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Dwain Lingenfelter

NDP Leadership Race Polls

While the LeaderPost published a poll of voter intentions in the province for the provincial NDP leader, I was curious when I heard about some internal polling done by the candidates themselves.  Over the last couple of weeks the Broten, Meili, and Wotherspoon campaigns have all done some polling.  Interestingly enough, the buzz is that both the Wotherspoon campaign has commissioned two polls right after the other.  If you don’t like the results of the first poll, maybe you just keep polling?

The Broten campaign has been the only one talking about the results which if accurate, makes sense.  It is bad news for both Ryan Meili and Trent Wotherspoon.  I know Nate Silver says to not believe campaign polling but it’s all we have.  Until the Wotherspoon and Meili camps post their numbers, I only have the Broten numbers to go on and here they are.  

When I looked at the poll, it was done by Public Polling Inc which is a polling company out of Toronto (there is a Saskatchewan Party attack ad in there someplace).  It was a large poll with a margin of error is only +/- 2.2%.   The poll asked two basic questions — (1) “If you were to vote for the new NDP leader today, who would be your first choice?” and (2) “Who would be your second choice for the new NDP Leader?”  The results of the poll show the following breakdown of first ballot support among decided voters throughout the entire province:

If the poll is correct, it looks like a 3rd ballot victory for Cam Broten and he would become the next leader of the opposition.  Trent Wotherspoon has either lost his support or pundits have really overestimated his support in the first place.  Maybe that is why he is polling so much.  According to the poll, Broten is the second choice of most of the people surveyed.  With the NDP at about 11,000 members and with the vast majority of them casting a ballot; I can’t see the convention floor delegates having enough votes to change the outcome but I have been wrong many times before.

The end result is that a) it’s going to be a boring convention b) Cam Broten will become the next leader of the opposition c) the Saskatchewan Party is probably already cutting the attack ads on Broten as I post this.

It also means that 2015 is going to be an interesting election. 

Update: I immediately was emailed as asked if who I was voting for.  I am not a member of any political party and therefore won’t be casting a ballot in this race.  I am just looking at it from the outside.

Column: Act to ensure your voice is heard

My column in The StarPhoenix

When I write about politics, some co-workers and friends tell me they don’t read it as they have "no time for politics." Well, I hope today is the exception and they head out and vote.

I don’t expect much drama and tension, and I don’t think it will surprise any of us if Premier Brad Wall is still the premier on Tuesday, with a slightly larger caucus. Apparently, the vaunted orange wave loses steam somewhere this side of Winnipeg.

While the results of the election may not be in doubt, what is in doubt is the quality of government it will provide and what kind of MLAs we will be electing.

What’s interesting is that those factors are partially determined by us, the voters, not just tonight but tomorrow, as well.

Citizens tend to be more engaged at a municipal level. We all have the ability to connect and engage politically. If you send an email to a councillor or the mayor, you know they will get it. An increasing number of them are on Twitter, making it easier to connect with them.

If you need to talk to councillors in person, the city has a time where you can address council each meeting.

If that isn’t your cup of tea, try one of the ward town hall meetings hosted by Mayor Don Atchison and your ward councillor. The mayor isn’t there alone; he brings along a cadre of senior civic administrators. Coun. Darren Hill has been tweeting during some of the town hall meetings.

It’s not about city hall talking to voters as it is the city wanting to listen to what we, the citizens, have to say.

Despite the effort the city puts into town hall meetings, attendance has been quite low, with only 20 to 30 people at many of the meetings. We complain that civic leaders don’t listen, but we don’t go when they show up to listen.

Our provincial legislature does not have similar accommodations for citizen feedback. While all councillors have a say in the legislative process in the city, provincially the power is concentrated in cabinet. You can’t address the legislature without an invitation, and the location of government itself limits access for much of the province.

Individual MLAs have roles on committee, but they have a party whip who tells them how to vote in most situations. It’s a system designed to be controlled from the premier’s office rather than by the public, but even that is changing.

There was much written about the last federal vote being the first social media election. In the end that proved hyperbolic, as most candidates just tweeted about how great their leader was and how well everything was going. Pretty boring stuff, as they used tweets as a broadcast medium.

Time will tell if our new MLAs want to actually listen or just talk, but the technology exists for those who want to connect; and it even works after the election. Two of the best listeners were New Democrats Cam Broten and Pat Atkinson, whose use of Twitter raised the bar for how accessible an MLA could be.

Broten has directed me and others to answers to questions we hadn’t even got around to asking him yet.

Atkinson was part question period commentator, part historian, and was possibly the biggest Sheepdogs cheerleader as the band ascended to the cover of Rolling Stone. I hope the Saskatchewan Party MLAs will follow their lead.

Every election, some people get into office who don’t deserve our vote. It’s how democracy works and, if we are lucky, their party will keep them a long way away from power and then toss them out in the next nomination meeting. We also send MLAs to Regina who are going as true public servants, who want to connect and want us to be part of the process for the next four years.

While the electoral process ends tonight, governance starts tomorrow and it’s something that we have an opportunity to play a role in. At a time when voter turnout is declining, we forget that our ability to participate in government is increasing.

How you do that is up to you. Our parliamentary system has one party in power and one in Opposition to provide a check and balance. Both rely on feedback, input and participation from their constituents. Plug in on either side, for debate is needed, but don’t just send MLAs to Regina and forget them.

Our voice matters today and especially tomorrow.

jordon@jordoncooper.com

Really? Is that all you got?

I was just surfing the National Newswatch and I noticed a Google Ad.

NDP ad on National Newswatch

Here is the larger version.

NDP ad on National Newswatch

That’s the best the NDP could come up with?  Vote NDP and that’s it?  Nothing witty?  Nothing profound?  Nothing at all expect Vote NDP.  It’s like they aren’t even trying anymore.  Off the top of my head I can think of “A fair deal for Saskatchewan families”, “Affordable rent for families”, a couple of old Grant Devine references, “We didn’t screw up the Carlton Trail College merger”, or even “Look at the profits PCS made today” as better options than Vote NDP.

Who could be down there in the Tommy Douglas House and think, “We’ll spend some money on Google Adsense and all that the ads will say is, Vote NDP” and have other people think that this was a good use of money.  I even clicked on the ad and sure enough, it went to a NDP that tracks the success of the campaign.

What’s even weirder is that the NDP were one of the first parties to use online advertising and I am sure it had some role in their building their support amongst younger Canadian voters but it looked a lot better than this.  It would be better to do nothing than this.

I know the NDP have produced some other ads that, were, umm, borrowed from the Ontario Liberal Party.  I am starting to wonder if the problem for the NDP central campaign is that they don’t have the right creative people lined up.  There are campaigns that win and then there are those that lose but you still want to run the best campaign you can because even if lose, you want to give your faithful something to be proud of as they head into opposition (or whatever you are facing).  I am not sure that ads like this motivate anyone to do anything and it wastes some money that could be spent elsewhere.

What went wrong for the Saskatchewan NDP?

The view from Calgary (and the Toronto Star)

“The NDP grassroots won’t even go door knocking anymore . . . the party only appeals to the mushy middle,” says Mitch Diamantopoulos, head of the journalism school at the University of Regina, a longtime activist and observer of Saskatchewan politics.

For Diamantopoulos, the problems began in the 1990s when then premier Roy Romanow swung the party to the right. “Saskatchewan shifted away from a cooperative, public enterprise approach and as a result a lot of longtime NDPers lost their enthusiasm for the party.”

At the same time, farmers were giving up on agriculture and moving to Saskatoon or Regina. As the province became urbanized, the NDP lost its traditional rural base.

In many ways, 62-year-old Lingenfelter personifies the confusion about what the party really stands for. He grew up in southwestern Saskatchewan on a large family farm. First elected as an NDP MLA in 1978, Lingenfelter managed to survive the near sweep by the Progressive Conservatives in 1982 and served as opposition house leader.

When the NDP was returned to power, he became a cabinet minister and eventually deputy premier and was seen as a likely successor to Romanow.

But in 2000 Lingenfelter abruptly resigned and accepted a senior position with an oilpatch heavyweight, Calgary-based Nexen Inc.

Not surprisingly, Lingenfelter became something of a trophy head in corporate Calgary — the former NDP cabinet minister who had joined the fold. So much so that in 2002 when a group of Calgary businessmen and politicians organized a fundraiser for the Saskatchewan Party at the Petroleum Club, Lingenfelter attended on behalf of Nexen and when introduced was given a special round of applause.

There are four things that I see going on in this election.  I am not an NDP insider or supporter although I have a good working relationship with many of them.  The first is Brad Wall.  He just hasn’t screwed up that many things.  If the old line is true that governments are so much elected but rather defeat themselves, the Saskatchewan Party haven’t made that many mistakes which makes it really hard to gain any traction against them.  Along with that is that I think the NDP elected Lingenfelter because they thought Wall would be a one term wonder and they would be back in power this election.  The choice of Lingenfelter as leader was an odd one because it was a return to the past, a past that Saskatchewan voters had just soundly rejected in 2007.

Next up is that I don’t think the NDP are any good in raising money.  NDP candidates are sharing campaign offices in ridings they should be competitive in the cities.  During the drive out to Arlington Beach, we drive through Watrous, Nokomis, and then from there we went to Regina through Craven and Lumsden.  We only saw one NDP sign the entire three hour drive.  One sign.  Even if they were not getting any traction with voters, you would have expected to see signs in the ditches and other public spaces.  There were none.  Meanwhile there was a lot of Saskatchewan Party signs (all on public land) but even in traditional NDP ridings in Regina.  What does it mean?  Signs cost money and I don’t see any of that in rural ridings.  I am assuming that the reason that Judy Junor is using office space downtown rather than in our her (hotly contested) riding is money as well.  This isn’t a couple of blocks outside her riding but is across the river from her riding.  C’mon.

You can blame that on the leader but raising money is also backend process that involves cultivating thousands of relationships and then understanding what buttons to push to get them to cough up $20 or $100 when you need it.  The federal Conservatives are masters of this and have been going back to the PC Canada Fund.  Whether it is direct mail or email, the NDP need to find a better way to cultivate, understand, and benefit from those relationships because the Saskatchewan Party can outspend them anytime in the election cycle.

Thirdly, the NDP are terrible users of new media.  Look at the video the Saskatchewan Party has produced versus the media the NDP are putting out.  Look at how Brad Wall is using Twitter vs. how Dwain Lingenfelter uses Twitter.  Why do I care how Link uses Twitter?  Social media allows voters to connect to a leader and if you are just posting links to some photos posted to Facebook and never send an @ reply, you aren’t connecting.  Wall understands that, Link doesn’t.  Not connecting to voters isn’t always fatal (like Stephen Harper) but it normally is (Elwin Hermanson, Michael Ignatieff, Stephane Dion).  Link didn’t connect to anyone online.

Finally, as much as Ryan Bater needs to win his seat in North Battleford, the NDP need him to win even more.  The NDP don’t do well against the unified right in Saskatchewan, they never have.  Brad Wall, Grant Devine, Ross Thatcher… when a third party (whether it be the PCs or the Libs) get 15% of the vote, the NDP win.  When they don’t, the NDP lose.  Their votes doesn’t grow enough to beat back the centre right challenger (for a contemporary example see Frank Quennel who is about to lose to Roger Parent in Saskatoon Meewasin).  It is why I was so surprised that the NDP didn’t want Ryan Bater in the debate.  A collapse in the Liberal vote benefits the Saskatchewan Party and no one else.  If I am the NDP I am hoping and praying that Bater wins, even at the expense of their own seat for the long term prospects of the party.

I don’t believe that the NDP are staying home and off the doorsteps because of what Roy Romanow did, I think there are elections that you win and some that you lose and this is one that the NDP are going to lose.   Wall’s performance is out of their control but if they don’t get the other three things solved, they are facing an uphill battle no matter what happens and no matter who the leader is.

Where have I seen this advertisement before?

I would have liked this NDP ad a lot better…

…if I hadn’t seen it somewhere before.

You know, considering that most of us have cable which means that we get Ontario television stations and probably saw the McGuinty ad, it seems to be a dumb decision to rip off the ad only weeks after it was on the air down east.   Plus, the white balance (or lighting) on the NDP ad is off which drives me crazy in more ways than you can imagine.

Column: Act to mitigate income gaps

My latest in The StarPhoenix

The Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce is running a campaign currently that says we are On Track as a province.

It’s absolutely correct in many ways. Saskatoon is booming and, for many, life has never been better. Even the Riders are winning again.

Yet for some, things aren’t on track. It can be seen in a really busy Saskatoon Food Bank, in a Friendship Inn that’s had to double its size, in the more than 100,000 meals served annually at the Salvation Army, and at a YWCA that’s perpetually full with homeless women.

There are the people Saskatchewan’s boom has left behind.

The concept is known as income inequality. It has always been around and likely will be around forever. But it starts to become a problem when the increasingly wealthy drive up the cost of living for those on the bottom end of the income scale. When it reaches the point where the cost of rent and living is seen as impossible, some people start to make bad decisions.

Identifying the problem is easy; coming up with solutions is hard.

With income inequality growing, I was curious to see what ideas some Saskatchewan political leaders had on the subject. I had a chance to talk separately with both Liberal Leader Ryan Bater and NDP Leader Dwain Lingenfelter over the past two weeks.

Batter spoke passionately about education funding, with more community resources such as nurses, social workers and other community sources in schools.

It is something that is being tried with the new St. Mary’s School in Saskatoon. The idea is that by providing more resources for students, the school would step into the gaps being left by some family situations, while at the same time the additional resources would free up teachers to teach. A better foundation in education, it is hoped, will keep at-risk students in school longer and give them better prospects for the future.

Lingenfelter talked about bringing back more targeted job training programs, important in ensuring that someone would be able to take advantage the opportunities of tomorrow even if they weren’t able to do so today. Lingenfelter’s educational approach targets the problem later in life than does Bater’s, but both see the solution to lifting people out of poverty as giving them the skills required to make more money.

Lingenfelter also made reference to rent control. It’s a notion that’s controversial here, but has worked quite well in many other Canadian and U.S. cities. While the NDP hasn’t released details of its rent control policy, properly implemented, such an approach has benefited both developers and renters elsewhere.

Ward 2 Coun. Pat Lorje took both a short-and a long-term approach to the problem. She called for additional short-stay detox beds outside the urban core where people can find a safe place to sleep off and start getting help for their addictions.

She also advocated for a wet shelter in Saskatoon. These have been used successfully to help alcoholics to break their physical addiction to liquor and to control their relapses and put them in a position for successful rehab.

Lorje noted the concentration of poverty in some core neighbourhoods needs to be addressed. Not all poverty in those neighbourhoods is naturally occurring. Some of it is caused by the rental supplement being given out based on proximity to support services. With many of the addiction and mental health services being administrated at St. Paul’s Hospital, it forces many to live near the hospital to get the rental supplement.

Ward 1 Coun. Darren Hill sees the city’s role in supporting and pushing both the provincial and federal government for action on the issue. While the city is often held responsible for many of issues affecting local neighbourhoods, it’s provincial and federal policies that need to change.

Coun. Hill also mentioned the importance of the local neighbourhood plans. Urban theorist and author Richard Florida recently spoke of the economic revival in Pittsburgh and said a key to its success was turning over local decisions to the neighbourhoods. It’s something that Saskatoon has emulated. Many of the positive things that have happened in some neighbourhoods are based on local input.

We have many options. I had some quick conversations with four politicians and could have written a series of columns on each of their ideas. The ideas are out there, so I hope the will to act on them is there, too.

jordon@jordoncooper.com

© Copyright (c) The StarPhoenix

Doomsday for the NDP?

Take a look at these poll numbers for the upcoming election.

Premier Brad Wall and the Saskatchewan Party are heading into next month’s election campaign with what may be a level of support unprecedented in the province’s political history, according to a new poll.

The Praxis Analytics survey, conducted for the Regina Leader-Post and Saskatoon StarPhoenix, found that 63.4 per cent of decided voters would cast a ballot for Wall’s party if an election were held now, compared with 26.1 per cent for Dwain Lingenfelter and the NDP.

That kind of showing for the Sask. Party would be an improvement from the election four years, when it took nearly 51 per cent of the vote and captured 38 of the province’s 58 seats. The NDP got 37 per cent of the vote in 2007, relegating the party to Opposition status for the first time in 16 years.

A couple of things. Polls tighten up as the election day gets nearer. The NDP hasn’t done any effective advertising and even the Progressive Conservatives under Joe Clark in the 90s had at least one good ad that moved some numbers. Also campaigns matter as we found out in the last federal election.  A lot can change during a writ.  If you don’t believe me, ask Michael Ignatieff.  Still, despite all of the spin that you will hear tomorrow, those are horrible numbers for the NDP to kick off an election with.  If the numbers don’t move, you could see the NDP reduced to less than a dozen seats.

I don’t follow provincial politics like I do civic politics but while the NDP scored some points in the legislature, the Saskatchewan Party has done a pretty good job for the last four years, Brad Wall is pretty likable, and there isn’t a huge mood to change things up.

Talking Jack

I have never been a big fan of NDP leader Jack Layton but this week just seemed to sum it all up.  Every time I flipped on the news, there was Jack talking up a storm about Stephen Harper’s secret agenda in changing the name of Indian and Northern Affairs to the more politically correct Aboriginal Affairs.  The other highlight of the week was Jack talking about breaking up Canada with a plurality of one vote.  Everyone from Stephane Dion to Rex Murphy had fun with that one and the weird part of it is, the Supreme Court has already ruled that it needed a clear majority for separation to take place.  As Dion pointed out

In its opinion on the secession of Quebec, the Supreme Court of Canada mentioned the words "clear majority" at least 13 times and also referred to "the strength of a majority." However, the Court does not encourage us to try setting the threshold of this clear majority in advance: "it will be for the political actors to determine what constitutes ‘a clear majority on a clear question’ in the circumstances under which a future referendum vote may be taken."

I kind of liked Michael Ignatieff but shortly after he promised to bring down the government (which he could not do at that time), when he would come on television and in print all of the time, I found myself saying, “just shut up already”.  It wasn’t that I found him particularly offensive, in fact some of what he was saying was correct, it was just that I was tired of politics already.  That is how I feel right now about Jack Layton.  I just want him to shut up already.  The parliament isn’t in session, I don’t hear a lot from Harper politically and I would love to hear a different tone and just less of Jack Layton.  If he doesn’t, I think a lot of more people than myself will grow tired of him.

There were times when Chretien, Romanow, Wall, and Harper were in opposition when you just never heard from them for short periods of time.  Even Lingenfelter does a good job of dropping off he radar from time to time because I think they know that all of us have other things to worry about (Saskatchewan Roughriders, Stanley Cup playoffs, how large to build my deck at the cabin) that don’t need any political intervention.  Hopefully Jack Layton learns this lesson if for nothing else; the benefit of my summer, unless he wants to help me with my deck.

My vote

Mount Lougheed I became a Conservative in 1980.  I was six years old and I wandered in where my parents and friends were watching Pierre Trudeau defeat Joe Clark in the general election.  I asked what happened and I was told that a bad man had taken power and a good man had lost. Oh did I mention we were living in Alberta at the time.  Soon after that the National Energy Policy was enacted and according to my teachers, Peter Lougheed not only saved Canada from the rising tide of socialism sweeping across Canada but fought off the villains from Kryptonite as well.  I actually remember watching a documentary about Peter Lougheed climbing Mount Lougheed.  It was riveting.

When we moved to Saskatchewan, Grant Devine was in power and I got involved in Conservative campaigns when I was 12.  I even ran for the Bill Boyd lead Progressive Conservatives in 1995 (got my clock cleaned).  I left my partisan ways behind me, became a pastor and became officially non-partisan.  While we no longer featured a lawn sign in our front yard, I still voted Progressive Conservative and donated a little money when we could afford it.  I bought a membership to vote for Joe Clark during his comeback and even had a Carol Skelton lawn sign in 2004.

During that time, my own political worldview had changed.  During the 2003 campaign, Eric Cline knocked on my door and we had an engaging discussion about deficits, the complexity of the U.S. economy, and his residency in the riding.  As he left I promised I would vote for him, the first time I have ever voted for an NDP candidate.

As I approached this election, I realized I was truly undecided.  I want to like Stephen Harper.  He wears sweater vests, he plays the piano, knows hockey, and he’s funny when Rick Mercer drops by.

I trust him on the big things like the economy but the things that bothered me started to add up. 

  • resampled_big_20110326-Campaign-Gallery02-11Bev Oda should have just been fired.
  • Centralization of power in the PMO and the constant neutering of the cabinet ministers (so much for Team Harper, there is no team, it’s Steve).  Dimitri Soudas steps to the microphone more frequently than most ministers which asks the question, what the ministers other than Jason Kenney (courting minorities), Jim Flaherty (finance), John Baird (getting angry at people), and Tony Clement (tweeting it live as it happens) doing?
  • He’s a tactician but I want a visionary.  I don’t get any indication that Harper has a big picture or dream for Canada.  He’s a competent manager and an excellent political thinker but I don’t see a lot of vision there.
  • Harper was just found in contempt of Parliament because he would not tell Canadians how much things cost.  Is this not why a Parliament is so important, to hold the government responsible.  Rewarding that seems wrong to me.  I know bringing down the government on that was a bit of a political game but the Speaker’s ruling was not.  It bothers me and shows a pattern of distrust for democracy that goes back to Harper’s Reform Party days.
  • The idelogical war against Insite.  As this excellent editorial in The StarPhoenix points outConservative Leader Stephen Harper has promised that within 100 days of achieving a majority mandate he would present Parliament with an omnibus crime bill that would in effect revert Canada’s legal and health systems to 19th-century standards.
  • I hate the level of income tax I pay as much as the next person but we need taxes.  Taxes aren’t evil, they are a part of being a community.  We need to come together to share the costs.  The right’s approach to taxes is that they are a burden on society and I despise that language.  By coming together as a country, we can do a lot more than I can do as an individual and that costs money.  At the same time, if you are going to bash taxes, stop spending our money like an idiot.  Chretien knew this.  G8/G20 summits don’t need fake lakes, nor do they need the kind of costs that you spent.  As PostMedia News pointed out, So the G20 summit, in Toronto, ended up costing $679 million. About $574.6 million was spent on security. Canada shelled out a lot more, however, than other countries that have hosted similar summits. The 2009 G20 summit, for example, set the United Kingdom back $20 million, with another $28.6 million spent on security, according to research out of the University of Toronto. In a July 2010 report, the U of T researchers say that between $129 million and $200 million was spent on Canada’s 2002 G8 summit in Kananaskis, Alta.
  • Where were the Conservative MPs during the potash debate?  Prorogued?  Held captive?  Away from the newspapers, telephones, email, and all other forms of communication?  Thank goodness Brad Wall or Dwain Lingenfelter didn’t waste anytime lobbying them and instead went to people that make decisions because they contributed nothing to the debate.

It isn’t just Harper’s performance as leader that I struggle with, I have some problems with Kelly Block as a local MP.  See part of me is spoiled by some great local representation.  A couple of years ago Wendy emailed Darren Hill about an abandoned lot and within minutes Hill and the fire department were both looking at it.  Over the next couple of days, Wendy was sent and forwarded a deluge of emails while the problem was resolved.  I was impressed and we both became avid supporters of Darren Hill.  In some ways if he was running in Saskatoon Rosetown Bigger, it wouldn’t even be close who we would be voting for.

Cam Broten replaced Eric Cline and has been a great MLA and local representative.  I think he was the first Saskatchewan politician on Twitter and alongside Pat Atkinson should be the model of how to use social media as a politician.  Of Twitter doesn’t make Cam a great MLA, he’s approachable, helpful, and fun to talk to.  

In my previous dealings with Carol Skelton, despite being in cabinet, she personally answered my emails and invited further conversation and comment.  I really appreciated that about her.  She also would periodically stop in and comment or email about something on Wendy’s or mine blog which was nice.  While she had constituency staff, I never dealt with them and always with Skelton, even if it was on minor issues.

A little over two years ago, a friend had a major issue that needed an MP to help with.  She emailed Kelly Block and was emailed promptly back the Conservative talking points on the subject by a staffer.  The staffer didn’t even acknowledge the situation.  I understand MPs can be busy but it was when government was prorogued and even if wasn’t, what else is there for a backbench MP to do than reply to constituent concerns.  At the same time, some of the Saskatchewan Party and NDP MLA’s were contacted.  Every MLA but one responded personally immediately and promised to work on the issue, even though it was a federal one.  The one MLA who did not respond immediately was travelling and was in an area where there was no cell phone coverage.  Once he was back in touch, he got involved as well.

As I watched this and read the responses, you had some MLAs working their butts off on the subject and then you MPs who had nothings else to do other than work on constituency concerns, having their staff send out talking points.  I realized then that something was wrong.  It happened on a couple more occasions where an inquiry into Block’s office were met with talking points from an staffers.

Speaking of staffers, it’s hasn’t been a strength either.  In 2010 it was Kelly Block’s Ottawa aide, Russell Ullyatt who leaked some confidential memos to lobbying groups in a huge breach of confidentiality (and stupidity) and was running a direct mail company out of her Ottawa office.  He was no stranger to controversy but Block defended him with this,

“I certainly didn’t Google Russell Ullyatt,” Ms. Block said, adding she checked all his references before giving him a job.

Speaking of jobs, there was rumors that Ulyatt was running a printing company out of Block’s office.

Liberal MP Yasmin Ratansi told reporters later the board of internal economy — the secretive, all-party committee that oversees the operation of the House of Commons, including MPs’ offices — is also investigating suspicions that Ullyatt was actually running a private political printing and mailing business out of Block’s office.

Joe Preston, the Tory chair of the procedural committee, appeared to suggest the same, although Marcel Proulx, the Liberal member of the internal economy board, refused to confirm the investigation.

Opposition MPs say they’ve seen expensive printing, paper-folding and envelope-stuffing equipment delivered to Block’s office. They’ve also seen huge stocks of brochures sitting in the hall outside her office.

A charge he denied.

Ullyatt told reporters on his way out of the committee that he operates his printing company out of his garage.

“I can’t even park my car in my garage because it’s chock full of equipment so, no, I do not operate a company out of a member of Parliament’s office,” he said.

Sadly the Conservative members of the committee would not let questions about the business be asked.

The Conservatives forcefully objected when opposition MPs tried to steer questions to the subject of Mr. Ullyatt’s private printing company, which has boasted of sending more than five million pieces of mail in the past two years as “Canada’s only completely political mail provider.”

New Democrat Thomas Mulcair, who has said he’s seen a “very elaborate printing machine” and pallets of boxes outside Ms. Block’s office, tried to ask why the Saskatchewan MP would need these materials. But Joe Preston, the Conservative chairman of the committee, said the questions were irrelevant to the leak of the budget report.

Parliamentary rules do not allow MPs’ offices to be used for activities that are clearly of a private interest, and a secretive all-party Commons body called the Board of Internal Economy is investigating whether Mr. Ullyatt was running a business out of Ms. Block’s office.

Ms. Block cut short her testimony to MPs on Thursday, saying she had “other commitments.”

She left after one hour, refusing to stay for a scheduled second hour of hearings and declining to answer any questions from journalists as she departed. Fellow Conservatives defended Ms. Block, noting that as an MP she is not legally required to appear before committees at all.

Speaking of mail outs, for the last couple of years we have been inundated full of Tory caucus prepared mail outs warning us of scary coalitions, sex offenders getting out of jail early, and other bad and evil things that Liberals and the Bloc does.  Most ignore the NDP which is kind of ironic because that is her biggest challenger in the riding.  Perhaps she may have been better served hiring Russell Ullyatt’s firm to do her constituency mail outs.

As I looked over them over the past year I realized that she wasn’t representing me in Ottawa, she was busy trying to sell the Conservative agenda back here.  Maybe that is why she had to outsource her email.

So what are my options?

The Liberals are dead in Saskatchewan.  No offense to Darren Hill who is a great city councillor but the Liberal brand has been dead in Saskatchewan since the early 90s and outside of Ralph Goodale, there is no Liberal presence in the province.  Early on in the campaign I couldn’t even find active Liberal riding associations and the leader of the Saskatchewan Liberal Party goes offline for extended periods of time and only has 314 followers on Twitter and most of those are other politicians.  The Liberal Party in Saskatchewan doesn’t have a ground game and their fan base rivals that of the Phoenix Coyotes.  While it may or may not have made a difference, their campaign platform left me thinking, “this is it?”  You have Michael Ignatieff as leader, Bob Rae in the front benches, you have that thinkers conference and this is the best you can do?  A grant for college?  Yes I did like the Green Renovation Credit, it can hardly be called innovative and there isn’t what you would call much in the area of energy policy and while the Freshwater Strategy looked exciting, there really is nothing there.

Plus, as Chantal Hebert writes, they did this to themselves.

Liberal strategists did not factor a potentially surging NDP into their calculations because they presumed the Liberals were playing against the Conservatives in the major leagues and the NDP was not.

They approached the election with the mindset of a governing party but the physique of a third party.

When they plunged headlong in a spring campaign, the Liberals had been mired in the mid-twenties in the polls for an unprecedented length of time; they were at a historical low behind the NDP in Quebec and exhibiting little signs of life in the Prairies.

A base can only erode for so long — as the Liberal base has for decades — before it starts to disintegrate.

On a personal level, I am really disappointed in Michael Ignatieff.  I get disappointed when I hear the Liberals scream for a bailout package to help hurting Canadians, complain it isn’t enough and then point out the size of the deficit.  Tell me again how that works?  Or what about the stance against the CF-35s.  Now there is a debate that needs to be had over that programme and you would assume given Ignatieff’s background, he would see that?  Are 60 F-35s enough?  Can it compete against the new MiGs, Flanker H, PAK FA, and Chinese planes that are being designed for export (apparently not) and should Canada be purchasing air superiority planes or attack aircraft?  Should be looking at an interim purchase like Australia is until the F-35s can prove themselves?  Instead Ignatieff says, “Let’s have an open competition.”  Makes sense until you realize it would be between the F-35 and the equally over priced Eurofighter Typhoon and the F-35.  There are no other options unless we want to purchase Russian and that will go over well at the NATO meetings.

It was the NDP who made the most amount of sense on this issue.

Layton indicated that the country has not had a defence white paper since 1994 and that a new white paper needs to be developed setting Canadian defence priorities before decisions on new fighters can be made.

Jane Taber and John Ibbitson quote a “senior Liberal” complaining about Ignatieff’s performance on the campaign trail.

…for example, that while the party’s health-care ads were being run on television, Mr. Ignatieff was talking about “rising up” and calling the Tories anti-democratic. He was repeatedly blown off message and seemed to come up with new themes almost daily, from concern-for-democracy to health care to wasted spending on the G8 and G20 summits. This confused voters.

layton_official My other option is to vote NDP federally.  Whoa.  I need to think this through.  There is a difference in my mind between the Saskatchewan NDP and the federal NDP.  Since NDP in Saskatchewan often get elected, they tend to pragmatists.  Sure there is an ideology there but if the ideology doesn’t fit the problem, the NDP can adapt and change.  They also don’t do things like promise $70 billion in new spending.  They also think before speaking about credit card interest caps that would a) make it harder for the poor to get credit cards and b) encourage more consumer debt.  Brilliant.  What’s next?  Variable rate mortgages for the masses?

What’s the cause of all of this? 

I think part of it has been three consecutive minority governments.  It turns every day into an epic struggle to either defeat or survive the next confidence vote.  In many ways the campaigning non-stop since 2005 which keeps party from seeking grassroots renewal and input.  It also puts all three parties into a crisis mode where all policies and ideas have to work RIGHT NOW because one misstep could either give Stephen Harper a majority or alternatively cause a government to fall.  Once you get into that mode, it’s hard to get out of it.  The additional risk is that the next loss could end the career of Ignatieff (done like dinner), Harper (likely done) or Layton (we have a winner).  Of course if a majority government is elected, the other parties can enter into a renewal process.

So I am left to choose between three tired leaders who are promising the status quo, nothing interesting, or a World Bank/IMF bailout and intervention if elected.  What a choice to make.

4o5ke In the end, I am going to lend my vote to Nettie Wiebe.  I don’t think Jack Layton will win power and in the end the seat is probably already going to the NDP anyways.  I do value strong MPs and I think that Wiebe will be that voice for the riding.  I don’t agree with Wiebe and everything but she has run three campaigns now with a lot of integrity and that is worth something.  My hope is that by actually seeing the possibility of power for the first time, Layton and the NDP brain trust will rethink the next campaign in 2013 and put together an economic plan that is fiscally responsible.  Saskatchewan and Manitoba NDP do it all of the time. 

I guess the NDP have a choice.  Do this interpret this as a sign that Canadians want them to spend us into bankruptcy or is it a sign that they are truly frustrated with the Conservatives, Bloc, and Liberals and want to see what they will do as a government in waiting.  At the same time it may send a message to the Conservatives and the now third place Liberals that a different approach is needed.  Plus it may be fun to see Bob Rae go head to head with Jack Layton in the next campaign.

It’s not a decision I am comfortable with but right now I don’t see another realistic option. 

Meet Michael Ignatieff

I am not sure if these make a big difference (anyone remember the Stephen Harper sweater vest commercials) but this does show a picture of Michael Ignatieff that isn’t often shown in the media.  I am actually a little surprised that other political leaders haven’t done similar videos.  Unless I missed something it was one camera and tripod with a couple of effects done in After Effects with a fairly generic sound track playing in the background.

Of course the danger in all of this is that you could create a video like this one that introduced Saskatchewan NDP leader Dwain Lingenfelter to the NDP Leadership Convention.

Not sure if that guitar soundtrack or the Star Warsesqe transitions were the best decision that was ever made.  Simpler is better.