Tag Archives: Eric Cline

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. 

My political worldview

CBC's Political Compass

Economically (apparently I prefer deficits) and on defence spending I agree with the Conservatives but on Senate Reform, Quebec, and Moral Values, I am with the Liberals.

It’s kind of a fun survey but I realized that locally I find myself politically at odds with four of the city councillors at the left end of the political spectrum and yet I would vote for each of them if I lived in their wards.  I explain that in that all four of them do a really good job of communicating their positions, do their jobs with integrity, and have the best interests of the city at heart so there is more to voting than 30 questions that determine my political ideology.  It’s the same reason I voted for Eric Cline and now for Cam Broten.  It’s also why local campaigns matter.  It’s a fun tool though and I agree with Warren Kinsella that it shouldn’t be taken that seriously.

As for local campaigns, Kelly Block and Nettie Wiebe are running in Saskatoon Rosetown Biggar.  As always, the race will be too close to call.  The Liberals are running Lee Reaney and the Green’s are running Vicki Strelioff.  Neither will make an impact in the campaign and as far as I could find, neither have a campaign headquarters.

Deficits are Devine

Well it’s official, deficit financing on the scale not seen since the Devine era is back in Saskatchewan.  The government of Saskatchewan is going to run a billion dollar deficit this year based on the fall of potash prices.  As told by the Star Phoenix.

The release of the government’s mid-year financial report Thursday shows it now projecting it will take in only $109 million from potash royalties and taxes – $1.8 billion below what it forecast in its spring budget.

The government is now spending more than it is taking in, even with higher-than-expected oil royalties, tax revenues and federal transfers.

That has required a drawdown from the reserve Growth and Financial Security Fund of $564.3 million and a special dividend from Crown Investments Corp. of $460 million from the sale of the government’s share of SaskFerco.

However on a summary basis – which includes all of the operations of government including the Crowns – a deficit projected at $25 million at budget is now pegged at $1.05 billion.

The NDP were all over this today.  I’ll link to Cam Broten’s website who posted the NDP press release and response to the deficit.

I liked how it started.

With the release of the Mid-Year Financial Report, NDP Finance critic Trent Wotherspoon said the Wall government has confirmed that it is responsible for the biggest example of fiscal incompetence in the history of Saskatchewan. He said the combination of grossly inflated potash revenue projections, equity stripping from Crown Corporations, and out-of-control government spending has left the province with a $1 Billion deficit on a summary financial basis and a financial blunder not seen in generations.

“Private forecasters, industry representatives, and the NDP Opposition all cautioned against the fantasyland numbers the Wall government put forward in its budget,” Wotherspoon said. “But cheerleading and popular promises ruled the day with no thought as to whether or not the expert advice it received should have been taken into account.”

Then it gets a bit weird as it moves for attacking “out of control spending” and attacks spending cuts.

Wotherspoon said the Wall government’s fiscal mismanagement isn’t just about numbers on a page; people are being asked to pay for its incompetence through cuts to healthcare, education, rural programs, and their quality in life in general. He noted that among the cuts was $122 million from the construction of long-term care facilities in rural Saskatchewan and $32 million from new school infrastructure.

So on one hand the NDP are criticizing the Sask. Party for running a huge deficit (which they should) while at the other hand trying to get upset or cutting spending to keep government spending under control.

I have friends and I respect people in both parties and here is my advice on to handle the situation.

Saskatchewan Party: You missed your revenue predictions by $1.8 billion dollars.  I would fire whoever made that prediction because I agree with the NDP on this one, when you came out with this budget, you must have known it was going to be a bad year for potash prices.  Even I knew it was going to be a bad year for commodity prices going into a global recession.  To keep this from happening again, I would come up with an independent office of economic forecasters that would give guidance to the government that were outside the Ministry of Finance and therefore outside the influence of the political pressures that lead to really bad budget forecasting.  Don’t go half-way with this.  Give it legitimacy, give it some independence, and fund it properly.  I am not an economist but I know many of them have ideological bents on how the world is going to pan out and that is natural.  Even the best economists are also going to make mistakes.  I can accept that (not $1.8 billion dollar mistakes but some mistakes).   What I want to see as a voter and a taxpayer is a process in budget forcasting that is non-partisan and transparent.  This would go a long way in restoring some confidence in your budget predictions which have been questioned by the media for over a year. If you want us to trust you again, you need to take some steps to ensure you don’t miss your targets again.  Again, as a Saskatchewan voter and taxpayer I want to hear what your plan is to pay back your billion dollar boondoggle sooner rather than later.  It’s a lot of money and you are going to take a beating in the press and in the Legislature but it’s better to deal with it up front and head on and then move on then play political games with it.  Dealing with it this way will hopefully stop the comparisons to the Devine Tories of the 1980s.

Also, potash prices didn’t just fall last week.  I know you a governing party doesn’t want to give negative financial updates every month but it seems prudent during a time of unstable financial times to offer a more transparent accounting of the public purse in regards how we are doing compared to our predictions.

NDP: Maybe they should not use the same press release to attack out of control spending and then attacking spending cuts.  Use two pieces of paper and maybe send out two different press releases.  Despite not liking the wording and structure of their release, the NDP have the high ground here, as they are the ones that slayed the deficit that last time.  If I was the NDP, I would have a reunion luncheon with Roy Romanow, Janice MacKinnon, Eric Cline, and others who had to go through year after year of budget cuts to talk about how hard it was and the consequences of deficit financing in the Devine years had on the 1990s in Saskatchewan.  While you are at it, give out a lot of copies of Minding the Public Purse to remind us again how hard it was to make those cutbacks as a government but also to remind us voters how hard it was to see things we care about in Saskatchewan to be cut.  If I was Trent Wotherspoon, I would also use the term “billion dollar boondoggle” a lot in the days ahead but that is just me.  Boondoggle is such a great word.

For both parties, I would love to see a real debate on their visions for the future.  A future that involves peak oil, a liquidity crisis turning into a long term government debt crisis, a future where our federal government seems destined to burden all of us with long term debt (again), higher interest rates, cut transfer payments, and potentially higher unemployment.   Are we going to grow ourselves out of this mess (doubtful) or make drastic spending cuts?  Will we see a higher PST and income tax rates in our future?  Will the burden be put on businesses or individuals or will someone come up with a new path to take?  Tough times are ahead and it would be refreshing to hear the vision of both major parties in Saskatchewan (and for that matter, I would like to hear the Liberal Party vision as well) about the role of Saskatchewan in a smaller, less affluent world will look like.