Posts Tagged ‘Mulcair’

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 They also know that the Leap Manifesto is as out of date as the original Regina Manifesto.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.


Copyright 2017 © Peter Lowry

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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.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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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.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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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.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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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.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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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.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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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.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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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.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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Wandering in the wilderness with the NDP.

Thursday, March 17th, 2016

Leader Thomas Mulcair is hardly the only New Democrat with something to prove at the party’s Edmonton Convention April 9 to 10. Sure, he needs to justify his leadership but the real question is where Canada’s New Democratic Party is headed? It is obviously not the direction that Mulcair chose for the last federal election.

The party’s problem is that it has absolutely no idea where it should go. It has tried socialist leaders, unionist leaders, populist leaders and more recently opportunist leaders. And what success has been had? While there have been some briefly successful provincial leaders, there has been little encouragement federally—except for the brief surge that was called the Orange Wave.

The Orange Wave was not orchestrated by the NDP. It served to ensure a Conservative majority in the 2011 election. It was an opportunity for Stephen Harper to ward off the Liberal Party. If the Conservatives could not win in Quebec, Harper certainly did not want it to go to the Liberals. And it worked.

But losing Jack Layton was not the game plan. And why did Stephen Harper order an unprecedented state funeral for the Leader of the Opposition? He was trying to seal the fate of the now third-place Liberal Party.

The problem for the NDP was the “safe” choice of Thomas Mulcair to replace Layton. Mulcair’s experience was as a civil servant and as a cabinet minister with a right-of-centre Liberal government in Quebec. Why this background would prepare him to lead the federal NDP was not really clear to us observers.

While Mulcair made a name for himself as opposition leader in prosecuting the Harper Conservatives in the House of Commons, it was his failure in the 2015 election that surprised his party. The NDP were blind-sided when Mulcair took a position to the right of Trudeau’s Liberals. The Liberals were the risk takers, the social activists and the progressives and moved from a third place party to a majority government.

And where does that leave Mulcair and his New Democrats? Does the socialist caucus of the NDP take over? Does the party turn to someone such as MP Nathan Cullen from British Columbia and say “Show us a plan for the future of the party”?

There can be a role for the party as the conscience of parliament. There is also a role that it could play as the conscience of the Liberal Party. Either is important.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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But what if FPTP isn’t broke?

Monday, February 15th, 2016

You almost hate to ask the question. What is wrong with the way Canadians vote? There seems to be an assumption by some people that first-past-the-post (FPTP) voting is a failure. Does that mean you have to dump FPTP and take a flier on some other theoretically improved voting system? And why is it better?

The only people really dissatisfied with FPTP voting are the people who typically come third or fourth in the voting. This can be a very frustrating position, Despite being the choice of as much as 25 per cent of the voters, your party can end up with as few as ten per cent of the seats in parliament or a legislature. And the winning party can often win a majority of the seats with only 40 per cent of the popular vote.

Two of the simplest ways to correct that supposed inequity are a primary system that reduces the election to just two contestants per constituency or a run-off vote pitting the top two contestants against each other. And bear in mind that primaries or run-offs are very different from a preferential or transferable voting systems. In both the primary or run-off system, the voter has breathing time to consider the final outcome.

Another way to overcome the supposed inequity of FPTP is strategic voting. While many voters were disappointed in the seeming failure of strategic voting during the last federal election, it actually was working. It just works at a different level. There is a surprisingly large block of eligible voters in Canada who have no affiliation nor interest in politics. They are mainly young voters. Almost three million of these usually non-voters went to the polls last October. They mostly voted Liberal.

Those new voters were voting for the change that the Liberals under Trudeau were offering. There was no specific agenda item that caught their attention. It was the weariness with the Harper Conservatives and the failure of the New Democrats to ignite interest that let the Liberals win these new voters and gain the majority. And it is a unique feature of FPTP voting that took the Liberals from third party to a majority.

There is no harm done if study of FPTP voting and our democracy results in a better understanding. There could be harm done if the people involved in the study are committed to change. Canada might just have the best system of all: FPTP.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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