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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.

Cam Broten: Focused on What Matters

Excellent short video by NDP leader Cam Broten

Broten is right on with these issues and I am going to suggest that the problem is even worse than what he says.  I am glad he is paying attention to them.

NDP Miffed At Justin Trudeau for Stealing Headlines

Doesn’t this mean that the Liberals are doing a better job than the NDP?

OTTAWA – The NDP is steamed about media attention lathered on Justin Trudeau and a party that fell out of public favour over the sponsorship scandal while the official opposition struggles to get ink.

The Liberal leader puts a bong in the window and stumps to tax pot and he’s suddenly prime ministerial after the last guy behind the wheel drove the party into the history books with the worst electoral showing ever, they say.

New Democrats can point to a summer tweet by Trudeau about his wife’s pregnancy that made the front page as another example of adoration.

The Liberals are betting the farm on their leader’s popularity.

Privately, New Democrats grumble about the media love-in and why news outlets don’t press the third-place party and expose its weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

The NDP spent the summer often being the only opposition party to challenge the Conservatives – its news releases flooding media inboxes and its critics standing before microphones.

Thomas Mulcair spent the better part of the House recess rolling out ideas and initiatives and teeing off on Senate spending abuses.

“When you go into a scrum and look at the body language of the reporters there, they act like groupies. It’s fascinating to watch,” a party official said about Trudeau’s extended honeymoon since his anointment in April.

Other New Democrats are optimistic that interest in Trudeau is waning and that next week’s resumption of Parliament after a month-long prorogation will remind Canadians why the Grits sit in a corner in the Commons.

Pro tip: Winning political parties also don’t allow process stories like this to be written.

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.

Does it matter who we vote for federally?

Michael Den Tendt doesn’t think so

Which leads us back to this: Be it resolved, there is now a single homogeneous Canadian political culture, expressed via the three main party shadings. How long until platforms themselves become irrelevant? Partisans will argue their own beloved expression of Canadian liberal democracy is not only best, but distinct – as the Tories, Grits and NDP were a generation or two ago, when they disagreed about country-changing issues such as North American free trade, in 1988, or membership in NATO, in 1968.

But tick through the list of assumptions at the heart of the state today – from socialized health care to capital punishment, abortion or free trade, deficits or tax rates – and you find unanimity. The Conservatives must be for gay rights, or be written off as reactionary by the majority. The New Democrats must be for industry and thrift, or be written off as loopy dreamers by that same majority.

This convergence can create a mash-up, as political parties struggle to create differentiation amid their essential drab sameness. Thus, John Baird’s defence of gay rights in Russia doesn’t go far enough, says the NDP’s Paul Dewar. He must crank it up to 11, like the guitar amplifier in Rob Reiner’s Spinal Tap. The Liberals, meantime, are beginning a two-year effort to implant the idea, by every means other than saying it, that they can be more conservative than the Conservatives when it comes to economics, and more new and democratic than the New Democrats when it comes to sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. “Tough on crime” is still exclusive Conservative territory – but only because it’s one of the few old planks they haven’t ditched in the hunt for centrist votes. And, to be frank, it’s not popular enough for the other parties to bother to steal.

Taken together, this still-unfolding spectrum collapse sets up a contest of almost pure personality in 2015. Through the next 24 months, Harper will seek to recast himself as more constructive; Mulcair, happier; and Trudeau, more solid. The ad war will be personal as never before, culminating in televised debates understood by all to be winner-take-all. And the pollsters, perhaps as never before, will be flying blind. Interesting times.

Reality Check: The NDP need new proof readers

Read the third paragraph carefully.

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via

Paul Martin accuses residential schools of ‘cultural genocide’

‘Call a spade a spade,’ former prime minister says

Residential schools engaged in “cultural genocide,” former prime minister Paul Martin said Friday at the hearings of the federal Truth And Reconciliation Commission, adding that aboriginal Canadians must now be offered the best educational system.

“Let us understand that what happened at the residential schools was the use of education for cultural genocide, and that the fact of the matter is — yes it was. Call a spade a spade,” Martin said to cheers from the audience at the Montreal hearings.

“And what that really means is that we’ve got to offer aboriginal Canadians, without any shadow of a doubt, the best education system that is possible to have.”

The residential school system existed from the 1870s until the 1990s and saw about 150,000 native youth taken from their families and sent to church-run schools under a deliberate policy of “civilizing” First Nations.

Many students were physically, mentally and sexually abused. Some committed suicide or died fleeing their schools. Mortality rates reached 50 per cent at some schools.

In the 1990s, thousands of victims sued the Canadian government as well as churches that ran the schools. The $1.9-billion settlement of that suit in 2007 prompted an apology from Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the creation of the commission.

But the government has clashed with the commission and recently had to be ordered by an Ontario court to find and turn over documents from Library and Archives Canada.

“Every document is relevant,” Martin said. “We have hid this for 50 years. It’s existed for 150. Surely to God, Canadians are entitled … aboriginal Canadians and non-aboriginal Canadians, to know the truth. And so let the documents be released.”

Romeo Saganash has also testified of this time in residential schools

After the panel, Saganash took to the main stage at Montreal’s Queen Elizabeth Hotel and officially gave his statement to the TRC about his time at the La Tuque residential school in the late 1970s.

He tearfully spoke about his brother Johnny who died under mysterious circumstances when he was just 6 years old. Johnny was buried in an unmarked grave near the residential school in Moose Factory, Ont. There was no explanation given to his parents, no death certificate, no physical record that the little Cree boy had ever existed under the care of the federal government.

It took 40 years for the Saganash family to find Johnny’s grave and they did so not with the help of authorities but rather through the work of Saganash’s journalist sister Emma. When his mother finally saw footage of the burial site, Saganash said she wept like he had never seen her weep before.

The NDP MP has also struggled with the legacy of pain from his stolen childhood. The struggle caused Saganash to seek treatment for his alcoholism last December after he was kicked off an Air Canada flight for being heavily intoxicated.

But Saganash spent little time focusing on the past, choosing rather to divert the attention to the private members bill he tabled before the House of Commons in January. The bill would force the federal government to ensure all its laws are consistent with the UN’s declaration of indigenous rights — a document the Cree politician helped draft before being elected to public office.

He concluded his emotional address on a hopeful note, quoting a passage from a speech South African leader Nelson Mandela gave after his 27-year stint as a political prisoner.

“It was during those long and lonely years that the hunger for freedom of my own people became a hunger for the freedom of all people — white and black. I knew, as I knew anything, that the oppressor must be liberated just as surely as the oppressed. For all have been robbed of their humanity.

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.

A New Generation of NDP Ads

Good job by the NDP in getting a good Cam Broten ad out this quickly.   The ads hit television tomorrow.  That the NDP website has now been updated to feature Cam.

Cam Broten wins the NDP leadership

Joe Couture reports

Cam Broten – who won the leadership of the provincial NDP on Saturday by just 44 votes – told reporters after his victory that he knows the party has “a lot of work to do in earning the trust of Saskatchewan people.

“It was a close race,” the second-term Saskatoon Massey Place MLA, who is 34 years old, admitted to the media at TCU Place, where the leadership convention was held – although, he in the next breath mentioned former Manitoba premier Gary Doer and his win of the leadership of his province’s NDP by just 21 votes in 1988.

“But we know we have a lot of work to do as a party and as a caucus,” Broten continued. “All the candidates have done such a tremendous job, their teams have done a tremendous job, and we need everyone involved to build the NDP once again and earn the trust of Saskatchewan people.”

On the second ballot at the convention, Broten received 4,164 of the total votes cast or just more than 50 per cent, narrowly beating out Saskatoon doctor Ryan Meili, who was ahead on the first ballot, but received 4,120 votes on the second.

Meili described the results to reporters as “bloody close.

“Who would expect that I could actually get closer to winning this time than last time?” he said, referencing 2009’s leadership race, in which he finished second to Dwain Lingenfelter – who ultimately led the party to a crushing defeat in 2011.

“There was, I think, an appetite for the vision that I had, but obviously what Cam brought forward also appealed very much to the party members and ultimately, his team and his campaign was successful,” Meili continued, telling reporters he didn’t expect to try to challenge the close results.

The results of the first ballot, announced earlier in the afternoon, saw Meili in first with 39 per cent of the vote and Broten in second with 34 per cent – Trent Wotherspoon, who came in third with 24 per cent, withdrew from the race minutes later.

Broten made the right moves in the winning the leadership but he was wrong about one thing

Asked about the possibility of becoming the focus of negative publicity generated by his Saskatchewan Party opponents, Broten also sought to minimize concerns.

“Attack ads can be effective in the short-term, but in the long term, I think it turns people off politics,” he said, noting he plans to “stay in touch with what Saskatchewan people want and stay in tune with what their concerns and priorities are.”

I have heard from a couple of NDP MLAs that the biggest mistake they made was not to “define” Brad Wall when he was elected Saskatchewan Party leader.  If I was the Saskatchewan Party, I would not make that mistake in trying to “define” Broten.  Of course the interesting part is that he may be hard to define negatively.  He doesn’t claim a residence in Cavendish, PEI; he didn’t spend most of his life abroad claiming to be an American and unless I missed a big gaffe in the debates, there isn’t much there.  It will be interesting on what they do and if it will stick.

A superficial cut?

Chantal Hébert on whether or not Claude Patry’s defection to the Bloc Quebecois is a big deal or minor distraction to the NDP

Self-interest is almost always a factor in the decision to cross the floor but the Hill can also be a lonely place and more than one MP has become estranged from his party for lack of camaraderie or, in the case of French-language MPs, linguistic isolation.

It is too early to tell whether jumping ship will improve Patry’s chances of surviving the next election. By then, the Parti Québécois could be back in opposition in the National Assembly, or going through pre-referendum manoeuvres on the basis of a governing majority.

Jonquière—Alma has been out of the Bloc fold for the better part of a decade. The riding switched to the Conservatives before falling to the NDP. It can no longer be considered a sovereigntist stronghold.

What is certain is that Patry is going back to his comfort zone. His decision to run under the NDP banner in 2011 pitted him against the Bloc-aligned local union leadership and his spell under a federalist banner apparently did not dent his sovereigntist convictions.

Perspectives on the so-called unity debate are strikingly different in the federal capital and in the nationalist stronghold of the Saguenay. The transition from one venue to the other often involves a rude awakening.

In the immediate, Patry’s defection looks more like a paper cut than a puncture wound for the NDP. There is not currently on the Quebec radar a simmering anti-NDP backlash over the issue of referendum rules, or solid signs of an imminent revival of the Bloc Québécois.

But Patry’s move is still a stark reminder to his former New Democrat colleagues from Quebec that the luck of the draw has more to do with their positions in the Commons than their merits.

With only a few exceptions, there will be no safe NDP seats in Quebec in 2015 and indeed precious few safe seats of any kind at all.

While the NDP membership numbers improved to 12,300 during the federal leadership race, there are not a lot of NDP members in Quebec.  There are actually more NDP members in Saskatchewan than there is in Quebec despite the population difference which makes me wonder if the NDP can hold on to their gains in Quebec, especially is Justin Trudeau’s numbers hold and with a resurgent PQ holding power (and assuming providing organizational support).  My feeling right now is that you could see Quebec losing most of the seats it gained in Quebec in the next election and the reduced to third place in the House of Commons.

I don’t think Patry’s defection is a serious threat to Mulcair but the bigger problem for the NDP is building the political machine needed to hold these seats.

NDP Leadership Race Polls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grant Devine 2.0?

It’s really odd to hear Alison Redford use the same rhetoric in Alberta that Grant Devine did in Saskatchewan during the late 80s.

In a series of interviews following her televised address to the province Thursday night, Redford said that she wanted Albertans to understand that the province should no longer rely on its resource wealth to balance its books, pointing to a $6-billion “bitumen bubble” that will cut the province’s anticipated resource revenue almost by half in 2013-14 fiscal year.

“We can no longer continue to rely on oil and gas for 30 per cent of our revenue,” Redford said Friday. “It’s a fundamental change. It’s the sort of thing a province has to deal with, I think, once in a generation, and this is our opportunity to do it this year.”

The provincial government has received plenty of advice in recent years urging it to wean itself off a practice of using resource royalties to balance its books.

The Premier’s Council for Economic Strategy, a panel of experts established by Premier Ed Stelmach, tabled a report in May 2011 that asked Alberta to divert non-renewable resource revenue instead into a new “shaping the future” fund dedicated to helping diversify the province’s economy.

The council’s chairman, former federal cabinet minister David Emerson, said Friday it sounds like Redford is looking to make that kind of shift.

“She’s looking at establishing a new fiscal regime and that’s essentially what the premier’s economic strategy council was calling for: To stop treating non-renewable resource revenues as a form of operating revenue to be spent on, in effect, buying the groceries and to become more strategic separating natural resource assets,” Emerson said.

“If that’s the case, my congratulations,” he said.

But while Redford said Friday that a “different” budget will be forthcoming, she also said will not be a disruptive document. The government has already sent some signals about what some of those changes might look like, she said, pointing to the government’s plans to borrow to fully twin a 240-kilometre stretch of Highway 63.

“The Highway 63 announcement signalled to people that we’re going to think differently about long-term infrastructure plans,” Redford told The Canadian Press. “We’re going to finance that differently. We’re prepared to go out to capital markets and to really put out stellar fiscal reputation out there and ask people to invest in our province in some of our public infrastructure.”

As of right now, however, Redford said tax reform is not part of that financial restructuring.

Right now it looks like a lot of talk without the deep cuts and probably tax increases needed to bring the budget back in line.  

Mount Royal University political scientist Keith Brownsey said Redford needed to make a case for a fiscal crisis in her televised speech. She did that in a reasoned, effective manner, he said.

Such a statement was needed, he said, because Albertans thought financial problems were something that were a thing of the past because of its resource wealth.

“I think she prepped us for both cuts and tax increases,” Brownsey said. “Now, she may not have said that today, she may have said, ‘No taxes,’ but the current revenue structure in the province is unsustainable. We cannot exist as a modern industrial state living off of revenues from non-renewable natural resources. It’s simply too volatile.”

The truth is that Alberta spends money like no other province in the confederation.  Even during the Klein crisis, they spent more money than everyone else.  People talk of the deep cuts he made but ignore the fact that in Saskatchewan, the NDP made even deeper cuts (and had to raise taxes).  Whatever the solution is that it should be a combination of taxes and spending cuts and it is going to take a bit of time.  

I have no doubt that Redford is serious about making cuts (and who knows, she may even raise taxes) but when the oil prices go up, will they stay the course and remake the economy, especially when the opposition will be calling for restored spending and tax cuts (it’s always going to be like that).  I really hope she sticks with it because the oil and natural gas won’t be there forever.  I know the oil sands are a massive reserve but not all of that is recoverable and there is a point where it gets more too expensive to go after it.

If her hero Peter Lougheed brought in Alberta 2.0, then Alison Redford will need to be the one to bring in Alberta 3.0.  I hope it’s more than Devine era rhetoric.

Ryan Meili annouces for the NDP Leadership

I am a couple of days late on this but in all fairness a) I was busy b) I was late posting about Cam Broten’s leadership campaign c) I am not a New Democrat but I thought I would post a link to Ryan Meili’s leadership website which is interesting in two ways. I am pretty sure he is the first leadership candidate in Canada to use a domain hack with http://www.ryanmei.li as his web address. If I was him I would use it as a point of attack on Broten and Weatherspoon; “How can they lead the NDP into the future when their domain names are from the past?!” And that folks is why leadership candidates don’t ask for my advice no matter which party that represent.

Ryan Meili’s logo looked familiar to me and it took me a couple of days to figure out where I had seen it before.

Ryan Meili campaign banner

Saskatchewan Liberal Party

After seeing what this logo has done for the Saskatchewan Liberal Party, I may have gone in a different direction.

I was pleased to see Ryan jump into the race with Cam and Trent Weatherspoon. Ryan has been a powerful advocate on social justice issues and has seen the failures of the system first hand. I think his contribution to the race will be significant. Like I said before, I don’t know what the NDP are looking for in a leader but I think having strong candidates are good for the province. Yes there is prosperity but there are also problems. Hopefully we will discover some answers as a province through the debates and process to find a new leader.

As for the videos, Ryan doesn’t have a campaign video yet but when he does, I’ll post them here.

Cam Broten for NDP Leader

The NDP leadership race is underway with Cam Broten announcing his candidacy.  Along with his candidacy he launched a video about why he is running.

Cam is my local MLA and has become friends with the entire family.  He has become a regular fixture at The Lighthouse and has been the MLA that I refer people to when they have problems.  I don’t know what makes a great NDP leader but Cam has been a great MLA, an excellent advocate on a variety of issues, and has a compelling vision for Saskatchewan.  I don’t know if he will win (I have never been able to figure out NDP leadership conventions) but I am glad he is running.