Tag Archives: Stephane Dion

Duffy is out of friends

Stephen Maher on Mike Duffy

In 2004, when I arrived in Ottawa to cover politics for the Halifax Chronicle Herald, I was lucky to get a desk in the press gallery between Maurice Godin, a canny Radio-Canada veteran, and Mike Duffy, who was then the host of CTV’s political show.

Both Godin and Duffy were kind to the East Coast greenhorn, and since Godin was on the Hill in the morning and Duffy in the afternoon, I was often able to get help with a story from two of the best reporters on the Hill without leaving my desk.

I got to be friends with Duffy, a twinkly-eyed storyteller with a love for gossip and cold white wine.

He was kind enough to have me on his show a few times, including the night of Oct. 9, 2008, when CTV decided to air some outtakes from an interview in which Liberal leader Stephane Dion struggled to answer a confusing question.

I thought CTV was right to air the clip, since Dion wanted to be prime minister, but I thought Duffy’s take on the interview was way over the top. He treated it like the biggest gaffe since Robert Stanfield fumbled a football, and I’m embarrassed to say I squirmed through the panel discussion without saying that.

Duffy was in the tank for the Tories because he wanted Harper to appoint him to the Senate.

Saying Duffy did the Dion interview to get in the Senate was like suggesting that Steve Smith scored on his own goal in 1986 because he wanted to play for the Calgary Flames.

(that video never gets old)

Bonus link: Here is a video of what looks to be an intoxicated Mike Duffy attacking MPs and the Canadian Press.  The best part of the video is Duffy attacking Peter Stoffer on his expenses while defending his own.

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.

Column: Environmental inaction costly

My latest column in The StarPhoenix

The StarPhoenix I wasn’t surprised by Mike De Souza’s recent story that briefing notes prepared for Environment Minister Peter Kent indicate he doesn’t seem to take global warming seriously.

De Souza, a Postmedia reporter out of Ottawa, has chronicled how Prime Minister Stephen Harper has for years politicized climate change. I didn’t expect a change just because Kent was now Canada’s Environment minister.

While Harper originally just ignored the environment, once the Liberals elected former Environment minister Stephane Dion as leader, it became a partisan issue. Dion wanted a "Green Shift" where the government moved taxes off incomes and applied it to carbon consumption in order to change consumer behavior and reward alternative sources of energy and conservation. The U.K. had introduced a similar tax in 2006 and while no new tax is popular, the sky hadn’t fallen.

Unlike Dion, however, former British prime minister Tony Blair understood one doesn’t run an election campaign on a new tax. Harper’s Conservatives said it would be a job killer and lead Canada into a recession and what we needed instead was a prime minister who wore sweater vests and stuck to the status quo.

The debate wasn’t a fair one as Dion proved to be a horrible campaigner, the Conservatives launched devastating attack ads and Dion overestimated the urgency Canadian’s felt on the issue.

It wasn’t surprising to see Dion go down in defeat, but I was a shocked to hear our prime minister suggest that Canadian companies couldn’t compete with American and Chinese companies if we didn’t emit the same level of greenhouse gases.

Although the U.S. and China have taken steps to cut greenhouse gases, Harper’s plan was for Canada to do very little until 2020 or 2025, and it would be 2050 before anything was fully implemented. In other words they were going to do nothing and leave it for someone else.

It may have been good politics (we keep re-electing him) but it’s horrible long term economic policy. It protects weak companies that can’t adapt and innovate to new standards. Those weak companies hire lobbyists whose job it is to protect the status quo, so we constantly hear dire predictions of doom and societal collapse.

Companies who can innovate tend to be out making money and so we don’t hear as much from them.

While we rejected the Green Shift, we see other industrialized countries take advantage of aggressive emission targets, invest in renewable energy and conservation efforts, and adopt carbon taxes to remake their economies. Even China is desperately trying to conserve, cut, and develop new technologies.

The result is predictable. China is becoming the world leader in carbon capture and clean coal technology, Japan’s households are more than twice as efficient as Canadian ones, and Europe is leading the way in renewables. What’s more depressing is that they are accomplishing this in markets where North American companies once were leaders but have had to pull out of because of a lack of government leadership.

When government does show leadership, companies respond. Energy policy isn’t glamorous but it can have a huge impact. Thomas Friedman writes about the Tier II emissions standard that applies to diesel locomotives in his book, Hot, Flat & Crowded. General Electric looked at the new emissions standard and completely redesigned its Evolution locomotives to comply.

The result was a low emission, fuel efficient and more reliable locomotive that is being exported around the world.

China purchased 300 of them despite manufacturing locomotives themselves.

Friedman asks why China purchased GE’s Evolution locomotives rather than their own state built one. They can’t match the emission targets that the U.S. government set and GE met. GE is pushing the U.S. government for even tougher standards in the future because they know they have the engineering and business acumen to benefit from the changes.

Kent has the same opportunity before him. There is a tremendous upside to any time of change and disruption and his department has the ability in several areas to both make a difference in our environmental record (which is joke around the world) and also create new opportunities and markets for Canadian companies.

The cost of inaction isn’t just rising emissions. Canadian manufacturers will be playing technological catch up against low-cost competitors once Canada does get serious about climate change.

The Harper government isn’t just playing politics with the environment – they are playing politics with our entire economy. If they doubt me, they can read more about it in Peter Kent’s briefing notes.

© Copyright (c) The StarPhoenix

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.

Where did Michael Ignatieff go wrong?

Licia Corbella of the Calgary Herald looks at why Michael Ignatieff failed to connect with Canadian voters.

To his baffled Harvard colleagues who can’t understand how a Harvard man can’t beat a University of Calgary man, ask yourselves this: Would any of Ignatieff’s books have won awards if the positions he took waffled as much as his comments to Canadians? Would he have been a popular lecturer? Of course not.

Those of us who had read his work knew he didn’t really believe that Israel was guilty of war crimes, but that he made a calculated decision to throw Israel under the bus to quell a political storm in Quebec while speaking French.

Bob Rae, who was also fighting for the Liberal leadership at the time (which went to Stephane Dion) called Ignatieff "the guy who’s changed his mind three times in a week," with regard to the Lebanese-Israeli war.

Then in 2009, when Ignatieff was Liberal leader, he put forward policies that he clearly didn’t give more than a passing thought to.

Ignatieff wanted Canadians to be eligible to take a year off drawing employment insurance benefits after working just nine weeks.

The very people that was supposed to entice -autoworkers losing their jobs -were outraged. Why should some student whose summer job comes to an end get to draw EI benefits for the same amount of time as that autoworker who has paid into the system for decades?

For years, Ignatieff waxed poetic about how valuable the oilsands were to all of Canada, and then during the campaign, instead of supporting his very valid views, he spoke of how he would place a moratorium on development of our "dirty oil" and bring in a cap-and-trade system.

Ignatieff didn’t resonate with voters because he was a sycophant. He said what he thought people wanted to hear and thought Canadian voters are too stupid to know good policy from bad.

I am not really sure if that was it.  Early on the in the election, Canadians tuned into Ignatieff and seemed to like him and his platform.  Even out west, people seemed to like the Liberal platform, yet didn’t vote for them.  Part of me wonders the impact the horrible state of the Liberal Party’s grassroots in parts of Canada played a part, the other part of me wonders if his attempt to bring down the government last year had an impact.  While in Ottawa it may have played well, the rest of us in Canada were really tired to it.  So Harper brings out a budget that isn’t that bad and before it comes out, Ignatieff is saying his is going to bring down the government.  Meanwhile the rest of us are thinking, “Aren’t government’s supposed to fall on really big issues and mistakes, not on the Opposition Leader’s rhetoric?”. 

I don’t watch a lot of Canadian television and the Conservatives don’t advertise on History Channel so I don’t know if I saw the “just visiting” ads and I don’t think I was influenced by them but after Ignatieff said he be was bringing down the government in 2010, he sounded like a political opportunist, meanwhile Layton who occasionally propped up Harper (and “Made Parliament work”) seemed more and more like the government in waiting.  As that happened, I found myself ignoring Ignatieff more and more.

So what’s your reason for not supporting the Liberal Party?

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?

Justin Trudeau’s political sacrifice

Angelo Persichilli’s Toronto Star column is a scathing attack on the leadership of Michael Ignatieff (and a shot at the political instincts of Justin Trudeau).

What’s more, Pierre Trudeau was surrounded by skilled and intelligent individuals, like Mitchell Sharp, Marc Lalonde, Keith Davey, Jim Coutts, Dennis Mills, Patrick Gossage and others who had a lot of respect for the process and for people. The present leader is surrounded only by leftovers of the past whose incompetence is rivalled only by their arrogance.

They have betrayed loyalties with their MPs and everyone who has laboured for the party over the years. But when they’re in trouble, which has been just about always in the last seven years, they believe they can snap their fingers and order the old crew back to work sailing a ship that has no captain and no destination.

I agree with Angelo’s point but it is an overstatement.  Paul Martin wanted to do too much (and in the end did little), Stephane Dion steered a clear course but not many believed in his green shift (pdf), and as for Michael Ignatieff, I still don’t know what he believes in as leader of the Liberal Party.

As for Justin Trudeau, Persichilli has some advice

First, you don’t risk your life if you know that the person you want to save is “seriously dead.”

Second, stick to creating a career for yourself based not on your last name but on personal merit.

Unfortunately, in its desperation, the present Liberal leadership is asking Trudeau to do for them what he has refused to do for himself. It is getting him to exploit and squander his father’s political capital to fill the vacuum of a brain-dead Liberal leadership that, since the forced retirement of Jean Chrétien, is sailing the Canadian political sea without a compass or map.

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. 

The Sinking Liberal Ship

Saskliberal_logo Tom Axworthy has a good article on what ails the Liberal Party and it isn’t all Stephane Dion’s fault.  I have to agree. 

In their preoccupation with leadership, media and party insiders are missing the real issue. The primary challenge for the Liberal party is that its cause is no longer compelling enough to persuade Canadians to give up their leisure time to join its ranks.

Party renewal, therefore, is not some romantic notion pursued by idealists. Renewal demands hard-headed realism that requires a Liberal party overhaul; rebuilding itself brick by brick, riding-by-riding so it is once again competitive on the ground.

On election night I watched the returns with Barney Danson, Dorothy Davey and several other veterans of past Liberal campaigns. Danson, a former defence minster, recalled that he would send his most experienced volunteers into the large apartment complexes to ensure turnout. Davey, a legendary organizer, recalled inviting undecided citizens for coffee. Others emphasized the importance of signs to raise morale among the troops and help name recognition. None of these tasks can be accomplished without active volunteers.

Digital Outtakes: Finding Out Western Separatism is Alive and Well in Govan, Saskatchewan

On my way home from the lake, we did a snack run into the Govan Co-Op where I recorded this while waiting for Wendy to get some Doritos.  We had just seen a couple of signs calling for western separation if there was a carbon tax and I took some time to reflect on the possibility of a Republic of Western Canada.