Category Archives: politics

Brian Bowman’s political career comes to an end…

You might not be able to build Rome in one day, but you sure can destroy Camelot in a matter of hours.

At the start of this week, Mayor Brian Bowman marked his first 100 days in office by highlighting all his good deeds since he moved into Sam Katz’s old digs.

A mere two days later, Winnipeg’s rookie mayor was effectively called out as a liar by the most popular man in the city, True North Sports & Entertainment chairman Mark Chipman.

The owner of the Winnipeg Jets, who appears to enjoy publicity as much as a Siamese cat revels in an ice bath, stood up in front of reporters on Wednesday afternoon and declared he’s disappointed with Bowman, regretted publicly endorsing the privacy lawyer during the 2014 mayoral race and then delivered a political gut punch to the rookie mayor.

You know that massive True North development proposal for a pair of downtown properties south of Graham Avenue? You know, the one Bowman has been demanding to hear details about since the middle of January? The one that has caused a vicious public airing of accusations and counter-accusations between the mayor and CentreVenture, the city’s downtown development agency?

Well, according to Mark Chipman, Brian Bowman has known about the $400-million proposal to build three towers and a public square since November, when the new mayor attended a Jets game with provincial cabinet minister Kevin Chief.

Not only did Bowman know, but he and Chief were shown a promotional video about the project in the True North chairman’s office, which offers a view of the land in question.

This creates a massive credibility problem for Winnipeg’s new mayor, who told reporters in January he did not meet with Mark Chipman and did not know much about the proposal beyond “rumours and rumblings.”

The proposal in question involves the construction of residential housing, office space, retail stores, a public square, a new hotel and two if not three skywalks on a Manitoba Public Insurance-owned surface-parking lot at 225 Carlton St. – optioned to True North partners since 2012 – and the former Carlton Inn site at 220 Carlton St., owned by CentreVenture. If all goes well for True North, it will also involve a new headquarters for Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries.

For three weeks, Bowman has blasted CentreVenture for signing an option on the Carlton Inn site while another corporation, construction company Stuart Olson, was obligated to build a hotel on that land.

Bowman denounced this option as a secret deal. He excoriated CentreVenture staff and board members. He declared city hall would no longer tolerate backroom conversations about real estate, especially in the wake of the Winnipeg fire-paramedic station construction scandal, police headquarters scandal and other Katz-era real-estate scandals involving lands swaps, unappraised property purchases and suppressed land valuations.

After nearly three weeks of silence, the usually reserved Chipman gathered reporters into the bowels of MTS Centre – the Excalibur-like source of his power and popularity – and called out Bowman for failing to disclose what he knew about the “True North Square” proposal and when.

So no one looks that good in this and I suspect this has just ended Brian Bowman’s political career.  The corpse will serve to the end of the term but few survive these kind of shots he is taking because no one believes him anymore.

Nobody comes out of this sorry mess looking good. Chipman faces a conflict allegation, even if he did recuse himself from the CentreVenture board and quit shortly afterward. Bowman appears to be a disingenuous liar, doing whatever it takes to appear to be righteous in the face of previous city malfeasance. Stuart Olson looks like a bad-faith actor in its commitment to build a hotel for RBC Convention Centre. The convention centre board looks like a bunch of amateurs for failing to sign a construction contract with Stuart Olson.

A friend of mine calls municipal politics the “minor leagues”.  Another one calls it the ECHL of politics.  It feels that way at times.  There is so much bumbling and incompetence whether in Saskatoon or in Winnipeg that you just have to appreciate it for what it is.  A mess.

It’s just nice to read about it somewhere else and not here.

Is Putin winning the confrontation with NATO?

The Guardian thinks he is

It’s different for dictators or authoritarian regimes. Flick a switch, pull a lever, and things happen, often instantly. Which is one reason why the Putin-versus-Europe contest in Ukraine is so one-sided; why one side acts and the other struggles to react; why one side is consistently ahead of the curve, the other behind it – in the short-term, at least.

Six months after the Kremlin stunned Europe with its land grab in Ukraine, a Nato summit in Wales unveiled its ideas for shoring up security in eastern Europe. For more than two decades, the alliance had been beset by self-doubt. Having won the cold war, what was the point any more?

Putin gave the military planners at Mons and the armies of bureaucrats in Brussels a new lease of life. Nato’s core purpose – facing down and containing Russia – was newly legitimised.

The summit decided to put a spearhead force at brigade strength, more than 5,000 men, into Poland and the Baltics at short notice: small units of special forces within hours, bigger reinforcements within days, at the first hint of trouble.

That was six months ago. But since the September summit, the plan has atrophied, bogged down in endless circular discussions of who does what, when and where. Who pays for it? Where is the kit coming from? Will the Americans step up to relieve the Europeans? Who will be in command?

First of all, NATO did not win the cold war, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher did for the exact reasons mentioned.  It won’t win this conflict unless the United States has a stronger foreign policy and from what we have seen from Barack Obama, it will have to come from the next President.

Conservatives are Attacking Palin. What changed?

She personalized the attacks on her and her family

In fairness, Palin was once a reform-minded governor who enjoyed an 88 percent approval rating. But something happened on the way to Des Moines. I suspect the most vicious attacks (especially the “Trig Truther” stuff) radicalized her and embittered her, but I also suspect she also took the easy way out. Instead of going back to Alaska after the 2008 defeat, boning up on the issues, continuing her work as governor, and forging a national political comeback, she cashed in with reality-TV shows and paid speaking gigs.

This isn’t an original or new observation, In fact, back in July 2009, I wrote: “The tragedy of Sarah Palin’s recent press conference announcing her resignation as governor of Alaska flows from the sense that so much potential has been wasted.”

The trouble with taking the easy way out is that it doesn’t last forever. The people who truly last in this business don’t rely on shortcuts or good looks or gimmicks; they survive on work ethic, wit, and intellect. (That’s why, no matter how grandiose he gets, Newt Gingrich will always have a gig. Newt will always be interesting, because he will always have something to say—something to contribute.)

I had dinner a couple of months ago with a politician of a different political philosophy than I.  This was a big part of our talk.  Governments and politicians that can engage with their critics are far more successful in the long term (think Peter Lougheed or a Bill Davis) than those that treat all criticism as a personal attack that must be defeated.

Of course more troubling are the personal attacks, even if they have a hint of accuracy.  What do you do about them?   Some can shrug them off while others are changed by them.  Palin was changed by them.  I was never a fan but I agree that instead of fixing her flaws, she has doubled down on them, something that too many politicians do.

True North?

So Justin Trudeau and the Liberals have a new ad out.  Canadian politicians since the days of John G. Diefenbaker have been loving the north.  John Turner, Jean Chretien, Stephen Harper all love the north.   It’s expected that Justin Trudeau loves the north as well… and wants to make it better!  That’s it.  

As a voter, I want to hear how.  What is the big strategy.  There is some political room for him to maneveur as Harper has really accomplished nothing as part of his northern agenda.  The Department of National Defence can’t even procure rifles for the Rangers (who arguably don’t need replacements for their bolt action rifles that work really well in the winter).  Plans for a deepwater port?  Umm that has gone nowhere.  

Instead of just matching Harper’s unfulfilled and broken promises with real ideas, Trudeau just floated out some cliches and feel good statements.  In other words, not much has changed.

Former CIA officer found guilty of espionage for leaking classified information to NYT reporter

This is sickening.

Jeffrey A. Sterling, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer, was convicted of espionage Monday on charges that he told a reporter for The New York Times about a secret operation to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program.

The conviction is a significant victory for the Obama administration, which has conducted an unprecedented crackdown on officials who speak to journalists about security matters without the administration’s approval. Prosecutors prevailed after a yearslong fight in which the reporter, James Risen, refused to identify his sources.

The case revolved around a C.I.A. operation in which a former Russian scientist provided Iran with intentionally flawed nuclear component schematics. Mr. Risen revealed the operation in his 2006 book, “State of War,” describing it as a mismanaged, potentially reckless mission that may have inadvertently aided the Iranian nuclear program.

On the third day of deliberations, the jury in federal court in Alexandria, Va., convicted Mr. Sterling on nine felony counts. Mr. Sterling, who worked for the C.I.A. from 1993 to 2002 and now lives in O’Fallon, Mo., faces a maximum possible sentence of decades in prison, though the actual sentence is likely to be far shorter. Judge Leonie M. Brinkema of Federal District Court, who presided over the weeklong trial, allowed Mr. Sterling to remain free on bond and set sentencing for April 24.

“This is a just and appropriate outcome,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said. “The defendant’s unauthorized disclosures of classified information compromised operations undertaken in defense of America’s national security. The disclosures placed lives at risk. And they constituted an egregious breach of the public trust by someone who had sworn to uphold it. As this verdict proves, it is possible to fully prosecute unauthorized disclosures that inflict harm upon our national security without interfering with journalists’ ability to do their jobs.”

Edward B. MacMahon Jr., Mr. Sterling’s lawyer, said he would seek to get the verdict thrown out and, failing that, file an appeal.

“We’re obviously very saddened by the jury’s verdict,” Mr. MacMahon said in a telephone interview. “We continue to believe in Jeffrey’s innocence, and we’re going to continue to fight for him up to the highest levels.”

Was he even guilty?

Mr. Sterling’s lawyers argued that it was just as likely that Mr. Risen had learned about the operation from Capitol Hill staff members, then pieced together details from other sources at the C.I.A. and from the Russian scientist himself. Mr. Pollack acknowledged that Mr. Sterling had a relationship with Mr. Risen, but said they had talked only about Mr. Sterling’s discrimination lawsuit against the C.I.A. Mr. Risen probably asked about Merlin and the Iranian operation, Mr. Pollack said, but Mr. Sterling did not provide any information.

Mr. Sterling is the latest in a string of former officials and contractors the Obama administration has charged with discussing national security matters with reporters. Under all previous presidents combined, three people had faced such prosecutions. Under President Obama, there have been eight cases, and journalists have complained that the crackdown has discouraged officials from discussing even unclassified security matters.

So there are leaks and then “approved leaks”

Mr. Risen’s lengthy fight to avoid testifying about his sources turned the case into a rallying point for news organizations, who said the Justice Department had made it harder to cover national security beyond what it released in news statements and approved leaks, such as those that told a glowing story about the mission to kill Osama bin Laden. Less favorable stories, such as those revealing warrantless wiretapping or secret prisons, led to criminal investigations.

So the Whitehouse is fine with favourable leaks but those that reflect poorly on the President and the U.S. government are prosecuted.  Tell me again why we had such high hopes in Barack Obama?

Breaking: New York politician is accused of being on the take

From the New York Times

Sheldon Silver, the speaker of the New York Assembly, exploited his position as one of the most powerful politicians in the state to obtain millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks, federal authorities said on Thursday as they announced his arrest on a sweeping series of corruption charges.

For years, Mr. Silver has earned a lucrative income outside government, asserting that he was a simple personal injury lawyer who represented ordinary people. But federal prosecutors said his purported law practice was a fiction, one he created to mask about $4 million in payoffs that he carefully and stealthily engineered for over a decade.

Mr. Silver, a Democrat from the Lower East Side of Manhattan, was accused of steering real estate developers to a law firm that paid him kickbacks. He was also accused of funneling state grants to a doctor who referred asbestos claims to a second law firm that employed Mr. Silver and paid him fees for referring clients.

“For many years, New Yorkers have asked the question: How could Speaker Silver, one of the most powerful men in all of New York, earn millions of dollars in outside income without deeply compromising his ability to honestly serve his constituents?” Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, asked at a news conference with F.B.I. officials. “Today, we provide the answer: He didn’t.”

Why is there no political opposition to the Boston Olympic bid?

If politicians don’t support the Olympics, the terrorists win.

Sunset in Boston

In fashioning a campaign dominated by locals, the committee also hammered in another cornerstone: opposition to the Olympics is seen as a display of insufficient civic pride. Even elected officials who harbor deep misgivings about the Games — due to its expected cost, security risks, or potential for embarrassing mismanagement — say privately that they keep their fears quiet so as not to trigger any backlash.

One state lawmaker likened criticism of the Olympic plan to speaking in favor of an enemy nation during a time of war, saying it seemed “unpatriotic.”

Just as adroitly, the Olympic organizers resisted the outcry from the disclosure and anti-secret-government crowd to release even a morsel of their formal planning before the US Olympic Committee decided on Boston. This provided a tactical edge, because there were no specific projects to oppose or price tags about which to kvetch. Potential critics had nothing at which to shoot. That ends next week when the bid documents become public, and 2024 organizers present their early thinking under a bright media glare in a public meeting.

And I guess politicians who only care about their own political self-interests.  I thought Boston reminded me of Saskatoon.

Mike Huckabee Scolds Obamas for Letting Their Daughters Be Fans of Beyoncé

Since when is how Barack and Michelle Obama parent their teens part of political discourse?

“I don’t understand how on one hand they can be such doting parents and so careful about the intake of everything—how much broccoli they eat and where they go to school, and making sure they’re kind of sheltered and shielded from so many things,” Huckabee explained before going in for the jugular: “And yet they don’t see anything that might not be suitable for either a preteen or a teen in some of the lyrical content and choreography of Beyoncé,” Huckabee told People magazine.

For me this crosses the line and isn’t needed.  Barack Obama is not a perfect president.  I have long been critical of his foreign policy and things like Keystone XL (which is part of his foreign policy) but going after how he parents is too much.

Will Saskatchewan Fall into Recession?

Will Saskatchewan experience a recession because of falling oil prices?

The Conference Board of Canada predicts this drop will cause Alberta to slip into a recession by the end of the year. Jeff Rubin, the author of “The End of Growth” and former chief economist of CIBC World Markets believes the dip in the sector could affect Saskatchewan as well, though not as seriously.

“I don’t expect Saskatchewan or Newfoundland to be as adversely affected as Alberta,” Rubin said.

“But it’s going to impact the economy, it’s going to impact tax revenues. Governments are going to be challenged in the sense that if they don’t challenge spending, they’ll see their deficits go off side.”

It could also affect property prices.

The Conference Board of Canada predicts that Alberta will slip into a recession before the end of the year. Rubin echoes that warning. He said Alberta could experience its worst recession since the late 1980s.

At the end of the day, Saskatchewan will be okay because we have what the world needs.  It may not be as great as it was in 2009 but we will be okay.  That being said, we are so reliant on commodity prices that these kind of dips are going to impact us forever with no way out.  In that way the new Saskatchewan under Brad Wall isn’t a lot different than the old Saskatchewan under Grant Devine or Roy Romanow.  Like the rest of the world, the global economy will always have a big impact on us for good or for bad.

Cam Broten has said before that he wants more eggs in more baskets.  I think we all do in Saskatchewan but man is it hard to do.  I posted before about Alberta’s struggles in diversifying their economy and the same thing has happened here.  I agree with diversification but we are a province of a million people and there are going to be times that the world economy conspires against us and makes it really hard.  This is one of those times.

What is Obama’s Legacy?

New York Magazine asked 53 historians what Barack Obama’s legacy will be

Almost every respondent wrote that the fact of his being the first black president will loom large in the historical narrative — though they disagreed in interesting ways. Many predict that what will last is the symbolism of a nonwhite First Family; others, the antagonism Obama’s blackness provoked; still others, the way his racial self-consciousness constrained him. A few suggested that we will care a great deal less about his race generations from now — just as John F. Kennedy’s Catholicism hardly matters to current students of history. Across the board, Obamacare was recognized as a historic triumph (though one historian predicted that, with its market exchanges, it may in retrospect be seen as illiberal and mark the beginning of the privatization of public health care). A surprising number of respondents argued that his rescue of the economy will be judged more significant than is presently acknowledged, however lackluster the recovery has felt. There was more attention paid to China than isis (Obama’s foreign policy received the most divergent assessments), and considerable credit was given to the absence of a major war or terrorist attack, along with a more negative assessment of its price — the expansion of the security state, drones and all. 

Alberta has already tried to diversify it’s economy. It failed

From the Calgary Herald

As for policy, the Alberta government tried to diversify the Alberta economy in a deliberate fashion back in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Starting under then Premier Peter Lougheed and also under his successor, Don Getty, the provincial government provided loans, loan guarantees and equity stakes to companies in the non-energy sector.

In one example, the provincial government backed “made in Alberta” banks, trust companies and investment firms. After the early 1980s recession and then a mid-decade collapse in oil prices (to $10.25 a barrel in April 1986, down from $26 in December 1985), Alberta’s real estate values also plummeted. That took down many of those same provincially guaranteed financial institutions, themselves heavily invested in real estate.

The price tag to the provincial government for that diversification effort was $1.8 billion, for everything from failed loan guarantees to partially covered consumer and investor deposits.
In another diversification attempt, the province also loaned, guaranteed and took equity partnerships in everything from a forestry company to a meat packing plant, a provincial bitumen upgrader, a waste treatment plant and a high-tech company. By the early 1990s, defaults and foregone capital investments from all of the above cost the province $2.2 billion — in addition to the $1.8-billion financial sector collapse.

These efforts didn’t help Albertans adjust to a new reality or diversify the economy. It was simply activist industrial policy, where governments pick winners and losers. The latter cropped up more regularly than the former.

Past best before date?

Has Harper been on the job for too long?

One of the costs of long-tenured prime ministers is that over time there accumulates a sense of hubris and a complacency that serves the pride and ego of the leader and his cadre, but few others. This mentality is captured well by Louis St. Laurent’s 1949 campaign slogan: “You’ve never had it so good.” While, at the time, St. Laurent had only been in power for a short time, his party had been in power for 13 years in a row.

Another example is Mulroney’s two kicks at the constitutional can. While the 1987 Meech Lake Accord showed fresh, albeit elitist, thinking on the constitution, the 1992 Charlottetown Accord seemed more like an act of great hubris and (and, incidentally, political suicide).

Perhaps my favourite instance of hubris and entitlement, though, is Chrétien’s decision to stay through the 2000 election cycle. It was rumoured that he made this decision, in part, to spite Paul Martin, heir apparent and rival in the style of an epic melodrama reminiscent of Isaac and Ishmael. The long-suffering country returned a Liberal majority, steeped in corruption and in-fighting, and was rewarded with front-row seats to see Chrétien and Martin run the Grits into the ground.

On top of hubris, entrenched prime ministerial tenures also erode the capacity of opposition parties to do their job. As Franks argued, weakened oppositions, who cannot rely on patronage, who do not enjoy the extensive resources enjoyed by the governing parties, and who must constantly deal with rookie MPs are less able to effectively hold the government to account.

Harper, prime minister since 2006, is deeply into the stage of leadership at which his elapsed time in office has become a problem. The extent of his hubris is well-known. Indeed, it has gone so far as to rouse former House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken, who told author Michael Harris, “Parliament can hardly be weakened any more than it already is. Harper can’t go much further without making the institution dysfunctional. He is trying to control every aspect of House business. In fact, it will have to be returned to its former state by someone if we are to have a democracy.”

John McGettigan: Candidate for the Saskatchewan Party Nomination in Saskatoon Stonebridge Dakota Constituency

So I heard that John McGettigan was running for the Saskatchewan Party nomination in Saskatoon Stonebridge Dakota.  I then found this speech from a couple of years ago he gave at a Teacher’s Rally where he questioned the Brad Wall lead Saskatchewan Party governments intelligence, passion for education, and commitment to our children.

Now he wants to be a part of the same government he bashed from the front of the legislature.  It’s been a long time since I have been involved in partisan politics but I don’t think it works like that.

Of course it actually gets weirder with this odd campaign announcement on Facebook where he seems to think he is running to be a cabinet minister.

Why is John McGettigan running for the Saskatchewan Party?

So if he isn’t named to cabinet (and given the perks to the position) is he going to quit?  Who makes those kinds of declarations (or doesn’t at least take away his campaign managers computer) as they announce their nomination?

Statement from Darren Cannell

Okay, so the reason the Sask Party has “messed up” education is that they don’t have the information needed to fix it?  The bureaucrats, the meetings with the unions, the work with the Saskatchewan Teacher’s Federation, meetings with John McGettigan himself … that isn’t getting them the information they need?  So only McGettigan himself once elected and presumably named as Minister of Education will then share this information on how to fix education in this province.

It’s so weird.  It is like he is running to be education minister and that is it which even if you have no idea how the world works, you have to know our system doesn’t work like that.

In case you are wondering if that is all.  No.  There was this statement by his campaign manager.

Darren Cannell

Again, this man needs to have his computer taken away from him.  This may be the most disastrous start to any nomination campaign that I have ever seen.

Is the Lorje Leak ‘Inside baseball’?

I tend to agree with Prof. David McGrane on this.

Charles Smith, an assistant political science professor at the University of Saskatchewan’s St. Thomas More College, said if Lorje is found to have broken the law she will have a "professional obligation" to resign. "I think she’d have to step down," Smith said. "I don’t see how she could stay on."

Regardless of the outcome of the police investigation, the "whiff of scandal" now surrounding Lorje will "dog her over the next two years," make a re-election bid challenging and "make it very difficult for her to act and do the work she was elected to do," Smith added.

After her colleagues sanctioned her Monday, Lorje told reporters she had "no intention of resigning."

She apologized for the breach, but maintained she did not know she was breaking council’s code of conduct when she sent a document to "a trusted adviser" for "private, independent, confidential advice" in early June. Cline, who received the document, was an NDP MLA alongside Lorje from 1995 to 2003 and served in cabinet with her from 2001 to 2002. He owns a home on 11th Street East in Nutana, where riverbank slumping has been a problem since 2012.

City solicitor Patricia Warwick said the leaked document contains legal advice, is subject to solicitorclient privilege and contains information that could be "injurious" to the city if it’s made public.

Councillors Darren Hill and Tiffany Paulsen told reporters after Monday’s meeting they have heard from numerous constituents calling for Lorje’s resignation and they would step down from their posts were they in her position.

David McGrane, a political science professor at the U of S, said he doesn’t see "any reason" for Lorje to resign. He said he suspects voters with short memories will have forgotten about the leak – which he described as "inside baseball" – by the time the next municipal election rolls around in October 2016.

"As long as this doesn’t reproduce itself, it should really wash away within a short amount of time," he said.

I’ll add in some disclosure to this.  Wendy and I are both friends with Pat Lorje, something that came up many times in the previous leak investigation that didn’t find anything.

I agree with Charles Smith.  I think that anyone that is convicted of a crime who is in public office should resign.  There is more than adequate precedent for that and I think it is part of a functioning democracy.  If she is not charged or convicted, I also agree with David McGrane that this will not affect her electability.  People just don’t tune in enough to care that much at the two year point of a mandate.

Also kudos to McGrane for using the phrase “inside baseball” in his interview with Andrea Hill.