false case for war.

So let’s get the Iraq story right. Yes, from a national point of view the invasion was a mistake. But (with apologies to Talleyrand) it was worse than a mistake, it was a crime.

Saskatchewan lessons from Alberta’s Election

After watching the carnage from the PC Party crashing and burning last night, everyone in Saskatchewan seemed to have opinions on what the Alberta election meant for Saskatchewan.

For those on the right, they predicted a wave of people from Alberta moving from the business hating Alberta to the business friendly Saskatchewan.  They seem to expect that when Notley does the unthinkable and raise oil royalties, Alberta companies will flee for Saskatchewan (despite the fact that Peter Lougheed did the exact same thing decades ago.  They ignore the fact that the oil is in Alberta and therefore so are the jobs.  Also as Ontario proved during the Rae years, business will just stay put and vote in a new government before they move to another province.  Roots are important to people, they just don’t get up and leave.   So let’s cool down and ignore those idiots who have actually prediction an influx of a million people to Saskatchewan over the next couple of years and relax.   No one chooses a province based on partisan politics.  It is based on jobs and work.

Those on the left see this as another evidence of an orange wave.  I don’t think it was a move to the NDP as much as it was a total rejection of the PC Party of Alberta.  There will be some vote analysis done but I would suspect Alberta was a really frustrated electorate.  If Notley governs well, then great but if she doesn’t, then she will be done.   Also keep in mind that Alberta is a very progressive big government province.  It is just paid for by oil royalties.  It has lead the way in some of the most innovative housing, homeless, poverty reduction and education strategies in North America and do you know what, no one has cared.  In fact the Wildrose Party has pushed for more of those kind of programs, especially with seniors care.

I was musing online the other night that if I was in Alberta, I may vote for the Wildrose Party because even I don’t think Alberta’s big government social contract works in the long run.  They may be social conservatives in Alberta but they love to spend money. 

For all of the talk of the Klein cuts, let’s put that in context, the neo-Conservative NDP under Roy Romanow made even deeper cuts to fight our deficit.  Alberta may be the biggest spending government not lead by Bob Rae in history.

The big lesson from last night is that elections matter and polls this early out don’t.  That doesn’t mean that Brad Wall will lose and Cam Broten (or whoever the Liberal leader is will win) but it does mean that we have no idea what will happen a year out.  What looked like a political masterstroke to the chattering class five months ago didn’t survive last night.  Now it is the PC Party of Alberta who could be the weaker party in a merger with the Wildrose Party and the Liberal Party may not exist by next election in Alberta.

I heard a bunch of ridiculous talk that Brad Wall is still unbeatable but at different points so was Jim Prentice or Paul Martin.   I remember vote predictions saying that Martin would win over 200 seats and could challenge Brian Mulroney for the largest majority ever.  How did that turn out? Back in 1994, the Liberals lead by Linda Haverstock were well ahead in the polls in Saskatchewan.

In Alberta, Notley was at 10% not that long ago.  There was a feeling that the NDP would be reduced in seat count and only hold their base in Edmonton.

Last weekend I was out with some politicos.  We made some arguments that Brad Wall could win some more seats from the NDP or just as likely the NDP could gain a couple of seats in Saskatoon, Regina, and Prince Albert and end up with like 17 – 19 seats.  That is a fearless prediction folks, Brad Wall and the Saskatchewan Party will either win some more seats or lose some more seats in the next election.  Take that prediction to the bank! (of course now that I have said that, things will remain the exact same)

In the end, the average voter doesn’t read this blog, doesn’t follow you and I on Twitter, doesn’t read Murray Mandryk or Andrew Coyne and is focused on getting by in their life and job.  They have things like hockey games to get their kids to and they worry about the noise their car is making far more than whatever stunt has just been played in the legislature.  Politicos may live and die on what is happening (and for that we have Andrew Coyne, Kady O’Malley, and Murray Mandryk) but the rest of the world doesn’t.

Before you scoff at me, in the last city election there were candidates out every night door knocking from now until the election.  All of them, winner or loser told me at one point in that cycle that it didn’t really make any difference this far out from the election, people weren’t engaged.

They pay attention when the writ is dropped and the lawn signs come up.  Right now the vast majority of people are going, “What happened in Alberta and how did the NDP win there? I thought that Prentice guy seemed all right.”  That is the end of it.  I actually read one detailed vote analysis in the United States that showed a surprising amount of people (enough to turn electoral votes) voted on how much rain they got that year and the year before.  If you are a politician and you just read that last part, you need a hug right now.

So the lessons to take from the Alberta vote.  Elections matter.  You never know what can happen and probably never say, “look in the mirror” to someone that you need their vote in a couple of weeks. Other than that, there isn’t a lot to take away from it.

Pipelines are bad but this is okay?

Another dangerous crude oil spill in Illinois

A freight train loaded with crude oil derailed in northern Illinois on Thursday, bursting into flames and prompting officials to suggest that everyone with 1 mile evacuate, authorities said.

The BNSF Railway train derailed around 1:05 p.m. in a rural area where the Galena River meets the Mississippi, according to company spokesman Andy Williams. The train had 103 cars loaded with crude oil, along with two buffer cars loaded with sand. A cause for the derailment hadn’t yet been determined. No injuries were reported.

Only a family of two agreed to leave their home, Galena City Administrator Mark Moran said at a news conference late Thursday, adding that the suggestion to evacuate was prompted by the presence of a propane tank near the derailment.

The derailment occurred 3 miles south of Galena in a wooded and hilly area that is a major tourist attraction and the home of former President Ulysses S. Grant. The Jo Daviess County Sheriff’s Department confirmed the train was transporting oil from the Northern Plains’ Bakken region.

Earlier in the day, Moran said 8 tankers had left the track. But Williams said at the news conference that only six cars derailed, two of which burst into flames and continued to burn into the night.

Firefighters could only access the derailment site by a bike path, said Galena Assistant Fire Chief Bob Conley. They attempted to fight a small fire at the scene but were unable to stop the flames.

Firefighters had to pull back for safety reasons and were allowing the fire to burn itself out, Conley said. In addition to Galena firefighters, emergency and hazardous material responders from Iowa and Wisconsin were at the scene.

The derailment comes amid increased public concern about the safety of shipping crude by train. According to the Association of American Railroads, oil shipments by rail jumped from 9,500 carloads in 2008 to 500,000 in 2014, driven by a boom in the Bakken oil patch of North Dakota and Montana, where pipeline limitations force 70 percent of the crude to move by rail.

Meanwhile Barack Obama continues to kill the Keystone XL pipeline.

Saskatoon City Council Meeting in Review

I haven’t done one of these in a long while but here are the highlights from today’s City Council meeting.

  • Both Pat Lorje and Zach Jeffries brought up the missing reports on the city council website.  Administration just kind of made up a reply and suggested they don’t have enough space to host all of them.  They are preparing a report on it and will present that to Council in April.  So yeah, administration was passive aggressive on the issue.
  • Now to be fair to administration, they scan stuff in the most inefficient way possible.  It is basically JPGs of paper reports converted to PDFs.  It means that the reports are often not searchable or indexed and are MASSIVE in size.  I am assuming that administration doesn’t have the space to host normal PDFs but it could be that they are handling these HULK sized PDFs. (“PDF Angry!  PDF SMASH!”).  Either way, disk space as an excuse is a weak one.
  • Eric Olauson brought up the issue of efficiencies for new businesses in getting set up in the city.  It’s a great point and Calgary has made some great progress.on streamlining processes in many areas of the city.  Administration seemed to shrug it off.  Hopefully Olauson keeps pushing for it.  I’ll just post this link to a Vox story that Olauson posted to Twitter last week.  I was hoping he would bring it up today.  It’s worth reading and would have made for an interesting debate considering Council voted to give Urban Systems a large contract to do what Houston did for free.  Of course the mandate for Urban Systems is larger than just transit.  In its mandate is all of active transportation (cycling, pedestrians, long boarding).  Some asked if there was much debate.  There wasn’t but with most of those kinds of things, the debate takes place once it comes back to Council.
  • Darren Hill asked the administration to take into account the impact city projects have on active transportation (walking, cycling, and long boarding).  I believe that if records were kept, Hill is Canada’s strongest long boarding advocate.
  • Olauson also brought up the issue that as a councillor gets complaints about an issue and it is kind of swept under the rug by admin who says, there is no issue.  As Olauson brought up, there is an issue because councillors keep hearing about it.
  • Clark brought this up twice but he called out the administration for using the term customer service in talking about citizens.  He essentially said that we are all in this together and City Hall needs to remember that.  It was a good thought.  Not that customer service is wrong but I am not a customer of City Hall but a resident of Saskatoon.  Clark later referenced that when he said that snow removal is an act of citizenship.
  • Ann Iwanchuk and Zach Jeffries both rose to talk about snow removal.  Both brought up the idea that we don’t want to punish people who are making a good effort or are on vacation.  I know what they are saying but isn’t that a responsibility of home ownership?  Shouldn’t you make arrangements or hire someone to shovel when you leave?  
  • I believe Pat Lorje was calling out City Centre Church for not shovelling their sidewalks.
  • Twitter feedback suggests that some neighbourhoods are way better at snow removal then others.  There seems to be some consensus that City Park is horrible at it.
  • There you go.  Short and almost sweet.  Councillors then retired upstairs where they had an executive meeting that was in-camera (closed door).

    A new attack ad from your Saskatchewan NDP

    Hey there is a new ad by the Saskatchewan New Democrats out.   I’ll leave my comments at this.  As an attack ad, it tries to do too much.  It should have been two ads.   The discussion as to where the money went, can be left for another day.

    Disclaimer: I generally hate all political ads. I liked the Daisy ad but that’s it.  I like long policy discussions with nuance.  I don’t think that has ever happened in a political ad so I am always disappointed in them.

    Eve Adam’s Floor Crossing

    There is nothing noble about Eve Adams floor crossing according to Murray Mandryk

    If you are looking for the slightest bit of nobility in Eve Adams’ decision to abandon Stephen Harper’s Conservatives and move to Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, you would be well advised to quickly move on.

    About the kindest thing to be said is that it represents just the latest episode of self indulgence that has defined the soap opera political career of the Mississauga-Brampton South MP.

    Far worse, however, is that it’s this kind of cynical manoeuvre that feeds the public’s appetite to stay as far away from politics – and polling booths – as possible.

    Coincidentally, Adams’ sudden conversion to Liberalism comes after her failed bid to win a Conservative nomination in the newly redistributed Oakville-North Burlington seat. Adams wanted the seat not necessarily for reasons of having represented the people there. She has been in Oakville for only two years, but had lived in Mississauga for 14 years – seven of which she served on its city council. Oakville, however, is a much easier seat for a Conservative candidate to win.

    We are now supposed to believe that after a nasty nomination battle – in which Adams either started or gleefully engaged in the many skirmishes – she suddenly has recognized her problems with the Harper government over matters such as income splitting or, less specifically, its "values" and the PM’s "mean-spirited" leadership.

    "The values of the Conservative Party are not the values of the original Progressive Conservative Party and they are not the values that I hold," Adams said Monday, adding she now prefers Trudeau’s kinder, more optimistic style. "I want to work with someone who inspires, not with fear-mongers and bullies."

    What sheer and utter nonsense.

    Of course Mark Critch has some thoughts

    Mr. Trudeau just accepted somebody that Harper thought was too tainted to touch. Think about that for a second. Harper thought she was too dirty. That’s like Rex Murphy accusing someone of "loquaciously rambling in their discourse."

    The low point came when Adams met with the prime minister to beg him to spare her. Harper also said that Adams told him she had broken up with his former communications director, Dimitri Soudas. Harper then leaned forward and told her that he knew Mr. Soudas was sitting in the lobby waiting for her.

    Can you imagine that conversation? "Oh, did I say we broke up? Yeah, well, we’re not, like ‘BROKEN UP’ over. We’re more like ‘taking a break’ over. I mean, like, he thinks we go out but I’m so over him and, well, my Facebook status says ‘it’s complicated.’ You can totally check that."

    I’m actually relieved that the PM knew. When the Prime Minister’s Office was surprised that John Baird was leaving cabinet, I thought "What’s the good of having CSIS spy on everyone if Frank Magazine knows your foreign affairs minister is leaving before you do?"