Thursday, April 30, 2009
The "Race" for Stornoway II: Getting Iggy With It
"It's good for people to believe in causes larger than themselves."
Background: Ignatieff was born May 12th, 1947, in Toronto. He attended U of T where his days were spent studying ethnic nationalism, and his nights were spent berating his roomate over mistakes he'd made years ago ("leaving the milk out overnight last fall was a war crime"). After a brief teaching stint at UBC, he went off to Cambridge, before settling down at Harvard. During this time, he established himself as a world-famous academic, and one of the "100 smartest people alive". But if you haven't read his writings or seen him on TV, don't worry - the highlights will soon be coming to an attack ad near you.
Previously on "The Race for Stornoway": In 2005, Ignatieff returned to Canada and, for reasons I never fully understood, became the front runner to lead the Liberal Party. After some ill-considered musings on the middle east and Quebec nationalism, he stalled at 30% and watched Stephane Dion overtake him on ballot 3. When his old roomate crossed his arms, it was all over for Iggy Nation. (see also: Candidate profile, blog interview)
Since Then: Ignatieff proved himself to be a strong performer in parliament, and has managed to grow as a politician during the last three years. The gaffes are fewer, farther between, and less damaging than when he first entered politics. Ignatieff has been able to portray himself first as a "leader in waiting", and now as a "Prime Minister in waiting".
The "Race" for
Criticism: The big knock on Ignatieff was that he supported the war in Iraq. So he wrote a lengthy New York Times mea culpa in 2007. A lot of people also didn't like the fact that Ignatieff had lived outside of Canada for most of his adult life. So he wrote a book about Canadian patriotism. Some have also said he comes across as an out-of-touch academic but, rest assured, I have it on good authority that Ignatieff is currently writing a 50 page dissertation with the working title "Michael Ignatieff can relate to the proletariat".
My Take: I'll always be a bit uncomfortable with the amount of time he's spent out of the country, and the two of us will never agree on the Quebec nation thing. But Ignatieff has the potential for greatness unlike few others, so I can certainly understand the appeal. And with 3 more years in politics - and in Canada - he'll make a better leader today than he would have three years ago. So I'm willing to knock on doors for the guy and I do hope he wins the next election. An Ignatieff Prime Ministership would be fun to watch, since he strikes me as the sort who wouldn't want to waste it - he'd be bold, and he might even be able to inspire.
So far, he's done a good job as (interim!) leader, but much of that has been by default. He has yet to clearly define his vision of the country, fight a campaign as leader, face attack ads, or deal with a hostile press corps. So it's still too early to predict how he'll fare as leader. But, like I said, so far, so good.
Chance of Victory: I've re-run my leadership projection formula from 2006, and I can now project, with 95% confidence, that Michael Ignatieff will win the Liberal leadership race, most likely on the first ballot.
Labels: Michael Ignatieff
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
But they'd be wrong.
There's a lot of work to do and, on the whole, this report appears to be a big step in the right direction. I'm sure I'll have more to say about it later but, for now, here's a summary of the commission's answers to the "big questions", and some of the more interesting recommendations:
Why don’t Liberals donate to the party as much as other political parties? How can we convince Liberals to donate to their riding and/or the national party?
A more engaged role for members is a prerequisite for successful fundraising. As such, there’s a need for more “populist” fundraising events to go along with the big ticket dinners – things like brunches and spaghetti dinners.
How can we engage party members in the community? How can we attract community leaders to join the party? How can we best reach out to community groups and multicultural organizations?
We need to walk the talk – attend community functions and organize social activities such as toy drives for women’s shelters or organizing dinners for the homeless. By showing the community we care, we can engage our members are recruit new ones.
How can we best rebuild weak riding associations? How can LPC and the provincial and territorial associations better serve riding associations?
Past candidates should be treated with respect and allowed to build up their profile between elections for multiple runs – we should not be so quick as to discard candidates after one or two failed attempts. Candidates should be nominated earlier so that they can work hard to raise their profile in the ridings.
How can we improve our party’s use of technology? How can technology best serve our ridings and members?
Data needs to be shared better within the party – we need to end the information “protectionism” that has interfered with our party’s ability to compete, and put in place more vertical organizations.
How can the LPC improve the party’s internal communications? What do members want to hear from the party?
We need to break down the silos and encourage communications between different sections of the party. The party website should be less top-down, and should tell party members information related to their needs rather than just rehashing press releases. Local riding websites need to be clearer and better maintained.
How can the LPC improve the policy resolution and policy discussion process?
There needs to be more input from the party membership into the policy process – especially from rural and unheld ridings, which don’t have a voice in caucus. A real two-way dialogue needs to be established.
How can we improve the structure of the party nationally, provincially, and locally?
Members don’t fully understand how the party works and would like more transparency and accountability. In short, the party, leader, caucus, PTAs, ridings, and national executive need to do a better job working and communicating together – of breaking down the silos.
2. Timely receipting from events, within 14 days
3. Websites should make it easier for donors to choose where their money goes
Membership and Outreach
4. National Liberal day of community action in all 308 ridings
6. At least four town halls every year in every riding in the country. Caucus critics will help organize these.
Electoral Districts and Party
11. Adopt and embrace the 308 riding strategy
12. Paid fieldworkers
13. Post-election debriefings in unheld ridings
14. Twinning program for unheld ridings
18. An annual plan, balanced scorecard program, and recognition for riding associations
21. Resources for ridings including handbooks, website template, new member welcome package, and an election readiness kit.
23. A comprehensive human resources strategy
25. Volunteer database
27. Interactive internet communications
32. Newsletter templates for riding associations
33. Make greater use of social networking sites
36. Review of the party policy process
41. National executive responsible for hiring and firing the national director
42. Electronic voting should be considered for future leadership votes
46. Code of conduct and sanctions for inappropriate conduct by members
47. Continue change commission consultations
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Liberal Convention 2009: Iggy Nation (Within a United Liberal Party)
To begin my convention coverage, I've posted interviews with the two Young Liberal Presidential candidates, John Lennard and Sam Lavoie. I'm not a young Liberal anymore, and I'm not endorsing or supporting either of the candidates, so I post the interviews without comment. I know John and Sam - they're both good guys who would do a great job. I must say, I was very impressed with both of their answers on the WOMOV question.
Tomorrow night, I'll have my review of the change commission report, and Thursday morning the Michael Ignatieff profile goes up. From there on in, there will be copious amounts of convention blogging...and, hell, if it turns into a non-event, there's a BC election and a Canucks playoff run to cover.
Labels: Liberal Convention 2009
Talking to Sam Lavoie
Well, first of all, I’m the only candidate with executive experience so I have first hand experience dealing with the organization. But I think what people are really looking for in their YLC president is someone who has the right vision for the organization.
I see the YLC as a strong independent organization within the Liberal Party, which can push ideas and issues that matter to youth. If we do that, I think many young Canadians outside the Liberal bubble will look at us and see this is a good organization that represents their values, and they’ll want to get involved.
Also, management skills are important – it’s not very sexy, and it’s not something you put in your platform, but I believe I can get the best out of the next executive. I know I can get the executive to work together and set common goals.
And, finally, I think I’ve put forward a very detailed platform on my website on a range of issues. If I become president, that’s something I can be held accountable to.
Thinking about the role of the YLC. I was involved in the YLC and I think it’s a good organization, but the Conservatives have more youth candidates and MPs than us, the NDP and Greens get more youth votes than us, and it’s clear we haven’t had a bonanza of young Canadians join the Liberal Party. Do you think the YLC has done its job or does it need to seriously change course?
I think that’s a fair point. As a member of the executive, I can take some responsibility for this, but I think the party as a whole has been under-performing of late.
If we’re talking about the role of the YLC, I think we need to emphasize reaching out to non-Liberals...especially on campus clubs, since that’s the easiest place to get involved in the party. We need to really build ties with other groups - for example issue based groups and multicultural communities. The way I see it, we’ve taken a lot of these groups for granted in the past and we need to reach out now and build a relationship.
We need to run with the ball as an organization and advance youth issues, because then young people will see us as an organization they want to get involved with. We need to create a dynamic organization that young people will want to get involved with.
You talked about getting more people involved in the party. You’re from Quebec where the party’s hit a rough patch and I know you have a lot of supporters from Western Canada, where it seems we’re permanently in a rough patch. What do you think is the best way to get young people involved in these areas where we haven’t been as strong traditionally?
The issue in Quebec, and I think it’s the same in Alberta, is that we don’t have a Liberal backbone. One of my proposals is to strengthen our campus clubs, both financially and with resources. For example, there’s a club at Grant MacEwan [in Edmonton] where a lot of work has been done by the Liberals there, but they had to start with no resources at all.
So in my platform I said any YLC surpluses would be spent on campus clubs, since they’re on the ground and that’s where most of the needs are. So I think every campus club should get $250 to help them recruit members – we need to acknowledge the important role they pay in bringing in new members.
Also, we need to do a better job communicating with young Liberals. A lot of clubs never talk to the YLC – we need to give them the tools necessary to do their work. So we need to pressure our MPs to go out to campus clubs and speak there, to get people more interested in the party.
I’ve also proposed recognizing riding clubs, so that we reach youth who aren’t at campuses. But until that’s done, we’re a campus club centered organization.
So the last thing I want to talk about is the big controversial one member one vote proposal. You seconded the YLC amendment to put a 25% quota for youth into place. Do you not think that goes against the principle of giving all members an equal say in the leadership process?
First of all, I think we need to agree on the definition. This isn’t a one member one vote proposal, this is a weighted one member one vote proposal. People tell me, Sam, why would rural Canadians want to join a party where all the members are from Montreal and Toronto...so I agree we should have weighting by riding. But then, why would young Canadians want to join a party where all the decisions are made by people who are 40 years old and over? It’s the same principle.
It’s simple to me. There might be 10 Liberal members in Repentigny and they get 100 points. And maybe there are 200 members in Westmount Ville Marie and they get 100 points. So a Liberal in Repentigny is already worth 20 times more.
And you need to ask yourself, where is Concordia? In Westmount Ville Marie. Where is McGill? In Westmount Ville Marie. The problem is most of our youth are involved through campus clubs and most of our campus clubs are in urban areas where the Liberals are. So the youth vote would be under-represented under a weighted one member one vote system.
So why 25%? This is nothing new. We would have had 6 of 22 delegates under the current system. There’s been a consensus within the Liberal Party that young Liberals should be over represented because young Canadians are under represented in politics. This will force leadership candidates to recruit youth and pay attention to the YLC.
I think it’s a bit of a false debate. Other people say, why can’t we just sign up 25% of the membership. I say, why can’t we do both?
But do you think this is actually going to get more people involved in the party? How does making their vote worth 5 points instead 1 point going to make them more likely to join the party?
You need to go out and get people from other parties involved. In Quebec, the provincial Liberals give a big say to their youth, so if we want to get these people involved with the federal party, we need to be able to show them they’re respected here.
I’ve read some things...can people stop saying we’re being selfish. I’m 22 years old! We’re not going to have a leadership race until I’m way past my youth years, so what could I possibly have to benefit from this?
Fair point. So, I guess the last thing I’ll ask on this, is if you think there should also be quotas for females or aboriginals or any other groups?
Our motion is to make sure an under-represented group gets fair representation. If we’re successful, I think it will be easier for other groups to do this at the convention.
I think, in theory, I’d be fine with women having 50% representation. That’s not the issue right now since it’s not up for vote, but I’d be inclined to support that at another convention.
Talking to John Lennard
I think it’s a question of building the Liberal Party. I think the Liberal Party is desperate for change, for growth, for rebuilding. I think young Liberals need to be a part of that - I’ve got a couple of ideas, and a lot of passion for that.
I think it’s very important that young Liberals become the leaders of today in terms of moving the party forward. That’s why I’m running. I think I can do that better than anyone else, and we’ll see what the delegates have to say in Vancouver.
What’s the best way to get young Liberals to become leaders of the party?
I think the YLC’s job fundamentally is to become a link between our core constituency, which is young Canadians, and the party itself. That means young Canadians need to take on leadership roles within the party.
I personally was a campaign manager at the age of 20 and 21. I think the YLC’s job is to foster that kind of engamenet.
The hot topic of the convention seems to be one member one vote. I’ve seen your comments on blogs, so and you’re obviously getting mixed up in all that. I see you support one member one vote – are you for or against the youth amendment that would set a 25% quota on the points?
I’m against the YLC amendment. I don’t think it’s necessary, I don’t think it’s productive for the party.
I think it’s a very defensive measure to try and defend a small piece of the pie, a bit of the turf, rather than thinking about what’s in the best interests of the party. And the best interests of the party as far as I’m concerned is making sure every single member gets a direct say in the choice in the next leader.
I think it’s divisive as well. I think it creates a gulf between the youth of the party and the rest of the party. I think it’s time to stop treating ourselves as young Liberals as though we’re some sort of junior partners.
Finally, I think it sends a pessimistic message, that it allows us to think young Liberals can’t do more...that we need some sort of booster seat or training wheels to go where we want to.
I’m with you on that. But, just to play devil’s advocate, isn’t the role of the YLC President to look out for the interests of youth? So shouldn’t the YLC be protecting the gains they’ve made in the past?
I think the role of the YLC is to grow the party and bring more young people into the party. It’s not about protecting our piece of the pie – it’s making sure our voices are heard louder by bringing more people into the party.
My push as President of the YLC is going to be to bring more people into the party and make sure their voice is heard all the way up.
So, talking about the role of the YLC. Looking at the big picture, young voters don’t seem to be voting Liberal, the Liberal Party hasn’t had more youth candidates or elected more younger MPs than other parties. So, in that context, do you think the YLC serves a useful purpose for the party?
I think we need to get our organization away from a lot of the internal trying to defend our turf, or protected ourselves against the “senior party”. We want to bring people in, take a senior role in the party, have people run for MPs, have more young Liberal riding presidents - we have a 25 member national executive and there’s only one young Liberal on it outside of the YLC president. We need to get ourselves organized and start thinking big.
I get all these campaign e-mails and I saw you had an endorsement from Simon Begin, a former Quebec Young Liberal President who supported the Conservatives last year. In his endorsement, he seemed hostile towards the Liberal Party’s traditional position vis-à-vis Quebec, saying “the Liberal Party of Canada has never really made a point of opening itself to Quebec while in power” and “the abuse of power of some centralizing federalists contributed to the distorted Liberal Party’s image”. I know you’re at McGill so you obviously have a sense of Quebec – is that kind of your view of the province?
My opinion has shifted a bit since I’ve lived here over the past few years. I think it’s important for people to recognize Quebec’s distinctiveness.
I’m very happy to have Simon’s endorsement. The key is building the young liberal organization, so that means relying on connections we have to other provincial parties that share our philosophy, our general philosophy. In Quebec, in particular, there’s a huge organization of young Liberals there that are untapped.
See also - John Lennard interviews with Scott Tribe and Jeff Jedras
Monday, April 27, 2009
A Post About Nothing
This follows a barrage of headline double dipping, where every election over the past few years has been dubbed a "Seinfeld election" at one point or another. Here's my beef with this:
1 - A "Seinfeld convention" sounds like a ton of fun! Giddy up! You're telling me that a Seinfeld convention in Vancouver wouldn't draw a packed house, generate tons of excitement, be a great time, yada yada yada. If you want to make it sound boring, maybe call it the "two and a half men convention" or something like that.
2 - Seinfeld wasn't a show about nothing (not that there's anything wrong with that!). You had more plot in a given episode than you'd ever get in Friends or Frasier. The "show about nothing" was in reference to a pilot Jerry and George wrote within the show. I don't know about you, but I tend to think a bubble boy, dead fiances, some puffy shirts, a Soup Nazi, and beached whales would add a lot of excitement to an otherwise dull convention.
3 - It's not creative. Sure, calling the 2004 Alberta election the "Kleinfeld Election" was kind of clever. Just like if Bill Gates was involved in a scandal, calling it Gates-gate might be cute. But it's lazy to just toss "Seinfeld" in front of every election as an adjective and then act like you're as witty as Larry David.
So let's put a little more effort into it guys and quit the headline re-gifting. I fear we're suffering from a case of creativity shrinkage here.
April Poll Dance
Angus Reid (April 21-22, n = 1000 online)
Harris Decima (April 8-19, n = 2000)
Ekos (April 8-15, n = 1500 phone/online)
Strategic Counsel (April 2-5, n = 1000)
Leger (March 18-23, n = 1500)
MEAN (change since March in brackets)
CPC 31.8 (-2.6%)
Lib 34.0% (+1.2%)
NDP 15.2% (+1.0%)
BQ 9.4% (-0.2%)
Green 8.0% (-0.6%)
-In Manitoba, the NDP have a 10 point lead on the PCs.
-In BC, STV doesn't look to be quite as sure a bet to pass as previously thought according to this Ipsos poll.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Michael Ignatieff Writes in the First Person: Is this the sort of leader you want?
PATRIOT IN-LOVE WITH MYSELF
The NDP's research team has carefully examined Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff's new book and found the personal pronoun "I" is mentioned 164 times. Bob Rae, Jean Chrétien, Paul Martin, Stéphane Dion and the carbon tax are not mentioned.
Number of times Jack Layton uses the personal pronoun "I" in the first 5 pages of his book: 19
But, in fairness, he does mention Paul Martin...
Labels: silly attacks
Friday, April 24, 2009
This Week in Northumberland, UK
EDMONTON - Tourism officials in northeastern England are both pleased and baffled by a new $25-million Alberta rebranding campaign that features a photo of children frolicking on one of its North Sea beaches.
While the tagline on the advertisement reads: "Alberta: Freedom to Create. Spirit to Achieve.", the Alberta government has confirmed the photo was taken near the English village of Bamburgh in Northumberland. The photo also appears in an Alberta promotional video that has been posted on YouTube.
Now, I will give the ad firm who came up with this some credit - it had never occurred to me to promote Alberta as a beach front tourism destination. And, in fairness, if you are going to promote Alberta as a beach-front tourism destination, you sure don't want to use pictures of any Alberta beaches because, well, there aren't a lot of nice ones. Certainly not as nice as that one in Northumberland anyways.
But, as is so often the case, the real joy in this is watching Team Stelmach spin. First up - Cindy Ady, famous for her work on the Idaho-Alberta Transboundary Task Force:
Tourism Minister Cindy Ady told reporters that her department wasn't involved in the rebranding campaign
Silly reporters. Assuming the Department of Tourism would handle a 25 million dollar tourism rebranding campaign.
But the real all-star spin doctor is Tom Olsen:
When the story about the controversial photo was first published earlier this week in an Edmonton newspaper, the Alberta government stood by the use of the images.
"There's no attempt to make people think that this is Alberta," Tom Olsen, a spokesman for Premier Ed Stelmach, told the Edmonton Journal.
Yes! What idiot would jump to the conclusion that a picture on a Tourism Alberta poster, with the word "ALBERTA" scrolled over it, was a picture of Alberta?
But Tom soon backed down, and was singing a different (albeit equally amusing) song yesterday:
However, in an interview yesterday, Mr. Olsen said the still advertisement was "an error" and was quietly yanked a few weeks ago. The Premier's office wasn't notified about the decision to pull it until yesterday afternoon, he explained.
Mr. Olsen said the government still supports using the image in the promotional video. "It's symbolic of the future children and the world," he said.
Symbolic of the future children and the world? I'm not even sure what that means...
In the words of NDP leader Brian Mason "Most lame spin ever".
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Taxe sur toutes les choses
The Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey indicates that 30 per cent of respondents nationwide are less likely to vote Liberal in the next election as a result of the party leader's reflections on taxes last week; only 16 per cent are more likely to support the Grits.
The damage was most pronounced in Atlantic Canada and British Columbia, where 44 per cent and 40 per cent respectively were less likely to vote Liberal.
However, the poll suggests Ignatieff's tax talk went down well in Quebec, where 29 per cent of respondents were more likely to vote Liberal and only 10 per cent less likely.
Yes, who would have thought when you asked people if Ignatieff raising their taxes would make them more likely to vote for Liberal, they'd say "uhh...duh...no".Well, except in Quebec where by a 3 to 1 ratio they said it made them more likely to vote for Ignatieff.
There's only one conclusion to be reached from this: it is imperative that the Liberal Party promise to tax Quebecers in the next election. I would suggest a 2% sales tax to be applied only in La Belle Province.
Hell, use the money to bail out the oil sands and this could prove to be a vote winner in both Quebec and the West...
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Ain't gonna happen.
Not a chance.
As much as the NDP would love a PR referendum, they couldn't even get that deal out of Paul Martin when he was desperately trying to cling to power in 2005. So given the Liberals are maybe-kinda thinking about voting down Harper sometime in the fall, it's not like he has a gun to his head.
And it makes absolutely no sense for Harper to sign on. Since the rise of the CCF, first past the post has been exceedingly kind to the Conservatives. They won the only two Gore Elections (lose popular vote, but win), in 1957 and 1979. And with governing coalitions the norm in a PR system, it has to concern Conservatives that their popular vote exceeded the Liberal-NDP vote in just two elections over that time period.
Now, that's not to say they'd only be in government for 8 years out of every 60. You could argue that a Conservative-NDP coalition would have been the logical end result in 2006. Or maybe they could try to go at it solo in a minority or form a grand coalition every now and then. But if Conservatives hate the compromises they've had to make now, it seems odd that they'd give away any chance of ever forming a majority government and condemn themselves to perpetual deal-making with the socialists and tree huggers.
NDP supporter Robert McCelland does prescribe a motive for Harper:
Harper’s coalition of reformers and red tories is fracturing once again. Proportional representation would allow these two factions to separate and pursue their own agendas without losing a disproportionate number of seats like they would under the current first past the post system. The right half of the political spectrum would essentially then have the same dynamic as the left with the red tories battling the liberals in the centre while the reformers pulled to the right in the same way the new democrats now pull to the left. Without the reformer baggage the red tories would then have a far greater chance of pulling support over to them from the liberals.
And that is probably what would happen eventually in a PR system. But you need to ask yourself this: If Stephen Harper's legacy is that he was the man who united the Conservative movement in Canada, why, oh why, would he want to also be the man who oversees the destruction of that party? Especially when you consider the PC/Ref/CA vote never matched the Liberal vote in three previous attempts, never mind the Liberal/NDP vote.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Results for People...When our Polling Numbers Drop
OTTAWA — The House of Commons should spend the next couple of months focusing on reforms to employment insurance and pensions, not electioneering, NDP Leader Jack Leader says.
It's a significant change in tactics for Mr. Layton, who portrayed himself as executioner-in-chief of the Harper Conservatives through a raucous winter run that threatened to topple the minority government at every turn.
Quite the change, eh?
New Democrats unleashed the first in a series of radio ads Thursday lambasting the newly minted Liberal leader for propping up Stephen Harper's minority Conservative government.
But the NDP ads drip with withering scorn for Ignatieff's decision to allow the federal budget to pass, albeit with conditions.
"Some things just don't change," intones a woman in one ad.
"Another Conservative budget rubber stamped by another Liberal leader. It's official: Michael Ignatieff failed his first big test as Liberal leader. He's thrown his lot in with Stephen Harper."
The ad portrays NDP Leader Jack Layton as the only political leader who can be trusted to look out for average families.
"Jack Layton's the only leader strong enough to stand up to Harper."
As discussed before, policy debate took place online for the first time ever - a welcome change since it gave everyone the opportunity to participate. And it appears to have been a big success, with close to 1,000 Liberals participating, almost 25,000 votes cast, and some resolutions drawing 80 or 90 posts about them. Considering the number of people who skip policy workshops at a convention, that's not bad.
The problem, as also previously discussed, is that rather than using this vote to prioritize policies, the Council of Presidents were the ones entrusted with this most sacred of duties.
So it's probably fair to examine how the policies chosen differ from those voted in by members. Well, as you might expect, the results are mixed:
The four most popular online policies were all voted in by the Council of Presidents, although numbers 5 and 6 were not. Of the 13 winners from the online vote, 9 of them will be debated in Vancouver. The four "upsets" are:
In Agriculture - "Natural resources" (18.6% prioritized, third place) over "Supporting agricultural producers and expanding trade" (26.2%).
In Education - "Improving child care and parental leave for Canadians" (12.3%, third place) over "Creating a national system of early learning and childcare" (29.2%).
In Social Policy - "Reducing child poverty" (13.3%, third place) over "Poverty reduction & guaranteed annual income strategies" (32.4%).
In Health and Aging - "Aging with dignity" (9.5%, fourth place) over "Preserving high quality health care" (35.7%).
In Animal Rights - "A Ban on the Duck Hunt" (8th place) over "An End to Shark Hunting" (1st place). [sorry, sorry, but this policy stuff is just so dry otherwise...]
Now, just by looking at the titles, you can see that the general thrust of most of these is similar (big surprise - Liberals like child care and don't like poverty). The only really suspect choice would be "aging with dignity" but en famille users are probably a tad younger than riding presidents, so it's not too shocking.
More surprising are the four "bonus" policies that found their way to Vancouver. By my count, 17 policies that were debated in the 13 online workshops were prioritized...I'll plead ignorance as to the exact mechanism that led to this, but it did allow a few suspect policies to make it through, the most obvious examples being:
1. The "regional development" policy (general support for regional development), which gathered a whooping 0.8% of the prioritized votes in its workshop, and was only approved by 63% of all members who voted on it.
2. The "human rights commission" policy (it's a bit complicated, so read it for yourself if you're interested), which finished dead last in the Justice workshop, and was only approved by 51% of Liberals.
Either way, it's probably not a huge deal since the policy process doesn't really lead anywhere in the end. But, because it's not a huge deal, you should be giving the grassroots a real say in it - especially when a thousand Liberals took the time to debate the policies and vote on an average of 25 policies each.
And, if you look at the results, fears that the online vote would prioritize a slew of "radical" policies like legalized marijuana or abolishing the monarchy proved to be unfounded.
There are a lot of changes that need to be made to the policy process for future conventions, and I would hope that giving the grassroots a larger say is one of them.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
You May Now Be Seated - The Tory Race to Replace Tory
I'll be back at some point during the race with website reviews but for now, here's what's making news so far:
-Stephen Taylor has interviews with Christine Elliott and Tim Hudak.
-Taylor also reports that Randy Hillier has proposed dropping the "P" from PC. I haven't seen a public confirmation anywhere, but Hillier's "A Conservative Leader for a Conservative Party" slogan would certainly imply that.
-Hudak has the early lead on the endorsement front, with 12 MPPs backing him, compared to 2 for Elliott and Klees, and none for Hillier.
-Of note, Rob Nicholson and John Baird have gone against their Cabinet colleague Flaherty, and are supporting Hudak.
-In the "media buzz" department, things are surprisingly close - Hudak has been in 301 google news stories, Hillier 288, Elliott 277, and Klees 269.
-Looking at "blog buzz", Hudak (155) tops Hillier (141), Elliott (128), and Klees (91).
-Looking at their websites' Alexa rank over the past month, Hillier (1.6 million) and Hudak (2.1 million) have the top sites, with Elliott (4.0 million) and Klees (7.5 million) further back.
The Ongoing WOMOV Saga
A few weeks ago, there was a change to the amendment procedure where instead of a 50% vote up front, the YLC amendment would need two-third after....zzzzz....yeah....I know. Thrilling stuff. But it did matter, in the sense that this change would have probably killed the YLC amendment.
Well, I have it on good authority that today that the LPC has reverted back to the original voting procedure. I'll be sure to post further confirmation once I get it since I know you're all on pins and needles on this one.
Friday, April 17, 2009
Game Theory in Canadian Politics
His slightly more valid point is that Ignatieff doesn't enjoy the same benefit Harper does of being able to stroll over to the GG's to ask for an election whenever it strikes his fancy (man, we should really have some sort of fixed election date law or something to prevent that, eh?). So Iggy will need Bloc and NDP votes to force an election. But, really, this shouldn't be too hard. Jack's given the Liberals such a hard time for propping up Harper that he's going to look like a complete moron if he starts singing "backing down and loving it" himself. And Mr. "I will never make a deal with the separatists" would have a bit of 'splaining to do, if he has to rely on Gilles Duceppe to keep his government afloat.
And, realistically, how long could the Tories survive on Bloc or NDP support alone? One month? Three months? Short of a formal coalition deal (hmm...), eventually an issue will come along where the opposition parties decide to take Harper out. Or, failing that, a poll will come along that encourages them to.
Now, that's not to say the Liberals necessarily should pull the plug anytime soon. But I think Dr. Tom may have over-estimated Harper's ability to survive in this parliament without Liberal support.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Vancouver, B.C. – The numbers are in and British Columbia voters are giving a big thumbs up to electoral reform with 65 per cent saying they will vote for BC-STV in the upcoming referendum on May 12. That is the top line result of a major survey conducted by Angus Reid Strategies. Support for a new way of electing our MLAs is particularly strong among younger voters – those 18 to 34 – at 74 per cent.
Now, before people get all wound up on this one, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, the poll is over a month old. Second, according to this recap, the poll was partially loaded up by asking people to rank a series of (largely pro-STV) voting system characteristics first. And the fact that STV support is strongest with young voters - who don't usually vote - will also hurt its chances of passing.
If we compare to the last election four years ago, the April Ipsos poll had STV at 53% among decided voters, with their May poll at 57%, and the referendum question drawing 58% support in the end. So there's certainly some growth potential, especially if we assume that people grow fonder of the system as they learn more about it. Add it all up, and the odds probably favour STV passing, but it's hardly a done deal.
And, as for the system itself?
My biggest beef with a lot of the electoral reform ideas out there, like mixed-member, is that you'd have a class of MPs not directly elected and, as a result, not directly accountable to the voters. STV keeps the accountability and principles of FPTP in play, but should produce a more representative outcome.
So while I do like first past the post, there's something to be said for making BC the guinea pig of Canada, and seeing how the system works there.
The Long and Winding Road
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Coming Soon to an Attack Ad Near You
While I usually line up on the left in a two-party race, I'll be rooting for Campbell in this one. The man showed some boldness with his carbon tax budget last year, and it would be a shame to see the policy claim another political career.
According to the most recent polls, the Grits enter this one with a 6-point lead, so the election is definitely up for grabs:
Labels: BC Votes
Monday, April 13, 2009
Some may think the annual Hill Times survey is a bit silly but, after a year that included a sex scandal, an election, a Liberal leadership change, and the coalition insanity, isn't it somewhat comforting to see that, despite all this turmoil, Pablo Rodriguez is still judged to have the best hair in Ottawa?
Sexiest male: Peter MacKay
Sexiest female: Rona Ambrose
Best-dressed female: Helena Guergis, Rona Ambrose, Ruby Dhalla
Best-dressed male: Maxime Bernier
Worst-dressed male: Irwin Cotler
Worst-dressed female: Libby Davies
Best sense of humour on the Hill: Peter Stoffer
Worst sense of humour on the Hill: Stephen Harper
Best public speaker: Michael Ignatieff
Best Cabinet minister in Question Period: John Baird
Most effective MP in Question Period: Michael Ignatieff
Best in scrums: Bob Rae
Hippest MP: Justin Trudeau
Most quotable MP: Stephen Harper
Throws the best Hill parties: Peter Stoffer
Best fundraiser: Stephen Harper
Biggest gossip: Pierre Poilievre
Biggest self-promoter: Jack Layton
Best constituency MP: Charlie Angus, Jim Karygiannis
Hardest working MP: Pierre Poilievre
Most influential Cabinet Minister: Jim Prentice
Best hair - male: Pablo Rodriguez
Best hair - female: Rona Ambrose
Sunday, April 12, 2009
1. This walk score site is pretty neat - just type in an address and it tells you how walking-friendly the place is (based on proximity to stores, restaurants, etc).
It turns out 24 Sussex isn't the best place to live if you don't have a chauffeur...it scores a lowly 29 out of 100. However, before the Harpers consider a move, the alternative isn't any better.
2. The off-kilter F-U Penguin blog is quite a riot. "A blog where I tell cute animals what's what" (hat tip - CW)
3. Via the Onion, Obama Depressed, Distant Since 'Battlestar Galactica' Series Finale. As for my thoughts, the finale was beautifully executed and provided closure - an "A" episode right up to the discovery of old earth. However, I had a major problem with the take-home message which was, in effect, that it was better to wipe the slate clean and to commit civilizational suicide. To me, that said they could not learn from what they'd been through and added an element of pointlessness to the entire struggle - as a society, they just gave up...at a time when giving up was irrational.
4. James Bow has a lengthy treatise on partisanship up on his blog that's well worth a read. I know it's a bit cliche to bemoan partisanship in the political system, but maybe we would be better off if we all toned down a bit.
Being blindly partisan is fun when it comes to something like cheering for a hockey team because the whole concept is illogical and trivial in the first place, so why not go all in (yes, the referee is always biased against the team I'm cheering for)? But government and governance matter. So while there's clearly a place for partisanship in our system (it gets people to run, vote, and pay attention), I think we'd be better off if the partisanship we saw wasn't quite so dogmatic. Parties are institutions and politicians are people - institutions and people have flaws. Maybe, just maybe, one party isn't always right and the other one isn't always wrong.
5. Speaking of which - hockey predictions! Yes, yes, I know this isn't off-topic since the politicians will certainly find a way to climb over the boards, but regardless, here goes: Boston, Washington, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, Anaheim, Detroit, Vancouver, and Chicago all advance. Canucks over Devils in the final.
Friday, April 10, 2009
LPC Ammendments and Policies Online
But there is some more internal Liberal news out there with the LPC releasing the constitutional amendments and policies that will be voted on the first weekend at May by Liberals in Vancouver. If 40 pages of constitutional amendments to debate and vote upon doesn't boost convention attendance, I don't know what will!
The Globe summarizes some of the policies here (and, surprise, surprise, guess which policy they're drawn to? The carbon tax has become our own abortion issue it seems), while DT gives her preliminary run-down here - I'll have more later.
Wednesday, April 08, 2009
Main Entry: moral compass
Part of Speech: n
Definition: anything which serves to guide a person's decisions based on morals or virtues
Example: Hopefully, the lawyer has a moral compass.
The latest chapter in the Brian Mulroney saga has Stephen Harper attacking Michael Ignatieff for lacking a "moral compass". I'm not completely sure I follow Harper's logic but here's what he said:
“Mr. Ignatieff and the Liberal Party, when this matter first broke, were practically demanding that I throw Mr. Mulroney in prison without a trial. Now they're out there pretending that somehow they're his best friends and they don't agree with any of this. I think what Canadians will see is when it comes to a very difficult issue of government conduct and government ethics, this government has behaved responsibly and the other party, the other leader, has absolutely no moral compass.”
Now, I can think of a few possible meanings to what Harper is saying here:
1. Anyone who defends Brian Mulroney or calls him on his birthday has no moral compass. On that point, who among us can argue?
2. Trying to create internal divisions in another party would only be done by a sick individual lacking a moral compass.
3. Calling an inquiry that might potentially embarrass a former Prime Minister of one's own party is a sign of a strong moral compass.
4. Conservative research has found that Michael Ignatieff enjoys torturing puppies. And Brian Mulroney loves to watch.
Then again, maybe I'm missing something in Harper's argument.
In fairness, there's probably some truth that the Liberals have spun around a bit on the Mulroney issue, but it's not like Harper has been Mr. Consistency on this either.
Tuesday, April 07, 2009
This Week in Alberta - Special Tuesday Budget Edition!
Ed Stelmach(February 23, 2008): “A Progressive Conservative government will never put Alberta back into a deficit position”
April 7, 2009: Alberta to post $4.7B deficit
After 15 consecutive balanced budgets, Alberta has plunged into deficit. And it's a doozy - nearly five billion dollars.
In fairness to the PCs, few saw this coming (CG last year: "with a low balled estimate of $78 a barrel oil, I'd expect a multi-billion dollar "unexpected" surplus"), but much of this is because they chose to cut when it was cheap to spend and chose to spend when it was expensive to spend. But irrespective of how much blame they deserve, if you're going to pass gimicky balanced-budget laws, you deserve to be criticized for breaking your own law. Especially when you increase spending by 12% the previous year.
Among the highlights:
-The government is projecting a 2% contraction in the economy this year, followed by 1.8% growth next year.
-If resource revenues do not increase this year, the government has said they will either raise taxes or slash spending to make up 2 billion dollars. Neither option would be a particularly attractive one.
-The Herald falls victim to government spin, proclaiming "the Stelmach government has cut about $400,000 from overall spending, reducing expenditures to a projected $36.4 billion" - yes, that's a 0.001% cut in spending. Even that claim is dubious since there are 3.7% spending increases across the board.
-Reading the recap on the government's plans for the environment is a tad depressing - 8 million less here, 10 million more there. It's clear that the PCs see the environment as about a big a priority for Alberta as having a strong navy.
But really, there isn't a lot to comment on. The budget largely follows the course laid out last year, with a bit more money here and a bit less there. It's a status quo budget which might be newsworthy in itself, given the huge shifts in spending and priorities we've seen elsewhere in the face of the recession.
For more on the budget, click here.
Labels: Alberta budget
Monday, April 06, 2009
One Member, One Vote, Several Opinions
As you may have heard, the Liberal Party will be voting on changing its leadership selection process from the current system of choosing the leader at delegated conventions (when we feel like it), to a weighted one member one vote system (WOMOV). This is basically the system the Tories use - every riding gets 100 points and if you win half the riding you get 50 points, if you win a quarter of a riding you get 25 points...the math is fairly easy to figure out so I don't think I need to include any other examples.
So what do I think about this and the proposal to set "youth quotas"? What system would I like to see? Glad you asked!
The Leadership Selection Process
First off, I don't think the current system is quite the affront to democracy it's often made out to be. For all intents and purposes, we currently have a WOMOV system since, instead of 100 points, every riding gets X delegates. In both cases, the points and delegates are divided based on the percentage of votes a candidate receives.
So if you "cleaned up" the current system by removing ex-officios and delegates from clubs and commissions, the only difference would be that the delegated convention transfers the second choice vote from everyone to Liberals elected as delegates.
It also has the added benefit of making for one hell of an exciting show - and I don't think that's something that should be discounted completely when it comes to getting Canadians and Liberals excited about the party and the new leader.
That said, WOMOV is a fairer system, so I'd be supportive of making the change.
The Young Liberals have proposed amending WOMOV to WOMOVW25QFY - Weighted one member one vote, with 25% quotas for youth. In short, at least 25 points in every riding would be reserved for youth. I know a few of my young Liberal friends will disagree with me on this one, but I'm not a big fan of this amendment.
For starters, it really defeats the entire purpose of "one member, one vote", and if you argue there should be quotas for youth, there's no valid reason to argue there shouldn't be quotas for the other commissions - that means points for women, seniors, and aboriginals. Hell, it also means there's no valid reason to argue there shouldn't also be quotas for immigrants, farmers, or bloggers.
But the main reason I don't like this amendment is that I don't think it's needed. Youth still get their delegate spot quotas for conventions which means they still have their previous influence when it comes to policy, party executive positions, and constitutional amendments (such as this one). The main argument for having youth delegate quotas before was that it got more young people to conventions, getting them excited about the party, and making them members for life. Is there anyone out there who can really say that a youth who knows his or her vote is worth 1.5 points is going to be more excited than a youth who knows their vote is worth 1.3 points?
In the end, if the intent of WOMOV is to democratize the party, then let's go all the way on it.
My System of Choice
As mentioned above, WOMOV lacks some of the excitement you get from conventions. So, to remedy this, I'd propose the following version of WOMOV (copied somewhat from the primary system):
1. Carve the country up into, say, 30 regions of around 10 ridings each - so, for example, Edmonton would be a region, BC Interior would be a region and so on...it doesn't really matter how you divide them up.
2. Randomly divide up the voting schedule so that it takes place over 4 weeks. I'd set it up where you had 2 regions voting the first week, 4 the second week, and then 12 each of the last two.
3. On the final weekend, you could also hold a series of provincial or regional "mini-conventions" that anyone would be free to attend, to watch the results come in - this would include the reading of the second choice votes if candidates fail to reach the necessary majority on the first ballot.
This would give you the New Hampshire/Iowa/Super Tuesday excitement of the US primary system condensed over a month and, since the order would be drawn at random, it wouldn't favour any one particular region. You'd get Canadians more excited in the entire process, compensating for the loss of convention pizazz.
My sense is that there's enough support for WOMOV that it will pass at the convention. So the real question becomes what kind of WOMOV system we get.
A BCer in Toronto
Far and Wide
Saturday, April 04, 2009
The Race is On
I may have more to say on some of these races later but, for now, here's a list of the candidates:
(if I missed a website link, just send it to me and I'll update - the websites aren't all up yet, but I've included them anyways as a reference to check back on later)
President: Alfred Apps (acclaimed)
VP Francais: Fabrice Rivault, Brigitte Garceau, Ryan Hillier
VP English: Stephen Kukucha, Daryl Fridhandler
Policy Chair: Joan Bourassa, Maryanne Kampouris, Hélène Chalifour Scherrer
National Membership Secretary: Rob Jamieson (acclaimed)
President: John Lennard, Kerry Nelson, Sam Lavoie
VP Finance: Andrew Block (acclaimed)
VP Organization: Elyse Banham (acclaimed)
VP External: Tom Chervinsky, Aamar Yaseen
Vice-President, Communications: Braeden Caley (acclaimed)
VP Policy: Pierre-Luc Lacoste, Timothy Smith
MacKay to Stay
Friday, April 03, 2009
This Week in Alberta - The March To Formal One-Party Statehood!
As if 40 years of one-party rules wasn't bad enough, the opposition parties appear to be crumbling at a time when (in theory) the PCs should be vulnerable.
Exhibit A is the Alberta Liberal Party, which will lay off its final two staff members on April 30th.
Exhibit B is the Alberta Green Party, who now face deregistration from Elections Alberta. In a comment on Gauntlet's blog post on the topic, party leader Joe Anglin admits "The financial problems with the Green Party are significant and they go far deeper than just failing to file a year-end financial statement."
It's one thing for the PCs to keep winning - maybe they deserve it. But even Conservatives have to agree that a democracy can't function properly if there's not a functional opposition to keep the government's feet to the fire.
In Other News...
Ted Morton's fourth annual golf 'n gun fundraiser is coming up!
And Enlightened Savage gives his assessment of the Calgary West AGM fall-out.
UPDATE: Via TPB, comes news of a new Angus Reid poll:
I'd say that pretty much confirms that there's no real opposition left in Alberta. Even if the NDP and Alliance are healthier financially than the other aforementioned parties, they're still not in a position to win more than half a dozen seats between them - and that's being wildly optimistic.
Thursday, April 02, 2009
You're My Obsession
For a higher resolution copy of the Tory one, click here. For the Liberal one, click here. (I also have a pdf version - e-mail me for it)
Harper Misses Photo-Op
Wednesday, April 01, 2009
I Don't Want To Get Off On A Rant Here...
Exclusive: Roll Up The Attack Ads
The twist to this one is that it won't feature TV commercials - instead the the Tories have signed a multi-million dollar sponsorship deal with Tim Hortons. [Gosh, I wonder how much Patrick Muttart state-of-the-art polling it took them to figure out this was the best way to reach the Tim Hortons crowd, eh?]
The face of the campaign will be "Lenny the Leaf" (pictured above). Lenny will be on every Tim Hortons coffee cup coast-to-coast (only he'll be "Pierre le Poisson" au Quebec) - the cups will be equipped with heat sensors, so that once the coffee begins to cool, Lenny will shout out "hey you" and then recite facts about Ignatieff as customers drink their coffee.
While I don't have a list of the specific "facts" the Tory war room has dug up, I'll suggest the following, in the spirit of this campaign:
"Michael Ignatieff prefers NFL-rules football"
"Michael Ignatieff does not own a tuque"
"Michael Ignatieff went to a philosophy lecture rather than watch game 8 of the Summit Series"
"Michael Ignatieff does not enjoy talking about the weather"
"Michael Ignatieff enjoys Coors Light"
"Michael Ignatieff, when he gets bumped into by accident, does not apologize"
I also have it on good authority the Tories have pitched the idea of having specialty puffin shaped donuts sold (with a hidden tax on them), but it's unclear if Tim Hortons will go for this or not.
My initial reaction is that this one will backfire spectacularly, but the Tory attack machine has a good track record, so I may be wrong. I'll be sure to post more information as it leaks out.