Posts Tagged ‘Mulcair’

Why progressive elites are losing.

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

The disappointment progressives have felt with the New Democratic Party over the last couple decades has been something we have argued about but maybe not understood as well as we should. Maybe Robin V. Sears of the NDP put his finger on it the other day when complaining in print about the ease with which Donald Trump took much of the angry underclass away from the Democrats in the American’s 2016 presidential campaign. Donald Trump caught all of us progressive pundits with our pants down.

In Canada, we were still wondering why it was that NDP leader Thomas Mulcair blew away a sizeable lead towards winning the 2015 federal election. He could not even hold on to the seats in his own province brought to his party by former NDP leader Jack Layton.

But when the biggest policy argument of the NDP convention that fired Mulcair was the shallowness of the LEAP Manifesto, we should have twigged to what was wrong. This is a party that is out of touch with the people about whom it is supposed to care. It is a party dominated by unions that hardly know how to serve their own members.

What academics explain as the anger of the white working class is supposedly caused by the job losses to automation and the corporate ability to move production to lowest-wage jurisdictions. Add to that the realization that all politicians lie to them and that nobody can solve global warming and you can see how the frustration is building.

When stressed, voters turn to extremes. In America, we saw the accident of Trump. In Europe, we saw Brexit and the close call with Marine Le Pen. Canada picked the untried and unproven Justin Trudeau.

What the public is looking for are politicians that put principals ahead of promises. That is the lesson that at least Mulcair learned in the last federal election. Who was going to believe a socialist who promised a balanced budget? And where was the decency in arguing about Niqabs?

In the American tragedy of their last election, voters saw what anger, lies and distrust can produce. The only politician who came out of that horrendous selection process with honour was an aging democratic socialist by the name of Bernie Sanders. We should all take a page from his book.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

The poster boy and the NDP.

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017

Charlie Angus meet Jagmeet Singh. No doubt Charlie Angus MP, candidate for the New Democratic Party leadership has met Jagmeet Singh MPP, the newest candidate for the NDP leadership, before, but not likely as a competitor. The only surprise about this meeting is that both these gentlemen are in the same political party.

What is also obvious is that the 38-year old turbaned Sikh is in the wrong party. This is also the problem he has as deputy leader of the Ontario NDP and it will follow him into the leadership race for the federal party. Jagmeet Singh is not a union man. He seems to have had little or no experience with unions. With the ongoing role of unions in the NDP, that could be a liability.

That lack of understanding of the New Democrats and their socialist past by Jagmeet Singh has been obvious for some time. All you have to do is read back through the bills he has presented to the Ontario Legislature during his six years there representing Bramalea-Gore-Malton. You will see a person who is concerned with individual rights more than the collective rights of unions. Jagmeet Singh would probably be comfortable in a more progressive Liberal Party.

It is easier for a guy like Charlie Angus to deal with the problems that the unions present. He stood up to his Catholic church on the question of same-sex marriage and he is used to the rough and tumble of Northern Ontario union activists.

But the double problem for Ontario is that the union movement has been losing ground as well as seeing some key unions (temporarily, maybe) shifting over to support the Liberals. The New Democrats have not handled these problems well and both federal and provincial parties have been losing in the polls. Thomas Mulcair federally and Andrea Horwath provincially have been feeling the shifting ground that they stand on and you could see in recent elections the problems they faced in trying to tell us where their party is going.

While Jagmeet might already have the notoriety as one of the best dressed New Democrats or Sikhs in Canada, most interest will be in what he will say in the leadership about where the NDP is headed. This is a party that is desperately in need of some direction—and the contestants so far, Ashton, Angus, Caron and Julian, have come across as an anemic barbershop quartet.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

A better role for NDP’s Nate Cullen.

Sunday, February 5th, 2017

Frankly, it has been disappointing. Nate Cullen MP from British Columbia has been so busy bitching and whining, he is missing the real opportunity. He has the right to complain about what seemed like a wasted summer of 2016 studying vote reform. It was no waste of time; it was the best exposure he has had since being first elected. He can now step up to the bar and accept the leadership of Canada’s New Democratic Party.

And he is allowed to change his mind about that. In the fractious and demoralized New Democratic Party that had just fired Tom Mulcair, he said he did not want the leadership job. Nobody did. They hardly wanted the expensive, frustrating and unrewarding job of trying to bring the party back together. Now the party has to draft Cullen.

What the party knows now is that there never was an Orange Wave. They also know that the Leap Manifesto is as out of date as the original Regina Manifesto. Looking backwards is not meeting the needs of Canadians.

It is not that there is anything basically wrong with Leap but it seems almost defensive. You just cannot put those words to music. They do not show you the possibilities of a better future for Canadians. They fix what is past, not what is future.

Listening to Cullen on the special commons committee on voting reform last summer and fall, he showed an affinity for Canadians that other members of the committee seemed to miss. He outshone the erudite Elizabeth May of the Green Party. They were both on the same path for proportional representation but he made it more real.

While this writer was hardly swayed by Cullen’s support for proportional systems, you had to give him credit for listening to all sides of the argument. You could see some of his words in the all-party committee’s report. He represented his party better than the party deserved.

As much as the NDP needs to modernize its thinking and its policies, what there is, Cullen presents them well. There were times during the 2015 federal election that you wondered where Thomas Mulcair was finding the ideas he was presenting. It was bad enough that some seemed right wing, but there was no logical connection to New Democratic philosophy.

A reader told us in very strong terms a while back that Babel-on-the-Bay has no right to be telling the NDP what to do. It is just that you can get tired of writing about Trump. It is nice to write about a real politician occasionally.

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Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

The empty chair of Tom Mulcair.

Thursday, December 15th, 2016

In a much condemned political schtick by actor-director Clint Eastwood at the Republican National Convention in 2012, he talked to an empty chair. The chair was supposed to represent President Barack Obama. We always thought it helped get Obama elected to his second term.

We were reminded of it recently when reading an op-ed piece by New Democrat stalwart Robin Sears. Sears was writing about failed promises of Justin Trudeau such as how Canadians vote. Sears would be far more productive at this time if he directed his supposed political smarts on the empty chair of NDP Leader Tom Mulcair.

New Democrat Leader Tom Mulcair is a lame duck. He has been found wanting by his political party and is serving out his term of office. It shows he has more intestinal fortitude and honour than Stephen Harper who could not wait to get out of Ottawa once the voters past judgement.

Unlike the temporary leader of the Conservatives, Rona Ambrose, Mulcair has been doing the opposition job with continued verve and flair. Ambrose only follows the Tory Book. Nobody really listens to her.

But when his time expires, will Tom Mulcair’s chair remain empty? Are there no believers left? Is Canada’s left bereft? Does nobody believe in the LEAP Manifesto? Does it matter?

Canada desperately needs a political party of the left. It hardly needs three on the right. It has always been our hope that the Liberals and New Democrats would combine into a social democratic party. That does not seem to be on Justin Trudeau’s agenda. While such an event would drive many so-called Liberals into the Conservative camp, our betting is that the social democrats would prevail at least through to 2050. And, as the expression goes, we should all live so long!

It was fascinating this past summer watching the New Democrats on the special commons committee on voting reform trying to manoeuver the other parties into supporting a proportional voting system. If they see that as their only hope to get more power in this country, they will be disappointed.

And while there are those who do not like our questioning of the Liberal party and its leadership, it is a small attempt to keep them honest. Robin Sears should direct some of his questioning inward to his own party. New Democrats also need to examine their future.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Trudeau tests veto on vote reform.

Sunday, October 23rd, 2016

This scenario has taken place before. He does it in Quebec thinking nobody in the rest of Canada is going to hear about it. Justin Trudeau is hardly the first politician to test the waters before diving into the deep end of the pool. In this case the prime minister gave an interview to Quebec’s Le Devoir and suggested that the enthusiasm for vote reform was less now that the Liberals are in power.

Someone must have woken up the lame-duck leader of the New Democrats. Thomas Mulcair was on his feet in the House of Commons accusing the Prime Minister of going back on his promise that the 2015 election would be the last using first-past-the-post.

It has the MPs on the special commons committee on voting reform telling their friends how they wasted their summer. Mind you, as one academic suggested, if they have really been paying attention over the summer, they might now be qualified to present post-graduate university courses on democratic voting systems.

But what most academics and others eager for change could not tell the committee was how changes in voting systems will impact our political parties and how we conduct elections. We need to be very, very careful with these people so eager for change that they do not see the devastation that they can cause.

Prime Minister Trudeau has been so busy crippling the formerly strong and democratic Liberal Party of Canada to prevent revolt on a change in voting systems, you would think he was more committed. He seems to equate the leadership of the Liberal Party as similar to the task of herding cats. Liberals are much too independent in his opinion.

Trudeau’s father understood that independence of liberals and was always amused by the evidence of it. He also respected it on an intellectual level and could enjoy a laugh about it. His son has a different sense of humour.

It was the senior Trudeau who understood the failures and wrong directions of the Charlottetown Accord and told liberals in his maison du egg roll speech in October 1992 that it was alright to say ‘no.’ And they did.

It is too bad that the elder Trudeau tried to protect his sons from politics. No doubt there are many times these days that Justin Trudeau wishes he had his father’s advice on the questions he faces.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Labouring against logic.

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016

Pundits are asking if the New Democratic Party is a labour party? Frankly folks, if you do not know the answer, nobody in the party is ready to answer it either. Even an authority such as left-wing writer Thomas Walkom of the Toronto Star is wondering where the party is headed.

In a recent op-ed for the Star, Walkom puts forward the thesis that the NDP should become a labour party. He suggests that the provincial wings concentrate on provincial labour laws and minimum wage laws in protection of the working persons and that the federal wing could do important work in understanding free trade agreements.

What Walkom misses in his thesis is a logical reason for the New Democrats to want to head in that direction. The recent LEAP Manifesto of Toronto’s elitist lefties really did nothing for labour. Neither have any of the provincial wings in recent elections. And that hardly leaves us with any excuse for Thomas Mulcair madly swinging from left to right in the recent federal fiasco.

And, to be frank about it, what have unions done for the NDP in recent years? It has been a time of back-stabbing, confusion and indecision. Our largest national union opted for strategic voting in the last federal election and that hardly saved the NDP from a Liberal win.

The NDP might have blamed Leader Thomas Mulcair for taking the wrong road but nobody knew of a better one.

And before blaming the party, we need to take a hard look at modern labour unions. From anaesthetists to brick layers and school teachers to stationary engineers, they all seem to be out for getting the most they can for themselves. It is perceived as the ‘I’m all right Jack’ attitude and they try to stay away from politics because they know it is also self serving and they are going to make a muck of it.

This is not to say that there are not some effective and intelligently run labor unions in Canada. They are just not the ones trying to dictate to the NDP. Some of the smartest unions in Ontario made deals with the Liberals and have helped keep them in power for the past decade. The only problem is that they destroyed the provincial NDP in the process and left the poorly led Conservatives as the only alternative to a now faltering Liberal regime.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Waiting for the Left to shine.

Monday, May 2nd, 2016

If you are old enough to remember hearing the 1960s Les Paul and Mary Ford recording of the World is Waiting for the Sunrise, you might also be wondering when the New Democrats are going to be old enough to know when they are going to shine. And with the success of the federal Liberals passing them on the left last year, few observers are surprised at the current discontent among the NDP rank and file. There does not seem to be an historical memory in the party.

You would think a memory could be retained for at least a year. In 2014 in the Ontario provincial election, the same mistake was made. Nobody learned from it. There were the usual left of centre concerns and promises but the provincial NDP leader was completely caught off guard by the Liberal’s offer to improve pensions for Ontario residents. The campaign came to the obvious conclusion when the Conservative leader made a desperation promise to fire a 100,000 civil servants. What he did of course was threaten the jobs of a million voters. The Conservatives bled votes, the NDP had confused the voters and the Liberals romped to a majority.

If you could have believed the pollsters last year, for the first half of the campaign the federal NDP and the Conservatives were duking it out, each with hopes of at least a minority government. It was those politicos that had been paying attention to the campaign style of Justin Trudeau and the Liberals, who knew where to place their bets.

It was when the pollsters started to get readings on the younger voters that they began to see the inevitable. And yet Mulcair and his inner circle seemed to ignore what was happening. They assumed something of a bunker mentality and kept on believing their earlier statistics.

It was that hope for power that fooled the NDP those two elections in a row. The party believed it was due to inherit again what the New Democrat Bob Rae had won in Ontario in 1990 and was torn from his hands after one short term: power. They saw it as redemption.

But there was no sunrise for the NDP in 2015. Back in third place in Canada’s parliament Thomas Mulcair found himself evicted from office at the party’s first opportunity.

And that is where the NDP sits today—waiting for the sunrise.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

It looks good on the NDP.

Friday, April 15th, 2016

It is the way an Aussie friend says, “It looks good on them.” It is not said in a mean way but it implies that they deserve their quandary. And the current condition of the New Democrats is not only well deserved but about time. There are no more political virgins for them to sacrifice.

Tom Mulcair is still with them but as a lame duck. How long he will suffer the indignity is for him to decide.

Premier Rachel Notley of Alberta was emasculated by her own federal party. Her opposition is rattling sabres but that is ever thus in that province.

Robin Sears pontificated in the Toronto Star recently that the New Democrats have a penchant for lofty thoughts on environmental issues and socialist values. If that were the case, the only party that would worry about them is the Green Party.

But Sears tells us that it was all about power. Sears believes Mulcair was the natural successor to Saint Jack. Sears believed that Mulcair just had to be there to win the Prime Minister’s job. He does not seem aware that all Layton did while leading the NDP nowhere was luck into the collapse of the Bloc Québécois. The Orange Wave was nothing more than the Quebec one-finger salute to Ottawa and Mr. Harper. The truth be known, Mulcair did rather well in the last election given the circumstances he faced.

But the party, very rudely, dumped him. It was hardly a planned event. His frosty treatment of delegates and a bad speech on Sunday did not help. Muclair was out for the count. The figures were irrelevant.

Sears goes on to insult the Birkenstock Left of the NDP whose faith in the NDP has never waivered. He had this wet dream of Layton-Mulcair in the Prime Minister’s Office and believed it. And then he goes on to complain about the way the convention treated Alberta Premier Rachel Notley.

Actually, Rachel Notley was doing nothing but whining on behalf of the tar sands interests. The convention treated her very politely, rationalized that she had to say what she did, and then ignored her.

And then this so-called NDP pundit, Sears, has the nerve to suggest that the Leap Manifesto is a loony leap. It sounds like he has never read the document. As an ideal, the manifesto would be mild to a Green, a worthy objective to a left-wing Liberal and anathema to the right-wing Conservative. Read it for yourself, before you condemn it.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

The NDP Gunfight at the Edmonton Corral.

Monday, April 11th, 2016

Who knew? Premier Rachel Notley in her Annie Oakley role had no choice but play to the home town crowd. Now former New Democrat Leader Tom Mulcair probably wished he was anywhere else.

But the gunfight at the Edmonton Corral was a three-way fight and you had to be careful not to turn your back on anyone. It was the carefully orchestrated Leap Manifesto versus Rachel Notley’s pipelines and Tom Mulcair was caught in the crossfire.

Nobody was making book on the situation with Mulcair. Sure, he let the party down in the election but the New Democrats are a party that gives a leader a second chance. The only question was how could they give a second chance to the guy who wasted the legacy of Saint Jack? Mulcair saw what happened to Andrea Horwath in Ontario when she tried to take the Ontario NDP down the same confused path.

Mulcair’s pathetic efforts to save his job did not reflect well on him. He knew that Notley had no choice but to support the pipelines. She played well to Albertans and to convention attendees with a carefully crafted speech that could have been written by the oil sands people. When Mulcair failed to call her out on the sham while trying to stay on the fence, he sealed his fate.

But they were both out of step with the Leap Manifesto. The manifesto was developed and strategized by the best in the party. It has the signatures of the Lewis clan and is a remarkable read. The NDP is a party built on manifestos. From the days of the Regina Manifesto, with its bitter and inflammatory language, the CCF and successor NDP have searched for the balance between a moral base and power.

The Leap Manifesto weaves a story. It starts with our responsibility to indigenous peoples and gently segues to the environment and then to social issues. There is nothing new or overreaching. It is a manifesto of nothing more than left of centre hopes.

When the manifesto comes to the floor for debate in the party’s 2018 policy and (likely) leadership convention, it could define the party for years to come. The new leader will have no choice but to make the manifesto his or hers.

While examining the forensic evidence around the shoot-out at the Edmonton Corral, another observation comes to mind. It looks as though we are seeing the end of union domination of the New Democrats. The party brain-trust is starting to see the future in social democrat colors.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me

Party conventions are always about money.

Sunday, March 27th, 2016

The first thing learned about political conventions is that it always has to be at a profit. The second is that if there is nothing contentious, create something. You always have to fill the hall.

And filling the hall does not seem to be a problem for any of the three political party conventions planned over the next couple months.

The May meeting of the Liberal Party of Canada in Winnipeg will be a love-in and by far the largest of the events. The party’s Liberalist has been worked hard and thoroughly to turn out the faithful. The Liberals are coming to celebrate their victory last October and to get their kudos. Just look at the registration costs and you can easily compute the profit that goes into the party bank account. And the attendees will get their money’s worth: just line up for your selfie with Justin on the left.

The New Democrat convention in Edmonton at the end of April is the low-budget political event but then it will also be the most intense. Party Leader Thomas Mulcair has been working the party for some time now to try to keep his job. While the NDP has made a tradition of not automatically dumping their failed leaders, they probably should with Tom Mulcair. He might think he deserves another chance in 2019 but the only excuse for the party to keep him is to keep the seat warm and plan for a better leader in 2024. The only problem is that not all the delegates are long range thinkers.

The most interesting of the three party conventions in the offing is the Conservative Party of Canada meeting in Vancouver at the same time as the Liberals are in Winnipeg. This apparatchik would most like to be a fly on the wall in those hospitality suites. The most important topics at this conference are ‘Who’ and ‘How.’

Those are interwoven subjects because you can hardly get one without the other. The legacy of Stephen Harper could be entirely in the hands of former Minister of everything Jason Kenney. Kenney is playing it low key and is waiting to see how the field of potential leadership candidates emerges.

But this will be the leadership kick-off for the Conservatives. Michael Chong MP from Ontario has already launched and working the smaller ‘C’ conservatives. If he is smart(?) Peter MacKay might stay home in Nova Scotia. There is a very broad opening between Kenney and Chong and nature hates a vacuum. There will be more.

Frankly, it is a great time to be a political commentator.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

Complaints, comments, criticisms and compliments can be sent to  peter@lowry.me