Tag Archives: Michael Ignatieff

A vision for Canada

Speaking of Liberals, here is a video of Ignatieff that I really enjoyed back in the day.

Too bad that the vision in the video never was able to get into the public consciousness.  Whether that Ignatieff or the Liberal Party’s fault, we all know the results.  Speaking of political videos, let me remind you of this video by Brian Topp.

Of course the right can put out some spectacular videos as well.  This one comes from the Saskatchewan Party.

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.

Brian Topp a bully?

I think Doug McArthur misses the point of any campaign

“The strategy of the Topp machine is to run over every candidate before they have a chance to really get going.”

The danger of such tactics, which Prof. McArthur blames for the ongoing sag in Liberal fortunes, is the hard feelings it engenders among activists who are not on board. Many get discouraged and drop out.

“It becomes a kind of poison inside the party and lasts for a long, long time,” he said in an interview.

Prof. McArthur was elaborating on his blog about Mr. Topp’s run, which quotes “one key Topp insider” as summarizing their strategy as “let’s get this leadership campaign over before it even starts.”

Of course the alternative is for Topp to let other members enter the race, treat them with kid gloves, let them have a long and drawn out leadership campaign, and hope things are politely resolved at the convention and the head home as a big happy NDP family.  That would be great but it’s not the way any leadership race works out.  The longer is goes on, the more fodder is provided to the Conservatives and Liberals, the more camps are divided, and the more each leadership candidate weakens the others.  While a Michael Ignatieff coronation isn’t a desired effect, if Topp can get the NDP to rally behind him, good for him and good for the party.

It’s not a membership drive, it’s a campaign to be the leader of Canada’s opposition party and in many ways to see if he can be Prime Minister of Canada.  It should be a tough race.

Getting Schooled.

Warren Kinsella takes on Michael Ignatieff’s essay on what it means to be a Canadian.

Before he brought in the gaggle of geniuses who helped him to pilot the once-great Liberal Party of Canada into history’s ditch, I was an adviser to Michael Ignatieff. I didn’t know the guy, particularly, but I was friends with his chief of staff, Paul Zed, and his principal secretary, Ian Davey.

They brought me in to run their “war room.”

A political war room is mainly designed to toss figurative hand grenades at one’s opponents and, when necessary, catch and defuse the ones tossed your way. In the spring of 2009, I and others had heard a big hand grenade was about to land: Stephen Harper was going to unleash the Mother of All Attack Ads on Michael Ignatieff.

Harper had decided to define Ignatieff before he could define himself. Simple. Politics 101.

Except when the $4 million “Just Visiting” campaign commenced, Ignatieff wasn’t nearly as concerned as me or Davey or Zed. If anything, he was initially bemused by it all. Ignatieff, who had a tendency to regard politics as a teaching experience, simply couldn’t believe Canadians could be taught he was a foreigner.

Said he: “I’m a Canadian. Nobody will believe these stupid ads.”

“They’re not trying to say you’re an American, or that it’s bad to be American,” I said to him. “The point of their ads, Michael, is that you’re not ‘just visiting’ Canada — you’re ‘just visiting’ Earth. They’re trying to suggest that you’ve never been on public transit, or worried about a mortgage payment, or lost a job. They’re trying to say you don’t understand the reality of the average Canadian’s life.” He disagreed with our suggestion that we fight fire with fire, as was his prerogative, and that was that. I went back to the real world in Toronto and, a few months later, he did likewise.

What does it mean to be Canadian? Well, it means all sorts of things.

As of May 2, it means if you leave home, you bloody well better not take 30 years to find your way back.

It can also mean that if you are going to live abroad, you need to do a better job defending it then this.

When the video came out, I really enjoyed it and posted an earlier version here.  It was posted on YouTube, promoted on the Liberal Party website and they bought adspace on National Newswatch.  After a month it had less then 10,000 views.  Even now it has less then 70,000 views.   It’s three minutes long, nothing really compels me to forward it or tweet it which means that it never went viral.  Nothing against National Newswatch, I stop by probably 10 times a day but it’s a political website for news junkies and politicos.  Harper’s Just Visiting attack ads were seen by more people each time they were shown.    Harper launched a four million dollar ad campaign against them and they probably spent $25,000 in responding.

While I agree with Kinsella, he missed the bigger lesson.  Don’t go into a swordfight carrying a butter knife.

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.

So who is the leader of the Liberal Party?

I found this fascinating

Liberal Party of Canada Liberals responsible for the election war chest turned down a desperate plea for nearly $3 million for new advertising in the last week of the campaign because internal polls showed Canadians had rejected Michael Ignatieff and the party wanted to save a few bucks, QMI Agency has learned.

A request for $2.9 million for advertising was shot down because Ignatieff was the centerpiece of the TV spots, but had become a lightning rod for voter discontent, sources said.

So who was running the Liberal campaign?  Michael Ignatieff or the Liberal bagman guarding the treasury?  That just seems remarkable, especially after seeing that they did the exact same thing to Stephane Dion.  So who then is calling the shots for the Liberal campaign?  Anyone know?

What I learned

  • Local MPs performance don’t matter much : NDP’s Vegas candidate won, their English speaking candidate in a 98% francophone riding won, Ken Dryden and Lawrence Cannon lost.
  • Never bring down a minority government when you are behind.  Ignatieff thought it was because Canadians weren’t paying attention to him, in truth, we just didn’t like him that much.
  • Party platforms don’t matter.  I asked a lot of people who were out door knocking if people at the door had read the party platform and the answer was “not one”.  The NDP offer up $70 billion in new spending and they still get 100 seats.  The
  • You have to think that in Saskatchewan the big losers are the Saskatchewan Liberals.  The vote totals were appalling and I doubt and of the campaigns will even break even.  For Ryan Bater and the Saskatchewan Liberal Party, you have to wonder if they will be looking at the same kind of vote numbers in the next provincial election.  There isn’t a lot to build on and nothing that would attract high profile candidates to run for them provincially.
  • Along the same lines, I feel awfully bad for Darren Hill.  He ran a good campaign, is a good city councilor but even liberals in Saskatoon aren’t voting Liberal anymore.
  • Warren Kinsella says that the Liberal dysfunction goes beyond Ignatieff.
  • The city/province needs to put a ban on lawn and campaign signs on public property.  Boulevards, ditches, and parks don’t vote.  Keep the signs out of the Meewasin Valley and out of the highway ditches.  Lawn signs are supposed to be a measure of support and I am pretty sure that the ditches on Highway 16 is non partisan.
  • I would have more respect for those calling for electoral reform if they didn’t just do it when Harper won.  I didn’t hear anyone calling for it when Jean Chretien won a majority with 37% of the vote.  Of course I say this with apologies to James Bow who has been calling for electoral reform consistently for years.
  • You should be able to opt out of the campaign if you wanted to.  Nine robocalls on the Sunday from the Conservatives (that being said, I think because I kept hanging up, they kept calling).  We probably had 15 calls from the Conservative call centre’s in Manitoba and Nova Scotia during the campaign.  That is getting obscene and is bordering on harassment.  Every live phone call that I got, I asked to be taken off their database and I was either hung up on (Manitoba) or told politely that they could not do that (Nova Scotia).  Frustrating.  As I have said before, letting the politicians design privacy laws is like letting foxes install a security system inside a hen house.

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. 

Why being a politician is no fun

Great post by David Atkin

And now we have Stephen Harper’s rock concert. For the last several weekends, the prime minister has been having some buddies over to his house to play a little music in the basement. They managed to put together a decent little five-song set and thought it would be fun to play them in public. So they set up their gear on the stage at the annual Conservative caucus party, invited the media and their cameras in, and everyone had a lot of fun rocking the joint.

But of course, Liberal hyper-partisans can’t let a Conservative prime minister have a little fun so they’re throwing mud at the guy this morning and any journalist who reported on the affair. One "senior Liberal" told The Globe and Mail that they were upset Harper’s rock concert wasn’t bilingual. You read that correctly.

Conservative hyper-partisans aren’t any better. They laughed and ridiculed the Liberal leader when Iggy got jiggy with it at MuchMusic earlier this summer. And those Conservative hyper-partisans are the reason some Liberal MPs in Baddeck felt they couldn’t enjoy a couple of dances if anyone pulled out a camera.

Ken Dryden gets his stick up

In a new book, Ken Dryden delivers a blunt analysis of his own party’s political woes and his boss, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff

Ken Dryden"When Ignatieff was only ten years old, he didn’t only dream of being Beliveau or even Rocket Richard or Gordie Howe, as other boys did, he dreamed of being prime minister," Dryden writes. "What would a prime minister say? How would he say it?"

Once Ignatieff became leader, he "seemed remarkably comfortable," Dryden wrote. But he says this didn’t shield the former international journalist and scholar from Tory attacks that defined him as "just visiting" Canada.

"From his first boyhood imaginings, he had put himself inside the skin of prime ministers and presidents, living out their experiences with them, deciding for himself what he would have done, how he would have looked and sounded in their stead. He arrived in his new role 50 years experienced. But what were not in his boyhood fantasies, or much in his adult observings, were the tactics and manoeuvrings that make politics function," Dryden writes. "Here, he was not experienced."

Nonetheless, Dryden describes early 2010, after Harper prorogued Parliament, as a glimmer of hope for the Liberal leader. During that period, the Liberals held dozens of roundtables on ideas and policies, attended by experts and duly reported by the news media.

"This was Ignatieff at his best — listener, learner, ponderer, sense-maker, meaning-seeker, big-picture-finder. In those three weeks, his confidence growing, he seemed finally to realize: I can be good at this. It might even be fun."

The first time I read this I was a bit shocked he would say this about his current boss but after I read it again Dryden doesn’t say anything that inflammatory about Ignatieff.  Ignatieff is not a tactician like Harper which has been his weakness so far.  Tactics can be learned or can be handled by others while if you don’t have those characteristics that Dryden describes, you won’t be a good leader for the country.  The flip side is that if Ignatieff doesn’t learn tactics soon, he may never become Prime Minister.

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.

Is Michael Ignatieff the next Tony Blair?

Apparently I am not the only one not impressed with the Michael Ignatief tour.  According to Thomas Walkom, even when things are going well, all is not well.

Most of all, however, he emphasizes that he is at one with his audience. “Everything good that happened to me happened because I had a publicly funded education in Ontario,” he says.

In fact, Ignatieff attended high school at Toronto’s elite and privately funded Upper Canada College. In 1994, he referred to his UCC time as “the most successful single period of my life.

I was going to look and see if he was talking about elementary school but I had Norman Spector’s thought in another browser tab and he pointed out that he had attended the Upper Canada College since he was 11.

It’s a well-known fact that, from the age of 11, Mr. Ignatieff attended Upper Canada College — which is about as elite an education as you can get in our country. So well-known is this fact that it’s hard to believe the Liberal Leader thought that he could get away with the kind of little white lies that are the specialty of crowd-pleasing politicians. Indeed, the truthfulness of Mr. Ignatieff’s remarks is already being called into question.

Perhaps the Liberal Leader’s statement was a slip-up, which would be understandable and forgivable given his gruelling schedule. Or, could it be that in using the words “publicly-funded,” Mr. Ignatieff was not referring to a public education as most people in Hagersville, indeed most Canadians, would understand the term?

Mr. Ignatieff may have been referring to a little-known program at the Department of Foreign Affairs that has taxpayers picking up the tab for educating the children of diplomats posted abroad, including when the diplomats are back in Canada. Perhaps this is what he meant by his “enormous good fortune.”

Wikipedia descibes Ignatieff’s early education this way

Ignatieff’s family moved abroad regularly in his early childhood as his father rose in the diplomatic ranks. But at the age of 11, Ignatieff was sent back to Toronto to attend Upper Canada College as a boarder in 1959.

The quote hit me hard because I immediately thought back to this article in June 2006 issue of The Atlantic about Tony Blair.  Now normally Liberals would be glowing over a comparison between Michael Ignatieff and Tony Blair but not this one.

Tony Blair Whatever ruses Blair has adopted have come all too naturally to him. At one point when the WMD issue was blowing up in the Prime Minister’s face (if nonexistent weapons can be said to blow up), John Prescott, the deputy prime minister, confronted the unruly MPs from his party, telling them vehemently, "The Prime Minister does not lie."

But he does. Or, at least, he has repeatedly said things that were not the case, often enough to suggest that he has genuine difficulty with the concept of objective truth. Some of his lies are trivial. Politicians like to add color and glamour to their résumés, and Blair was simply doing that when he claimed that as a boy he had been a stowaway on a plane bound for the Bahamas (for which there was no independent evidence), and had watched Jackie Milburn playing soccer for Newcastle (he would have been too young). It was much more alarming when Blair told a television interviewer that he had voted to ban fox hunting. The point was not the rights and wrongs of that highly contentious and emotive issue; it was that at the time the Prime Minister—or rather, the Member for Sedgefield—had never voted in the Commons on the matter one way or another.

This tendency to embroider, to persuade, and then to forget has repeatedly misled others and placed them in false positions. Blair claims to have learned from Bill Clinton, and in this regard he is a true pupil. When a politician takes a particular line, let’s say by insisting that he did not have sexual relations with "that woman"; when he expects his colleagues to toe the same line and aver publicly that they believe him; when he then abruptly changes his story and admits that he did after all have an "inappropriate" relationship—then those colleagues are, in the hallowed phrase of Irish politics, left with their arses hanging out the window (not a posture Madeleine Albright can have found very dignified in the summer of 1998).

I hate it when politicians do this.  Despite my frustration with Ignatieff’s performance as leader, I thought he would be able to offer a compelling vision of Canada that would bring out the best of the Liberal Party, the NDP, and the Conservative Party… and who knows, maybe he will be the time the election arrives but mistakes like this, whether intentional, a result of a character flaw, or just fatigue, make it hard to rally behind him right now.

The Secretive Summer Tour of Michael Ignatieff

So apparently Michael Ignatieff is on some kind of summer tour.  Since there are not a lot of Liberals in Saskatchewan, I figured he would head to the home riding of Ralph Goodale but no, he came to Saskatoon today.  I had hoped to take Mark along and give him a taste of national politics but when I looked at the interactive Liberal map, it gave no clue of where the events were other than it was a barbecue.

The Secretive Summer Tour of Michael Ignatieff

I checked out SaskLiberal.ca but there was nothing there either.

The Secretive Summer Tour of Michael Ignatieff

Even newly nominated star Liberal candidate Darren Hill doesn’t have the information on his Facebook page.


I have tried to sign up for Liberal Party e-mail updates before from the Sask Liberals but they are so inconsistent that I don’t know if I have been dropped from them or not.  All I know is that I wanted to hear Michael Ignatieff speak, I wanted to bring my ten year old son out to hear him speak (who is the same age I was when I started to help out on campaigns) and I was thwarted by Team Ignatieff.

I am left with one of four options. 

  1. The turnout for Ignatieff was so great in Saskatoon that they were afraid that if Mark and I were there, it would cause the already saturated Saskatoon soil to turn to quicksand.
  2. Things are going so well for the Liberals in Saskatoon that they don’t need anymore support of voters.
  3. The advance people and organizers in Saskatoon are simply going through the motions.
  4. Going to a city with no visible signs of Liberal grassroots support, rather than visiting Ralph Goodale’s riding was a big mistake.  Of course with how this tour is going, perhaps the Goodale team was content to watch this from afar.

During the last federal campaign, the campaign was three weeks old before the Liberal Party website had the name of my local Liberal candidate.  The same thing happened tour wise with Stephane Dion.  Several times he came to Saskatoon and I only heard of it after he left.  I should not have to work at finding out or have to beg to be told when a party leader is coming to Saskatoon for a public event.  Considering this was a party that ran great candidates and won seats under Jean Chretien, I find myself at a loss at how poorly they are organized in the province right now.  I have a feeling that if some more adults were in charge of things in Ottawa, this would not be happening.   Even the Saskatchewan Liberal leader’s Twitter account (that is advertised everywhere on their site) doesn’t actually have any Saskatchewan politics on it.  Somebody do something quick before environmentalists have to resort to finding Liberals somewhere else in the country and reintroduce them back into Saskatchewan after they have become extinct. 

New Michael Ignatieff Ads

I have been picking on the NDP and Conservatives a lot lately and I guess it is turn to question the Liberals for this ad.  The ad reminds me a lot of some of the ads that the Liberals ran when Stephane Dion was leader and it doesn’t say a lot although it does introduce the “big Liberal worldview” vs “small Conservative worldview” theme.  I do think the ad misses an opportunity in Ignatieff’s skills as a communicator and idea person.  Right now there isn’t anything in the ad that I disagree with but nothing that makes me want to vote for the Liberals either.  The ad needs to be driving more people to liberal.ca where they can get more information on those expanded themes.  Some five minute documentaries on YouTube featuring Michael Ignatieff and others on his team talking about foreign affairs, getting ideas to market (Team Canada trips 2.0 anyone?), and even a reminder of how Liberals have done this in the past would have been great.  For me this doesn’t inspire me that much.

What Unifies Us All

Air Canada Boeing 787

I almost missed this but Jane Taber has this fun quote from Michael Ignatieff about Air Canada

“What scares me is Air Canada. They are not courteous enough. One thing which unites us, in this country, is our hatred for Air Canada.”

I could not agree more.  I haven’t had a single flight on Air Canada where the actions of the flight or ground crew did not leave a bad taste in my mouth.  While it’s still better than a lot of American airlines, it’s customer service compared to WestJet is appalling.