Thursday, September 29, 2011

Green Shoots

Lately, I've wondered whether we Liberals are even capable of a real revolutionary spirit, whenever faced with stark- and to my mind irrefutable- realities we always fall back on some optimistic scenario, borne of external developments, to brighten up our sober landscape. We talk about the Liberal "grassroots", but I would describe it as feeble in scope and influence, this is clearly a party that takes direction from the top, everyone seems to have a title or considers themselves "connected", it's a real bizarre climate, but maybe that's just me.

I'm not going to read too much into this FRESH development, but from a purely feisty perspective, Boris Wrzesnewskyj maybe the start of exactly what is needed:
Wrzesnewskyj said 2013 is a critical opportunity for the party to show it is ready to represent Canadian values and the ideals that led it to become one of the most successful parties in the history of democracy.

He noted that it was the Liberals that pushed forward the idea of multiculturalism, a just society, and peacekeeping, but that success brought its own problems.

“Success attracts people, and often very capable people, with wrong motivations,” he said. “We’ll see over the next two years whether we can jettison that group, because they are like an anchor.”

Wrzesnewskyj blames that group for the party’s declining election returns and a legacy that dampens its future prospects. And it is a future he is optimistic about.

“I haven’t given up on the Liberal Party. There is no other party in Western democracy such as ours. They are all parties of the right or left,” he said.

“The Liberal Party is not a party of ideology—it’s a reflection of Canadian history, of accommodation.”

While other parties are guided by ideology, the Liberals are, at their best, guided by ideals, said Wrzesnewskyj.

“That’s why it would be such a shame to lose the Liberal Party of Canada as a consequence of being highjacked by a so-called party establishment.”

I'm not sure the party has been "hijacked" as much as it's inability to appeal and inspire has left it largely impotent on the ground level. After years of failing to bring in new blood and let it blossom, hardly surprising we are largely left with same old as alternatives, really a byproduct of marginal infusion, due to lack of inspiration and motivation.

I'm not endorsing Wrzesnewskyj necessarily, but I appreciate the reform mentality, we need voices that actually do step on toes, that are prepared to blast the status quo, don't mind being controversial Things may actually be getting interesting in Liberal land.... thankfully in my view.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I Know Who Lost

In my mind, last night's debate was Hudak's only chance to convince Ontario voters that he was Premier in waiting material, he had the chops to the lead the province. Hudak failed on that score, and in so doing is the big loser coming out of last night's debate. We can quibble about "who won" the debate, but nobody can convince me it was Hudak, and given his abysmal campaign to date, anything less is worrying for PC prospects.

I said yesterday that a draw probably worked to McGuinty's advantage, if the pre-debate polls are accurate. Given the dynamics, McGuinty was bound to be on the defensive, so expectations were viewed within that reality. Last night, I felt that McGuinty started slow and looked stilted- they all did- but as the debate progressed, he built up a more natural lather and looked in command by the end. Apparently my perrceptions weren't clouded by partisanship because Ipsos Reid found results which largely mirror my thoughts. A solid night for the Premier, he did what was required within a stale debate that wasn't particularly remarkable.

Horwath did well, and by that I mean, she made a good first impression, which Ipsos also found. The NDP are the wildcard in this election, literally the balance of power could be in their hands, whether it be stopping a majority or being part of a minority arrangment. There was nothing last night that suggests the NDP support will fade, so in that sense perhaps a net negative for the Liberal cause. People are already making the federal comparisons, which I'd catergorize as intellectually lazy, given the Liberal equation bears absolutely no relationship to their federal cousins predicament. In other words, let's treat each scenario independently rather than constantly making tortured analogies.

I'd conclude that both the Liberal and NDP camps are relatively happy this morning, the PC camp wondering if it's slipped away.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Debate Watch

The all important debate in Ontario is ready to go. Polls only highlight the importance, tonight's exchange will likely decide the election, particularly because of the late timing in the campaign.

A few things I'm looking at tonight:

-Horwath is perceived as "likeable" apparently, but I would submit the vast majority of Ontarians haven't the foggiest who she is, what she stands for, her demeanour, so much so most couldn't pick her out of a police lineup. In many respects, this debate is Horwath's introduction, how she translates will be key to the NDP appearing a viable option. Should Horwath fail to impress, the Layton hangover might wane and the NDP could lose support to perceived power parties.

-People don't know Hudak very well, but they also don't seem to like the guy so much. Proof is provided by the PC campaign, which seems to be systematically taking the focus off the leader as time marches on. I've listened to a few Hudak radio interviews and he actually comes off as personable, even funny. I want to see how Hudak tries to humanize himself without it looking like a cheap pander. Nobody is giving Hudak the keys if he doesn't look a Premier in waiting, so he doesn't just have to throw mud at McGuinty, he has to look classy in the process.

-McGuinty is a known quantity, for me the key will be for him to stay cool, confident and turn attacks into diatribes on successes. Ontarians don't have to love the guy to vote for him, the past has proven that, so McGuinty needs to deflect the barrage that is coming his way from both parties.

-I expect to see Horwath and Hudak largely ignore each other, so it will be up to McGuinty to raise doubts on two fronts, he can expect to be alone in softening up his opponents. I could be wrong on this score, the format necessitates back and forth between the two opposition parties, but I expect quick pivots to turn the debate into a judgement of McGuinty.

-There is a real danger that Horwath comes away unscathed in this debate, which is a net negative for the Liberals, good news for the PC's, at least intuitively.

At this point, I would argue a draw favours McGuinty. If polls stay static post-debate, this could hurt the NDP, as some late breakers move to the more viable option. Hudak needs some momentum, so a "blah" debate won't serve his interests, this reality might give a hint of nervousness. Should Horwath win the debate, there is a scenario where the NDP could come up the middle and provide fascinating outcomes. Should be an intriguing affair...

Monday, September 26, 2011

Topp Heavy

This NDP leadership race is quite fascinating, and I'd submit not well thought out to date. The rush to Brian Topp is very much coronation in tone and purpose, he does seem the "pre-ordained choice of the establishment".

The Topp campaign are orchestrating a shock and awe type strategy, flexing their muscles in an effort to scare off credible alternatives. After Layton's death, talk of upwards of a dozen potential candidates, now the NDP looks lucky to find a serious alternative to the supposed anointed one. There are plenty of problems with this rapidly developing story, not the least of which the entire Topp movement is predicated on suspect rationale.

A month ago nobody would have considered Brian Topp a leading candidate to replace Layton, and yet here we sit with Topp skyrocketing to frontrunner, truly amazing when you sit back and digest the rapidity of it all. However, the impetus for Topp is really where the danger lies, because rather than an organic rise to prominence, he is really a creation of powerful inner circles who are reacting to Mulcair, he's an answer to the perceived heir. The quick co-ordination isn't about inspiration but more about blocking the more natural choice. This "establishment" move comes with terrific risk, because the rush to Topp looks reactive, as though someone was picked that has the necessary pedigree to undercut someone else who is perceived as unattractive. The pitfalls are obvious, and when the dust settles, I see every possibility of buyer's remorse. The backroom boy, with the powerful friends, mount a blitzkreig to dissuade others and take the bearded one out at the knees. Doesn't sound particularly democratic, doesn't sound particularly inspiring, in fact it sounds like another certain party.

There is a clue here for my NDP friends, as this Topp tornado rips across the land. Oddly, it comes from John Ivison (who's a terrific writer when he isn't carrying Conservative water) in his piece "Can anyone stop Brian Topp?":
One thing NDP members should perhaps think about is who the Conservatives would least like to face in four years time. One senior Conservative said that he is not concerned by Mr. Topp, calling him “wooden” and lacking in charisma. Nor is he worried by the prospect of Mr. Mulcair winning, calling him “very wedge-able.” But Mr. Dewar does make him nervous. “He’s young, bilingual, telegenic and has political genealogy [his mother was mayor of Ottawa]. He has good parliamentary experience and people seem to like him. He’s the closest thing I’ve seen to a young Bob Rae.”

I agree, as I've already said, I don't understand Topp as a political natural that will resonate. I also agree that Paul Dewar is the one that has the best capacity to capitalize on recent NDP gains. Dewar has an authenticity which is rare, he's capable, measured, likeable, intelligent, young, attractive, well versed and has a common touch. Grassroots dippers would be wise to blunt the Topp train, at least enough to allow for a truly open debate, where the outcome is in considerable doubt. As it stands now, the NDP leadership race looks like dictation from the Topp, a quick "sew it up" process that people might one day look back on and shake their heads.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

What's The Point Of Voting NDP?

Okay, before you do the knee jerk partisan deduction( here goes those Liberals again), pretend for a second there were no "teams", just philosophical underpinnings. Readers of this blog will know I've long made the case that colour tends to blind actual spectrum considerations. For instance, Gary Doer was centrist, pro big business, observers agree that his government had little in common with federal NDP policies. As well, Darrell Dexter winning in Nova Scotia was really an exercise in moving the provincial NDP to the center, a fact that is irrefutable. For all the fawning from federal NDP forces, Dexter was really a repudiation of traditional NDP ground. I mention these examples because I firmly believe you could make a case that Dalton McGuinty is every bit the progressive that these supposed NDP icons are and where. In other words, forget about this colour and that, just look at the policies and you'll find little true impetus to vote NDP in this provincial election.

What are the big issues, synonymous with traditional NDP leanings? Start with unions, and you'll find that the McGuinty government has brought relative labour peace to the public sector, contrasted with the past regime, it's like night and day McGuinty has engaged with respect and the relationship has been quite cordial. As well, moving to the private sector, the fact that the head of the CAW can take the stage with McGuinty speaks VOLUMES about how the provincial Liberals have governed. A perfect record? Absolutely not, but if this was an NDP government, NDP supporters would be singing McGuinty's praises, of that I have absolutely no doubt.

I once voted NDP, primarily because I felt they were spot on when it came to the environment, the Liberals a disappointing disaster, closer to regressive than progressive by any measure. However, if you're concerned about the environment in this provincial election, there is endless evidence that these McGuinty Liberals offer the best alternative. Oh sure, we can quibble about this and that, but if you forget the partisan pom poms for a moment, you'd have to concede the Liberal agenda is progressive, dare I say REVOLUTIONARY. The fact leading environmentalists have praised the agenda, endorsed it completely, offers some independent realism apart from the partisan fog.

The NDP traditionally believe in a interventionalist government, one that actively engages in the economy. This approach is in direct contrast to the hands off, free market approach that Conservatives believe. The McGuinty government has demonstrated time and again that it sees an active role for government in the economy, there is nothing offensive in this approach from a purely philosophical NDP perspective.

I don't mean to sound smug or dismissive, but I'm starting to see this provincial election in Ontario as really more about colour than content, more about who you're predisposed to support, rather than a fair reading of the issues. On many major fronts, the red team reads like the orange team, so much so if we traded platforms, people would passionately defend. In this election, for myself, the Ontario NDP are entirely unnecessary, redundant and the points of distinction are more exaggerated for partisan purposes than true philosophical divergence.

There I said it :)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Up For Grabs

Now, that's a poll Forum Research. However, size doesn't necessarily equate to better accuracy, so I'd caution taking this poll as gospel just because of sheer volume. What this poll does show that seems consistent: Hudak has lost his lead and this election is now clearly up for grabs.

Three weeks ago Forum had it 35% PC, 30% Lib, 26% NDP and 6% Green. The latest behemoth leaves the PC's stalled, the Liberals up 5%, NDP down 3% and Greens down 1%, translating into a dead heat between the two main parties. From the Liberal perspective any evidence of NDP erosion to the Liberal camp is welcome news, to win they must drive down that NDP number.

One quibble with the pollster, they come out with seat projections, then make a prognostication about minority, even though over 25% of seats are completely in play:
If those numbers were to be repeated on Oct. 6, the Liberals and Tories would be tied at 47 seats with the NDP only holding 13 seats in the 107-member Legislature. However, the results for at least 28 ridings are within the margin of error, so seat predictions are not nearly as reliable as the total sample.

Even so, none of the parties appears likely at this point to be able to win the 54 seats needed for a majority government, which leaves Ontario poised for its first minority government since 1985.

Forum finds 26% of seats are within the margin of error, meaning there is still significant room for gains or losses. In fact, this finding leaves open the possibility of a majority, a late rush will firm up one sides ridings and could easily pull the 7 more required to sneak in with a majority. If the debate were to bring a small percentage change in vote intention, a majority is easily attainable, so I'm still not prepared to buy into the "looming" minority just yet, to early and to much evidence of volality. Let's not forget, a few weeks ago a PC majority looked a "certainty", so educated wisdom is forever leary of "looks like". Throw in what I see as a large subset of marginal support and Ontario may still yet surprise.

One argument is solidified, namely this debate will probably decide who becomes the next government. The late timing of the debate in this campaign almost guarantees any momentum would be unstoppable, heading to election day. Make or break is an understatement, given the now clear backdrop.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Bold Is Beautiful

Part of the new Liberal equation, is coming to terms with the true realities that face us. From my perspective, elements of denial and "fresh coat of paint" mentalities still exist, and a few clues to date suggest no revolutionary thinking is taking place, apart from hollow platitudes. One exception- a breath of fresh air- has been Rob Silver and his commentary. In fact, of all the voices I'm listening to chime in on Liberal reform, Silver seems to start from a necessarily sober place and the thinking develops from this realization. It's not about agreeing with all suggestions but forth, but we need more people who are pushing ideas that challenge current sensibilities, in fact that's the only posture that will stave off outright eventual extinction.

In his latest missive, Silver argues the Liberals should come out and favour legalization of drugs. The idea has "risk", and as we know Liberals are risk adverse, now so political correct to be neutered and vanilla. I still recall the disappointment when Ignatieff basically mirrored the Conservatives on marijuana legalization, stale, bland, and not compelling in the least.

If Liberals are to re-energize their brand we need to step on some toes, we need to dare to offend. Liberals shouldn't be reckless in this regard, but we should adopt policy that is intellectually logical, coherent positions that provides philosophical foundation. I'm not sure legalizing all drugs is on the table, but at the very least Liberals should counter the Conservatives, stop playing defence and take some progressive stands that speak to conviction, rather than pandering nothingness. The kicker for Liberals, there is actually a reservoir of public opinion that favours decriminalization of soft drugs, so bold isn't really all that outlandish.

The war on drugs has failed. Why not develop a policy that favours legalizing marijuana, then perhaps use the proceeds for further education, particularly when it comes to more harmful drugs? What if Liberals devised a position wherein half of all new tax revenue went into educating teens about the dangers of crystal meth, or even why marijuana should be avoided? The other half of newfound tax revenue could go to policing for other more serious crimes. In other words, the entire premise would be revenue neutral, all monies collected from legalizing marijuana put back into the system to give young people more information, police more tools to defend citizens. I'm just throwing this idea out as one possible direction, moreso as a general way to show a way to pivot off the obvious wedge issue. In this way, legalizing marijuana becomes a positive in society, and all it requires is common sense in realizing that marijuana is here to stay, past polices forever doomed to fail.

Rather than reacting to the Conservative agenda- even worse MIRRORING in some cases- why not develop a true pushback position, that challenges everyone and demands some serious rethink? Liberals need to adopt some colour, and on drugs were are the most boring of beige. I firmly believe we can move public opinion over time, particularly with a serious strategy that addresses the entire status quo position. All that is required from Liberals: a certain moxy that confidently articulates deemed wise policy, without worrying about stirring the pot. Step one for Liberals is stop trying to be all things to all people, because you end up being pretty much nothing to everybody. Advocating marijuana legalization, woven within a policy with many tenticles, would be a good start...

Thursday, September 15, 2011


In the Toronto Sun no less:

Looks an accurate depiction.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Say Anything

Let's keep it real, politicians are forever exaggerating, downplaying, even misrepresenting on occasion, all in the name of projecting a subjective truth that speaks to self interest. This reality partially explains voter cynicism, we see our elected officials as more salesman than honest brokers, which is unfortunate. With purity a non starter, the discussion then moves to a question of degree. Where is the line where partisan relative focus becomes outright lying and deceit, utter fabrication that simply has no factual basis?

The Progressive Conservatives "Changebook" platform has been savaged for it's overt dishonesty, and rightfully so. The CCPA provides a stunning rebuke of the PC platform:
In fact, not one of the 13 graphs is completely labelled and sourced, consistently scaled, and accurately graphed. This consistent failure to accurately and completely present the empirical data cannot be ascribed to sloppiness or typographical errors. The statistical graphs in the changebook have been presented in ways that are clearly unacceptable in normal academic or professional practice. They consistently mislead the reader about the relative proportions of the variables being discussed. The changebook’s graphs reflect a consistent willingness to bend the statistical truth, and a disrespect for normal standards of honesty and transparency in written work. From a group that aims to govern the province, this
pattern is deeply concerning.

Now, apologists will look at this source itself and be dismissive, but since we are dealing with empirical concerns, that's more denial than fair read. The Hudak PC's have taken misinformation to a new low, wherein the whole book reads like an utter pack of lies, pure propaganda with no relationship to reality whatsoever. In fact, almost every independent observer who has poured over the PC platform can see troubling assertions, MATH, conclusions.

We are electing a new government. While voters have become accustomed to distortions, the PC's have introduced fabrication as the cornerstone of their message, they are trying to get elected, based on utter bullshit. This blatant disregard for honesty brings into question character, ethics and fitness to lead? Apparently, platforms are now works of fiction, and it simply comes down to selling prowess, factual basis a laughable afterthought.

I am waiting to see how media endorsements shakeout in this campaign. Should any publication actually ENDORSE this disingenuous document, people can rightly conclude said entity has ceased to have applied ANY journalistic standard. This is "CHANGE" nobody should believe in, nor condone.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Job Killer

In politics, once you are forced to argue beyond neat soundbites, you've probably lost the battle. For instance, when one politician comes to town and SIMPLY announces 200 new jobs to a region with plus 9 percent unemployment, that is a slam dunk optical winner. When his opponent comes to town and says he will kill said jobs in the region with plus 9 percent unemployment, due to this and that in the details, he's lost in almost embarrassing fashion:
Hudak vows to kill Samsung green energy deal, 200 jobs

LONDON, ONT.—Tim Hudak was unapologetic Tuesday when he said he’d kill the Liberal government’s $7-billion green energy deal with Samsung — and 200 local jobs.

“We can’t afford it,” the Progressive Conservative leader said on radio station Newstalk 1290 CJBK, referring to the controversial pact with the South Korean manufacturing giant, which he blames for rising electricity rates as Ontario heads toward the Oct. 6 election.

Last week Samsung executives appeared with Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty in London to announce a new 200-employee plant that will make solar panels in the city, which is struggling for new jobs with a 9.1 per cent unemployment rate.

There is one headline you never want, the one that includes the words JOBS and KILL. Hudak can argue his case, the wider economic argument, but in essence he appears to be advocating KILLING new jobs, because he doesn't like the terms. Unemployed workers in London don't give a rats ass about the terms, what they care about is that the Liberals are offering new jobs, new industry, to counter years of erosion. If the PC braintrust were smart, when McGuinty announced the revised terms pre-writ they would have softened their opposition, but instead they remain stubbornly steadfast.

This issue is a loser all day long, the more Hudak wants to talk about it, the better. Ontarians realize that we've lost many manufacturing jobs and they are NEVER coming back. While the details of the agreement might be a bit of a hard swallow in one sense, the deal still represents a Premier actively trying to lure new investment, progressive employment, as we reinvent our economy. It is simply comical to have Tim Hudak in a local riding, telling voters that he will axe a deal, which will bring economic advantage to the region. Great strategy.


Before the Ontario election campaign began in earnest, the Progressive Conservatives enjoyed a double digit lead, many basically declared the Liberals dead and that was that. Trouble was, we still actually had to go through the motions of a pesky campaign, and lo and behold things have changed already, in dramatic fashion, in a way few would have predicted. The once insurmountable Progressive Conservative lead has dramatically evaporated, from romp to panic, polls now show a dead heat at best, a Liberal lead at worst.

Yesterday, two more polls from Nanos and Ipsos, both tell a similar story, reinforcing other results as well. One huge caution, don't make the same mistake made prior, these numbers are fluid and one misstep here, a gaffe there, it could move back quite easily. It really does look like the coming debate will be the key moment, as it usually the case, no revelation there. Perhaps a bit more pointed this time, if only because Hudak desperately needs a strong performance to offset this erosion, should he look ordinary, things will cement themselves.

The real wildcard continues to be the NDP. Polls show historically strong numbers to date, but they also show a very distinct third place position. When push comes to shove, should the NDP not look a realistic option, we could see some movement to the Liberals. The Liberal strategy from here on out has to see if there is any opportunity to poach a few points off the NDP, that will be key. I also recognize the NDP strategy, so no assuming anything here or typical Liberal mindset, but there is always risk of decline when you're trailing.

There are so many scenarios now in play, it's silly to predict an outcome. However, certain things are clear: namely the Hudak campaign has to be feeling quite nervous, having watched a massive lead evaporate so quickly. Will the PC's respond with calm confidence or does panic mode start to set in as they are put on the defensive? The PC's ads clearly aren't working, their leader is looking every bit a DUD, they've created bizarre wedge issues, media coverage has been dismissive, it actually looks to be unravelling quickly.

On the other hand, if someone had told Liberals two months ago that at worst they would be tied, at best starting to run away, after a week of the election campaign, it would have been a beyond wildest dreams proposition. And yet, here we are, with much campaign to go.... So far, so good.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Not Feeling It

With the endorsement of Ed Broadbent- and all the structural weight that carries- the prospects of Brian Topp actually winning the NDP leadership just became more probable, he may even be the front runner. A lot will depend on the campaign, but now Topp is firmly positioned at the center of the debate. I admit, I'm a bit flabbergasted that Topp is a serious contender, even moreso that Broadbent has come out so early and enthusiastically backed his candidacy.

I've seen quite a bit of Topp, as well as read some of contributions. Smart, strategic, sauvy, Topp is clearly someone that deserves serious attention. However, the guy has never struck me as a politician, in the sense of having any gravitas necessary to resonate. In fact, Topp's dour disposition- an almost deadpan delivery- has always struck me as the prototypical backroom operative, long on political acumen, short on the overt common touch. It looks like it hurts for Topp to smile to be honest, and my instinctual reaction is that he has potential flop written all over him. Perhaps I'm missing something, but there seems nothing overtly compelling in terms of style, disposition or delivery, at least in the sense of instant frontrunner.

Is there more to this story than meets the eye? I'm not one for conspiracy theories, but the quick floating of Topp after Layton's death, the close ties to his inner circle, is he a concoction borne of a "stop Mulcair" sentiment? Seriously, when you think of successors- particularly now with Quebec's emergence- Mulcair is the first name that comes to mind, and it has been for sometime. Instead, we see a quick strike to put Topp's name into the mix, and now Broadbent comes out straight off with a gushing endorsement. Plenty of niceities directed toward Mulcair, but is Topp the bilingual counter from those who are weary of Mulcair's potential leadership? I'm inclined to think Topp has a anti-Mulcair genesis if only because he is such an AWKWARD consideration to begin with. However, when you start to wonder who could challenge Mulcair in Quebec, who has the creds that could counter his assets, then Topp starts to look plausible.

Topp running is a perplexing development in one sense, within the lens of Mulcair however, a more logical sequence begins. I'll keep an open mind moving forward to see if Topp does have the chops to be Leader of the Official Opposition, but right now I'm not feeling him at all. This candidacy looks forced and somewhat unnatural from here...

"No Us And Them, Just Us"

Worth noting, that prior to this "foreigners" debate in Ontario, the Liberals campaign slogan was already "Forward.Together". There was a reason for the theme, people appreciate the notion of all oars in the water toward a common goal. As well, there is a general sentiment that is sick and tired of divisions, bickering, people yearn for positive visions that speak to a sum greater than our parts. I thought the Liberals optical strategy was a sound one, and fortunately Tim Hudak has played right into that narrative, providing a concrete contrast which allows the Liberals to make the case:

In addition, the emphasis on working together for a common purpose, also elbows certain NDP messaging, who are championing positivity in politics. In other words, not only can the Liberals paint Hudak as divisive, negative in tone, they can also steal some NDP oxygen at the same time, which makes this issue- and the general themes surrounding- all the more crucial.

The Liberals already had a unilateral focus for their campaign, which I'm sure was based on some accurate reading of public mood, some fundamental contrast position that provided a potential attractive vision. The Progressive Conservatives have volunteered themselves in a bizarre move, they've decided to fight on this ground, seemingly unaware that they've highlighted a core thrust of their opponent. Your opponent wants to highlight "together", speaking to commonality for a brighter future, and one of your first campaign ads raises the spectre of differing classes of citizens, tries to pit certain groups against others for naked political ambitions? I'm sure the Liberal war room couldn't have dreamed of a more positive development...

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Tea Party North Is "Fair" Game

It is pretty amusing to hear some pundits SCOFF at this whole Tea Party North designation, as though mere manufactured labelling. Of course political opponents have picked up on the theme, but really only to highlight extremist tendencies which have PRACTICAL foundations. Let's just forget what partisan rivals are saying, confine ourselves to the infighting WITHIN the formerly progressive Conservatives and you see that Tea Party North is a self creation, based on events, borne of a philosophy entirely consistent with certain labels.

Last time I checked the former PROGRESSIVE CONSERVATIVE PREMIER of Ontario isn't a Liberal operative, so when he volunteers "Tea Party elements" as part of HIS own party, it carries certain weight, that deserves consideration. Perhaps more fascinating, we have a PC candidate, at the center of this radicalized debate, which embraces the comparison to the Tea Party, last NOVEMBER, well before partisans tried to unfairly paint the PC party, well before Eves provided critical mass to the discussion:
Remarks made by former Ontario PC premier Ernie Eves at an appreciation dinner for MPP Norm Sterling have shown a growing division within the Tory party.

Eves criticized his own party for failing to defend Sterling, a 34-year Queen’s Park veteran, who was ousted during the riding’s nomination process on March 31.

MacLaren, a far-right wing politician associated with the Ontario Landowners Association, won the bitter nomination battle.

“I don’t care who hears this,” said Eves. “The treatment that Norm got from his own party was not very polite, was not fair, it was not loyal, it was not compassionate, it was not even and it was not honest,” Eves said during a dinner for Sterling at the Canadian Golf and Country Club in Stittsville on Aug. 25.

Eves later clarified his comments on a Toronto talk radio show, saying that “Tea Party” elements within the Conservatives were behind the poor treatment of Sterling.

In an interview with this newspaper last November, MacLaren said it was “fair” to compare the local Tories’ move to supplant the riding’s old guard with the Tea Party’s attempt to move the U.S. Republican party further to the right and the Wild Rose party’s attempt to pull Alberta politics in the same direction.

“All across the western world countries are willing stand up a little more. I am willing to fight for my culture and heritage and what my forefathers fought for,” MacLaren said at the time.

Never mind the bizarre references to culture and heritage- which are troubling in and of themselves- here we have a candidate saying it's "fair" to make the comparison last year. The radicals that are yielding greater and greater influence within the PC ranks seem comfortable with the Tea Party comparisons, so the likes of John Ivison might want to incorporate that self realization into their own biased view of the world. It is FAIR game to discuss the far right elements in the PC party, just as detractors like to speak of the "radical left" when disproportionately disparaging other entities. True is, by all accounts, there does appear a very REAL internal struggle within the PC party that provides a very fluid comparison to other manifestations down south.

Voters need to understand what is occurring beyond the superficial optics the PC party is trying to sell. Voters need to know, that should this group take power, there is a hard right element which will yield influence when it comes to decision making. Voters need to process the facts on the ground, and if they're comfortable with the emerging radicalization of the PC party, then that will be expressed at the ballot booth. What is pure bullshit however, is trying to belittle this Tea Party debate, particularly when the genesis of the debate comes from the PC party itself. This is a REAL issue, the views of certain MPP's and candidates well known, their presence deserves to be incorporated into the discussion of which direction you want to see the province of Ontario move.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Hudak Is A DUD

A rehashed title, only because it's so TRUE! The new HD poll has tongues wagging, as people digest an apparent massive reversal of fortune. I would still caution the poll as an outlier, but what's become clear: Tim Hudak's Progressive Conservatives have completely BLOWN a once seemingly insurmountable lead and the campaign has just begun. My working thesis, an inverse relationship between PC fortunes and voters learning more about Tim Hudak is closing in on "law" designation.

Who would have thought two months ago that one could actually say "have the Liberals peaked too early?" and not be laughed at. However, as stated previously, Ontario is a very volatile place, those that declared McGuinty done really don't appreciate the fluidity in this province, nor the impact of true focus. Now that the campaign has finally began, all bets are off, any outcome possible and from the Liberal perspective that's a terrific relativity.

I think the Liberals ads have been fantastic to date, the type I LONGED for in the federal campaign. McGuinty taking on his popularity directly, then pivoting to a laundry list of accomplishments, is a brilliant ad. As well, the theme of working together, as opposed to Hudak's divisive posturing, I sense that is resonating with a public starved for positive vision. As well, Hudak has suffered through many negative headlines, his party is showing cracks, he looks opportunistic rather than principled and above all, he's a DUD. McGuinty may not be the most popular leader in the country- although I sense a limited rethink occuring- but voters aren't going to hand the keys to anyone, should they look amateurish or not up to snuff.

This campaign is going to be fascinating, the Liberals now have wind in their sails and Hudak will have to react to questions about lost support, the pressure is on. A lot will depend on how the NDP perform, they could be anything from afterthought, to spoiler, to true contender. The key moment, obviously the debate, but in this campaign the stakes seem even higher.

So far, so good for the Ontario Liberals...

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Red Flags

I don't want to belabour, because frankly I'm beginning to no longer care about the maddening internal machinations of the good titanic Liberal. Jeff has an excellent piece that gets to the fundamental truths behind certain misconceptions. Lawrence Martin sums it all up with one sentence:
If Sheila Copps isn’t a stalking horse for Bob Rae, she sure came off sounding like one.

Last July, when Copps first mentioned running for Liberal Party President, she said "she’s already spoken with Liberal leader Bob Rae about her possible candidacy." Perhaps an innocent comment, but the inference was there from the get go: Bob Rae approved of such a run. Fast forward to Copps eventually putting her hat into the ring, she begins her campaign with this bizarre pronouncement that Bob Rae is free to run for permanent leader. Obviously true- as Jeff Jedras explores- but still a curious start to a campaign and one that raises legitimate red flags.

Yesterday, I wrote the party and asked that they cancel my Victory Fund contributions. A decision I've pondered for awhile now- a complete whatever in the grand scheme- but I don't feel like robo donating anymore, I want to see real evidence of renewal before I pony up anymore cash. That's my prerogative, I feel at ease with the decision, and I think it symbolic of a notion that actions speak louder than hollow words, or platitudes as the case may be here. I know many Liberals who have shared a common concern: the upcoming party apparatus races will be used by heavyweights to put friendly figures in place, with ultimate goals that betray stated intentions. Put more bluntly, a lingering fear that the fix is in and people are getting their ducks in a row.

In one sense, I depart from some other commentary. While there is no rule precluding a permanent run from Mr. Rae- and Copps has no practical say one way or the other- a word is a bond that must be respected. Yes, Liberals can decide at the time how they regard a change of mind, but the problem is that in the intermediate unfair advantage have been exploited, in many respects the damage of insider manipulations manifested, so that blow back is offset by built in power levers. In addition, I wonder how broad potential downside, if one has spent considerable time ensuring the ground is fertile for such a change of mind.

One thing is clear, Liberals don't need this kind of intrigue moving forward, everything should be up front and easily ascertained. Naive perhaps, but the grassroots should be afforded some comfort that we aren't being taken for fools, for granted, that people have agendas beyond what has been stated. Unfortunately, Copps has provided more mystery with her statements yesterday, unnecessary but perhaps very enlightening to how January is shaping up.

It's getting really old fast....


Worth a read

Wednesday, September 07, 2011


Every Liberal in the country needs to do one thing: stop talking to each other for an extended period of time. This is a fantastic idea that will lead to the sober recognitions that are required to survive. The problem with Liberals gathering, talking, is that it provides almost delusional comfort, taking the edge of an objectively dire situation. Liberals will say they get it, everybody is offering up all the necessary platitudes and generalizations, but in the end I see a disconnect.

I talk to fellow Liberals, and while I appreciate the tribal spunk, I'm STILL struck by the short cut mentality that exists. The problem with we Liberals, we are all students of our own history, will all still believe in the brand, even though all outside information suggests a stark landscape and even more precarious future. If you stop talking to fellow Liberals, only then can you fully appreciate how tired and spent we appear, how NO ONE shares our nostalgic view of the party, how many have left for other options, how we've completely and utterly lost a couple generations with no sign whatsoever or rebirth. These statements will lead to obvious protests, YES we do get it Steve, but it takes time! But, really, when you look at the mentality to date, it suggests no such acknowledgement.

My view of Sheila Copps is evolving. Initially, when I heard that Liberal powerbrokers saw merit it raised my hackles on the renewal front. However, as time marches on, I'm starting to see Copps as an acknowledge that perhaps we really are bereft of new and fresh talent, she's a testament to the slow death. I don't mean to offend, Copps brings PLENTY to the table, but if this is the best our braintrust can fathom, if this is their first choice to re-introduce ourselves to Canadians, then it speaks to an inability to appreciate and/or a sober testament that no new generation is coming, they've left.

It all sounds so harsh, but let's look at certain realistic probabilities:

-I see a ZERO percent chance the Liberals form the next government

-I see a TEN percent chance the Liberals become the official opposition the next election

-I see a TWENTY percent chance the Liberals prop up the NDP as the next government

People can quibble, but I'll whip out the electoral map in a heartbeat if need be, it's a realistically bleak short term picture. Truth is, unless the NDP implode, Canadians will now see the Official Opposition as the first alternative should we tire of the Harper goverment, overcoming that mindset hurdle is herculian in nature and can only be achieved with BOLD actions. Sheila Copps isn't bold, it's more of the same. Liberals need to stop talking to each other, only then will we fully realize Canadians have stopped listening.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Critical Choice For The NDP

Twice in my life I've had the misfortune of working in a unionized workplace. I say misfortune, because those two stints easily stand out as the most dysfunctional, backass experiences of my life. I still support unions in theory, but like many, many Canadians I understand the practical disconnect, the idealistic intent so often distorted in very unflattering fashion. The above a massive generalization, fully appreciating exceptions, fully understanding my experience of unproductive, nonsensical relationships, a limited perspective.

I'm not anti-union, I didn't support the government attacking postal workers, their one sided view of the world on fully display. I support BALANCE, which means often times unions and their right wing opposers both miss the mark, there is a compromised ground which neither has the proper capacity to appreciate. I mention all of this blathering in the context of the NDP and their internal struggle with unions and their prominence moving forward. From the outside, a fascinating debate that pits traditional leanings against pragmatic understanding of expanding your base.

There is an inherent contradiction for a party which prides itself on equality sanctioning a leadership process which GAMES the result, with a backroom flavour to boot. NDP MP Pat Martin, who has a long labour background, actually makes quite a bit of sense here:
Winnipeg MP Pat Martin similarly said he wants to see a "one-member-one-vote" leadership process, "plain and simple," with no special influence for labour.

"If labour wants a larger voice they can sell NDP memberships among their union members," Martin said.

"It would be one less thing for our enemies to use against us," he added, alluding to the fact that rival parties have often portrayed the NDP as captive to big labour.

Getting rid of the labour vote quota doesn't translate to diminished labour influence necessarily. There is nothing stopping unions- and their MASSIVE organizational tools- from being power brokers, they just have to work for it, rather than anointed say. In addition, the optics of "one member one vote" send a clear signal to Canadians that the NDP isn't a narrow party, but one that more can embrace without hesitation. People can debate until the cows come home, but the idea of the NDP closely tied to big labour is a very limiting proposition. Many people write off the NDP immediately because of this fact. As well, when one sees how quickly opponents of the NDP continually try to box them in as serving a special interest, it should act as a CLUE that beyond a certain threshold the affiliation is albatross in nature. Let's put it this way, as a Liberal I'm hoping the NDP maintain their 25% labour threshold.

Unions will always play a large role, so long as unions have a large membership capable of putting boots on the ground and influencing the process. Should unions diminish in stature, any artificial measures that prop up their role isn't representative, it's a bastardized process that looks more like a special interest lobbying effort than progressive politics. If unions want a certain leader, they have all the tools necessary to provide massive inputs, nobody disputes this potential within the NDP.

Unions may be a great source of support for the NDP, but they are also an irritant for many would be supporters. It will interesting to see if the NDP recognize potential evolution or remain shackled by one side of the modern political equation.

Friday, September 02, 2011

CAW Backs Merger Talk

Interesting development on the "not a chance in hell" merger idea, as the CAW President weighs in:

The president of the Canadian Autoworkers Union has written to NDP MPs to support Pat Martin's appeal for a merger between the NDP and the Liberals.

In his letter to Martin, Lewenza praises Harper's "incredibly successful" vision in uniting the right.

"The writing has been on the wall since the Conservative alliance," says the letter. "To suggest otherwise would be misleading and not credible. The CAW would be prepared to take part in this idea in the interest of progressive politics in the interest of all Canadians."

The CAW is among the largest unions in Canada, and traditionally has played a powerful role in backroom NDP politics, although during the Paul Martin minority Liberal government then-president Buzz Hargrove lent his political muscle to the Liberals.

I'm immediately curious what NDP MP Peggy Nash thinks, because her last gig, prior to her election campaign, was as assistant to Lewenza? Also, NDP MP Malcom Allen is a CAW member, as is MP Peter Stoffer and MP Claude Patry(former local president).

I believe this letter to be relevant, simply because it doesn't leave Pat Martin hanging in the wind, he finds concrete backing from a traditional NDP powerbase (recent developments incorporated). One thing is quite clear, merger talk is here to stay during this NDP leadership race, no question about it. Should be fascinating...

Thursday, September 01, 2011


My working thesis is the more Ontarians see of Tim Hudak, the less they will like him and his outdated policies, a focused voter not his friend. So far, so good:
PC Leader Tim Hudak’s gold-bricked path to the Ontario premiership has just gotten bumpier.

Only two months ago, Premier Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal Party was poised for a devastating defeat at the hands of Mr. Hudak’s Conservatives. Now, with election day only five weeks away the two leaders are “neck and neck,” according to a new poll by Toronto-based polling firm Forum Research...

At the beginning of summer it may have seemed as if Mr. Hudak needed only to run laps around Ontario in a campaign bus waiting for October 6. Now, every word, campaign promise and platform point he delivers could ultimately decide whether he takes the premier’s chair.

“It’s going to be a very tight race …. when they’re this close, a campaign can move it one way or the other,” says Mr. Bozinoff.