Saturday, October 06, 2012

Leadership 2013 Roundup

Assorted news from the Saskatchewan NDP's leadership campaign over the past few days...

- Ryan Meili explained his choice not to start unveiling policy just yet by suggesting that leadership starts with listening - and the list of user-submitted ideas on his website looks to be expanding nicely to signal that people are interested in contributing. Meanwhile, Meili was also the subject of the most frivolous campaign story of the week.

- Erin Weir commented on the general effect of free trade agreements, raising a natural question as to what he'd plan to do to counter the chilling effect of such agreements:
Economist Erin Weir of the Progressive Economics Forum adds another negative, as he sees it.

He says FTA and NAFTA, which followed five years later, have restricted the power of governments to intervene in the economy to push back against global forces, namely because they fear law suits for protectionist practices. He cites the $130-million payout to AbitibiBowater in return for expropriated assets by Newfoundland after the company shut down its Grand-Falls Windsor pulp and paper mill.
- Cam Broten and Trent Wotherspoon unveiled assorted endorsements, while Wotherspoon also earned a report in the Nipawin Journal.

- Finally, Joe Couture reported on the candidates' websites. But it's worth noting that while it's probably true that all of the sites are relatively safe in terms of candidate-driven content (which I'd think would be expected), all but Broten's have at least some form of publicly-submitted content as well. And I'd expect candidates' interactions with visitors to make for one of the more significant signs as to how they'll engage with the public.

On blurred lines

In today's Leader-Post, John Hopkins responds to this week's column. But while he tries to point some fingers away from the Regina Chamber of Commerce, he only raises larger issues as to the relationship between the Chamber and the City.

In effect, Hopkins argues that it wasn't the Chamber that copied the City's "Regina Votes" theme, but the other way around. (Which is difficult to verify, as archives seem to be rather sparse in trying to track down the history of both sites.)

But of course, that doesn't address the use of what's unmistakably a City logo (and indeed, now an updated one) on the Chamber's site. And more importantly, it simply feeds into the concern that we have no way of knowing where our public institutions end and where the Chamber's influence begins.

If the current city administration has indeed copied an election theme from the Chamber, and doesn't see any concern with the Chamber in turn splashing its logo on an advocacy site, all at the same time that the City hawks the Chamber-backed stadium project in the middle of an election campaign which should determine whether or not Regina residents actually want to push ahead...well, that looks all the worse to me as a matter of overall perception and electoral fairness, even if it shifts a bit of the immediate blame from the Chamber to the City.

At higher levels of government, similar issues are resolved by drawing clear lines between general administration, electoral oversight and campaigning. But this year's campaign is only highlighting a glaring absence of similar protections at the municipal level. And if the Chamber genuinely doesn't see why anybody would be concerned, that probably signals that it sees itself as benefitting from a city administration which hasn't addressed the issue.

[Edit: fixed typo, wording.]

On contrasting treatment

BigCityLib comments on the Cons' hasty backtracking over Helen MacMurchy. But I find it particularly interesting to note the contrast between their treatment of MacMurchy and their handling of John A. MacDonald.

Remember that MacDonald's fervent commitment to an "Aryan Canada" and racial purity was publicly noted just as the Cons named a freeway after him. But in his case, the Cons conceded nothing at all.

So does that suggest that the Cons see the line for acceptable views on race somehow falling somewhere between MacDonald's views...
In 1885, John A. Macdonald told the House of Commons that, if the Chinese were not excluded from Canada, “the Aryan character of the future of British America should be destroyed …” This was the precise moment in the histories of Canada and the British Dominions when Macdonald personally introduced race as a defining legal principle of the state.

He did this not just in any piece of legislation, but in the Electoral Franchise Act, an act that defined the federal polity of adult male property holders and that he called “my greatest achievement.”

Macdonald’s comments came as he justified an amendment taking the vote away from anyone “of Mongolian or Chinese race.” He warned that, if the Chinese (who had been in British Columbia as long as Europeans) were allowed to vote, “they might control the vote of that whole Province” and their “Chinese representatives” would foist “Asiatic principles,” “immoralities,” and “eccentricities” on the House “which are abhorrent to the Aryan race and Aryan principles.” He further claimed that “the Aryan races will not wholesomely amalgamate with the Africans or the Asiatics” and that “the cross of those races, like the cross of the dog and the fox, is not successful; it cannot be, and never will be.” For Macdonald, Canada was to be the country that restored a pure Aryan race to its past glory, and the Chinese threatened this purity. 
...and MacMurchy's?
MacMurchy, a medical doctor who was the first head of the federal Department of Health’s child welfare division, was the most prominent promoter of eugenics in Canada in the early part of the 20th Century.

The doctrine of eugenics invoked science to claim that parents deemed unfit — in Canada, typically immigrants, unwed mothers, the disabled, the poor and First Nations people — passed on their inferior traits to their offspring, diluting and weakening the gene pool.
In an interview, Smith said that had she known of MacMurchy’s involvement in eugenics, she would have “run from the ceremony. I don’t care what she’s done. Anybody who has a philosophy like that, it’s appalling.”
Or is this once again a matter of gender and perceived dispensability serving as the Cons' dividing lines as to what they're prepared to defend - with a few crocodile tears about past abuses thrown in for good measure only when discussing the people they choose to toss overboard?

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Michelle Ervin discusses Ed Broadbent's ideas to start closing Canada's yawning income gap:
Broadbent outlined four broad prescriptions for bridging this gap, and ultimately, for creating a fairer society: investing in good jobs, strengthening income supports, increasing access to public services and reforming the tax regime to make it more progressive.

He wasn’t short on specifics either. Concrete actions toward these goals might include funding skills development in such sectors as early childhood education; introducing a minimum guaranteed income modeled on the system we have for seniors; expanding affordable housing and creating a national child care program; and cracking down on tax evasion and closing “boutique” tax loopholes.
- CBC reports on the Cons' announcement that only Christian chaplains will be employed in Canadian prisons (and in the name of not picking and choosing between religions no less). Malcolm offers up the due response.

- Meanwhile, the NDP is making a concerned effort to call out the Cons' backbenchers for being nothing more than mindless talking-point dispensers. And while I'd normally be skeptical of the likelihood of shaming the Cons into changing course, their partial EI reversal offers a bit more reason for hope than we've seen in quite some time.

- Dan Gardner rightly notes that a commitment to evidence-based policy necessarily implies a willingness to invest in new ideas to actually generate evidence. But I'd think it's worth challenging Gardner's commitment to his own standards: would he support, say, "government-as-player" rather than "government-as-referee" not only for the purpose of research, but also in areas where direct intervention works in practice?

- Finally, the Young Turks discuss Mitt Romney's distaste for PBS. And the desire to attack culture and alternative sources of information is no less obvious among the Sask Party, the Harper Cons and the Republicans' other Canadian cousins:

Friday, October 05, 2012

Musical interlude

Barenaked Ladies - Brian Wilson

Loopholes and leverage

I've previously wondered whether we'd see many substantial policy differences between Saskatchewan's NDP leadership candidates. But Erin Weir hasn't taken long to challenge what's often seen as party orthodoxy:
NDP leadership candidate Erin Weir is proposing to focus Saskatchewan’s Small Business Deduction on genuinely small businesses with taxable profits of up to $100,000. This policy would increase provincial revenues and fund targeted tax measures directly linked to investment and employment.
“We should close business tax loopholes that are not connected to investment or employment,” said Weir. “To help create jobs, I would rebate workers’ compensation premiums for the first four years that a newly hired worker is employed and restore the Saskatchewan Film Employment Tax Credit.”

To encourage investment, Weir is proposing a tax credit equal to 2% of the first $100,000 of capital invested by any corporation. Under this plan, a genuinely small business that reinvests its profits in Saskatchewan would pay no provincial tax.
[The change in the small business deduction threshold] would recoup at least $200 million of annual provincial revenue. The premium rebate would cost $30 million when fully phased-in and the investment tax credit would cost $70 million, leaving a further $100 million to fund other public priorities. 
Now, Weir's proposal doesn't entirely close what he identifies as a loophole. (Nor would it entirely fix what strikes me as the most obvious problem with a small-business threshold in encouraging the proliferation of multiple corporate entities to avoid growing to a particular size - as the per-business tax credits and premium rebates would mimic the same effect to a lesser extent).

But it's well worth asking whether it actually makes sense to provide more favourable treatment to some businesses based solely on their size in the name of small-business jingoism.

Instead, Weir's plan provides incentives for growth in both capital investment and hiring. Which means that incentives would then be directed toward the activities that actually increase economic development, rather than falling into the all-too-frequent trap of declaring "we want X to like us, let's give favourable tax treatment to X".

Needless to say, there's reason to doubt that the small business tax proposal will be met with the same universal agreement as Weir's previous push to eliminate corporate and union donations to provincial political parties. But how the other candidates respond will say plenty about both the role they see for the provincial government in economic development, and their willingness to deal with that question based on principle rather than political expediency.

Update: Scott has more here. And as Erin notes in comments, Cam Broten and Ryan Meili have already responded - but have done so by falling back on the "small business" mantra without substantively addressing the question of whether more targeted incentives can encourage growth for less cost than broad loopholes.

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Michael Harris follows up on the previous activism to save the Experimental Lakes Area by noting that efforts to work with the Harper Cons are providing both divisive and disastrous:
(J)ust a few months after the Death of Evidence rally, another event is playing out behind the scenes that is partly the way of the world and partly full-blown tragedy.  If those same scientists held a rally today, they would have to call it by another name. Judging from what is happening in that penumbral zone where idealism and power politics collide, a good title might be the Death of Innocence.

In a sad act of political naiveté and myopic thinking, of cowardice posing as pragmatism, the movement to save the ELA has been strategically sidelined. In its place, there is a fevered attempt to reduce the momentous public policy issues involved to one, short-term, panic-stricken objective  – finding a new operator for this unique scientific program at all costs.

The scientists who just a few short months ago asked the public to support their cause against oppressive politicians are now shunning the media, hopping in bed with the government, and fighting amongst themselves. The PhD student who gave up her studies to single-handedly run the movement to save the ELA, has been asked to “go silent” by her colleagues and mentors. The people who asked her to do that are the same people who encouraged her to fight the good fight for ELA, her fellow scientists at the top levels of this betrayed national treasure.

Why? Politics. The senior scientists have decided not to antagonize the Harper government with embarrassing reminders of the harsh facts: ELA was not shuttered to save $2 million, or because it no longer fit the agenda of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, or because recent scientific studies there had been disappointing. It was cancelled because the science being produced at ELA was a potential obstacle to the untrammeled development of projects like the oil sands. It provided the one thing an ideology-driven government can’t abide; independent, verifiable, and impartial facts.
- Meanwhile, Jeffrey Simpson theorizes that the continued movement questioning the Northern Gateway pipeline will win out in the end.

- Trish Hennessy storifies a noteworthy debate between Armine Yalnizyan and Andrew Coyne on income inequality.

- David Climenhaga calls out the media for thoughtlessly repeating Fraser-fabricated "facts" with no basis in reality.

- Duncan Cameron discusses why the Harper Cons have no interest in engaging with the rest of the world through the UN:
In another view, the UN is a coherent international organization with a mandate to promote its charter, and live up to the expectations of its founders that what unites the people's of the world is greater than what divides them. This second conception of an activist UN was what motivated Lester Pearson, Dag Hammarskjöld, and generations of idealists who believed that many issues do not bear passports, and that the world needs action from a world scale organization on issues as diverse as AIDS, social statistics, child nutrition, tourism, arms control, control of nuclear energy, and protection of heritage sites.

In its preamble, the UN charter defines its first purpose as "to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which ... has brought untold sorrow to mankind."

Serious differences loom between those like the Harper government who believe political problems can be dealt with by military action, and those who are convinced that means exist to resolve the most serious differences without resort to violence.

Those in the second camp still support the UN despite its own participation in wars because, as the Swedish ambassador to Norway said in accepting the posthumous award of the Nobel Peace Prize to  Dag Hammarskjöld, quoting  Hammarskjöld'ss last article: "... set-backs in efforts to implement an ideal do not prove that the ideal is wrong." 
- Finally, regular reader and commenter Dan Tan has started a blog of his own - with the first post featuring his take on Justin Trudeau and empty-vessel politics.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

New column day

Here, on how the Regina Chamber of Commerce is taking election misdirection to new lows in this fall's municipal campaign.

For further reading...
- Vanda Schmokel pointed out the same issue earlier this week.
- The Chamber's Regina Votes site is here. The City of Regina's official site with the same theme is here. The City's rules surrounding the use of its logo (or at least its latest version) are here.
- In contrast to the Chamber, David Robert Loblaw's entirely neutral site includes a clear statement to avoid confusion (along with a thorough set of information about the candidates):
This is NOT an official election website.  The official City of Regina election site is at
Election questions should be directed to the official City Election Office
- Finally, CUPE Local 21's Wants vs Needs site doesn't pretend to be official - but it does mention some of the issues conspicuously excluded by the Chamber.

On image reinforcement

I won't disagree with those who have criticized Barack Obama's debate performance last night as listless. But did nobody else notice that the candidate who's rightly been criticized for his glee in firing workers and shipping jobs overseas had this to say as one of his supposed "zingers"?
The second topic, which is you said you get a deduction for taking a plant overseas. Look, I've been in business for 25 years. I have no idea what you're talking about. I maybe need to get a new accountant.
That's right: Mitt Romney's first response to talk of tax rewards for job cuts...was to ask, "how can I get a piece of that action for myself?" Which looks to me to be far more telling than, say, a mere $10,000 bet offer as evidence of Romney's out-of-touch, exploitative mindset - even if he spent the rest of the debate repudiating every anti-social policy he and his party promote when there's no opponent on stage to rebut them.

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Mitchell Anderson's final report on Norway's highly successful management of its oil resources puts Canada's current philosophy to the test:
Seen through this lens, how is Canada doing? Abysmally...:

1. Dependency. Even with our vast oil wealth, Canada currently relies on other countries for about 50 per cent of our supply -- so-called "unethical oil" from the volatile Middle East. Proposals to pipe unrefined bitumen from western Canada to Asia will increase this dangerous dependence since Alberta will have to import vast amounts of condensate from the Middle East to dilute thick bitumen enough for pipeline transport.
2. Staying in the red. Alberta has been unable to balance the books since 2007, burning through $17.7 billion of past oil wealth, with another $3 billion deficit forecast for the coming budget.
3. Draining at full tilt. Labour and production costs are through the roof, at least until the next employment bust. Both the Alberta Federation of Labour and the late premier Peter Lougheed have both called for slower (sic) the pace of oil sands growth. Ten proposed upgrades have been cancelled since the 2007 recession, replaced instead with pipeline proposals for unprocessed diluted bitumen. With resource values rising relative to global currencies, what's the rush?
4. Getting global black eye. The oil sands have such a credibility problem the Alberta government spends $25 million a year countering "baseless" criticism from environmental groups. 
 - Ken Coran and Ken Lewenza highlight the value of allowing unions and management to reach deals that make sense for a particular workplace, rather than having decrees issued from on high. But sadly, the only negotiations the McGuinty Libs seem prepared to accept are their own dealings with Tim Hudak and his party to eliminate workers' right to bargain collectively.

- Thomas Walkom describes the XL Beef E. coli disaster as the Harper Cons' Walkerton moment - and it would indeed seem to be about time to recognize the practical consequences of ineffective regulation. But Postmedia reports that the Cons aren't done making matters worse - planning instead to cut food safety programs by tens of millions of dollars more.

- Finally, Polly Toynbee discusses Ed Miliband's new "One Nation Labour" theme - with a particular focus on how it serves to promote cooperation rather than competition in public services:
Watch [the Conservatives] writhe as One Nation Labour encapsulates everything divisive they do, from Cameron's tax bonus for millionaires to his cruellest cuts for the disabled. Divide and rule is the Cameron hallmark, north against south, the in-work against the workless, private against public employees, young against old, exam-passers versus plebs. How clever to pilfer a Tory phrase with no intention of blurring boundaries or triangulating into Tory turf.

Subtlety is Miliband's style. So when he said to voters he understood "why you turned away from Labour", that was enough, everyone knows the reasons why. Of Cameron, he said he understood "why people gave him the benefit of the doubt" – but then he walloped him from here to kingdom come for inflicting all this pain to cut the deficit only to send it soaring higher than ever.

His words on the NHS brought the hall to its feet. A One Nation NHS means repealing the act that forces hospital to compete with hospital, instead of co-operating in common cause. Banks, businesses, schools, jobs – that One Nation phrase will suit everything Labour needs to say. It stands for the squeezed middle as well as the poor.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Leadership 2013 Roundup

A few notes from the Saskatchewan NDP's leadership campaign over the past few days...

- Cam Broten's supporters have been highlighting his statement of values, with his focus on long-term thinking offering a particularly noteworthy development if put into practice (while also setting up a noteworthy test for Broten on the campaign trail):
Thinking in generations

Cam knows that the generations to come will feel the impacts of the decisions we make today and the decisions we put off making. Much better policies are made when decision-makers take a long-term perspective and are fundamentally committed to being fair and generous to not only current generations, but also future generations.
- Ryan Meili's campaign is encouraging site visitors to offer their own policy proposals. And Dave Mitchell's suggestion of a progressive legislation wiki looks to deserve a long look no matter what else happens during the course of the leadership race: it would seem just as easily set up by an individual or group as through the party, and indeed might be best developed outside formal party structures to encourage unfiltered discussion.

- Scott posts the contents of Erin Weir's first digital town hall, including this succinct statement of Weir's top policy priorities:
Q: What two measurable and quantifiable outcomes will be indicate that your time as leader was a success?
A: Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and poverty. 
- Finally, Trent Wotherspoon's tour around the province has earned him plenty of local media coverage. And after pointing to another report yesterday, I'll highlight Wotherspoon's comments on education from the Lloydminster Source:
Wotherspoon said he will be laying out his platform as the six-month campaign unfolds. He did say that some of the themes he will be focusing on is making sure education fits the needs of families in the province and the economy.
“I think in many ways we see areas where there is constraint occurring in the education system but also, in many ways, a system that was built for another era and a different economy,” said Wotherspoon.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Embedded cats.

Deep thought

I'm pretty sure the monorail salesmen concerned business interests spending so much money equating "keeping Regina growing" with "sticking Regina with the tab for a new stadium" will start showing their evidence linking the two any day now. Yesiree, any day now...

Leadership 2013 Candidate Profile: Trent Wotherspoon

By most accounts, Trent Wotherspoon's campaign launch vaulted him immediately to frontrunner status. But let's take a closer look at whether he's likely to maintain that lead throughout the Saskatchewan NDP leadership race.


Wotherspoon starts out with two significant advantages over his competitors. First, he's a natural retail politician: not just comfortable and friendly but downright gregarious in working any room, with seemingly boundless energy to put that skill to regular use. And second, there's a strong organization which allowed him to start the leadership campaign with a massive show of support.

And those two factors aren't operating in isolation. Wotherspoon has started the leadership campaign with an ambitious travel schedule, ensuring that he reaches out to the maximum number of potential voters before support has solidified - and presumably making a positive impression along the way.


But then, there's this:

Or in written form..."What I'm excited about doing is building with purpose and bringing people together towards the common cause that exists, towards making that crystal clear focus that we are about making the improvements in the lives of Saskatchewan people in our communities..."

Now, the above isn't in response to a difficult question in a press scrum: instead, it's Wotherspoon's opening pitch which goes out of its way to avoid defining his campaign's animating "common cause". And while Wotherspoon has sounded far more convincing in some other formats (see e.g. his take on inter-connectivity and inequality here), it can't be a good sign if his official campaign message consists of word salad - particularly if the plan is to have Wotherspoon defend non-specifics in a debate format against his policy-savvy competitors.

Key Indicator

Of course, Wotherspoon's base may not see a campaign of broad generalities as reason to change course. But we'll want to keep a close eye on his approval among other candidates' supporters and undecided voters: if weaknesses in Wotherspoon's message and presentation are seen to trump his charisma among those without a personal stake in his campaign, he may be in for a rough race.

Key Opponent

Not surprisingly, the most important opponent for Wotherspoon looks to be Cam Broten - who has thus far combined a comparable level of institutional support with a more clear set of values.

Wotherspoon may have separate paths to victory based on either taking an insurmountable lead on the first ballot, or assembling enough support within the Meili and Weir camps to fend off Broten in a multi-ballot vote. But the two may involve substantially different strategies as the campaign progresses.
Plausible Outcomes
Best-case: First-ballot victory based on strong organization and personal appeal
Worst-case: Mid-place finish as members coalesce around other candidates' values and policy proposals

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- The Star recognizes the danger facing anybody who tries to convince a Con MP to listen to constituents' concerns - as the Cons don't care enough to respond to specific appeals, but will be happy to use whatever information they can gather for future marketing purposes.

- Meanwhile, Don Lenihan suggests we should be more concerned with properly regulating location-based data generally than the comparatively small amount of personal information collected by political parties. But I'm not sure how he draws a distinction between location information and other personal information - and if anything, the argument to regulate political parties' use of data looks even stronger to me if there's a real possibility that location-based data might allow them to anticipate or determine where any voter is at any given time.

- The Harper Cons may have decided to axe the National Council on Welfare. But thanks to Sixth Estate, the Council's work won't be similarly disappeared.

- Finally, Joan Bryden reports on the current state of statements by members in the House of Commons. But I'm particularly skeptical of the proposed reform by one former Harper staffer:
Beardsley said the Speaker should formulate strict, new guidelines for members' statements or "do away with them altogether."
Of course, that wouldn't stop the Cons from being as abusive as they like during ongoing debates in Parliament. But it would severely restrict the range of subjects discussed, as statements by members and question period are effectively the only two times when MPs can choose their topic rather than being bound by a schedule that's mostly imposed by the Cons.

Which means that Beardsley's proposal really looks to be just one more attempt to declare that the Cons' abuses should limit other parties' MPs in making use of a valuable tool to raise topics of interest which don't figure in the Harper agenda.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Leadership 2013 Candidate Profile: Ryan Meili

Ryan Meili started the 2009 Saskatchewan NDP leadership campaign at a distinct disadvantage against his opponents in terms of both time and name recognition. But he nonetheless came within just over five hundred votes of emerging as the party's leader.

For the 2013 campaign, Meili starts out as much more of a known quantity. But this doesn't look to be the type of contest where the previous runner-up is anointed as a favourite. So will he end up doing as well in a radically different race?


Once again, there's plenty of upside to Meili's candidacy. In the previous campaign, he built on a solid resume by proving himself to be both an engaging campaigner and a strong policy thinker. And Meili has developed both of those strengths in the time since - writing a well-received book and making connections around the country to expand on those he developed in 2009.

In addition, Meili should have some organizational advantages based on the fact that he's run a leadership campaign before. But as I'll discuss shortly, it's not yet clear how much of a plus that factor will be. 


While Meili stood out among the crowd in the previous leadership campaign, this isn't the 2009 field of candidates - where Yens Pedersen struggled to gain traction, Deb Higgins got stuck in neutral, and Dwain Lingenfelter provided an ideal foil for a message of youth and renewal. Instead, Meili will have three tough competitors for the title of "fresh young face" to lead the party - all of whom have spent more time in the public eye than he has over the past few years.

Moreover, Meili won't have the element of surprise on his side this time. And that means he'll likely face far more scrutiny from his rivals' camps than he did last time out, even as he faces a more difficult task in drawing contrasts that work in his favour.
Key Indicator

At the outset, the key question for Meili looks to be how much of his previous support is still in his camp and actively engaged to start the new campaign.

If he starts out with a machine of similar size, skill and enthusiasm as the one which wound up in his camp by the end of the previous campaign, Meili could once again far outperform expectations - which this time might mean a resounding victory. But if he hasn't locked in that past support, he may face a much tougher fight in trying to grow from his existing base.

Key Opponent

While I don't rule out the possibility that Meili could win on the first ballot (after all, sometimes past performance does hint at future results), his more likely path to victory would involve a final-ballot contest against Trent Wotherspoon. And it'll be particularly important for Meili not to be left behind by Wotherspoon's fast start in member outreach - lest he lose out on the HOAG factor based on his simply not reaching as many voters.
Plausible Outcomes
Best-case: First-ballot victory as more experience, time and exposure pave the way for a resounding win
Worst-case: Fourth-place finish as competitors eat into previous areas of growth

On likely stories

Yes, last week's attempt to call anti-immigrant bigots to testify before the Standing Committee on Immigration turned into a debacle for the Cons (thanks in no small part to a quick opposition response). But there's reason to doubt any claim that it was merely an innocent mistake.

After all, one of the Cons' first strategies to control committee proceedings (as contained in their dirty tricks manual) was to exercise strict top-down control over witness lists:
Last year, the governing Conservatives prepared a secret handbook on how to disrupt parliamentary committees and create chaos. No mere pamphlet, the book ran to 200 pages.

It instructed committee chairmen to select blatantly biased witnesses and tutor them in advance.
Nothing seems to have changed since the Cons took a majority in Parliament: they've continued to dictate who they want to allow to testify while shutting out anybody who might have anything inconvenient to say. And indeed, it was just last year that the Cons made a coordinated effort to institutionalize secrecy as to how witnesses were selected.

So barring some rather compelling evidence to the contrary, the general rule looks to be that witness selection is just as much a matter of party control as anything else the Cons do.

At the very least, that should create serious doubt about the Cons' story that their own witnesses are being chosen through a haphazard, second-cousin-of-a-constituent-who-heard-of-a-guy process. Which is the closest to an excuse they've offered for singling out hate groups to talk about immigration - conceding utter incompetence on the part of one MP in order to try to escape questions about the entire party's sympathy for bigotry.

That itself would create reason for criticism. But there's reason to be skeptical of the Cons' cover story - and the more control they continue to exercise over witnesses and how they're chosen, the more reason there will be to doubt that their choice of immigration witnesses was really a matter of one MP acting alone.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sunday Afternoon Links

Assorted content to end your weekend.

- For those wondering where progressive leaders are going with their policy proposals, the last week offered a couple of noteworthy examples. At home, Tom Mulcair's Canadian Club speech commented on the importance of real roles for the government and the public in making economic decisions:
A thriving private sector will, thankfully, always be at the heart of our national economy, and the engine of our economic growth.

But there’s also a commonsense role for government to play in building the fairer, more prosperous Canada that we all want.

There’s a commonsense role for government to play in creating the right environment of stability and predictability that business relies on to profit.

In ensuring sound economic policy that fosters productivity and competitiveness—without sacrificing long-term sustainability.

And investing in an economy better equipped to meet the demands of the 21st century: In knowledge, in research and development, in a more skilled workforce, in matching skills to jobs.

There is a pretty convincing argument for the role of government in science, education and innovation.

The best way to create wealth in a society is to increase knowledge.
 - Meanwhile, Ed Miliband made the case for greater wage "predistribution" as an essential part of a fairer society:
Instead of redistributing wealth through the tax and benefit system, there should be more "predistribution", the Labour leader said in a speech.

That meant better vocational training in schools - but also a change in attitude from business.

He called for more "responsible" firms that focused on the long-term.
"Predistribution is about saying, 'We cannot allow ourselves to be stuck with permanently being a low-wage economy and hope that through taxes and benefits we can make up the shortfall.'

"It's not just, nor does it enable us to pay our way in the world.

"Our aim must be to transform our economy so it is a much higher skill, much higher wage economy.
"Think about somebody working in a call centre, a supermarket, or in an old peoples' home.

"Redistribution offers a top-up to their wages. Predistribution seeks to go further - higher skills with higher wages."
- Meanwhile, we've also seen plenty of examples of the opposite goals from the Cons. Bruce Johnstone discusses how they've quite deliberately given away the farm in the name of trade deals without actually getting anything in return, while pogge rightly notes that the price of deregulation (using the latest e. coli outbreak as an example) is unacceptable even leaving aside the consumer toll.

- Finally, a group of labour researchers responds to the right-wing attempt to shackle unions in the name of "accountability" with a few suggestions as to how the Wall government could try to improve in that area itself.

Leadership 2013 Candidate Profile: Erin Weir

Erin Weir has wasted no time in carving out a place within the Saskatchewan NDP's leadership campaign - with a pre-campaign "draft" movement presaging a quick launch once the campaign officially started. But what can we expect from him as the leadership race progresses? 


First and foremost, Weir brings to the leadership campaign a strong base of economic and public-policy expertise - with a focus on resource royalties which ties in ideally to the decisions Saskatchewan faces as a province in the midst of a resource boom. So his campaign enjoys a ready-made central theme and rallying point.

In addition, Weir has ample experience and skill as a public advocate - meaning that he has a chance to stand out within the field in media and debate settings on topics going beyond economics.


But it's less clear how Weir will fare when it comes to winning over actual and potential members in up-close-and-personal settings - particularly in contrast to Trent Wotherspoon and Ryan Meili. And I"m not sure that the campaign's current workaround will pay off in the end.

In fairness, Weir is engaging in some innovative means of reaching out to people with an interest in the race, and putting in plenty of appearances at public events. But he also looks to be putting substantial effort into media appearances as a perpetual voice in response to economic news - which looks to me to distract from both his ability to reach out to people in person, and his potential to chart a strong policy course which forces his leadership competitors and the Saskatchewan Party to respond on his terms.

Key Indicator

Which is to say that the defining question for Weir figures to be this: how much time and effort will other key political figures in the province spend responding to his cues on policy?

If Weir is able to both define the policy parameters of the leadership race and ensure that they're a major topic of discussion, then members will have to take a close look at how that ability might translate into the broader political scene. But if the main focus isn't on policy, then Weir may have trouble gaining much traction.

Key Opponent

The most obvious hurdle for Weir will be getting ahead of one opponent whose supporters might select him as a second choice - with the best-case scenario for him likely being a fourth-place finish for Meili which frees up the votes of non-establishment members.

That said, the larger issue is whether Weir can then win over supporters of one of the MLAs in the race once there are only two choices remaining. And that makes Cam Broten the most important opponent for Weir's chances: it's entirely plausible that Broten's supporters might see Weir as a preferable choice on a final ballot against Wotherspoon, but less likely that any of the factors leading to first-ballot support for Wotherspoon would do Weir much good on a final ballot against Broten.
Plausible Outcomes
Best-case: Late-ballot victory based on uniting activists and policy-focused voters
Worst-case: Fourth-place finish as other candidates maintain their higher profiles


Since Echo's comment system is being discontinued, I've reverted back to Blogspot's commenting system for now.

Please let me know if you have any issues in posting new comments. I'll be working on importing previous comments, and will hopefully have all of them together before too long.

Sunday Morning 'Rider Blogging

The last time the Saskatchewan Roughriders beat the B.C. Lions, the storyline involved Saskatchewan getting just enough breaks to overcome a seeming gap in talent. But last night, the 'Riders managed to win an entirely different type of game.

The 'Riders' offence was perfectly prepared for the CFL's toughest defence: a constant two-back threat from Kory Sheets and Jock Sanders kept the ball moving on nearly every 'Rider possession, while Weston Dressler took advantage of some unusual breakdowns in coverage to put together what may be the best half of play I've ever seen from a Saskatchewan receiver. And Darian Durant (behind a remarkably effective offensive line) neatly took advantage of the opportunities to put 27 points on the board - including a crucial late touchdown strike to Greg Carr at the point in the game when his offence has all too often shut down.

Meanwhile, the 'Riders' defence put together what may have been its best performance of the season, overmatching one of the CFL's top offences through most of the game.

Even with their full, star-studded slate of receivers on the field in the first half, the Lions couldn't put together any big plays against the 'Riders. And the entire defence deserves credit for that result: Travis Lulay faced blanket coverage when he did throw deep passes, and also had his timing disrupted by a steady pass rush.

Nor did B.C. manage much of a ball-control game through the better part of four quarters. Instead, the Lions' two touchdown drives were built on desperation heaves at the end of the game - at the point when throwing into coverage and hoping for the best was their only option.

Like the offence, the 'Riders' defence then rose to the occasion when it counted most, shutting down the Lions' final drive without allowing a single completion.

What's more, the fact that the Lions came as close as they did was mostly the result of a number of fluke plays going against the 'Riders. The single turnover in the 'Riders' favour before the final drive was immediately followed by Durant's lone interception; Drew Willy uncharacteristically turned the ball over on a short-yardage play to hand B.C. the ball with great field position; and Taj Smith gave the Lions one last chance by muffing an onside kick reception.

Which means that as much as the 'Riders proved in yesterday's win, they once again have significant room to do better. And neither B.C. nor Calgary figures to have an easy job trying to stay ahead of the 'Riders in the standings as long as Saskatchewan keeps up yesterday's performance level.