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Ryan Bater

Ridings to Watch

CBC offers up their ridings to watch and it seemed like a pretty odd list so here are my ridings to watch tonight.

  • Saskatoon Meewasin.  The Sask Party threw a ton of resources in an attempt to unseat Frank Quennell.  If they Quennell wins, it means that the NDP still has some life in the cities, the Saskatchewan Party wins, it means that no NDP seats are safe moving forward. Prediction: Roger Parent wins
  • Saskatoon Fairview: Will voters be unhappy that their city councilor and MLA reside in the same household.  I don’t think Andy Iwanchuk will lose but it could cost him some votes and make a race close in a riding that Jennifer Campeau is running hard to win. Prediction: Andy Iwanchuk wins
  • Saskatoon Nutana: Long a safe NDP seat, I heard rumors that the campaign isn’t going that well (no NDP scrutineers in the advance polls).  Interesting to see if the seat flips or not.  Prediction: Very narrow win for Cathy Sproule
  • Saskatoon Eastview:  I wrote about this before but I am still trying to figure out why Judy Junor is using a downtown campaign office to run on the eastside.  I think this could be a victim of the green wave.  Prediction: Corey Tochor wins
  • Battlefords: I hear from Sask Party people that Ryan Bater is under 20% but I also hear that he is winning the sign war.  It’s going to come down to vote splits but let’s go out on a limb and call it for Bater.  If he doesn’t win, the Liberals won’t be a political party provincially by the next election.

Updates:

  • I was correct about Saskatoon Meewasin
  • I was wrong about Saskatoon Fairview, Jennifer Campeau won in a shocking upset.
  • I was kind of right about Nutana, Cathy Sproule won a tight race but I was DM’d by former MLA Pat Atkinson who told me that the NDP were very well organized.   She was right, I was wrong.  Partly because I missed the changes in advance poll scrutineers.
  • I was right in Saskatoon Eastview.
  • I was right about Ryan Bater in Battlefords.  He was beaten badly and I don’t know what the future of the Saskatchewan Liberal Party is except that Ralph Goodale lost in 1982 before winning in 1986.

My vote | 2011

After posting what I believed to be a fair and balanced explanation of who I was voting for last year, I learned that there was no way you could announce and explain how you vote without alienating those on the other side.  Voting always has been and probably always will be (for those of us who actually vote) a personal thing that upsets those that see the world differently.   So a wise person would keep it quiet but I am going to keep up the practice of explaining who I am voting for and why.  As always, the comments are open for a rebuttal or even a good rebuke.

As most of you know, I grew up Progressive Conservative.  My first campaign I helped out on way Hon. Ray Meiklejohn’s 1986 campaign for what was then called Saskatoon Mayfair (old massive riding that was Saskatoon Northwest, Meewasin, and part of Saskatoon Massey Place).  I was twelve.  I later ran in Saskatoon Riversdale in 1995 where I narrowly (by 3000 or so votes) lost to Roy Romanow.  If he wasn’t Premier, beloved in the riding, accomplished, a better politician, well financed and far more popular than I was, I would have taken him.

In 2003 I was planning to throw my vote away and vote Saskatchewan Party (they have never run hard in the riding) when Hon. Eric Cline came to my door late one evening while campaigning.  I was his last house to door knock on and he was ahead of schedule so when I asked him some questions, he got all animated and passionate at the door and we had a good discussion about provincial policy, politics, and even some NDP politics.  It was a good enough discussion that I decided to vote NDP for the first time in my life (although I did have second thoughts while heading into the voting booth)

In 2006 or 2007, I think Linsay Martens emailed or Facebooked about Cam Broten’s campaign and asked me to check out his website and consider supporting him.  I checked out the website and I knew Cam would win but I was busy helping out with Ken Cheveldayoff’s campaign.  I don’t think I met Cam that campaign but while helping to elect a Saskatchewan Party candidate, we did vote for Cam in Saskatoon Massey Place as I thought Cam would be a good MLA and I have always been a firm believer in the need for a strong opposition.

Cam won by around 60% of the vote and I ran into him at the Community Christmas dinner for the Salvation Army and we had a good chat.  I think Cam was the first Saskatchewan politician to embrace Twitter (@cambroten) and we connected online.  Over the last couple of years I have found him easy to work with, tremendously helpful when I needed some help or a question answered and often would refer me to another MLA when I was ranting about something or had a question on Twitter.  To be honest he kind of raised my expectations for how approachable a MLA could and should be.

In the Legislature, he went toe to toe with Hon. Rob Norris and held the government accountable for a debacle over the Carlton Trail college mergers.  He didn’t score any cheap political points during those debates and I felt brought some restraint to a debate that could have gone ridiculously partisan.  While Cam is obviously partisan as a NDP MLA, we can talk about issues we disagree on.  This is a quality that not all elected officials have.

Voting NDP is not first nature for me.  I tried to like rent control and look how that turned out.  I can’t agree with a potash royalty rate review because I hate the idea of a government reneging on it’s word (a NDP government at that) with a royalty rate that was just signed.  I really like the Bright Future’s Fund but that idea was lifted from the Saskatchewan Liberals.  On top of that, I really like the Saskatchewan Party’s SAID program and I think overall, the Wall government deserves another four years.

Re-Elect Cam BrotenDespite the fact that the NDP seem to be struggling in the polls, I am going to vote for Cam Broten.  I still believe MLAs matter and Cam does an excellent job.  An effective government needs and effective opposition and Cam has shown that he can help hold them accountable in the Legislature, the media, and online.  As a resident of the riding, the issues I have, he experiences as well.  In addition to living in the riding, he is a tireless campaigner; talking to neighbours and constituents online, on the doorstep, and through his involvement in community events.  There were many days over the last four years in the freezing cold or blazing heat that his Twitter feed said, “knocking doors in ___________”. 

His first four years were excellent and he deserves another four.  The voters in Planet S magazine agree with me (they named him the best MLA two years in a row).  I have high expectations for my elected officials.  Not many have met them over the years but Cam has exceeded them.

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.

Saskatchewan Campaign Ads

I plan to be running campaign advertisements and a contest for the best campaign video and advertisement on my blog.  The Ryan Bater video is just going to be the first.  We will try to create a collection of the worst and best ads of the campaign at the end of the campaign.

Liberals: The Saskatchewan Hospital Funding Announcement

Saskatchewan Liberal leader Ryan Bater takes on the Sask Party’s funding announcement. 

Column: Act to mitigate income gaps

My latest in The StarPhoenix

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

jordon@jordoncooper.com

© Copyright (c) The StarPhoenix

Doomsday for the NDP?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saskatchewan Seat Projections

From ThreeHundredEight.com

Saskatchewan seat projections A couple of interesting things to note.

  • The Saskatchewan Party is leading in Saskatoon Eastview and in Meewasin which puts Judy Junor and Frank Quenell’s seats at risk.  Both are longtime NDP MLA’s and former cabinet ministers.  Quenell has pulled difficult elections out in the past and the 17% Liberal support could easily go to Quenell.  Don’t call it for Roger Parent yet.
  • As for Judy Junor, she has traditionally done well in the riding, Corey Tochor looks like a credible candidate for the Saskatchewan Party who see it as a riding they can win.
  • Outside of Saskatoon Meewasin, there is no area in province where there is double digit support for the Liberal Party, including Ryan Bater’s riding of North Battleford.  Since no Liberal leader has won their seat since Linda Haverstock did, I doubt we will see a Liberal in the legislature and I would doubt that the Liberal Party will reach the 15% of vote needed to qualify for reimbursement of election expenses.  Could this be the election that kills the Liberal Party of Saskatchewan?

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. 

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.

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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.