Tag Archives: Bob Rae

Maybe we aren’t that angry after all

Chris Selley in the National Post

Your results may vary, of course. Earlier in January, Ekos tagged Mr. Harper with a whopping 59% disapproval rating, against 34% approval — so, a -25% approval deficit. (Bob Rae, by comparison, had 44% approval against 24% disapproval.) That sounds bad. But in September 2010, the last time Ekos asked after the leaders’ reputations, it found Mr. Harper had a -20% approval deficit. And only 32% support. And then he went on and won a majority.

After nearly a decade of fearmongering, the Conservatives just keep gaining votes. The Opposition has been in disarray, certainly, but that’s precisely the point: People can see that Mr. Harper’s actions simply do not conform to the malevolent top-line items on his purported agenda. It’s far from clear to me, therefore, that it’s wise to keep insisting that agenda exists. As Chantal Hébert recently argued, the opposition parties’ screeching about Old Age Security may well make the modest reforms the government eventually proposes more palatable.

If Mr. Harper does indeed transform Canada into “Dickens’ London,” as Mr. Caplan puts it, then his party will presumably go down in flames in 2015. Certainly, there will be voter fatigue. Never mind the Conservatives’ serial murder of their own openness-and-accountability promises. This is an ostensibly pro-free-speech government that, on Monday, denied Green Party leader Elizabeth May leave to speak on the legacy of Vaclav Havel. These people are just as hardwired for eventual self-destruction as the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives before them.

But you know what? I have this weird feeling that Canada in 2015 is going to be pretty much the same place as it is now. And that Mr. Harper’s would-be successors — not least the relentlessly Harper-bashing NDP leadership candidates — are going to have to go out and win this on their own merits, not just on Mr. Harper’s demerits. If you’re wondering why Canadians aren’t rising up in furious protest, it’s at least worth considering that, despite your very best efforts, they are simply not as angry as you assumed they were.

Brian Topp

Last week I got an invitation from Pat Atkinson to meet NDP leadership candidate Brian Topp at Amigo’s Cantina last night.  I have always been fascinated by NDP leadership races, partly because they make absolutely no sense to me and I never know what is going to happen on the convention floor.  (yeah I just admitted that I watch leadership conventions for a hobby)

Brian ToppSince Topp was speaking to a partisan NDP crowd (I was on the only non-New Democrat there) I won’t go into the details but here are some observations.

  • Topp can give a good speech to a small group of people.  I don’t know if he will be electrifying in a convention hall or if he can do it in the House of Commons but I was impressed by his speech last night.  He was humble while articulated why he wants to become both NDP leader and Prime Minister of Canada.
  • I expected him to know his policy but I was impressed by how quickly and clearly he articulated it.  He was sharp in the Q & A.  I didn’t ask him any questions as I am not a card carrying NDP and the questions I would have asked him would have probably upset some people there and would have put him in an awkward position.  It wasn’t the place or time.
  • Topp classily distances himself from Layton and was open in giving permission to look at other leadership candidates.  He pointed out that he was not Jack’s heir apparent and that Jack wanted others to run for leadership as well. 
  • Topp reminded me a lot of both Ed Broadbent and Roy Romanow.  If you are an NDP leadership candidate, this is a good thing.
  • I know it’s early but there wasn’t any campaign material left by him and I find that his website is quite devoid of content and compelling reasons to vote for him.  While I found him last night to have a compelling story and a pretty good vision of the country, his website doesn’t communicate any of that. 
  • I wonder if he ever wakes up and looks at a selection of orange-ish ties and realizes, “I’ll be wearing a tie with orange in it for the rest of my life.”  For me, that would be enough to discourage me from ever running for NDP leader.
  • In light of this post by Wendy, I will point out that it was not a Sunday, I don’t think Topp is a Baptist, and there was not a single inappropriate joke told which means my grandfather could vote for him.
  • Unlike my previous attempts to chill out with a party leader, this one went really well.  Pat Atkinson had a nice crowd out and it was nice to chat with Nettie Wiebe for a couple of minutes.

In the end he has a really, really tough job ahead of him.  He spoke of forming government but even holding on to the seats the NDP have in Quebec is going to be tough without functioning constituency organizations and has less then 1700 members in Quebec.  While the road ahead is tough in Quebec, the NDP has stalled in it’s traditional heartland of the prairies.  Many blame electoral boundaries but the NDP message does not resonate in rural Saskatchewan, Alberta, or Manitoba like it used to.  Topp will have to change that if he hopes on growing the federal party out west.

Will he become Prime Minister?  Too early to tell and a lot can change over the next three years but more than any other NDP candidate on the horizon, I think he gives them their best shot.  It will be interesting to watch.

Do the Liberals need a national primary?

Liberal Party of Canada logoJohn Ibbitson thinks they do.

Mr. Rae is touring the country and consulting what political types like to call the grassroots, though Alykhan Velshi, a former aide to Conservative Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, astutely calls them the grasstops. The grasstops are the riding executives, policy wonks, activists and other need-to-get-a-life types who make up the infrastructure of a political party. They’re not the grassroots. You’re the grassroots, and you wouldn’t be caught dead at a Liberal (or Conservative or NDP) barbecue.

Many grasstops belong to one or more of the special interests that weigh down the Liberal Party. The youth commission, the seniors commission, the aboriginal commission, the women’s commission. You can’t swing a dead cat in that party without hitting a commission.

Toss them all out, party executive, and toss yourselves out while you’re at it. But before you go, put forward this proposal for the January convention. Have the next leader chosen through a series of primary contests across the country, in which any Canadian who wants to can cast a ballot.

Right now, the Liberal leader is directly chosen by party members. But it costs money to join and who would want to? People who belong to political parties aren’t entirely normal.

In the United States, you have to register to vote. Everyone who registers as a Democrat or a Republican has a say in that party’s leadership contest through the primaries and caucuses.

This weakens the party elite because outsiders such as Barack Obama (or Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan or Jimmy Carter) can do an end run around the establishment by appealing directly to voters. Because the weaker a party gets, the more powerful its few surviving poobahs become; a strong party will have a broad base and a weak elite, the very opposite of today’s Liberal Party.

Renewal could come for the Liberals if a leadership contest galvanized hundreds of thousands of people to, say, take out a free one-day party membership so they could vote in the New Brunswick primary, which everyone would be watching because the Northern Ontario primary the week before had vaulted an unknown but charismatic minority candidate into the front ranks of the contest.

Where did Michael Ignatieff go wrong?

Licia Corbella of the Calgary Herald looks at why Michael Ignatieff failed to connect with Canadian voters.

To his baffled Harvard colleagues who can’t understand how a Harvard man can’t beat a University of Calgary man, ask yourselves this: Would any of Ignatieff’s books have won awards if the positions he took waffled as much as his comments to Canadians? Would he have been a popular lecturer? Of course not.

Those of us who had read his work knew he didn’t really believe that Israel was guilty of war crimes, but that he made a calculated decision to throw Israel under the bus to quell a political storm in Quebec while speaking French.

Bob Rae, who was also fighting for the Liberal leadership at the time (which went to Stephane Dion) called Ignatieff "the guy who’s changed his mind three times in a week," with regard to the Lebanese-Israeli war.

Then in 2009, when Ignatieff was Liberal leader, he put forward policies that he clearly didn’t give more than a passing thought to.

Ignatieff wanted Canadians to be eligible to take a year off drawing employment insurance benefits after working just nine weeks.

The very people that was supposed to entice -autoworkers losing their jobs -were outraged. Why should some student whose summer job comes to an end get to draw EI benefits for the same amount of time as that autoworker who has paid into the system for decades?

For years, Ignatieff waxed poetic about how valuable the oilsands were to all of Canada, and then during the campaign, instead of supporting his very valid views, he spoke of how he would place a moratorium on development of our "dirty oil" and bring in a cap-and-trade system.

Ignatieff didn’t resonate with voters because he was a sycophant. He said what he thought people wanted to hear and thought Canadian voters are too stupid to know good policy from bad.

I am not really sure if that was it.  Early on the in the election, Canadians tuned into Ignatieff and seemed to like him and his platform.  Even out west, people seemed to like the Liberal platform, yet didn’t vote for them.  Part of me wonders the impact the horrible state of the Liberal Party’s grassroots in parts of Canada played a part, the other part of me wonders if his attempt to bring down the government last year had an impact.  While in Ottawa it may have played well, the rest of us in Canada were really tired to it.  So Harper brings out a budget that isn’t that bad and before it comes out, Ignatieff is saying his is going to bring down the government.  Meanwhile the rest of us are thinking, “Aren’t government’s supposed to fall on really big issues and mistakes, not on the Opposition Leader’s rhetoric?”. 

I don’t watch a lot of Canadian television and the Conservatives don’t advertise on History Channel so I don’t know if I saw the “just visiting” ads and I don’t think I was influenced by them but after Ignatieff said he be was bringing down the government in 2010, he sounded like a political opportunist, meanwhile Layton who occasionally propped up Harper (and “Made Parliament work”) seemed more and more like the government in waiting.  As that happened, I found myself ignoring Ignatieff more and more.

So what’s your reason for not supporting the Liberal Party?

Move over California, Illinois is broke as well

From The New York Times

Viw of Chicago Even by the standards of this deficit-ridden state, Illinois’s comptroller, Daniel W. Hynes, faces an ugly balance sheet. Precisely how ugly becomes clear when he beckons you into his office to examine his daily briefing memo.

He picks the papers off his desk and points to a figure in red: $5.01 billion.

“This is what the state owes right now to schools, rehabilitation centers, child care, the state university — and it’s getting worse every single day,” he says in his downtown office.

Mr. Hynes shakes his head. “This is not some esoteric budget issue; we are not paying bills for absolutely essential services,” he says. “That is obscene.”

For the last few years, California stood more or less unchallenged as a symbol of the fiscal collapse of states during the recession.

Now Illinois has shouldered to the fore, as its dysfunctional political class refuses to pay the state’s bills and refuses to take the painful steps — cuts and tax increases — to close a deficit of at least $12 billion, equal to nearly half the state’s budget.

Of course the impact is more than on just Illinois

The federal dollars are nearly spent. Last month, local governments nationwide shed more than 20,000 jobs. Should the largest struggling states — like California, New York or Illinois — lay off tens of thousands more in coming months, or default on payments, the reverberations could badly damage a weakened economy and push housing prices down still further.

“You’re not seeing these states bounce back, and that could be a big drag on the national economy,” said Susan K. Urahn of the Pew Center on the States. “It could be a very tough decade.”

Here is what it looks like in real terms

The Community Counseling Centers of Chicago is another of those workaday groups that are like the stitches on a baseball, holding together poor and working-class neighborhoods. With an annual budget of $16 million, the agency tends to families torn by crime and violence as well as people who are psychologically stressed and abusing drugs.

On any given Monday morning, the agency’s chief administrative officer, John J. Troy, 61, has no idea how he is going to keep its doors open until Friday. He said the state had not come through with an expected $2.2 million, which is about six months of arrears. He has laid off and recalled employees three times in the last two years.

“Two weeks ago, I had days to meet my $420,000 payroll and all I was looking at was a $200,000 line of credit from a bank,” recalled Mr. Troy. “I drove down to Springfield and said, ‘Hey, you owe us $3 million.’ They said: ‘Oh, that’s nothing. We owe another agency $10 million.’ ”

“The fact of the matter is,” he added, “I don’t sleep much these days.”

I know that several current and former politicians across the country read this blog but I can’t think of a Canadian equivalent.  In reading about the second Devine government in Saskatchewan the province was pretty much broke but from what I recall, bills were being paid.  While the Ontario government had Rae Days, I am pretty sure the bills got paid.  Actually outside of the 1930s, I can’t think of a time when a Canadian government didn’t pay it’s bills.  Anyone have an example?