Posts Tagged ‘Jack Layton’

Who leads Canada’s progressives?

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

Canadian media are a lazy bunch. They follow the paths of least resistance and false assumptions. Take this past week when some supposed progressives were gathered at the Broadbent Institute in Ottawa for its Progress Summit. The one question that was never answered was ‘Who were the Liberal Progressives at the gathering?’

Ed Broadbent never invited this progressive Liberal. Nor would this Liberal attend. This is not sour grapes. We know that Ed Broadbent is not progressive nor are the sponsors of the meeting. Ed Broadbent is a staunch unionist with a closed mind. He believes in the collective over the individual. He lives in the past.

More than a third of Canada’s union members are believed to vote Liberal. And as more and more unions move into the 21st Century, that number will grow. It is not that the unions are failing to support their members but they are recognizing their membership as individuals. Their strength as a union is in the individual initiatives of the members. The era of the ‘I’m alright Jack’ union is dead and gone.

Those Liberal apparatchiks who got into close combat with the urban New Democrats 30 to 40 years ago remember when what seemed solid CCF/NDP ridings swung wildly between the Conservatives and the supposed socialists. There was no transition through the Liberals who thought they were the middle ground. There was no middle ground. These voters were Conservative or NDP supporters and the Liberals were the traditional enemy. They started shifting en mass to the most likely non-Liberal solution.

Today’s New Democrats continue to change, more despite the Ed Broadbents than because of them. They are a melange of younger academics, environmentalists, the less progressive unions and a mixed battery of community activists. You would be hard pressed to define them as socialists and you would be in error to consider them progressives. The progressives were chased out of the party along with the radical Waffle some 30 years ago. Leaders such as Jack Layton were municipal activists and political populists.

And that leaves a guy like New Democrat Leader Thomas Mulcair in a bind. All he knows is what he learned as a Quebec style Liberal and he has some time under his belt as a frustrated but persistent opposition leader. All he has going for him is a very shaky base in Quebec from the now gone Orange Wave and an embattled Ontario wing. As a citizen of France as well as a Canadian citizen, his loyalty to Canada is going to be called into question during the campaign. That might be his mob out there but to lead, you really need to know where the mob wants to go.


Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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Mr. Mulcair, you better not pout.

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

It looks like New Democrat Leader Thomas Mulcair got an early lump of coal from Santa last night. The orange surge in Quebec came up short and Tommy’s star candidate in Toronto did not make it. And it was the Liberals who benefitted from the anger with Prime Minister Harper in Manitoba.

But Tommy, why were you being such a rotten kid in Toronto? Why the nasty campaign against Freeland? Why not leave that kind of stuff to Harper and his Conservatives? They are much better at being mean and cruel. When they say something nasty about you, you know they mean every bit of it.

You had the best candidate in the Toronto-Centre contest. Linda McQuaig’s credentials on the side of the people are solid. Not to put down Chrystia Freeland but we know Linda far better. And we know her sincerity. Sure, Chrystia is probably just as smart but she has a ways to go in proving her left-of-centre political credentials.

If anything, Tommy, you held Linda back. You fettered a free spirit. You screwed up by approving the Enbridge pipeline through Toronto. It is probably a more dangerous threat to Torontonians than a load of bombs from a B17. It is an ecological disaster just waiting to happen. Linda could have ran with that and guaranteed her win in Toronto-Centre.

But you held her back. You never understood that all your knitty-picky prosecutorial stuff in the House of Commons over the Senate scandal was not reaching the voters. What you thought of as tenacious came through as terribly boring. What you really needed to do in Toronto-Centre was to attack Trudeau’s stance on issues. It was an opportunity for you to be heard. It actually just shows that your campaign people did not understand the demographics of the riding.

Meanwhile back in Bourassa electoral district in Montreal, you proved that you are no Jack Layton. Mind you, it is tough to emulate a myth. As do most myths, the late Leader of the New Democrats does not come out well under close scrutiny. The Orange Wave in Quebec was a one-time event in Quebec because the Bloc was crashing. All Jack Layton really did was hand Stephen Harper and his Conservatives an undeserved majority—and Canada will rue that for many years.

What comes out of the by-elections in Bourassa, Toronto-Centre, Brandon-Souris and Provencher is hope. Justin Trudeau has some growing to do but he has shown us that he can lead. In the upcoming federal policy meeting in Montreal, he has to come up with a strong left-of-centre people’s platform. Canada can ill-afford another right-of-centre government. He has to recognize that the middle class have to have a social agenda.


Copyright 2013 © Peter Lowry

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The beatification of Saint Jack.

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

The Roman church has a strict schedule for the creation of saints. It is a long and rigorous process. This process could severely try the patience of the New Democratic Party (NDP). There might also be some dispute between the church and the NDP as to what constitutes a miracle.

The NDP used to think of winning any parliamentary seat in Quebec as a miracle. Yet, there was no divine intervention in what happened in Quebec in the last federal election. Jack Layton happened to be standing at a crossroads in the province and got the advantage of it. The Conservatives were dead in the water and both the Bloc Québécois and the Federal Liberals were running on empty. Those parties had taken Quebec voters for granted for too long. It was the NDP’s turn to take them for granted.

It was also hardly a miracle when the largest circulation paper in Canada, the Toronto Star, stabbed the Liberal Party in the back and told people in Ontario that it was alright to vote NDP. The paper’s political pundits should have told the editorial writers that the net effect of their foolish ploy was to hand Stephen Harper a Conservative majority.

The two most telling moments of the 2011 federal election were in the English-language television debate between the major party leaders. The first was when you saw how Jack Layton responded to Stephen Harper. It was clear for all to see that there was no way an ill Jack Layton could handle Stephen Harper. The second was when Layton tried to knife Ignatieff on his attendance in the House of Commons. What was telling was Ignatieff’s complete surprise and inability to handle such a spurious and unfair attack.

Jack Layton was no saint. That was a straggling ‘Solidarity Forever’ march behind his casket at that public funeral. The oratory at the event was a lament for what might have been. Stephen Lewis’ eulogy was brilliant, in the tradition of Marc Antony for Julius Caesar. It was a similar call to arms for the mob.

Now we find that Layton’s burial place is to be a shrine. That clichéd, trite, over-written letter that was released after his death is supposed to be some sort of civics guide for school children. Thomas Mulcair has yet to wrest the leadership of his party from a ghost.

Those of us in other political parties who worked against Jack Layton in Toronto through various elections knew him as a strong opponent. When we won a tough one against him, it made the win sweeter.


Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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Busker Bob battles on.

Monday, August 8th, 2011

The buskers who entertain us on the streets while we wait for the heavy hitters have a tough job.  Even getting a little attention is encouraging for them.  Imagine how Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae feels out on the summer barbeque circuit.  In the midst of backyards full of local Liberals, a reformed New Democrat can feel lonely.

In the doldrums of summer, a little interest from the news media can be a godsend.  The media tend to act like lawyers in a courtroom and do not ask any questions to which they do not know the answers.  It saves having to write down what the interviewee is saying.

The first question is predictably about the NDP’s Jack Layton and cancer, MP Nycole Turmel and the Bloc Quebecoise.  The answer calls for the right level of concern for Jack Layton’s health and the right level of indignation about Jack’s hand-picked stand-in.  Consider the nerve of that woman to play footsie with the separatists as well as the NDP.  It is not as though Bob knows nothing of flitting between parties.

The turmoil around Turmel is also opening the door for Rae to address Prime Minister Harper’s gaffs.  He gets to make scathing comments about Mr. Harper and Harper’s friend Toronto Mayor Rob Ford to the delight of Liberal audiences.  Whether this helps Bob’s friend Dalton McGuinty remains to be seen.

If Bob could just redirect a little of that media stardom that he is presently enjoying to what Mr. Harper is currently doing in Brazil, it would be even more helpful to Canadians.  After ignoring South America, in fact, everything in the America’s south of Mexico over the past five years, Harper has a lot of catching up to do.  Not that the Liberals have a much better record in the southern half of our hemisphere.  There are economies down there that are defying the global trends and we can gain much by making more friends and doing more business.

It is just that international affairs are supposed to be Bob Rae’s specialty and he should head to that opening.  He has to remember that he is a caretaker and, if nothing else, he should keep things looking operational.


All material in this blog is copyright © Peter Lowry

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Adversity becomes Jack.

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

Jack Layton has always been a strong opponent.  It was 26 years ago when we first seriously campaigned against him in downtown Toronto.  At the time, the City of Toronto councillor was managing the provincial campaign in Fort York Riding for the NDP.  He is one heck of a scrapper.  Our Liberal beat his candidate in that election but he came back stronger the next time.  That area now is a big part of his wife, Olivia Chow’s, federal electoral district of Trinity-Spadina.

We were probably as surprised as he was when he easily won the leadership of the federal NDP in 2003.  He had come a long way from his roots in Montreal.  Mind you, it was his facility with Quebec French from those roots that made him a natural for the NDP leadership.

Jack performed well in his national role.  That tenacity of his paid off with increases in seats in 2005, 2006 and 2008.  He initially supported Liberal Paul Martin’s minority in 2005 and then brought him down, opening the door for a Stephen Harper Conservative minority.  His recent fight with prostate cancer and then a hip operation did not seem to slow him down.

It was only when we saw the teleprompters he was using at the NDP set pieces during the election this year that we realized that he was not as well as he was making out.  We expected teleprompter use for Stephen Harper to stay tightly scripted but Jack Layton and Michael Ignatieff were experienced lecturers and did not always need this type of aid.  We watched him more closely and while he used the cane as an effective prop, you could see that he needed it.

His colloquial French was what won him approval during the 2011 election.  The slipping away of Bloc Quebecois support in Quebec and the endorsement by the Toronto Star in Ontario were the critical factors that put him into the position to win second place and the role of Opposition Leader.  His splitting of votes with the Liberals also gave Stephen Harper his majority government.

In wishing Jack a speedy recovery from the new cancer concern, you could almost imagine some sincerity in the Prime Minister’s voice.  With Harper’s wooden style, it is hard to tell.

But we can sincerely wish Jack well.  It is always better to compete with the opponent you know.


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How random is my sample?

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

In many years of doing election polling and as a frequent client of research firms, one learns to be a bit sceptical.  In fact, today, you have every reason to be downright suspicious.  It appears that people are using selected poll results to try to stampede voters.

The voters have no reason to believe these pollsters who are trumpeting their polls.  There is absolutely no way those polls can be accurate.  Think about how you react to someone on the telephone asking you how you are going to vote.  Do you graciously tell the caller everything they want to know?  Are you kidding?

The problem today is that there is no way to get a truly random sample of Canadian voters.  And if you could achieve that, it would still have to be a large enough sample to allow for breakouts of regional influences.  The Bloc Quebecois in Quebec skew the figures there.  If you include that 10 per cent of the vote with the rest of the country, it is not relevant.  When you consider it can be 40 per cent of Quebec’s vote, you see why it can translate into more than 40 seats in the House of Commons.  In the same way, the disproportionate Reform/Tory vote in the Prairies skews the national figures.

As the old chestnut goes, figures do not lie but liars can figure.  To understand a poll, start with the bias of the person reporting it.  Mind you, the person does not have to lie.  All they have to do is be selective about the figures they give you.

With one-third of the House of Commons seats in the Province of Ontario, when have you heard in this election about polling in Ontario?  That is because it is the toughest area in the country to predict.  It is also the toughest area in which to get a statistically viable sample of voters.  The pollsters do not want to expose themselves.

The current flurry of polls showing the NDP strengthened, are more a phenomenon of the news media than any real hope for an NDP breakthrough.  This is not 1990 in Ontario.  You have to be smoking some fairly strong stuff to imagine Jack Layton as Prime Minister.  Jack is a small potatoes municipal politician who has not grown in his current role.  Most of that supposed growth in NDP support is in Quebec where tired PQ voters are searching for some answers.

But what the pollsters fail to explain is that about 30 per cent of the potential voters are unlikely to go to the polls.  Nobody can be sure who they are.

We used to.  Back in our early days of political polling, we used to know how the voter would vote before asking them the specific question.  It was done with qualifying questions.  Their actual voting intent helped with the equation used to determine their probability of going out to vote.  We used to do some amazingly accurate surveys.

The poll that interests us was where we lined up yesterday at the advance poll in our electoral district.  There never used to be advance poll line-ups like that.  It bodes well.  There is going to be a good turnout of voters in this election.  That is bad news for Mr. Harper.  He wants sleeping voters, not voters eager to go to the polls.  He wants a vote like 2008 when large numbers of Liberal votes did not make it to the polls.  They have much more to vote for this time.

The most accurate election surveys are traditionally what are called exit polls.  They are a quick survey done as voters are leaving the polling station.  They are more likely to tell you the truth then.

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