Tag Archives: Jack Layton

In other words, the left won’t be uniting soon

This got ugly quickly

"That Justin Trudeau would use Jack Layton’s dying words as a political tool says everything that needs to be said about Justin Trudeau’s judgment and character," Mulcair said.

New Democrat MP Olivia Chow, Layton’s widow, focused her reaction on Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

"I’m quite surprised that the leader of the Liberals used my late husband’s words, but at the end of the day Stephen Harper is the prime minister," Chow said.

"If we are to have a better country, and certainly Canadians deserve a lot better, we need to focus on Stephen Harper. Yes, we are the party of love, hope and optimism and let’s be hopeful. Let’s not be fearful of each other, but let’s train our eyes on the real problem, which is Stephen Harper’s government."

Trudeau, however, was unapologetic, accusing the NDP of being nasty and divisive in the hard-fought campaigns, which saw all three major parties use aggressive tactics.

In other words, it is okay for the NDP to use Layton’s dying words as a political tool but not Justin Trudeau.  I am glad we got that straight.

The missed opportunity

Why Harper’s foes need to get off the pot by Paul Wells

Liberals, you see, are quite sure every Canadian is a Liberal whose vote was stolen by Conservative skullduggery in the elections of 2006, 2008 and 2011. Canadians, in this view, think marijuana use is harmless fun, and they will blame politicians who want to harsh the national buzz. So a Liberal friend of mine was genuinely surprised when she plunked herself down behind the Liberal party table at a local community event and got her ear bent by voters, many of them from immigrant communities, asking why Trudeau was soft on drugs.Ja

The realization that many Canadians believe illegal drugs should stay illegal is one surprise awaiting the Liberals. Another is that a lot more Canadians have complex, conflicting or frankly hypocritical views on drug policy— but that it’s not drug policy that will determine their next vote. Millions will vote based on their best guess about which party will best ensure a strong economy whose bounties improve their own life and their family’s. And Justin Trudeau just spent a month talking about something else.

This is something else that Liberals cannot understand: the notion that most Canadians are no longer properly grateful for the work Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin did to clean up deficits in the 1990s. In fact, a growing number of Canadians, even the ones who don’t smoke a lot of pot, have dim memories of the 1990s or none at all.

This helps explain a Harris-Decima poll from the end of August that inquired about respondents’ opinions of the national political parties. Trudeau’s net favourable impression is way higher than Harper’s and a fair bit higher than NDP Leader Tom Mulcair’s. Respondents were likelier to believe Trudeau “shares your values.” He’s having a strong year in the polls. But Harper still has a slight edge over both Trudeau and Mulcair on “judgment,” and on “economic management” it was a blowout: 39 per cent prefer Harper to only 20 per cent for Trudeau and 15 per cent for Mulcair.

Trudeau hasn’t the faintest intention of campaigning in the 2015 election with pot legalization as his main plank. But changing deep-seated attitudes toward a party takes time. And because the Liberals took two years to pick a leader after the 2011 elections, Trudeau only has three summers to define himself before facing voters, and he pretty much just blew one.

For much the same reason, I’m not sure Tom Mulcair picked the right issue when he used part of his summer to travel coast-to-coast campaigning for Senate abolition. For reasons explained elsewhere in this issue, Canadians are angry at the Senate right now. That’s not the same as believing any party has the ability, once in power, to do much about it. His Senate tour illustrates a little-noticed difference between Mulcair and his predecessor Jack Layton. Layton came from Toronto city politics. He hadn’t the faintest interest in constitutional tinkering. The NDP stood for abolishing the Senate, as it always had, and Layton never talked about it. Mulcair comes from Quebec provincial politics, where a generation grew up believing that if you have no constitutional scheme to peddle you cannot be serious.

Layton’s prosaic fascination with voters’ kitchen-table preoccupations helped him supplant the Liberals as the first choice for voters eager to block the Conservatives. Next time around that vote will be up for grabs again. Mulcair and Trudeau both plan to try to take Harper’s economic credibility away from him. They haven’t gotten around to it yet, but they believe they have time. Harper’s opponents always believe they have plenty of time.

Are the NDP the new Liberals?

Chris Selley wonders if the NDP have lost their way in their pursuit of power

Canadian politicians are no strangers to politicizing tragedies. Stockwell Day used to needle Paul Martin for not issuing commiserative or condemnatory press releases quickly enough. This week, Stephen Harper, unsurprisingly, wasted no time accusing Mr. Trudeau of trying to “rationalize” and “make excuses for” violence.

But then came a novel twist. On CBC’s Power and Politics, NDP public safety critic Randall Garrison piled on. “Anybody who heard those statements from Mr. Trudeau has to be mystified about how he seems to be worrying about the mental state of the people who produced the bombing,” he said, arguing we should instead be “focused on the victims.”

So, there you have it. The party of Ms. McDonough, who played the flute of caution amidst the post-9/11 war drums, the party of Jack Layton, who voiced well-founded concerns over the Afghanistan mission and was branded “Taliban Jack” for his troubles, is now the party that competes with the government to condemn foreign terrorism in the bluntest possible terms. Should terrorists ever strike here in Canada, we can only hope our Official Opposition still has sufficient gumption to ask some tough questions in the fevered aftermath.

Warren Kinsella’s take on the Jack Layton movie

Kinsella has some interesting things to say about the Jack Layton film

As such, Layton comes across as he was in life — much liked and, even for some, much loved. Even when a gay-hating constituent tosses a cup of hot coffee at his face, Layton is nonplussed.

Instead of going home and changing his shirt and tie, Layton goes ahead with a date with his future wife, Olivia Chow (played with great skill by Sook-Yin Lee). Chow’s mother tells her daughter that Layton is crazy.

In Jack, Layton isn’t crazy — but it is made clear that he regularly drove his staff and family crazy. His relentless positivism, it turns out, was no act. When things got bad (and they did often before May 2011), Layton would simply pick up his guitar and start singing. And thereby drive his staff and family crazy.

Among those driven batty by Layton’s unflagging optimism were his cadre of loyalists. So, we see actors portraying political legends like Brian Topp (with more hair), Brad Lavigne (with more height), as well as Karl Belanger and Anne McGrath (who has far more real-life charm than portrayed in the film), groaning about Layton’s refusal to ever accept life’s glass might be half empty.

Utterly missing from Jack is a hint, much less an explanation, for Layton’s extraordinary win in 2011.

Was it his shrewd use of his cane and his health issues, a la Lucien Bouchard? Was it his sunny personality, which contrasted so favourably to the glum Stephen Harper and Michael Ignatieff? His unflappable determination?

The viewer is left with no answers. An explanation might have made Jack better. And it might have assisted the NDP, too, now under Thomas Mulcair, looking like a shadow of what it was under Layton.

That aside, Jack is an enjoyable film about a pretty extraordinary fellow. One who, like Moses, led his followers to the political promised land, but who never got the chance to go there with them.

It’s on TV Sunday night, and it’s worth your time. And, if nothing else, it’ll give you a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see Charles Adler on the CBC!

The lesson the Liberal Party can’t seem to learn

Excellent column by Susan Delacourt

Or, to keep it in driving terms, the Liberals have been simply taking leaders out for a spin since Chrétien made his exit, and then trading them in for a newer model.

At the moment, Justin Trudeau, the MP for Papineau, seems to be looming in a lot of Liberals’ eyes as next year’s model — at least until something else comes along.

This disposable-leader culture may tell us something deeper about why the Liberals are mired in third place — a sign of their inability to commit, or to tolerate anything except victory. That may not be the ideal quality to transmit to voters.

Within other parties, including the one in power in Canada at the moment, leadership comes with second chances.

Conservative leader Stephen Harper failed to win the 2004 election, even after uniting the right-wing parties. He almost resigned and consigned himself to history’s dustbin, according to subsequent stories by insiders.

But Harper ultimately decided to hang in and landed the prime minister’s job in 2006, where he remains today.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty didn’t win on his first try as provincial Liberal leader in the 1999 election, but he endured and led his party to victory in 2003. Nor did Mike Harris do well in the 1990 election, but by 1995, he earned the job of Ontario premier.

Perhaps with those McGuinty or Harris examples in mind, the provincial Progressive Conservatives in Ontario are sticking with leader Tim Hudak, even though he didn’t deliver an expected victory last fall.

The federal New Democrats also endured with Jack Layton through four elections from 2003 to 2011, their eyes fixed on long-term growth. The investment paid off with the reward of official Opposition status after the last election.

Liberals, though, don’t seem to have cultivated that kind of patience.

Martin struggled for 13 years to become prime minister, got the job for two, and walked away the night of his election defeat in 2006.

Some Liberals have since wondered whether this was the right decision — whether Martin, with his record as a finance minister, would have been seen by Canadians as the right man to steer through the 2008 economic downtown and the election that year.

She ends with this.

If history is a guide, anyone running for the Liberal-leader job —including Trudeau — should have two career plans.

Plan A should be focused on winning power in the 2015 election.

Plan B should be something out of politics, because Liberals haven’t been in a second-chance kind of mood since Chrétien began his exit 10 years ago.

Brian Topp

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Jack Layton’s Long Weekend

NDP leader Jack Layton So back in 1997 Jack Layton was found in a “massage” parlour according to Toronto Sun crime reporter Sam Pazzano.  Pazzano doesn’t have a national profile but according to many reporters last night on Twitter, he has an excellent reputation as a “just the facts” reporter so I tend to believe the story.  While Jack dismisses the story as smear, Olivia Chow also confirmed it in her statement.

The former Asian crime unit officer, who requested anonymity, details a prior police raid on the "premise currently ID as a bawdy house" looking for underage Asian hookers and a subsequent follow-up visit to the two-storey brick storefront on Jan. 9.

At first the policemen didn’t realize they were interviewing one of the best-known Toronto politicians who was married to Chow, also a Metro councillor and now the incumbent NDP MP for Trinity-Spadina.

The officer’s notebook indicates he asked the suspected john: "Did you receive any sexual services?"

He replied: "No sir, I was just getting a shiatsu."

The cop: "Why did you have all your clothes off?"

The suspected john: No answer.

The cop: "Are you aware that there were sex acts being done here?"

The suspected john: "No sir."

The woman, who was from mainland China, denied masturbating the suspected john but when the question was repeated became nervous and replied, "I don’t know I only come to work today," the cop’s notes show.

His notes also claim he saw the "female dump wet Kleenex into garbage."

In the interview with the Sun, the officer said: "I asked him for his wallet and I looked at his name and I looked at the last name and it looked familiar.

He’s registered as ‘John’ and I thought he’s a ‘john.’"

Layton’s Christian name is John.

"I explained to him this was a bawdy house and then I asked him the silliest question, ‘Are you any relation to the councillor, Jack Layton?’ and … he had that defeated look on his face and he said, ‘We are one in the same,’"
the ex-cop said.

The former officer said Layton, seemed quiet and mellow and denied that he knew it was a suspected bawdy house.

The police had to decide what to do with the controversial councillor.

"To have arrested him and charged him would have served our egos a lot more. Layton was a thorn in the side of the police, siding with the anti-poverty movement in ’96 or ’97 … Jack was anti-police," the ex-cop said.

"We looked at it and thought do we take advantage of this, or do we look at this like (he’s) any other person, put it away and we hope this thing dies a slow death."

In the end, they came to the conclusion they shouldn’t charge him.

The response has been typical.  The Tories and Liberals are trying to spin it one way.  Tammy Robert (who is running Darren Hill’s campaign wrote this on Twitter) and she has a point if indeed it was a massage parlour where sexual services were known to happen.

Layton said in a press scrum moments ago he didn’t know that the massage clinic had a notorious reputation but a quick Google Street View search of the place…

The massage parlour where jack got his massage

It’s the small brick place with the red sign.  It appears it has a dentist office on the bottom floor and a massage parlour upstairs.  It’s not a place I got but at the same time I hate to be hugged or even touched by strangers.  I have worked in a place that gave out massages one Christmas and I politely didn’t accept so I am not the one to ask.  Yet it is advertising as a legitimate massage parlour.  I may be naive but I do know a little about prostitution.

My place of employment runs a John School where first time offenders have the option of facing the courts or taking responsibility for the crime, paying $100 to get their cars un-impounded and another $400 to take the school.  They have a limited amount of time to attend John School and it’s not the most pleasant way to spend a Saturday.

I sat in on one in 2010.  Despite being a spectator and not one of the guys who had committed a crime, I openly wept for most of the afternoon after listening to stories of it ruining one man’s life, listening to the tales of a former sex worker and perhaps worse of all, listening to a family who lost their honour student daughter to a pimp “she fell in love with” and was later founded murdered and pregnant at the side of a railway tracks.

While the registering john’s is not part of my job responsibility, I registered every john in the city for most of 2009 when staff were out with an injury and another on sick leave.  I sat there with a lot of johns, their wives, and occasionally a mother and listened to their stories, admissions of guilt and proclamations of innocent and of being set up.  They would proclaim their innocence, their wives would back it up and then later I found out that they were lying.  Others I truly believe were in the wrong place at the wrong time and were overwhelmed by naiveté or just stupidity. 

Now is that Jack?  I don’t know.  Only he knows if he is telling the truth and whether or not he thought the massage parlour was legit or if it was a rub and tug.  It’s why I don’t put a lot of stock in Olivia Chow’s statement.  The only two people who know for sure are Jack Layton and the women giving him a massage.

A lot of people say that Layton should have known what he was up to but it’s not that easy.  A co-worker of mine who has grown up in the city for years and knows Saskatoon better than the vast majority of us was shocked when I told him that there was two massage parlours in Mayfair and there had been for years.  While several Conservative bloggers have shown the location on their websites  and said, “how can you not know”, I look at the large sign out in front and can accept someone thinking there was some legitimacy.  I know Layton was a city councillor but I have had several conversations with Saskatoon politicians about this or that and their response was “really?  You are not serious?”  Even I was caught off guard a couple of years ago when someone I knew was running a brothel on my block within a stones throw of my house.

Now as for the damp Kleenex, as grimy as that is, could it not be damp from massage oil?  A quick read of David Simon’s Homicide shows talks of a culture of lying the police in many neighbourhoods. If the place was known for employing underage prostitutes… well you can understand why the masseuse would not want to talk to police.  It’s frustrating for everyone, including Layton because she could have put an end to the speculation but chose not to… as often happens in situations like that.

There has been a line of thought out there that said, “how could Jack have not known it was under police investigation?” to which the common sense answer is?  If he knew, why would have gone there and also even from the police notes, he was not on great terms with the Toronto Police.  My experience with the Saskatoon Police is that they don’t arrest people for solicitation lightly.  I know there is this idea that Layton got off lightly but the police notes said, they had reason to not like him but chose to deal with it like they would anyone else.

Now for those that say that it should be legalised.  Maybe you missed the part where it said it was known (by police) for employing underage girls.  Also you can’t underestimate the role that brothels (which is what it is defined as by those who want it legalized since I am pretty sure massage therapy isn’t illegal in Toronto) play in human trafficking.  I just was in a workshop with the former head of the Toronto police department’s unit that was responsible crimes against sex trade workers and she was talking about the Ukrainian mob’s role in human trafficking and smuggling using brothels and massage parlours and as the report says, the Triads and other forms of organized crime play a role as well.

In Saskatoon I just glanced at 20 files of women who have self-identified themselves as working the streets.  19 of them have significant mental health or acquired brain injuries.  All 20 of them were homeless.  Public health says that all of them have a sexually transmitted disease but for a couple of dollars more will have bareback sex.  I know street prostitution is different then the sex that happens in brothels.  It’s hard to argue what Heidi Fleiss does victimizes women but as they have found in Las Vegas is that while legalizing prostitution create a high end market, there is still a lot of street level prostitution that continues to be illegal because men are attracted to the thrill of it and sadly, women like the ones that I describe will drive down the price of themselves.  I have always wondered why men drive around and around and it’s not because they are looking for Julia Roberts, they are looking for a better deal. 

Lastly, for those on who are calling for the legalization of prostitution, Wendy has been followed home several times by men cruising 33rd Street as she leaves Safeway at night.  It’s only 2 blocks and is too dangerous to walk for her now.  Cars circle all night long some nights (until someone occasionally shoots them with a paint ball gun) in part because of the cities tolerance for the rub and tugs in the neighbourhood which turns Mayfair into a kind of an unofficial red light district.

So let’s take a breath and not go to extremes on either side.  Personally in the end I think Jack Layton made a naive mistake.  If it comes out later he was lying to us, it will end his career forever but for now, I’ll call it as I see it.

As for it’s release, Jonathan Kay said that two years ago the story was offered to him by a Liberal fixer.  It’s sleaze politics at it’s worse but let’s be honest.  It’s the last weekend of the campaign.  A weekend known for sleeze (see Iran Contra allegations against Bush in 1992 and the drunk driving allegations that came out against W. in 2000).

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. 

Jack Layton’s Political Future

Chantel Hebert on the future for the federal NDP.  There is good news and bad news for Layton and the NDP.

That is not to say that Layton’s seven years can be summed up as just a streak of blind luck. Under his leadership, the NDP share of the national vote did go up in real terms – from 8 per cent in the last election the party fought under Alexa McDonough in 2000 to 18 per cent in 2008.

Jack LaytonOver that period, the party has picked up 10 points in Ontario and come back from the dead (1.2 per cent) to double-digit support (12 per cent) in Quebec. In the last election, it won seats in Alberta, Newfoundland and Labrador.

These days, the party’s position on Afghanistan is in the process of being partly vindicated. Layton subscribed to the necessity of coming to terms with the Taliban long before it emerged as an option on NATO’s agenda. As an aside, Layton’s approach would have had a lot more impact on the development of Canada’s foreign policy in a coalition government with the Liberals than in the wasteland of opposition.

Overall, though, it is not leading-edge policy but a more aggressive approach to the role of the NDP in a minority Parliament that so far most distinguishes Layton’s seven-year reign from that of his predecessor. By co-writing a budget and negotiating a coalition with the Liberals, he has broken more new ground for his party inside the Commons than outside Parliament.

To put the limits of the NDP’s electoral progress under Layton in perspective, the party today is almost – but not quite – back to where Ed Broadbent left it after the 1988 free-trade election. That year, the party elected 43 MPs compared to the current 37.

To this day few voters, even among the ranks of the converted, see the party as a real alternative to the Conservatives. The best that can be said about its support in the polls since the last election is that it is stable.

Over the weekend, the NDP’s national council met to discuss what was billed as a strategy to win the next campaign. But despite those brave words, Layton’s best hope to continue to move his party closer to power is infinitely more likely to lie in a more constructive parliamentary relationship with the Liberals than in the ballot box.

Layton has shown that he can partner with both the Liberals and the Conservatives and influence both of them which while has some short term costs, if done over an extended period of time, can pay off for the NDP and Jack Layton in a minority situation.  The perpetual minorities which Preston Manning famously foresaw in Canada’s future may have come true and a party that can bridge the ideological divide and make deals in the best interests of Canadians could become more and more popular.  While I don’t think that Layton is ever going to win power, I think doing what Hebert suggests, and entering into a parliamentary relationship with the Liberals is the worst option.  The NDP’s best card is clichéd but if they can be the part of making Parliament work and cut deals with both parties, they could find themselves relevant again.

The Toronto Star’s Wishlist for 2010

I agree with a lot of it.

  • STEPHEN HARPER (Prime Minister): Stop trying to score political points at the expense of the opposition and start addressing the very real challenges facing the country, both at home and abroad.
  • MICHAEL IGNATIEFF (Leader of the Opposition): Draft a platform that positions the opposition Liberals as a viable alternative to the governing Conservatives.
  • JACK LAYTON (NDP leader): Cease pretending to be a prime minister in waiting and focus on the NDP’s historical role as a progressive voice in Parliament.
  • JIM FLAHERTY (Federal finance minister): Resist the siren calls to balance the budget by slashing public services at the expense of Canada’s most vulnerable.
  • JIM PRENTICE (Federal environment minister): Instead of emitting more hot air, produce an actual plan for reaching Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions target by 2020.
  • ROB NICHOLSON (Federal justice minister): Stop playing politics with our criminal code. This wedge-issue tactic won’t make us safer, but it will leave us with costly prisons packed with non-violent offenders.
  • BARACK OBAMA (U.S. president): Stop trying to make nice with your political enemies and start using the presidential bully pulpit to advance your own agenda.
  • HAMID KARZAI (President of Afghanistan): Drive out corruption in your government so that NATO forces no longer have to hold their noses while they prop you up.
  • BENJAMIN NETANYAHU AND MAHMOUD ABBAS (Respectively, prime minister of Israel and Palestinian leader): Find a way to break through old barriers and make peace.
  • DALTON MCGUINTY (Ontario premier): Leave the small stuff (mixed martial arts) or the details (electronic health records) to your ministers and focus on the big picture, including the economy.
  • ED STELMACH (Alberta premier): Restrain your paranoia about eastern Canadians lusting after your province’s wealth and make a deal on greenhouse gas emissions.

I’ve heard this somewhere before…

Change Jack Layton can believe in

Oh right, here it is.

Change We Can Believe In 

Isn’t there a ban on ripping off campaign slogans of victorious politicians who are still in power?  If I was the NDP, I would stop with the gimmicky Obama references, go to Saskatchewan, camp out at Eric Cline, Roy Romanow, and Janice MacKinnon’s homes until they tell you how the Saskatchewan NDP get elected and stay elected.  Don’t forget Lorne Calvert either.  I didn’t list him because I keep running into him at Alexander’s Restaurant.  He is often upstairs at the corner table.  I suggest heading to Cline, Romanow, and MacKinnon’s place, head on over with them to Alexander’s and then order some nachos with extra cheese (hold the jalapenos).  No dis-respect meant to current NDP leader Dwayne Lingenfelter but he’s a) a ways away from Alexander’s and b) busy getting ready to have a great election in a couple of years against Brad Wall.


Tories fight back on Kinsella lawsuit

The Canadian Press is reporting that the Tories are fighting back against Warren Kinsella’s lawsuit.

The Conservatives sued the Liberals last year to silence allegations relating to an alleged $1-million life insurance offer for the vote of Independent MP Chuck Cadman.

But the party now says the cut and thrust of political discourse shouldn’t be silenced by lawsuits.

I am not a judge but when I read the press release, I saw them trying to link Kinsella to the ad-scam scandal and apparently Warren and his lawyers agreed.  I am not a big lawsuit kind of guy but if I was in his situation, I think I would sue as well.

For me the article is interesting because no matter what the outcome, the Tories lose.

If the Tories win the lawsuit and even if they humiliate Warren Kinsella so badly, his wife and family all take out Conservative Party membership cards, they are still seen as mean spirited against someone who has a personal relationship with the Prime Minister.  Plus, if they had read his book, Kicking Ass in Canadian Politics, they should have realized that Warren Kinsella is not the target politically (see 2000 General Election – The Canadian Alliance ran a website attacking Warren Kinsella but forgot that he wasn’t running for elected office) but Michael Ignatieff and to a lesser extent, Jack Layton is.

If Warren Kinsella wins, the Tories are still seen as trying to smear a Liberal strategist and taking a shot at a Chretien loyalist.  On top of that, they are out some money that is now going to be spent keeping a VW Beatle on the road (another example of the Economic Action Plan at work) or taking W@AL on a Western Canadian road trip. The other thing that those in the that bunker could learn, many us across Canada like Jean Chretien (who had a pretty good record in both general elections and with the economy).  I am not sure if they want to keep attacking him on the basis of his service to him.

If you have read Thomas E. Ricks‘ excellent book Fiasco, he makes the compelling point that many top American generals don’t know the difference between tactical thinking and strategic thinking which is why Iraq turned so badly so quickly.  Ricks uses the illustration of taking out a sniper with tanks and heavy artillery.  It was a clear tactical victory as you would need DNA samples to identify the body.  Yet at the same time there was all of the collateral damage to the community and neighborhood around them.  In winning each tactical battle, they were losing the war.  Politics is a lot like that.  I know Carville says that you have to respond to each charge made against you but you also have to keep your eyes on the big picture and that is winning the hearts and minds of Canadians.

The Conservatives risk doing the same thing.  They have a reputation for being mean spirited and partisan and you can’t be really partisan without coming across as being small minded.  That may be fine in some election campaigns but look around, people really suffered during this recession.  I want my government to take care of the economy, not call Warren Kinsella names.  If they do let a young staffer too close to the fax machine (it happens), then I want them to apologize, not try to spin things in more bizarre ways.  When you govern (and you want to continue to govern), you need to cut back on the Amp Energy Drink, take some time off from the Conservative War Room and maybe read, take up photography, walk the dog, and maybe take a road trip to the places in Ontario which have been hit hardest by the recession and listen to their stories.  Then decide if you need to be attacking Warren Kinsella, fighting him in court, or settling and then taking care of more important business.

Update: Apparently the Tories aren’t taking my advice and are planning to run ads attacking the Ignatieff family summer home in France.  Lay off small family cabins already!

Not a good sign

Jack Layton Will Do Anything For A Bigger Office

Check out the sign on the right, I imagine we will see this photo several times during the next election by the Liberals and the Tories.  Here is some wider context to the photo in the Globe and Mail.  If I was going to give any advice to Jack Layton (or Michael Ignatieff), it would be to cool down the election rhetoric, work with parliament this fall, come up with some really good ideas and compelling ideas for the country to vote NDP (or Liberal), and then come firing back in the spring.  I would also ask my spokespeople to stop saying that you need to go to the polls before the economy improves (and therefore the Tories can take some credit for it).  Instead say that you are too busy working with the government to get the people of Canada working again.  If the economy does improve, take credit for it, if it doesn’t, voters are going to blame the Tories anyways.  Be for something, not just anti-Harper.

Outrage at the deficit is all politics

Ian McDonald is saying what I have heard all this week about the deficit.

A federal deficit that was forecast at $34 billion as recently as the January budget is now projected to be a least $50 billion. That’s quite a miss, 50 per cent on the upside, from a finance department better known for underestimating the surplus during the era of the fiscal dividend.

Then again, as our editorial page noted the other day, $50 billion isn’t what it used to be. It doesn’t go far as it used to, either. Or in the immortal words of Yogi Berra, you get cash and it’s as good as money.

In the House of Commons, the opposition parties were shocked and appalled, demanding that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty either resign or be fired, his credibility in tatters, his competence destroyed.

Then the Liberals demanded that Flaherty add another $1 billion to the ballooning deficit by lifting regional variations on qualifying for Employment Insurance and imposing a national minimum standard.

And of course, the NDP would like Ottawa to guarantee the pensions of autoworkers that are on the table in talks to restructure the North American auto industry.

As for the Bloc, it just wants more money for Quebec, starting with the forestry industry.

In politics, you have to make more than the usual allowances for hypocrisy.

It was in January that Jack Layton and the entire Liberal party were screaming for an Obama like stimulus package (which would have required a $200 billion deficit to proportionately match).  While I am a deficit hawk and I hate seeing this much debt, 3% of GDP is not out of control if it is only short term.  Bank of Canada Governor David Dodge is saying the same thing.

“The Canadian federal deficit of 3 percent of GDP, in a year where the output gap is as large as it’s going to be, is certainly not inappropriate,” Dodge, a former deputy minister with the Finance Department, said in remarks at an economics conference in Toronto.

He went on to say that all Canadian jurisdictions need to commit to balancing their budgets after this mess is over and pay it off.  What frustrates me in all of this, we are missing out on the real debate which needs to happen during a financial recession and that is how do we get out of it and how do we best handle the suffering that comes with living in the Great Recession.  We need to have more discussions on the ramifications of the proposed changes to EI versus leaving it alone.

The Liberals have taken a position that is clear and easily explainable. To summarize, more pogey now. They want employment insurance, as we euphemistically call it, to be available anywhere across the country after only 360 hours of work. The Liberals believe 150,000 people would be helped by their policy, but the political benefit is even greater. The employment insurance system we have now is so complex and difficult to understand that any Canadian who fears losing his job would rightly worry about whether he would quality for payments. Expect the worriers to back the Liberal plan.

As it is now, Canadians must work between 420 and 700 hours to collect EI, depending on the rate of unemployment in the region in which they live. Those eligibility requirements mean that 40 per cent of people who pay into the plan aren’t actually able to collect. For EI purposes, the government has divided the country into 58 regions and length of time that EI will pay out varies by region.

The Conservatives have chosen to champion this absurdly complex system, although they certainly didn’t invent it. Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff wants change so Prime Minister Stephen Harper is against it. It’s as simple as that. The substance of the matter is irrelevant.

The side benefit of the pogey issue, perhaps accidental, is that people have actually started to pay a bit of attention to a big-ticket program that does need a serious rethink.

There are also other debates to had about taxation (did the Conservatives cut too much from the GST?) and why despite all of the stimulus money, we are still seeing serious job losses not only in Ontario but even in Alberta?  With our economy being battered by the problems in the United States, maybe it is time to rethink our economic relationship with the United States, I am not saying with become protectionists but rather ask ourselves is it is wise to be so closely hitched to an economy that could be in trouble for years to come?