Category Archives: politics

This is why I am voting for Darren Hill in Ward 1

Wendy and I live in a tough neighborhood in Saskatoon.  Some of our neighbors struggle and Wendy and I hear about those struggles.  For whatever reason they have problems with City Hall and they talk to Wendy about it.  The first answer is to have them talk to Darren HIll.  The story is always the same.  Darren helps them.  There is a phrase that you can’t fight City Hall.  Well sometimes you don’t have to.

Darren Hill campaigning for a tigers votes in 2012

That stuff matters to me.  Knowing that people who have had a rough time struggle can get help.  They can with Darren.  One of Wendy’s co-workers had no luck with her councilor and Wendy mistakenly told her to talk to Darren (thinking about where she worked rather than where she lived).  Darren helped her resolve her issue in minutes.

The other reason I endorse him is that a lot of people online think I hate Darren and always want me to run against him.  We joke around online and he torments Wendy (It’s a hilarious story and Mark and I are firmly on Darren’s side on this) in person and online but I agree with many of his stands and have no reason to run against him.  There were some votes that made me question what he was thinking but overall he does a good job representing the diverse Ward 1 and his constituents and deserves another term on Saskatoon City Council.

Here is funny story to pass along. I can’t remember the reason but someone called The StarPhoenix wanting to talk to me about something.  In that situation The StarPhoenix doesn’t give out my cell but I get the message and a return number emailed to me.  So I call a women up and somehow it came out of nowhere that she hates Darren so much, she can’t even stand to see his name is writing.  Later that day I was talking to him and he knew who I was talking about without me giving him the persons name.  He can’t resolve all of the issues but I know he has made an effort on so many of them.  For the record, I think that hating an elected official so much you hate to see their name in print in next level. 

About that photo, I grabbed it from Flickr account and at first glance, the photo’s thumbnail looked like he was dropping a baby.  Instead he is campaigning for white tigers votes at the Saskatoon Zoo.  You just know that sometime during this photo op there was some bloodshed as the tiger tried to attack him. 

Ward 3 Roundtable

Lenore Swystun and myself hosted Ward 3 councillor (and candidate for re-election) Ann Iwanchuk on CFCR’s Civicly Speaking.

Councilor Iwanchuk gave her reasons for re-election, talked about development in Ward 3 and explained to us why the budget process was as messy as it was.

You can listen to the MP3 of the show below.

Marley vs. Darren Hill

So some of you have wondered what is up with the Marley vs. Darren Hill thing.  Some of you think too much.  Don’t read too much into it.  I live in Ward 1, Marley lives in Ward 1, Hill is the councilor and incumbent in Ward 1…

There really isn’t much thinking at all about it.  Hilary’s sister’s cat Nano is making a credible run for Mayor and Marley is joining the slate.  In other words it was a late night joke that seemed funny at night but really isn’t right now.

Marley for Ward 1 Councilor

My other point for doing this is to show how easy it is for anyone to do a personal page.  It drove me crazy when I can’t find an elected officials website and when I call them on it, they always go, “well I need to get it redesigned” or some other excuse.

For most politicians, the reason I am on their website is that I need some information from them, like a phone number or a email address to contact them with.  It means an or similar page would do all of that for people really, really easily.  You can even use your own domain name with it.

So if you are a prospective councilor, school board trustee, or any elected official, put one of these together and make it easier for people to find you.  It takes 5 minutes and if you use the url, it’s free.

Ward 2 Roundtable

The Ward 2 Saskatoon City Council Roundtable

Lenore Swystun, Hilary Nelson, and myself hosted three charming candidates on running to be your Ward 2 councilor Saskatoon City Councilor on CFCR’s Civicly Speaking.

In the studio was incumbent Pat Lorje, Mark Zielke, and Hilary Gough who gave overviews of why they are running, what they are running on and how they would meet the challenges of the city in the next term.

You can listen to the MP3 of the show below.

Tonight at 6:30 Lenore and I host Ward 3 Councilor Ann Iwanchuk.  Challenger Mark Mills can’t make it.

How to Win an Election

A leading political strategist explains how candidates use the art of storytelling to help swing elections.

Mr. McKinnon has had a long career working for politicians from both parties. As the lead media strategist for George W. Bush’s 2000 and 2004 campaigns as well as John McCain’s winning 2008 primary campaign, he was instrumental in shaping the way we perceived his candidates and their opponents. Remember the 2004 windsurfing ad that branded John Kerry a flip-flopper? That’s his work.

But Mr. McKinnon burned out on presidential campaigns, and increasingly came to view the oversimplification and negativity at the heart of modern campaigning as a leading contributor to the toxic political climate in which we now live. So when we sat down with him, we asked him to turn over his secret playbook.

In this film, he reveals the storytelling strategies used to elect Mr. Bush with openness and candor, and in doing so lays bare the fundamental narrative strategies that remain at the core of today’s presidential campaigns. But Mr. McKinnon believes that the power of storytelling has a dark side that voters should be more aware of. His new message is a warning to all citizens: You’re being manipulated, and our democracy relies on your ability to see that .

Race for Ward 10 Just Got Dirty

Mattea Merta's Campaign Door Hanger

There is a lot going on in this door hanger by Mattea Merta.  So we must:

  1. Cut spending in the city and only concentrate on core services
  2. Build a pool for Ward 10 families.

Okay then.

The fun line in all of this is the attack on Zach Jeffries which may not be that accurate.  If I recall, Jeffries is contracted out by Junior Achievement’s board as a contractor to do certain programs.  A distinction that is kind of important.  It’s a piece of literature that seems to reflect the worst in civic politics and gives people a reason to by cynical.  Not that way I would want to start my campaign.

Also, I hate being that guy but it’s rein in taxes, not reign in taxes.

Some quick takes on Saskatoon City Council races

This is what I think I think.

  • Dayday is not a credible candidate.  His Twitter handle links to a domain name that is currently unregistered.  If you can’t register your own domain name and set up a website, why are you even running.  This seems more about a blood feud with Atch than anything else.
  • If crime becomes an issue in the election, both the Mayor and Clark are in trouble.  Both have been around forever and it’s gotten worse on their watch.
  • I haven’t seen a lawn sign on public property yet.  This is is a good thing.  Can we keep them off of public property?  It makes the city look like crap and boulevards don’t vote.
  • In the spring, Darren gave Wendy some gardening advice.  She ignored it (because she always ignores good gardening advice) and our garden sucks despite the heat and the rain.  It’s a bit of the sore spot with Wendy and one that we enjoy rubbing salt in.  Anyways I point this out because one candidate ran in 2012 because they thought the front runner was rude on the doorstep.  Not that I am saying that Wendy is running but it’s amazing what motivates people to run for office.
  • Everyone is telling me what the impact on Kelley Moore’s entrance into the race will be but none of us have any idea.  It’s been 48 hours.  No one knows how a campaign is going to go after only 48 hours.  For right now, she has a long hill to climb but remember, when Nenshi started, he was dead last and considered and after thought.  Even the election that saw Atch election, he was behind before a violent assault happened downtown and shook up the race.  No lead is safe in civic races.
  • I was really surprised that Atch has been taking the summer off of campaigning.  I was challenged on Twitter that he has the right approach and by lying low, he makes himself as small as target as possible.   On the flipside, I am even hearing from candidates in areas that most would define as Atch’s base that people really want change.  I still think if he loses that the election could have been lost in August.

Promoting Local

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

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

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

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

A Short Disclaimer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saskatoon City Council Roundup

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

Some quick thoughts on the Saskatoon Mayoral Race

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

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

The Office of Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau

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

Some really quick thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

What was the PM doing this week

Fundraising for the Conservatives

Fundraising note from the Conservatives…

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

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

The reality of politics

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some thoughts on the Saskatchewan Election

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

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