Saturday, March 10, 2012

Saturday Afternoon Links

Miscellaneous material for your weekend reading.

- Tabatha Southey speculates as to the inevitable results when the Cons try to summon the entire Internet to answer for its political activity.

- David Olive points out that for anybody who wants to buy into "tax freedom day" messaging, the corporate sector is relieved of any responsibility to contribute to the public good far before we mere citizens.

- Mike de Souza notes that it's an unreasonable lack of consultation with First Nations - not phantom foreign funding - that poses a real risk to the Cons' latest tar sands promotion project.

- Meanwhile, David Pugliese reports on the obvious consequences of the Cons using Canada's military as a partisan research agency - as opposition MPs will have no reason to think they'll be dealt with as anything but political enemies.

- Sasha Issenberg writes about Barack Obama's efforts to present a new type of politics focussing on targeted appeals based on specific voter concerns rather than mass robocalls and blast messages - offering a model which I'd love to see the NDP follow over the next few years.

- Finally, Bruce Johnstone notes that it hasn't taken long for the dominoes to start toppling after the Cons' destruction of the single-desk Canadian Wheat Board - and Viterra, which was supposed to be our bulwark against foreign control of Canada's food industry, instead looks like it'll be the first piece of the industry to get sold off.

On risky business

Michael Den Tandt suggests that the Cons' budget later this month will be "revolutionary" - which fits the conventional wisdom that a majority government will try to get its most controversial moves out of the way at the earliest opportunity in order to seem less dangerous by the time the next election rolls around.

But I have to wonder whether there's substantially more risk involved in that plan than usual.

After all, this year's budget will be greeted by a brand-new leader of the Official Opposition - who will then have the ability to take centre stage in countering the controversial elements, building both name recognition and positive impressions in the process. And that in turn may make it far more difficult for the Cons to dictate how the leader of the opposition is viewed by the general public in the years to come.

Moreover, the difference between other opposition parties who see their previous election result as a comparative repudiation and a party that's been on the upswing for a decade may result in far more enthusiasm in both the NDP and the general public than a new majority would normally face.

So if the NDP can respond effectively, the Cons' plans to make Canada unrecognizable at the start of their first majority mandate might sow the seeds of their own demise. And that should give Harper pause as he decides just how much radical conservatism he wants to inflict on Canadians.

Saturday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your weekend reading.

- On the Robocon front, Glen McGregor and Stephen Maher's latest good work investigating the Cons' electoral fraud got Maher expelled from the Manning Centre's hive-mind-building exercise. And the robocalling firms themselves are being similarly aggressive in trying to shut down any discussion of their role - perhaps in large part due to the obscene amounts of money they've brought in from their Con benefactors. Lawrence Martin wonders what Stephen Harper knew about Robocon as it was set up and implemented. And the Guelph Mercury called out the Cons for their nonsensical spin, while Steven Chase added York Centre to the list of ridings which received false robocalls like the ones first identified in Guelph.

- Naturally, the Cons' brand of fiscal management includes nearly free stuff for war profiteers.

- Kemal Dervis points out a couple of highly important theories about the concentration of wealth: first, that wealth tends to become concentrated in the absence of public policy measures to ensure its redistribution; and second, that such concentration tends to result in overall economic stagnation. Which is to say that if voters have indeed bought into the Cons' spin that progress is either impossible or not the job of our only structural counterweight to corporate power, it's long past time to start reversing that trend.

- Finally, Joe Couture reports and Murray Mandryk opines on the shape of the Saskatchewan NDP's upcoming leadership campaign, while Ailsa Watkinson discusses the work the Sask Party and its hand-picked chief commissioner have put in to demolish human rights protections as long as it's in power.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Musical interlude

Limblifter - Ariel vs Lotus

Open questions

As discussed in some of the comments to this post, there seems to be plenty of room for the NDP's leadership candidates to provide much-needed information on how they want to see the party develop in the years to come. And I'll plan to contact each of the campaigns this weekend to try to draw out some of those answers.

But my goal is to start a wider discussion rather than merely satisfying my own curiosity. And so before I actually send the requests, I'll share a first draft of the questions I'll plan to have dealt with (subject to minor variation based on a candidate's stated position on these issues) - and encourage readers to provide comments and suggestions.
1. As leader, what changes (if any) would you seek to make to the NDP's:
(a) caucus management and discipline?
(b) membership engagement and organizational structure?
(c) policy development process?
(d) relationship to other political parties?
(e) relationship to traditional allies in the labour, environmental and social justice movements?
(f) relationship to interests not traditionally allied with the NDP?

2. As leader of the NDP, what roles would you anticipate within the party for:
(a) each of your fellow leadership candidates?
(b) any noteworthy organizers, volunteers or other participants in the leadership campaign on behalf of the other leadership candidates?
(c) the NDP's campaign team members from recent federal elections?

3. If another candidate is elected leader, what other role do you believe would suit you best within the NDP?
Again, I'll highly encourage any suggestions to revise the above to better answer the questions of what we want to do as a party and how best to get there within the leadership campaign. And ideally I'll also hope for some discussion as to what answers we'd see as the best from the perspective of the party as a whole.

Leadership 2012 Roundup

A few days worth of news from the NDP's leadership campaign...

- Niki Ashton appealed to NDP members to consider the need to build among younger voters.

- Co-campaign manager Jamey Heath took to the opinion pages in defence of Nathan Cullen's joint nomination proposal. But I seem to recall much of the same argument being applied to a rather different conclusion (emphasis added):
The NDP needs to grow and add a part, in small-l liberals who have concluded the big-L Liberal charade is too hollow to support. It is like Lego, and if we want a bigger progressive party we are going to have to build it, to mirror the clout social democrats and environmentalists use in Europe to great effect. But the meaningless middle needs to go first. Taking lefty Liberals as welcome refugees, of course.
- Paul Wells profiled Paul Dewar:
What counts is organization, acceptability to many of the party’s assorted factions, and a general sense that a candidate incarnates New Democrats’ sense of themselves.

And by those less tangible criteria, Dewar is having a pretty good winter. His record of strong performance in the House of Commons on foreign policy issues—in English—is an asset. “I’ve watched Stephen Harper,” he said in an interview. “I know how to handle him. This isn’t someone who loses his cool. But he makes others lose their cool and their focus. And I’m not going to do that.”

He also speaks a lot about wanting to run “issue-based campaigns” in the same way Harper’s Conservatives do, rallying party members around specific hot-button issues that motivate them to donate, organize and vote. “I don’t like the issues they run on, but they’ve done the organization well,” he said. “We’ve got to do the same.”
- Thomas Mulcair unveiled about the most significant endorsement possible at this stage of the campaign, as Romeo Saganash (who once seemed to have a path to the leadership based largely on his being an alternative to Mulcair as a high-profile Quebec MP) offered his support to the front-runner.

- Peggy Nash took Rabble's questions, including this answer on her plans to build the NDP:
Nothing wins the air war like bold ideas and clear direction. This past week I put forward the type of plan that can draw a lot of attention and sway a lot of voters. I think one of the main things we have to champion in the next 4 years is that of bringing in a proportional representation voting system.

People have felt so disconnected for so long from the electoral process because the outcome doesn't reflect their vote. I know the NDP has proposed this in the past, but we can shake things up and get people excited about implementing real change and getting a system where the parties actually cooperate with each other. Imagine if we could convince Canadians that their vote could actually bring the change they've wanted for so long.

For this we have to move beyond the platform. We need active campaigns across the country that includes civil society, NGOs, our riding associations and our MPs. We can't just talk about our ideas anymore. We need to use new social media and new outreach methods to connect with people and get them excited about CHANGE -- not just ideas.

If we remain bold and exciting and don't shy away from risks, I think we'll sway the 40% that didn't even bother to vote this last election.
- And Brian Topp was interviewed by the Huffington Post's Althia Raj.

- Alice noted that recent fund-raising data actually has Cullen in front of the rest of the field, while Thomas Walkom saw Cullen's success as a plus for Mulcair. Quinn evaluated the entire field of candidates, while Ryan considered a choice between Mulcair and Dewar. Don Newman figured the Cons' fear of Mulcair is reason enough to choose him, and Le Devoir offered Mulcair its endorsement. Peter O'Neil reported that the Nash and Topp camps aren't planning on joining forces as the race reaches its conclusion. The Hill Times compiled a thorough list of endorsements. Fair Vote Canada evaluated the candidates' position on electoral reform. And CBC's At Issue panel discussed the leadership campaign:

Thursday, March 08, 2012

New column day

Here, on how Robocon may damage the Harper Cons' reputation for years to come - so long as the opposition parties seek out better ways to reach voters in the meantime.

For further reading...
- Again, the focus on the "least informed, least engaged voters" comes from Susan Delacourt.
- Annick Papillon comments on the need to turn outrage into engagement and action.
- And there's plenty more on Robocon itself here (and elsewhere through the links you'll find in my earlier posts).

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Amy Minsky uncovers some suspicious-looking spending patterns underlying Robocon, while Postmedia also points out that election results in at least a couple of seats may plausibly be subject to challenge. Emma Pullman offers some more details on the Manning Centre's voter suppression school. And Andrew Coyne expands on the culture that's led to the Cons' combination of regular scandals and complete denial of the obvious, while Bob Hepburn makes the point that Harper has far exceeded the abuses that causes voters to turn against Brian Mulroney and reduce his party to three two seats. [Fixed as per comment.]

- Dale Smith notes that the Cons have granted REAL Women of Canada - active homophobia and all - the opportunity to make recommendations as to who should receive medals for public and service.

- Ben Parfitt offers reason for concern about whether the public will ever be informed about problems with pipelines, as a known leak in an existing line with the potential to affect well water has been subject to a complete whitewash for a period of over six months.

- And Thomas Walkom notes that while it's a plus to see Toronto's City Council express reservations about CETA, there's plenty more work to be done at all levels of government.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

On best-case scenarios

Any organization faces questions in trying to make the best use of the resources available to it. And in most cases, a deliberative body should be able to consider who might contribute what to the organization's goals, and ensure that power and responsibility are allocated accordingly.

In principle, there's no reason why political parties should operate any differently. But in most cases, they do: while there are plenty of subsidiary party bodies which consult and/or exercise formal power over decision-making, the fact of the matter is that we tend to operate on the assumption that all power flows from the party's leader. (And in the case of Stephen Harper's Cons, those same types of bodies which might serve as counterweights have been wiped out for the purpose of enabling Harper to exercise total top-down control.)

To some extent, that's been exacerbated by the requirement that a party leader sign nomination papers - which has facilitated central control over anybody who wants to run under a party banner. But there's no reason why a leader's role shouldn't be subject to both some discussion during a leadership campaign as to how to manage the talents of all the candidates, and ongoing checks and balances to keep leaders in touch with party members.

Those observations bring us to the NDP’s leadership race – where there’s a stark gap between the choices the organization would likely make based on a measured attempt to make the best use of each candidate’s talents, and the actual options for leadership voters as defined by the candidates themselves.

As a matter of personal appeal, there’s relatively little disagreement that Thomas Mulcair and Nathan Cullen have presented themselves as the most skilled media operators and best presumptive faces of the party.

But both have attached their personal appeal to platforms which may give many members reason for concern. Mulcair is seeking what amounts to a blank cheque to “modernize” the party in unspecified ways – creating both uncertainty as to what he’d ultimately do, and backlash among members who don’t see the party’s best electoral outcome ever as a reason to change course and imitate the third-place party. And Cullen has generally stated that he sees the leadership as a mandate to pursue a multi-party joint nomination proposal - which is as worrisome to a great number of NDP supporters as it is difficult to defend in practice.

In a model which involved substantial discussion as to the best path forward, we’d expect either or both to be willing to talk out any differences in search of territory that’s more palatable to NDP members - with the likely end result that one or the other might become leader only by putting some water into his own wine (as both are eager to ask of members). But instead, both perceive their success as being tied to a brand which must be preserved at all costs. And so neither has been willing to move off of his controversial stance in public.

If the leadership contenders won't start a dialogue themselves, though, I'll challenge members to recognize that we're doing more than approaching a vending machine with a loonie in hand and seven different predetermined varieties of chips from which to choose.

Instead, we have a real role to play - not just in voting for a single leadership candidate, but in considering what each of the leadership candidates can best contribute to the party and country we want to build. And we should work both on discussing the possibilities, and casting votes intended to get to the best possible end result - even if the result doesn't fit with the simple narrative of "seven choices, pick one".

That may mean a strategic effort to place a vote for Romeo Saganash first in front of any votes intended to be subject to a caveat - providing substantive support for the individual candidate in the basic roles of face of the NDP and chief strategist, while also sending a clear message that the intention isn't to turn over unchecked power. And hopefully, we'll also see some pointed discussion by the candidates as to how they'd plan to work with the NDP's existing party structure.

But in the end, it's NDP members who have the power to decide the outcome of the leadership vote. And we should tread carefully with anybody who wants to assume control of the party without being willing to discuss how best to manage it for the years to come - while recognizing that a willingness to look to the wider interests at stake is exactly what we should want in a leader.

[Edit: fixed wording.]

Wednesday Morning Robocon Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Stephen Maher and Glen McGregor dig deeper into the story behind Robocon alias Pierre Poutine.

- Maurice Vellacott admits that the voter lists needed to carry out multi-riding voter suppression were controlled strictly by the Cons' central command - meaning there's no prospect of foisting blame onto a single riding-level campaign.

- Aaron Wherry points out Angus Reid's findings as to which parties are seen as likely to mislead voters - with the Cons ranking as twice as likely to do so.

- And the Cons' attempts to stonewall against any investigation as to how Robocon came to pass are making for a nice contrast with the NDP's efforts to give Elections Canada the tools it needs to uncover the perpetrators.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Comfy cats.

Tuesday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- In the latest on Robocon, John Ivison rightly notes that the scandal figures to give many Canadians a long-overdue first look at the Cons' computerized voter information. Meanwhile, Glen McGregor and Stephen Maher note that the Cons' spending in last year's election campaign is coming under scrutiny - and at least one newly-elected MP is running into serious trouble while others wonder whether they'll keep their jobs. Kady notes that at least one party ignored Elections Canada's admonition to use lists of updated polls for internal purposes only. Gloria Galloway is only one of many to point out the stunning double standard as the Cons demand the release of Lib calling information while obstinately refusing to provide anything of the sort themselves. Dr. Dawg documents the Cons' distraction tactics, while Alison shreds a few of the more laughable excuses.

- Meanwhile, Lawrence Martin earns a bullet point of his own for pairing a chronicle of Stephen Harper's seething hatred for Elections Canada with this contrast between Harper's one-time words and his government's actions:
Mr. Harper’s words have a rather peculiar ring today. Elections Canada bureaucrats went after Mr. Bryan, he said in his letter, “to establish the precedent of government control of the Internet. … The implications are very ominous, very scary.” And yet, his own government recently tried to introduce Internet surveillance legislation, only to be thwarted by a public backlash.

“Iron-fisted bully tactics have no place in a free and democratic society,” Mr. Harper wrote, in reference to Mr. Kingsley. “Information is power. The less control the government has over the flow of information, the less control it can exert over its citizens. … We cannot allow the government to dictate what information we can and cannot publish.”

Ironically, on information flows, the Harper government is widely viewed as one of Canada’s most restrictive. Just last week, the journal Nature accused the government of muzzling the science community.

The battles against gag laws by Mr. Harper, who recently lifted the law on the broadcasting of election results, cost the Citizens Coalition more than $1-million in legal fees. In respect to the “in and out” scheme, the RCMP raided Conservative offices in 2008, and the party sued Elections Canada. Ultimately, the party pleaded guilty to overspending during the 2006 campaign.

In his 2001 letter, Mr. Harper accused Elections Canada of being “out of control.” The question today, as the robo-call scandal continues, is whether it’s his own party members who are out of control.
- But far be it from the Cons to let a good scandal go to waste - as they've finally conceded defeat on Conadscam while the media is focused elsewhere.

- Finally, as the federal budget approaches, Jim Flaherty wants to make sure that any budget slashing doesn't affect free toys for rich people. And the Cons are pouring millions of dollars into trying to attack public servants in the name of cost efficiency.

Leadership 2012 Roundup

As we enter the last few weeks of the NDP's leadership race, we're of course seeing loads of attention. But what from the flurry of activity might actually affect the results of the leadership race as well as the party's future development?

- Niki Ashton took questions at Rabble, including this on how to fight back against the Cons:
I have dealt with the Conservative attack machine directly. In 2006 I was targeted because i was nominated and campaigned in support of same-sex marriage. In the 2011 election I was targeted by Conservative robocalls because I support trans-gendered rights. I have found the best way to fight the Conservative attack machine is to expose it and fight back on the issue itself.
Canadians know that all of us rely on advisors. Stephen Harper relies on spin doctors and corporate lobbyists. For myself, I will make it clear that I intend to make decisions based on solid evidence about what works and what doesn't. And I will put forward a vision of a new kind of leadership-one where leaders have the confidence to allow others to show leadership, too.
- Nathan Cullen has been all over the media this week, including interviews with the Huffington Post and The Current. And the latter appearance (at roughly 6:00) offered a particularly noteworthy development as Cullen proclaimed himself "not wedded to the details" of his specific joint nomination proposal as compared to a general desire to cooperate with progressives across party lines.

- Paul Dewar summarized his campaign by the numbers.

- Peggy Nash was profiled by John Geddes, with a focus on her tenacious work on labour and social justice issues. And Nash also unveiled an open letter of support from young NDP members.

- Chrystal offered up some musings from a well-informed party newcomer. John Ibbitson theorized that Cullen might wind up playing kingmaker for Thomas Mulcair. Duncan Cameron made the case for Nash, while Ottawa Life threw its support behind Dewar. And Tobi Cohen summarized the latest financial reports which showed a couple of noteworthy developments: Mulcair has pulled into the lead with a relatively small advantage over Topp, Dewar, Nash and Cullen, while Martin Singh's number of individual donations alone (upwards of 7,000) would make for a respectable first-ballot showing if it translates into votes.

Monday, March 05, 2012

On subtle effects

I'm not the first to make the point, but I'll briefly wade into the Frank Graves vs. Nik Nanos debate over Robocon by noting why this may be a scandal which may have far more of an impact on Canadians' perceptions than prorogation or contempt of Parliament.

In those cases, while political observers were quick to recognize the seriousness of the Cons' intrusion on democracy, issues about the Cons stonewalling Parliament may not have been seen to bear any link to the daily reality of Canadians - especially the "least informed, least engaged voters" who don't much follow politics between elections. And that distance between the Cons' actions and anything which could connect to everyday experiences made it easy for voters to forget about them.

But the nuisance of unwanted marketing phone calls is a constant reality for...well, pretty much everybody. And if each annoying call gets linked even slightly in the minds of Canadians to the Harper Cons, that subtle annoyance factor may make a world of difference when voters who don't think much about politics decide who seems like an acceptable choice in 2015.

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your Monday reading.

- Frank Graves notes that for all the spin from the Cons and their enablers about public acquescience in program slashing, there's actually another issue taking centre stage among Canadian voters:
(I)f people prefer spending cuts to increased taxes and debt, they prefer “investment” in health, education and jobs by an even larger margin. At 63 per cent, that constitutes an overwhelming majority of Canadians and that number is up modestly but significantly since the 2010 budget. The emphasis on social investment is dramatically higher among women, younger Canadians, university graduates, and among non-Conservative supporters. So the front-page Globe and Mail headline suggesting Canadians are “bloodthirsty” is only partially true...

Decision-makers and budget planners should be aware of something new on the minds of Canadians: Income inequality. The issue has vaulted from relative obscurity to a pinnacle position in Canadians’ hierarchy of economic and social concerns...

Even arrayed against jobs and growth, health care, and education, the growing gap between rich and poor emerged as the top priority. It eclipsed such fiscal issues as taxes and debt by a margin of more than three to one.
- Susan Delacourt is rightly concerned about the prospect that elections might be decided by precisely the "least informed, least engaged" voters. But I'd think that by raising the concern she also hints at precisely the best way to change matters for the better: rather than simply trying to develop a better brand for a single party, the key is to get more people engaged so as to make it more difficult for political marketers to sway or dissuade voters with a single campaign.

- And while electoral reform alone may not resolve all the problems, it's certainly worth noting the role it might play in unifying and engaging Canadians who want to see their votes better reflected in national policies.

- Rev. Paperboy neatly sums up who bears responsibility for Robocon. And Dan Leger suggests judging parties by their tactics.

- Finally, Erin notes that artificially low resource royalties may be doing just as much damage to the provinces who accept them as to those whose non-resource economics are hollowed out as a result. Which may offer just one more line of attack if the Cons insist on "drill baby drill" as their 2015 slogan - and as Paul Wells notes, they seem to be headed in that direction:
Meanwhile, over on the other side, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver will on Monday deliver a keynote address to the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, on what a news release called “the government’s plan to streamline the approval process for major economic projects across Canada. In addition, Minister Oliver will highlight Canada’s leadership role in exploration, mining and processing, which alone employees [sic] more than 320,000 people across the county (not counting related support sectors).”

Note that the word “environmental” didn’t make it into that release before “approval.”

On case studies

Chantal Hebert draws pretty much the exact opposite conclusion as I do from the opportunities raised by a close leadership race. But yesterday's debate offered us a neat reminder as to whether we should buy into the theory that the NDP will continue its success in Quebec if and only if it hands a completely open-ended mandate to Thomas Mulcair.

While there were plenty of jokes about Mario Dumont's ideological positioning compared to that of the NDP, it's worth keeping in mind the track record of the ADQ which so many commentators have pointed to as an example of fleeting success in Quebec.

For 13 years, the ADQ was identified almost entirely with an increasingly popular leader in Dumont - leading to the 2007 election where Dumont's coattails led it to official opposition status despite an organization far weaker than that of its main opponents. So how did that total reliance on a single charismatic leader turn out?

Well, Dumont led the party into another election in 2008 - where his profile couldn't stop the ADQ from losing official party status. And so its machinery mostly went idle until this past year, when it's been repurposed to support another leader-based effort focused on Francois Legault.

Naturally, I'd think there are lessons to be learned from the ADQ's quick rise and fall. But surely "don't rely too much on a single leader" has to be near the top of the list - making it downright bizarre how many commentators seem eager to push the NDP into doing just that.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Leadership 2012 Candidate Rankings - March 4, 2012

With the voting window open and the second-last debate having just finished, we're into the home stretch of the NDP's leadership campaign. I've posted on the outcomes I'd like to see - but since that's a separate question entirely from how I think matters actually will play out, let's see if anything has changed since last week in my weekly ranking process.

1. Thomas Mulcair (1)

Once again Mulcair ranks well ahead of the second tier of candidates following another week packed with endorsements and another strong debate performance. Unfortunately nobody seriously questioned what his plans are in structuring the opposition - which means that it's no surprise that he didn't bother to explain himself, but also leaves an obvious risk for his campaign if he can't escape the question next week.

2. Peggy Nash (2)

Again, these rankings are based on who has the best chance of winning the leadership rather than my preferences as to who will. And while Nash showed a few of the same problems as usual in today's debate (again posing a question to Dewar about his planned deputies which echoed a previous questioner), she still seems to have by far the best positioning in trying to gather support within the second tier of candidates.

3. Paul Dewar (4)

At this point in the campaign, I'd think the candidates' own choice of targets says a lot about who they see as having the best chance to emerge as leader. And so it may be telling that Dewar was under fire throughout today's second question period, while nobody other than Martin Singh had much apparent interest in challenging Brian Topp.

4. Brian Topp (3)

Mind you, Topp did perform better today than he has most of the way through most of the debates, combining his usual policy substance with a much better effort to connect with the audience. But while he still has a plausible path to pick up down-ballot support, that won't do much good if he's clearly behind Nash and Dewar early on - which is looking like an increasingly likely outcome.

5. Nathan Cullen (5)

Once again Cullen performed well in today's debate, particularly in response to pointed questions from Mulcair about his support for the Sherbrooke Declaration. But in another running theme, his limited prospect of down-ballot support leaves him at the back of the pack for now.

6. Niki Ashton (6)

As in most of the debates Ashton had some strong moments today, but also struggled with a number of responses. And the opportunities to wow debate audiences to make up for limited organizational resources are running out quickly.

7. Martin Singh (7)

I'm not sure what Singh hoped to accomplish by attacking a select group of opponents as much as he did in today's debate - and indeed I wonder whether the intention is to be seen paving the way for a Mulcair victory by signalling how he'd like his supporters to vote as a second choice. But I have to figure that in the long run all the candidates will be best off not going as far over the top as Singh did.

Sunday Morning Links

Assorted content for your pre-debate reading.

- Dave connects a few more dots as to who's behind Robocon. Guy Giorno helpfully acknowledges that the Cons were supposed to have business-style processes to avoid the exact kind of electoral fraud that's been discovered across Canada - signalling both that they're indeed on the hook for any illegality in their midst, and that they seem to have followed the familiar corporate pattern of prioritizing immediate profit over mere trifles such as legality or human decency. Susan Riley wonders whether Robocon will have much staying power, but I tend to think Warren Kinsella is right in theorizing that it will - particularly as the Cons desperately try to cover up facts which are bound to come to light as the next federal election approaches even when a bit more willingness to acknowledge reality might serve both they and the country better in the long run.

- Erin points out some good economic news which shows that matters are getting somewhat better despite corporate tax slashing rather than because of it. And Paul Krugman continues to expose the completely contradictory claims about corporate taxes which are alternately used by corporate apologists to suggest either that the wealthiest already pay their fair share, or that the brunt of any taxes is felt entirely by workers.

- Which leads nicely to Marc Zwelling's commentary as to how we need to reframe discussion of taxes:
The correct way to talk about taxes is to tie them to the services taxes deliver and the outcomes they generate. Say taxes and services in the same breath. For instance:

* In a Vector Poll™ in 2010, 57 percent favoured more government spending for health care "even if it means higher taxes."

* 56 percent in an Angus Reid Public Opinion survey this year agreed that "even if it means increasing taxes" the federal government "has an important role to play to redistribute the wealth and intervene in the economy." Some 36 percent disagreed, and 8 percent were unsure.

* Despite the Right's 30 years of anti-tax rhetoric, six in 10 people (63 percent) in a 2010 Vector Poll™ say they would rather have good public services even if it costs more in taxes, not lower taxes "if public services are not as good" (37 percent).

Arch-conservatives will continue shrieking about taxes the way the Puritans talked about the Salem witches. But there's no excuse for progressive people to help the Right with burning at the stake.
- Finally, Martin Regg Cohn nicely highlights the absurdity of Alison Redford demanding that Ontario take its side in promoting the tar sands over any other economic development. And that pressure combined with the Cons' service to the oil industry in refusing to work with anybody who might raise concerns about pipeline construction and oil tanker traffic (even with donated money) only amplifies Bruce Livesey's concern that petrotyranny isn't far down the road.

Leadership 2012 Roundup

I haven't done a roundup post in quite some time (having focused instead on candidate analysis and preliminary endorsement posts over the past week). But in advance of today's Montreal debate, let's take a look at some of the noteworthy developments from the week.

- Niki Ashton spoke to the Canadian Wheat Board Alliance about her rural priorities while observing again that the eliminating of the single-desk Wheat Board without any input from producers could be a huge turning point when it comes to prairie support.

- Paul Dewar was the latest subject of a Joanna Smith profile while adding Dennis Bevington to his list of endorsers. And Dewar alsoanswered Aaron Wherry's questions, including this on the question of whether the party's work in expanding its base is a matter of values or language:
Q: I’m not quite clear to what degree the debate is actually happening within the party, but to the degree that it is, where do you find yourself on does the party need to go to the centre or does the party need to continue on the path it’s on? Do you take a particular position on that?

A: I’d like to build on the work that we had done in the last election, which was fine-tuning our message and small, practical steps to get to a more equitable, egalitarian society. I think that’s what’s proven successful in the past and certainly my connections to the Manitoba party illustrate that I’m very much interested in taking that path. In doing so though, you don’t say, well, we’re not going to talk about the importance of our relationship with labour or the importance of working people. You actually open it up to say and we think that other people should benefit from solid pensions and benefits and that government has a role to play here.
- Thomas Mulcair unveiled endorsements from Robert Chisholm and David Christopherson, while releasing a labour rights policy which mostly sticks to the NDP's existing platform.

- Peggy Nash promised a Royal Commission on Electoral Reform aimed at implementing proportional representation - which looks to have been nicely timed to catch the attention of any new party members supporting Nathan Cullen in the hope that his joint nomination process would lead to PR.

- Brian Topp released a new endorsement statement from Roy Romanow, while facing round of questions about Bay Street contributions of his own.

- On the commentary side, Dan Lett offered his analysis of the field in the wake of last weekend's Winnipeg debate:
The NDP should be happy to see seven candidates in this race. It tells Canadians this is a job worth fighting for. The Manitoba wings of the Liberal and Progressive Conservative parties, which are both in search of a leader but have not a single declared candidate between them, would be well-advised to pay close attention to the breadth and strength of the slate of candidates looking to fill the late Jack Layton's shoes.
In late March, Layton's shoes will be filled by a new leader who will be given a little more than three years to prove 2011 was something more than an anomaly. Sunday's debate did not demonstrate with certainty who the best person is for that job. But it did show that the NDP has some fascinating options.
Meanwhile, Alice crunched Dewar's polling numbers to figure out which candidates have an apparent path to victory. Quinn compiled the available candidate positions on LGBT issues. Gloria Galloway summarized the voting process and noted that between 80% and 95% of ballots may be marked in advance of the convention. And Ian assembled his candidate rankings.