Tag Archives: Don Atchison

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.

P.S.

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.

Contextless Thoughts

  • After the Saskatoon Transit lockout is done, I can’t see Ann Iwanchuk winning a second full term.  Especially with Mike San Miguel quietly running again.  Her campaign was largely financed by labour and with the city attacking the ATU like it did, her slim margin of victory, her constituents relying on Transit heavily, and a lack of a signature issue so far, it could be really tough to win re-election.
  • It could hurt Clark and Loewen with their base and could mobilize the non voting parts of Ward 2 to really hurt Lorje.  I am not saying councillors will lose their seats but rather could face much tougher re-election races than they would have.  The right opponents will capitalize on this.
  • Despite what people think, this won’t hurt the mayor at all.  That is what the attack ads are targeted to protect (at the expense of councillors).  In many ways he could come out of this the winner, especially if this weakens rivals and empowers his base which to be honest, never rides a bus.
  • Of course the city being the city, coincided the lockout with the Mayor’s Cultural Gala.  You had some city councillors tweeting pictures of the city’s elite having a fun time while lower class people were being kicked off buses and having to walk home.  
  • Why would the city run attack ads against the very union it needs to negotiate with on the first day.  Saskatoon already has laughable communications and that didn’t exactly make the city look good.  Of course the political nature of the ads was bizarre.  Several city councillors swore to me that they never had any foreknowledge of the ads until they ran but both city staff and some others on council say that council saw and approved the ads in an in-camera session of executive committee.  It’s not exactly breaking news that council members lie to me on issues.  
  • Speaking of executive committees, it would be a lot easier for them to lie to me if council and staff stopped leaking what happened in there.  If only they had a way to investigate the leaks…
  • I have had several discouraging conversations with people who are utterly dependent on the bus for work, to provide care for a spouse who is in a nursing home, to get to school.  In Saskatoon we call those people collateral damage.
  • It is weird to hear councillors go all out in defence of their real fiduciary duty but ignore their responsibility to those who rely on a public service.  Empathy for those who have been hurt by this strike has not been something that has been communicated well.
  • I don’t really miss the NFL.  You would think I would after watching it every week since 1987 but I haven’t.   I glance at some scores but other than that, I haven’t really missed it.  I still have some college football, the Huskies, and the CFL but I have never cared about them like the NFL.
  • Brady Hoke needs to be fired from the University of Michigan.  He sent back out a quarterback with a concussion back onto the field.  That should be a fireable offence in any league (including when the Calgary Stampeders did it a couple of years ago in a playoff game against the Riders).  You send out a player with a brain injury, you are fired or suspended, especially in the NCAA.
  • What could Stephen Harper be thinking?  $300,000 courtesy ride for a couple of European diplomats because he wanted to have them at a reception?  Does he just not care anymore?  That does not look like a move by a politician who is planning on re-election.  Not only that but there is still widespread opposition to the deal in Germany.
  • The NFL is talking with Texas head coach Charlie Strong who has taken some strong steps in dealing with player misconduct. “We can’t compromise and sometimes that means getting rid of the best player.”
  • If you are a big company and you want to associate your brand with a strong event, I’d talk to the people behind Nuit Blanche right now.  Over 5000 people were on 20th Street last night for the inaugural event and it was a big time success.  People were partying, shopping, and hanging out all over the place.  What a great event.  Someone needs to step up and get behind it in 2015 monetarily so it can get bigger.
  • After reading this piece by Cathal Kelly, you will realize that the Blue Jays will never get any better than they are now.  So yeah, that kind of sucks.

Is the new governance model in Saskatoon for it’s citizens or for the councillors

The StarPhoenix asks some hard questions about the new City of Saskatoon governance model that seems to more about the lifestyle of the councillors than it is about being good for the city.

When city council holds its next meeting a week from today, it will be the first such meeting in nearly two months after city hall adopted a new governance model that has cut council meetings in half to once a month.

Only a couple of voices on council expressed skepticism over the new system, while most heralded the change as making council’s activities more accessible.
However, there’s reason for Saskatoon residents to doubt whether the new system will improve how the city is run and increase people’s access to decisions and those who make them.

The StarPhoenix examined governance formats in seven other western Canadian cities and found little similarity to Saskatoon’s new model.

Few other municipalities hold council meetings just once a month and, of those that do, appearances can be deceiving.

Regina, for example, generally holds council meetings once a month, but held 23 meetings in 2013 and has held 10 so far this year.

Will Saskatoon’s new approach be flexible and allow for special meetings to be called to address urgent issues?

None of the other councils studied held all the major committee meetings on a single day of the week the way Saskatoon city hall plans to on Mondays (or Tuesdays after a long weekend).

Supporters say the new system will allow people greater access to committee meetings, which will now be held in council chambers and broadcast on the city’s website.

Why hold all the committees on the same day, though? That would seem to limit accessibility – particularly for those who happen to be busy on Mondays.

Is the real motivation access for residents, or convenience for councillors and administrators?

City officials cited Regina, Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton as the inspiration for the new system, but Saskatoon’s new approach bears little resemblance to the latter two Alberta cities. Both Edmonton and Calgary hold multiple council meetings each month, making one wonder if Saskatoon is really making an effective transition to becoming a big city.

I agree with questions that The StarPhoenix is asking.  From the start I have said that this is about the convenience of City Councillors who want to streamline their work load, make themselves less accountable, and make it far harder for the lowly public to participate or communicate with their elected officials.  Saskatoon City Council took this new arrangement so seriously that they actually drew names from a hat to fulfill one of the committee memberships.  You can’t do that and tell anyone that you take governance seriously.

I’ll give The StarPhoenix the last word.

No one can credibly argue these changes came about due to public pressure or through extensive consultation with voters.

It’s now up to the new model’s supporters to communicate how and why the new system is working and to be candid and admit when it’s failing the citizens who are paying for it.

Otherwise, Saskatoon residents will quite correctly feel they’ve been bamboozled and watched democracy get eroded by those who should be defending it.

Saskatoon Afternoon Show 5:15 Rountable

We had a good discussion today on the Saskatoon Afternoon Roundtable about hockey fights and the Mayor’s lack of leadership on active transportation and cutting congestion on Saskatoon City Streets.  I may have called him “clueless”.  If I would have brought my “A” game, I would have called him the “Gary Bettman of Mayors” and bridged the segments.  Next time (we talk municipal politics and hockey in the same segment).

Listen.

An Open Letter to Saskatoon City Council

Dear Councillors,

Over the last couple of weeks I have seen three minor accidents along the northbound lane on Idylwyld South.  All three have been minor and have “exchanged paint” to use the old NASCAR phrase.  They have been caused by someone trying to brake or avoid a massive pothole around a manhole cover which had been created but not repaired by a City of Saskatoon crew.

Today while caught in traffic along there, Wendy and I watched a man who was going no faster than 20 kph hit the pothole, blow his tire and bend his rim on a pothole that had been there for weeks.

Whenever I talk to any of you about potholes, I get told, “report it on the website”.  When a pothole in on one of the major thoroughfares in this city, driven by police, fire, city crews and even you as councillors, one should not have to report a pothole to the city, it should be fixed like it would be in any other city in Canada.  Especially when the pothole was created as part of a sewer upgrade*.

I have heard many stories this summer of Saskatoonians travelling to other cities and hearing apologies for the state of their roads while those same people are going, “this is so much better than the roads we have have in Saskatoon”.  Some of the ways people have described our roads are “war torn”, “goat trails,” and most of all “unsafe”.

They are unsafe to our tires, our rims, and our suspensions.  They are also unsafe for cyclists and pedestrians.  It’s embarrassing that you as a group has allowed our streets to get to this point.

It’s not like you don’t know this would happen.  The 2012 Roads Reports and reports before that ask for more money and tell you each year that unless we have more money, this is going to happen.  You kept telling people how you heard about their concerns regarding roads on the doorsteps.  Instead you gave a small increase and congratulated yourselves on the back despite knowing it wasn’t enough.  Road repair costs rise about 15% each year but Council decides to give about .5% of an increase each year leading to a very big and unsafe gap in services.  You hope to have enough money budgeted to bring hold the status quo by 2020.  By that time there may not be any roads left and the yearly amount needed to fix our roads will be much, much higher.  

Maybe city crews can’t find the potholes because street cleaning in this city takes months.  On Friday I was in City Park and they were finally cleaning it.  It was July 12!  Two months citizens of City Park have had to deal with gravel strewn and dirty streets because again, the City of Saskatoon won’t pay for the equipment needed to clean our streets.  We have such a short summer, you would think this would be a priority but it isn’t.  An email from another ward councillor today showed that much of that ward hadn’t been cleaned yet so don’t feel back City Park.  The quality of street sweeping is poor to say the least.  Talking to councillors in others wards I hear the same thing.  Locally I heard the sweepers but to be honest, our roads are marginally cleaner.

Sure we have the lowest taxes of any city our size in Canada but at the end of the day there is a reason for that, no city can maintain it’s infrastructure at the current rate of funding.  We may as well have Prosperity Saskatoon but we have roads that failing and a bridge that is a laughing stock of the country.  Instead of fixing what we have, all you can talk about is how we need to build more stuff (that needs to be maintained) so we can grow to a city of 1 million people.

While we are talking about growing to a city of a million people; here is a little bit of information you might find useful,  cities can’t grow themselves.  It’s the national and provincial economies that decide that.  It took Calgary 45 years to grow from 250,000 to a million people yet for some reason, we need to start building today.  Hence the $30 million extra for addition lanes on the north commuter bridge that your own city administration recommended against.  Then again, who am I to question policy made out of a campaign promise?

Our provincial economy is far different than Alberta’s oil based economy.  The amount of head office oversight that a potash mine takes compared to thousands of oil wells all over the province is miniscule.  We may be overjoyed by BHP Billiton moving it’s Canadian head office to Saskatoon but look at the result, a couple of stories of downtown office space.  It’s not a reflection of Saskatoon, it’s a reflection of the economy of the province we live in.

Combine that with a city council that just can’t get that quality of life matter in a city and you have a place where companies won’t be able to attract talent to and if they can, they won’t be able to keep it.  Most of the cities that are growing in Canada have higher taxes because a) growth costs b) you need to have great public amenities to have a city that top talent wants to live in.  

Eventually we are going to have to make a decision as a city.  If we keep on this path with crumbling roads and infrastructure many will just choose to leave.  For those that are left, we are going to have to borrow heavily to pay for the stuff that should have been paid for al along just like Toronto has had to do.  You can’t run old buses, garbage trucks, and city vehicles forever.  Eventually something is going to have to give and then you have to start paying for bills of broken equipment, water pipes, and roads.  When those bills come due, it’s over whelming.

Council needs to stop playing politics and start doing their fiduciary responsibility for the citizens of Saskatoon and start taking proper care of our infrastructure and city.  If they don’t, the only good news is that they won’t need to spend so much time worrying about it because we will find another group of public servants that will.

* I shouldn’t be that surprised by a city crew not repairing a pothole.  I had to personally intervene several years ago while a city run backhoe hit a car and was about to drive off.  The utility cut took a couple of years to get fixed.  I also listened to Saskatoon Light & Power crews lie about a pole failure while I was working downtown where they went home for the weekend and left a power pole in a hole without any supports.  The weather warmed up and it fell over.  We aren’t hiring the best and the brightest.

2012 Municipal Election Roundup

So after spending last night at City Hall waiting for the election results to be made public, here are my thoughts.

  • It was fun doing a quick segment with David Kirton and CKOM on the election.  I have always been a fan of Kirton and my only regret was not seeing more traction on food trucks (Twitter joke).
  • I was shocked to see Troy Davies win in Ward 4.  I had picked Sean Shaw and all of the metrics that myself and others have used to determine campaign victories showed Shaw winning. Apparently I need new metrics.  Either that or I need to start putting polls in the field.  Congrats to Troy Davies for winning and earning the right to be Ward 4 councillor.  Sean is a good friend and I am sure he will be back politically but it’s hard to see friends lose races.
  • I was also surprised to see Ann Iwanchuk win as after 10/11 polls reporting, Mike San Miguel had a sizeable lead but as the old saying goes, “it’s not over until it’s over” and all of a sudden I was looking at a result that I couldn’t believe and that is that Iwanchuk won by 28 votes.  When I talked to her and Andy last night, they kind of had the same reaction. Congrats to her on a well run race.
  • If I am Mike San Miguel, I have to questioning my decision to go negative late in the race with a pamphlet that attacked Iwanchuk and an attacking robo-call that attacked her NDP background.  If anything it probably motivated people to turn out for Iwanchuk.  It was a great campaign to watch that came down to under 100 votes.
  • Zach Jeffries not only becomes the youngest member on council ever but knocked off three term incumbent Bev Dubois.
  • So Tom Wolf came within a hair of defeating a long term incumbent after getting in the race in September.  Impressive campaign by Wolf and they had by far the best campaign t-shirts.
  • Pat Lorje won again in Ward 2 which is what I predicted. 
  • Since this will be long forgotten by 2016, I am planning to do a series of push polls, probably just to candidate homes that go something like, “Would you prefer crazed socialist (or robber baron) [insert councillor’s name here] or well respected columnist Jordon Cooper to represent your riding?” just to feed on their paranoia.  I have no intention of running but it would be fun to do.
  • I had a fun conversation with Andy Iwanchuk which is the first time we have ever met. When you think of it, the Iwanchuk family has been in campaign mode for a long time with Ann’s election a year ago, Andy’s provincial campaign and now her re-election campaign which makes for a hectic year.  No truth to the rumour that both of them are getting away for a vacation by working on someone else’s campaign.
  • After following the council pretty closely, I found the entire election disillusioning.  Part of it is the sausage philosophy where you don’t really want to know how it is made.  At the last of the last term, it was a very politically divided council.  That division came across during some of the FOI requests that dropped and also it showed that more than one councillor/candidate had lied to me about some issue or another.  Hopefully with some new councillors on council those bridges can be rebuilt but I am not hopeful that the partisanship will change.
  • I want to thank each of you last night that aggressively shook my hand.  If you noticed tears in my eyes, it wasn’t because I moved talking to you or about your victory, it is because I HAVE A TORN ROTATOR CUFF and it really HURT ME every time we shook hands.  I was ready to be put down by about 8:45 p.m.  It hurt that much.
  • The election day someone put up an anonymous Twitter account bashing Darren Hill to the media and anyone who would listen.  Sadly it was done by someone that knows Wendy and I and lives in Mayfair.  I have a pretty good idea of who it was but it’s still sad.  To be honest, if I was going to attack Hill I would stand behind them.  An anonymous account doesn’t do anything other than provide something to laugh at.
  • Got to hang out with Alex MacPherson and Liam Richards for the first time last night.  I always enjoy MacPherson’s writing in Verb and I have long been a fan of Richard’s photography (which always envying his gear). 
  • So this will be it until the next federal and provincial election when some councillors decide to run.  If they win, we get by-elections and the process starts all over again.

Mis-informing the people of Saskatoon

Chris Enns and I sat down and talked about what to expect in tonight’s municipal election on The YXE podcast yesterday.  Dale Zak joined Chris later for a discussion on technology and the election.  It was a good chat with Chris and for those of you who listened long enough to get through my thoughts, Dale had a lot to add as well.

While I hope all of you have voted by now, if you have time to listen to what we thought was going to happen, feel free to compare it to the results when they are made clear tonight.