Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Anatomy Of A Charlatan

Another climate conference, which means a rash of criticism directed towards Canada, it's just the way of things. As well, plenty of "backing" in the press, in the sense that Kyoto can be viewed as a very flawed regime, while the spirit is correct, the practicality does allow for credible criticisms. Therefore, if one simply NARROWS their understanding to the Kyoto Protocol, the Conservatives do find "cover", there are plenty of detractors. However, when you take Canada in totality, when you put Kyoto inside the overall contributions, suggestions, undertakings, inspirations, you find an utter fraud, with no real interest in doing ANYTHING.

My working thesis, these Harper Conservatives, and their supporters for that matter, find primary motivation through what they are against, what needs to be torn down, what must be opposed and stopped, rather than any positive vision. Extrapolate that assertion to any file and a more coherent underpinning becomes apparent. Isolate yourself to the climate change file, and again you see what amounts to a total charlatan, hiding behind this and that, but whenever push comes to shove, simply AGAINST, working to stop, water down, poison and ultimately undo. This pattern is now clear, every single climate conference we hear about Canada "working behind the scenes" to scuttle agreements, we NEVER get the slightest indication of a POSITIVE contribution.

Take the Conservatives at face value on Kyoto, because again there is an intellectual argument for pulling out, we can argue, be disappointed, but it comes down to rational debate. Where the smell of the skunk becomes readily apparent, the lack of any true alternate proposal to deal with the problem of global warming. It's one thing to be against Kyoto, quite another to oppose and offer NOTHING of substance in its place, an imperative if you are TRULY engaged on the issue, if you GENUINELY believe the science. Canada has opposed, but offered nothing more than lip service language, thrown a bit of appeasing money around, but never part of the constructive dialogue. In fact, if you listen to the clear message from other country delegations, Canada isn't part of the conversation, it's an obstructive force, rather than positive participant. Given that we now have had several of these conferences during this government's reign, the pattern becomes striking, the excuses just that, the arguments HOLLOW and transparent, Canada on climate change is a ruse, plain and simple.

Apologists will point to Canada's proposals as rebuttal, but the obvious "rag the puck" flavour, the deflection of relative responsibility to others, exposes the government in clear terms. Anyone can cobble together clever sound bites to mask true intentions, but when you delve further you see it all boils down to public relations strategy, behind that the only goal is to do nothing, but deflect blame.

When the dust settles on this latest climate conference, Canada will be against initiatives, it will "pull out", it will claim to be supportive of other ideas, and in the end it will have done absolutely nothing constructive, leaving other nations scratching their heads once again...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Megaphones And Disingenious Origins

It is fascinating, and somewhat disturbing, to watch ideological zealots drive debates, using disingenuous talking points to initiate, then pass off conversation to more reputable inquiry. Take the debates about the CBC and the tar sands, and you'll find careful manipulation, worthy arguments about transparency and human rights pimped out to provide cover for true motivations. A seed is planted, under dubious rationales, then picked up in a wider sense, by those who's arguments are honest in desires.

Here's the bottom line for me, people like Ezra Levant don't GENUINELY care about human rights in the Middle East, it is only an argument of convenience, when really it's all about hating environmentalists, thinking global warming is a "scam", wanting nothing to interfere with oil extraction. That is the GENESIS, that is the true inspiration, which then finds other arguments to push that agenda. The government then adopts the language, it's a talking point, it provides them philosophical cover. Others then chime in, as there is a legitimate discussion to be had, but the whole conversation is driven, hatched from a disingenuous source.

Conservatives HATE the CBC, that is a fact, that is your starting point. Forget this nonsense about transparency, again this is just an argument of CONVENIENCE to MASK true intent. I suspect part of the CBC's resistance to all the information requests is a simple recognition that the pursues are on a jihad, not some noble pursuit surrounding openness and accountability. Again, however, those who do truly believe in these ideals- myself included for that matter- chime in, giving legitimacy to a thrust which is TRANSPARENT itself.

Should we debate the CBC? Absolutely. Should we discuss the pros and cons of the oil sands, no censoring, full disclosure? Absolutely. That said, what I find troubling "healthy debate" seems to find its origin from highly biased, ideological driven, entirely charlatan in nature sources. The champions of human rights, PLEASE. Just about openness and respect for taxpayers, OH PLEASE. Those with functioning fore brains understand, but what is truly unnerving, how minor noise machines receive disproportionate attention, moving marginal arguments to mainstream discussions.

Last week, both the CBC and CTV had excellent discussions on the CBC, encompassing different points of view, intellectual and productive. I have no problem with this "coverage", however it is revealing that this "debate" only occurs because of the INITIAL onslaught from the outside the mainstream ideologues, they DROVE the debate and brought it to center stage. The same chronology is true of ethical oil. Almost commendable in one sense, how a small cadre of ideologues can bastardize certain legitimate lines of inquiry for their own purpose and in so doing manufacture a truly national discussion. Perhaps it would be easier to digest if I believed for ONE nanosecond that the original proponents actually gave a rats ass about Saudi women or the public's need for transparency. I don't, nor to most outside observers, so that acknowledgement, in and of itself, deserves serious reflection, otherwise we are at the mercy of loud propagandists, astroturfers and disingenuous players.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Brian Topp Swings And Misses On Taxes

Brian Topp released his tax package today, which demonstrates why I prefer him in the NDP leadership race, FROM a Liberal perspective. This document should win rave reviews from the NDP faithful, Topp stands on proven grassroots ground, class warfare and redistribution of wealth in aggressive fashion. In terms of the NDP leadership race, a good release for Topps, but in terms of a party who will need to capture moderate Canada if it ever hopes to form government, this document casts a narrow net that will most likely alienate.

The idea of a growing gap between rich and poor, to my mind, is a fact, not an argument. Topp's initial assumptions are correct, and I do believe there is a fertile audience for the idea of fairness and more equity within our society. However, it is Topp's remedies, PARTICULARLY going after capital gains, that will turnoff many in the middle class, the group he supposedly champions with this release.

Stock options, check, Topp does make sense on this score, they've become a loophole for a small group of the wealthy insiders, an "option" which is routinely abused. Reversing some corporate taxes, a very credible argument that the current regime is out of balance, we have tilted to far, the promised investment hasn't materialized even while corporations post record profits. Another tax rate for those making 250000 or more, maybe, although I MUCH, MUCH prefer consumption taxes here, which address income indirectly and efficiently: the more you make, the more you spend, the more you pay. Where I fall completely off the Topp train is this idea of going after capital gains, and I believe this proposal will come back to haunt the NDP, should Topp win the leadership.

Topp uses RRSP's to show how capital gains are somewhat unfair. What he doesn't come close to understanding, RRSP's provide a tax shelter- as well as contributions LOWERING your taxes at time of investment- until which time you need the money, which is normally done at an optimal time, wherein this is a sole source of income, taxed accordingly. In other words, there are PLENTY of advantages to an RRSP that you don't receive with capital gains, to such an extent, singling out capital gains as unfair is just BAD MATH.

Middle class Canada understands capital gains, it isn't the domain of fat cats in ivory towers. Sure the rich benefit from capital gains, but so does anyone who invests outside of other options, so do people who have the misfortune of losing their parents, so do parents who want to leave their accumulations to their children. Many Canadians hate capital gain taxation, if Topp thinks this measure has no relevance to middle class Canada, I suspect he's in for a surprise. Just look at the overwhelming success of TFSA's- well BEYOND the government's projections- and you'll see ORDINARY people are looking for ways to get around capital gains. This measure, I predict, will go over like a lead balloon and provide EASY fodder for opponents to bludgeon the NDP.

With this package, Topp may well win the battle, but I can't see how he wins the war. The fact he doesn't embrace any consumption taxes is old thinking, which does nothing to show Canadians the NDP are widening their appeal IMHO.

Dead Man Walking

Federal polls at this moment are mostly irrelevant, but this new Nanos offering is noteworthy on a couple fronts. First off, I have been of the mindset we Liberals are relegated to third place until well after the NDP leadership race, primarily because of a belief that contest would suck all the opposition oxygen, leaving us to fight for headline scraps. However, to date, this NDP leadership race has been pure VANILLA, early days, but so far nothing terribly compelling. Add in a dose of unexpected positive Liberal press- the Rae love in- and the dynamics have changed slightly(note the polling days mostly prior to Peter C. Newman digestion).

The numbers(last NANOS in brackets):
Conservatives 35.6% (37.7%)
Liberals 28.1% (23.4%)
NDP 27.3% (30%)
Greens 3.9% (3.8%)

An outside the margin of error move for the Liberals, as it appears they take votes from the NDP and Conservatives. The above rationale, as well as a negative flavour to the Conservatives heavy handed tactics in Ottawa, might explain the Liberals solid result. Decent coverage(Rae and renewal), a mostly invisible Official Opposition and Conservatives playing the Parliamentary bully game equates to a statistical move.

The regionals show the Liberals in first within vote rich Ontario:
Liberals 38.8% (30.5%)
Conservatives 37.2% (42.4%)
NDP 19.6% (22.5%)
Greens 3.8% (4.6%)

That is a clear shot in the arm result for the Liberals, suggesting there is still fertile ground, as well as hard to define tether to provincial standing. The McGuinty Liberals are alive and well in Ontario, so it does bleed some credibility as an option to the federal counterpart? Just a theory.

Nanos also find some evidence of Quebec erosion for the NDP, I only mention it because he is alone. Again, I'm a bit surprised to see the NDP faltering a bit, at least at this stage, but it is fair to say Turmel has been an utter non-factor and voters aren't sure where the party is headed. One BIG caution here, this NDP race WILL heat up, the battle will be joined and the debate should heighten exposure, so this could well be a temporary pause/pullback during a lull period.

In two years, when both the Liberals and NDP have new leaders, then the polls start to become instructive as to future possibilities. However, for a party desperate to remain in the conversation as a viable option, results like these tend to blunt the funeral processions, so they are not completely throw aways. This poll also demonstrates why I prefer MAYBES over the unequivocal proclamations of certain authors; that stuff bites you in the ASS every time, politics never sympathetic to absolutes, to fluid for theorems.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Best Foot Forward?

When the dust settles, you'll get behind whomever, because in the grand scheme the selection of President for the Liberal party isn't a make or break factor. That said, the next President is incredibly important, given our current predicament, the role takes on unusual significance.

Toronto Star piece encapsulates for me why Sheila Copps is the wrong choice for Liberals:
I had heard from Liberals who are thrilled that Copps, once one of the best-known — and most controversial — Liberals in Canada, is in the race. They believe she is their best hope to spark interest in the party, rebuild internal operations and attract new members.

I had also heard from Liberals who feel Copps is “yesterday’s woman” and to them an unsavory reminder of the years when the party was waging bitter internal wars. They also fear she will be more interested in seeing herself on national TV than in dealing with the nuts-and-bolts of running the party.

There you have it, and the above is problematic. I will never understand the net benefit in embarking on perhaps our final stand as a party with someone who solicits such a wide array of feelings? For a party that needs all oars in the water pulling in unison, the LAST thing desired is a controversial figurehead that turns some on, others off, a confusing presentation of the past trying to pave the future.

Sheila Copps GETS ink, she always has, because she has that kind of profile, because she is opinionated and the media laps that up. Liberals must ask themselves, do they prefer a nondescript builder or someone who will be in the news, and as we've seen MAKE some news of their own? Run through the other candidates for President, do they offend anyone, do they bring passionate disagreement, are they a POLARIZING figure? Personally, I want to hear ideas, beyond that I want the next President to work tirelessly behind the scenes to rebuild the party, I have no desire to hear them on television, that is a role for others. As well, I will literally CRINGE anytime a President interjects themselves into wider debates and becomes part of the story. With this sentiment in mind, having watched Sheila Copps for decades, it will be almost IMPOSSIBLE for Copps to wade in. Canadians will see a "face" on the party, one that they will CLEARLY identify with the past, one that will be at odds with our essential "NEW" thrust, the optics are confusing, period.

The LAST thing we need is baggage attached to our "NEW" direction, why we would VOLUNTARILY handicap ourselves like that forever escapes me. I appreciate the strengths her, Copps brings much to the table, but there are negatives and that in and of itself is concerning, for my money not the "best foot forward" scenario coming out this decisive convention. Again, who we choose for President isn't the critical moment for all time, but it's not a "nothing" calculation either, it has practical and SYMBOLIC ramifications that will be apparent in the months ahead.

A fascinating Lawrence Martin column today, on a mostly unrelated topic, but interspersed with references to Copps, apparently about leadership, but also somehow about Sheila, to the point a MP's opinion is sought. Again, another reminder of the direction we may well be headed, and one that deserves careful consideration...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


It is perplexing that people are perplexed by the Harper government's recent bullying and nasty behaviour. Dan Gardner does a terrific job dissecting the underlying motivations for this government, which if truly understood put recent incidents in their true perspective:

Stephen Harper doesn’t want to beat the other side; he wants to destroy them. They’re not opponents; they’re the enemy. As for the depth of his ideological feelings, the prime minister’s colleagues use the word “hatred” to describe his antipathy to liberalism.

When politics is everything, when opponents are enemies, when there’s hatred in your belly, certain things follow. Ruthlessness, for one. Personal attacks. A refusal to accept the legitimacy of different views and to work with those who hold them.

I have long argued on this blog that conservatism under Stephen Harper is as much about what they OPPOSE, as much any philosophical vision for Canada. Without a THEM, there is no positive inspiration, there must be an enemy, something to tear down, something to destroy. If you understand this psychological state, then the inability to incorporate new facts or arguments, the narrow zeal that never bends, is more fully in crisp focus.

Gardner focuses on Harper, but really the whole "movement" that emphatically supports him falls into the same category. Look at how the Conservatives choose their fundraising vehicles, almost every single one is predicated on this notion of some big bad force that threatens our sensibilities and needs to be tamed. It's never about traditional conservative principles, it is ALWAYS about some enemy and the faithful open their wallets. The need for a THEM runs through this entire expression, Harper, his minions, right down to his nasty online commentators, a true ruthless sensibility that speaks to the worst in all of us. Why anyone actually expected this majority government to "mellow" escapes me, it simply isn't in their DNA.

If you review Harper's career, how his brand of conservatism rose to power- found grassroots support- you will note it was ALWAYS about what they were against, what needed to be destroyed, what was counter to their sensibilities. Harper spent years attacking Canada, it's institutions, found it necessary to trash us abroad, just an overriding NEGATIVITY that fed all the arguments.

It is this state of mind that provides the never bending commitment, that renders traditional debate meaningless, a pre-determined state of mind that sees questioning as threat, legitimate discourse an irritant. Anyone who dares get in the way of Harper's agenda is subjected to outlandish attacks, their reputations put into question, their non partisan credentials undercut, just a pervasive mood of intimidation and low brow tactics.

Again, if you are left scratching your heads at Harper and company's recent behavior, you simply fail to understand the true makeup of your subject matter. Harper's Conservatives has been nothing if not consistent, there will always be new enemies around the corner, it's what gets them up in the morning....

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

"The Party That Tells It Like It Is"

Andrew Coyne presents an interesting perspective from which Liberals can approach their predicament. Rather than entirely depressing, our new found lowly status in Canadian politics provides an opportunity, relative irrelevance frees of us politically correct shackles, allows us to breathe without fixating on focus group tested politics. Viewed within the lens Coyne puts forth, there is really the possibility for exciting ideas, rather than being everything to everybody, be something to someone.

I quibble with Coyne's assessment of the recent Liberal renewal document. Truth be told, I'd didn't read the Liberal achievement tripe portion, but was solely interested in the infrastructure stuff, the "process". This document isn't supposed to be a philosophical treatise, I don't want my party hacks carving ideological direction at this point. The document, to my mind, lays out the playing field from which the "bold" Coyne speaks of can nurture itself, cultivate organically, find an inviting environment that brings healthy and open debate. Viewed in this limited sense, that road map achieves something noteworthy, it allows for someone armed with ideas to make a case without pandering to a self determined base, it allows for what Coyne argues, someone to step on some toes, offend here and there, but present a coherent "tell it like it is" platform. Opening up the process allows for someone to catch fire without pandering to a limited audience, the feedback loop of self affirmation.

Coyne correctly diagnoses the predicament, it is bleak, unprecedented and above all the sense that the Canadian public owes nothing to the Liberal brand, the starting point. I've argued forever that our own sense of lineage is a handicap, the almost sentimental reiterations of past achievements perhaps good for the "troops", but of no consequence whatsoever to the average Canadian. Rather than go back and find ourselves, rooted in past achievements, we must embrace the future, which may step all over past predispositions, some blasphemy required. Again, Coyne's use of the word "opportunity" is correct, the question becomes: can Liberals appreciate the circumstance enough to embrace what that designation requires?

We might be dead, we might not be, anything that is unequivocal at this stage doesn't seem particularly wise. However, unless we embrace a "bold" path, our fate is more predictable, merely left to languish until we finally wither away. Much, much more attractive to "go down" fighting, to dispense with the niceties in Canadian politics that turns everything into vanilla, that keeps people away, that doesn't get the blood flowing, generates messy and HEALTHY debate, something to get behind or oppose. We can't be afraid to offend, we do need to forget about "tents" and spectrum considerations, we need to take stands, hold to them, based on a vision we think is best for Canada. Third party status allows us certain freedoms, and we may just be rewarded if we demonstrate a true revolutionary spirit, not band aids and platitudes, but in your face, uncompromising politics, that says "this is me", DEAL with it.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Is There Anything More Useless Than A MP?

I support the Liberal seat distribution plan, if only because it is the only presentation that doesn't increase the number of MP's, an occupation which is increasingly useless, redundant and downright unnecessary.

If you're a Conservative MP, you're not allowed to speak freely, debate ideas or act in any fashion without approval from the strongman. If you're an Opposition MP, your questions are feed to you from the halls, you react with sound and fury, but you are essentially powerless, relegated to constituency work, rather than truly participating in democracy. Oh, of course, all that great work in Committee, which is essentially a pat on the head scenario, because majority rules, and those rules don't originate in those rooms.

What we really have in Canada, is a Prime Minister who more resembles a totalitarian dictator. The Prime Minister, and his team of unelected hacks, pick the Cabinet, who are really just extensions of PMO policy choices. Government MP's are feed their talking points, told their direction, should they divert in anyway they face sanction. In reality, these people just occupy seats, their true powerbase is so miniscule it doesn't deserve serious consideration. How Canada approaches the world, how Canada deals with the economy, the environment, social issues, etc, all of it resides with a small cadre of people, of which only one is a byproduct of democracy. The sad part, that is the reality for MP's elected from the government side, slap a "Opposition" label on an MP and futility takes on new meaning.

Yes, there are exceptions, a private member's bill here and there, but again there is still vote direction from the top, in many cases the true inspiration. MP's toe the party line, a line determined outside of democratic manifestations, and should they go "solo", they will be ostracized, this or that "taken away", rendered even more useless for showing any sense of independance.

Of course, MP's have more individual power in a minority, but not really, in that all decisions and emphasis is still a top down affair. With that now cemented reality in mind, any proposal which doesn't ADD more empty vessels is the preferred option. There is a certain irony today, as I read the Conservatives look to "push" through their seat distribution Bill. "Push", as in minds have been made up, the PMO has decided, so stand up Conbot MP's, get this thing passed, as for you Opposition MP's, it doesn't matter. More succinctly, a Bill to add "fairer" representation in Parliament is about to steamroll over Parliament, think about it.

The title is harsh, of COURSE MP's do many important things, particularly in their ridings, where they actually can assist people. However, when it comes to Ottawa, their supposed main emphasis, an MP in the sense of democratic representative is a intellectual farce of the highest order. Save the cash, save further dilution of already marginal influence, the Liberal plan addresses regional inequalities without the spectre of more paper tigers populating Ottawa. And, of course, the Liberal plan will receive no proper airing or debate, and isn't that the point really...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Cut The Crap

If you happen to read one document on the current state of politics, Allan Gregg's expansive essay is a MUST read. Gregg articulates what we crave, what is missing and why those who exhibit the slightest AUTHENTICITY now thrive, no matter their political persuasion. I've stressed the word authenticity on this blog many times, to my mind it is now a core characteristic that must exist to truly resonate. "Victory" these days is a tricky affair, because when you factor in turnout, apathy, outright disdain, seat calculations don't always equate to a more encompassing view of "success".

A fantastic analogy by Gregg:

I was pondering this quandary the last time I was in New York, when I ventured onto Bleeker Street to catch the early sets at the seminal folk-rock venue, The Bitter End.

The opening act was a three piece alt-rock outfit, fronted by a bespectacled, baseball capped, singer-guitarist by the name of Michael W. To my surprise and delight, they were very good – not quite ready for the big stage, but certainly beyond competent. They played original material that had a Tracy Chapman/Ben Harper rhythmical, not-quite-rock-but-not-the-acoustic-singer-songwriter thing going on. The crowd responded to their first few songs with something between courtesy and enthusiasm.

It was all very pleasant when something completely unplanned and unexpected happened. A few bars into about the fourth song in the set, W’s electric pick-up popped out of his hollow-bodied guitar. Rather than stop the song and repair his now obviously dysfunctional instrument, he leaned over to his piano player and whispered (the club is intimate enough that you actually can hear such things from the audience) … “we have to go acoustic”. The keyboardist turned off his instrument, the drummer avoided the skin of his snare and merely tapped out the beat on the rim of his kit and W began to sing off mic. Within a few seconds, the normal ambient din of a rock club slid into absolute silence. Stripped of all reverberation, the cadence of W’s voice seemed far more assured yet nuanced, while his guitar playing was unquestionably more dynamic and muscular. Robbed of his instrument, the keyboardist had little choice but to move closer to center stage and he and W began singing to each other and produced some of the most beautiful harmonies I have heard in a rock club. As the last chord was struck, the room literally exploded with rapturous cheering, hooting and applause.

It wasn’t at all clear that the Michael W band fully understood what they had created, because with equipment repaired, they never again even came close to connecting with the crowd in the same way for the remainder of their workman-like set. But we in the audience knew we had witnessed something very magical and rare – unscripted, unrehearsed, naked authenticity. The band had ceased to “perform music” and instead had communicated with us and among themselves with a joy and passion, without artifice.

I'd also add the word ORGANIC here, which is an extension of authenticity, instead of contrived, things just happen. Everything in modern politics is scripted, pre-planned, careful, tested, approved and manufactured. This presentation is in direct conflict with modern means of expression, wherein the audience is no longer PASSIVE, but engaged and active. No longer do corporations "sell" their products, they now put out their messaging, which we investigate ourselves, relying on the personal experience of others to guide us, the "street take". Gregg uses travel as an example, I'd add big items like purchasing an automobile to the smallest of investments, taking in a movie. You look online to see what others think about your preferred vehicle choice, you go to Rotten Tomatoes to see if a video is worth renting, you forever seek out real world FEEDBACK, beyond the traditional sales job. This development speaks to an inherent mistrust, we no longer take the word of the salesman, we require third party validation to make a more informed choice. With few exceptions, the modern political apparatus has failed to understand public sentiment in this regard, still relying on outdated, almost one way means of communication, which is viewed with outright suspicion.

It's a fairly simple and painfully obvious calculation: there is a disconnect between the messenger and the audience, the dialogue isn't viewed as a real world connection, but some foreign world that the players reside in baring no relationship to our own. As Gregg notes- across the political spectrum- voters are so desperate for an air of authenticity, they will reward those they normally wouldn't support, based solely on a sense that there is something genuine, real, honest about that person. In an age of packaging and careful sterilized discourse, the very hint of authenticity- something that pierces through the perceived snow job- is entirely attractive. The Toronto electorate didn't move right when they voted for Rob Ford, they simply responded to plain talk, within a package which oozed "Joe Average", straightforward, one of "us", no pretense or slick presentations.

If you look at the last Ontario election, one moment strikes me in support of Gregg's thesis. Only one moment, within a sea of the usual bullshit, the Dalton McGuinty "hey, I know you don't like me, but..." ad. For those few seconds, McGuinty looked human, sincere and shockingly HONEST. Political scientists can pour over that campaign, but I would point to that simple ad as the KEY turning point, that probably saved the Liberal government. There was an authenticity about that particular ad that stepped outside the usual tripe that people tune out, real is effective, honesty can resonate, self deprecation resembles real world reflection.

People no longer take politicians at their word, the entire "game" as we see it deserves complete suspicion, if not outright disdain, almost a defensive posture which demands scrutiny to sift through the misleading optics. Politicians will say anything, their promises are worthless, their message is almost trickery, rather than advocates, the whole political machine is at odds with everyday society, how we speak and interact. There is the political world and there is the one we live in, our apathy and disinterest providing powerful evidence that leadership is now rendered an esoteric world, far, far away and completely irrelevant. A dangerous development, but also a circumstance that highlights how a "cut the crap" mentality can truly capture the public mood, an air of authenticity piercing through the smoke and mirrors.

Political parties now spend incredible amounts of time trying to figure out how to communicate effectively in the modern world. Contrary to that acknowledgement, what fascinates me, how there is still this cookie cutter war room mentality, how the template is still adhered to, despite all the evidence pointing to a tired model that doesn't work, if engagement is your true guide. Outreach is almost tertiary, the models persist, despite the acknowledgement of a changed audience. When we see anyone or anything step out from the stencil, it is refreshing and yet it still remains rare. The party that figures out "authenticity", makes it the core word that surrounds and develops every strategic decision, will be rewarded. Not a theoretical prediction, we have many practical examples which demonstrate where the electorate is, they are simply waiting for the political machine to catch up...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Key Word Is "Open"

Ask Canadians which political party is least grassroots in orientation, more a backroom affair, more an organization of elites and insiders, most corrupt, least "street" in outreach, and I guarantee all day long the Liberal Party of Canada "wins" in a landslide. There is a readily apparent disconnect between how Liberals view themselves and how Canadians view Liberals. With this perspective in mind, the idea of a Liberal "OPEN" primary finds new appeal.

It is true that Liberals currently have a OMOV selection process, egalitarian and inclusive, no doubt about it. It is also true that membership fees are such they should provide NO barrier to active engagement, so minuscule to be inconsequential. However, when you factor in the very nature of partisanship, fully UNDERSTAND the wider perceptions, you can see how "joining" the Liberal Party can and IS a mental obstacle for many people. We all know people who are political, have strong opinions about issues, many right in the Liberal philosophical "pocket" and yet they shy away from partisan manifestations. This reality is all the more striking with younger Canadians, particularly with a party which so entrenched, with so much brand baggage, not only uncool, but downright offensive. If you accept the above, then you logically look for new ways to engage, reach out, OPEN up the political process and allow for gentle contributions, an appeal that appears wider than simply partisan ramblings. This is where the conversation about Liberal open primaries begins, in my estimation.

I keep hearing criticisms like "gimmicky", "hail mary pass" desperation, and while you can argue some merit in those viewpoints, the idea also looks more a 21st century progressive trend, that is proving to be of significant value in other jurisdictions. My initial reaction to open primaries was negative, for many of the reasons already articulated. However, the more I ponder the idea, the more attractive it becomes, the more I look elswhere, the more I see potential payoffs, the more I come to grips with how tarnished the Liberal brand, the more I favour measures which completely mix up the status quo. As well, when you factor in the core idea of GREATER participation, it's hard to see a downside, inclusivity is never a bad exercise.

I offer the two most recent experiments with "open" primaries, and you see very impressive results, real "sparks", lots of attention and focus, and new legitimatises with the electorate that go beyond normal "convention" flavour partisan decisions. In France, this example:

Successful primaries give French socialists momentum

Open primaries were initially suggested by a progressive think tank, Terra Nova, and encouraged by a few reformist leaders with a modernising agenda. Opening up the selection of the Party's candidate, they argued, meant fully embracing twenty-first century politics and would force the Parti Socialiste to go beyond its organisational structure and address the concerns of society as a whole...

Extensive media coverage, a high turnout of 2.7 million voters and a decisive result will give the socialist candidate greater democratic legitimacy and momentum. An incredible 6 million viewers watched the final TV debate on Sunday between Hollande and the runner-up, Martine Aubry...

In England, this example:
Tories hail high turnout in 'open primary' to select candidate

A doctor was today chosen as a Conservative parliamentary candidate after more than 16,000 voters – most of whom were not party members – took part in Britain's first full "open primary".

The Tories were delighted with the turnout of about 24%, which sets a record for the number of people involved in a parliamentary selection, and could lead to the procedure being used much more widely by the Conservatives – and possibly other parties...

After the result was announced Pickles said it had been "a great success for democracy".

He went on: "Today's turnout exceeded my wildest expectations and just shows that if you trust the people they embrace democracy.

"I hope Totnes represents a new type of politics, which rejects negative campaigning, and sees openness as a way to restore confidence in public life. I hope over time that the primary process becomes a permanent fixture in British Politics."

Real world examples, providing concrete evidence of turnout above expectations, massive attention and a sense of doing politics differently. In both instances, the general public reacted, and in so doing the eventual winner has a resonance beyond the tribe, they look much more the choice "of the people". I'm sorry, but this sounds exactly the kind of RECIPE for the Liberals, if ever a party needed mechanisms to make them appear more grassroots and democratic in nature, it is this institution.

Last week, I heard Craig Oliver make a comment about the Liberal open primary. Oliver said the media would eat up such a contest, it would receive a ton of attention. I share that viewpoint, just the novelty alone provides great intrigue, then factor in a more general appeal and coverage is all the more justified. An open primary is exciting, it's fresh, it has the potential to let a true outsider make a run, based on nothing but ideas that resonate. A open primary could provide a terrific opportunity to completely reintroduce the Liberal Party to Canadians, to say in stark terms, this is a new party, forward thinking and OPEN to all, come on in, have your say, this isn't a club but an outreach.

The more I think about open primaries, the more become a proponent. This looks the right remedy, for the right time, for all the right reasons. With "partisanship" on the decline, the party that first captures the changing dynamics stands to reap the most benefit.


A piece in the Huff Post arguing for Liberal Primaries.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Please STOP Talking

Oh good, I'm not the only one who reacted to Sheila Copps today like skin reacts to poison ivy. Here's a neat concept, if you want people to stop seeing you as a "stalking horse" for someone else, STOP acting like a "stalking horse" for someone else. It is simply astounding how every single interview, commentary, piece I've heard from Sheila Copps SINCE she floated a run for Liberal President includes some dialogue on how Bob Rae can be permanent leader. Nevermind if Mr. Rae can or can't run, with ALL the myriad of ISSUES facing the Liberal Party of Canada, this continual distraction is disappointing, and frankly it reveals why Copps isn't necessarily a good choice to lead the party.

I want a President that does the tough work, but also someone who is largely anonymous, isn't controversial, isn't a potential problem or doesn't bring baggage. Unfortunately, Copps pre-occupation with parting the seas to allow Mr. Rae a run for permanent leader raises all kinds of conspiracy laden theories. It's as though we currently have two parallel universes with the Liberal Party, the encouraging reforming agenda that strives for a new presentation, and the old nudge nudge, wink wink, backroom flavoured machinations.

Bob Rae is doing a FANTASTIC job as Interim Leader, as many thought he would, without the permanent question in the equation. However, Mr. Rae was provided the opportunity with certain stipulations in mind. Yes, people can change their minds, but the unique advantages that Interim Leader provides should preclude any future revisions. Sheila Copps doesn't think the Interim Leader role provides a potential advantage, which is pure MADNESS, YES it does, obviously it does, hello, hello, are you for real? Again, to not admit this basic common sense fact leaves me WONDERING what the hell is really going on here?

Mr. Rae gave his word, Mr. Rae has said he will not seek the permanent position, on various occasions. It is most certainly NOT the role of a potential Party President to drive an agenda that amounts to almost picking sides, getting right in the middle of debate that is outside of how I view this party role. Perhaps this is an example of why Liberals should be weary of Sheila Copps, she is prone to become the story, is that a net positive for US moving forward? Will Liberals have to endure this now reaccuring commentary on Mr. Rae, feeding distractions, wasting energy and focus on issues that frankly she should be taking a PASS on.

Just PLEASE, please STOP talking. I have this sneaking suspicion that we are going down a bad path...

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Week One?

This was a great week for the Liberal Party, perhaps one day it can be viewed as a "watershed" moment. In fact, it's hard to recall a week that has generated as much positive energy, healthy debate, serious consideration, and it's no coincidence that underneath it all is a certain boldness, the forever elusive pre-requisite which is finally coming to the fore.

Almost shocking to read a National Post piece suggest that Stephen Harper listen to Bob Rae on tax reforms. The one off more symbolic of a speech which was serious and generally well received, articulating points of distinction, planting a flag or two, throwing some elbows for political space. Just one speech, but one that afforded Rae and the Liberals some credible ink on the economic file. There are two key battles going on here, one is to undercut the Conservatives, the other to outflank the NDP and look the true alternative on economic matters. Rae had a nice balance to his speech, pro business but also addressing resource based distortions on things like the dollar, as well as the shrinking middle class. I would categorize that speech as "in the pocket" of the Canadian mainstream, again "balance" will be a core argument to reconcile competing interests which the two other parties tend to embrace. I see Rae's speech as an opening salvo, received in such a way it allows for further serious considerations and fleshing out.

The speech, as well as a successful town hall, provided a nice backdrop to the big development this week, the Liberal White Paper which has stirred up much debate. Immediately dubbed the most reformist political document in Canadian history, potential hyperbole aside, the designations are a testament to just how sweeping in scope the proposals. Again, we see a boldness in these proposals, perhaps some risk, but also potential for serious rewards. For a party desperate to stay in the conversation, this is the right document at the right time, guaranteeing our looming convention will have an intrigue that process arguments rarely achieve. I said earlier we need a sense of "where the action is" to re-energize beyond internal machinations, this document delivers, the debate will be pointed, spirited, emotional, something is at stake, something to fight for, something to rally behind. Pro, con, irrelevant in a certain regard, job one is to get people talking, so from a political perspective I'm very encouraged.

As regular readers know, I haven't exactly been Mr. Sunshine on the Liberal front recently, so see my newfound optimism within that lens. My political antenna feels something stirring here, substantive debate over ideas with profound implications. I stopped giving to the VF for a couple months, because I took a "show me" posture, rather than being taken for granted, my money directly tied to delivery. I signed back up a couple weeks ago, because I heard rumblings of what might be coming, real change rather than platitudes and back room machinations. This week has confirmed that new found faith, this is a party that finally looks like it wants to get somewhere, that has the potential to be a true representative democracy, accountable and more egalitarian in nature, less bloat, more direct lines, more "street" resonance. The Liberal Party of Canada may have just turned a corner this week, let's hope so...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Massive Support For CBC

A Harris Decima poll finds overwhelming support for the CBC:
A Harris-Decima survey conducted for The Canadian Press suggests 46 per cent of Canadians would like the CBC's funding to stay at the current level and 23 per cent would like it to be increased.

On the flip side, 22 per cent say funding should be cut, while 12 per cent say it should be eliminated altogether.

A full 69% want funding for the CBC maintained or increased, representing massive support for the broadcaster. Given the present air of "austerity", deficits, need for cutbacks, that 7 in 10 of us are fine with status quo or even more funding, a very conclusive finding. In fact, as many people want funding increased as decreased, with a very marginal number wanting CBC funding eliminated.

This poll is very instructive, because it provides some grounding to the supposed intense CBC debate we keep hearing about. In fact, there is no controversy at all, Canadians see the value of the CBC, they want it maintained, PERIOD, it's a slam dunk, ignore the disproportionate shrieks from the misfit contingent. Interesting too, despite all the manufactured outrage, clearly the JIHAD isn't resonating outside of a very knee jerk, narrow base.

Bottom Up

Yesterday it was the wider net of a primary system, today the internal dynamics of the Liberal Party. There is nothing more counter-productive in my mind than the "fiefdom" mentalities that exist within the Liberal Party. The way the party is currently structured, it massively favours incumbency, which in the long term leads to rot, complacency, entitlement and a lack of true accountability.

Some of the proposals coming forth tackle riding nominations, in the sense that incumbents will no longer be protected. As it stands now, a candidate runs for a Liberal nomination, if he/she wins that battle, they then move to sew up the entire riding association and it becomes their personal kingdom, until which time they unilaterally decide to pack it in. Harsh, but not an exaggeration. Part of the problem Liberals find themselves in today is a lack of "new talent", the turnover rate is simply a hindrance to renewal. You constantly need new blood, new people coming in and a system that allows for periodic referrals for a more general approval. I would actually favour a 2 year "leadership review" at the riding level, wherein members do as they do at conventions, vote on MP performance and incorporate certain informal thresholds.

By making MP's constantly accountable, it isn't an attack on them, it simply demands a certain level of performance, that constantly seeks reaffirmation from the rank and file. Add in the proposal to END appointed candidates from the top, and you start to have internal machinations which actually look like a representative democracy. It's a bit farcical to have a party operate with an almost "strongman" mentality, then pivot to be a champion of democratic institutions in a more general sense.

The party leadership apparatus shouldn't dictate to the ridings who their nominee should be, nor should they interfere in any way for that matter. Representation should be left to the grassroots, which also means any candidate or MP shouldn't be able to seize the levers at the riding level, making it almost impossible to revitalize, until retirement or eventual defeat. Periodic references to riding members is a healthy excercise, perhaps "messy", but indicative of something to fight for, which in and of itself is the underpinning of any successful "movement". Open it up, take it out of the leader's control and make people forever accountable. Encouraging signs.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Liberal "Primaries"

The best thing about floating new ideas, it generates debate, pumps some life into the process, gives a sense of "where the action" resides. I note quite a lot of conversation regarding a possible Liberal primary system as a leadership selection method. I've actually played devil's advocate on both sides, ever since Rob Silver first put the idea out there, now reaching a crescendo with Bob Rae musing, the Liberals set to formally put the concept into the debate.

The whole key to a primary idea, does it strike the right balance, does it achieve what is intended without sacrificing notions of fairness and commitment? I'd like to wait and see any proposal truly fleshed out before jumping on board, but at the very least I now find the general concept attractive. Anything that opens up the process has advantages, particularly for a party desperate to reconnect, present a new face that operates in the open, for all to see and weigh in on.

Some of the valid criticisms I'm hearing revolve around this idea of "instant Liberals", people with little real commitment to the party having influence that cheapens the role of the devoted membership. As well, any primary system runs the risk of shenanigans from other partisans, particularly if the process itself doesn't result in a large turnout (a very real concern, given the apathy that exists). There is potential for unseemly outcomes, which is why any proposal must exclude active members of other political parties, this stipulation a bear minimum if logistically possible.

Right now, it is quite easy to join the Liberal Party, the financial commitment minuscule and not a barrier in any practical sense. However, that logic also speaks to a certain openness, you can join anytime, a couple bucks and you have a voice, that's all that is required. Given the current flimsy nature of membership, there is something to be said for taking the process one step further and allowing anyone who bothers to come out and vote a say. The very act of casting a vote indicates a certain commitment to an idea proposed, pro or con, someone or something has MOTIVATED said individual to take time out of their day to participate. Rather than cheapening membership (which still has "advantages" in other matters, leadership isn't the only expression of influence within a party), the line between partisan and simply political is blurred, tribalism replaced by a more general call to participate. For whatever reason, many people with strong political views stay outside of partisanship, they don't like the labels, the designations. A primary allows almost anyone to participate, while still maintaining an independence, it casts a wider net of interest.

Under the current rules, it is almost impossible for a true "insurgent" to win the Liberal leadership. Party systems reward things like loyalty, networks, factions and self interests. Elites within parties can handpick potential leadership candidates, throw their organizational weight behind and immediately become a force, without going through any paces, without establishing a rapport with Canadians, WITHOUT ideas being the true impetus. In a general sense, any "advance" which opens up the process to a more grassroots potential immediately should be debated. In addition, given the well established history of the Liberal Party, some fresh air that eliminates the backroom machinations, ends the ass kissing esoteric culture, has some appeal in a general sense.

I actually don't care if a committed Liberal or a "outsider" ends up leading the Liberal Party. I care about what ideas, philosophy is put forth, a vision that speaks to modern "liberalism", something I can get behind. At present, the system favours "paid their dues" people, or at the very least a person who has the backing of powerful insiders. In this sense, the idea of a truly egalitarian system, that REACHES out to everyone and says lend your voice, the concept has potential to change how Canadians view this damaged party brand.

I'm not quite ready to wave the "primaries now" flag, but nor am I ready to reject the idea out of hand... If anything, the underlying concept of open participation- a debate wider than tribal considerations- sounds very much like an evolution, and for that reason, a serious deliberation warranted.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Beyond Platitudes

For a party desperate to stay on the political radar, the notion of "intense debate" is an underlying must. Ideas that challenge the status quo particularly attractive, not just in the name of change for change's sake, but as a vehicle to get juices flowing, to engage and fight for something beyond "hope" and external possibilities. If the Liberal Party is going down, far better to die on it's own terms, rather than remain committed to safe positioning, left to wait for others to provide inspiration.

In a wider sense, times of stark realities often bring the greatest clarity. The frustration for some of us, waiting to hear words which acknowledge an objective desperation, and then speaking from this vantage point with tones that aren't comforting, but naked in their honestly. This weekend Mr. Rae seems to have reached that point, and in so doing just might have provided a "moment" we look back on as the true beginning of real reform. Like a breathe of fresh air, Rae essentially takes on the Liberal Party, armed with internal suggestions, concepts and ideas that threaten fiefdoms, entitlements, go after the never ending PROCESS discussions that PLAGUE the Liberals and needlessly waste energy on internal machinations.

I mostly loathe the Liberal constitution, any measure to pare it down is instantly appealing. I can't stand a Party which has created so many levels of ever narrowing regional elitism it has become a exercise in self importance, rather than a "movement" of any kind. I absolutely abhor the way riding associations become esoteric playgrounds, essentially undercutting new ideas as a perceived threat to established norms. Finally, a sense that Liberals are prepared to take on their own culture of entitlement, in a way that doesn't necessarily require agreement, but is fundamental and meaningful, to the extent it generates some PASSION.

Rae's words, this "white paper", a real discussion begins, something that suggests you want to part of it, something that says the status quo is already dead, so where do we go from here. This encouraging mentality is the necessary underpinning if truly meaningful change can occur, of the sort where the average Canadian sees a entity that is "street" in nature. Forget the NDP imploding, forget Canadians tiring of Harper, the only job for Liberals is to ensure we are so interwoven with Canadian sensibilities, armed with a compelling vision, free and open to all, that when the time comes, if it comes, we are the alternative. For the first time since May 2, we have evidence that from the ashes something new and potential exciting could flourish...

Friday, November 04, 2011

An Economy Out Of Balance

You have to be cautious about drawing inferences out of one month's numbers, but today's job figures are of the type to be considered "eye popping", and I note economists reacting as such. Just this very week, Mark Carney was on television promoting the virtues of the Canadian economy, how it was fundamentally poised to withstand global uncertainty; not immune but relatively strong. One particular comment struck me, Carney said "corporate balance sheets have NEVER been better", an objective fact, nobody would dispute. A few days later we receive these abysmal job numbers, which demonstrates some disconnect pointing to a fundamental problem.

I predict if someone were to graph corporate profits and employment trends, you would see a divergence the likes of which unique in economic history. Day after day, quarter after quarter, corporations are racking up impressive profits, on fundamentals, price to earnings, the stock market should be surging to record terrority. And yet, we still see consistent drags on performance, a primary root is the continual inability of economies to create robust job numbers. Apologists will NOW argue the corporate tax regime was never intended to create jobs necessarily, but I would suggest a review of past statements to truly understand the sales job. What is happening- and nobody disputes- corporates are HOARDING their cash, Carney is right about the balance sheets, but offers little guidance on opening the taps to the greater economy.

On economic health we receive theoretical commentary about how corporations will eventually start spending, there is a nervousness which precludes normal investment, expansion. I would suggest a review of bank practices- the largest benefactor of corporate tax decreases and you will see that during the HEIGHT of expansion, those heady days prior to the 2008 crash, they were slashing jobs LEFT and RIGHT, across the board, despite making absurd profits. Economists can turn themselves into pretzels telling us why corporate tax cuts work, but there is little real world evidence to support outdated theory.

There is something fundamental wrong at the moment, economically things are out of balance, what should be happening simply isn't and we are left to look for remedies. I have floated an idea of putting a cap, perhaps a claw back, on corporate dividends, given that this money isn't fairly distributed, but rather reinforces inequities. Corporations currently have more cash than they know what do with, judging by the jobless numbers, this notion that profits benefit all is simply fiction. It is quite clear, the corporate tax cut argument has gone too far in a ill advised race to the bottom. The policy has resulted in record profits WITHOUT the promised benefits, every stat betrays proponents, we are left to nothing more flimsy than future inevitability arguments.

The economy is no longer in harmony, of that I have little doubt. I also have more confidence that the general population is coming to this sober realization which provides opportunity. Someone, or some entity, must address the growing inequalities, they are real and pronounced.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Sun News Revenues Drop 86%

People can talk about long term plans, growing pains, "insert excuse here", but it's safe to say that SunTV/Sun News isn't exactly ELECTRIFYING the airwaves:
Sun News, which has been on the air for about six months, was also a drag on earnings. While specialty channels make money on a mix of advertising revenues and fees from cable and satellite subscribers, TVA chose to forgo subscriber revenue for Sun News until now. The channel was placed on a free, over-the-air TV signal, replacing the money-losing Sun TV station in Toronto, Ottawa, Hamilton and London, Ont. The over-the-air station was also picked up free by some cable and satellite companies.

The combined revenues of Sun TV and Sun News have dropped 86 per cent since the news channel launched in April. The channel is now negotiating deals with subscriber TV services to increase revenues.

I'm sure there are negotiations for subscriber revenues, but that doesn't distract from the clear picture: advertiser revenue has dried up and dried up BAD. This fact offers a clue as to the TRUE ratings for Sun TV, as well as testament to potential squeamishness from would be advertisers. Again, you can spin it all day long, but this station barks like a DOG, shits like a DOG and digs a money pit like a DOG.

What does it mean? I depart from others in viewing these numbers as evidence of a channel which will eventually pack it in. See, I don't think there was ever a rational "demand" for another news channel, nor do I think there was some gap in previous manifestations that needed something to fill the void. In fact, two news channels, you could actually argue saturation in the Canadian market, there was no true economic impetus for another channel. This backdrop is informative, because Sun TV isn't about making money necessarily, it was borne and pushed out of ideological zeal, a partisan consideration really, part of concerted effort to push a particular political bent. I view the network as a propaganda arm and I expect the channel to soldier on as long as is humanely possible, no matter the abysmal figures. The goal will be to lessen losses, buried within a larger conglomerate that can absorb the poor economics. Normal fundamentals don't necessarily apply in the short term, I expect a stubborn commitment that will forever preach future success.

I still haven't watched the station, although I feel like I have, given all the second hand conversation I read. I don't expect the network to simply vanish any time soon, while these numbers are heartening in one sense, there is much commitment to keep the Conservative signal up and running, no matter. What is clear though, commitment aside, this network is a BIT player at the moment, and it deserves attention in line with it's narrow influence.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Beyond "Broken"

During the Martin/Harper minority years, people spoke of the "dysfunctional Parliament", to such an extent the Conservatives successfully framed anything less than a majority as the antithesis of "good government". In some respects our collective memories had almost forgotten how majority governments actually work in this country, we are now getting a RUDE awakening, as the Harper government operates more like a "regime" than democratic creation. A strong, stable government is really code for an almost omnipotent entity, that freely stifles debate, somehow turns 39.6% into 100% DOMINATION of everything and anything.

The inherent problem with Canadian democracy- never more stark and revealing than this moment- with each successive layer peeled away, true power resides in an alarming few. A minority vote translates to majority rule, within that minority vote a inner circle of key MP's largely frames the debate, within that group a small cadre of mostly unelected operatives within the PM's office dictates the direction of the entire government apparatus. We have a democracy which someone manifests itself into a virtual dictatorship in practice, based on dubious electoral math. Minorities might be messy, but they provide an accountability function which evaporates in alarming fashion once 50 plus 1 is achieved.

As the linked piece by Dan Gardner explains, all majorities operate like totalitarian regimes, but with this Harper government we are witnessing a new expression in terms of degree. It is legitimate to ask, what is the point of Parliament in a majority circumstance, particularly one where the government routinely shuts down even the window dressing that is "debate"? What do MP's really do in a majority? Is it fair to say they are empty vessels, essentially representing no one, standing up and down without any true power? Most government MP's are drones, programmed to perform a function, but devoid of truly diverting from the chosen course. Opposition MP's don't hold the government to any standard, at least not in ways that necessarily demands a seat in Parliament. The government doesn't like any particularly debate, they unilaterally shut it down, no true exchange, nor even the slightest indication that any legitimate suggestion would be considered. When you distance yourself from the process that brings people to power, the concrete practice of yielding power is ALARMING in this country.

There are plenty of ideas floating around to reform our system. While solutions still remain somewhat disjointed and piecemeal, the core problems are quickly coming into focus. Perhaps, if there is one "silver lining" in enduring this particular regime, their continual abuse of power will provide the tipping point for a system which isn't just sick, it's effectively dead in terms of FUNCTIONING democracy.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Ranking NDP Candidates: Liberal Prospects Edition

To my mind, the NDP have a terrific opportunity with this leadership contest, if they get it right, Liberals have much to worry about. On the other hand, choosing the wrong person could provide the political space required for a Liberal resurgence. Most Liberals will admit, our destiny isn't entirely within our control, external forces will play a role, that's a fair representation. Putting on the partisan hat for a moment, a quick ranking of who I think would be the best NDP leader from a Liberal perspective, with the chief factor being an ability to reinvent the brand somewhat, appeal to voters the NDP MUST capture if they truly can takeout the Conservatives:

1 Brian Topp

Topp looks every bit a "in the pocket" NDP candidate, planting the flag on traditional ground, having a background which feeds the historical political spectrum bent. To my mind, any indication that the NDP will stay true to their core ideals is a net negative on the replacing Harper front. Not a matter of agreeing or disagree, but there is nothing about Topp that suggests an NDP ready to embrace a more mainstream viewpoint, which translates to limited appeal. Factor in that Topp is a wildcard on the voter resonance front- backroom acument not necessarily translating to electoral juggernaut- and he represents a potential risky choice, which is appealing from the Liberal perspective.

2 Peggy Nash

I would actually put Nash first, except she is a proven campaigner, we've seen her on the trail, we know her strengths and weaknesses. There is much appeal with Nash, today I read about Thatcher comparisons, she is clearly a force. However, as with Topp, Nash is almost an old guard dipper philosophically, there is plenty of potential attack ad fodder, she can easily be framed and would seem to lack the "rethink" variable necessary for the NDP to move to true threat nationally. As well, I find Nash terribly bland, perhaps effective, but little to suggest she can recreate that Layton "magic", fairly low on the charisma quotient. A "from the left" NDP leader, with a "steely" character, sign me up if I'm a Liberal.

3 Paul Dewar

Dewar screams moderate, his tone is friendly, his disposition warm and disarming. If you want to put a new face on a growing party, Dewar fits the bill in many regards. His French is a drawback, but assuming he grows on that front, he is the type that might just have the common touch necessary to reintroduce the NDP brand. If I'm a handler, Dewar is the kind of politician would could be sold as a modern New Democrat, one that could move the party to a place where it could siphon off more Liberal votes and truly threaten the Conservatives. Dewar makes me nervous as a Liberal.

4 Thomas Mulcair

Mulcair has baggage, and his personality could take him either way electorally, but he is SPOT ON with his message, the conversation he is pushing is the right recipe for electoral bliss. The trouble with Mulcair to date, he isn't pandering to the base necessarily, he's providing the straight goods for general election success, a stance which hurts his chances for leadership. However, Mulcair understands that the key to future NDP prospects is economic credibility, shedding the old assumptions about the NDP and presenting a fiscal alternative that is modern in approach. Mulcair walks over Liberal ground, for this reason, he represents the biggest threat should he win the nomination. Let's hope Dippers can't see the "big picture" arguments he is selling, because in many regards that is the necessary template to squeeze the Liberals.

Apologizes to the other candidates, but these are the big four in my estimation. As well, not naive enough to think a leadership campaign necessarily translates to wider election messaging, very pragmatic on that front.